MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS FROM WASHINGTON.
(SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE ENTERPRISE.)
WASHINGTON, December 20, 1867
The Lost Chief Found
Colonel Ely Parker, Chief of the Six Nations, and staff officer to General Grant, was to have been married last Tuesday morning to Miss Sacket, an accomplished girl of 17, highly connected, and worthy of the best man in the country. General Grant was to have given away the bride, and the wedding ceremony was to have taken place in great state at the Church of the Epiphany, whose parlor has a monopoly of all the marriages that pay. Truly it has been said, "Ye know not when the bridegroom cometh" - more particularly when the bridegroom don't come at all. And he didn't come in this instance - or, as General Grant gravely expressed it, he failed to qualify. The five foolish virgins that had oil in their lamps were no better off than the two hundred and fifty foolish cues that hadn't, for lamps, howsoever well they may be supplied with oil, cannot discover a bridegroom that is not present but on the contrary is far away with a conspiring and malignant Indian. The wedding party went swearing and sorrowing home, wondering what could have become of the Grand Sachem of the Six Nations? - what could keep him away at such a time? - what he could possibly mean by "such conduct as these." They wondered for full twenty-four hours, and then the defendant came to light - the lost bridegroom was found - the Prodigal Son rose up and returned to his own precinct.
He explained his absence. He said that after he had borrowed a shirt - I should say a scarf - from General Grant on Saturday evening, he saw some friends, and afterwards, an hour or two later, went off to take a walk alone. An Indian of his confederation met him and said he had important things to say to him; walked with him to a convenient room, gave him a glass of wine and opened the conversation. But almost immediately Colonel Parker felt strangely, and lay down on the bed. He remembered nothing that occurred after that, save that he awoke out of a deep sleep, apparently in the middle of a dark night - he does not know which night it was - and by his bedside, never flitting, still was sitting, still was sitting, that ghastly, grim and ancient Indian from the night's Plutonian shore - only he, and nothing more. Quoth the Indian, Nevermore. Then this ebon bird beguiling the Colonel's sad soul into smiling, by the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it bore, "Bird or fiend," he cried, upstarting, (wrathful to his heart's hot core). "What's the time of night, I wonder? - tell me that thou son of thunder, from the night's Plutonian shore. How long have I in dreams been soaring? - how long been wheezing, gagging, snoring? - how long in savage nightmares roaring, since I lay down before?" Quoth the buck,
"An hour or more. You've been sick and may be sicker, because of late you've stopped your liquor, a thing you've never done before; here's some stuff the doctor sent ye - of your folly quick repent ye - take it, Chief, and seek nepenthe - rememb'ring grief no more."
"Bird," the Colonel cried, upstarting. "Bird or fiend," he cried, upstarting. "Bird or fiend!" as if his soul in that one phrase he did outpour: "Pass that stuff the Doctor sent me - move the frame thy God hath lent thee - take thy form from off my door. Take they beak from out my jug - go on thy bust outside my door." Quoth the Choctaw, "Nevermore."
Colonel Parker took the medicine, and immediately the fatal drowsiness came upon him again. He fell asleep, and never woke again till Wednesday morning - a day after General Grant assembled himself at the church to assist at his nuptials. It may be all very funny, lightly considered, but seriously regarded it is sad enough. It has brought into unpleasant newspaper notoriety a soldier who has fought bravely and faithfully throughout the long war, and was honored with the confidence and esteem of the first General of our day; and it has also given the same unhappy notoriety to a modest, retiring young girl, and has caused her the extremest suffering. The bridegroom's is the easiest case, for whether he be blameless or not, he is a man and a soldier, and can bear untoward fortune and the gossip of idle tongues with soldierly fortitude.
Colonel Parker's friends are well satisfied that his community of Indians are at the bottom of the whole affair; that they are jealous of foreign marriage complications; that they wish him to wed with a woman of his own race, and that they conspired to stave off his marriage with the white girl and break off the match if possible. The Indian who drugged him was gone when he awoke the last time, and has not been seen since. General Grant has taken the matter into his own hands and will sift the mystery to the bottom. If it comes out straight, Colonel Parker will fare well; if it does not, it will be farewell to Colonel Parker.
A Voluminous Telegram.
