COLONEL MULBERRY SELLERS--this was some days before he wrote his letter
to Lord Rossmore--was seated in his "library," which was also his
"drawing-room" and was also his "picture gallery" and likewise his
Sometimes he called it by one of these names, sometimes by
another, according to occasion and circumstance. He was constructing
what seemed to be some kind of a frail mechanical toy; and was apparently
very much interested in his work. He was a white-headed man, now, but
otherwise he was as young, alert, buoyant, visionary and enterprising as
ever. His loving old wife sat near by, contentedly knitting and
thinking, with a cat asleep in her lap. The room was large, light, and
had a comfortable look, in fact a home-like look, though the furniture
was of a humble sort and not over abundant, and the knickknacks and
things that go to adorn a living-room not plenty and not costly. But
there were natural flowers, and there was an abstract and unclassifiable
something about the place which betrayed the presence in the house of
somebody with a happy taste and an effective touch.
Even the deadly chromos on the walls were somehow without offence;
in fact they seemed to belong there and to add an attraction to the room-
-a fascination, anyway; for whoever got his eye on one of them was like
to gaze and suffer till he died--you have seen that kind of pictures.
Some of these terrors were landscapes, some libeled the sea, some were
ostensible portraits, all were crimes. All the portraits were
recognizable as dead Americans of distinction, and yet, through labeling
added, by a daring hand, they were all doing duty here as "Earls of
Rossmore." The newest one had left the works as Andrew Jackson, but was
doing its best now, as "Simon Lathers Lord Rossmore, Present Earl."
On one wall was a cheap old railroad map of Warwickshire. This had been
newly labeled "The Rossmore Estates." On the opposite, wall was another
map, and this was the most imposing decoration of the establishment and
the first to catch a stranger's attention, because of its great size.
It had once borne simply the title SIBERIA; but now the word "FUTURE" had
been written in front of that word. There were other additions, in red
ink--many cities, with great populations set down, scattered over the
vast-country at points where neither cities nor populations exist to-day.
One of these cities, with population placed at 1,500,000, bore the name
"Libertyorloffskoizalinski," and there was a still more populous one,
centrally located and marked "Capital," which bore the name
The "mansion"--the Colonel's usual name for the house--was a rickety old
two-story frame of considerable size, which had been painted, some time
or other, but had nearly forgotten it. It was away out in the ragged
edge of Washington and had once been somebody's country place. It had a
neglected yard around it, with a paling fence that needed straightening
up, in places, and a gate that would stay shut. By the door-post were
several modest tin signs. "Col. Mulberry Sellers, Attorney at Law and
Claim Agent," was the principal one. One learned from the others that
the Colonel was a Materializer, a Hypnotizer, a Mind-Cure dabbler; and so
on. For he was a man who could always find things to do.
A white-headed negro man, with spectacles and damaged white cotton gloves
appeared in the presence, made a stately obeisance and announced:
"Marse Washington Hawkins, suh."
"Great Scott! Show him in, Dan'l, show him in."
The Colonel and his wife were on their feet in a moment, and the next
moment were joyfully wringing the hands of a stoutish, discouraged-
looking man whose general aspect suggested that he was fifty years old,
but whose hair swore to a hundred.
"Well, well, well, Washington, my boy, it is good to look at you again.
Sit down, sit down, and make yourself at home. There, now--why, you look
perfectly natural; aging a little, just a little, but you'd have known
him anywhere, wouldn't you, Polly?"
"Oh, yes, Berry, he's just like his pa would have looked if ,he'd lived.
Dear, dear, where have you dropped from? Let me see, how long is it
I should say it's all of fifteen` years, Mrs. Sellers."
"Well, well, how time does get away with us. Yes, and oh, the changes
There was a sudden catch of her voice and a trembling of the lip, the men
waiting reverently for her to, get command of herself and go on; but
after a little struggle she turned away, with her apron to her eyes, and
"Seeing you made her think of the children, poor thing--dear, dear,
they're all dead but the youngest.
But banish care, it's no time for it now--on with the dance, let joy be
unconfined is my motto, whether there's any dance to dance; or any joy to
unconfine--you'll be the healthier for it every time,--every time,
Washington--it's my experience, and I've seen a good deal of this world.
Come--where have you disappeared to all these years, and are you from
there, now, or where are you from?"
"I don't quite think you would ever guess, Colonel. Cherokee Strip."
"Sure as you live."
"You can't mean it. Actually living out there?"
"Well, yes, if a body may call it that; though it's a pretty strong term
for 'dobies and jackass rabbits, boiled beans and slap-jacks, depression,
withered hopes, poverty in all its varieties--"
"Louise out there?"
"Yes, and the children."
"Out there now?"
"Yes, I couldn't afford to bring them with me."
"Oh, I see,--you had to come--claim against the government. Make
yourself perfectly easy--I'll take care of that."
"But it isn't a claim against the government."
"No? Want to be postmaster? That's all right. Leave it to me. I'll
"But it isn't postmaster--you're all astray yet."
"Well, good gracious, Washington, why don't you come out and tell me what
it is? What, do you want to be so reserved and distrustful with an old
friend like me, for? Don't you reckon I can keep a se--'
"There's no secret about it--you merely don't give me a chance to--"
"Now look here, old friend, I know the human race; and I know that when a
man comes to Washington, I don't care if it's from heaven, let alone
Cherokee-Strip, it's because he wants something. And I know that as a
rule he's not going to get it; that he'll stay and try--for another thing
and won't get that; the same luck with the next and the next and the
next; and keeps on till he strikes bottom, and is too poor and ashamed to
go back, even to Cherokee Strip; and at last his heart breaks--and they
take up a collection and bury him. There--don't interrupt me, I know
what I'm talking about. Happy and prosperous in the Far West wasn't I?
