A Citizen of the Republic

THE Ex-Member was in his sitting room, huddled down in the hollow of his old cloth armchair. There was no fire in the room, and it was cold with the damp, chill cold of the early spring. The ex-member had on his battered old slouch hat, drawn down over his eyes: he had buttoned his rusty coat about him and turned its collar up about his neck. The dull light from the rainy, slate-colored spring sky slanting in upon his face set forth like a cameo the outlines of his fine old Roman nose, his clear-cut, closeshaven chin, and the aged hollows in his temples and his cheeks. A wisp of gray hair strayed out from underneath his hat beside his ear.

Since the death of his wife he had lived in the old house alone. The whole place showed it; a house without a woman is a body without a soul. On the mantelpiece the old clock, with the painted robin on the glass beneath the dial, gone crazy with neglect, rambled through the morning, striking the hours of the late afternoon. Some old cuffs, a dog collar, a piece of harness, and a long array of medicine bottles occupied the remainder of the shelf. On the table and on the floor were piles of books, funny gray-backed volumes with yellow edges to their leaves, — histories of political demigods now almost obscured by the mists of half a century, or entirely forgotten. An early print of Lincoln, the photograph which Sumner had given him, and a group picture of the state Senate when he was there, — strange wooden figures, with queer beards, and stiff loose clothing, and top-boots, — looked down upon him from the walls.

The ex-member was intensely excited. From the depths of his armchair he was haranguing his one hearer in the manner of a stump speaker calling aloud to a multitude. His aged chin shook back and forth with the excitement and weakness of old age, and his resonant old voice broke and wavered like that of a boy of fourteen. Occasionally he beat upon the arm of his chair for emphasis.

“ Mr. Jennings, sir,” he was saying, “ when I see the kind of men they choose to do our public business for us nowadays, I can’t hardly stan’ it. Seems as if they picked out the meanest, poorest, most picayuney fellers they could find. Take that feller they’ve just elected to the United States Senate. He ain’t no more fit for that high office, sir, than — than” — the old man hesitated, waving his arms helplessly about in his impotent search for a fit simile — “ than anything in this world, sir. No, sir.

“ Put him alongside that man on the wall, sir, — that Sumner thar, and compare ’em. Look at that brow and those eyes and that mouth. Thar was a giant, sir. I tell you, this feller ain’t no more fit to be compared with Sumner, nor Seward, nor Webster, sir, than a dog is fit to be associated with seraphim. No, sir. I knew Sumner personally, and I’ve heard Webster speak. My father took me to hear him one time when I was a boy. Those men wa’n’t none of your twopenny politicians you have nowadays. No, sir.

“ I tell you, young man, you don’t appreciate what changes have taken place in this republic the last thirty-five or forty years. In those days it was a government for the people and by the people ; an American citizen was somebody. Yes, sir, he was a king. A man was a man when Abraham Lincoln was President no matter what kind of a coat he had on.

“ And now what is it ? It’s all money, money, money; that’s all people can talk about. These corporations own us body and soul. We’re bein’ et up by ’em We’ve got a corporation legislature and corporation commissions, and I don’t know but what we’ve got a corporation governor, — though I did think he was an honest man.

“ And all the time I sit here with the women and children, — no better, you might say, than one of those disembodied spirits they tell about, — a mind without a body, just thinkin’, thinkin’, thinkin’ through all eternity, and no power of accomplishment. I tell you, Mr. Jennings, I tell you, sir, it’s many a long night I wish I was a young man like you and could do something.”

“ I suppose,” said the audience, finally breaking in, “you ’re following this revision of the state laws pretty close, ain’t you, Mr. Osgood ? ”

“ Yes, sir, I am,” said the veteran. “I read the newspapers pretty close, and I get the documents from our representative as they come out. And I dare say there’s twenty jobs bein’ put through there right now. There’s one thing thar I think’s goin’ to be done that if it goes through — and I think it will — will be the most abominable, unjust, outrageous, detestable ” —

The obnoxious measure was never named. There was a soft, irregular knock at the door, followed promptly by a confused rattling of the knob, and a fat, sturdy-looking, four-year-old boy pushed in and stood on the threshold, out of breath from his exertions.

