From the Life/Thomas Wales Warren
FROM THE LIFE
Thomas Wales Warren
THOMAS WALES WARREN
WARREN, Thomas Wales, jurist; b. Columbus, O., Feb. 21, 1851; s. John and Esther (McCabe) W.; ed. pub. schools, Univ. Law School; read law in office Judge Stephen Wales; admitted to bar of Ohio, 1880; m. Virginia Wales, June 10, 1881; member firm of Wales & Warren, 1880-92. Active in politics; twice deleg. Rep. Nat. convs; mem. Rep. Nat. Exec. Com., 1890-1902; state Attorney- General; Attorney-General of U. S.; Secretary of State; justice Supreme Court of U. S., etc.—Who's Who.
FOR the purposes of this portrait-study let us take Warren before he was Justice Thomas Wales Warren of the Supreme Court of the United States. Let us take him before he was even Thomas W. Warren, United States Attorney-General and "Warwick the Kingmaker" at Washington. Let us take him when he was still "Tom" Warren, Attorney-General of his native state, unknown to the national cartoonists, engaged obscurely in local politics, and foreseeing his conspicuous future as little as a man foresees the view from the top of a hill which he is still climbing. And let us take him on the day when he suddenly decided that he would not follow the usual road to that hilltop, but make an adventurous short cut to it over the most obvious obstructions.
That day was a Sunday and a hot July Sunday, but people have to be governed seven days in the week, and Warren was at his library desk. There is no need to describe him, because he had already the ratherfeatures that have since become so familiar to the American public. But I should like to explain that some of his features quite belied him.
He had already begun to achieve his resemblance to a mummy, with Pharaoh's bony nose. He looked parched and his skin was dry and leathery. But that was not an indication of any moral evil. It was due to indigestion. Poverty had ruined his stomach in his youth.
He had also the deep furrow between his eyebrows which the caricaturists have made so sinister, but it was not really sinister. In its origin it was a harmless pretension. He had contracted it at law-school, listening to lectures with an intense young expression of attention that had been designed to impress the lecturer. He had long since ceased trying to impress any one. Quite the opposite. When he was most attentive, now, he looked most absent-minded.
And he had the weasel-mouthed weak look which the cartoonists exaggerate, but if you could have drawn back his lips to bare his teeth, you would have found that his lower jaw closed up inside the upper one, almost to the palate. And that was a malformation of the mouth which he had unwittingly forced upon himself in the struggles of his ambitious boyhood, when he had lived with his jaws clenched—literally—dramatizing to himself his wrestle with adversity, consciously assuming a pose of determination to succeed, and biting his jaws together as if he were fighting physically while he studied; or when he was threshing around his unheated room at night trying to get warm before he went to bed; or, in later years, when he was facing any opposition to his advancement. It was not a weakness in his mouth; it was rather a pathetic sort of strength. It showed, now, chiefly when he confronted any serious problem of policy that had to be grappled with in the secrecy of his private sessions with himself.
He was already growing bald, but he wore a toupee. This toupee he had taken off because he was hot, and it lay on his desk blotter before him, like the scalp of an enemy. He was apparently studying it, crouched forward on the arms of his desk chair, with his hands clasped in a loose entanglement of his long fingers. And his tight little skull shone with the gloss of a coffee-colored ostrich-egg in the warm gloom of his old-fashioned library.
The windows were covered with Venetian blinds that showed between their slats the green glow of locust-trees and sunlight outside on his lawn.
There he was, then—Tom Warren, about to cross the Rubicon! A historical moment! Fraught, as the historians say, with mighty consequences.
If you could have put your face down between him and his toupee, you would have seen that his eyes were focused on nothing nearer than the center of the earth. He was concentrated on an invisible perplexity. And his problem was this: A county sheriff in the town of Middleburg, in the southern extremity of the state, had telephoned to the Governor that the farmers of the district were arming to come in to Middleburg, that night, to break open the jail and lynch some negroes. The Governor was out of the state, on his way east to a political conference, and the sheriff's warning had been sent to Warren from the State-house. Warren, having elected the Governor on a law-enforcement platform, was busy with a campaign to have him nominated for the Presidency, with the reversion to himself of a place in the Cabinet. Middleburg was the Governor's home town, and a lynching there might be used by his political enemies and his party rivals to give him "a black eye" nationally.
How? Well, if the Governor was to show himself a man of conspicuous strength before the nation, he would either have to prevent the lynching with armed force—and perhaps kill some of the embattled farmers of the county—or he would have to make a grand-stand play of prosecuting the lynchers vigorously after the event. And by either act he might alienate the support of his home district, for it was far enough South to be on the border of parts where the white voter administered lynch law as an extra-judicial form of law enforcement against the black; and the solid South might even be persuaded to turn solidly against the Governor as a nigger-sympathizer who was playing for the Jim Crow vote.
