Book: The Man



The Man
The Man

Irving Wallace


The Man

DEDICATED TO

Sylvia, David, and Amy

With Love

One of the author’s prized possessions is an original autographed manuscript, written firmly with pen on cheap ruled paper, signed by a former Negro slave who became a great reformer, lecturer, writer, adviser to President Abraham Lincoln, United States Minister to Haiti, and candidate for Vice-President of the United States on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872. The manuscript reads as follows:

In a composite Nation like ours, made up of almost every variety of the human family, there should be, as before the Law, no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no black, no white, but one country, one citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny for all.

A Government that cannot or does not protect the humblest citizen in his right to life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, should be reformed or overthrown, without delay.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Washington D.C. Oct. 20. 1883


INTRODUCTION

Irving Wallace’s The Man is a prophetic novel, although not all the prophecies in his absorbing work of fiction have come true. The novel dramatizes the extraordinary events transpiring after the sudden death of a fictitious American president. Ironically Wallace’s book, published in 1964, was completed in 1963 just nine weeks before the death of President John F. Kennedy. The Man also depicts a president’s impeachment trial, 35 years before the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton.

The new president who stands center stage in Wallace’s drama is Douglass Dilman, a reserved former college professor with no “fire in his belly” for presidential politics. Tragedy thrusts him into the nation’s highest office, and fate inaugurates him as the first black President of the United States of America.

In 1972, it was my privilege to play Douglass Dilman in what was initially intended to be an ABC Television Movie of the Week, based on Irving Wallace’s best selling novel. Whether he was writing fiction or nonfiction, Wallace had a passion for research. In 1963, as background for The Man, he accepted an invitation from President John F. Kennedy to spend several days observing life in the White House, from the Oval Office to the Cabinet Room to the private family quarters. As a result, his novel is grounded in authentic details, and even the Congressional newspaper, The Roll Call, praised the book for its understanding of government in all its “importance, its pettiness, its complexities, vagaries, shortcomings and its greatness.”

As I prepared to play The Man, I noted key elements in the novel that might be kept for the film, elements that might not be kept, and even elements that were not in the story at all, but might be added. This would be my first major film role since The Great White Hope in 1970. It gave me the chance to play a black man who was not a stereotype of a militant.

In those volatile days of the seventies, there was a general public insistence that a black man be militant. This seemed to be expected of black men by other black men, by white men, by liberals, and even by conservatives. There was the attitude, often liberal, that said, “If I were a black man, I would sure as hell be screaming or angry.” At the other end of the spectrum, there were those people, often conservative, who seemed to prefer stereotypes, saying, “Give me a black man who is yelling and screaming and I’ll know what to do with him.”

Douglass Dilman, to the contrary, is a quiet, rational man trying his best to do a difficult job in daunting circumstances. Thrown into the center of a political earthquake, he is an apolitical creature, and something of a Milquetoast. He is an intellectual, and a good man with a commitment to principles but no appetite for political battles. His adversaries in the administration try to isolate Dilman, shutting him off in a corner so that they can run the government and leave him out of the loop.

I am not an intellectual and I don’t think of myself as a Milquetoast, but Dilman is not unlike me. I am not saying that I was ideal casting, but a truly remarkable cast and crew were assembled around me to try to bring Wallace’s novel to life on the television screen-Burgess Meredith, Martin Balsam, Barbara Rush, Anne Seymour, William Windom, and Lew Ayres, among others. Comedian Jack Benny opened the film in a cameo role.

Rod Serling, who enjoyed a huge success with The Twilight Zone, wrote the television screenplay, and Joe Sargent was our able, dynamic director. The script, the setting, the shooting schedule and the budget were all geared to television, and a television movie in those days, far more than today, was streamlined for the small screen-very low budget, modest salaries, and a quick production pace.

Certain creative decisions were made to compress Wallace’s complex novel for the small screen, to take The Man and his friends and foes into American living rooms. As is often the case when a novel is the basis for a screenplay, liberties were taken with exterior details in the original story. Serling, exercising dramatic license, gave Dilman one child instead of two; emphasized racial conflict in South Africa rather than in the United States; and set up the climax of the drama at a political convention rather than an impeachment trial.

This was a time when television shows had to be very careful about the treatment of racial issues and themes. Otherwise some Southern states, including my native state of Mississippi, would refuse to air them. For the television script, the decision was made to eliminate the sensational issue of the impeachment of the first black President of the United States. His enemies had fought dirty and tried hard to get rid of him. In the novel, Dilman is charged with violating his oath of office, committing treason against the United States, obstructing justice, and demonstrating “loose morals, intoxication, partisanship, and maladministration.” He is even accused of raping his social secretary. At that time, I did not protest when this material was cut from the script.

In the film, a South African official is assassinated by a young African American, and a huge public outcry ensues when Dilman considers extraditing the young man. I went to Rod Serling and said, “I find it a weakening factor in our drama that President Dilman does not meet one-on-one, face-to-face with representatives of the South African apartheid regime” Irving Wallace seriously explored issues of African unity in the novel, and Dilman’s meetings with President “Kwame Amboko” of the independent African democracy of “Baraza” form a very important facet of the story. When I urged Rod to consider this encounter, he said, “No, Jimmy, that would be another story.”

He didn’t have the space or the time for that story for television, and that was a disappointment for me. From that point on, even though I enjoyed the story, the character I was playing, and the actors I was working with, I did not feel that we were achieving the full dramatic potential of The Man. I contended that if we were going to do justice to the story about the first black President of the United States, as Wallace did in his novel, we had to produce a far more powerful drama.

Additional decisions were made, however, to reflect the political climate of the early seventies We added an allusion to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. In the novel, Dilman’s daughter is passing for white, and his son is involved in a militant group. In the film, the new President has one child, a black militant daughter, and for that role, the producers hired a very dark, beautiful young actress who symbolized all the glamour of an American girl not passing for white. Halfway through the shooting, however, it was decided that she was not politically indicative enough. The producers replaced the first actress with Janet MacLachlan, a very accomplished stage actress, who resembled activist Angela Davis, Afro hair style and all-solidly indicative of the prototype they wanted in the movie.

For all the changes in the story, I think we stayed true to Wallace’s vision of Douglass Dilman, and, therefore, to the crux of the novel. Dilman is a man who has no ambition to be president, yet when fate brings him into the presidency, he does the best he can, despite everything. His intention is to be president of all the people. He has no axes to grind, even racial axes. He simply cares for the national good. Wallace seems to be saying that the fire in the belly is not all that drives an important statesman. Rationality, integrity, and a balanced psyche are more important.

I met Irving Wallace at a press event to promote the film, but I did not hear him say how he felt about the translation of his novel into the entirely different medium of television film. And The Man was to undergo one more metamorphosis before our project was done.

I think we had just finished production for our television movie of the week when Robert Redford’s The Candidate appeared, to much success. It seems the people in charge of The Man decided that the time was right for political films. All of a sudden, they opted to release our movie in cinema houses as a feature film.

Those of us in the cast and the crew questioned that decision vigorously, and our director led our protest. Wallace’s novel had been pared down to fit television, and even for TV, I thought. The Man deserved a more complex script. I did not see how our film could work on the wider, deeper screen and bigger stage of the movie theater. I think our film came up short, only skimming the surface of Irving Wallace’s richly detailed novel. Still, television always had more daring to tackle controversial subjects, in part because television films, with their time constraints, could only dig skin deep anyway.

I enjoyed playing Douglass Dilman immensely, even though I knew that the film, unlike the novel, lacked bite and fire. It was not until after I saw the show on television many years later that I realized that despite my complaints, and despite Rod Serling’s really quick work, our film version of The Man was actually quite eloquent for its time, as well as for the present, and it certainly did work better on the TV screen.

Soon after the film opened, I was in a play, and we took questions from the audience after the performance. One young man questioned me about The Man.

“Why did you cry the first night you became President?” he wanted to know. “The name of the story is The Man, and if you are The Man, you don’t cry, you kick ass.”

I explained that I wanted to leave the impression that, at some point, this man who was suddenly cast in the role of President of the United States had to realize what an awesome journey lay before him, and that I expressed this simply by having him look at himself in the mirror, alone in a room, and say to himself, “Mr. President.” Then I let myself cry.

The young man had a problem with those tears, but I believe that Wallace was suggesting that all leaders serve better, and all the people are better served, when they acknowledge the awesome responsibility of the office.

The spelling of Douglass Dilman’s first name evokes the name of Frederick Douglass, whose words serve as the epigraph for Irving Wallace’s novel:


“In a composite Nation like ours, made up of almost every variety of the human family, there should be, as before the Law, no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no black, no white, but one country, one citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny for all.”


That, in essence, is the key to The Man.

I predict that this new edition of the novel will find an appreciative contemporary audience. And that comes down, in the end, to the enduring power of Irving Wallace’s story, his characters and his themes. The Man speaks eloquently to the present and to the future, just as it did to the past.


James Earl Jones

June 21, 1999

I

Standing there in the cold office, at this ungodly hour, no longer night, not yet day, she felt apprehensive and nervous. She wondered why, but instantly her memory had traced the source of worry, and she knew its answer was right.

From her earliest childhood on the modern farm outside Milwaukee, Edna Foster remembered, she had been raised-by erect parents of German origin-to believe in the virtues of constancy, steadiness, punctuality. Whenever she had given voice to a girlish dream of irregular adventure, her solemn and mustached father, an omnivorous reader of almanacs and books of useful quotations, would repeat verbatim the words of Someone (rarely named, Edna suspected, because her father hoped that the terse homily would seem his own). “Gott im Himmel,” her father would say to the ceiling, addressing his approving Lutheran God, “adventures, romantic adventures she wants.” Then, glowering down at Edna, he would recite the wisdom of Someone: “Adventures are an indication of inefficiency. Good explorers don’t have them.”

Her father, she guessed long after, had the approval of his God because he had so carefully anticipated and thwarted the temptations of the Lutheran devil. Her father’s devil seduced the weak and erring not with the banal sins of immorality and unrighteousness, but with the Twentieth Century sins of irregularity and confusion. As a consequence of this paternal foresight, Edna Foster’s formative years had been boundaried by tangible disciplines: the clock at the bedside, the budget in the bureau drawer, the schedule on the kitchen wall.

These rigid lessons had stood Edna in good stead during her attendance at the business college in Chicago, during her first secretarial jobs in Detroit and New York City, and especially when she had come to work for T. C.-yes, he had been T. C., “The Chief,” even as a senator-in the Old Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. In an uncharacteristically long and almost indecipherable letter, her father had hailed her prestigious government job as the inevitable triumph of her upbringing.

It was only after so much had happened to her employer, after T. C.’s nomination, and the exacting and exciting campaign, and the heady election night, it was after all that, when she followed T. C. into the White House with her shorthand pads and special Kleenex box that Edna had come to realize that the parental standards she lived by were causing her difficulty. T. C. found her indispensable, she knew, because of her efficiency. What he did not know was that his secretary’s efficiency depended upon her opportunity to be methodical. Yet the new job, from the start, seemed to have been equipped by the old Lutheran devil. No inkpot could drive that devil off. The office of the President’s personal secretary was possessed of furnishings that mocked regularity: clocks had thirteen hours, calendars had thirty-two-day months, light switches had no “off” markings, or so it sometimes seemed to Edna.

As personal secretary to the President of the United States, Edna Foster possessed great pride in her position-she had recently learned to regard it as a position, not a job-and she had believed George Murdock, and giggled with delight, when he had told her over their second martinis in Duke Zeibert’s bar, “Edna, if the President’s wife is the nation’s First Lady, then you are the nation’s First Secretary.” It was one of the things that she liked about George Murdock, his way of putting ordinary things so cleverly, which of course came from his newspaper reporter training. But then the job-no, position, position, as George kept reminding her-had its burdens, as she sometimes explained to George, and the worst burden of all, the most disconcerting for one of her background, she could never disclose to him, for then he might think her inflexible and dull, and therefore unattractive.

The worst burden, she could tell herself alone, was emergency.

It had been so on the farm in Wisconsin. The tread of the Western Union boy’s footsteps as he came up the walk, the tinny faraway voice of the long-distance operator, had always meant emergency, and emergency was the enemy of order, peace, security. This enemy, and only this one, had always broken her father’s composure, reduced his authority, and its threat had frightened her then and it frightened her still. And now, of all people on earth, it was Edna who had the one job-position-where emergency was an expected weekly visitor, although for her always an unexpected visitor, leaving her as damp and upset as she might be left by a skipped heartbeat.

Last night late, after midnight, there had come the telephone call from Governor Wayne Talley, the President’s closest aide, and the word he had used was emergency.

“Hello, Edna, did I wake you up?”

“No-no, I was just reading.” Then she had realized the hour. “Is there anything wrong?”

“Nothing special. The usual. Look, Edna, are you well enough to come in tomorrow? How’s your cold?”

Automatically, she had coughed. “I suppose I’ll live. Yes, of course I’ll be in.”

“I’d like you to make it early, real early. T. C.’s orders.”

“You name it,” she had said.

“Around six A.M. I know that’s rough, but it’s rough all over. The Russians are giving us a bad time. T. C. will be at the table early with Kasatkin. When they break, it should be about noon or so in Frankfurt, and that’ll make it seven in the morning here, daylight time. It’s going to be an open conference call from Germany. We’re piping it into the Cabinet Room, so you get set up for seven or eight people. And you’d better hang around in case he has something personal to dictate. Okay?”

“I’ll be there, Governor Talley.”

“Sorry to do this to you, Edna, but it’s an emergency.”

There it was. Emergency. And here was she. Disconcerted.

The chauffeured limousine had been waiting before her Victorian-style apartment on Southeast E Street, just off New Jersey Avenue, when she had emerged at five forty-five. By ten minutes after six, she had crossed the empty Reading Room in the press quarters of the West Wing of the White House, and quickly gone to her cubicle between the Cabinet Room and the President’s Oval Office.

After snapping on the overhead lights, and hanging her coat beside the bookcase, she had telephoned downstairs to ask someone in the Navy Mess to bring up some hot, hot coffee and a slice of toast. Now, shivering as she waited, resenting the early hour and the loss of two much-needed hours of sleep, resenting even more the nameless emergency that shattered her pattern of work and peace of mind, she began to sneeze. Hastily she sought the package of Kleenex in her leather purse, yanked one free in time to cough into it, and then wadded it to pat her painfully reddened nose.

Trying to ignore the ache between her protruding shoulder blades, determined to bring herself up to the day’s beginning, she moved woodenly toward the small wall mirror next to the beige file cabinet, with its ugly security bar still locked in place down the center. With antagonism she stared into the mirror, blinking miserably at her bird’s nest of brown hair, all stringy, at the faint crease in her forehead, at her swollen watery brown eyes and the slight bulges below (bags filled by overtime hours), at the shiny long straight nose, and then at the quivering dry lips.

She went back to her desk for her comb and compact. Seated before the gray electric typewriter, holding the compact’s mirror above her, she toiled to achieve a semblance of efficient neatness. She had a plain face, she knew, but at its best, all well and rested, it was at least passable. George Murdock said that it was more, and she wanted to believe him, but when so many people had told you that your face had character, you knew for certain you did not have good looks. Certainly it was a face that could not afford tension or sleeplessness or the common cold.

She wondered whom or what to blame for this morning’s wreckage. She could not blame George. Dutifully, it having been a week night and with her constant sniffling, he had brought her home early from their dinner. She could not blame herself for staying up until Talley’s call after midnight, trying to read but really thinking of the miracle of her eight months with George and speculating about the months to come. After all, that was important, this thinking and daydreaming about George. It was the first time in her entire thirty years that she had had the chance to indulge herself so, that is, indulge herself seriously, that is, in secret hopes for the future.

For six years T. C. and the job for him had been enough to fill her mind. Now there was not only the President, but another, two in her life of equal importance-how it would please George to know his august standing!-and this was a pleasure worthy of her budgeted thinking time. Nor could she blame her ravaged morning face on T. C. for bringing her in here at six o’clock instead of eight. Banish that thought, she thought; veto it, it’s unconstitutional. No, not T. C., he was guiltless, a dedicated, wonderful, great man, so far away, arguing and fighting with those Communist leaders about Berlin and about Africa and about the planets.

Then she realized where to put the blame, and since it was on one still so fresh in his grave, she was sorry and ashamed. She could date her teary, tired, streaky face back to the Vice-President’s funeral ten days ago. It had rained, and they had stood there, the high and the mighty and herself, too, soaked to the bones, staring at Richard Porter’s wet oak casket, listening to the minister’s highpitched supplication, Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the earth; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Yet, she had felt certain, all the mourners had not been listening attentively, for most seemed turned inward with self-concern induced by the shock of the suddenness of the Vice-President’s massive coronary, his first, his last, and the mourners seemed to be mentally determining to drink less, smoke less, eat less, work less, and have those medical checkups more often. Even the President, the President himself, young middle-aged and strong as he was, a dray horse for work, a tireless robot on the golf fairways, had gone to Walter Reed Hospital two days after the funeral, the day before leaving for Frankfurt am Main, for a thorough physical examination.

The unreality of the Episcopalian funeral lingered in Edna’s mind. She had felt apart from the ceremony at the time, as she was this moment. The Vice-President’s death had not upset her deeply, nor, as far as she had observed, had it emotionally moved any of the official family either, except by its suddenness and its threat to all mortality. The reason for this, she decided, was Porter’s relative unimportance. His passing left no gap, rendered the nation no weaker. He had been a good bluff man, in an affable salesman sort of way, full of clichés and politics and gallons of bourbon and Throttlebottom stances the cartoonists so enjoyed. He had been a professional politician and natural Vice-Presidential candidate brought into the campaign in order to lure the uncertain Far West with him. He had served his purpose, and in death T. C. was his legacy. Because of Porter, T. C. was Chief Executive by an overwhelming mandate from the people instead of by a close plurality. Poor Richard Porter had played his role, served the Party and the electorate, and without him life would go on unaltered. It was the seventeenth time in history the government would be without a Vice-President, and no longer unusual. It was T. C. who mattered, to Edna and to the country.

Closing her compact, Edna fully absolved the late Vice-President of responsibility for her head cold and wretched face, and now, her face repaired, her mind clearer, she smelled the steaming coffee on the desk behind her. Somebody from the Navy Mess had noiselessly come and gone, and because of her self-absorption, she did not know who it had been and whom to thank. She sipped the coffee, recoiled, blew on it to cool it, and finally, breaking the slice of toast, munching it, she was able to drink down the contents of the cup.

At last, feeling better, forgiving the day for its earliness, forgiving everyone for everything, she came to her feet. Her platinum wristwatch, a generous gift from the First Lady, showed the time to be twenty-six minutes after six o’clock. Right now, Edna guessed, T. C. and his staff were leaving the Kaisersaal, the splendid dining room of emperors of the Holy Roman Empire located in the Roemer, Frankfurt’s five-gabled city hall. The European press, and recently the American papers, had gleefully taken to calling the meeting between the President of the United States and the Premier of Soviet Russia the Roemer Conference, reminding readers that Frankfurt’s city hall had been the site, during the Middle Ages, where international merchants gathered to trade.

Well, Edna thought, T. C. has done his trading for the morning. Now, driving the several blocks to the Alte Mainzer Palace, his headquarters in Frankfurt, he is probably considering what problems of the trading he must discuss this afternoon (over there) or morning (over here) with select Cabinet members and Congressional leaders. Edna had seen photographs of the President’s ornate Gothic ground-floor bedroom in the ancient Palace-the Bonn government had suggested the President use the ancient Palace for his living quarters instead of the United States Consulate across the Main River, because it was roomier, more picturesque, and nearer the Roemer-and not seeing this fourteenth-century Palace was what Edna regretted most about missing the trip.

Ordinarily, Edna traveled with the President. She had made four trips with him abroad-a wonderland for a farm girl from Wisconsin-but this was one of the two trips that she had missed, because of the darn head cold. Frankfurt was a city she had never seen, and even though Tim Flannery, the President’s press secretary, assured her that she had missed nothing, that postwar Frankfurt was a dull, Swiss-type industrial metropolis featuring nothing more exciting than the I. G. Farben Building and the Hesse State Radio Building, both modern monstrosities, Edna knew differently. She knew that the Allied bombers that had leveled Frankfurt’s medieval Old City in 1944 had, by some miracle, left almost intact the two dusty near-crumbling architectural wonders of the fourteenth century, the Frankfurt cathedral and the three-story Alte Mainzer Palace that housed the Presidential party. Edna knew that she traveled the way she tried to work, with efficiency, and she was not ashamed that she collected palaces, castles, and museums, with which to educate her children someday. The possibility of children, for one not even married and nearing spinsterhood, brought Edna back to reality, and once more brought her mind to George Murdock. She was sorry to lose the Alte Mainzer Palace for her collection, but there was compensation in not having to be apart from George the entire week.

She realized with a start that she had been standing at the desk, daydreaming away five more precious minutes, and 3,000 miles away in Frankfurt the President was nearing his telephone in the ancient Palace, and she had not yet made the few preparations necessary for his call to the Cabinet Room. Hastily she searched her desktop for the list of those who would be present for the conference call, found no such list, and then guessed that Wayne Talley would, from long habit, have left it on the President’s own desk.

Hurrying now, Edna opened the nearest door on her left, and crossed the rug to the sturdy brown Buchanan desk at the far end of the President’s corner office. The green blotter held nothing, and neither did the empty card stand, so much like a menu holder, into which T. C.’s daily engagement schedule was slipped. Concerned, she looked about, and then she saw it, the single sheet of paper that Talley had left for her, a corner of it pinned under the weight of the black telephone, the deceptively ordinary telephone that was the much-publicized hot line.

Taking the sheet, she scanned the list typed upon it: Talley himself, of course; Secretary of State Arthur Eaton, of course; Senator Selander, Majority Leader in the Senate; Representative Wickland, Majority Leader in the House; Senator Dilman, President pro tempore of the Senate; General Fortney, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Mr. Stover, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs in the State Department; Mr. Leach, the stenotypist. Eight in all. That was it for this morning.

Studying the personnel on the list as she slowly left the President’s desk, Edna played her deduction game. One did not have to be Scott of the CIA or Lombardi of the FBI to make an accurate prediction, once one was given a set of clues. Edna made her prediction to herself, enjoying the sport almost as much as she enjoyed the diversion of the crossword puzzles and Double-Crostic games that she hoarded for weekends. The emergency conference call from the President, she told herself, would be devoted almost entirely to Africa and the trouble over the new Republic of Baraza. The presence of the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs indicated this. Then there would be talk about pushing something through a balky Congress, probably the unpopular ratification of the renewal of the United States’ membership in the African Unity Pact, as well as further economic aid to newly independent African nations. The presence of two senators and one representative and one general indicated this. The attendance of Talley and Secretary of State Eaton furnished no added clues. They were always present when T. C. spoke, always there, his confidants and alter egos.



Yes, Edna decided unhappily, Africa would be the subject, and that promised a dull and wearisome morning. African talk meant almost nothing to her. What was it, really? A black jumble of crazy names like Basutoland, Nyasaland, Malagasy, Gambia, Dahomey, Chad, Rwanda, and lately, Baraza. Even if you were intelligent, you could not tell one country from another, or one primitive face from another (despite those wild robes they wore, despite those odd Oxford or Harvard accents they assumed when they called upon the President). It was all impossible and, for Edna, Africa remained the Dark Continent, affecting her day-to-day existence in no way whatsoever. And-repressed heresy-she suspected that those comic-opera countries meant little more to T. C. or Talley or Eaton, either. Soviet Russia, now, that was another matter. Russia could blow us up, and ruin everything, everyone, before some of us had a chance to get married and live and have children.

She had paused before the French doors leading out to the cement walk with its overhang and colonnades. Outside-T. C. called it his “backyard”-the darkness had gone, and the gray dawn was brightening. Even in late August, the Rose Garden was still in full bloom, the roses and Shasta daisies and geraniums dominated by early chrysanthemums. At the far end of the garden Andrew Jackson’s hoary magnolia tree, partially obscuring the White House rotunda and Truman’s Balcony, was thick with green foliage. For a moment Edna was tempted to step outside, join the White House policeman who had appeared on the walk, deeply inhale the cool fresh air, and fully revive herself for the Frankfurt call. But the platinum watch on her left wrist bound her to duty. Swiftly she left the President’s office and returned to her own desk.

Yanking open drawers, digging supplies out of them, she was at last occupied with routine and too busy for daydreaming. In a few minutes, her thin arms heavily weighted under a pyramid of memorandum pads, boxes of pencils, shorthand notebook, and spare ashtrays, she went carefully to the door of the Cabinet Room. Balancing her load against the frame of the door, she grasped the knob, turned it, and pushed the door open with her knee.

She had somehow expected to find Arthur Eaton inside. He was usually first, seated and hunched over the long eight-sided, coffin-like mahogany table, his chalky, finely chiseled, aristocratic profile bent over sheaves of briefing notes. But he was not there. Instead, across the Cabinet Room, two khaki-clad enlisted men, plainly Signal Corps, were finishing the wiring of two gray metal boxes that rested on the dark table. Edna recognized the larger box, with its perforated side, as the receiver that would unscramble and the loudspeaker that would amplify the President’s confidential conversation from Frankfurt, while the sensitive smaller audio box was the microphone which would pick up any voice in the room, scramble it in a special transmitter, and send it off to the Gothic study in the Alte Mainzer Palace, where it would be unscrambled and made comprehensible through a similar portable system set up for the listening President.

Apparently the two Signal Corps men were too occupied to be aware of Edna’s arrival. She coughed, and called out, “Good morning, gentlemen.”

The younger, a technician third class, glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, good morning, ma’m. We’ll be outa here in a jiffy.”

“Go right ahead. We still have fifteen minutes.”

Edna lowered her precarious load to the table, then went to the three pairs of green drapes concealing the French doors and opened them, so that once more Jackson’s magnolia tree was in her view and the room behind her filled with the filtered early morning light. After shaking loose the Presidential flag, which now hung well, and taking note of the American flag, which was fine, Edna resumed her familiar routine. She distributed memorandum pads, pencils, ashtrays. She filled the water carafes. She was hardly aware that the Signal Corps men were making tests, and then saying good-bye.

She was not yet through when the corridor door opened. Startled, Edna wheeled, expecting Eaton, but instead saw two of the Secret Service agents of the White House Detail, one the red-faced, beefy Beggs, the other the wiry, blond Sperry.

“Got you busy early this morning, hey?” Beggs called out.

“They sure have,” said Edna.

“Just want to thank you for Ogden and Otis, Miss Foster,” said Beggs. She knew that her face must have reflected blankness, for he quickly added, “They’re my boys.” Then he said, “First ones in their school with the new Baraza stamps. We’re all grateful.”

“I haven’t had any more from Africa this week,” said Edna. “Most of the mail is from Frankfurt-from Germany-by diplomatic pouch, so no stamps. Of course, some other things drift in.”

“Anything’ll do, Miss Foster. Boys can use those for trading. Sure appreciate your thinking of us.” Beggs’s colleague, Sperry, had touched his arm, and he looked off, then turned back. “Here they come, Miss Foster. Be seeing you.”

The moment that the Secret Service agents were gone, Leach came through the open door, nodding his skeletal head, carrying his perpetual harassment and his portable stenotype to the table, two chairs from the center where Eaton would sit.

Edna heard more footsteps on the tile corridor floor and waited. The three of them appeared in the doorway at the same time, and then Talley and Stover hung back, deferring to Eaton. The Secretary of State, tall, slender, magnificent in his pin-striped gray Saville Row suit, fedora in his hand, entered briskly.

“Hello, Miss Foster,” he said in his deep, well-modulated voice. “Sorry about the hour, but T. C. appears to need our help.”

Eaton’s appearance, his evident good breeding, always struck Edna dumb, and as ever, she could do no more than duck her head and murmur her welcome. She watched Eaton as he deposited his hat on a bench and walked to the chair where Stover had already placed his alligator briefcase. She could see Eaton with the same eyes that the President, an old friend, saw him, and what she saw was an Easterner of excellent antecedents, schooled in the Ivy League traditions, a careful, moderate, thoughtful man, mellowed by the best of taste, and still youthful in late middle age. Where Eaton differed from T. C. was in the matter of human relationship. The President was gayer, warmer, more flamboyant, the politician’s brass section accompanying the subtle chamber-music strings. The President would always be elected; Arthur Eaton would always be appointed.

She continued to observe Eaton as he removed clipped papers from his briefcase and sat down with them. He was the most attractive man currently in public office, she was positive. The press liked to say that he resembled Warren Harding, but Edna resented this, for Harding was not patrician and his historical image was weak. Edna had once seen a portrait of James K. Polk, and although she had heard that Polk had been slight and inconspicuous, she knew that this was the man in American history that Eaton most resembled. Like Polk, the Secretary of State possessed a smooth, sleek pompadour, graying above the forehead and at the temples. His eyes were full and deep, his nose slightly Grecian in its line, his jaw (like his entire face) bony and long. He was Virginia, Andover, Princeton, and perfect.

And now, Edna could see, he had lifted his head from his papers to listen to an exchange between T. C.’s right-hand adviser, Wayne Talley, and Eaton’s own Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Jed Stover.

The short, heavyset, electric Talley was poking a finger into Stover’s shoulder for emphasis. “I don’t care about your damn facts and figures, Jed. We’ve done enough for Baraza, more than enough, and you know that. Do you want us to go to war with those Communist apes over some little jungle country not much bigger than a football field? Do you want to fight over 30,000 square miles in West Africa?”

The taller Jed Stover, squirming at Talley’s poking finger, patted his bristly eyebrows and scrub of mustache, and said calmly, “It is 33,000 square miles, and has a population of 2,437,000, Wayne. It has gold, a good deal of gold, and diamonds and iron ore. Besides-”

“There’s not enough gold in the entire place to pay for what it might cost us in trouble.”

Doggedly Stover continued. “Besides, it is our model, in a sense, our creation, our showcase, Wayne. You cannot give an emerging black nation democracy, and then turn your back on it.”

“We have enough showcases over there. We have Liberia and Ghana and a half-dozen more. That African Unity Pact was fine when it was first set up. Paper work, good propaganda. We never intended to renew. Now, just because Baraza is in it, I see no reason to change our minds. You people in African Affairs get too involved in your own little world, and you can’t see it as a small part of a bigger world with bigger problems. You’re like so many whisker-combing scholars, each with one lifetime specialty, and you get to thinking that the truth about Nancy Hanks is more important than the Presidency, or that the significance of democracy in San Marino is more important than Italy. Don’t look so damn hurt, Jed. I’m not disparaging all the spadework you fellows do, and how well you serve, but you’re all inclined to suffer from funnel vision. I mean it. The President and I have discussed this many times. And I’m sure Arthur understands this even better than the two of us.”

Talley had turned to seek Arthur Eaton’s collaboration. Jed Stover, who had been about to reply, was immediately subdued by the reference to his superior. He seemed to bite his tongue and make an effort to hold silent.

Eaton, who had been listening, pursed his lips. He considered the President’s aide. At last he spoke. “Jed and his department are doing an excellent job, Wayne.”

“I admitted that,” interrupted Talley. “I was only saying-”

“I heard what you were saying, Wayne,” Eaton went on. “There is much to what you have been saying. You can be sure that T. C. and I are perfectly aware of what is going on and what must be done.”

Witnessing the verbal scuffle, Edna Foster saw that this time it was Wayne Talley’s turn to be cowed. Eaton had made it clear that he and T. C. would make the final decisions on African intervention. He had, in a refined way, reminded Talley that although he was the President’s aide, he was not his first adviser, in no way his Gray Eminence, but only his sounding board and runner. He had put Talley in his place, which was not between the President and the Secretary of State, but somewhere behind them, outside them. But it had been carefully done, so that Talley would not lose face before a lesser State Department appointee.

Edna noted that Governor Talley reacted to the encounter, and subtle rebuff, as he always had in the past. His right eye, the one that was slightly crossed, involuntarily began to twitch. His bulbous nose reddened. He seemed less sure of the checkered suit and blue shirt and gaudy gold-coin tie clasp he was given to wearing. He appeared, Edna thought, like the officious manager of a Midwest haberdashery, who had just been reminded by the wealthy absentee owner that he had once been a humble clerk.

“Of course,” Eaton was saying now, with a serious smile, “we are dealing with yesterday’s facts, are we not? What I know, what you know, Wayne, and what you know, Jed, is useful, as of this minute, but in five minutes the President will be speaking to us from Frankfurt. After another morning with the Russians, he may have new facts, new ideas, and our recipe for a decision on Africa may be considerably changed. Don’t you both agree?”

Edna found that she had to keep herself from smiling at the Secretary of State’s adroitness. He had taken Talley and Stover in as his equals at last, and they were mollified. Talley, grunting and bobbing his head, circled the table to sit beside T. C.’s favorite. Stover, exhaling satisfaction, found a place opposite his superior.

Edna, realizing that Arthur Eaton was waving to someone behind her, turned, and to her surprise all the others were already in the Cabinet Room. Quickly she stepped forward to show Senator Selander and Representative Wickland to their chairs. Senator Dilman had not waited for her, but had gone off to take the place farthest from the Secretary of State and the President’s aide. It was understood by all, Edna knew, just as she herself understood it, that Dilman did not rank with the others, not even with Selander and Wickland. Although Dilman, as President pro tempore of the Senate, had been wielding the gavel since the Vice-President’s death, it was known that he held the position as a political gesture.

“Sorry to be the last!” Edna heard a voice boom out from the door. It was four-star General Pitt Fortney, the rigid, scarred Texan, pulling off his leather gloves. “SAC has been bending my ear from Omaha. It wasn’t easy to get away.” He handed his trench coat to Edna and strode to the table, pulling out a chair and sitting stiffly in it. He addressed Eaton. “Steiny had me on the phone last night. He thinks Premier Kasatkin means business. Even flew Marshal Borov in from Leningrad. Maybe the President ought to have me over there.”

Eaton appeared to look down his nose at Fortney. “I think Secretary of Defense Steinbrenner can represent the Pentagon very well, General. I am sure T. C. feels you are needed here.”

Noticing that her platinum wristwatch gave them two minutes to conference time, Edna Foster started around the Cabinet table toward Eaton and the portable loudspeaker.

Passing Representative Wickland, she saw him lean across the table and ask Talley, “What’s this about Earl MacPherson flying to Frankfurt from Buenos Aires? He was supposed to be here in Washington today.”

“Just a one-day detour,” said Talley. “The President felt you boys in the House could spare your Speaker for one more day. T. C. wanted him on hand.”

“On African economic aid legislation?”

“Probably. If T. C. tells you what’s going on, you boys in the House might not listen. If your own Speaker tells you, then you might listen. MacPherson’ll be back on the Hill tomorrow.”

Edna had taken a position behind Eaton, and was about to inform him that it was precisely seven o’clock, when the telephone rang out shrilly. Instantly the room was hushed.

Edna bent between Eaton and Talley, punched down the “On” button atop the beige loudspeaker, then she hit the “On” button above the microphone box, turned the volume to “Medium High,” and stepped away.

She reached her waiting chair and shorthand pad, beside Leach, as a far-off erratic voice came indistinctly over the loudspeaker, and then suddenly broke out loudly and clearly.

“-calling from Frankfurt am Main, this is Signal Corps Captain Foss calling from Frankfurt am Main. Do we have the White House in Washington?”

Calmly Secretary of State Eaton addressed the microphone box. “This is the White House, Captain. This is the Secretary of State. We are assembled and ready for the conference call.”

“All right, sir. The President is waiting to speak to you.” A muffled crossing of voices slapped against the loudspeaker, and then a jagged arrow of static, and at once T. C.’s hurried, bouncy, unceremonious voice was upon them in the Cabinet Room.

“Arthur, are you there?”

“Everyone is here, Mr. President. How are you? Is everything going well?”

“Never better, never better. In fact, I just this moment talked MacPherson into betting all even on Dartmouth against Princeton next month. I want you to ask Internal Revenue if my winnings are tax-free, since we made the wager in Germany. Remember to do that, Arthur.”

Everyone in the Cabinet Room laughed, hoping the laugh would be unscrambled in Frankfurt, and then settled into silence.

T. C. was coming through the loudspeaker again. “We broke up at the Roemer before noon. We’re reconvening at two. Our gang stayed over there to eat, but a few of us slipped out on the press and the rest of them, and came over here to talk it out in privacy. I’ve been sitting in this beat-up old Palace study-it’s cold as hell, Arthur-tell Edna she was smart not to come along-and I’ve been conferring with Ambassador Zwinn, and Secretary Steinbrenner, and our obliging Speaker of the House. One second, Arthur-” There was a long pause, and then T. C. was on once more. “Just said good-bye to the Ambassador-he’s heading back to Bonn-and to Steiny-he’s needed over at the Consulate. Okay, we can settle down now. There are a few problems to contend with, at once. I want to talk this over with you, and then I’ll put MacPherson on, and he can concentrate on Harvey Wickland. Incidentally, Harv, I want to let MacPherson rest here tonight, and you’ll have him back in the Speaker’s chair tomorrow.”

There was a pause, and then T. C. resumed through the loudspeaker. “Arthur-Wayne-all of you there, the problem is Premier Kasatkin. I’d forgotten what a tough bastard he can be. He seems determined to be difficult in four-letter words, except in Russian they’re forty-letter words, and my backside is aching after these last hours. I’m determined to get out of here in a few days, but I want to get out with the knowledge that I haven’t given up New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Bombay, and Baraza City to the Muscovites for the right to stay in Berlin.”

Wayne Talley had leaned across Eaton. “T. C.,” he said into the microphone, “this is Wayne here. Is it that bad? Does Kasatkin mean it?”

Over the loudspeaker T. C.’s retort was urgent. “Does he mean it? I’m not sure. That is what we have to judge. We have to decide how far we can go with blank cartridges. That is why I wanted to consult you before trying to digest my lunch. When I go back in there this afternoon, and sit down across from our Soviet friends, I want to know what ammunition I have or should have. In other words, I’ve got to decide how far I can go in showing Kasatkin and Marshal Borov that we intend to stand firm on Baraza, support its independence, even fight for it, at the same time making it clear that we want to be reasonable and are concerned with more dangerous trouble spots and greater issues abroad. You understand?”

Listening, Presidential aide Wayne Talley displayed his pleasure, and shot a triumphant grin at Assistant Secretary Jed Stover.

Arthur Eaton was speaking in the direction of the microphone box. “What are the latest Soviet charges against us, Mr. President?”

“On Baraza?” said T. C. “A whole bill of particulars to prove the United States is becoming an aggressor in Africa, using Baraza merely as a beachhead for our eventual domination of all Africa. They argued that we manipulated Baraza’s independence in return for the promise that they would be pro-democracy and anti-Communist. Premier Kasatkin carried the ball the whole morning. He tried to prove that we did not allow Baraza to hold a fair and open election three months ago. He accused us of rigging it, and said we got our puppet, Kwame Amboko, in as President. You know what the Premier’s evidence was? That one of our old exchange programs financed Amboko’s coming to the United States fifteen years back, and this program financed his brainwashing at Harvard. Hear that, Arthur? Harvard is still giving us Princeton men trouble.” He laughed through a rising wave of static, but it was not a mirthful laugh. He went on quickly. “Premier Kasatkin pointed to Baraza’s new anti-Communist legislation, which is being debated in their Parliament. The Premier accused us of being behind it. He raved and ranted that we were bending Amboko’s arm to get the Communist Party outlawed and the cultural exchange program with Moscow stopped.”

“What evidence did the Premier present to support that charge?” Eaton asked.

“He had no concrete evidence,” replied T. C. “I could have stayed home and reread your Embassy reports, or the translations from Pravda, and known just as much. Kasatkin argued that the economic aid we were giving Baraza came from our government funds, and not from private enterprise, and that we had threatened to cut it off unless Amboko banned the Communist Party and the cultural exchange with Moscow. He said we were afraid of Communism in Africa, because we knew that was what the blacks wanted and needed. He said, ‘Those poor people know Communism gives them bread, while democracy gives them a vote and a Letter to the Editor.’ He’s a real smart aleck, in a sort of kulak way, and absolutely distrustful of everyone. He said not only was our money leading Amboko by the nose, but that we were also using our renewal of the African Unity Pact as a bribe. It all comes down to this-the Soviets are charging us with using Baraza as a launching pad to wipe native Communism out of Africa, so we can exploit the black population, control Baraza’s gold and iron ore. That’s the picture, my friends. It may look abstract, but it is realism, and we have to cope with it.”

“You are perfectly right, Mr. President,” Eaton was saying, “we have heard most of that before. The question is-what do the Russians specifically want of us? After all, they instigated this Frankfurt conference to iron out differences. What are they suggesting?”

T. C. snorted, and the loudspeaker sent the sound splitting across the Cabinet Room like a handclap. “What are they suggesting? Good God, Arthur, they are demanding. Yes, they are demanding that we do one of two things-you see, they say they are being reasonable, ready for compromise-that we do one of two things, either kill the African Unity Pact-the AUP-kill it in the Senate, withdraw from it-or that we use our influence, show our good intentions in Africa, by getting Baraza to drop legislation against the native Communist Party and the cultural exchange program with Moscow. There it is.”

“Why this sudden strenuous objection to AUP?” Eaton asked. “They showed only token disapproval when we first went into it.”

“Because, according to Kasatkin, when we first went into it, the Soviets regarded it as a weak paper pact, limited to three countries and promising only small economic assistance. But they consider the new AUP as a threat. They point out it involves five African nations, and guarantees our military intervention to protect those countries from aggression. The Soviets argue we’re setting up a Monroe Doctrine in Africa. They won’t sit still for another NATO-a fledgling NATO they’re labeling AUP-unless we allow their own ideology perfect freedom in Baraza. It must be one or the other, but not both.”

Representative Wickland called out toward the microphone box, “Mr. President, what if we support both measures-banning of Communism in Baraza as well as membership in the new AUP? What do you think Kasatkin would do?”

“The works, Harv, the works,” said the President. “Premier Kasatkin warned me Soviet troops would occupy West Berlin, and redouble support of their adherents in and around India and Brazil. I think he means it this time. And if he does, we’re in for a shooting war, and we’d have to fire the first shot.”

“But, Mr. President-” It was Assistant Secretary Jed Stover’s pained and trembling voice. “That’s absolute blackmail. We’re committed to AUP as well as giving Baraza the absolute right to do as it pleases, and apparently Baraza wants to curb Communism. I don’t blame Amboko. He has a new and uncertain democratic coalition. His minority of Communists are militant and dangerous. If we give in on either point, drop out of AUP or force Amboko to leave the Communists alone, the Reds might infiltrate every free nation of Africa, and control the continent in a year.”

The loudspeaker was quiet, and those waiting in the Cabinet Room were quiet, too, and at last T. C.’s reply came through the loudspeaker from distant Frankfurt. “Jed-all of you-I’m sure we understand our Soviet friends very well. We know what they want. We have to prevent them from getting it. The question is where do we stop them, and when do we see the whites of their eyes? In Baraza? I don’t think so. I’d hate to risk American lives over some godforsaken little tract of land in West Africa. I don’t want to have the distinction of having been the last President of the United States, the one who encouraged nuclear annihilation. I’m more worried about Germany, India, Brazil than I am about Africa.”

“Mr. President.” The voice had come from the far side of the coffinlike table, and it belonged to Senator Dilman, whose fingers were drumming the table nervously. “Mr. President,” he repeated, “I’m sure you are-are right-yes-but if we back away from Africa, won’t we-wouldn’t we not only lose Africa for democracy-but show the Russians we are weak? I’m not disagreeing, only I am wondering-”

“Who was that?” inquired T. C. “I don’t recognize the voice.”

“That was Senator Dilman, Mr. President,” said Arthur Eaton.

“Oh, Dilman,” said T. C. “Fine, Dilman. Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about losing Africa to anyone. Those people know we’re with them. They see our money. They see we’re really making an effort to solve the civil rights problem in the United States. As to showing any weakness to the Soviets, I’m not concerned about that either. They’ve counted our ICBMs, you can bet. They know we have muscles. No, I think we stand to gain more by showing a readiness to bargain, to give a little in order to get a little, than by being bullheaded. The question is how to proceed, how to concede with strength, how to conciliate the Russians, while reassuring the Africans we are behind them, and showing our electorate back home that we have emerged from Frankfurt with a victory, that we have preserved the peace of the world?”

Arthur Eaton edged forward in his chair. “Mr. President, what is your impression of Premier Kasatkin this time around? Do you feel that he is sincere? Do you feel that he will keep hands off in Berlin, Brazil, India, if you make a concession about Africa?”

“Oh, definitely, Arthur. No doubt about it. He’s a roughneck, and crafty, peasant crafty, but he is blunt and honest. I think he wants to live and let live, if there is no other choice. Anyway, MacPherson and I have been kicking this around, and we have come up with a possible approach. We want your opinion on the strategy. Listen carefully-”

Listening carefully, Edna Foster, seated five chairs from the loudspeaker box, crossed her legs again, ready to hook her penciled ciphers across her shorthand pad, if required to do so. Beside her, Leach stopped tapping away on the stenotype set between his legs. Since all sound in the room had ceased, Edna glanced up. The intent faces of the President’s advisers seemed to form human parentheses around the loudspeaker, as each individual prepared to concentrate on what would come next from the Chief Executive in Frankfurt.

Finally there was T. C.’s familiar voice once more, washed over by the atmospheric static above an ocean that divided him from those who heard him. The President’s tone was low-keyed and insistent. “When I go back into that Roemer conference room with those bandits this afternoon, I want to tell them that the Senate is going to ratify the African Unity Pact this week. And that I intend to sign it when I return home. This ratification is necessary-I want to tell them that-because we have made a pledge to our African friends, and we want to keep our word. I want to assure Kasatkin, however, that we will never implement the Pact, act upon it, unless we are certain-absolutely positive-that a foreign power is attempting to interfere, militarily, with the sovereign rights of the Pact members. On the other hand, I want to be able to tell Premier Kasatkin, because we want peace, not only in Germany, India, Brazil, but everywhere, that we are ready to use our great moral influence in Baraza to convince its leader not to permit any discriminatory legislation against Communism to be passed into law. That should do it. I think that can wind it up, and I can come home and tell our people they can sleep safely in their beds for another year.

“However, I need your cooperation, need help from all of you there, and I’ve got to know what you can do for me, and how far I can go with the Russians today. John, I want you to bang ratification of the Pact through the Senate as fast as possible, no matter how long you have to keep in session. At the same time, Harvey, I want you to get that economic aid measure for those Pact countries out of the House committee and onto the floor. And I want it publicized, this support of our African friends. Then you, Arthur, you can call in Ambassador Wamba, and tell him we’ve got to get that anti-Communist legislation in Baraza quashed. Tell him to let his opposition natives have their little Communist Party. We’ll keep an eye on it. Tell him to let his students go to the U.S.S.R. on a cultural exchange. Let him keep an eye on that. Tell him our joining the new African Unity Pact is evidence enough of our continuing support. If he balks, put on the pressure. I won’t stand for any nonsense. I am determined to be the President who kept the peace of the world intact. Now, if you approve, what I want from you there in Washington is your promise that-that-wait, one second, MacPherson is calling out something-”

Abruptly the President’s voice was gone, and through the perforated holes of the loudspeaker box came a faint tearing sound, like canvas being ripped, and then a tinny whine, and then the ear-splitting falsetto crackle of static, and then dead silence.



Arthur Eaton had reached forward, placing a hand on the microphone box as if to steady it, and quietly he spoke into the box. “Mr. President-hello, Mr. President, we cannot hear you, we have lost you. Try again, please try again.” He remained immobilized, head cocked, listening for a response, but there was no sound. His hand shook the microphone box slightly. “T. C, this is Arthur here. Can you hear me?”

The loudspeaker stood mute. Eaton stared at it a moment, then looked about the room at the others. “I think we have been disconnected. We’ll have to get him back.”

General Pitt Fortney was already on his feet, hurrying to the ordinary green handset telephone at Edna Foster’s elbow. “Let me get hold of the Signal Corps,” he was saying. “This happens from time to time with the mechanical unscrambler. I’ll have them track the trouble down. We’ll be hooked up again in a few minutes.”

While General Fortney called the Department of the Army, reporting the communications failure, barking his displeasure, demanding that the line to his Commander in Chief be restored, Edna Foster had the mental picture, a Brueghel in animation, of a thousand little enlisted men with repair tools scurrying up and down the ramps of the Pentagon Building.

General Fortney’s stars and his ribbons and his raw Texas accent always frightened her, and she wanted to be as far away from him as possible. Since General Fortney was still on the telephone above her, Edna put down her pad, pushed back her chair and stood up. She found the silver silent butler, and began to move about the Cabinet table, emptying ashtrays into it. Here and there, around the table, the participants in the conference call had shifted positions on their chairs to discuss the President’s report of what had happened so far at the Roemer Conference and what must be done about it.

Senator Dilman was removing the cellophane from a fresh Upmann cigar, as he listened to Senator Selander and Representative Wickland discuss the possibility of expediting ratification of the African Unity Pact. Selander expressed confidence that he would have sufficient votes to obtain passage of the Pact through the Senate. Still, to win the necessary votes, he felt that he would have to do some shrewd horse-trading in the cloakrooms and at luncheons in the Hotel Congressional. He hated, he was admitting, to make concessions on the important Minorities Rehabilitation Program being debated by the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, but it might be necessary. As soon as the connection was made again with Frankfurt, he would ask the President how much he could concede to the opposition floor leader in return for his full support of AUP.

Cleaning out the last of the ashtrays, Edna could hear Assistant Secretary Jed Stover and Governor Wayne Talley once more locked in disagreement. Stover was saying that any weakness that the American government displayed in Africa would immediately aggravate Negro protest groups in the United States. Talley would not accept this. He tried to reduce Stover to the role of uninformed outsider. Talley was retorting that both he and the President had already met with the Reverend Paul Spinger, and the clergyman had assured them that the vast and conservative Crispus Society, which he headed and which had outgrown the NAACP in membership and power, would be satisfied with the ratification of the African Unity Pact.

“Wayne, I’m not speaking of the Crispus Society or the NAACP,” Jed Stover was saying. “I’m not sure they’re the voice of protest any longer. Most Negroes are becoming impatient with their drawn-out legalistic efforts. Most Negroes want what they want here and now, and they are turning to more aggressive organizations like the Turnerites. Didn’t you read Jeff Hurley’s statement in last night’s Post? He made it clear in that speech in Detroit that the Turnerites were not going to twiddle their thumbs while the Attorney General’s office studied illegal voter registration in the South or while the Crispus Society made appeals to higher courts. Hurley said they were on the verge of undertaking a new policy of unremitting demonstration, and if molested for protest, they would retaliate, demanding an eye for an eye. How do you think this group will react when they learn that the President is forcing Africans to rescind pending legislation in order to please the Soviets? This group and others like it take pride in Baraza’s unique freedom, keep using Baraza as their model of equal rights, keep insisting that is all they want here at home. I think-”

“Oh, knock it off, Jed,” Talley said impatiently. “Don’t lecture me, and don’t waste T. C’s time with that unsubstantiated nonsense. Nobody’s listening to the Turnerites or any crackpots like them. They mean nothing, nothing at all. Reverend Spinger admitted to the President that the Turnerites were a small splinter group who’d left his Crispus Society, that he wasn’t bothering to denounce or oppose them because they were inconsequential, and that there were always some elements who had to let off steam. Jed, you’ve got to stop confusing issues. Baraza is one thing. Our own domestic Negro situation is another thing. If the President can keep Baraza happy, and at the same time contain the Russians, then he has achieved a diplomatic marvel. As to our civil rights problems here, when the Minorities Rehabilitation Program is passed into law, that’ll put an end to Negro protest. Relax, Jed, just relax. Let T. C. perform as President. He’ll manage for all of us.”

“There’s too much compromise,” Jed Stover said feebly, but he seemed helpless, and said it more to himself than to anyone.

Edna Foster, after dumping the ashes from the silent butler into a wastebasket, had been watching and listening. She noticed that Arthur Eaton, slumped in his leather chair, fingers pressed together, eyes narrowed, had been watching and listening also, watching everyone, listening to everything.

Edna realized that General Fortney had completed his calls to the Pentagon, and was marching toward the center of the room opposite Eaton. “Well, finally got those chowderheads hopping,” Fortney announced. “Everything checked out on this end. Nothing wrong on this end. Our communication is A-1. Signal Corps reports the disconnection took place on the other end. Line came down in Frankfurt. They’re getting in touch with our Army Communication Center in Wiesbaden, and with our Consulate in Frankfurt. They expect repairs to be made on the double.”

“Any idea how long it will take?” asked Eaton.

“Ten minutes, no more than ten minutes,” said General Fortney. “So we’ve got a little recess before the President comes on again… Hey, Miss Foster, how’s about having some coffee brought up from the Navy Mess?”


Not ten minutes but nearly twenty minutes had passed, and still the direct communications line from the Alte Mainzer Palace in Frankfurt am Main to the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., had not been repaired.

Only General Pitt Fortney, who had asked Edna to order the coffee, had not had the time to finish more than half of his cup. Impatient with the delay, irritated by the unexplained inefficiency, he had been up and down, at the handset telephone and away from it and back to it, belaboring the Signal Corps for not yet making the President’s private line operative. Minutes ago he had bellowed into the telephone at some Pentagon underling, “Dammit, Colonel, if you aren’t fixing to get those wires up, I’m going to get SAC to fly me over in a B-70 and do the job myself. Now, get cracking!”

They were no longer gathered around the Cabinet table. General Fortney, like a caged and offended beast, was pacing near the telephone. Jed Stover stood beside the bookcase, beneath the mantel with its model ships, examining the titles of the various volumes. Near him, propped on the arm of a chair, Senator Dilman was lighting the stub of his cigar, and again reading a sheet of paper he held in his hand. Before the open door to Edna’s office, Senator Selander and Representative Wickland were engaged in a conversation. Secretary of State Eaton, his back to the others, his hands clasped behind him, stood at the French doors contemplating the Rose Garden in the dull August morning. Governor Talley was making an inquiry of Leach, the stenotypist.

Thus it was that Edna Foster found them, as she returned to the Cabinet Room from her office where she had met with Tim Flannery, the press secretary, to inform him that the conference call, while still interrupted, would soon be resumed. Passing Selander and Wickland, she heard a snatch of their conversation.

Senator Selander was saying, “Don’t you worry your head none about old Hoyt Watson. He’s the most reliable member of the Senate. Southerner or not, he’s still aware of our responsibilities abroad. He’ll go with T. C It’s that damn troublemaker in your House I’m worried about. Can’t you control Zeke Miller and that lousy newspaper chain of his? He hasn’t let up a day on our participation in Africa.”

Representative Wickland was at once defensive. “Leave him to me, I can handle him. He likes T. C He’s received plenty of patronage from T. C. If I tell him the President wants African aid, why, Zeke Miller won’t obstruct him.”

Senator Selander appeared unconvinced. “For someone who likes T. C., he’s sure raising hell with T. C.’s Cabinet. Did you see what he let Reb Blaser publish in the Citizen-American about Eaton? Dirty politics, I tell you.”

Edna Foster, who had hung back to hear the last, saw that both Majority Leaders were turning to inspect Eaton. Embarrassed at eavesdropping, she hurried to her purse lying on the table. Opening it to find a cigarette, she cast a surreptitious glance at Eaton, still at the French doors, still contemplating the Rose Garden. She wondered if he was thinking about Reb Blaser’s column in the Washington Citizen-American. Leaving dinner the night before last, George had bought the newspaper, peering briefly at the baseball scores and Reb Blaser’s story as they walked toward her apartment.

George had showed her the column. It had been devoted to the low moral tone of the Department of State, and then boldly revealed information “from an inside informant” that the Secretary of State and his attractive socialite wife, Kay Varney Eaton, were on the verge of a divorce. The gossip column had pointed out that of the 365 days past, Kay Varney Eaton and her husband had been together, in the capital city, only sixty-eight days. In fact, Reb Blaser had pointed out, she was now in Miami, being seen in nightclubs with Cartnell, the renowned decorator, while her equally renowned husband rattled around alone in their elegant Georgetown mansion. “We can only hope,” Reb Blaser had concluded, “that our Secretary of State will be more successful in maintaining peace with the Soviet Union than with his wife of two-and-twenty years.”

Edna remembered that she had considered Blaser’s column disgraceful, and she had blamed his publisher, Congressman Zeke Miller, for allowing, even encouraging, such attacks. She had been surprised to find George defending both Blaser and Miller. He had, he had said, only admiration for their news sense and for their honesty. Edna had quickly forgiven George, understanding that as a member of the White House press corps, he would naturally defend and admire his own.

Now Edna realized that Arthur Eaton had come away from the window, and caught her staring at him. Flushing, she turned away, only to observe Senator Dilman going out the corridor door, probably to the washroom. She decided to talk to Jed Stover at the bookshelves.

Starting toward the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, she became aware of a folded paper lying on the green carpet behind Stover. Quickly she went to it, picked it up, and opened it in order to find out to whom it belonged. The embossed letterhead, she saw, bore the name “Trafford University.” In the left corner was the smaller lettering, “Office of the Chancellor-Dr. Chauncey L. McKaye.” It was addressed to “Dear Senator Dilman.” Not meaning to go further, but unable to escape the typed words in the single paragraph that followed, Edna realized that the head of the University, at the suggestion of the dean of men, was writing the Senator about his son, Julian Dilman, a sophomore, whose grades had seriously fallen off and who would have to be placed on probation if this continued. She noticed words like “inattentive” and “disrespectful,” and the phrase “more interested in outside activities of late than in his schooling.”

She folded the letter, embarrassed to have seen its private contents, but for the first time she thought of Dilman as a human being. Of those in the room, she knew Senator Dilman the least. This was because, since T. C. had been President, Dilman had been less frequently in the White House than the others. Only in the few days between the Vice-President’s death and the President’s departure for Frankfurt had Dilman appeared several times with the Majority Leader. But now this letter in Edna’s hand: it gave him a son, a son who was a problem, and it made him a father, not just another senator but a human being.

Noticing that Dilman had reappeared, and was making his way toward Selander and Wickland, Edna hurried to intercept him.

“Senator, I found this on the floor,” she said. “Apparently you dropped it. I’m sorry, I had to open it.”

Senator Dilman accepted the letter with the slightest smile. “It’s quite all right. Thank you.”

Edna turned in time to see Wayne Talley approaching Eaton. “Arthur, it’s past two in the afternoon in Frankfurt. T. C.’s probably gone back into the conference. Think there’s any point in waiting around like this?”

Eaton shrugged. He addressed not only Talley but everyone. “I think we have no choice but to wait. The President just may feel this is important enough to delay the conference. He may want to speak to us further.”

As if the deferment in resuming communications was a personal affront, General Fortney charged at the regular telephone once more. For the hundredth time, it seemed, he was calling the Signal Corps.

About to continue to her chair, and shorthand pad, Edna slowed down, listening hard. She thought that she had heard her own telephone ring in her office. She was listening, trying to make it out above Fortney’s voice, when she heard Representative Wickland, the person nearest to her open door, call to her, “Miss Foster, your phone.”

She darted past the Congressman into her office, slipped between the electric typewriter stand and the table holding the television set, and caught up the receiver in mid-ring.

“Hello,” she answered, “the President’s office.”

For a suspended moment she heard nothing more than the wavy, swooshing sound that indicates a long-distance call. Then a voice came on, a strange voice from far away, and it said, “Is this the White House? Who is this?”

“This is the President’s personal secretary, Miss Foster. May I ask who is calling?”

“Oh, Miss Foster-Miss Foster-” And suddenly Edna felt goose pimples on her arms and a chill across her back, for the disembodied voice was quavering and frantic. “Miss Foster-this is Zwinn-Ambassador Zwinn in Frankfurt-Miss Foster-” The voice seemed to be choked, and then it shouted out, “There’s been a terrible emergency-get me someone-Talley-get me Talley!”

With emergency, with terrible emergency, Edna found herself shivering, and the receiver in her right hand shaking.

“One second-one second, please-” She blinked at the open door to the Cabinet Room, and screamed out, “Governor Talley! Governor, come here, something terrible has happened!”

Talley burst through the door on the run, puzzled, curious, searching her face. She merely wagged her head, wordlessly, and shoved the receiver into his hands. As he took up the telephone, she backed away from the desk, and could see the room rapidly filling with the others, all looking from her to Talley, wonderingly.

“Who?” Talley was saying into the receiver. “Zwinn? Oh, Ambassador, I didn’t know-” His speech halted as abruptly as if his throat had been cut. He listened, and listened, and as he did so, his lips began to move, but dumbness remained, and his face turned grayer and grayer until it was finally ghost-white. At last he spoke. “Are you sure? Are you positive? The President?” And then listening, lifting his head from the mouthpiece to stare at Eaton and the others. “Yes, Ambassador,” he was saying again, “yes, I understand-I can’t believe it-yes, yes, I do believe you. I’ll tell them. We’ll get right back to you.”

Talley lowered the receiver onto the cradle, and stood rooted to the spot, a portrait of stunned disbelief.

Eaton came slowly toward him. “What the devil is wrong, Wayne? What has happened?”

Talley tried to speak, tried to form the words, mouthing them, then stuttering them out. “The Pres-President-the President is dead!”

“What?” Eaton grabbed Talley’s shoulder, roughly shaking him. “What in the hell are you saying? Who was that? What did he say?”

“Arthur, that was Ambassador Zwinn. Part of that building in Frankfurt collapsed-that goddam ancient Palace-the top caved in on two rooms, and one was T. C.’s study-where he was talking to us-that’s what happened, that’s what cut off the call, broke down everything-fell on him, all of them-killed him. The President’s dead, Arthur, dead.”

Eaton was ashen, but controlled. “Are you sure? Is it certain?”

“Dead,” whimpered Talley. “Killed instantly. Blocks, slabs of granite, fell down on him, crushed him. They have the body. Two Secret Service agents in the room, too. Dead, all dead. Oh, God-God, what a terrible, terrible thing-”

That moment, the corridor door was flung open, and Tim Flannery rushed in, crying out, “Have you heard? Associated Press just got the bulletin from Frankfurt. The President-” He halted, eyes going from one dazed face to the other, and then he knew that they had heard.

Eaton’s face was hidden in his palms, and then suddenly he looked up. “The President dead,” he said. “That means the Speaker of the House-Wayne, what about the Speaker? Earl MacPherson was in there-what about him?”

Talley did not seem to comprehend.

Eaton spoke louder. “Dammit, man, is MacPherson alive or dead?”

“Alive,” muttered Talley. “He-I don’t know-I think he’s in pretty good shape-nothing critical-they’ve got him over at the hospital, they’re working on him. This is the worst tragedy in our history. The worst. What’s going to happen to all of us?”

Eaton closed his eyes. “Us?” he repeated. “The roof just fell in on us, too.”

And when he opened his eyes, Edna Foster could tell, for the first time, that they were wet. It was hard to tell, because she was weeping, and she did not know if she would ever stop…


Night had come to Washington, a city, like the nation, dumbed down in grief and mourning.

Night had come to the late President’s Oval Office, where those who had worked with him and for him, who had known him and loved him, who had depended upon him and needed him, now filled the sofas and armchairs, forlorn and disconsolate, stood in corners, heavyhearted and helpless, waiting for they knew not what.

Edna Foster, eyes swollen, lips still quivering, came into the office with the latest special editions of the evening newspapers, and wobbled through the cheerless room, passing out copies. All who had been in the Cabinet Room ten hours before were present here, but now there were also many others. Edna recognized Attorney General Clay Kemmler, Secretary of the Treasury Vernon Moody, CIA Director Montgomery Scott, Senator Hoyt Watson, Admiral Alfred Rivard, and at least a half-dozen more of equal standing. It seemed that every nook and cranny in the Oval Room was filled, except one, and that one, the vacant place tonight, was the late President’s high-backed, black leather armchair behind the Buchanan desk.

Having finished passing out the newspapers, Edna found that she was left with one copy. The group beside the French doors that led to the Rose Garden, the group consisting of Senator Selander, Representative Wickland, General Fortney, and Secretary of State Eaton, were reading the front page of the newspaper that Senator Selander held out for them. Or rather, Edna became aware, all were reading the front page except Eaton, whose attention was disengaged, whose attention was turned inward.

Edna lifted the newspaper in her hand and the mammoth headline, six inches high, assailed her: T. C. DEAD IN FRANKFURT! The second headline, almost as heavy, proclaimed: WORLD MOURNS ACCIDENTAL END OF U.S. PRESIDENT. The third headline, considerably smaller, read: HOUSE SPEAKER MACPHERSON, PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSOR, UNDERGOES SURGERY IN GERMAN HOSPITAL.

She felt the sob grow in her lungs and throat, and suppressed it, and looked at the bottom half of the front page. The lead story, in boldface type, spilling across the width of four columns, began:


FRANKFURT AM MAIN, August 26 (AP)-The shattered body of the President of the United States lay in death tonight in a private room of the ancient Frankfurt cathedral while the entire civilized world grieved over his sudden demise.

The President was killed instantly-his smashed gold wristwatch having been stopped at 1:32 in the afternoon (8:32 A.M. EDT)-when a wing of the Alte Mainzer Palace collapsed and crashed down upon him. With difficulty, teams of West German police and firemen removed the corpse from the half ton of debris, mostly blocks of granite and crumbled brick, that showered down upon America’s head of state and three others in the historic old library from which the President was making a long-distance call to his advisers in the White House. Ironically, the President died in the ruins and rubble of one of the two 14th-century buildings of Frankfurt’s Old City spared by Allied bombers in World War II.

A German official, who did not wish to be named, stated angrily: “The Palace should have been condemned after the War. Not only was it 600 years old, but its structure had been weakened by the bombings, and never properly rebuilt and reinforced. This is a terrible tragedy, and America’s loss of one of its most popular and international-minded Chief Executives in modern times is no less our loss, too.”

At the time of the fatal accident, the President had served in office two years, seven months, and six days of his elected four-year term.

Among the first to offer condolences was Premier Nikolai Kasatkin, of the U.S.S.R., who had been meeting with the United States President this past week to work out important international differences. The official spokesman for the Soviet Union told the press: “The Roemer Conference may be considered suspended, not canceled. Some progress had been made. The points being discussed, however, still remain unresolved, and the talks must be resumed if the peace of the world is to be preserved. We anxiously await announcement of the late President’s successor to the leadership of the United States. As soon as that is made known, we hope to set a date for resumption of the meetings.”

Meanwhile, the eyes of the entire world were today focused on Frankfurt’s Hauptwache Hospital, where the President’s constitutional successor, Earl MacPherson, veteran Speaker of the House of Representatives, injured in the same accident, is undergoing spinal surgery. Three German surgeons, summoned from Munich, would make no prediction as to Speaker MacPherson’s chances, but United States Ambassador to Germany Paul F. Zwinn advised assembled reporters that there was every reason for “optimism.”


There was much more to the news story, and many more similar stories on the front page, but Edna Foster had no desire to read further. Casting the newspaper aside, she realized that Wayne Talley and Tim Flannery were whispering in the doorway to her office.

Now Talley was returning, heading for Arthur Eaton. “Stand by, Edna,” he said. Then, reaching Eaton, he said, “They have an open line to Frankfurt. No word on MacPherson yet. He’s been almost three hours in surgery. Tim spoke to Ambassador Zwinn briefly. The first phase of the operation was successful, but there’s still a way to go. But everyone is feeling better. They expect to swear MacPherson in, the minute he comes out of the anesthetic. I think Tim and I better draft a press release. There are more than a thousand accredited correspondents out there baying for news.”

“Go ahead,” said Eaton disinterestedly.

Talley hesitated. “I know how-how you still feel, Arthur. I know how close T. C. was to you. I can’t get used to it myself. I’m numb. Who would have ever dreamt that such a thing-”

“Go draft that release,” said Eaton curtly. Then he added, “Let me know the second you receive any flash on Mac.”

“Okay.”

Edna saw Talley signal her. “Edna,” he said, “Tim and I need you. I know it’s tough, but we have to dictate something about MacPherson succeeding T. C. as President.”

Sorrowfully, Edna Foster nodded her assent, hating this moment of surrender, of bitter truth, when her employer would be supplanted by another. She followed the Presidential aide into her small office, shut the door behind her, and observed that Tim Flannery had already drawn up two folding chairs. Since he and Talley were sitting, she went around the desk to take her accustomed place in the walnut swivel chair. She located her shorthand pad and several sharp pencils.

Flannery waved toward the pencils. “Don’t take anything yet, Edna. Wayne and I want to talk this out first.” Flannery had already handed the aide a sheaf of papers, which Talley was studying intently.

“Everything here?” Talley inquired, still reading.

“Everything,” said Flannery. “The boys on the Judiciary Committee pitched in, and also the justices gave us material, and for the background we had the Legislative Reference Service at the Library of Congress busy. You’ll find the Presidential Succession Acts of 1792, 1886, and 1947 in full, with pertinent sections marked out. Then there’s a lot of legal and background data, all severely condensed.”

“Isn’t it amazing how you go along and never think of anything like this,” said Talley. “You’d think I’d know most of this, but I don’t. I know eight Presidents died in office, before T. C., but I never knew this, that eight Vice-Presidents died in office, also.”

“Nine Vice-Presidents, counting poor Porter ten days ago.”

Talley looked up blankly. “Christ, I forgot all about him. Today seems to have blotted everything else out.”

Half listening, Edna doodled on her pad. Then, as Talley read on, she began to print the names of the nine Presidents, including T. C., who had died in office. She printed: William Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and then T. C. She counted. Eight. Who was the ninth? Then she remembered, and printed the name of William McKinley between Garfield and Harding. Next, she tried to think of the Vice-Presidents who had died in office. She could think of only Elbridge Gerry, Henry Wilson, Garret Hobart, and Porter, and not another. Finally she gave up. There was no use thinking about it. She felt ill.

She heard Talley’s strained voice. “I somehow believed that almost every President who didn’t finish his term was assassinated, but it says here that not more than four were shot down.”

“Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy,” said Flannery, fingers pressing his forehead. “Harrison and Harding died, in part, of pneumonia. Taylor’s death was caused by cholera morbus. F. D. R. suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Incredible, but poor T. C. was the only one ever to be snuffed out by an accident.” He shrugged. “I suppose it had to happen to someone sometime.” Then he added wretchedly, “Only why did it have to be T. C.?”

Edna had been watching Tim Flannery as he spoke, and there was a sweetness about him, behind his whole façade of forced factuality, that she liked very much. He was a tall Irishman, with unruly rust-colored hair, and a small reddish mustache, and a wide, ingenuous florid face, now puffy and blotched by sorrow. He looked as tweedy as his suits, with their suede elbow patches, and he had been a Midwest newspaperman who had written several highly respected history books on the side. It said much for him that most of the cynical White House press corps, and her own George among them, liked Tim Flannery.

“Chrisamighty, but I’m sure not in the mood for this,” Governor Talley was saying. His one crossed eye contemplated the ceiling and then reluctantly came down to the papers in his hands. “Well, guess somebody’s got to do it. Might as well get it over with… Let me see, Tim, says here that Speaker Earl MacPherson will fill one year and five months of T. C.’s unexpired term. Is that correct?”

“Give or take a few days, yes,” said Flannery, almost inaudibly. He seemed to make an effort to pull himself together. “All the past Vice-Presidents who succeeded Presidents had over three years of unexpired terms to fill, except Fillmore, who served two years and eight months of Taylor’s term, and Coolidge, who picked up one year and seven months of Harding’s unexpired term, and Lyndon Johnson, who served one year and three months of Kennedy’s unexpired term. MacPherson will have a long enough way to go in the-in the Presidency.”

“Yes, he will,” said Talley with gravity. He touched the papers in his hand. “You say here this is the first time in our history we have ever lost both men elected to serve us for four years.”

“Never happened before,” said Tim Flannery. “But as Clinton Rossiter wrote in The American Presidency, ‘This is no guarantee for the future.’ How right he was.” Flannery pointed to the sheaf of papers. “Did you notice that other quotation from Rossiter?”

“Which one?”

Flannery had bent forward and pointed to a paragraph on the top page. “Right there.” He read it aloud. “ ‘If we are only poorly prepared for a double vacancy, we are not prepared at all for a multiple vacancy; and it is this kind of vacancy, so I am told by colleagues who deal in the laws of probability, that we are most likely to be faced with during the next hundred years and beyond.’ ”

Talley frowned. “I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in the facts, Tim, nothing else. We’re faced with a double vacancy, not a multiple one. Let’s check the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, just get it straight, before we dictate the release to Edna.” He had begun turning the pages, and at last he found it. “Here it is. Okay, clear and simple. If the Presidency and Vice-Presidency are vacant, ‘the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.’ ” His gaze moved down the page. “Yes, clear enough-President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House-and after that the order of succession is President pro tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and so forth through the Cabinet.” He raised his head. “Any Speaker even come half this close to the Presidency before?”

“Not while Speaker, no,” said Tim Flannery. “One former Speaker, Polk, was later elected President. But none ever-”

“Okay, there’s always got to be a first time,” said Talley. He handed the papers back to the press secretary. “So it’s the Speaker of the House-grumpy old Earl MacPherson himself-who’d have believed it possible? Okay, that’s the law, and no matter how we feel, we might as well start dictating some kind of press announcement.”

Flannery snapped his fingers. “I forgot to get a capsule of MacPherson’s background. Some of that should be in, too.”

“Definitely,” said Talley.

Flannery twisted in his chair toward Edna. “Can you be a good girl and fetch Representative Harvey Wickland in here? He can give us what we need for now on MacPherson.”

Edna came out of her swivel chair, hastened to the door leading to the President’s Oval Office, opened it, and then halted, surprised. Everyone in the crowded room was on his feet, all converging upon Arthur Eaton, who stood in the center of the room, in the middle of the eagle of the United States seal woven into the thick green Presidential rug.

Edna turned to Flannery and Talley. “Something’s happening!” she exclaimed. “Everyone’s gathering around Secretary Eaton.”

Immediately, Talley and Flannery jumped to their feet, pushing past her into the room toward Eaton. Reluctantly Edna followed them to the center of the Oval Office.

Eaton, his voice dry and low, was speaking aloud. “I have just been called outside to take a telephone call from Frankfurt. I have terrible news to report to all of you, terrible news, and it grieves me. Speaker of the House Earl MacPherson died in surgery, on the table, under the knife, ten minutes ago. This has been confirmed. Now the Speaker is also dead.”

A great gasp swelled through the room, and off somewhere there was someone hysterically sobbing, and after that there was a sickening silence.

Edna heard Tim Flannery, beside her, whisper, almost to himself, “Multiple vacancy.”

The first to be heard speaking aloud was Governor Wayne Talley. “I don’t believe it.”

The second to be heard aloud was Arthur Eaton. “It is true.”

Then it was that General Pitt Fortney called out, “Who in the hell is T. C.’s successor?”

Arthur Eaton held up his head. “According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the next in line is the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.”

For strange and suspenseful seconds, the Secretary of State’s pronouncement hung in the air, and those who heard it were immobilized, allowing it to sink into their minds, as the curved walls with their niches and shelves of dead mementos seemed to close in on them.

“The President pro tempore of the Senate,” the Attorney General intoned, as someone might intone Amen.

And then at once, all at once, collectively, each in the room seemed to realize who this was, who their next President of the United States was, and all at once all of them, collectively, turned their gaze upon the one man who stood somewhat apart from them, near the Buchanan desk.

Everyone, it seemed, was staring at Senator Douglass Dilman. And for Edna it was frightening to see that in each person’s eyes, without exception, there was registered a look of horror.


Within thirty minutes the group, grown larger from the arrival of other members of the government, had assembled in the Cabinet Room. They stood now in a semicircle, with an opening in the center for two still photographers and two television cameramen representing the press pool, clustered around the long, dark mahogany table.

Once, while waiting, Eaton had asked Douglass Dilman if he had any close relatives or friends in the city whom he might wish to have witness the ceremony. He had replied, in an undertone, “No, sir, no one.”

Once, minutes ago, Eaton had beckoned to Edna and Tim Flannery and demanded a Bible. There was much scurrying about, but no copy of the Bible was to be found, until Edna remembered the one in the lower drawer of her desk. She had gone to get it, and found the cheap, battered Bible, a Gideon Bible she had borrowed from a hotel room in Memphis once, on a trip with T. C., and had forgotten to return, and which she now retained for reference purposes. Guiltily, she had brought in the Gideon Bible and given it to Eaton.

She found herself still standing next to Eaton, who leaned against the high-backed leather chair bearing the tiny brass nameplate “Secretary of State.”

She heard Eaton inquire of Senator Dilman, “Do you wish this open on any particular passage?”

She heard Dilman reply, “Psalms 127:1.” Slowly, Eaton leafed through the book, and then he said, “Is this it? ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’ ” He glanced inquiringly at Dilman, and Dilman swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and said, “Yes, sir, that is it.”

It was during this moment that Noah F. Johnstone, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, came through the corridor door and across the room, gravely nodding at the familiar faces turned toward him. Even without his robes, Edna thought, even in his bow tie and dark suit, the Chief Justice appeared impressive. He was a giant of a man, with a slight stoop and an uneven gait. His sunken face, wrinkled and wise, betrayed no emotion.

He came around the Cabinet table into the glare of klieg lights, nodding to Talley, and then to Dilman and Eaton, and he took his position beside T. C.’s old chair. “Are we ready?” he inquired of no one in particular, and then he accepted the open Gideon Bible from Eaton, squinted down at it, and said to Dilman, “Take the Holy Book in your left hand and raise your right hand. I will recite the oath of office as it is written in Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States. When I have finished, please repeat the oath.”

He proffered the Bible to Dilman, who accepted it and held it with difficulty in his left hand, and raised his trembling right hand. Chief Justice Johnstone lifted his own right hand, and measuring each word, he rendered the oath of office.

When he was done, he waited.

After a painful interlude, Douglass Dilman’s thick lips moved, and the words that he repeated came out low and slurred.

“I, Douglass Dilman, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

He halted, and looked around the room, bewildered, as if seeking a friend in a company of strangers. The harsh kliegs, blended with the light of the overhead neon grill, made the witnesses to the historic tableau seem ghostly. He had lowered his right hand, and suddenly Chief Justice Johnstone reached out and grasped Dilman’s right hand in his own and shook it.

“Mr. President,” the Chief Justice was saying, “we deeply mourn the passing of our beloved past President, but the continuity of our government, the welfare of our country, must stand above any one individual in these perilous times. Our hearts go out to you for your double burden-and may the Lord in Heaven bless you and watch over you as the new Chief Executive of this nation-and-as the first Negro to become President of the United States.”

II

It was the muffled sound of argument that awakened him.

There was a thin line of ache behind his forehead as he listened, sorting and separating the muffled sound into two sounds, the first shrill and feminine, cross and indignant, the second low and male, calm and placating.

His head was deep in the fat pillow, so deep that when he turned, he could not see the time. The pillow had been handmade by Aldora, almost double-sized and stuffed with gray goose down, and presented to him on their first anniversary, so long ago, when their marriage still had hope.

The cross fire of altercation beyond his bedroom wall, increasingly abrasive, continued louder. He lifted himself ever so slightly on his forearm and was able to make out the time on the electric clock humming upon the end table beside the bed. It was eight fifty-two, and although the room was darkened by the drawn shades, he knew that it was morning.

He realized that he had meant to be awakened earlier, had meant to set the alarm, but had forgotten to do so before falling asleep. The shutoff lever on his telephone had banished all calls, and in his utter exhaustion he had slumbered on and on. It was shameful, he thought behind the headache, and, as always, to do anything shameful alarmed him. Other men could afford mistakes, small and large, but he could afford none, not the smallest one. Several times, during his residence in Washington, he had awakened with the remnant of the same dream, that he had been treading water in an enormous aquarium, and that all its sides were painted with blue eyes staring at him. The shimmering fragment of dream had always left him uneasy.

But now, the private hook of humor that he possessed but had not dared to reveal to anyone but Wanda and his closest friends extricated him from the fish bowl, and he was free to admit to himself that he had performed his first act as the President of the United States. He had overslept.

Suddenly the enormity of what had happened last night, and of what he was, oppressed him with its unreality and automatically forced him to retreat into the cup of the down pillow.

He had, he remembered, been told by someone last night that, after formally resigning from the Senate, he had become the President of the United States at ten thirty-seven in the evening. He had not been returned to his brownstone row house until after one o’clock in the morning. It was almost impossible to recollect what had taken place in the time between. He had signed something, yes, his first official signing; he had affixed his name to the proclamation that poor Speaker MacPherson was supposed to have signed, the same statement that had been hastily prepared for the Speaker and was to have been flown to Frankfurt. This proclamation was the official announcement of T. C.’s funeral and the period of national mourning.

He had listened to Secretary of State Arthur Eaton and Governor Wayne Talley expound on the critical Roemer Conference, and he had not absorbed a word of it. He had sat with them, smoking cigars until his eyes smarted and his throat felt blistered, and he had sat with the sympathetic press secretary, yes, Tim Flannery, the redhead, preparing the carefully worded release to all the news media. Then others had swum about them, senators and representatives whom he had known during work hours for years, and T. C.’s Cabinet members, whom he had hardly known at all, and they had spoken of approaches and strategies and public relations and the Party, and he had been grateful that they had addressed Eaton and Talley and Flannery and not himself.

He had been almost physically ill from the tension of the events of that day and evening, and after midnight there had been a stirring and rising, and he had been released, guided to a Cadillac limousine outside the South Portico. He remembered protesting against the two Secret Service agents who had entered the limousine with him, and protesting, with embarrassment, against both the motorcycle escort of police which had preceded him and the second car of agents which had followed him to his home.

He recalled the scene outside his brownstone, and how he had begged Hugo Gaynor, the Chief of Secret Service, who had followed him into his living room, to go home, and how Gaynor had been adamant about staying. And he remembered how he had surrendered from exhaustion, desiring only to escape to his bedroom and sleep alone, away from the blue eyes around the glass aquarium.

The sound of the argument beyond his bedroom wall was persisting. It had probably been going on steadily in the seconds of his introspection. And now, at last, he was able to place himself accurately in the time of day and the routine of his former life, and he knew what was happening in his living room. It was Crystal and a Secret Service agent who were locked in debate.

Crystal had come to him, through an employment agency, during his fourth term in the House of Representatives, and because he had been alone, and was still alone, she had grown fiercely maternal in her devotion to his comfort. Five days a week she appeared at eight-thirty to prepare his breakfast, make his bed, clean his flat, market for him. She worked until twelve-thirty, then disappeared to tend to her own household, which included her sister’s family, and then returned at three-thirty, remaining to cook and serve his dinner, often not leaving until eight o’clock in the evening. She was a poor cook, a burner of toast, and a slipshod domestic, a sweeper under the rug, but she was prompt, loyal, busy, and relatively unobtrusive (that is, until recently, when she had taken to carrying on, always quoting her brother-in-law, a gas station attendant, about the Turnerite Group, who were out to ruin the one chance that the colored folk would ever have for economic improvement through that rehabilitation subsidy act for Negroes that was being talked about).

At once, the reason for the altercation in the living room was clear to him. Crystal had arrived as usual, and found the Secret Service waiting, which was unusual. The irresistible force had collided with the immovable object.

Douglass Dilman threw aside his electric blanket and swung out of bed. He stood up, straightening his blue pajamas, stuck his feet into the misshapen slippers, picked his polka-dot cotton robe off the chair and pulled it on. He walked to the bureau mirror and looked at himself. His black kinky hair, as always after sleep, was shoved high into a peak at the back of his head. He took the wide-toothed comb and ran it through his full hair, smoothing down the peak. He poked at the inner corners of his bloodshot eyes, to wipe and clear them. He studied his broad indelicate countenance. He was dark-well, black, but not coal-black-and his features were Negroid. His forehead was high, his nose full and wide, his lips heavy and protruding.

Now in his fifties, he was overweight, not yet fat, but stocky and thick. Tim Flannery, he remembered, had asked for the statistics last night, and he had said that he was five feet ten inches (cheating a half-inch for more stature) and 180 pounds. His appearance, a big-city ward heeler had once told him, worked for him. His lack of height, his tackiness, the antithesis of the fearsome young Negro buck, combined with mild, refined Caucasian speech and mannerisms, made him more acceptable to the white labor voters; his unmistakable Negro features made him authentic and agreeable to the black menial voters. Oftentimes in the past, he had wished that he could be all one or the other, like the members of his family. Pitiful dead Aldora had been light tan, often mistaken for a Spaniard, and he was sure this had contributed to what had happened. Wretched Julian, his son, was as dark as himself, black really, but possessed of features less coarse than his own. Pathetic Mindy, his daughter, was (or had been when he had last set eyes on her six years ago) white and beautiful, white and lovely, which had pleased her mother, had worried him, had made Julian resentful, and had made Mindy herself haughty and impossible.

He thought that he heard Crystal’s sharp voice through the wall. “Wake him up!” she was demanding.

He knotted the belt of his robe, crossed to the door, went through the narrow hallway, and turned left into the living room.

The sight that met him was not unexpected. Beneath the arch that led from the entry hall into the living room stood the shiny, bulging Crystal, shapeless in her tent of brown coat, still holding the morning newspapers in one hand and the inevitable huge straw basket (for leftovers for her sister’s hound) in her right hand. Blocking her way stood lanky, elderly Hugo Gaynor, Chief of the Secret Service, and the well-proportioned ex-California athlete whom Dilman recognized as Lou Agajanian, Chief of the White House Detail of the Secret Service.

It was Crystal who saw Dilman first.

She waved her fat hand and shrieked, “Senator! They won’t let me in-I gotta get up breakfast.”

Gaynor spun around, and Agajanian did the same, and both were instantly respectful and apologetic. “Mr. President,” Gaynor said, “we have no idea who this lady is. We can’t let people without credentials in here simply because they say they work for you. Can you imagine what-”

Dilman nodded. “She’s quite safe, Mr. Gaynor. Crystal has been my housekeeper for years. I should have advised you last night… Hello, Mr. Agajanian, I think we’ve met once or twice… Good morning, Crystal. It’s all right now. You can come in.”

Obediently the agents parted, backed off, and the magic of it made Crystal’s eyes widen. Her unsubtle black face was almost comically transformed from indignation to triumph to pleasure to awe. She waddled toward Dilman, halted, eyes blinking. “I-I almost forgot to say, Senator-President-Mr. President-but I want to be the first to wish you well, and also for my sister and brother-in-law and the kids.”

“Thank you, Crystal, thank you.”

She began to go sideways, still awed, and then she stopped. “We stayed up late and it was all over the television. Everyone was sorry about the others, but we’re happy that, if it had to be, then mercy, we’re sure-enough happy it is you. I-I almost didn’t come here this morning. I was sort of sure you’d be in the White House, with a special fancy staff, and not needing me any more.”

Dilman smiled. “I won’t be in the White House for a while, and you can be sure, Crystal, I’ll want you then as much as I want you now.”

She seemed overwhelmed with relief. “Thank you, Sena-Mr.-Mr. President-” Suddenly her round face broke into a toothy smile, enamel and gold, and she said, “I’ll have to take lessons how to talk to you. What’ll it be this special morning, anything special?”

“The same as always, Crystal. Give me fifteen minutes or so. I’ve got to shower and dress.”

She was off to the dining room and kitchen, straw basket swinging, and Dilman smiled at the two Secret Service executives. “She’s here every day,” he said, “and weekends her niece comes in.”

Gaynor said, “We’ll have to trouble you for a full list of your employees and friends.”

“You’ll have it today.”

“Mr. President, there are a number of calls that have come in-”

“Anything important?”

“I don’t believe anything urgent. The Secretary of State wants to speak to you when you’re up. Oh yes, one personal call-well, he phoned two or three times from New York-a young man who claims to be your son.”

“Julian?”

“That’s right, Mr. President. Gave the name Julian Dilman. Said he’d call back again at half past nine.”

“All right. Better give me time to get myself cleaned up and into some clothes.” He started to go, then said over his shoulder, “You can ask Crystal to make something for you. You must be starved.”

“Thank you, Mr. President,” the two Secret Service officers said simultaneously.

The tone of their voices hung inside Douglass Dilman’s ears as he walked back to the bedroom. He was attuned to every nuance of every utterance that came from his white colleagues. The changeable inflection of speech was their civilized weapon of subtle mockery and superiority without insult, even when you were a congressman. This was their best weapon when they found that your skin was black and thin. You could not prove disrespect, but you could know its vibrations. He remembered one committee hearing when General Pitt Fortney had appeared as a witness before him and the others. He had posed a question, and Fortney’s reply, in print, on the record, had been beyond reproach. In writing, it was a general replying sensibly to a senator. Across the committee tables, verbalized, it had been a West Point white general speaking downward to a semiliterate jigaboo. Perhaps he had been oversensitive that time, and on several other recent occasions. For years he had tried to curb his excessive sensitivity, as other men tried to reduce their weight. It took diligent, unremitting work. It could be done. But then, every once in a while, you put on sudden sensitivity as you put on extra weight, and suffered for the added burden.

Throwing aside his robe, entering the bathroom, he decided that the two Secret Service heads, Gaynor and Agajanian, had been courteous in their behavior. And now it seemed reasonable that they should have been. To their dedicated eyes, a Mr. President was a Mr. President, whether he was Grover Cleveland or Woodrow Wilson or Dwight D. Eisenhower or T. C. or Douglass Dilman. All that mattered to them, their jobs, their future, their pride, was that they keep the pounds of flesh entrusted to them, whatever its pigmentation, alive.

He unbuttoned his pajama top, stripped it off, and removed the pajama trousers. Opening the shower door, he adjusted the knobs inside, then started the spray of water. Finding soap and cloth, he wondered how many other white men would be as courteous as his bodyguards. The personalities whose speeches he had heard, whose bright remarks he had heard, whose prejudices he had known, crossed his mind: the Southern congressmen, the Northern committeemen, the Western rightists, the Eastern Ivy League snobs. A son of Ham, he thought, in the White House, in the Oval Office of the West Wing, in the highest seat extant in this red, white, and blue (not black) republic. Despite the old prediction of Robert Kennedy, as Attorney General, that there could be a Negro in the Presidency in thirty or forty years, there had been no one of equal stature, then or now, no matter how wise or liberal, who believed that it could happen then or in this century. Yet it had happened, by accident.

Stepping into the shower cell, he knew that he had been insulated since last night from what was happening out there, in the capital city, in the cities of the fifty states. How stunned the American people must be this hour to learn they would have to look up to an outsider, a member of the ten-per-cent black minority of their white country.

It was not the first spray of the shower that chilled him, but the first realization of what had happened and how wildly it would be resented.

He remembered the short poem: “How odd/of God/ to choose/ the Jews.”

He paraphrased it: How odd of God to choose me, to choose one who had already gone high enough, too high for comfort, and had wanted nothing higher for himself, one who wished only to be limited to his legislative height, where reticence and diffidence would still keep him an unresented exhibit that was a sop to the liberal conscience of the North. Then the Chief Justice’s wrenching words of last night came back to him: “may the Lord in Heaven bless you and watch over you… as the first Negro… President of the United States.”

His limbs felt weak, so weak, and his heart thudded inside its chest cavity. There were a million white men who were right for the job. There were a thousand black men who would have bravely and defiantly welcomed the Godsent opportunity, and called it God-sent. Yet something, something, had gone wrong Up There. The Lord had poked His heavenly finger at the wrong name, and now it was too late. He wanted to rebuke the Maker for His blunder, and then, strangely-out of respect to the memory of his mother and father and aunts in the Midwest earth, out of fear of the hellfire that had been sounded in that old Michigan church in the room behind the broken-down social club, when he was in knee pants-he was humble before that God and the Son of God; and his bitterness and fear, really it was deep-down cringing fear, turned to shame. This was no place for kneeling, but when there was the time and the place, he would beg forgiveness and beg for help.

Yet, Jesus, Jesus, why did it have to be himself, Douglass Dilman, who was not white and who was afraid of being black, and who was without armor or grace?

Then as the shower’s liquid needles, warmer now, hit his chest, and the foam ran down his stomach and thighs, and as he absently rubbed himself with the soapy cloth and allowed the stream of water to dissolve the soap, he thought that his position, despite his secret inadequacy, was not entirely bad. His mind went backward to last night, or the early hours of the morning, when the White House limousine had taken him home. What had happened then was, in retrospect, heartening.

