Winston Churchill.

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Produced by Pat Castevans and David Widger





A FAR COUNTRY

By Winston Churchill


BOOK 2.



X.

This was not my first visit to the state capital. Indeed, some of that
recondite knowledge, in which I took a pride, had been gained on the
occasions of my previous visits. Rising and dressing early, I beheld out
of the car window the broad, shallow river glinting in the morning
sunlight, the dome of the state house against the blue of the sky. Even
at that early hour groups of the gentlemen who made our laws were
scattered about the lobby of the Potts House, standing or seated within
easy reach of the gaily coloured cuspidors that protected the marble
floor: heavy-jawed workers from the cities mingled with moon-faced but
astute countrymen who manipulated votes amongst farms and villages; fat
or cadaverous, Irish, German or American, all bore in common a certain
indefinable stamp. Having eaten my breakfast in a large dining-room that
resounded with the clatter of dishes, I directed my steps to the
apartment occupied from year to year by Colonel Paul Barney,
generalissimo of the Railroad on the legislative battlefield, - a position
that demanded a certain uniqueness of genius.

"How do you do, sir," he said, in a guarded but courteous tone as he
opened the door. I entered to confront a group of three or four figures,
silent and rather hostile, seated in a haze of tobacco smoke around a
marble-topped table. On it reposed a Bible, attached to a chain.

"You probably don't remember me, Colonel," I said. "My name is Pared, and
I'm associated with the firm of Watling, Fowndes, and Ripon."

His air of marginality, - heightened by a grey moustache and goatee a la
Napoleon Third, - vanished instantly; he became hospitable, ingratiating.

"Why - why certainly, you were down heah with Mr. Fowndes two years ago."
The Colonel spoke with a slight Southern accent. "To be sure, sir. I've
had the honour of meeting your father. Mr. Norris, of North Haven, meet
Mr. Paret - one of our rising lawyers..." I shook hands with them all and
sat down. Opening his long coat, Colonel Varney revealed two rows of
cigars, suggesting cartridges in a belt. These he proceeded to hand out
as he talked. "I'm glad to see you here, Mr. Paret. You must stay awhile,
and become acquainted with the men who - ahem - are shaping the destinies
of a great state. It would give me pleasure to escort you about."

I thanked him. I had learned enough to realize how important are the
amenities in politics and business. The Colonel did most of the
conversing; he could not have filled with efficiency and ease the
important post that was his had it not been for the endless fund of
humorous anecdotes at his disposal. One by one the visitors left, each
assuring me of his personal regard: the Colonel closed the door, softly,
turning the key in the lock; there was a sly look in his black eyes as he
took a chair in proximity to mine.

"Well, Mr. Paret," he asked softly, "what's up?"

Without further ado I handed him Mr. Gorse's letter, and another Mr.
Watling had given me for him, which contained a copy of the bill. He read
these, laid them on the table, glancing at me again, stroking his goatee
the while. He chuckled.

"By gum!" he exclaimed. "I take off my hat to Theodore Watling, always
did." He became contemplative. "It can be done, Mr. Paret, but it's going
to take some careful driving, sir, some reaching out and flicking 'em
when they r'ar and buck. Paul Varney's never been stumped yet. Just as
soon as this is introduced we'll have Gates and Armstrong down
here - they're the Ribblevale attorneys, aren't they? I thought so, - and
the best legal talent they can hire. And they'll round up all the
disgruntled fellows, you know, - that ain't friendly to the Railroad.
We've got to do it quick, Mr. Paret. Gorse gave you a letter to the
Governor, didn't he?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well, come along. I'll pass the word around among the boys, just to let
'em know what to expect." His eyes glittered again. "I've been following
this Ribblevale business," he added, "and I understand Leonard
Dickinson's all ready to reorganize that company, when the time comes. He
ought to let me in for a little, on the ground floor."

I did not venture to make any promises for Mr. Dickinson.

"I reckon it's just as well if you were to meet me at the Governor's
office," the Colonel added reflectively, and the hint was not lost on me.
"It's better not to let 'em find out any sooner than they have to where
this thing comes from, - you understand." He looked at his watch. "How
would nine o'clock do? I'll be there, with Trulease, when you come, - by
accident, you understand. Of course he'll be reasonable, but when they
get to be governors they have little notions, you know, and you've got to
indulge 'em, flatter 'em a little. It doesn't hurt, for when they get
their backs up it only makes more trouble."

