The Man With One
Talent by Richard Harding Davis
The mass-meeting in the Madison Square Garden which was to help
set Cuba free was finished, and the people were pushing their way out
of the overheated building into the snow and sleet of the streets.
They had been greatly stirred and the spell of the last speaker still
hung so heavily upon them that as they pressed down the long corridor
they were still speaking loudly in his praise.
A young man moved eagerly amongst them, and pushed his way to
wherever a voice was raised above the rest. He strained forward,
listening openly, as though he tried to judge the effect of the
meeting by the verdict of those about him.
But the words he overheard seemed to clash with what he wished
them to be, and the eager look on his face changed to one of doubt
and of grave disappointment. When he had reached the sidewalk he
stopped and stood looking back alternately into the lighted hall and
at the hurrying crowds which were dispersing rapidly. He made a
movement as though he would recall them, as though he felt they were
still unconvinced, as though there was much still left unsaid.
A fat stranger halted at his elbow to light his cigar, and
glancing up nodded his head approvingly.
"Fine speaker, Senator Stanton, ain't he?" he said.
The young man answered eagerly. "Yes," he assented, "he is a
great orator, but how could he help but speak well with such a
"Oh, you ought to have heard him last November at Tammany Hall,"
the fat stranger answered. "He wasn't quite up to himself to- night.
He wasn't so interested. Those Cubans are foreigners, you see, but
you ought to heard him last St. Patrick's day on Home Rule for
Ireland. Then he was talking! That speech made him a United States
senator, I guess. I don't just see how he expects to win out on this
Cuba game. The Cubans haven't got no votes."
The young man opened his eyes in some bewilderment.
"He speaks for the good of Cuba, for the sake of humanity," he
"What?" inquired the fat stranger. "Oh, yes, of course. Well, I
must be getting on. Good-night, sir."
The stranger moved on his way, but the young man still lingered
uncertainly in the snow-swept corridor shivering violently with the
cold and stamping his feet for greater comfort. His face was burned
to a deep red, which seemed to have come from some long exposure to a
tropical sun, but which held no sign of health. His cheeks were hollow
and his eyes were lighted with the fire of fever and from time to time
he was shaken by violent bursts of coughing which caused him to reach
toward one of the pillars for support.
As the last of the lights went out in the Garden, the speaker of
the evening and three of his friends came laughing and talking down
the long corridor. Senator Stanton was a conspicuous figure at any
time, and even in those places where his portraits had not penetrated
he was at once recognized as a personage. Something in his erect
carriage and an unusual grace of movement, and the power and success
in his face, made men turn to look at him. He had been told that he
resembled the early portraits of Henry Clay, and he had never quite
forgotten the coincidence.
The senator was wrapping the collar of his fur coat around his
throat and puffing contentedly at a fresh cigar, and as he passed,
the night watchman and the ushers bowed to the great man and stood
looking after him with the half-humorous, half-envious deference that
the American voter pays to the successful politician. At the
sidewalk, the policemen hurried to open the door of his carriage and
in their eagerness made a double line, through which he passed nodding
to them gravely. The young man who had stood so long in waiting
pushed his way through the line to his side.
"Senator Stanton," he began timidly, "might I speak to you a
moment? My name is Arkwright; I am just back from Cuba, and I want
to thank you for your speech. I am an American, and I thank God that
I am since you are too, sir. No one has said anything since the war
began that compares with what you said to- night. You put it nobly,
and I know, for I've been there for three years, only I can't make
other people understand it, and I am thankful that some one can.
You'll forgive my stopping you, sir, but I wanted to thank you. I
feel it very much."
Senator Stanton's friends had already seated themselves in his
carriage and were looking out of the door and smiling with mock
patience. But the senator made no move to follow them. Though they
were his admirers they were sometimes skeptical, and he was not sorry
that they should hear this uninvited tribute. So he made a pretence
of buttoning his long coat about him, and nodded encouragingly to
Arkwright to continue. "I'm glad you liked it, sir," he said with the
pleasant, gracious smile that had won him a friend wherever it had won
him a vote. "It is very satisfactory to know from one who is well
informed on the subject that what I have said is correct. The
situation there is truly terrible. You have just returned, you say?
Where were you--in Havana?"
"No, in the other provinces, sir," Arkwright answered. "I have
been all over the island, I am a civil engineer. The truth has not
been half told about Cuba, I assure you, sir. It is massacre there,
not war. It is partly so through ignorance, but nevertheless it is
massacre. And what makes it worse is, that it is the massacre of the
innocents. That is what I liked best of what you said in that great
speech, the part about the women and children."