“Hello, sir,” said the ex-member heartily, “ good-mornin’.”

The child, diffident before the stranger, murmured a confused reply.

“Well, sir, how are you this mornin’ ? ”

“Pretty well, sir,” the child said under his breath.

“ Thought you ’d come over and see grandpa, did ye ? ” said the old man, taking him on his knee.

“ Yes, sir.”

The child showed signs of retreat. “ Guess I ’ll go,” he announced, squirming to get away.

“ Ain’t there something you want to do first ? ”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said irresolutely.

“ Take your hat off to Mr. Lincoln.”

The sturdy little chap stood before the homely picture on the wall, and solemnly removed his cap.

“ That’s a good boy. Now, sir, when you get up, what are you goin’ to be, Henry ? Tell the gentleman.”

“ I ’m goin’ to be a ’Merican citizen,” said the boy bashfully.

“That’s it,” said the ex-member, stooping over and patting him on the cheek ; “ that’s it. Now run along.”

The boy lost no time in obeying him.

“ You can’t begin teachin’ ’em too early,” said the ex-member, after the side door had slammed. “ And I don’t mean that any of my descendants shall forget what they owe to this great country. No, sir. For patriotism and loyalty and gratitude to my country, I don’t yield to no man, so far’s my strength will allow. It’s got to be considerable like a religion to me. 4 My Country ’ — when I hear that sung, old as I am, sir, I take off my hat to it. Yes, sir.”

Again the knob of the door rattled and the small boy appeared. “ Ma says she’s comin’ over to sit with you this afternoon,” he called.

The old man laughed. “You made him forget what he come for the first time,” he said.

The boy started to escape again, but the visitor caught him up in his arms.

“I’m goin’ over by your house, young man. I guess I ’ll take you along with me. You’d like to ride with me, would n’t you ? ”

“ Yes, sir,” said the child faintly.

“ Don’t hurry,” said the ex-member.

“ I guess I’d better go; they ’ll be lookin’ for me at home before long.”

“ Well, I wish you’d come in real often,” said the old man wistfully. “ I don’t know when I’ve had a call before. It seems mighty good to see somebody now and then.”

“ All right, I ’ll try to. Don’t get up, Mr. Osgood,” said the visitor, as he went out with the boy.

Across a common yard, but a few steps away, appeared the dwelling of the ex-member’s son, a structure of the so-called Queen Anne style, painted a faded salmon color, perched on a high and ugly brick foundation, and as yet unprovided with blinds. It was largely the inspiration of the bride of five years ago. A great scar had been torn in the old tangled garden for its reception ; the trees and shrubs were gone, and the turf had not yet healed about it. It shone forth, vainglorious and bare, beside the low, old-fashioned house of the ex-member beyond it.

On the back porch a sharp-voiced woman was crying aloud, “ Henree, Henree.” It was the daughter-in-law calling for her son.

The woman stopped when she saw the man and child coming toward her.

“ Good-mornin’, Mr. Jennin’s,” she said to the caller, and took the boy from him.

“ Go into the kitchen, Henry, and stay there until mother says you may come out.”

The child, after one more awed inspection of the strange monster which had carried him across, disappeared through the door.

“ Won’t you come in and sit down, Mr. Jennin’s? ” she asked.

She was a young woman still, but with the lines of youth sharpened and drawn by the drudgery and confinement of a farmer’s kitchen. She wore a loose and dingy wrapper of black and white, unbelted at the waist. Her feet were in old slippers, down at the heel, which clattered as she walked, and her hair was wrapped in curl papers.

The caller did not care to go in.