He put on a soft, black felt hat, and departed noiselessly...

At nine o'clock I arrived at the State House and was ushered into a great
square room overlooking the park. The Governor was seated at a desk under
an elaborate chandelier, and sure enough, Colonel Varney was there beside
him; making barely perceptible signals.

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Paret," said Mr.
Trulease. "Your name is a familiar one in your city, sir. And I gather
from your card that you are associated with my good friend, Theodore
Watling."

I acknowledged it. I was not a little impressed by the perfect blend of
cordiality, democratic simplicity and impressiveness Mr. Trulease had
achieved. For he had managed, in the course of a long political career,
to combine in exact proportions these elements which, in the public mind,
should up the personality of a chief executive. Momentarily he overcame
the feeling of superiority with which I had entered his presence;
neutralized the sense I had of being associated now with the higher
powers which had put him where he was. For I knew all about his "record."

"You're acquainted with Colonel Varney?" he inquired.

"Yes, Governor, I've met the Colonel," I said.

"Well, I suppose your firm is getting its share of business these days,"
Mr. Trulease observed. I acknowledged it was, and after discussing for a
few moments the remarkable growth of my native city the Governor tapped
on his desk and inquired what he could do for me. I produced the letter
from the attorney for the Railroad. The Governor read it gravely.

"Ah," he said, "from Mr. Gorse." A copy of the proposed bill was
enclosed, and the Governor read that also, hemmed and hawed a little,
turned and handed it to Colonel Varney, who was sitting with a detached
air, smoking contemplatively, a vacant expression on his face. "What do
you think of this, Colonel?"

Whereupon the Colonel tore himself away from his reflections.

"What's that, Governor?"

"Mr. Gorse has called my attention to what seems to him a flaw in our
statutes, an inability to obtain testimony from corporations whose books
are elsewhere, and who may thus evade, he says, to a certain extent, the
sovereign will of our state."

The Colonel took the paper with an admirable air of surprise, adjusted
his glasses, and became absorbed in reading, clearing his throat once or
twice and emitting an exclamation.

"Well, if you ask me, Governor," he said, at length, "all I can say is
that I am astonished somebody didn't think of this simple remedy before
now. Many times, sir, have I seen justice defeated because we had no such
legislation as this."

He handed it back. The Governor studied it once more, and coughed.

"Does the penalty," he inquired, "seem to you a little severe?"

"No, sir," replied the Colonel, emphatically. "Perhaps it is because I am
anxious, as a citizen, to see an evil abated. I have had an intimate
knowledge of legislation, sir, for more than twenty years in this state,
and in all that time I do not remember to have seen a bill more concisely
drawn, or better calculated to accomplish the ends of justice. Indeed, I
often wondered why this very penalty was not imposed. Foreign magistrates
are notoriously indifferent as to affairs in another state than their
own. Rather than go into the hands of a receiver I venture to say that
hereafter, if this bill is made a law, the necessary testimony will be
forthcoming."

The Governor read the bill through again.

"If it is introduced, Colonel," he said, "the legislature and the people
of the state ought to have it made clear to them that its aim is to
remedy an injustice. A misunderstanding on this point would be
unfortunate."

"Most unfortunate, Governor."

"And of course," added the Governor, now addressing me, "it would be
improper for me to indicate what course I shall pursue in regard to it if
it should come to me for my signature. Yet I may go so far as to say that
the defect it seeks to remedy seems to me a real one. Come in and see me,
Mr. Paret, when you are in town, and give my cordial regards to Mr.
Watling."

So gravely had the farce been carried on that I almost laughed, despite
the fact that the matter in question was a serious one for me. The
Governor held out his hand, and I accepted my dismissal.

I had not gone fifty steps in the corridor before I heard the Colonel's
voice in my ear.

"We had to give him a little rope to go through with his act," he
whispered confidentially. "But he'll sign it all right. And now, if
you'll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I'll lay a few mines. See you at the hotel,
sir."

