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Mr. Cornelius Johnson, Office-Seeker
by [?]

It was nearing the middle of autumn when Col. Mason came home to their rooms one day to find his colleague more disheartened and depressed than he had ever seen him before. He was lying with his head upon his folded arm, and when he looked up there were traces of tears upon his face.

“Why, why, what’s the matter now?” asked the old man. “No bad news, I hope.”

“Nothing worse than I should have expected,” was the choking answer. “It’s a letter from my wife. She’s sick and one of the babies is down, but”–his voice broke–“she tells me to stay and fight it out. My God, Mason, I could stand it if she whined or accused me or begged me to come home, but her patient, long-suffering bravery breaks me all up.”

Col. Mason stood up and folded his arms across his big chest. “She’s a brave little woman,” he said, gravely. “I wish her husband was as brave a man.” Johnson raised his head and arms from the table where they were sprawled, as the old man went on: “The hard conditions of life in our race have taught our women a patience and fortitude which the women of no other race have ever displayed. They have taught the men less, and I am sorry, very sorry. The thing, that as much as anything else, made the blacks such excellent soldiers in the civil war was their patient endurance of hardship. The softer education of more prosperous days seems to have weakened this quality. The man who quails or weakens in this fight of ours against adverse circumstances would have quailed before–no, he would have run from an enemy on the field.”

“Why, Mason, your mood inspires me. I feel as if I could go forth to battle cheerfully.” For the moment, Johnson’s old pomposity had returned to him, but in the next, a wave of despondency bore it down. “But that’s just it; a body feels as if he could fight if he only had something to fight. But here you strike out and hit–nothing. It’s only a contest with time. It’s waiting–waiting–waiting!”

“In this case, waiting is fighting.”

“Well, even that granted, it matters not how grand his cause, the soldier needs his rations.”

“Forage,” shot forth the answer like a command.

“Ah, Mason, that’s well enough in good country; but the army of office-seekers has devastated Washington. It has left a track as bare as lay behind Sherman’s troopers.” Johnson rose more cheerfully. “I’m going to the telegraph office,” he said as he went out.

A few days after this, he was again in the best of spirits, for there was money in his pocket.

“What have you been doing?” asked Mr. Toliver.

His friend laughed like a boy. “Something very imprudent, I’m sure you will say. I’ve mortgaged my little place down home. It did not bring much, but I had to have money for the wife and the children, and to keep me until Congress assembles; then I believe that everything will be all right.”

Col. Mason’s brow clouded and he sighed.

On the reassembling of the two Houses, Congressman Barker was one of the first men in his seat. Mr. Cornelius Johnson went to see him soon.

“What, you here already, Cornelius?” asked the legislator.

“I haven’t been away,” was the answer.

“Well, you’ve got the hang-on, and that’s what an officer-seeker needs. Well, I’ll attend to your matter among the very first. I’ll visit the President in a day or two.”

The listener’s heart throbbed hard. After all his waiting, triumph was his at last.

He went home walking on air, and Col. Mason rejoiced with him. In a few days came word from Barker: “Your appointment was sent in to-day. I’ll rush it through on the other side. Come up to-morrow afternoon.”

Cornelius and Mr. Toliver hugged each other.

“It came just in time,” said the younger man; “the last of my money was about gone, and I should have had to begin paying off that mortgage with no prospect of ever doing it.”