THE CAPITOL AND OTHER SITES
“Here, Jimmy!” said, briskly, a middle-aged administrative person in easy attire, who apparently had dominion over the whole floor beneath the dome. A younger man, also in easy attire, answered the call with an alert smile. The elder pointed sideways with his head at my two friends and myself, and commanded, “Run them through in thirty minutes!” Then, having reached the center of a cuspidor with all the precision of a character in a Californian novel, he added benevolently to Jimmy, “Make it a dollar for them.” And Jimmy, consenting, led us away.
In this episode Europe was having her revenge on the United States, and I had planned it. How often, in half a hundred cities of Europe, had I not observed the American citizen seeing the sights thereof at high speed? Yes, even in front of the Michael Angelo sculptures in the Medici Chapel at Florence had I seen him, watch in hand, and heard him murmur “Bully!” to the sculptures and the time of the train to his wife in one breath! Now it was impossible for me to see Washington under the normal conditions of a session. And so I took advantage of the visit to Washington of two friends on business to see Washington hastily, as an excursionist pure and simple. I said to the United States, grimly: “The most important and the most imposing thing in all America is surely the Capitol at Washington. Well, I will see it as you see the sacred sights of Europe. By me Europe shall be revenged.”
Thus it came about that we had hired a kind of carriage known as a “sea-going hack,” driven by a negro in dark blue, who was even more picturesque than the negroes in white who did the menial work in the classic hotel, and had set forth frankly as excursionists into the streets of Washington, and presently through the celebrated Pennsylvania Avenue had achieved entrance into the Capitol.
[Illustration: THE APPROACH TO THE CAPITOL]
It was a breathless pilgrimage—this seeing of the Capitol. And yet an impressive one. The Capitol is a great place. I was astonished—and I admit at once I ought not to have been astonished—that the Capitol appeals to the historic sense just as much as any other vast legislative palace of the world—and perhaps more intimately than some. The sequence of its endless corridors and innumerable chambers, each associated with event or tradition, begets awe. I think it was in the rich Senatorial reception-room