When he had become a member of the House of Representatives, he had leased the upstairs front apartment of a red brick, two-story apartment building between Georgia Avenue and Sixteenth Street. The three rooms and kitchenette, modest and clean, had been sufficent to serve his widower existence. The location had been comfortably in the midst of a onetime white neighborhood, now occupied by upper-class Negroes. But the apartment had soon become too small for him. Senator Espinosa, who had grown senile and disabled, had resigned two-thirds of the way through his term. The Governor of Dilman’s state, to strengthen his position with his vast Negro voting population-which had trebled with the influx of colored families from the South-and with the liberal union leaders, had appointed Dilman to Espinosa’s vacant office for the two years remaining. Dilman as Senator had found himself, briefly, a rara avis. Having left Washington, D.C., to campaign in a preponderantly Negro district for his fifth House term, he had returned to Washington as a Senatorial appointee. One of the few Negroes to achieve so high a seat in government, he had been the subject of lead articles in such magazines as Life, Look, Time, and Newsweek, and he had made the covers of Ebony and Sepia. He had vaguely felt a freak and been discomfited, but, encouraged by the Party bosses, he had cooperated with one and all.

It had been during this transitional period, when he had been the object of so much attention, when his mail had swelled, when he had received callers (mostly political, mostly pressure), that he had decided that his rented apartment could no longer serve him. He had found that the parlor and kitchenette were too cramped, and there was need of a study and library at home. He had begun to search for a larger apartment, but the rents demanded had appalled him. Gradually he had concluded that it might be wisest to buy a house. Washington was, after all, his adopted city, and would likely remain his home for years to come. While he was a senator from his state by appointment, and only for a short period, and while he had no idea if he would be a senator again, he was confident that he could regain his old House seat. And even if that were not possible, he could go into private law practice in the capital city where, with a population 55 per cent Negro, a highly reputed Negro attorney would have enough clients to keep him occupied and secure.

Guided by real estate brokers, he had visited three brownstones in his neighborhood, and in each instance had felt that the house was overpriced and too expensive for his meager savings. The fourth brownstone had come to his attention by chance. Seated one morning behind his desk in the Old Senate Office Building, he had learned that the Reverend Paul Spinger was in his reception room, eager to see him. A visit paid by Spinger was not in itself unusual. Spinger, as director of the largest Negro organization in America, the Crispus Society, had often come to Dilman to discuss civil rights legislation. That morning, as far as Dilman could recall, there had been no immediate business to discuss. He had invited Reverend Spinger in, and the elderly but energetic clergyman-lobbyist had said that the word was around that Dilman wanted to buy a house. If true, he happened to know of a house not yet on the market, whose owner had to sell in a hurry, and which might be bought at a reasonable price, in view of its value as an investment. It was a ten-room, two-story brownstone off Sixteenth Street, on Van Buren N.W., and it was a bargain at $45,000. It was, Spinger had said, a solid, aged abode, that one day could stand remodeling, but was comfortable enough and well located on the fringe of the wealthier Negro section, near Walter Reed General Hospital. Spinger knew about the house in advance, he had said, because he and his wife Rose and a boarder had rented the upstairs for several years. The landlord had lived downstairs. Half jokingly, Spinger hoped that Senator Dilman would consider it. If someone else bought the house, they might require all ten rooms and evict the Spingers. The Senator, Spinger had reasoned, was a widower, with his son in boarding school, and would have no need for more than the downstairs rooms.

Senator Dilman had gone with the clergyman to visit the brownstone, and he had been enchanted by the quiet residential street with its maple trees, the small green front lawn, the walk up to the entry hall, the generous, comfortable rooms and nineteenth-century fixtures. Immediately he had bargained for it and closed the deal. That had been five years ago, more than five years ago, and not one day had Dilman regretted the financial encumbrance. For to this brownstone off Sixteenth Street Dilman owed not only his first real pleasure in having a place where he belonged, but also his enduring relationship with Wanda Gibson, and, because of last night, he owed to this house his first feeling of acceptance as the new and accidental Chief Executive of the United States.

Last night, he thought. And then his memory held on last night.

The feeling of acceptance had come at some time after one o’clock in the morning. As his chauffeured limousine turned into Van Buren Street, Dilman, sandwiched between the Secret Service agents, had become aware of a phenomenon. This was a well-off Negro neighborhood, but a hard-working one, and its inhabitants went to sleep early. The thoroughfare was always blanketed in darkness well before midnight. But last night, after midnight, the street was lighted with illumination from every house, and alive as a Mardi Gras. And then, as they had neared his brownstone, Dilman realized that Van Buren Street was thickly lined on both sides with people, neighbors and others of the capital city, who had come to be the first to set eyes upon America’s new President.

When the limousine had drawn up before his front lawn, and he had emerged, the size of the crowd in attendance had overwhelmed him, almost one thousand persons, he had guessed. The faces, many recognizable, had been mostly black, but there were whites here and there, although Dilman had been unable to discern if they were reporters, Secret Service agents, or simply sensation seekers of the kind who rushed to accidents. As he had walked between the agents to his front door, the applause had begun, then swelled, and there had been cheers. Dilman had paused, deeply moved, and had exhaustedly waved and waved, and then gone inside his house.

He had fallen asleep so quickly, he now supposed, because after the first fear and trepidation, the paralysis induced by change and sudden elevation, he had been warmed by friendship and approval. But now the harsher light of morning was upon him. The soothing blackness was gone. The uncertain whiteness waited.

He shut off the shower, emerged dripping onto the bath mat, quickly dried himself, then went into the bedroom to dress. This was a momentous day, and perhaps he would be expected to attire himself specially for it. He considered his dressiest Sunday black suit, then decided that it would be awkward in the morning. He settled for the charcoal one he had purchased ready-made at Garfinckel’s for his first appearance as temporary presiding officer of the Senate, during the Vice-President’s last trip abroad, six months before his death.

As he dressed himself, his mind compulsively revived one more event of last night, one that had taken place a few minutes before he retired. Sitting on his bed, wondering if the Secret Service men in the living room could hear his voice, he had dialed the Spingers upstairs.

The phone had hardly begun to ring, when it was answered. The voice he had recognized as belonging to Rose Spinger.

“Hello, Rose, I hope I didn’t wake you. This is Doug.”

Her response had been pitched high with excitement. “Oh, Doug, we hoped-heavens, I mustn’t be calling you Doug any more, or even Senator or landlord-”

He had smiled to himself tiredly. “Please, Rose, no formality. Nothing has changed between us. I-”

“Thank you, Doug. Oh, my heavens, to think of it! Did you see us outside in front, in that mob, waving to you?”

“I’m not sure. I saw Wanda for a second.”

“Of course, you would have. We’re all so thrilled. We’re sorry for that accident in Europe, but since it was God’s will, we’re happy you will be there to guide us. We need you, Doug, we all need you, and the Reverend says this is the hand of Providence… Oh, heavens, he’s telling me to be quiet and let you speak to Wanda. All right. Except I want to say for the Reverend and myself, from our hearts, that we wish you strength and courage.”

“Thank you, Rose, I need that.”

“The Reverend went to knock on Wanda’s door. She’s still up. She’ll pick up her phone in a second.”

“I’ll wait. Thanks, Rose.”

In the seconds that he waited, his brain had become alive and projected the early pictures of Wanda Gibson. When he had bought this brownstone five years ago, and while it was still in escrow, he had been invited to dinner by the Springers to celebrate his acquisition. He had met the Spingers before, many times, but always about the Hill, or at Crispus Society affairs, or at parties given by African Embassies near Sheridan Circle. This was the first time that he had accepted an invitation to their home. Twice, as a representative, he had been asked to their dinners, and twice he had declined with fabricated excuses. As a member of the House, he had not wanted to be in the position of having to answer to white colleagues who might charge that, as a Negro, he was being used by the head of the most important Negro organization. His timidity had been ridiculous, he had known, especially since other Negro congressmen and white liberals had attended those dinners in a natural way, and had enjoyed Rose Spinger’s cooking. Thereafter he had told himself that if he was ever invited again, he would accept.

The familiar timidity had assailed him but one more time, just before signing the escrow papers on the brownstone house. He had wondered what those on the Hill would think, once it got out, about a senator owning a house in which he permitted the leader of America’s largest minority pressure group to live. Nobody, apparently, had cared. Perhaps, Dilman thought wryly, because nobody, apparently, cared what he did at any time. In the Senate, until his surprising selection in Party caucus to serve as President pro tempore of the body when Vice-President Porter was out of town or ill, few had seemed aware of his existence. He was one of a hundred names on the roll call, rarely absent, but almost always silent and withdrawn. He made no speeches, gave no interviews, introduced no bills, and he went along with the Party and T. C. and everyone. Even though, after filling Espinosa’s unfinished term as Senator, he had been endorsed by the Party to run on his own (with strong Negro and labor support, against a weak opponent, destroyed by a graft exposé four days before the voting), and he had been re-elected to the Senate on his own, he had felt an interloper.

He had accepted the Spingers’ third invitation to dinner not as a senator but as their landlord, and he had gone unafraid, knowing at last that no one, not even such Southern red-neck mouthpieces as Representative Zeke Miller or Senator Bruce Hankins, cared or gave a damn.

There had been six of them at that intimate dinner at the Spingers’ five years ago, the host and hostess, a colored engineer and his colored teacher wife, himself as the personage and guest of honor, and Wanda Gibson. It had been his initial meeting with Wanda Gibson, and for the first time in the many years since Aldora’s death he had realized that affection and desire within him had not atrophied but had only been sublimated.

Even then, five years ago, Wanda had not been a girl, but a mature woman-a lady, he had always thought of her as being, a lady-of thirty-one. She was a graduate of the University of West Virginia, with economics as her major; and she had worked for her favorite professor in Morgantown and Charleston, and followed the professor, known for his liberal books, to Washington, D.C., when he accepted a government advisory job in the latter part of the Lyndon Johnson administration. When T. C. had become President, and Wanda’s professor had gone back to his university, she had stayed on in Washington. For the last two years she had held a well-paid position as executive secretary to the director of Vaduz Exporters, in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

From the first, Dilman had known that Wanda was a remarkable find. Her intelligence and wit, her good nature and humor, her well-bred manner, had made it seem incredible that she had not ever been married. As he came to know her better, Dilman had come to understand her avoidance of marriage. Her parents, who had lived in West Virginia, where her father had been a short-order cook, dishwasher, janitor in an all-night diner serving coal miners, had sacrificed much of their comfort, and the futures of her younger brother and sister, to educate and launch her. When first one parent, and then the other, had been hospitalized, and afterward confined to costly sanitarium care, Wanda had accepted full responsibility to support and look after them, not only as daughter but as debtor. She had a burden, and she could not discard it in favor of marriage, for which she was so perfectly suited. But two years ago her father had died, and less than a year before her mother, and at last Wanda had been free to live her own life as her own person.

She had expected him to propose marriage last spring, Dilman knew, and he had not, and it had created, for the first time, an undercurrent of unhappiness between them. She had known that he wanted her for his wife. He had known that he needed her. The proposal was up to him, and yet, while he could profess affection and love, articulate his need for her, he could not bring her from upstairs to his flat downstairs as wife. He had thought about it a thousand times since spring, and had known that the failure was entirely his own. Marriage was an affirmative act, and he had been shackled by countless negative fears. He had tried, time and time again, to narrow in on specific fears, small ones, avoiding the major one, until at last he could see what was left and what in himself taunted him with contempt.

Wanda Gibson was a mulatto. That was the center of it. As a mulatto, she was more white in appearance than black. In most communities she could have passed for white. Her hair, while brunette and curling, was soft and long. Her eyes were light brown, her nose delicate and upturned, and her lips and mouth small. Her figure was trim, well hipped but otherwise slender. She considered herself a colored woman, and she lived as a colored woman. But, for Douglass Dilman, how she regarded herself, and how she approached her life, were not assurances enough.

The nagging cowardice within him, that avoided marriage to the one good companion of his life, was his fear of how she would look beside him and how this would affect his political career. With Wanda as his mate, he would appear blacker. With himself as her mate, she would appear whiter. Whatever the facts and truth, it would give the impression of an interracial marriage. It might not cause talk in Washington and in his home state, but on the other hand it might. It was an unnecessary risk. It would rock the boat in times like this. Or, at least, it might.

Dilman’s solution had been to avoid the issue. The weekly platonic meetings had continued, the Senator and his ladylike lady friend, in the Spinger living room, in the loges of Loew’s Palace Theater, and, ever so occasionally, in the Golden Ox or the Lincoln Inn. Recently, Dilman had become aware, each rendezvous had been less comfortable, less warm and communicative. It was as if they were both present, each desiring the company of the other, but now that she was free of parental commitment and he was temporary presiding chairman of the Senate, there had fallen a thick steel grill between them. You could see; you could hear; you could not touch. You were two, not one, and might never be one, and Wanda Gibson, for all her evenness of temperament and understanding, had begun to resent this failure in Douglass Dilman.

Since his invisible antenna of sensitivity had picked up and recorded her disappointment in him, Dilman had recently taken to reviewing and brooding over this relationship and his own life. Some weeks ago he had almost arrived at the decision to propose marriage, and to the devil with the consequences, if any. After all, he had asked himself in a practical way, how could he any longer be hurt? But then he had been sidetracked by his activity, and sham importance, in serving the Senate in the Vice-President’s place. And now, overnight, cruel Destiny had touched him. He had become the President of the United States. The personal choice ahead was clear-cut: should he be James Buchanan or Grover Cleveland? Buchanan had been the only unmarried President to serve his country. Cleveland had been the only Chief Executive to be married in the White House. When the choice was weighed thus, the scales tipped toward Buchanan. A showy wedding, like Cleveland’s in the Blue Room, before the world and the press, a marriage to a mulatto, a mulatto who might almost be mistaken for white, would merely serve to incense the enemies of his race. His uncertain position and precarious image, before a broken and divided country, would be worsened.

This had been his rationale last night, as he waited, the telephone receiver in his hand, to hear Wanda’s voice. His private decision, he had known, was neither courageous nor honest. It was merely expedient and political. It solved nothing, but simply traded off a personal problem to avoid a more fearsome one.

Gazing down at the receiver in his left hand, he had wondered why, under the circumstances, he was trying to speak to her at all, at least at this time. He had no idea what he could say to her, yet somehow, as President of the United States for more than three hours, he had to speak to someone before sleeping and then waking to the terrible fact, and the only one who might care about him, reassure him, was Wanda. As he waited for Wanda, his mind drifted to Mindy. His attitude toward the two of them was one and the same. He avoided taking a wife he needed for the same reason that he did not seek out a daughter he loved. He was black and still afraid.

“Hello, Doug.” She was calling down to him through a wire from upstairs, and yet she had never been farther away.

“Wanda, I wanted to-to say good night, before going to sleep.”

“Doug, it’s overwhelming, the whole thing. What does one say? Do I congratulate you? That sounds wrong.”

“You commiserate with me, and with the whole country.”

“No, don’t-don’t talk like that. It’s not true. That accident in Frankfurt was horrible. But it happened, Doug, those things happen. Remember how we once talked about what our families were doing the moment that they learned F. D. R. had died? And how they felt? They felt the world had come to an end, that they were dying, too, that there was no hope. Yet nothing happened to them, or to us. Life went on. Maybe differently than it might have had he lived, but not that differently. Well, Doug, T. C. was a good man, I’m sure, and popular, but he was no F. D. R., and neither was MacPherson. I know you’ll do as well as or better than either. No one is born to be the only one to be President. Thousands of men could be President just as well as the one who fought to get the office. If it had to be someone else, I think it could have been no one better than you.”

“Wanda, don’t-you know me too well for that-you know my weaknesses-”

“Everyone has weaknesses, Doug. Be sensible. Stand off and look around. Lincoln had weaknesses, and T. C. had too many to count, and probably dozens we couldn’t see to count. Of course you have weaknesses, but you’re strong enough to handle the job. Don’t discount your strengths. I can’t forget what you refuse to remember. With the kind of background you had, all that poverty, how did you get through the university and then law school? How did you get elected to the House of Representatives four times, and then get into the Senate, and even become its presiding officer? It took something. Doug, it took very much. I know you, maybe as well as anyone knows you, maybe better, and I am positive the whole country-once they get over the shock of the-of T. C.’s death-they’ll see you for what you are, and they’ll be proud of you.”

“Wanda, Wanda-you’re doing your best, I know-I appreciate it-but, Wanda, I’m black-tomorrow morning 230 million Americans are going to wake up and find their President, one they didn’t elect, is black.”

“That’s true, Doug… Maybe it’ll be a good thing for them, for the country.”

“Maybe, but-will they think so?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know what they’ll think and neither do you. I only know what I think. If you go at this as you’ve gone at everything before, with determination, honesty, learning what you have to learn, acting as you believe best, it will be all right. I’m sure it will work itself out.”

“You-you sound less certain now, Wanda.”

“Do I? I didn’t mean to. I guess I’m just concerned about you.”

“What do you mean? Tell me exactly what you mean.”

“I mean-please don’t take it wrong, Doug-we know each other too well for that-but-I mean it would be bad, hurtful, if you started off, went into the White House, feeling you don’t belong, feeling you are less than you should be, feeling that way because-because you are colored. Don’t misunderstand me, Doug, but-”

“I understand you very well. I’ll try not to be like that. I’ll try hard, but-you’re right, I guess-I am afraid… I’m also afraid for us. That’s on my mind, too. I don’t know what the demands or the expectations of the office are, except what I’ve seen and read. I don’t know what it is really like in there. I want to see you, speak to you, more than ever. I-I just don’t know-will they let me?”

“Doug, nobody owns you. You don’t have to wait for anyone to let you do anything, I mean in your personal life.”

“You’re right, Wanda.”

“It’s late, dear. You’d better get some sleep. I-I’ll be here. You call me when you can, anytime, I’ll be here.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Anytime… Now sleep, dearest, and know we are all with you. Good night, Doug.”

“Good night, Wanda, good night.”

After hanging up, he had tried to analyze their talk. She had offered him encouragement, and her language had been warm, and yet, toward the end especially, he had sensed her remoteness. Still, he had thought, as he reached to turn off the bed lamp and then pushed his fatigued body beneath the blanket, she was for him and with him, no matter how disappointed she might be in him, and that was comforting, that was something; and then he had felt drowsiness, and then he had slept.

He finished knotting his knit tie, pulled on the coat of his charcoal suit, and consulted his wristwatch. He was afraid the journey his mind had taken to the events of last night, to the five years with Wanda, had consumed an hour of time. He was amazed and pleased to see that only six minutes had passed. It occurred to him that he had made a discovery no scientist had made before him. He had found what traveled faster than the speed of light: memory. The trouble was, no matter how fast it traveled, memory never stopped.

Determined to retreat no more from the unknown present into the more pleasant past, he left the bedroom and walked briskly into the living room. Lou Agajanian was seated in a chair, under the arch leading into the entry hall, smoking a cigarette. Immediately, the head of the White House Detail leaped to his feet in a pose of civilian attention.

“Mr. President,” he said, “the boss-I mean, Mr. Gaynor, he went off to catch a wink of sleep. Another agent, Mr. Prentiss, came in to spell him. He’s in the kitchen, at the rear service door.”

“Fine, fine.” Dilman indicated the chair. “Please relax, Mr. Agajanian.”

The Chief of the White House Secret Service Detail remained standing while Dilman entered the small dining room, which overlooked the street. He noticed that instead of his usual yellow breakfast mat and plain pottery dishes, Crystal had set the table with the formal white tablecloth and decorated dishes from the good set. Obviously, for her, this was an Occasion. Amused, he called off toward the kitchen, “Let’s go, Crystal, I’m here!”

As he sat down, Crystal rushed in and placed his orange juice before him. “Eggs an’ bacon comin’, Mr. President!”

Before picking up the orange juice, he studied the messages on slips of paper lying before the telephone: his son Julian had phoned from Trafford University (“Will call you back”); his Senate secretary, Diane Fuller, had phoned from the Old Senate Office Building (“Has to go out on your business, will call you back”); Secretary of State Eaton had phoned from his house (“To inquire how you are”); press secretary Tim Flannery (“Please set aside time for him early today”); Governor Wayne Talley (“Will call back shortly”). Those were the messages. He guessed that there might have been hundreds more, except that his phone number was unlisted, known only to a select handful of persons.

Drinking down the unsweetened orange juice, grimacing at the liquid’s bite, he reached over and brought the pile of newspapers before him. There were five to which he subscribed, two New York City dailies, and three Washington, D.C., newspapers, one of the latter a Negro press publication.

Quickly he examined the headlines streaming across each front page. The sensational New York newspaper read:

NATION GASPS! A NEGRO IS PRESIDENT OF THE USA!


The moderate New York newspaper read:


SENATOR DOUGLASS DILMAN SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT LAST NIGHT: FIRST NEGRO TO ACHIEVE COUNTRY’S HIGHEST OFFICE


The pro-administration Washington newspaper read:


CONGRESS AND VOTERS RALLY TO SUPPORT SENATOR DOUGLASS DILMAN


The pro-segregationist, Zeke Miller Washington newspaper read:


NEGRO SENATOR MADE CHIEF EXECUTIVE BY FLUKE; JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEETS TO DEBATE CONSTITUTIONALITY; CITIZENS PROTEST “UNFAIR” RULE OF MAJORITY BY MINORITY; REPRESENTATIVE MILLER PREDICTS “DISSENSION, DISUNITY, VIOLENCE”


The Negro Washington newspaper read:


HALLELUJAH! EQUAL RIGHTS AT LAST! COLORED PRESIDENT OF SENATE BECOMES PRESIDENT OF US ALL! WORLD APPLAUDS TRUE DEMOCRACY!

Several things were evident at once. To no one would he be simply a public servant who, by the law of succession, had become President of the United States. To both sides, and the middle, too, he would be the “Negro” who had become President. To the press of his own race he was the colored man, the black Moses, who had come to lead his people out of bondage and save them. To the press of the enemies of his race, as represented by Congressman Zeke Miller’s newspaper chain, he was a black and ugly thing pulled out from under a rock to wreak vengeance on the magnolia-scented South, to destroy the Grand Republic by enforcing equality between black godless brutes and white Christian human beings, to enforce his nigger ideas on their chaste daughters. To the sensational press he was a zoo object, a freak, for the time a story and circulation builder, who could be contended with seriously later. To the press of his Party he was still a senator, to be rallied around until the Party line toward him could be straightened out. To the moderate, conservative, thoughtful press he was-he reached for the respected and balanced New York daily again and reread its headline-the first Negro to achieve the country’s highest office.

Douglass Dilman considered this headline. It was true, and it was fair. But how many others, black or white, would be this reasonable? Slowly his eyes went down the columns of news datelined Washington, D.C. It was all solid reportage of his being sworn in, of the tragedy in Frankfurt that had led to his being sworn in, backed up by full quotations from Tim Flannery’s release explaining the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. At the bottom of the lead column was a box containing the suggestion that the reader turn to the main editorial on page sixteen.

Dilman put down his fork and knife, took up the New York newspaper, turned to page sixteen, folded it back and then in half. Immediately he found the main editorial headed THE NEW MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE, and then he settled in his chair to read what followed:


At 10:35 last night (EDT), a new, eligible American male was sworn in as President of the United States, to succeed a popular predecessor who died before fulfilling his full four-year term. In itself, this sudden changing of the guard was neither historic nor unusual. It has happened eight times before in our history. But last night, for the first time, there was a difference.

When Presidents Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy died in office, their unexpired terms were filled out by men who had been their campaign running mates, by men second in line of succession, by men who had appeared beside them before the electorate, and by men of their own race and color. While public and Congressional acceptance of a second choice, a substitute President, was not always simple and smooth-as witness Andrew Johnson’s troubles when he succeeded Abraham Lincoln in 1865-at least the transitions were familiar enough to cause no national unrest or uneasiness.

However, the overnight accession of Senator Douglass Dilman, to fill the unexpired term of his popular predecessor, presents numerous problems which are deserving of thoughtful consideration. For the first time in our history, not the President’s running mate and campaign colleague, not his second-in-command, not his Vice-President, has taken over his vacant seat, but a relative outsider. For the first time, a senator and not a Vice-President, a legislative officer chosen by his Party colleagues and not the voters, has succeeded to the high office. And, for the first time, let it be stated plainly, a colored man, a member of the Negro race, has been catapulted into top command by an accident of life and a hitherto unused provision of law.

There is no reason why, in our view, a Negro should not be President of the United States. Were the country educated for him, prepared for him, were they to vote for him spontaneously and elect him to the high office, it would be a significant moment in our history and in world history. All men of good will and good heart have worked toward that moment, and hoped for that moment to come. Yet, unfortunately, this schizophrenic land of liberty is still groping its way toward equality. It still disfranchises Negroes, it bars them from gainful employment, it keeps them from decent housing, schooling, public accommodations. We still live in an era of growth as a nation-we are making our first toddling steps from uneasy tolerance and decency toward full equality-and so we still dwell in an era of constant falls and bruises.

Thus, a republic which continues to oppress its ten per cent Negro population, which continues to be riven by demonstrations and riots and sectional hatreds, finds itself overnight led by one of the minority it has constantly kept in servility. This is a nation that woke this morning and rubbed its eyes in disbelief when it found that a Negro was at its helm, a Negro was its constitutional pilot and leader. In an anguished and shameful period, when Negroes must still be led into schools protected by armed guards, when Negroes must search for segregated washrooms, when Negroes must sit in the rear of municipal buses, in a period such as this, a Negro has become the highest executive in the land, sitting in the seat of Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, becoming every American’s face and voice to the outside world.

The problem presented by a Negro in the Presidency is real, and it is grave. The problem is not President Dilman’s problem, but rather, the problem of almost every one of his 230 million fellow Americans. No longer, now, has the United States a half century of grace to grow up to its ideal of equality for every citizen. The United States is faced, today, with the necessity, the imperative necessity, of growing up to its ideal of equality all at once, of accepting a Negro as its leader all at once, of accepting colored men as equal to whites all at once. Failure to attain this maturity, by any state or any member of the democratic community, will be a blow to the country as a whole, will send us reeling backward to the edge of the abyss upon which we teetered toward destruction in the terrible months and days preceding the Civil War. If we go backward, if we fall now, all men here and all mankind everywhere will suffer a death of the soul, as they might suffer a death of the body from a nuclear holocaust.

This is not the morning to recapitulate the wrongs that colored men have suffered in this republic, and to plead their case for civil rights so long overdue. It is enough to remark that while the Constitution specifically bars anyone from this office who is not a natural-born citizen of the United States or not yet thirty-five years of age, it does not bar anyone because the pigmentation of his skin is other than white. A Negro has become President of the United States, and there is no reason on earth why he should not be President.

The Southern racists, and the Northern nonthinkers whose prejudices are rarely acted out, cannot deny that American Negroes, when given the opportunity, have been as capable as their white brothers in practicing wisdom, or attaining wealth, success, fame. One need only glance at the record. The black hue of their skin did not prevent Jan Matzeliger from inventing the billion-dollar shoe-last machine, did not prevent Frederick Douglass from becoming a brilliant lecturer and writer, did not prevent Booker T. Washington from becoming a great educator, did not prevent Matthew Henson from helping Peary discover the North Pole, did not prevent Paul Laurence Dunbar from composing his deathless lyrics, did not prevent Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Mahalia Jackson, W. C. Handy from providing entertainment for the entire world.

Nor can the millions awakening this morning prove that Negroes, in the rare instances in the past when they served us in politics and government, acted with less wisdom, courage, judiciousness than did their white brothers. Ebenezer Bassett was our Minister to Haiti. Jonathan Wright was associate justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Jefferson P. Long served in the United States House of Representatives. Blanche K. Bruce served in the United States Senate. In more recent times, Robert C. Weaver administered the United States Housing and Home Finance Agency. E. Frederic Morrow worked as administrative aide to President Eisenhower. Ralph J. Bunche served in the United Nations. Andrew Hatcher worked as associate press secretary to President Kennedy. Carl Rowan served as director of the United States Information Agency under President Lyndon Johnson. Douglass Dilman was President pro tempore of the United States Senate in T. C.’s administration.

Each and every one of these leaders was a Negro citizen of the United States. They had earned the right to guide us, help us, not because their colored forebears helped free us and defend us in the Revolutionary War, in the War of 1812, in the Union Army of Lincoln and Grant, in the First and Second World Wars, in Korea, but because they were part of our whole, part of each of us, with the same stakes and goals. Now one of them, really one of us under the laws devised by the Founding Fathers and since, has become our President. The paramount question is not if Douglass Dilman is equal to the burdensome responsibility, but if we are equal to our responsibility as Americans.

Today we start the first day of President Dilman’s term, his time of trial and our own, the one year and five months that stretch ahead, and we begin with trepidation induced by a survey of cold statistics. Out of 230 million American citizens, there are 23 million Negroes, and it is supposed that most will accept our new President. Based on recent voting figures, excluding Negroes and Southern whites, there are perhaps 40 million white citizens of liberal and progressive persuasions, and it is supposed that most of these will cooperate with the new President.

On the other hand, there are 47 million whites in the fourteen states of the Solid South, and it is feared that most of them will reject our new President. Again, based on recent voting figures, there are 30 million extreme rightists in the East, North, and West, and it is likely that most of them will refuse cooperation to our new President.

What is the guess? Sixty-three million of us may be behind Douglass Dilman, 77 million of us may be against him. How are we to account for the remaining 90 million of our citizenry, the follow-the-leaders when told whom to follow, the undecideds in countless polls, the great center mass with real faces and real feelings who can go this way or that? How will they respond to a Negro in the Presidency? Will they listen to racists or rightists, or will they consider the pleadings of moderates and true democrats? Or will they react according to feelings long hidden and repressed about Negroes? How have they felt about the racial ferment in this country these last twenty years? Has something of the aspirations of the new and militant Negro leadership sunk deep into their consciences? Has more, or less, of the propaganda of segregationists infused their minds?

For the middle majority of us all, knowledge of Negroes firsthand is probably limited-limited to the colored cleaning woman, who comes twice a week, limited to the colored baseball player who saves or loses a home game, limited to the garage mechanic, or dime-store clerk, or blues singer seen and heard on a Saturday night. To this white majority, the black man is as unknown as once was the heart of the Dark Continent of Africa. Personally unacquainted with their dark-skinned fellow citizens, knowing of their strife only through the printed page, long avoiding real commitment to this issue because they were busy concentrating on their jobs and raises, shopping and picking the youngsters up at school, these white citizens are suddenly confronted with the imperative demand to make a historic personal decision.

There they are, this strange morning, the vast uncounted, staring with curiosity or bewilderment, with the first throbbings of pride or resentment, at a middle-aged senator with kinky hair and dark skin and African face, who has supplanted a leader they chose, and who is now their voice and image in domestic and international affairs.

We wait now for their commitment. We pray they, in turn, will wait for their own judgments to stand the tests of self-exploration and sound intelligence. And when they come to that moment of decision very soon, whether to accept President Dilman as one of them, one of us, and cooperate with him for the common good, or whether to reject him as an inferior alien disguised as one of us, we pray they will, on the eve of their personal commitments, bear one final consideration in mind.

Judgment of a colored man in the White House cannot and should not be made on whether he will or will not be a wise President, better than Harding, worse than Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or T. C., but whether or not his judges, all the products of independent America, have attained sufficient maturity, have grown high enough, have become citizens enough, to permit a fellow human being, experienced and expert in his calling, to reflect and serve them.

The immediate future is not in the hands of our first Negro President. It is in our hands, for better or for worse.


It seemed an eternity that Douglass Dilman sat at the dining-room table, holding the great metropolitan newspaper which had spelled out, frankly and sensibly, what conditions and judgment waited for him beyond the insular fort of his Negro dwelling and Negro neighborhood.

Presently he dropped the newspaper to the table beside the cold breakfast he had hardly touched. He knew that what he had read should have made him feel heartened, even hopeful. Yet the apprehension and fears of the morning shadowed any possible optimism. He thought: Yes, there are men of reason and good will out there; they exist. But then, he also knew, from years of traumatic observation, years of compromising and cowering to survive and get along, that men such as the one or ones who created that reasonable editorial were too few.

Dilman was not a highly imaginative man, not a soarer, a dreamer, a passionate mover or shaker; this he knew and had always known. He was an intelligent man. He was a formally educated man. He was an experienced man in his chosen field, politics, where knowledge of superficial catch phrases, some forensic talent, an ability to smile, a gift for concession, and a knowledge of facts were enough.

The hard factual core of his mind reframed the eloquent content of the editorial. If all men in America read it and were moved by it, he could enter the White House without fear. But what was this New York metropolitan newspaper anyway, in truth? It was a morning paper, the most appreciated by intellectuals in the land. Its total daily circulation was 800,000. How many of these 800,000 would even read the small type of the editorial page? And how many in the broad nation of 230 million would even know of its existence? It was a pebble trying to fell a Goliath of prejudice-a pebble, not a boulder.

The telephone to his left rang out, startling him from his brooding. Too quickly, out of guilt for the self-indulgence of self-concern, he shot his hand to the receiver, pulled it toward him, fumbling, almost dropping it into the eggs.

“Hello?”

It was a long-distance operator from Trafford, New York. He waited.

“Hello-hello-” He recognized the nervous, high-pitched voice at once as that belonging to Julian, his son. “Dad?”

“Yes, Julian. How are you?”

“Me? Forget about me. My God, Dad, they woke me up in the middle of the night with the news. I couldn’t believe it. I’d have called you right away, but I was afraid to wake you up. I tried all morning-”

“Yes, they told me.”

“I guess congratulations are in order. May I be one of the first to congratulate you?”

“You certainly may. Thank you, son.”

Julian went on excitedly. “Everyone’s thrilled about it, Dad. It’s the talk of the school. Kids are even cutting classes, whole groups roaming the quad, singing, celebrating.”

As he went on to describe the activities at Trafford University, Dilman realized that this was the first time in a year that his son had spoken with enthusiasm of the school. Julian had not wanted to go to the Negro university. He had been forced to enroll by his father, and he had never ceased resisting it or complaining about his classmates. Now elation had replaced complaint.

“I don’t know that they have so much to feel festive about,” Dilman interrupted. “We lost a fine President.”

“Sure we did, Dad, but, my God, can’t you see? In one stroke we have more than we ever dreamed of. We’ve got you there. No more lousy uphill fighting. Now you can do it all with a twist of the wrist. They’ve got to give in to you. You’re the President!” He was almost shouting with manic glee. “The shortcut’s been made. We’ll get our rights without-”

“Julian,” he said sternly. He had to put a stop to this Julian in Wonderland. “Don’t go around quoting me, or repeating a word I say. This is strictly family, you understand.”

“Sure, sure-”

“Nothing has changed that much, at least not for the better. The road ahead is just as long and steep as a day ago.”

“Naw, never, Dad. For once, stop being so conservative. You’re too close to the picture. You can’t see how big it is. I tell you-”

“You’ve told me enough,” said Dilman curtly. “We’ll discuss this another time. I’ve got a lot to attend to today. And I’m sure you have, too.”

“Yes, but not today, Dad. My God, they’re treating me here like I was the President.”

Instantly the letter from Chancellor Chauncey McKaye, of Trafford University, came to Dilman’s mind.

“Has Chancellor McKaye come down to congratulate you?” Dilman asked with slight sarcasm.

“No, not yet, but-”

“I don’t think he will. I think he celebrates honor students. Look, son, we’d better have a talk-”

“I want to. When are you moving into the White House? I want to come down with the gang and see the inside and-”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll know more about everything in the next few days. I want you here as soon as it is feasible, but without your friends this first time. I have something to discuss with you.”

“Okay, sure.” Julian sounded deflated. “When can I come to Washington? I’m free next Tuesday.”

“Tuesday, then. You come to the West Wing of the White House. I’ll leave word to let you in. Now, behave yourself and attend your classes.”

“Stop worrying, Dad.” He hesitated, and then lowered his voice. “I was thinking about-I wonder how she feels this morning.”

“Never mind about that,” Dilman said sharply. “See you Tuesday, and thanks for your call. I appreciate it.”

After he hung up, Dilman thought about his son’s oblique reference to Mindy, the unmentionable by name, the untouchable, the expatriate from her family and race, and he wondered about her, too. Would he hear from his daughter now? He knew the barter involved. Would it be worth it to her to abdicate her whiteness for the throne of a Negro President’s daughter? He guessed the answer, even as he asked himself the question, and he was grateful when the telephone sounded loudly once more.

This time the caller was his Senate secretary, Diane Fuller, and because he could hardly hear her and because she was almost inarticulate, he knew that she was among whites. He accepted her congratulations and then learned that she was in Edna Foster’s office in the White House. Diane explained that T. C.’s personal secretary had summoned her to pick up Dilman’s heavy inflow of top-level cables and telegrams, and bring the most important to his apartment, in case he wanted to see the communications early.

As Diane began to recite the names affixed to the cables of felicitations and good wishes-one from the Premier of the U.S.S.R., one from His Holiness the Pope, one from the British Prime Minister, one from the President of France, one from the Secretary General of the United Nations, one from President Amboko of Baraza-Douglass Dilman interrupted her.

“Diane, you leave all that right on Miss Foster’s desk,” he said. “Tell her I’ll be in shortly. As for you, go back to my Senate office and take calls. I’ll be in touch with you later.”

When he had finished with the telephone, a troubling thought plucked at his sensitivity. The President’s personal secretary, the late President’s secretary, had telephoned the Senate Building to get Dilman’s own colored secretary to pick up the messages for him. Why this roundabout, time-wasting maneuver? Why had not Edna Foster simply telephoned him herself or brought the messages to him? That would have been the normal way, and the most efficient. Was it that she had never been to a Negro neighborhood before? Or was he overreacting? Was it simply that she had been T. C.’s secretary, and was not only grief-stricken but uncertain about her future role?

Resolving to stop these convolutions of sensitivity, he pushed himself to his feet. He would get his hat, and do what he knew he was avoiding most. He would allow himself to be deposited at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before he could leave the dining room, the telephone’s ring caught him. He took up the receiver. This time it was a more distant long-distance operator. She announced a call from Fairview Farm, outside Sioux City, Iowa. She repeated the number she had been given to contact. Did she have the correct number? Dilman assured her that this was the correct number.

Suddenly he inquired, “Who is calling here?”

In a schoolteacherish tone, she spelled out the name of the caller. Dilman could not help smiling. It was The Judge himself, and Dilman was delighted. No one, of course, ever called The Judge by any other name than that, and Dilman, who had been a member of the House when The Judge was the outgoing President of the United States, had known him slightly, and had liked the crusty, outspoken, nearsighted old ex-President enormously. The Judge-he had been a minor municipal justice of the peace long before he had become a veteran of the Senate and an American President-had been given so little chance to become elected in his time that he had campaigned without vacillating on issues, with astonishing candor, without selling himself to any man or bloc (since there was no need to, because his candidacy was considered hopeless). When he had won the Presidency in a landslide, putting two polls and three magazines out of business, The Judge had come to the office as his own man. The mandate to speak as he pleased, as well as the fact that he had reached an age when he did not give a damn about ambition and had no hopes for a second term, had made him one of the most individual, independent, and refreshing Chief Executives in modern times. When he liked a man, he liked him if he was black or white, a member of the Party or the opposition, a brain or a heel, and he said so in short expletives, and his enemies fulminated, and the nation adored him. In the three meetings that The Judge had had with Dilman, once while The Judge was President, twice later at Party conferences, he had made it clear that he liked Dilman as a person. No patronizing Rastus-boy attitude. He liked Dilman and he said so, and Dilman liked anyone who liked him and was flattered.

“Put him on-put him on-” he found himself telling the Iowa operator.

The receiver emitted a sound like that of cylinders misfiring, and suddenly The Judge’s nasal voice could be heard. “Mr. President Dilman, are you there?”

“Yes, Judge, how are-?”

“From one old bastard who’s hung in the public stocks to another about to be pilloried in the same place, I want to wish you well. Doug, I want you to go in there, keep your left up high, chin tucked in, and belt them straight from the shoulders. No matter what you hear, no matter what you see, just remember you’re the boss, you’re not Uncle Tom. You think what you think, speak out what you believe, and when you have to, you give them hell. Remember that, young man. Except for those Confederates who still think old Jeff Davis is President, you got your Party right behind you from this day on. And those that aren’t behind you, you tell me and I’ll whomp them into line. Just calling for me and the Missus to wish you the best on the first day, because you and I and the Missus know you need it.”

He began to cough, and Dilman waited, beaming like an idiot, and when the coughing ceased, Dilman spoke. “Judge, I appreciate this, I do, deeply. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“I’ve not done anything for you yet, young man, so don’t thank me till I do. But I’ll tell you what. Me and the Missus are living out here in the middle of nowhere, like Thoreau at the Pond, and all we got is cows and fresh air and time, and time is what we got the most of. So you listen, young fellow, and you remember, if you ever need me at all, not money but advice or a helping hand-both untaxable and both which we got plenty of out here-you come around to me and we’ll have a farm breakfast and talk, and set you straight, or if you want and I can move my bones, I’ll come up there to you. Remember that. Promise?”

“I won’t forget it, Judge.”

“Just one more thing, Douglass, and it’s a favor.” He paused, and then he said testily, “I don’t give a damn if you turn that White House upside down and inside out, but one thing I don’t want you to do-don’t you dare move my portrait out of the Green Room! Good luck, Mr. President, and God bless you!”

Returning the receiver to its cradle, Dilman chuckled. There were more than decent editorial writers out on the land. There were men like The Judge. The morning appeared brighter.

Again the telephone was ringing. Dilman glanced at his wristwatch. It was a quarter to ten. He picked up the receiver impatiently.

“Yes?”

“Good morning, Mr. President. This is Wayne Talley. I’m in the White House with Secretary of State Eaton. We have some urgent matters-routine, but they have to be settled-to discuss. Are you intending to come over here this morning, or would you prefer that we visit you?”

“I’m on my way to the White House right now,” said Douglass Dilman.

He hung up, and it occurred to him that this might be the last telephone call he would receive on his private unlisted number. He was going to another home with many telephones, connections to every state and to all countries, and his telephone number would be known to everyone in the world.

He started out of the dining room to find his hat, and to leave this Negro house and this Negro community behind him. He would try to live in a new house and a new community that was not meant for a Negro but for a man of all the people, because only such a man could serve as President of the United States-that is, a man who was certain that he was a man, and nothing less.


DURING Governor Wayne Talley’s brief conversation with Dilman, Arthur Eaton had sat on one of the two black sofas of the Presidential reception room, the Fish Room it was called after the mammoth sailfish that T. C. had had mounted and hung on one wall, staring up at the square skylight in the ceiling.

Arthur Eaton had hardly heard the conversation, so absorbed was he in his own musings. Persistently his mind had dwelt upon the loss of T. C., his closest public friend-in fact his only friend, since he was a person who had never encouraged personal or intimate relationships with other men. Eaton had been in government, a career diplomat, as far back as he cared to remember. His parents, when they were alive, and when there was money, would have been horrified at anything in government under diplomacy. To run for office, to depend upon others for largess, was unthinkable. As a consequence, Eaton had never considered running for any office, although there had been opportunities. His father, before his death-which occurred almost simultaneously with his loss of wealth-had arranged to put him into diplomacy, and in diplomacy he had been throughout his years.

He could recollect many of his previous posts with ease. There had been the minor beginning as a representative to UNESCO in Paris. There had been the appointment as a delegate to the still growing United Nations in New York. There had been three ambassadorships to three corners of the globe. There had been special troubleshooting assignments, where poise and firmness and keen intellect were wanted, from Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. There had been a period of dismay, almost ennui, when the assignments seemed to be blurring, each one resembling the last, with the same polished tables and same calfskin briefcases and same treaties and same Oriental or Semitic or Asian or European countenances uttering the restrained semantics of upper-echelon diplomatic negotiation. Eaton relished protocol, fine manners, the limited games of wits, and yet he had once become bored by it all. It was a period during which he had felt trapped on a treadmill. Worse, as oppressive, was the fact that he and Kay had lived beyond his means, because this was the way they had been taught to live, and more and more he had become dependent upon her inherited fortune. In his career at that time, not so long ago, he had possessed no hope for change or promotion, and in his personal life he had enjoyed no freedom. It was T. C. who had rescued him, and offered him his greatest hope.

He had enjoyed T. C.’s vigor and boundless extroversion since their college years. While their paths had crossed occasionally, Arthur Eaton had watched T. C.’s political fortunes rise from afar. He had observed his friend engage and defeat foe after foe in elections of more and more importance. He had, with admiration mingled with envy, observed T. C. become a national figure. He was not surprised when the convention had nominated T. C. as the Party’s standard-bearer on the third ballot, but he was surprised when Tim Flannery had telephoned from St. Louis to report that T. C. needed his assistance in the campaign and wanted him to fly out immediately.

At the time, Eaton had been between missions, momentarily free of an assignment, and he had gone to T. C. at once. To Arthur Eaton, in that St. Louis hotel suite, T. C. had been as he had always been, only more so, more confident, more exuberant, more stimulating. T. C. had presented his proposition directly. As the Party’s candidate, he was well-enough versed in domestic affairs to handle himself properly. But, T. C. had admitted disarmingly, he’d had little opportunity to be involved in international problems, and on the subject of foreign affairs he was a dolt, and he needed help and advice. He had implored Eaton to take a leave of absence from the Department of State, and join T. C.’s campaign for the Presidency as adviser on foreign affairs and part-time speech writer.

Although the idea of accompanying anyone on a grueling campaign junket, leaving air-conditioned rooms and polished tables for grubby, poorly lit hotel rooms, half-cooked food, smelly, disheveled local politicians, revolted Arthur Eaton, he had accepted without hesitation. There had been two reasons for his immediate acceptance. One was the chance to get away from Washington, from Kay and her tiresome social friends, from work that was suffocating him, and the other (and more exciting) reason was T. C.’s promise. “Arthur, you help me win, and I’ll see that you have yourself a Cabinet post, not selling stamps or worrying about squaws, but a big one, the biggest. You help me now, and you can help me run this country and most of the world next year.”

It had happened exactly as T. C. had promised that it would. Two hours after T. C.’s opponent had conceded defeat on television, and T. C. had become the President-elect, Arthur Eaton had answered the ringing telephone in Georgetown. The caller had been T. C. himself. No sooner had Eaton congratulated him than T. C. had boomed out, “Arthur, you got any enemies in the Senate?” Eaton could think of none, not real enemies. Then T. C. had said, “Think they’ll give consent on your appointment?” And Eaton had asked, “To what?” And then T. C., with a delighted laugh that was almost a shout, had bellowed across the wire, “To Secretary of State, my friend. You are the first in my Cabinet, and welcome to it!”

So he had become Secretary of State Eaton, and with Talley trotting between T. C. and himself, he had assisted the President in running the country. Those had been adventurous and stimulating days, those days of the two years and seven months gone by, and they had been his Fountain of Youth. Not only had each morning, with its challenges, been a joy to wake to, but Eaton had found the independence to shake off the yoke of money that held him captive to his wife. He had been enabled to ignore her disdain, her snobbery, her petty values, her Social Register crowd and her avant-garde artist salon. He had, indeed, been able to plead devotion to something that mattered more, survival of his country. This had been the same shield he had always been able to hold up to fend off Kay’s barbed anger. Her technique had not varied from its pattern in the past; it had only intensified. She had continued to hack away at his masculinity. When she found that she could no longer bring him down, as she had always succeeded in doing in the past, she had begun to increase her trips away from Washington. She had permitted herself to be seen with her endless bright young men in public. Eaton had rarely speculated on what she might be doing with her companions in private. But more and more, freed of her, he had begun to derive pleasure from the company of attentive and appreciative young Washington women, the single ones. There had been but two short-lived affairs-for he was always aware of the dangers-but they had been gratifying enough to remind him that he was a person still capable of enjoying love and companionship, and that he was more than his wife had tried to make him.

All of this pride and pleasure he owed to the patronage and friendship of T. C., whom he had revered as a friend and respected as a leader. Twenty-four hours ago their future had seemed glowing. There were years of their joint rule ahead of them-the remainder of this term, and the almost certain second term. Twenty-four hours ago Eaton’s resurrection as an individual, a very important person, had been secure. And then, shockingly, with the crumbling of that ancient Palace in Frankfurt, his high hopes and good prospects had crumbled, too. And so he knew that his mourning was not only for the loss of his friend, but for the loss of something of himself.

Throughout the endless tragic night in Georgetown, following the swearing in of Dilman as President, he had received and listened to or overheard the members of T. C.’s bereft team and the leaders of the Party. Most of the chatter had been about how to preserve the unity of the Party, now that a Negro was its head. There had been a little talk, he remembered, about preserving the unity of the nation as well. Too, there had been talk, mostly in Southern accents, about challenging the constitutionality of the 1947 Act of Succession, and there had been talk, in harder accents, about reviving some aspect of the old 1867 Tenure of Office Act, which had once enabled the Senate to try to restrict a President from removing officers appointed to his Cabinet. In short, Eaton remembered, the concern had not been about Dilman’s ability to handle the office, and how he must best be guided, but rather about how to balk him or, failing in that, to control him, pluck his powers, so that the nation would not be tainted black and so that those present might not lose their jobs to colored men and to bleeding-heart Negro-lovers.

Through the night, Arthur Eaton had not permitted himself to be drawn into these discussions. His foresight had suffered from emotional cataracts. He had thought only of the immediate consequences of the fateful night, of the condition of the country and himself now, in the present, without T. C. as mentor. When his living room bar and then his library had emptied, and he had sought sleep, he had still not fastened on the full realization that even though another, by default, had become President, this other must be made to understand that it was still T. C.’s country and T. C.’s government and that any successor was there merely as a custodian of T. C.’s ideas and ideals, which Eaton himself might continue to spell out and present.

Not until now, in the Fish Room of the White House-a room, like the Oval Office, restored by T. C. to the decor of the Kennedy administration-had Eaton, after listening to Talley on the telephone, after reviewing all that he had reviewed in his head, finally settled on the idea of what must be done. He had a role, after all, and perhaps now it was more important than it had been before. He must ignore every one of those harebrained schemes about blocking Dilman from the Oval Office, or obstructing the lamentable Negro. He must devote himself, Eaton decided, to keeping T. C. as alive as he had ever been. Only thus could their United States be saved, and, parenthetically, only thus could Arthur Eaton have a continuing, meaningful life.

He sat straight on the sofa, saw that Wayne Talley was standing at the desk near the door, making notes on a sheet that lay beside the quaint early typewriter once used by Woodrow Wilson.

“What are you up to, Wayne?” he inquired.

“Dilman’s on his way in. He’s an absolute amateur. I’m not saying he’s stupid-hell, he’s been around the Hill long enough. But he’s ignorant of what really goes on, and of things that have to be done. It kills me when I think of it. The Majority Party senators caucus every time there’s a new Congress in the Conference Room of the Senate Office Building to select a temporary presiding officer to sit up there with the gavel and pound it. The idea is to select one of their own as a substitute or alternate for the Vice-President when he’s out of town. Nine times out of ten, they cast their caucus vote for the member among them who has seniority. There’s no rule about it, but it’s a kind of gesture of courtesy, a custom, to select the senator who’s had the most years of service. That’s why Rydberg had the spot so long. ‘Papa Methuselah’ they called him. Then his doctors make him quit, so the Senate needs a replacement, what with Porter traveling all the time. They’ve got to caucus again. So what happens this time? All those riots, the bloodshed, in Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Dallas, all of it from Negroes, with those protest marches and boycotts worsening-so a couple of smart guys get the big political brainstorm, let’s give the honorary presiding post to a Negro, a democratic gesture, and shut up those demonstrators, prove to them we mean well. So Senator Selander, the senior member, who normally would have become President pro tempore, seconds the suggestion. That makes it okay. So Selander steps out of the caucus, phones me, and tells me to pass it on to T. C. to find out if he approves. Well, T. C. was so damn busy that day he didn’t give a hoot who held that unimportant President pro tempore of the Senate job, so he said okay, maybe it’ll look good for the Party, let them do what they think best. So the Party caucus elects Douglass Dilman, and puts the resolution naming him to the whole Senate. Then, a routine thing, the opposition offers an amendment putting forth their own candidate, Senator Riggins, and a roll call is held and the opposition amendment voted down. Then the original resolution on behalf of Dilman is put to a voice vote, and the ayes have it, and Dilman has that idiotic do-nothing post. Who in the hell would know that the Vice-President would drop dead soon after that? Who in the hell would imagine that the fourth in line of succession could ever become President of the United States? In fact, who in the hell, on that day they routinely caucused and voted, even knew that the President pro tempore of the Senate was the fourth in line? I always thought it was the Secretary of State. I thought it was you, Arthur, not that it mattered a damn at the time. So for political and publicity reasons we put that poor Party hack in there, and we had our showcase colored man up there for all to see, a man with no qualifications for leadership whatsoever-”

“How do you know that?” asked Eaton quietly.

“Douglass Dilman’s been in the House four terms, in the Senate two terms, and what has he ever done or instigated?” said Talley heatedly. “He was sent to Washington because of the temper of the times, and given an honorary gavel in the Senate because of the times, and then a once-in-a-thousand accident happens, and blooey, we’re stuck with a tenth-rater whose presence means potential trouble, and plenty of it.” He lifted his hands to the ceiling. “The fourth in line becoming President-I repeat, Arthur, who could’ve imagined it?”

“It was always a possibility,” said Eaton. “I was reading this morning that what happened now might very well have happened during the last six weeks of 1961. At that time Speaker Rayburn was dead, and not replaced, and had President Kennedy been assassinated then, and Vice-President Johnson with him, we would have had the fourth in line, President pro tempore of the Senate Hayden, as President of the United States.”

“But this Dilman, anyone would have been better than Dilman.”

“Well, if he doesn’t work out,” said Eaton, “you and your senator friends have only yourselves to blame. As an expediency, you played politics instead of exercising judgment, and you did it once too often.”

“Arthur, don’t lecture me from hindsight. We always play politics. That’s our business. Politics-why, that’s not necessarily a dirty word. It implies bargaining, giving and taking, it means tuning in on the times, doing things people want even when you’re not sure it’s best for them. More often than not, politics produces good results. And usually, when we play politics, we guess right, and what happens is right not only for us here but for most of the people out there. This time, this once, though-” He shook his head sadly. “Well, like I said, we were dealing with a minor decision, and we dusted it off to placate a pressure group. Who in the hell knew that it would lead to this?”

“Yet it has led to this,” said Eaton. “I suggest that we forget the past, and consider what is to be done in the present. This is the time to be realistic, to make the best of a-a difficult situation.” He paused and considered Talley. “I believe T. C. would have wanted that.”

Talley’s cross-eye jumped, and he swallowed, as ever cowed by the mention of T. C.’s name. “Yes, I guess you’re right,” he said. He came away from the desk, rattling the sheet of paper in his hand. “Well, you can see that I, personally, am trying to make the best of it. I’m trying to get up a reasonable list of the first duties Dilman must discharge. God knows how well he’ll be able to manage them.”

“Wayne, certainly he will expect expert counsel and guidance,” said Eaton softly. “Long ago the office became too big for one man. After all, what are the demands on the President today? He is Chief Executive, overseeing the execution of our laws, exercising important powers of appointment and removal. He is chief of state, national host to an endless stream of native and foreign visitors. He is Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy and Marines and Air Force, with the Pentagon dangling from his civilian lapel. He is arbiter of both Houses on Capitol Hill, able to influence Congressional activity, able to nullify its accomplishments by veto. He is Ambassador to the world, making deals with international leaders, ironing out treaties, selecting foreign diplomat puppets, using my own Department of State as little more than a computer. And that, Wayne, is but the start of it, for any President. Consider his lesser jobs-he runs his political party, he molds public opinion, he sees that his voice is heard in the United Nations, he acts as a superpoliceman in areas ranging from strikes to race riots to big-business monopoly.”

Arthur Eaton saw that Talley was becoming impatient, and he smiled. “Forgive a résumé of what you are already too well acquainted with, but this is a morning in which to remember the facts of a President’s life. What lone man, in our complex age, can perform as so many men at one and the same time? There’s enough here to give Hercules a nervous breakdown. Every modern President knows that. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson knew that, and delegated power to specialists. The only one who tried to go it alone was The Judge, and that lasted about one year, and his cranky ego put him in such a hole that it took several hundred experts to dig him out. Why, T. C. once told me our method of electing and depending on one President was as outmoded as the horse-and-buggy, that what this country needed today was the election of a board of Presidents, at least five serving at once. Since he could not have that, T. C. did the next-best thing. He took on you, Wayne, after you lost your election, and myself, and a half-dozen others of the Party as assistant Presidents, and it worked nicely, very nicely.”

Talley sniffed. “Great, Arthur, I know that. You know that. Maybe every schoolboy knows that. But does our new Mr. President know that?”

“He may. If he does not understand delegation of power, I think he will come to understand it within a week.”

“I wish I could be as sure of that as you, Arthur. We’re not dealing with an ordinary man. We’re dealing with a colored man, the product of a race that’s been pushed around for a century or more, and is used to being told what to do, and resents it. You give someone like that power, the power to do the pushing, and he may not want to let go of one inch of it. He can ruin us.”

Eaton was briefly preoccupied. At last he looked up. “You may be right. On the other hand, it is quite possible that his color, the history of his racial background, can work to our benefit. Based on what I know of his performance on Capitol Hill, he is a timid and uncertain man, a good listener, orthodox and agreeable in every way. Last night I asked Senator Selander to read me Dilman’s voting record for this last session. He went along with T. C. and the Party on every piece of major legislation. I think that augurs well for all of us.”

“Arthur, he wasn’t President of the United States then.”

“No, but now that he is, he may be more frightened and eager for our help than ever before. At least, I choose to think so. I cannot fire up enthusiasm for those extremist challenges and measures being proposed to void Dilman’s Presidency or to hamper him if he legally remains our President. I see no reason to antagonize him, where there is no shred of evidence that he will be uncooperative. I believe we must make him see matters as T. C. saw them and would have acted upon them in the future. If we succeed, it’ll be a certainty that we will survive the rest of the term unscathed. And I think the time to begin our guidance is right now, from this moment onward.” He pointed to the sheet of paper in Talley’s hand. “Tell me what is on Dilman’s agenda.”

Still troubled, Talley sat on the edge of the sofa, and consulted the scribblings on the sheet of paper he held before him. “Let me see-umm-he signed the proclamation for T. C.’s funeral and the period of national mourning last night, didn’t he? Yes, I remember. Well, now, he’ll have to go over and meet the funeral plane tomorrow.”

“I wish Grover Illingsworth would take care of that,” said Eaton. Then he added, “Anyway, let him make arrangements for the procession, the services in the White House, and the funeral itself. He’s the best Chief of Protocol we’ve ever had, but he’s even better at-at delicate affairs like this. I’ve already packed him off in T. C.’s jet to bring Hesper back from Arizona.”

Talley brought his head up sharply. “What about Hesper? Should Dilman see her?”

Eaton did not reply at once. He thought of Hesper, T. C.’s gracious wife, now a widow, with one fatherless son, isolated in the summer home in Phoenix. He had already spoken to her. She was taking it courageously, as might be expected of a woman of her background. Like his own Kay, she was Social Register and independently wealthy, but unlike his own Kay, she was well-balanced and friendly. Passionately devoted to her child, her numerous charities, she would survive her loss well. “I don’t know, Wayne,” Eaton said. “Perhaps Dilman should pay his respects to the First Lady, but I think it would be uncomfortable for both of them. We have a day or two. Let me think about it.” He waved his hand at Talley’s notes. “Let’s go on.”

“He has to swear in the White House staff-”

“This afternoon.”

“-and fill some sudden vacancies, mostly female secretaries, Southern.”

“I see. Fine, Edna can begin screening applicants.”

Talley went back to his notes. “Tim Flannery says the press reports show considerable concern. The country’s had a bad jolt.” He looked up. “Maybe it would allay everyone’s fear if they could have a look at him, see that he’s harmless. I thought we could prepare a short, rather self-effacing speech for him, and put him on the television networks-”

“No,” said Eaton firmly. “Too soon. His appearance might inflame rather than soothe. Let’s try to keep him out of sight for a while, let the country know that even under Dilman the government has not been disrupted, that business is going on as usual.”

“What about letting him address a Joint Session of Congress? Truman did it after F. D. R.’s death.”

“He did it over his colleagues’ protests. No, Wayne, I don’t like that either. I still say keep him close to his desk for a while, until everyone settles down.”

“Well-”

“Arrange to have him lunch tomorrow with selected leaders of the Senate and House.”

“Excellent,” said Talley, making a note of it. “What about the Cabinet? Shall I summon all hands for a meeting today?”

Eaton shook his head. “Not today. Not tomorrow, either.”

“Won’t it look funny if he doesn’t-”

Eaton licked his lower lip. “I do not want him running a Cabinet meeting until we’ve had a chance to brief him thoroughly. We’ve first got to inform Dilman of T. C.’s desires, wishes, plans. Then he will know how to handle himself.” He sat up straight. “I’ll tell you what to do, Wayne-beginning this afternoon, and during the next few days, have the various Cabinet members drop in on courtesy calls, but make sure none of them discusses business. As to Dilman, for his part he must request each one to remain in office and to serve him as each served T. C.”

“What if he objects or has reservations?”

“He won’t resist, Wayne. He doesn’t know them, and he does need a knowledgeable Cabinet at once. He hasn’t had time to consider anyone else. Oh yes, be sure to remind him that after F. D. R. died, Harry Truman did just this, asked each member of Roosevelt’s Cabinet to stay on. And Lyndon Johnson did the same. Very well, what next?”

“At least a dozen ambassadors have applied this morning for appointments. Ambassador Rudenko wants to discuss resumption of the Roemer Conference-”

“I’ll see him myself.”

“Then the Ambassador from Baraza, Nnamdi Wamba, is most anxious-”

“I’ll have Jed Stover stall him. I’m flying someone over to Baraza tomorrow to sit down with President Amboko. I want to do what T. C. was intending to do-pave the way for a settlement with the Russians by making the Africans ease upon their Communists in return for our ratifying the African Unity Pact. I want to feel Amboko out. When we are ready, we can tell Dilman how to behave with the Barazans.”

“Then the Indian Ambassador and-”

“Limit them to courtesy calls, too. No official business until next week. Is that enough to keep Dilman occupied?”

Talley nodded. “Of course, but there’s-”

The knocking on the door behind them made both of them turn. “Yes?” Talley called out.

The door opened and Edna Foster poked her head into the room. “Secretary Eaton, since it’s personal, I thought, rather than buzz-there’s a call from Miami Beach for you. It’s Mrs. Eaton. Can you take it now?”

Eaton hesitated and then quickly said, “Yes, certainly. Thank you, Miss Foster.”

“Line two, please,” Edna said, and closed the door.

Eaton rose stiffly from the sofa and crossed to the telephone.

“Arthur, if you’d like to be alone-” Talley called after him.

“Stay where you are.”

“Eaton punched a plastic key on the telephone and brought the receiver to his ear. “Kay dear, how are you?”

He listened to her soprano mockery of his greeting. “ ‘Kay dear, how are you?’ Oh, my, somebody should hear you. They’d think you had just come off the tennis court. How do you do it, Arthur? How do you stand calm and collected in a massacre? I thought you’d be in the middle of a wake, at least, beating your breast and loaded to the gills over your poor T. C. Doesn’t anything drive you to drink, Arthur?”

“You may succeed where others have failed, darling.”

Her laughter rattled through the receiver, and then there was a pause, and she came on more soberly. “I heard it when we all drove back to the hotel before midnight. They broke in on the music, every station. Quite an uproar down here in Florida. And this morning, too. The colored waiter wouldn’t even take a tip for breakfast. ‘Got enuff for one day, ma’am,’ he said. And the whites down in the lobby, glowering and complaining and nigger-hating all over the place. It’s enough to scare you. Know anywhere to hide, Arthur? Or don’t you run scared any more?”

“Not any more, Kay.”

“That the best you can do, Arthur? You sound so restrained. Is there someone in the room with you?”

“Yes, there is.”

“Well, that shouldn’t inhibit the Eatons, should it, now? We’re public property, we belong to all ages. Did you know Reb Blaser’s column is syndicated? Indeed it is. I read about us right down here in the sand. I hear the Eatons are heading for the divorce court. Should I believe everything I read?”

“Cut it out, Kay. He was gunning for bigger game in that column.”

“I should think there’s no bigger game than you personally right now, my dear one. What’s the saying-ah-you’re a heartbeat away from the Presidency, I read.”

“I haven’t had time to think about it.”

“Well, I have, Arthur. I have nothing but time these days. I could hardly fall asleep last night speculating about it. I kept thinking how close it had been. What if that Negro-whatever his name is-had been with T. C. and MacPherson in Frankfurt? Why, you’d be the President and I’d be the First Lady. Now, you couldn’t divorce a First Lady, could you? Could you, Arthur? Has it ever been done?”

At last her chiding anger had penetrated his control. “Kay, stop it. I’m busy right now. We can-”

Her voice was suddenly serious. “Arthur, do you want me to come home now? If you need me-”

He thought how much he had needed her how many times in the past, but now he needed only peace of mind. He had a desire to tell her so, but he was aware that Talley was in the room, and he restrained himself. “Finish your vacation, Kay. That would be best for both of us.”

“Drop dead,” she said calmly, and hung up.

He was left with the receiver still uplifted, without the chance to say good-bye, always an embarrassment when others were in the room. He made a lame pretense. “Be well, Kay,” he said into the dead phone, and he returned the receiver to its place.

He observed that Talley was too busily occupied making notes on that crowded single sheet of paper. He was sure that Talley had guessed what had gone on between Kay and himself, and he was even more resentful of Kay for baiting him when she knew he was not alone.

Remaining near the telephone, Eaton inquired, “What about the rest of Dilman’s agenda?”

“Oh,” Talley said, sitting erect, as if he had been deeply absorbed in work and unaware that the telephone call had ended. Quickly he began to announce what was left for Dilman to do. “He’ll have to reply to a ton of foreign dispatches from heads of state. Maybe something short and sweet, to instill confidence in them. Perhaps a longer cable in response to Premier Kasatkin. I think Tim Flannery and the two of us should get to work immediately helping Dilman draft a dignified, somewhat ambiguous statement to the press telling them that he enters the office with a sense of responsibility to T. C. and to the American people who voted T. C. into office, and that the ship of state is still T. C.’s ship, and he is only temporarily at the helm, but will do his best-”

“Good,” said Eaton. “Inform Dilman and Flannery we’ll meet at three today.”

“Next on the schedule-”

The telephone beside Eaton rang out. He picked it up, praying that it was not Kay again. It proved to be Edna Foster from across the hall. She reported that Congressman Zeke Miller and one of his assistants were in the press lobby. Miller had said that it was imperative that he see both Eaton and Talley. He had promised not to take up more than a few minutes.

“What should I say to him?” Edna Foster asked.

“Tell him we’re crowded for time, but-” He weighed the necessity of seeing Congressman Miller, whom he found gauche and distasteful, but then he realized that if he were to act as T. C. acted, he would have to be a politician as well as a diplomat. “Very well, Miss Foster, send him in.”

He moved toward the corridor door.

“Who is it?” Talley inquired.

“Zeke Miller wants to see us for a few minutes. I suppose we have to.”

“Absolutely,” said Talley. “He packs a lot of power, especially right now.”

Eaton opened the door, noticing that the “In Use” sign still hung from its peg, and then, as if on cue, Representative Zeke Miller, thin briefcase tucked under his arm, charged into the Fish Room, shaking hands with Eaton, and with Talley, who had come to his feet. Then Miller introduced the gangling young man with thick spectacles and flabby lips and overloaded brown briefcase, who had followed him inside, as one Casper Wine.

Zeke Miller circled the Fish Room, hot with perspiration, and imperiously ordered his assistant to a chair. “Sit down over there, Casper.” Then he said to Eaton, “Casper Wine is the goldarn smartest young constitutional lawyer on the Hill. Does a lot of homework for those of us on the House Judiciary Committee.”

Miller swung away, yanking a blue handkerchief from his hip pocket. He brought it to his nose, honked into it, and then, balling up the handkerchief, wiped the perspiration from his forehead, face, and neck. Eaton watched Miller’s activity, these nervous gyrations, with growing distaste. On those occasions when he had been thrown together with Miller, he had always left feeling that he would have been more comfortable with a pit viper. For one thing, Eaton found the Southern Congressman’s appearance repulsive. Not that Miller was technically ugly, Eaton conceded, but his aspect was that of the bigot incarnate. Miller was not quite short, was wiry, and was perpetually in motion. There was something meanly threatening about him, like a coiled spring ready to tear loose, explode, and shred anyone within range.

Miller was semibald, with a long, thin, veiny nose, tiny gray eyes, and an almost lipless mouth that continually worked over discolored teeth. His small frame, like his small mind, was tough and supple. His suits were expensive but garish. Neither his father’s textile money nor his inheritance from his mother had given him polish. His years away from the Deep South had modified his Dixie accent which, it was said in the cloakrooms, he turned on at will during electioneering years.

When taking to the hustings down home, traveling the red clay roads and magnolia groves, Zeke Miller reverted to being the complete “Southroner,” and the voice that twanged away like the plucked strings of a banjo on the floor of the House became softer, rounder, as its rich mellifluousness inveighed against the Communist-African conspiracy “to undermine America by reducing us to one mongrelized family, and thereby bringing on the Biblical Armageddon which will wipe our Christian government from the earth.” America’s hope, Miller often said, was in containing the spread of the Black Plague through strict segregation, and ultimately shipping off the carriers and spreaders of destruction to their native Africa. In his infrequent cheerier moments of oratory, Miller was given to attributing his jokes to his father’s decrepit green parrot, or to revising suitable quotations from the Old Testament. He would not forget that his grandpappy, Braxton Z. Miller, had owned slaves, and they had been peaceable and grateful, and “the Nigra’s lot” had been the better for this paternal segregation. “As the Prophets have told us,” Miller often liked to say, “ ‘Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.’ ”

Now Zeke Miller had finished drying himself, and was folding his handkerchief and returning it to his hip pocket. “I tell you,” he muttered, “those reporters out there sure downright bugged me. Trying to make me out a Bilbo or worse. Anything for a story. They sure can be mighty rough boys.”

“You should know, Zeke,” Talley said cheerfully, “you own half of them.”

“Aw, no, that’s not true, Governor,” Miller said. “The few newspapers my Dad and I control, they don’t amount to a hill of beans.” For the first time Miller became conscious of Eaton’s stare. He half faced Eaton. “I’ve got too many more serious matters on my head than to bother about my newspapers. Just for the record, Mr. Secretary, I had no part in what that goldarn fool, Reb Blaser, put in our papers. It got me sore as could be, and I told Reb off good, and said if he picks on my friends once more with goldarn scandal rumors, I’ll see that he winds up on one of those nigger newspapers. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, Mr. Secretary, I’ve got nothing against you and your lady. I’m for you. I’m for all of T. C.’s team and everyone in our constitutional government. Fact is, I’m closer on your side than I’ve ever been before. No, sir, you’ve got my word, no more subverting rumors.”

“You’re protesting too much, Congressman,” said Eaton, “and it’s not necessary. I take your word it was a mistake. I accept your promise that it won’t happen again. I’ve quite forgotten the whole incident. You’re right, there are more important matters to contend with now.”

Miller’s mouth cracked into a smile, and his nicotine-stained teeth were revealed. “There’s more important things on my mind, too. If you sit down, I’ll be quick, I’ll give you a report on what’s been going on up on the Hill to save this poor country.”

Eaton and Talley eased themselves down on the sofa, but Zeke Miller stayed on his feet, snapping open his briefcase, extracting a wad of clipped papers. “Know what this is?” he asked, holding up the papers while dropping his briefcase. “This is the American people joined and united in one voice of protest against the greatest humiliation and danger of our century-against having an ignorant nig possum politician dirtying the White House and shoving us around.”

Eaton did not suppress his displeasure. He knew that Miller used the words “nigger” and “nig” when trumpeting for white votes in the South, but, like most of his colleagues, he confined himself to Negro (“Nigra,” his accent made it) in the public arena of the House. Now he had slipped back to “nigger,” and this, Eaton decided, came from inner fury. “Congressman Miller,” Eaton found himself saying, “President Dilman is not shoving anyone around. He hasn’t had the time to do so, even if he had the desire.”

“You wait, you just wait and see,” Miller shot back. “Before you can turn around, you’ll find yourself staring down at a nigger Cabinet, with every administrative aide and every ambassador a black jigaboo, and you can be sure he’ll be hiring white men for his servants and white girls for his secretaries. That’s what all of them have been waiting for.”

Miller belched, strutted in a tight circle, and came to roost before Eaton and Talley once more. “For a minute, forget about the side issues. I’m worried sick about the big issues. See here in my hand, tallies of the telegrams that have come flooding in to Hankins and myself and the rest of us, and not all from the South, either. I’ll leave them for you to read. Over two thousand telegrams since last night, demanding we keep that Dilman out of office and protect our country. Now, don’t give me any cool racist and segregationist back talk, because this is bigger than that. Almost three years ago the people of this glorious country heard the issues and elected the man they wanted to represent them, and suddenly they find themselves saddled with someone they never wanted who plumb hates their guts. I call that legal crime. I tell you here and now, and I’m willing to shout it from the rooftops, if that Nigra Dilman is allowed to sit in T. C.’s chair, we’re in for rebellion. Inside a month we’ll be wading through blood from white and nigger bodies. Letting this stranger be foisted upon us disrupts our unity and progress, degrades us in the eyes of the world, and promises corruption and ruin.”

He paused, his pinpoint eyes darting from Eaton to Talley, and then he hiccuped and went on. “I know what you’re both thinking, or maybe I don’t, but I’m no red-neck, I tell you. I’m an educated, progressive legislator who wants what is right. Sure I was raised to believe that we have our place, and the niggers have their place, and that’s the way Jehovah arranged it. But I’m a Party man, and always will be, so help me. When the Party had to bow to the Supreme Court and force us to give in to niggers, I went along. And that’s what I’ll still do. I eat with niggers, and ride with them, and let my youngsters enter the same school with them, because that’s the law. Good enough. I’ve done everything with niggers, like it or not, but goldarn it, there’s sure one thing I won’t do-I won’t let an African black man sit in the chair where General Washington sat, and try to rule me. Maybe if one day it was the wish of the electorate out there, black and white, I’d go along. If he was voted in by popular vote, I’d live with it. But the way it is now-no, never!”

Miller had the blue handkerchief out again, and angrily mopped his wet face.

Talley wrung his hands nervously. “Zeke, he was voted into the Senate-”

“By damn Northern Communists,” interrupted Miller.

“Nevertheless, he was voted into the Senate, and the Senate voted him President pro tempore, and legally he was in the line of succession. I don’t see what you can do about it.”

“Aha!” exclaimed Miller. “That’s why I brought Casper Wine over here. He knows the Constitution so thoroughly, he could’ve signed it with Hancock. A group of us who are concerned about what’s happening to our country, who believe in justice, we met most of the night and this morning, and we brought Casper in with us, to find out what could be done before Dilman becomes President.”

“He is already President,” said Eaton calmly. “I saw him sworn in last night.”

“Illegal procedure’s what you saw,” said Miller. “Casper and the rest of us have covered that point. There are plenty of loopholes in the Succession Act. We’re fixing to have the whole thing nullified. We’re getting up this preliminary challenge for the House Judiciary Committee. I’m here because I’m of the mind that you should be the first to know what we’re doing, Mr. Secretary. After all, if we win, you’re the one person directly affected. If we can disqualify Dilman, then you’re the one to replace him, by special election, if necessary. We’re only trying to make you President, Mr. Secretary.”

“I should be grateful,” said Eaton coldly, “but I am only interested in upholding the law.”

Miller had spun away. “Casper, read them our findings.”

Casper Wine was already tugging a massive legal brief out of his brown case.

Eaton shook his head. “We don’t have time to hear a reading of any brief. President Dilman is on his way here, and there is a good deal of business to transact… Mr. Wine, forget any reading. Tell us in your own words what you have in that appeal.”

Casper Wine squinted despairingly through his convex spectacle lenses at Miller.

Miller shrugged, then said, “Okay, give it to them in a capsule, Casper.”

The myopic constitutional attorney brought the legal brief up high, close to his eyes, until it all but obscured his face. Slowly he peeled the pages, reading to himself, and at last he lowered the brief to his lap. He began to speak in a hesitant falsetto, his magnified eyes not on Eaton or Talley but roaming his brief, the carpet, the shoes of his sponsor.

“It is difficult-uh-difficult to reduce our appeal to a few generalities without-uh-without reciting our researches into precedent, previous Acts-uh-Acts of Succession and constitutional history,” he said. “I shall attempt to condense our case.” His eyes closed behind his fat lenses, and then his eyes and his mouth opened. “If you will read the Constitution, you will see under Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 6, that should both the President-uh-President and Vice-President die, then Congress shall have the right to declare-I quote-‘what Officer shall then act as President’ until ‘a President shall be elected.’ Now then, Congress three times passed bills clarifying-uh-clarifying the succession, and the last bill in 1947 provided that the Speaker should be next in line, the President pro tempore of the-uh-the Senate after him, and the Secretary of State after him. Under this bill of 1947, within the framework of the Constitution, it is highly questionable if-uh-Dilman, this Douglass Dilman, can be sworn in, that is, can become in actuality President of the United States. First, the wording of the Constitution makes it clear-uh-clear that the successor must be an ‘Officer,’ and the weight of legal opinion is that Dilman as a Senator, and the Speaker before him, and the-uh-the Secretary of State after him are not technically officers at all. If Dilman is not an ‘Officer,’ how can he be eligible to become President?”

Talley turned to Eaton. “That’s a point, Arthur.”

Eaton wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “Too weak. I think it is doubtful if you can overturn an Act of Succession on a minor semantic issue.”

“We shall see,” said Casper Wine. “But let us suppose-uh-suppose you are found to be right, Mr. Secretary. Next, we come to a stronger challenge. The Constitution states plainly that the successor shall-uh-shall-and I emphasize this-shall ‘act as President’ until ‘a President shall be elected.’ In short, Senator Dilman may act as President, in an honorary custodial sense as he acted as chairman in the Senate, until a special election is held across the country to give us a new and legal President for four more years.”

Once more, Eaton was shaking his head. “I don’t see that. In the recent past, eight Vice-Presidents succeeded eight dead Presidents, and they did not act as Presidents, they performed as Presidents.”

“True, but they performed unconstitutionally,” persisted Wine. “The first mistake was made when William Harrison passed away in 1841. The Cabinet informed and addressed his successor, John Tyler, as Vice-President of the United States, Acting President, which was correct. Tyler, wishing the power, honors, and title of full President, ignored-uh-ignored the Cabinet, and made himself full President and spoke-uh-spoke of his ‘accession to the Presidency,’ despite protests of many senators. Other successors merely followed his high-handed illegal custom. Almost all-uh-all of these successors have been challenged in the press. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson were so challenged. But nothing more happened.”

Zeke Miller jumped into view, and stood over Eaton. “This time, Mr. Secretary, we’re seeing to it something happens. We’re abiding by our beloved Constitution. If Dilman is not an officer, he is not eligible for the Presidency. If he is an officer, then he is eligible to act as President only until we can have a special election in this country to vote for a legal President-hopefully, Mr. Secretary, yourself.”

Eaton stood up. “Forget about me. I am not the issue.”

“You are the issue,” said Miller excitedly. “Six former Secretaries of State have become Presidents, but no President pro tempore of the Senate ever did. You are our best candidate.”

“Congressman Miller,” said Eaton wearily, “you can have no candidate for another year and five months, because you have a President… Mr. Wine, I appreciate your legal briefing. I can have no part of it. I will not deter you or the Congressman from presenting your findings before the House Judiciary. I can only remark that I must serve President Dilman until I am told not to do so.”

Congressman Zeke Miller began to grin. “Fair enough, fair enough. You let us carry the ball, and you stand by. Believe me, Mr. Secretary, you won’t regret it.” He sought his briefcase, and signaled Casper Wine to his feet. He paused before Talley. “I’m looking out for all of us, Governor. I am all-fired determined, by legal means which exist, to prevent that there Dilman from selling out our heritage to that parcel of black terrorists in the Turnerite gang and to those whining hymn singers in the Crispus Society and NAACP. You can tell Dilman he can play President for a couple days, but you better also tell him not to go to the expense of moving into the White House.” He winked. “I like that old House, I like the color it is right now.”

After Miller and Wine had gone, the clatter of their footsteps on the tile corridor quickly receding, the Fish Room was silent. Eaton and Talley did not look at one another. Eaton occupied himself inserting a cigarette into his silver holder and lighting it. When he had taken several puffs, he met Talley’s gaze.

“I do not like that man, I do not like him at all,” Eaton said.

“He’s a nasty customer, no question. You’d think he’d know better. But I understand his kind. I’ve been through his state with T. C., and there are loads of Millers down there. When you’ve seen that, you can know how he feels about having Dilman in here.”

“Wayne, you must believe me, I have nothing against Dilman because he is black. I simply have no prejudices about color.”

“Neither have I,” said Talley hastily.

Speaking more to himself than to Talley, Eaton went on. “I could never be on Miller’s side or Hankins’ side or anyone’s for such a reason. In fact, I would feel an obligation to defend President Dilman against such attacks.” He considered what he would say next. “I could find myself resisting Dilman, and being unwillingly thrown in with the Miller crowd, for only two reasons. If Dilman were, indeed, to perform as a Negro President instead of the President of the entire nation, if he were to show favoritism to men of his race to the detriment of the country as a whole, I would have to oppose him. And if he were to fall under the wrong influence, jettison T. C.’s program and T. C.’s team, I would have to fight him.” Then he added, “I do not anticipate either of these problems arising.”

“Well, up on the senior side of the Hill there’s a little more concern, Arthur,” said Talley. “Senator Hankins feels that the only way to preserve T. C.’s program is to preserve his Cabinet. They’ve been trying to figure out a way of curbing Dilman’s power of removal.”

“Yes, I guess I heard something of that last night.”

“They’re worried about Dilman moving in, feeling his oats after a bit, and then firing you and replacing you with a Negro friend or some white liberal who will toady to him. They’re worried this would not only end T. C.’s program but weaken the rightful line of succession.”

Eaton pursed his lips. “I believe that they are building straw men to knock down.”

“They want to play it safe, Arthur. As long as you’re around, they feel there is someone to oversee Dilman, make sure he speaks T. C.’s language and signs bills with T. C.’s pen. Then, too, they’re all feeling a little fatalistic-with good reason-and they want to make sure that if anything happens to Dilman, you’ll be around to succeed him, you and not someone, Negro or white, who does not represent the Party’s platform.”

“Yes, I see,” said Eaton thoughtfully. “Whatever they do, they had better make sure it is within the limitations imposed by the Constitution.”

“I’m curious to know exactly what they’re up to,” Talley said. “We know what Miller and his House boys are doing, but I keep wondering about Senator Hankins. I think I’ll give him a ring.” He started for the telephone, but hesitated when he reached it. “No, I don’t think I want to talk to Hankins. That’ll be Miller all over again.” He snapped his fingers. “I know-” He lifted the receiver and dialed one digit. “Edna? This is Governor Talley. Be a good girl and hook me up with Senator Hoyt Watson. He’s probably still at home… Yes, I’ll wait.”

Across the room Arthur Eaton waited, too. When he heard Talley get his connection and begin to question Senator Watson, he ejected his cigarette butt from the holder and replaced it with a fresh cigarette. It was the first time in a decade, to his surprise, that he had found it necessary to chain-smoke.


CONCENTRATING on the postcard-sized screen of the miniature Swiss television set, which stood on the white Formica breakfast table between them, Sally Watson heard her father say, “One second, Governor Talley, hold it a second.”

She glanced up from her coffee to find her father jabbing a finger at the television set. “Sally,” he called to her over the din, “would you mind lowering it a trifle?”

“Of course not, Dad.” She put down her coffee, reached out and turned down the volume.

“That’s better, baby.” Senator Hoyt Watson’s long Percheron face had gone back to the mouthpiece from which he removed his hand. “Okay, Governor, would you repeat your question?”

As she picked up her coffee cup again, Sally Watson’s attention returned to the television screen. The horrible newsreel film of the Frankfurt catastrophe had ended, and now the network was beginning to project a hastily prepared documentary biography to acquaint its viewers with President Douglass Dilman.

Fascinated, she watched the unreal scene in the Cabinet Room of the White House the night before, as Senator Dilman took the Presidential oath. Although she had seen Dilman a number of times in the corridors of the Old Senate Office Building and at Washington social affairs, she had never really been aware of him as an individual, she realized. In close-up on the television screen, he became a person, a very dark person, to be sure, but a man with neat wavy hair, kind eyes, and a habit of rubbing his upper lip with his lower one. Now the film took viewers back to Dilman’s beginnings. There were scenes of a Mid-western city slum area, where Dilman had been born over fifty years ago, and still photographs of an unattractive infant in absurd lacy dresses, and then dull shots of school buildings, and Sally Watson’s interest began to wane and her head began to throb.

She poured herself a third cup of black coffee, hoping her father would not see this, and she wondered at what point during the gruesome party last night she had switched from vodka to Scotch. She could not remember, except that she had made the change because the vodka had done nothing for her and she had wanted something that would make the evening bearable, especially with all that incessant and tiresome Grim Reaper chatter provoked by T. C.’s death. More and more, she knew, she was mixing her drinks at parties, determined to attain euphoria swiftly, and more and more often the hangovers were persisting late into the next day, when she was forced to rid herself of them with fresh drinks and new pills.

Drinking the third cup of black coffee, she tried to devote herself to the television screen. But now her father was replying to Talley, and since the sound volume on the set was low, it was superseded by her father’s basso, so that his voice and the image on the screen blended and created utter confusion.

Because her father’s voice was more alive than the pictures on the screen, and dominated them, she surrendered viewing for listening. Her father, a large, impressive, authoritative figure, with his trademark shock of white hair and his trademark black string tie in evidence, was drawling into the telephone.

“Certainly I’m not happy about the turn of events, Governor,” he was saying, “and neither will my constituents be happy. I don’t like to have truck with Hankins and Miller and their Ku Klux Klan adherents, but at the same time I must agree with them that the country is today faced with a crisis. I don’t like having a Negro as Chief Executive any more than they do, but I don’t like it for different reasons. I don’t think the country is ready for a colored man as President, and I foresee endless strife. I don’t think Dilman, the little I know of him, is up to the rigors of the office. He is adequately educated, modest, a good Party man, but I don’t think he is cut out of Presidential cloth. He may blunder us into considerable grief, unless we hold a firm rein on him. However, this I can assure you, Governor, and you may repeat my words to the Secretary of State-I cannot in good conscience go along with Miller in attempting legal gymnastics to prevent him from holding an office allowed him by the Constitution. I will not subscribe to that. On the other hand, I believe that what Senator Hankins is proposing to do does make a certain amount of sense-”

He halted to listen to Talley, nodding his head slightly at whatever he was hearing.

Since her father was not speaking, and the audio part of the television set was merely an indistinct hum, Sally concentrated on her coffee, as if this concentration would help eliminate her hangover. If she had not drunk so much at the Leroy Poole affair last night, she might have been in better shape now and this might have been an absorbing morning. In twenty-six years she could not remember a morning that gave so much promise of excitement, of an exchange of tidings and rumor.

Sally Watson was a girl who thrived upon turmoil. It stimulated her and gave her empty days meaning. When there bloomed confusion, scandal, the possibility of adventure, she was enriched. She would not have known this about herself, except for three short and almost fruitless efforts at self-understanding and adjustment with three concerned psychoanalysts in the last eight years. She knew also that when life did not provide this stimulation, her days became devoid of meaning, and she sought to fill them with drugs and drink.

She despised this need in herself, this weakness, and envied other women who controlled their restlessness with husbands, children, or careers. She was tangibly marked by her failure. She could see the mark now, as she drank her coffee, the white line across her right wrist, a permanent reminder of the dreadful time when she had slashed her wrist in an effort to solve everything. That had been seven or eight years ago, after she had been dropped from Radcliffe for the marijuana party (Senator Watson had “arranged” to have her quietly withdrawn from the school), and after she had tried to work for the advertising agency in New York City (Senator Watson had “arranged” the job), and after she had eloped to Vermont with the Puerto Rican musician (Senator Watson had “arranged” to keep the marriage out of the papers, and have it annulled, and have the boy deported). That feeble effort at self-destruction had been one institution and three analysts ago, very long ago, but the scar reminded her of what was possible, and for this she blamed her father, although she loved him, really, and her mother, in Rome with that parasite second husband who was a count, whom she hated and admired, and her stepmother, whom she disliked only for being an intruder and a bore.

Yes, she told herself, this morning-with T. C. dead and a Negro in the Presidency-might have been a ball. As one who had nothing but affection for the idea of death, who equated it with peace, she felt no loss at T. C.’s extinction. In truth, she had not cared for T. C. because he had refused, despite her father’s weighty intervention, to give her a job in the White House, and when she had mentioned it at the annual Congressional Dinner the President had given, he had teased her, and she had not been amused, only humiliated. So the events of the last day and night offered not loss but gain on the scales of adventure. A Negro President-my God, what must be going on around the city? If she had not had the damn hangover, she might have been on the phone at daybreak.

She had drained the cup of coffee, she realized, and her father was speaking once more. She tried not to listen to him but to herself, but his voice was too forceful to be ignored.

“All right, I’ll explain it to you, Governor Talley,” Senator Hoyt Watson was saying into the mouthpiece. “As you’ve remarked, the Senate has always reserved the right to approve of the President’s Cabinet appointments. He makes his choice, and we consent. After that, he retains all removal powers. He cannot hire alone, but he can fire alone. You mentioned the Tenure of Office Act of 1867. Hankins has a complete rundown on that. It was vindictive. It was meant to give the Senate complete control of President Andrew Johnson. It was the one and only time the Senate tried to curb the President’s removal powers. But it was known to be unconstitutional at the time, and, indeed, it was pronounced unconstitutional around sixty years later by the Supreme Court. Now, Hankins isn’t falling into that trap, and neither of us wants any repetition of the past. Therefore, Hankins-what? What was that, Governor?”

He listened a few seconds, and apparently interrupted Talley.

“No, hold your horses, Governor. I repeat that if we do something, it has to be under the law of the land. Now, Hankins hasn’t worked the wording out yet-I think we’ll have that in a day or two-but it is his intent to submit a revised-or new-succession bill at once. The idea would be that if this kind of tragedy ever took place again, the successor to the Presidency would merely act as a caretaker, a temporary Acting President, until the Electoral College could be reconvened and a full-time President and Vice-President be elected to finish out the unexpired term. As for our present situation, Hankins wants-and I think I subscribe to this-a retroactive clause stating that in order to preserve the present succession to the Presidency, as set up in 1947, so that this can’t be tampered with politically, those next in line to the office cannot be removed without a two-thirds consent vote of the Senate. In short, Secretary of State Eaton could not be removed, fired, willy-nilly. Neither could Secretary of the Treasury Moody or Attorney General Kemmler, the next two in line, be removed without our approval. I think-”

Abruptly he halted, his white-maned head cocked sideways, and then he resumed.

“No, I don’t know if it is constitutional. But it can serve us until it is tested. I haven’t the vaguest idea if Dilman would sign it or veto it-I don’t know that man at all, Governor, no one does-but if he has good faith, I think he will see the reasonableness and come along. I think this bill can be moved through to his desk quietly, without too much ballyhoo and fuss. I’m the last one to want it to appear that we are trying to manacle Dilman because of his race. As a matter of fact, Governor, I am approaching this New Succession Bill of Hankins’ not as something that may serve us only now, in this emergency, but as something that can serve us in the future, so that other successors cannot recklessly unseat their potential heirs and pack the Cabinet with persons of their own race or creed or party, or with incompetents who happen to be sycophants or relatives. In fact, I’m trotting over to the Hill now to see if I can assist Hankins with the language. I don’t want it to be a vindictive measure, but one that can be useful in the present and future. What’s that, Governor? Arthur Eaton wants to say-all right, put him on.”

With the second mention by her father of Secretary of State Arthur Eaton’s name, Sally Watson had become entirely alert and attentive. Now that her father was listening to Eaton, she bent forward, hoping to hear Eaton’s seductive voice on the phone, but it was impossible to hear a thing at this distance across the table.

At last she shut off the television set, rose, and noiselessly began to gather the breakfast dishes from the table. Normally, on maid’s day off, she and her stepmother did the dishes. But her stepmother had gone early to a Daughters of the Confederacy breakfast, and Sally lacked the patience to do this menial work by herself.

She emptied the leftovers into the garbage disposal, and waited for her father to finish.

Senator Watson was speaking into the telephone. “I concur, Arthur. I subscribe to everything you say. It will be judicious. I shall lend my weight to that. I will keep you closely informed… Let me add, I don’t seem to have had time up to now to tell you how sorry I am about the tragedy. I wasn’t as close to T. C. as you, but I respected him. It is a horrendous blow to the country. Nevertheless, the realities of life. We live with them. Let’s do our best… Good luck today, Arthur, good luck to both of us.”

