The first impression of him at this time was one of extreme picturesqueness. A slight tendency to stoutness gave dignity to a figure which, had it been thin, would have been insignificant, and served to accentuate a peculiar grace of curve which prevented his weight from carrying any suggestion of the coming solidity of middle age. His rich, rather oily hair, worn longer than the fashion, fell in affected carelessness across his brow and lent to his candid eyes an expression of intensity and eloquence. His clear-cut nose and the firm, fleshy curve of his prominent chin modified the effect of instability produced by his large and somewhat loosely moulded lips. The salient quality of his personality, as of his appearance, was an ease of proportion almost urbane. His presence in the overcrowded room diffused an infectious affability. Though he spoke to few, he was at once, and irrepressibly, the friend of all. He did not go out of his way to shake a single hand, he confined his conversation, with the old absorption, to the men at his table—personal supporters, for the most part; but there was about him a pacific emanation—an atmosphere at once social and political, which extended to the far end of the room and to men whose names he did not know.
He talked rapidly in a vibrant, low-toned voice, with frequent gestures of his shapely hands. His laugh was easy, full, and inspiriting—the laugh of a man with a vital sense of humour. As Galt watched him, he smiled in unconscious sympathy.
“But for Burr, I think I’d like to see Webb governor,” he said. “After all, it is something to have a man who looks well in a procession—and he has a charming wife.”
The gas light and electric light illuminating the opera house fell with a curious distinction in tone upon the crowd which filled the building and overflowed through darkened doors and windows. Beneath the electric jets the faces were focussed to a white hush of expectancy, which mellowed into a blur of impatient animation where the dim gas flickered against the walls.
Since the birth of Virginia Democracy, the people had not witnessed so generous an outpouring of delegates. In a State where every man is more or less a politician, the convention had assumed the air of a carnival of males—the restriction of sex limiting it to an expression of but half the population.
The delegations from the congressional districts were marshalled in line upon the floor and stage, their positions denoted by numbered placards on poles, while in the galleries an enthusiastic swarm of visitors gave vent to the opinions of that tribunal which is the public. A straggling fringe of feet, in white socks and low shoes, suspended from the red and gilt railings of the boxes, illustrated the peculiar privileges enjoyed in the absence of the feminine atmosphere. From stage to gallery the play of palm-leaf fans produced the effect of a swarm of gigantic insects, and behind them rows of flushed and perspiring faces were turned upon the gentleman who held the floor.