"Heard you say you was goin' for a walk this morning, Cynthy," Jethro
remarked, as they sat at breakfast the next morning.
"Why, of course," answered Cynthia, "Cousin Eph and I are going out to see
Washington, and he is to show me the places that he remembers." She looked at
Jethro appealingly. "Aren't you coming with us?" she asked.
"M-meet you at eleven, Cynthy," he said.
"Eleven!" exclaimed Cynthia in dismay, "that's almost dinner-time."
"M-meet you in front of the White House at eleven," said Jethro, "plumb in
front of it, under a tree."
By half-past seven, Cynthia and Ephraim with his green umbrella were in the
street, but it would be useless to burden these pages with a description of all
the sights they saw, and with the things that Ephraim said about them, and
incidentally about the war. After New York, much of Washington would then have
seemed small and ragged to any one who lacked ideals and a national sense, but
Washington was to Cynthia as Athens to a Greek. To her the marble Capitol
shining on its hill was a sacred temple, and the great shaft that struck upward
through the sunlight, though yet unfinished, a fitting memorial to him who had
led the barefoot soldiers of the colonies through ridicule to victory. They
looked up many institutions and monument, they even had time to go to the Navy
Yard, and they saved the contemplation of the White House till the last. The
White House, which Cynthia thought the finest and most graceful mansion in all
the world, in its simplicity and dignity, a fitting dwelling for the chosen of
the nation. Under the little tree which Jethro had mentioned, Ephraim stood
bareheaded before the walls which had sheltered Lincoln, which were now the home
of the greatest of his captains, Grant: and wondrous emotions played upon the
girl's spirit, too, as she gazed. They forgot the present in the past and the
future, and they did not see the two gentlemen who had left the portico some
minutes before and were now coming toward them along the sidewalk.
The two gentlemen, however, slowed their steps involuntarily at a sight which
was uncommon, even in Washington. The girl's arm was in the soldier's, and her
face, which even in repose had a true nobility, now was alight with an
inspiration that is seen but seldom in a lifetime. In marble, could it have been
wrought by a great sculptor, men would have dreamed before it of high things.
The two, indeed, might have stood for a group, the girl as the spirit, the
man as the body which had risked and suffered all for it, and still held it
fast. For the honest face of the soldier reflected that spirit as truly as a
Ephraim was aroused from his thoughts by Cynthia nudging his arm. He started,
put on his hat, and stared very hard at a man smoking a cigar who was standing
before him. Then he stiffened and raised his hand in an involuntary salute. The
man smiled. He was not very tall, he had a closely trimmed light beard that was
growing a little gray, he wore a soft hat something like Ephraim's, a black tie
on a white pleated shirt, and his eyeglasses were pinned to his vest. His eyes
were all kindness.
"How do you do, Comrade?" he said, holding out his hand.
"General," said Ephraim, "Mr. President," he added, correcting himself, "how
be you?" He shifted the green umbrella, and shook the hand timidly but warmly.
"General will do," said the President, with a smiling glance at the tall
senator beside him, "I like to be called General."
"You've growed some older, General," said Ephraim, scanning his face with a
simple reverence and affection, "but you hain't changed so much as I'd a thought
since I saw you whittlin' under a tree beside the Lacy house in the Wilderness."
"My duty has changed some," answered the President, quite as simply. He added
with a touch of sadness, "I liked those days best, Comrade."
"Well, I guess!" exclaimed Ephraim, "you're general over everything now, but
you're not a mite bigger man to me than you was."
The President took the compliment as it was meant.
"I found it easier to run an army than I do to run a country," he said.
Ephraim's blue eyes flamed with indignation.
"I don't take no stock in the bull-dogs and the gold harness at Long Branch
and—and all them lies the dratted newspapers print about you,"—Ephraim hammered
his umbrella on the pavement as an expression of his feelings,—"and what's more,
the people don't."
The President glanced at the senator again, and laughed a little, quietly.
"Thank you; Comrade," he said.
"You're a plain, common man," continued Ephraim, paying the highest
compliment known to rural New England; "the people think a sight of you, or they
wouldn't hev chose you twice, General."