Some one once asked Warren, "How did you ever think of that?" when he had outwitted a threatening situation instantly, without a moment's pause of hesitation. Warren replied: "You don't have time to think. It has to be there—or you can't do it." And, in this case, he remained staring at his problem—through his toupee and his desk blotter—a much briefer time than it has taken you to read of his doing it, unless you have skipped.
He pressed a call-button to summon his secretary, put on his toupee, and began to walk up and down his library with the long, slow strides of a wading-bird. As he walked his mouth relaxed into a sort of pout of dreamy satisfaction, and he played with a loose button on his coat, sliding his thumb under it and around it incessantly while he mused.
That unconscious habit, and the protrusion of the lips which accompanied it, had an illuminating origin. His mother had died of privations and malnutrition before he had been weaned. His spinster aunt, a dressmaker, had raised him from infancy; and his only "comforter" had been a bone button sewed on a rag. It had been on a button that he had cut his teeth. Even as a growing boy he had gone to sleep sucking a button on his night-shirt—secretly, of course. And there was still, for the Attorney-General, the satisfaction of a repressed instinct in this button play, although he was ignorant of the reason for it or the origin of it.
He stopped it as soon as he heard his secretary at his door, and, turning, he stood in the center of the room and watched the young man enter.
It was characteristic of Warren so to turn alertly to any new-comer, and it was characteristic of him to regard even Pritchard with a mechanical habit of scrutiny as he regarded every one who came to interview him. He used to say that he could tell if a man was going to lie to him by the way he crossed the room. And he was aware at once—though his mind was on another matter—that there was something not quite right about the boy.
To the casual glance Pritchard was merely a good-looking youth with smooth black hair that may have been pomaded, a small black mustache that looked petted, long black eyelashes, a dimpled, plump chin, and a dark mole on his cheek that touched off his girlish complexion like a beauty patch. He was somewhat flushed. As soon as he came in the door Warren said, abstractedly, "Shut that, will you?"
Pritchard, as he closed it, turned his back to Warren, looking down at the handle.
Ordinarily he would have closed the door with a hand behind him, his eyes on Warren inquiringly. Warren noticed something unnatural in this difference, without really formulating what the difference was. He had already observed that Pritchard was in high color.
"Get your note-book," Warren said in the same thoughtful tone, "and take this down."
Pritchard went to the desk, found his note-book, sat down in his usual chair beside the desk, and prepared himself to take dictation. He looked at his hands a moment, waiting. And then, looking up quickly at Warren, he watched the Attorney-General and, at the same time, furtively turned a ring on his finger so as to conceal the setting.
Warren was apparently not noticing. He was gazing meditatively ahead of him. But he saw Pritchard's action with the ring out of the corner of his eye.
If he had expressed the matter to himself—which he did not—he would have concluded: "This boy feels guilty toward me. He has something to conceal from me. It's connected with a ring, which he doesn't wish me to recognize. He's wearing that ring instead of his seal ring. He has probably changed rings with some one, and he doesn't want me to know it. Why?"
He said to Pritchard, still thoughtful: "One of our detectives, Ben Teague, is down in Middleburg on a case. He's probably at the Mansion House there. Under the name of Bert Todd. Make a note of it: 'Bert Todd.' I want to get a message to him without disturbing his cover. Understand?"
"Well. Go out to a telephone-booth—in the Holman Hotel—and get him on the wire. Bert Todd. Representing the Consolidated Farm Implement Company. Say to him— Take this down: 'I have some confidential information to give you, on behalf of the president of the company, who is temporarily out of the state. And I cannot give it explicitly over the telephone.'" (He was dictating in the tone of a business communication.) "'The counsel of our company has just received this information from an officer of the company whose name is Steinholtz—the same name as the sheriff of your county there. He informs us that a competitor by the name of Lynch is likely to make trouble for us in his district. You understand it's the president's home district, and any such disturbance of our prestige in that locality might seriously affect the re-election of the company's present management by the stockholders. It is therefore imperative that Mr. Lynch shall be headed off.
"'Mr. Steinholtz has asked us for assistance. You must make arrangements to see him at once. Instantly. There's not a moment to lose. As soon as you have seen him, 'phone, on his private office wire, to our head law-office. Our lawyer will be there till you report. He'll be there all night if necessary. You understand the importance of it. The company depends on you.'
"That's all. Now, read that over to me."
Pritchard read it, monotonously, following the lines of shorthand with his pencil. Warren studied the thin gold band of the ring on the young man's finger. He had, of course already begun to suspect that the ring belonged to his daughter Meta.
When the reading was finished he said: "All right, Will. Go ahead, now. I'll be at the State-house. I'll 'phone here for you, if I want you."
Pritchard hurried out, with eager alacrity. Warren sat and considered him—and Meta.