“ No thank you, Mrs. Osgood,”he said, “ I can’t stop. I’ve just been over seein’ your father a minute. He ’s pretty bright for his years, ain’t he ? A pretty well-posted man, I call him.”

“ Yes,” said the woman, “ I don’t know but what he is. He ’d ought to be, that’s certain. He takes enough time to it.”

“ How is he to get along with, pretty good ? ”

“ Well, now, I ’ll tell you, Mr. Jennin’s. Strangers see the best side of father. They think he’s interestin’ and all that; and maybe he is when you don’t see much of him. But if they had to live with him I guess it ’d be different. Father’s awful queer. He just sits there alone day in and day out, and fusses and fumes over politics and the rights of the people and a lot of high-soundin’ things like that. He ’ll talk, talk, talk about ’em mornin’ and night if you ’ll only let him. It gets mighty tedious after a while. If you lived with him yourself, you’d see how it was.”

“ Prob’ly I would,” said the visitor.

“ But I won’t let him,” she continued. “ I won’t stan’ it. I was n’t brought up that way. My folks was practical, and I guess I’m about as practical as they make ’em. I say we’ve got trouble enough to look out for number one in this world, and when that’s done, it’s time enough to worry about the rest of folks. If he seen that years ago, we’d been fixed different from what we are now ; you know that. It’s ridiculous, in my way of thinkin’, for a man of his age to think he’s goin’ to do anybody any good fussin’ over politics, when we’ve got men hired a-purpose for that very thing.

“ Well, I’m ’fraid you ’ll think you ’ve got me wound up and I won’t never stop. But you asked me, and I thought I’d tell you. Father’s old and sort of childish, and we have to be watchin’ him and keepin’ him down all the time to see he don’t do anything foolish. I don’t think he’s just right about those things sometimes ; so he’s a good deal of trouble to us, both that way and a good many others.”

“ I don’t doubt what you say, Mrs. Osgood,” said the caller, starting away. “ I don’t doubt it a bit. Old folks get to be an awful care ; I can appreciate that.”

The ex-member, when his visitor had left the house, returned to his armchair, readjusted his spectacles, smoothed out his newspaper, and started reading once more. A newspaper was a long day’s journey to him, from which he emerged laden with much spoil. It was mostly politics, of course, he sought and found. He belonged to a generation which took its self-government more seriously than we do now, — a sort of golden age of politics, — belated representatives of which still linger with us to write those queer, long letters to the editor, which wail unseen in the corners of the country paper. From odd little hiding places all over the land the eyes of these are upon us, seeing strange and fearful things. But their voices are faint, their strength is gone from them ; they can accomplish nothing. Sunk in the impotence of old age, they are no more to us than ghosts to living men.

The ex-member plunged immediately into an abstract of the obnoxious bill. As he read it, he began talking to himself and pounding on the arm of the chair. Finally he threw the paper on the floor, got up, and began walking back and forth across the room. In his anger he even forgot to get his dinner. At last, tired out with excitement, he sank back into the depths of the chair and fell into a drowse.

He was aroused by the advent of his daughter-in-law in the afternoon. It was quite a state occasion with Mrs. Osgood, Jr. She was wearing for the first time her new best dress, a creation of purple cloth, — a little drawn across the back, a little straightened in the sleeves, a little stiff and self-conscious in its whole appearance, — a triumph of patient country art, destined to shine among a hundred sister garments in the village church.

“Well, Sarah, I’m glad to see ye,” said the old man warmly. “ Sit right down and make yourself at home.”

The woman took a seat opposite him in the little low rocking chair, where his old wife used to sit.

“ I thought you ’d be kind of lonesome, father, so I’d come over and we ’d have a real good talk,” she began.

“ That’s right; that ’s right.”

She began preparations for her sewing ; there was a little pause. In a minute the woman spoke again.

“ I wore over my new dress, so’s you could see it,” she said, getting up and turning round.

“ That ’s nice.”