He reached out his hands detainingly, and then drew back as though
in apology for having already kept the great man so long waiting in
the cold. "I wish I could tell you some of the terrible things I have
seen," he began again, eagerly as Stanton made no movement to depart.
"They are much worse than those you instanced to-night, and you could
make so much better use of them than any one else. I have seen
starving women nursing dead babies, and sometimes starving babies
sucking their dead mother's breasts; I have seen men cut down in the
open roads and while digging in the fields--and two hundred women
imprisoned in one room without food and eaten with small-pox, and huts
burned while the people in them slept--"
The young man had been speaking impetuously, but he stopped as
suddenly, for the senator was not listening to him. He had lowered
his eyes and was looking with a glance of mingled fascination and
disgust at Arkwright's hands. In his earnestness the young man had
stretched them out, and as they showed behind the line of his ragged
sleeves the others could see, even in the blurred light and falling
snow, that the wrists of each hand were gashed and cut in dark-brown
lines like the skin of a mulatto, and in places were a raw red, where
the fresh skin had but just closed over. The young man paused and
stood shivering, still holding his hands out rigidly before him.
The senator raised his eyes slowly and drew away.
"What is that?" he said in a low voice, pointing with a gloved
finger at the black lines on the wrists.
A sergeant in the group of policemen who had closed around the
speakers answered him promptly from his profound fund of professional
"That's handcuffs, senator," he said importantly, and glanced at
Stanton as though to signify that at a word from him he would take
this suspicious character into custody. The young man pulled the
frayed cuffs of his shirt over his wrists and tucked his hands, which
the cold had frozen into an ashy blue, under his armpits to warm them.
"No, they don't use handcuffs in the field," he said in the same
low, eager tone; "they use ropes and leather thongs; they fastened me
behind a horse and when he stumbled going down the trail it jerked me
forward and the cords would tighten and tear the flesh. But they have
had a long time to heal now. I have been eight months in prison."
The young men at the carriage window had ceased smiling and were
listening intently. One of them stepped out and stood beside the
carriage door looking down at the shivering figure before him with a
close and curious scrutiny.
"Eight months in prison!" echoed the police sergeant with a note
of triumph; "what did I tell you?"
"Hold your tongue!" said the young man at the carriage door. There
was silence for a moment, while the men looked at the senator, as
though waiting for him to speak.
"Where were you in prison, Mr. Arkwright?" he asked.
"First in the calaboose at Santa Clara for two months, and then in
Cabanas. The Cubans who were taken when I was, were shot by the
fusillade on different days during this last month. Two of them, the
Ezetas, were father and son, and the Volunteer band played all the
time the execution was going on, so that the other prisoners might not
hear them cry 'Cuba Libre' when the order came to fire. But we heard
The senator shivered slightly and pulled his fur collar up farther
around his face. "I'd like to talk with you," he said, "if you have
nothing to do to-morrow. I'd like to go into this thing thoroughly.
Congress must be made to take some action."
The young man clasped his hands eagerly. "Ah, Mr. Stanton, if you
would," he cried, "if you would only give me an hour! I could tell
you so much that you could use. And you can believe what I say,
sir--it is not necessary to lie--God knows the truth is bad enough. I
can give you names and dates for everything I say. Or I can do better
than that, sir. I can take you there yourself--in three months I can
show you all you need to see, without danger to you in any way. And
they would not know me, now that I have grown a beard, and I am a
skeleton to what I was.
I can speak the language well, and I know just what you should
see, and then you could come back as one speaking with authority and
not have to say, 'I have read,' or 'have been told,' but you can say,
'These are the things I have seen'--and you could free Cuba."
The senator coughed and put the question aside for the moment with
a wave of the hand that held his cigar. "We will talk of that
to-morrow also. Come to lunch with me at one. My apartments are in
the Berkeley on Fifth Avenue. But aren't you afraid to go back
there?" he asked curiously. "I should think you'd had enough of it.
And you've got a touch of fever, haven't you?" He leaned forward and
peered into the other's eyes.
"It is only the prison fever," the young man answered; "food and
this cold will drive that out of me. And I must go back. There is
so much to do there," he added. "Ah, if I could tell them, as you can
tell them, what I feel here." He struck his chest sharply with his
hand, and on the instant fell into a fit of coughing so violent that
the young man at the carriage door caught him around the waist, and
one of the policemen supported him from the other side.
"You need a doctor," said the senator kindly. "I'll ask mine to
have a look at you. Don't forget, then, at one o'clock to- morrow.
