There were other additions, in red ink--many cities, with great populations set down, scattered over the vast-country at points where neither cities nor populations exist to-day. One of these cities, with population placed at 1,500,000, bore the name "Libertyorloffskoizalinski," and there was a still more populous one, centrally located and marked "Capital," which bore the name "Freedomolovnaivanovich."

The "mansion"--the Colonel's usual name for the house--was a rickety old two-story frame of considerable size, which had been painted, some time or other, but had nearly forgotten it. It was away out in the ragged edge of Washington and had once been somebody's country place. It had a neglected yard around it, with a paling fence that needed straightening up, in places, and a gate that would stay shut. By the door-post were several modest tin signs. "Col. Mulberry Sellers, Attorney at Law and Claim Agent," was the principal one. One learned from the others that the Colonel was a Materializer, a Hypnotizer, a Mind-Cure dabbler; and so on. For he was a man who could always find things to do.

A white-headed negro man, with spectacles and damaged white cotton gloves appeared in the presence, made a stately obeisance and announced:

"Marse Washington Hawkins, suh."

"Great Scott! Show him in, Dan'l, show him in."

The Colonel and his wife were on their feet in a moment, and the next moment were joyfully wringing the hands of a stoutish, discouraged- looking man whose general aspect suggested that he was fifty years old, but whose hair swore to a hundred.

"Well, well, well, Washington, my boy, it is good to look at you again. Sit down, sit down, and make yourself at home. There, now--why, you look perfectly natural; aging a little, just a little, but you'd have known him anywhere, wouldn't you, Polly?"

"Oh, yes, Berry, he's just like his pa would have looked if he'd lived. Dear, dear, where have you dropped from? Let me see, how long is it since--"

I should say it's all of fifteen` years, Mrs. Sellers."

"Well, well, how time does get away with us. Yes, and oh, the changes that--"

There was a sudden catch of her voice and a trembling of the lip, the men waiting reverently for her to, get command of herself and go on; but after a little struggle she turned away, with her apron to her eyes, and softly disappeared..

"Seeing you made her think of the children, poor thing--dear, dear, they're all dead but the youngest.

"But banish care, it's no time for it now--on with the dance, let joy be unconfined is my motto, whether there's any dance to dance; or any joy to unconfine--you'll be the healthier for it every time,--every time, Washington--it's my experience, and I've seen a good deal of this world. Come--where have you disappeared to all these years, and are you from there, now, or where are you from?"

"I don't quite think you would ever guess, Colonel. Cherokee Strip."

"My land!"

"Sure as you live."

"You can't mean it. Actually living out there?"

"Well, yes, if a body may call it that; though it's a pretty strong term for 'dobies and jackass rabbits, boiled beans and slap-jacks, depression, withered hopes, poverty in all its varieties--"

"Louise out there?"

"Yes, and the children."

"Out there now?"

"Yes, I couldn't afford to bring them with me."

"Oh, I see,--you had to come--claim against the government. Make yourself perfectly easy--I'll take care of that."

"But it isn't a claim against the government."

"No? Want to be postmaster? That's all right. Leave it to me. I'll fix it."

"But it isn't postmaster--you're all astray yet."

"Well, good gracious, Washington, why don't you come out and tell me what it is? What, do you want to be so reserved and distrustful with an old friend like me, for? Don't you reckon I can keep a se--'

"There's no secret about it--you merely don't give me a chance to--"

"Now look here, old friend, I know the human race; and I know that when a man comes to Washington, I don't care if it's from heaven, let alone Cherokee-Strip, it's because he wants something.

The American Claimant Page 06

Mark Twain

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