“ You like it, do you ? ”

“ Yes, first class, far’s I can see. You know I ain’t much of a hand on dresses.”

The artist seated herself again, not well satisfied with the indifferent praise of the old man. But then what could one expect ?

“ I’m going to have something else pretty, too,” she went on, holding up the lace arrangement on which she was working.

“ That’s good.”

“ Yes, father. I’ve been without anything so long I was actually ashamed of myself, and I just made up my mind this spring I ’d have some things anyhow. I think I needed ’em, don’t you ?”

No answer from the old man ; he was back brooding over his country’s degeneration.

“ You ain’t very sociable this afternoon,” said his visitor, piqued. “ What’s the matter now ? ”

“ Oh, nothing.”

“ Yes it is too. What is it? ”

The smouldering fires in the old man’s soul burst forth again. “ It’s that land law they ’re passin’ in the legislature, — that’s what it is. I tell you I can’t stan’ it. Ain’t we got any rights in this country ? Ain’t we got any laws ? Ain’t we got any common decency ? By great heaven ” —

“ Now, father,” said the woman sharply, “ you stop right where you are. I don’t think it looks very well for a man of your years to take on like that for anything, I don’t care what.”

“ I understand all that, Sarah, but when I see the people of this state bein’ swindled and sold by Tom, Dick, and the devil down thar at the state house, I can’t help it. What right have those little whipper-snappers down thar to trade and barter and squander our rights for us ? What right have they, I want to know ? What ” —

“ There you go again. If you keep on like that a little while longer you ’ll be down sick the way you was last election.”

“ I’m afraid you ain’t so much interested in your country as you ought to be. You ain’t ever paid much attention to the affairs of this great state that raised you, have you ? ”

“ No, I don’t believe I have,” the woman flared, “and I don’t want to, if it would make me act the way you do. If you’ve got to do something,” she continued sarcastically, “ why don’t you begin at home and help Henry and me some ? ”

“ What’s the use of your goin’ all over that again ? ” protested the old man.

“ Because you ought to, that ’s why. Look at the way we ’re livin’ ; it’s disgraceful. I’m ashamed to poke my head out of doors. No clothes, no time to go out, no nothin’. If I ’; known how things was goin’, you can make up your mind I would n’t have married into this family.”

The old man said nothing.

“ The trouble is,” she went on bitterly, “ you won’t see our side.”

“ Well, I dunno. I guess I’ve heard enough about it.”

“No you ain’t, and you won’t,” said the woman, flaring up again, “ till you do what’s right.”

“ What do you want ? I ain’t got any money, have I ? ”

“ No, but you ’ve got the farm, an’ you’ve got Henry, a grown man workin’ for you. I tell you, Henry’s gettin’ tired of bein’ your hired man.”

“ He’s had the whole use of the farm, ain’t he, and everything that’s come off it ? And I’ve built you a house of your own and given it to you, and you ’re to have everything when I die. What more could you do if you had the title to the land ? ”

“ We could sell off some of it, that’s what we could do. We could get some money for some of that land we don’t need, and live like somebody.”

“ You ’d sell it, — that’s just what you’d do. You’d sell it and you’d mortgage it, and you’d clear off my trees, and you ’d tear down my house and bring me over to your house to live, and you’d get rid of my horse and dogs, that’s been good servants to me all these years. That’s what you’d do My feelin’s and my sentiments don’t mean anything to you. What’s an old man amount to anyhow ? But I want you to understand one thing, Sarah, you won’t never do it, — not while I’m alive. I won’t listen to givin’ up the title to this farm one minute. No, sir, I won’t.”

“ No,” jeered the angry woman. “ You ’ll sit here and talk, talk, talk about your duties of citizenship and your legislatures and senates, and your rights of the people, and your Sumners, and your Lincolns, and this and that till everybody ’s sick and tired. But you won’t listen when you ’re asked to be kind of decent to your own folks. I tell you one thing : it only makes you ridiculous, and it’s time you knew it. People have got something else to do besides listen to an old man go on forever about politics.