We will go into this thing thoroughly." He shook Arkwright warmly by
the hand and stooping stepped into the carriage. The young man who
had stood at the door followed him and crowded back luxuriously
against the cushions. The footman swung himself up beside the driver,
and said "Uptown Delmonico's," as he wrapped the fur rug around his
legs, and with a salute from the policemen and a scraping of hoofs on
the slippery asphalt the great man was gone.
"That poor fellow needs a doctor," he said as the carriage rolled
up the avenue, "and he needs an overcoat, and he needs food. He
needs about almost everything, by the looks of him."
But the voice of the young man in the corner of the carriage
"On the contrary," he said, "it seemed to me that he had the one
By one o'clock of the day following, Senator Stanton, having read
the reports of his speech in the morning papers, punctuated with
"Cheers," "Tremendous enthusiasm" and more "Cheers," was still in a
willing frame of mind toward Cuba and her self-appointed envoy, young
Over night he had had doubts but that the young man's enthusiasm
would bore him on the morrow, but Mr. Arkwright, when he appeared,
developed, on the contrary, a practical turn of mind which rendered
his suggestions both flattering and feasible. He was still terribly
in earnest, but he was clever enough or serious enough to see that the
motives which appealed to him might not have sufficient force to move
a successful statesman into action. So he placed before the senator
only those arguments and reasons which he guessed were the best
adapted to secure his interest and his help. His proposal as he set
it forth was simplicity itself.
"Here is a map of the island," he said; "on it I have marked the
places you can visit in safety, and where you will meet the people
you ought to see. If you leave New York at midnight you can reach
Tampa on the second day. From Tampa we cross in another day to
Havana. There you can visit the Americans imprisoned in Morro and
Cabanas, and in the streets you can see the starving pacificos. From
Havana I shall take you by rail to Jucaro, Matanzas, Santa Clara and
Cienfuegos. You will not be able to see the insurgents in the
fields--it is not necessary that you should--but you can visit one of
the sugar plantations and some of the insurgent chiefs will run the
forts by night and come in to talk with you. I will show you burning
fields and houses, and starving men and women by the thousands, and
men and women dying of fevers. You can see Cuban prisoners shot by a
firing squad and you can note how these rebels meet death. You can
see all this in three weeks and be back in New York in a month, as any
one can see it who wishes to learn the truth. Why, English members of
Parliament go all the way to India and British Columbia to inform
themselves about those countries, they travel thousands of miles, but
only one member of either of our houses of Congress has taken the
trouble to cross these eighty miles of water that lie between us and
Cuba. You can either go quietly and incognito, as it were, or you can
advertise the fact of your going, which would be better. And from
the moment you start the interest in your visit will grow and increase
until there will be no topic discussed in any of our papers except
yourself, and what you are doing and what you mean to do.
"By the time you return the people will be waiting, ready and
eager to hear whatever you may have to say. Your word will be the
last word for them. It is not as though you were some demagogue
seeking notoriety, or a hotel piazza correspondent at Key West or
Jacksonville. You are the only statesman we have, the only orator
Americans will listen to, and I tell you that when you come before
them and bring home to them as only you can the horrors of this war,
you will be the only man in this country. You will be the Patrick
Henry of Cuba; you can go down to history as the man who added the
most beautiful island in the seas to the territory of the United
States, who saved thousands of innocent children and women, and who
dared to do what no other politician has dared to do--to go and see
for himself and to come back and speak the truth. It only means a
month out of your life, a month's trouble and discomfort, but with no
risk. What is a month out of a lifetime, when that month means
immortality to you and life to thousands? In a month you would make a
half dozen after-dinner speeches and cause your friends to laugh and
applaud. Why not wring their hearts instead, and hold this thing up
before them as it is, and shake it in their faces? Show it to them in
all its horror--bleeding, diseased and naked, an offence to our
humanity, and to our prated love of liberty, and to our God."
The young man threw himself eagerly forward and beat the map with
his open palm. But the senator sat apparently unmoved gazing
thoughtfully into the open fire, and shook his head.
While the luncheon was in progress the young gentleman who the
night before had left the carriage and stood at Arkwright's side, had
entered the room and was listening intently. He had invited himself
to some fresh coffee, and had then relapsed into an attentive silence,
following what the others said with an amused and interested
countenance. Stanton had introduced him as Mr. Livingstone, and
appeared to take it for granted that Arkwright would know who he was.
He seemed to regard him with a certain deference which Arkwright
judged was due to some fixed position the young man held, either of
social or of political value.
"I do not know," said Stanton with consideration, "that I am
prepared to advocate the annexation of the island. It is a serious
"I am not urging that," Arkwright interrupted anxiously; "the
Cubans themselves do not agree as to that, and in any event it is an
afterthought. Our object now should be to prevent further bloodshed.