A telegram for the Government, consisting of 6,480 words, was received here to-night from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. It is the full report of that body in favor of and urging the ratification of the Sandwich Islands treaty. I think its strongest argument is, that with such a treaty in force, the Government would have a fair pretext for resisting by military power, the occupation of the Islands by England or France. If we can't get the property, it is at least wise to see that they don't. We certainly cannot get it. The King will not sell; we shall not seize it of course. Its free use is indispensable to our Pacific commerce. Hence we should take care that that free use shall be secured to us. The reciprocity treaty blocks the game on all obstacles to this. Nothing else can.
I know of no objection to the treaty except that it will decrease our national revenue by $150,000 a year - but inasmuch as the Pacific coast has but to pay that, in the form of increased prices charged for sugar to cover the duties, perhaps the Government had better tax the coast people to that amount on something else and secure to itself the valuable freedom of the islands through the reciprocity treaty.
Still, it would be just like these Solons here to forget all judgment in the desire to save that trifle of revenue. They give $100,000,000 to the Pacific Railroad, and $500,000 a year to the China mail, and now it would be exceedingly like them to forget the Sandwich Islands are just as much a necessary part of the grand highway they are creating between New York and China as Damascus is a necessary part of the legitimate route from a sinful world to the devil. It would be like them. It would so accord with their policy of saving at the spigot while they lose and the bung.
Yesterday, the Senate shut off the stationery supplies of its members! That was the meanest thing, the smallest business, the cheapest fraud I ever heard of. I know nothing of it. I wrote an order for four reams of fancy foolscap and got a blind lunatic to sign Charles Sumner's name to it (no man can counterfeit the genuine signature unless there is something awful the matter with him), and went up to the Senate and presented it. They said it would not do. I asked if they meant to insinuate anything against the soundness of the signature. They said no; they could see by the general horribleness of it that some member of Congress wrote it, but that was not the idea - and then they told me of that poor little swindle of a "retrenchment." It is nothing but a blind - nothing but a miserable little ten thousand dollar blind to deceive the people with. Those parties are generating something - they are sitting - silent - spreading themselves - hatching. Under cover of that little dab of retrenchment which they have thrown into the people's eyes they are getting ready to steal about four hundred millions of dollars, and then you will hear them cackle. I suppose I shall have to go back to writing letters on old blotting paper again shortly.
The more I think of it the more indignant I become. Here some time ago we bought an iceberg for $7,000,000 and lately we bought a volcano and an infernal nest of earthquakes for $17,000,000, and now we are shutting off a dray-load of stationery and six bits worth of sugar revenues to get even again. Bother such "retrenchment!"
The news arrived to-day by telegraph that the California Legislature has elected Eugene Casserly to be United States Senator to succeed Hon. John Conness. He will succeed one of the pleasantest men, socially, and one of the best hearted that exists; and by the same token a man that has worked hard for the coast, done his duty faithfully, and accomplished all that any man could have done. Do you know what particular stripe of Democracy Mr. Casserly is variegated with? Had I better support him with the Administration, or had I better hoist out my paint and get ready to go on the warpath? But perhaps you fail to catch my drift. What I mean is, is his Democracy of the poetical stripe, as set forth in bombastic platforms, or is it of the practical stripe that looks to the most goods to the greatest number? In plain English, how is Casserly on stationery? For behold, even as a man is on stationery, so shall he be concerning the greater things of the covenant. Would it be agreeable to Casserly for me to collect his mileage for him, do you think?
Associate Justice Field of the Supreme Bench is widely talked of, latterly, as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States - an able man, a just one, and one whose judicial and political garments are clean - a man well fitted for the place. No man can tell what an hour may bring forth - especially if the politicians have leased that hour - but just at the present moment the Presidential contest bids far to take a particularly "sporting" shape - for verily is there not a "field" on the one side and a "chase" on the other? Now, therefore, where is the fox that shall fly the Chase, cross the Field in safety, and gain the cover of the White House?
Congress adjourned yesterday. I don't know whether they have done anything or not. I don't think they have. However, let us not forget that they have "retrenched." They have passed the stationery resolution - they have eased up some on one thousand millions of debt - they have smitten the Goliath of gold with a pebble - they have saved the country. God will bless them. Let the new David bring the head of the monster to the foot of the throne, and go after more. I tremble to think they may abolish the franking privilege next.
The Ark has rested on Ararat. The most of the animals have gone away to New York and elsewhere. But I believe the Pacific delegation propose to remain here during the vacation and get ready for business - for stirring times are at hand.
[photocopy available in Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley, CA]
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