“ What do you know about politics now, anyhow ? ” she said, fiercely staring at the silent old man. “You’re talkin’ about something that’s twentyfive years old. I don’t believe you could appreciate what they ’re doin’ down there anyhow. They ’re smart fellers down there, and you ’re a feeble old man. If I was you I’d keep what I thought to myself, and not make myself any more of a laughingstock than I could help, — that’s what I ’d do. You can do just as you please. Only hereafter I don’t want you to talk any more of that stuff to me nor to my boy. And you want to remember that.”

She gathered up her work and flounced out of the house.

When she had gone, the old man sank back into his chair, crushed by the sordid quarrel and the heavy sense of utter uselessness. For a long time he sat there, staring despondently at the wall. The old dog slept at his side, the old clock ticked loudly through the silence, the old portraits looked solemnly down upon his head. He was like a silent ghost dreaming in a gallery of the dead.

After a time he raised his eyes to where the portrait of Lincoln stared benignantly down upon him from the wall. It seemed an inspiration to the old man. He straightened up again, and the courage gradually returned to his face. Suddenly he sat up.

“ No, sir ; no, sir; no, sir,” he said aloud.

Then he sat erect several minutes thinking. At last determination was fixed on his face.

“ I 'll do it,” said the ex-member, smiting the arm of his chair with his fist. He got up soon after, went into his bedroom, and carefully laid out his black broadcloth suit and his best black soft hat. Last of all he set beside them his heavy gold-headed cane, — the tribute of his fellow citizens of Plainfield when he retired from their service in the legislature. Then he went out and bribed a neighboring small boy to take care of his animals while he was gone.

The veteran was excited. He was going before the public again, and it was nervous work. The local paper occasionally alluded to “ our respected townsman, the venerable Cincinnatus of Plainfield, Jared Osgood,” but otherwise he had been out of print for many years. Late in the dusk the ex-member could be seen walking among his pear trees, with his hands behind his back, looking at the sky and speculating on the weather for tomorrow. He slept very little that night; in the morning he took the first train for the capital.

By the middle of the morning, the ex-member had arrived at the state house and was going in, —a slight, uncertain, black figure on the great white marble steps. When he had gotten well into the building he stopped, somewhat confused. A very active young man, dressed in a finely moulded “ Prince Albert,” with an irreproachable tie, came bustling up the corridor.

“ Can you show me,” asked the exmember, “ where the committee on the revision of the statutes is having its hearings ? I’m kind of confused in here. You see ” —

“ Yes, yes, uncle, excuse me,” said the active young man, hurrying on. “You ’ll have to see some one else. I ’m very busy just now.”

The ex-member disapproved of the manner of the active young man. He objected seriously to being called uncle. As the active young man bustled on he encountered a good - natured member coming in.

“ Say, Fogg,” he said, “take care of that old fossil down there, will you, before he wanders up into the dome and falls off ? I guess he wants to go in and give some good advice to the committee.”

The good-natured member took the old man in charge, ushered him into the committee room, and introduced him to the chairman. The committee did not seem to be overworked at just that moment. Its members were lounging in their chairs, waiting for something to turn up.

“ Here is a gentleman,” said the goodnatured member to the chairman, “ who wants to address the committee on a matter connected with the revision.”

“ Oh yes,” said the chairman, “ what is your name, please ? ”

“Jared Osgood from Plainfield, sir. I was formerly connected with the legislature in both branches.”

“Is that so? Well, Mr. Osgood, we shall be very glad to hear you.”

The chairman rapped for order; the ex-member laid aside his hat and stood before the committee.

“ Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,” he began in his best oratorical manner, “I wish to call your attention for a few moments to a matter which appears to me to be a mighty serious and important thing to the people of this state.”