From where she stood quietly at the sink behind him, Sally watched her father put away the telephone, pull free his napkin, wipe his mouth, and stand up. He appeared too self-absorbed to notice her. Yet she waited, eager to speak to one who had just spoken to Arthur Eaton.

“Dad-”

“Oh, hello, baby. I thought you were dressing. I’ve got to rush off. I’m late already.”

“Dad, I was listening to everything. It’s all very dangerous, isn’t it?”

He studied her for a moment. “Well, dangerous isn’t precisely the word. Nothing as ominous as that. Any new President creates certain problems for everyone, but a new one of Dilman’s race, in times like this, well, the problems are definitely heightened.”

Sally ran her fingers through her thick blond hair. “It gives me the chills to think how close Arthur Eaton came to being the President. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?”

Hoyt Watson disappeared into the next room a moment, and reappeared with his hat and birch cane. “Well,” he said, “with Eaton we’d have had an easier time of it, no question. Good man, Eaton.”

Sally was not satisfied. “Do you think Arthur Eaton could still become President?”

Thoughtfully Hoyt Watson tapped his cane on the kitchen linoleum. “Unlikely, Sally. If you understand what I was discussing with Talley, you know what is going on.”

“I have an idea.”

“Representative Miller likes to imagine that he is John C. Calhoun. It was Calhoun, you remember, who used to remark that it was false to believe that all men are born free and equal. The assumption, he used to say, was based upon facts contrary to universal observation. Well, now, time has passed Calhoun by, and the time and the law say all men are free and equal, no matter what the realities. In short, no matter how nostalgic I may be for the past, I’ve founded my entire career on progress and observing the law. Representative Zeke Miller thinks otherwise, and where once he might have had an overflow auditorium to applaud and support his sentiments, he will today find the auditorium only one-third filled. He wants to prevent Dilman from becoming President. He is acting out a dream of the past. He won’t succeed in ousting Dilman simply because Dilman is black, and in getting Eaton elected because he is white. Dilman is our President, improbable as that is to conceive.”

“What about the new law you were discussing?”

“Well, even if we get it, that won’t change things very much, not in actuality. It will only prevent Dilman from discharging Eaton, Moody, Kemmler, the rest of T. C.’s Cabinet. Our idea is that we want this Cabinet so that Dilman is encouraged to follow T. C.’s ideas and the Party’s wishes. Then, as a show of goodwill on our part, we’ve agreed not to elect either a new Speaker of the House or a President pro tempore of the Senate, so that no one precedes the succession line of T. C.’s Cabinet for the rest of the unexpired term. Instead, our House and Senate members will rotate the job of presiding on an alphabetical, weekly basis. That would be in the bill, too.”

“If the law passes, it would make Arthur Eaton the President-I mean, should something happen to Dilman, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, of course,” said Hoyt Watson. “But nothing’s going to happen to Dilman. We’ve had all the accidents we’re going to have, and Dilman is a young man, Arthur Eaton’s age, and strong as a bull, I’m sure.” Watson paused, and eyed his daughter keenly. “Why this sudden interest in politics, Sally? This is more than I’ve heard from you in a year. I’m gratified.”

Sally moved toward her father, eased his hat from his hand, and placed it on his head. “I’m not interested in politics especially, Dad. I’m interested in Arthur Eaton. I have enormous admiration for him. I’d like to see him the First Man in the country-after you, of course.”

Hoyt Watson chuckled. “You can forget about your father. He has everything he wants out of life. As to Eaton-” He looked down at her, and then he said, “Your interest in our Secretary of State wouldn’t be personal, would it? I’m just remembering. I thought I saw you spending an inordinate amount of time with him at Allan Noyes’s party.”

“I think he’s the most attractive man in Washington.”

“His wife thinks so, too,” Hoyt Watson said with a wink. He pecked Sally’s cheek, turned to go, then halted. “Tell your mother I may be late for dinner. I’ll try to call her later.”

He was gone, leaving Sally with a flare of resentment at his having referred to her stepmother as her mother. But the irritation was quickly dispelled as she tried to recollect everything her father had said about Arthur Eaton and his position in government today.

After stacking the dishes on the side of the sink, she went to her vast cream-colored bedroom. She pulled the drapes open, to find the day halfheartedly sunny. She went to her double bed, a mess from the gyrations of her restless, drunken sleep, and quickly drew the blanket and quilt over it. She moved to her tall mirrored dressing table, pulled her long green housecoat around her, and sat on the bench to make up.

Her gaze fell on the framed color portrait of her taken two years ago, just after T. C.’s inauguration, when she had played the Southern belle in that silly satire at the Press Club. She examined the portrait with detachment. When Arthur Eaton looked at her, was this what he saw? Her blond hair was combed high and curling to one side, her frank, emerald eyes were what countless crude young men had called “bedroom eyes,” her nose was small and agreeably tilted, the beauty mark at the left of the mouth accentuated her full crimson lips.

Of course, she reminded herself without swinging to the mirror, the portrait was two years old. It did not reveal the shadows under her eyes, born of twenty-four months of drinks and barbiturates. Nevertheless, she remained hypnotized by her color portrait. Her complexion was marvelous, milky white and flawless, then as now. Yet, it was not a usual pretty-Southern-girl face. There was something hidden behind it that was wild and pitiful, although its outer aspect was childish and moody. But interesting, she decided, interesting, and not too much of its attraction had been traded for the liquor and pills that she used to fight the insomnia and emotional self-hate of unlovely fornication. Then, too, there was more for Eaton that no portrait could reveal.

Impulsively, not bothering about the morning’s makeup, she came to her feet, unfastened the housecoat, and threw it across the bench. She made her way to the center of the bedroom, and slowly paraded, as poised as one can be in lace brassière and clinging panties, before the high mirror. The ravages of inner imbalance had not marred any feature of her slender, lithe figure. Her breasts were high and large, her belly flat, her hips boyish, her thighs and legs long and nearly perfect.

Satisfied, she returned to the bench and, casting the housecoat aside, sat down to devote herself to her makeup and Arthur Eaton, lucky man. Merging memory with hope, she relived her short, happy life with Arthur Eaton, and almost miraculously her hangover evaporated.

She had always been conscious of him, at least in the two and more years he had been Secretary of State, conscious of his incredibly handsome face with its contained sensuality, and of his breeding and manners. But then, she had not thought about him too much, certainly no more than she had ever thought about a motion picture hero, because he had often had his wife, that immaculate, haughty icicle, Kay Varney Eaton, on his arm, and there was no real connection to be made with him.

But Sally was a receptacle for gossip, sought gossip, welcomed it, stored it, and among the tidbits of gossip that had come to her was one, from a reliable source, that Eaton and his wife had separated. This rumor had been given some credibility six weeks ago, four large parties ago, when she had found herself sitting next to him at the dinner party given by Secretary of Defense Carl Steinbrenner. Eaton had been alone. No Kay Varney Eaton anywhere. She had discovered him similarly unattached at Tim Flannery’s crowded and raucous outdoor barbecue. And when the national Party chairman, Allan Noyes, had given his large cocktail and dinner affair during the hot spell, and many of the guests, including herself, had gone swimming in the pool late at night, she had been more certain than ever that Eaton had rid himself of that monstrous wife.

Finishing her eye makeup, she reexamined her relationship with Arthur Eaton. The first of their three public meetings, the Steinbrenner one, had been largely exploratory. She had perceived that Eaton had become conscious of her not only as an individual but as a glamorous and pretty girl. He had wanted to know about her, rather formally but persistently, and she had told him all that she believed he should know.

At the Flannery party he had come in sports coat and slacks-gorgeous man-and she had been wearing the open-necked jonquil silk blouse and yellow shantung skirt, and been bare-legged and gay, and he had sought her out, remembering things she had told him about herself, and then for the first time telling her something of his own life and feelings.

The Noyes party had been the best. After most of the guests had departed, he had been one of the few top-level ones to remain. He had sat in a deck chair near the pool, drinking brandy steadily, and his eyes had followed her from the cabaña to the pool. She had known that in her tight white two-piece swimming suit she was a feast for any male’s eyes. Later, drying, she had sat at his feet, joining him in the brandy, and when it was very late and they were almost the last, she had realized that her father had gone and that she must call a taxi. Eaton had insisted upon driving her to Arlington.

She still remembered the drive. They had both been drunk, or rather she had been drunk and he had been high, and she had sat curled close to him and held one of his hands when it was free from the wheel, and he had covered hers firmly with his own. In the darkened street before her house he had kept the motor idling, and then, never taking his eyes from her face, he had turned off the ignition.

“You are quite a young lady,” he had said. “I don’t think I have ever met anyone quite like you before.”

“I hope not. There’s no one anywhere like me.”

“I suppose you have a hundred young men to keep you occupied.”

“I could have. I don’t. Not one.” She waited, but he was silent, troubled, and so she had helped him. “I have no patience, any more, for immature children. I’ve had all the young intellectual buzzards, dedicated patriots, ex-collegians-on-the-rise I can stand. Too tiresome. If I can’t have what I want, I’ll pass.”

He had taken an eternity to say the next. “What do you want, Sally?”

Despite her intoxicated state, she had maintained her control. “Oh, I don’t know. Someone like Mrs. Eaton’s husband.”

“You’re teasing an old man, Sally. Not fair.”

“You’re not old at all, and I’m not teasing one bit.”

“I see… I must make a confession, too, Sally. I’ve found you more refreshing than anyone I’ve met in ages. I don’t have much free time, except occasional evenings. Perhaps you would let me call you for dinner sometime.”

Her heart had almost burst. “Anytime!” She had sat up in the front seat, gone across the wheel, taken his surprised face in one hand, and kissed him on the lips. “There,” she had said. “Now I’m a fallen woman, and you can’t abandon me. I’ll be waiting for that dinner.”

The morning after had been her best morning in years. But that entire day, and in the several days following, he had not called, and she had begun to believe that she had invested too much in his promise and her hope. Either he had been drunk and indiscreet, and had now sobered and forgotten the flirtation, or he had weighed it and decided that a married Cabinet officer could have nothing to do, no matter how innocent, with the neurotic half-his-age daughter of a senator. Then, in her misery and consequent drinking, Sally had decided that it was his wife who was to blame. Despite flimsy rumor, Kay Varney was his wife, and was coming home or was home already, and that was it, the fact of it, and good-bye rendezvous and good-bye dinner.

And then, the other evening or morning, she had forgotten which, she had read Reb Blaser’s column. Arthur and Kay Eaton were-it was in black print, rumor or not, it, was in print-separated, with divorce imminent. The effect upon her was like that of a half-dozen vodkas. She soared. She walked on air. She was ten miles high, and almost in orbit. Her prospects rose with her. The fact that Arthur Eaton had not yet telephoned her, as he had said he would, meant only that he was busy with man’s work and not that he was confined by husbandhood.

In her exhilaration Sally had wanted to telephone him, chide him for not keeping his word, but her instinct restrained her from this aggressive act. Also, she had told herself, it would have been in poor taste, after that wonderful Reb Blaser story. Eaton would call. Of this she was more certain than ever. If he did not, they would meet soon, and this time she would make sure that he knew of her desire for him. Yesterday she had even begun to think about contriving accidental meetings, when the Frankfurt tragedy had broken over her. As the daughter of a senator, she knew what that meant. Arthur would be busy for a while, busier than ever.

She had completed her makeup and was content with the result. She went to her wardrobe to search out the proper dress for this first day of a new administration, a day that had brought her Arthur (since Reb Blaser’s column, she had determinedly begun to regard him as her Arthur) to within a step of the Presidency. Holding out and rejecting dresses, she wondered how she could prove her love to Arthur Eaton. She could, of course, give herself wholly to him-not difficult-and let him be young once more and enjoy what he had certainly been deprived of by Kay Eaton. Still, such giving was too easy and rarely guaranteed endurance of a relationship. Mature men required much more. They wanted a woman interested in them, interested in their lives, their careers, a woman as concerned about them as they were concerned with themselves. At night a woman could resurrect a man’s ego in bed. But day had more hours. Successful women, the great courtesans of France, for instance, the mistresses of the rulers, women like Madame de Pompadour, survived and remained on top because they were not only love partners but helpmates. How could she be a helpmate to a public figure already so successful, the foremost member of the President’s Cabinet? How could she be of any use to a public figure who already possessed everything?

Just as she settled upon the simple blue Galletti suit and removed it from the hanger, something crossed her mind. She recalled her father’s conversation with Talley, and her own conversation with her father. Evidently Arthur Eaton did not have everything, yet. Overnight his position in the Cabinet was insecure. At the same time, overnight, he was the next in line to the Presidency. Senator Hankins and her father were working to keep him in the Cabinet, and believed that they would succeed. Representative Miller was working to make him President at once, but her father did not think this was possible. Clearly Arthur Eaton could use help. She wondered what help she could offer. If she were to come to know this Dilman, know him well, she might succeed, as a woman, where august councils failed. She might convince Dilman that Arthur Eaton was indispensable to him and to the country, that he must not only be retained as Secretary of State but must be given a heavy share of the Presidential powers. But she did not know Dilman, and it was hopeless, and then it occurred to her that she felt she knew Dilman, and then she remembered why.

It was because of last night’s party, the one that had given her the hangover, the one young Harriet Post, a Senate secretary who was as crazy as herself, had taken her to, a boozing, literary party of the avantgarde Washington crowd, lower-level, black-and-white. A Negro poet, reedy and homosexual and maybe talented, had given it in his unkempt, sparsely furnished, barnlike upstairs flat, above the hall with the sign over it, JESUS NEVER FAILS, on Georgia Avenue.

There had been at least forty persons coming and going, most of them Negro, all drinkers, all too full of T. C.’s death, all discussing the implications of Speaker MacPherson’s accession to the Presidency, and Sally had not enjoyed it particularly. Lately she had grasped at every invitation to a black-and-white party, because it was different, because it might mean a charge of excitement. Unlike her family, she had no feelings against Negroes. In fact, because of her sheltered upbringing in the South, she had always considered them attractive since they were forbidden and hence exotic, and because there were stories she had heard about the men. The stories were not true, she knew, from firsthand experimental evidence. After college, when she had met the jazz crowd from Harlem, she had slept with two of the colored boys in a band before running off with her Puerto Rican. Both brief affairs had been tiresome disappointments, no better, no worse than those with most of the white boys with whom she had slept. Perhaps she had expected too much. Perhaps the Negro musicians had not been able to give enough because they were inhibited by her Southern-supremacy origins.

The affair or wake last night had been a drunken bore. She had heard from Harriet about the guest of honor, Leroy Poole, and in fact thought that she had read some of his powerful essays on his years as a Negro in Harlem and on civil rights, and she had expected too much, again. Leroy Poole had looked like anything but an author. He had proved to be short, fat, perspiring, resembling nothing more than a jet-black eight ball. He had been supercilious and self-centered, too knowing and opinionated about everything and everyone in Washington and on the earth. He had repeated several choice anecdotes ridiculing MacPherson, who everyone had thought was the new Chief Executive.

Sally remembered that Poole had read aloud several passages from his second novel (still in the works, stream-of-consciousness), bitter narrative sections that made no sense and gave no fun when you were half drunk. After the applause he had explained the novel, and for a while his idea had held Sally’s attention. It was hard to recall it clearly the morning after, but there was something about the near future in the United States, something about a sudden outbreak of bubonic plague in the heavily Negro-populated county of a state similar to South Carolina or Louisiana (where some counties are 80 per cent Negro), but where the minority whites keep control because of their ties to the outside world. Overnight, to prevent the raging epidemic from spreading, this county is quarantined from the rest of the state and nation. No one can enter or leave. After a few months this isolated county has a population 90 per cent black, and 10 per cent white, and must live this way for several years.

“There it is, see?” Leroy Poole had squeaked, waving the manuscript in his pudgy fist. “Shoe on the other foot, see? Now we are the Ins and they are the Outs. How come? ’Cause gradual-like, the Negroes begin dominating the voting, buying and spending, law enforcement, the works. And pretty soon Negroes are running government, schools, business. And the poor whites left, the minority, what happens to them? Well, now, don’t you know? Negroes hire white women for their maids and white gents for their handymen. Now the whites go to the back of the bus, to the segregated lousy puking little white schools, and the Negroes got the run of the county. What do you say, friends, how’s that for an acidy parable?” She could recollect little more of it, or perhaps Leroy Poole had refused to tell any more. She had thought it rather novel and cruel, and wondered if he would finish it, and if he did, how it would be received.

Now, dressing, she realized that, by coincidence, Leroy Poole’s way-out fantasy of last night had-well, a small portion of it had-become a reality with Douglass Dilman’s accession to the Presidency. Her mind, remembering Dilman, remembered last night when she had found herself on a torn sofa beside Leroy Poole, listening to him discuss Dilman.

It all came back to her, the connection, Poole and Dilman, not what Poole had been saying. A Negro publisher had given Poole a sizable advance against royalties to write a biography of Senator Douglass Dilman, since Dilman was one of the highest-ranking Negroes in government. Poole had not been enthusiastic, for some reason, but had needed the cash to finish his novel, and had undertaken the chore. He had come to Washington weeks ago, received Dilman’s cooperation, and had been practically living with the Senator, gathering information on the Senator’s background and political career and ideas, and had already begun writing the made-to-order book. She recalled a thread of Poole’s conversation, to someone, to Harriet or herself. “I’ve gotten to know Senator Dilman better than he knows himself, I’ve been that close-but don’t hold it against me, sister!” He had screamed with laughter, a disconcerting high-pitched laughter, and after that she had left Poole for the bottle of Scotch.

Suddenly the creative process began to work inside Sally. She could almost feel it working, and she ceased buttoning her blouse to let it happen. Poole had said that Dilman was a widower, with a son, no one else. That was last night when Dilman was a senator. This morning he was the President of the United States, still a widower, with a son, and no one else. Who would run his life for him, the social part, the feminine part? A new President always made new appointments, hired new personnel. Whom would Dilman hire for his First Lady, his social secretary, his party giver? He might hold over some of T. C.’s staff, and the First Lady’s staff, but there would still be openings that would have to be filled, and there would certainly be resignations. Sally’s mind went to at least a half-dozen of her Southern girl friends who would not, or whose husbands or families would not let them, work under a Negro, President or no.

That was it, that was surely it, Sally exulted to herself. There would be an opening in the White House for a white girl of high social breeding and with a political background, to assist the new President, a girl who had many Negro friends and so could, in a natural way, give the President guidance in the world of white socialites about him. There would be an opening which she could fill, and in filling it give aid to that wonderful, kindly-looking Negro who had become Chief Executive, and in aiding him, gaining his dependence upon her, she could represent Arthur Eaton inside the White House. She could become Arthur’s helpmate on the highest level.

Only one piece of the puzzle was missing, and once that was in place the picture was there, made sense, and her future was assured. The missing piece was the image of the go-between who could get her offer of service to the new President himself. And she had that, too. Last night, last night, Leroy Poole, living with Dilman, writing about Dilman, last night a senator’s biographer, this morning a President’s historian.

Her mind fitted the last piece into the puzzle, and the picture that she saw and embraced was that of herself and Arthur, captioned by the lettering of her imagination: Secretary of State Arthur Eaton and Mrs. Sally Watson Eaton.

She ran to the cream-colored French telephone beside her bed, and then, as her hand clutched it, she tried desperately to remember the hotel where Leroy Poole was staying. Not the Shoreham, not the Mayflower, not the Hilton or Willard, no. What would that poor, struggling, fat little Negro writer be doing in one of those expensive big places? She eliminated the big hotels. She tried to think. It was some cheap hovel, ridiculously named, in the heart of town. She had heard it mentioned several times last night. It was on-yes, on F Street-heavens, but where-heavens-yes! That was it-Paradise-the Paradise Hotel on F Street.

She picked up the telephone and dialed for information…


* * *


The instant after the alarm clock went off, Leroy Poole opened his eyes, reached out and shut off the bell, flung aside his blanket, then settled back on the pillow and, lying perfectly still, began his daily morning exercise.

For five minutes, he performed this Spartan drill, a system of valuable and mystic calisthenics of his own invention, one known only to himself. As he engaged in it, he knew that his daily ritual would have astounded an outsider, especially a white outsider. Where most men did vigorous bends, push-ups, sit-ups to strengthen their muscles, to give tone to their physiques, Leroy Poole practiced an exercise consisting solely of remaining immobile on his bed, first contemplating his gross body, then conjuring up his gross past.

Once, wondering if this physical inactivity could be rightly regarded as exercise at all, Leroy Poole had looked up the word in Webster’s Dictionary. Exercise was, among other things, “Exertion for the sake of training or improvement, whether physical, intellectual or moral.” Pleased with the definition, he had continued to practice his peculiar form of exercise under its familiar name.

Leroy Poole’s morning exercise followed an unvarying routine. After awakening, and removing his blanket, he set his eyes on the mound of flesh before him, gazing at the flabby chest and jelly protrusion of stomach encased in capacious cotton pajamas. Sometimes he studied his hands, the fatness of the sausage fingers. He was not concerned with this obesity of the flesh, the distorted plasticity of it, for he had been told that it was the result of glands, not gluttony. Instead he was concerned that the outer softness so unfairly contradicted the inner hardness, making it more difficult for others, and himself as well, to take his aggressive word sermons and crusading pen seriously.

Since no physical exertion could reduce his body to the same hardness as that of his mind and heart, Leroy Poole compensated for this by toiling daily to invigorate and fortify what lay invisible beneath his skull and skin. Like Richard Wright, a boyhood idol, Leroy Poole had learned long ago that “there existed men against whom I was powerless, men who could violate my life at will,” and that their savage and unjust superiority must be combated, even unto death. He had to toughen his will against white men’s bribes: no money, no comfort, no intellectual rationalizing, no compromise promises of future Green Pastures, no white token acceptance and approval could be permitted to negate the searing helplessness and humiliation that he and his family had suffered, were suffering, or allowed to modify and weaken the determination in his mind and heart. These were the muscles-the inner muscles of righteous hate-that Leroy Poole sought to energize and sustain every morning. The exercise performed was a simple one: he remembered his past, and was strong again.

It was not always easy. It had not been easy this morning. Last night’s party had left him weakened, and a residue of this weakness remained. It had not been the drinks. He did not drink. His abstinence he owed less to the hellfire Baptist upbringing of his childhood than to the fact that drinks made black men as foolish as white men, but while white men could afford such lapses, black men could not. The weakness that carried over from the party was caused by the fact that he had been induced to read aloud a passage from his new novel, and relate some of the story, and he had been applauded and been made prideful and been lulled into believing, briefly, that life might not be so bad after all.

That was one impediment to his exercise this morning. Another was that he despised the work he must do in the next hours, days, weeks. He resented having to abandon his polemics, his angry and effective articles and essays on his experiences as a Negro and on his ideas about equality, for which he was poorly paid, to undertake a hack political biography that would profit him nothing but money. He resented, too, delaying his great novel, a moral earthquake that would shake the mossbacks and crackers of the South and the pretentious tolerators of the North from their fixed poles of prejudice. He resented delaying it in order to feed the vanity of stupid and ignorant Negro readers who wanted to enjoy vicariously the rise to Congress of one of their own color.

And there was more that distressed him after the alarm clock had jarred him from his sleep. He was ashamed of himself for the small corruption of making heroic, to his people, an undeserving ward heeler who, through servility and errand-running and ass-licking, had become a senator. If only he was presenting to his people the figure of a brave and true Negro leader like Jeff Hurley, his beloved friend, his superior in the Turnerites, it would be a worth-while and noble endeavor. But then, he knew, the Hurleys did not become congressmen in the paleface world. Only the handful of Dilmans could make it, because they were puking counterfeit whites. It distressed Leroy Poole that he must spend this precious day typing up notes of his last meeting with Dilman, preparing questions for the next interview, and then spend several months more writing the crummy, phony biography.

If he could not do his own work, he told himself upon awakening, then at the very least he should be at the barricades, where the action was, where the freedom fight would finally be won, just the way the whites had won their fight at Concord and Bunker Hill. He was miserable about the Turnerite fiasco in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, yesterday. He had known for some time, having learned about it from Hurley, that the first step in the new program was planned for yesterday afternoon. He had not known the result until last night. His mind went back to last night.

Because he had been offered a ride, and had research to do, he left the party early, over much protestation. The streets were curiously desolate, but then he supposed this was because T. C. had been killed and everyone was at home or in bars glued to television sets. There had been some talk between his driver, a Howard University boy, and himself about the President’s demise and what it might mean to their cause, and they agreed it meant nothing at all. Since the time Theodore Roosevelt had invited Booker T. Washington to the White House, no white President had proved any better than another for them. It was not yet ten o’clock when Leroy Poole was deposited before the small, three-story hotel, rising between an alley and a grocery store, its broken red neon sign shining out: PARADISE HOTEL.

He entered the minuscule lobby, with its spotted rug and seven threadbare chairs, and waddled to the reception desk. No one was there. Peering off, he saw the pimply young clerk at a table in the office, head in his arms, snoring softly. Leroy Poole went behind the desk, pulled down his key, and then walked toward the rickety self-service elevator. He paused at the newspaper rack, to buy the late edition, but the rack was empty. Disappointed because he had anticipated seeing the space the Mississippi demonstration received, he considered going out in search of a newspaper. At that moment he sighted one newspaper folded on a chair. It proved to be a discarded early evening edition, and the headlines proclaimed T. C.’s death and Speaker MacPherson’s succession to the Presidency.

Leroy Poole took the newspaper up to his second-floor room, and once he had bolted his door, he sought the results of the Turnerite demonstration in Hattiesburg. As page after page made no report of it, he began to believe that the newspaper had been printed too early to carry the news. And then, on page eighteen, he found it.

The wire service story was brief: To counteract the terror of the revived Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, a Negro activist group, the Turnerites, had sent twelve members, wearing black hoods and robes, to picket a department store owned by the local Klan’s Grand Dragon; the white proprietor had rushed out, unmasked one Turnerite picket, and thrown sulphuric acid in his face, permanently blinding him; the Negroes had gone berserk, beating the white Klan leader, smashing his store windows and damaging most of the showcases inside; the armed police and their dogs had come, and two of the Turnerites were in the county hospital, critically injured, and the other ten were in jail.

The news report infuriated Leroy Poole in two ways. First, it related that the Turnerites had retaliated for Klan violence with peaceful if dramatic picketing, and, as always, had been brutally attacked; and second, this horrible story, deserving of a page-one notice which might inspire national revulsion and action, had been buried on a back page because, unluckily, the President of the United States had died.

This defeat, as well as all his other frustrations and disappointments, had again filled his head, the instant the alarm jangled this morning. It would not be easy to undertake his daily exercise, and for seconds he considered skipping the exercise this once, but then he knew that he must not permit himself any inner flabbiness.

After that, he began his calisthenics.

Alabama. State flower: camellia. State tree: Southern pine. Motto: We Dare Defend Our Rights. Whose rights, you bastards? Father, a cotton picker, old, old at forty, dead at forty-one of malnutrition, pneumonia, fright. Mom, maid, cook, laundress, slavery (“Look, old lady, we know that lying nigger talk of yours, so if you’re too sick to come to work, you stay sick and stay home for good”). Older sister, prostitute for peckerwoods, not even mossbacks, but red-neck pecker-woods, the gutless bitch. Older brother, high I.Q., a shoeshine entrepreneur. His favorite cousin, grave outside Mobile. Almost a teacher. Walking in the woods with an educated white girl. Seen. Next day, six grabbed him, putting a blowtorch in his face. Leroy, Mom’s hope, youngest, running scared, hiding scared, hungry. Jewed by the hunchback, kicked and stoned by the squat red-necks, stealing once, twice, three times, wanting books, wanting everything, having nothing, but shoved, spat upon, threatened, cursed at, slapped, scared, always scared.

Pennsylvania. State flower: mountain laurel. State tree: hemlock. State motto: Virtue, Liberty, and Independence. Job in a trucking firm. Bullied and underpaid. No friends. No service in restaurants. No rooms in rooming houses. No nothing. Only freedom to read and read and read. College. Himself lonely, isolated, freakish. Scared, writing good English papers, amusing one white girl. She curious. Some meetings to talk literature. Discovered. Boy friends “protecting” her. Behind the gym at night. Holding him down, pulling off his pants, shorts, brandishing knives, then laughing (“Not enough to cut off, black boy, but keep it buttoned or you’ll lose it”). Humiliated, scared, quitting. North worse than South, because of pretense. North worse, because no place else to go.

New York City. New York Harlem. Flower: none. Tree: none. Motto: Don’t Want Your Daughter, Mister, Just Want Half Her Freedom. Black ghetto Harlem. Squalid, stinking, poverty, danger. Knives, booze, heroin, hot goods. Fleabags and tenements, and dinner out of garbage cans. Listening to New York voices, white: They’re illiterate, they’re shiftless, they’re not dependable, they’re criminals, they’re best in their place. Listening to Harlem voices, black voices: They sure is mean folk, they smells more than us, they is gougin’ crooks, they scared of us more than us of them, they no good never. Talk a waste. Learning, improving, escaping, all that counts. Reading books still free. Finding writer’s magazine in library, finding writing is paid for. Writing, writing, writing, first writing foolish white writing for money, can’t sell, then writing the Leroy way about what’s inside, crude, true, and the small magazine saying come over, and the Jew editor, a good Jew, saying you write, we’ll buy. Writing, writing, writing, and never stopping until his people make the scene, the American scene, but all of it still too slow. Need to cry out, to protest. Need to talk to someone, Mom too far, too scared. Joining everything. NAACP. Too slow. Crispus Society. Too slow. New thing, Turnerites, doers, not scared. Better. Much better. Mister, what’s wrong with me marrying your daughter? What’s so special about her? And, mister, who in the hell are you that’s in any way better than me?

As this exercising went on, strength growing through hot memory of oppression, Leroy Poole began to feel invigorated and purposeful. He decided that he would do one more minute of it before rising. His mind returned to the South, to personal offenses, to recollections of being shoved off the street, hustled to the rear of a bus, to degradations that he had witnessed, to recollections of his cousin being turned away from the polling place, his best friend being hooted away from the white high school. His mind did these push-ups, sit-ups, bends; his mind shadowboxed and ran a mile, until the blood throbbed in his temples, and his breathing came in gasps, and the rage coursed through his blood to quicken his heart and his determination never to relent.

It was the ringing of the telephone that stopped his exercise.

Satisfied with his preparation for the day, he shoved himself off the bed, hitched up his pajamas, and on bare feet hastened to the chipped telephone next to the armchair. Sitting, taking up the phone, he hoped that it would be Jeff Hurley, with a full report of the Mississippi trouble, and anxious to enlist Leroy Poole’s advice as a member of the Turnerite strategy board.

“Yeh, hello?”

“Oh, hello there. I hope I have the right room. Is this Leroy Poole, the writer?” The voice from the other end surprised him, for it came from a female, unmistakably from a refined Southern female.

“That’s right. This is Leroy Poole.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting your work, Mr. Poole. This is Sally Watson. Remember me?”

The name reminded him of no lady of his acquaintance. This did not surprise him. There were not many. However, occasionally club-women called, to request him to lecture or sit in on a civil rights panel. “I’m not sure, ma’am. The name is familiar.”

“Last night,” she was saying, somewhat distraughtly. “We met last night at the party for you. I was there with a friend. I’m Senator Hoyt Watson’s daughter-”

He placed her now. The well-shaped, edgy blonde. “Of course,” he said, “of course. How could anyone forget you?” He swallowed, restrained himself, not yet prepared to go on in this vein with a white girl, not while the remembrance of his cousin’s grave outside Mobile and his own humiliation behind the college gym were alive within him. “I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting you, Miss Watson.”

“And I enjoyed hearing you read from your new novel. I think it’s wonderful.”

Wonderful, he thought, a savage novel in which whites were reduced to a ten-per-cent minority in one imagined American county. “I’m glad you were open-minded enough to like it,” he said.

“Don’t let my accent or my father’s voting record fool you,” she said. “I’m quite my own person, and I count at least fifty Negroes among my good friends.” She paused, and then she said, “You must be very excited about the news this morning.”

“What news?” he asked.

“The new President, I mean.”

“Oh, that. I read all about it last night. I don’t think there’s anything especially exciting about MacPherson becoming President. He-”

“MacPherson?” She almost screamed the name through the telephone. “You mean you don’t know?”

He was utterly bewildered. “Know what? I just woke up, and I-”

“MacPherson died, too. One of your own people was sworn in as President last night. Your friend Douglass Dilman.”

The news vibrated in his ear. He sat thunderstruck, speechless and uncomprehending.

“Mr. Poole, are you there?”

“I-yes-I-are you sure? I can’t believe it.”

“It’s the truth. It’s all over the place. Everyone’s talking about it. Well, I’m glad I could bring you the news-”

“Miss Watson, you’ve knocked me out. I’d better turn on my radio and find out what’s been going on. I sure appreciate your-”

“Mr. Poole,” she called to him urgently, “I really phoned about something else. I wanted to discuss a personal matter-”

“Look, jingle me back in ten minutes, will you? I’ll be right here. Thanks, Miss Watson.”

He slammed the receiver down, almost certain that he was having his leg pulled, jumped up, and found his tiny red transistor radio. As he switched it on, he became positive that she had been teasing him. How in the devil could a rabbit-hearted twerp like Dilman become President of the United States? He was only a second-rate senator, and a Negro besides. That dizzy, sick dame, with her sadistic Southern joke, damn her.

The volume on the transistor radio was turned high, and the pontifical voice of a network editorial philosopher engulfed him. He listened, incredulous, and then began spinning the selector to other stations. There were news broadcasts. There were interpretive analysts. There were discussion panels. There were taped reports from the man on the street. There were faded reports from London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, Tokyo. Miss Watson was right. It was true. His boy Dilman was the Chief Executive of America the Beautiful. Lor’ Mighty! I’ll be John Browned!

He listened for five minutes, until he had the facts and they had sunk in, and then he turned the radio off. He wheezed about the room in his baggy pajamas, trying to sort it out, convert it into a facsimile of reality. Once he interrupted his walking, thinking, to ring the desk downstairs and ask the clerk to send the handyman next door for a carton of coffee and a doughnut, overcoming resistance with the promise of an extravagant half-dollar tip.

He resumed his heavy pacing, which finally led him into the closet-sized bathroom. By the time he had finished his quick shaving, nicking himself twice, his washing, and had changed into sweat shirt, corduroys, and moccasins, his mind had moved from the enormity of the news and narrowed down to himself. What did this upheaval mean to Leroy Poole?

His weeks of intimate conversation with Dilman made it clearly evident that the Senator, now President, was a loner. Whenever Poole had begged for relatives or friends whom he might consult for more objective information, Dilman had turned him aside. “I have almost no one close to me,” he had said. Eventually Poole had extracted several names: Dilman’s son, Julian, at Trafford University; Dilman’s maiden aunt, Beatrice, in Los Angeles; Dilman’s old sponsor and still political boss in his home state, the union leader, Slim Dubowsky; Dilman’s tenant, the Reverend Paul Spinger; Dilman’s acquaintance, the national chairman of the Party, Allan Noyes; Dilman’s good friend in the Second World War, the liberal trial attorney, Nathan Abrahams, in Chicago. “That’s about it, Leroy,” Dilman had said on that occasion. “Fact is, except maybe for Nat Abrahams, you yourself know me as well as, maybe better than, any of them.”

Of this list of friends, Poole now saw, he himself was one of the three who were in Washington, near at hand, ready with friendship and counsel. In short, his association with Dilman could be turned to profit, now that Dilman was the head of the country.

First off, the hack biography, since its subject was on all lips, would not be just another book that sold three thousand copies, but would be an intimate, inside look at a new President that might sell a hundred thousand copies. It could make Leroy Poole wealthy and give substance to his by-line. Second, and more important, far more important, there was his relationship with the President; their scheduled meetings in the coming weeks would give Leroy Poole access to the ear of the most powerful figure in the United States.

Dilman, as Leroy Poole saw him, was a weak and tentative public servant, who had spent so many years mouthing the Party’s pronouncements that he had become a mere ventriloquist’s dummy for his white superiors. He was unoriginal, without a single dynamic or progressive idea or program of his own. His head was a receptacle of platitudes and ayes. But it was a head, and it could be filled with ideas by one near enough to him. The possibility excited Poole. With real effort he might make Dilman swallow, digest, and regurgitate the Turnerite demands for full equality now. And even more might be accomplished. Great Negroes-forceful ones, brilliant ones, like Jeff Hurley-might be appointed to high and key government offices, possible, possible, provided there was one at Dilman’s arm to guide him in the right direction, even push him ahead.

Leroy Poole left the bathroom to answer the knock at the door with the conviction that fate had made his own future role unique. At last, as never before, in a way more effective than his essays and books, or his work on the Turnerite board, he could help promote his people to their rightful place.

He accepted the carton of tepid coffee, learning the cream and sugar were already in it, and the crushed doughnut, and reluctantly handed out a quarter and a half dollar for the breakfast and tip. After closing the door, he felt less worried about his extravagance. He was way up there now, potentially rich, potentially the savior of his people.

Then, gradually, as he squatted on the armchair to drink his coffee and munch the tasteless doughnut, the conviction that he might serve himself and every Negro through Dilman became fainter. Dilman, no matter what had happened, was still no more than the man Poole had come to know and despise. Dilman was as scared of whites as Poole himself had once been. Dilman had never once tried to break out of the servile, bowing, watermelon world of the Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas. He was a figurehead fink, using his color in a state where it mattered, to gain office, rejecting his color in the gentleman’s Chamber of the Senate, where it mattered more. How could a person who trembled so constantly even hold onto a new idea? How could a person always backing away from responsibility be reached?

In fact, Old Chub the Rabbit-Hearted might even renege on the biography now, Poole realized with a shudder. In the last minutes, the biography had become as valuable to Leroy Poole as a First Folio Shakespeare. As an obscure senator, Dilman had been afraid of the biography, recoiling from any attention. It had taken the intervention of the foremost Negro publisher in America, and pressure from several Negro leaders, including Spinger, to convince Dilman that a short, innocuous, political biography would be more useful to him than harmful.

Immediately after Poole had arrived in Washington, he had found Dilman reserved and tongue-tied about discussing his personal life. Cleverly Poole led the Senator into discussions of his public career. Since the facts had been published, Dilman had proved easier, more amiable, more talkative. Recently Poole had led him back to his private life, and Dilman, at last conditioned to these interviews, more trusting of his interrogator (who had not told him of his connection with the Turnerites), had been more helpful, but still not frank and open. If Dilman had been so timorous before, Poole wondered, how would he be now, when his every word might be examined by a suspicious or hostile citizenry? Would he call Leroy Poole in and tell him that the project was finished? Or would he simply evade Poole, postpone interviews, and allow the project to languish and die?

Leroy Poole put aside his coffee container, wiped the crumbs from his mouth as he brought the telephone to it, and put in a call for Dilman’s secretary, Diane Fuller, in the Old Senate Office Building. Told that her line was busy, Poole waited. Presently he heard her harassed voice, her speech ungrammatical as it was whenever she was under tension. Poole had always been flattering to the scrawny, nervous colored girl, because he had long ago learned that personal secretaries were important, sometimes alter egos, and even if Diane did not measure up, it paid to play it safe. As ever, Poole greeted her effusively, and congratulated her on the elevation of her boss.

“Oh, what a day,” she groaned. “Everybody’s callin’, and it ain’t-isn’t-no fun. I don’t know what’s goin’ on here, Leroy.”

“Then I won’t keep you, honey chile,” Leroy Poole said sympathetically. “I just want to know where I stand. I have an appointment with him day after tomorrow, around two in the afternoon. He was going to give me a full hour. But now that he’s moved from the Senate to the White House, I want to be sure the date’s still good and to know where to come. Has he had time to mention it?”

“Leroy, so much is happening, I haven’t even seen him yet. Got to talk to him once on the phone, no more. I don’t know where he is or what he plans. I have your date on the calendar. First chance I get today or tomorrow, I’ll remind him.”

“That’s my sweetie pie. And look, I want to be reasonable. The poor guy’s been hit on the head with a country. If he’s crowded day after tomorrow, you tell him I can wait. But try to get a firm appointment out of him for this week, even if it’s a shorter time.”

“Sure thing, Leroy, I’ll call you… whoa, there’s three other phones. Good-bye.”

Leroy Poole sat back deeper in the chair, still holding the telephone in his lap. Of course, he had almost enough material to do the biography without any additional interviews with Dilman. He could see other people, which he had not done yet, and use clippings. Still, that was not the point. He wanted to maintain his person-to-person contact with Dilman. He must fight for nothing less.

The telephone in his lap shrilled at him, and he juggled it, undoing the receiver, then retrieved it.

“Yeh, hello?”

“Mr. Poole? Sally Watson again. Remember, you told me I could call back.”

“That’s right.”

“Have you heard the news for yourself by now?”

“Miss Watson, I not only heard the news, I’m trying to make some of it myself,” he said cockily. “It’s quite an experience, having someone you know, someone you’re dealing with, become President.”

“That’s why I’m calling you, Mr. Poole. I hope I’m not being presumptuous. If I am, you tell me. To be perfectly honest, even though I hardly know you-well, actually I feel that I do-I’ve read so much of your work-I want to ask a favor of you.” She paused. “There, I’ve said it.”

He puzzled over what on earth he could possibly do for a rich white girl whose father was a senior powerhouse in the Senate. “You name it, Miss Watson. If it’s something I can do, I’ll be glad to oblige.”

“I mean, I don’t go around asking people favors like this,” she said. “I’ve never done this before. But maybe you won’t mind. I know a lot of people on my own. Maybe one day I can be of help to you-not that you need it, with your genius.”

Impatience nudged Leroy Poole’s curiosity. “Like I said, name it.”

She seemed to exhale her request through the earpiece. “I want you to help me get a job with President Dilman.”

The request bewildered him. “A job with him? Why, I don’t know that I have all that much standing with him, Miss Watson,” he said. “Can’t your father do that better for you? After all, they were fellow senators, on the same side of the aisle.”

“Yes, I know,” she said hastily, “but that would be awkward for a hundred reasons. Besides, my father doesn’t know President Dilman as well as you do, and even if he did, it would be a little difficult for him to pop right in and ask for Party patronage.” Her tone became a plea. “You’ll be with the President constantly. It would be easy for you. I’m sure he’d listen.”

Leroy Poole straightened, gratified to have become Dilman’s adviser. He weighed her request. Her background was important. Intervening on her behalf was no skin off his ass. You did a favor, you had a debtor. It was good to have investments outstanding. When he saw Dilman-if he saw him-he could just toss it out, and if Dilman said yes or no, at least he had his debtor. “Miss Watson, I think you’d better tell me, what kind of job have you got in mind?”

“I want to be his social secretary.”

“Forgive me for being naïve, Miss Watson, but exactly what does that mean?”

“Every President has a White House social secretary. Sometimes his wife has one, too. But now there’s no First Lady, so the President will need someone competent and experienced for both jobs. The social secretary helps the President with his-well, his social life, getting up lists, sending invitations, calling around to arrange cocktail parties, dinners, informal gatherings in the White House. Both T. C. and President Johnson had marvelous social secretaries, but President Dilman needs someone even better. His problems are more complex. Not having a wife or daughter, he’ll have to have someone who knows all levels of Washington society. And, well, the fact that he is colored, he may want someone who-well, Mr. Poole, you know-who is understanding, and so forth. I fill the bill.”

She had entered Poole’s grounds, and he challenged her. “Where you from, Miss Watson?”

She sounded disconcerted. “You mean where I was born and raised? I was born in Louisiana. My mother lives in New Orleans. Well, now she’s in Rome, but-and my father, well, you know, he’s-”

“How’s it going to look, Miss Watson, a daughter of the Confederacy working so close to a Negro?”

“I told you how I feel. I don’t have those die-hard sentiments. I was educated in the East. You saw me at the party last night. I like your people.”

“I don’t mean how’s it going to look to you, Miss Watson. I mean how’s it going to look to your father? Even if Dilman took you on, do you think your father’d allow it?”

“Mr. Poole, not my father, not anyone, waves me around like a Confederate flag,” she said with a tinge of anger. “I’m over twenty-one. I’m an American like you and the President. I belong to me and I do as I please. I want a job where my background can be useful. I think that’s the right job for me. Above all, I think I might be of use to the President. I can send you a résumé of my experience and abilities, to show to him. I can send you a list of persons, high up as Cabinet members, who would recommend me. Won’t you help me?”

“Miss Watson, I like your sound, and I dig you. Yes, I’ll try to make a pitch for you. I’ll do my best.”

“When? Do you have an idea? I’d like to apply before everyone else begins pestering him.”

“I’m supposed to see him this week. If we speak on the phone earlier, I’ll mention you right off. Like I said, I’ll do my best. Whatever happens, I’ll call you.”

“Let me give you my number-”

“Wait, I don’t have a pencil.”

“Well, no matter, I have my own phone. I’m listed as Watson, Sally, in the Arlington book. I don’t know how to thank you enough.”

“Only thank me if I’m lucky. If I am, just see that I’m invited to one of those White House dinners someday.”

“I’ll do more. I’ll have hundreds of copies of your book there, waiting to be signed. Thanks, Mr. Poole. I’ll be living by the phone. Goodbye.”

Setting down the telephone, Leroy Poole crossed to the cheap pine desk on which his portable typewriter rested, located a pencil, and jotted a reminder to mention Sally Watson to Dilman, if and when. He then knelt, opened his suitcase under the desk, and pulled out two unwieldy legal-sized manila folders. One contained the typed transcript of his interviews with Douglass Dilman. The other was filled with typed research notes, newspaper clippings, photostats of magazine articles, and mimeographed handouts, all giving data on Dilman and his public record, on the Senate’s rules and history, and on Dilman’s home state and its politics; and there was also associated material on other Negroes who had served, or were currently serving, in Congress.

Returning to the armchair, he set the research folder on the floor and opened the folder of typed transcripts before him. He put aside the pages covered with penciled notes of his last talk with Dilman, four days ago, which still had to be typed. He began to study what had already been typed, the result of at least two dozen sessions with Dilman, his questions, Dilman’s answers.

The ringing of the telephone shattered his concentration. Hastily he closed the folder, shoved it between his leg and the arm of the chair, and brought the receiver before him, hoping that this was the call he wanted.

“Yeh, hello?”

“This is Memphis, Tennessee, long-distance operator. Is this Mr. Leroy Poole?”

“Right.”

“Please hold on a moment. Your line was busy. I’ll have to ring your party.”

“Operator, who’s calling?”

“Uh-Mr. Jefferson Hurley. One moment, please.”

Leroy Poole could feel the smile creasing in his face. Hurley had not neglected him after all. Busy as he was, having moved from Topeka down to Memphis, obviously to set up a base closer to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Hurley still had found time to consult with him. Poole gloried and preened at the compliment, not so much of being a member of the Turnerite inner circle as in being Jeff Hurley’s friend.

Waiting to hear the deep, thick voice, which never failed to move him, he visualized Jeff Hurley, whom he had seen too infrequently in the three years since they had met at a Crispus Society meeting on New York’s East Side. Hurley was a beautiful giant, at thirty-three but a year older than Poole, a self-educated, spellbinding, coffee-colored genius, determined and fearless, cleverer than any white man, unafraid of any human being, white or black. The Turnerite Group had been Hurley’s creation, hewed from the Crispus Society’s dead heartwood, a great and pulsating splinter committee secretly set upon a course of direct and immediate action to achieve equality now.

Hurley had given the Group its arrogant name because of his admiration for the brave Negro farmer and preacher, Nat Turner, who had dared to rebel against Virginia slavery in 1831. With five followers Turner had ranged through Southampton County, a vengeful black Moses determined to lead his children out of Egypt to freedom, and in the course of his rebellion he had slaughtered sixty whites. Freedom had not been won, and over one hundred colored men were to die from retaliation, but a point had been made. Never again would the South feel safe with its slaves.

Hurley’s Turnerites wished to make no point. They desired to lead no chosen people to a Promised Land. Their goal was to make the United States that Promised Land, the one promised in the Constitution, and to do so by force, if necessary. The black-hooded picketing yesterday, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, had been their first move. If it, or the Turnerite actions to follow, were thwarted, Hurley had promised, like the white Moses of the Jews, like the Moses of the blacks, Nat Turner, to respond with “an eye for an eye.” The Southern leaders had ranted against Hurley, the Northern leaders had chastised him for intemperance and impatience, and Spinger’s Crispus Society (in which many Turnerites still retained membership) had pleaded with him to observe due process of the law. Now, in Hattiesburg, Hurley and his Group had been assaulted bodily and hurt without just cause. Those who still recalled Hurley’s fiery press pronouncements would be wondering: Would his Old Testament warning be acted out?

Waiting at the telephone, Leroy Poole had no doubts. In all communities of people, you separated the men from the boys by determining which were the doers and which the talkers. Hurley was a doer. Leroy Poole adored him. It was not only Hurley’s authority that appealed to Poole, but the gorgeous physical aspect of the man, his short-cropped, glossy dark hair, his liquid brooding eyes, his aquiline nose, his gleaming teeth. This was the human being Leroy Poole wanted to be, but since the metamorphosis was an impossibility, it gratified Poole simply to stand beside that human being forever. For Poole, the best safety that he had ever known had been that offered by Hurley’s mammoth arm around him, Hurley’s hearty laughter, Hurley’s electrifying instructions. Leroy Poole had given only a part of himself, in friendship, to many black men and a few black women, but Jeff Hurley (whether Jeff knew it or not) was the only one of either sex for whom he would have given his life.

From far Memphis he felt Hurley enfold him. “Leroy? You there?”

“Jeff-Jeff-how are you?”

“I guess I’m the guy who knows the guy who knows the new President of the United States. How about that, Leroy? Speak of shocks-”

“I still can’t believe it.”

“I don’t know the reaction up your way, but down here you’d think old Nat Turner himself had overthrown the government of the United States. Almost every Memphis, white is apoplectic. Even here on Beale Street our brothers are numbed, full of joy and fire-works inside but afraid to display it.”

“The question is-what do you think, Jeff?”

“I don’t know what to think yet. I know nothing about Dilman except for a couple of cracks you’ve made in your letters. I gather you haven’t much high regard for him. You once called him a doughface.”

“Did I? Well, maybe that was too strong. He doesn’t exactly support the Southerners. Up to now I’ve just sort of felt he was less interested in equality than in self-survival. You know, Jeff, the kind of person who doesn’t even want to stop and help out when he sees someone in trouble or being wrongly hurt. He just wants to be left alone. Maybe that was understandable yesterday, but today’s a new day, and he’ll find no one’s going to leave him alone. What it comes to is who’s going to get to him first and strongest, and then he’s going to have to show if he’s nothing but a scarecrow stuffed full of bought ballots or if he’s a colored man with guts. I don’t have high hopes, Jeff.”

The voice from Memphis was momentarily still. Poole waited patiently, and at last he heard Hurley speak. “We’ll see soon enough, we’ll find out if they’ve made our man into another hanky-head. Things are moving fast, Leroy, and we’re not letting anyone ignore them.”

“That was awful, what happened down there in Hattiesburg. Was someone really blinded?”

“Yes, Simon was, poor bastard. Completely sightless, of all the rotten things. And Marvin’s sustained a skull fracture, but he’ll live. The other ten are okay, as okay as anyone can be in those stinking cell blocks.”

“When are they going to be let out?”

“Let out?” Hurley snorted bitterly. “They come up for sentencing in a day or two-”

They come up for sentencing?” Leroy Poole shouted. “Je-sus, what did they do but peaceably picket in some Halloween costumes? What about the Grand Dragon who threw the-”

“Leroy, Leroy, you know better than that. Those folks can’t do anything wrong, just like we can’t do anything right. The charges against our boys are a mile long. Disturbing the peace, inciting a riot, assault and battery-you name it; whatever’s in the book is being thrown at them. Worst of all, a county judge named Everett Gage is going to be on the bench, reading the sentence. We’ve got the biography on him. Twice in ten years he let off proven lynchers. And they’ve built a special cemetery, in some swamp, just to hold the Negroes he’s sentenced to hard labor.”

“What are you going to do, Jeff?”

“I’m heading down to Little Rock in an hour, and if Judge Gage does what’s expected, I’ll probably set up a base of operations in Shreveport. Then, if necessary, some of us’ll do what has to be done.”

“You mean-?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Leroy Poole was suddenly unnerved. “Jeff, one thing. You talk about the sentencing. Didn’t our boys plead Not Guilty?”

“Sure thing.”

“Well, what about the trial first?”

“I omitted it to save long-distance charges. Leroy, you’ve been away from your South too long.”

“Yeh.”

Hurley’s voice came on more forcefully. “There is one thing that does count, and that’s an appeal carried on our behalf by an important attorney. Something to stir up pressure, force them into second thoughts, into moderation. That’s primarily why I called you.”

“What can I do, Jeff?”

“I’ll tell you what I’ve done, and what you can do. You’ve heard of Nat Abrahams-?”

“The lawyer?”

“The one who got those Mexicans off in California, and did that great job for the NAACP in Ohio. I tried to get through to him in Chicago. He was gone. His associate, fellow named Hart, said he was on his way to Washington. I explained the urgency of our case, and asked where we could contact him in Washington. Hart said Nat Abrahams was turning down all criminal cases, was involved with something new in your city. Leroy, I’d like to-”

Poole interrupted, remembering what had been nagging at him as he listened. “Wait, Jeff, something just came to mind. This Nat Abrahams, he’s the one-when Dilman gave me the names of relatives and friends to interview, he named Nat Abrahams of Chicago as one of his best friends.”

Hurley whistled. “Great. Better than I hoped for. I was going to ask you to look up Abrahams when he arrives, make a special plea for him to intervene for us on the appeal. But this is better, much better. When are you seeing Dilman again?”

“Well, now that he’s become President-”

“See him.” It was a command, and Leroy Poole came to attention. “See him,” Hurley repeated, “and when you see him, make sure he knows what’s happened to the Turnerites down in Mississippi, what’s happened to his people. Tell him you’d like him to get his friend Nat Abrahams to give us a little help. Tell him we’re desperate, anything you like. We need Abrahams, and no matter how busy he is, I can’t see him saying no to the President of the United States.”

Poole was worried. “I can’t see Abrahams saying no to Dilman either, but I sure can see Dilman saying no to me. You should look at the notes of my talks with Dilman. He’s chicken. He’s a let’s-make-haste-slowly fink.”

“Did you ever feel him out on the Turnerites?”

“I sure did. He hemmed and hawed, weaseling all the way. It’s in my notes.”

Hurley’s tone had become fiercer. “Send me a copy of your notes on Dilman. Everything. In return, I’ll send you something today, some information that’ll maybe help you turn Dilman from a chicken to a bantam cock. Try your best, Leroy, any way you can. Get your man in the White House to deliver Abrahams to us. If you succeed, you’ve done a great service for us, and we’ve got a real fighting chance.”

“What if I can’t make it, Jeff?”

“Then we’re going all the way, like we agreed.”

“I-I’d hate that, Jeff.”

“You think I’d like it? But it’s that or nothing now. We’ve been knocked around long enough. Maybe it’s time we punch back hard.”

“All right, Jeff.”

“First things first. Before you pitch the President, make sure Nat Abrahams is in Washington. Once you’re sure, you get in there with Dilman, because right now it’s either the lawyer way or the other way, one or the other, but whichever, it’s got to be fast. We’re going fast from here on in.”


Even an electric razor did not make the task of shaving easier on a swaying, speeding train. Ridding oneself of a thick stubble, while in rapid transit, required the steady hand of a surgeon and the concentration of a yogi. He possessed neither attribute this sulky gray morning. He blamed his unsure hand and his wandering mind on the stunning news that he had heard in Akron last night. He had been up half the night with it, following its implications along every dead-end tangent, and back again, and over again, and a few hours’ sleep had not alleviated the disturbance.

Grunting surrender, Nat Abrahams gave up.

Unplugging the cord, wrapping it around the electric razor, he considered the results of his shaving in the dim yellow mirror of the cramped, rattling compartment lavatory. A sadly uneven job, but then God had been there first, he decided wryly. No electric gadgetry could smooth the Maker’s work. Nor did Nat Abrahams really care much. The twin in the mirror with its shock of unruly brown hair, lined forehead, bushy eyebrows, sunken eyes, hooked nose between high cheekbones, amused mouth, prominent jaw, all gaunt, sallow, keen, had been faithful friend and partner through most of his quixotic idiocies and adventures for most of his years. The six-feet-and-one-inch twin-not only the face, but the lanky, ungainly, sinewy structure appended to it-had frightened off few clients (well, maybe a few fastidious ones), lost few juries, antagonized few judges. It had won him Sue. It had collaborated to gain him mighty pleasures and minor reputation. Who could ask for anything more?

He smiled with self-mockery. Who could ask for anything more? He could. He could ask for one thing more-money-money, and plenty of it. The unselfish need of it, after years of treating it as a time-wasting intruder, was the only thing on earth that could have put him on this rushing train from Chicago to Washington, D.C., in his busiest August yet. He had turned over his crowded calendar to Felix Hart, he had turned over the three children to their grandmother, he had dragged Sue away from her thousand wife-mother activities, to obtain what he had spent a lifetime ignoring: the pot of gold that had become a necessity at last. Nothing but necessity would have sent him careening forth on this questionable treasure hunt.

Nat Abrahams reached down, pulled up his suspenders, and snapped them over his shoulders. The suspenders, regarded by his opponents as a corny affectation, had become so much a part of him now that he was hardly aware of them. When he was aware, he was happy to remember that they were not and had never been an affectation. In his first year in law school he had purchased his first pair and worn them as a talisman, to help him attain and honor the kind of shingle he had always wanted: Lincoln, of Lincoln amp; Herndon, Counselors, or Darrow, of Darrow amp; Sissman, Attorneys-at-Law. He had deserved half of neither shingle, he was certain, but he was equally certain that the talisman had reminded him always to remember the ideals of Lincoln and Darrow.

Yet this morning the suspenders felt as tight and uncomfortable as a guilty conscience. Was the journey to Washington right for him? The cardiac specialist, his old friend Greenberg, had reiterated that there was no choice. “Nat, surely the American Bar Association does not disapprove of its members being well paid. So why all the Old Country guilts? Enough already. Your whole life you have lived by the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ So now it’s time to do unto yourself as you have done unto others. Survival, Nat, not at any price, no, but what Avery Emmich offers is not any price, but your price, your terms. Younger men with younger hearts will swing your broadsword to protect every minority, every civil liberty, so let go, let them. You have had your warning, one early coronary insufficiency. Not every man is so lucky. So do what I tell you and what Sue wants. Let go of the crusade. Go to Washington, sign the contract, make the fortune, and then come back and buy the farm. Live so your children can honor their father, not his tombstone. Go to Washington, Nat.”

The words rang in his ears, in duet with the train’s whistle. Well, if he was nothing else, he was obedient. Here he was, on the Capitol Limited, little more than one hour from Washington’s Union Station.

He left the lavatory and groped his way into the compartment bedroom, where only the tiny bed light over his upper berth and the slit of morning beneath the green shade provided visibility. He took down his vest, and then his suit coat, and pulled them on. Fixing the silver watch chain, he squinted to make out the time. Yes, one hour and five minutes more to Washington.

He bent to see if Sue was awake. Her back was to him. Her small, fragile face was buried in the pillow, and her short bob was a tangle. He listened to her inhale and exhale, and loved her now as he had for every moment of their eighteen years. She was so sound asleep, so far from turmoil, and he regretted having kept her awake last night with the news that he had heard in Akron.

He touched her bare shoulder. “Sue, darling-”

Her shoulder lifted, fell, and her head, eyes still shut, came around. “Mmm?”

“Time to wake up. We’re almost there.”

“Thanks.”

“Are you awake, Sue?”

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve got an hour to dress. If you make it fast, you can join me for breakfast. The diner’s two cars back. I’ll be there.”

“Okay.”

He straightened, flexed his shoulder muscles, picked up his attachè case, and went to the door.

“Nat-”

He halted, returned, to find her on an elbow, eyes wide-open, staring up at him.

“Nat, is it true, what you told me last night-or was I dreaming?”

“You weren’t dreaming, dear.”

“No,” she said slowly. “I was afraid of that. Poor Doug in the White House. I don’t mean just that he’s colored. It’s that he’s so-so sensitive and-and withdrawn. Nat, they’ll crucify him.”

Abrahams frowned. “He’s tougher than a lot of people think, and smarter, too.” He paused. “Maybe it’s the best thing that could have happened-I mean, to the country.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Honey,” he said evasively, “I never know absolutely what I believe until I’ve had breakfast and a pipeful. You ask me then. Now, hurry up. I’ll see you in the diner.”

Once he was alone in the train corridor, wending his way between the compartments and windows, he tried to understand what he did believe. Stopping before the last window, he placed a palm against the glass pane, briefly conscious of the blur of green trees flashing past him, but soon inattentive to the scenery. His mind had gone back to the scene he had witnessed at the depot, during the time of their departure yesterday.

When he and Sue had boarded the Capitol Limited in Chicago ten minutes before it left at three-forty yesterday afternoon, they had already known of the President’s sudden death in Frankfurt. All through the depot, and outside the train, and in the train itself, Abrahams had seen in the expressions of passengers and porters the same evidences of disbelief and anguish that he had observed that other terrible time when President John F. Kennedy’s life had been extinguished by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas.

Pushing himself away from the window, Abrahams tried to sort out the different qualities of grief. He felt sure that the public had reacted to T. C.’s death in Frankfurt in very much the same fashion that they had reacted to President Kennedy’s death in Dallas, which was considerably different from public reaction to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in Warm Springs. T. C. had been almost as youthful as Kennedy, and as vigorous. Most people had regarded T. C. more as an older brother than as a father, because he had been their Chief Executive less than three years and they had not become totally dependent upon him. His sudden death had shaken them badly-that was evident everywhere yesterday-but what seemed to shake them more was the realization that invincible youth and strength, carrying hope and ambition, shielded by the indestructibility of success and power, could be brought down and stamped out so swiftly and easily. Thus, Abrahams guessed, public lamentation had taken on the form of disbelief. When Roosevelt died-and this, too, Abrahams remembered very well-the President had been an intimate part of people’s lives and experiences for so many years that the loss had been not only the loss of the ever present head of the family, but each man’s loss of a great segment of his personal life.

After their train left Chicago, Nat and Sue Abrahams had talked over the tragedy and its meaning at length, and pored over the latest newspapers, and then he had devoted himself to his work. While Abrahams had voted for T. C., supported him, he had felt no passionate involvement with him, and so he suffered no feeling of passionate loss. He had thought, as he worked over his notes for the Washington meeting with Gorden Oliver, Emmich’s lobbyist there, that MacPherson might do the job as well as T. C. had done. There would be no national trauma.

The rest of the short afternoon on the train had been lost to working, napping, reading, and desultory chatter about the children, the new position that was in the offing, the utopia that was possible after that. They had gone to the lounge for martinis, and then eaten too much dinner. Abrahams had seen Sue back to their compartment, where the berths were already made. She had told him that she was tired, and would read some more, and go to sleep early.

With his attaché case he had returned to the lounge car to study the proposals from Emmich’s attorneys, to mark modifications and changes after them. He had hardly been aware that they were in Akron, and that it was eleven-fifteen and they were running a little late. But then, casually peering through the window, he had noticed, with growing curiosity, a large gathering of the train’s porters and conductors, and lips moving excitedly and considerable gesticulating from everyone.

Minutes later, as the Capitol Limited had begun to move again, the wizened Negro bartender had hurried into the lounge with the news. MacPherson had also died in Frankfurt. Senator Douglass Dilman, a colored man, had just been sworn in as President of the United States.

Doug Dilman.

It had taken Nat Abrahams a long time to calm the chaotic emotions he had felt about his old friend and his friend’s incredible promotion. At midnight Abrahams had gone back to his compartment. In the darkness Sue’s sleepy voice welcomed him and said good night. He had sat down on the edge of her berth, and told her what he had heard. She had snapped on the blue night light above her head, and he could see that she was upset and trembling. He had given her a sleeping pill, and then they had discussed it, until her voice had thickened and fallen silent, and she had drifted off to sleep again. Later he had stretched in his upper berth, but he had not slept. He had been awake, his mind a turmoil, for at least an hour after they left Pittsburgh.

And here it was early morning, and here he was drawing closer and closer to the nation’s capital, a city so jolted overnight, so changed, by the rise to highest office of the only colored man he had ever known well and one who had been his friend since their first meeting during the Second World War. Only the previous week Abrahams had had a letter from Dilman, who was overjoyed that Abrahams was coming to Washington. Dilman insisted that they must see one another as often as possible during Abrahams’ visit. Dilman had even set a date for their dinner of reunion. Abrahams speculated as to whether that engagement still existed and, if it did, what his friend would be like.

Sighing, Nat Abrahams drove further speculation from his mind and walked quickly, opening heavy resisting doors, into the lounge car, and then continued into the immaculate dining car. Except for a sprinkling of white passengers, absorbed in the Pittsburgh newspapers, the dining car appeared to be the scene of a Pullman porters’ convention. At least a half dozen of them, joined by the Negro waiters, were congregated at the far end, engaged in deep conversation.

The short maître d’hôtel, rimless spectacles pressed into his Prussian face, bounced forward, signaling Abrahams to a table. As Abrahams sat before the spotless water glasses and gleaming silver ware, dancing to me click of the wheels and rails, the maîture d’hôtel placed the menu, order pad, and pencil in front of him.

“I won’t need a menu,” Abrahams said. Taking up the pad, he wrote his order: cereal, French toast, tea. Then he filled in Sue’s order: grapefruit, melba toast, coffee. He handed the pad to his host. “Hold the coffee until my wife comes in.”

“Very well, sir.”

Abrahams nodded off to the far end of the car. “I’ll wager they’re talking about President Dilman.”

“Nothing else but that. They can’t keep their minds on their work since it happened.” He bowed closer to Abrahams and whispered, “You’d think it was the Second Coming.”

“Let’s hope so.”

The maître d’ was about to say something, but seemed to change his mind, and said something else. “Are you, by any chance, with the government, sir?”

“Heaven forbid,” said Abrahams, “unless that covers all suffering taxpayers.”

The maître d’ lingered. “We’re expecting our next trainloads, the coming months, to be more heavily Negro, if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t see why,” said Abrahams sharply. He motioned to the pad. “May I have my tea right away?”

After the maître d’ had hurried away, Abrahams remained inspecting the picture that the man had planted in his mind-thousands of Pullman cars, overflowing with black men pouring into Washington to accept their new appointments. However, he could only visualize the picture in broadest caricature. For, knowing Dilman as he did, he was aware that it was wildly ridiculous. One of Dilman’s shortcomings, Abrahams had always felt, was that he leaned too far backward, and away, from those worthies of his own race, lest he be charged with favoritism. Dilman believed that all men were created equal, and should inherit equal rights, yet he was too inhibited by fear to practice his beliefs. Instead he had a tendency to practice a sort of inverse segregation, one turned inside out. This was too harsh a judgment of so good and suffering a man, Abrahams knew, but it was largely true.

His memory went back to early 1945, when, as a captain, he had been assigned to the Military Justice Division of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Department of the Army, in the Pentagon Building. He had found himself situated at a desk in the same glassed-in olive green cubbyhole as Lieutenant Douglass Dilman. Abrahams had known a few Negroes when he attended the Law School of the University of Chicago, but he had never known them intimately. Abrahams had never possessed any strong, special feelings about Negroes, except intellectual resentment at their oppression and slum history and bondage in America. His bookish, impecunious father, a philosophy professor, and his active-in-causes, fearlessly vocal mother (a sort of Margaret Fuller whose Master’s thesis had been on the Abolitionist movement) had raised him so naturally that he had come to manhood without any racial prejudices.

As a matter of fact, Abrahams was not even possessed of tolerance for Negroes, as many of his intellectual and progressive friends were. To Abrahams, the word tolerance bore, in itself, a flick of prejudice-one was nice to certain people, treated them equally, accepted them, but by being tolerant of them thus, one implied that they were different. To Abrahams, Negroes had been men who were light black or dark black as white men had been swarthy white or pasty white. All men were men together, and some were stupid and others were intelligent, some more boring than others and some more fascinating, some more bad than good and others more good than bad, whether they were black or white, brown or yellow. Abrahams had entered the Army with this attitude, and it had not changed.

Being confined in a cubbyhole with a Negro officer had been unusual only because he found Dilman shy and deferential beyond the requirements of their difference in rank, and because he had been uncertain about Dilman. His uncertainty was not related to his own feelings about Dilman’s color, but rather to Dilman’s own sensitivity about his color and to Abrahams’ whiteness. But because they had been thrown together a couple of feet from each other, devoting themselves to the same cases and working under the same pressures, Dilman’s defensiveness had gradually dropped.

Their closeness had begun in the common language of military legalities, and had eventually shifted to the common language of intellectually equal men. Not only had they worked together, but they had dined in the Pentagon cafeteria together daily and left the river entrance together in one car pool for their respective lodgings. They had come to know of each other’s lives, although Dilman had always been more guarded here, and of each other’s likes and dislikes, human weaknesses, human aspirations. They had become fond of each other as men, and when they had been assigned together to London, and then Paris, and then Occupied West Germany, their friendship had solidified. The triumph of it, Abrahams had finally realized, was that Dilman had one day ceased to consider him white and therefore alien.

After the war they had both practiced in Chicago, he with offices in the Loop, and Dilman on the South Side. While he had known that Dilman was married, he had never met Dilman’s wife during the war, because she had not accompanied him to Washington. In Chicago Abrahams met her three times and, knowing Dilman as he did, understood why Dilman had not brought her with him to Washington. Aldora Dilman, although of Negro ancestry, had proved to be of fair complexion. Abrahams had thought her tense, embittered, ashamed of her darker husband, and he had observed that she drank too much. Eleven months after setting himself up in Chicago, Dilman had abruptly moved himself and his wife to another city in another Midwestern state.

Occasionally, in the next years, Abrahams had his reunions with Dilman, often going out of his way to enjoy one. After an initial constraint, Dilman had always accepted him as an old friend. Abrahams had become aware of Dilman’s work for Negro organizations and great labor unions. He had not been surprised when he read that Dilman had agreed to run for the House of Representatives, and he had been thrilled when Dilman won. Since Abrahams’ cases had often taken him to Washington, D.C., he had been able to see his old friend more frequently.

In these meetings, during which almost every subject was covered, Abrahams had learned to avoid one area, although he perceived much about it. He had silently understood Aldora’s refusing to accompany her Congressman husband to Washington. He had been pleased to learn, indirectly, that Aldora had given Dilman a son some years before. And it had come to him as no shock, somehow, when Aldora died at the age of forty. He offered Dilman no words of sympathy. He had always known that this dark area of personal life was one that Dilman did not like to discuss.

The years that had made them older had given each of them, in different ways, national identity. Abrahams’ name had become known for his successful intervention in cases involving legal oppressions of minorities. Dilman’s name had become even more widely known for his four terms in the House of Representatives, his appointment to a vacancy in the United States Senate, his election to the Senate, and finally his widely heralded election as President pro tempore of the Senate in the Vice-President’s absence. And now, overnight, this improbable upheaval in Dilman’s life, and the life and history of the United States.

Abrahams had been jounced out of memory by the dining car waiter staring at him, and he realized that he was shaking his head over the turn of events and the waiter was worried that he was shaking his head over the breakfast that lay before him.

“Is everything all right, sir?” the waiter was asking.

“Perfectly fine, looks excellent, thanks.”

He ate his cereal hastily, so that the French toast would not be cold. Eating, he realized that he must remove the problem of Doug Dilman from his mind. His immediate concern must be the personal business that was bringing him to Washington, D.C. In forty minutes they would be arriving at the Union Station, and not long after they would be in a taxi entering Massachusetts Avenue and heading for the Mayflower Hotel. Sue would be calling the children and her mother, and unpacking, while he would be making arrangements to meet with Oliver, the veteran lobbyist empowered by Avery Emmich, chairman of Eagles Industries Corporation, to negotiate with him. What would result from these meetings could be crucial to the future years of his life-and conscience.

Putting down knife and fork, Abrahams snapped open his attaché case and extracted the most recent proposals submitted by Emmich’s legal advisers. As he sipped his tea, reviewing the already familiar proposals, Abrahams was amused at how the formal legal language had bent to Emmich’s imperious personality. One could almost visualize the cowering corporation lawyers listening to Emmich’s flat commands on the Dictabelt, and then trying to couch them ever so little more in corporate phraseology. Every paragraph gave evidence of being pure Emmich. Straight declarations, bombastic imperatives, the highly limited and inflexible linguistics of millionaire patrons, the power elite, who had almost forgotten the sounds of reply that used words like possibly and compromise and suggest. In their lofty towers, protected by the magic weapons of money that brought all opposition to its knees, the Emmichs had made the word no, spoken to them, virtually obsolete.

He had met Avery Emmich but once, less than a year ago, and their conversation, or rather Emmich’s monologue, had been short and pointed. Emmich had been in Chicago to conclude the acquisition of several chemical plants. The millionaire had summoned Nat Abrahams to his suite, and Abrahams, surprised that he was even known to Emmich, had gone out of wonder and curiosity.

Avery Emmich, the son of a German immigrant, had proved to be a dyspeptic, glaring, squat man in his late sixties. In their twenty minutes together he had been as humorless and efficient as an imported calculating machine.

“I wanted to see what you look like,” Emmich had said at once. “You don’t look like a bleeding heart.”

“I’m an attorney,” Abrahams had said, “a hard-working one.”

“Yes. Recently some of your trial cases were brought to my attention. I was impressed.”

“Impressed?”

“You appear surprised,” Emmich had said.

“I guess I am,” Abrahams had said. “From what I’ve heard about you, and read, I wouldn’t have imagined you’d be impressed by someone who has defended Mexicans, Negroes, small unions.”

“Young man, I don’t give a hoot in hell whom you defend. I’m impressed because you took on tough cases and won them. I’m impressed by skill and toughness. What do you make a year?”

Abrahams had told him. Emmich had grunted with self-satisfaction, and revealed a slip of paper on which he had surmised what Abrahams’ income would be. Without further interrogation, Emmich had told Abrahams what he was after. He was, he had stated, after Nat Abrahams himself. He wanted Nat Abrahams in Washington, D.C. He made it clear that Eagles Industries and its multiple interests-cotton production, textile factories, chemical plants, brass and copper mills, insurance companies, shipping lines-had a vast network of legal representation, even in the nation’s capital. He made it clear that he was never satisfied with what he had, that he always demanded the best help, and that he was ready to pay for it. He made it clear that Washington, D.C., was a sore spot for him. Even under a sensible President like T. C., the government was putting its nose more and more into private enterprise. Emmich wanted the best there, the best minds, voices, legal lookouts.

Abrahams had heard all of this with detached fascination, but without interest. Even as he had listened, he could not conceive of himself abandoning the desperate and wretched people who needed him, for a more lucrative job with a mammoth combine. The Emmichs of the world, he had always known, advocated free enterprise for themselves and not a free economic society-less laudable. The Emmichs, he had always known, wanted competitors, consumers, workers, the government itself, controlled by their own definitions of freedom.

Abrahams had begun to shake his head, when Avery Emmich had announced Abrahams’ worth to the corporation in dollars and cents. Abrahams had been taken aback by the sum announced. The annual salary offered had been more than he had made in the last four years of exhausting work. After that, dazed, he had not shaken his head again. He had listened attentively, and with interest. It had amazed him the way Emmich had anticipated his unspoken reservations. He was being asked to represent the corporation as an attorney, no more, no less. He was being asked to speak for the corporation on legal matters and legislative matters, and to inform and advise the corporation on activities pertaining to its business. He was not being asked to compromise his ideals or attitudes. He was not being asked to perform contrary to his good conscience. He was not being asked to forfeit any part of his freedom as an individual. Eagles Industries would be his employer. Nat Abrahams would be its employee. He would not be lobotomized. He would be himself. Emmich wanted him.

And then it was that Abrahams had understood the sense of the offer. Every big company needed its basic liberal, to showcase, as every big company needed its basic Negro.

That visit in Emmich’s suite had been the beginning of it. Despite Sue’s squealing excitement over the offer, and his own headiness at what was suddenly made possible, Abrahams had clung to certain reservations about it, about the change itself. He had hated the thought of giving up a practice he loved, of dislocating himself and the family, for money. Yet it was only money that might guarantee him added years of life, and provide his wife and children with security. He had hated the thought of devoting himself to an impersonal financial combine, with headquarters in Atlanta, that had no motivation except profits and that regarded people as Social Security numbers. Yet it was a corporation that promised him unrestricted individual freedom.

While Eagles Industries bombarded him with telephone calls and memoranda, Nat Abrahams had remained indecisive. He had stalled his reply, and then he had made negotiations as difficult as possible, hoping that this would make decision unnecessary. He had refused to bind himself to Eagles Industries for seven years, and had insisted that three years were enough. Emmich had countered with five years. Abrahams had remained adamant. Emmich had agreed to three years. Abrahams had demanded more money, better side benefits, expense accounts, thorough definitions of his position, and to everything Emmich had acceded. Finally Sue had told him that he had been trying to create an encroaching monster, when the monster did not exist. And he had admitted that she was right.

There had been serious talks between Sue and himself. Both had circled the reality of his coronary warning, and both had finally faced it. They had also faced the fact that they lived on what he made, that aside from his life insurance policies, a still-mortgaged house, a pitifully small reserve of government bonds and blue-chip stocks, their financial future was bleak. He would never get far enough ahead to ease up, to enjoy semiretirement, to buy the farm they both wanted.

On a warm Sunday morning, with Roger, David, and Deborah churning about the back seat of the four-year-old sedan, they had driven down near Wheaton, Illinois, to look at the farm once more. The beautiful cottage, the freshly painted red barns, the smell of the machinery and livestock and brown-green grass and wheat and corn fields had overwhelmed them again. Driving home, the children happily napping in the back, he and Sue had speculated upon what his life could be on such a farm. He could retain an interest in the firm, serve as a once-a-week consultant on vital cases. He could give time at last to writings about what he believed in, writings that might accomplish more than his private cases had. He could manage the farm. He could be outdoors, live more easily with himself, have more time for Sue, for the children. Above all, he could live. In three years he could have this if he wanted it.

The following morning Nat Abrahams had telephoned Avery Emmich to draft a contract. In a month, he had promised, he would be prepared to go to Washington, to sit with Gorden Oliver, and mold the contract into its final form. And then he had taken an option on the farm outside Wheaton.

“Nat-”

His head came up at the sound of Sue’s voice, and he found her settling into the chair across from him.

“Where were you?” she was saying. “You were a million miles away.”

He smiled. “Not quite that far.” He thought: only the distance away you can reach in three years.

As she went at her grapefruit, he reminded the waiter of her coffee and melba toast, and then stuffed Emmich’s proposals into his attaché case.

“How are the waiters here taking Dilman?” she asked between mouthfuls.

“I gather they’re pleased. That is, if this had to happen, they’re pleased the next in line was one of their own.”

“They’re not all pleased,” said Sue. “I was just talking with our porter. He says most of his friends are glad a Negro will have a chance to show he can perform as well as anyone else. But our porter says he’s not as happy as his friends, because he says he’s a thinking man and they’re not. He says he’s thinking ahead, and he’s frightened. He doesn’t think this country is ready for any Negro to head it. He thinks this focuses the wrong kind of attention on the Negro, and is bound to cause worse resentment and antagonism. Nat, you should have seen his face when he was speaking. So-uneasy.”

For Abrahams it was too early in the day to concur, and to bare his own uneasiness. As he tried to determine what to say to Sue, he observed that her attention had been diverted by three persons taking seats at the table across the aisle. There was an elderly, obviously well-off couple, and opposite them a slick-haired, smooth-shaved, jowly, overweight, middle-aged young man in a tailor-made Oxford gray business suit.

The overweight middle-aged young man, wiping his spectacles with his napkin, was speaking, and not quietly. “Well, after that, the meeting broke up, and we hung around the television set,” he was saying. “I tell you honestly, we weren’t so worried about this Dilman’s competence, because that doesn’t matter these days. The government is run by committee rule, and T. C. had some good heads there. Our worry is in the area where a President can’t be controlled as well. You know, appointments, policy speeches and such. Those people-I mean, like Dilman-are leftist, no question. I can show you the facts. Now that one of them has power, he’s apt to coddle the Communists-don’t get me wrong, Harold, I’m not saying Dilman is a Red; I’m saying he’s apt to have a sympathy for them, rapport, let them slip in and take control here, and go soft on them abroad. Well, Harold, we’re not going to let that happen-no, sir.”

The speaker lowered his voice to address some confidences to his Companions, and Abrahams turned his head away. He found Sue looking at him, gray and helpless. Before he could placate her, there was the sound of a fork against a glass. The middle-aged young man kept up the noise, half turning for the waiter. A tall, skinny waiter came on the run.

“About time!” the middle-aged young man boomed with mock joviality. “What’s happening to the service? You all too busy running our government today?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said. “I was waitin’ for you to fill in your order.”

“Aw, give us a break, we poor folk can’t write,” the middle-aged young man said, winking. “Come on, Sam, one round of Sanka.”

The waiter stood a moment, unspeaking, and then slowly, with calm dignity, he turned away and walked toward the dining car kitchen.

The three across the way were laughing together now, and then huddled, whispering, and Abrahams did not want to overhear a word of it. He fumbled for his tea, head bent to avoid Sue’s eyes. He finished the tea, and, in no mood for his pipe, picked up the complimentary newspaper.

“Oh, Nat-”

Abrahams was forced to look up.

Sue was near tears. “I’m like our porter, Nat, I’m plain frightened. Doug needs friends so much.”

“He has friends,” Abrahams said curtly. “I’m sure no one in Washington is worried about that.”

She was staring at the back half of his folded newspaper. “Nat, if you’re right-I-I can read your paper upside down-why have they doubled the guard around him?”

“Honey, stop fretting. It’s routine. Whenever there’s a new President, they assign twice as many Secret Service men to him. Now, let’s hurry up and get out of here.” He tried to smile. “You concentrate on taking care of your husband, and let the Secret Service take care of Douglass Dilman.”


After securely buckling the strap that connected his revolver in its shoulder holster to his waist, Otto Beggs pulled on his dark, conservative, worn suit coat. Going to the bureau that he and Gertrude shared, he took down his open leather wallet, for good luck rubbed his thumb across the silver star of his Secret Service badge pinned inside, closed the wallet, and slipped it into his inner coat pocket.

He felt the constriction of hunger in his stomach, and yet he was not ready to join Gertrude and the boys for breakfast. He felt unnaturally elated this morning, and wanted to savor it minutes more, alone, before risking the loss of this rare well-being to his enemies downstairs.

Humming to himself, Otto Beggs strolled about the mussed and used bedroom, tidying it, then continued to his desk to straighten the three scrapbooks with his name imprinted in gold upon each. Considering his activities of the last twenty-four hours, it was strange that he should feel so fit.

He had worked not eight hours but eleven hours yesterday, after his boss, Lou Agajanian, Chief of the White House Detail, had awakened him to tell him to come in earlier and replace one of the night-shift agents who had become ill from a virus. Then there had been that pressure and strain, after the news that the President and Speaker had been killed, when the correspondents and half the government officials had overrun the West Wing. To make matters worse, not only Agajanian but Hugo Gaynor, the Chief of Secret Service, had been all over the place, on everyone’s tail, out of temper. It had been nerve-racking. And then, instead of giving him any rest at home, Gertrude had kept encouraging her relatives to come over, including her hotshot brother, Austin, and his wife and brats. It had been a nut house, and once, around midnight, he had tried to escape by saying that he was out of cigarettes. He had headed straight down the block for a couple of beers at the Walk Inn, but the joint was jammed with wild, drunken Negroes, and he had gone back to the house, embittered, to stay with television until three in the morning.

Before turning off the set he had heard one added interesting piece of news, and it had been confirmed, and it had kept him wide-awake and speculating about it until almost dawn. The interesting piece of news had been that the collapse of that ancient ceiling in the Alte Mainzer Palace had not only killed T. C. and MacPherson, but it had also crushed to death two Secret Service men. Beggs had known them both well. One had been Agajanian’s aide, Assistant Chief of the White House Detail Gene Sonenberg, and the other had been mobile White House special agent Les McCune, the only one of fifty on the House Detail who held seniority over Beggs.

Lying in bed, stimulated by what tragedy had made possible for him, Otto Beggs had done some simple subtraction and addition. The subtraction had consisted of removing Sonenberg from his position as Agajanian’s aide, and removing McCune as the next in line to fill that position. They were gone. The addition had consisted of putting a plus sign before his name. He was next, the one next eligible to move up and replace Sonenberg as Assistant Chief of the White House Detail. This promotion would make other promotions more likely. Once you got off your feet, taking orders, and on your seat, giving orders, the world was yours. After that, he might one day became Chief of the White House Detail, and then Deputy Chief of Secret Service, and then Assistant Chief of Security, until at last he became Chief of Secret Service under the Secretary of the Treasury. With the first giant step accomplished, the rungs above would be easier to grasp. And he had time. He was only in his early forties. In recent months Gertrude had made that seem too old for him to achieve anything better, and he had begun to believe her, but now, in a flash, he was young again, and once more on the road that had seemed so straight and easy when he had entered onto it at Corvallis, Oregon, and continued up it outside Seoul, Korea.

Last night, twisting and turning on his bed, he had wondered when he had lost the road, and where, and how, or if he had lost it at all. He had tried to relive his short journey, so much with him in recent years that he could only relive it as an experience ever present and not of the past.

At Oregon State University he was invincible. He had come to the campus on an athletic scholarship. Except for his innocent, pugged, smiling baby face and small head, everything about him was formidable. He was powerful, husky, amazingly agile and fast for his 190-pound weight. Swiftly, at fullback, he became the mainstay of the football team, carrying it in his senior year to a victory in the Rose Bowl and himself achieving singular recognition by being voted to Associated Press’s All-American second team. He was popular. The girls competed for his favor. Gertrude was one of them, not beautiful but attractive and smart. She earned his gratitude by helping him with his homework, and she earned his respect by letting him kiss and pet her but not letting him go all the way. By the time he graduated, they were dating steadily.

When he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the First Marines, and before he was shipped off to Korea, he married Gertrude and spent a three-day honeymoon with her in Yellow-stone National Park. After arriving in South Korea, the tension of battle evoked his football days and he was fearless. When a superior officer rebuked him for an unnecessary risk on a patrol, calling him “too goddam stupid to be afraid,” Beggs was proud. On a cold and icy night before Christmas, during his eleventh month in Korea, in the wintry scrubs outside Hagaru-ri, he became an authentic hero. Four wounded Marines lay trapped in enemy-held territory, as Chinese gunfire kept medical-aid corpsmen from reaching them. Enraged, Beggs snatched up a machine gun, and, darting forward, falling and rising, he decimated the Red Chinese, personally rescuing his four wounded buddies. For this he received America’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for valor in action.

In the Oval Office of the White House, the medal was pinned on Otto Beggs by President Eisenhower. There were columns of photographs and feature stories, and one of Gertrude’s gifts was the first scrapbook. There were dozens of well-paying executive jobs offered him, and he took the best, and left it, and took another, and then a third and a fourth, and left these also. After Oregon and Korea the jobs were too tame and caging. He wanted challenge and danger. He wanted-Gertrude’s word-“clippings.”

His nostalgia, in his waking dreams, was for that climactic moment in the White House when President Eisenhower had given him the Medal of Honor. He was jobless, but not concerned, because Gertrude had saved their money, and he was telling friends that he was “looking around for the right sort of thing.” Then one noon, in a barber’s chair, leafing through a magazine, he found exactly what he was seeking. There was a coverline article commemorating the death of a White House police officer who had been shot down before Blair House in the assassination attempt on President Truman by two Puerto Ricans. The alert and gallant White House police and Secret Service agents on guard had saved the President’s life in a gun battle. The story then went on to explain the role of the White House police, as a branch of the Secret Service, and told about the history and the daring adventures of the Secret Service itself, from the time after the murder of President McKinley when its prime responsibility became that of protecting the life of the President.

Intrigued by this one rare job that put a premium on courage, that promised drama, Otto Beggs wrote to the Chief of Secret Service, Treasury Department, Washington, D.C., relating his background, his keen interest, and applying for a position as a special White House agent.

What followed came quickly. Beggs was summoned to prove himself. With enthusiasm, he took the United States Civil Service test, the four-hour written observation and memory test of the Secret Service, the thorough physical examination. He overcame each obstacle, including the personal interviews, with ease. He received his appointment to the Secret Service at the beginner’s salary of $5,000 a year, with the assurance that once he had experience he would be raised gradually to $10,000 a year, and once he became a supervisor of top grade he could earn $16,000 a year.

While the money was not what he had earned in business, as Gertrude kept reminding him, he pointed out to her that it was more than sufficient for their needs. He told her that he would be serving his country again, which was worth any monetary sacrifice, and the prestige that he would acquire through the years might make him a political figure with the attendant wealth necessary to insure their future. He did not tell her that he felt he was being paid for having fun.

And, indeed, for Otto Beggs the beginnings were challenging. His enthusiasm mounted as he attended the Secret Service’s special training school in Washington. He was instructed in the use of the most modern submachine guns, revolvers, riot guns. He was instructed in judo, first aid, fire fighting, parachute landing, wrestling, psychiatry. He was indoctrinated into the mysteries of atomic, biological, and chemical warfare. When his basic training was concluded, he was casually asked what position in the Secret Service interested him the most. He was frank. He knew that the procedure was for a newcomer to spend two years in the field, apprehending counterfeiters and forgers, before being considered for an elite job in the Executive Mansion. Nevertheless, he felt that his background warranted his requesting immediate assignment to the exclusive White House Detail. He had no interest in chasing petty criminals. He desired only to protect the nation’s leading official from assassins. Having spoken his piece, he waited with confidence. He did not wait long. The word came from the Secretary of the Treasury himself. Otto Beggs had been assigned to become a member of the White House Detail. He was not surprised. He knew that the old Medal of Honor had counted for something.

The first year was agreeable, if somewhat disappointing. He had expected his supervisors, on the second floor of the East Wing of the White House, to recognize his unique merit by assigning him, at once, to be at the President’s elbow. Instead he found himself with the police at the East, then the South, then the West guardhouse entrances to the Executive Mansion. When he was assigned to what was cheerfully labeled “the diaper detail,” off and on watching over President Kennedy’s daughter and son, President Lyndon Johnson’s two daughters, his hopes soared again.

Encouraged, optimistic about his future in the early days of the “diaper detail,” he had insisted upon buying a house that would be their own. Impulsively he purchased a small, comfortable two-story residence off lower Connecticut Avenue. He crowed over his bargain, but Gertrude did not hide her apprehension. While the neighborhood was still genteel middle-class, it was only a few blocks from a bursting lower-class Negro section. Beggs was not concerned. The Negroes, he was positive, would stay in their place. If they invaded his neighborhood, he and Gertrude could sell at a profit. By then he would have his promotion, raise in salary, and they could find their way to one of the more expensive locations in suburban Washington. Gertrude was not convinced. She felt that the Negro invasion was on its way and her husband’s promotion was not.

As ever, Gertrude was proved right on both scores. The Negro invasion began slowly, at the perimeter, and then cut in deeper and faster. White homeowners, prospering at their government jobs and businesses, seeing a chance for additional profits, sold off and moved elsewhere. The neighborhood streets that Beggs liked to stroll along in the evening were soon one-third black, and several years later two-thirds black. Beggs’s favorite haunt, a congenial corner tavern known as the Walk Inn, with its bar and booths and variety of pinball machines, began to undergo a transformation, too. In the beginning, when he went there for his evening beer, Beggs joined a community of white neighbors, men who were his equals and who respected his important job and contested with him over the pinball machines. Gradually his friends disappeared, one by one, and there remained strangers with dark skins, men with whom Beggs had nothing in common.

From time to time, bowing to Gertrude’s increasingly shrill demands that they move, he accompanied his wife to suburbs like Silver Spring and Bethesda to see what the housing developments had for sale. It was for his sons, Ogden and Otis, for their better school conditions, that he did this. But the new pseudo colonials were too expensive. After each of these frustrating explorations, Beggs promised his distressed wife that a promotion was forthcoming and the move would soon be made possible.