If you see a man beating a boy to death, you first save the boy's
life and decide afterward where he is to go to school. If there were
any one else, senator," Arkwright continued earnestly, "I would not
trouble you. But we all know your strength in this country. You are
independent and fearless, and men of both parties listen to you.
Surely, God has given you this great gift of oratory, if you will
forgive my speaking so, to use only in a great cause. A grand organ
in a cathedral is placed there to lift men's thoughts to high resolves
and purposes, not to make people dance. A street organ can do that.
Now, here is a cause worthy of your great talents, worthy of a Daniel
Webster, of a Henry Clay."
The senator frowned at the fire and shook his head doubtfully.
"If they knew what I was down there for," he asked, "wouldn't they
put me in prison too?"
Arkwright laughed incredulously.
"Certainly not," he said; "you would go there as a private
citizen, as a tourist to look on and observe. Spain is not seeking
complications of that sort. She has troubles enough without
imprisoning United States senators."
"Yes; but these fevers now," persisted Stanton, "they're no
respecter of persons, I imagine. A United States senator is not
above smallpox or cholera."
Arkwright shook his head impatiently and sighed.
"It is difficult to make it clear to one who has not been there,"
he said. "These people and soldiers are dying of fever because they
are forced to live like pigs, and they are already sick with
starvation. A healthy man like yourself would be in no more danger
than you would be in walking through the wards of a New York
Senator Stanton turned in his armchair, and held up his hand
"If I were to tell them the things you have told me," he said
warningly, "if I were to say I have seen such things--American
property in flames, American interests ruined, and that five times as
many women and children have died of fever and starvation in three
months in Cuba as the Sultan has massacred in Armenia in three
years--it would mean war with Spain."
"Well?" said Arkwright.
Stanton shrugged his shoulders and sank back again in his chair.
"It would either mean war," Arkwright went on, "or it might mean
the sending of the Red Cross army to Cuba. It went to
Constantinople, five thousand miles away, to help the Armenian
Christians--why has it waited three years to go eighty miles to feed
and clothe the Cuban women and children? It is like sending help to a
hungry peasant in Russia while a man dies on your doorstep."
"Well," said the senator, rising, "I will let you know to-morrow.
If it is the right thing to do, and if I can do it, of course it
must be done. We start from Tampa, you say? I know the presidents
of all of those roads and they'll probably give me a private car for
the trip down. Shall we take any newspaper men with us, or shall I
wait until I get back and be interviewed? What do you think?"
"I would wait until my return," Arkwright answered, his eyes
glowing with the hope the senator's words had inspired, "and then
speak to a mass-meeting here and in Boston and in Chicago. Three
speeches will be enough. Before you have finished your last one the
American warships will be in the harbor of Havana."
"Ah, youth, youth!" said the senator, smiling gravely, "it is no
light responsibility to urge a country into war."
"It is no light responsibility," Arkwright answered, "to know you
have the chance to save the lives of thousands of little children and
helpless women and to let the chance pass."
"Quite so, that is quite true," said the senator. "Well, good-
morning. I shall let you know to-morrow."
Young Livingstone went down in the elevator with Arkwright, and
when they had reached the sidewalk stood regarding him for a moment
"You mustn't count too much on Stanton, you know," he said kindly;
"he has a way of disappointing people."
"Ah, he can never disappoint me," Arkwright answered confidently,
"no matter how much I expected. Besides, I have already heard him
"I don't mean that, I don't mean he is disappointing as a speaker.
Stanton is a great orator, I think. Most of those Southerners are,
and he's the only real orator I ever heard. But what I mean is, that
he doesn't go into things impulsively; he first considers himself, and
then he considers every other side of the question before he commits
himself to it. Before he launches out on a popular wave he tries to
find out where it is going to land him. He likes the sort of popular
wave that carries him along with it where every one can see him; he
doesn't fancy being hurled up on the beach with his mouth full of
"You are saying that he is selfish, self-seeking?" Arkwright
demanded with a challenge in his voice. "I thought you were his
"Yes, he is selfish, and yes, I am his friend," the young man
answered, smiling; "at least, he seems willing to be mine. I am
saying nothing against him that I have not said to him. If you'll
come back with me up the elevator I'll tell him he's a self-seeker and
selfish, and with no thought above his own interests. He won't mind.
He'd say I cannot comprehend his motives. Why, you've only to look
at his record. When the Venezuelan message came out he attacked the
President and declared he was trying to make political capital and to
drag us into war, and that what we wanted was arbitration; but when
the President brought out the Arbitration Treaty he attacked that too
in the Senate and destroyed it. Why? Not because he had
convictions, but because the President had refused a foreign
appointment to a friend of his in the South. He has been a free
silver man for the last ten years, he comes from a free silver state,
and the members of the legislature that elected him were all for
silver, but this last election his Wall Street friends got hold of him
and worked on his feelings, and he repudiated his party, his state,
and his constituents and came out for gold."