Warren, as an orphaned boy, inadequately supported by an underpaid sewing-woman, had gone on the streets to "mooch" and sell newspapers as soon as he was old enough to walk. By working after school-hours, delivering newspapers, running errands, doing odd furnace jobs at night, and generally foraging like a stray cat, he had contrived to get an elementary public-school education. Then at the age of twelve he had gone to work as an office-boy for Judge Stephen Wales, and the judge in the end had practically adopted him. (Hence the "Wales" in "Thomas Wales Warren.") He sent Warren to law-school. He took him as a partner in his office. He even accepted him as a son-in-law, proud of the boy and his ability. And when the judge died Warren and his wife were already living in the old Wales home as the accepted heirs of it.
This was Judge Wales's library in which Warren now sat, thinking. It was Judge Wales's granddaughter Meta of whom he was sitting there to think. And she was much more the judge's granddaughter to Warren than she was his own child. She looked like a Wales. She spoke and moved like a Wales. She had all the high, impractical ideals of a Wales. And Warren felt, before her, the same class inferiority that he had felt with her dead mother.
He had always been, in his own mind, Tommy the office-boy to the judge's daughter; and still, subconsciously, with the judge's granddaughter, he was Tommy the office-boy grown old. It was some sort of arrested immaturity in him—like his playing with the button. Neither the mother nor the daughter had ever suspected it. They had never suspected, when they looked at Tom Warren, that they were not looking at a husband or a father, but at a devoted, adoring, confidential servant, who understood them affectionately and protected them shrewdly from the predatory world to which he belonged—the world that would have destroyed Judge Wales and his fine old benevolence and his unworldly idealism, if Warren had not defended him.
Warren had now to defend the judge's granddaughter. That was how he saw the situation and his duty in it. He had nothing against Pritchard—except that he was a subservient, inoffensive, secretarial valet who would never be anything else. He considered that Pritchard was no man to take care of a gentle girl and protect her children from the dangers of a cruelly competitive social system. If it was she who had given Pritchard the ring—
He first arranged the necessary machinery for finding that out. He removed a paper-fastener from the corner of a typewritten report, put a box of cigars on the edge of his desk-top, and laid the loose sheets of the report on the box. Then he went to his door and called, "Meta!"
She answered from the front room. He returned to his desk and began to gather up some papers.
She came to the door and stood there, not quite smiling, but with the happy recollection of an interrupted smile still lingering in her face. She was of the type of dark Southern beauty that matures young, but she was still girlish, and she waited in a girlish attitude, with her hands clasped behind her.
He said, looking for something in his desk: "Tell Fred to bring the car around. I have to go to the State-house. They're having trouble down at Middleburg, and I'll have to handle it in the Governor's absence. I'm afraid I'll not be back till late."
"Yes," she said.
He had reached out as if to open the cigar-box. He upset the typewritten pages. They slid with a rustle to the floor and scattered widely—assisted by his clumsy effort to catch them. "There!" he said, disgustedly.
"Let me, father." She crossed the room with a graceful quickness and knelt among the papers in a whorl of white skirts. He looked down at her hands as she gathered up the pages, and he saw that her ring was gone—a little single-ruby ring that her dead mother had given her.
He began at once to maneuver against that conspiracy of events as he had begun to maneuver against the menace from Middleburg. And his tactics in these two cases were typical of the man and his methods. They can be more briefly reported and more readily understood than the more complicated intrigues of some of his national manipulations, but they were just as astute and subtle in miniature as any of his later strategies have been in the large.
"I'm growing old," he said. "It makes me dizzy to stoop." He began to pace up and down the room rather dejectedly. "And I'm working too hard. At thankless work. People don't know how to govern themselves, but they revolt against any man who tries* to govern them. You have to do it without letting them know you're doing it. That's what makes our politics so hypocritical."
He may have believed that, or he may not; he was not considering the truth of what he said, but its effect on her. He asked, as if casually, the question to which he had been leading: "Did you read the attack that this man Miller is making on me? 'Wardrobe' Miller."
"Yes, father," she confessed. He never discussed politics with her. She felt—as he intended her to feel—that he was appealing to her for a sympathetic understanding. She did not quite know how to give it.
"Well," he said, cheerfully, "Miller's turn will come. He'll satisfy them for a time with this pretense of 'letting the people rule'—with their direct primaries, and their initiative, and their referendum, and all the rest of it. But there has to be a captain to the ship; and as soon as they find out that Miller's the captain they'll mutiny against him, too, and throw him overboard."
"Are they going to defeat you?" she asked, distressed.
"No," he said. "Not this time, I think. But they believe they're going to do it. And the parasites are beginning to desert me already and fasten themselves on Miller." And that last was the significant statement to which all his preamble had been directed.
"It isn't pretty, is it?" she said. She had put back the loose sheets of typewritten manuscript on his desk, and she stood looking at him with a wistful desire to aid him showing in her large eyes.
