I sat for a moment in thought. “It is an honor,” said I finally; “an honor so large that under it I feel small.”
“Now,” said Doctor Ward, placing a gnarled hand on my shoulder, “you begin to talk like a Marylander. It’s a race, my boy, a race across this continent. There are two trails—one north and one mid-continent. On these paths two nations contend in the greatest Marathon of all the world. England or the United States—monarchy or republic—aristocracy or humanity’? These are some of the things which hang on the issue of this contest. Take then your duty and your honor, humbly and faithfully.”
“Good-by,” he said, as we steamed into Baltimore station. I turned, and he was gone.
ON SECRET SERVICE
If the world was lost
through woman, she alone can save it.—Louis
In the days of which I write, our civilization was, as I may say, so embryonic, that it is difficult for us now to realize the conditions which then obtained. We had great men in those days, and great deeds were done; but to-day, as one reflects upon life as it then was, it seems almost impossible that they and their deeds could have existed in a time so crude and immature.
The means of travel in its best form was at that time at least curious. We had several broken railway systems north and south, but there were not then more than five thousand miles of railway built in America. All things considered, I felt lucky when we reached New York less than twenty-four hours out from Washington.
From New York northward to Montreal one’s journey involved a choice of routes. One might go up the Hudson River by steamer to Albany, and thence work up the Champlain Lake system, above which one might employ a short stretch of rails between St. John and La Prairie, on the banks of the St. Lawrence opposite Montreal. Or, one might go from Albany west by rail as far as Syracuse, up the Mohawk Valley, and so to Oswego, where on Lake Ontario one might find steam or sailing craft.
Up the Hudson I took the crack steamer Swallow, the same which just one year later was sunk while trying to beat her own record of nine hours and two minutes from New York to Albany. She required eleven hours on our trip. Under conditions then obtaining, it took me a day and a half more to reach Lake Ontario. Here, happily, I picked up a frail steam craft, owned by an adventurous soul who was not unwilling to risk his life and that of others on the uncertain and ice-filled waters of Ontario. With him I negotiated to carry me with others down the St. Lawrence. At that time, of course, the Lachine Canal was not completed, and the Victoria Bridge was not even conceived as a possibility. One delay after another with broken machinery, lack of fuel, running ice and what not, required five days more of my time ere I reached Montreal.