Incredibly, the promotion did not come. Within the White House, and about its spacious grounds, Otto Beggs was transferred from one inconsequential job to another. Other agents surrounded the President’s Oval Office, walked with the great man, traveled with him. Beggs remained chained to routine and peripheral duty. When T. C. was elected, his hopes lifted once more. A change in the occupancy of the White House always gave promise of a change in his duties. And, indeed, there was a change. He found himself assigned to the West Wing lobby, occupied mostly by the press and visitors who called upon T. C. He did not mind, because he liked the reporters, who were important and who occasionally mentioned him or quoted him in their feature stories. But Gertrude would give him no peace.

One day, before his shift, he called upon Chief of Secret Service Hugo Gaynor, waited in the oak-paneled, red-carpeted receiving room, and had his embarrassing interview. Gaynor was impatient, evasive, and pledged to Beggs that he would be kept in mind for the next promotion. Upset, Beggs sought his immediate boss, Lou Agajanian, in the Secret Service office off the West Wing lobby, and Agajanian said that he, too, would see what he could do. A short time later, eating in the President’s Navy Mess in the downstairs basement, he overheard some of his fellow agents gossiping, unaware that he was within earshot. They were analyzing one another and their absent colleagues. He thought he heard his name mentioned. He heard expressions like “workhorse” and “not too bright” and “living in the past.” He was not certain if they were referring to himself, and chose to believe that they were not. He did not repeat what he had overheard to Gertrude, who was too antagonistic to be a confidante any longer, but he thought about it for a number of nights in the Walk Inn, where his beer intake had gone up from one to three steins per sitting.

What he thought about was that while he liked his job, he had become increasingly disappointed in it. From the first, he had assumed it promised responsibility and danger and high adventure, countless opportunities for a fearless individual to prove himself under fire. Instead it had proved a job like almost any other, no more hazardous than had he remained a stockbroker or public relations man. Perhaps the disappointment, the monotony of each day’s shift, had dulled him. Perhaps the routine had made him less lively, less enthusiastic, less sharp and aggressive. Perhaps Gaynor and Agajanian saw this, and felt that he could not be trusted as one of the six to ten agents assigned to be closest to the President, or as one who deserved to be made a supervisor. He did not know.

Yet, despite Gertrude’s recent nagging that he quit the Secret Service and go into the real estate business with her successful rebuke of a brother, Austin, he could not bear to make the change. As a realtor, he might acquire money, but there would surely be the grave of anonymity. As an agent, he could always hope for recognition. He could also, no matter what the routine, feel he was in the center of life, where anything might happen. Once, some unimportant newspaperman, a kid named George Murdock, had interviewed him. Well, despite what the big reporters said, Murdock wasn’t that unimportant. His Tri-State Syndicate did have twelve newspapers, even if half of them were only weeklies. Anyway, this kid, George Murdock, had asked him what he liked about being an agent and what he did not like. He did not remember his reply, but what Murdock quoted him as saying was, “To me, the appeal of the Secret Service is the same appeal most law enforcement jobs hold. But I don’t consider it a mere job. If I did, I would have left it long ago for higher-paying executive positions that have been offered to me. There is more to it than merely doing a job. As an agent, you feel you are doing a real service to everyone. There is enough going on to keep you on your toes. There’s no routine or rut to bore you. Maybe it’s not as glamorous as people think, but there is plenty of pressure every minute, and there’s no margin for error. Our most important training is to cope with suddenness. Well, when you have to be alert for suddenness, you haven’t time to be bored.” George Murdock had given him a clipping of the interview as it appeared in the Sandusky, Ohio, Register. He supposed no one important, like the President or Gaynor or Agajanian, ever saw it. But he had seen it. It was on page seven of his third scrapbook.

All that had gone through his head last night, before he fell asleep as dawn came. Now, fully dressed, ready for breakfast and his daily shift that began in an hour, he stood immobilized in front of his scrapbooks. He opened the uppermost one and turned to page seven. There it was. He reread Murdock’s quote. He had remembered it correctly, word for word.

“Otto!” It was Gertrude screaming at him from the foot of the stairs. “Otto, you want to see your sons before they go to school, or not?”

“Coming!” he shouted back, almost gaily.

He felt good. He could not wait to get to work. The West Wing lobby would be a madhouse today. He would be interviewed about Sonenberg and McCune, who had died last night in Frankfurt with the President. He would think of what he should say, on the way to work. He might be too busy to say anything. He knew that Agajanian or Gaynor would be waiting for him.

He went, light-footed, out of the bedroom and down the stairs, as light and quick as he had been at Oregon and in Korea. Although he now weighed 210 pounds instead of 190, and maybe his face was a bit fleshier and blotched from beering, he was proud that he was still strong and fast and without an inch of flabbiness.

Almost breezily he entered the dining room, where Gertrude, in her usual early morning disarray, was trying to force Ogden, his ten-year-old, and Otis, who was eight, to eat their plates clean. Settling down to spear a waffle, he noticed, as he often had recently, that Gertrude, once pleasantly thin of face and trim of figure, had become sharp around the nose and mouth and baggier beneath the spotted housecoat. He noticed, too, that neither she nor his sons had acknowledged him with so much as a good morning. This time he would permit no disrespect to intrude on his good cheer.

“Well, Gertie, what’s the bad news today?” he said with a grin.

He had almost forgotten how much this greeting, which he had been using lately to anticipate and blunt her shrill attacks, infuriated her.

Her head swung toward him, threatening as a machine gun. What unholy hour did you get to sleep?”

“I don’t know. Two or three.” He buttered his waffles and poured syrup over them. “I couldn’t take my eyes off the television screen. What a night.”

“Apparently you were able to take your eyes off it long enough while my brother was here. I suppose you went to that frightful saloon?”

“Just for cigarettes.” He sliced off a piece of waffle and was pleased to find it limp and cold. “Then I guess I walked around. I as pretty shook up by that Frankfurt thing.”

“I didn’t know what to say to Austin. He only wants to help you. Even if he is my brother, he doesn’t have to.”

“I appreciate it,” Beggs said grimly. He stared at the tops of his sons’ heads. “Ogden-Otis-where’s your manners? I haven’t even heard hello.”

Both their sandy-haired heads went up and down. “Hello, Pop… hello.”

He might have been a stick of wood for all they cared, he thought. Gertrude had done a thorough job of brainwashing them against him. A few years ago they would have been swarming over him, tugging, hugging, pestering him for more stories of derring-do on the Oregon gridiron, on the Korean battlefields, on the perils of his White House job. They had looked up to him, admired him. Only Gertrude’s increased and open daily hectoring had reduced his past heroism and authority to his present symbol of failure.

He determined not to lose them. “Well, boys, it should be quite a day in school today, with a new President, eh?”

Gertrude’s querulous voice drew a discordant curtain between her sons and their father. “You sound like it’s good news. You have a Negro President. You have two sons in a predominantly Negro school. They’re both afraid they’ll be hooted at and kicked around.”

“Why make out that it’s so bad?” Beggs demanded. “Why does everything have to be bad?”

“Because it is, it just is,” “Gertrude said, throwing her crumpled paper napkin on the table. “Do you want some really bad news now? I don’t mind telling you. I just heard it from the milkman. The Schearers are moving out of the neighborhood. They’ve put their house up for sale. They didn’t even have the nerve to tell us. I had to hear it from the milkman.”

Automatically Beggs’s eyebrows had arched with surprise. The Schearers were the last of the old crowd, their old friends in the neighborhood, who had stayed on with them. He and Gertrude saw the Schearers at least twice a week.

Gertrude was going on. “He must’ve gotten that new position he applied for. Well, at least they’ve got some sense. They’ve had enough, even if you haven’t. And I’m thinking of the boys now, especially now, and nothing else.”

“I think of them, too,” he said angrily. He paused, to control himself, and then he said, “There’s going to be a change right here. Didn’t you hear it on television or read it in the papers?”

“What? Read what?”

“Sonenberg and McCune were in the same room with the President in Frankfurt. They were killed, too. That means the Assistant job to Agajanian in the White House is open, and I’m next up. It means a solid raise.”

Gertrude seemed to deflate into weariness. “Oh, that one. I heard that one before. Do you have a contract that says you’ll get it?”

“It’s my turn, Gertie. Chief Gaynor knows I’m next in line. Besides, I was thinking”-he felt shrewd, his old confident self-“the fact that we stayed on in this neighborhood is going to work for me. Look at it any way you want, but the new President is a Negro, and knowing Gaynor’s politicking, he’ll be wanting to play up to President Dilman. Gaynor knows where we live. It shows I have no prejudices-in fact, shows I like the Negro people and get along with them. Gaynor’ll figure my promotion will look good to Dilman.”

“I’m sure Dilman doesn’t know you exist,” said Gertrude, “and I’m not sure Gaynor knows either, considering these past years.” He was furious at her remark, in front of the boys, but before he could reply, she was on her feet, hustling Ogden and Otis to the door, stuffing their arms into their jackets. “Get on your way,” she was saying, “and watch the crossings, and if there’s any trouble you report it to the principal.”

Otis had gone through the door, but the older one, Ogden, hung behind. “Pop, last night Junior Austin said there’s a holiday off when a President dies. I hope so.”

“When I get to the White House, I’ll arrange it,” Beggs said expansively.

“Ha,” Ogden chortled, “that’ll be the day.”

Flushed, Beggs shouted, “If I can get you those damn stamps from the President’s secretary, I can-” It was too late. His older son had gone.

Put down, he waited, as Gertrude came back into the dining room. She tried to push her hair out of her face, and buttoned her housecoat, and then she lifted her head and stared at her husband. The tight, unyielding lines of attack had left her forehead and mouth. When she spoke, her tone was more imploring than accusing.

“Otto, I know what that promotion means to you, and I-I hope you get it, for your sake,” she said. “I know what the Service means to you, and all that business, and the excitements, and the scrapbooks. But there’s more to life, Otto. Even if you got the promotion-”

“I’ll get it,” he said fiercely.

“So you get it. But even then, we’d have to borrow and scrape to make a down payment on a better house in a-a decent, proper neighborhood for the boys.”

“We’ll manage, that’s all that counts.”

She came forward a few steps. “Why do you make it so hard for yourself and for us, Otto? It’s been-I guess it’s over a year since Austin agreed he’d like to have you in Chevy Chase as a partner. It was no favor to a brother-in-law. He’s making money hand over fist. He wants to expand. He respects you, no matter how-how carried away he gets sometimes with his success. He’s always saying a person of your background would be a definite asset to his business.”

“I don’t need his charity-him, of all people.”

She was pleading. “Otto, there’s no charity. You’d have to work for it. Six months ago you seemed to be more agreeable. That’s why I got him to loan you those textbooks, so you could study up for the realty board examinations. I think maybe you opened them once. They’ve been rotting inside the desk ever since. But you’re smart enough to do it. Look how fast you got in the Secret Service, passing those tests when you wanted to. You could become a licensed realtor in no time. You’d triple Austin’s business.”

“Doing what? Standing in drafty houses and showing couples still wet behind the ears the view, the goddam new plumbing, the bedrooms? That’s a life, after what I lived? Listen, Gertie, you stick with me, let me do it my way, and I promise you-”

The telephone in the living room rang out, and he stopped, wondering.

“I’ll get it,” Gertrude was saying. “Probably Mae Schearer to gloat about-”

She was gone. He started to eat his bowl of yogurt, when he saw her return.

“Otto, it’s Chief Gaynor calling from the White House.”

He jumped to his feet, suddenly beaming, his temples throbbing. “I knew it, I knew it. Tell him I’ll be right on. I’ll take it upstairs.”

He wanted this triumph alone. He rushed out of the dining room and bounded up the creaking stairs two at a time. Breathless, he snatched up the telephone on the desk.

“Hello… I’ve got it, Gertrude… hello.”

He heard her click off, and heard a remote secretary tell him to hold on, and then he heard Gaynor’s gruff voice, so welcome this morning.

“Beggs? Chief Gaynor here.”

“Good morning, Chief. I was just leaving for duty. Glad you caught me. I’m sure sorry about Sonenberg and McCune.”

“It happens, it happens,” said Gaynor impatiently. “We just wish they could have done something to save the President. Well, that’s behind us. We’ve got a job to do, and today it’s harder than ever. Beggs, I’m calling to tell you we’re forced into some changes around here-”

His heart swelled. “Yes, sure.”

“-and we’ve upped the guard detail, and have to do some switching around on the three shifts. I know you’re on the morning-to-afternoon shift. But for the time being we’re putting you on from afternoon to evening. You don’t have to come in now. Rest up. You check in at four o’clock and stay until one in the morning.”

His heart thumped faster. “You-you mentioned changes, Chief. Is that all? I mean, just the time?”

“Matter of fact, no, glad you mentioned it. One second, I think there’s another call-no, it’s okay. Yes, you’ll be undertaking a new job. Lou Agajanian tells me you get along well with Negroes.”

“That’s right, Chief,” he said hastily. “Been living right here off Connecticut among them for years. Some of my finest friends-”

“Excellent,” Gaynor interrupted. “We’re assigning you to being one of the twelve special agents who will personally be guarding President Dilman. How’s that?”

Confused, he waited for Chief Gaynor to tell him the rest, but realized there was no more. “I-I don’t understand, Chief. You want me to guard the President? Is that my new job?”

“I knew you’d be pleased. Agajanian told me it was a duty you’d always wanted.”

Beggs felt sinking and frantic. “Chief, it’s what I wanted four or five years ago. But there’s a lot of water under the bridge now. I-I’ve got seniority, now that McCune is gone. I know that Sonenberg left a supervisory vacancy. I figured it was regular procedure-I mean, I thought that the Assistant to Lou, that opening, would-”

“It’s already filled, Beggs.” Chief Gaynor was brisk and businesslike. “An hour ago I submitted Special Agent Roscoe Prentiss’ name to the Secretary of the Treasury and he okayed it.”

“Prentiss?” Beggs could barely restrain himself from shouting at his Chief. “He came into the Service four years after I did. He’s way down the list. I’m supposed to get-”

“Wait a minute, Beggs, easy there. You’re creating a seniority system that doesn’t exist. Going by length of time in the Service is not in the regulations. It’s a factor, of course-always has been when we consider promotions. But just as often we try to angle the right man for the right job at the right time.”

Beggs felt himself shaking with righteous indignation. “Who’s Prentiss? What has he got that I haven’t got?” Then it came to him, and he knew. “Don’t tell me. I get it. He’s colored. He’s being upped to supervisor because he’s a Negro.”

There were empty silent seconds on the telephone, and then Chief Gaynor came on less gruffly. “I’m not in a position to say that was the decisive factor, Beggs. I-” His tone of voice lowered, offering confidence, man-to-man equality. “I just want to put it to you as one reasonable human being to another-what would you do in my boots? Overnight we’ve got an unusual situation, we’ve got a Negro President. Don’t you think it’s only fair that one of the six Secret Service executives should be of his people? If I didn’t do this, he might feel we were being discriminatory, and feel unkindly toward the Service.”

“Did President Dilman ask for this?”

“No-no, he doesn’t even know about it yet. It’s just something we felt would be fair at this time.”

“Dammit, Chief, it’s not fair, say whatever you want. It’s discrimination against me because I’m white. It’s not giving me what I deserve. I don’t like it.”

“Beggs, this is a time to be reasonable. I appreciate your disappointment. The fact is, we’re giving you something better, something you always wanted, an assignment right next to the President of the United States. In fact, and Lou’ll go into this with you, there’ll be a-a token raise. As for the future, we’ll keep you in mind. We take care of our own, Beggs. Now, you take it easy, and check in with Lou at four. Be seeing you.”

Listlessly, Otto Beggs returned the telephone to the desk. Life had spat in his eye again. He knew when he was licked. His glance went to the door, but he had no stomach for facing Gertrude.

He lumbered to the bedroom window and glared down into the busy street. There were people down there, and most of them were black. Until now his attitude toward them had been boxed between resentment and toleration. Now he was bitter toward all of them. Because his Chief wanted to apple-polish a new President, who was Negro, who did not deserve to be President, Otto Beggs had been elbowed aside to make room for a callow colleague whose only qualification was his black skin. And the worst of it, they were throwing him a few pennies more and telling him to risk his life to protect the life of a colored politician.

The injustice of it gagged him. He, a war hero, who almost gave up his life for his country, almost got killed trying to protect those watermelon eaters in the safe rear lines doing soft KP and shooting craps and knocking up Korean girls. He, who had received the Medal of Honor from Eisenhower, having to be at the beck and call of a black President, whose war record consisted of keeping records in the Pentagon. Chrissakes, what in the hell was the world coming to?

He was ready for Gertrude at last.

He strode out of the room and down the stairs. She was waiting below, unblinking, as her fingers picked at the fringe of her housecoat, watching his descent. He felt that his cheeks were livid, and knew that she knew, and did not give a damn.

He looked fixedly at her. She did not utter a word.

He said, “My shift’s been changed. I’m not going to work until four. I’ve got time on my hands. I want to use it. Where in the hell are those real estate textbooks?”

She swallowed, quickly nodding her head. “I-I’ll find them for you, Otto. I’ll get them right away.”

She raised the long skirt of her housecoat, to make movement and speed easier, and hastily she climbed the stairs. For once, he was satisfied with her. For once, she’d had sufficient respect for him to say nothing more.


Late in the afternoon, still behind her desk in her office next to the President’s Oval Office, Edna Foster sat with hands clasped tightly, observing George Murdock as he read the short letter she had moments before pulled out of her gray electric typewriter.

Her gaze did not leave her fiancé. He was running his fingers through his sparse blond hair, and then scratching at his acne-pocked pale cheeks, and then scratching at his beaky nose and receding chin, about which she felt so possessive.

His small, translucent eyes were smaller as they came up from the page to meet her own. “No, Edna, don’t show it to him, not yet.”

She took her neat, two-paragraph letter of resignation to President Dilman back from George, coughed wretchedly, since her cold had settled in her chest, and said, “It’s expected of the whole staff.”

“Flannery told us President Dilman was keeping on T. C.’s entire staff. And there’ll be an announcement he’s keeping on the Cabinet, too. Just like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson did, at first.”

“George, it’s impossible. How can I work for him after working for T. C.?”

Murdock’s eyes became even smaller. “Is that the reason, Edna?”

“I don’t know,” she said quickly. “He has his own secretary over in the Senate Office Building. She’s colored. She’d understand him. It-it would be so difficult for me.”

George Murdock shook his head. “No, it would be wrong, Edna. You know this job. The other girl doesn’t. Give him a break. You admitted you didn’t even know him. You haven’t even talked to him today.”

“He’s been locked up in the Cabinet Room for hours, with Eaton and Talley and everyone. Even if I did know him, it would be-”

She halted, and listened. She could hear the tread of many feet leaving the Cabinet Room for the tiled corridor outside.

She said, “They’re breaking up now, George. You’d better leave me. He might come in, and it wouldn’t look right.”

George Murdock came to his feet and so did she, and she was pleased that she was no taller than he, even if it was, as she suspected, because he wore lifts in his heels. He started for the corridor door. “Think twice, Edna, before you quit. You can help him. It might be better for both of us, you being busy right now. See you tonight.”

Alone with her letter of resignation, she reread it, then, with a pen, supplied a missing comma. George, she knew, was wiser than she, and she was attentive always to his counsel. But this time he was wrong because he could not see the turmoil inside her, and there had been no time to talk it out. Yet George had perceived what was at the bottom of her discomfort. He had doubted that she wanted to resign because of her loss of T. C. He had forced her to confess that she thought a colored secretary could serve a Negro President better.

She wondered now what her admission had meant. Why did she think Dilman should have a colored secretary? She had never possessed strong feelings for or against Negroes. In fact, throughout her career she had had no close contact with them. To her they were not people, but a controversial issue that had swirled about T. C.’s Oval Office these last two years and that had gone in and out of her typewriter as a civil rights problem. Like T. C., she had been for them. Like Lincoln, she did not believe in slavery or discrimination or prejudice. She had always considered herself open-minded and progressive, and wanting the right thing.

She had never been faced with the problem of knowing a Negro really well, or working for one really closely. Last night the problem had come to her, and all through the hectic and emotional day she had tried to evaluate it. Without precisely defining why, she had come to the conclusion that she must resign. She had drafted several versions of her letter, when she could find the time, and at last it was typed. She had called George in from the West Wing lobby, where the members of the press were crowded about for every news flash, but the two of them had had only five minutes together.

She wondered if she would see President Dilman at all today. He had arrived at the West Wing entrance late in the morning, had been hurried past the television and radio microphones outside, stopping just long enough to speak, brokenly, no more than thirty words of his grief over the nation’s loss, and to promise that the continuity of orderly government would not be impaired and that a formal statement would be forthcoming.

After that, he had spent the entire afternoon in the Cabinet Room, flanked by Secretary of State Eaton and Governor Talley, seeing Congressional leaders and several ambassadors, approving funeral arrangements, signing a more elaborate proclamation of a period of mourning, preparing a statement to the nation. There had been, as far as Edna had been able to make out, only one change in plans. She had scheduled the members of the Cabinet to see him, one after the other, separately. Apparently Dilman had insisted upon seeing them as a group for five minutes. Talley had emerged to tell her, and Edna had made the arrangements. The first Cabinet meeting had lasted seven minutes, and, according to Tim Flannery, President Dilman had requested one minute of silent prayer for T. C. and MacPherson, and then he had made a little impromptu speech promising that he would try to serve the country, try to carry out T. C.’s programs with their help, and he had concluded by pleading with all of them to stay on in their posts.

She heard muffled voices in the corridor, and then the tramp of footsteps toward the Oval Office, followed by lighter footsteps. Her intuition told her that President Dilman was on his way to his desk for the first time in his first day in office, followed, no doubt, by his Secret Service bodyguards.

She wanted to make certain.

She went quietly to the thick door that separated her room from the Oval Office. In the middle of the heavy door, at eye level, was a minute peephole with a magnifying glass inside it. Very few visitors, even members of the government, were aware that this peephole existed. Occasionally, with glee, T. C. had pointed it out to distinguished foreign guests. He had liked to say, to Edna’s embarrassment, “My wife Hesper had the hole drilled, so that Miss Foster can keep an eye on me. We have a lot of pretty secretaries here, you know.” Actually, as Edna knew from the first day, the peephole was there so that a President’s personal secretary could unobtrusively peer inside, to make sure that the Chief Executive was not occupied with visitors, before she entered or dared to disturb him.

Edna Foster stood on tiptoe and placed her right eye to the peephole.

The magnifying glass enlarged T. C.’s elaborate desk, made up of the oak timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, a ship turned over to Queen Victoria by American Minister to Great Britain James Buchanan in an effort to aid the British search for a lost Arctic expedition. Years later Queen Victoria had returned a portion of the rescue vessel to President Hayes in the shape of this White House desk. And forever after it had been known as the Buchanan desk.

Clearly visible to Edna’s eye now, as she studied the venerable desk, were the numerous knickknacks and gadgets surrounding the green blotter, all favors that emissaries from Japan and Ecuador, Italy and Baraza, had brought to the President. Almost visible, too, were the silver-framed portraits of T. C.’s wife and adolescent son.

Dropping her gaze, Edna could make out the center of the room, even to the Presidential seal woven into the green carpet. Shifting her eyes to the right, Edna could see T. C.’s cushioned antique captain’s chair, set between the two curved sofas.

Beyond the furnishings, the Oval Office was empty.

Suddenly the open doorway to the corridor was filled by a Secret Service agent, the one named Beggs, who was unfastening the chain. A moment later President Douglass Dilman came into the room. No one followed him.

Knowing that this was his first visit, as Chief Executive of the land, to what was now his office and had been the office of every President since 1909, Edna Foster watched with fascination.

Douglass Dilman had come to the middle of the room hesitantly. He simply stood there as if uncertain where to turn, what to do, like one who was not sure that he had found the right address. Edna examined him. Although the peephole brought him closer, made him larger, he appeared smaller than she remembered him to have been last night. His broad black face reflected confusion. He rubbed one side of his flaring nostrils and slowly pirouetted, staring at the three windows behind the desk, at the two standing flags, the American flag and the Presidential flag. Then he stared down at the desk itself.

He was full in the peephole once more. Edna’s heart ached, not from the fact that T. C. was not there, not from the fact that a stranger was there instead, but for Dilman’s forlornness. His charcoal suit looked too new, too uncomfortable, and long at the sleeves. He might have been a proprietor of a shoeshine-stand concession in his Sunday best, waiting for an interview on the new lease.

She must go to him, at once, before he came to her.

Withdrawing from the peephole, Edna Foster folded her letter of resignation, located the memorandum of urgent calls and messages that she had prepared for the President. Holding the letter, the memorandum and her shorthand pad in her left hand, she nervously opened the door to his office and went inside.

“Good-good day, Mr. President.”

“Miss Foster, how do you do. I-I was about to find out where you were.”

“There’ve been endless phone calls and messages. Some may be important. I didn’t want to break in on your meetings, the-the first day-but-” She removed the memorandum from her left fist and handed it to him. “I’ve typed it out for you, in detail. If you want to dictate-”

She had started for her familiar chair next to T. C.’s desk, but Dilman did not move. She halted, and waited.

His eyes were on the desk. Then they swung toward the sofas across the room. He indicated one sofa. “I think it’ll be more comfortable over there.”

She nodded, then remembered a procedure. She went quickly to the open French door leading to the Rose Garden, waved to a Secret Service agent, then closed it. She started toward the other open door leading to the corridor.

Dilman, having reached the captain’s chair, said, “What are you doing?”

Puzzled, Edna replied, “I’m closing the doors for privacy.”

Dilman did not hide his concern. “No. Leave that one open.”

“I-I’ve always been told to do it, to shut them. What you may be dictating-it might be personal, I mean privileged-”

“Leave that door open,” Dilman said.

She was surprised at his severity. “Well, I-” She shrugged. “Very well, Mr. President.”

Before she could move to the sofa, he intercepted her. His distress was obvious. “Let me-I think I’d better explain,” he said quickly. “I think I can be honest with you. After all, you were T. C.’s confidential secretary.”

“Yes,” she said, bewildered.

Dilman hesitated. His eyes were cast downward at his shoes. “Once, President Eisenhower appointed a Negro, E. Frederic Morrow, to his staff in the White House, in an executive capacity. Morrow required a secretary from the White House pool. They were all specially trained white girls. Everyone refused the job. According to Morrow, ‘None wants the onus of working for a colored boss.’ So Morrow sat alone in his White House office, without a secretary, not knowing what to do. Then, late in the day, a white girl timidly appeared. She was from Massachusetts. She was religious. She knew Morrow was having trouble. She felt that she could not be true to her faith unless she volunteered for the job. When the white girl appeared, Morrow said, ‘She kept the door open behind her, as if for protection, and refused to come in and sit down.’ ” Dilman paused. “I could never forget that. In the Senate I always kept one door open when I had a white secretary or female visitor in. I-I guess I’ve brought the same feeling with me into the White House. Forgive my sensitivity, Miss Foster. Now, at least, you understand it.”

Shaken, Edna wanted to burst into tears. When Dilman raised his eyes to look at her, she tried to control her voice, but it quavered. “I think the President’s door should be closed.”

She went to the corridor door, shut it firmly, and without meeting his eyes she went to the curved sofa and sat down.

Dilman was behind the captain’s chair, still standing. He ignored the memorandum that he held. “Governor Talley tells me that I should announce to the White House staff that I am keeping all members on. Is that right?”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“I’ll begin with you, Miss Foster. Will you stay?”

As he spoke, she had separated her shorthand pad from her folded letter of resignation. Now she stuffed the letter of resignation deep into her skirt pocket. “Yes, Mr. President,” she found herself saying. “I’d be honored to stay. Thank you.”

“I thank you,” he said with a wan smile. “Then you’re my first appointment as President of the United States. I’ll take care of the others later.”

Efficiently, she had opened her shorthand pad and held a pencil poised, waiting.

He had not yet consulted the memorandum. His eyes were directed toward the three naval paintings over the mantel of the fireplace. “Miss Foster, do you remember what Harry Truman said after F. D. R. died and after he himself had become President? He said, ‘I felt like the moon, the stars, and the planets had fallen on me.’ He said to reporters, ‘I’ve got the most awful responsibility a man ever had. If you fellows ever pray, pray for me.’ And Lyndon Johnson. Will we ever forget his leaving the plane at Andrews Airfield with President Kennedy’s coffin, and his going to the microphones? Do you remember, Miss Foster? He said, ‘I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help-and God’s.’ Well, Miss Foster, that’s how I feel, like Harry Truman did and like Lyndon Johnson did.”

Edna tried to find her voice. “I think everyone understands that, Mr. President.”

“Do they?” He looked at her absently. “I wonder.”

“They’ll pray for you and-and they’ll help you. I know they will, the way they helped Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. It’s no different now.”

His eyes were fixed upon her. “It is different now… They weren’t black.” Then, suddenly, he smiled. “Of course, if there’s no one’s help, there is always God’s. After all, we don’t know if He is white or black.”

And he sat down in the captain’s chair, and was ready to begin.

III

Reclining low in the rear seat of the bulletproof White House limousine, Douglass Dilman felt, this early morning, as he had felt every morning of the past week, like a prisoner being transferred from his home to his cellblock.

Up ahead, through the distortion of the bent windshield, he could make out the motorcycle escort, red lights flashing. On either side of him were more roaring motorcycles. Behind him he could hear the higher pitch of the protective sedan, which contained the remainder of his complement of bodyguards.

Within the luxurious limousine there was little freedom. In the front seat, the driver and the man next to him were Secret Service agents of the White House Detail. In the back, an arm’s length from Dilman, sitting sideways on one jump seat, was agent Beggs. True, none of them had their eyes upon him. The chauffeur’s gaze was directed straight ahead, the other agent in front examined the passing panorama of Sixteenth Street to their right, and Beggs examined the passing pedestrians and buildings to the left.

Douglass Dilman pressed his brown fedora more tightly to his skull as the wind whipped in through the opening of the electric window beside the driver. Wistfully, Dilman took in the landmarks that he had passed so often in the years when he had belonged to himself, and almost no one had cared if he were living or dead. He recognized the Hebrew Academy, the Methodist Church, the blue Woodner Hotel, the all-female Meridian Hill Hotel, the Hotel 2400, the Bulgarian Embassy, the white-pillared, red-brick, bogus English houses with their porches and stoops, which so many affluent Negroes had purchased from whites. In minutes the limousine would take him away from all this, around Lafayette Square, and to Executive Avenue and the south entrance of the stately Executive Mansion.

Dilman had awaited with dread the inevitability of this important day. It was his moving day. And now it was here. T. C.’s widow Hesper, Dilman had been told, had overseen the removal of the late President’s and her own personal effects and furniture from the White House yesterday, just as Governor Talley and Edna Foster had removed T. C.’s personal belongings from the Oval Office of the West Wing three days before.

For long, painful hours last night, Dilman, with the help of his housekeeper Crystal, his Senate secretary, Diane Fuller, Rose Spinger, and two nervous Army enlisted men, had assembled and packed into cartons and crates his pathetically limited and long-used possessions. Dilman had refused to allow anyone from the White House to help him, not Edna Foster, not T. C.’s valet Beecher, and not any of the White House staff that included the housekeeper, the houseboys, the ushers. Although Flannery had talked him into permitting newspapers to publish photographs of his simple living room in the brownstone row house, he did not want any critical outsiders to see or poke through his home. Nor had he permitted the Reverend Spinger or Wanda Gibson to come downstairs to assist him. In his new role, Dilman realized, he could no longer treat Spinger as a friend, only as one who headed America’s foremost Negro pressure organization. As for Wanda, her presence might have made the Secret Service men wonder about her relationship to him, and someone might have divulged it to the press, which in turn might distort it. While he had spoken to her briefly on the telephone every night before going to bed, he had not seen her personally since assuming the Presidency. She had not chided him for his neglect, for that was not her way. But he suspected that she commiserated with him, knowing his weaknesses, which was justifiable on her part.

Through the window he could see that they were turning off Sixteenth Street. Suddenly he was terrified. He tried to define his terror. It was not simply that he was giving up the safe anonymity of the ground floor of his modest two-story brownstone to spend a year and five months of life in the unfamiliar, awesome, museum-like, constantly exposed second story of the White House. That was bad enough, being the intruder-lodger in a mansion supported by a population that had never before permitted him to live among them, as part of them, in their easy streets and developments and tracts. The worst of it was that he was being carried farther and farther away from the only woman on earth whom he loved, and who cared for him. In short minutes he would be entombed in a prison that she could not visit, to which he dared not summon her. He wondered how long she would wait for his release, or if she would wait at all. He might lose her. He would lose her. Then he would be alone, utterly alone, in a hostile world. It was this terrifying possibility that had chilled him.

He brought his eyes from the window to the ominous radiophone beside him, and then to the sour face of the Secret Service agent in the jump seat. Fleetingly he wondered what the agent was so unhappy about. Perhaps, Dilman decided, his expression was really that of anxiety over his responsibility.

The agent’s full name was Otto Beggs, Dilman remembered. He had been on the afternoon shift, on guard outside the Oval Office, throughout the week. This morning he had appeared at daybreak, introducing himself again, saying that he was on a split shift today, four hours now and four hours late in the afternoon. With the three women, Beggs had helped supervise the Army privates who carried the cartons and crates into their huge military truck. There had also been several pieces of Dilman’s furniture, a small bedroom desk and bench, a maroon leather armchair, a tall lamp with a shade that Aldora had painted so long ago, and the Revels chair, that Dilman had permitted to be moved. The Revels chair was the possession of which he was most proud. He had received it as a gift from the state Party organization upon his election to the United States Senate. Although it was a genuine John Henry Belter rosewood chair with an upholstered panel in its scrolled back and with an upholstered felt seat, handmade in New York in 1870s, he had been told its real value lay in the fact that in the 1870s it had belonged to Hiram R. Revels, of Mississippi, who had become the first Negro to sit in the United States Senate.

The rest of the furniture Dilman had left behind, so that Rose Spinger could lease his old quarters for him furnished, to bring a better rental. After the Army truck had wheeled away toward the White House, followed in a Presidential staff car by Crystal and Diane Fuller, who would direct the unpacking, Beggs and the other Secret Service agents had waited to escort Dilman himself.

Still filled with the panic induced by his thoughts of losing Wanda forever, Dilman determined to question Beggs. He must be discreet, he reminded himself. But he must also know what was possible.

“Uh, Mr. Beggs-”

The Secret Service agent turned his head. “Yes, sir-yes, Mr. President?”

“I’d like to ask you a question.”

“Anything, Mr. President. Pardon me if I keep my eyes on the street while I talk. Duty, sir.” He was attentive, but his eyes were pointed to what lay out beyond the limousine window in the gray morning.

“While I haven’t had time to acquaint myself with the functions of the Secret Service, I do gather your Detail is assigned to protect me at all times.”

“Yes, sir, since 1901. Title 18, United States Code, Section 3056, amended and approved by the 82nd and 83rd Congress,” recited Otto Beggs. Then he went on, “ ‘Subject to the discretion of the Treasury, the United States Secret Service, Treasury Department, is authorized to protect the person of the President of the United States and members of his immediate family.’ ”

“I gathered that,” said Dilman dryly. “I haven’t been out of your sight for a second this week, except when I’ve gone to the bathroom or have been asleep. Does it always have to be that way? Isn’ there some time when I can go out alone, privately, to see certain-certain friends?”

Beggs shook his head. “Sorry, Mr. President. How can we protect you if we’re not with you?”

“I can’t believe every President has been followed every minute of his term by agents,” said Dilman.

“It’s true, sir. Mr. Truman tried to get off on walks without us, and General Eisenhower tried to get rid of us to play his golf in peace, and Mr. Kennedy tried to escape for some swims, but they never succeeded one minute, far as I know. Mr. Johnson was more cooperative in some respects, but T. C. once tried to sneak off to a stag party in Foxhall Road at one in the morning. We caught up with him.”

Dilman was thoughtful. “Let us say I kept it perfectly secret, yet insisted I had to see some friends alone?”

“You can see anyone alone, Mr. President, but you can’t travel to them unguarded.”

“What if I ordered it?”

Beggs turned his head, his puffy red face showing astonishment. “You couldn’t, Mr. President-begging your pardon, sir, but it’s the law. Chief Gaynor is empowered by the law to prevent you from any physical movement that he considers dangerous. This is sort of embarrassing, Mr. President, but like I said, it’s the law-sir.”

Dilman surrendered. “Thank you, Mr. Beggs.” The conversation left him more agitated than ever about Wanda and himself. Circumstances had made any future relationship impossible for them. He could not see her again on his terms, which demanded complete privacy. He could visit her only on the Secret Service agents’ terms and, he supposed, her own desired terms-publicly-and this would for the first time make known to one and all their longtime association. He considered the last, and then one more possibility came to his mind, and he thought about it.

“Crowding up a bit,” the chauffeur called out. “Take us another five minutes, Mr. President. Mind if we go on sirens?”

“I’d prefer not,” Dilman said. “There’s no hurry.”

There was no hurry inside him to face what lay ahead. He put the meeting with Wanda out of his mind. He would tackle that dilemma later. He tried to consider his more immediate problems. Edna Foster had telephoned him at breakfast to read him his schedule for today. He would have one hour in the living quarters of the White House, to become further acquainted with the historic rooms that were now his home, and to meet his staff, to brief them on where his furniture and personal effects should be placed. After that, there were his morning engagements: a half-hour meeting with Secretary of State Eaton and Governor Talley; a one-hour full-dress Cabinet meeting, his first, not counting the brief gathering when he had asked the members to stay on; a short meeting with his son, Julian, who was coming down from Trafford to see him; a short meeting with his biographer, Leroy Poole, who had so insistently been telephoning.

Lunch, he remembered, would be with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were coming over from the Pentagon. This afternoon would be packed, conferences with the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, conferences with the Directors of the CIA and the FBI, a conference with Tim Flannery, a conference with the Federal Loan Administrator, a conference with the Ambassador to Russia. Only the hours between five and eight had been left free, so that he might catch up on his official reading. After eight in the evening there would be the best time of the day and the week, a private and informal dinner in the White House, his first as President, with Sue and Nat Abrahams.

Thinking of everything he had to do before dinner made him acknowledge the tension that was overlaid on the weariness and uneasiness that had accumulated in the seven days behind him. It was incredible to him that a week, an entire week, had passed since he had become President of the United States. Even now, in his protective, mechanized capsule that moved toward the White House, he did not feel the way the President should, however it was that a President was supposed to feel. Perhaps, he realized, this was because he had not yet been made answerable to the demands put upon the executive branch. The events of the past week had been out his hands, had rolled in pomp and tragic splendor to their climax, as if motivated by the force of a Supreme Being. He had been an observer. And he had been grateful for this, and for Governor Talley and Secretary Eaton, who had both possessed the kindness and intelligence to speak for him when his voice was supposed to be heard.

Vividly he recalled T. C.’s funeral. His memory turned like an orderly kaleidoscope, yet showing him only hasty, quickly changing fragments of color, almost abstract varicolored impressions of sliding glass. There was the impression, streaked by the rain of the late afternoon, of himself and the Cabinet and the Congressional and military leaders at Dulles International Airport, when the jet known as 809 Air Force One landed after its trip from Frankfurt and disgorged the coffins containing the bodies of T. C. and MacPherson. There was the impression of the morning after, when T. C.’s widow Hesper, back from Arizona, stately and contained in her grief, supported by her awkward, adolescent son and by Secretary Eaton, had met him. They had gone together into the East Room of the White House to find T. C.’s flag-draped bier beneath the dimmed chandeliers, surrounded by the flickering candles and the rigid guard of honor. There was the impression of the following noon, the yellow sun shining down upon the massed thousands who lined Pennsylvania Avenue, as he plodded behind the muffled black-draped drums, behind the horse-drawn caisson with its coffin, behind T. C.’s widow and son and relatives. He walked side by side in step with The Judge and two other ex-Presidents, toward the public Rotunda of the Capitol, where the 21-gun salute rang out and the Marine Band played “Hail to the Chief,” and the brief Episcopalian services were observed. There was the impression of the funeral itself, once more in the noon sun but screened from the general public’s view, with himself and The Judge and other ex-Presidents and T. C.’s Cabinet in the landscaped family burial plot on the grounds behind the family manor near Concord, New Hampshire.

There was the change in the kaleidoscope of his memory from yellow to muted and mixed colors. There was the impression of himself, with Eaton and Talley on either side of him, in the Cabinet Room-he had been unable to bring himself to return to T. C.’s Oval Office-greeting and reassuring the countless heads of nations who had participated in the cortege and attended the burial. He remembered meeting the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President of France, the Deputy Premier of Russia, the Chancellor of Germany, the King of Belgium, the Premier of Japan, and half a hundred more coming, chatting, going, in those bewildering hours. There was the impression, even less bright, more settling, of himself in the Fish Room the day before yesterday, engaged in the lively but brief discussion with The Judge, so forthright, so encouraging, then the more formal discussions with the other ex-Presidents, the short exchanges with senators and representatives whom he had known, with the Party heads, with the members of T. C.’s advisory team. There was the impression of himself, in Tim Flannery’s press office yesterday behind closed doors, being informed of the ugly riots that had broken out like bursting boils, riots between whites and blacks, unorganized but savage, in Tennessee, in Louisiana, in Texas, in California, in Missouri, in Michigan. And the impression of Tim’s reading aloud the first public opinion poll on President Douglass Dilman-in favor of him: 24%; against him: 61%; undecided: 15%-and the remembrance of his secret dismay at this harsh factual appraisal of him, so at variance with the optimistic guess and hopes of the moderate New York newspaper editorial that had heartened him the week before. And then the impression of Tim, and others, afterward, helping him hastily draft the statement requesting national unity and support, promising adherence to the principles T. C. advocated, reminding Americans that the eyes of the world and of history were upon them.

“Mr. President-”

It was Beggs addressing him, and quickly he collapsed the kaleidoscope of memory and hid it in his mind, and he looked up.

“-here we are at the White House.”

The limousine had, indeed, drawn to a halt before the South Portico. A group of men, three of their number brandishing large cameras, were gathered between the curved driveway and the canopy. Beggs leaned forward to open the rear door, but a uniformed White House policeman had already opened it. Before stepping out, Dilman looked off to his left. The view, that would now belong to him for a year and five months, as it had belonged to Jefferson and Jackson and Lincoln and F. D. R., momentarily lulled his apprehension. There was a sylvan, pastoral quality about the sloping expanse of green lawn, flecked here and there with autumn’s rust, and between President Cleveland’s Japanese maples a circular fountain threw off its steady clean spray. Behind the birch and elm trees in the distance he could make out the high iron fence that enclosed the President’s private park and protected it from the traffic on South Executive Avenue. Beyond the fence he could see the majestic white marble obelisk of the Washington Monument pointed to the cloudy sky. The greatness demanded of the Mansion’s occupant pierced his peaceful mood, and apprehension suffused him again.

Beggs and the policeman were outside the car in attendance. Dilman pushed himself from the deep upholstered seat, ignoring their offered assistance, and stepped out onto the driveway. Only one of the clustered dozen waiting, Tim Flannery, was familiar to him.

Flannery darted forward to grasp his hand. “Welcome home, Mr. President,” he said.

“This isn’t much pleasure to me, Tim,” Dilman said, “considering the circumstances.”

“No,” Flannery agreed. Then he was all business. “Mr. President, I’ve allowed three from the press pool to grab a few pictures of you.” He turned, waving. “Go ahead, boys.”

As the limousine rolled away, leaving Dilman stiffly posed against the backdrop of the south lawn and the Washington Monument, the photographers hustled toward him, crouching, clicking. Dilman nodded, unable to smile, and then he moved toward the canopy. The photographers went crabwise alongside him, shooting more pictures, as the onlookers, White House police, Secret Service agents, gardeners and yardmen parted to give him passage.

He was halfway under the canopy when a medium-sized Negro with tight curly white-cotton hair that matched his white bow tie, with jet-black solemn face that matched his immaculate dark suit, stepped forward.

“Mr. President,” he said, “I am Beecher, the late President’s valet.”

Dilman stopped and extended his hand. Hesitantly the valet shook it.

“I’m glad to see you again, Beecher. I remember you from the Congressional receptions I attended here.” He paused, and then added, “I don’t know what your plans are, but I’d be pleased if you stayed on, that is, if you’d like to work for me.”

For the first time a smile wrinkled the valet’s bland face. “Thank you, Mr. President. I would like nothing better.” He indicated the south entrance. “Many of the White House staff are in the Diplomatic Reception Room, waiting to welcome you. After you’ve met them, I’ll escort you to your apartment on the second floor.”

“Very well,” said Dilman.

The valet leaped ahead to open the door, and Dilman went through it into the Diplomatic Reception Room. Inside the door, he hesitated. At least one hundred persons lined the vast and stately circular room with its eighteenth-century furnishings. There were women in domestic white or blue uniforms, many wearing aprons, and several dressed in crisp daytime secretarial suits or blouses and skirts. There were men in overalls, in fatigues, in dark suits with black ties. They were everywhere, aligned against the ornately framed oils of many First Ladies-he recognized the likenesses of Dolley Madison and Jacqueline Kennedy-and they waited along the cupboards of gold-edged plates, amid the scattering of yellow-upholstered furniture, against the scenic wallpaper depicting Niagara Falls and New York Bay.

“This is part of the White House day staff,” the valet whispered to Dilman.

All eyes were upon Dilman, curious eyes, speculating eyes. Slowly Dilman crossed the oval carpet, until he had progressed to the middle of the Reception Room.

He cleared his throat. “I do not have time to meet you individually right now and shake your hands, but I am touched by this turnout. I would like you to do this for me-I don’t think it will take very long-but I’d like each of you, starting from the door, to raise your hand and give me your name and job title. I would appreciate that.”

He turned to his left, toward those nearest the entrance and before the glassed cupboard, and as each one lifted a hand, some tentatively, some high and assured, each announced his name and position in the White House. While the roll call went around the room, Dilman murmured an acknowledgment of each one’s identity. He was astonished by the diversity of personnel. He had read or heard that there were 132 rooms in this house to be looked after, and that thirty-eight policemen guarded its many passageways, entrances, exits, and that four thousand persons possessed full-time or semipermanent security passes to service the Executive Mansion from within or without.

Yet Dilman had never expected anything as overwhelming as this. The men and women identifying themselves included police, chefs, kitchen help, chambermaids, butlers, carpenters, air-conditioning specialists, launderers, electricians, maintenance engineers, house painters, floor boys, telegraphers. Some were more important than others, Dilman knew, but he gave them no warmer recognition. Among the important ones were the housekeeper, Mrs. Crail, and the members of the Social Bureau from the East Wing, T. C. and Hesper’s social secretary, Miss Laurel, with her twelve assistants that included two secretaries.

It had taken longer than Dilman had anticipated, a full fifteen minutes, and when the last to introduce himself, the wispy chief calligrapher-who wrote all White House invitations, place cards, seating charts by hand-had finished, Dilman cleared his throat a second time.

“Thank you, each of you. It is a pleasure to meet you,” he said. “Some of you, I know, have become indispensable to the operation of this nation’s first house. Some of you have served Presidents as far back as Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, and others of you have been here under Mr. Truman, General Eisenhower, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Lyndon Johnson, and The Judge. But all of you, I know, old and new, have served T. C. and the First Lady efficiently and loyally. Some of you, missing them, having other plans, may wish to leave for different employment. You may do so, of course, and I will understand your motives. Most of you, I hope, I trust, will stay on, knowing your-your loyalty is to a high office and not to any individual. If you will stay on, this is simply to tell you that I want you and depend upon you. I can’t promise life in this house will be as it has been. No one can replace T. C. But the life of the house itself, the routine, the service to those who come here, must remain unchanged.”

He paused, blinking at the cream-colored carpet, and then he said with the faintest smile, “Perhaps, even, your work will be easier now. You see, except for my son, who is away at college, I am alone, quite alone, a widower, and I have few friends and little interest in social affairs except those which are expected of me. Yes, my personal demands may make it easier, but remember that this White House is not only my house but your house, too, and I want you to continue to take pride in it and in your jobs. I hope you will stay. I hope to know each of you better in a short time. Thank you-thank you very much.”

The valet, Beecher, was at Dilman’s side, and from the crowd of personnel, the Chief of the Secret Service, Hugo Gaynor, and T. C.’s military attaché, Brigadier General Robert Faber, swiftly emerged to join him. There was a light spatter of applause as General Faber, Chief Gaynor, and Beecher led him straight ahead, out of the Reception Room, into the wide ground-floor corridor with its seemingly endless ribbon of red carpet.

“Excellent, Mr. President,” the buoyant military attaché was saying. “I’m certain they will be eager to serve you.” He guided Dilman to the left. As they started up the corridor, Chief Gaynor said, “Over there is where you will come in from your office every day. Next to it is the service entrance for employees and tradespeople.” He pointed ahead. “Miss Crail’s office, she’s the housekeeper, a demon, and next to her, Admiral Oates’s office, he’s the White House physician, and across the way the flower shop-they keep the old house decorated-and those doors open to the main kitchen, all electric and stainless steel. It has a dumbwaiter that runs up to a pantry on the first floor, and to your private pantry or kitchenette on the second floor. Ike put the second-floor pantry in-liked late snacks and raiding the refrigerator.” General Faber and Chief Gaynor threw half salutes at a plainclothes agent and a police guard seated at a table in the corridor, as both leaped to their feet and returned the greeting.

“Here we are,” said Chief Gaynor. He swung off the red carpet, passed under an arch into a small vestibule. “Here is your private elevator, Mr. President. Takes you straight up to your second-floor apartment every day.” He pushed the button, and Dilman watched the floor lights on the wall indicator drop from 3 to 2M to 2 to 1M to 1 to G. The valet opened the elevator door and held it.

“Gaynor and I will leave you here,” said General Faber. “I’m sure you’ll want to oversee what’s going on in privacy. If you need anything up there, Beecher and Miss Crail will be at your beck and call.”

“I appreciate your help,” said Dilman.

He ducked into the miniature elevator, as Beecher closed the double doors and pressed the button for the second floor. While the mobile closet climbed upward, Dilman inspected it. The elevator was carpeted in green. There were three mirrors on its three walls, and two mirrors on the double door before him. For the first time since shaving, hours ago, he could see himself. His kinky hair, despite the tonic, was as stiff as ever. His wide dark face was as Negroid as ever. The improbability of it all hit him with fresh impact. He was black and he was here.

He emerged into another small vestibule, almost bumping into an umbrella holder. The valet had gone to the left, and Dilman followed him.

“This is the second-floor West Hall,” said Beecher.

The hall, too long and too wide to be called a corridor-to Dilman it resembled a gallery-appeared to run almost the width of the White House.

“It goes from east to west,” said the valet, “and divides the second-floor apartments. Every important room opens into this hall. Down that way”-he pointed to the east section-“on the other side, the south side that looks down on the back lawn and Washington Monument, are the main rooms-the Executive study, although the Kennedys, Johnsons, and the late President used it for a living room, also. That is where the Truman Balcony is, sir. Next is the Treaty Room, and then the famous Lincoln Bedroom.”

“What’s down at the end there?” Dilman asked.

“The state bedrooms, Mr. President. The Rose Guest Room, the Lincoln Sitting Room, where there’s a fine television set, the Empire Guest Room, that’s the most of it, sir.”

Dilman stood studying the enormous hall. There were bookcases against one wall, and along the opposite wall were grouped a settee and chairs, beneath early American prints of Indians. At the farthest part of the hall stood a desk, and then a Baldwin piano.

Dilman gestured to his right. “What’s over there?”

“A private suite, Mr. President. You can see, it opens into T. C.’s sitting room, and on either side are the bedrooms that were used by the President, First Lady, and their son. Also, the pantry is there. It all looks down on the Rose Garden. I’d be glad to show you around-”

“Not yet, thanks,” said Dilman. “First, I’d like you to show me where my own things are being unpacked.”

“Oh, in the Queen’s Bedroom-the Rose Guest Room, really-way down at the end of the hall. We figured it wouldn’t be in use immediately, and it was the best place to uncrate everything until you ’could sort it out and become acquainted enough to know where you wished your effects to be placed. I’ll take you there, Mr. President.”

They marched briskly to the end of the hall, then through an entry, past a carpeted bathroom, a sitting room where the sofa and chairs were done in blue slipcovers, and into the Rose Guest Room. Dilman stepped aside as two Army privates carried out the last of the empty crates.

In the bedroom, he found Crystal on her knees upon the white tufted rug, stacking his embarrassingly limited collection of law books, history books, encyclopedias, synthetic leather-bound sets of Booker T. Washington’s writings and Dickens’ novels, and all the garishly jacketed mystery stories he enjoyed. Diane Fuller, her back also to him, was sorting out his papers on a table draped in red velvet.

Without disturbing them, he glanced around the room. It probably had been breathtakingly beautiful yesterday, he guessed, but this morning it was a mess. Except for the Revels handmade Belter chair, his cheap pieces of furniture, drab and scuffed, were eye-sores that littered the magnificent room, so gaily decorated in red and white. Heaps of his belongings, from humidors to ashtrays, from photograph albums to laminated plaques, stood like dozens of unattractive molehills. Piled across the canopied bed, across the rose patterned quilting, was a rag mountain of his clothes, on hangers, encased in plastic garment bags.

“It’s not fit for any royal Queen visiting us today,” he muttered.

“We’ll have it orderly in no time,” Beecher said quickly. “You know, many Queens have stayed in this room, one of the last being Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. She left behind, as a gift, that mirror over the fireplace. The bed was said to have belonged to Andrew Jackson. The shield-back chair-”

But Dilman was no longer listening. Crystal and Diane Fuller had turned around at the sound of voices, and now, grunting and heaving, Crystal was lifting her rotund bulk upright. “Thanks, Beecher,” Dilman said. “I think I’ll pitch in and help them here. I won’t need you right now.”

The moment that the valet was gone, Dilman went directly to Crystal, taking hold of her thick arm, smiling down into her shining face. “Well, Crystal, how are you managing? It’s a little different from my beat-up five rooms on Van Buren, isn’t it?”

“Mr. President, I’ll sure take them beat-up five rooms any day. This ain’t no livin’ home. This is a museum, sure is. Why, I’d be ’fraid to go to the bathroom here!”

Dilman chuckled. “You’ll get used to it, soon enough.” He was suddenly serious. “That is, if you want to. Crystal, I haven’t had a real chance to speak to you, or I would have asked you before. Will you stay on and help me?”

Her shoulders went up and down, and her fat arms shook. “Doin’ what, Mr. Dilman-Mr. President? I’m willin’, but doin’ what with all that fancy help around?”

“Taking care of me, that’s what you can do, Crystal, as you always have done. Those servants you see are for other people-visitors, dignitaries, guests. I need someone who knows how to make my breakfast, and keep starch out of my collars, and where to put my bedroom slippers. Let’s make believe nothing has changed, Crystal, except our address. We’ll continue on the same basis, only I’ll try to arrange a raise. What do you say?”

“I say yes, and how, bless the Lord!” Crystal exclaimed. “Maybe I’ll wind up writin’ a famous book about you, what the President is really like, and I’ll get rich and famous, too, and-”

Dilman grinned. “I knew I could count on you.”

He became aware of Diane Fuller watching, listening, from the velvet-draped table. He tried not to frown. Oddly enough, while Crystal belonged here, Diane did not. Her scrawny, deferential manner, her lack of poise, her unseemly loud dresses (the one this morning was orange polka dots on yellow), her bowlegs, her stutter and nervous mannerisms, made her less of an asset here than in his Senate office, where he could relegate her to the typewriter and file cabinets. Moreover, he did not want to bring in too many of his own color. That would create unpleasant talk. Still, there was Diane, waiting. Something must be done.

“What about you, Diane?” he asked. “Would you like to stay on?”

She spoke with difficulty. “Of-of course, S-senator. I have-haven’t no place else to go, and besides-”

“Besides what?”

“This is-is-is sure enough real exciting.”

“All right. Now, it won’t be the same as before, I’m sorry to say. I’ve kept on T. C.’s personal secretary, because she’s familiar with the Executive Office routine and can guide me. However, they can always use another secretary in the East Wing downstairs. I’ll tell them I want you hired.”

“I-I’d sure be grateful, S-s-senator.” Then she amended it hastily, “I mean-Mr. President.”

Crystal had approached, taking in the entire room with the arch of her hand. “What do we do with all this stuff?”

“You keep sorting it out so it is neat and so that you know where every item is,” said Dilman. “As soon as I find out which rooms I’ll be living in, we can start moving everything where it belongs. Don’t worry about it.” He consulted his wristwatch. “Matter of fact, I don’t have much time to look around. I’ll see if I can learn which is to be my bedroom.”

He left the Rose Guest Room, lost his way a moment, then escaped the maze of rooms to find Beecher, the valet, patiently tarrying in the hall.

“Sorry to keep you,” Dilman said. “Let’s start with a bedroom for tonight. What do you suggest?”

“Well, there’s these guest bedrooms-”

“No. Too fancy.”

“That leaves two others on this floor that are used,” said the valet. “Way down there at the end is the one most used by other Presidents. It’s huge and has a good cedar closet and bathroom-why, even the bathtub has the Presidential eagle on it. It was T. C.’s bedroom before he-”

“I’m not sure about that, either,” Dilman said. He did not repeat what had passed through his mind: that the electorate might unconsciously resent a minority black politician immediately sleeping in the bed where their popular T. C. had slept for two years and seven months, a Negro enjoying that bed while their choice slept in a coffin in the earth.

“What else is there?” Dilman asked. “You mentioned another-”

“Yes, sir, Mr. President. There’s the Lincoln Bedroom right over there.”

“I thought it was a show piece. Has it ever been used in modern times?”

“Often, Mr. President. Will you have a look?” Beecher started down the hall, with Dilman a half step behind him. Unexpectedly the valet veered to his left, opened a door, and waited for Dilman to go inside.

Dilman almost entered, had meant to go right into the room, but something about it brought him to a stop, made him hang back. For the first time this morning, he had the feeling that he was neither visitor nor intruder. An accident of history had brought him to this place, and suddenly, in this room, he was a part of this place, engaged in its role, a part of its story. For the first time this morning, he felt that he belonged. It was his fancy, he told himself, yet the warmness of being wanted radiated beneath his flesh.

Hushed, he surveyed the Lincoln Bedroom. It was an old-fashioned and simple room, too calming, too reasoning, too good to permit here the invasion of violence and hate and fear. It had once been Lincoln’s Cabinet Room, he knew, and the plaque on the mantelpiece was a reminder that within these plain walls Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, prohibiting slavery in the United States and giving four million human beings of Dilman’s race their freedom.

Lincoln’s own bed, massive and grand, dominated the room.

“What’s it made of?” Dilman asked.

The valet came beside him, puzzled. “Pardon, Mr. President?”

“His bed. What’s it made of?”

“Oh. It’s solid rosewood, sir. Look at the beautiful carved headboard. That’s eight feet high above the bed. The bed itself is nine feet long.”

“Not long enough,” said Dilman. “He was taller than that.”

Dilman studied the velvet-covered tables and Victorian lamps on either side of the large bed. He studied the bureau and mirror, and the stained table on which rested one of the five copies of the Gettysburg Address written in the sixteenth President’s own hand. All these pieces had been purchased by Mrs. Lincoln, and everything in the room was probably Lincoln’s own, the painting of Andrew Jackson, the chairs in yellow and green Morris velvet, the desk, the Empire clock, everything. Even the figured rug gave Dilman comfort, a rug so much like the threadbare ones that had covered the floor of the hotel in which his mother had raised him to adulthood. Straight ahead, framed by the windows, was the spire of the Washington Monument once more.

He walked deeper into the room, and on an ashtray lay a white book of matches with the imprint “The President’s House.”

Over his shoulder he said to the valet, “You are certain this is a bedroom that’s been in ordinary use?”

“Positive, Mr. President. Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge slept in that bed. Teddy Roosevelt’s children, six of them, often slept in it at once. F. D. R. had Colonel Louis Howe, his aide, sleep in it, and Margaret Truman slept in it, and so did Mamie Eisenhower’s mother, Mrs. Doud. President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy used this bedroom while their other one was being painted. Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, particularly, loved that bed. She liked to say it looked like ‘a cathedral.’ Later, whenever President Kennedy’s parents, former Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and Mrs. Rose Kennedy, visited, they were put up in this room. Lyndon Johnson’s relatives were here, and T. C.’s son Freddie always slept in the bed when he came here during school holidays.”

“And Lincoln,” said Dilman.

“Yes, Lincoln.”

Dilman stared at the towering rosewood headboard and green-fringed white spread. No one on earth, he told himself, could object to his occupying the Lincoln Bedroom, and least of all Abe Lincoln of Illinois.

“Very well, this is it,” he said curtly, and he went into the hall.

When the valet had caught up with him, Dilman stopped, something on his mind.

“Is there anything else, Mr. President?”

“I was just wondering what room is accessible when I want to work at night.”

“Well, sir, there’s the Lincoln Sitting Room on one side, and the Treaty Room on the other, but one more room beyond that is where T. C. and most of the Presidents have worked and relaxed at night.”

“Which room?”

“It’s been known by several names, including the Yellow Oval Room and the Executive study. May I show it to you?”

Dilman strode in step with the valet across the parquet floor. “Is it a study?” Dilman asked.

“It’s a catchall room, Mr. President. Right up until he left the country, T. C. used it for a living room, library, informal office. Dolley Madison did it up in yellow damask, and-you’ll see-most everything in it, the oval rug, the wallpaper, the covering on the two sofas, and some of the Louis XVI chairs are in bright yellow. T. C. would sit in a green leather padded captain’s chair at the green inlaid desk-behind one of the sofas-while the First Lady sat across from him and read. On balmy nights they’d go out on the Truman Balcony, stretch on the patio furniture, and have iced tea, and just talk and talk. When some head of state was visiting, they would receive him in this room, and then go with him down the grand staircase, across the way, to the White House Entrance Hall, where the Marine Band would play their ruffles and flourishes, and then they’d go on into the first-floor State Dining Room… Here we are, Mr. President. The Yellow Oval Room.”

The white doors were wide-open, and Dilman went into the great golden chamber, slowed by its breadth and brightness, by its richness, impressed by the chandelier with its chains and crystals, the candelabra guarding the central window to the right, the Cézannes on the wall nearby.

Dilman wheeled slowly, to take it all in, when suddenly his neck stiffened and he stepped back with surprise. He and the valet were not alone. There was another in the Yellow Oval Room.

She was bent over the flat table desk behind the nearest sofa, opening and closing drawers, concentrating on her search. When she straightened, and sighed, Dilman could see that she was not as tall as she appeared to be, but held herself so regally that it gave her added stature. She was attired in an unadorned black afternoon dress, and lifted from her face and lying across her coiffured blond-gray hair was a mourning veil. Even as she turned at his movement, Dilman knew who it was he had stumbled upon.

T. C.’s First Lady arranged her mourning ensemble. Her wide-set eyes betrayed nothing except recognition. Her high-cheeked, wellbred, fiftyish face did not change its expression, but retained its cool, phlegmatic sadness.

Dilman felt his Adam’s apple drop and rise. He was too tongue-tied to know how to address her. He had met her fleetingly at T. C.’s annual dinners for the members of the Senate. He had seen her three times during the week of grief and burial. He had never exchanged more than an incoherent phrase with her. He could hardly recall her maiden name, only that her given name was Hesper, the renowned and admired Hesper who had been one of the few First Ladies to bring style and grace to the White House. He could not force himself to address her so quickly by mere proper name, like any ordinary citizen, although he knew that she was no longer First Lady, her title and eminence stolen from her by Fate. Yet, she was what she was, T. C.’s widow.

He turned for the valet, as if for help, but realized that Beecher was retreating, readying to withdraw from the room.

Dilman faced her. “Good morning. I’m sorry to walk in on you this way. I’d been told that you had left-”

“The apology should be mine, not yours, Senator Dilman. I did, indeed, move out yesterday. It was kind of you to be so patient, to give me the entire week. But last night I remembered some of my husband’s personal correspondence I had overlooked.” She touched the table desk behind her. “It was in this desk, the one he always used late at night.”

“I hope you found what you wanted,” said Dilman lamely. “Perhaps you wish to look around some more? I-I have other things I have to-”

She lifted a gloved hand. “No, please, Senator.” She took up the packet of letters, bound by a rubber band. “I have everything now. I know this is your moving day, and I must not be underfoot. But, in a way, I’m pleased this happened, our meeting like this, away from the crowds, the misery.”

“I don’t know if I’ve adequately extended my deep feeling of grief,” said Dilman, “or my condolences. I welcome the chance to repeat both. All of us are less, without T. C.”

She was quietly observing him. “Thank you. You are very generous, Senator Dilman.”

Dilman’s sensitivity had come closer to his skin, and now he was acutely conscious of her manner of addressing him. Despite her good breeding, her infallible manners, she was not addressing him as Mr. President. To her he had been a senator, and he was a senator still, and she would not recognize his accession. Or worse, she regarded him as an inferior, a Negro inferior, unworthy of replacing her husband as Chief Executive.

But then Dilman rejected the motive of intended, or unconscious, insult. She was not demeaning him in any way. He was being ungenerous, overly susceptible to his own conviction of his inferiority, and he was better able to understand this suffering woman. She had come through the long, ambitious political years, with their gains and setbacks, clutching the hand of one mate. She had encouraged him, yearned and aspired with him, shared the ultimate victory with him. Overnight, at the height of reign and glory, his crown had been torn from him, his page in history ripped in half. She could not let herself lose both for him yet. For her, beneath her controlled sorrow, there was a refusal to accept unfair reality. For her, still, there could be only one President, one Mr. President, and that one her dearest, her own one. She would not let him be dethroned, not so soon, perhaps not ever. She would not be unfaithful to his love and their dreams. She would acknowledge no usurper.

Dilman knew what was required of him. He must reassure her. “I do want to add this-this one thing,” he said. “I consider myself a temporary tenant of this house. If it belongs to anyone, it still belongs to your husband and yourself. You earned your residence here. I have not. I am keenly aware of the fact. I want you to continue to feel it is your house. The doors will forever be open to you and your son.”

“Yes,” she said absently. “Thank you again.”

She paced a few steps, nervously, then moved to the yellow sofa nearest the fireplace and sat down, head bowed.

Dilman’s uneasiness increased. He wanted to escape. “I-I think you deserve some privacy. I’ll go.”

Her head came up, and she spoke as if she had not heard him. “You have a son, too, have you not, Senator? I can’t remember.”

“Yes. A twenty-year-old boy at Trafford University. In fact, he’s coming down to see me today.”

“It is wonderful, having a son. My own is at Andover.” Her eyes took in the room. “He so enjoyed coming here. He was so proud and thrilled. Like his father, he has a sense of history.”

Dilman did not know how he could reply or comment. He wanted to move the conversation away from the White House. Because it was difficult speaking to her across the table desk, he walked around it and sat on the corner of the other sofa. “Have you made any plans yet? Will you stay on in Washington?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. Of course, Freddie will return to school. I believe I’ll settle in our Phoenix house. There’s so much, so very much, to be done. I want to go through T. C.’s papers. Princeton is preparing a special Presidential Wing to receive them. Then many fine scholars, historians, want to write biographies about my husband. I think they should. I think it’s my duty, difficult as it will be, to cooperate.” She paused. “By the way, Miss Laurel-she’s been our social secretary-Miss Laurel has consented to come along with me, to help handle the thousands of letters that have poured in, to help with the rest. I believe that you’ll have her resignation today. I hope you won’t mind?”

“Not at all,” said Dilman hastily. “She belongs with you.”

She was inspecting him once more. “You’re alone, I’m told. Who will run this place for you?”

“I’m sure it will run itself.”

“No. It needs someone. There is so much that goes on. It needs a woman. Find one-an experienced social secretary, at least.”

“I-I’ll try to find someone,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have Miss Foster.”

“She’ll be helpful, but she is limited. I might add, I’ve requested her to empty my husband’s files, and put them in some kind of order, and send them to me-you know, for the biographers. I promise, she won’t take too much time away from you.”

“Miss Foster and I will do anything to cooperate. I want to do whatever is possible to commemorate T. C.’s achievements and his leadership. No matter what, do not hesitate to call upon me.”

She was staring at him. “There is one thing,” she said slowly, but said no more.

“Please, anything-”

She pulled herself erect. Her manner was more candid now, more firm and forthright. “Perhaps what I am about to say I should not say. Perhaps it is out of line. Do not misunderstand. I am not being presumptuous. I may be moved by private emotion, but I choose to think that what is giving me strength to speak out is my concern for the millions of Americans who voted for my husband, backed him, depended upon him.” She caught her breath, and then rushed on. “Nothing I can do from this day forward, no gathering of his letters and documents, no publication of his speeches and life, can be one-tenth as useful as what you can do, Senator Dilman. You alone can truly perpetuate T. C.’s memory and the ideals for which he gave his life. You, and no other, can serve his voters and the future generations who will be grateful for what he accomplished. You yourself can be his best memorial.”

Her urgency troubled and bewildered Dilman, and the burden she was settling upon him made him wince inwardly. He did not speak, but waited, hoping that he was masking his dismay.

She went on. “You will be sitting in the chair T. C. was to have sat in these next critical seventeen months. You will be holding the pen he was to have held when his proposals and legislations come to your desk. You will be implementing decisions on matters here and abroad, decisions he had already made but had had no opportunity to carry out. You will be surrounded by good and wise men, Governor Talley, Secretary Eaton, Attorney General Kemmler, General Fortney, whom T. C. appointed, counted upon, whose advice he would have continued heeding, but whose words he can hear no longer.”

She paused. “I-I have no right to ask it, Senator Dilman, because now my husband is gone, and I am no longer a President’s wife but a private citizen and a widow. Nevertheless, I will ask it as a private citizen, one of the millions who put him in office to lead us. I will ask that you try-try your best-to-to perform in the next seventeen months as if the Saviour had resurrected T. C. inside your head and your heart.” Suddenly her voice broke, and her composure with it. “Oh, I know you can’t be T. C., but-” Her hand went to her wet eyes, and she murmured, “Oh, forgive me-”

He had come off the sofa, stirred, to embrace this good woman, but then, as he neared her, arm extended, he could see the blackness of his supplicating hand groping past her white face. He froze, then straightened, trying to find the right words to speak.

There was a light knocking on the door behind him. Startled, he spun around.

“Mr. President?” A platinum-haired, smartly dressed young female was speaking to him from the doorway. “I’m Miss Laurel, the White House social secretary. I have a worried call from Edna Foster. She’s trying to locate you. She says you are running behind schedule. Secretary Eaton and Governor Talley are in your office, and then the Cabinet meeting-”

Dilman nodded, distraughtly, then turned back to look down at the former First Lady. She had found her handkerchief and was dabbing at her eyes.

His voice thick, Dilman spoke to her. “You have my promise, ma’am. On any matter that confronts me, from this day on, I will think before I act-I will think of T. C. first. I can never be the man he was, except in one respect. I love my country as much as he did, and I will do everything I can to preserve its security and wellbeing, no matter what lies ahead.”

Quickly he left her, and as he did, he exposed T. C.’s widow, for the first time, to the full view of Miss Laurel, who was still standing at the doorway. Miss Laurel gasped at the sight of the handkerchief and tears, and ran past Dilman, crying out, “Hesper, dear-what is it? What is it? Don’t, my dear-everything will be all right.”

Dilman fled from the room into the hall, but Miss Laurel’s promise to T. C.’ widow, repeated over and over again, followed him to the elevator. Everything will be all right. These moments, if the alchemy were possible, he would have sold his soul to the devil to bring T. C. back. For he knew that he could never be T. C., because he was weak and he was black. Then, he thought, he crazily thought: an original sheet of paper is white, but the carbon is black, and often the carbon, copy, no matter how weak, is almost as useful. He would try. He would try with all his strength.

When he punched the elevator button, he felt better.


Slouched in the wooden antique chair alongside the Buchanan desk in the President’s Oval Office, Arthur Eaton crossed his legs, dropped the memorandum he had prepared for the Cabinet meeting in his lap, and tightened the navy blue knit tie higher between his button-down shirt collar. He brought out his silver holder, twisted a cigarette into it, lit it, puffed contentedly, and watched with amusement Wayne Talley’s impatient dartings about the office.

“Easy, Governor,” Eaton called out. “Save yourself for the Cabinet meeting.”

“If there’s going to be any,” Talley growled. “Why does he have to be late on a day like this? We’ll have only half the time we need to cram him.”

“It won’t require as much time as you think,” said Eaton.

He continued watching Talley, as the stocky aide went to the French doors, peered across the Rose Garden, made some indistinct sound, tramped to the first window overlooking the south lawn, then came around to the almost barren Presidential desk.

Talley’s arm swept across the desk. “Look at it. Everything gone, even the clock, even his pens, and the captain’s chair. Not a damn thing of T. C.’s left-”

“Except us,” said Eaton, with a smile.

“Yeh, sure. If they get that New Succession Bill through, you’re safe. What about me? How do I know who’ll get to him a month from now?”

“Nobody’ll get to him a month from now, Wayne.” Eaton uncrossed his legs, and held the Cabinet memorandum in his free hand. “Look, Wayne, Dilman is President. Learn to live with it. I knew from the start that Zeke Miller’s protest would be thrown out of the Judiciary Committee and it was. After all, when the written law is obscure, you follow the unwritten law, which is historical precedent. The precedent was, nine times, that the next eligible in line becomes President, and no ifs, no maybes, about it, and no special elections either. Dilman was the next eligible, and now he is the Chief, and let us not waste any more energy fretting about it. Let us get on with business.”

Talley had planted himself in front of the Secretary of State. “Okay, business, Arthur. Do you know that the New Succession Bill sponsored by Senator Hankins is being approved by the full committee in the Senate Caucus Room today? Only one change suggested by the Legislative Council. After a President dies, and the next in line is serving as temporary Acting President, the new President and Vice-President are elected by the existing Electoral College for a full four-year term and not merely the unexpired term.”

“Yes, I heard about the change. I didn’t know the hearings were done and the bill was being approved today.”

“The committee isn’t touching a word in the language about you and the rest of T. C.’s Cabinet. It stays right in there. Dilman cannot remove you or any other member of the Cabinet without Senate consent. In fact, the line of succession as it was the day T. C. and MacPherson died stays untouched for the rest of the unexpired term. No new Speaker, no new President pro tempore of the Senate is to be elected to take precedence over you. The chairmanship will be revolving. That’s it, Arthur.”

“I know.”

“As committee chairman, Hankins is bringing the bill to the floor tomorrow or the next day. It’ll pass.”

“Will it?”

“It certainly will. And now, to expedite things, Zeke Miller is introducing a companion bill, same language, in the House. The House Rules Committee won’t stymie it. When it gets to a roll call there, it’ll go through in a flash.”

“Maybe.”

“For sure, Arthur. The question is-will Dilman sign or veto?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Eaton with annoyance. It irritated him to be dragged into these grimy, tricky, bartering legislative matters.

Eaton allowed Talley to drift out of his vision. He closed his eyes and smoked his cigarette. As much as he had tried not to, he had thought of that damned New Succession Bill, of course. How could he help but think of it? Everyone in T. C.’s inner circle, in the Party, in the press, his own wife, Kay, in fact, had kept reminding him that he was the next in line to the Presidency. Even if he had been able to remain deaf to the talk of the past week, it would have been impossible not to recognize his new position with the arrival of the three Secret Service agents, assigned by law to protect him as the Number Two man in the government.

Now, like it or not, he had Senator Hankins’ New Succession Bill, with language that retroactively froze him into the position of succeeding Dilman as President, no matter whom the House and Senate selected for chairmen, no matter whom Dilman might prefer in his Cabinet. It was an embarrassment in many ways, the kind of act Eaton ordinarily deplored, for it was so nakedly political and unreasonable. If it passed, it told Dilman that the Congress did not trust him as a person (and a Negro), that the Senate was stripping him of his inherent removal powers, that the Senate was taking over as his guardian. Furthermore, no matter how ambiguously written, it told the country to shut one eye to the Constitution, for while the Constitution gave the Senate the right to approve of a Presidential appointment, it did not give that body the right to control a Presidential removal. In short, one paragraph of the language of the act was clouded over by doubtful legality, yet it was skillfully hidden behind the verbiage of an otherwise valid New Succession Bill. The political cynicism and rationalization that wrote the bill, put it in the hopper, had it introduced on the floor, had it powerhoused through the subcommittee, the full committee, and to a roll call, was appalling to Arthur Eaton.

Moreover, Eaton hated himself for being thrown into the Hankins and Miller camp. They were not his kind of people. He despised their talk. Publicly, they were pleading that an unusual situation in government had called for an unusual measure to meet it and to secure the continuity of government. Privately, secretly, these same men were agreeing that even if the doubtful paragraph made the bill unconstitutional, it would take so long a time to reach a test before the Supreme Court, take so long a time to be thrown out, that by then President Dilman would have served his one year and five months under Senate restraint, and what happened after that did not matter. All that mattered was that the nation would have been protected from its own current President.

Eaton wanted no part of those politicians and their bill, and he promised himself that he would stay aloof, as far above and beyond the questionable intrigue as possible. He had one task, and it was enough for one human being-to see that the United States was steered in the direction that his friend T. C. had set for it.

He opened his eyes to find Wayne Talley before him once more.

“Arthur,” Talley said, “Dilman mention anything to you about the Hankins bill?”

“Not to me, no.”

“What if it’s brought up at the Cabinet meeting?”

“I doubt that it will be brought up,” said Eaton. “Since it concerns each of the Cabinet members, protecting them against their President, why should any one of them bring it up? Certainly I would not have the nerve to speak of it myself.”

“What if Dilman himself brings it up?”

Eaton thought about this. “No, he won’t bring it up either,” he said with confidence. “You’ve seen him in action throughout the week. He’s afraid to open his mouth. He listens. He worries. He retreats. He has no strong or definite opinions about anything in government, except that he doesn’t want trouble. I think he wants to remain unobtrusive and accepted. If he can get through T. C.’s term without rocking the boat, I believe he will feel that he has accomplished all he wished to accomplish.”

“Which is?”

“To prove a Negro can be President and leave the nation no worse off.”

Talley did not seem convinced. “I hope so. Let’s see how he reacts to that first television speech we hammered out for him. If he goes for it verbatim, every point we made, promising the country he will serve merely as a caretaker for T. C.’s program, then I think you’re right.”

“When did you give him the draft of the speech?”

“When he was leaving here last night.”

Eaton nodded. “Then we should know today. After all, if he is going on the networks with it tomorrow-late tomorrow afternoon, isn’t it?-he should-”

Eaton left the sentence unfinished, as he cocked his head to listen to the approaching clack of footsteps on the cement walk outside. He came to his feet, and he and Talley stood respectfully attentive as the Secret Service agent near the garden greeted Dilman and the White House policeman opened the screen and turned the latch of the French door.

Dilman was inside the Oval Office, nodding his head. “Mr. Secretary-Governor-”

“Mr. President,” said Arthur Eaton.

“Good morning, Mr. President,” said Wayne Talley.

Dilman remained uncertainly before them, revealing a troubled smile. “I know I’m late. I apologize. I was trying to supervise the moving, and trying to find where everything was, when I ran into the-the First Lady-you know-”

“Oh, Hesper, you mean,” said Eaton. “I thought she’d moved out yesterday.”

“Well, there were a few bits of unfinished business, I guess,” said Dilman. “Anyway, we got to talking-a lovely lady-and that’s why I’m late. Do we still have a little time before the Cabinet meeting?”

“Only fifteen minutes now,” said Talley. “We can cover the ground, if we go right at it.”

“I’m ready,” said Dilman. He started for the desk, and with obvious reluctance sat down behind it in the straight-backed, light green leather swivel chair that had been substituted for T. C.’s widely photographed ebony chair with the electrically controlled lifting and reclining device built into its massive frame.

Eaton settled back into the seat he had been using beside the President’s desk, and Talley pulled up a cane-bottomed chair.

As Talley took the memorandum from the Secretary of State, Dilman held up one hand. “Before you start,” he said, “I-I’ve got to remind you I’ve never attended a real Cabinet meeting, let alone chaired one. I assume our gathering last week was merely a brief prayer get-together. As to a full-dress meeting-” He shrugged helplessly.

Talley glanced at Eaton, and then addressed Dilman. “While there are no set rules as to procedure, Mr. President, there are a few certain practices that are traditional. As you know, you are the presiding officer, and, as you know, the ten Cabinet members are seated in their order of succession. Generally, you meet with the Cabinet twice a week, usually Tuesday and Friday, but that is highly flexible. Truman and Eisenhower believed in these regular Cabinet meetings. Lincoln, Wilson, Kennedy did not, preferring to work out problems in individual conferences with Cabinet members or advisers. Other members of the government that you feel can be helpful can also be invited to attend. F. D. R. usually had Harry Hopkins in the room-”

“I’d expect you to be present, too, Governor Talley,” Dilman said.

“Thank you, Mr. President. Now, the meeting is nothing more than a sort of clearing house-you know, clearing house for ideas, opinions, exchanges of specialized information, and so on. It gives you a chance to get a diversity of advice, reactions to your own notions, and to pick up some expert knowledge. The whole thing is informal, and because no official records of the conversation are kept, it can be pretty freewheeling. Truman had a private secretary take rough notes. Eisenhower appointed a special Secretary of the Cabinet to prepare the agenda and keep minutes of what went on, but that hasn’t been done much since. You are expected to open the meeting by presenting any problems you have on your mind. Or you can simply ask the members, from Secretary Eaton here down to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, what they have to report or discuss.”

Listening, Eaton pushed forward. “Excuse me, Governor… Mr. President, I want to interject one observation I have made while attending so many of T. C.’s Cabinet meetings. Don’t be disappointed if not too much is accomplished. Your Cabinet members are specialists in different fields. T. C. found that the Secretary of the Interior had neither interest in nor knowledge of our problems in-well, say my Department of State. And the Postmaster General is apt to be more concerned about the design of a new stamp issue or political patronage in the Post Office Department than the Attorney General, who is full of facts and figures and concern about Negro voting. I think it was to avoid this bureaucratic self-interest, as much as for any other reason, that President Kennedy chose to depend on small task forces to dig up facts for him, so that he could thrash them out beforehand with a handful of intelligent advisers. Certainly he had no fixed schedule of Cabinet or National Security Council meetings. Neither did T. C. He liked to get his facts from any one of the ten government Departments, from experts among the more than two million civil servants in the executive branch, and then sit down with Governor Talley and myself, maybe one or two others, and debate the specific problem and arrive at a conclusion.” Eaton paused. “I think, Mr. President, you will be able to determine, shortly, if you prefer to lean on the Cabinet as a whole or on advisers you find intelligent and sympathetic.”

Dilman’s fingers twisted the cigar visible in his upper suit-coat pocket. “I don’t imagine I’ll go wrong following T. C.’s procedure. Only-”

Eaton waited, curious to see if Dilman had any unexpected qualification.

“-I keep wondering if the country might not feel easier about me if they knew I was meeting regularly, formally, with T. C.’s Cabinet. They can then see plainly what I am doing. Whereas, well, they might be worried about what I’m up to behind closed doors, you know, with a kitchen Cabinet.”

It was sensible, a fine point, Eaton told himself, yet he could not be sure that Dilman was not offering resistance to their guidance or attempting to assert his individuality.

Eaton decided to proceed cautiously. “You may have something there, Mr. President. I believe you will be able to decide which course to take in a few weeks. Certainly give the regular Cabinet meetings a tryout.”

“Yes,” said Dilman. He swiveled toward Talley. “What are we going to talk about in there today, Governor?”

Reminding the President that they had only seven or eight minutes before the meeting, Talley went rapidly through the problems on the agenda. There was the African Unity Pact. Renewal of the United States as a member nation, pledged to defend the independence of the new African democracies, was being scheduled for consideration in the Senate. T. C. had wanted ratification, had planned to speak out for it and then sign the Pact. This would satisfy Africa. At the same time, T. C. had intended to pressure President Amboko of Baraza into dropping anti-Communist legislation on a local level, and into resuming cultural exchanges with Moscow. This would satisfy Russia. Then, to conclude the peace parley left unfinished in Frankfurt, President Dilman and Premier Kasatkin would have to arrange another international conference. Talley thought it wrong to resume the talks in Frankfurt. The President of France had already offered the hospitality of his country. A site near Paris might be considered.

“As to domestic affairs,” said Talley, “the major effort, the one T. C. gave most of his energy to, is the Minorities Rehabilitation Program. I’m sure you are well acquainted with it, Mr. President.”

“Not as well as I should be at this point,” said Dilman. “Naturally, as a senator, I’ve followed its development. Lots of people have had lots to say to me about it, inside Congress, and on the outside, too. But it’s been in the Legislative Council so long that I’ve been waiting for the final form of the measure.”

“It’s in its final form right now,” said Talley. “It’s in the hopper. It’s being introduced. It’ll go to the Subcommittee of Employment and Manpower. Anyway, as you’ll soon hear, the majority of the Cabinet are involved in support of it. Attorney General Kemmler, Secretary of Interior Ruttenberg, Secretary of Labor Barnes are prepared to go to the Hill to fight for it. T. C. felt that not only would it give our economy a shot in the arm, but it was the only reasonable solution to the-the civil rights issue. We’ve found the majority of responsible white and colored leaders are behind it, Mr. President.”

“Yes, I know,” said Dilman. “I know the Crispus Society, the NAACP, and the Urban League have approved, with reservations.”

Eaton had been not only listening to Talley, but watching the President’s broad, black face. Except for an expression of unceasing anxiety, nothing else, either affirmative or negative, was betrayed. On familiar Caucasian faces, Eaton was always able to detect inner response, a closing, a widening, a dilation, an expansion, a wrinkling of some feature, that was often as eloquent and revealing as words. On this unfamiliar black face Eaton could read no subtle definition of reaction. The blackness hid Dilman’s thoughts as successfully as the darkest moonless night.

Eaton’s instinct, which he and T. C. had regarded as unerring, led him to a quick decision. To continue overwhelming Dilman with a landslide of information would be useless now. He had been made aware of the key issues, the immediate ones, and of how T. C. had felt about each. It was enough for the time. If more indoctrination were required, the Cabinet meeting might supply it.

Eaton straightened, and squinted down at his wristwatch. “I’m afraid we’re expected in the Cabinet Room.”

Talley protested. “There’s still some more to-”

“You’ve briefed the President on the main points, Wayne. That’s enough.” He rose, and smiled at Dilman. “I’m sure you’re ready to say uncle to this stuff, Mr. President. I know that I am.”

Dilman smiled back. “I appreciate your understanding, Mr. Secretary. I feel like a computer that’s been overloaded with data. I’m afraid something might clog or short-circuit.”

Eaton waited for the President to rise and precede him. Then, with Talley, he followed Dilman across the Oval Office, through Edna Foster’s cubicle, and into the cool chamber that was the Cabinet Room.

T. C.’s team was present and seated, and immediately upon Dilman’s entrance they rose to their feet. Dilman took his place in the handsome chair at the center of the twenty-foot mahogany table, the only spot on the table covered by a desk blotter, near which a telephone rested. About the table were ceramic ashtrays, some partially filled, silver carafes of water and trays of glasses, and sheaves of notes and documents belonging to individual members of the Cabinet.

Once the President was seated, and Eaton had taken his chair next to Dilman, the others in the room sat down. Talley found his place at the far end of the tapering table, near the fireplace and the portrait of George Washington above it. Across from Talley sat the only other non-Cabinet member in the room, Ambassador to the United Nations Slater.

Eaton’s gaze swept the table, taking in the attendance: Secretary of the Treasury Moody, Secretary of Defense Steinbrenner, Attorney General Kemmler, Postmaster General Guthrie, Secretary of Interior Ruttenberg, Secretary of Agriculture Allen, Secretary of Commerce Purcell, Secretary of Labor Barnes, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Mrs. Cummins. They were each well-known to Eaton. Despite their differences in years, their varied backgrounds-some had been university professors, some businessmen, some career politicians-they had always been a lively and unceremonious clan. But that had been at another time, under the informal leadership of the one who had appointed them, and knew and respected them.

This morning they were different, Eaton could see. They were quiet, almost hushed, inquisitive about their new Chief Executive. They were strangers to him, and he to them. In the afterwave of shock, Dilman had asked them to stay on, to assist him. They had agreed. Now they were confronted by one with whom they had had little previous contact, a man whose mind they did not know, whose desires were a mystery to them, a man separated by a color barrier that made understanding of him almost impossible. It was reflected in their cautious eyes, and probably loomed large in the brains behind those eyes, Eaton guessed. He could be wrong, he told himself. He doubted it.

He wondered why the meeting had not begun, and then he realized that Douglass Dilman had pulled an envelope out of his inner suit-coat pocket and was reviewing some notes penciled on the back of the envelope.

Dilman placed the envelope on the blotter, and scanned the Cabinet personnel surrounding him.

“I’ll call our first meeting to order,” Dilman said. “I know that we met once last week, but I cannot think of it as a conference on government business. Now we must not fall out of step with one another. We must go ahead together. I do not know you. I have inherited you. And you do not know me. You have inherited me. However, we do have one mighty factor in common, and that is our belief in the ideals T. C. represented.”

Dilman reached forward and picked up the envelope upon which he had scribbled.

“Leaving the second floor of the White House for this meeting, I had occasion to run into the late President’s widow. We talked, and coming down in the elevator I jotted a few reminders of our talk. I was moved that, in this period of her deep personal grief, her one concern was that I, as her husband’s successor, continue to uphold his program for the welfare of all the people of the nation. This good woman was thinking not of herself but of others. She hoped I would be the transmitting agency of a solution to her concern over the fate of her husband’s vast and dependent following.”

Dilman laid down the envelope and looked around the table.

“I am here to pledge to you that I shall, to the best of my ability, within my limitations, serve the United States in such a way as to relieve the First Lady’s concern about our program ahead, and in such a way as to assure the millions who voted for and backed T. C. that their support was not given in vain.”

The ringing out of applause was spontaneous, and it surprised Arthur Eaton. He could not remember ever having witnessed such a demonstration during T. C.’s tenure. He cast a glance at the black man to his left, sitting hunched forward, head lowered, one hand folded over the other on the blotter. The blackness still made Dilman impenetrable, but now, for the first time, Eaton wondered if behind the stolid, dull mask there lay astuteness and the intuition needed for winning favor. Now it occurred to Eaton that perhaps Dilman had not been elected to Congress by political accident and shenanigans, but that he had been elected because he was clever enough to judge people and use them. Yet this evaluation of Dilman was so drastically the opposite of Eaton’s judgment of the man the past week that he was not ready to accept it. More likely, Dilman had just scored because of the emotional climate created by T. C.’s death, which had affected not only his listeners but Dilman himself.

Eaton looked down the table at Talley, who winked. Then Eaton understood why Talley had winked, and what had just happened. Dilman had made his pledge. He would not walk outside of T. C.’s shadow.

Dilman was addressing them once more.

“At this first meeting, I have no specific problems or legislation about which to ask your advice. It is too soon. Except for my knowledge of what is going on as a senator, and from briefings by the former President’s advisers, I am not yet fully conversant with what T. C. had to face and what I must now face in his stead. I require all the information I can get, as fast as possible, and I need any suggestions you have to offer. So let me say, for this get-together at least, I would like each of you, specialists in your own fields, to speak of your problems, so I may understand my problems. You do the talking today. I’ll be only too ready to listen. At the next meeting, perhaps, I’ll be able to be more constructive. There are ten of you, and the Ambassador, eleven of you, and if you each take five minutes, I’ll be sufficiently befuddled and informed to feel we’ve got off to a good start, and I’ll still be out of here in time to keep a heavy day of other appointments… Mr. Secretary Eaton, do you wish to start off my education?”

Eaton tried to smile. “Mr. President, you are doing so well that I feel you can educate us. As a matter of fact, there are a number of foreign-policy problems of the most pressing nature to remark upon.”

Eaton found himself vividly reporting to the Cabinet the last conversation with T. C., and T. C.’s desires up to that moment when he had been killed. Carefully, he elaborated upon what Talley had tried to tell Dilman in the Oval Office. Premier Kasatkin and the Russian Presidium were suspicious of United States intervention in emerging Africa.

“The Russians,” said Eaton, “feel that our renewal of membership in the African Unity Pact, promising these African countries economic aid and military support if their independence should be threatened from the outside, is a provocative slap at Moscow. In short, another NATO. However, T. C. said, the Russians would overlook our Pact if we would cease to encourage anti-Communist legislation in Baraza. Almost the last words T. C. spoke were that we must compromise with honor, maintain a moderate course, to insure world peace. While he wanted the Pact ratified, he also wanted to give the Russians their bone-our promise that Baraza would lift its anti-Communist measures. This week, as Secretary of State, I did two things-I brought Ambassador Slater from the United Nations meetings to hold talks with the Barazan Ambassador to this country, and I sent Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Stover to Baraza City to feel out President Amboko. Perhaps Ambassador Slater would like to tell you about his conferences?”