"So you were in the Wilderness?" said the President, adroitly changing the
"Yes, General. I was pressed into orderly duty the first day—that's when I
saw you whittlin' under the tree, and you didn't seem to have no more consarn
than if it had been a company drill. Had a cigar then, too. But the second day;
May the 6th, I was with the regiment. I'll never forget that day," said Ephraim,
warming to the subject, "when we was fightin' Ewell up and down the Orange Plank
Road, playin' hide-and-seek with the Johnnies in the woods. You remember them
The President nodded, his cigar between his teeth. He looked as though the
scene were coming back to him.
"Never seen such woods," said Ephraim, "scrub oak and pine and cedars and
young stuff springin' up until you couldn't see the length of a company, and the
Rebs jumpin' and hollerin' around and shoutin' every which way. After a while a
lot of them saplings was mowed off clean by the bullets, and then the woods
caught afire, and that was hell."
"Were you wounded?" asked the President, quickly.
"I was hurt some, in the hip," answered Ephraim.
"Some!" exclaimed Cynthia, "why, you have walked lame ever since." She knew
the story by heart, but the recital of it never failed to stir her blood! "They
carried him out just as he was going to be burned up, in a blanket hung from
rifles, and he was in the hospital nine months, and had to come home for a
"Cynthy," said Ephraim in gentle reproof, "I callate the General don't want
to hear that."
Cynthia flushed, but the President looked at her with an added interest.
"My dear young lady," he said, "that seems to me the vital part of the story.
If I remember rightly," he added, turning again to Ephraim, "the Fifth Corps was
on the Orange turnpike. What brigade were you in?"
"The third brigade of the First Division," answered Ephraim.
"Griffin's," said the President. "There were several splendid New England
regiments in that brigade. I sent them with Griffin to help Sheridan at Five
"I was thar too," cried Ephraim.
"What!" said the President, "with the lame hip?"
"Well, General, I went back, I couldn't help it. I couldn't stay away from
the boys—just couldn't. I didn't limp as bad then as I do now. I wahn't much use
anywhere else, and I had l'arned to fight. Five Forks!" exclaimed Ephraim. "I
call that day to mind as if it was yesterday. I remember how the boys yelled
when they told us we was goin' to Sheridan. We got started about daylight, and
it took us till four o'clock in the afternoon to git into position. The woods
was just comin' a little green, and the white dogwoods was bloomin' around.
Sheridan, he galloped up to the line with that black horse of his'n and hollered
out, 'Come on, boys, go in at a clean, jump or You won't ketch one of 'em.' You
know how men, even veterans like that Fifth Corps, sometimes hev to be pushed
into a fight. There was a man from a Maine regiment got shot in the head fust
thing. 'I'm killed,' said he. 'Oh, no, you're not,' says Sheridan, 'pickup your
gun and go for 'em.' But he was killed. Well, we went for 'em through all the
swamps and briers and everything, and Sheridan, thar in front, had got the
battle-flag and was rushin' round with it swearin' and prayin' and shoutin', and
the first thing we knowed he'd jumped his horse clean over their logworks and
landed right on top of the Johnnie's."
"Yes," said the President, "that was Sheridan, sure enough."
"Mr. President," said the senator, who stood by wonderingly while General
Grant had lost himself in this conversation, "do you realize what time it is?"
"Yes, yes," said the President, "we must go on. What was your rank, Comrade?"
"I hope you have got a good pension for that hip," said the President,
kindly. It may be well to add that he was not always so incautious, but this
soldier bore the unmistakable stamp of simplicity and sincerity on his face.
"He never would ask for a pension, General," said Cynthia.
"What!" exclaimed the President in real astonishment, "are you so rich as all
that?" and he glanced at the green umbrella.
"Well, General," said Ephraim, uncomfortably, "I never liked the notion of
gittin' paid for it. You see, I was what they call a war-Democrat."
"Good Lord!" said the President, but more to himself. "What do you do now?"
"I callate to make harness," answered Ephraim.
"Only he can't make it any more on account of his rheumatism, Mr. President,"
Cynthia put in.