"Well, but surely," Arkwright objected, "that took courage? To
own that for ten years you had been wrong, and to come out for the
right at the last."
Livingstone stared and shrugged his shoulders. "It's all a
question of motives," he said indifferently. "I don't want to
shatter your idol; I only want to save you from counting too much on
When Arkwright called on the morrow Senator Stanton was not at
home, and the day following he was busy, and could give him only a
brief interview. There were previous engagements and other
difficulties in the way of his going which he had not foreseen, he
said, and he feared he should have to postpone his visit to Cuba
indefinitely. He asked if Mr. Arkwright would be so kind as to call
again within a week; he would then be better able to give him a
Arkwright left the apartment with a sensation of such keen
disappointment that it turned him ill and dizzy. He felt that the
great purpose of his life was being played with and put aside. But he
had not selfish resentment on his own account; he was only the more
determined to persevere. He considered new arguments and framed new
appeals; and one moment blamed himself bitterly for having foolishly
discouraged the statesman by too vivid pictures of the horrors he
might encounter, and the next, questioned if he had not been too
practical and so failed because he had not made the terrible need of
immediate help his sole argument. Every hour wasted in delay meant,
as he knew, the sacrifice of many lives, and there were other, more
sordid and more practical, reasons for speedy action. For his supply
of money was running low and there was now barely enough remaining to
carry him through the month of travel he had planned to take at
Stanton's side. What would happen to him when that momentous trip was
over was of no consequence. He would have done the work as far as his
small share in it lay, he would have set in motion a great power that
was to move Congress and the people of the United States to action.
If he could but do that, what became of him counted for nothing.
But at the end of the week his fears and misgivings were scattered
gloriously and a single line from the senator set his heart leaping
and brought him to his knees in gratitude and thanksgiving. On
returning one afternoon to the mean lodging into which he had moved to
save his money, he found a telegram from Stanton and he tore it open
trembling between hope and fear.
"Have arranged to leave for Tampa with you Monday, at midnight" it
read. "Call for me at ten o'clock same evening.--STANTON."
Arkwright read the message three times. There was a heavy,
suffocating pressure at his heart as though it had ceased beating.
He sank back limply upon the edge of his bed and clutching the piece
of paper in his two hands spoke the words aloud triumphantly as though
to assure himself that they were true. Then a flood of unspeakable
relief, of happiness and gratitude, swept over him, and he turned and
slipped to the floor, burying his face in the pillow, and wept out his
thanks upon his knees.
A man so deeply immersed in public affairs as was Stanton and with
such a multiplicity of personal interests, could not prepare to absent
himself for a month without his intention becoming known, and on the
day when he was to start for Tampa the morning newspapers proclaimed
the fact that he was about to visit Cuba. They gave to his mission all
the importance and display that Arkwright had foretold. Some of the
newspapers stated that he was going as a special commissioner of the
President to study and report; others that he was acting in behalf of
the Cuban legation in Washington and had plenipotentiary powers.
Opposition organs suggested that he was acting in the interests of
the sugar trust, and his own particular organ declared that it was his
intention to free Cuba at the risk of his own freedom, safety, and
The Spanish minister in Washington sent a cable for publication to
Madrid, stating that a distinguished American statesman was about to
visit Cuba, to investigate, and, later, to deny the truth of the
disgraceful libels published concerning the Spanish officials on the
island by the papers of the United States. At the same time he cabled
in cipher to the captain- general in Havana to see that the
distinguished statesman was closely spied upon from the moment of his
arrival until his departure, and to place on the "suspect" list all
Americans and Cubans who ventured to give him any information.
The afternoon papers enlarged on the importance of the visit and
on the good that would surely come of it. They told that Senator
Stanton had refused to be interviewed or to disclose the object of
his journey. But it was enough, they said, that some one in authority
was at last to seek out the truth, and added that no one would be
listened to with greater respect than would the Southern senator. On
this all the editorial writers were agreed.
The day passed drearily for Arkwright. Early in the morning he
packed his valise and paid his landlord, and for the remainder of the
day walked the streets or sat in the hotel corridor waiting
impatiently for each fresh edition of the papers. In them he read the
signs of the great upheaval of popular feeling that was to restore
peace and health and plenty to the island for which he had given his
last three years of energy and life.
