I can get used to anything, with Mulberry to help; and the fact is, I don't much care what happens, so long as he's spared to me."
"Well, here's to him, and hoping he'll make another strike soon."
"And rake in the lame, the halt and the blind, and turn the house into a hospital again? It's what he would do. I've seen aplenty of that and more. No, Washington, I want his strikes to be mighty moderate ones the rest of the way down the vale."
"Well, then, big strike or little strike, or no strike at all, here's hoping he'll never lack for friends--and I don't reckon he ever will while there's people around who know enough to--"
"Him lack for friends!" and she tilted her head up with a frank pride-- "why, Washington, you can't name a man that's anybody that isn't fond of him. I'll tell you privately, that I've had Satan's own time to keep them from appointing him to some office or other. They knew he'd no business with an office, just as well as I did, but he's the hardest man to refuse anything to, a body ever saw. Mulberry Sellers with an office! laws goodness, you know what that would be like. Why, they'd come from the ends of the earth to see a circus like that. I'd just as lieves be married to Niagara Falls, and done with it." After a reflective pause she added--having wandered back, in the interval, to the remark that had been her text: "Friends?--oh, indeed, no man ever had more; and such friends: Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Johnston, Longstreet, Lee--many's the time they've sat in that chair you're sitting in--" Hawkins was out of it instantly, and contemplating it with a reverential surprise, and with the awed sense of having trodden shod upon holy ground--
"They!" he said.
"Oh, indeed, yes, a many and a many a time."
He continued to gaze at the chair fascinated, magnetized; and for once in his life that continental stretch of dry prairie which stood for his imagination was afire, and across it was marching a slanting flamefront that joined its wide horizons together and smothered the skies with smoke. He was experiencing what one or another drowsing, geographically ignorant alien experiences every day in the year when he turns a dull and indifferent eye out of the car window and it falls upon a certain station-sign which reads "Stratford -on-Avon!" Mrs. Sellers went gossiping comfortably along:
"Oh, they like to hear him talk, especially if their load is getting rather heavy on one shoulder and they want to shift it. He's all air, you know,--breeze, you may say--and he freshens them up; it's a trip to the country, they say. Many a time he's made General Grant laugh--and that's a tidy job, I can tell you, and as for Sheridan, his eye lights up and he listens to Mulberry Sellers the same as if he was artillery. You see, the charm about Mulberry is, he is so catholic and unprejudiced that he fits in anywhere and everywhere. It makes him powerful good company, and as popular as scandal. You go to the White House when the President's holding a general reception--sometime when Mulberry's there. Why, dear me, you can't tell which of them it is that's holding that reception."
"Well, he certainly is a remarkable man--and he always was. Is he religious?"
"Clear to his marrow--does more thinking and reading on that subject than any other except Russia and Siberia: thrashes around over the whole field, too; nothing bigoted about him."
"What is his religion?"
"He--" She stopped, and was lost for a moment or two in thinking, then she said, with simplicity, "I think he was a Mohammedan or something last week."
Washington started down town, now, to bring his trunk, for the hospitable Sellerses would listen to no excuses; their house must be his home during the session. The Colonel returned presently and resumed work upon his plaything. It was finished when Washington got back.
"There it is," said the Colonel, "all finished."
"What is it for, Colonel?"
"Oh, it's just a trifle. Toy to amuse the children."
Washington examined it.