"It's a strange business," he went on as if philosophizing idly, walking up and down. "When I first came into office, before you were old enough to remember—at the head of a reform movement—of business—men we turned out the thieving politicians and professional officeholders who were looting the treasury, and we put them in jail—many of them. And I was a popular hero. Your mother was very proud that day.
"And now they're in revolt against our 'business administration.' They can't say we've not been honest. We've given them good government. And the state's been prosperous. But it's labor that wants to rule, now, and the working-man. And they say I represent business and the corporations and the trusts.
"It all amounts to this: A man is born with the ability to rule as he's born with any other ability. It happens that, during his life, some one class is governing, and he governs for them. Then another class surges up, with a new ruler. And then another. But the people never govern. They can't, any more than an army can command and direct itself. They're always killing one king to put his crown on another. Yesterday it was King Birth. To-day it's King Money. To-morrow it will be King Labor."
He may have believed that, too, or he may not. He was saying it with a purpose, not with a belief.
He smiled at her. "Well, I'll soon be out of it all, I hope, and begin to live like a human being. I haven't had any life—home life or any other. I'm going to get a holiday. How would you like to go to Washington with me?"
"Oh, I'd like it," she said. Then her face changed. She looked down at her hands. She hesitated. And he was afraid she was going to confess her affair with Pritchard.
"Well," he put in, hastily, "run along and call the car. They're probably preparing their riot in Middleburg while I chatter. That's a very becoming dress."
"Do you like it?"
"I like it very much, my dear," he said, "and I like you in it."
"Thank you, father," she said, shyly. She went out in a little flutter of pleased embarrassment. He put the typewritten report in his pocket. It was a summary of all the direct-primary laws that had been passed in the Western States and of the court decisions that had confirmed or voided those enactments.
He stood a moment in deep thought. The girl, certainly, was not out of his reach, and he had given her mind an impulse in the direction that he wanted it to take. He could manage her if he could manage Pritchard.
He shut his door noiselessly. He sat down to his desk 'phone and called a private number. "Is that you, Robert?" he asked, in a low voice. "Know who's speaking? It's Tom Warren. Can you come at once to my office in the State-house? The side entrance will be open. And my private door. I'll be alone. … Yes, right away, if you can. I'm going right down. … I have a personal favor to ask. … Yes. Thanks."
He hung up the receiver with a quick click. The man with whom he had been speaking was Robert Wardrup Miller—the "Wardrobe" Miller of whose attacks upon him he had spoken to his daughter—the Miller to whom the "parasites," as he had said, were already beginning to attach themselves.
He went out to the hall. She brought him his soft felt hat. He bent to give her his usual perfunctory kiss; but she wished to show her loyal sympathy with him in the worries of political life and the defections of the parasitical, and, instead of turning her cheek, she took the caress full on her lips, as if it had been her lover's, avidly. Warren understood that Pritchard had been kissing her. She smiled up at him, and it was the assured smile of a girl whose ears were full of her lover's praises of her.
"Good-by," he said. "I'll 'phone you."
He hurried to his automobile. "The State-house, Fred," he directed his chauffeur.
The chauffeur nodded in the informal friendly manner of Warren's servants. They always liked him and served him and were proud of him. In fact, his ability to obtain loyal and righteous support was one of the significant attributes of "the most sinister figure in our national life," as one of his political opponents afterward acclaimed him.
It was necessary, perhaps, for him to have such an atmosphere of friendliness and private credit in which to live. At any rate, he had an instinct for obtaining it. He played politics as a club gambler plays poker, sociably, with a sympathetic geniality, winning by any means, without a scruple, but always as if he were more interested in his opponents than he was in his own play. It was characteristic of him that he would not openly interfere between Pritchard and his daughter, as he would not openly interfere between the people and their desire for the direct primary, the initiative, the referendum, and the other reforms proposed by the Direct Legislation League. But he believed as confidently that he knew what was best for the people of his state as he believed that he knew what was best for his daughter. He believed that in either case it was unwise to arouse opposition by asserting his superior wisdom. And he moved against Pritchard, as he moved against "Wardrobe" Miller and his Direct Legislation League, secretly, without showing any ill-will and without exciting any.
When the "wild-eyed reformers, agitators, and demagogues" of the state first began to demand measures of direct legislation—"in order," as they said, "to destroy the moneyed control of political machines and make the elected representatives of the community responsible to the electors"—Warren had watched the agitation interestedly, wondering how the men who should have to rule in the future would be able to rule over a people equipped with independent lawmaking powers of their own. He had studied it as one might study a chess problem with a dummy for opponent. When the agitators organized he saw the problem with an opponent sitting behind it. He had arrived at no solution, so he took his opponent "into camp." He insinuated machine men into the Direct Legislation League; they got control unostentatiously of the executive committee, and the League nominated for the governorship Mr. Robert Wardrup Miller, whom Warren had privately chosen for that empty honor.
Miller had accepted his nomination in good faith.
