Love from your affectionate daughter,
P.S.—Octavia says she thinks I am leading Gaston on, but I don’t, do you, Mamma? Considering I stop him every time he begins any long sentence about love—what more can I do, eh?
DEAREST MAMMA,—We had such an interesting dinner on the train the night we left Niagara, and here we are. A millionaire travelling also, whom the senator knew, joined us for the meal, so we sat four at one table, and Gaston and Octavia alone at the other side. He was such a wonderful person, the first of just this kind we have met yet, although we are told there are more like him in Pittsburg and Chicago.
He was thick-set everywhere, a bull neck and fierce moustache and bushy eyebrows, and gave one the impression of sledge-hammer force. The whole character seemed to be so dominated and obsessed by an immense personal laudation, that his conversation created in our minds the doubt that qualities which required so much vaunting could really be there. It was his wonderful will which had won his game, his wonderful diplomacy, his wonderful knowledge of men, his clever perception, his supreme tact; in short, his everything in the world. The slightest show of a contrary opinion to anything he said was instantly pounced upon and annihilated. I do wonder, Mamma, if two of his sort got together what their conversation would be about? Would they shout one another down, each saying he was perfect, and so end in thunder or silence? Or would they contradict each other immediately and come to blows, or would they realise it was no use boasting to one of their own species, and so talk business or be quiet?
We, being strangers, were splendid victims for him, and I am sure he spent a dinner of pure joy. After each speech of self appreciation he would look round the table in a triumphant challenging way, and say, “Say, senator, isn’t that so?” and the dear senator, with a twinkle in his grey eye, would reply:
“Why, certainly, Governor.” (He was a governor of some place once, the senator knew.)
Finally he got on to his marvellous cleverness in the training of the young. He had no children himself, he said, but he had “raised” two young men in his office, and as a proof of their wonderful astuteness from his teaching, “I give you my word, Ma’am,” he said, “either of them could draw a contract now for me, out of which I could slip at any moment!!!”
Isn’t that a superb idea, Mamma! And the complete frankness with which it was said! What we would call sharp practice he considered “smart,” and no doubt that is the way to get rich; for when he had gone on to the smoking car, the senator told us he was five times a millionaire, and really a good fellow underneath.
“We’ve got to have all sorts to make a nation, and he’s the kind of machine that does the rough-hewing,” he said. “He did no bragging when he was under dog; he just bottled it up and pushed on, but it was that spirit which caused him to rise. Now he’s made good, won his millions, and it bursts out.”—(It certainly did!)