"I think you might call me General, too," he said, with the grace that many
simple people found inherent in him. "And may I ask your name, young lady?"
"Cynthia Wetherell—General," she said smiling.
"That sounds more natural," said the President, and then to Ephraim, "Your
"I couldn't think more of her if she was," answered Ephraim; "Cynthy's pulled
me through some tight spells. Her mother was my cousin, General. My name's
"Ephraim Prescott!" ejaculated the President, sharply, taking his cigar from
his mouth, "Ephraim Prescott!"
"Prescott—that's right—Prescott, General," repeated Ephraim, sorely puzzled
by these manifestations of amazement.
"What did you come to Washington for?" asked the President.
"Well, General, I kind of hate to tell you—I didn't intend to mention that. I
guess I won't say nothin' about it," he added, "we've had such a sociable time.
I've always b'en a little mite ashamed of it, General, ever since 'twas first
"Good Lord!" said the President again, and then he looked at Cynthia. "What
is it, Miss Cynthia?" he asked.
It was now Cynthia's turn to be a little confused.
"Uncle Jethro—that is, Mr. Bass" (the President nodded), "went to Cousin Eph
when he couldn't make harness any more and said he'd give him the Brampton
The President's eyes met the senator's, and both gentlemen laughed. Cynthia
bit her lip, not seeing any cause for mirth in her remark, while Ephraim looked
uncomfortable and mopped the perspiration from his brow.
"He said he'd give it to him, did he?" said the President. "Is Mr. Bass your
"Oh, no, General," replied Cynthia, "he's really no relation. He's done
everything for me, and I live with him since my father died. He was going to
meet us here," she continued, looking around hurriedly, "I'm sure I can't think
what's kept him."
"Mr. President, we are half an hour late already," said the senator,
"Well, well," said the President, "I suppose I must go. Good-by, Miss
Cynthia," said he, taking the girl's hand warmly. "Good-by, Comrade. If ever you
want to see General Grant, just send in your name. Good-by."
The President lifted his hat politely to Cynthia and passed. He said
something to the senator which they did not hear, and the senator laughed
heartily. Ephraim and Cynthia watched them until they were out of sight.
"Godfrey!" exclaimed Ephraim, "they told me he was hard to talk to. Why,
Cynthy, he's as simple as a child."
"I've always thought that all great men must be simple," said Cynthia; "Uncle
"To think that the President of the United States stood talkin' to us on the
sidewalk for half an hour," said Ephraim, clutching Cynthia's arm. "Cynthy, I'm
glad we didn't press that post-office matter it was worth more to me than all
the post-offices in the Union to have that talk with General Grant."
They waited some time longer under the tree, happy in the afterglow of this
wonderful experience. Presently a clock struck twelve.
"Why, it's dinner-time, Cynthy," said Ephraim. "I guess Jethro haint'
a-comin'—must hev b'en delayed by some of them politicians."
"It's the first time I ever knew him to miss an appointment," said Cynthia,
as they walked back to the hotel.
Jethro was not in the corridor, so they passed on to the dining room and
looked eagerly from group to group. Jethro was not there, either, but Cynthia
heard some one laughing above the chatter of the guests, and drew back into the
corridor. She had spied the Duncans and the Worthingtons making merry by
themselves at a corner table, and it was Somers's laugh that she heard. Bob,
too, sitting next to Miss Duncan, was much amused about something. Suddenly
Cynthia's exaltation over the incident of the morning seemed to leave her, and
Bob Worthington's words which she had pondered over in the night came back to
her with renewed force. He did not find it necessary to steal away to see Miss
Duncan. Why should he have "stolen away" to see her? Was it because she was a
country girl, and poor? That was true; but on the other hand, did she not live
in the sunlight, as it were, of Uncle Jethro's greatness, and was it not an
honor to come to his house and see any one? And why had Mr. Worthington turned
hid back on Jethro, and sent for Bob when he was talking to them? Cynthia could
not understand these things, and her pride was sorely wounded by them.
"Perhaps Jethro's in his room," suggested Ephraim.
And indeed they found him there seated on the bed, poring over some
newspapers, and both in a breath demanded where he had been. Ephraim did not
wait for an answer.