He was a wealthy young idealist who had become an ardent follower of a national leader in reform, and he knew as much about practical politics as a nun. He was a member of the City Club to which Warren belonged, and it was Warren who had encouraged him to enter public life. "Mr. Warren," he replied, to that encouragement, "if I do, I shall have to oppose you." And Warren said: "Robert, a healthy opposition is the life of party politics. Oppose me by all means, and I'll oppose you. I'll enjoy it, and it will be a good training for you."
Miller frowned determinedly. He felt that he was a strong character asserting his independence and compelling even Warren to bend to him with assumed jocularity. When he was nominated by the Direct Legislation League he defied the lightning in a speech in which he named Warren as the man most responsible for preventing the introduction of a direct primary law into the last Legislature. And now, when Warren telephoned to ask him to come to the State-house, Miller showed his fearlessness—as Warren had hoped he would—by accepting the invitation instantly.
It was Warren, by the way, who had had him nicknamed "Wardrobe" Miller by privately starting the story that Miller had three hundred and sixty-five neckties and thirty-one pairs of trousers in the clothes-closets of his bachelor apartments.
Warren arrived at the State-house, passed the doorkeeper with a hasty greeting, and climbed the flight of stairs to his office in long strides of two steps at a time, taking out his keys as he went. His telephone was ringing as he entered his private office. He caught it from his desk and said, "Yes?"
It was the detective, Teague, in Middleburg, and he was calling from the sheriff's office, where he had no need of cover. Warren's face, as he listened, settled into its mask of concentrated impassivity. He sat down.
"I see," he kept saying. "I see. Yes. I see." He cleared his throat. "Are the Sunday-closing laws enforced in Middleburg? … I thought not. … Those saloons along the river-front will be pretty well filled, won't they? … I see. Well, Teague"—he cleared his throat again—"just go down to those joints, get together all the roughs and gunmen you can find, and tell them that a lot of Rubes are coming in to Middleburg to rough-house the town. Understand? Work up their natural antagonism to the hayseeds. And tell them if this lynching is pulled off in Middleburg we'll have to start a campaign of law enforcement that 'll end in a strict closing law and a dry Sunday. Do you get me?
"Well, enlist as many of them as you can, and then tell the sheriff he's to swear them in as deputies. Post them around the outskirts, with orders to arrest every farmer they see coming into town—and search him—and lock him up if he's armed. Now listen. This is important: You have to do this on your own. You mustn't mention me, or the Governor, or any orders from here. Understand?
"Yes. … Yes. Report to me whenever you can. It's imperative that this lynching be prevented. If the jail won't hold them all, take their guns away from them and turn them loose—the least dangerous-looking of them. … Yes. I'll be here. All night if necessary. … I say, I'll be here all night if necessary. Good-by."
He hung up the receiver hastily. He had heard some one at his door. He took his typewritten report from his pocket, slipped it into a drawer, and went to the door, looking suddenly worried. When he was really worried he showed no signs of it.
"Well, Robert," he greeted Miller, holding out his hand, "I'm obliged to you for coming. It's a personal matter. I won't bore you with politics. Sit down."
Miller was a baldish young man with a rather intense flat face. He was well dressed in light-gray clothes with a white waistcoat. His mouth was tightened in an expression of solemnly defensive self-importance. "Anything that I can do," he said, "of a personal nature"—and he emphasized the word "personal" invidiously.
"Yes, yes," Warren interrupted. "I knew I could rely on you. It's a family matter. I have a daughter Meta. You know her, I think?"
Miller said, unnecessarily, "A charming girl."
"Exactly; and I have a private secretary named Pritchard. Know him?"
"I've seen him—when he came to the club for you."
"I've just found that there's practically an engagement between them. Without my consent or my knowledge. They're not even aware that I've heard of it yet."
Miller looked puzzled. Warren explained, apologetically, "I have to tell you this in order to account for what I'm going to ask you."
He had begun to walk up and down the room. Whenever he was "finessing" in an interview he moved about hi this way distractingly.
"The girl," he said, "has her mother's spirit; and if I oppose her I'm afraid I'll drive her into his arms. As a matter of fact, I'm not opposed to her marrying any honest young man—such as Pritchard seems to be—if it will make her happy. But Pritchard has no prospects. He's a clever stenographer and a trustworthy private secretary, and I suppose he aspires to promotion in the public service. I like him. I'd be glad to trust my daughter's future to him if his own future weren't so uncertain."
He turned abruptly. He said, with an almost pathetic paternal distress, "I need hardly say that—this is altogether confidential."
"Oh, surely, surely," Miller replied, embarrassed.
Warren continued pacing his carpet. "It's his future. That's what worries me. If he stays with me he'll become a machine politician a practical, professional politician. He'll have to make compromises. Unless he's an exceptionally strong character he'll become involved in things that aren't—well, pretty. You know what our sort of politics means. I don't want my daughter to marry that sort of politician."