The United Nations Ambassador, a diminutive, onetime history professor celebrated for his eloquence, launched into a detailed account of his talks with Ambassador Wamba of Baraza. The talks had made it clear that while Baraza was fearful of American abandonment by its not joining the African Unity Pact, the little country was equally fearful of giving its minority of Communist-trained natives a free hand. Ambassador Wamba would make no promises. The decision would have to come from President Amboko.

Here Eaton took over again. Stover’s one long conversation with President Amboko had reflected the same fears and indecision.

Eaton turned in his chair to Dilman. “Amboko wants to see you in person, Mr. President, before he makes up his mind. If I may be frank, I think he suspects that because you are an American Negro, while he is an African Negro, you will be more sympathetic toward his views, perhaps let him have his cake and eat it, and promise to defy Russia.” Eaton could see Dilman squirm slightly at his undiluted candor, but he felt that it was time to let Dilman know that there were those abroad who might make use of his color. “Mr. President, no matter what our African friend may have to say to you, our own course has been distinctly charted by T. C. We cannot risk a nuclear war to serve the self-interests of one tiny African country. This can be discussed in detail before Amboko’s arrival. I suppose you will have to receive him.”

“Yes,” said Dilman quietly, “I think I’d like to.”

Now Eaton brought up the resumption of the Roemer Conference, and promised to see Russian Ambassador Rudenko about a mutually satisfactory date and the possibility of holding the conference in or about Paris. Then, feeling that he had dominated the table long enough, Eaton hastily told Dilman that foreign policy had become so complex it overlapped from his Department of State into numerous other Departments, notably those of the Defense and the Treasury.

As if on cue, Secretary of Defense Steinbrenner, a mirthless, ponderous, shrewd aircraft millionaire, made a statement about the country’s current standing in the weapons race, emphasizing the number of stockpiles of nuclear warheads, and the country’s situation as to overseas bases. Except for the recent development of the Demi John guided missile, mainstay of the nation’s highly mobile airborne rocketry force known popularly as the Dragon Flies, Steinbrenner deplored the fact that in readiness for limited warfare the United States was woefully behind the Russians. He wanted greater expenditures devoted to select units like the Dragon Flies. Furthermore, he wanted reorganization of the Pentagon, especially in the areas of enlarging the military manpower draft and in enforcing speed upon government-subsidized contractors’ production schedules.

Immediately Secretary of the Treasury Moody leaped into the fray, protesting the cost of a Pentagon reorganization and opposing part of Eaton’s foreign-aid program. Listening to the contentious banker’s rasping voice, Eaton took out a cigarette and his silver holder, fitted them together, and smoked. He had heard all this before, and he could see that Dilman had heard it, too, in the Senate, and Eaton tried to hide his boredom. As Moody went on about deficit spending, lower interest rates, tax cuts, economy, Eaton shut him out. Then, suddenly, the Secretary of the Treasury mentioned the budget of the proposed Minorities Rehabilitation Program, and immediately there were six voices, one from every part of the table, superimposed upon each other.

Eaton tried to distinguish one voice from another, but it was difficult, and then, he knew, unnecessary, for the voices were saying almost the same thing but in different languages of self-interest. Unanimously they favored the Minorities Rehabilitation Program and they wanted no paring of the budget. Secretary of Labor Barnes was saying that the Program would create jobs and guarantee prosperity. Secretary of Agriculture Allen was saying that farmers were satisfied that the Program would absorb their own surplus foods for use in depressed areas at home and abroad. Secretary of Interior Ruttenberg was saying the Program would help him develop and conserve natural resources, as Ickes had done with the WPA. Secretary of Commerce Purcell was speaking of his public highways, and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Mrs. Cummins was speaking of her expanded school-building program, and Postmaster General Guthrie was speaking of the promise of more post office branches and more carriers.

Ideas were flying, and despite the initial unanimity, there were suddenly acrimonious exchanges. Hearing the cross fire, the participation of almost the entire Cabinet, Eaton was pleased. T. C.’s genius, he told himself, had made such intellectual vitality and excitement possible. Here they were not suffocated by the tedious monologues that had often taken place in earlier Cabinets, ones divided by departmentalism. Eaton recollected a conversation, long ago, with a member of one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Cabinets, about a typical meeting during which Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins had lectured the others on her problems, and Harry Hopkins, James Farley, Cordell Hull had been inattentive, and Robert Jackson and Henry Morgenthau had exchanged jokes about other matters. Only President Roosevelt, the catalyst interested in everything and everyone, listened to Madam Perkins.

Eaton cast a sidelong glance at President Dilman. His black face was as set and unchanged as ever. His hands were immobile, but his cautious eyes moved from speaker to speaker.

Then came the slapping of a palm on the mahogany table, and a voice louder than the rest. Immediately the others fell silent, fully concentrating on Attorney General Clay Kemmler, whose flinty eyes were colder than ever and whose prominent jaw was extended farther than ever.

“Why don’t we stop this economic and prosperity nonsense about the Minorities Rehabilitation Program, and all the sidetracking and disagreements about the money aspects, and speak right out about the only damn thing that is important about that bill?” Kemmler demanded. “We’ve had a Negro problem since Reconstruction days, and it didn’t get attention until the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations, because the Negroes kept quiet and were poorly organized, and then all hell broke loose. Under T. C., all hell was still breaking loose. His administration had to dig up something fast or be witness to daily massacres of whites and blacks. So he thought of how F. D. R. pulled the WPA out of his hat, to keep the unemployed busy, keep them from open rebellion. Then he thought of the Urban League’s old notion of a domestic Marshall Plan to help Negroes, who have been deprived so long, to bring them up quickly, through increased income and education, to ready them for complete equality. That’s how MRP was born and that’s the sole reason for it.”

Attorney General Kemmler seemed to gulp for breath, and then he whirled toward President Dilman, and leaned against the table, wagging a finger at him.

“Mr. President, there’s no aspect of that bill for you to consider except one-that it’s designed to help your people, and therefore your country.”

Eaton could see that while Dilman’s broad face held to its impassivity, one hand folded over the other more tightly, until the dark knuckles lightened.

“Mr. President,” the Attorney General went on, “I hope you will find time to visit our Department of Justice someday soon, and walk through our Civil Rights Division. Under Kennedy and then Johnson we had a hundred men and women, lawyers, investigators, secretaries, working there. Under T. C. we had two hundred in this Division. In the past week, since you, a Negro, sir, have become President, we have had to bring our personnel up to two hundred and fifty and in a month it should be three hundred and fifty. Why? Because your sudden accession has doubly reminded the average Negro of what he is missing. He is tired of standing in line with his hungry belly, waiting for his citizenship and his book learning. He is tired of the Crispus Society and the NAACP fighting his battles with law books. He wants action. There’s this Turnerite Group, to name only one of a hundred others springing up, all putting on the heat, not merely demanding our action but acting themselves, and threatening all kinds of unnamed horrors. And there’s the Klan, and its offshoots, militantly revived, and doubly revived because they fear your administration may be anti-white and vindictive, and they’re getting ready for every kind of violence. Only one thing can stop the civil warfare that’s right ahead, and that is immediate passage and effective implementation of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program. Maybe it won’t solve everything permanently, but it’ll get this country back to normal right now, and give my Department a fighting chance to handle what is going on. I recommend strongly, because of the race issue and nothing else, that you, like T. C., throw the full weight and prestige of your office behind the bill.”

The Attorney General halted, chest heaving, and Eaton could observe that after this outburst there was little left to discuss. Eaton looked at President Dilman, whose expression still had not changed.

Eaton said, “Mr. President, I think we’ve used up our allotted time. If you are to keep to your appointment schedule-”

Dilman nodded, stuffing the envelope still before him back into his pocket, and then, blinking at Kemmler, and then at the others, he tried to speak. His voice, caught low in his throat, was almost inaudible.

“I will begin a thorough reading of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program Bill tonight,” he said. “Before our next meeting is convened, I may call upon some of you, individually, for more information about it, as well as on Baraza and other matters… Secretary Eaton, I appreciate the speech that you and the others among T. C.’s advisers prepared for my television debut tomorrow. It is excellent, and represents my sentiments entirely. I shall deliver it as written, with but one insignificant modification that I must make. I will not be explicit about the minorities bill in this talk to the nation, until I’ve studied it and understand it better. In all respects, I believe the speech will assure the country that I am not going to give it a-a black government-or a different government-but a government such as it enjoyed under the late President… Thank you, one and all. The meeting stands adjourned.”

He rose, and went hastily across the thick green carpet, and disappeared into Edna Foster’s office.

At once the Cabinet meeting broke up, and few lingered behind to hold postmortems, since each of them had a heavy engagement calendar. Going to the door, most of them expressed satisfaction that Dilman would “toe the mark” and “cause no trouble” and “listen to advice.” Eaton was the last member in the room, and before he could leave, he found Talley holding his elbow, guiding him to the privacy of the nook between the far wall and the farthest French door.

“What do you think, Arthur?” Talley asked

“I thought it went very well,” said Eaton. “He seems prepared to go all the way with us. He’s delivering our speech to the country tomorrow. We can’t expect more.”

Talley had a reservation. “Yeh, but what about that last little thing, about his saying he wants to modify the outright endorsement of the minorities bill we put in his speech, wants to study the bill so he can understand it? What does that mean, Arthur?”

“It means, Wayne, he needs to display some dignity as an individual, to prove he is not simply a parrot. He is a person, a person who happens to be Negro, and he wants at least to read the most important bill presented to Congress in twenty years involving the people of his race. It makes sense. In his shoes, I would do the same.”

“But you think we have him?”

Eaton frowned. “Forgive me, Governor, but I would not put it precisely that way. I’d say that T. C. has him, and he has T. C., and that is good enough for me.”

“Amen,” said Talley. “And I say you deserve the entire credit.”

“Not all,” said Eaton. “Hesper deserves some of it.”

“I still say-you,” said Talley. “You convinced her to be upstairs when he was there, and to speak to him the way she did. Nobody can resist a widow. That would be like pushing Mom out the window or stepping on the flag. You’re a genius, Arthur. I feel now-why, it’s almost like having T. C. back in the President’s office.”

“T. C. is in the President’s office,” said Arthur Eaton. “And we’re going to keep him there.”


Douglass Dilman sat back in the green swivel chair and contemplated his son across the Buchanan desk.

Since his arrival ten minutes ago, the boy had remained in a state of high enthusiasm. He had congratulated his father profusely. He had happily recounted the details of his train trip down from New York, accompanied by the Secret Service man who had shown up at Trafford University six days ago. He had reported proudly that every passenger aboard was absorbed in a newspaper or weekly magazine filled with pictures of President Dilman. He had recounted the excitement of his ride in the White House limousine, of the photographers who had surrounded him outside the West Wing lobby, of his rescue by Tim Flannery.

Momentarily muted by his first visit to the Oval Office, Julian had then wanted to know everything about it. Dilman had quickly led his son on a tour of the room, pointing out the historical curiosities about which he had recently learned. He had shown Julian the Chief Executive’s seal impressed upon the white ceiling, the.51 Spencer carbine first shot by Lincoln now hanging on a wall, the cork floor between the carpet and French doors still pitted from the spikes of Eisenhower’s golf shoes, the faint heel markings on the wood of the Buchanan desk left by Kennedy’s young son when he crawled under it, the mounted leopard head presented by the President of Baraza to T. C., which the First Lady had permitted to remain behind. When they had returned to the bare desk, Julian wondered if his father would be allowed to put his own effects upon it. Dilman had replied, “Of course, when everything’s unpacked. Next time you come you’ll see the Forensic League trophy on the desk, and those framed pictures of your mother and yourself.” Both had been conscious, fleetingly, of the name and picture unmentioned.

Now Dilman observed his son, rather than listened to him, as Julian rattled on. Julian was relating how the events of the past week had thrilled the student body of Trafford University. Studying the boy, Dilman was surprised again that Julian was almost twenty years old. Julian’s dudish attire-narrow-shouldered, tapering suit coat, tight trousers, high-collared, starched white shirt with the Italian-made tie, pointed, glossy English shoes-accentuated his chicken-breasted, slim and slight five feet seven inches. Julian’s short-cropped hair was pomaded, his white-brown eyeballs bulged out of the coal-black face across the center of which his nostrils were distended. His constantly animated hands, scrubbed clean, the fingernails manicured, were almost overdelicate, in contrast to his African visage. One day he would be wizened.

Julian had, Dilman feared, a certain lack of maturity, balance, judgment. Where his sister resembled her mother physically, Julian had inherited some of his mother’s character traits, too quick to become manic and too quick to become depressive, too often reckless and too often venomous. It was these traits that had made Dilman determine that the boy would be safer in a Negro school, among his own, than in a Southern nonsegregated school, which might be a potential ammunition dump.

Considering his son, Dilman wondered if he had acted wisely. Julian had pleaded to enter the famous university in South Carolina which had been desegregated by force-five Negroes had then been attending it, and they did so under guard-arguing that he wanted to get used to the equality he deserved and arguing that he had every right to benefit from the university’s renowned School of Law. Dilman had refused to let his boy enter that explosive institution. At the time he had said, and tried to believe, that he was doing this for Julian’s own good, to shelter him from the hatred, ostracism, and possible physical violence that were bound to result. Often, afterward, following troubled discussions of his decision with Wanda, Dilman had wondered if he had acted less on his son’s behalf than on his own. The entry of a senator’s son into a South Carolina college would have put Dilman into the news, underlining his Negroness and differentness to his constituents, and this would have been a political detriment rather than an asset to him, and harmed the Negro cause in general.

Yet, Dilman could see, enrollment in a once entirely white college might have had a salutary effect upon Julian. Not only would it have answered his youthful demands for equality, but it would have enforced upon him a sense of social and scholastic responsibility, modified his flare-ups of resentment, given him a greater maturity. Certainly, Dilman could see, Trafford University had not served Julian well. If anything, it only served Dilman himself, kept the public surface of his own life smooth. The peace that Dilman had won by placing his son in the isolation and safe shelter of a Negro school had been costly to the boy. Julian’s frustration was fuel for his anger. Segregation among his own-“that crummy academic Harlem,” Julian had once called Trafford-had made him less fit to become a citizen of the country at large. The parentally enforced segregation, with its withdrawal of rights and challenges, had made Julian disinterested in the life around him and in his education.

Continuing to inspect his son, Dilman tried to tell himself that he had performed sensibly, with a consideration of reality that Julian did not possess. As a father, Dilman had been and was still protecting his child. This morning there was none of the usual bitterness, resentment, imbalance of temperament in Julian. He appeared stimulated, even happy. But then, listening more carefully, Dilman could not deceive himself. The boy was not happier with Trafford, but with the fact that overnight he was a President’s son at Trafford. His pleasure was not that he had won more attention and respect from his colored classmates. He had already had an undue amount of that, unearned, as a senator’s offspring. His pleasure was that members of the white faculty, and members of the white press, and white social arbiters in nearby New York towns, had been fawning upon him.

“Geez, Dad, I wish you could have been to that tea in the Law School library yesterday,” Julian was saying. “Except for some of the honor students, I was the only undergrad there. You’d think I was a celebrity or something the way those white professors kept coming around me to ask about you and your law background, and how you did in Commercial Law, and where you practiced, and if you kept up your interest in law after you got into Congress. I tell you, you should have seen. Even the Dean of Admissions kind of tried to get my ear, to find out my plans, and to find out if I had talked to you, and if I was going down to the White House to see you. Imagine, old frostpuss, the Dean himself-”

Dilman knew what was foremost in his mind. It was time to end his son’s false ticker-tape parade. Dilman interrupted. “Julian-”

Julian stopped, saw his father’s face, and waited suspiciously.

“I’m glad you’re so popular,” Dilman went on, “but tell me one thing. Was Chancellor McKaye among those eager to seek you out?”

Julian’s expression showed that he suspected a trap, and his protruding hyperthyroid eyes rolled, as they always did when he was wary. “No,” he said. “Why?”

“Well, he sought me out,” said Dilman. “I had a letter from him the day before our late President’s death.”

Julian attempted an evasive tactic, but it was halfhearted. “You mean about having you come up to the school to speak on Founders’ Day? I heard some talk they were planning to invite you. I hope you-”

“You know that was not the invitation Chancellor McKaye sent me,” said Dilman with annoyance. “It was an invitation, yes, but to discuss what’s happening to you. He informed me you’re heading for an F in at least one course, and you may not maintain a passing grade in two others. If your grade point average goes below a C, he will find it necessary to put you on probation. You know what that means. You not only need to get passing grades, but you need a B average in order to be accepted in law school. I must say, I was surprised, Julian. You were averaging between a B and C. You’ve been complaining that the curriculum was too easy. Now, suddenly, this nose dive. The Chancellor indicated that you are rebellious, inattentive, and more interested in outside activities than in your classes. Before going to him, I wanted to hear you out. We’ve always been honest with one another, Julian. More than ever, this is a time for honesty. What’s happening with you at that school, Julian?”

Julian had been wriggling in the antique chair. Now he was sullen. “Nothing,” he said. “I’ve been busy, that’s all.”

“Busy with what?”

“Well, you know, I’m on the students’ administrative board of Carver Hall, and there’s the Debate Club, and lately they’ve been overloading us with homework.”

“You’ve managed up until now.”

“And then the Crispus Society. Now that I’ve become the campus rep to National Headquarters, and I’m on the Students’ National Advisory Council of Crispus, I have to go into New York more often. Ask your friend Spinger the amount of work that entails. Anyway, don’t worry, I’ll-”

“I am worried, Julian. I’ve not stood in the way of outside activity. As far as I’m concerned, have it, but only if it doesn’t interfere with your real job, and your real job is getting through the university, and later getting a Bachelor of Laws.”

Dilman could see the venom shooting across his son’s face, and Julian’s lips puckering to contain their trembling. “I don’t care what, but I disagree with you,” said Julian, his voice cracking. “My real job isn’t in that intellectual Catfish Row, getting a black sheepskin so’s I can practice on Chicago’s South Side like you did, protecting my people from petty civil suits. My job is protecting my people’s rights under the Constitution, seeing they’re not subjugated. I can do that better devoting more time to the Crispus Society, fighting for my whole people, than by trying to do graduate work in a Negro college, so’s I can become a Negro lawyer to represent Negroes over matters that don’t count. My first duty is to help the country straighten itself out, so that when I get my law degree, I’ll have one as a lawyer, not as a Negro lawyer, and I can live among people, not just Negro people, and can represent clients of every color-that’s my duty and my job. I don’t care what you say to it, Dad, but you went and put me in that school to keep me in my place, to keep me a Negro, like the whites do-”

Dilman had heard much of this before, but never spoken with such indignation. He held his own temper in check, determined to reason with the boy. “I didn’t try to keep you a Negro or anything else, Julian,” he said. “What you are, what you become, is in your own hands. Certainly there are gross inequities being practiced against us, but we’ve made gains and we’ll make more, and one day, under due process of law, this country will be everyone’s country.”

“The payment’s overdue more than a hundred years,” said Julian angrily. “We’re not waiting any more. We’re collecting.”

Dilman stared at his hands on the desk, “We’re being gradually paid up,” he said quietly. “Slavery and bondage are gone. Segregation is going. You’ll have it easier than I had it, and even the way times were, look what a Negro like your father could accomplish in this country. Both whites and blacks put me in Congress-”

“On the white man’s terms,” said Julian. Hastily he added, “I’m not being disrespectful, but I mean-”

“Julian, look where I’m sitting, look around the room you’re in-”

Julian had grasped the desk. “They didn’t mean for you to be here, Dad, they don’t want you here. We want you, but they don’t.” His voice was cracking again. “I haven’t told you everything I’ve been hearing.”

Dilman wanted to end this painful scene with one who was of his own blood, one who would not understand. “I know what’s going on, Julian,” he said. “Nevertheless, I’m here, and that speaks well of our situation in our country. It is proof of what is possible. I’ll do my job here, and all I want of you is that you stop trying to turn over the country with one push and concentrate on learning some reason in school-”

“Dad, I’m going to tell you, I’m going to tell you,” Julian interrupted. “All of us think it’s like a miracle, your being put here. You’ve got the chance of a lifetime to do in a little while what our people, and the ones who died and suffered, all the societies, couldn’t do in a century. You can force the whites-”

“I’m not forcing anybody to do anything.” Dilman’s tone had become harsh. “I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the Negro population, and whatever’s best-”

“I’m still going to tell you-listen, Dad, please listen-you’ve got to know what our people are saying outside-they’re saying if you were the President of the United States, all of it, that would be fine, too, but you’re not-won’t be-you’ll be like the ones before-the President of the whites-”

Dilman’s hands balled hard. “That’s enough from you, Julian, that’s quite enough. You remember who you are and who I am, and that I’m the one who’s still in charge of seeing you think right and behave right-me, not your callow friends.”

Sulkily Julian released his grip on the desk, and pushed back into his chair. “Okay, if-if you don’t want to talk-”

“Don’t bait me. And stop being childish.”

“I’m not baiting you the least bit. I’m only thinking how you always wanted us to be your kind of Negro, and none of us wanted it, not Mom, and not Mindy, and not me either. I always envied Mindy because she was born lucky, and got away, and I was born this way and got stuck. When I wanted to do something about it, become a person like everybody else, like Mindy, you wouldn’t let me, and you still won’t.”

At the first mention of his daughter’s name, Dilman had automatically begun to scan the office, to make certain that every door was closed to hostile ears. He could see that the doors were shut tight.

He brought his gaze back to his son. “I don’t want to discuss Mindy here.”

“And you don’t want to discuss me, either,” said Julian bitterly. “I’d trade places with her tomorrow, if I could.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” said Dilman. “All Negroes who pass aren’t so happy. The deceit-”

“She’s doing all right,” said Julian.

Dilman looked at his son sharply. “How do you know?” he demanded. “How do you know she’s doing all right?”

Julian’s immediate discomfort was evident. “I-I’m guessing. If she weren’t, wouldn’t you have heard from her, now that you’re President? If she weren’t better off playing white, wouldn’t she come forward to live in the White House?”

“You seem to know a good deal about her,” said Dilman. “You’ve been in touch with her, haven’t you?”

“Suppose I have?”

“I’m surprised, that’s all,” said Dilman, and his heart ached at her rejection of him, and then he was ashamed at the fear that had entered his head. When Mindy had gone across the line separating white from black, she had gone entirely, disappeared from every phase of the old life she had ever known. Only she knew her secret and her identity. Now she was not alone. She had shared her secret. The threat of it oppressed him. “Isn’t she afraid? Why should she take the chance of letting you know-”

“I don’t know who she is or where she is,” said Julian. “One day, a year and a half ago, I had a brief note from her at school, right out of the sky. She needed money desperately, for some emergency. She figured I was on an allowance from you. She asked for a loan to be mailed in cash. She told me to mail it under a different name to General Delivery at the main post office in New York City. I did. After that, I tried to find that name she gave me in the New York directories. There was none like that. Maybe she uses many names. Anyway, I wrote her, using that name, and a couple of months ago she paid me back in cash. There was another note from her. She’s got a better position, whatever it is. She’s going with a great crowd, and she made it clear they were white. Oh, she’s doing fine, she’s doing just great. She’s got equal rights, because she was born color-lucky like the white folks. And all I’m asking is that you let me work harder on the outside for the same acceptance and decency.”

“Mindy’s wrong,” said Dilman. “Deceit is wrong. Julian, you’ll have your acceptance and decency in the open, on your own terms. T. C. was fighting for it, and you tell your friends I will, too.” He suddenly felt tired. “I moved today, I moved into that”-he pointed through the French doors-“plantation house.” He smiled weakly. “That’s our home for the next year or so, Julian. There’ll be a room for you, for weekends and holidays. When are you going back to Trafford?”

“Late this afternoon.”

“Very well. Why don’t you go up there-someone will show you the elevator to the second floor-and have a look around? It’s something to see. Crystal’s there right now. She’ll whip you up some lunch, and after that you get the valet to show you a room for yourself. I’ll catch up with you before you leave.”

Julian rose, softened, chastened by the realization of the White House. “I’m sorry to-to disagree with you, Dad, with all you’ve got on your mind. I’m staying on with my work in the Crispus Society, but I’ll try to do better in school, too. You can write the Chancellor that.”

Relieved, Dilman smiled fully. “Thanks, son. Just open that door, and go around the ell and through the ground-floor door. You won’t get lost.”

The moment that Julian had gone, Dilman consulted the typed card slipped into the silver holder on the desk. The card read: The President’s Engagements. Beneath his son’s name was the name of Leroy Poole.

Dilman picked up the console telephone receiver and pressed the buzzer. Instantly he heard Shelby Lucas, the agreeable, somewhat courtly, prematurely gray engagements secretary, inherited from T. C., reply on the other end. “Yes, Mr. President?”

“How am I running, Mr. Lucas?”

“About-about ten minutes ahead, Mr. President.”

“Is Mr. Poole here?”

“In the Fish Room, sir.”

“Please send him in.”

Putting down the console telephone, Dilman attempted to disengage his thoughts from his son, from the accusations of his son and Mindy, and concentrate on what he must say to Poole. He remembered how impressed Julian had been that an author of Poole’s stature had undertaken to write his father’s biography. From the first, Dilman had been less impressed. He had found Poole repulsive in appearance, deficient in objectivity, and more unreasonable than Julian about equal rights for Negroes. He was a race chauvinist, the Negro counterpart of the Zeke Millers. His perspiring journalistic professionalism seemed barely to perform on a jellied foundation of emotionalism. There was something oily and insincere about him. His questions, well researched, well prepared, often seemed to have no relationship to his own curiosity or interest.

Behind Poole’s deference to his subject, Dilman suspected, lay mockery and contempt. Dilman could not be sure, but his sensitivity always entertained these suspicions when his biographer left the Senate office or the brownstone living room. Time and again Dilman had been tempted to call the project off. He had not wanted a researcher rummaging through the storeroom of his past life. He had not wanted this book written about himself, even though it was to be published by a Negro press, presumably for Negro readers. Dilman had feared that it would be read by white constituents, too, who might decide that he was not representative of them, and next time vote against him. Yet because the Reverend Spinger and other Negro leaders wanted the book as an inspiration for the Negro young, to turn them away from violence, to show them what one of their own had accomplished in a democracy, Dilman had continued cooperating.

Several times since he had been sworn into the Presidency, Dilman had thought fleetingly about the book, wondering if he should permit its publication now that his role had changed. Of course, previous Presidents had made themselves available to biographers during their terms of office. But his own problems were ones that they had not possessed. He had been unable to come to a decision. There had been so many calls from Poole during the week, which he had avoided, that at last he had been embarrassed into taking one. On the telephone, he had been aware at once that Poole’s approach had become even more self-effacing and deferential. Dilman had accepted his biographer’s congratulations and good wishes, and heard out his set speech about the increased importance of the book now that its subject had graduated from senator to President. Without committing himself to the book’s continuance, Dilman had agreed to see Poole as soon as possible, and requested him to work out a date with the engagements secretary. Since then Dilman had been too busy to give Poole or the book another thought, but now this was one more minor matter that he must settle.

The corridor door had swung open, and engagements secretary Lucas was saying to someone not yet visible, “Right in here, Mr. Poole.”

Leroy Poole came through the door like a beach ball. The door closed behind him, and he stopped, dipped his obese face, murmuring, “Mr. President of the United States,” and then he advanced toward the desk, pudgy hand outstretched. “Once more, my sincere best wishes, Mr. President. I think all of us are very lucky we have someone with your experience to carry on.”

Dilman half lifted himself from the swivel chair, and lost his hand inside Poole’s chubby clasp, thinking how much it was like shaking hands with a boxing glove. Dilman waved toward the chair. “Sit down, Leroy.”

Poole eased into the seat, his arms aloft, as if to bring all of the office down into their laps. “The office looks so different from any of the photographs I’ve seen. Somehow you come to expect a throne room, considering that this is the most important office in the world.”

“One of the most important,” Dilman corrected him.

“Yes, I guess the others consider theirs just as important,” said Poole.

“They do, and they’re demanding equal time. I don’t want to be abrupt, Leroy, but I’m afraid they won’t let me be as casual about appointments here as I was in the Senate Office Building. So let’s get right on-”

Dilman paused. The French door behind Poole had opened, and Julian was standing there, worried and harassed, and at his elbow was the Secret Service agent called Sperry.

“I-I’m sorry to break in like this,” Julian was saying, “but I went into the ground floor like you said, and this gentleman grabbed me and asked for my pass, and I had none. I told him who I was, but he frisked me, and then said I couldn’t get upstairs until I was cleared.”

Dilman calmed his son with a gesture. “All right, Julian… Mr. Sperry-”

The Secret Service agent came alongside Julian. “Sorry, Mr. President, I was sure he was your son, but I couldn’t take any chances unless he was identified or I was instructed.”

Dilman nodded. “You were correct. Consider him identified as my son, and ask Chief Gaynor to make out a permanent White House pass.” Dilman realized that Poole was on his feet, studying Julian. Hastily, Dilman performed the introduction. “Julian, meet Leroy Poole, the writer you so much admire.”

Julian’s eyes protruded more noticeably as he eagerly stepped forward to shake Poole’s hand. “Gosh, Mr. Poole, this is an honor-”

“A pleasure for me, too, Mr. Dilman. I’d been looking forward to meeting you at least once before completing your father’s biography.”

“I’ve read every one of your articles,” Julian said. “I even heard you lecture once at our school.”

“Your school? I remember your father telling me. You’re at Trafford. I don’t recall-”

“It was the students’ branch of the Crispus Society.”

“I remember,” said Leroy Poole.

Dilman’s cough interrupted the exchange. “Sorry, Leroy, but I am crowded for time… Mr. Sperry, will you take my son up to the second floor?”

“Thanks, Dad,” said Julian. His eyes lingered admiringly on Poole. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Poole.”

When the French door closed, Poole resumed his seat. “That’s a mighty fine boy you have, Mr. President. I don’t remember your telling me that he was a member of the Crispus Society.”

“It’s in your notes, I’m sure,” said Dilman. “In fact, he’s now on one of the national committees at their headquarters. Shall we get on with our business?”

“I’m ready, Mr. President. I’ve been giving some thought to the book-”

“So have I, Leroy. I’ve come to a decision. I don’t like the idea of its publication right now, but I want to be fair. You’ve worked hard and long on it. You’re expecting certain income from it. I have no right to deprive you. So-”

“You have no right to deprive the country,” said Poole, fingers wiping his brow. “The book was conceived as an inspirational story for our people. Due to circumstances, to your elevation, Mr. President, I now feel positive it will be inspirational for all people of this country, no matter what their color. It will lead to an understanding of you, better feeling between the races, and it will present the best image of you, the most accurate one, the only firsthand one extant.”

Listening to Poole’s salesmanship, Dilman remembered hearing from Edna Foster what she had heard a few nights ago from her fiancé, George Murdock, that many members of the press corps had been approached by New York publishers to write their reminiscences of T. C., and several had been asked to write hurried biographies of the new President. It occurred to Dilman that not one of the press corps, who might undertake a paste-up story of him, knew him as well as Poole or was in possession of so many actual facts. If biographies were inevitable, it behooved him to encourage one that might be a good one.

“All right, Leroy,” he found himself saying, “you don’t have to sell me on the biography. I agreed to this, and no matter what has happened, I’ll go through with it. I’ll make only one qualification. When I was a senator, it did not seem unreasonable to permit a Negro publisher to bring the book out. Now that I am, by fate, President of the country, I think that would look wrong. I think the book should be published simultaneously by the Negro press you’ve contracted with and by a reputable white publishing house in New York. I must insist upon that.”

“Suits me fine,” said Poole. “In fact, that’s a great idea. I’ll call my literary agent in New York today. Tell him it has to be two publishers or none. That’ll be no problem. The big thing is the ending of the book. I’ve got to change that. Now there’s a new climax and finish, and we’ll have to talk it over, and-”

“Leroy, I don’t have time any more. I wish I could, but-no more interviews.”

Poole looked stricken. “Senator-Mr. President-Good Lord, I can’t write about you and not tell of your becoming the first Negro President.”

“Don’t get upset,” said Dilman. “I’ll tell you what-you conclude the book on the note of my moving into the White House, which I did today. You end the book where I’ve been President for a week.”

“That’ll still require some interviews.”

Dilman hesitated. “I can’t promise you, Leroy. Here’s what I suggest. Draw up one last set of questions and send them to me through Miss Foster. I’ll dictate the answers some night soon when I have a spare hour. You have my word-I’ll do it soon. If there’s anything you’ve missed, you can poke your head in here once or twice in the coming month. That’s the best can promise, Leroy.”

“It’ll have to do,” said Poole unhappily. “Yes, I’ll manage somehow. It’ll be a good book, I guarantee you.”

“I’m sure it will.” Dilman pushed his swivel chair away from the desk. “That’s it, then. Everything’s settled.” He waited for Leroy Poole to rise and leave, but Poole had not moved. Puzzled, Dilman waited.

“Uh, Mr. President,” said Poole, “there is just one other thing, if you can give me another minute or two.”

“Well-” Dilman began doubtfully.

“Only a minute or two,” Poole implored.

As he watched the beads of perspiration on the writer’s brow increase, Dilman felt sorry for him. He relaxed slightly. “Very well, Leroy, what’s on your mind?”

“All the oppressions going on around the country against our people,” said Poole with urgency. “Especially one case I happen to be following. It seems to symbolize the worst of everything. Have you been reading about the trial down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi?”

“You mean those Turnerite boys?” said Dilman. “I’ve seen it in the morning papers this week. I haven’t followed it closely.”

“It’s a shocking matter,” said Poole with growing agitation. “The Turnerites were peacefully picketing a Klansman. They were violently attacked, one blinded, one crippled for life. They were jailed, instead of their white attackers. Now they’re waiting sentence by County Judge Everett Gage, one of the most flagrant segregationists and vicious warthogs in the white racist underground. The trial was a farce, and it seems to me it is the perfect battleground to stop discriminatory practices in those local Southern courtrooms and introduce some vestige of legal democracy. I keep telling myself the Attorney General should intervene-this is one place he should intervene. Has he sent you a full account?”

Dilman’s forehead had contracted, trying to read Poole’s anxiety and interest in one out of more than a hundred similar cases. “No,” said Dilman. “This is not a Federal matter. It is a state matter, a community matter.”

“But our whole judicial system is being made a clowning-”

“Leroy, I don’t understand you. Why this concern over one obscure and isolated trial?” He paused. “Is it because you’re a Turnerite? I never asked you before. Are you?”

“My God, no,” said Poole. “I’m dragging along with the Crispus Society. I’m too sedentary and timid for anything as vigorous as the new Turnerite Group. It is just that I admire them, as every thinking minority should. This is, after so many words, their first public move, and they’re being legally lynched. That’s all there is to my interest, Mr. President. I have deep sympathy for them.”

Although he was inexplicably troubled, Dilman tried to hold a stern expression on his face. “I’m sorry, Leroy, but I have less sympathy for those Turnerites than you have. I don’t like most of that irresponsible and inflammatory talk their leader has been giving out.”

“Jeff Hurley? Why, Senator Dilman-Mr. President-he’s a great man. I-I had occasion to meet him several times, hear him speak. He’s no rabble-rouser or savage red-neck like those white segregationists. He’s intelligent, kindhearted, and he’s only reflecting the mood of-of the Negro population.”

Dilman felt weak, but would not weaken. “Leroy, we’ve gone over this ground indirectly in our interviews for the book. You know my stand. I’m a Negro, I’m conscious of it, I’m proud of it. I’m more aware of my birthright today than ever before. I want justice done for us, as Negroes, the way I want it for every Mexican and Puerto Rican and Jew and Catholic. But, Leroy, this is still a civilized country we have, educated to abide by the laws enacted by the majority. You don’t get what you want by breaking other people’s heads.”

“In war you do. There is war in this country.”

“No, Leroy, as Americans we gave up that kind of solution at Appomattox. We’ve come a long way by using better means. We’ll go farther the same way.”

“But, right now, you can do so much more for us, for justice, now that you are President,” Poole pleaded.

“Leroy, no matter what I feel inside as a Negro man, I can do no more as an American President than T. C. or The Judge or Johnson or Kennedy did before me.”

Poole came forward, his moonface crunched with anguish. “Then I appeal to you not as a President but as a Negro man. There is one personal act you can perform that would help those Turnerite martyrs and bring the issue more strongly before the whole country. I heard there’s a great attorney come here from Chicago, Nathan Abrahams, the kind of man who is conscious of these injustices. He could save the Turnerites, even with the trial over, then by appealing the verdict and sentence. I know you once mentioned him as an old friend of yours. His prestige would-”

Dilman shook his head vigorously. “No, Leroy. I can’t go to Nat Abrahams. He is an old friend, true. He is in the city. We spoke on the phone only two days ago. In fact, he’s coming to dine with me tonight. But I would not dream of influencing his activity. If you want him so badly, why don’t you call him? Or have that man Hurley do so?”

“Hurley tried. I heard that. He was told Abrahams is tied up on other business right now. But if you, as his friend, with your position-”

“Absolutely no,” said Dilman. “If he can’t do it for Hurley, I don’t feel I should put him in the position of having to do it for me.” Then he added, “Especially since, in spite of what the details of that trial in Mississippi may be, I still don’t like how Hurley is going about things. Sorry, Leroy.”

“Well, I’m sorry, too,” said Poole softly. “Forgive me. I think you are making a mistake.”

“I’ve made many mistakes as an individual,” said Dilman. “I hope to make fewer as this country’s Chief Executive. I’m as conscious as you of my color and of injustices to men of my color. Perhaps what’s happened-my being put in this seat, this office-and acting with dignity and responsibility toward all races in the full view of the whole nation and the world-will, could, do more to break down barriers of prejudice than anything else. It is a dream I hold. I don’t want to destroy it by diverting myself to lesser skirmishes or using my influence on friends. Be patient, Leroy. Much will be done.” He paused. “Our conversation, of course, is privileged. I don’t want to see any of it in your book.”

Leroy Poole rose. “Of course not, Mr. President. One thing has nothing to do with the other… Thank you for your time. I’ll write up some questions for you to answer. I hope to see you again soon.”

He had turned to leave, when he seemed to remember something and hurriedly came back to the desk.

“Mr. President, I almost forgot, but I promised someone to mention this to you. There’s a young lady I met, very well known in Washington-very capable, I’m told-who wants to apply for the position of your social secretary. She’s-”

“I was thinking of promoting one of the girls already on the White House staff. I don’t think anyone from outside-”

“She’s Senator Watson’s daughter.”

Dilman could not conceal his surprise. “Senator Watson? Are you sure? He’s the Southern-”

“That’s right. But his daughter, Sally Watson, is different. I don’t know her well, but we’ve talked. She’s absolutely color-blind, progressive, liberal, and knows everyone in the city, naturally. She’s dying to apply for the job, if it’s open.”

“Oh, it’s open.” Dilman tried to think. At least three top secretaries on T. C.’s staff had resigned. Mary Lou Rand, the First Lady’s press secretary, had been one of them. Miss Laurel, the First Lady’s social secretary, had been another. He hated to examine their real motives in quitting. He remembered the advice given him by T. C.’s widow this morning. Hesper had said that he needed a woman in the White House to manage the many executive social functions. The right woman was imperative. Through the morning, Dilman had thought of hiring a clever and personable Negro girl. Then he had rejected the idea. There was no Negro girl among those he knew who had the social background to conduct formal dinners, play hostess to heads of state and Supreme Court justices and congressmen and ambassadors. There was not one he knew, even if he waived experience, who had the education and poise. Moreover, a Negro girl brought into the White House by him on this level would invite more angry speculation from the press that he was peopling the White House with those of his own race.

Yet, he had thought, a white social secretary invited as many difficulties, if different ones. While he expected that, by making inquiries, he could find the right young lady, one who had mingled in the government and Georgetown set, the idea of having a white girl so close to him in the White House was dangerous. That, too, might create suspicion and resentment. Nevertheless, it had to be someone, and if he was to do what Hesper advised, find an efficient person, it would have to be a white girl.

He considered the name of the one whom Poole had suggested. He had a vague recollection of reading about Sally Watson in the Washington Post, the Star, Zeke Miller’s Citizen-American. As a senator’s daughter, she would know everyone, know what was proper and correct. And Poole had said that she was liberal and open-minded, and “dying” for the position. Gradually Dilman warmed to the suggestion. The act of appointing a Southern senator’s socialite daughter to a social job in the White House might be more valuable than harmful, from a public-relations point of view.

Dilman found Leroy Poole still standing before him, Dilman nodded. “Yes, the position is open,” he repeated. “I was just thinking pro and con, but I suppose that is pointless without meeting the young lady and knowing more about her.”

“I think you should at least see her, Mr. President. I think you’ll be impressed.”

“All right, I’ll see her. Can you call her for me?”

“Immediately.”

Dilman’s eyes went to his engagement card and then to his wristwatch. He was still running ahead of schedule. There would be a free span of fifteen minutes or so between his last morning appointment and his luncheon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“All right, Leroy. Tell Miss Watson to be here at twelve-fifteen. Don’t give her any false hopes. Simply say I’ll see her briefly.”

“I’ll take care of it, gladly, Mr. President.” Poole began to turn away, when the view of the South Portico of the White House beyond the Rose Garden arrested him. “My, that’s a beautiful sight out there.” Suddenly he snapped his fingers. “One last thing, Mr. President. Since I’m ending your biography on your moving into the White House, I think it would be the smart thing to have a quick look at what’s going on up there.”

“It’s a mess today-”

“Exactly,” said Poole with heightening enthusiasm. “I want to see the moving in, the unpacking, the various rooms. I’ve never been up there before.”

“The press and public are not usually invited into the President’s private apartment.”

“I wouldn’t repeat the intimate details to a soul. I simply need a general visual picture for the book. That’ll be the tag of the book.”

Dilman shrugged, indifferent, his mind already going to the next names on his engagement card. “Go ahead, Leroy, if you require it. But don’t get in the way and don’t be long. I’ll inform the Secret Service where you’re going.”

He buzzed Edna Foster to alert Secret Service that Mr. Poole could be admitted to the second floor for a short visit. Then he buzzed Mr. Lucas to tell him to pencil in Miss Watson at twelve-fifteen, and to send in the next visitor.

He sat back in his green chair, exhausted by the hammerings of guilt from his son, by the special pleadings of his biographer, and resentful of this jabbing at his repressed consciousness of being a Negro, of being the first colored man in America who could (if he wanted to, they said) lead his people out of servitude to a Promised Land.

Through the French doors he could see the waddling, ridiculous figure of Leroy Poole making his way toward the ground-floor entrance. How could anyone as ineffectual and verbose and foolish-looking as that make him, a man in his position, feel so reproached and uneasy and afraid? Damn the Pooles and the Hurleys, he suddenly thought. They had no larger responsibility and so they could think, say, do anything. They had only a little ax to grind. But he, as President, had inherited a big stick. He must remember, he must never forget, to use it with wisdom, if at all. Unaccountably then, his mind revolved to Wanda Gibson, whom he could not see, and to the solution that had been taking form in his thoughts, and he began to feel more assured about what lay ahead…


After Leroy Poole had embraced Crystal across the expanse created by their equal corpulence, after kidding her gently and dubbing her Mammy Dolley Madison (for he adored her because she exuded the warmth he had enjoyed from his Mom in childhood), he made a mock ferocious charge across the litter in the Rose Guest Room toward Diane Fuller. While the skinny secretary feigned resistance and squealed, Poole pecked at her hollow cheek and pinched her behind.

Then, elaborately, he again extracted his small spiral notebook, and began to scribble notes describing this historic room on Dilman’s unpacking day. Without meeting the eyes of the fink Uncle Tom of a valet, he was conscious of the haughty servant’s disapproval of his uncouth extroversion.

Writing, Leroy Poole thought how much the valet Beecher had in common with Douglass Dilman: Man, you are sure enough a counterfeit white, like Massah, and, man, maybe it gets you along fine today, but it won’t stand you no good on Judgment Day, because you ain’t white, no matter what, and you ain’t black, no matter what, and you won’t rise no higher than purgatory and limbo.

Before coming upon Crystal and Diane in the Rose Guest Room, Poole had been taken on a careful tour of the second floor of the White House by the valet. At another time in his young life, he imagined, the visit might have been memorable. To know that a poor shanty black boy like himself could be led down hallways and up elevators by the President’s bodyguards, could be shown the intimate splendors of the White House by the President’s valet, would have been a high spot of his life. This morning it was next to nothing, and he was as inattentive as if he were going through the modern office building on 44th Street in Manhattan to visit his publisher.

For ten minutes he had been guided in and out of the great hall, in and out of the Yellow Oval Room, the Treaty Room, the Lincoln Bedroom (here he had his only start, seeing that fink Dilman’s clothes piled on the long bed), all the while listening to that Uncle Tom valet’s supercilious history patter. While Poole had made a pretense of taking notes, had indeed taken several, knowing all the while that he could get what he needed from the excellent guidebook the White House Historical Association had published, his entire attention was focused on a confrontation with one person somewhere in one of these stodgy, phony rooms.

Christ, he had thought, what had this junk cost to keep one bum politician in luxury for four years while millions of his people couldn’t buy their way out of the countless filthy, overcrowded, rotting and stinking slums? The hell with all this, the crappy Victorian chairs in the Treaty Room, the crappy crystal chandeliers bought by that nitwit President Grant, the crappy Monroe vases in the Yellow Oval Room, the crappy Greuze painting of Ben Franklin, another white fink-all this cared for by more overpaid people than there were working in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department or than were publicly able to work for the Turnerite Group.

His lousy meeting with that servile black Judas, Dilman, more yellow on his spine than black, had infuriated him, blinded him to everything but his failure. There were his gutty, beaten brothers handcuffed in that stinkpot town in that Devil’s Island of a state in the deep torture chamber of the South, suffering kangaroo trial before a foul vermin of a county judge. There was his friend Jeff Hurley, and that smart good Dago, Valetti, and the rest of his brother blacks risking their lives in Little Rock or Shreveport, where every segregated hotel was about as safe as the Alamo. And here was he, one of the secret unlisted members they counted upon most, commanded by their leader to convince a fink President to get a maybe fink Jew lawyer to lend a hand to justice. They were on the firing line, waiting on word from him, their hopes and last appeal for decency depending on him, and he had failed. Would Hurley understand how desperately he had tried? Would Hurley believe that he had been unable to turn a black man who was yellow into a black man who would be Negro? Yet three days ago the mails had brought him a hasty letter from Hurley and one last hope. If this hope was fulfilled, they could be optimistic again. If this, too, failed, then hell would break loose, and when Poole remembered the Turnerite plan of last resort, he had shuddered. And so he had tagged after the valet, looking not at the objets d’art which were America’s pride and heritage-not his, for America rejected him-looking not at this alien decadence but for the one animate object he must meet.

Finishing his note-taking in the Rose Guest Room, he once more slipped on his fat-man jester mask of good cheer, teased Crystal and Diane, and bade them good-bye for today.

“Have we seen every room?” he asked the hovering valet.

“Not quite. Please follow me.”

They entered a corridor, then entered the red-and-white Empire Guest Room, then looked into the small bathroom with a carpet-a carpet in the can, Je-sus!-and then moved toward the southeast corner room.

“This is the last one you haven’t seen,” the fink valet was announcing. “It is the Lincoln Sitting Room, adjoining the Bedroom, which you visited. You’ll find the furniture somber, late Empire and Victorian. The side chairs are backed by laminated rosewood, quite unique. The room offers solitude, retreat, and an excellent view of Washington and Georgetown. Perhaps the only modern, discordant note in the Sitting Room is-”

The valet had gone into the Lincoln Sitting Room, and at once halted and drew himself upright.

“Excuse me, sir,” he was saying to someone in the corner. “We won’t disturb you, Mr. Dilman. I was taking one of the President’s guests on a-”

At the mention of the name, Leroy Poole squeezed past the valet into the Sitting Room, where Julian Dilman sat slumped in a red-patterned, upholstered chair drawn up before a going television set.

Poole rotated his palm in greeting. “Hi, Julian,” he said breezily.

Julian leaped to his feet, as filled with consternation and pleasure as if Lincoln himself had come into the room.

“Why, hello, Mr. Poole. It’s sure good to see you again. It was a great honor and pleasure meeting you downstairs. You don’t know what a fan I am of yours. I’d sure like to talk to you sometime about your essays.”

“Why not right now?” said Poole, all affability. He pivoted toward the impassive valet. “Do you mind, Jeeves?”

“Not at all, sir,” said Beecher. “We’ve completed the tour, sir. Ring for me when you are ready to leave.”

The valet backed off to the doorway, then through it, then hastened away.

Poole had followed the retreat of the valet to the door. Now, closing the door, he said to Julian, “That butler-I bet Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing a book about him this minute.”

Julian clapped his hands, and beamed at being the solitary recipient of a Great Author’s bon mot. Going to the side chair nearest the President’s son, Poole silently exulted that he had found the objet d’art, animate, he had been hunting, and that it would not be difficult at all.

“Sit down, Julian,” Leroy Poole said. “I have only a couple of minutes, but I’d enjoy a little chat.”

Poole settled easily into a chair, while Julian, displaying embarrassment at the unreeling of an old Western motion picture filling the television set screen, said, “I-I was just eating up some time before catching my train back to Trafford. Let me shut it off.”

“You’ll never know how it came out,” Poole said.

“I don’t care,” said Julian. He went awkwardly to the television set and turned it off. Then, shyly, he took a place beside Poole. “My taste is better than that, believe it or not,” he said. “I read a lot, that’s what I do.”

“What sort of thing?” asked Poole.

“Well, the classics, of course,” said Julian nervously.

“I thought you said you read my stuff.”

“I do! That’s the truth, Mr. Poole, that’s what I really read the most now, the protest literature, that’s what I find important.”

Poole dropped his teasing demeanor and nodded solemnly. “Good boy,” he said. “I wish your father felt the same.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Poole?”

“I’ve come to know your father quite well, Julian, so I mean no negating or adverse criticism of his remarkable mind and achievements, but-no, I don’t think it’s fair to discuss this with-”

Julian almost fell from the chair in his eagerness. “Please, please, Mr. Poole, go ahead! I know my father pretty well, and I know his shortcomings as well as his good points.”

“Ummm,” murmured Poole. “Okay, then. It’s just that I don’t think he’s as close to his people, their problems, as he should be. I think he’s been in this antiseptic center of compromise too long, and he’s been separated from the realities of Negro misery and injustice too long.”

“You’re right, absolutely,” Julian said fervently. “He’s always been that way, at least long as I can remember, long as he’s been a politician depending on support from whites. To tell the truth, I was having a fight with him-well, a disagreement, let’s say-about just that before you came in his office.”

Poole wore his mask of innocent wonder. “No kidding?”

“He forced me into a Negro college,” Julian rushed on. “Now he objects because I’m giving so much time to the Crispus Society. I accused him of not facing what he is, what we’re up against, and he gave me a good dressing down.”

“No kidding?” Poole repeated. “Well, we gave him quite a morning, the two of us. You know that trouble down in Mississippi over the Turnerites-?”

“Oh, yes!”

“I begged your father to get the Attorney General into the matter, to straighten out that crooked trial. If he couldn’t do that as President-I know the pressure he is under-I asked him to do Jeff Hurley a personal favor. I asked him to have his friend Nat Abrahams-”

“I know Nat. He’s a great guy.”

“Okay, I asked your father to persuade Nat to step in and appeal the conviction, when it comes. Apparently, Nat’s tied up with something else, but he couldn’t say no to your father, to the President, if he were asked. No soap. Your father wouldn’t ask.”

“He wouldn’t?” said Julian. Then he nodded knowingly. “That’s right, he wouldn’t. Especially now. He has strong feelings against equality by force. I’m like you, like what you write, Mr. Poole. I think that’s the only course there is left for us. Yet nothing can change Dad. He’s wrong, but that’s the way he is.”

“You can change him,” said Leroy Poole. He had timed it. A pause, and then this opener before the real bombshell. He could see the beginning. Julian’s repellent eyes had inflated.

“Me?” Julian grimaced. “You mean you want me to ask him to help them down in Mississippi?”

Leroy Poole allowed his last mask of affability to slip away. His fat face was grim. He was Jeff Hurley’s envoy and final negotiator before the cataclysm.

“Julian, I didn’t come upon you in this room by accident. I pretended to be on a tour. That was crap. I was looking for you. You know why? Because those Turnerites down in Hattiesburg have got to be saved. No Negro can give in to such flagrant injustice and humiliation. I know Hurley has drawn the line in Hattiesburg. If those bastards step over it, there’ll be real trouble-not talk, Julian, but trouble-for your father, for the whole country, for you and me. I’m trying to prevent it being done the hard way. I want to be law-abiding like your father. Okay, either he’s got to intervene, or get someone in the government or in private practice, someone with weight, to throw it around and show those bastards that the Middle Ages are done and over with forever. That’s it, Julian. I just tried. I failed. You’re the last hope. I want you to go in there and convince your father to act.”

Julian pushed a little dry laugh, false and fearful, out of his unsmiling mouth. “Mr. Poole, I-I’d do anything-I’m trying all the time-but this is one thing I can’t do. My father just practically threw me out of his office over a lesser matter. If I even opened my mouth about this, he’d pin my ears back-he’d cut my allowance, make me quit Crispus, God knows what else. We’ve had it out about active protest. No use. I can’t go back to him again.”

Leroy Poole held his breath. This was it, the cold, chilling moment to strike, the clear air and exact time for the bombshell.

“Julian, I’m not asking you to go to your father, I’m ordering you to go-as one member of the Turnerite Group to another.”

He was pleased at the result of the impact. Julian’s eyes almost popped from their sockets, his mouth gaped, his jaw went slack. Some instinct of self-preservation appeared to draw his thin body into itself, as if trying to shrivel itself into invisibility. Julian’s terrified eyes went from Poole to the door and back again.

Julian sought helplessly to articulate some coherent reaction, and then he managed to stutter, “I-I-you shouldn’t-I-Jeff made the blood pledge with my pledge-that it would be secret-no one would know in a million years-it was the condition-to be in the secret corps. This is-this is-”

“There’s no betrayal, if that’s what you’re going to say, Julian,” said Leroy Poole briskly. “We have a small public organization, but the mass of the iceberg hidden below is the most of it and the most effective section. I’m an unlisted, undercover member, and so are you. I wouldn’t have known you belonged, except that Hurley wrote me the information the other day. No one knows, will ever know, except Hurley, Valetti, and now me, and I was okayed because I’m on the Advisory Board. When you and I went in, we vowed to do whatever we were ordered to do. I was ordered to write the pamphlets and propaganda. I did. Then I was ordered to get your father on our side. I followed orders, I tried. You-you were ordered to stay in the Crispus Society, get on their Student Council in New York, and you did, and then you were assigned to get inside information for us, about the trouble spots, the hard and soft spots-”

“I’ve done it, that’s what I been doing, that’s enough,” Julian whispered.

“Not now, Julian,” Poole went on relentlessly. “Now you’ve got more to do, because your situation has changed. Your father is President of this country. You’re his son, and that counts for something. You’re one of us, and we are your brothers, and that counts for more. You go to him-”

“What if I fail like you did? I know I’ll fail, I know. What’ll happen then?”

“We’ll worry about that later. All I want to know is that you don’t chicken out on Hurley and the Group. Will you see him today? Will you speak to him?”

Julian’s voice was a croak. “Yes.”

“Good boy.” Poole placed his hands on his knees and stood up. “What time are you going to be at the Union Station?”

“Five o’clock.”

“I’ll see you there,” said Leroy Poole.

He started for the door, but Julian’s quavering voice caught him before he could touch the knob.

“Mr. Poole-it-it’s supposed to be secret-that’s the whole thing.”

“Julian, what do you take us for? It’s as secret as it ever was, about me, about you. No one’s ratting on either of us. Trust Jeff Hurley. He’s the greatest Negro this country ever gave birth to. He’s our savior, our future. Let’s just do as he says, every one of us, and then maybe soon we’ll all be free, and won’t be scared any more, not scared of anyone, not scared of being secret and being found out. This is it, Julian. You get in there. You make your father’s first real Presidential act a gutsy one, and he’ll go down in history and deserve Lincoln’s bed-and so will you.”


Waiting for the President to finish his telephone call, Sally Watson glanced at her wristwatch. The time was twenty-three minutes after twelve. She had been with the President nearly eight minutes, had done most of the talking, and still was not certain if she had impressed him. There were seven minutes left-ten at the most-to prove that she could be an asset to him in the White House.

She was still breathless with the suddenness of Leroy’s call, the careening drive to Pennsylvania Avenue, the bantering passage through the crowd of newspapermen in the West Wing lobby, the immediate face-to-face interview with the new President.

She tried to review the first half of this important meeting. His blackness had not disconcerted her. Indeed, she had found his heavy features rather exotic and his general aspect not at all unattractive. What had disconcerted her was his remoteness. The few questions he had posed, about her upbringing, education, and previous jobs, had seemed directed not at her but at the blotter on his desk. Her replies, carefully detailed, confident yet reserved, well edited, had seemed to slide off the top of his kinky-haired head. He had hardly met her eyes at all. He had not reacted to anything she had told him. She could not be sure he was even listening. Sally Watson was not used to inattentiveness from men, black or white. Even T. C. used to look at her.

The President was still on the telephone, and she was worried now. Had his inattentiveness been due to a natural reticence, or preoccupation with his busy schedule? Or had he been bored by her? She could not believe that she had bored him. She had been composed and controlled, bright but not silly, and when she had left the house she had never looked better. Perhaps, between the house and here, with all the frightful rush and tension, she had unraveled.

Quickly, quietly, while there was time, Sally Watson brought her expensive lizard purse to her lap, located her enamel-inlaid sterling compact, and snapped it open. Her bouffant blond hair was still set perfectly, not a strand out of place. Her eye shadow and mascara were still fresh and right. Her lips-possibly they were overdone. Furtively, she found a Kleenex, brought it to her mouth, and pressed her lips against it. The compact mirror congratulated her on the improvement. The last touch of Aphrodite was gone. What was left, she prayed, was modest Pudicitia.

She dropped the compact into the purse and sat erect, waiting. President Dilman’s call was proving interminable for her. Every minute that he was so occupied was a minute subtracted from her chances. Could he even imagine how desperately she wanted the position? She would be “inside.” She would be “high up,” in the rarefied power hierarchy. She would be Somebody. Her circle of friends would envy her. Arthur Eaton would respect her infinitely more.

She must win the job. Yet there was not a single indication that President Dilman was seriously considering her for it. Of course, he had sent for her, but maybe that had been to satisfy Leroy Poole or toady to her father. A pin of discouragement perforated her grand hopes. Well, anyway, she told herself, if nothing came of it, well, anyway, she’d been the first of the crowd to see him up close, the strange one, the one on everyone’s lips. She would have a conversation piece and attention grabber for a month. But-oh, dammit-she didn’t want a conversation piece. She wanted a real occupation and identity, to make her eligible for continued living and for Arthur Eaton’s love.

She heard the telephone bang into its cradle, and she started, and then, to her surprise, she found President Dilman appraising her.

“Forgive me for the length of that telephone call, Miss Watson,” he said. “If Alexander Graham Bell had not lived, I guess we’d have anarchy instead of a centralized democratic government today.”

She knew her responding laugh was strained. She said, “It’s kind enough of you to see me at all.”

He had a pencil, and absently drew circles with it on a scratch pad. “Everything you’ve told me up to now, Miss Watson, indicates you possess the right background for this type of work. But I must add, to be perfectly honest, I do have one or two reservations about you.”

She felt stricken, as if sentenced to doom without being told the reason behind it. Desperation made her bolder. “What reservations, Mr. President? Please tell me whatever is on your mind. I feel I’m so perfectly qualified for the position, so right for it, that I can’t imagine-” She threw up her hands helplessly, then remembered the scar and turned her right wrist inward. “I can’t imagine anyone on earth not seeing how useful I could be.”

Dilman made some kind of muttering sound-approving, disapproving of her outburst, she could not judge-and then he said, “Very well, Miss Watson, we don’t have much time, and I must fill this job, and I mustn’t make a mistake. To be specific, my reservations are three. Let me put them before you.”

Sally said, “Yes, please do,” and she held her breath.

“First,” said Dilman, “you’ve skipped around a good deal in your job training and positions-”

“Because I’ve never found what I wanted or what I’m best suited for,” she said quickly. “This is where I belong.”

“Very well. Let us say this is where you belong. The second question is-have you ever served in a position similar to that of White House social secretary?”

“Not exactly, except in my personal life. It’s such a special position, the only one like it in the United States, that I suppose few girls have had experience like that. But I have known most of the White House social secretaries from Miss Laurel back to Miss Tuckerman and Miss Baldridge, and I believe I can bring to the job as much know-how as any of them brought to it, to start with. I can bring you a dossier filled with every kind of endorsement, from Eastern boarding schools to Radcliffe, from Park Avenue editors to the Junior League. I believe I am attractive, well groomed, well dressed, with the best of breeding and manners. I have imagination, taste, adaptability. I know how to handle and direct correspondence, plan and conduct an informal luncheon or a formal dinner, oversee the housekeeper while she manages the help. I’ve done this, Mr. President, I’ve done it for my father, ever since my mother divorced him. My stepmother has never been good at this, and I am, so I’ve done it. You know how long my father has been in the Senate. He is acquainted with everyone and everyone knows him, and we’ve been visited by princes, maharajahs, ambassadors, millionaires, and astronauts, and I’ve entertained for most of them. You are acquainted with my father. Call him and ask him. He’ll verify every word I’ve spoken.”

Dilman smiled. “I don’t believe I need to call your father as a reference, Miss Watson, but perhaps I should call him about something else-that third reservation I hold.”

“What is it?”

“Miss Watson, as a Negro I have never had much in common with my Southern colleagues in the Upper House. The only one I’ve had any liking for is Senator Watson, and I’ve not known him too well, either. He is a decent man, a gentleman, but he is still a product of, a representative of, an area, a people, who regard persons of my color as inferiors. What will your father think of his daughter serving as social secretary to a Negro? Does he even know you are here?”

“He does not know I am here, but if he did know, he would not have stopped me from coming, or even have tried to. He treats me as an individual, and he lets me have my freedom. We disagree about many things. We love each other none the less for it. As to what he would think of my being your social secretary-I don’t think he would like it. But I don’t think he would make his objections known to me or to anyone. He would not interfere. And I know he would understand that my affection for him would always be a thing separate from my loyalty to my employer.”

She paused, seeing how intent Dilman was upon her every word, and then she went on. “Mr. President, my father is not applying for this job. I am. While he is an enlightened Southerner, he still carries ancient prejudices. I do not. Please, Mr. President, in all fairness, do not visit the sins of the parents on their children.”

She sensed that she had convinced Dilman on this point, and his receptive expression confirmed it. “I believe you, Miss Watson,” he said at last. “If there were a First Lady in the White House to help me, I’d feel safe in hiring you on the spot. Being without a First Lady, I must burden the woman I hire with the social duties of two women. If there were only someone in Washington, beside your parent, who could assure me that you were absolutely capable of-”

That instant, it came to her. “I know someone,” she said.

“To recommend you?”

“Yes. Well, I hope he would. I mean Secretary of State Eaton.”

She had thoroughly impressed him, at last. It was evident in his reaction. And she knew why: not because Eaton was second in the government, but because he had Style. No Negro, she thought, would dare turn down an applicant who had the social sanction of the suave Secretary of State.

“Let’s hear what Secretary Eaton has to say about you,” said Dilman. He reached for the white console telephone. “Do you mind going into Miss Foster’s office for a moment? Right there, the door behind you.”

Sally could hear the President speaking on his direct line to the Department of State as she left the Oval Office and went quickly into Miss Foster’s office. She interrupted Miss Foster’s staccato typing to introduce herself and remind Miss Foster that they had met briefly at the White House Congressional Dinner two years before. After that, Sally allowed Miss Foster to resume her work, and she nervously moved around the small room, pretending an interest in the framed photographs on the wall and the reference books on the shelves.

She had done all that could be done, and now her entire future rested on Arthur Eaton’s word. If he said yes, her life would become new and meaningful. If he said so little as maybe, her life would be shattered. She would kill herself, for she would not only have lost the job, but she would know that she had lost Arthur.

Miss Foster’s telephone shook the room, or so it seemed to Sally. Her heart thumped. Miss Foster had hung up and gestured toward the President’s office. “You can go back in, Miss Watson.”

President Dilman was standing before his desk when she entered.

Suddenly his broad face offered her a wide smile, and he extended his hand. “Welcome to the White House, Miss Watson. Secretary Eaton’s praise and enthusiasm for you were so unbounded that for a moment I was almost too timid to think of hiring you. Apparently you are everything I hoped for, a remarkable young lady who’s going to safeguard my social life. Well, I am delighted.”

She clutched his hand in both of hers, squeezing it in her excitement, shutting her eyes and whispering, “Oh, thank you, thank you, you won’t regret it a day.” She wanted to faint, but whether from pride over the prestigious job or from knowledge of Arthur’s reciprocal love, she didn’t know.

She realized that Dilman was guiding her to the corridor exit. She tried to fasten on what he was saying. Something about calling Miss Foster tomorrow. Security papers, payroll papers, résumé blanks, all to be filled out. Something about seeing her office in the East Wing the day after tomorrow. Something about officially starting the job Monday. Thank you, Miss Social Secretary. Thank you, Mr. President.

Dazed, she found herself gliding past the secretarial cubicles outside Flannery’s office, found herself wandering into the press-filled lobby, found Reb Blaser and George Murdock and others watching her. Before they could question her, she left swiftly, half running up the White House driveway, past the guardhouse, and into busy Pennsylvania Avenue.

She walked on air, lofted and propelled by her unrestrained fantasies of bliss, and when she came down to earth she was on Fifteenth Street, in sight of Keith’s RKO Theatre. There was only one thing she wanted to do to fulfill her perfect day. She reached a drugstore, and then a telephone booth inside, and closed herself in a glass cocoon of privacy.

She dialed DU 3-5600.

The Department of State. The seventh floor. The chief receptionist. The Secretary’s secretary. Who? Miss Sally Watson? One moment please, I’ll see if he has gone to lunch.

“Hello, Sally?”

“Arthur, I hope I’m not bothering you in the middle of a conference or-”

“What happened, Sally?”

“Arthur, I got it! I can’t believe it. The President says I start Monday. I can’t believe it. And my thanks to you. I don’t know how to thank you enough.”

“You have the position because you deserve it. I told him honestly that I thought he would find no one your equal in Washington. I told him not to let you go. I told him that had I known you wanted a job, I would have released half my girls to make way for you. I’m delighted, Sally. Congratulations.”

“Arthur, that buildup you gave me. How can I live up to it? You can’t believe-”

“I believe more than that about you, Sally. You know I do.”

“Arthur, I want to do anything I can for you.”

“You do your job.”

“I want to repay you.”

“Mmm-well, my dear, there might be one way, as I suggested the last time we were together. It becomes fairly lonesome at home in the evening, especially at the dinner hour.”

“Invite me, Arthur, go ahead, invite me.”

“You are invited. I’ll get to you tomorrow with the date.”

“You won’t forget, this time?”

“I hadn’t forgotten, Sally. I’ve been busy. I am still busy. Except now that you are a government girl, I can justify it as mixing business with pleasure. I must run, Sally.” He paused. “There is only one thing I want you to do for me. When we meet, I want you to be wearing the white sequined gown. You know, the décolleté one. Good-bye, Sally.”

When she floated out of the booth, she was surer than she had ever been. She would be a First Lady of sorts yet-not Dilman’s, but Arthur Eaton’s.


It was a quarter to seven in the evening. The after-work, going-home traffic had abated. The Presidential limousine sped through the red lights and darkened thoroughfares toward the brownstone row house on Van Buren Street.

This morning, when he left his private residence, the journey had taken twice as long, and Douglass Dilman had not imagined that he would return so soon. All through the busy, depleting, and eventually upsetting day, the conviction had grown upon him that he must return as soon as possible.

Because of his second argument with his son, his appointment schedule had dragged on longer than planned. His last visitor had left him a half hour ago. Then he had requested Edna to inform Nat Abrahams at the Mayflower Hotel that their dinner must be postponed from eight o’clock to eight-thirty. Before she departed for the night, Edna had confirmed the change, adding that Mrs. Abrahams was confined to bed with a cold and that Mr. Abrahams would be coming alone.

After that, Dilman had telephoned Reverend Paul Spinger directly.

“Paul, is Wanda back from work yet?”

“She’s in the kitchen. I can get her for you, Mr. President.”

“No. I’d rather not speak to her on the phone. Simply ask her to stay there. I want to see her alone. Just for a few minutes.”

“I’ll tell her, Mr. President. How was your first day in the White House?”

“I don’t know, really, Paul. I’ve been too busy… Look, Paul, I want my visit kept hush-hush. You understand? It’s not easy to arrange on this end, but I intend to manage it. See you all shortly.”

After notifying engagements secretary Lucas and press secretary Flannery that he was through for the day, and would spend the entire evening in his new dwelling, Dilman had stepped outside. He had come upon the Secret Service agent, Otto Beggs, the one who had accompanied him from the brownstone this morning. Beggs had been waiting beside the colonnade to accompany him again in the short walk to the ground-floor elevator. Dilman had remembered the husky agent was on a split shift, which might explain his disgruntled expression. Dilman also remembered that it was Beggs who had warned him he could travel nowhere alone.

As they strode through the chilled darkness, he had taken his measure of Beggs. It would not be easy, he had told himself, but he was determined to have this one important private visit. When they had entered the ground floor, Beggs had turned left, but Dilman had turned right. Almost comically, Beggs had scrambled back to his side.

Dilman had informed the agent that he wanted to make a short visit to his brownstone residence before dinner. There was a civil rights matter that he had to discuss informally with Reverend Spinger, his upstairs tenant. Dilman had insisted that he did not want the press alerted to this unscheduled meeting. Therefore, he wished minimum security maintained in order to allow his going and coming to be unnoticed. There had been a brief disagreement, nervous on both sides, and, at last, Beggs had consented to reduce their protective escort to three agents in the limousine, and one motorcycle policeman ahead and one behind, without sirens being put into use until they left the immediate White House area.

He had been pleased at how quickly and quietly the limousine had been made to appear, and how swiftly and stealthily their departure had been accomplished.

During the ride to Van Buren Street, he had known that he could not repeat this kind of rendezvous many times. Despite the ease of this slipping away from the President’s House and its prying eyes, there were always too many others, elsewhere, watching and whispering. Sooner or later he would be caught in the act. He could not constantly use Spinger as his camouflage. And, at the same time, he could not risk the possibility that his friendship with Wanda Gibson might be made public. It would be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Being a colored Chief Executive was bad enough. Being a Negro President with a mulatto lady friend was impossible. To survive, he must reinforce his public image as the loner, the bachelor. It would make him less threatening, less publicized, and make the resentful electorate feel more secure. Nevertheless, this one personal meeting with Wanda was imperative. If it developed as he expected that it would, the result would solve everything.

Dilman felt the automobile braking to a halt beneath him, and through the rear window he could make out his beloved Victorian-style residence. The street was empty, except for parked cars and a Negro boy carry a cumbersome filled grocery bag, whistling off key, as he meandered toward his home.

Beggs stooped and got out, and Dilman followed him. He noticed that the two other agents, who had left the front seat, were consulting in undertones. As he started for the entrance, Dilman saw one agent planting himself before the house, and the other hustling up the sidewalk to the rear.

When Dilman reached the front door, he realized that Beggs was a half step behind him.

Dilman opened the door and said, “Mr. Beggs, from here on in, I’d prefer to be alone.”

Stolidly Beggs replied, “Sorry, Mr. President, I’m not allowed to do that.”

“Well, I can’t let you sit in on the meeting. It is private government business.”

“I won’t invade your privacy, Mr. President,” Beggs promised. I simply got to be near where you are. It’s risky enough as it is, sir.”

He would not be dissuaded, Dilman could see, and so, with a shrug, Dilman went inside, followed by Beggs.

They strode down the hallway and mounted the stairs to the upstairs landing. As they arrived, the door opened. Reverend Spinger, his wife behind him, both conscious of the Secret Service Agent, greeted Dilman formally as Mr. President. Dilman introduced Beggs, and then entered the warm, old-fashioned living room. When he turned to address the Spingers, he was surprised and alarmed to find Beggs still behind him and inside the room.

“Mr. Beggs,” said Dilman, “you promised me some privacy.”

Beggs’s ruddy face was helplessly apologetic. “You’re on your own from this point, Mr. President. I’ll just remain standing here inside the door.”

Dilman frowned, and looked at Spinger. “Reverend, is there anywhere I can see you alone for five minutes?”

“We can go to my study in the rear,” said Spinger.

Permitting Spinger to lead him out of the living room, Dilman could hear Rose offering to heat Beggs a pot of coffee, and Beggs accepting with thanks on the condition that he could drink it standing at his post.

Dilman trudged after his friend, until they came to Wanda’s bedroom.

“She’s waiting,” Spinger whispered.

Dilman nodded. “Paul, you’d better not go back. I told him we’re having a conference. Can you keep yourself out of sight for a little while? It won’t be long.”

“I’ll go to our own bedroom.”

Dilman lingered until Spinger had gone, then he started to knock, but suddenly restrained himself. He did not want Wanda to call out. Instead he turned the knob several times, rattling it, and went inside.

She was at the window pulling down a shade, her back to him, when she heard his entrance. She came around slowly, smiling, and Dilman’s heart quickened at the sight of her. Although he had telephoned her every evening from downstairs in the past week, he had not seen her for what seemed an eternity.

He stood motionless on the far side of the tastefully decorated bedroom, enjoying the sight of her. He was positive that no woman on earth at thirty-six was at once so youthful and so serenely mature. Her brunette hair was swept back from her refined cameo face, each diminutive feature crinkled upward in genuine pleasure. Her softly draped chartreuse blouse clung to her small bosom, and her slim, forest-green skirt accented her shapely legs. She appeared taller than her five feet three inches, and she looked definitely mulatto rather than white. Dilman would not allow himself to believe that he was shading her in his mind’s eye to make her duskier, because he wanted her that way, and wanted what he planned to be possible.

Wanda Gibson spoke first. “Doug, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to-to see you.”

He crossed to her, embracing her more spontaneously and closely than he had in months. He enjoyed her soft hands behind his neck, and he kissed her cheek, and then her lips. “Wanda, I can’t tell you how much-how difficult it has been without you.”

She disengaged herself. “We’re together right now. That’s all that matters.” She took his hand and led him to the love seat before the portable television set. “How were you able to get away, Doug?”

They both sat down, and he said, “I wasn’t able to, but I did. The Secret Service, the advisers, the press, they keep you on a leash like an unruly pet. I sneaked away. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it twice.”

Her brown eyes had been studying every movement of his face, he knew. “Doug, you’re not sleeping,” she said. “I can tell.”

“I’m not eating, or living, or thinking, either. From early morning till night you’re on a roller coaster, it feels, going, going, and when you try to sleep, you’re still going, like there’s no place to get off. Why did this have to happen to me? I’m the wrong man for it, Wanda. I’m not geared to it. I try not to let anyone know, but I’m scared and confused.”

“Doug, you are as well prepared for the position as any man on earth. We’ve been through all that.”

“In the House, in the Senate, it was different,” he said. “What you did was part of shared responsibility. Your ayes and nays were in chorus, not solo. But as Harry Truman once said of the Presidential desk-the buck stops here. No one to pass it to, Wanda. End of the line. Certainly, I understand what is going on. None of the legislation has any mysteries. It’s the final responsibility that’s getting me down. You turn around, to hand some document to someone else for the final decision, and you know what? There is no one there. Yours is the final decision. That’s what is so damn oppressing.”

“I don’t think that is your worry at all, Doug.”

He was taken aback. “No? What do you think is my worry?”

Wanda bent toward him, took a cigar from his coat pocket, and began to unpeel the cellophane. “Your color,” she said simply. She handed him the cigar. “Here. You need it. Besides, I like the fragrance. It’s more you, and like old times.”

He bit off the cigar end, and she lighted it. He viewed her through the first cloud of smoke. “My color,” he repeated dully.

“That’s always the worry with you,” said Wanda. “If you were white, you might be shocked and a bit overwhelmed by the job, but you’d fall into it, manage it. Now what you’ve always been trying to-oh, not to have it noticed by anyone-hide-has been exposed to every person in the country, in the whole world, and that’s what is scaring you. That’s it, Doug, and don’t deny it. You are afraid you can’t make ordinary mistakes like other ordinary human beings. You are afraid of making Negro mistakes in front of your white peers.”

Her bluntness startled him. He was immediately defensive. “Well, there’s some truth in what you say, but I think you’re exaggerating it, Wanda.”

“I’m understating it, Doug. I know your strengths, and you know them, too, and we don’t have to go into that. You can’t hide your blackness any longer, not by putting your head in the sand, not by losing yourself in the crowd, not by being a yes-man so no one will remember you have a voice. I won’t discuss this part of you in relation to your family, or to me, or to your work in Congress. It’s not the time for that, and I have no right to bring it up when you are so engulfed by other demands. But, Doug, there you are, there you are in the White House, and nothing can change it. The whole wide world knows the color of your skin, and like it or not, they’ve got to accept it, and, more important, so have you. Once you accept that in your mind, you can begin to act as a human being. Then I think you won’t be so troubled.”

Momentarily he was annoyed with her, because she was speaking the truth, and he did not want the truth, least of all from her. “Act like a human being?” he said. “Do you think anyone’ll let me? Don’t you read the papers, any more, or listen to the radio?”

“Doug, I know what’s going on, exactly. Our people are singing Moses, they’ve got Moses, and that’s an unfair pressure for you. And the bitterest whites are hating more than ever, and persecuting us more than ever to get their hate out of their systems, because they can’t get at you. And the in-betweens-I listen, I overhear them-they don’t know what to think. They feel threatened and uneasy because your presence makes them feel like members of a minority for the first time. They don’t believe you’ll rule as a white, like T. C., but as a black man, and they’re worried you’ll make their precious pure-white Christian land into a Dark Continent. They should know how little they have to fear from you.”

Dilman winced at the last. He fought to keep his dignity and manhood in her eyes. “Wanda, believe it or not, I only want to do my job now, do it, get it over with, and go back to where I came from. Yet it seems no one will let me. The Negroes want this and that because I’m Negro. The whites want this and that because I’m not white. T. C.’s gang wants me to be T. C., when I’m not him at all. You want me to be-to be something else. God, even my own son-”

He broke off, lost in misery, and she waited, and then she said, “You saw Julian?”

“He came to the office today. I had to talk to him about his grades and about doing better in school, something more important than ever now. So I had to listen to that Negro-versus-white-school business all over again. I know, Wanda, I know what you’ve said, but there it is, and he has to do well. I told him he was spending too much time with the Crispus Society, and he owed more time to himself and his future. Well, I thought we had it settled, and then suddenly he had to see me again, in the middle of the afternoon, so important it couldn’t wait. So I saw him. You’ve never heard anyone so unreasonable and agitated. Now it wasn’t the Crispus Society he was defending, but those damn Turnerite hoodlums. Sure they got the raw end of the stick down in Mississippi, and there’ll be more of that. But it’s not a Federal matter.”

“What did he want from you?”

“To use my influence to get Nat Abrahams to intervene. Heaven knows, Nat does his share helping us. Now he’s busy with something for himself. His office has already told the Turnerites he is unavailable. I have no right, either as his friend or as the President, to influence him. Julian wouldn’t listen. He was practically frothing.”

Dilman kept working his fist into his palm. “I didn’t know what got into him, and then I finally figured it out before coming here. He must have run into that writer who’s been doing my biography, Leroy Poole, up in the White House. They were both up there at the same time. And Poole-he talks Crispus, but he acts Turnerite. I suspect Hurley is a close friend of his. Poole’s a very eloquent and inciting young man, and to someone like Julian, who is so much younger, and so impressionable, who in fact admires Poole’s writings, that Turnerite talk can be unsettling. I’m sure that’s what was behind Julian’s tirade. Anyway, I had to be very firm with Julian. I told him no and that was that. He didn’t like it. I don’t even know if we’re on speaking terms at this point.”

Wanda’s hand reached out to touch Dilman’s fist. “I’m sorry, Doug.”

Anxiously he asked, “You agree with me on this, don’t you?”

Wanda nodded. “Yes. They’re being mistreated in Hattiesburg, but that’s not unusual, wrong thought it is. I don’t like Hurley’s talk and what he stands for. Neither does Paul Spinger.”

Dilman put another match to his cigar. “Good. You make me feel better already.” He glanced at her, and then he said, “That’s why I need you, Wanda. That’s one of the reasons. You’re the only frank and honest person I can discuss my problems with, personal or otherwise. That’s why I came here to see you right now, hard as it was.”

“Why did you come here, Doug?”

“To ask you a favor.” He waited for her blanket promise, but she was silent. He went on. “Wanda, now that I’m-I’m President, seeing you on the old basis is going to be impossible. You know that.”

“I know that, Doug.”

The trace of sadness in her voice accentuated his growing fear of losing her. He said, “I don’t want to lose you.” He added, “I need you to-to push me forward. Wanda, I figured it out early this afternoon. I was hiring a white Southern girl for my social secretary-”

“Well, that took courage.”

“Senator Watson’s daughter. She’s exactly right for the position. There’ll be some dirty digs, but there would be whatever I did.”

“What about Diane Fuller?”

“I’m getting her another job, secretary in the press section of Miss Watson’s department. But there remain a couple of key openings, secretarial openings, administrative ones, on the White House staff. We’ve had resignations, as you can imagine.”

“Yes.”

“Now there are these openings.” He paused. “Wanda, I want you to accept one of those jobs.”

She did not appear surprised. “That’s thoughtful of you, Doug. Unfortunately, I already have a good job.”

“Vaduz Exporters? Wanda, this is the White House. You’ve told me yourself, a dozen times, you don’t like your boss-who is that director?-Gar, Franz Gar. Well, here’s a chance to leave him. I know you have a well-paying setup at Vaduz, but you told me it is mechanical and dull, and you have no contact with people. It would be different in the White House. The work might not pay as much, but I’d look after that soon enough. It would be fascinating for you. Most important, it would be helpful to me. I could see you every day. We could talk.”

“And no one would know we were friends? How nice,” she said bitterly. “How shrewd of you, Doug. And courageous, too. What if someone found out I was also your girl friend?”

Her caustic challenge disturbed him. “Don’t become angry, Wanda. It would only be temporary, a temporary arrangement, like my own job. Later, we-”

“No, thanks,” she said flatly. “Until now our relationship, platonic as it is, has at least been honest. Even if it means not seeing you, I refuse to change that. I won’t let what there is between us become surreptitious and back-door.”

“Wanda-”

“Absolutely no, Doug. You’re having a rough time, and I hate to make it rougher. But I’m not moving into Harding’s closet. When you have the nerve to see me again, you’ll know where to find me, if it’s here or someplace else. Doug, I-”

The soft knocking on the door stopped her, and brought Dilman to his feet. “Yes?” he called out.

The door opened partially, and Reverend Spinger slipped in, and closed it behind him. He looked from one to the other. “Haven’t you been hearing it?”

“What?” Dilman asked.

“The noise out front-” He started for the covered side window.

Dilman listened. What he had been too engrossed to hear above his conversation with Wanda, he heard now. There came through the walls the rumble of many voices. “What’s going on?” he asked apprehensively.

“I couldn’t get a good look from our room,” said Reverend Spinger. “There seems to be a lot of people gathering in the street. I can get a better peek from here.”

He flattened against the wall, and parted the shade from the window by several inches. At last he let go and shook his head. “Just from what I can see, there must be a couple hundred out there. There’s the press, for sure, ’cause I could see the television trucks, and I’d guess some more Secret Service, and of course, the neighborhood is all spilling out.”

Dilman’s immediate reaction was one of annoyance. “How in the devil did my coming here get out?”

Reverend Spinger scratched his cottony pate. “Doug, you abdicated privacy when you were sworn in to this job. No matter what you attempt, you won’t know privacy again for a year and five months. To restate in another form what Voltaire told us, the public is a heartless monster, and since you can’t do as he suggested-chain the monster or flee from it-you must be on guard against it every minute of every day.”

The clergyman’s words reminded Dilman of his precarious situation. He saw Wanda standing, staring at him, and his annoyance melted into shameful trepidation. He detested himself for his cravenness, and for Wanda’s knowledge of it. Yet he could not be other than what he had always been.

“Wanda, I’ve got to go. Will you-?”

Tactfully Spinger drifted out into the corridor.

Dilman moved closer to her, and at once, by a trick of lightning, or from the anxiety in his mind, her mulatto coloring was again more white than dusky. “You see what it’s like, my dear. There’s only one solution for the present. Please reconsider taking a job in-”

“No, Doug. I’ll wait for you to phone.”

He wanted to beseech her, but she had turned away from him. “All right,” he said at last. “Only, don’t give me up.”

He joined Reverend Spinger in the corridor. As they started for the living room, Spinger said, as if to give support to the fiction, “You were conferring with me.”

Dilman nodded absently. “Yes… encouraging the Crispus Society to cooperate with the government in playing a-a more aggressive role in furthering civil rights by legislation and legal means, and joining us in condemning vigilante action and violence on both sides.”

They emerged into the living room, and Reverend Spinger said, “Yes, that would sum it up, Mr. President.”

Dilman went to the door that Otto Beggs had opened. He halted before his bodyguard. “What’s all the racket downstairs?”

“The press missed you, and I guess found out where you were, Mr. President. The minute they started charging after your scent, Chief Gaynor knew it might attract crowds. So he rushed over quite a few of the White House Detail. I’m sorry, but I had nothing-”

“Forget it,” said Dilman.

Dilman looked around to say good-bye to Rose Spinger, when suddenly Wanda Gibson burst into the living room.

“Doug-!” Then she stopped, teetered in her tracks, and froze, horribly aware that they were not alone with the Spingers, that a stranger was also in the room.

Dilman’s Adam’s apple jumped. He could see Beggs staring at Wanda. Dilman felt an onrush of panic. He tried to keep his voice even. “Is there anything that wasn’t clear, Miss Gibson?”

“N-no, Mr. President,” said Wanda, her voice flat and emotionless.

“I’d like a copy of your shorthand notes,” said Dilman. He waved a good-bye, and then went across the landing and rapidly down the stairs, followed by Beggs.

As he emerged into the night, it was not the impact of the reporters’ shouts and bellows that momentarily unnerved him, but the battery of lights from the television kliegs and the explosion of flashbulbs. Beyond the rim of lights, and cordon of Secret Service agents, he could see hundreds of black neighborhood faces and fluttering hands, and could hear shouts of encouragement.

Fingers gripped his arm, and he was relieved to find that they belonged to Tim Flannery. The press secretary’s mouth was close to his ear. “Mr. President, don’t ever leave me flat-footed again. Somebody in Chief Gaynor’s office leaked it. Don’t let them interview you. Let me go to the microphones and tell them it’s too late tonight to answer questions, but that you’ll make a short statement.”

“Very short, Tim.”

He allowed Flannery to precede him down the stone steps to the three standing microphones. He could hear the shouted questions: “What were you doing here, Mr. President?… Did you see Spinger alone or with other Negro leaders?… What were you talking about?… Was it about the Turnerites, Mr. President?”

Flannery held up his hand, then bent over the microphones. “Gentlemen, no questions. Save them for the press conference. The President will make a brief statement, and that’s it for tonight.”

Flannery stepped aside, and Dilman made his way to the microphones. He felt wooden and insincere. He said, “Friends, because Reverend Spinger, head of the Crispus Society, was confined to his quarters with a cold, I decided to call upon him. Our meeting was partially social, partially devoted to discussion of immediate domestic problems in the civil rights area. We did not touch upon any specific Negro groups besides the Crispus Society and its role in working with the government in the civil rights legislative program.”

“Did you talk about the Minorities Rehabilitation Program?” a reporter yelled.

Dilman looked blankly at the semicircle of men and cameras in front of him. He said into the microphones, “We discussed the MRP Bill, among many other legislative acts. We are in accord in our belief that progress toward equality can be attained only by due process of the law, never through the actions of vigilante groups of any race who would take the law in their own hands.”

There was a spattering of applause, and, from afar, a shrill cat-call and a solitary boo of disapproval.

“Reverend Spinger and I spoke privately about these matters, and informally. In the near future I expect to hold more formal meetings with all national leaders, Negro and white, who are eager to cooperate with the government in maintaining peace, and finding an orderly solution to our mutual problems. That is it for tonight, my friends… No, no questions, or I’ll collapse of starvation.”

With Beggs and a wedge of other agents leading the way, Dilman hastened to the limousine and ducked inside. As he sank into the cushioned back seat, and Beggs squatted on the jump seat, the car began to pull away. Covertly, Dilman lowered his head but lifted his eyes to catch sight of the illuminated upstairs living room windows. He could make out both Spingers in one. The other window frame was empty. For the heartless monster public there was no Wanda Gibson.

Then, sitting back, Dilman caught Beggs looking at him oddly. And then, with a sinking sensation, he knew that you could guard and guard against the monster, and in the end there was no defense. Somehow, someway, there was always one, as Beggs might be one, to let the monster come through. He wondered what Beggs thought. He wondered if the monster would be loosed, and if it might strangle him.

He shut his hot eyes and behind them cursed his foolhardiness-and his cowardice.


At precisely nine o’clock, Nat Abrahams noted, they entered the Family Dining Room on the first floor of the White House.

As a liveried butler opened the door from the Main Corridor, and Dilman went inside, Abrahams thought again what a strange experience this was for both of them. They had eaten together in so many mean and contrasting places, in crowded cafeterias of the Pentagon and officers’ messes of Army bases during the Second World War, in cheap bistros of France and hostile Bierstuben in Germany, in self-service restaurants and automats of Chicago and Detroit. Often, during their reunions in the Midwest, when Abrahams had been the host, he had made numerous preliminary calls to find a decent eatery where his Negro friend would be accepted and in no way embarrassed. Incredibly, and in short years, here they were once more, together, dining in the White House, Dilman’s first dinner in the nation’s first house as President of the United States, and Nat Abrahams his first guest.

Following his host across the floral carpet, Abrahams had an opportunity to examine the Family Dining Room briefly. The walls were yellow, the ceiling white. To the right a gilt convex mirror, with a gold eagle perched upon it, hung over the marble fireplace. To the left stood a Philadelphia breakfront filled with blue-and-gold chinaware. Ahead were two windows looking out toward Pennsylvania Avenue. Abrahams was able to identify two oil paintings: one plainly President John Tyler, resembling somewhat Truman’s first Secretary of State James F. Byrnes; the other, reproduced in the guidebook that Sue had purchased, was of a brigadier general mounted on a black horse, John Hartwell Cocke of Virginia, he thought.

They had reached the mahogany pedestal table, and Abrahams counted eight chairs of richly grained wood set off by white upholstery surrounding the table. The White House maître d’hôtel, a smiling South American in cutaway coat and striped trousers, held the President’s chair for him at the head of the table, and a white-coated colored waiter attended Abrahams’ chair next to the President’s. Dilman sat first, and then Abrahams took his seat.

Abrahams could see that Dilman was ill at ease, brushing nervously at his rumpled business suit, blinking up at the chandelier, at the flower centerpiece, then at the ostentatious table setting, classic tulip-shaped glassware, elegant Limoges plates, sterling knives, forks, and spoons. While the tomato soup was ladled out from a silver-gilt tureen, Dilman glanced sheepishly at Abrahams in the manner of one who wonders which spoon to use first. Abrahams smiled, winked, unfolded his gold-crested napkin and dropped it over his lap. Dilman did the same.

When the soup had been served, and the maître d’hôtel and waiter had backed away, Dilman said, “You’d never guess I told Mrs. Crail-she’s the official housekeeper-I wanted an informal dinner, no fuss, absolutely no fuss. Look at this. Anyway, Nat, I won the battle of the menu. She had in mind-let me think-oh, yes-boiled rolled flounder, roast turkey with something called jelly celestial, scalloped sweet potatoes, and God knows what not. She kept saying that was the kind of small menu T. C. liked for informal dining. But I put my foot down, so I’d get off on the right one. I said, ‘Mr. Abrahams is my oldest friend, and we’re going to eat what we always enjoyed most, the kind of food you can talk over.’ I don’t know how it’ll come out, but I think it’ll be a reasonable facsimile of old times.”

Abrahams had been spooning his soup. “Brisket of beef?” he asked.

Dilman grinned. “Exactly. The beef, and a green salad with oil and vinegar, a noodle-and-ham casserole, hot sliced carrots, and-hold your hat-potato pancakes with apple sauce.”

