The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version
Twenty-two: Miss Caroline Wynn
Bles Alwyn was seated in the anteroom of Senator Smith's office in Washington. The
Senator had not come in yet, and there were others waiting, too.
The young man sat in a corner, dreaming. Washington was his first great city, and it
seemed a never-ending delight—the streets, the buildings, the crowds; the shops, and
lights, and noise; the kaleidoscopic panorama of a world's doing, the myriad forms and
faces, the talk and laughter of men. It was all wonderful magic to the country boy, and he
stretched his arms and filled his lungs and cried: "Here I shall live!"
Especially was he attracted by his own people. They seemed transformed, revivified,
changed. Some might be mistaken for field hands on a holiday—but not many. Others he
did not recognize—they seemed strange and alien—sharper, quicker, and at once more
overbearing and more unscrupulous.
There were yet others—and at the sight of these Bles stood straighter and breathed like a
man. They were well dressed, and well appearing men and women, who walked upright
and looked one in the eye, and seemed like persons of affairs and money. They had
arrived—they were men—they filled his mind's ideal—he felt like going up to them and
grasping their hands and saying, "At last, brother!" Ah, it was good to find one's dreams,
walking in the light, in flesh and blood. Continually such thoughts were surging through
his brain, and they were rioting through it again as he sat waiting in Senator Smith's
The Senator was late this morning; when he came in he glanced at the morning paper
before looking over his mail and the list of his callers. "Do fools like the American
people deserve salvation?" he sneered, holding off the headlines and glancing at them.
"'League Beats Trust.' ... 'Farmers of South Smash Effort to Bear Market ... Send Cotton
to Twelve Cents ... Common People Triumph.'
"A man is induced to bite off his own nose and then to sing a pæan of victory. It's
nauseating—senseless. There is no earthly use striving for such blockheads; they'd
crucify any Saviour." Thus half consciously Senator Smith salved his conscience, while
he extracted a certificate of deposit for fifty thousand dollars from his New York mail. He
thrust it aside from his secretary's view and looked at his list as he rang the bell: there
was Representative Todd, and somebody named Alwyn—nobody of importance. Easterly
was due in a half-hour. He would get rid of Todd meantime.
"Poor Todd," he mused; "a lamb for the slaughter."
But he patiently listened to him plead for party support and influence for his bill to
prohibit gambling in futures.