The ex-member, with his long white hair and his smooth, ruddy face, did credit to the old school, as he started talking. He seemed quite vigorous, except that his chin would tremble back and forth. There was fire in his eye, and a spot of color in each cheek, and his old voice was sonorous and impressive.

“ I refer, sir,” he continued, “ to this revision of the property laws.”

Since he had begun speaking, the active member had bustled in and taken his seat.

“ Excuse me,” he interrupted, “ Mr. — Mr. ” —

“ Mr. Osgood.”

“ Oh yes, Mr. Osgood. Well, Mr. Osgood, I think the chair will tell you that there is no use in discussing that subject at this late day. It was coming up in the House this morning, and unless I am greatly mistaken it has already been acted upon.”

“ According to what I saw in the papers,” said the ex-member stoutly, “it was n’t going to come up till to-morrow morning.”

“ I think,” said the chairman, smiling slightly at the active member, “ you will find Mr. Osgood to be correct. The matter is to be considered to-morrow.”

A general smile was indulged in at the expense of the active member. It naturally piqued him.

“ I submit,” he urged, “ that in any case it is too late, with our rush of business, to reopen this matter again.”

“ I must say,” said the chairman, “ that I see no objection to hearing Mr. Osgood on the question.”

“ Of course, Mr. Chairman, it’s immaterial to me,” said the active member scornfully. “ I merely wished to save the time of the committee.” He sat down and began drumming lightly on his desk.

“ I thank you, sir,” said the ex-member to the chairman, “ and I want to take up just as little of your time as I can ; so I ’ll get right at what I was goin’ to say. The other day, in readin5 over this real estate law, I came across something that’s bothered me considerable, and that’s what I came down here to call your attention to. Gentlemen, if you ’ll take your documents and turn to the third section you ’ll find it runs something like this : 4 Any title to land duly guaranteed and conveyed by a deed, executed and delivered by the person or by the attorney having authority therefor, shall be sufficient without any other act or ceremony to convey real estate.’ Now, gentlemen, what I want to know is, just why that change was made thar.”

“ I understand, Mr. Chairman,” said one member, “ that that part of the law was an exact copy of the old one.”

“ It is,” said the ex-member, “ with the exception of one thing, and that is the insertion of the word 4 guarantee ’ in thar. Now, I ’d like to ask you, gentlemen, — if it’s in order, — just what that word ‘ guarantee ’ means ?”

44 I think I can answer that question, Mr. Chairman, if that’s all our friend wants to know,” said the active member, jumping up rather quickly. “ When that agitation of the Torrens registration system was up, some of those people got that word put in there for reasons best known to themselves. Then they got beaten, and since then nobody’s taken the trouble to cut it out.

“ And there’s no reason why they should, Mr. Chairman. It’s perfectly safe as it stands. All it can be construed to mean is, that the seller of the property gives his guarantee that his title is all right, which, as you are aware, sir, is practically what he does now.”

“ Maybe that’s right, sir,” said the ex-member, regarding the active member severely. “ Maybe that’s all there is to it. But I ’ll not give in till somebody explains to me one more thing, — about a little paragraph that they ’re tackin’ on to the end of the corporation laws the last minute. Maybe you can tell all about that, too. If you can I wisht you would.”

The ex-member stopped and began fumbling with some papers in the inside pocket of his coat.

“ Well, sir,” said the active member, “ if you will state your question, I will endeavor to do what I can for you.”

The ex-member evidently had difficulty in finding what he wanted. Meanwhile the active member began irritating him, and diverting his attention by a fire of suggestions, none of which seemed pertinent.

“ It was n’t the section on their taxation, was it ? ”

“ No, sir.”

“ Nor the one on registration ? ”

“ No, sir, it ain’t; you wait a minute and I ’ll find it.”

The active member sat back and yawned demonstratively. A number of others followed his example. The committee was getting restive. The ex-member saw it and grew more and more confused. If he should lose the attention of the committee now, he might as well have never come.