He was trembling with excitement, as well as with the cold, when
at ten o'clock precisely he stood at Senator Stanton's door. He had
forgotten to eat his dinner, and the warmth of the dimly lit hall and
the odor of rich food which was wafted from an inner room touched his
senses with tantalizing comfort.
"The senator says you are to come this way, sir," the servant
directed. He took Arkwright's valise from his hand and parted the
heavy curtains that hid the dining-room, and Arkwright stepped in
between them and then stopped in some embarrassment. He found himself
in the presence of a number of gentlemen seated at a long
dinner-table, who turned their heads as he entered and peered at him
through the smoke that floated in light layers above the white cloth.
The dinner had been served, but the senator's guests still sat with
their chairs pushed back from a table lighted by candles under yellow
shades, and covered with beautiful flowers and with bottles of varied
sizes in stands of quaint and intricate design. Senator Stanton's
tall figure showed dimly through the smoke, and his deep voice hailed
Arkwright cheerily from the farther end of the room. "This way, Mr.
Arkwright," he said. "I have a chair waiting for you here." He
grasped Arkwright's hand warmly and pulled him into the vacant place
at his side. An elderly gentleman on Arkwright's other side moved to
make more room for him and shoved a liqueur glass toward him with a
friendly nod and pointed at an open box of cigars. He was a
fine-looking man, and Arkwright noticed that he was regarding him with
a glance of the keenest interest. All of those at the table were men
of twice Arkwright's age, except Livingstone, whom he recognized and
who nodded to him pleasantly and at the same time gave an order to a
servant, pointing at Arkwright as he did so. Some of the gentlemen
wore their business suits, and one opposite Arkwright was still in his
overcoat, and held his hat in his hand. These latter seemed to have
arrived after the dinner had begun, for they formed a second line back
of those who had places at the table; they all seemed to know one
another and were talking with much vivacity and interest.
Stanton did not attempt to introduce Arkwright to his guests
individually, but said: "Gentlemen, this is Mr. Arkwright, of whom I
have been telling you, the young gentleman who has done such
magnificent work for the cause of Cuba." Those who caught Arkwright's
eye nodded to him, and others raised their glasses at him, but with a
smile that he could not understand. It was as though they all knew
something concerning him of which he was ignorant. He noted that the
faces of some were strangely familiar, and he decided that he must
have seen their portraits in the public prints. After he had
introduced Arkwright, the senator drew his chair slightly away from
him and turned in what seemed embarrassment to the man on his other
side. The elderly gentleman next to Arkwright filled his glass, a
servant placed a small cup of coffee at his elbow, and he lit a cigar
and looked about him.
"You must find this weather very trying after the tropics," his
Arkwright assented cordially. The brandy was flowing through his
veins and warming him; he forgot that he was hungry, and the kind,
interested glances of those about him set him at his ease. It was a
propitious start, he thought, a pleasant leave-taking for the senator
and himself, full of good will and good wishes.
He turned toward Stanton and waited until he had ceased speaking.
"The papers have begun well, haven't they?" he asked, eagerly.
He had spoken in a low voice, almost in a whisper, but those about
the table seemed to have heard him, for there was silence instantly
and when he glanced up he saw the eyes of all turned upon him and he
noticed on their faces the same smile he had seen there when he
"Yes," Stanton answered constrainedly. "Yes, I--" he lowered his
voice, but the silence still continued. Stanton had his eyes fixed on
the table, but now he frowned and half rose from his chair.
"I want to speak with you, Arkwright," he said. "Suppose we go
into the next room. I'll be back in a moment," he added, nodding to
But the man on his right removed his cigar from his lips and said
in an undertone, "No, sit down, stay where you are;" and the elderly
gentleman at Arkwright's side laid his hand detainingly on his arm.
"Oh, you won't take Mr. Arkwright away from us, Stanton?" he asked,
Stanton shrugged his shoulders and sat down again, and there was a
moment's pause. It was broken by the man in the overcoat, who
"He's paying you a compliment, Mr. Arkwright," he said. He
pointed with his cigar to the gentleman at Arkwright's side.
"I don't understand," Arkwright answered doubtfully.
"It's a compliment to your eloquence--he's afraid to leave you
alone with the senator. Livingstone's been telling us that you are a
better talker than Stanton." Arkwright turned a troubled countenance
toward the men about the table, and then toward Livingstone, but that
young man had his eyes fixed gravely on the glasses before him and did
not raise them.
Arkwright felt a sudden, unreasonable fear of the circle of
strong-featured, serene and confident men about him. They seemed to
be making him the subject of a jest, to be enjoying something among
themselves of which he was in ignorance, but which concerned him
closely. He turned a white face toward Stanton.