He sat down and leaned forward on his desk to look the astonished Miller straight in the eyes. "The future is with you men. We're fighting a losing fight here. I want you to give this boy a chance with you. I want you to offer him a place as stenographer, either for the League or for you personally. I'd prefer the latter. I know I could trust him with you. I haven't so much faith in your executive committee; I know some of those men of old. But try him. If he's not what I think he is, discharge him."
Miller began, "Well, Mr. Warren—"
"I know what you're going to say," Warren interrupted, rising again to walk. "With my influence in this city I could find him a dozen places without imposing on you. But if he has any training at all it's for political life. And if he's to go into politics I want him to go in with ideals among men who have ideals. I'm not speaking to you as a politician now, you understand, but as a father. If this boy's to have my daughter's future in his hands I want them to be clean hands. I'd be willing to pay his salary while he's with you. … I know. I know. That couldn't be done without scandal. I don't propose it— And, you understand, I can't appear in the matter at all. I can't even let him know that I've asked this of you; because I don't want to seem to interfere in their love-affair in any way. I can't let my daughter know. I can't tell her that I'm aware of her little romance without saying either 'Yes' or 'No' to it—which I'm not prepared to do."
"Well, Mr. Warren," Miller said, "it can be easily arranged, I think. I can use a good stenographer. We're rushed with work."
The Attorney-General sat down. His face cleared with relief. "I knew I could depend on you. You see," he said, smiling benignly, "I may be too much the anxious parent. It may be just a passing boy-and-girl fancy, due to proximity. And if it is it 'll solve itself if we separate them. That's another reason why I want him to leave me. I'll miss him. He's a good boy. I've confided in him." This was certainly untrue. His smile broadened playfully. "I'm putting all my secrets in your hands, Robert, if you can get them from him."
Miller started to protest.
"No, no." Warren stopped him. "I'm only joking, of course. What I really want to say is this: my daughter showed a disposition to tell me of her engagement this morning. That's why I intruded on your Sunday afternoon. I want the boy to go before she tells me. Otherwise it would look as if I had got rid of him. And if you'll write him a letter offering him the position, and send it here by messenger this afternoon, you'll help me out of a difficulty that has worried me more than a campaign. Will you do it?"
"If you wish it."
"My dear boy, you put me under a great obligation. I daren't keep you here any longer, for fear he might come in and see you. It makes me feel like a conspirator." He rose, smiling. "I hope you'll not avoid me at the club, now that we're political enemies. I see you're giving me some sharp raps. I wish I were a good public speaker; I'd come back at you."
Miller held out his hand. "Mr. Warren," he said, "I'm free to confess that this little affair, this afternoon, has given me a better opinion of you than perhaps I had."
Warren patted him on the shoulder. "It hasn't changed the opinion I had of you, Robert. I'm a pretty good judge of character. Better, perhaps, than you are." He added, at the opened door: "And in my capacity as a judge of character let me whisper something: 'Keep an eye on your executive committee.'"
Miller lifted an eyebrow. "I'm watching them."
That was what Warren wished to know. "Good!" he said. "Good-by and good luck."
When he had closed the door he returned to his desk, got out the report on direct primaries, and began at once to read it with methodical and patient care.
It is obviously difficult not to misrepresent Warren in this matter. He had to get rid of Pritchard or allow his daughter to marry badly. He could not discharge the secretary without precipitating a crisis which he wished to avoid. It was wiser to provide Pritchard with a better place to which he could go. True, he had told his daughter that the parasites were deserting him to go to Miller, and if Pritchard went to Miller it would certainly outrage the girl's ideal of loyalty. But he was not compelling Pritchard to accept Miller's offer. He was leaving that to the boy's own choice. Pritchard might refuse it. He might endear himself to the girl by refusing it. He might— He might do many things if he were not what Warren thought he was.
The success of the whole stratagem depended—as Warren's success usually depended—upon his insight into the character of the man whom he was outwitting. And that insight was so accurate that it was, I think, intuitive. He knew where to reach a man as the wasp knows where to sting a beetle so as to paralyze a nerve center that nothing but careful dissection under a microscope would seem sufficient to locate. He had never dissected Pritchard, and it is scarcely worth while to do it here; but to that well-dressed and good-looking young "secretarial valet" the offer of a place with the rich and "classy" "Wardrobe" Miller would be a flattery and a temptation hard to withstand.
As soon as Miller's letter arrived Warren telephoned to Pritchard, put the letter in the outer office, and returned to his work. Having absorbed the report on the direct primary, he was engaged in drawing up alternative bills to be introduced at the next Legislature, if the popular demand for a direct primary became too clamorous. One of the bills provided for a direct primary with a convention that should preserve to the party machines the control of nominations. The other was a direct primary bill that would surely be declared unconstitutional by the courts because it contained no provision to prevent Republicans from voting in a Democratic primary, or vice versa. He was making drafts of these two bills in his small, neat handwriting—to file them for future use—when he heard Pritchard in the outer office.