“ I thought I had it where I could lay my hands right on it,” he said apologetically, shuffling over his papers with agitated hands. “I don’t see how I could have lost it.”

“ Give us the substance of it, Mr. Osgood,” suggested the chairman.

“ Well, you see, Mr. Chairman,” said the ex-member, “ my memory is n’t so good as it once was, especially when I get a little excited, and I 'm afraid I would n’t make my point clear.”

He went on with his tremulous hunting. The longer it took him the move pleased apparently was the active member. He leaned over and whispered to another committeeman to amuse himself.

“ Can’t I help you find it ? ” asked the good-natured member.

“ No, sir, I’m afraid not,” said the ex-member. Just then his face lighted up. “ Oh, here it is now.” He opened the shaking paper and read aloud : —

“ ‘No person, or persons, or corporation, shall engage in the guaranteeing of land titles in this state who shall not have a paid-in capital of at least $250,000.’ ”

As he read this his courage returned to him.

“ I wisht you’d tell me, if you can,” he said, looking toward the active member, “ how those two laws are goin’ to get along on the statute books together.”

The active member suddenly grew red.

“You ’ll have to go over that again,” he said.

“ Well, then, this is it in a nutshell: in the first section I gave you, you have to guarantee your land, don’t you ? In the second, thar’s only one thing can guarantee it, ain’t there, — one of these land guarantee companies, with $250,000 capital ? Now, what I want to know is, how do you get around that ? ”

He paused, and turned toward the active member, waiting for his reply.

The active member had become very much flushed and embarrassed. Several members began whispering and looking in his direction. Finally he spoke ; he seemed to think something was expected of him.

“I — don’t think I ever gave that matter any particular attention,” he stammered ; “ in fact, the idea is new to me. And I’m not sure but that last clause was introduced by me for some of my constituents, too. But the thought — of any connection — between the two sections — never occurred to me until this moment.

“ It may be,” he added, “ that this gentleman has called our attention to something which we have all overlooked.”

The other committeemen certainly saw the point.

“ By George! ” said one member, “ I believe the old man’s right.”

The ex-member went on to his final appeal.

“Now, gentlemen,” he said, “what I’m interested in is this more especially : what would a law like that mean to the farmers of this state ? I speak for them because I know about ’em ; I’ve been a farmer among farmin’ people all my life. You know just as well ’s I do how things have been goin’ with the farmers late years; their land’s all they ’ve got, but more ’n half the farmers’ lands in the state ain’t worth enough to pay taxes on to-day. And now somebody comes along and says that every farmer and every farmer’s widow and orphans in the state that wants to sell a little piece of land has got to pay twentyfive dollars to one of these big, greedy corporations for the privilege. Maybe that ain’t robbery, sir, but it looks to me about as thorough as if you stood up a majority of the decent, self-supportin’ people of this state in a line, and went through their pockets and took out twenty-five dollars apiece for the benefit of these land guarantee companies. What’s the excuse for that kind of law, Mr. Chairman ? What’s the defense of it ? Thar ain’t any, sir, and you know it, except that thar’s somebody taking advantage of this legislature and its rush of business, and tryin’ to push it through unwatched and unnoticed under cover of darkness.

“ And when I saw that, sir, I could n’t stan’ it; I just had to come down here and speak about it. And now I’ve done so, sir, I know it ’ll be all right.

“ This is the state I was born and raised in, Mr. Chairman, and have been proud of for more than sixty years,” said the ex-member, with a growing waver in his voice, “ and my father and grandfather before me; and I know at this late day thar ain’t any legislature of hers here assembled that’s goin’ to foul her record by passing any such unjust and inequitable laws as this one is. No, sir.