"We seen General Grant, Jethro," he cried; "while we was waitin' for you
under the tree he come up and stood talkin' to us half an hour. Full half an
hour, wahn't it, Cynthy?"
"Oh, yes," answered Cynthia, forgetting her own grievance at the
recollection; "only it didn't seem nearly that long."
"W-want to know!" exclaimed Jethro, in astonishment, putting down his paper.
"H-how did it happen?"
"Come right up and spoke to us," said Ephraim, in a tone he might have used
to describe a miracle, "jest as if he was common folk. Never had a more sociable
talk with anybody. Why, there was times when I clean forgot he was President of
the United States. The boys won't believe it when we git back at Coniston."
And Ephraim, full of his subject, began to recount from the beginning the
marvellous affair, occasionally appealing to Cynthia for confirmation. How he
had lived over again the Wilderness and Five Forks; how the General had changed
since he had seen him whittling under a tree; how the General had asked about
"D-didn't mention the post-office, did you, Ephraim?"
"Why, no," replied Ephraim, "I didn't like to exactly. You see, we was havin'
such a good time I didn't want to spoil it, but Cynthy—"
"I told the President about it, Uncle Jethro; I told him how sick Cousin Eph
had been, and that you were going to give him the postmastership because he
couldn't work any more with his hands."
The training of a lifetime had schooled Jethro not to betray surprise.
"K-kind of mixin' up in politics, hain't you, Cynthy? P-President say he'd
give you the postmastership, Eph?" he asked.
"He didn't say nothin' about it, Jethro," answered Ephraim slowly; "I callate
he has other views for the place, and he was too kind to come right out with 'em
and spoil our mornin'. You see, Jethro, I wahn't only a sergeant, and Brampton's
gittin' to be a big town."
"But, surely," cried Cynthia, who could scarcely wait for him to finish,
"surely you're going to give Cousin Eph the post-office, aren't you, Uncle
Jethro? All you have to do is to tell the President that you want it for him.
Why, I had an idea that we came down for that."
"Now, Cynthy," Ephraim put in, deprecatingly.
"Who else would get the post-office?" asked Cynthia. "Surely you're not going
to let Mr. Sutton have it for Dave Wheelock!"
"Er—Cynthy," said Jethro, slyly, "w-what'd you say to me once about
interferin' with women's fixin's?"
Cynthia saw the point. She perceived also that the mazes of politics were not
to be understood by a young woman, of even by an old soldier. She laughed and
seized Jethro's hands and pulled him from the bed.
"We won't get any dinner unless we hurry," she said.
When they reached the dining room she was relieved to discover that the party
in the corner had gone.
In the afternoon there were many more sights to be viewed, but they were back
in the hotel again by half-past four, because Ephraim's Wilderness leg had its
limits of endurance. Jethro (though he had not mentioned the fact to them) had
gone to the White House.
It was during the slack hours that our friend the senator, whose interest in
the matter of the Brampton post office out-weighed for the present certain grave
problems of the Administration in which he was involved, hurried into the
Willard Hotel, looking for Jethro Bass. He found him without much trouble in his
usual attitude, occupying one of the chairs in the corridor.
"Well," exclaimed the senator, with a touch of eagerness he did not often
betray, "did you see Grant? How about your old soldier? He's one of the most
delightful characters I ever met—simple as a child," and he laughed at the
recollection. "That was a masterstroke of yours, Bass, putting him under that
tree with that pretty girl. I doubt if you ever did anything better in your
life. Did they tell you about it?"
"Yes," said Jethro, "they told me about it."
"And how about Grant? What did he say to you?"
"W-well, I went up there and sent in my card. D-didn't have to wait a great
while, as I was pretty early, and soon he came in, smokin' a black cigar, head
bent forward a little. D-didn't ask me to sit down, and what talkin' we did we
did standin'. D-didn't ask me what he could do for me, what I wanted, or
anything else, but just stood there, and I stood there. F-fust time in my life I
didn't know how to commerce or what to say; looked—looked at me—didn't take his
eye off me. After a while I got started, somehow; told him I was there to ask
him to appoint Ephraim Prescott to the Brampton postoffice—t-told him all about
Ephraim from the time he was locked in the cradle—never was so hard put that I
could remember. T-told him how Ephraim shook butternuts off my fathers tree—for
all I know. T-told him all about Ephraim's war record—leastways all I could call
to mind—and, by Godfrey! before I got through, I wished I'd listened to more of
it. T-told him about Ephraim's Wilderness bullets—t-told him about Ephraim's
rheumatism,—how it bothered him when he went to bed and when he got up again."