Pritchard evidently read the letter over several times. Then he brought it in hesitatingly. "Here's a funny thing," he said, giving it to Warren.
The Attorney-General glanced through it. "Well, Will," he said, handing it back, "I'll be sorry to lose you, but I don't want to stand in your way, and this salary is much higher—to be frank with you—than I could get the state to allow me for a secretary."
"It isn't the salary," Pritchard put in.
"No. I understand that, of course," Warren said. "But the salary should be considered. And added to the greater prospects of advancement—"
"It's the idea," Pritchard said, "of going over to Miller."
Warren looked surprised. "Miller? Oh, I see. Yes. I see. Of course, in a sense, we are opposed to each other; but Mr. Miller is a man whom I greatly respect, though we differ in our opinions of what is wise in matters of public policy. And I don't suppose for a moment that he had any idea—or thought that you would lend yourself, if he had, to any betrayal of confidence—"
"No, no. I didn't mean that," Pritchard cried in confusion.
Warren glanced at his watch. "Have you consulted any of our family?"
"You should talk it over with them. They're the ones best able to decide. And if you give me twenty-four hours' notice, I'll have Miss Davis relieve you until I can find some one to take her place. I'll be sorry to lose you, Will," he said, in the tone of an employer accepting a resignation, "but I've long felt that a boy of your abilities should be seeking a larger field. In a few years you'll be thinking of marrying. I know, of course, that it can't have entered your mind yet." Pritchard flushed. "You're still too young—and unable to support a wife. But you must prepare for such things while there's time, so as not to be taken unawares. To marry such a girl as a boy of your character would naturally aspire to you'll have to be something more than a stenographer." He was reaching for his pen. "I'll be here late, but you needn't come back. I'll see you in the morning."
Pritchard folded and refolded the letter. "Well," he said at last.
"And put the catch on the door as you go out," Warren dismissed him.
He knew that if Pritchard consulted his family they would use every argument to persuade him to accept the higher salary. He knew also that Pritchard would have to go home to dinner before he saw Meta. That is what he had been calculating when he glanced at his watch before asking, "Have you consulted your family?" And if he was practising some duplicity, he had the excuse that Pritchard had begun that game.
He went back to his work on the direct primary bills. Every now and then he was interrupted by messages from Teague, the detective, who 'phoned to report progress. The roughs of Middleburg had enlisted under the sheriff eagerly. "Say, Ben," Warren asked, "how about that river-front gang that you've been after? You know them when you see them, don't you? … Then why can't you manage things so as to have some of them sworn in as deputies, and grab any one of them that brings in a prisoner, and lock him up, too? Eh?" And later, when Teague reported not only that the Rubes were being gathered in, but that two desperadoes of the river-front gang had been held, on John Doe warrants, with their prisoners, Warren chuckled: "Good work, Teague. Look out, now. Be careful or you'll have both parties storming your jail."
He telephoned to his daughter to say that he would not be home to dinner, and the cheerfulness of her disappointment seemed to betray that she was counting on his absence for an opportunity to see Pritchard. He telephoned again some hours later, when he hoped that Pritchard would be with her, and her voice was shaken with an agitation that he understood. By this tune he had finished his work on his direct primary bills and he locked them away in a private drawer. He even allowed himself a cigar, and sat back smoking it with a misered satisfaction, his eyes on the shining metal of his telephone, waiting.
When Teague reported that the lynching had been averted that thirty-odd of the would-be lynchers were in jail, with five members of the river-front gang—and that the negroes and these five criminals were being taken out of the county for safe-keeping—Warren said, heartily: "Teague, you've done a good day's work. Have Judge Keiser hear those cases in the morning, and have him fine them for carrying weapons. Nothing must be said about the attempted lynching or about your part in preventing it. You understand me? The situation is too delicate for publicity. Good night."
He called up his daughter immediately and asked her to have a late supper prepared for him, and invited her to come for him with the car. Her voice was toneless and dejected. He went back to his cigar and his waiting.
When he heard her knock he threw away the cigar, passed his handkerchief across his lips, and opened the door in an absent-minded manner, looking back at his desk.
She came in with a black lace scarf on her head, holding herself stiffly erect.
He began to gather up his papers. "Sit down a minute, my dear," he said, abstractedly.
She sat down on the edge of a chair. She did not look at him.
"Pritchard is leaving me now," he announced. "He's going to Miller, too." She did not speak. He glanced at her quickly and appraised her set expression as a girlish look of high tragedy. He said, with cheerfulness: "I suppose he thinks the old ship is sinking. I imagine we'll disappoint him there. I'm not done yet."
"Father," she said, in an unexpected voice, "I want to go away."
He sat down. He asked, "What has happened?"
She replied, simply: "I'm not happy here. I want to go away."