Thus he indicated, delicately, that it would be better for me to keep out
of sight. On my way to the Potts House the bizarre elements in the
situation struck me again with considerable force. It seemed so
ridiculous, so puerile to have to go through with this political farce in
order that a natural economic evolution might be achieved. Without doubt
the development of certain industries had reached a stage where the units
in competition had become too small, when a greater concentration of
capital was necessary. Curiously enough, in this mental argument of
justification, I left out all consideration of the size of the probable
profits to Mr. Scherer and his friends. Profits and brains went together.
And, since the Almighty did not limit the latter, why should man attempt
to limit the former? We were playing for high but justifiable stakes; and
I resented the comedy which an hypocritical insistence on the forms of
democracy compelled us to go through. It seemed unworthy of men who
controlled the destinies of state and nation. The point of view, however,
was consoling. As the day wore on I sat in the Colonel's room, admiring
the skill with which he conducted the campaign: a green country lawyer
had been got to introduce the bill, it had been expedited to the
Committee on the Judiciary, which would have an executive session
immediately after dinner. I had ventured to inquire about the hearings.

"There won't be any hearings, sir," the Colonel assured me. "We own that
committee from top to bottom."

Indeed, by four o'clock in the afternoon the message came that the
committee had agreed to recommend the bill.

Shortly after that the first flurry occurred. There came a knock at the
door, followed by the entrance of a stocky Irish American of about forty
years of age, whose black hair was plastered over his forehead. His
sea-blue eyes had a stormy look.

"Hello, Jim," said the Colonel. "I was just wondering where you were."

"Sure, you must have been!" replied the gentleman sarcastically.

But the Colonel's geniality was unruffled.

"Mr. Maker," he said, "you ought to know Mr. Paret. Mr. Maker is the
representative from Ward Five of your city, and we can always count on
him to do the right thing, even if he is a Democrat. How about it, Jim?"

Mr. Maker relighted the stump of his cigar.

"Take a fresh one, Jim," said the Colonel, opening a bureau drawer.

Mr. Maker took two.

"Say, Colonel," he demanded, "what's this bill that went into the
judiciary this morning?"

"What bill?" asked the Colonel, blandly.

"So you think I ain't on?" Mr. Maker inquired.

The Colonel laughed.

"Where have you been, Jim?"

"I've been up to the city, seem' my wife - that's where I've been."

The Colonel smiled, as at a harmless fiction.

"Well, if you weren't here, I don't see what right you've got to
complain. I never leave my good Democratic friends on the outside, do I?"

"That's all right," replied Mr. Maker, doggedly, "I'm on, I'm here now,
and that bill in the Judiciary doesn't pass without me. I guess I can
stop it, too. How about a thousand apiece for five of us boys?"

"You're pretty good at a joke, Jim," remarked the Colonel, stroking his
goatee.

"Maybe you're looking for a little publicity in this here game," retorted
Mr. Maker, darkly. "Say, Colonel, ain't we always treated the Railroad on
the level?"

"Jim," asked the Colonel, gently, "didn't I always take care of you?"

He had laid his hand on the shoulder of Mr. Maker, who appeared slightly
mollified, and glanced at a massive silver watch.

"Well, I'll be dropping in about eight o'clock," was his significant
reply, as he took his leave.

"I guess we'll have to grease the wheels a little," the Colonel remarked
to me, and gazed at the ceiling....

The telegram apropos of the Ward Five leader was by no means the only
cipher message I sent back during my stay. I had not needed to be told
that the matter in hand would cost money, but Mr. Watling's parting
instruction to me had been to take the Colonel's advice as to specific
sums, and obtain confirmation from Fowndes. Nor was it any surprise to me
to find Democrats on intimate terms with such a stout Republican as the
Colonel. Some statesman is said to have declared that he knew neither
Easterners nor Westerners, Northerners nor Southerners, but only
Americans; so Colonel Varney recognized neither Democrats nor
Republicans; in our legislature party divisions were sunk in a greater
loyalty to the Railroad.

At the Colonel's suggestion I had laid in a liberal supply of cigars and
whiskey. The scene in his room that evening suggested a session of a
sublimated grand lodge of some secret order, such were the mysterious
comings and goings, knocks and suspenses. One after another the
"important" men duly appeared and were introduced, the Colonel supplying
the light touch.

"Why, cuss me if it isn't Billy! Mr. Paret, I want you to shake hands
with Mr. Donovan, the floor leader of the 'opposition,' sir. Mr. Donovan
has had the habit of coming up here for a friendly chat ever since he
first came down to the legislature. How long is it, Billy?"