“ I’ve got to be an old man, Mr. Chairman, and old men are apt to be tedious, I understand that. And if I’ve taken up too much of your time, I want you to excuse me. But I’ve been bound up in the affairs of this republic, and more especially in this state of ours, ever since I was a boy. And when I saw this thing, I said to myself, 1 Maybe here’s a chance where I can do her just one more service before I die.’ And I believe I’ve done it; yes, sir, I believe I have. And if it turns out the way I think it will, Mr. Chairman, it ’ll be a satisfaction that there can’t anybody take away from me, not so long as I live — to think, old as I am, I’ve been able to be of some service to this state. This grand old state, sir, God bless her, may she stan’ pure and upright and powerful among her sister states, sir, long after you and I, and our children, and our grandchildren’s children, have been gathered into honored graves in her soil.

“ And now, Mr. Chairman,” said the ex-member, apologetically lowering his voice after his outburst of sentiment, “ I guess that’s all, unless somebody wants to ask me any questions. And I want to thank your committee for their attention.”

When he had finished, the committeemen were busy comparing the two sections and whispering to one another.

“ That would be a nice little steal,” said one.

“ Yes, that would be pretty,” said another.

Then they began laughing, though two or three, among them the active member, did not laugh so loud as the rest. The last-named gentleman seemed especially self-conscious.

The ex-member stood waiting.

“ Gentlemen,” asked the chairman, “ is there any question you would like to ask Mr. Osgood ? ”

“ I guess not,” said one voice, “ I guess that’s all we want.”

The ex-member secured his hat and cane and started for the door.

The good-natured member detained him. ” I wish to state, Mr. Chairman,” he said, “ in behalf of this committee, that we are exceedingly grateful to Mr. Osgood for appearing before us. I for one am practically convinced that he is right in the matter; and I can assure him that if such is the case, this law will be amended before it is passed, I may add also, as the sentiment of my associates, as well as of myself, that this state was fortunate when she enjoyed the services of the generation of men of which Mr. Osgood is a representative. Apparently they set a standard which is rather high for the present generation to realize.”

The members of the committee applauded generously at this, and the exmember, flushed and excited, bowed his acknowledgments and retreated to the corridor, full of the fierce delight of accomplishment. He had been outside but a few moments before the good-natured member overtook him.

“ We are n’t going to let you run away like this,” he said pleasantly.

Then they took the ex-member and showed him through the magnificent new state house ; and they brought in the oldest member of the legislature, who had just started his service in the House when the ex-member was leaving the Senate, and these two shook hands and discussed forgotten issues together. And, finally, the good-natured member, who was a personal friend of the governor, took the ex-member in to meet the chief executive.

The governor told the ex-member that he understood he had done the people of the state a most valuable service in calling the attention of the legislature to its oversight, and the soul of the exmember was filled with pride and exultation. The ex-member told the governor he had known his father, and admired him as much as any man in the politics of his time, which pleased the governor greatly. He insisted on the ex-member’s calling again at the close of the day’s work.

Toward the end of the afternoon, when business was over in the state house, an unusual couple ascended the big front steps. One was an awkward man of middle age, clad in a dull, heavy suit of gray store clothes. The other was a white, sharp-faced woman, dressed in a purple gown, black cotton gloves, and a most eccentric hat. She was evidently the commander of the expedition.

“ This is the state house, ain’t it ? ” she inquired of a janitor.

“ Yes’m,” said that official.

“Well, we’ve come here lookin’ for our father ; he’s run away from home, and we kind of suspect he’s come down here to talk to the legislature. He ’s real kind of feeble, and sometimes we think he ain’t just right in his mind, especially on politics. He’s been talkin’ considerable lately about some new statutes or something of that kind, and we were sort of ’fraid he’d wandered down here and made a fuss. You ain’t seen anything of him round here, have you ? ”

“ Is it the old gentleman with white hair, that’s been talkin’ to the committee on the land law you mean ? ” asked the janitor.

“ Yes,” said the woman, “ that’s him.”

“Yes ’m,” said the janitor impressively, “ I know where he is. He’s up takin’ dinner with the governor.”

George Kibbe Turner.