The country brother on the floor showed also his tenacious purpose in his compressed lips, straight, expanded breast and shoulders, and clear and direct but grave look. No extremity of occasion could make a heroic figure of him, but in his plain face was the beauty of moral courage. He rose to his feet when the Speaker cried:
“Committee on Ancient Contracts is next in order. The gentleman from Pennsylvania!”
The people in the galleries were not disappointed that such a homely man should have no voice nor grace, and that he spoke only with the gravest effort.
“The gentleman’s voice is inaudible to the chair,” said the Speaker.
But Elk MacNair had heard it from where he sat. He had distinguished the fitful words:
“The committee reports against the —— claim for postal services, desires that it do not pass, and the chairman wishes to make a personal explanation relative to the claim.”
“Kitty,” said Elk MacNair, in a coarse whisper, “my brother has broken my heart!”
“Stay!” said Miss Dunlevy; “he staggers in his seat as if he were about to fall. A page has run to him with a letter. He reads it. Elk, for Heaven’s sake, go to his help! He is dying!”
There was a rush of members about the new chairman of committee. Confusion reigned upon the floor of Congress. The lobby brother had apprehended it all. He cleared the gallery at a run, passed a familiar doorkeeper like a dart, and raised his senior to his breast.
“Arty,” he whispered, “may Heaven forgive me! I repent of my folly and wickedness, and entreat you to speak to me!”
“Heaven has forgiven you, Elk MacNair!” muttered the spent Congressman. “Your father’s friend has spared your fame and my feelings at the expense of his fortune. It has taken the bank of Jabel Blake—the dream of his life—to save you from a dishonored name, and to give you a wife too worthy for you!”
He put a piece of paper in the lobbyist’s hands. It said:
“Arthur, I have given you the last gift in my power—a costly and a dear one—to keep your brother from disgrace, and to save you both remorse. I have bought the —— claim, and destroyed it, but Ross Valley has lost the bank.
On the terrace of the Capitol, while all this was occurring, a gaunt, gigantic, aged figure might have been seen, looking away into the city basking in the plain at his feet, with almost the bitterness of prophecy. He carried an old worn carpet-bag, and a railroad ticket appeared in his hat-band. It was Jabel Blake, shaking the dust of the capital city from his feet!
To him the soft and purple panorama brought no emotions, as pride of country or aesthetic associations; and even the bracing savor of the gale upon the eminence seemed laden, to his hard regard, with the corruptions and excesses of a debauched government and a rank society. The river, to him, was but the fair sewer to this sculptured sepulchre. The lambent amphitheatre of the inclosing ridges was like the wall of a jail which he longed to cross and return no more. He saw the dark granite form of the Treasury Department, and groaned like one whose heart was broken there. The bank of Ross Valley was never to be!