"You don't mean," he began piteously, "that--that you are not
going? Is that it--tell me--is that what you wanted to say?"
Stanton shifted in his chair and muttered some words between his
lips, then turned toward Arkwright and spoke quite clearly and
"I am very sorry, Mr. Arkwright," he said, "but I am afraid I'll
have to disappoint you. Reasons I cannot now explain have arisen
which make my going impossible--quite impossible," he added
firmly--"not only now, but later," he went on quickly, as Arkwright
was about to interrupt him.
Arkwright made no second attempt to speak. He felt the muscles of
his face working and the tears coming to his eyes, and to hide his
weakness he twisted in his chair and sat staring ahead of him with his
back turned to the table. He heard Livingstone's voice break the
silence with some hurried question, and immediately his embarrassment
was hidden in a murmur of answers and the moving of glasses as the men
shifted in their chairs and the laughter and talk went on as briskly
as before. Arkwright saw a sideboard before him and a servant
arranging some silver on one of the shelves. He watched the man do
this with a concentrated interest as though the dull, numbed feeling
in his brain caught at the trifle in order to put off, as long as
possible, the consideration of the truth.
And then beyond the sideboard and the tapestry on the wall above
it, he saw the sun shining down upon the island of Cuba, he saw the
royal palms waving and bending, the dusty columns of Spanish infantry
crawling along the white roads and leaving blazing huts and smoking
cane-fields in their wake; he saw skeletons of men and women seeking
for food among the refuse of the street; he heard the order given to
the firing squad, the splash of the bullets as they scattered the
plaster on the prison wall, and he saw a kneeling figure pitch forward
on its face, with a useless bandage tied across its sightless eyes.
Senator Stanton brought him back with a sharp shake of the
shoulder. He had also turned his back on the others, and was leaning
forward with his elbows on his knees. He spoke rapidly, and in a
voice only slightly raised above a whisper.
"I am more than sorry, Arkwright," he said earnestly. "You
mustn't blame me altogether. I have had a hard time of it this
afternoon. I wanted to go. I really wanted to go. The thing
appealed to me, it touched me, it seemed as if I owed it to myself to
do it. But they were too many for me," he added with a backward toss
of his head toward the men around his table.
"If the papers had not told on me I could have got well away," he
went on in an eager tone, "but as soon as they read of it, they came
here straight from their offices. You know who they are, don't you?"
he asked, and even in his earnestness there was an added touch of
importance in his tone as he spoke the name of his party's leader, of
men who stood prominently in Wall Street and who were at the head of
"You see how it is," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "They
have enormous interests at stake. They said I would drag them into
war, that I would disturb values, that the business interests of the
country would suffer. I'm under obligations to most of them, they
have advised me in financial matters, and they threatened--they
threatened to make it unpleasant for me." His voice hardened and he
drew in his breath quickly, and laughed. "You wouldn't understand if I
were to tell you. It's rather involved. And after all, they may be
right, agitation may be bad for the country. And your party leader
after all is your party leader, isn't he, and if he says 'no' what are
you to do? My sympathies are just as keen for these poor women and
children as ever, but as these men say, 'charity begins at home,' and
we mustn't do anything to bring on war prices again, or to send
stocks tumbling about our heads, must we?" He leaned back in his
chair again and sighed. "Sympathy is an expensive luxury, I find,"
Arkwright rose stiffly and pushed Stanton away from him with his
hand. He moved like a man coming out of a dream.
"Don't talk to me like that," he said in a low voice. The noise
about the table ended on the instant, but Arkwright did not notice
that it had ceased. "You know I don't understand that," he went on;
"what does it matter to me!" He put his hand up to the side of his
face and held it there, looking down at Stanton. He had the dull,
heavy look in his eyes of a man who has just come through an operation
under some heavy drug. "'Wall Street,' 'trusts,' 'party leaders,'" he
repeated, "what are they to me? The words don't reach me, they have
lost their meaning, it is a language I have forgotten, thank God!" he
added. He turned and moved his eyes around the table, scanning the
faces of the men before him.
"Yes, you are twelve to one," he said at last, still speaking
dully and in a low voice, as though he were talking to himself. "You
have won a noble victory, gentlemen. I congratulate you. But I do not
blame you, we are all selfish and self-seeking. I thought I was
working only for Cuba, but I was working for myself, just as you are.
I wanted to feel that it was I who had helped to bring relief to that
plague-spot, that it was through my efforts the help had come. Yes,
if he had done as I asked, I suppose I would have taken the credit."
He swayed slightly, and to steady himself caught at the back of
his chair. But at the same moment his eyes glowed fiercely and he
held himself erect again. He pointed with his finger at the circle of
great men who sat looking up at him in curious silence.