"Well, my dear," he temporized, with a patronizing suavity, "you're to do whatever you wish. We're going to see that you are happy. What's the trouble?"
But suavity did not succeed. She shook her head, looking away from him as if to evade his insincerity. "I can't talk of it. I want to go away."
He tried another trick. He asked, "Are you deserting me, too?"
She kept her eyes averted.
"You're all I have," he said.
She did not reply. He got up from his desk, crossed the room to her, and took her hand paternally. His face did not betray his gratification in feeling her missing ring on her finger. He said: "I don't want to ask you anything that you don't want me to know. But—perhaps I could help."
She turned away from him to hide her tears. "No," she said, choked. "No. It doesn't matter."
"You've been disappointed in some one?"
"Some one you were fond of?"
She nodded her head, unable to speak.
"One of your girl friends?"
"No. No. I don't want to talk about it."
She wiped her eyes hastily. "I should have told you long ago. I couldn't. He knew you wouldn't—approve."
"And you? You knew it?"
She said, "I didn't understand."
"Is that all?" he asked. "Are you concealing nothing else?"
"Yes," she said, "I am. We quarreled because he said you weren't—honest—in politics."
"Ah!" He dropped her hand. "That's it."
She waited, without speaking, watching him.
He began to walk about very slowly. Then he sat again at his desk and gazed at her thoughtfully.
"Tell me first," he asked, "do you want him back?"
She answered at last: "No. … He's not what I thought he was."
"If he had been," he said, "he wouldn't have been afraid to tell me of your engagement."
"You don't like cowards?"
"No," she said, deeply. "No."
"You're not a coward yourself."
"I have been."
"And you want to go away because you can't be happy here if what he says of me is true. Is that it?"
She caught her breath. "Yes," she said.
"You're afraid it is true."
She stared at him, her lips trembling, white. "No."
"Don't be a coward," he said, rising to confront her.
She tried to swallow the catch in her throat and her eyes were full of pain.
"He told you the truth," he said, harshly. He took his papers from his pocket and tossed them on the desk. "Now we can go away together."
He turned on her. "My life here has been what the necessities of my position have made it. It hasn't been honest in the sense that you mean. And it can't be if I continue here. Very well. Let's be done with it, then. Let some one else struggle and scheme and be the scapegoat. I've sacrificed—a great deal. I'm not going to sacrifice my daughter's confidence."
She had stumbled across the room to him, weeping, with her hands out to him. He took her in his arms.
"My dear," he said, patting her on the shoulder, "give me a week to wind up my office here—to get the Governor to accept my resignation—to make my plans to go East. He's been wanting me to take charge of his campaign for the Presidential nomination. I'll do it. Politics in this state are small and corrupt. We'll escape from them into the national field and the larger issues. You'll come with me to Washington, and if you never reign like another Dolly Madison in the White House, at least you'll be the friend of the Dolly Madison who does. And you'll never be ashamed of your old dad."
"I'm not ashamed of him," she sobbed.
"No," he said, "but you might have been if I'd stayed here. Come along now. I'm as hungry as if I'd been to a funeral."
And that was why Warren resigned from the control of his native state and went to his career in Washington. Moreover, it is why his career in Washington followed the lines that it did. Warren never philosophized; he handled facts as an artisan handles his tools; but if he had philosophized, his theory of life would probably have been something like this: "There is no justice, there is no morality, in nature or in natural laws; justice and morality are laws only of human society. But society, national life, and all civilization are subject in their larger aspects to natural laws—which contradict morality——and outrage justice—and the statesman has to move with those laws and direct his people in accordance with them, despite the lesser by-laws of morality and justice."
His daughter abided by the by-laws. He had to conceal from her that he did not abide by them. He had to conceal it from the public. "The American people," he once said in confidence, "still believe in Santa Claus. They believe that if they're good, and wash their faces every morning, and do as teacher tells them, prosperity and well-being will come down the chimney to them. They don't realize that some one has to pay for the full stocking, and that they're that some one."
Consequently, in his first participation in national affairs, he kept behind the scenes. He was the stage director of the convention that nominated his Governor for the Presidency, but Warren's name was not even on the program. After he had accepted his place as Attorney-General in Washington he remained unknown, except to the inner higher circle of politics. It was not until he became Secretary of State—in the third year of his President's administration—that he grew conspicuous. Then his daughter married the son of a man who was certainly able to protect her from the dangers of a competitive social system (the real danger was that the social system would not be able to protect itself from him) and Warren was at once violently criticized and viciously lampooned. It was for his daughter's sake that he ascended from this persecution into the perpetual felicity and peace of the Supreme Court. Since that translation—concerning Thomas Wales Warren—"nothing but good." There he sits, listening benignly to an eternity of argument, with his jaw peacefully relaxed and with a curious protrusion of the lips occasionally when his mind wanders and—under cover of his judicial robe—he fingers blissfully a loose button on his coat.