You know that. Principal citizen of Hawkeye, looked up to by everybody,
kind of an autocrat, actually a kind of an autocrat, Washington. Well,
nothing would do but I must go Minister to St. James, the Governor and
everybody insisting, you know, and so at last I consented--no getting out
of it, had to do it, so here I came. A day too late, Washington. Think
of that--what little things change the world's history--yes, sir, the
place had been filled. Well, there I was, you see. I offered to
compromise and go to Paris. The President was very sorry and all that,
but that place, you see, didn't belong to the West, so there I was again.
There was no help for it, so I had to stoop a little--we all reach the
day some time or other when we've got to do that, Washington, and it's
not a bad thing for us, either, take it by and large and all around--
I had to stoop a little and offer to take Constantinople. Washington,
consider this--for it's perfectly true--within a month I asked for China;
within another month I begged for Japan; one year later I was away down,
down, down, supplicating with tears and anguish for the bottom office in
the gift of the government of the United States--Flint-Picker in the
cellars of the War Department. And by George I didn't get it."
"Yes. Office established in the time of the Revolution, last century.
The musket-flints for the military posts were supplied from the capitol.
They do it yet; for although the flint-arm has gone out and the forts
have tumbled down, the decree hasn't been repealed--been overlooked and
forgotten, you see--and so the vacancies where old Ticonderoga and others
used to stand, still get their six quarts of gun-flints a year just the
Washington said musingly after a pause:
"How strange it seems--to start for Minister to England at twenty
thousand a year and fail for flintpicker at--"
"Three dollars a week. It's human life, Washington--just an epitome of
human ambition, and struggle, and the outcome: you aim for the palace and
get drowned in the sewer."
There was another meditative silence. Then Washington said, with earnest
compassion in his voice--
"And so, after coming here, against your inclination, to satisfy your
sense of patriotic duty and appease a selfish public clamor, you get
absolutely nothing for it."
"Nothing?" The Colonel had to get up and stand, to get room for his
amazement to expand. "Nothing, Washington? I ask you this: to be a
perpetual Member and the only Perpetual Member of a Diplomatic Body
accredited to the greatest country on earth do you call that nothing?
It was Washington's turn to be amazed. He was stricken dumb; but the
wide-eyed wonder, the reverent admiration expressed in his face were more
eloquent than any words could have been. The Colonel's wounded spirit
was healed and he resumed his seat pleased and content. He leaned
forward and said impressively:
"What was due to a man who had become forever conspicuous by an
experience without precedent in the history of the world?--a man made
permanently and diplomatically sacred, so to speak, by having been
connected, temporarily, through solicitation, with every single
diplomatic post in the roster of this government, from Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James all
the way down to Consul to a guano rock in the Straits of Sunda--salary
payable in guano--which disappeared by volcanic convulsion the day before
they got down to my name in the list of applicants. Certainly something
august enough to be answerable to the size of this unique and memorable
experience was my due, and I got it. By the common voice of this
community, by acclamation of the people, that mighty, utterance which
brushes aside laws and legislation, and from whose decrees there is no
appeal, I was named Perpetual Member of the Diplomatic Body representing
the multifarious sovereignties and civilizations of the globe near the
republican court of the United States of America. And they brought me
home with a torchlight procession."
"It is wonderful, Colonel, simply wonderful."
"It's the loftiest official position in the whole earth."
"I should think so-and the most commanding."
"You have named the word. Think of it. I frown, and there is war; I
smile, and contending nations lay down their arms."
"It is awful. The responsibility, I mean."
"It is nothing. Responsibility is no burden to me; I am used to it; have
always been used to it."
"And the work--the work! Do you have to attend all the sittings?"
"Who, I? Does the Emperor of Russia attend the conclaves of the
governors of the provinces? He sits at home, and indicates his
Washington was silent a moment, then a deep sigh escaped him.
"How proud I was an hour ago; how paltry seems my little promotion now!
Colonel, the reason I came to Washington is,--I am Congressional Delegate
from Cherokee Strip!"
The Colonel sprang to his feet and broke out with prodigious enthusiasm:
"Give me your hand, my boy--this is immense news! I congratulate you
with all my heart. My prophecies stand confirmed. I always said it was
in you. I always said you were born for high distinction and would
achieve it. You ask Polly if I didn't."
Washington was dazed by this most unexpected demonstration.
"Why, Colonel, there's nothing to it. That little narrow, desolate,
unpeopled, oblong streak of grass and gravel, lost in the remote wastes
of the vast continent--why, it's like representing a billiard table--a
"Tut-tut, it's a great, it's a staving preferment, and just opulent with
"Shucks, Colonel, I haven't even a vote."
"That's nothing; you can make speeches."
"No, I can't. The population's only two, hundred--"
"That's all right, that's all right--"
"And they hadn't any right to elect me; we're not even a territory,
there's no Organic Act, the government hasn't any official knowledge of
"Never mind about that; I'll fix that. I'll rush the thing through, I'll
get you organized in no time."
"Will you, Colonel?--it's too good of you; but it's just your old
sterling self, the same old ever-faithful friend," and the grateful tears
welled up in Washington's eyes.
"It's just as good as done, my boy, just as good as done. Shake hands.
We'll hitch teams together, you and I, and we'll make things hum!"