If Jethro had glanced at his companion, he would have seen the senator was
shaking with silent and convulsive laughter.
"All the time I talked to him I didn't see a muscle move in his face," Jethro
continued, "so I started in again, and he looked—looked—looked right at me.
W-wouldn't wink—don't think he winked once while I was in that room. I watched
him as close as I could, and I watched to see if a muscle moved or if I was
makin' any impression. All he would do was to stand there and look—look—look.
K-kept me there ten minutes and never opened his mouth at all. Hardest man to
talk to I ever met—never see a man before but what I could get him to say
somethin', if it was only a cuss word. I got tired of it after a while, made up
my mind that I had found one man I couldn't move. Then what bothered me was to
get out of that room. If I'd a had a Bible I believe I'd a read it to him. I
didn't know what to say, but I did say this after a while:—"'W-well, Mr.
President, I guess I've kept you long enough—g-guess you're a pretty busy man.
H-hope you'll give Mr. Prescott that postmastership. Er—er good-by.'
"'Wait, sir,' he said.
"'Yes,' I said, 'I-I'll wait.'
"Thought you was goin' to give him that postmastership, Mr. Bass,' he said."
At this point the senator could not control his mirth, and the empty corridor
echoed his laughter.
"By thunder! what did you say to that?"
"Er—I said, 'Mr. President, I thought I was until a while ago.'
"'And when did you change your mind?' says he."
Then he laughed a little—not much—but he laughed a little.
"'I understand that your old soldier lives within the limits of the delivery
of the Brampton office,' said he."
"'That's correct, Mr. President,' said I."
"'Well,' said he, 'I will app'int him postmaster at Brampton, Mr. Bass.'"
"'When?' said I."
Then he laughed a little more.
"I'll have the app'intment sent to your hotel this afternoon,' said he."
"'Then I said to him, 'This has come out full better than I expected, Mr.
President. I'm much obliged to you.' He didn't say nothin' more, so I come out."
"Grant didn't say anything about Worthington or Duncan, did he?" asked the
senator, curiously, as he rose to go.
"G-guess I've told you all he said," answered Jethro; "'twahn't a great
The senator held out his hand.
"Bass," he said, laughing, "I believe you came pretty near meeting your
match. But if Grant's the hardest man in the Union to get anything out of, I've
a notion who's the second." And with this parting shot the senator took his
departure, chuckling to himself as he went.
As has been said, there were but few visitors in Washington at this time, and
the hotel corridor was all but empty. Presently a substantial-looking gentleman
came briskly in from the street, nodding affably to the colored porters and
bell-boys, who greeted him by name. He wore a flowing Prince Albert coat, which
served to dignify a growing portliness, and his coal-black whiskers glistened in
the light. A voice, which appeared to come from nowhere in particular, brought
the gentleman up standing.
"How be you, Heth?"
It may not be that Mr. Sutton's hand trembled, but the ashes of his cigar
fell to the floor. He was not used to visitations, and for the instant, if the
truth be told, he was not equal to looking around.
"Like Washington, Heth—like Washington?"
Then Mr. Sutton turned. His presence of mind, and that other presence of
which he was so proud, seemed for the moment to have deserted him.
"S-stick pretty close to business, Heth, comin' down here out of session
time. S-stick pretty close to business, don't you, since the people sent you to
Mr. Sutton might have offered another man a cigar or a drink, but (as is well
known) Jethro was proof against tobacco or stimulants.
"Well," said the Honorable Heth, catching his breath and making a dive, "I am
surprised to see you, Jethro," which was probably true.