"I guess it's nigh on to fifteen years, Colonel."

"Fifteen years!" echoed the Colonel, "and he's so good a Democrat it
hasn't changed his politics a particle."

Mr. Donovan grinned in appreciation of this thrust, helped himself
liberally from the bottle on the mantel, and took a seat on the bed. We
had a "friendly chat."

Thus I made the acquaintance also of the Hon. Joseph Mecklin, Speaker of
the House, who unbent in the most flattering way on learning my identity.

"Mr. Paret's here on that little matter, representing Watling, Fowndes
and Ripon," the Colonel explained. And it appeared that Mr. Mecklin knew
all about the "little matter," and that the mention of the firm of
Watling, Fowndes and Ripon had a magical effect in these parts. The
President of the Senate, the Hon. Lafe Giddings, went so far as to say
that he hoped before long to see Mr. Watling in Washington. By no means
the least among our callers was the Hon. Fitch Truesdale, editor of the
St. Helen's Messenger, whose editorials were of the trite effectiveness
that is taken widely for wisdom, and were assiduously copied every week
by other state papers and labeled "Mr. Truesdale's Common Sense." At
countless firesides in our state he was known as the spokesman of the
plain man, who was blissfully ignorant of the fact that Mr. Truesdale was
owned body and carcass by Mr. Cyrus Ridden, the principal manufacturer of
St. Helen's and a director in several subsidiary lines of the Railroad.
In the legislature, the Hon. Fitch's function was that of the moderate
counsellor and bellwether for new members, hence nothing could have been
more fitting than the choice of that gentleman for the honour of moving,
on the morrow, that Bill No. 709 ought to pass.

Mr. Truesdale reluctantly consented to accept a small "loan" that would
help to pay the mortgage on his new press....

When the last of the gathering had departed, about one o'clock in the
morning, I had added considerably to my experience, gained a pretty
accurate idea of who was who in the legislature and politics of the
state, and established relationships - as the Colonel reminded me - likely
to prove valuable in the future. It seemed only gracious to congratulate
him on his management of the affair, - so far. He appeared pleased, and
squeezed my hand.

"Well, sir, it did require a little delicacy of touch. And if I do say it
myself, it hasn't been botched," he admitted. "There ain't an outsider,
as far as I can learn, who has caught on to the nigger in the wood-pile.
That's the great thing, to keep 'em ignorant as long as possible. You
understand. They yell bloody murder when they do find out, but generally
it's too late, if a bill's been handled right."

I found myself speculating as to who the "outsiders" might be. No
Ribblevale attorneys were on the spot as yet, - of that I was satisfied.
In the absence of these, who were the opposition? It seemed to me as
though I had interviewed that day every man in the legislature.

I was very tired. But when I got into bed, it was impossible to sleep. My
eyes smarted from the tobacco smoke; and the events of the day, in
disorderly manner, kept running through my head. The tide of my
exhilaration had ebbed, and I found myself struggling against a revulsion
caused, apparently, by the contemplation of Colonel Varney and his
associates; the instruments, in brief, by which our triumph over our
opponents was to be effected. And that same idea which, when launched
amidst the surroundings of the Boyne Club, had seemed so brilliant, now
took on an aspect of tawdriness. Another thought intruded itself, - that
of Mr. Pugh, the president of the Ribblevale Company. My father had known
him, and some years before I had traveled halfway across the state in his
company; his kindliness had impressed me. He had spent a large part of
his business life, I knew, in building up the Ribblevale, and now it was
to be wrested from him; he was to be set aside, perhaps forced to start
all over again when old age was coming on! In vain I accused myself of
sentimentality, and summoned all my arguments to prove that in commerce
efficiency must be the only test. The image of Mr. Pugh would not down.

I got up and turned on the light, and took refuge in a novel I had in my
bag. Presently I grew calmer. I had chosen. I had succeeded. And now that
I had my finger at last on the nerve of power, it was no time to weaken.