“Latkes,” said Abrahams, giving them their Jewish name.

“I don’t think they’ll come out quite the way Sue’s mother used to make them. Oh, yes, and I remembered red wine-they have the best years, Bordeaux, the kind that makes me sleepy. Just like those nights sitting in between the zinc bar and pinball machine in that joint off the Champs-Élysées.”

A waiter appeared and poured water, followed by the maître d’hôtel, who placed the wine bottle on a side table. Dilman lapsed into silence, and sipped the tomato soup.

Abrahams enjoyed the thick soup. Except for the constricting black bow tie that Sue had made him wear, as being appropriate for high places, he felt relaxed. When the Lincoln limousine had picked him up at the Mayflower Hotel, and was bringing him to the South Portico of the White House, he had suffered a mild attack of apprehension, wondering if some protocol would be imposed, worrying whether Dilman would be as he always had been. The apprehension had been dispelled at the moment of their impulsive bearish embrace of greeting.

The months that separated them from their last meeting had visibly changed Dilman. Although he appeared more friendly, less withdrawn, than he had as a senator, his eyes were red-flecked, tireder, Abrahams had seen, and there were rigid lines of tension around his mouth. Also, he walked more ploddingly, like an elderly person recovering from major surgery. Yet the week as President had not inwardly transfigured him, had not weighted him with any more reserve or aloofness than he had normally possessed. Abrahams guessed that his friend was too new to the post to comprehend it fully. If anything, he seemed uncertain about his role, as if misplaced in some Dantesque purgatory between the Senate and the White House.

After Abrahams’ congratulations and Dilman’s inquiries about Sue and the children, they had gone from the elevator into the Main Hall of the first floor. There had been an empty stretch of seconds when Dilman did not know where to take Abrahams, or what to do next, but this impasse had been resolved by the dignified Negro valet, Beecher, who had seemed to materialize from nowhere.

“I almost forgot, Nat, but I asked Beecher to take us on a quick tour of the first floor,” Dilman had said. “I could use a refresher myself. Besides, the walk will give us both appetites.”

They had been led to the vast East Room, with its gold drapes and gilt benches and Steinway piano (Beecher: “Each of the three chandeliers weighs 850 pounds and has 50,000 pieces of crystal, and each requires two houseboys a week to clean it”). They had been led to the Green Room, with its Daniel Webster sofa and Martha Washington armchair and James Monroe clock (Beecher: “Please take note of the portrait of President Eisenhower over that door and President Kennedy over this door, and, of course, the portrait of The Judge”). They had been led to the Blue Room, with its velvet upholstery and gold Minerva timepiece and white bust of George Washington (Beecher: “The three windows looking down on the south lawn may be converted into doors by sliding them upward and opening the wall panels beneath”). They had been led into the Red Room, with its cerise silk-covered walls and Jacqueline Kennedy breakfast table and crimson Empire sofa (Beecher: “This portrait of President Wilson was painted in Paris in 1919 by an English artist, but as you can observe, it was left unfinished”).

By the time they were in the immense and drafty State Dining Room, Nat Abrahams had become less attentive. Because Dilman appeared absorbed, as if soaking in and memorizing every fragment of data, Abrahams had not wished to spoil it by reminding his friend that he had been through these rooms not once but on two occasions before. The first time, Abrahams and a dozen other attorneys involved in civil rights causes had been brought to Washington by President Kennedy for a two-day conference, and they had toured the ground and first floors of this mansion. The second time, Abrahams and officers of the American Bar Association, then meeting in Washington, had attended a reception given by President Lyndon Johnson, and again Abrahams had been part of this tour.

During T. C.’s abbreviated term of office, Abrahams had not been invited to the White House. He had supported the minority opposing the Party’s nomination of T. C. and Porter, and even though, once T. C. had been nominated, Abrahams had backed him, he had not been forgiven. Abrahams suspected that it was T. C.’s aide, Governor Talley, notable for a mastodon memory (if little else), that separated the good ones from the bad ones, and who had listed Abrahams as lukewarm. Abrahams had, in fact, cast his ballot for T. C. only as the lesser of two evils, and because T. C. had been committed to the Party platform, which had extended lofty if generalized promises to the restless minorities.

Abruptly, his recollection of the last half hour’s tour was brought to an end by the waiters removing the empty soup bowls.

He looked at Dilman, and he said, “You know, Mr. President-”

Dilman’s scowl was immediate. “Cut it out, Nat. You want me to call you Barrister Abrahams?”

“I was merely testing you,” said Abrahams with a chuckle. “Okay, Doug, it’s an informal dinner.” He felt better, very good, indeed, about his friend, about tonight, and he scratched his hooked nose and jutting jaw, and said, “I was simply going to say how sorry I am that Sue is missing this, not only seeing you as President-she’s so thrilled about that-but being able to eat amid this splendor. She could keep her mother silenced and put the kids to bed with it for months.”

“Well, I want Sue here as soon as possible,” Dilman said. “You said it’s only a mild cold.”

“The hotel physician promises she’ll be up in a day or two.”

“Then I want you both over for a rerun of this meal in a few days.” He took up the glass of Bordeaux and held it toward Abrahams. “To you and your new future, Nat.”

Abrahams toasted him back. “Happy Presidency, Doug. You’ll make out.”

They sipped the wine, and then Dilman said, “I want to see as much of you and Sue as you can spare of yourselves. I’m busy as a beaver all day, and have plenty of homework at night, but I’ll be eating alone a good deal. With Julian up at school, and-well-I don’t have anyone around I can really kick off my shoes with. I need you both, Nat.”

He was about to say something more when the servants came in with heaping platters, and he fell into silence. Abrahams guessed that Dilman would not speak during the evening while any of the White House staff was within earshot. He is wary and defensive, Abrahams thought; he’s afraid of letting anything slip, anything that might be misconstrued, whispered behind the stairs, and create gossip and paragraphs for enemy columnists. Sensible enough, Abrahams thought, and decided to go along with his friend and hold his own tongue until they were alone.

While they were being served their slices of beef, potato pancakes, and more wine was being poured, Dilman spoke only once. He pointed to the vegetables. “Those peas, Nat, savor them, because you’ll be digesting history. Mrs. Crail says they were grown and picked from Teddy Roosevelt’s mint garden.”

After the waiters had retreated, the two of them ate quietly for a full minute. Abrahams, his mouth full, said, “Mmm, the pancakes aren’t bad, Doug. You’re running a fine kosher kitchen.”

“I’m sure that confuses them. That and the fact that I don’t like watermelon.” He spoke the last without bitterness, but with dry humor. He went on, “I meant what I was saying before, Nat. I want you and Sue here as often as you can come. This is the loneliest time I’ve ever faced. It’s bad enough being a widower President, in the White House by accident. But being a colored one, to boot, makes it-”

“Enough of that nonsense,” Abrahams interrupted. “You’re not getting any sympathy from me, unless I get my share. Don’t forget, I’m only a white darky whose grandfather was beaten to death in a Polish progom.” He had spoken lightly, but suddenly he became serious. “Plenty of white Presidents have been unpopular and lonely, Doug. I remember reading a letter in some collection-R. H. Dana wrote it to one or another of the Adamses, wrote it from this town in the 1860s-to the effect that Lincoln-it was about President Lincoln-that ‘he has no admirers, no enthusiastic supporters, none to bet on his head.’ I’m sure for a time Lincoln felt like an outcast locked in this house… but yes, we want to see you whenever you’re free, which I’m sure won’t be as often as you think. And we want to see you not because we’re sorry for you but because we need good companionship, too.”

“How long are you going to be here, Nat?”

“A week or two, maybe even a month. If it works out, I’ll take Sue back, spend a few days straightening out my things at the office, and leave her to pack or sell off the furniture and maybe stay on with the kids until the end of their semester. I’d return here, and she could follow me later.” He paused. “Under the new plan, I’d be living in Washington for three years.”

“That would be great, Nat.” Dilman grinned. “You’ll be living here longer than I will.” He ate slowly, thoughtfully. Then he said, “I think I was a little surprised when you wrote me about Avery Emmich’s offer, and that you were considering it. Didn’t I write you, asking you more about it? Maybe I didn’t. But even what you told me on the phone the other night doesn’t make it-well, entirely clear to me.”

“What do you mean, Doug?”

“You can’t live up on the Hill as long as I have without picking up a good deal of information about big business, big private enterprise. Not many come bigger than Eagles Industries. Nothing wrong with them, or any other corporation, except that Eagles isn’t notorious for being liberal or progressive. And Emmich, I gather, is a sort of throwback to Cornelius Vanderbilt, Astor, Gould. One of the public-be-damned gents, I always thought. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, I’ve found it hard to fit you into that framework. The mental pictures I have of you and Eagles don’t harmonize. I know I’m wrong.”

Abrahams put down his fork. “You’re right, Doug. I’ve been through all that, until my conscience collapsed of weariness. Doug, it comes down to this-I’ve looked into Eagles, and if I had found out they were crooks, real crooks, or special bastards, or anything like that, I’d have blown the deal immediately. They’re no better or worse than the rest of American big business. The anatomy is the same, always-hard head, no heart, all hands in a thousand tills, mechanized, automated, conservative, with a single goal-profits. Okay. The democracy we fight to save. Eagles Industries needs me, men like me, with the liberal lapel button. For them, that’s good business, too. And I-I need a fat patron, Doug, because I’m threadbare, and have responsibilities, and can’t get any more life insurance. If the patron is willing to let me get fat, too, without putting me on a leash, it’s a good deal.”

“No more life insurance, you said?”

Abrahams could see the flick of concern in his friend’s dark countenance. He shrugged. “I’m exaggerating, self-dramatizing. It wasn’t a real coronary, only a yellow light that warned me to slow down. I want to slow down before it turns red and stops me dead. Nothing serious, no sword hanging overhead, but I love Sue and I love those kids and I want that farm. So I’m playing it safe. I’m trading three years of doing what doesn’t particularly interest me for a lifetime of living, of puttering around with what does interest me, after those three years. That’s the whole of it, Doug.”

“I agree with your choice,” said Dilman solemnly. “I’d do exactly the same in your place. Have you seen Gorden Oliver yet?”

“Twice, briefly. He came to the hotel. We’re still trying to reach agreement on several of my recent demands.”

“What do you make of him?” Dilman asked.

“Oliver? I don’t know. I must say, he threw me off balance on first meeting. I always fall prey to preconceived notions of what people will be like-I should know better, and I do. Anyway, word association, you say lobbyist and I say rotund, foxy, devious, green-backs, call girls, et cetera. I was surprised to find him rather out-doorsy, literate, direct, a qualified attorney, a family man.”

Dilman had been listening to every word. “Yes, he’s all you found, Nat. He’s also a little, just a little, of what you expected him to be. He’s been in and out of my offices on the Hill, with talk, free information, free tickets and invitations, free services, free jokes, for years. I have no reason not to trust him or like him. He’s been useful to me at times. And registered lobbyists do as much good as harm. But somehow, even though he’s New England-I think he’s from Vermont-I keep remembering he is a company man and his company is headquartered in the South. Anyway, that’s nothing that need bother you, Nat. You are sharper than I am about people. You’ll stay on top of him.”

The waiters had returned, and were busily removing the empty plates and platters, and used silverware. Both men waited for the able to be cleared, and for the ice-cream cake and coffee to be served, so that they had their privacy once more.

Something had entered Abrahams’ mind, and would not go away. While he knew that his friend was sensitive and secretive about his personal relationships, Abrahams was curious and he determined to investigate one area. He had finished the dessert, and he filled his crusted, straight-stemmed pipe and lighted it, he said, as casually as possible, “Doug, I was thinking of what you were saying before about being lonely, and then I couldn’t help thinking of someone you’ve mentioned several times in your letters The lady you once introduced to Sue and me when we had dinner at your place. I mean Miss Gibson, Wanda Gibson.”

Dilman did not raise his head from his coffee. “What made you think of her?”

“As I said, your loneliness. I had a suspicion-Sue did, too, the night we met her-that you were fond of the young lady.”

“I am,” said Dilman.

“You still see her? I didn’t know. You haven’t mentioned her name in-why, I guess in over a year.”

“Aside from you, she’s been the person closest to me. Until now, we’ve kept company all the time. She’s very unusual.”

“Pretty, too,” Abrahams said, “and I thought sound and intelligent.”

“Yes, all that. Now I don’t know what’ll happen to us. This President thing came right down between us like-I was thinking recently-like a steel grill. You know, this is privileged talk, Nat, strictly, like everything else-but I tried to call on her alone tonight, first time since all that happened to me-it was awful-”

In a subdued, almost compulsive spate of recollection, Dilman recounted the details of his effort earlier in the evening to see Wanda alone at the Spingers’. He told of his offer to her of a job in the White House, and of her absolute refusal to accept one.

“That’s what happened,” Dilman concluded, “and here we are, wanting one another, and farther apart than ever before. I wish she weren’t so prideful. I’d give anything to have her in the White House.”

“Anything, Doug?”

Dilman looked up sharply, eyes narrowing. He started to retort, but did not. He waited.

The sensitive area, Abrahams thought. And then he thought, we’re either friends all the way or not at all. “You could have her here in an instant, Doug. It would take only four words: ‘Will you marry me?’ That’s the only anti-loneliness, Doug. Have you asked her?”

“No.”

“Okay, I can’t pry further.”

Dilman said, “It’s all right. If anyone has a right to ask, it’s you, Nat. I know you want to help me. But I can’t go into it. I haven’t gone into it deeply enough with myself. Maybe someday I’ll be able to discuss it with you. All I can say-the only explanation I can make is-well-I can’t see myself with Wanda in a big ceremonial state wedding in the White House. Having one lone colored man in the White House is churning up enough trouble. Maybe it’ll calm down, because they’ll see I’m sort of alone and inoffensive, not threatening to anyone. But a Negro man and his wife in this Southern mansion? That would be too much for them out there to take-too much, and I’m not ready for it. I know it’s a shameful infirmity in me, Nat, but it is an infirmity I can’t overcome, like a limb missing, and one simply can’t will that limb back on. I haven’t the strength of character.” Embarrassed, Dilman fumbled for a cigar. Abrahams watched him, leaned across the table corner to light the cigar, and then sat back.

“Doug,” Abrahams said at last, “how can I lecture the President of the United States? I can’t. But I can lecture one of my oldest and best friends. I’m going to.”

Dilman grunted. “I’ve been lectured at all day, by the boy who’s writing my biography, by my son, by Wanda, by myself. I don’t mind one more, only I’m afraid the ground’s been pretty well covered.”

“I’m sure it has,” said Abrahams. “But since I’m giving up making jury speeches, I’d like to hear the sound of my voice on a similar issue one last time, in valediction.” He knocked his pipe against the heel of his hand, then packed and lighted it once more. “Doug, there’s never been a Negro as high up as you, politically, in our country’s entire history. I know all there is to know about that. Most Negroes are happy about this, but many are scared of your sudden exposure and the subsequent white resentment. You are one of these. The nigger-hating whites are doubly inflamed, that’s for sure. You did worse than marry their sisters, you became the head of their plantations, their Massah, their Colonel. The rest of the whites are-what? Uneasy, edgy-let’s leave it that way. If the country had a say now, you’d be out in the street in ten seconds flat. The country has no say, so it has to sit still for you, until this Presidential term is over. But no matter how much hate there is out there, everyone knows you are here by law, the white man’s law. Nothing can alter the historical fact of your succession. You are rightfully their President, our President.

“Okay, so how are you to behave? Just be yourself? Who in the hell are you, anyway? I’m sure you don’t know. Maybe I don’t know, either, but maybe I have a better idea than you do. You are our President. That’s a fact. You are an American citizen. That’s a fact. You are a Negro American. That’s a fact. Because of the last, the pigmentation of your skin, you are different from any other President in our history. That’s a fact. What does this mean to you? Does it mean you act like a minority party who’s now king of the hill and going to put his heel in everyone else’s face? Does it mean you act like somebody who wandered into the wrong house, and you better beat it quick before you’re arrested? Does it mean you act like you know you don’t belong because you are different, and you back away and hide? Or does it mean you act like a human being who has inherited, through no wish of his own, the toughest job on earth, and you know it, and they out there know it, and you are going to fill that job like any human being fills any job he has to do?”

Dilman stared past Abrahams’ shoulder, twisting his cigar, twisting it until the tobacco leaf flaked. “Thank you, Nat. Very good in a Northern courtroom, where there’s a sanctified air of reason. Not very good here, where I’m servant to a mass of two hundred and thirty million who don’t always observe rules or reason.” His troubled eyes met Abraham’s eyes. “Your premise is not built on solid ground, Nat. You need one more fact, and it’s missing. Out there, even to the best of them, I’m not a human being. That’s it. I’m not a human being.”

“Doug, for God’s sake-”

“Facts, Nat, two lawyers addressing themselves to facts. You don’t want me to be a mean Negro or a servile Negro or a Negro in white face. You want me to be a human being who has a job called President, and to serve the job as a human being. How can I? Who’ll let me? What happens if I slip out of here one day, unrecognized, with Wanda for my wife, with nobody knowing who we are, and travel across the country? What am I then? Human being? I’m a nigger like any other nigger-you can’t tell one from another, you know-in the South and Southwest, and a Negro in the East and North and West. That’s what I am, Nat, when I’m not pretending to be senator or President. I’m a black man, nothing more. None of the government and organization language, like education, employment, equal suffrage, good housing, public accommodations, none of that is out there. It’s a simpler language out there. It says if you stand in line an hour in a market or store, and it’s come to be your turn, and a white man walks in, he gets served first. It says if you’ve got a hunger pang in your belly, and want to park at the first hamburger slop-joint you see, you can’t, because they won’t let you in. It says if your wife’s got to go to the bathroom, and there’s no public rest room she can get into, she’d better have a good bladder. It says if your throat is parched, and you want a Coke, just a lousy Coke, you can’t find a place to buy one, nowhere, no, sir. It says if you’re exhausted and grimy on the road and want to stop overnight, there’s not a hotel or motel with a vacancy when you ask. It says what Roy Wilkins always used to say, that every time you step out of your front door in the morning, until you come home and shut the door in the evening, you run the risk or certainty of all this kind of mistreatment and denial and humiliation. That’s the real language out there, Nat, and it reminds you, in case you ever tend to forget, that you’re not a human being, not here, not now, but a black man, meaning a half man.

“Sure I am President, Nat, but I’m not forgetting, and no one will let me forget, I am a black man, not yet qualified for human being, let alone for President. No matter how I feel, I can only act one way, Nat, only one way, and that’s as if I’m a servant of T. C., keeping the house in order while he’s away… It’s the old story I used to hear a Negro deacon tell when I was a little boy. He told it from the pulpit. ‘Ef yo’ say to de white man, “Ain’t yo’ forget yo’ hat?” he say, “Nigger, go get it!”’ That’s got to be my job, Nat, getting T. C.’s hat.”

Nat Abrahams was too deeply moved, too filled with white man’s guilts, to plead further with Dilman. He knew that he should accept Dilman’s view of reality but try to broaden it, to help him see more clearly his role and future. It was no use now, impossible, after this confessional. For years he and Dilman had openly discussed the Negro problem, and yet he could not recall any other time when he had heard his friend sound so passionately embittered.

“Okay, Doug,” Abrahams said quietly, “you’ll get T. C.’s hat. But there are a few other things you have a right to do, to instigate, to press, on your own. You have a right-”

Dilman held up a tired hand. “Nat, I have no more rights here than I have out there. Maybe fewer here. Someday, it might be different. But this is here and now. Don’t you think I’m aware of what’s going on? Don’t you think I know everything there is to know about the New Succession Bill they’re rushing through? Why all this speed from my colleagues on the Hill? Because they can’t forget I’m Negro and they don’t trust me, don’t want me to put in an Ethiopian Cabinet, with a black Secretary of State who might one day succeed me. And you know what, Nat-I’m not going to veto it. No, sir.”

“You should.”

“No, sir. I’m not going to sign it ‘Approved,’ either, but I’m not going to veto it. I’m going to let it sit on my desk ten days and a Sunday, and let it pass into law without either my approval or disapproval. It’ll get knocked out eventually by the Supreme Court, anyway. But I’ll play their little game, so they feel safer, so they know I’m not peopling the succession line with recruits from the Crispus Society or NAACP. I’m letting them know that I know my place, and I’ll do what I’m supposed to do, like it or not. If I didn’t, Nat, I’d be inviting real trouble for every Negro, let alone for myself, and for the unity of the country at large.”

“Maybe it’s time for that,” said Abrahams.

“It’ll never be time for that until my wife can go into any restroom in the land, and until a Negro can walk through the front door of the White House by popular demand.” He pushed himself away from the table. “It could be worse, Nat. I inherited some pretty good people from T. C. I know Governor Talley isn’t too smart, but he gets things done. Secretary Eaton is crafty and helpful, and a gentleman. As far as I can tell, the Cabinet is a good one. As for the bills pending, the minorities bill, the crisis in Africa, I think I can’t go far wrong listening to T. C.’s advisers. After all, they want what’s best for the country, too.”

Abrahams slipped his pipe back into his coat pocket. “Everyone wants what’s best for the country. Everyone isn’t always right.” He tried to smile. “Read the fine print, Doug. There’s always fine print.”

“Don’t worry, Nat. Maybe I’m serving T. C., but I can’t rubber-stamp his name. It’s got to be my name affixed to everything. And I always read what I sign.”

“Good enough,” said Abrahams. He saw Dilman stretch and yawn, and he stood up. “First session adjourned, Doug. I’d better get back to poor Sue, and you’d better get what sleep you can.”

“I think that’s best, Nat. I’m bushed. Let me walk you to the elevator.”

Only later, when he was by himself in the elevator, was Nat Abrahams relieved that Sue had not come to dinner. He knew that she would have wept.

Douglass Dilman was alone in the dimly lighted intimacy of the Lincoln Bedroom, in his baggy pajamas, slumped in the Victorian velvet-covered chair, downing the last of his sherry and trying to read the completed Minorities Rehabilitation Program Bill.

It was no use. The long day, the dinner, the Bordeaux, the sherry, had made him heavy-lidded and drowsy. He cast the printed bill on the marble-topped table, placed the sherry glass next to it, and tried to think of what Nat Abrahams had said and what he had said. He was too fatigued to recall exactly. His memory slid off to Wanda, to Julian, to Leroy Poole, to Arthur Eaton, to Sally Watson, to Clay Kemmler and the Cabinet, and then slid past them, searching for respite.

He heaved himself out of the chair, tightened the cord of his pajama trousers, and peered at the Empire clock. It was after midnight. He turned off the lamp, padded in his flopping slippers to turn off two more, pausing once to examine the handwritten copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and then giving up because the words ran together and blurred.

Yawning, he shuffled to the giant rosewood bed, sat on it, kicked off his slippers, stuffed his weary, middle-aged body between the white sheets, and reached over to turn off the last global lamp.

In the welcome darkness he fell back against the pillow.

He knew that sleep was coming swiftly, and his tired mind groped for one noble good-night thought, one lofty sentiment, to commemorate this unique historic occasion, a black President ready to slumber his first night in the white man’s White House.

He tried to evoke something of Abe Lincoln’s wisdom, since he rested in Abe Lincoln’s bed. He sought words… noble… lofty… historic… malice toward none… charity for all… firmness in the right… in the right… in the right… in rights, rights, rights.

It had gone, as sleep suffused him, and what remained was an old Negro jingle chanted among the shanties… noble… lofty… historic…


Nigger an’ white man

Playin’ seven-up;

Nigger win de money-

Skeered to pick ’em up.


Sorry… Mistah… Lincoln… ah’s skeered… skeered… skeered.

He turned on his side, curling beneath the thick white blanket, seeking and nearing the warm encompassing safety of night oblivion. There was one moment’s lucidity before sleep drew nothingness over it.

One moment’s thought: How hard this bed is, how hard and big and white, too hard for a soft man, too big for a small man, yet maybe, maybe, not too white for a black man. Maybe.

Douglass Dilman, President of the United States, slept at last.

IV

The stars and Stripes, whipping from the pole above the White House, was no longer at half-mast.

It had given Douglass Dilman a small shock when Crystal, fifteen minutes ago, had delivered this fact to him with his breakfast tray, in the second-floor Yellow Oval Room. She had proudly described the event as an eyewitness: yesterday, coming to work, she had seen the flag hanging limply midway down the pole; today, coming to work, she had seen it billowing in the wind at the very top of the flagstaff. She had reported the change as if it were a momentous event.

Remembering Crystal’s glowing face now, as he gulped down his coffee, Dilman supposed that she was right. The returning of the nation’s banner to its normal position meant that the thirty-day period of national mourning had ended. On this day, four weeks and two days since he had taken office, the beginning of his second month as President, his fellow countrymen would do an about-face. They would cease looking backward. They would look ahead again, and find him before their eyes. They would begin looking at him, at him and no one else. Not that they hadn’t already done so, he thought wryly.

A vicious editorial, in one of Zeke Miller’s more Southern newspapers, came to mind: “Citizens, keep your Old Glories at half-mast for the rest of Dilman’s term, not in mourning for T. C., but in mourning for the death of our dignity and stature as a nation.” But now Crystal had told him, in effect, that Miller’s advice had not been followed, that this day the flag once more celebrated at full-mast a living President.

Yes, he thought, today it’s official. They would all be looking at him, and he did not like it. He was not ready for their total scrutiny and judgment.

He drank his coffee in haste, knowing that today would be another busy and trying day, even more trying than the ones that had preceded it. When the telephone at his elbow rang genteelly, as befitted its station in the gracious damask room, and then musically rang again, Dilman was not surprised. Lately Edna Foster had been starting off his mornings with these calls from her office because there were more and more messages awaiting his reluctant arrival, acting like so many powerful magnets trying to draw him into a day that he shrank from attending.

With a sigh he gave the saucer back its cup, and answered the telephone before it could begin its third summons.

The caller was Edna Foster.

After assuring her that she had not disturbed him, not at all, that he was dressed and fed and almost prepared to come downstairs, he listened for the inevitable.

“There are several messages, Mr. President-”

“Yes, Miss Foster.”

“Grover Illingsworth called in a terrible panic-I mean for him.”

Dilman enjoyed good humor for the first time this morning. Visualizing Illingsworth in a panic was as difficult as picturing a waxen Prince Albert in Madame Tussaud’s trying to slap a fly off his nose. Ever since Kwame Amboko, the President of Baraza, had arrived two days ago, the tanned, tall patrician Chief of Protocol had been a dominant part of Dilman’s life. Everything about Illingsworth was formidable-he was Back Bay Boston, his English so precise as to sound faintly foreign, his chalk-striped gray suits as impressive as a military uniform, his knowledge of Burke’s Peerage and Almanach de Gotha as thorough as his fluency in French, German, Italian, Spanish was expert-yet he did not make Dilman cower. And this instant, Dilman realized why: because, as Chief of Protocol, Illingsworth regarded all heads of state as equals without regard to their race, religion, or background. When you rode in jet planes or jeeps or on horseback with leaders of millions of people in Ireland, in Spain, in Nigeria, in Iran, in India, in Japan, you charted men by their position in life and not by their color. To Illingsworth, Dilman was one more head of state, like so many black or yellow ones he had known and dealt with, and he was easy and casual with Dilman, and Dilman felt relaxed and natural with him. But this man phoning in a panic? Had Miss Foster taken leave of her senses?

“What is he upset about?” Dilman asked. “Is anything really wrong?”

“Tonight’s State Dinner you are giving for President Amboko. Mr. Illingsworth knows the menu is set, but he just found out Amboko is a vegetarian!”

Dilman laughed. “Is that all? Well, you have the housekeeper prepare a special meal for Amboko. What does a vegetarian eat besides grass?”

“I already asked Mr. Illingsworth. He said he hadn’t had a chance to inquire, but he supposed that a vegetarian could eat anything that, in its original state, would not have bitten back. Anyway, he’s very anxious about this State Dinner, since it’s your first, and Baraza is such a hot spot, and-”

“Miss Foster, you call Illingsworth right back, and have him get in touch with Amboko’s aide-de-camp at the Barazan Embassy, and have him find out exactly what our guest will or won’t eat. Then have him pass it on to Miss Watson, and she’ll take care of Mrs. Crail and the chef. Put in a call for Illingsworth at the New State Department Building right now-I’ll hold-”

Waiting, Dilman tried to review the two meetings that he had already held with Kwame Amboko. In some childlike way, he had expected that the meetings would be informal, lively, easier than those with his own Cabinet members, because both he and Amboko were black, and that would be enough to bind them in quick understanding and agreement. It had astonished him how wrong he had been.

He had found Amboko a young man, no more than thirty-five, a scholarly and withdrawn young man with woolly black hair, suspicious eyes behind rimless glasses, and a flat nose that seemed to cover his countenance from cheek to cheek. His puncture of a mouth was ringed by flabby lips that revealed a quarter of an inch space between his upper center teeth. While Amboko’s accent was Harvard, and he possessed many agreeable memories of his time in the United States, and had tried to model his newly independent democracy along the lines laid out by the United States Constitution, he had appeared unconvinced that the United States was an entirely trustworthy mentor and friend.

Dilman could see that Kwame Amboko was not impressed by a fellow colored man’s ascension to the Presidency in a mammoth white nation where colored men were a minority. Amboko seemed to be suggesting, without saying so outright, that Dilman was merely a front for an undependable white cabal. The African had implied that Dilman was a puppet repeating white men’s words, and therefore could bring no more understanding to the problems of an all-black nation than could his white masters.

Dilman had been able to discover only one common bond between President Amboko and himself. He and his visitor appeared to be equally sensitive to disregard and disrespect from whites. But even this one bond, which might have drawn them closer, was slack, because their sensitivities were activated by different hurts. Whereas Dilman was sensitive to slights reflecting on his human and democratic rights as a man, Amboko was sensitive about the weakness of his small country and the threats of foreign domination. To Dilman, President Amboko was like a longtime prisoner, paroled at last, uncertain that his freedom is real, constantly glancing over his shoulder at the gray walls that had incarcerated him to make sure that someone more powerful than he is not reaching out to pull him back inside. When Dilman had mentioned this to Sue and Nat Abrahams two nights before, Nat had said, “Yes, I think all newly independent nations are at once paranoid and egocentric-they think everyone is against them, and they have no interest in anyone but themselves. Not so long ago the United States suffered those same adolescent growing pangs.”

Dilman’s policy talks with Amboko had been inconclusive. Dilman had been frank about the necessity for a compromise. He would sign America into the African Unity Pact, which the Senate had ratified, he would guarantee continued economic assistance to help industrialize Baraza, if Amboko would be less repressive toward native Communists and the Soviet Union. Dilman felt that this was the least Amboko could do, in order to help the United States pacify Russia.

Doggedly President Amboko had resisted this compromise. True, the Barazan Communist Party was small. True, there was no evidence of subversive activity by the Soviet Embassy in Baraza. True, there was no conclusive evidence that young Barazan natives on cultural exchanges to Moscow were being indoctrinated with Marxist ideas. Yet, despite this, President Amboko felt that his country, in this transitional period, was a fertile field for the rise of Communism. Because Amboko had abolished rule by chieftains, broken up the ancient social structure (which had scattered warring tribes over the grasslands of the plains and through the dense forests of the mountain ranges), supplanted it with not yet effective elected inter-village councils, there was discontent. Furthermore, the per capita income in Baraza was still only sixty dollars a year, and industrialization had hardly begun. The impoverished and unemployed might easily be turned against democracy.

Above all else, President Amboko did not trust the Soviet Union. He feared that Russia coveted his little nation’s resources-the gold, iron ore, diamonds-and, in a power grab, might try to put his people back into a colonial stockade. He had reminded Dilman of the experience of one of his neighbors, Guinea, with Russia. After the French had left Guinea in 1958, the newly independent nation, tempted by the Soviet Union’s anti-colonial talk and its offer of economic credit, had invited the Russians to help them. Within three years Guinea had been forced to expel the Russians because the Soviet Embassy, it was learned, had been working with native union leaders against the democratically elected government. President Amboko feared that the same Soviet activity might occur, if it was not already taking place, in Baraza, and he wanted to anticipate and thwart it.

Impressed as he was by Amboko’s concern, Dilman had felt that he must not be sidetracked by a small nation’s problems to the detriment of world peace. He had tried to behave as T. C. might have behaved. He had insisted upon the compromise, promising that Montgomery Scott, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, would assign a sufficient number of his agents to Baraza to keep a watchful undercover eye on any subversive activity there. Amboko had agreed to think the matter over further, and to give his final reply to Dilman before returning home. He would be leaving for Baraza, Dilman remembered, after tonight’s State Dinner.

“Mr. President.” It was Edna Foster on the telephone again. “I spoke to Mr. Illingsworth. He’ll take care of everything.”

“Fine.”

“There are two messages from Leroy Poole. He wants to discuss the last chapter of the biography with you. Shall I have Mr. Lucas give him an appointment?”

Dilman tried to interpret Poole’s calls. If there had been only one, the writer might indeed have wished to discuss the book. But two messages indicated something more urgent. Dilman suspected that it was the Turnerite business, still. For one who had insisted that he was not a member of that avowed direct-action group, Poole’s interest in the organization was unaccountable. Three weeks ago he had agitated Julian into fighting with his father. A week ago he had cornered poor Nat Abrahams in the Mayflower lobby, without success. Now, no doubt, because of the Hattiesburg sentence rendered by Judge Gage, he was trying to get to Dilman once more.

While Judge Gage’s verdict of “guilty” in the Mississippi trial had probably been technically exact, his sentence had been unduly harsh and vindictive. Two days before, in his Southern courtroom, he had sentenced all the Turnerite pickets, including the blinded one, to the maximum ten years’ imprisonment in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, under State Criminal Code Section 2011. While the Crispus Society had agreed to review the legalities of the case with an eye to an appeal, the Turnerites were too outraged to be patient. The Jeff Hurley statement to the press yesterday had been an uncomfortable threat, understandable, yet imprudent. “We are told this is justice, and to abide by the law of the land,” Hurley had announced. “We are also told to abide by the words of the Old Testament, that ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ But this cautious and creeping Lord is not our Lord. We find a better Lord with better guidance in the words of Nahum, ‘The Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries.’ ”

Dilman had deplored Hurley’s injudicious statement. Such pledges of lawlessness gave further ammunition to the enemies of the Negro race, and made Dilman’s own situation that much more difficult. No, he would not discuss the Turnerite activity with young Poole again. There were other ways to proceed, better means, within the law, and he would hasten them when he felt that it was possible.

“Miss Foster, you call Poole and tell him I’m too busy right now,” he said. “I’ll discuss the book with him-well-tell him next week.”

“I think he wanted to see you this morning.”

“Impossible.”

“Very well, Mr. President. Then there is Chancellor McKaye’s letter, the invitation to Trafford. I have a notation on my calendar that it must be answered by today.”

Dilman had forgotten. Chancellor McKaye and the Regents of Trafford University had written to him, inviting him to appear on Founders’ Day to accept an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree and to be the principal speaker at the gathering of the student body, alumni, and faculty.

Even his son had put aside his pique to congratulate him and to beg him to make the appearance. Dilman had avoided any decision, but now he knew that he must reach one. His instinct, he admitted, was against the appearance. If he could not turn down the honorary degree, he must turn down the invitation to speak. Julian would be disappointed, perhaps upset, but there were more important considerations. To date, he had avoided public speeches, accepting the advice of T. C.’s advisers that they might be inflammatory no matter what he said. While he must give his first television press conference this afternoon, and hold others later, this contact with the public would be buffered by reporters. When the time came to speak in public, he would have to do so, but certainly it would be unwise to make his first such appearance at a Negro school.

“Miss Foster,” Dilman said, “you write Chancellor McKaye to this effect-that I’m moved and pleased to be offered the honorary degree and that I will accept it later if I may, but that I regret I cannot accept the Founders’ Day speaking engagement. Tell him my overloaded schedule will not allow my leaving Washington. Make it-make it as tactful as possible. Leave the door open for the future. Say maybe on another occasion, when things ease up, I can pay Trafford a more informal visit. Tell him I’m not unmindful of the good job they are doing there, and I speak not only as Chief Executive but as the father of one of their undergraduates. You know how to write it. I’ll read and sign it later in the day. Anything else?”

“Mr. Flannery and Governor Talley have just walked in. They’re ready to brief you on the press conference.”

“Tell them to wait in my office. I’ll be right there.”

After hanging up, Dilman considered a second cup of coffee, rejected it for lack of time, rose, tugged his jacket straight, and found his briefcase. He left the Yellow Oval Room and went into the West Hall.

As he started for the elevator, he heard his name. He spun around, to observe Sally Watson, waving a sheaf of papers, hurrying toward him. Once again he was aware of her dress. The variety of her attire-he could not recall seeing the same garment on her twice in three weeks-fascinated him, as usual. She was wearing a claret-colored sheer blouse and magenta skirt, costly, unornamented, the subtle colors contrasting pleasantly with her sleek blond hair. She had more the appearance of a hostess than that of a secretary, Dilman decided, and he did not mind. At first he had worried about her conspicuous beauty, but by now it blended into the stately beauty of the White House itself. Besides, to his relief, with one exception, the press had played down and been uncritical of her being chosen to fill the position of social secretary. The expected exception had been Reb Blaser, acidly writing that the wily new President was trying to disarm the Southern bloc in Congress by embarrassing bribes, beginning with the hiring of the daughter of Senator Hoyt Watson. Dilman’s annoyance at this gratuitous observation had been teased away by Sally herself. “Now really, do I look like a Southern Trojan horse, Mr. President?” she had joked.

However, whimsicality from Sally Watson was rare. For another surprise about her had been her seriousness. Somehow Dilman had expected a certain degree of frivolity in a wealthy, spoiled child. Instead, he had a social assistant who had proved punctual, earnest, dedicated, agreeable to working all hours, and who had the initiative to go beyond the scope of her East Wing office, to take over the handling of his engagements outside the White House. Once or twice he had almost forgotten to be cautious with her about his private affairs.

As she approached, smooth brow furrowed, it was difficult for him to reconcile with the young lady’s angelic face one bit of gossip that he had heard. A few evenings ago Sue Abrahams had repeated a tidbit that Mrs. Gorden Oliver had passed on to her: that Kay Varney Eaton had been out of the city an uncommonly long period of time, and that the Secretary of State had been seeking solace in the company of Miss Sally Watson. Sue Abrahams had not repeated the gossip to titillate, but to keep Dilman informed of all that she heard behind his back. She doubted if the Arthur Eaton-Sally Watson thing was true, and had been pleased when Dilman discounted it entirely. Dilman had said that he could not conceive of an amorous relationship between a dignified, circumspect, older career diplomat like Arthur Eaton and a relatively superficial, inexperienced, too-well-known young single girl like Senator Watson’s daughter. What had Nat thought? Nat had shrugged, hummed a few bars of “September Song,” and they had laughed and dismissed it.

Now, waiting for her, Dilman superimposed Nat’s shrug on Sally’s gilt-headed Aphrodite loveliness. Anything was possible, of course, but in this central city of professionally prying eyes it was unlikely that a sophisticated statesman of international renown would dare risk his reputation over any bachelor girl. Improbable, he told himself again, and accepted Sally Watson in her previous virginal and unsullied state.

“Good morning, Mr. President,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “I need you for a few minutes-tonight’s dinner-”

“I’m sorry, Miss Watson, but can’t it wait? I’m running behind-”

“Just one minute, then. I suppose it’s not all that important, but-”

“All right, Miss Watson. Do you mind telling me on the way to the office?”

They walked to the elevator as Sally checked the markings on different sheets of her papers.

“The platform is up in the East Room, and it’s completely decorated,” she said. “Very pretty. I just called the Hay-Adams and the Statler Hilton, and the whole Hollywood contingent is in, safe and sound. I can’t wait to hear Herbie Teele, and I adore Libby Owens, don’t you?”

Entering the elevator, Dilman was less enthusiastic than his social secretary about the entertainment that was to follow the State Dinner. Allan Noyes, the Party chairman, had been the first to suggest it. The six famous Hollywood and New York performers had been staunch and vocal supporters of T. C. and the Party, and had raised a small fortune to help finance his election campaign. Now they had been the first to volunteer their support of the new President. Their quotations in the syndicated movie columns had been embarrassingly extravagant in praise of Dilman, whom none had ever met.

This type of show-business liberal, no matter how sincere and well intentioned, had always made Dilman uneasy. They made too much of a point of loving anyone black or yellow or brown, no matter what the character and worth of the object of their extrovert affection. When the entertainment group had heard of Dilman’s first State Dinner, they had offered their services through Noyes. Dilman had been indecisive about them, preferring no entertainment at all, or, at least, something more conservative. And then Illingsworth had learned that President Amboko was an inveterate moviegoer, and that he would be delighted to enjoy some of his American cinema idols in the flesh, and that had pushed Dilman into agreement.

Dilman had not minded Trig Cunningham, the rough and fearless star of a half-hundred swashbuckling and soldiering epics, or Betsy Buckner, the sinuous national Love Object, or Tilly Reyes, the rubber-featured lady clown, or Rick Wade, the disheveled guitar-strumming adolescent. They were white. His objections were to two other members of the troupe, Herbie Teele, the lanky, fork-tongued comedian known for his acid integration monologues and his coterie of young white female worshipers, and Libby Owens, the magnificent singer of sad blues songs. They were Negro. Dilman did not want them, not so soon, not the first day after the national mourning ended. But President Amboko wanted them. So did Sally Watson, apparently. And so they were here and in the wings.

“Yes, it’ll be interesting,” he found himself saying. “I hope they exercise some caution. President Amboko may be a little touchy about certain jokes.” He meant himself and not Amboko, but he could not bring himself to be so naked in front of this girl. He hated Negro jokes told by Negroes, and Negro songs sung in public by Negroes.

“Oh, don’t worry, Mr. President. Mr. Illingsworth’s assistants are attending a rehearsal at the Hilton this afternoon.” Sally was busy with her bundle of papers. “The routine for the dinner has finally been worked out.”

“Go ahead.”

“All but the honored guests will arrive by the south grounds-go through the South Portico entrance to the first-floor corridor, where the Marine Band will be playing. I’ll be there with my staff, and we’ll show everyone the seating plan and give them their escort cards. Then we’ll get them into the East Room. They’ll have about twenty minutes there before your arrival.”

The elevator had stopped. Quickly Sally opened the door, and waited for Dilman to step out before following him. Dilman, whose mind was on the press conference briefing, walked hurriedly, so that Sally had to skip every few steps to keep beside him. As they traversed the ground-floor red carpet, she continued to speak.

“President Amboko and his entourage, with Mr. Illingsworth, will come in by the Pennsylvania Avenue side-the North Portico entrance-around five minutes after eight. You will welcome them in the Yellow Oval Room, and have perhaps ten or fifteen minutes to chat with President Amboko. After that, all of you will go down the stairway. Photographers will be permitted to take pictures-”

“Is that necessary?”

“I’m told it is the custom followed by T. C. and most others before him.” She glanced at Dilman, who nodded assent, and then she went on. “The Marine Band will be playing ‘Hail to the Chief’ as you take Amboko into the East Room. Then, since we’ve been forced to combine the reception with the dinner, you, Mr. President, and Amboko, and his entourage, will form the receiving line, and as guests file past, they will go on to their tables-one main table, and smaller ones-in the State Dining Room and wait for you to take your seat. You will offer the first toast, after the dessert.”

A White House policeman had sprung forward to open the door, and Dilman emerged outdoors with Sally onto the colonnaded walk that went past the indoor swimming pool, and turned toward the West Wing executive offices. He sniffed the air, cold and invigorating, peered at the blue-gray cloudless metallic sky, and resumed his march to the briefing.

“According to Mr. Illingsworth,” Sally was saying, “after dinner you can lead President Amboko upstairs for a private conversation in the Yellow Oval Room, while the other guests go into the Red, Green and Blue Rooms for champagne. Then, Mr. President, you will show him to the East Room for the performance.” She slowed, searching her papers, and Dilman slowed his stride with her. “The final total-we sent 104 invitations and admittance cards-”

“Is everyone coming?” Dilman asked.

“Ninety-six have accepted,” she said. “The others are either out of town or ill or-oh, yes, there is one guest-no, two-I haven’t heard from. Senator Bruce Hankins-”

“I predicted that. I told Talley we shouldn’t bother, but he wanted to play politics.”

“-and Miss Wanda Gibson. She and the Reverend and Mrs. Spinger were invited together. I heard from the Spingers, but I have not heard from Miss Gibson.” She looked up. “I’ll telephone Miss Gibson-”

“No,” said Dilman, and at once, from Sally’s inquisitive eyes, their widening, he knew that he had uttered his order too hastily and too strongly. He sought to rectify it. “You needn’t bother. She lives with the Spingers, and I am sure she assumed their acceptance was her own.”

“Very well.” But he could see that Sally was reluctant to drop it. He wondered if she would go further. She said, “I think I am acquainted with all of the guests, or at least know about them, except Miss-Miss Wanda Gibson. Since I want to be as useful to you as possible, Mr. President-you know, introductions, making outsiders feel at home-is there anything I should know about the lady?”

Dilman cursed himself for having added Wanda’s name to the invitation list. He had known the hazard of doing so. He had done it only to prove to Wanda that he was not afraid to see her in public. He had expected questions from Illingsworth and received none, and Sally Watson’s curiosity caught him momentarily off guard.

He halted before the French doors leading into his Oval Office, returned the greeting of a Secret Service agent, and then confronted Sally as casually as possible. “You needn’t fret about Miss Gibson,” he said. “As a senator, preparing for committee hearings, I sometimes found her a valuable information source. She is employed by a Liechtenstein corporation, the Vaduz Exporters, in Maryland. I believe her firm carries on a good deal of trading with African nations, Baraza among them, and I thought that President Amboko and his Ambassador-what in the devil is his name?-Wamba, yes, Wamba-that she’d be one more person for them to talk to. That’s all. You needn’t bother about her tonight. She’ll be well taken care of. The Springers will have her in tow. And Mr. Abrahams-you met him-I think he knows her slightly, professionally, and he’ll pitch in.”

He realized that he had explained too much, and that Sally Watson had been listening too closely.

He said, “Is that all? I’ve got to-”

She said, “Well, there are a couple of minor-”

“You take care of the rest of it, you and Illingsworth. I haven’t time to be nervous about tonight. I’ve got to save my anxiety for the press conference. Forgive me, Miss Watson. You’re doing wonderfully on your own.”

“Thank you. And I’m sorry, Mr. President. I didn’t mean to distract you. Good luck, if I’m allowed to say so.”

He turned to the closest French door, and could see Tim Flannery holding it open. He thanked his press secretary and went into the office, which was agreeably warm. Talley, making corrections on the typed pages in a loose-leaf folder, began to rise, but Dilman signaled him to remain seated.

After taking his place behind the desk and apologizing for his tardiness, Dilman said, “Well, gentlemen, I’ve been doing my homework the last couple of nights. What’s next?”

“This,” said Talley, closing the vellum folder and holding it up. “I’ve tried to anticipate every question that might be put to you in the press conference. Then Tim here kind of had drinks with some of the boys, and picked up a few clues as to what you might expect. We listed the questions, circulated them to every department, and each one sent over lengthy replies on policy, supplemented with facts and figures. Tim and I condensed this to five typewritten pages. I don’t think we’ve missed a trick.” He came out of his chair and handed the folder to Dilman. “You have enough time to go over them by yourself now. Most of it will be familiar, but if anything puzzles or confuses you, we can talk it out right here.”

Dilman picked worriedly at a corner of the blue vellum folder. “What if I don’t remember some figure or-”

“You’re not expected to be a memory expert, Mr. President,” Talley said. “Tim will be seated beside you with that folder, and you can always turn to him for some elusive fact or number.”

“Won’t that look amateurish on television?” he asked.

Flannery shook his head. “Not a bit. It’ll make you appear fallible and mortal, serve to put viewers at ease.”

Dilman did not feel reassured. There had been several hours of debate on how his first press conference should be presented to the public. Dilman had turned down a huge televised press conference from the New State Department Building auditorium as being too impersonal, and as demanding histrionic talents that he knew he did not possess. He had considered an informal gathering in the Indian Treaty Room across the street. Flannery had been against this, arguing that Dilman had yet made no contact with the American public or with the majority of the press, except through brief, impromptu remarks or dictated statements, and that full exposure was now a necessity. A compromise had been reached only two days before. Forty to fifty members of the press would be admitted to the Cabinet Room. The television networks would cover the event. The atmosphere would be comfortable and unstaged. Dilman would make a series of news announcements, and then answer questions for perhaps twenty minutes.

Dilman opened the folder. On the first page there was typed in capital letters:


FOR THE PRESIDENT-MORNING BRIEFING ON PRESS CONFERENCE


As he turned the page, he heard Tim Flannery saying, “One thing, Mr. President.” He looked up, and Flannery went on, “You’ll notice a star in the margin, and the name of a newspaper or wire service beneath it, alongside several questions. There are not many, but those are the ones we planted to be sure they were asked. They’re the ones we feel you have good replies to and can come off well with.”

“I knew it was done,” said Dilman, “but how do you manage it? Don’t the reporters resent it?”

“Not at all,” said Flannery. “It gives them added news, even if canned or controlled, as they may think. These are men we can depend upon. They do us a favor, and at the right time we repay them with an exclusive lead. It’s not too obvious. Yesterday I called in one of the bureau chiefs representing a New York paper, handed him a written question, and I said, ‘Look, if you ask the President this question, in your own words, you might get an interesting answer. I’m just tipping you off.’ He looked at the question and said. ‘You mean, he’d like to get an official policy statement on this off his chest?’ I said, ‘I think so. It won’t be pap. It’ll be solid and definite.’ He said, ‘Okay, Tim, good enough.’ ” Flannery smiled at Dilman. “It’s the way we’ve worked in the past, with excellent results.”

“Fine,” said Dilman. “You two do whatever you wish until I’ve gone over this. If I have any questions, I won’t be reticent. I’ll need every bit of direction I can get today.”

Dilman studied the second page in the folder. Under the heading, YOUR OPENING REMARKS, there was a concise list of the subjects that he would cover in his reading of the mimeographed text. Next, under the heading, QUESTIONS ON OPENING REMARKS AND OTHER MATTERS (IF ASKED), there were fourteen short queries. Turning the page, Dilman found the heading, YOU MAY RESPOND AS FOLLOWS, and here each possible inquiry was repeated, followed by a suggested reply, severely condensed to one paragraph. This ran almost two pages. The last heading read, BACKGROUND, with numbers keyed to the questions and answers, and tight paragraphs filled with authoritative quotations and statistics from government departments elaborating upon the suggested responses.

Flipping back to the second page, Dilman quickly went over the outline of the prepared statement already in his briefcase, which he was to read to the reporters and television cameras. The general tone was humble and conciliatory. He was to begin by saying that he welcomed the opportunity to meet with the men and women of the fourth estate upon whom the electorate depended for all information concerning their government. He was to say that he felt they would perform with the same sense of responsibility with which he would try to perform. Never in our history, he would say, was a President or the public more dependent upon news media for accuracy and reliability. There would be the quotation from Thomas Jefferson: “The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being.” Tim Flannery had calculated that these remarks, this initial flattery, would soften the cynical reporters, make them preen with self-importance, make them know that here was a Chief Executive who would cooperate with them. Remembering the writings of Reb Blaser and his kind, Dilman felt less confidence in the uses of flattery, but he liked Flannery too much to disagree.

After that, there was the repetition of all of Dilman’s press statements of the past month. He had not sought the Presidency, he had not wanted it, but since it was his duty by law to undertake the office, he would do so to the best of his ability. He had, he was to say, only a short time-short time was underlined-to be the caretaker of T. C.’s ideals. As a senator, he was to say, he had always admired and supported T. C., and he was to cite his voting record as a congressman. The country, he was to say, need expect no drastic detours from the peaceful and prosperous road along which the former President had been leading it. Had he not already given evidence of good faith in retaining every member of T. C.’s Cabinet and personal staff of advisers?

Troubled, Dilman looked up. Talley and Flannery were across the Oval Office, leaning against the fireplace, smoking, whispering. He considered telling them that he did not like these opening remarks. They seemed too humble, as if he were apologizing to the press and the 230 million Americans for having a Negro in the wrong place, as if reassuring everyone that the fact that he was a member of a minority race would not destroy them. Yet he had no courage to bring it up this late, for he realized that these were not Flannery’s words but the language of politically expert white men like Talley, Eaton, and the Cabinet members, and perhaps they knew what was best for him.

He concentrated on the rest of his opening remarks, mostly official news announcements: he had met with the National Space Council and agreed that within three months the advanced Apollo rocket would catapult a team of three astronauts into orbit; he had given assurances to Brazil and India that A-11 flights would not be continued over their embattled borders; he was being kept closely informed of Secretary of State Eaton’s meetings with Russian Ambassador Rudenko, and could reveal now only that progress had been made, and it was likely that the interrupted Roemer Conference with the Premier of the Soviet Union would be resumed at another site, probably on the European Continent; he had sat in on one meeting with labor leaders, heads of the steel industry, and Secretary Barnes, and he was confident the impending strike would be averted; he had been informed of the exclusive story in the Chicago Tribune that Frank Valetti, second-in-command of the Turnerite Group, was a member of the Communist Party, and he had already urged the Justice Department to investigate; he had written a letter to Annapolis, appointing T. C.’s young son, Fred, to the Naval Academy when he became eligible.

Dilman unwrapped a cigar, bit off one end, and lighted it. Although his opening remarks were filled with news, he knew that they would not be enough, and that Flannery and Talley knew it, too. Puffing the cigar, Dilman went down the possible questions that he might be asked, and then he examined the answers offered to him.

Question: Will you sign the African Unity Pact Bill? Suggested Response: Yes, we affirm our determination to support free peoples and democratic ideals throughout the world, et cetera.

Question: Can you discuss the subjects that you and Kwame Amboko of Baraza have covered, and relate them to the AUP and the recent Roemer Conference? Suggested Response: The meetings with President Amboko have been fruitful, and progress has been made in many areas. We will conclude our talks after tonight’s State Dinner. There will be a joint statement from President Amboko and myself upon his departure tomorrow.

Question: Do you feel that, as a Negro, you can be more effective in making activist organizations like the Turnerites behave more moderately? Suggested Response: I do not believe my color is an issue one way or another. As a senator, and now as President, I am certain my views about immoderate activity and violence are well known. Like my predecessor, I believe in progress under the law and through the courts of the land, such progress as is being made on behalf of Negro Americans by the Crispus Society and NAACP.

Question: Do you believe passage of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program will alleviate the current tension, and do you intend to support and sign the massive work and education bill? Suggested Response: I believe that MRP has much to offer minorities in this country, but at the same time I do not believe it should make us relax our other efforts to secure civil rights for all men and women, et cetera. I am still studying the bill, and will make my views known shortly.

Dilman put down his cigar and rubbed his eyes. The last question was the only one, so far, to which he had written the response. He realized now that his statement was ambiguous, and might not satisfy the press.

“Tim,” he called out, “do you think they’ll try to pin me down on the MRP Bill?”

Flannery nodded. “I think you can expect it.”

Talley took a few steps from the fireplace. “Mr. President, I’m positive you’ll avoid a lot of nettlesome questions by simply coming out in flat support of-”

“Governor,” Dilman interrupted, “I’m not saying I’m against it, God knows. It’s just so damn big and important, I want to feel sure it is right-will ease off the tension-”

Flannery said, “Then whatever you’re asked, keep saying you are consulting with your advisers, seeking the best and most efficient legislation possible. You know the sort of thing.”

“I understand,” said Dilman.

He reviewed the remaining possible questions and suggested responses quickly. How often would he hold press conferences? There was a star after this one. It had been planted. He was to say that he hoped to air ideas with the press every two weeks, depending upon circumstances. Had he approved of the Postmaster General’s new commemorative stamp bearing T. C.’s likeness? This also had been planted. He was to say that he had instigated the idea of the memorial stamp. Would he permit his name to be offered as a candidate for the Presidency at the Party convention in Baltimore next year? No star after this one. He was to say that such political considerations were premature, that he preferred to make no comment at this time, except to say that he had never had, and had not now, any political ambitions beyond Congress.

There were several more questions, and then the last one, and reading it, he sat up. For the first time, the New Succession Bill, which would freeze his Cabinet by giving the Senate authority over him, lay coldly and boldly before his eyes, not in speculative newsprint but as a fact presented by his advisers.

Possible Question: Since the New Succession Bill seems assured of passage through Congress, will you sign it into law or veto it?

Without lifting his head to look, he sensed that the watching Talley knew that he had arrived at the yet unspoken question and that, in a way, it was being asked of him by his staff rather than by the press.

Suggested Response: For a long time we have needed reforms and better precautionary measures in our Presidential succession system. The possibilities of multiple deaths in the line of succession, in this nuclear age, are too real to be ignored. I approve of Senator Hankins’ proposed bill as one more security measure to safeguard the nation at large.

The omission glared out at Dilman. There was not a word about the embarrassing addendum to the bill, the one amputating his removal powers. Did Talley and the others think the members of the press were blind to it, that they would not ask it?

He took pen in hand, and looked at Talley. “Governor, about the last question here. I don’t think I’ll get away with your suggested response. It covers only three-fourths of the New Succession Bill. Someone is surely going to inquire about the final paragraphs, and I’d better be ready.”

Talley came toward the desk, with Flannery behind him, and Dilman was pleased to see that his aide was flushed with consternation.

“I-we didn’t know what you’d want to say about that, Mr. President,” Talley was saying. “We’ve never discussed the clause-”

“Because no one brought it up,” said Dilman. He faced Flannery. “Tim, I’d better be ready to say something about that. If I’m asked about it, and I will be, I’ll try to make up my mind what to say extemporaneously. I just want to jot a note here for you, after my suggested response, to the effect that-let me think-well-that I have examined the clause shifting the removal powers of the President over his Cabinet to the Senate, in the special case where the succession has gone below Vice-President, and-and while I understand the motivation behind it-the desire of Congress to preserve the nature of the elected and appointed government-I must remark that I believe the clause to be of debatable legality and designed to weaken the executive branch of government. Will I let that one questionable feature turn me against an otherwise excellent piece of legislation or will I approve it? I don’t know, Tim-Governor-I’m afraid if I suggest veto, it will create an uproar, make the Southern bloc in Congress, the racists around the country, positive that I’m going to dump T. C.’s Cabinet for an all-black Cabinet. I can’t afford that, no matter how I feel-”

“Exactly, that’s the point, Mr. President,” said Talley anxiously. “The whole piece of legislation was merely made to alleviate fear-”

“But I think the legislation is wrong because it is unconstitutional,” Dilman said. “I’ll make a note here that I cannot say how I will act until I observe the conditions under which the final New Succession Bill reaches my desk. Then, if I find it necessary to approve it in order to preserve national unity, I will do so after making my legal opinion, and the opinions of the best constitutional lawyers, known to the country.”

Hastily, he scrawled several sentences after the last suggested response.

He looked up. “There, that should keep everyone satisfied-for the time.”

“Very wise, Mr. President,” said Talley, exhaling a gust of relief.

Dilman turned the page. “Let me bone up on the backgrounds to my responses-”

Talley quickly retreated, as if his proximity might provoke the President into second thoughts.

Studiously Dilman devoted himself to the information. He had gone through five of the capsule briefings when the buzzer sounded from Miss Foster’s office.

Since he had told her to hold all calls except the most urgent ones, he picked up the telephone immediately.

“Mr. President,” said Edna Foster, her voice quavering, “the Attorney General is here. He must see you at once. He says that it is imperative.”

“Shoot him right in.”

He hung up. “Clay Kemmler’s here. Apparently, something critical-”

“We can step out until-” Flannery began.

Dilman waved Flannery and Talley back to the sofa. “No, stay put. Let’s-”

Edna Foster’s door swung open, and then shut, and Attorney General Kemmler stormed in, flinging his hat at the sofa, ignoring Talley and Flannery as he shed his coat and moved toward the President. Dilman could see that Kemmler was the personification of spleen. His close-set, flinty eyes narrowed, and looked as if they were giving off sparks. Head back, his square jaw thrust forward beyond the point of his nose, he resembled a beset dragon carrying banderillas in its backside.

“Mr. President, there’s trouble for us,” he announced angrily, almost bumping into the Buchanan desk. “I thought you’d better hear it in person, not on the phone, because we’ll have to make some fast decisions.”

He paused, leaned over the desk, and said, “Those goddam Turnerites went and started their retaliation program. I just got the flash from Mississippi. Some of Hurley’s hoodlums crossed into Hattiesburg, grabbed Judge Everett Gage at gunpoint, and kidnaped him. They left a ransom note for local, state, and Federal officials. They’ll free Judge Gage when Mississippi frees those Turnerites who were sentenced to ten years. Now what in the holy hell am I supposed to do?”

Involuntarily, Dilman had shivered when Kemmler spat out “kidnaped him.” The full realization that his people, a segment of them, had ceased talking terror, were practicing it, performing it, involving him in their insane deed, frightened him.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “Are you sure Hurley is responsible? I can’t believe it.”

“He’s already sent a denial to the Birmingham and Jackson papers-but who else can be responsible for this act except Hurley and his Turnerites?” Kemmler demanded impatiently. “Naturally, he gave out a statement denying his Group had anything to do with it, but he added something to the effect that he couldn’t disapprove of any of his fellow Negroes standing up for their rights. We’re trying to locate him for questioning, but no luck, so far. But whether he denies it or not, whether he makes it look like an individual action or not, it’s got to be something he sanctioned. Hasn’t he been threatening us with retaliation and violence in all his speeches? And who else on earth would risk their necks in a foolhardy act like this-trying to spring a bunch of jailed Turnerites-except other Turnerites?”

Within Dilman there beat a faint hope. “So far, as much as you know, the kidnaping was done by individuals?”

“So far, yes,” said Kemmler. “But, Mr. President, there’s no doubt over at Justice that the crime is a direct result of announced Turnerite policies.”

Dilman’s gaze went from the Attorney General to Talley and Flannery, who had come forward, both deeply disturbed. Dilman shook his head. “Well, whether it was the act of individuals or an organization-whichever-how in the devil do they expect to accomplish anything by it?”

“I’ll tell you how,” said Kemmler. He pushed past Flannery, and came around the desk to stand over the President. “It’s all been thought out, every detail. The unsigned ransom note demands that the ten Turnerites in the penitentiary at Parchman be released from jail at once and be delivered safely to Tampico, the Mexican seaport-very smart, since you know and I know how goddam uncooperative the Mexican government has been lately about extraditing our fugitive citizens of Mexican, Japanese, or Negro descent. When the Turnerites are released and landed in Tampico, the kidnapers promise Judge Gage will be returned unharmed. That’s the deal.”

Dilman sought to rally his authority. “What’s this got to do with us? From what you’ve told me, it’s strictly a state affair.”

“No, Mr. President, it’s our affair,” said Kemmler emphatically, slapping his thigh. “I spoke to Lombardi at once, and ordered him to sic the FBI after them, because there were indications that the victim was being taken across the state line. Now there’s concrete evidence from the FBI that Gage has been carried from Mississippi into Louisiana, and the hoodlums are probably trying to get him to Texas and into Mexico. That makes it our business. That brings it under the Lindbergh kidnaping law. It’s a clear-cut Federal offense.”

“Well, all right, you’re on top of it,” said Dilman. “You’re doing what you can-”

“My God, Mr. President,” exclaimed Kemmler, slapping his thigh repeatedly in his agitation, “this is only the beginning. Can’t you see what this means? It means Hurley, Valetti, the whole Turnerite gang-no matter what their phony denials-are starting their eye-for-an-eye policy. If we let them get away with this, they’re going to go on with it, take the law into their own hands. Every time they can trump up an injustice practiced upon a Negro, they’re going to retaliate with a kidnaping, blaming their act on unknown individuals and mocking us with their innocence as a group. Can’t you see what this will lead to? Anarchy, crime compounding crime, with counter-vigilante outfits galloping around the country. Goddammit, we’re going to have the Civil War all over again-but twice as bad, because it’ll be black against white this time-unless we do something fast.”

Shaken, eyes now downcast, Dilman began crumbling the cigar butt between his fingers. “I suppose I could make some kind of personal appeal to Hurley to join us in apprehending-”

“No, absolutely not,” said Kemmler.

Talley snapped his fingers for attention. “Mr. President, I’m inclined to agree with the Attorney General. You, personally, can’t treat with a possible abductor as an equal, bring him up to your level, or demean yourself by going down to his. The consequences-”

“I’m flatly against any bargaining,” Kemmler interrupted. “The situation is too explosive. We can’t let one man who is outside the law, heading up one organization, decide what is just and unjust, and mete out his own punishments. We can’t have two governments, Mr. President. If there are biases and delinquency on our side, and there are plenty of these, we’ll find ways to right them under due process, but no gang of activists is going to supplant us.” He straightened, breathing heavily, and then continued. “The FBI’ll nail the kidnapers soon enough, you can be sure. Then we’ll be able to prove their link to the Turnerites and prosecute them. But we can’t wait for that, believe me. What we need from you, Mr. President, is foresight and firm intervention right now that’ll put an immediate stop to any more Turnerite violence. In this way you’ll discourage lawlessness from other activist groups, black or white. You’ve got a press conference today, right? You can bet those reporter hounds will be howling after you and after me. Okay, I think you should be ready for them, beat them to the punch. I think you should announce that the Federal government is moving immediately to outlaw and disband the Turnerites, and that any person found to be a member-”

“Wait a minute,” Dilman interrupted, rolling his swivel chair back, and swinging his bulk directly toward Kemmler. “I haven’t the power to ban or restrict any private society or organization in the United States, be it the Turnerites or the Ku Klux Klan, unless-”

“Unless it is proved subversive,” Kemmler finished for him. “That’s right. Well, we’ve got the goods on the Turnerites. It was because he anticipated a situation exactly like this that T. C. forced Congress into beefing up the Subversive Activities Control Act. He and Congress knew that the $10,000 fine and five-year imprisonment for failure of a Communist to register wasn’t going to scare anyone, especially since it was always being questioned in the courts. That’s why T. C. pounded through this stronger act-any Communist Front organization engaging in subversive activity, to the detriment of the nation, against the safety of the government, can have its leaders punished and its membership disbanded, and those not complying-”

“You don’t have to read the law to me, Kemmler,” Dilman broke in. “I voted for it in the Senate. I just don’t see how the Subversive Activities Control Act can be applied to the Turnerites. They don’t-”

“We can pin a Communist Front tag on the Turnerites and make it stick!” Kemmler exclaimed triumphantly.

“The Turnerites-Communist?” said Dilman with disbelief. “Come, now. I know you’re investigating that newspaper scoop about one of the Turnerite directors-whatever his name-Valetti, yes-being a Red, but-”

Kemmler shoved his face almost into Dilman’s own. “We have investigated Frank Valetti. He’s been a Communist Party member for years, and he still is. He is also Hurley’s second-in-command. That’s point one. And here’s point two, the clincher. Over in Justice we wondered where the Turnerites were getting their money. Who was financing them? Either they were being kept in business by the Crispus Society, which I doubted, or by the Communist Party. Well, we’re now satisfied that Valetti has been carrying money from the Commies to the Turnerites.”

Dilman shook his head vigorously. “I’m not satisfied. It sounds flaky. Accepting the fact that a member of the Turnerite leadership is a Communist is one thing, but proving the Turnerites, as a group, are part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government-I don’t think anyone will buy that.”

“You don’t?” Clay Kemmler was obviously indignant. “Mr. President, forgive me, but your people have been wide-open to Communist manipulation for years. Remember what J. Edgar Hoover said years ago? He said the Communists were trying to divide and weaken America from within. He said the Communists were trying to exploit misunderstandings and take advantage of areas of dissension and unrest in this country. He said, ‘This is especially true in the intense civil rights movement, for America’s twenty million Negroes and all others engaged in this struggle are a major target for Communist propaganda and subversion.’ Well, okay, that’s what is going on right now. Valetti and the Commies are trying to use the Turnerites for their own ends, and Hurley and the Turnerites are fanatic enough to accept anyone’s help to achieve their goals.”

Dilman stared at Kemmler. “You still haven’t proved that the Turnerites are being financed with Communist funds.”

“We have a dossier a mile high on Valetti, Mr. President. Here’s an unskilled man, whose education ended with grammar school, banking a fantastic yearly income. From whom? From registered Communists, that’s who. And no sooner does Valetti deposit this money than out it goes in big cash lumps. Where does it go? Do I have to spell it out? Our file is wide-open to you.”

Dilman gripped the arms of his big green chair and heaved himself to his feet. He studied Kemmler a moment, and then left his desk, circling the office. He knew that the three of them were watching him, waiting for him to speak. He tried to think. Desperately he tried to sublimate his feelings as a Negro and coolly judge what he had heard and what was wanted from him, by applying his critical faculty as a onetime practicing attorney-at-law.

At last he faced them, “Gentlemen, this much I know now-I don’t intend to do anything rash, anything I’ll regret later. Ever since the stronger Subversive Activities Control Act has been in effect, there have been five hundred specific organizations posted for public notice on the Justice Department’s questionable list. To my knowledge, not one has ever been prosecuted and disbanded under the act. Is that correct?”

“Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean-” Kemmler began.

“It doesn’t mean such banning can’t be done or shouldn’t be done,” said Dilman. “When the safety of the country is at stake, and the enemy within is proved guilty, it will be done. I remind you, Mr. Attorney General, I’ve got a law degree, as you have, and I tell you I am not satisfied that we possess sufficient evidence to invoke the Subversive Control Act now against the Turnerites. Until I know beyond a shadow of doubt that Hurley and the Turnerites, as a group, are responsible for that kidnaping of Gage, and until I am certain that they are Communist-financed, I cannot restrict, ban, or dissolve them.”

Kemmler was unable to conceal his dismay. “But, Mr. President-you’ve got to do something.”

Dilman had started for his desk. “I intend to. I want to satisfy myself on one question. And then I will do something.”

He dialed Edna Foster, and requested her to put through a call to the Reverend Paul Spinger at the Crispus Society Building. Standing, telephone in hand, he suggested that the others make themselves comfortable. Talley and Flannery retreated to the sofas, but Clay Kemmler refused to sit. He went to the French doors and glumly looked out at the south lawn.

In less than a minute, the Reverend Spinger’s concerned voice greeted Dilman.

“Reverend,” Dilman said into the mouthpiece, “have you heard what’s happened down in Hattiesburg?”

“Yes, Mr. President, it’s dreadful. Those irresponsible and ornery gangsters couldn’t have done a greater disservice to our cause.”

“I agree with you, Reverend. Now I’ll tell you why I’m calling. I have here in the office with me the Attorney General, as well as Governor Talley, and Mr. Flannery. We’ve been discussing the abduction, and the possible repercussions it will have. We must be prepared to act. Reverend, do you consider the kidnaping as something done by an isolated bunch of hotheads or as something instigated by Hurley and his Turnerites?”

“Mr. President, I can’t say. Certainly we have no information here, one way or the other.”

“All right, you don’t know.” Dilman looked over his shoulder at Kemmler, whose back was still to him. “Reverend Spinger, we’ve touched upon this matter many times, but I have never put the question directly to you. Now I am going to do so, and do so officially.” He could see Kemmler turning to catch every word. Dilman concentrated on the telephone. “Since many Crispus Society members left you to form the Turnerites, it is imperative that we know what ties you have, if any, with the Turnerites. I must-”

“None, Doug, you know that.” Dilman could detect the fervent emotion in Spinger’s voice, as the clergyman went on. “We disapprove of Hurley, his threats, his inciting activities, just as he and his group disapprove of us, of our adherence to legal procedure, our qualified support of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program, our-”

“Then, Reverend, you disavow any ties with the Turnerites. Two final questions. Has your organization now, or at any time, by any means, ever financed the Turnerites?”

“The answer, Doug, is an unequivocal no. Not now, not before, never.”

“Never. Very well. Then the second question. Do you have any information as to who is financing Hurley’s group?”

“I have no factual information, Mr. President,” replied Spinger, more controlled. “There’s been some hearsay-you know, Valetti, the-”

“I’m not interested in hearsay, Reverend.” He paused, then asked, “Have you ever met Jefferson Hurley? Do you know him?”

“I’ve appeared on several speaking platforms with him, at one or two rallies, on a television show once, that’s the extent of it.”

“Does he have a fairly high regard for you, Reverend?”

Spinger grunted. “He thinks I’m a doddering and reactionary has-been who ought to have been interred long ago.”

“I see,” Dilman said. “Would Hurley speak to you if you requested a meeting?”

“I don’t know why not… yes, I think he would.”

“Very well, Reverend Spinger, I’ll tell you what we’re up to, here. When the news of the kidnaping gets out today, we expect an uproar, and considerable unrest and agitation. Based on some evidence in the hands of the Justice Department, I have been asked to outlaw the Turnerites-”

“Doug, don’t do it, don’t do it unless you are positive,” Spinger pleaded with passion. “You have no idea how this might affect the Negro community. It might give the impression that you’re in the hands of vindictive whites, that you’ve been whitewashed, so to speak. It would create a terrible reaction against you, your administration, and, worse, create automatic sympathy for Hurley and his Turnerites. Our people might look upon them as the persecuted underdogs, identify with them in a way they have not done up to now. Our people might begin to equate the Crispus Society with any repressive government action, and pull out on us, and-”

“Wait, Reverend, I haven’t said I’m ready to disband the Turnerites. I’ve only said it is under consideration, until I have the facts, all the facts. You have as great a stake in ferreting out the truth as I have. I want you to do something for me, if you can.”

“Anything, Mr. President. Whatever you say.”

Dilman measured his words carefully. “Reverend Spinger, I am appointing you my official representative, the President’s intermediary, to meet with Jefferson Hurley for a discussion of this whole affair.” As he spoke, Dilman’s eyes shifted from Kemmler’s reaction of disgust, to Talley’s expression of bewilderment, to Flannery’s show of approval. He drew the mouthpiece closer to his lips. “Reverend, I want you to locate Hurley, and converse with him by phone, if you can’t in person. I want you to find out, as best you can, whether the Turnerites are behind this crime or not. If he denies any part of the crime, as he has done already, I want you to tell him exactly what the Justice Department is considering doing. And I want you to tell him that if he wants to prove himself clean, and keep his organization intact, he must publicly condemn the Hattiesburg crime, and come forward to open his financial records for your eyes. If he will do this, I can promise him I will not enforce the Subversive Activities Control Act. If he refuses, I will promise nothing. Are you prepared to undertake the assignment, Reverend Spinger?”

“I am, Mr. President. When should I begin?”

“You begin this minute, and report your findings to me directly. Good luck, Reverend.”

After he had hung up, he remained still, knowing the others were gathering before his desk.

Dilman lifted his head. “That’s it for now, gentlemen.”

Kemmler was doing a poor job of containing his displeasure. “You’re making a mistake, Mr. President.”

“You might be right,” said Dilman. “I think it would be a greater mistake to act in haste.”

Talley had sidled up alongside Kemmler. “Mr. President, I’m still inclined to agree with the Attorney General. Reconsider, please. The appointment of Spinger only delays the inevitable. It may make the administration appear weak and vacillating and-and even encourage more lawbreaking and violence-I mean, giving the Hurleys encouragement to go on and commit more crimes because we’re reluctant to do anything but talk.”

“I’ll have to take the gamble, Governor.” He looked at Kemmler, who was still seething. “Give Spinger twenty-four hours,” Dilman said in a conciliatory voice.

“Then give me twenty-four hundred more FBI agents,” Kemmler snapped. “Okay, you do it your way, Mr. President. I’ll be in my office, sitting on my hands. The responsibility for whatever this leads to is in yours.”

Dilman suffered a sudden ache of abandonment and a sinking heart, as he watched the Attorney General stalk out of the Oval Office.

As he lowered himself into his swivel chair, he met Tim Flannery’s questioning eyes. Dilman’s fingers touched the loose-leaf folder. “I guess some revisions are in order for the press conference, Tim. What are they going to ask me now-and what am I supposed to say?”


After drawing up to the curb in his rented Ford, a block from the Capitol, Nat Abrahams kissed his wife, reminded her where to pick him up and when, and then relinquished the wheel of the car to her. He waited until she had safely driven off, then he walked to the stairs of the Capitol and slowly mounted them.

While he knew it troubled Sue that they had already been in Washington a month, and he missed the children as much as she did, he found that he was neither annoyed nor impatient over their protracted visit. More than ever, Washington was stimulating. The fact that he and Sue had enjoyed the opportunity to dine in the White House three times since his private reunion with Doug Dilman had made his stay doubly interesting. Of course, if his negotiations with Gorden Oliver continued at this snail’s pace, he had promised Sue that she could go back to Chicago and the children this week. He was positive he would not be much behind her.

The half-dozen meetings with Gorden Oliver had been profitable. What had caused the delay was the fact that Oliver did not possess final authority to approve of Abrahams’ demands and revisions. Whenever a contractual clause came under discussion, and Abrahams requested improvement of it, or clarification, Oliver would promise an immediate answer and then disappear for several days. It was clear to Abrahams that Oliver was consulting not only with the Eagles Industries Corporation crowd in Washington, but with Avery Emmich in Atlanta. Abrahams suspected that Oliver had even flown off to Eagles’ main headquarters to meet with Emmich once or twice. Then Abrahams had read that Emmich had been out of the country last week, and that had explained the most recent delay. Despite this, Abrahams felt that his last meeting with Oliver might have concluded the preliminary give and take. He expected that the next time he saw Oliver, there would be copies of the contract ready for his approval. Then he would be able to take Sue home and help her wind up their affairs, before moving the family to Washington. In fact, he had encouraged Sue to occupy herself by looking for a roomy brownstone to lease in the city.

It was not Oliver’s telephone call last night that had surprised him, but rather the fact that Oliver wanted to see him about a matter other than the contract.

“The contract is routine now, Nat,” Gorden Oliver had said. “It’s at the home office for final review and retyping. It should be here any day. You can assume you are now a representative of Eagles Industries. No, what I want to see you about, Nat, is not the contract-I’m as sick of it as you are, old boy-but something pertaining to your first duties here in Washington. I’ll go into it when I see you tomorrow. Why don’t you meet me in the private Speaker’s Lobby of the House at noon? I’ll leave your name with the Capitol police.” Abrahams had accepted the invitation.

Now he found himself, as he had so many times in the years past but for the first time on this trip, standing before the elevator beneath the Capitol. When it arrived, he followed a woman and two men into it. In seconds, he was upstairs. He went past the sign members only to the swinging doors leading into the Speaker’s Lobby, gave his name to the uniformed policeman, and was admitted. He reflected briefly on the power of a lobbyist like Oliver, who was able to get his friends and associates past that excluding sign so easily.

The long lobby, with its rich red carpet, contained only a few visitors studying the Department of Commerce weather map and the framed portraits on the walls of former Speakers of the House, the one of MacPherson still draped in black. None of the visitors was Gorden Oliver.

Puzzled, Abrahams turned left and entered the Members’ Reading Rooms that ran parallel with the lobby. He saw a group huddled beneath the globular light fixtures, once picturesque gas jets, near the teletype machine. Gorden Oliver was not among them. Abrahams inspected several members standing before the library stands of newspapers, reading the front pages. For a moment Abrahams was diverted. These newspaper stands fascinated him. There was an individual rack for each state of the fifty in the Union, and every day upon these racks were hung the newspapers from the leading cities in that state. Abrahams paused before the stand with the sign MISS. above it. Tilting his head, he cast his eyes down the file of dangling newspapers from Greenville, Columbus, Vicksburg, Meridian, Natchez, Hattiesburg, Biloxi. The majority of the headlines were several days old, and were devoted to Judge Gage’s sentencing of the Turnerite demonstrators, or to the debate of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program Bill in the House, or to the announcement of Dilman’s first State Dinner to entertain a fellow black man from Africa. Before many days the rack would carry the dated headlines screaming of Judge Gage’s abduction by Negro terrorists, and segregationists’ vows of retaliation, which Washington newspapers had carried only an hour before.

Nat Abrahams continued through the Members’ Reading Rooms, but nowhere was Gorden Oliver to be seen. He realized that a burly, blue-coated Capitol policeman was observing him. He went over to the policeman. “I’m Mr. Abrahams,” he said. “I was to meet Mr. Gorden Oliver here. Have you seen him around?”

“Oliver? Is he the columnist-?”

“No, he’s-”

“I’m new on the force,” the policeman apologized. “Let me check with someone else.”

As the officer left for the lobby, Abrahams thought that he heard a familiar voice. Even as he pivoted, he recognized it was Doug Dilman’s voice, low and strained, competing with the hum of a television set. The small set was on a reading table, and several representatives had pulled up chairs and were watching and listening. Nat Abrahams came up behind them, to see how his friend was faring in his first press conference.

The picture projected on the screen, momentarily wavy, showed President Dilman seated at the mahogany Cabinet table, flanked by Flannery and Governor Talley. He had reached the last page of his prepared speech, and was reading the final news announcement: that he deplored the kidnaping of Judge Gage, that the FBI was on the trail of the terrorists, that there was no information yet as to whether the abduction was the work of individuals or an organization, that he had already appointed the Reverend Paul Spinger, head of the Crispus Society, as the President’s personal representative, and that Spinger was to investigate the possible participation of any extremist organization in the crime, and to sort fact from rumor.

As the camera pulled back for a full shot, the battery of microphones before President Dilman was revealed, and then the forty to fifty journalists with their pencils and note pads pressed around the far side of the table, and the still photographers taking their pictures.

Dilman put down his prepared statement and looked up tightly. The distortion of the television screen made his Negroid features seem broader and blacker than they were.

Dilman said, in almost a whisper, “That completes the news announcements, gentlemen. Do you have any questions? Hold up your hands, and Mr. Flannery will recognize you in order.”

Like marionettes’ limbs jerked by strings, at least a dozen arms shot up and a dozen hands beckoned for recognition. Flannery acknowledged each with a nod, and scrawled the name of each on a sheet before him. Finishing his jotting, Flannery called out, “Mr. Blaser, of the Washington Citizen-American and Miller Newspaper Association.”

Nat Abrahams searched the mass of reporters on the television screen, and then could make out a short, stocky middle-aged man with a high pompadour and an unattractive carbuncle of a face-“I don’t mind most of those reporters,” Dilman had told Abrahams at their last dinner, “but that Reb Blaser is like a toad in a flower bed.” Blaser was elbowing through the crowd of reporters to get closer to the table.

“Mr. President,” Blaser began, his wheedling, oiled tongue seeking to cover his renowned cantankerous, liverish manner, “about your announcement of that dastardly Turnerite kidnaping in Mississippi-”

To Abrahams’ surprise, Dilman leaned forward and interrupted. “Mr. Blaser, I did not announce that the kidnaping was done by any organization. I believe I made that point clear. We can make no accusations until our investigation is completed.”

Blaser was smiling regretfully. “I beg your pardon, Mr. President. I assume-you see, our papers have information that the act was performed by a parcel of Turnerites-”

“Then you should turn your information over to the Department of Justice,” said Dilman grimly. “If it’s not fiction, they’ll welcome it.”

There was some laughter, but, viewing the exchange on the television screen, Nat Abrahams squirmed. Dilman was allowing himself to be baited. He was not standing aloof. Abrahams told himself that he must speak to Doug about this.

Framed in a close-up on the television screen, Blaser’s face had lost its unctuous smile. “I’m fixing to have my editors follow your advice, Mr. President. Meanwhile, I would like to inquire what you instructed Reverend Spinger to find out about, in relation to this dastardly kidnaping. Also, how do you expect to get objective facts from the head of a Negro lobby pressure group, who goes into this with well-known prejudices?”

The camera cut back to Dilman’s face, and Abrahams was relieved that it was outwardly passive and that he was considering his reply carefully.

“I appointed the Reverend Spinger,” Dilman said, “because I felt that the kidnapers, if they are Negro, be they individuals or members of an organization, would trust him more than anyone else. I believe the Reverend Spinger is the best-qualified person I know to reason with anyone so involved, and to gain their confidence. As to his exact assignment, I think it would be unwise to disclose what I have ordered him to do, especially at a critical time like this. When the Attorney General and I have the facts, we shall act upon them without hesitation… Next?”

Flannery called out, “Mr. Paletta of U.S. News and World Report.”

“Mr. President, concerning the New Succession Bill now on your desk. Do you expect to approve it or veto it?”

Nat Abrahams felt someone touch his arm, and spun around. It was the burly young policeman again. “Sir, I’m sorry about keeping you, but I found out that Mr. Oliver did leave a message. He’s across the Chamber in the House Majority cloakroom. He said for you to meet him there. Will you follow me?”

Reluctantly Abrahams turned his back on Doug Dilman’s excruciating ordeal by press, and followed the policeman out of the Reading Rooms and lobby, past the elevator, through the library, and into the rear of the mammoth House of Representatives Chamber.

Treading as silently as possible behind the last row of leather-covered benches, Abrahams could see that the House of Representatives was about two-thirds filled with members, some slouched and listening to Congressman Hightower’s speech, others gathered in knotted groups whispering together, and still others reading the daily Congressional Record they had found in the compartments under their seats.

Abrahams knew that the Minorities Rehabilitation Program Bill was in its climactic stages of debate. Congressman Hightower, representing the opposition party from a California district, was vigorously endorsing the seven-billion-dollar public-works bill, and especially the apprentice and job-training provisions designed for uneducated and unskilled Negroes, Puerto Ricans, and Americans of Mexican descent.

“When we have passage of this bill,” the Congressman was promising, “we won’t have repetitions of the sort of violence we saw in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, today. Our minority citizens will enjoy a law of restitution to make up for their educational and financial losses under slavery, under segregation, under bondage. They will be trained. They will be gainfully employed. They will be indemnified for their long history of inequality. Thus satisfied, they will know peace of mind, and we will all know the peace of harmony that comes with justice and economic improvement.”

They are slugging the big bill through, Abrahams thought, and in two weeks, less perhaps, it will be on Doug Dilman’s desk. Poor Doug, he thought, how much these elected politicians are throwing at him, and how little time he has had to prepare for the deluge of vital legislation. Still, Abrahams thought, if Doug’s only going to get T. C.’s hat, he has no decisions to make. If he were going to fit a hat for himself, one of his own, that would be another matter. A pity, Abrahams thought, for if Doug Dilman remains as subservient to a ghost as he insists that he must be, his own keen intelligence and fine judgment will be wasted and the nation will never know its loss.

Abrahams looked up at the press gallery above the Speaker’s rostrum, and then at the curved mezzanine of public galleries, almost filled, and he knew that the minorities bill had captured the national interest. It was the most crucial domestic legislation in years.

The policeman had halted, waiting for Abrahams, and then said, “Right through this door, sir.” Abrahams thanked him, took hold of the doorknob, realizing that while he had been inside the House Chamber many times, he had never visited the legendary cloak-rooms, where national decisions were supposed to be made by horse trading in secrecy.

He entered the Party’s cloakroom, not knowing what to expect and yet finding less than he had supposed he would find. The cloakroom was narrow and dimly lighted. There were a half-dozen soft sofas along the walls, about the same number of deep used leather armchairs, then the room stretched off behind the House and turned a corner. At the far end three men were assembled before a semicircular bar. Only when Abrahams approached them closer did he see that it was an innocuous ice cream and soft drink counter, with many telephone booths nearby.

He recognized Gorden Oliver, even though the Eagles lobbyist had his back to him. Identification was possible from Oliver’s distinctive high starched collar, navy-blue wool sport coat, gray flannel slacks, and brown metal brandy-flask cane (his trademark).

“Gorden-”

Oliver wheeled around at once, and when he did so, Abrahams could see that the Eagles lobbyist and the two others beside him were watching Dilman’s press conference on a television set.

“Hello, hello, Nat. I was beginning to worry whether you’d find the way.” Oliver pumped his hand, and then took him in tow. “Nat, I want you to meet two of our most influential House members-Representative Stockton, of Colorado, Representative Kramer, of West Virginia… Gentlemen, this is Nathan Abrahams, Eagles’ answer to Rufus Choate.”

After the handshaking, Representative Kramer said, “Gorden here tells us you are a personal friend of the President, Mr. Abrahams.”

Embarrassed, Abrahams said, “Yes, the President and I have known each other since the Second World War. We were in the Judge Advocate’s Department together.”

Representative Kramer assumed a dour visage. “Well, if Dilman got out of the service uninjured, then he’s certainly earning a Purple Heart today. They’ve been grenading him for twenty minutes.”

Abrahams’ eyes went to the television screen, to Dilman’s worn expression as he listened to one more question. “Most people haven’t had a chance to find out yet, but President Dilman is very sharp,” Abrahams said loyally. “I saw some of the press conference on my way in. I think he can handle them. When you’ve made it all the way up to Congress as a Negro, you’ve been through worse inquisitions. He’ll survive.”

“We didn’t mean he won’t,” Oliver said hastily. “It’s simply that this is his first time out, and they’ve mined every inch of it with dynamite. You should have-”

“Quiet, Gorden,” Representative Stockton interrupted. He pointed to the television set. “The Time-Life man just asked him about the minorities bill.”

The four men directed their attention to the close shot of Dilman, gnawing his lower lip, fingering the blotter in front of him. “You want to know why I have not spoken out in favor of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program?” he was saying. “In reply, I remind you I have spoken neither for it nor against it. I have been examining the bill. It has much to offer minorities in this country, and can make a great contribution to bolstering our economy. At the same time, I think it would be a mistake to regard this bill as the cure-all for the civil rights problem. The bill may alleviate certain pressures brought down on minority segments of our population. Still, whether it passes into law or not, it must be supplemented by continued and unceasing efforts to secure for each and every citizen those equal rights guaranteed by our Constitution. I am closely watching the debate over the bill in Congress, and await seeing in what form it reaches me for signature.”

Gorden Oliver dug an elbow into Abrahams’ rib. “Cagey, Nat. Your friend is playing it cool and cagey.”

For an instant Abrahams was irritated, but he contained himself and kept his eyes on the screen, where Flannery had nodded to someone off scene. On cue, the correspondent from United Press International called out, “Thank you, Mr. President,” and the first press conference was over. As the picture on the screen dissolved to one of the Presidential seal, Representative Stockton turned the set off.

The Colorado Congressman addressed Abrahams. “Mr. Abrahams, since you know our new President personally, you might do well to inform him for us-since nobody else seems to be able to get to him-that we hope he doesn’t drag his feet on this bill or on putting that Baraza President in his place. Tell him that’s what the boys in the back room are saying.”

“You tell him yourself,” said Abrahams stiffly. “I’m afraid I have no influence over the President.”

Gorden Oliver emitted a false, cackling laugh. “Aw, Nat, don’t take it so seriously. None of us are worried about Dilman. He’s pledged himself to the Party platform and T. C.’s policies. We know he’ll deliver… Say now, Nat, you’ve never been in this sacred sanctum before, have you? Well, have a gander down there, past those fourteen phone booths, and what do you see? A stretcher, yes, sir, and a first-aid kit. Know what? After those Puerto Ricans began holding target practice from the House gallery in 1954, wounded five of our members, the boys here became scared it might encourage more open-season hunting. Now they’re prepared… What say we have our lunch? I’m starved. I’ve a table reserved at the Hotel Congressional down the way… See you later, boys. I’ll tell Emmich you’re reading his breakdown.”

Gorden Oliver led Abrahams out of the cloakroom, through the rear of the House Chamber, still resounding to oratory on the Minorities Rehabilitation Bill, past Room H-209, which he pointed out to be the Speaker’s quarters, past the House Reception Room, and then downstairs.

They came out into the east front of the Capitol and started in the cold sunshine of midday toward the Hotel Congressional.

“It’s only a couple of blocks,” said Oliver.

But the few blocks, Abrahams soon realized, would take as long to traverse as a mile. Gorden Oliver knew everyone, and everyone knew him. It was not enough for him to greet each acquaintance with a wag of his metal brandy-filled cane. Each person met-a photographer for the Republican Party, a public relations man for the Democratic Committee, three Capitol policemen, two senators, four young giggling female secretaries going to lunch-was stopped, introduced to Abrahams, regaled with a warmed-over joke or bit of innocuous gossip, before being passed.

There was neither business nor political conversation between Oliver and Abrahams as they walked. The lobbyist’s eyes were scanning the pedestrians for more acquaintances, while he filled Abrahams with petty chatter about Washington and calumny about congressmen, past and present. According to Oliver, there was one congressman and his wife who, to save money, had set up and maintained living quarters in a corner of the House basement, until they were discovered and evicted. There was another who, to make ends meet, sold ready-made suits at a discount out of his office. There was a third who had enjoyed a reputation for hard work by staying on in his suite in the Rayburn House Office Building long after his colleagues had gone home, until it was discovered that he was using his suite to entertain call girls.