"Th-thought you might be," said Jethro. "Er—glad to see me, Heth—glad to see
As has been recorded, it is peculiarly difficult to lie to people who are not
to be deceived.
"Why, certainly I am," answered the Honorable Heth, swallowing hard,
"certainly I am, Jethro. I meant to have got to Coniston this summer, but I was
"Peoples' business, I understand. Er—hear you've gone in for high-minded
politics, Heth—r-read a highminded speech of yours—two high-minded speeches.
Always thought you was a high-minded man, Heth."
"How did you like those speeches, Jethro?" asked Mr. Sutton, striving as best
he might to make some show of dignity.
"Th-thought they was high-minded," said Jethro.
Then there was a silence, for Mr. Sutton could think of nothing more to say.
And he yearned to depart with a great yearning, but something held him there.
"Heth," said Jethro after a while, "you was always very friendly and
obliging. You've done a great many favors for me in your life."
"I've always tried to be neighborly, Jethro," said Mr. Sutton, but his voice
sounded a little husky even to himself.
"And I may have done one or two little things for you, Heth," Jethro
continued, "but I can't remember exactly. Er—can you remember, Heth."
Mr. Sutton was trying with becoming nonchalance to light the stump of his
cigar. He did not succeed this time. He pulled himself together with a supreme
"I think we've both been mutually helpful, Jethro," he said, "mutually
"Well," said Jethro, reflectively, "I don't know as I could have put it as
well as that—there's somethin' in being an orator."
There was another silence, a much longer one. The Honorable Heth threw his
butt away, and lighted another cigar. Suddenly, as if by magic, his aplomb
returned, and in a flash of understanding he perceived the situation. He saw
himself once more as the successful congressman, the trusted friend of the
railroad interests, and he saw Jethro as a discredited boss. He did not stop to
reflect that Jethro did not act like a discredited boss, as a keener man might
have done. But if the Honorable Heth had been a keener man, he would not have
been at that time a congressman. Mr. Sutton accused himself of having been
stupid in not grasping at once that the tables were turned, and that now he was
the one to dispense the gifts.
"K-kind of fortunate you stopped to speak to me, Heth. N-now I come to think
of it, I hev a little favor to ask of you."
"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Sutton, blowing out the smoke; "of course anything I can
do, Jethro—anything in reason."
"W-wouldn't ask a high-minded man to do anything he hadn't ought to," said
Jethro; "the fact is, I'd like to git Eph Prescott appointed at the Brampton
post-office. You can fix that, Heth—can't you—you can fix that?"
Mr. Sutton stuck his thumb into his vest pocket and cleared his throat.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am not to oblige you, Jethro, but I've arranged
to give that post-office to Dave Wheelock."
"A-arranged it, hev You—a-arranged it?"
"Why, yes," said Mr. Sutton, scarcely believing his own ears. Could it be
possible that he was using this patronizingly kind tone to Jethro Bass?
"Well, that's too bad," said Jethro; "g-got it all fixed, hev you?"
"Practically," answered Mr. Sutton, grandly; "indeed, I may go as far as to
say that it is as certain as if I had the appointment here in my pocket. I'm
sorry not to oblige you, Jethro; but these are matters which a member of
Congress must look after pretty closely." He held out his hand, but Jethro did
not appear to see it,—he had his in his pockets. "I've an important engagement,"
said the Honorable Heth, consulting a large gold watch. "Are you going to be in
"G-guess I've about got through, Heth—g-guess I've about got through," said
"Well, if you have time and there's any other little thing, I'm in Room 29,"
said Mr. Sutton, as he put his foot on the stairway.
"T-told Worthington you got that app'intment for Wheelock—t-told
Worthington?" Jethro called out after him.
Mr. Sutton turned and waved his cigar and smiled in acknowledgment of this
parting bit of satire. He felt that he could afford to smile. A few minutes
later he was ensconced on the sofa of a private sitting room reviewing the
incident, with much gusto, for the benefit of Mr. Isaac D. Worthington and Mr.
Alexander Duncan. Both of these gentlemen laughed heartily, for the Honorable
Heth Sutton knew the art of telling a story well, at least, and was often to be
seen with a group around him in the lobbies of Congress.