"You are like a ring of gamblers around a gaming table," he cried
wildly, "who see nothing but the green cloth and the wheel and the
piles of money before them, who forget in watching the money rise and
fall, that outside the sun is shining, that human beings are sick and
suffering, that men are giving their lives for an idea, for a
sentiment, for a flag. You are the money- changers in the temple of
this great republic and the day will come, I pray to God, when you
will be scourged and driven out with whips. Do you think you can form
combines and deals that will cheat you into heaven? Can your 'trusts'
save your souls-- is 'Wall Street' the strait and narrow road to
The men about the table leaned back and stared at Arkwright in as
great amazement as though he had violently attempted an assault upon
their pockets, or had suddenly gone mad in their presence. Some of
them frowned, and others appeared not to have heard, and others smiled
grimly and waited for him to continue as though they were spectators
at a play.
The political leader broke the silence with a low aside to
Stanton. "Does the gentleman belong to the Salvation Army?" he
Arkwright whirled about and turned upon him fiercely.
"Old gods give way to new gods," he cried. "Here is your brother.
I am speaking for him. Do you ever think of him? How dare you sneer
at me?" he cried. "You can crack your whip over that man's head and
turn him from what in his heart and conscience he knows is right; you
can crack your whip over the men who call themselves free-born
American citizens and who have made you their boss--sneer at them if
you like, but you have no collar on my neck. If you are a leader, why
don't you lead your people to what is good and noble? Why do you stop
this man in the work God sent him here to do? You would make a party
hack of him, a political prostitute, something lower than the woman
who walks the streets. She sells her body--this man is selling his
He turned, trembling and quivering, and shook his finger above the
upturned face of the senator.
"What have you done with your talents, Stanton?" he cried. "What
have you done with your talents?"
The man in the overcoat struck the table before him with his fist
so that the glasses rang.
"By God," he laughed, "I call him a better speaker than Stanton!
Livingstone's right, he IS better than Stanton--but he lacks
Stanton's knack of making himself popular," he added. He looked
around the table inviting approbation with a smile, but no one
noticed him, nor spoke to break the silence.
Arkwright heard the words dully and felt that he was being mocked.
He covered his face with his hands and stood breathing brokenly; his
body was still trembling with an excitement he could not master.
Stanton rose from his chair and shook him by the shoulder. "Are
you mad, Arkwright?" he cried. "You have no right to insult my
guests or me. Be calm--control yourself."
"What does it matter what I say?" Arkwright went on desperately.
"I am mad. Yes, that is it, I am mad. They have won and I have
lost, and it drove me beside myself. I counted on you. I knew that
no one else could let my people go. But I'll not trouble you again.
I wish you good-night, sir, and good-bye. If I have been unjust, you
must forget it."
He turned sharply, but Stanton placed a detaining hand on his
shoulder. "Wait," he commanded querulously; "where are you going?
Will you, still--?"
Arkwright bowed his head. "Yes," he answered. "I have but just
time now to catch our train--my train, I mean."
He looked up at Stanton and taking his hand in both of his, drew
the man toward him. All the wildness and intolerance in his manner
had passed, and as he raised his eyes they were full of a firm
"Come," he said simply; "there is yet time. Leave these people
behind you. What can you answer when they ask what have you done
with your talents?"
"Good God, Arkwright," the senator exclaimed angrily, pulling his
hand away; "don't talk like a hymn-book, and don't make another
scene. What you ask is impossible. Tell me what I can do to help
you in any other way, and--"
"Come," repeated the young man firmly.
"The world may judge you by what you do to-night."
Stanton looked at the boy for a brief moment with a strained and
eager scrutiny, and then turned away abruptly and shook his head in
silence, and Arkwright passed around the table and on out of the room.
A month later, as the Southern senator was passing through the
reading-room of the Union Club, Livingstone beckoned to him, and
handing him an afternoon paper pointed at a paragraph in silence.
The paragraph was dated Sagua la Grande, and read:
"The body of Henry Arkwright, an American civil engineer, was
brought into Sagua to-day by a Spanish column. It was found lying in
a road three miles beyond the line of forts. Arkwright was surprised
by a guerilla force while attempting to make his way to the insurgent
camp, and on resisting was shot. The body has been handed over to the
American consul for interment. It is badly mutilated."
Stanton lowered the paper and stood staring out of the window at
the falling snow and the cheery lights and bustling energy of the
"Poor fellow," he said, "he wanted so much to help them. And he
didn't accomplish anything, did he?"
Livingstone stared at the older man and laughed shortly.
"Well, I don't know," he said. "He died. Some of us only live."