“Yet the work of government gets done,” said Oliver, as they crossed the street and entered the modest lobby of the Hotel Congressional. He halted, after waving his cane at the desk clerk and at two congressmen who had entered behind them, and he added, “I only wanted to show you, Nat, that you won’t be dealing with sacred cows but with plain, ordinary human beings, possessing their share of mortals’ frailties.” He poked his cane toward a sign to the right of the lobby, indicating the direction to the Caucus Room and the Filibuster Bar. “Caucus over food, Nat, or filibuster over drinks first?”

Abrahams held up his vest-pocket watch. “Sue’s picking me up here in an hour,” he said. “She wants to show me some houses she’s been-”

“Food it’ll be,” said Oliver.

Abrahams allowed the lobbyist to take his arm and guide him through a corridor, decorated on one side with framed photographs of the current members of Congress. They entered the spacious dining room, already nearly filled, and were shown to a reserved table next to the curved window overlooking the hotel’s lawn and garden.

As they were seated and given their menus, Oliver winked at Abrahams and said, “Best table in the room, Nat. Eagles Industries rates here, and so will you. Congressmen come and go, but Eagles stays on forever… What’ll you have?” He began recommending dishes, but Abrahams ordered only a small green salad and a mushroom omelet. Automatically Oliver ordered a steak. “We’re on an expense account, you know, Nat,” he reminded Abrahams.

“I’m on a diet,” Abrahams replied. “I’m at my best when I’m lean and hungry.”

“Good, good-” the lobbyist said absently, his attention again diverted by his recognition of familiar faces. He began to salute diners at other tables, calling out, “Hi, Mike… How you doing, Jim fellow?… Hello, Ruthie girl.” Then he excused himself, and for five minutes, cane in hand, he went table-hopping, ending each visit with an uproarious peal of laughter.

When he returned to Abrahams, who was eating his salad, he offered only an oblique excuse for his absence. “My trade consists of contacts,” he explained, “making them and maintaining them.”

“I’m not good at that, Gorden.”

“You?” said Oliver, with pretended horror. “We can’t waste a genius like yours on this sort of Rotary-Kiwanis activity. My rounds are the National Press Club, Burning Tree Golf Club, Metropolitan Club, and right here. That’s for me, not you. Avery Emmich wouldn’t be paying you what he is paying you-hell, my salary is picayune tip money beside what you’re going to get-for public relations. He’s hiring your brain, Nat, not your glad hand.”

“As long as that’s understood, that’s all,” said Abrahams.

The lunch proceeded into the entrée, and Oliver spoke less and became preoccupied with his own thoughts. Abrahams searched the Caucus Room, trying to match faces to headlines he remembered, and then, finishing the omelet, he stared up at the rough yellow-and-white textured plaster ceiling and speculated on the reason for this lunch.

While the lobbyist was drinking his Sanka, Abrahams sipped his hot tea and decided to make certain that the meeting had nothing to do with the contract.

“Gorden, last night you said you wanted to see me about my first duties here in Washington, not about the contract. Are you sure?”

Oliver’s ruddy, weather-beaten Vermont countenance immediately offered an open expression of distress that his motive should even be questioned. “Nat, I told you, the contract is routine. It’ll be in final draft shortly. The delay has been caused by Emmich’s visit to Dallas for a speech before the National Association of Manufacturers.”

“Well, I’d like to be able to send Sue home and let her close up shop.”

“Send her, by all means, send her. But you’d better hang around here for the final reading of the contract and the signing. After that’s done, you can get back to Chicago for a week and turn over your keys.”

Glancing off, Abrahams caught the time on the wall clock. “Okay, Gorden. Then what did you want to discuss with me? I’ve only got fifteen minutes.”

Oliver blew across the rim of his cup, drank the Sanka, and then set the cup down. “Nat,” he said, “you heard the little speech Congressman Stockton made to you in the cloakroom.”

“About what? You mean the President dragging his feet on the minorities bill and Baraza? I sure did.”

“Well, I think he was really concerned about the minorities bill. That’s a big thing. Nobody gives much of a damn about that little African football field.”

“Soviet Russia does,” said Abrahams.

Oliver took his cane, which had been leaning against the table, and began unscrewing the top. “Oh, you know what I mean. The minorities bill is the thing that counts right now for the boys on the Hill. A wrong move can lose a lot of votes back home. That’s what matters to them.” He paused. “I know that Stockton got your dander up a bit, but he means well. He was only trying to tell you how the majority of both parties in the House feel.”

“Why tell me?” said Abrahams.

“Because he heard you knew the President and-” Then, as if to prevent Abrahams from interrupting him, Oliver went on more urgently, in a rush, “Look, Nat, listen, the boys on the Hill-forget the Southern bloc-the others, they’re not too worried about Douglass Dilman. He’s behaved well. He’s made it clear he’s standing on the Party platform and listening to T. C.’s best minds. Only one curious fact gives them pause. The single major legislation the President has made no private or public commitment on is this minorities bill, the very bill he should be behind hot and heavy. It’s the only pacifier we have to stop the racial unrest in this country. Once it is law, all rioting and demonstrations will cease. No more repetitions of what happened down in Mississippi today. The Negroes will be too occupied and prosperous to complain. We’ll have solidarity.” He considered Abrahams a moment, and then he asked, “Have you read the MRP Bill yet?”

“No,” Abrahams answered flatly. He felt vaguely irritated again and put upon. He had guessed, at once, what Gorden Oliver was leading up to, and he wanted to make it difficult for him. “No,” he repeated, “I haven’t. Should I?”

Oliver screwed the top of his brandy cane tightly, and leaned it against the table once more. “Only because it is a vital piece of public works legislation, and a great part of your job for Eagles Industries will be to advise Emmich on any new bills affecting his interests.”

Abrahams was more determined than ever to be difficult. He forced his eyebrows upward, ingenuously. “Is the minorities bill of that much concern to Emmich?”

Now it was Oliver who was irritated and trying to control his feelings. “Really, Nat, you must know what passage of this bill can mean to Eagles. There’s a seven-billion-dollar-billion, mind you-Federal pie to be cut up among private industry. Eagles wants its share, and is ready to underbid all competition. And Eagles can do the job. We’re strong in the South, strongest there, where much of the money will be spent. We have the know-how and equipment to build those new vocational trade schools, those highways, those housing tracts, those factories. Sure we’re concerned, damn concerned. Nothing is more important to Emmich right now. I thought you knew that.”

Abrahams was suddenly impatient with games. “I suppose I did know it. I guess I was leading you on a little, Gorden. I wanted to find out how involved you were in this legislation.”

“Then you have read the bill?”

“No, really, I have not. I know what it is about, generally, but I haven’t read it. I didn’t think I was on the payroll yet.”

“Well, you are, in a way you are.”

“Then I’ll get a copy.”

“You won’t have to.” Oliver patted his chest complacently. “I brought a copy for you.”

“So reading pending legislation is one of my first duties here,” said Abrahams. “Assignment one is the MRP, is that right? Okay. What am I to do after I’ve read it? Tell Emmich I think it’s great? He knows that. Tell him I think it won’t help him very much? He doesn’t want to hear that. Tell him what, Gorden?”

“You have to tell him nothing,” said Oliver uneasily. “He wants passage of the bill-of course. I think he’d like to know that you want it, too.”

Abrahams could feel the involuntary tension in the cords of his neck. “What’s the difference whether I want it or not?”

“Nat, you’re being tough on me.” Oliver was frowning down at the cane. He took it, laid it across his lap, and turned it several times before looking up. “Christ, we’re on the same team. We’re getting money from the same mint. We have our jobs to do.”

“I only want to know my job, I suppose.”

Oliver appraised Abrahams with a quick glance. “Harv Wickland, the Majority Leader, feels the Party can push the bill through the House. It’ll be landing on President Dilman’s desk any day. Dilman is the one worrying Emmich, all of us. He’s the only unknown factor.”

“You heard him say that he wants to read the bill in its final form.”

“Come now, Nat, there won’t be many late changes. It’s in the open for everyone to read. Dilman has had plenty of time to read it and make up his mind. Really, Emmich is deeply concerned. He feels what Dilman does here is the test of him as the new President.”

“You mean the test of him in the eyes of Eagles Industries.”

“Well, whether he is for us or against us.”

Abrahams found himself appalled at this constricted, selfish vision of a piece of legislation which carried with it so many broader ramifications. “Perhaps Dilman feels there is more at stake than whether this is good or bad for big business.”

“I don’t know,” Oliver said. Then he added quickly, “Maybe you happen to know. Has President Dilman-after all, everyone is aware you’ve been in the White House with him pretty often-has he ever mentioned how he honestly feels about MRP? That could tell us a good deal. Emmich would be very grateful if he could get some inkling of-”

“Gorden, I don’t know whether the President is for or against that bill, but even if I knew, even if he had discussed it with me, I wouldn’t tell you about it. I’ve been visiting with him as an old friend, not a lawyer-lobbyist for Eagles Industries.”

Touché,” said Oliver, with a twisted smile. “I’m nicked and I deserve it. But I’ve got my job, too, you know.”

Abrahams crumpled his napkin and threw it on the table. He pushed back his chair. “Gorden, I know what you’ve been trying to get at. The MRP is an Eagles Industries type of bill. You want to be sure that, once it has passed both Houses, the President approves it. You’d like me to go to him right now and find out if he’s intending to sign it. If he does, you’d like to know first, so you’d have the jump on your competitors when it comes to submitting bids. If he’s on the fence or negative, you’d like me to use my influence on your-okay, our-on our behalf. That’s the sum of it, of this lunch, isn’t it?”

Gorden Oliver almost beamed with relief. But then, aware of Abrahams’ taut face, he converted his smile to an appearance of moderate seriousness. His caution was obvious. “If you think Avery Emmich and I are asking you, as your first job for us, to go in and use your friendship with the President to make Eagles a few millions, you are mistaken. We’re not such fools, and we don’t favor using such tactics. No, that’s not it. All we want you to do is to study the MRP Bill, and then study a little homework we at Eagles have done on the bill, a sort of breakdown on its value to our economy and-and to domestic peace-” He reached inside his suit coat, and drew out one bulky document and one folded memorandum. He handed the bulky document across the table. “There’s the text of the MRP.”

Abrahams opened it, and read the heading: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled-Section 1. This Act may be cited as the ‘Minorities Rehabilitation Program.’ ” He carefully folded it. “Okay,” he said quietly.

“And this is a concise breakdown and memorandum of the high points of the bill,” said Oliver, handing over the other folded pages. “Anyone who reads this will know in five minutes how this five-year works program will help the Negroes, all minorities, economically, socially, educationally, improve and integrate them, to the best interests of the majority white community as well. It may be brief, but it is thorough, Nat. You’ll see how this bill can be helpful to every one of the fifty states, naming names, facts, figures. It’s irresistible.”

Accepting this document, too, Abrahams shoved both in his pocket. “I’ll read them. Then what?”

“If you approve-I think you will, most everyone has, except for a handful of left-wingers and right extremists-I wish you’d tell us so. Then, if it comes up, only if it comes up, you understand, I wish you’d let President Dilman know how you feel. That would be natural. But, Nat, even if you find it awkward, then-well, at least ask him to have a look at our patriotic little breakdown of the facts and figures. He might find it an eye-opener, if he needs one. I suspect he’s on our side, anyway… Don’t promise me anything, Nat. I just want to be able to tell Avery Emmich you are studying this, and will do what you believe is right and best for the country.”

“For the country,” Abrahams murmured, rising quickly. “I’ll be in touch with you, Gorden. Thanks for the feed.”

Departing from the Caucus Room, Abrahams could see Oliver’s worried face pretending to study the restaurant bill as, out of the corner of one eye, he watched his guest and tried to gauge his feelings.

Going up the corridor, Nat Abrahams’ feelings were red with anger, not at the idiot lobbyist’s effort to use him to coerce the Chief Executive of the land, who happened to be a friend, but at himself for having allowed himself, for the first time in his entire life, to be put in a position that might compromise his honesty as a responsible human being.

By the time he had left the Hotel Congressional and crossed over to the corner before the Old House Office Building where Sue was to pick him up, his anger had subsided. The bright cool air was not only refreshing but prickly, stinging to life his numbed sense of reality.

His abiding human fault, Abrahams had come to realize, was that he constantly clung to the saber of romanticism. This satisfied his ego and conscience, but it had provided him with a poor weapon in a progressive, mechanized age, a weapon shown to be inadequate for the protection of his wife, his children, his weakened heart. He had known from the start of the Eagles negotiations that he could not slay dragons with obsolete sabers and broadswords to rescue his family and save himself. This was a new world out here, and to get by the dragons you did not blindly slash at them-they were too big, too many, and you were too small, too ill-armed-instead, you reasoned with them, you compromised, you gave something so that they would give, too. What was it that wise old Edmund Burke had said? That all government, almost every human benefit and enjoyment, almost every virtue and prudent act, was founded on compromise and barter. As his own grandfather used to say, holding him on one bony knee, his grandfather licking his saliva and croaking, “Boychick, you bend sometimes so maybe you won’t break.” Or, Abrahams now thought, so you won’t break others with you when you fall.

He searched for his mottled briar pipe, filled it with tobacco from the rubbed pouch, and lit it. He had taken no more than one puff when the rented Ford blocked his vision and Sue was framed in the car window, her left hand hitting the horn.

He climbed inside, kissed her cheek, and the Ford jolted forward. He asked her what she had been doing and where they were going, and she began to tell him, but he hardly listened. If you must bend, he thought, how far do you bend?

As the car turned a corner, and he was forced against her, he realized that she had become silent and was trying to study him as she drove.

“What’s the matter, Nat?” she asked.

“Matter? What makes you think-?”

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said. You’ve been a million miles away.”

He tried to smile. “Only a few blocks away, in the Hotel Congressional with Gorden Oliver, errand boy between Mephistopheles in Atlanta and Nat Faust right here.”

“So that’s the way it is,” said Sue. “Tell me. Don’t leave out a thing.”

She drove, and he talked. He told her what Oliver had wanted, and how he himself had reacted, as much as he could remember of it in a ten-minute monologue. When he was done, he turned his head. Her pretty face, still unlined except at the brow, was pointed straight ahead at the windshield, wifely grave.

“That’s it, Sue,” he said. “Beneath all the verbiage it comes to this, a command from on high-go in there and influence Doug Dilman, no matter what he believes, to approve the minorities bill. Persuade him, get him to sign it, and you’ve earned your salary from Emmich and big business.”

“Gorden Oliver didn’t tell you to do that in so many words.”

“He told me without the words.”

She continued watching the street before them. “Nat, maybe you’ve got your hackles up for no reason at all. You are simply assuming that whatever is good for Eagles Industries is bad for the country, for Dilman, for yourself, and you are against it. Can’t it be that what they want might also be what everyone else wants and needs?”

“We-ll-could be.”

“The odds are Doug Dilman likes most of the bill and will sign it. He hasn’t told you he won’t, has he?”

“No, he hasn’t.”

“I read the papers too, and from what I have read, almost the entire press and the political organizations and Congress seem to be behind this legislation.”

“That doesn’t make it right.”

Sue glanced at him. “That doesn’t make it wrong either, darling. I think you’re misplacing your hostility. You feel guilty about leaving your practice, abandoning your underdogs, making so much money in a short time. You feel ashamed, and so you’re taking it out on Eagles and Emmich and Oliver and anything they propose. Nat, you’re smarter than that. Study all that stuff in your pocket objectively, like you study a legal brief. Then decide how you feel. If MRP is a sensible compromise program, speak up for it. And there’s nothing wrong in telling Doug you’re for it, whether he’s President or not. He may welcome discussing it with you. If you don’t like it, shut up.”

She took her right hand from the steering wheel and covered her husband’s hand. “Nat, maybe it is good for the country. Don’t be like some angry kid who has to be against everything his elders are for, to show he’s a man. You are a man, the best and most wonderful one on earth. You are a man who can still serve himself and the public while protecting his own life and his children. Don Quixote wasn’t for real, darling, but you are. No more dragons, either. Freud scared them away. And all that is left are human problems to be solved by human beings like yourself in a mature way. I know you’ll handle this and the next three years that way.”

Her literary allusion, so exactly and uncannily reflective of his own on the street corner earlier, swept aside the last vestige of his anger. Wives, he thought, wonderful wives who grow your minds as you grow theirs, until you and they are one and the same till death do you part. He was amused by her and loved her, for herself and for the better part of him that she possessed, and he wanted to hug her and hold her close to him and enjoy her.

Instead, he leaned over and kissed the corner of her mouth. She seemed startled, and wary, and then pleased.

“Mmm,” she whispered, “nice, even if I did almost hit that truck.” Then she said, “What brought on that affection?”

He continued to smile at her. She would never know what had moved him. Nor did it matter. He could only say, “Because you make good speeches, and you are sensible, and you think I am a man, and I love you. I’ll always love you.”

He settled back, at ease at last, lighted his pipe again, and felt strong enough to bend a little, a little, if it would be necessary.


When Otto Beggs caught sight of the broken, unlighted neon sign jutting out from the Walk Inn a long block away, he automatically slowed down. For the second time in a week he had lied to Gertrude about his hours, to get away from home early, and for the second time in a week he was deliberately timing his arrival at the tavern because he knew that Ruby Thomas would be there, and suddenly he felt furtive and uneasy about what had previously come about so naturally-well, almost.

Except for those times in Korea, which did not count because he was in the Army and in danger and the tiny, submissive girls were foreigners, and except for four or five times on special assignment trips around the country, which did not count because he had been drinking in his off hours and the women were prostitutes, not women, Otto Beggs had never been unfaithful to his wife. He was prim and correct about living up to the responsibilities of a husband and a father, and about remembering the obligations of his position in the Secret Service, and especially the extra obligations thrust upon him as a Congressional Medal of Honor holder, and he would do nothing to sully his reputation. He looked down, with an attitude of superiority (and a tinge of envy), upon those of his colleagues who cheated on their wives, proud that there was as little likelihood that a scandal would find its way into his scrap-books as there was that Tom Swift would accept a bribe or that an astronaut would beat his wife.

Yet what had made Otto Beggs feel furtive this time, for the first time, was not the lie to Gertrude (he had already lied to her two days ago), not the fact that he had told Ruby Thomas he would be there (he had been there with her three times before), but that he had lain awake several hours last night enacting a fantasy relationship with her. Even worse, late this morning, and again after lunch, with Austin’s lousy real estate primers open on the desk, he had been unable to study a line because Ruby had sat on the pages before him, Ruby dressed (which was like any other woman undressed), Ruby naked (which was like any other woman undressed), Ruby naked (which was like no sight on earth, he imagined), Ruby opening her arms to him (which had excited him as much as if he were a schoolboy).

It was this sudden obsession with her, and the realization that she might not be averse to fulfilling his dreams, that gave today’s meeting a special significance, and gave him pause in his advance toward the Walk Inn, where she waited. For now this was no more, at least to him, a casual meeting between chance acquaintances. It was something strange to him: an assignation. It was the kind of surreptitious activity of which he disapproved as being indecent, almost un-American, and yet it moved him like a force powerful enough to overwhelm his puritan will and fear of danger. Much as his mind resisted it, his body had become a partner to this rendezvous with Ruby. For in a life of disillusionment, where he was being ignored on a job he loved, being degraded into studying for a new and anonymous and sedentary career he detested, being disapproved of by those closest to him, being made less and less a virile male of action, there was one radiant light of hope. Ruby. It was Ruby who admired his looks, his position, his dreams. Ruby, who was young, magnificent, passionate (he was sure). It did not surprise him that he could not resist her. What did astound him was that the one radiant light of hope in his life, in this gray time, should shine from one so black. For Ruby Thomas, twenty-four, was a Negro.

He had progressed halfway up the block, and the neon in front of the Walk Inn loomed larger and more distinctly against the silver-gray midafternoon sky. His reluctant stride shortened, for he wanted added time to think, to decide if he was plumb crazy or plain lucky, to determine whether the lie he had told Gertrude a second time in three days was worth the risk.

Almost two weeks ago-an afternoon such as this one, he remembered-he had pulled the battered Nash Rambler up before the Walk Inn before continuing to work, because he was out of cigarettes. Once inside the dim interior of the saloon, reviving his resentment against the shiftless colored boys who had appropriated his place at the pinball machines, he had gone to the horseshoe bar for his cigarettes. Then, realizing that he was thirsty, he had lifted himself up on a stool and asked Simon, the former pugilist now a bartender, for a root beer in a frosted stein.

As the soft drink had been placed before him, Ruby Thomas had set herself on the stool beside him. She had made him conscious of her presence by pointing at his root beer and telling Simon, “That sho’ looks yum-I’ll have some of the same, but git me a J an’ B on the rocks on the side.” Immediately, two facts had made themselves clear to Otto Beggs: one, that this was the prettiest Negro girl he had ever seen; two, that despite her reserve she must be interested in him, for most of the stools at the bar were unoccupied, and yet she had deliberately and boldly chosen to sit beside him.

At first he had tried to ignore her, for fear that she was a streetwalker. This concern was quickly dispelled by her appearance and manner. She was attired in a crisp white uniform-he would learn she was a dental assistant, only recently moved into the neighborhood-and there was a fresh, unused look about her and a self-contained air of minding her own business.

Against his will, without being too obvious, he had inspected her several times from head to toe. She sat erectly on the stool, one leg crossed over the other, exposing a knee and shapely calf. She was, his thumping heart told him, breathtaking. Not since he had enjoyed and suffered through a long-distance crush on the singer Lena Horne, way back when he was a sophomore at Oregon State University, had he known a colored girl to attract him so instantly and engage him so totally. This one had tousled gamin hair, silken, brunette, sort of French, and widely spaced, large almond eyes, a short cute nose, and pouting lower lip. He guessed that she was no more than five feet two, and he thought it therefore remarkable how firm and large her breasts were beneath the white uniform, and how broad her thighs were against the tightened skirt. And she was black, although it kept amazing him how her color enhanced rather than detracted from her prettiness.

She had not spoken, and he had not spoken, that first time, until he had emptied his stein and was sorting his change. Suddenly she had turned to him and said, “I’m guessin’ who you are-Lordy, I kin tell-y’all the famous Mr. Beggs, the Secret Service hero.” He had flushed with pleasure and pride, and mumbled that he was no hero at all but that yes, he was Otto Beggs and he was a Secret Service agent. He had wondered how she knew. She had told him that everyone in the neighborhood knew-Lordy, he was the big celebrity in the neighborhood-and that he had been pointed out to her last week. She had been apologetic about intruding upon his privacy-“I knows you must git mighty tired of bein’ a celebrity”-but she wanted to brag to the girls in the office that she had met him. He had asked her name, and she had told him, and had told him where she worked, and he had said that he hoped to see her around, and he had fled (alive and young as that young one) into the brightening street.

That had been the first time, and that had been last week. The second time had been a few days later, again on his way to work, and this time she had been sitting at the bar, and he had summoned up the nerve to sit beside her, making some kind of joke to which she had responded with delightful laughter. They had talked incessantly, for twenty minutes maybe, this second time, until she had to leave to return to her dentist and his drills.

For five successive days after that, he had come into the Walk Inn in search of Ruby Thomas, and she had not been there. At last, casually, he had inquired of Simon what had become of her, and Simon had explained that she had to take her coffee break earlier now, that she was usually in at three o’clock instead of three forty-five. And so two days ago, motivated by this intelligence, Otto Beggs had contrived his first small lie for Gertrude. His shift at the White House began at four o’clock, and he had been leaving for work as late as twenty-five or even twenty minutes to four. At lunch he had told Gertrude that his new shift began at three o’clock, an hour earlier, and he would be leaving around twenty minutes to three. Gertrude had thought nothing of it, except to worry that he would have an hour less to bone up for his real estate examinations. He had promised her that he would make up the lost reading time at night.

Thus two days ago, he had driven to the Walk Inn and found Ruby at the bar, as he had known that he would, and had sat beside her and enjoyed an entire half hour with her. By the end of this meeting, the best there had been yet, he had learned a good deal about Ruby Thomas. She had lived in Louisiana and Indiana, and was an only child. She had managed to have one year of high school before being forced to quit and help support her family. She had wanted to be educated, though, and had saved up for mail-order courses, and tried to take one a year. She had been a photographer’s model-“but when them white boys kept wantin’ me to pose in the way it ain’t fittin’ to be seen, in my altogether, I sorta got it in my cottonpickin’ haid they was wantin’ more than pitchers an’ I told them where to go”-and so she had quit. She had been quick to assure Beggs that she was no prude-“I got as much lovin’ naycher in my bones as any no’mal gals”-but she did not believe in mixing business with pleasure.

She had seen an advertisement in Ebony magazine, and enrolled in a mail-order course that would graduate her as a dental assistant. Her diploma, she had learned later, had not been enough to make her a qualified dental assistant, but only a sort of assistant to an assistant, as well as a receptionist, file clerk, telephone operator, and jane-of-all-trades. She had held three such jobs already, including the new one, and she liked working for dentists because they were on their feet so much during the day, they were too tired to chase her at night. She ate lunch in the office, in order to get this daily midafternoon break, which she found picked her up when she most needed it and left her refreshed for the evening. She had located a pleasant, inexpensive double apartment a block from the Walk Inn, a furnished apartment with a private entrance, which was important to her because she liked her own business to be her own. Her only extravagance was a recently acquired hi-fi phonograph-she would pay it off in eighteen months-and her avocation was collecting classical jazz records. Did Otto Beggs like Jelly Roll Morton? Beggs had never heard of Jelly Roll Morton, but he had told Ruby he had never heard anyone better.

Best of all, she had enjoyed listening to Beggs, enjoyed questioning him and listening to his lengthy answers, her wide almond eyes concentrating on his lips. She was curious about his life, his achievements, his work in the Secret Service. He had been able to talk to her more easily than he had talked to anyone in years. The latter years with Gertrude had dammed up his pride in himself, and now he was able to release what had been too long held back. He had told Ruby of his boyhood, of his athletic triumphs at Oregon State, of his war days in Korea, of his Medal of Honor, of his numerous jobs, of his years in the Secret Service. He had avoided telling her about his family. All he had recounted to Ruby Thomas, every minute detail, every anecdote, even to the contents of his beloved scrapbooks, impressed and awed her. “Dog my cats!” she would exclaim. “You really done that?” Above all, she held his work in high esteem. Where Gertrude considered a Secret Service agent as nothing more than an underpaid game warden, Ruby considered the role of guarding the President an honor next to the Presidency itself.

Only one truth marred their relationship, and it trailed doggedly after him, following their third meeting. She was black.

Otto Beggs had long taken pride in his tolerance. Sure, Negroes were different from white folk, they were lazier, less dependable, trickier, less smart, but hell, they weren’t to blame, because look what they came from; they came from Africa and from plantation slavery. He had not known any Negroes, except Solly, who ran interference for him on the football team in Oregon, and a few others in the Army, and he had liked them well enough. Of course, he didn’t like Prentiss too much, because Prentiss had got the job as assistant to the head of the White House Detail that had rightfully belonged to himself. Still, he could not hold that against Prentiss personally. It was not Prentiss’ doing. If anyone was to blame, it was Chief Gaynor. Beggs couldn’t prove it yet, but he was willing to bet money Gaynor intended to promote as many colored agents as he could, which was natural when you played politics. As to President Dilman, Beggs wasn’t definite about him. He didn’t like him in general, that was for certain. On the other hand, he could not say he disliked him entirely, either. What he did dislike was having to track around on the heels of a Negro. Beggs knew that he was smarter than Dilman, more courageous (as he had once proved), and had more personality, and yet, look what that lumpy politician was paid per annum and look what he was paid. And worst of all, for the lousy money he was getting, Beggs was pledged to lay his life on the line to protect that colored man. For one of Beggs’s stature, gifts, potential, it was demeaning. Imagine Dilman doing anything to deserve a Medal of Honor? Ha!

Without being able to define it, Beggs felt uncomfortable around Negro men, especially the ones in this cruddy neighborhood, which even his so-called friends, the Schearers, had now abandoned. About Negro women, however, his feelings were more lenient, although still confused. After all, he had loved Lena Horne in his youth, well, when he was younger. He had always liked to watch Negro women in the street from his bedroom window. The young ones carried themselves great. And their builds, they were built for heroic men. Sometimes, but not often, in his pre-Ruby days, he had entertained wild thoughts about Negro women and their secrets. But then he would always get mixed up in his thoughts, for sometimes he would think they were below him, not in the street below but socially beneath him, and not good enough for him, with their secrets, those builds from Africa, and only Negro men could manage them.

Several times he had recalled the night that he had escorted President Dilman to that brownstone where the Reverend Spinger lived, and the crazy thing that had happened before they left, that colored girl, an older one but a swell looker, who had come dashing out after Dilman. The President had called her Miss Gibson and acted like she was a secretary, which she probably was, taking notes on the conference with Spinger, which she probably had done, yet Beggs could not forget that when she had come out, she had been kind of informal, calling after the President, “Doug.” Beggs had never heard of a secretary calling her boss by his first name, especially a boss who was President of the United States. He had tried to picture Miss Gibson exactly in his mind, but could only remember that she had been kind of light-colored and slender, and not bad for her age. He had wondered if she was Spinger’s secretary and had just called Dilman by his first name because she had known him a long time, or if maybe she was Dilman’s lady friend and nothing else. The latter thought had been so disrespectful, so Communistic, especially for one in his job, that Beggs had driven it from his mind as best he could and had not dared repeat the juicy speculation even to Gertrude.

But it had come back to him, the thought, in a different context last night when he could not sleep, when he had enjoyed his daring dreams of Ruby. If Dilman, he had told himself, could manage to take care of a pretty fair-looking light-colored girl-lady-then he, Otto Beggs, could do ten times better with any one of them. This feeling of superiority had brought some order to his confusion, and reinforced his ardor for Ruby Thomas. He had not waited for lunch to tell his lie to Gertrude. He had done so the moment that he had sat down to breakfast.

Suddenly he realized that he was standing before the Walk Inn. No more last night’s dreams. No more last week’s accidental meetings. He was here, now and today, because he had planned it. He had even left the Nash for Gertrude, being gracious and considerate about it, announcing that he would take the bus (because he did not want the car parked so dangerously long in front of the nearby tavern). He had planned everything. His first assignation.

He went inside, past the clanging pinball machines, and headed straight for the horseshoe bar.

He stopped in his tracks. There were three men at the bar, two colored, one a white laborer, but there was no Ruby. His disappointment was as sharp as if he had received a physical blow. He had started toward the bartender, Simon, who was busily drying his glassware, when the flutter of a distant brown hand crossed his vision. He stood on tiptoe, elevating his bulk to its utmost height, and peered over the bartender’s bent head. The hand fluttered still, and then he could see it belonged to Ruby.

Quickly Beggs made his way between the bar and the wooden tables and chairs, to the farthest of the three leatherette booths hidden deep in the rear of the tavern. She was waiting for him in a corner of the dark booth, fingering the rim of her drained glass. What perplexed him was not that for the first time she was waiting in the intimacy of a booth, but that for the first time she was not in a white uniform.

As he clumsily slid into the booth, he could not help but gape at her across the table. Since he had never seen her out of the dental uniform, he had not imagined that any different garment could improve her good looks. This instant he could see that he had been wrong, that a new dimension had been added to her. She wore a ruffled pink chiffon blouse, one that almost indecently revealed the well-filled pink lace brassière beneath, and could not adequately contain her breasts. Her waist was tied tightly with a red flowered sash above her red skirt. She was ravishing.

She smiled timorously, showing him even white teeth and a deep dimple. “I was hopin’ y’all be comin’, Otter,” she said. The first time that his Otto had become her Otter, it had made him squirm, reminding him that he was white and she was not, but the intimacy of it had quickly appealed to him, as it did now. “ ’Cause,” she went on, “I didn’t wanna be made to feel foolish, ’cause I done come here ’specially today expectin’ you to come, like it was an occasion.”

“Ruby,” he said, “where’s your usual outfit, the uniform?”

“Doc done come down with the flu bug last night, and we been cancelin’ the customers. So today’s off for us-all, an’ I been fixin’ an’ messin’ ’round the apartment, and done some shoppin’ for records, but still thought to git me here case you come, too.”

His head swam, and last night’s fantasies began to grow real in the daylight. “That’s awfully nice of you, Ruby. I guess you knew I’d, well, I’d be hoping to run into you for a drink.”

“You were ackin’ like you was meanin’ it day ’fore yesterday.”

He opened his hands. “Here I am,” he said. “You been here long?”

“One drink’s worth.”

He felt expansive and rich. “Well, have another.”

“You gonna?”

“I’ve got to go on duty, but-what the hell-one beer never made anyone cockeyed.” He twisted, raised his arm and snapped his fingers. “Simon! One J and B on the rocks, and one tap beer. Bring some pretzels, too.”

She reached for her folded coat to find a cigarette, but he took one from his pack, handed it to her, and then put a match to it.

“I was thinkin’ ’bout you last night, Otter.”

“If it was something bad, don’t tell me.”

“I was thinkin’ how I hopes you don’t go sellin’ real estate land. Maybe I should hush my big mouff, but-”

“No, go ahead, Ruby, please.”

She set her elbows on the table, and stared at him. “I been thinkin’ you is too much man-Lordy, too much man-to be givin’ up bein’ a hero and protectin’ our Pres jes ’cause of extra money. Bein’ a richcrat ain’t no more impo’tant than what you is.”

“Well, I don’t know that I’m so important, Ruby-thank you, anyway-but I do think the job is certainly important. I’m beginning to feel the way you do about giving it up. But my pay’s sure not up to what I could make in real estate, and everybody can use extra money.”

“Bet if you eggs ’em ’bout leavin’, Pres Dilman would git you a raise but fast. Bet he wouldn’t wanna lose you.”

He wanted to tell her that Dilman probably did not know he was alive, but he did not want to run himself down in her eyes. “Maybe,” he agreed. “You think a lot of Dilman?”

She brushed the air with her long thin hand. “Aw, Otter, I don’t mess ’round much studyin’ politics or race stuff an’ nonsense like such. Like my mothah always used to be sayin’-‘Sweetheart, live an’ let ’em live, and don’t fuss ’round none with such p’ofessional matters.’ Sep, ’course, I wanna git an education an’ be smart so’s I kin live good an’ be right for the right man, but I don’t fuss my mind with Dilman this and Dilman that-I jes mostly wanna have me a good time, swing it ’round a little, ’joy my days.”

Beggs had tried to assess what she was saying, and wondered if it was meant to be provocative. Since he was not certain, he said pedantically, “You have a healthy attitude, Ruby.”

The drinks had come, and she drank hers and he drank his, and then she said, “ ’Course my not messin’ with politics don’t mean I’m not fascinated ’bout your impo’tant job. Otter, what you do day ’fore yesterday when you left here, an’ what you do yesterday?”

He was on, and liking it, and he went on and on, without interruption, except for a reverent “Sure enough?” or “Ain’t that somethin’!” from her occasionally. He narrated his activities of the day before yesterday, and of yesterday. He told her of his colleagues and their duties. He presented her with the highlights of the history of the Secret Service. He described the West Wing offices and the people and life in them, and he described what sections of the White House he himself had visited, with himself always in the foreground of these descriptions.

She listened raptly, and drank, and exclaimed or clucked her admiration.

His monologue took him a half hour, and when he was done, he was hoarse and happy. “Christ, Ruby, I’ve been bending your ear to death. You shouldn’t let me go on that way.”

“You-all a good teacher, Otter. I was lovin’ it.”

He finished what was left of his beer. “What about you, Ruby? What have you been up to today?”

“Like I told you, nothin’, ’cept sleepin’ too long this mornin’ to git me my naycher back full stren’th-nothin’, Otter-”

But then she went on about her hi-fi set, and the fun she’d had shopping for rare jazz records to add to her collection of classics. With enthusiasm she evoked names little known or unknown to him, mystical names like Bix Beiderbecke, Joe Oliver, Fats Waller, Muggsy Spanier, Bunk Johnson. She spoke of Storyville jazz and gut-gone bands and Bessie Smith’s “St. Louis Blues” and King Oliver’s Creole combine belting out “Froggie Moore.”

After ten minutes she stopped. “You diggin’ it, Otter? No, you ain’t, you not with it, you a orfan from the blues. You need educatin’, Otter.”

He swallowed. “I’m always open to improvement, Ruby.”

“Man, you gonna go limp when you hear what I bought me this mornin’-know what?-piano solo of Jelly Roll doin’ ‘The Pearls.’ You gotta hear that, an’ then you gotta come up to my place an’ hear Duke Ellington an’ his Wash’tonians doin’ ‘Rainy Nights’-listenin’, you ain’t ever gonna be exactly the same, Otter, you gonna be no more orfan, you gonna join up an’ belong like Ruby Thomas here.”

He had been holding his breath. Now he let it go with a wheeze. “Are you extending an invitation to me for a musical concert in your apartment, Ruby?”

Her almond eyes held on him a moment. Then she said softly, “You always been welcome, Otter. Fact is, my machine needs some adjustin’ an’ I ain’t got the money for it yet, but you always sayin’ you got mechanical ways-”

“I’m a wizard with a monkey wrench, Ruby. I’ve never tinkered with a hi-fi, but I bet I’ll have yours perfecto in two seconds and a jiffy. That’s a deal, if you say so. I’ll bring a bottle of J and B, and some tools, and you can give me my first jazz lesson.”

She pushed her glass aside. “You done got a deal. When you wanna come up?”

Before he could reply, a hollow, echoing voice intruded upon their conversation, coming from the left. He looked off. A well-dressed Negro customer had walked through the door, holding a transistor radio, and was making his way to the bar. The radio’s volume was on high, and an announcer’s voice boomed, “-gave his first press conference in the Cabinet Room of the White House today. President Dilman told fifty reporters very little that they did not already know. He sidestepped any direct commitment to the Minorities Rehabilitation Program, was evasive about reporting the results of his conversations with the visiting President of Baraza, and would make no comment on the New Succession Bill. However, the President did speak of reopening a summit conference with the Russians. He came under greatest fire, during the questioning period, over his appointment of the Reverend Paul Spinger, director of the Crispus Society, to investigate the electrifying kidnaping, down in Mississippi, of-”

As abruptly as the radio news program had assailed him, it now ended. Beggs could see that Simon had leaned across the bar to speak to the customer, who had then lowered the volume.

Turning back to Ruby, Beggs suddenly realized that he had lost all track of time. The radio program reporting on Dilman’s press conference reminded him that he was to report for duty, to guard Dilman, at four o’clock. He looked at his watch and was horrified that it was seven minutes to four.

“Ruby, what time do you have?”

“Five to four.”

“Christ, I’d better find a cab.” He pushed free of the booth and jumped to his feet. Fumbling for his wallet, he found it and laid down three dollars. “Sorry to run out on you like this, Ruby.”

She smiled. “Like I was sayin’, you is doin’ man’s work. But, Otter, you ain’t answered my lil question-when you fixin’ to come up an’ see me?”

The haste went out of him. Impulsively he reached down and touched her hand. “Soon as I can, Ruby. My first free day off. Tell you what, see you here same time, day after tomorrow, and we’ll set a-a rendezvous.”

“I’ll be waitin’, Otter dear.” She turned her palm upward, caught and caressed his fingers, then released them. “I wanna be with you.”

He winked at her, started away, turned once to wave back, and then hastened outside to hail a taxi. For the first time in the Secret Service, he would be late on the job. Yet he did not give a damn what Agajanian said or Gaynor said, or in fact what President Dilman might say. All that mattered was what Ruby Thomas had said: Otter dear, I wanna be with you.

Sighting the parked taxi down the block, he hummed to himself as he hurried toward it. The girl had said that she wanted to educate him. Great. Nothing suited him more. He had reached the time in his life where he wanted action, action and a little more learning. Whatever Dilman did with that colored broad of his, if he did, he could do better, if he dared.

“The White House, Pennsylvania entrance,” he ordered the cab driver. “Half a buck extra if you make all the lights.”

He was moving again, he was rolling, Jelly Rolling along, and everything was good, real good, once more.


Edna Foster and George Murdock ate an early and hasty dinner at the Chez François on Connecticut Avenue near H Street, and by five-thirty they had left the modest French restaurant and headed in the direction of Lafayette Square.

Edna had not enjoyed the rushed meal. She liked the comfort gained from leisure with George, their time for small talk and confidences, and she resented any deadlines imposed upon their dinners. Lately she had been more and more burdened by work, so that she often stayed on at night to clear her desk for the following day. Not that President Dilman was being more demanding than T. C. had been, for, in truth, he was almost diffident about summoning her for dictation or special assignments. No, it was not Dilman per se, but rather the atmosphere of conflict and tension that his presence in the Oval Office had created. Her desk, it sometimes seemed, had become a fort (her typewriter a machine gun), a surrounded outpost in an alien land, vainly trying to survive the cannonading and strafing of an overwhelming enemy.

More difficult than the upsetting atmosphere was the concrete problem that she was no longer a personal secretary to the President alone. Under T. C., she had worked for him and no one else. Under Dilman, a subtle change had occurred. She worked not for the Commander in Chief exclusively, but for his aides, his staff and allies as well. It was as if a half dozen of them did not trust Dilman to perform solo, and intruded themselves as a chorus (so there might be less likelihood of detecting a sour note). Edna found herself doing what Dilman wanted, little enough, and also what Talley, General Faber, Eaton, to think of only three, wanted done for Dilman.

Tonight would be one more night for her to reduce the overload of work. Besides, Dilman was having his last conferences with Kwame Amboko before and after his first State Dinner, and Flannery and the wire-service men and syndicated columnists (like George) would be standing by in the press lobby. She might be required to help Flannery and his girls if there were any press releases, which she did not mind as much, since indirectly she would be helping George.

But more than the haste of their dinner, what disturbed her right now, as they strolled hand and hand toward the square and the White House across from it, was George’s mood. Whatever his shortcomings-no one is perfect, her father always used to say, although it does not hurt to try-George Murdock was almost consistently cheerful and lighthearted. Rarely was he pensive. When he complained, and usually he did it in a joking way, it was not about the $150 a week he earned from Tri-State Syndicate, but about the fact that the twelve newspapers in his string were small, obscure, and so no one in Washington ever saw his stuff. As a consequence, he had no permanent slot in the Press Room off the West Wing entrance, and no standing among his colleagues or with the administration. This indignity, added to the chore of having to be his own photographer, sometimes became a matter of annoyance to him. Yet most of the time he enjoyed his work, what standing it did give him, and he lived economically in his bachelor’s quarters, his only extravagances being his numismatic collection, Indian-head coins his specialty, and his gifts to Edna.

From the time they had begun going together, she had wanted to help him succeed, because instinctively she knew that she might be helping to liberate herself from spinsterhood and improve her own condition of life. While she could have been of enormous value to him numerous times, by slipping out to him scoops or beats or whatever the reporters called exclusive stories, she had refrained from doing so. By her rigid standards it would have been unethical and unthinkable. George had always been a darling about this, and had never pressed her. Sometimes she had ached to let him in on a secret a few hours or days before it would become public, so that he could benefit by it and become famous. She had never done so. The main consideration was not that such an act might cost her the job she had once cherished, but that the respect in George’s eyes would have been lost to her. They had always discussed T. C., of course, but usually in relation to his public politics or known gossip or nonsense about her own work. However, since Dilman had come to office, there had been even fewer of these discussions, because her intuition had warned her that Dilman was more vulnerable to loose talk and more opposed by the press.

Yet, in her own way, Edna had tried to give assistance to George. She had made it known to T. C. that she was going steady, that her boy friend was a habitué of the West Wing lobby, so that T. C. would be more aware of George Murdock. And T. C. had been, for on several occasions George had been invited to intimate off-the-record briefings (reserved for the select handful of White House veterans) and paid-for administration trips that he would not have otherwise rated. Recently, whenever the opportunity presented itself, she had begun to mention George’s name to President Dilman, too. (“If you need me, Mr. President, I’ll be dining with my boy friend, George Murdock, of Tri-State Syndicate, at the Iron Gate Inn.”) She was never sure that Dilman heard her.

Even though George did not complain about his meager income, she was certain that it was his economic straits that inhibited him from discussing marriage. Except for the small amount he had been able to put into a few speculative stocks, she knew that he did not earn enough to save. Until he did, there was little chance of his proposing marriage. There was one hope on the far horizon, hinted at by George. He had an Uncle Victor in Hawaii, wealthy, retired, and now seventy-nine years old. George was a favorite of this uncle, and was undoubtedly written into the old man’s last will as the heir to a considerable sum. But the Waikiki sun appeared to have rejuvenated Uncle Victor. He had not been ill once since Edna had been going with George. Still, that was a hope, a possibility, something.

Sometimes Edna became desperate at the waiting. Once, on her own, she had planned to go to Tim Flannery, who was so nice, and ask him if he would take on George as a Press Department assistant. She had rehearsed her request, a beautiful and touching one. When the occasion had arisen, she could not make her speech. She had perceived that Flannery would have had to consult T. C., and whatever he might decide, it would put her in a bad light. Using her confidential position.

And so her directionless life with George had gone on with no merging of their separate paths into a single path in sight. Her father brought the situation up at least once every other month in his short, stilted letters from the farm outside Milwaukee, but she never tried to explain, beyond saying that George was still her good friend and implying that she was still behaving in a way that would not disgrace anyone back home.

In fact, most often, it was she, not George, who was disturbed by their seemingly pointless relationship. She had tried to tell him, without telling him, that she was the kind of girl who did not need much, who was not demanding. She had tried to tell him that the only riches in life to which she aspired were someone she cared for and a decent home where she could bear and raise wonderful children. Did he understand? He had never let on. How she wanted to tell him, if only he would bring it up, that she was ready to move into his confined apartment, ready to continue working while he worked, ready to skimp and save for their family and their future. This was her workable vision of tomorrow. She knew that it was not his. A man who wore lifts in his heels, she supposed, who was sensitive about his acne marks, she supposed, who wrote marvelously but was not read, she supposed, would be too proud for another second best.

Tonight-it was becoming dark, no longer day, not yet night-she could see from his mood, so unusually low-spirited, so ingrown and silent (he had not uttered a word in all their walk to this point), that until now it was his own good nature and ebullience that supported both of them. But not these minutes, not tonight. His depression was only too apparent. She wondered what had caused it. She was afraid to find out.

They had reached the square.

He released her hand. “One second, Edna. Late edition of the Citizen-American is out. I want to see how Zeke Miller let his paper handle your boss’s first press conference.”

She waited in the gloom while he went to the heavily sweatered newsboy. She enjoyed observing George when he was apart from her. His thinning blond hair was so neat, his pointed nose and receding chin made him appear so intellectual (which he was), and the tweed topcoat, even if it was not exactly the latest fashion, gave him the appearance of Fleet Street’s best.

He returned to her, the newspaper opened, his gray eyes darting across it from side to side, then up and down. He was, she remembered, a remarkable speed reader. He clucked his tongue.

“What is it, George?” she asked.

“Congressman Miller’s unloading his big guns,” he said. “Look at the headlines over Reb Blaser’s by-line lead story.”

He pushed the front page before her, sharing it with her, an intimacy she appreciated tonight. She had meant to glance at the front page only briefly, for this kind of news was the last thing on her mind. But the headline pulled her eyes toward it.

The banner headline read:

IS THE WHITE HOUSE REALLY BLACK?

The second headline read:

DILMAN BEGINS TO COLOR LOOK OF NEW ADMINISTRATION

The three columns of bold type over Reb Blaser’s by-line read:

PRESIDENT DEFIES ATTORNEY GENERAL REFUSES TO ACT AGAINST TERROR KIDNAPERS OF JUDGE GAGE APPOINTS NEGRO FRIEND SPINGER TO “INVESTIGATE”


Edna’s eyes took in the three paragraphs of Blaser’s lead. Blaser had it from a source “close to the President” that Attorney General Clay Kemmler had demanded Dilman “outlaw” the Negro Turnerite Group for being behind the Mississippi kidnaping and for being supported by Communist Party funds. Apparently the President had rejected advice based on “well-known facts,” and had taken the first step in reducing T. C.’s brilliant Cabinet into “Uncle Tom’s Cabinet.” Dilman had appointed the Reverend Paul Spinger, a Negro apologist, to sustain his stand with “fiction” about the colored abductors. Dilman’s Black Hand had shown itself today, and it was redecorating the nation’s first and proudest house in its own dark hue. Not only had the President demeaned his high office and violated the nation’s trust, by attempting to treat with a known subversive and criminal like Jefferson Hurley, but he was dealing “softly” with a fellow African, Kwame Amboko, and risking our peaceful coexistence with Russia; he was refusing to come out in full support of T. C.’s minorities bill that would enable Negroes to “earn their citizenship” instead of commit crimes for it, and he was “reluctant” to sign the New Succession Bill on his desk that would assure every American that its Executive Mansion would remain as President Washington had wanted it to be and as President John Adams had known it.

Edna’s eyes skipped down to the end of the story. She read: “Tonight President Dilman is presiding over his first formal State Dinner in the very room where President Adams’ prayer is carved beneath the mantel: ‘I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.’ Poor Adams! Tonight President Dilman will sit with his back to our country’s prayer, having for his first honor guest to our House an African who is tampering with our lives, enjoying for his first official entertainment the anti-American wit of several entertainers of his own race. As one well-known congressman remarked, ‘We on the Hill are worried that we have a black Andrew Johnson in the White House, one with no regard for other branches of government or for the wishes of the majority of all decent Americans. We have grave apprehensions about the future. If the remaining days of Dilman’s one-year-and-five-month term are like today, then, alas, America has been pushed into a time of trial and infamy that will come to be known as its own Dark Ages.’ ”

Edna Foster was surprised at her shivering indignation as she looked up from the newspaper. “How dare they! Did you read that? As ‘one well-known congressman remarked’-meaning who? Zeke Miller, that’s who!”

George Murdock withdrew the newspaper and carefully folded it. “I suppose it is Miller-after all, the paper is his plaything-but there are dozens more who are apt to say the same thing.”

Edna could not control the quaver in her protesting voice. “It’s terrible, terrible, George. I’ve read some bad things-the President insists on seeing everything-but this, his painting the White House black, creating an Uncle Tom’s Cabinet, it’s-it’s scurrilous libel. He ought to sue. George, I wish you wouldn’t buy that newspaper any more.”

He had taken Edna’s arm, and when the street was free of traffic, he guided her across it and into Lafayette Park. As they passed the Kosciusko statue, he said, “I disapprove of this as much as you do, Edna, you know that. But what the devil, I can’t say as I blame Reb Blaser. He does what he’s told. He’s got a job to do like the rest of us. I will say one thing, he’s a darn good writer.”

“Then why doesn’t he write for someone decent? I think there is simply no excuse-”

“Edna, be reasonable,” pleaded George Murdock. “We newspapermen try to be truthful and honest in our own way. Blaser has to give in a little, just the way I do. Do you think I like slanting my stories the way I have to, full of corn-shucked pap, because my employer and audiences are conservative hayseeds? Still, I have to. I’m sure you don’t like working overtime, like tonight. Yet you have to. Do you think Dilman likes reading newspapers like this one any more than I do? No, but he has to and I have to, so we both know what’s going on. The country’s full of many kinds of people, Edna, and we have to live with them.”

“Well, I don’t want to if I can help it,” Edna said. Her wrath had diminished as they reached the center of the park. George’s objectivity and good sense always calmed her, and Lafayette Park, too, always had the effect of soothing her. Even as she listened to George, she had been peering across the artificially lighted grass toward the tree trunks, looking for the brown squirrels, and sparrows and pigeons, that gave her so much pleasure. They reminded her of the farm in Wisconsin and her childhood when there had been so little conflict and so many rosy dreams. She saw two squirrels at last, one scampering up the rough bark-covered trunk of a tree, the other following, and she felt even better. “The poor President,” she said. “I can see him opening up the paper tomorrow morning or before lunch. I always try to avoid him then. I can’t stand the-the way his face looks-”

“How does it look?”

“How does it look? Sort of like the face of one of those Negroes they knock down in the South, after they pull back the dogs and close in around him and start kicking him-I remember the series of pictures of one on the ground being kicked, his first look of automatic shock, sort of, then pain but not letting them see it, then finally a look of resignation, keeping the hurt inside so as not to give them satisfaction. That’s the way the President looks when he reads the papers. He doesn’t show much. But I’d hate to see his X rays.”

George Murdock scratched one scarred cheek and then the other. “I guess I can only say I hope your boss is tough underneath, Edna. This vilification is just the start. Every President is a target. He asks for the job and he’s got to be prepared-”

“President Dilman did not ask for the job.”

“He did when he ran for the Senate, and he did when he accepted the gavel as President pro tempore of the Senate. Dilman is a bigger target than the others, because he’s black on white and can’t be missed. There he is. Everything he does will be judged not only for its wisdom but for what it means coming from a Negro. The facts of life, Edna. Every day is going to be worse for him.”

Her gaze went to George, and for once she was not calmed by his matter-of-factness. “You think it’ll be worse?”

“Unquestionably.”

She resolutely prepared herself to speak what had grown in her mind. “If it is, George, then, well-maybe he can take it, but I can’t. I’m going to quit.”

He was so startled that he stopped abruptly to study her, to gauge how serious she was. She knew that her upset expression convinced him. He took her arm. “Come here a minute,” he said. He led her to the last bench before Pennsylvania Avenue. After they sat down, he said, “Edna, I thought we settled your quitting that first day, when you took my advice and decided not to resign.”

“It’s never been completely settled in my mind, George. That first day I made up my mind to stay because you convinced me he needed help and because-you know-I felt so sorry for him. But I’m too close to what’s going on, and I can’t stand it. How can I explain it to you?”

She clasped her hands and looked down at the pavement. “I’ve had enough of the mental strain, George. The position is hard enough without that. I’ll be honest with you, I really will. I finally figured it out. It’s not that I suffer every day with him, get hurt because he’s hurt, the way I felt with T. C. No. I-I’m as liberal as anybody, but I can’t somehow identify with him in the same way. He’s so different from me. I know this is awful, but it is his color, I guess, his whole background, so different from anything I know. Yet I can understand him. So I’m outside him, but I have to be there. You know what-it is like a bullfight-having to go to a bullfight and watch. He’s the bull, practically helpless, no chance, and the men with the banderillas and the picadors with their lances are sticking him till he bleeds, goading and hurting him, until he’s weaker and weaker, and the matador comes out and finally drives the sword in behind his neck. If I have to be close up, watching, maybe I can’t feel like the bull, I can’t suffer that way, but I can hate what I see of all the torturing before he is finished and dragged away. I can be revolted and sickened by it. Well, George, that’s the way I feel, being in those offices with Dilman. I can’t stand it. I hate having to go in and see him tomorrow.”

George Murdock squeezed her hand. “Edna, he has only one year and four months left in office. Surely-”

“How many days is that? Four hundred, four hundred and eighty or more? That’s four hundred and eighty bullfights. No, George. He can find other help now. He’s settled into his office. And me, I can find a better job, without agony, typing for someone who doesn’t have to worry about anything more than sales volume or competitors undercutting him.”

“You couldn’t stand it after these years. You’d go stir-crazy. You’d wither.”

Edna Foster shuddered. The word wither made her think of spinsterhood. Maybe this was the time to test him on that, too. “Then I could do something more interesting. I didn’t tell you, but Hesper kind of subtly asked me if I’d like to move to Phoenix and help her and Miss Laurel with T. C.’s papers and documents, and her correspondence. She’s-”

“Edna, no, I can’t have you leaving me now.”

She met his eyes, which were genuinely anxious, and she felt a wave of relief. “George, that’s nice of you, but-”

“I mean it,” he said, almost desperately. “I’ve got no right to ask you to do anything for me. I realize that. But you know, I haven’t been able to-to sort of talk to you more seriously-about the future-because I’ve been trying to get myself set, better established.”

There could be a moment of truth, she knew, far from any bullfight. “George,” she said firmly, “as far as I’m concerned, you are well enough established. I mean, from my point of view.” She had never been more eloquent about her longings for their future, and she awaited his reply with trepidation.

He sighed. “Maybe,” he said. “I suppose I always set my sights too high. You know how I feel about you. Nothing is too good for you. Maybe I’ve wanted too much. Tonight, if things were the way they were yesterday, I-I might say more than I have up to now. But tonight I can’t, Edna. I got a one-two punch today, both on the button, and I’m shook up, I’m badly shook up.”

She turned fully toward him. She had known something was wrong. Why had she not penetrated his moodiness from the outset? “I suspected you were worried,” she said. “Tell me, George. Maybe I can help.”

“First off, I had a cable from Honolulu this morning. Uncle Victor, the senile bastard, he went and got himself married. Can you beat that? After twenty years a widower? Some island social dame nailed him. And him seventy-nine. I didn’t think the old bastard was that feebleminded. Well, that blew it-good-bye, nephew George. I bet they’re collaborating right now on the new will.”

“George, my God, you were depending on that pie in the sky? I never gave it a second thought.”

“Well, I don’t know if I counted on it or not. But somehow it was always there to think about. So that’s out.” He hesitated. “That’s not the important thing, though. Something worse happened in the mail.”

“What?”

He ran his fingertips across his pocked cheek. “Edna, I lost three newspapers today. They-they dropped me. Far as I can figure out, I’m not ‘in’ enough. They switched to the big wire services instead of keeping their own correspondent. They figure the big ones, exclusive or not, are closer to the inside.”

She felt weak, helpless, and faintly guilty because he was not inside. “You still have nine papers.”

“For the time,” he said, “and for now, less income.”

“I don’t understand, George. I know you’ll make less, but-”

George Murdock’s nails dug at the bench between his knees. “The whole tone of Weidner’s letter,” he said. “There’s a point of no return with Tri-State. If I lose another paper, I’m through. They’ll buy some other columnist. In fact, if they can’t sell my column to more outlets, I may be through anyway. I didn’t even have to read between the lines. He wrote, ‘If you don’t pep up that daily column, don’t come up with something hot, in place of those warmed-over handouts, we’ll have to reappraise the whole situation. I can’t understand why you’re not doing better.’ Then he said something dirty.” George Murdock glanced at Edna worriedly. “I don’t know if I should tell you.”

“Tell me, go ahead, tell me everything.”

“He wrote, ‘I can’t understand why you’re not doing better. After all, you are going steady with the personal secretary to two Presidents. Who has a better pipeline into the White House, especially today?’ Goddammit. Can you imagine?”

She felt sick. “Oh, George, how could he!”

“He did… I tell you, I’ve got a good mind to quit. Here you were talking about quitting, when that’s all I have on my mind. The effrontery of the bastard, thinking for one minute I’d risk the respect of the only decent woman I’ve ever known, for personal advancement.”

She wanted to hug him for his perception and gallantry. What held her back was a heavy anchor of failure, tied to a rope of guilt. “Maybe I have let you down, George-”

“Stop it, Edna. You’re not involved.”

“I mean, you’ve always been so wonderful, knowing my responsibilities, what my position entails, never even being curious. So maybe I am a little to blame, George. Maybe I’ve been leaning over backward to your detriment.”

“Forget it. I don’t want to even discuss it.”

“You’re so kind, George. There are story leaks, let’s face it. Every day it happens. That Blaser story we were just reading. Kemmler and the President did have a disagreement today about the kidnaping. But it was secret. How did Blaser find out? Someone must have leaked it to him.”

“You bet your life. Somebody over at Justice. Maybe even Kemmler himself. They want to look good, get on the record. All the big press correspondents have inside contacts whom they use, and who use them.”

“Except you, because of me!” cried Edna. The resolve came to her, and she gave voice to it “I won’t have you penalized any more, simply because you happen to be seeing me. I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open, and if there is something that-that doesn’t endanger security-that I know someone else will let out before-hand anyway-I’ll tell you first. I promise, George.”

“I told you-forget it,” he said gruffly. “Tri-State isn’t the only syndicate. I’ll look around. We’ll make it yet.” He stood up. “Come on, we’d better check in.”

She came to her feet slowly. “George,” she said, “I think I want to keep my seat at the bullfight.”

“Not for me,” he said. “Don’t do it for me.”

“For us,” she said. “I want to do it for us.”

His thin lips curled upward, and he pulled her arm through the crook of his elbow and propelled her toward Pennsylvania Avenue. “That’s different,” he said. “That makes me very happy. We’ll make out somehow, together.”

They crossed Pennsylvania Avenue in silence, and entered through the open driveway gate leading to the White House, both automatically flashing their passes and greeting the police guards, now doubled in number for this evening’s State Dinner.

As they walked in step to the West Wing lobby, they heard someone hurrying behind them. Edna glanced over her shoulder and grimaced. Reb Blaser, skipping on stubby legs, was alongside them, a grin on his frog face.

“Hiya, Edna-Georgie, old boy,” he drawled. “How are the love doves?” He did not wait for an answer, but gestured toward the front entrance of the White House, ablaze with light. “Looks like a big night, eh?”

“To paint the White House black,” said Edna indignantly.

“Aw, come now, Edna girl,” Blaser said, still grinning. “I got me a job to do, that’s all. Matter of fact, might be some truth to what I wrote, even though I admit to applying a trifle too much tar and feather. But that’s Zeke for you. Don’t blame you none for being loyal to your employer, though.”

Before Edna could speak again, George Murdock said hastily, “It was a little too rough, Reb, like you said, but that was quite a thing about Kemmler and Dilman disagreeing. Where’d you get it?”

One of Blaser’s warted eyelids winked. “Connections, George. Comes of being slavey for a big-time Congressman.” They had reached the door to the West Wing, and all three halted. “Incidentally, George, my Congressman brought up your name to me day before yesterday. Meant to tell you, but been too plumb beat out to remember.”

“Zeke Miller mentioned me?” asked George Murdock cautiously.

“Nobody else but you. Seems one of our stringers sent him a clip of the piece you did on Miller’s speech on farm subsidies. He liked it, liked it powerfully. ‘That’s a smart young man, that Murdock,’ he said to me. ‘Sharp nose for news. Let’s keep on eye on him.’ ”

“That’s nice of Miller,” said George Murdock.

“Oh, he’s not half as bad as everyone makes him out,” said Reb Blaser. “Hell, he’s a successful business tycoon from the South, and he knows what side his bread is buttered on. Yes, he’s right impressed with you, George.”

Edna turned her glare from Blaser’s nauseating face to George, and she disliked the way George was swallowing this syrupy flattery whole and enjoying it.

She said briskly, ignoring Blaser, “Good night, George. Don’t work too hard. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes-good night, Edna. I’ll call you.”

She started into the lobby, but at the door, turning sideways to let a correspondent slip past her, she had one more glimpse of George and Reb Blaser. The frog was still croaking, and George was still listening, eager, deferential, pleased. For an instant she wished that George wouldn’t stand there, that he would be more than that, but then she knew that she was being unfair. It had been a bad, bad day for George, and now for her also.

She would have to do something for him. But what?

Unhappily, she went inside to resume her seat at the bullfight.


The one emotion that Douglass Dilman suffered, as he stared at the dessert being placed before him, was deep mortification.

He had suspected what was happening earlier in the evening, when he and Kwame Amboko had stood against the wall of the East Room, he uncomfortable in his new white tie and long-used unstylish dinner suit, Amboko at ease in his blue-and-white-striped silk peaked hat and matching cape draped over his dress suit, the two of them receiving the splendidly garmented guests. Dilman had suspected something was wrong, because it had gone so quickly. He had meant to draw Sally Watson aside and put it bluntly to her, but she had been busy, her fashionably coiffured blond hair and bare shoulders and shimmering white satin evening gown everywhere, and he had been unable to catch her eye.

Only when Dilman had arrived in the enormous white-and-gilt State Dining Room, and had taken his place in the gold-covered Queen Anne chair at the head of the immense horseshoe table, with Kwame Amboko to one side of him and Amboko’s older sister at the other side, and the guests had seated themselves at the main table, and at the four smaller tables near the Red Room, had his earlier suspicion been fully confirmed.

Once the guests had been seated, in the interval before the waiters swarmed through the room from the pantry hidden behind the Chinese screen, Dilman was able to see the truth. Of the 104 invitations sent out, Sally Watson had advised him this morning that ninety-six had been accepted. The seating plan, which Illingsworth had shown him before he had dressed, had provided for fifty-six guests at the three sections of the main horseshoe table, and forty more guests at the four smaller tables. Ninety-six guests in all. And when these were seated, Dilman was reminded-he had almost forgotten in the excitement-that he was not Washington’s social Commander in Chief, but T. C.’s humble orderly.

Humiliation had filled every pore of his being: naked shame before his honored guest and the latter’s entourage from Africa, before his official family, before the White House waiters. He had been witness to a similar scene twice in his life, as an onlooker, when he had viewed the old motion picture, Stella Dallas, on television, and when he had attended a screening of the silent film, The Gold Rush, with pathetic Charlie Chaplin. Both times he had been moved, for, as a Negro, he had understood. Now he was witness to it a third time, not witness but participant and the solitary object of this shattering ostracism.

Every second gold-covered chair at the horseshoe table, it seemed, was empty. The four smaller tables mocked him with their gaping vacancies. Ninety-six important guests had accepted the invitations to his first State Dinner. No more than fifty had appeared. To all intents and purposes, President of the United States or not, he was still segregated, and the house he lived in was segregated too.

From that moment on, the formal evening had been for him an embarrassment to be tolerated and a disaster to be survived. He could not now remember one dish he had eaten, or the sense of anything that Amboko had spoken about or what he had replied to Amboko.

Dipping his spoon into his dessert, an ice-cream mold of a miniature White House, he raised his head, one of the few times he had done so during the dinner, and quickly his eyes roved over the room. He had to be positive that he had not been oversensitive and mistaken, to be sure that the seats had not been filled in the interim. But there they were. Nothing had changed. More than forty were empty still.

His gaze crossed Nat Abrahams, then darted back and fastened upon his friend. Nat, adjusting his bow tie, lifted his fingers slightly toward him in a private communication of understanding and assurance. Dilman’s furtive gaze moved to Rose and Paul Spinger, and the empty seat next to them. That was disappointing too, but in a different way. Wanda had made her terms clear. She would come to the White House, not as his employee, not in the guise of some one else’s guest, but only as his own guest.

The Spingers, he remembered, had been the very last to arrive, Rose plainly distressed, her husband harried. The receiving line had already broken, and Dilman had begun to engage Amboko in diplomatic conversation once more, when he had seen the Spingers and excused himself to intercept them.

He had addressed Rose, searching past her. “Welcome, Rose. Where’s Wanda?”

“She refused, Doug. I scolded her, but-” Rose Spinger had shrugged. “She said you’d understand.”

The Reverend Spinger had joined them. Dilman had inspected the clergyman’s face, appraising it to see if he bore encouraging tidings, and at once he saw there was nothing to give him optimism.

“I received your message earlier, Paul,” Dilman had said. “You were still waiting for Hurley to return your call. I thought you’d be on your way to him by now. What happened?”

“I’d be on my way if there was some place to go,” Spinger had said unhappily. “I just hung up on Frank Valetti in Little Rock. It took a lot of-of wheedling and prying to find out he was there-and a half-dozen calls to get him to phone back.” Spinger had glanced around, to be certain that no one else was within hearing, and then he had gone on in an undertone. “I made it clear to Valetti that I was personally representing you, but he already knew that from radio and television reports. I told him I had to see Jefferson Hurley. I told him I would fly out and see Hurley anywhere, under any conditions. No use. Valetti insisted that Hurley was away on a trip, out of touch, and he did not expect to hear from him for at least two or three days.”

“What about Valetti himself?” Dilman had demanded. “Did you say you’d see him?”

“Yes-yes-I certainly did, Mr. President. I told him that since he was second-in-command of the Turnerite Group, perhaps he would do as well as Hurley. I told him I could be in Little Rock tonight to confer with him.” Spinger had paused, and shaken his head. “He was evasive and-and I’d say distrustful. He kept saying that no meeting with him would prove helpful. He kept saying only Hurley could speak for them, and Hurley was not available. I persisted that there were some questions that he could answer. He said flatly no, that he was in seclusion, that he didn’t want to be hounded and harassed by the press and Federal investigators, who’d only persecute him without good cause, and that my coming was sure to put everyone on his trail. Besides, he said, he was on the move, leaving the city. Well, I could see it was hopeless-”

Dilman, conscious of the time he was spending away from his honor guest, had quickly interjected, “Paul, did you get anything out of him?”

“There was nothing left to do but pose your inquiries to Valetti on the telephone. I told him you were deeply disturbed by the Hattiesburg kidnaping. I said that both you and the Attorney General wanted to be assured that the Turnerites had no part in that heinous crime, and that if they had not, it would do much for their cause if Hurley came forth and condemned such acts of violence. I reminded him that the Justice Department was investigating the Turnerites as well as other similar associations for possible Communist affiliations, and that they could forestall and thwart any repressive government action by voluntarily coming forward, opening their membership records and financial ledgers for the Justice Department. I implored him to cooperate. I begged him to get Jefferson Hurley to cooperate. I asked him if he would-” Spinger halted, swallowed, blinked down at his shoes.

“What did he say to that, Paul?”

“One word, Mr. President. A crude four-letter word. I am unable to repeat it. Then-then he hung up.”

Dilman had scowled. “That’s it?”

“That’s all of it, Mr. President. I’m afraid I failed you, but that’s the most I could do. They’re a mean, secretive bunch. One thing. Somewhere in our talk, toward the end, I did leave the door open. I told Valetti that he or Hurley could call me at any time, any hour, and reverse the charges, if they had a message for you.”

“They won’t call,” Dilman had said. “What do you make of it now? Do you think the Turnerites played any part in the abduction?”

“We don’t know a thing more than we knew this morning. Maybe yes, maybe no. As long as there is reasonable doubt, I don’t see how you can ban them.”

“I don’t either… Well, Tim Flannery is down in his office, waiting to put out some kind of statement. When you get a chance, slip out and call him on the Entrance Hall phone. Tell him what you reported to me, in substance, and tell him that I suggest a non-committal statement over my name. Something like-you have made contact with a high Turnerite official, conversations are proceeding-the Group admits no complicity in the Hattiesburg affair-mean while, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is being reinforced with additional manpower for its pursuit of the criminals. Have you got that, Paul?”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“Now I’d better return to Amboko. He’s being about as cooperative as Valetti. What an evening.”

He had remembered all of this earlier failure as he studied the Spingers across the State Dining Room. Absently, he finished his dessert. From his close friends his gaze went to the dazzling gilded chandelier with its flame-shaped electric bulbs, then down to the gay flower-filled centerpieces on the table, and at last to the empty Wedgwood plate on the white damask linen cloth in front of him.

He hoped that his face did not reflect his shame at the massive rebuke of the empty seats. He was still that kinky-haired, thick featured relative of the orangutan, one of Zeke Miller’s Nigras, barely a second-class citizen. He could not help but be conscious of the oil portrait above the white marble mantelpiece directly behind him. Healy’s Abraham Lincoln. Would anyone but himself, Kwame Amboko for instance, appreciate the irony of it?

He glanced at his guest and realized that Amboko had been squinting at him thoughtfully through his rimless spectacles.

“A marvelous meal,” Amboko said with his always startling Harvard accent. “I regret it is finished.”

“You must come back soon for another,” Dilman said. Then he added wryly, “I’ll invite you, if I’m still here.” Down the table he saw a napkin fluttering. It was Chief of Protocol Illingsworth, pretending to wipe his mouth but actually signaling to him that the dinner was ended and that there was one more formality before the champagne and entertainment.

One more formality-and then he remembered it. Quickly Dilman pushed back his chair and came to his feet. Immediately the clatter of ice-cream spoons and the hum of conversations ceased. All eyes in the half-filled room were upon him.

Dilman reached for his hollow-stemmed champagne glass, and his unsteady hand held it before him. “Ladies and gentlemen, I offer a toast,” he announced, “a toast from the people of the United States to the health and prosperity of the President of Baraza, Kwame Amboko, and the people of his free republic.”

Throughout the room, glasses tinkled and sparkled as the assemblage rose and joined in the official toast.

Awkwardly Dilman sat again, spilling some of his champagne on the tablecloth. He could see that Amboko was already standing, proffering his champagne, and piping out in his cultivated voice, “To the President of the United States of America, to the republic for which he stands, I reciprocate with our wishes for your health and prosperity and”-he half turned, lifting his glass toward the portrait of Lincoln-“to paraphrase the blessing and hope of your Emancipator, may our nations, under God, enjoy a new birth of freedom, so that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall never perish from the earth.”

Dilman drank, with everyone, and the champagne was curiously stale. He tried to fathom his honor guest’s toast. Had Amboko shrewdly tried to remind the whites in the room that not only must his own primitive land continue to know freedom, with America’s help, but vast America needed to begin re-evaluating its own attitudes toward freedom? Or had he been merely paying lip service to the greatest President and his most familiar quotation in the usual Fourth of July manner?

The toasts were continuing, from Secretary of State Eaton, from Secretary of Defense Steinbrenner, and were being answered in turn by Baraza’s Foreign Minister and Baraza’s Ambassador Wamba, and automatically Dilman responded to each and sipped the flat champagne.

Suddenly the ordeal was ended. He rose with Amboko, and both watched the dinner guests rising, the women in their formal gowns being led by their escorts or military attachés to the Red Room and Blue Room and Green Room for more champagne.

Again Dilman found Amboko squinting at him. He felt tired of formality and protocol. “Well, President Amboko,” he said, “I guess the rules say we’re supposed to have a few minutes alone upstairs to settle our problems. We’re supposed to make some kind of joint statement tonight or tomorrow. Ready to climb the stairs again?”

“Not necessary,” said Amboko. “I have made up my mind. I can say what I have to say right here.”

Dilman hesitated. “Very well.” There was something about Amboko’s expression, a warmth, a comprehension, that he had not seen before. For the first time, as they stood there-the two of them, isolated from the departing guests-they were not African and American, but two black men struggling in the power world of whites.

“I tried to hint it in my toast,” Amboko said. “I will be less cryptic now.” He paused to form correctly the words he wished to speak, and then he spoke. “I will take the risk. I will compromise. I shall return to Baraza and rescind all pending plans to repress our Communist Party. I shall not oust the Soviet Embassy or forbid the cultural exchanges with Moscow. In short, we shall attempt to maintain an open but watchful society such as you have here. You have shown good will in ratifying the African Unity Pact, and we shall display good faith by giving you what you need for bargaining with Soviet Russia when you meet with them.”

Dilman was overwhelmed by a sudden surge of affection for this scholarly young man. “I can’t tell you what good news this is, President Amboko. I can’t tell you how gratified I am.”

“If I may suggest one tactic, Mr. President. Let us make no mention of my concession in our formal announcement, only say that our talks were valuable to both of us and the agreements we reached will be jointly given out in the near future. This will afford me the opportunity to put my house in order back home. It will also equip you with something unexpected when you sit across from Premier Kasatkin to barter. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” said Dilman. He was still bewildered by the African leader’s change of heart. He wondered what had moved Amboko to make the concession that he had so recently opposed.

Amboko’s eyes had narrowed behind his spectacles. He said, “Perhaps, Mr. President, you are curious at my reversal of position. I can see you are perplexed that-”

“I am curious,” said Dilman quickly. “Of course, I am pleased. Your cooperation means so much. But I was wondering-”

“I will tell you,” said Amboko. “I will address you frankly, as I hope we will always address one another in the days to come. Until tonight I was reluctant to trust you wholly. Until tonight I thought you were the puppet of your Master Race in this country. Forgive me, but this I thought. Then tonight I saw the truth. I observed you look around this room, and I looked around it too, and the truth was clear.”

Dilman’s shame rose in his throat. “The chairs, you mean, the empty chairs?”

“Yes, my friend. I realized that you were not one of them, because they would not let you be. I saw you were on your own, because of your color. I saw you for the first time as a black like myself. I knew then that our problems were one. The freedom problem. You must win your freedom here as we must maintain our own in Africa. You must convince yourself that democracy in America is real as I must convince myself it is possible in Baraza. The guests who did not come tonight, the hurt they visited upon you, the illumination of your battle that they gave me, those absent guests were the ones who swayed me. I knew that you would always understand me and my people and our aspirations because, in a larger sense, they are your own. I can now trust you. I can now return to my homeland and take the risk of letting my people be freer, because I know you will never let us down. I am prepared to help you, because I believe you will always stand ready to help me. Not because we are both black, finally, but because we have both known bondage and we have the common human desire not to suffer it again.” He smiled beneath his broad expanse of nostrils and said in a kindly tone, “I thank the empty chairs, no matter how they may grieve you, for bringing us to friendship at last.”

Amboko extended his ebony hand, brightened by its large sapphire ring, and Dilman warmly gripped it in his own. He wanted to express his gratefulness further, but he was too choked with emotion to do so. At last he said, “Come, President Amboko, we can tell our visitors we are ready for some well-earned relaxation.”

Comforted by their agreement, the two men crossed the State Dining Room and entered the crowded Red Room. Dilman could see Grover Illingsworth’s towering, impeccable, waxen person rising above the crowded champagne drinkers. He beckoned to his Chief of Protocol.

“Mr. Illingsworth,” said Dilman, “why don’t you get President Amboko and his party settled for our little gala? In fact, you might start shooing everyone into the East Room.” Dilman turned to Amboko. “I won’t be a minute. I must find my Secretary of State, inform him of what we’ve agreed upon, so that he can have a joint press statement drafted at once. A copy will be at Blair House for your approval later tonight.”

Satisfied, Amboko gathered his entourage and followed Illingsworth out of the Red Room. As others began to move toward the door, and the crowd thinned, Dilman looked around the room for Arthur Eaton. He saw him finally, in a corner, deep in conversation with Sally Watson. For a moment he recollected Sue Abrahams’ gossip about the pair, and how he had dismissed it because Eaton was too circumspect and too old for Senator Watson’s child. But now, seeing them so close, he had second thoughts. They seemed right together: Eaton, despite the striking gray at his temples and through his hair, so much like a youthful aristocrat, bronzed, perfect in his faultless white tie and dinner jacket, and Sally Watson, despite her smooth, innocent countenance, so much like a mature lady with her beautiful carriage, and her bare shoulders set off by her costly white evening gown. They appeared scientifically matched. Dilman wondered where Eaton’s wife was this night, and if still in Florida, why she had not returned for this occasion.

He hesitated to separate them, yet knew that he must. Before he could move to do so, Eaton’s head turned toward Dilman, and Dilman was able to summon him. Eaton whispered something to his partner and came to Dilman at once, an inquiry on his features.

Dilman led his Secretary of State to the red silk Empire sofa against the wall, where they could have relative privacy. “I’ve finished with Amboko,” Dilman said. “He’s agreed to everything-everything.”

Eaton’s long diplomat’s face, used to shrouding reaction, this time could not conceal his surprise. “Really? Splendid, Mr. President. How did you accomplish it?”

Dilman would never let one like Eaton know the truth. He said, “Oh, we’d talked so much, and then suddenly, a few minutes ago, he threw in the towel. He said that he would put his entire trust in us, to protect him against his native Communists and Soviet meddling.”

“And we shall,” said Eaton. “I’ll speak to Monty Scott tomorrow. I’ll see that he has his best Central Intelligence agents over there. Were there any reservations?”

“Not one,” said Dilman. Then he snapped his fingers as he had an afterthought. “Except this. He wants our news release to be optimistic but ambiguous. He doesn’t want his concession made public until he’s had time to return home and secure his position there. Also, he thinks we should be silent about his concession so we can spring it on the Russians as a bargaining point.”

“Of course, of course,” agreed Eaton with a trace of impatience. “I suggested from the start that if we won this agreement from Baraza, we withhold it until we sit down with Premier Kasatkin. When Kasatkin begins to rave and rant about our ratification of the African Unity Pact, we hand him this concession to prove our good will. Will you sign the AUP?”

“Tonight.”

“Excellent, Mr. President. I’ll reopen negotiations for resumption of the Roemer Conference at once. The Russians seem to be agreeable to holding the talks in France, in Chantilly. Are you?”

“Perfectly.”

“Consider it done.”

“One thing, Mr. Secretary.” Dilman was conscious of his continuing formality with Arthur Eaton. Try as he would, he simply could not call this formidable person Arthur. “Edna Foster and Tim Flannery are standing by downstairs. Could you slip away for a few minutes and notify them? I promised Amboko a rough draft of our joint press statement at Blair House tonight. If he has any amendments, we can incorporate them in the morning. You can tell Flannery to let the press gang know they can go home and get some sleep. We’ll have nothing for them until nine in the morning.”

“I’ll do that at once, Mr. President. I’ll go upstairs and call Edna and Tim immediately.” He did not leave. He said, “I think we can agree, then, your first State Dinner has been a success.”

“In some respects,” said Dilman. He decided to say no more. “I’d better get to the East Room. They may be waiting for me.”

“I shall not be long,” said Eaton.

He left the room without a glance at Sally Watson.


Sally Watson had remained stationary in the corner of the Red Room, watching Arthur Eaton go into the Main Hall. He was moving purposefully, with concentration, and so she guessed that he was not yet on his way to the entertainment in the East Room. Restlessly she stayed on, waiting for the room to be emptied of all but herself. The moment that she saw President Dilman take his leave she gathered her long skirt a few inches from the floor for greater mobility. Just as Dilman disappeared into the Green Room, she hastened into the Main Hall.

She had the briefest glimpse of Arthur Eaton, beyond the central pillars, as he turned off to the wide staircase that led to the private apartments on the second floor. Except for the chief usher, the Secret Service agent Beggs, and a White House policeman, there was no one to observe her as she hurried along the red carpet of the arcade to the stairs. There she found two more Secret Service agents, who greeted her admiringly. For their eyes she made her ascent with more reserve and dignity.

The State Dinner had been a thrill for her, because of its success and despite its failure, although the failure part made her feel insecure about her position as social secretary. From the instant, however, that Arthur Eaton had sought her out in the Red Room, all thoughts of the dinner had vanished from her mind. Arthur-now really her Arthur, her darling, since she had visited him twice alone in his Georgetown house, and had had the one midnight drive with him to that tiny bar near the Normandy Farms, off the River Road in Potomac-had dominated all her waking hours. Arthur had been beautiful tonight, and in their minutes together, considering the important guests around, he had been almost daring. She suspected, from his lack of inhibition, that he had been drinking more than he ordinarily drank. She had not minded, indeed, loved it, because it had made him more open and romantic.

She remembered: he had teased her about their evening last week in his house that nestled behind the trees on Dumbarton Avenue. After dinner, after the maid and cook had retired, he had poured the brandies, while she had studied the antique-filled gracious Tudor living room with its two fireplaces. She had felt drunk with excitement that night, reckless, and following the brandy she had blurted out, “Arthur, I don’t want to embarrass you, but where is your wife?”

“In Florida,” he had replied calmly.

“No-no-” Her hand had drawn an arc around the room. “I don’t see a single framed photograph of your wife. Isn’t that peculiar?”

He had remained unruffled, smiling. “Not at all, my dear. You see, I put them away in drawers before you came the first time. They’re still in the drawers.”

“Oh.” She had speculated upon that act. “What if she came home suddenly?”

Still unperturbed, he had said, “I doubt that she will be here for many months.”

Sally had then wondered if they were quietly being divorced, and prayed for it, but had not bothered him with it, for she wanted no definite answers so early, not until she was indispensable to him. “I see. Well, it is cozier this way. I wouldn’t want her glaring at me. You were thoughtful, Arthur. You think of everything.”

He had come to sit on the sofa beside her. “I don’t want you distracted when you are with me. These evenings mean too much.”

She had held out her arms, and he had gone into them, embracing her passionately, kissing her eyelids and forehead and ears and lips. And then the special telephone from the Pentagon had come between them. That had been that.

The next time together, he had kissed her again, caressed her, in his car in the parking lot outside the café in Potomac, and had briefly resumed after driving her to her home, but he had done no more.

She had desired him, and was ready to satisfy his desire when he made the demand. He had not yet demanded her, at least not until tonight in the Red Room, when he had been somewhat drunk and was dazzled by her low-cut white gown. After she had teased him about that time in his living room, the hiding of Kay’s photographs, he had become serious and so had she. He missed her every day, he had whispered. He wanted to see her more, be with her alone, know her better. She had waited expectantly for the final overture, the ultimate invitation, and then President Dilman had stolen him away.

She could not let go of their precious exchange, its promise and potential, and she was determined to play their scene out to its conclusion. Perhaps, because of whatever Dilman had told him, his mood had been altered and he would not go further with her. Or perhaps nothing had changed. She must find out. And so instead of going to the East Room to help direct the seating, her duty as President Dilman’s social secretary, she had followed Arthur Eaton upstairs.

She stood now, uncertainly, in the vast West Hall of the President’s private second floor. No one, not even the valet, was in sight. She wondered which of the fifteen rooms Arthur had gone into, and then she wondered if he would be conferring with someone or be by himself. The champagne bubbled behind her eyes, reinforcing her adventure, making her intrepid.

Stealthily she went to the Monroe Room, tried the door, peered inside. It was empty. Shutting the door softly, she started toward the Yellow Oval Room, and then, nearing it, she heard his voice. She stopped beside the partially open doors, listening, trying to determine whether Arthur was speaking to someone in the room or on the telephone.

He was addressing Tim-that would be Tim Flannery-but still no evidence whether it was the press secretary in person or on the telephone. She listened harder. Only Arthur’s voice could be heard, then silences, then Arthur again. No question now. Telephone. To hell with discretion.

She released the folds of skirt gathered in her hand. She peered down at the cleft between her breasts, which were pressed high by the built-in brassière cups of the evening gown. She took hold of her bodice at the waist with both hands, pulling it down an inch (the way it was meant to be) so that the milky rise at the top of her bosom was defined as her most attractive accessory. Lightly touching her hair to be sure every strand was in place, she straightened. Boldly she opened the first entrance door and walked into the Yellow Oval Room.

He was standing with the receiver at his mouth and ear, leaning against a sofa. When he saw her, he lifted his hand in welcome, smiling, but continued to listen to the voice on the other end. Suddenly he cupped the mouthpiece tightly and called out softly, “Be right with you, darling.”

Sally closed the doors, then wandered about the lustrous room, hardly listening to him, knowing only that he had apparently dictated something about Baraza, and was hearing Flannery read it back, and was suggesting revisions. On a fragile Louis XVI end table she noticed three books in a neat pile, the President’s reading, and when she bent to read the titles, she found them strangely incongruous with the furnishings of the living room. One was the latest Congressional Staff Directory, another Our CIA Defense by Montgomery Scott, and the third, at the bottom of the pile, a faded, mottled, secondhand volume, My Bondage and Freedomby Douglass. She drew the bottom book out from under the others and opened it to the title page, which read “My Bondage and My Freedom, Part I-Life as a Slave. Part II-Life as a Freeman. By Frederick Douglass.” It had been published in New York and Auburn by Miller, Orton, and Mulligan, in 1855. Sally turned to the lengthy dedication and then to the following page, and there, above the “Editor’s Preface,” was an inscription in pale blue ink, a slanting, definitely feminine inscription that read, “For my favorite Senator-the first Douglass would have been so proud of the present one. With enduring affection, Always, W.” The date was last year, the day and month President Dilman’s birthday, she remembered.

Sally examined the inscribed “Always, W.,” closed the book, lifted the others, and returned it to its former place. Going to the wall to the right of the fireplace, intending to study the two Cézanne paintings once more, her mind lingered on the inscription to Dilman. Her feline curiosity reached for, pawed and clawed for, a female W. connected with the President. Mrs. Wickland, wife of the House Majority Leader? No, unthinkable, not a personalinscription like this one. W.? At once, it came to Sally. W. for Wanda, Miss Wanda Gibson, the friend of the Spingers, whom Dilman had invited to the State Dinner tonight, who had neither responded to the invitation (gauche), nor appeared, although Dilman had insisted that she would (interesting). So Wanda Gibson, probably Wanda if she was the W., was a personal friend, even last year on his birthday. Intriguing.

Before she could speculate further, she felt cool, strong hands on her naked shoulders, and turned around to find herself looking up at Arthur Eaton.

“Business concluded,” he said. “I’m glad you came up here, Sally.”

“I thought you might need a secretary.”

He held her arms, squeezed them. “I might need someone who needs me.”

“I hoped you’d say that. I-I was unhappy the President interrupted us. It was going so well.”

“I was sorry, too, but it was important. He brought Baraza into line tonight. Not that it was so difficult. But I’m afraid he needed something affirmative to shore up his pride. In all my existence I’ve never been witness to anything like the social rejection that took place downstairs.”

“It was terrible. I hope he doesn’t blame it on me.”

“On you? Nonsense. You did what you could.”

“I swear, ninety-six of them accepted-accepted. Do you know how many showed up tonight? I counted the cards. Fifty-seven. I checked with my office right before dinner. And then with Edna. There was such a flurry of notes, telegrams, telephone calls, terribly apologetic, everyone fallen ill at once. I’ve never known an epidemic like that to sweep Washington. And the worst part of it was the cruel timing, the heavy last-minute declining, so that by the time I realized what was actually going on, it was too late to remove the table settings and chairs. I mean, it couldn’t be done, there was no time left. So there they were, those embarrassing chairs. I’m sorry for him. It’s so humiliating. It’ll be in all the columns tomorrow, you can be sure. No matter how many faults he has, he didn’t deserve this.”

“I don’t like it either,” Eaton said. “Whatever one’s views, there is such a practice as observing the social amenities. We have a generation of gauche boors.”

His usage of gauche brought to her mind what had been there a minute ago. “At least his friends showed up, the Spingers, the Abrahams, all-except one.”

Eaton’s eyebrows raised. “One?”

Sally savored her tidbit. “Have you ever heard of Miss Wanda Gibson? She works for Vaduz Exporters… no, of course you haven’t. Well, she lives with the Spingers, and as far as I can guess is an old friend of the President’s. He specifically invited her for tonight, and when she didn’t answer and I asked him what to do this morning, he went into a long thing about how she would show up anyway with the Spingers. He disowned any personal interest. He said that her export company traded with Baraza, and she would be someone Amboko and Wamba could feel at home with. Well, the President was mistaken. Miss Gibson did not appear. And also, I don’t mind telling you, and this I don’t understand at all, he was mistaken about Miss Gibson’s Vaduz company being involved with Baraza. I wanted to make conversation with Ambassador Wamba before dinner, so I mentioned Vaduz, and he looked blank, perfectly blank. He’d never heard of it. Do you think Wamba was bluffing? Or that the President didn’t know? Or-I know this is awful of me-that the President invented an excuse for inviting Miss Gibson?”

Eaton’s hands still held her arms, and he smiled and said, “I haven’t the faintest idea, Sally, but I do know you are the best representative the State Department has ever had in the White House.”

“Arthur, don’t make fun of me. I only want to be of help. I’d do anything for you.”

“Well,” he said lightly, “there are some of us who’d give a good deal to find out what the devil the President has in mind about that minorities bill, and a few other matters.”

“I can find out,” she said eagerly.

He shook her playfully. “I was kidding, Sally. We don’t need a secret operative in the White House. We’re both working with the President. If we do our jobs well, that is enough.” His smile went away. “I prefer you as you are, not as Mata Hari.”

She lifted her fingers to his neck and caressed it. “Arthur-before-you were saying before how much you missed me-how you wanted to see me more often-alone… I’d like that.”

“Right now I want to kiss you,” he said.

Her eyes went to the entrance doors, worriedly, and then to the balcony doors to her left. “Let’s go outside a minute.”

“You’ll freeze.”

“You’ll keep me warm.”

He released her, and she went to the first sash wood door. Opening it, she stepped out into the darkness of the Truman Balcony and stood beside the moist green pad that covered the white metal settee. He came to her in the shadows, and she went quickly into his hard arms, feeling her breasts flattened against his chest as his parted lips rubbed against hers and finally held to them. They clung to one another, and when his lips freed her, she gasped, “I love you, Arthur. I want you-you say it.”

“Tonight,” he said.

“Tonight.”

“When you’re through here, come straight to the house. You don’t have to go home tonight.”

“Will the servants-?”

“They are off. Just us, alone.”

“Yes, Arthur.” She heard her exultant heart beating wildly, and brought her hands up to hold his face, and kissed him quickly. “There’ll be a million years of time tonight.” She pushed herself from him and sought his hand. “Let’s get downstairs, before we’re missed… No, wait, I’ll go first, then you… I can’t stand these next hours. You do love me, don’t you, darling? You won’t be sorry, you won’t be sorry at all.”


In the middle of the front row of seats in the white-and-gold hall that was the East Room, President Dilman sat impassively, his arms resting motionless on the arms of his chair like the paws of a sphinx, as he watched with distaste the show being performed by the Hollywood and Manhattan entertainers.