It was half-past six when I awoke and went to the window, relieved to
find that the sun had scattered my morbid fancies with the darkness; and
I speculated, as I dressed, whether the thing called conscience were not,
after all, a matter of nerves. I went downstairs through the
tobacco-stale atmosphere of the lobby into the fresh air and sparkly
sunlight of the mild February morning, and leaving the business district
I reached the residence portion of the little town. The front steps of
some of the comfortable houses were being swept by industrious servant
girls, and out of the chimneys twisted, fantastically, rich blue smoke;
the bare branches of the trees were silver-grey against the sky; gaining
at last an old-fashioned, wooden bridge, I stood for awhile gazing at the
river, over the shallows of which the spendthrift hand of nature had
flung a shower of diamonds. And I reflected that the world was for the
strong, for him who dared reach out his hand and take what it offered. It
was not money we coveted, we Americans, but power, the self-expression
conferred by power. A single experience such as I had had the night
before would since to convince any sane man that democracy was a failure,
that the world-old principle of aristocracy would assert itself, that the
attempt of our ancestors to curtail political power had merely resulted
in the growth of another and greater economic power that bade fair to be
limitless. As I walked slowly back into town I felt a reluctance to
return to the noisy hotel, and finding myself in front of a little
restaurant on a side street, I entered it. There was but one other
customer in the place, and he was seated on the far side of the counter,
with a newspaper in front of him; and while I was ordering my breakfast I
was vaguely aware that the newspaper had dropped, and that he was looking
at me. In the slight interval that elapsed before my brain could register
his identity I experienced a distinct shock of resentment; a sense of the
reintrusion of an antagonistic value at a moment when it was most
unwelcome....

The man had risen and was coming around the counter. He was Hermann
Krebs.

"Paret!" I heard him say.

"You here?" I exclaimed.

He did not seem to notice the lack of cordiality in my tone. He appeared
so genuinely glad to see me again that I instantly became rather ashamed
of my ill nature.

"Yes, I'm here - in the legislature," he informed me.

"A Solon!"

"Exactly." He smiled. "And you?" he inquired.

"Oh, I'm only a spectator. Down here for a day or two."

He was still lanky, his clothes gave no evidence of an increased
prosperity, but his complexion was good, his skin had cleared. I was more
than ever baked by a resolute good humour, a simplicity that was not
innocence, a whimsical touch seemingly indicative of a state of mind that
refused to take too seriously certain things on which I set store. What
right had he to be contented with life?

"Well, I too am only a spectator here," he laughed. "I'm neither fish,
flesh nor fowl, nor good red herring."

"You were going into the law, weren't you?" I asked. "I remember you said
something about it that day we met at Beverly Farms."

"Yes, I managed it, after all. Then I went back home to Elkington to try
to make a living."

"But somehow I have never thought of you as being likely to develop
political aspirations, Krebs," I said.

"I should say not! he exclaimed.

"Yet here you are, launched upon a political career! How did it happen?"

"Oh, I'm not worrying about the career," he assured me. "I got here by
accident, and I'm afraid it won't happen again in a hurry. You see, the
hands in those big mills we have in Elkington sprang a surprise on the
machine, and the first thing I knew I was nominated for the legislature.
A committee came to my boarding-house and told me, and there was the
deuce to pay, right off. The Railroad politicians turned in and worked
for the Democratic candidate, of course, and the Hutchinses, who own the
mills, tried through emissaries to intimidate their operatives."

"And then?" I asked.

"Well, - I'm here," he said.

"Wouldn't you be accomplishing more," I inquired, "if you hadn't
antagonized the Hutchinses?"

"It depends upon what you mean by accomplishment," he answered, so mildly
that I felt more rued than ever.

"Well, from what you say, I suppose you're going in for reform, that
these workmen up at Elkington are not satisfied with their conditions and
imagine you can help to better them. Now, provided the conditions are not
as good as they might be, how are you going to improve them if you find
yourself isolated here, as you say?"

"In other words, I should cooperate with Colonel Varney and other
disinterested philanthropists," he supplied, and I realized that I was
losing my temper.

"Well, what can you do?" I inquired defiantly.

"I can find out what's going on," he said. "I have already learned
something, by the way."

"And then?" I asked, wondering whether the implication were personal.

"Then I can help - disseminate the knowledge. I may be wrong, but I have
an idea that when the people of this country learn how their legislatures
are conducted they will want to change things."

"That's right!" echoed the waiter, who had come up with my griddle-cakes.
"And you're the man to tell 'em, Mr. Krebs."

"It will need several thousand of us to do that, I'm afraid," said Krebs,
returning his smile.

My distaste for the situation became more acute, but I felt that I was


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