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Davis' Short Stories Vol. 1

The Consul
For over forty years, in one part of the world or another, old man Marshall had, served his
country as a United States consul. He had been appointed by Lincoln. For a quarter of a
century that fact was his distinction. It was now his epitaph. But in former years, as each
new administration succeeded the old, it had again and again saved his official head.
When victorious and voracious place-hunters, searching the map of the world for spoils,
dug out his hiding-place and demanded his consular sign as a reward for a younger and
more aggressive party worker, the ghost of the dead President protected him. In the State
Department, Marshall had become a tradition. "You can't touch Him!" the State
Department would say; "why, HE was appointed by Lincoln!" Secretly, for this weapon
against the hungry headhunters, the department was infinitely grateful. Old man Marshall
was a consul after its own heart. Like a soldier, he was obedient, disciplined; wherever he
was sent, there, without question, he would go. Never against exile, against ill-health,
against climate did he make complaint. Nor when he was moved on and down to make
way for some ne'er-do-well with influence, with a brother-in- law in the Senate, with a
cousin owning a newspaper, with rich relatives who desired him to drink himself to death
at the expense of the government rather than at their own, did old man Marshall point to
his record as a claim for more just treatment.
And it had been an excellent record. His official reports, in a quaint, stately hand, were
models of English; full of information, intelligent, valuable, well observed. And those
few of his countrymen, who stumbled upon him in the out-of- the-world places to which
of late he had been banished, wrote of him to the department in terms of admiration and
awe. Never had he or his friends petitioned for promotion, until it was at last apparent
that, save for his record and the memory of his dead patron, he had no friends. But, still in
the department the tradition held and, though he was not advanced, he was not dismissed.
"If that old man's been feeding from the public trough ever since the Civil War,"
protested a "practical" politician, "it seems to me, Mr. Secretary, that he's about had his
share. Ain't it time he give some one else a bite? Some of us that has, done the work, that
has borne the brunt----"
"This place he now holds," interrupted the Secretary of State suavely, "is one hardly
commensurate with services like yours. I can't pronounce the name of it, and I'm not sure
just where it is, but I see that, of the last six consuls we sent there, three resigned within a
month and the other three died of yellow-fever. Still, if you. insist----"
The practical politician reconsidered hastily. "I'm not the sort," he protested, "to turn out
a man appointed by our martyred President. Besides, he's so old now, if the fever don't
catch him, he'll die of old age, anyway."
The Secretary coughed uncomfortably. "And they say," he murmured, "republics are
ungrateful."
 
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