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Democracy An American Novel

Chapter IX
WHENEVER a man reaches the top of the political ladder, his enemies unite to pull him
down. His friends become critical and exacting. Among the many dangers of this sort
which now threatened Ratcliffe, there was one that, had he known it, might have made
him more uneasy than any of those which were the work of senators and congressmen.
Carrington entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Sybil. It came about in
this wise. Sybil was fond of riding. and occasionally, when Carrington could spare the
time, he went as her guide and protector in these country excursions; for every
Virginian, however out at elbows, has a horse, as he has shoes or a shirt.
In a thoughtless moment Carrington had been drawn into a promise that he would take
Sybil to Arlington. The promise was one that he did not hurry to keep, for there were
reasons which made a visit to Arlington anything but a pleasure to him; but Sybil would
listen to no excuses, and so it came about that, one lovely March morning, when the
shrubs and the trees in the square before the house were just beginning, under the
warmer sun, to show signs of their coming wantonness, Sybil stood at the open window
waiting for him, while her new Kentucky horse before the door showed what he thought
of the delay by curving his neck, tossing his head, and pawing the pavement.
Carrington was late and kept her waiting so long, that the mignonette and geraniums,
which adorned the window, suffered for his slowness, and the curtain tassels showed
signs of wilful damage. Nevertheless he arrived at length, and they set out together,
choosing the streets least enlivened by horse-cars and provision-carts, until they had
crept through the great metropolis of Georgetown and come upon the bridge which
crosses the noble river just where its bold banks open out to clasp the city of
Washington in their easy embrace. Then reaching the Virginia side they cantered gaily
up the laurel-margined road, with glimpses of woody defiles, each carrying its trickling
stream and rich in promise of summer flowers, while from point to point they caught
glorious glimpses of the distant city and river. They passed the small military station on
the heights, still dignified by the name of fort, though Sybil silently wondered how a fort
was possible without fortifications, and complained that there was nothing more warlike
than a "nursery of telegraph poles." The day was blue and gold; everything smiled and
sparkled in the crisp freshness of the morning. Sybil was in bounding spirits. and not at
all pleased to find that her companion became moody and abstracted as they went on.
"Poor Mr. Carrington!" thought she to herself, "he is so nice; but when he puts on that
solemn air, one might as well go to sleep. I am quite certain no nice woman will ever
marry him if he looks like that;" and her practical mind ran off among all the girls of her
acquaintance, in search of one who would put up with Carrington's melancholy face.
She knew his devotion to her sister, but had long ago rejected this as a hopeless
chance. There was a simplicity about Sybil's way of dealing with life, which had its own
charm. She never troubled herself about the impossible or the unthinkable. She had
feelings, and was rather quick in her sympathies and sorrows, but she was equally
quick in getting over them, and she expected other people to do likewise. Madeleine
dissected her own feelings and was always wondering whether they were real or not;