His mood had been good an hour ago when he sat down with President Amboko and waited while the guests noisily took their places. His good mood had continued as the entertainment began with the five-piece orchestra on the raised platform before him doing its lively medley of George M. Cohan songs, ending on the rousing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Then after the provocative blues singer, Libby Owens, backed by her own accompanist at the ornate mahogany grand piano with its gilt eagle legs, had rendered “St. Louis Blues” sweet and low, Dilman’s mood of well-being had begun to deteriorate. Just as he and so many of his fellow Negroes resented aggressive liberal whites who buttonholed them in ostentatious and determined displays of equality, speaking to them with proper indignation of nothing but Negro problems, he resented the slant and content of this show. The white entertainers, out of misplaced eagerness to parade their tolerance (look-we-are-on-your-side-fellow), had loaded their program heavily with both serious and humorous Negro sketches and songs. Dilman detested this kind of patronizing, well-intentioned though it may have been. If a Jew were President, he asked himself, would this same crowd have presented Yiddish jokes and songs?

He stared at the stage with displeasure. There was Herbie Teele, the brash nimble-limbed colored comedian, propped high on a stool, derby lopsided on his head, homely black face feigning solemnity, then wide-grinning after each burst of applause, twirling his cane and spouting his half-bitter inside integration stories and jokes. Why Herbie Teele tonight? Why this special routine? Would this same crowd have offered the same program to T. C., to The Judge, to Lyndon Johnson, to John F. Kennedy? Dilman doubted it.

He cast a sidelong glance at Amboko and then down the row at other members of the Barazan entourage, and they seemed appreciative enough. They were chuckling, beaming, and the constant eruptions of laughter from the rows behind indicated that Allan Noyes, the Party’s national chairman, had cast the evening right. At last Dilman once more had to blame himself for his own thin-skinned sensitivity, but he felt the way he felt, and there was no use trying to feel any other way.

He tried to be more attentive to the stage.

Herbie Teele, elastic mouth, brace of white chipmunk teeth, was concluding his routine.

“Well, all that I am, all that I hope to be, I owe to one of the pioneers of topical humor, my fellow Afro-American, Dick Gregory,” said Teele. “He went to jail so’s I could come to the White House. Like Dick used to say, these days I’m gettin’ a couple thousand a week for saying the same things I used to say under my breath. No matter what the goings-on in Mississippi, they’re really not readying to pass a law banning mixed drinks. So, like ol’ Dick, I’m not worried. The President is doin’ his best. He’s got the Reverend Spinger in there, and the Reverend is the only famous man I know who’s given out more fingerprints than autographs. The kids down South used to collect his signature on police blotters. Well, folks, let me bow out with one more to my mentor, Dick Gregory-like he used to think, I was just thinkin’ ”-Teele jumped off his stool and came to the edge of the platform and rubbed his cheeks vigorously-“now, wouldn’t it be a helluva joke if all this on me was burnt cork and all you folks were being tolerant for nuthin’?”

He slapped his hands, reared back and roared, and the audience behind Dilman gave out a great whoop of laughter and joy in unison, and applauded for a half minute as the audacious Teele pranced off the platform.

Dilman clapped halfheartedly, and when he had ceased, the two chandeliers above had dimmed, and Libby Owens, in her tight sequined skirt slit thigh-high, stood center stage, while her colored accompanist slid onto the bench behind the piano.

She drew the microphone to her and announced throatily, “For the finale, I shall render three haunting Negro spirituals by unknown bards.”

She began, and the room was hushed in the soft light. She sang:


“I know moon-rise, I know star-rise,

Lay dis body down.

I walk in de moonlight, I walk in de starlight,

To lay dis body down.

I’ll walk in de graveyard, I’ll walk through the graveyard

To lay dis body down.

I’ll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms;

Lay dis body down.”


The melancholy lyric moved Dilman, sent memory clutching backward for an almost forgotten part of his childhood, and he was too lost in the distant past to realize that someone, bent low, had hurried past the front row and crouched before him. He stirred, then was startled to find Beecher, the valet, on a knee waiting to address him.

“Mr. President,” the valet whispered, “Attorney General Kemmler is in the Blue Room. He must see you at once. He says it is urgent.”

Dilman’s heartbeat tripped. It is urgent. He had been so far away, rocking in the helpless cradle of the past, that he was unprepared to cope with crisis in the world of tall men.

Dilman shivered. “Tell him I’ll be right there.”

Silently the valet slipped away, and Dilman waited for the last of Libby Owens’ lyrics. As she finished the spiritual, and the room rang with applause, Dilman excused himself to Amboko, speaking under his breath, then hurriedly rose and went past the guests sitting in the front row and to the exit. He could see that first Eaton, then Nat Abrahams, were observing his sudden departure, and he shrugged to both. He went into the Main Hall, just as the piano resumed and Libby Owens sang, “Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you moan.”

Coming into the Main Hall of the first floor, Dilman found himself immediately flanked by two Secret Service agents.

“Why don’t you keep your eye on President Amboko,” Dilman suggested. “I’ll be all right.”

Nevertheless, they accompanied him up the corridor, past the Green Room, until they came to the entrance to the Blue Room, where Otto Beggs was on guard, and Beecher had pushed the door open. Dilman hung back a moment, steeling himself for this crisis that was as yet unknown to him, and then went into the large formal chamber, hearing the door click closed behind him.

There were two of them waiting for him, he observed. Robert Lombardi, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bald as a cannonball and as inflexible and physically round, was pacing in short, quick steps near the velvet-draped circular table in the middle of the room. His usual forced public smile was missing. His forehead was damp. Beyond him, fingers laced together behind his back, loomed the presence of Attorney General Clay Kemmler, still wearing his coat.

“Gentlemen,” said Dilman, announcing himself.

Lombardi’s pacing stopped. He moved to one side of the room in token deference to his superiors as Kemmler spun around from the lofty center window, and as he did so, the spire of the Washington Monument in the distance appeared to emerge from his head, making him resemble a unicorn rearing on its hind legs. Immediately, Kemmler came forward to where the FBI Director had been, and Dilman, advancing to meet him, could see across the circular table that the Attorney General’s cold eyes glittered, but that his tight lips, a slash in his craggy face, were severe and implacable.

“Mr. President,” he said, “what I’ve been expecting has happened. The second that Bob Lombardi received the flash from his field operatives and brought it to me, I came right over. I hated to break in on you, but I think you’ll agree the news is of critical import.”

Dilman placed his fingers on the draped table to steady himself, and then remained immobile.

“We don’t have every detail yet, but the essential news is this,” Attorney General Kemmler said. “The Hattiesburg kidnaping was committed by a gang of Turnerites led by Jefferson Hurley himself. They have since killed Judge Everett Gage in cold blood, and the FBI has apprehended Hurley. The others in his gang got away. But we have Hurley, we’ve got him good, and now you can have no more reservations.”

Dilman allowed the sensational report to sink in, rocking on his heels, cursing himself for not having believed Kemmler this morning and in consequence having been made to look like an indecisive fool-or worse, like a prejudiced black. “You have Hurley?” he repeated woodenly; “And they actually murdered Gage? What more do you know?”

Kemmler jerked his head toward the FBI chief. “Bob-” he said.

Robert Lombardi came back to the table. The dampness on his forehead had spread to the top of his pate. His high-pitched confirmation came out as if strained through his nostrils. “Mr. President, as of a half hour ago, this is what happened, and this much is accurate. My men trailed the kidnapers from Mississippi, across Louisiana, into southeast Texas. They were moving fast, those kidnapers, but they weren’t too hard to follow, being amateurs and, begging your pardon, being of dark skin. They holed up on some ranch before reaching Beaumont, and laid low, and my field agents spread a pretty wide net to catch them in. Then there were a couple of pistol shots on this ranch, and as luck would have it, some of our men were nearby. We sent out an alert, surrounded the farm, and nabbed Jeff Hurley and found Judge Everett Gage’s corpse. The rest of the gang-don’t know how many there were yet-got away. Hurley’s not telling, but evidence indicates there may have been two more of them.”

“You know that it was Hurley who killed Judge Gage?” Dilman asked.

“He confessed it, Mr. President. Well, not at first, of course. What we figured out was he’d stayed behind a minute too long to clean up things-burn some papers and hide his gun. We found the revolver. Two chambers empty, and two bullets were in old Judge Gage, one in his chest and one in his abdomen. Ballistics says the markings on the bullets were made by the barrel of Hurley’s revolver. Then we-we put a bit of pressure on Hurley-he’s a sullen bull-and he finally admitted to doing it. We’ve got his signed confession to the murder. Well, what he said, actually, at first, was that they intended Gage no physical harm, they weren’t killers like Gage and his Southern Klansmen-lots of propaganda like that-but in trying to hide out from us, trying to find a real concealment until they could continue to Mexico, they let down their guard on their victim. Gage worked his wrists free, got his hands on one of their rifles, and instead of trying to escape, prepared to gun them down. Hurley came into the room, and Gage fired at him. Hurley said that it was a matter of self-defense, his own survival, and instinctively he pulled out his pistol and began firing back, got Gage with his first two shots.”

Lombardi shook his head. “Mr. President, you can discount that kind of whining. We always get that song at the Bureau. It was murder, pure and simple, compounded by the Federal offense of kidnaping, crossing two state lines. As Clay here says, Hurley is the secondary issue. He’s caught, he’s confessed, and he’s as much as buried. The bigger issue, and that’s what the Bureau is proud of, is that we’ve proved it was a Turnerite Group plot and crime. Since we know they’re a pack of Red scum anyway, this gives us what we’ve been hoping for.”

Something inside Dilman prickled, and he said, “What have you been hoping for?”

Kemmler’s arm went out, forcibly pushing Lombardi from his spot near the table. “Let me take it from here, Bob. My department… Mr. President, I laid it on the line with you this morning. I said we have evidence that Valetti, the Turnerites’ Number Two man, is a member of the Communist Party and is a go-between, financing violent racial groups like the Turnerites so they can commit acts of subversion, create an atmosphere of hate and rebellion in this country, and weaken us at home and abroad. I said that the first major crime of this sort had been perpetrated by the Turnerites, and I demanded that we act at once to outlaw them, to discourage further organized violence. You felt I was being hasty about such a big move. I said Turnerites definitely, and you said Turnerites maybe. You wanted more evidence before acting. Now you have the evidence. You can’t have any more doubts. I want to invoke the Subversive Activities Control Act at once. This is our first clean-cut opportunity to show these damn agitators the law has teeth. I’ve got to use it, and put an end to insurrection.”

During this demand, Dilman’s mind had gone to the consequences of invoking the control act. It would place a terrible onus on his race. Worse, and here his cooler legal brain was at work, it would strike a blow against civil liberties, setting a precedent that could soon be misused. Still, there was the law, and there was the crime against this law-Kemmler was right about that-and justice must be observed, and national security (his prime concern) must be preserved. But there must be no mistake, no margin of error, no matter how small or narrow. Lombardi had a reputation for being ruthlessly if not sadistically anti-Communist on the United States domestic front, not wrong in itself, but often he had been too eager to interpret every coloration of opinion and action as Red, and consequently had had his arrests reversed by more unbiased minds. Was he too eager now? Was he being honestly patriotic, or subconsciously using this as a grand opportunity to make headlines and raise himself even higher on his pedestal as the public’s foremost law enforcement officer and superpatriot?

As for Clay Kemmler, he, too, was eager and ambitious, yet Dilman could find no reason to fault him for bad judgment or overriding vanity. Kemmler had been a district attorney, a Federal judge, T. C.’s Cabinet member, a person of spotless reputation. Still, he had shown himself to be impatient, which Dilman regarded as injudicious, and to be motivated less by considerations of political advancement, probably, than by some kind of absolute view of what was just and unjust. He was a man to be listened to, but not one to be overwhelmed by, not without deliberating upon every word he spoke first.

Dilman deliberated, teetering on his dilemma, not wanting to jump or be pushed, yet not wishing to fall.

“I believe you have a sound case,” Dilman said at last. “I’m not concerned about Hurley as an individual. He committed the crime of kidnaping, clearly. Did he commit premeditated homicide or homicide in self-defense? That will be for the Federal courts to determine. So you see, I, too, am concerned only with the larger issue. Was this so-called crime of subversion an organization crime or an individual one? There is still no airtight-”

“Please, Mr. President, don’t start that again,” interrupted Kemmler. For the first time, his rigid face was clotted with anger. He tried to control himself, with little success. “Mr.-Mr. President-how can you have second thoughts about cracking down on an overt and outrageous crime like this? Over in Justice, we have a file on every one of Hurley’s public utterances as head of the Turnerites. Even if his motives were the best, to give your people equality overnight, to be their black Moses, it’s not enough to offset what he’s done. Time and again, in public, he promised violence if the Negroes could not have their way. Then a crime of violence was performed, kidnaping and confessed murder, and who did it? Hurley and his gang. He practiced what he preached for the Turnerites. Are you going to go before the American people and say you doubt that?”

Dilman weakened under his Attorney General’s righteous wrath. Desperately, Dilman tried to fortify himself with Blackstone and the Constitution. “I’m not doubting anything, when there is factual evidence to support it. Yes, I’m inclined to believe this is a Turnerite crime, an organized and planned crime, and I’m inclined to punish the group responsible. But, Mr. Attorney General, when I do something unprecedented, that is necessary to protect us now, in spite of attendant harmful aftereffects, I must be positive I am right, 100 per cent positive, not 99 per cent positive. Did the Turnerite Group meet and plan this crime and vote for it, and then did Hurley and several others, representing the Group, carry it out? If that is the case, it is subversion, and to be punished instantly. Or-and here is my one per cent legal doubt-did the Turnerite Group vote against this as being impractical and inflammatory, and did their leader, hardly a reasonable man at any time, go off on his own, with one or two accomplices, and did they perform the heinous deed as individuals? I must know that the last did not happen. I must learn which it was from Hurley himself, or from his accomplices, when and if you catch them, or from any other reliable Turnerite members you question, or from Turnerite records that you find.” He held up his hands. “That’s my view of it, gentlemen.”

Kemmler glared at him. He said coldly, “What if we can’t find any more evidence?”

“I’ll see then. I’ll study Mr. Lombardi’s findings, the interrogation of Hurley, and make up my mind. I suppose I’ll let you invoke the control act. But until I do, I suggest you not make any rash moves or statements.” He made an effort to gain their friendship, to mollify their anger. “Look, gentlemen, you have Hurley. Go ahead with that. Announce it. As to banning his organization, give me a day or two, overnight at least-”

“Good night, Mr. President,” said Kemmler curtly. “Come on, Bob.”

“I’ll be in touch,” said Lombardi to Dilman. “Good night, sir.”

Regretfully Douglass Dilman watched them leave him. He had not merely disappointed them, he had infuriated them with his indecisiveness. Would they believe that he was motivated by a true concern for justice, or solely by a sympathy and partiality toward hounded men of his own color? He knew their answer. He was less sure of his own.

They had gone, but the door was still open, and now he noticed the bulky Otto Beggs waiting to speak to him.

“Mr. President,” Beggs said, “we’ve been holding a phone call for you. Miss Foster downstairs says she must talk to you. Do you want to take it in here?”

“Yes, please.”

Beggs closed the door, and Dilman walked tiredly to the indigo-colored French telephone that sat on the pier table.

He took up the receiver. Edna Foster was on the line, sounding as harried as he felt.

“Mr. President,” she was saying, “I have Leroy Poole on the other phone. It’s the sixth time he’s called tonight. He insists upon speaking to you personally. He sounded so frantic that-”

“No,” said Dilman irritably. “I have no time for him tonight.”

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Edna Foster apologized. “I wouldn’t have, except he said it was so important, something about Jefferson Hurley being arrested in Texas-I didn’t know what he was talking about-”

Ready to hang up, Dilman suddenly gripped the receiver hard. “Wait a minute, Miss Foster. You say Leroy wants to talk to me about Hurley’s arrest?”

“That’s right, Mr. President.”

Dilman’s brain aligned this information beside another piece of information. The two facts did not belong side by side. What had brought them there together? Apperception told him the answer to this might be the answer to what had made him so indecisive before Kemmler and Lombardi.

“I’ve changed my mind, Miss Foster. Put him on.”

For a few brief seconds the telephone was dumb, and then it had Leroy Poole’s squeaky, hysterical voice. “Mr. President, is that you-you-Mr. President?”

“Yes, Leroy, what is it?”

The words tumbled forth in a torrent. “Mr. President-have you heard?-geez, the FBI caught Jeff Hurley in Texas, and they’re indicting him for the murder of Judge Gage. Mr. President, you can’t let them frame him-it was justifiable homicide-it can be proved-even the kidnaping wasn’t exactly that-they were taking the judge to reason with him, show him new information-but then Gage became violent, got hold of a weapon, tried to kill Hurley, and Hurley did what any man on earth would do-what you and I would do. He defended himself, he acted in self-defense to save his life. That’s the truth of it, I swear, and it’s in your hands. If you haven’t heard, they got poor Hurley-”

“Leroy!” Dilman broke in, and his stern command checked Poole’s hysteria. “Leroy-I have heard-I know all that-but how do you know?”

“Me? How do I know?” Leroy Poole sounded confused. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“I’ll spell out what I mean. Minutes ago I heard of Judge Gage’s death and Hurley’s arrest in Texas from the FBI chief and the Attorney General. Except for the three of us here in the White House, and a handful of FBI agents in Texas, and a couple of Hurley’s friends who got away, nobody knows about this incident. It couldn’t have happened more than an hour ago. And the news just got to us. So how do you know?”

It was as if the phone at the other end had gone dead.

“Leroy, are you there?” Dilman said. “Listen to me. You’re calling, asking for help for Hurley. If you want my help, you’d better give me yours.”

Still the other end of the line was silent, but now Dilman could hear Poole’s labored breathing.

“Leroy, if you don’t want to get involved with the FBI yourself, and I mean that, you’d better level with me. You’ll find me easier to talk to than those agents.” He hesitated, then resumed harshly. “I think you’ve given me the picture already. Many times as you’ve denied it, you are in the Turnerite movement, aren’t you? Apparently a secret member, isn’t that right? Now a lot of things you’ve said recently make sense. Jeff Hurley’s your friend, at least your boss, isn’t he? And now someone has gotten to you-not Hurley, he’s incommunicado this minute-but the others, one of his accomplices in the killing, he or they, they’ve got in touch with you from wherever they are and told you what happened, and they’re desperate, and they know that you know me, and they asked you to appeal to me. Is that right, Leroy?”

He heard Poole’s disjointed whine at last. “Mr.-Mr. Pres-President, I swear on my mom and everything that’s holy, one of the members called long distance, which one, who, I don’t know, no names on the telephone, and simply told me what happened to Jeff Hurley, the truth of it, and asked me to help him, see the truth gets known. That’s all I know, I swear to God in Heaven.”

“All right, I take your word for it, Leroy. But you still haven’t told me what I want to know. This abduction of Judge Gage, it was done by your gang, by the Turnerite Group, wasn’t it?”

“What if it was? Sure it was. You don’t think a man of Jeff Hurley’s moral character and standards would go out for some personal revenge, do you? He and whoever was with him, they agreed to lead the way, to be the first like John Brown, to set an example, not order others to do what they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. So they did it for the Turnerites-not kidnaping, either-but merely taking that sonofabitching, persecuting magistrate to another climate where they could reason with him about his abortion of justice, make him rescind it or admit he was wrong, make him agree to be the instrument to let our poor guys free. This was no hoodlum act, Mr. President. It was a protest act by the only decent, uncorrupted protest society in America today, doing something, not just talk and compromise, but doing something to dramatize the plight of every beat-up and degraded colored man and woman and kid in the country. You-you of all people-should be the first to see that, Mr. President. And you can become the greatest President in history, a hero of our people, if you will shake off those white bastards around you and intercede for Jeff Hurley-”

Dilman felt ill with the knowledge of the truth, with the realization of what had happened and what he must do. His loathing of his truth, its consequences, filled every bone of his body with a creeping dullness.

“Leroy,” he said wearily, “Hurley is no longer the issue. The Turnerite Group is the issue, the whole society, you and every one of them, your membership, your financing, your program-that’s the issue. You may as well know. The Justice Department is going to take legal action against you, to disband and outlaw you, and arrest and fine those who resist.”

There was shock in Poole’s trembling voice. “You-you can’t let them do that.”

“I have no choice. I must.”

“No, listen, Senator-Mr. President-don’t, don’t let them. If you kill Hurley, disband what he’s fought for, you kill me and yourself. With one act, you hurl us back where we were before the Civil War. Freedom now becomes freedom never. Ban us, and the fiery crosses and police dogs win. Every activist group will have to close shop and get off the street when the white man passes. We’re niggers again, with no hope but those ass-dragging old Uncle Toms in the Crispus and NAACP. We’re niggers again, and when we want white men’s food, they’ll throw us our watermelon rind like the Minorities Rehabilitation Bill, so’s our mouths will be full and we’ll have to stay shut up. Mr. President, don’t do it, don’t go bowing and scraping after the ones who’re lording it over you, don’t sell us out, because if you do, you’ll not only kill us, like I said, but you’ll make every one of your people your enemy and the enemy of your Party for life.”

Annoyance at the offensive little writer’s presumption and disrespect momentarily overrode Dilman’s guilts and fears. “I’ve heard enough, Leroy. I have no more time to talk to you. I’ve got my job to attend to. I’m going to do what has to be done. Good-bye and-”

“Hold on, Mr. President,” Poole called out across the wire. “You’re sure, you’re absolutely positive, nothing can change your mind?”

Dilman hesitated, not because of what Poole said but because of how he had said it. Poole was no longer hysterical or wheedling, no longer begging. There had been a new undercurrent in his voice, of slyness, even cruelty. Perhaps, Dilman told himself, he was imagining too much.

He still held the receiver, and now he brought the mouthpiece closer. “No, Leroy, nothing can change my mind. I will instruct the Department of Justice to observe the law immediately. I have no more to say.”

“I have,” said Leroy Poole. “One last thing. Listen. You indict the Turnerites for criminal subversion, and you indict your own son, too. You hear me? You indict your own son. Maybe it is news to you, but Julian is one of us. Julian is one of our secret members assigned to the Crispus Society, to get at their private files of statistics on cases of white persecution, like the information that Hattiesburg was a hot place to begin our crusade. If you condemn us, you-”

Dilman’s hand clenched the telephone until his fingers were nearly bloodless. The nausea that welled high in his throat was not of fear but of disgust. He said, “You’re no better than Hurley-you’ll do anything-you’re a rotten, sick liar, dragging my boy into it.”

“Am I?” said Poole. “Okay, Big Man, ask him-and then let’s see what you’ll do!”

He banged the telephone in Dilman’s ear.

Douglass Dilman stood motionless, the receiver still poised at his mouth and ear. Kemmler and Lombardi were right, and Poole had confirmed it. And they were right about another thing, too. There was no room in America for Turnerites, black or white. They were savage. They were vicious. No tactic, no matter how slimy and foul, was too low for them to accept, with their psychotic minds, and to brandish as a club. Kidnaping. Murder. Now-family blackmail. The Lord damn them and curse them every one.

He jiggled the telephone for the White House operator, and demanded she get him Edna Foster.

When his secretary came on, he said, “Miss Foster, I’m coming down to the office. Ring up Attorney General Kemmler. If he’s not home yet, leave a message with anyone there. Tell Kemmler to come back to the White House immediately. Say the President has made up his mind and must see him at once.”

“Yes, Mr. President. Will that be all?”

“All?” He wondered: Could there be more? Something nagged. “Uh, one last thing. Before you go home, Miss Foster-that letter you wrote to Trafford University, turning them down-tear it up. I’ve changed my mind. Write Chancellor McKaye I consider it a privilege to accept that honorary degree, and I’m glad to accept the invitation to make the principal address. Inform him I will speak not only to his student body and faculty, but to the nation, on a policy decision of national importance. Have you got that, Miss Foster?”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“And then write a short note to my son-to Julian-tell him I’ll be at the school on Founders’ Day, and that I want him there, because-because after the ceremony-I want to have a private talk with him about a matter that concerns us both. Is that clear, Miss Foster? Leave both letters on my desk for signature, and then go home. Now, you’d better get that call in to Kemmler first.”

He hung up, and then he strode to the door, opened it, and went into the corridor. The ever-present Otto Beggs was still on duty.

“Is the show over with?” Dilman asked.

“Fifteen minutes ago, Mr. President. They kept it going with encores, hoping you’d get back. The guests are gone. Except there’s one gentleman-”

It was then that Dilman sighted Nat Abrahams slumped on a red chair in the Main Hall, puffing his pipe. Abrahams came to his feet, waved, and started toward Dilman.

“I thought I’d hang around a little bit,” said Abrahams as he approached, “in case you needed a friendly ear. I was worried the way you left the East Room. Anything I can do, Doug?”

“Damn kind of you, Nat. Thanks. There’s nothing anyone can do for me tonight-except me.” Dilman tried to smile. “Believe me, Nat, I’d rather be talking to you than to the Attorney General. But he’s the one I’ve got to go downstairs to see.”

Nat Abrahams nodded agreeably. “Another time, then.” His eyes did not leave Dilman. “I’m not prying, Doug, but is everything all right?”

“Nat, everything is lousy, and I’m afraid it’ll get worse. Maybe I’ll be able to tell you about it someday soon. Anyway, what was that girl singing in there before? Yes. ‘I’ll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms’ and ‘Lay dis body down.’ That’s what I’d like to do tonight, Nat.”

“Not yet, Doug.”

“No, not yet… Good night, Nat. And, Nat. Don’t let your kids grow up to be President. They deserve better. Remember that.”

V

FOR RELEASE AT 11:00 A.M. EDT

Office of the White House Press Secretary


THE WHITE HOUSE

ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT AT THE FOUNDERS’ DAY CEREMONY, TRAFFORD UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, AFTER RECEIVING AN HONORARY DEGREE IN PHILOSOPHY.

COPIES OF THIS SPEECH ARE BEING DISTRIBUTED TO THE PRESS AT TRAFFORD UNIVERSITY AND FROM THIS OFFICE.

Chancellor McKaye, my fellow citizens:


It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this ninety-second celebration of the founding of your illustrious school. I am deeply gratified by the academic distinction being conferred upon me. This is not simply because the award has been given by a Negro university to one who is Negro, but because the award has been given by an institution-whose program and teachings have risen above the narrow confines of racial thinking-to one who is working as an American member of our national community and not as an Afro-American member of our country.


Indeed, it is about our relationship to our nation as a whole, as Americans, and nothing else, that I wish to address you today. You are aware of the racial unrest in our country. You are aware, also, that the Department of Justice and I have been studying evidence of the activities of these super-government, super-American societies and organizations, composed of extremists of the right and left, of white and black, responsible for fomenting such dangerous unrest in these critical…


IT was a cool, shining autumn morning, and President Dilman, feeling slightly ridiculous in his tasseled mortarboard and warmed by his dark gown, sat comfortably on the outdoor, flag-decorated stage, basking in the sun, only partially attentive to Chancellor McKaye’s laudatory introduction.

Except for the Washington press corps, predominantly white, seated in rows down to his left, busily engaged in reading and marking the mimeographed advance release of his address which Tim Flannery had passed out minutes before, the sea of faces stretching before and around him was black. The faculty and alumni, the ones he could see clearly because they were directly below in folding chairs, appeared interested and hospitable. The mass of the student body beyond, crowded and standing (and Julian probably among them, having rejected a place on the platform), represented a jagged inky blur offering no visible clue to its friendliness or hostility toward him. The fact was, they were there, orderly and silent, and to Dilman this seemed a good sign.

While he was no judge of crowds, Dilman guessed that there must be more than three thousand persons present, an amplitude of humanity that blanketed every foot of the rectangular grassy quadrangle, and the walks and shaded malls leading into it as well. What gave the scene its added dignity, even majesty, were the old stone buildings, vine-covered, rising behind the audience, the Social Science Building, Medgar Evers Memorial Library, the School of Law Building, and Garrison Hall, the student union.

Trafford University was, he told himself again, a gracious and resplendent school and campus. He would never understand why Julian had not made peace with it.

He shifted in his chair to enjoy the sun more, and was surprised again at the lack of tension and fatigue in his body. Certainly he had every reason to feel tired. His administrative duties in recent days had been hectic. He had affixed his signature to the African Unity Pact, previously ratified by the Senate. He had, after some brief soul-searching, allowed the insulting New Succession Bill to become law, not with the approval of his signature but by letting it remain in his desk drawer for ten days and a Sunday, whereby it had automatically become a statute. He had released, through Flannery, his only comment on the New Succession Bill: that he had not been able, in good faith, to sign it or yet to veto it. Since he doubted its constitutionality, he preferred it to be the House’s law and the Senate’s law until it could be judged properly by the Supreme Court in the first test case that should arise.

Certainly, too, he had had every reason for feeling worried in recent days. The White House press room, and his own Oval Office, had been filled with nerve-racking reports about the Hurley trial, the pros and cons on the possible banning of the Turnerite Group, the latest outbreaks of racial violence in Raleigh, Fort Lauderdale, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, Houston, San Diego, Oakland. He had not looked forward to this visit to Trafford, to the potentially explosive announcement he would make on this occasion, and, equally disagreeable, to the private confrontation with his son.

Yet here he was, and it was not bad at all. He felt relaxed. He felt welcome among his own. The speech would likely be well received. And as for Julian, whom he had seen momentarily with the reception committee, that small, reticent boy seemed utterly miscast for the violent role that Leroy Poole had said he was playing. Yet, reconsidering the last, Dilman retained one misgiving: would Poole have dared hurl such a charge as a lie, knowing how easy it would be for him to check it out?

Suddenly, he heard the words “-give you, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!”

He realized that the learned, dusky face of Chancellor McKaye was turned toward him, that there was scattered applause from up front, and that his turn had come at last.

Dilman rose, accepted his degree, accepted the Chancellor’s handshake. Then, putting the beribboned degree aside, he mounted the rostrum, extracting his triple-spaced typed speech from beneath his gown, placed it on the lectern under the curve of microphones, and smiled at the unsmiling black sea stretching before him. “Chancellor McKaye, my fellow citizens-” he began, hearing not his voice but its curious echo in this building-encircled outdoor arena.

The first of the speech went well, he felt. Although Talley, Flannery, Kemmler had all had a hand in the writing of it, had in fact written it, the third sentence had been inserted by himself, after a discussion with Nat Abrahams. This was the sentence about his pride in not being honored as a Negro by a Negro university, but in being honored as a fellow American by a distinguished school of learning that had broadened and risen above racial chauvinism.

Now, a little more uneasily, but keeping his voice deliberate and clear, he entered upon the controversial portion of his address. What he might say had been speculated upon in the press, on the airwaves, the entire week. Today what he said would be official. T. C.’s advisers had agreed that the announcement be made in his speech at Trafford University, because the atmosphere would be one of intellect and reason, and because the audience would be largely Negro, receptive to him, proud of him.

Now, as his eyes skipped to the words ahead, his voice faltered. He was not used to announcing agonized-over decisions in public. But there it was, in unmodified pica lettering on the page beneath the microphones, already released to the press, and he must read what had been written. Controlling his voice, enunciating with care, he plunged ahead.

“You are aware, also, that the Department of Justice and I have been studying evidence of the activities of these super-government, super-American societies and organizations,” he read, “composed of extremists of the right and left, of white and black, responsible for fomenting such dangerous unrest in these critical times when we must preserve unity and peace at home to maintain strength abroad.”

He held his breath, and then, leaving his deliberate manner behind, rushed in where former Presidents had feared to tread.

“Extraordinary challenges to our way of life, we have decided, must be met promptly and firmly by extraordinary countermeasures within the law. Drastic crimes against our government must be met and punished by drastic executive action. Recently, whatever its motivation, a deplorable crime occurred in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A county judge was kidnaped and taken across two state lines, to be held for human ransom. The leader of the abduction was caught by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is now standing trial, and his individual case will be decided, without prejudice, on its own merits. The concern of your government, however, has been with the factors behind the crime itself.”

He no longer looked up from the printed words. His gaze was directed to the carefully prepared text. He read from it with measured emphasis.

“Irrefutable evidence, examined by objective minds, has made it clear that the Federal crime was not perpetrated by irresponsible individuals, but was an act of organization policy. The abduction, we now know, was committed by the activist Turnerite Group, which has been financially backed by the Communist Party, as the first act in a premeditated strategy to subvert our laws, our country, and take the administration of justice into its own hands. Such activity cannot be permitted in a democratic government by the people, of the people, for the people. And so, to halt its cancerous spread, and with full knowledge of my accountability to our tradition of civil liberties, I take this occasion to announce to my fellow Americans that I am invoking the Subversive Activities Control Act against the leadership and membership of the Turnerite Group. As of eleven o’clock this morning, the Turnerite Group is outlawed and banned, and any further activity of any nature by its members will be regarded as criminal and dealt with under the statutes that provide-”

There was a thin crackling sound that interrupted Dilman, a sound similar to that of an eggshell breaking, and it distracted Dilman and made him lift his face to the microphones. He saw at once that it had been an egg, a raw egg that had hit the microphones, broken and splattered, now spilling its liquid yolk down upon the page of his manuscript.

Bewildered, he looked out over his audience and saw that a curious thing was happening before his eyes. The black mass, so inert, so silent, had come alive like dark amoebae breaking apart, moving, under a giant microscope lens. The rear two-thirds of the throng was surging forward, pushing and upending the faculty and dignitaries from their folding chairs on the fore part of the campus lawn.

Suddenly there were red, white and blue signs and banners rising above the dark, animated pack of three thousand. Squinting, Dilman could make out the crude, savage lettering on one sign, then another, and another, and still another: GO HOME, UNCLE TOM!… HE’D RATHER BE WHITE THAN BE PRESIDENT!… BLACK JUDAS! GIVE BACK YOUR THIRTY PIECES!… DILMAN, WIPE OFF THE BURNT CORK! SHOW YOUR TRUE FACE!… TWO RAT FINKS-DILMAN AND ZEKE MILLER!!

And, assaulting him like so many angry black fists, from beneath the signs, behind them, around them, he could hear a single choral chant screamed out by the infuriated horde: “Down with traitor Dilman! Down with traitor Dilman! Down with traitor Dilman!”

Petrified, eyes wide, mouth agape, Douglass Dilman saw the air suddenly filled with flying, churning objects. Dozens of eggs exploded on the platform around him, against the front of the rostrum, and then followed the rotten apples, gnawed chicken bones, chunks of red watermelon and green rinds.

The single chant, hoarse and hating, began to fragment into a hundred shouts of individual protest, shrieks dinning against his ears: “Beat it, you bastard!… You’re puttin’ us back in slavery!… Doughface, doughface!… Give Simon Legree the white man’s degree!… Sellout!… Down, down, down, with the Jim Crow President!”

Instinctively he recoiled at the fury of protest, lifting his arm to shield his face. He could hear police whistles, see the swaying comber of officers in blue, clubs out, bowling over the photographers, as they formed a chained line to protect him from his people. The wood platform on which he wavered now rocked with footsteps, the Chancellor, regents, deans, and Secret Service agents crowding about him to save him.

Someone was tugging at his shoulder, wrenching at it, and he gave way a little to stop the hurt, twisting his head, and he saw it was the Secret Service agent Otto Beggs. As he tried to speak, he was struck sharply on the jaw. His free hand went to his jaw and came away with a handful of gooey, dripping white and yellow egg and pieces of shell. There had been no physical pain in being struck, only psychic pain, followed by shock and fear.

“Come on, come on, outa here, Mr. President, outa here. Got to get you to where it’s safe!” Beggs was shouting.

They had surrounded him entirely now, his white Praetorians, almost lifting him from his feet as they hustled him across the platform, down the rear steps, and through the heavy lines of gathering police officers and faculty members, into the Main Administration Building behind.

Once, breathless, before being shoved inside, he had turned, wanting to call out something to the misled multitude, to explain why he had announced what he had announced, to explain that it would save them in the end. But it was no use. While the raised platform hid the eye center of the vortex, he could make out the rest of the wild mob on either side, the black students swinging their homemade signs and banners and yelling their foul epithets, and the police, reinforced by state troopers, retaliating with their clubs and curses and whistles.

Presently-he would never know how he had arrived there-he found himself on the tan leather couch in Chancellor McKaye’s high-ceilinged, oak-paneled office. The swift transition from the animal bedlam of the disorder outside to the hushed quiet of the soundproofed office left him limp and dizzy. Familiar persons came and went: Beggs wiping the egg from Dilman’s chin, Chancellor McKaye with his endless apologies, and Admiral Oates with his stethoscope and tranquilizers. After the dour White House physician had barred all visitors but those who were absolutely necessary and then himself had left, Dilman had received Tim Flannery.

“I’m sorry, I’m damn sorry, Mr. President,” the press secretary said, scratching his head through his rumpled red hair. “That was unexpected. Even the reporters were thrown.”

“What are they saying?” Dilman wanted to know.

“Most of them think it was planned by the Turnerites themselves,” said Flannery.

Dilman thought about this. “No, I don’t think so,” he said at last. “I don’t think one organization would be big enough. I think-I believe all of us misjudged Negro sentiment here and around the country. I can see it now, after the fact. Because the Crispus Society, the NAACP, the Urban League were still for going slowly, for the minorities bill, outspoken against the activist outfits like the Turnerites, we thought that was the heavy majority of Negro opinion. We’re wrong, Tim. I think those young Negro boys have had it. They may not be Turnerites, but they’re sympathetic, they want action. Gradualism is out. They’re rebelling against their fathers, who accommodated themselves to the segregation system. The young are disenchanted by the recent past. Their fathers failed. Hurley and his leaders represented a new look in paternal authority. And now, without thinking it out, they expected the first Negro in the Presidency to see things their way. And I refused. I went along with their fathers and the white men who fenced them in. I used a legal instrument to cut off their momentum and make their goal harder to reach. They weren’t positive I’d do it, but they suspected I would, and they came here prepared for it, with their signs and slogans, waiting. That’s the sum of it, I’d guess, the gospel truth.”

“Do you want to say anything like that to the press?” Flannery asked. “They’re clamoring for a statement.”

“Now? Lord, no. Now’s no time for reason and psychological explanations. Let this break up, and die down. Maybe we can issue something later.”

“Well, I’ll keep the correspondents away from you,” Flannery said. “I’ll tell them you’re safe and sound, and will have some statement to make tomorrow or the day after. They’ll be busy enough trying to interview some of the student demonstrators, find out what drove them to this.”

“Good luck to Reb Blaser,” Dilman said with a grimace.

Flannery stood up. “Mr. President, I’m still not so sure that demonstration was representative of all Negro feeling. I think you’ll see most of them are behind you when the minorities bill becomes operative.”

“I think you’ll find you’re wrong,” said Dilman. “They’ll look on the minorities bill as a white man’s bill. They’ll look on that as a forgiveness bribe, after today’s announcement, curtailing their right to direct action.”

“Maybe,” said Flannery.

“I hope maybe, Tim,” said Dilman. “When are we supposed to leave here?”

“After the Chancellor’s luncheon and-”

“Cancel it,” said Dilman. “McKaye’ll understand.”

“Done,” said Flannery. “Then you wanted a brief meeting with your son.”

“Yes. Is he safe? Will you find out about him? Give me a little while alone here to get my bearings, and then send him along.”

“Okay.”

“Tim, I could stand a drink, nothing too potent. Maybe a small brandy or some wine-”

Dilman had been alone ten minutes when Beggs opened the door to admit his press secretary once more. Flannery came in with a well-filled crystal decanter and a wine glass. He set both on the coffee table.

“The Dean of the Law School provided this,” he said. “Sherry. Will that do?”

“It’ll do fine.”

“The mob is gradually dispersing,” Flannery said.

“Any serious injuries?”

“A few bloody noses, one fractured wrist, that’s all. By the way, someone located Julian. He’s in his dorm room with his friends. He’s shaken up a bit, naturally, but he’s okay.”

“I’ll be ready for him in-in fifteen minutes.”

Alone once more, Dilman unwrapped a cigar, readied it, but was too distracted to light it. He put it down in the tray, reached for the decanter with his trembling hand, then realized that Flannery had already poured his drink. He took up the sherry in his right hand, steadying it with his left, and sipped it.

He reconsidered what he had done today. He had urged his people, already so grievously hurt, to uphold white men’s laws. He had alienated his Negro support. But conversely, had he gained white support, restored the majority of the people’s confidence in him? He was doubtful of this. The white electorate probably felt that he was carrying out, with reluctance, what T. C.’s advisers insisted he carry out. He had lost much, won little.

Yet these mathematics were not what concerned and bothered him. If he had felt positively in the right, nothing on earth would have disturbed him. What bothered him, as it had from the beginning, was that the Turnerites had qualified for condemnation only if they were Communist-financed. Yet he was still uncertain of the truth of this accusation. He had bought Attorney General Kemmler’s flimsy case after that bad telephone exchange with that damn Leroy Poole, after learning from Poole that the Mississippi abduction had been inspired by Turnerite policy, which frightened him, and after hearing the lie that his own son was a part of this terror, which had emphasized for him how far the members of that gang would go in maligning the innocent to gain their ends. But the reasonable part of his brain doubted that the Turnerites were literally subversive, dedicated to overthrowing the government. His black skin knew what all of Kemmler’s Justice Department attorneys would never understand, and what that rioting throng that had stopped his speech did understand, that the Turnerites were out to overthrow inequality, not government but inequality. Now it was too late for these second thoughts. If injustice this was, he must find other means to correct it.

He had finished his sherry, and then realized with a start that not fifteen minutes but twice that time had gone by. He jumped up, went to the door, and opened it. Beggs, who was planted outside, quickly turned.

“Has my son-?” Then he saw Julian, miserably huddled in a chair of the reception room. “Oh, hello, Julian. Come on in.” As Julian brushed past him with only a muttered greeting, Dilman asked Beggs, “How is it going?”

“We got it under control. Only a few handfuls of them hanging around.”

“Good. Tell Tim Flannery to have the car here in fifteen minutes. He can notify the helicopter crew.”

He closed the door carefully, to make certain it was fastened securely, and then he turned to his son. Julian was standing beside the coffee table, patting his checkered sport coat against his dark-gray slacks. His short hair was plastered down and glossy as ever, and his thyroid eyes were fixed on the sherry decanter.

Dilman indicated the decanter. “Want some?”

“No.”

“All right, sit down. We don’t have much time. Let’s talk.”

Defiantly, Julian remained on his feet, but once Dilman had settled on the couch, the boy yanked a chair nearer the coffee table and lowered himself into it.

“I don’t know what we’re supposed to talk about,” Julian said sullenly.

“We’ll see… Were you out there in that mob?”

“For a while. When the guys with the signs started infiltrating in, I decided to get out. I went with two of my friends back to my room.”

“Did you know this was going to happen?”

“If you did what they hoped you wouldn’t, yes, I knew it would happen. Everyone’s been steamed up since Hurley was arrested.”

“Have the other students been giving you a rough time?”

Julian examined his polished nails. “Not especially. I told them I didn’t know what you’d do. I told them if you did the banning, I was against it, and on their side.”

“I see.”

“I don’t have to listen to white men,” Julian said angrily. “I make my own decisions.”

Dilman picked up his unsmoked cigar. “Maybe I’m not listening to white men or colored men either. Maybe, in my position, I have a higher responsibility. Maybe I’m listening to the Constitution.”

“Oh, sure.”

Dilman knew that he could not continue to be high-minded and pretentious. He was dealing with his son, who was once more disillusioned with him and, in effect, disowning their relationship. “You know my feelings about the law, Julian. Possibly it would help if you’d transmit them to your friends.”

“Help who?” said Julian. “I’ll be lucky if I can find anybody to speak to me.”

Dilman’s heart ached. He put the cigar down again. “Do you want to transfer out of here, Julian?”

“A month ago, yes. Now, no. Not now. I’ll show them I belong to me.”

Dilman sighed audibly. The time had come. It was the wrong time, but then, perhaps, there would never be a right time to speak what was foremost in his mind. “Are you sure you belong only to yourself, Julian? Are you sure of that?”

Julian’s bulging eyes left the examination of his fingernails. He glanced suspiciously at his father. “What does that mean?”

“Do you have any allegiance elsewhere? I know you’re an officer in the student end of the Crispus Society-”

“That crud. Are you serious? I joined them before I grew up.”

“And after you grew up, Julian, what else did you join?”

Julian’s brow wrinkled, once more wary, and his pointed English shoe dug at the carpet. “What else did I join? I don’t get you, Dad.”

Dilman edged forward toward his son, until his knee hit the coffee table. “All right, cards on the table, Julian. I forget how many days ago-the night after the FBI caught Hurley-I received a call from the young man you so much admire-from Leroy Poole-pleading Jefferson Hurley’s case for self-defense and begging me not to ban the Turnerites. I said I’d have to ban them. Do you know what he said?” He watched his suspicious son carefully now. “He said to me, ‘You indict the Turnerites for criminal subversion, and you indict your own son.’ He said ‘Julian is one of us, stealing information from the Crispus people, getting statistics about persecutions in places like Hattiesburg.’ To that effect. That’s what he said.”

Julian’s face was filled with wrath. “Leroy Poole? He said that to you?”

“That and more. Yes, Julian. And I told him he was a rotten liar. He said, ‘Okay, ask Julian.’ ” He paused. “I’m here, Julian. I am asking you.”

“Asking me what? You mean you even listened one minute to that sonofabitchin’ smelly satchel-mouth? Him? He said all that?”

Dilman had never heard his son use such language before. Yet he was relieved by the boy’s indignation. “I’m quoting him almost exactly. I told you I did not believe him. I came here to make sure.”

Julian was on his feet, agitatedly wringing his hands. “That bastard, that dirty troublemaker.”

“Julian, I wouldn’t press this further, but obviously there’s a lot at stake for both of us. Were you ever, even for a day, for a minute, a secret member of that Turnerite Group? Just give me a simple yes or no, and that’s it.”

“No, I never was. I swear to it. Now are you happy?”

Dilman stood up. “I’m not happy. But I feel better. I’m glad you had the good sense for which I always gave you credit.”

“I never belonged,” said Julian shrilly, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re righter than you are.”

“I’m not interested, Julian. Thanks. Be well. I’ll see you soon in Washington.”

He tried to go to the door, but Julian blocked his way. “Dad, you can be President or whatever, but there’s a lot who put more faith in Jeff Hurley’s ideas than yours.”

“I told you I’m not interested.” He went around his son to the door.

“You’d better be, you’d just better be!” his son shouted.

He refused to be baited or engaged further. He had come here to ask his son for a plain answer. He had heard his son’s answer and it was satisfactory. That shone bright as a jewel on a dismal day. He would not allow this tiny gem of happiness to be tarnished so soon.


FOR RELEASE AT 8:00 P.M. EDT

Office of the White House Press Secretary

THE WHITE HOUSE

PRESIDENT DILMAN RETURNED FROM NEW YORK CITY AT 6:30 P.M. HE SPENT A HALF HOUR CONFERRING IN HIS OFFICE WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL KEMMLER AND SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE MRS. CUMMINS.


AT 7:15 P.M. THE PRESIDENT MET WITH THE REVEREND PAUL SPINGER AND DIRECTORS OF THE CRISPUS SOCIETY. FOLLOWING THE MEETING, THE PRESIDENT MADE AN IMPROMPTU STATEMENT TO THE PRESS.

PRESIDENT DILMAN: The unfortunate incident that took place on the campus of Trafford University this morning, after my announcement of the banning of the Turnerite Group, underlines the necessity…


“ ‘-for every American citizen to be alerted to the subversive dangers of extremism, from wherever it originates,’ President Dilman told the White House press corps gathered about him in the West Wing lobby earlier this evening. Showing no ill effects from the egg-throwing episode at Trafford, which is creating controversial headlines abroad, the President went on calmly to tell his listeners that he was taking further steps to align Negro moderates alongside-”

A voice from the far corner of Leroy Poole’s motel room bellowed, “Shut that goddam fink announcer off!”

Immediately Poole got out of his chair and hopped to the transistor radio propped against the bag of fruit, and with a roll of his thumb muted the news report.

Pocketing the tiny radio, Poole wheeled to face the others, who were sitting or lolling about the large motel room he had rented the morning after the night he had put the zinging old filial arrow into that bastard Dilman. Once having revealed to Dilman that the kidnaping had been an official Turnerite action, and having zinged him with the news of Julian’s secret membership, he had begun worrying that Dilman might sic the FBI bloodhounds after him for more information. Losing no time, Poole had borrowed a car and removed himself and his effects from his hotel in the center of Washington to this obscure second-class motel on Canal Road, near Fletcher’s Boat House, three miles from Georgetown.

Since then, Poole had decided that he probably was not being sought for more information after all. Most likely, for fear of compromising his kid Julian, the President had told no one of the call from his biographer. Finally Poole had felt safe enough to let the word of his whereabouts be known to those who mattered. One by one they had converged outside Washington, the last of the Turnerite leaders, to determine what could be done for Hurley and for the survival of their organization.

There were seven of them here-Poole excluded himself-and they had been gathered for at least four hours, drinking beer and eating cheese and ham sandwiches. They had reported, they had debated, they had speculated, taking breaks to listen to the news broadcasts, and the time had come for a settlement.

Frank Valetti, Hurley’s second-in-command, product of a Negro-Italian interracial marriage, who resembled a bronzed Indian brave (and was the most persuasive and sophisticated among them, excepting Leroy Poole himself), had informally presided. He had already burned the membership records and minutes of meetings. He had accounted for the cash on hand and suggested how it be spent. The vote had been seven to one in favor of Valetti’s proposal that the funds be turned over to a white leftist lawyer, a good headline maker in Manhattan, to be used to reinforce Jeff Hurley’s defense. The lone dissenter had been Burleigh Thomas, one of the two men who had assisted Hurley in the kidnaping of Gage, and who had gotten away unrecognized, to be the last arrival at the motel. Burleigh Thomas, a constantly fuming, short-tempered, squat and muscular truck driver with matted hair, a low broad-bridged nose, a cleft chin and an abrasive voice, had wanted most of the remaining Turnerite funds held out to support further underground violence.

“Jeff Hurley’s a stuck pig, scalded, skinned, and ready to be cooked,” Burleigh Thomas had said. “Why throw the dough down the drain? Let those of us who wants to, go on and use it for getting in a few more licks against the whiteboys.”

Valetti had replied reasonably that Dilman’s banning had left them disorganized, in danger, and further activist resistance was pointless at this time. Later, perhaps, but not now. Leroy Poole had added that Jeff Hurley was not dead yet, that there were means to save him, that it was their duty to try, and to make a good propaganda campaign for their ideals along the way. This would take what was left of the money. And so the vote had gone seven to one.

Settlement time had arrived. Disposition of the corpus sine pectore.

“Well, gang,” said Valetti, uncrossing his legs and bringing his hands together, “I guess that does it. I think we’re all of a mind to disband. Our head man is gone. Our records are gone. Our funds are disposed of. We’re through-at least for now.”

“What are you going to do, Frank?” Poole asked.

“I’m going abroad for a while.”

“Abroad, listen to him,” Burleigh Thomas mocked. “Abroad, eh? Chickening out, you mean.”

Valetti shook his head gently. “Don’t try to bug me, Burleigh, we’re on the same side. Yup, I’m going abroad, because I don’t want the Federals badgering me or using me against Jeff Hurley. Besides I want to raise some dough for our cause, lots of it, and then come back and reorganize something new.”

“Who’s giving you dough abroad?” Burleigh Thomas snorted. “Who gives a damn about us anywheres else? Them that does, they ain’t got the green stuff, and them that has, they don’t give a damn.”

“Settle down, Burleigh.” Valetti’s lips curled in a knowing smile. “I’ve got my means. I suggest you join up with our old friends in the more respectable societies, and do what you can to rouse them up a bit. Just do your best, and when the climate here is ripe, and I have a nest egg for us, I’ll be back and calling on you, all of you. As for Jeff, I guess we can trust the lawyers to do what can be done, and if they get nowhere, we can depend on Leroy here to try to intervene with the President for clemency.”

“I don’t know if Dilman’ll even see me again,” said Poole.

“You’ve got enough to make him see you again.” Valetti winked. “Maybe one or two of our records weren’t burned.”

Burleigh Thomas was on his feet, hiking up his overalls. “I wouldn’t spit on that goddam yellowbelly Dilman, let alone go asking him any favors. I’d see him for only one thing, to bust his goddam face wide open. He’s the cause of all our trouble, I tell you. I could see it from the day he came in that job, told Jeff Hurley as much from the start, that Dilman would be our worst enemy, bad or worse than some goddam whiteshirt Kleagle. Like I said to Jeff from the beginning, we better be prepared to fight that there white nigger of ours hard as we fight the whiteboy skunks. Well, you guys can see I was right, wasn’t I? Lookit him, lookit Dilman. When you got a Rastus nigger up there, you got someone doing the backward bends, so’s he not even treating us like some stumblebum white politician would, let alone like a nigger should. I tell you, I’d sure enough give my left gut to see T. C. still President, or even that Yankee man, Eaton, because they’d at least remember our voting power, and they wouldn’t be hacking us down with that subversive controls business. But Dilman-” Thomas glared at Poole. “I’d rather let my pal Jeff Hurley die in the chair than ask that yellowbelly nigger Dilman one favor.”

“I don’t have to ask Dilman any favors,” piped up Leroy Poole. “Like Frank says, we’ve got other means to deal with turncoats.”

“You bet we have, but not by asking favors,” Thomas growled. He stared at the others. “Okay, you fraidcat punks, do whatever you want to do. Some of us ain’t giving up so easy, no sir. We’re not letting any crappy control laws put in by that possum slummock make us run for cover.”

“You haven’t got a chance on your own,” said Frank Valetti. He threw his raincoat over his arm and went to the motel door,. “I’m hitting the road. Good luck to each of you. We’ll win what Jeff and all of us are after-one day, someday soon. Good night.”

After Valetti had gone, the others shook hands with Poole and one another and departed, singly and in pairs. Presently the room was empty of all but Burleigh Thomas and Leroy Poole.

Thomas pulled on his heavy sweater as Poole waited. Poole could see that Thomas was deliberately fussing too much with his garment, as if he wanted to speak about something on his mind.

Poole felt uncomfortable. It often amazed him that one organization, with one purpose and goal, could have room for men so dissimilar as Thomas and himself. For Poole, the ones like Thomas were aboriginals, too brutish and demoniac to appreciate the refinements of rebellion and freedom, as did ones like himself. The Thomases were the easiest targets for whites like Zeke Miller and Bruce Hankins and Everett Gage, the late Everett Gage, who did not believe such beings were prepared for civilized equality. When you agreed to set them free, you opened the cage. But what then? Could untrained, barbarous, vindictive primates be let loose to live with skilled, educated, law-abiding higher creatures?

Instantly Poole hated himself for entertaining red-neck thoughts. His mind went to his morning mental exercises, and he knew that Burleigh Thomas was as deserving of freedom, no matter how ill-prepared he was for it, as he himself, and he felt kindlier toward the truck driver.

He found Burleigh Thomas scrutinizing him. Poole suffered a lump of guilt inside. “Well, Burleigh, I wish you-”

“Leroy, what you going to do next?”

Poole was surprised that his primitive companion could have such concerns. “Do next? Why, first off, I’m kind of low on eating money. I guess I’ll knock off my book, the one I’m writing on Dilman, and get what is owed to me. And then I’ll start pounding my typewriter pulpit for real, trying to heat our people up some more. Guess I’m still a poor preacher boy at heart.”

“Naw, I mean about our movement.”

“What’s there to do? I’m keeping an eye on Jeff Hurley’s trial. I already heard from his old lady, Gladys, in Louisville, and his other relatives. They’re depending on me. I don’t think the Feds will give Jeff more than a stiff sentence, manslaughter or some such. They don’t want more trouble. If it goes past that, well, I guess I’ll have to go to Dilman. I can make him see me. And from what I’ve read, he’s got it in his power to save Jeff.” He could see that Thomas was not satisfied, and then he remembered. “Our movement, you asked? Like Frank Valetti said, the Attorney General and Dilman shot us down. I guess I’ll play dead until the shooting stops.”

Burleigh Thomas covered his matted hair with a wool cap. “Not me,” he said. “There are maybe a half dozen of us who ain’t letting those big shots think they won the crap game because they got the loaded bones. Nope. We’re going to keep moving in on them holy Joes, the way Jeff would want.”

“I wish you luck, Burleigh, but the dice are still loaded. Valetti’s a pretty smart guy. Why don’t you do what he suggests-take it easy until-”

“To hell with Valetti. He’s got his Commie friends to go back to. That ain’t got a friggin’ thing to do with us. We got no nothing waiting for us but to keep fighting.” He paused, and considered Poole through slit eyes. “You’re a mighty smart kid, Leroy. I been listening to you. They ain’t housebroke you yet, for sure.”

“Nobody has, and nobody ever will.”

“I don’t think we’re so far apart, except like in education. Knowing Dilman the way you do, I sorta have a hunch you agree with me he’s the worst yellowbelly sonofabitch ever got born black.”

“Basically, I can’t disagree with you,” Poole conceded. “However, his fault isn’t that he’s mean, but that he’s scared-”

“Shivering scared, yup. Old cullud-boy-in-the-cemetery-scared, yup. But to me there’s nothing badder, because that makes him suck around those whiteboys, barking and standing on his hind legs when they give him their finger-snapping. It’s like he’s afraid to recognize us, to prove he don’t know us, so he’s twice as tough against us. I think even that scrotum-face, rumdum Zeke Miller would be better-”

“We-ll, I wouldn’t go that far, Burleigh.”

“You’re going to see I’m right,” insisted Thomas. “Before Dilman’s finished in office, we’ll all be back on the plantations picking cotton. I’m just saying to you, do what you want, but there are some of us not letting him get away with it. What Jeff started, we’re finishing. We’re going to bug that Dilman until he’s gotta tell difference between black from white.” Thomas hesitated. “You sure you don’t want to stay with us?”

Leroy Poole patted his belly. “I’m not built for the muscle part of it, Burleigh. I’m strictly a word man. Words can be fists, too.”

Thomas made two hamlike fists. “Not like these, no words like these. Okay, Leroy, you do your doings your way, I do them mine.” He went to the door, wrenched the knob, but turned back before opening it. “Maybe you’ll have a change of heart. If you do, I’ll be here a few days. If you want to talk, you can always get hold of me through my kid sister. She’s a good kid. Leave a note for her at the Walk Inn-that’s a booze joint on Seventeenth-and say you want me to call. Just leave a note for my sis.”

As he opened the door, Poole called out, “What’s her name, Burleigh?”

“Ruby-same last name like mine-Ruby Thomas. She knows where I am every minute.”


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office of the White House Press Secretary

THE WHITE HOUSE

FOLLOWING THE ORDERS OF THE WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN, ADMIRAL OATES, THE PRESIDENT IS SPENDING THE DAY ABOARD THE PRESIDENTIAL YACHT “FREDDIE BOY.” THE YACHT DEPARTED FROM THE WASHINGTON NAVY YARD DOCK AT 9 A.M., EDT. EXCEPT FOR CONFERRING WITH SECRETARY OF STATE EATON ON THE FORTHCOMING CONFERENCE WITH PREMIER KASATKIN, AND REVIEWING THE FINAL MINORITIES REHABILITATION PROGRAM BILL DELIVERED TO HIM BY CONGRESS, THE PRESIDENT WILL DEVOTE HIS TIME TO DEEP-SEA FISHING AND RESTING.


BY ONE o’clock in the afternoon, Douglass Dilman knew that the cruise was a mistake, and that he was in for another fiasco.

When Admiral Oates had suggested the brief nautical outing, his need for a relaxed day away from his office, especially because of the agitation induced by the Trafford University incident and the slight flare-up of his blood pressure, Dilman had not been able to reject the idea. Somehow, he had felt, it would make him lose face in front of Governor Talley, Secretary Eaton, and several other advisers in his office at the time. With feigned enthusiasm, he had agreed to the cruise. He had not told any one of them that except for one trip on a Great Lakes steamer and several ferryboat crossings to Staten Island, he had never been on a boat, and he had never in his life been on one that went out to sea.

His apprehension had been somewhat alleviated in the early morning, after he had been piped aboard and been made welcome by Commander Chappell, and been saluted by the six enlisted men on deck. As the ninety-two-foot yacht-once christened Eisenhower’s Barbara Ann and Kennedy’s Honey Fitz, and last and still T. C.’s Freddie Boy (so lettered in bright gold on the stern)-proceeded down the Anacostia River, and into Chesapeake Bay, Dilman had been taken on a tour of the vessel by Admiral Rivard, the veteran Navy Chief of Staff.

Hardly conscious of the rocking of the yacht, the steady creaking of the timbers, Dilman had admired the white, mahogany-trimmed ship from stem to stern, from port to starboard-or was it starboard? Wasn’t it aft? Or fore? Or bow? He had been as baffled by the Admiral’s language as he would have been by Latin or Hebrew, in fact, more so. Nodding constantly, to display his pleasure and comprehension, Dilman had covered not only every inch of the deck, but the Commander’s cabin where the helm could be seen, and then he had gone down the companionway-or was it hatch?-no, companionway, absolutely-between the nauseating, freshly painted walls to the cabins below. He had visited the dining room, which seated forty, and the large Presidential stateroom or bedroom with its two bunks, and the attractive lounge with its green carpet, chairs, television set, radiotelephone, and Currier and Ives nautical prints.

On the afterdeck-he was sure Admiral Rivard had called it the afterdeck-Dilman had gratefully settled into a bamboo chair on the hemp rug. He had tried to be attentive to Secretary Eaton, as the Secretary reported on his recent conversation with Soviet Ambassador Rudenko. Dilman had assimilated the gist of it-three-day summit conference to be held at the château in Chantilly, twenty-six miles north of Paris, with the final meeting capped by the French President’s farewell banquet, to be held in Versailles Palace-and all the while he had been hypnotized by the yacht’s rising and falling rail over Eaton’s shoulder. Dilman had measured, secretly, the distance the rail heaved above the horizon line and dipped beneath it. The upward motion had taken in two inches of perfectly blue and cloudless sky. The downward motion had taken in three inches of pea-green, sea-green water. The more his stomach gurgled, the more his gorge heaved toward his throat, the more attentive he had tried to be to Eaton’s voice.

He had not known how long his Secretary of State intended to go on, but he had been thankful when Edna Foster interrupted him with a shore-to-ship message. After that, Commander Chappell announced cheerfully that they were in the Atlantic, in the open sea, and the fishing tackle was ready for him on the port side. To Dilman, the obstacle of locating the port side (without daring to ask) through this floating maze, and the sickening knowledge that they were bouncing about in the middle of the ocean had given him the courage to state that he was not prepared to fish yet.

“I’ve got too much work,” he had said.

The Commander had persisted. “Mr. President, you ought to take advantage of a warm windless day like this. Not many this time of the year, I’ll tell you. But look there, the sun, not a breeze, sea smooth as glass, and some channel bass and marlin waiting to be caught.”

“Thank you, Commander, soon as I can.”

He slunk off, making a pretense of finding Miss Foster, but when he reached the companionway, Sally Watson had intercepted him. The sea change had made her more exuberant and prettier than ever. Her blond hair, swept back, was partially covered by the hood of her brightly striped Italian sweater. Her slim hips, as she walked, moved provocatively under her snug white raw-silk slacks.

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” she had asked joyously, lifting her sunglasses.

“Fine, fine,” he had said.

“I’m utterly famished. The salt air really gives one an appetite. But we’re not allowed to eat lunch, Mr. President, until you lead the way. The steward is all set.”

“Lunch already?” he had said, and inside, his stomach again climbed toward his gullet. “Too early for me. You tell the steward I’ll eat later. Go right ahead, and let everyone know they can get started.”

While the others went below to be served by the white-jacketed messboys, Dilman had remained on the deck alone. For a while he had sat in a deck chair, warm in his gray wool suit coat and constricting starched collar, shutting his eyes to the slight roll of the yacht, trying not to think of the work that awaited him in the lounge, wondering if Nat Abrahams had received his message last night and would be able to come out and visit him.

Too quickly an hour had passed, for he could hear the chatter of the diners as they came out on the deck, and he had pushed himself to his feet. He had not wanted to be found slumped in a deck chair, wilted and ailing. It would have been embarrassing and un-Presidential. The least that he could do, he had decided, was to assume some casual, more presentable pose. He had walked unsteadily to the bow section of the ship, and propped himself with elbows upon the rail, striking an attitude of deep meditation.

And he was at one o’clock, suffocated with nausea, increasingly dizzy and bleary, and sorry for himself.

From the corner of his eye he could see Arthur Eaton, so natty in his white yachting cap, foulard, brass-buttoned Navy coat and immaculate white trousers, joining Sally Watson at the prow, joking, laughing, enjoying this perfect day on the water. For the first time, the very first time, Dilman envied Arthur Eaton, not because Eaton was white and he was black, but because Eaton had had the advantage of being raised to this kind of life, being a natural part of it, belonging to it. Eaton was to the Presidential yacht born. Himself, he was strictly a ferry commuter, a Chicago elevated or New York subway type.

Bitterly he turned away from that pair and looked out to the hostile sea again. How he envied his predecessors, those natural outdoor maritime Presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy and T. C., gifted with sea legs, their class and breeding inborn-but all born, all with the advantages from their day one. Weakly, elbows stiffening on the rising and falling rail, he indulged his self-pity. This goddam yacht was only a symbol of the whole impossible thing. It was rotten to grow up and live one’s entire life as an outcast, a fringe man, and that went not only for Negroes but for many whites, too, whites without background and money and training. It was rotten to live and die dampened by inferiority and awkwardness, never really knowing which fork, which spoon, never knowing etiquette, or the games of leisure, surfing and polo, and that latest South American dance, never knowing sumptuous family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas (with Mother, the matriarch, not Ma, with knobby washboard hands), never knowing foundations and charities and old school ties and stock portfolios and-and assurance, confidence, acceptance-never knowing yachts.

This was not just himself, a usurper here, a crasher, a servant made up like his master; this was most people everywhere, crippled for leisure by the exhausting striving to make good, make ends meet, make it until coronary time. That was Nat, too, in a way; Nat, like himself, knowing there was better while you pressed your nose to the pane, and knowing you had not the price of admission. There were greater inequities in life than this, but this was one that stayed with you forever. Like your skin, if it was black. His throat was filled with his gut, and he wanted to vomit it all overboard, but he fought it down, clenched his teeth and fought it, so as not to be what he was in front of Eaton and the Admiral and the women, and the Zeke Millers of the earth.

“Mr. President-”

He turned from the rail to find his physician, Admiral Oates, contemplating him.

“Are you all right?” the physician inquired.

“Why, yes, of course.” His Adam’s apple hardly had room to deny it.

“I’ve had an eye on you. Mmm. You seem a trifle distressed.”

“I’m tired. It’s hard to get off the treadmill. I’m tired.”

“Why don’t you go down into the bedroom and grab forty winks? Let me catch some fish for you.”

He wanted to buss the doctor for the face-saving order. “That’s a good idea. Maybe I will try to nap.”

He had started for the companionway when Oates caught his hand. He felt the physician press something hard and square into his palm. He looked at Oates questioningly.

“You wear this with your lifebelt,” said Admiral Oates, and he left.

Not until Dilman had reached the bottom of the stairs did he open his palm to see what Oates had given him. It was a tiny pillbox. He turned it over. On the label was printed “For motion sickness, 1 every 4 hours.” Ill as he was, he felt comforted, not only for the physician’s understanding but for his discretion.

Entering the bedroom cabin, Dilman yanked a silver pitcher out of its holder beside the lower bunk, filled a thick-rimmed glass with water, then swallowed a Dramamine pill and water. Squeamishly, he held on to the upper bunk and waited for the result of the silent civil war inside his throat. Either the pill would make it through the enemy line and save him, or the enemy would throw up the pill and overwhelm him. It took twenty minutes to a half hour for a pill to dissolve and work, he had read in some digest magazine, and he waited, hot with anguish, moist with perspiration. He wanted to lie down on the bunk and die. The defeat would be too enormous, and he resisted bowing to it.

After fifteen minutes, hearing a roar outside, he staggered to the porthole to see what was happening. What he saw was the PT boat Guardian, filled with Beggs and several other armed Secret Service men, slicing through the water thirty yards away. Far off there was the speck of what appeared to be a cabin cruiser, growing gradually larger. He left the porthole, once more tempted by the bunk, and then, blindly determined to survive, he walked out of the bedroom.

Within a minute, he was inside the yacht’s Presidential lounge, where the pitch and roll of the vessel were less apparent. He surveyed the off-white walls of the lounge, the green-and-white curtains with their nautical pattern, the soft aquamarine-colored chairs, the painting of the Independence hung over the television set. The lounge was as gracious as any room in the White House, and he knew that he was best off here, because he would not dare to be ill in a room like this.

Observing his locked briefcase propped against a deep chair, he made his way to it, sat down heavily, and devoted himself to the combination that sprung open his lock. There was only one thick sheaf of printed sheets, fastened into a manila binder, inside the briefcase. This was the Minorities Rehabilitation Bill that the Senate and House had passed, and that was now in his hands awaiting his signature. He had read it thoroughly last night, made some notes and put question marks in the margins about certain provisions, and now he must reread the seven-billion-dollar bill once more and do what needed to be done, what the majority of his staff, of Congress, of white America and black America were apparently waiting for him to do.

He opened the manila binder to examine the bill a final time, but his vision was double, and his stomach heaved higher and higher toward his throat. He dropped the folder on the end table and gagged, clutching the arms of his chair, willing for himself the sea legs and stomach and mind and inner ears of F. D. R. or Kennedy or T. C. And then his convulsions stopped, and he lay back limp, arms flopped on his thighs, legs outstretched, a minor skirmish won, praying for the Dramamine to put down the enemy and save the beleaguered battlements of well-being and dignity.

Half reclining in this state of stupor, Dilman tried to remove his mind from water to land. His memory sought out Wanda, Julian, Mindy, Aldora… piteous Aldora of their long ago… it had gone wrong the second-to-last day of the last week of their honeymoon, driving home through Joplin, Missouri… going into that nice-looking bar for a late afternoon drink, because Aldora from the start had always liked a late afternoon drink, and when inside having their cocktail, those two drunken young business fellows had come up, hey-buddying him, hey-buddy-what-you-doin-with-one-of-our-white-girls, hey-buddy?… and knowing they were loaded to the gills, trying to explain, not fight, explain that Aldora was colored like himself and his bride… and trying to leave until they grabbed him and held him, saying hey-buddy, you-not-leavin, no, not leavin with any white girl… and him trying to pull free, until they wrestled him down and pummeled him bloody and Aldora began screaming… and the men going at last, hooting and whooping… and he and Aldora… the real beginning of the trouble had been then, but not the real beginning, for it had begun when she was born more white than black, fair skin, unfair heart… displacing her bitterness at fate, life, for making her almost white but not enough, displacing it by resenting her lot with him, his dark skin… and his striving to show her he was no poor black trash, but more a man, worthy of her, big lawyer, big politician… but no good, because there was Mindy, almost white like herself, so white she also had the prospects Aldora had abandoned too early, and Aldora’s growing contempt for him and her hoarding and segregating of Mindy, as if he would contaminate his daughter… and then Aldora wanting another Mindy, to prove something, maybe flee from him, but again no good… worse… getting Julian, black as coal, reminder that her husband was black and she was black and Mindy was black too… and his own trying to lift them up in politics, lift them high as white men, to make up for being Aldora’s black albatross, and Mindy’s, too… but too late to lift them up with him, because they had escaped, both escaped… Mindy, with Aldora’s conspiratorial help, into a white private school in Colorado, the name of which he’d never known, and then into the East, the white white East… and Aldora escaping too, into a bottle, a bottle a day, as insulated by glass as a model ship in a great big bottle… and his trying everything to reach her and help her escape, even trying to crawl into the bottle with her, no good… even taking a room in the sanitarium with her, no good… until she’d escaped at last, in a coffin, in the ground, where no one is almost white, where all are equal, still and equal, possessed of one mind, dead, one flesh, dead, one face, dead, white-wanting, free-wanting Aldora, in the subterranean planet of nothingness where there were no demons of almost.

He envied her, too, and wanted to escape the drowsy too-oft-relived nightmare, and now he had the Dramamine, and he escaped.

He dozed.

An eternity? An hour? How long had it been? He did not know, after the rattle of the door and then the persistent knocking upon it and then the calling out of his name had aroused him.

Blinking, he sat up, rubbing his eyes. He swallowed. The Adam’s apple had running room. There was still a clogging thickness in his throat, but the nausea and dizziness were gone, and so were Aldora and those dreadful years.

“Who is it?” he called out. He shook himself fully awake. “Who’s there?”

“Mr. President-”

He recognized Miss Foster’s muffled voice, and he said, “Come in, come in.”

She poked her head into the lounge. “Mr. President, Mr. Abrahams is aboard. Would you-?”

“Of course, send him in. I’ve been waiting for him.”

She left the door open, and the squishing of her sensible rubber soled shoes receded up the corridor, to be replaced in seconds by the solid smack of Abrahams’ leather heels.

Like himself, Dilman was pleased to be reminded, Nat Abrahams was not to the sea or manor born. Abrahams’ husk of brown hair had been tangled by his boat ride, and the bulky tweed coat he carried slung over one white shirt sleeve, and his tie pinned down by a gold-plated tie clasp, and his uncreased heavyweight wool trousers, and his scuffed brogues gave him the appearance of a landlubber adrift on a raft.

It occurred to Dilman, as it had occurred to him once before, years ago, how much resemblance his friend bore to Frederic Dorr Steele’s profile drawings of Sherlock Holmes, especially this moment when Abrahams, having greeted Dilman, stood in profile, too, his bony, falcon countenance adorned with pipe and jutting jaw, and all the admirable cold wisdom of the great detective. Could one imagine a hearty and windblown nautical Sherlock Holmes? Inconceivable. As impossible, Dilman decided, as Nat Abrahams and himself on this luxury yacht. With an ally of the anchored earth present, Dilman felt well for the first time. He felt as restored as if he had disembarked on terra firma.

Abrahams strode across the lounge, billowing a trail of smoke, clutched Dilman’s hand heartily, and pulled up a side chair.

“Quite a layout,” he said, his hand taking in the yacht’s lounge. “Been enjoying it?”

“It’s a hell ship, Nat,” he said. “This is what must have inspired Edward Everett Hale to write The Man Without a Country. I know how Philip Nolan felt. Any day, give me my own, my native land.”

Abrahams studied him. “Mal de mer, Doug?”

“Times ten,” said Dilman. “I became seasick going up the gangplank. You have no idea what it’s been like, Nat. All my advisers and officers and aides up there, inhaling, exhaling, full of salt air and the bounding main. Everyone telling me what a perfect day it is, great riding vessel, ocean like a carpet, and me alone, the only one, staggering around, trying to hide from them, not to let them see that all I want is to upchuck. I couldn’t fish, couldn’t eat, couldn’t even make sense talking to Eaton. I’ve devoted every minute to concentrating on not throwing up. I guess I wanted to uphold my position of authority. Tell me, how can you be Commander in Chief of the Navy and have your head in the toilet bowl the whole lousy voyage? They’re born to it, up there, their stomachs trained for it. How can I let them know their Commander thinks a knot is something you tie-and that the closest he ever came to a yacht was when he turned the pages of Holiday-and that all the President accomplished today was that he didn’t vomit? But I haven’t fooled them one bit, Nat, not Eaton or any one of them. They know I’m as out of place here as in the White House… What’s the idea winding me up like this, Nat? But anyway-you brought it up. How do I feel? Sick and demeaned, and thanks for coming to hear me complain.”

Nat Abrahams, pipe between his teeth, was shaking his head, so that some burning flakes drifted to the floor. He stamped them out, and then he said, “Doug, what are you trying to prove? You feel sick and demeaned? Demeaned about not being an old yachtsman with social background? Holy Daniel, look over your shoulder-what did Andrew Jackson and Zach Taylor and Abe Lincoln and Harry Truman know about yachting and Exeter or Yale? And they did right well, you bet they did. And sick, you feel sick? Well, you’re the boss, and if bouncing around on this roller coaster makes you queasy, get off, just get off. Tell them you don’t like it and want to go home. I’ve said this before, so forgive me, but why try to wear T. C.’s shoes, or even Arthur Eaton’s, if they pinch? You can afford your own.”

At last Dilman was able to smile. “Thanks, Dad. I feel better already. In fact, I could stand a tall cool drink. What about you?”

“Nothing would please me more… Sit still, I’ll make them.”

Abrahams went to the bar and made a bourbon-and-soda for Dilman, and sloshed some Scotch over ice for himself. After he returned to his chair, and they drank awhile in silence, Dilman said, “Better, much better.” He set his half-finished bourbon down beside the MRP Bill, and loosened his tie. “I know I’m cheating you, Nat. I invite you to fish-”

“Nonsense.”

“-but I guess I really wanted a chance to talk to you. There hasn’t been much time lately. I haven’t seen you since those Trafford boys used me for target practice, have I?”

“No. I was tied up, too. I got Sue off to Chicago, to pack. And while waiting for that final contract, I’ve been meeting your legislators. Oliver has practically made me an honorary congressman.” He hesitated. “Trafford? I gather it was rough on you and Julian.”

“It was. But I had no choice. From the demonstrations going on, I guess I’ve alienated what Negro sympathy I had. I think that’s what surprised me most.”

“You’ll win it back, and fast,” said Abrahams. “Once you sign the minorities bill, you’ll have 70 or 80 per cent of the Negro population on your side. Nothing you do will satisfy the rest, the extremists.” Abrahams’ glance went to the end table and back to Dilman, who sat bemused. “Have you signed the Minorities Rehabilitation Bill yet, Doug?”

“Not yet. I don’t know. I suppose that’s why I wanted to see you today. Fishing, yes, I guess I wanted to throw out a line and fish for your opinion.” Dilman thought that his friend had fidgeted uneasily, and he was puzzled. “Unless, of course, you haven’t kept up on the bill and don’t particularly care to talk about it. If-”

“Oh, I’ve read it, Doug. Don’t forget, I’m the new Nat Abrahams, and I’m supposed to be conversant with all pending and active legislation. And the minorities bill-let’s face it, it is the biggest domestic spending program to go through Congress in years.”

Dilman watched Abrahams tap the ashes out of his pipe and then refill it and light it. Dilman said, “The cost doesn’t bother me, if I could be as positive as T. C.’s crowd and Congress that it would do some good. I keep having the sneaking feeling that-that it’s a sort of-oh, give-them-bread-and-circuses sort of thing.”

“It’s more than that,” Abrahams said, too hastily. Drawing on his pipe harder, he dug for something in his hip pocket. “As a matter of fact, I happen to have a little item here-” He pulled out several sheets of paper that had been folded and stapled. He unfolded them. “I-I have here the-the salient points of the bill-facts and figures, and some authoritative notes, projecting its effect on the country as a whole. I even penciled in several of its questionable aspects. But overall, there’s no doubt, it can give our economy a big boost, a big one-” His voice had trailed off. He held the papers forth tentatively. “Maybe you’d like to see this.”

“I certainly would.” Dilman took it, and since it was concise, he read every word of it, acutely aware that Nat Abrahams was watching him nervously, exactly the way Leroy Poole used to watch him nervously when he read the author’s manuscript pages.

Reading on, flipping the pages, Dilman felt a growing sense of bewilderment. The logic was there, the statistics and authorities were there, but there was something real and important missing. What was missing was the Nat Abrahams that he knew, or, my God, thought he knew. There was none of Nat’s keen intellect, his humanity, his understanding, his language. There was a complete omission of the central issue, the kind Nat liked to tackle head on. Dilman hoped to find it toward the end. When he reached the end, it was not there. He felt cheated and deeply confused.

He looked up, unable to disguise his disappointment. “Interesting. It does make a solid case for priming the economy. I just sort of-missed-any case for how it’ll close the racial gap between the have-nots and the haves.”

To Dilman, there was no question about it this time: his friend was squirming. Abrahams set down his drink. “Well, we take that for granted.”

“Take what for granted, Nat?” Dilman sat up. “We’re friends-don’t take this in the wrong spirit-I’m not being critical of you-but this is a minorities bill. That, to me, is the primary point. What will the seven billion dollars of taxpayers’ money do for minorities, not for the economy? Will the spending buy equality for all, or merely greater prosperity for industry and labor? Dammit, Nat, as a matter of self-interest, there’s every reason why I should sign the bill. Everyone wants me to, and God knows I need every possible bit of support now, and I probably will sign it. Only, foggy as I am, indecisive as I’ve been, one factor seems to be wanting in the entire bill, as it appears to be missing in your précis. I miss the sum allocated to give the Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Indians, Japanese-lets stick to the Negroes-I miss the sum that will guarantee them all they really want, first-class citizenship.”

Abrahams had reddened. “Doug-” he began.

“No, let me finish. Here we have it, seven billion dollars for public highway construction, desegregated but quota-limited schools, dams, factories, forest conservation, and sure, preferential treatment so Negroes do the work involved and receive the benefits. But, Nat, despite all those watered-down civil rights bills passed in recent years, when we talk about the American Negro today, we still talk about five rights being kept away from him-five, not one. The right to work, and not be the first to be fired, the last to be hired, and not be exiled to menial jobs. All right, this bill takes care of that. What about his other four rights? Will this bill really give the Negro the right to use public facilities? To have first-rate education? To occupy integrated housing? To enjoy freedom to vote like any other American? No. There are a few crumbs, sure. Sweep them together and what do they represent? No segregation in buildings constructed under this MRP Bill. Higher salaries for teachers who go into slum areas or work in desegregated schools, and some free tutoring programs and scholarships. Better and cheaper housing in the tracts the bill subsidizes for those who will move into these mixed neighborhoods. And on voting, nothing specific, the usual patriotic promises and hopes. So there it is, and our Negro leaders are ready to accept the crumbs because they’re tired of fighting for the loaf, when they’ve been hungry more than a century. I can understand that. But I’m troubled. This bill may rehabilitate the minorities financially, but it won’t raise them up to full equality. And in the end, it may be only a delaying action, and solve nothing for the white population either. Yet I could be wrong, dead wrong. Maybe fights are won one skirmish at a time, and this would gain my people one right they desperately want. And who am I to worry it so, be indecisive again, when smarter minds support this bill? Still-” He stared directly at Abrahams and then held up the stapled sheets of paper. “I guess it was unfair of me to expect you to include all that other in your summary, because I felt lame and sort of wanted a crutch. It’s just that this didn’t sound like you’d written it.”

Dilman sat back, and fumbled for his drink.

Quickly Nat Abrahams leaned forward and took the papers from Dilman’s lap. “I didn’t write it, Doug. Eagles Industries wrote it. Avery Emmich wrote it. Gordon Oliver wrote it. They wanted me to transmit it to you-first assignment-and I did. I’m ashamed of myself now. I knew, the second I handed it to you, I could never go through with it, pretending it was mine.”

Embarrassed, Dilman tried to stop him. “Forget it, Nat. You did what you had to do, and some of the points in there are well made.”

Abrahams stood up, ripped the paper in half, worked it into a ball, and stuffed it into his trouser pocket.

“It stinks,” he said flatly. “I’ll never do this to you again, no more harmonizing with others on what they believe. I’ll rely on solo. Doug, you’ve said it, there’s good in the minorities bill and there’s bad. It’s a big decision you have to make, and there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind, but you’ll do what you must do, for yourself and others. No one’s going to influence you. You wanted my opinion, and I’ll give it to you if you still want it.”

“I do, I sure do, Nat. Who else can I listen to?”

“Yourself. But let me have my own honest say, and then I’ll shut up… Doug, I hate this minorities bill. I hate its pretense. Every reservation you hold is true, as far as I’m concerned. T. C. and most of Congress invented this legislation as an emergency measure. The country is splintered apart-always has been-but these years it’s been worse than ever. Negro revolution, you bet, and about time. So how does one put down a revolution, especially a just one? By force? Impossible in our democracy. Unthinkable. By giving in to those discriminated against, giving them justice and making democracy a true one? Difficult. Too much ignorance, blind hatred, senseless fear, and politics, for which read compromise. By bribery? The old Roman trick? The only way. So they came up with this MRP. Put down the insurrection and buy peace with money. Money is cheaper than decency. So here is a vast hog-barrel, boondoggling bribe to buy off the Negroes. And the Negroes can’t resist. They are weak, tired of the long slow fight, and-you said it-they’re hungry. If you’ve got to choose between having three square meals a day and money in the bank and all the wonders and advantages of materialism, as against waiting for the less tangible advantages of full liberty, which will you choose? So the Negroes, most of them, have given in. And the whites, big business, big labor unions-they love it. They’ve paid off the revolutionists and their guilty consciences, and they’ve purchased safety. And a good deal more besides, because they’ll make profits, giving with one charitable hand, taking it back with the other.

“Everyone is happy, almost everyone, except those few of your people who are willing to go hungry a little longer to get five-fifths of what belongs to them, not one-fifth, and except the impractical liberals like myself who know better and want better for your people-but, of course, can afford to despise this bill because our stomachs are full. Now you’ve heard all I have to say, Doug, and don’t listen to it. I don’t have to make the decision. I don’t have to worry if I’ve done a disservice to minorities or expediently helped them endure the near future. I don’t have to worry if my opinion is weightier than those of several hundred experts. I don’t have to worry how I feel if I do sign or what will happen to me and the country if I do not sign. Don’t you listen to me, the man from Eagles Industries with a full stomach, Doug. I teed off this way because I wanted you to know I am still the man you’ve always known me to be. As for you, I know-”

There was a sharp knocking, and Dilman’s attention was diverted to the lounge door.

“Mr. President,” a voice called out, “it’s Secretary Eaton.”

“Come in.”

The door swung open, and Eaton entered. He appeared disconcerted to find Abrahams with Dilman, then recovered his poise. His manner toward Dilman was concerned and sympathetic. “I missed you on deck, and I only wanted to know that you were all right, Mr. President. Is everything satisfactory?”

Dilman stood up and offered his Secretary of State a half-humorous grimace. “Mr. Secretary, to be perfectly frank with you, everything couldn’t be worse. I’ve been seasick-”

“I’m sorry, Mr. President.”

“-and while there has been an improvement, I’m still uncomfortable. If I am Commander in Chief of all the troops on land and all the ships at sea, I’d like to issue my first naval order. Have someone turn this damn yacht right around and deposit me safe and sound on God’s good earth.”

Eaton’s conditioned countenance betrayed neither approval nor disapproval. “As you wish it, Mr. President. I’ll transmit your order to Commander Chappell at once.”

“And my apologies to our guests for cutting short their little outing.”

Eaton nodded, and hurriedly left. The second that the cabin door closed, Dilman pivoted toward Nat Abrahams and gave him a wide grin and an elaborate salute.

“How was that, teacher?”

Abrahams smiled. “You’re learning. You get an A.”

Dilman had become solemn once more. “Now what I need is an A where it counts more, in political science.” He took up the manila folder holding the minorities bill and balanced it thoughtfully. “Of course, it all depends on who does the grading, doesn’t it?”

He stuffed the folder into his briefcase, pressed it shut, then went to Abrahams and took him by the arm. “For some reason, I feel better now. I think everything is settling into place, anatomically speaking. I’m ready to fish awhile, if you are. Who knows, Nat? We might even catch something we’ll be proud of…”


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office of the White House Press Secretary

THE WHITE HOUSE

THE PRESIDENT HAS REQUESTED SPECIAL TIME OF ALL MAJOR TELEVISION AND RADIO NETWORKS TONIGHT TO ADDRESS THE NATION AT 7:00 P.M., EDT, ON THE SUBJECT OF THE MINORITIES REHABILITATION PROGRAM AND THE BILL CONCERNING THIS PROGRAM AWAITING HIS SIGNATURE. THE FULL TEXT OF HIS ADDRESS WILL BE DISTRIBUTED TO THE PRESS FROM THIS OFFICE TEN MINUTES AFTER HE IS ON THE AIR.


ALTHOUGH it was too soon for Governor Talley to have arrived upstairs for their private meeting, before the others came, before the President’s television address began, Secretary of State Arthur Eaton found it impossible to sit out the intervening time in the loneliness of his huge seventh-floor office.

Ever since receiving Governor Talley’s cryptic, but definitely frantic, telephone call from the White House ten minutes ago, Arthur Eaton had been worried and on edge. He had not liked the tone, and the inconceivable implications, of Talley’s abbreviated call. Apparently, even in the privacy of his own White House office, Talley had been suspicious of being overheard or monitored. Yet what he had said, guarded as he had been, had been made meaningful and eloquent enough by his nettled speech and its unnatural brevity.

Pacing, Arthur Eaton reconstructed what little he had heard:

“Arthur? This is Wayne Talley. I’ve just come from Edna Foster’s office. The President wouldn’t see me. He had Miss Foster give back the speech we wrote. He’s written his own.”

“His own? What are you talking about, Wayne? What kind of nonsense is that? Are you pulling my leg?”

“Arthur, I swear-”

“What in the devil has he written? What is in it?”

“Arthur, I can’t speak. I’d better see you as soon as possible, before the others. Shall I come to your office?”

“Yes-no, wait-I think we want some seclusion. You use the E Street entrance. Take my private elevator right up to the top, to the eighth floor. I’ll leave word for them to let you come up, and the others, also. I’ll be waiting in the Madison Dining Room… How does it look to you, Governor? He’s going to sign the bill, of course?”

“I think so, I think so, there’s nothing else he can do. It’s what he’s going to say about it that bothers me. I’ll get over to State right away, Arthur. Good-bye.”

That was all the evidence Eaton had to go by, ten minutes ago and now.

The degree to which the news had flustered him was a surprise. He had been schooled to be poised for the unexpected. Even international masters of the unexpected, like Premier Kasatkin, could be anticipated. One studied their arcs of reasoning, from the top curve of predictability to the bottom curve of unpredictability, and if one knew their backgrounds, ambitions, pressures, one could be ready to bisect and contain them at any point of the arc. But Dilman, apparently, had proved himself to be unlike other men.

This, then, was a part of what had unsettled Arthur Eaton, jolted his superior complacency. He had, of course, made his study of the new President, a shallow study, to be truthful, but then, the man had appeared to have no subtle resources that would require an examination of more depth. Dilman had given the impression, from the first, of a person obvious and simple to divine, or so it had seemed to one of Eaton’s wide experience with more clever and devious men.

Of three dozen important demands made upon him, Dilman had been agreeable to all, well, all save two, and even in these two matters he had finally performed what was requested of him. He had not signed the New Succession Bill into law, that was true, but he had weakly permitted it to become law, with only the mildest legalistic protest. No one had minded that too much, considering Dilman’s color and sensitivity and his need not to condone publicly a legislative insult. The fact was: he had come along.

Then, in the invoking of the Subversive Activities Control Act, he had displayed faint resistance, evidenced by hesitancy and delay. Yet his hesitancy, if one was reasonable, could not be regarded as unexpected. He had been asked to outlaw a segment of his own race, and suffer their ire, and had recoiled from it as long as possible. Too, his behavior toward the Turnerites, if one studied these matters as Eaton did, was the natural result of his personality. Time and again he had shown himself to be fearful and uncertain, and therefore indecisive and slow. This was simply his style. In the end, predictably, he had banned the Turnerite Group.

But this new development of ten or fifteen minutes ago, this was unusual. To date, his slowness in signing the Minorities Rehabilitation Program Bill was not unexpected, but part of his pattern. His sudden announcement yesterday, before the Cabinet meeting adjourned, that he had decided to address the nation on the bill, had been a minor surprise to Eaton and all of them only because they did not expect an act of impulse on Dilman’s part. Yet, once more, it was an understandable desire. Many Presidents, before approving of a crucial or gigantic piece of spending legislation, liked to explain their belief in what they were doing, mention minor reservations (as political self-protection if anything went wrong or there was dissent), and to dramatize their own roles in a useful action. No, it was not unexpected that Dilman, conscious that the minorities bill was T. C.’s bill, would wish to reap some of T. C.’s popularity and curry some favor (when he needed it most) by projecting himself before the public on millions of television screens as one of the authors of the bountiful bill.

It had been routine for T. C.’s writers and special counselors to spend the remainder of yesterday afternoon, following the Cabinet meeting, and most of the evening, sketching out and molding into final form a public speech, in this case the fifteen-minute address on the minorities bill that explained its virtues and Dilman’s own approval. Dilman had known that they were preparing his address, and had offered no objections. Late last night Dilman had received the polished final draft from Talley, with no indication of protest, indeed with thanks. And to Talley’s suggestion that should Dilman desire any changes today, everyone would be standing by to help him, Dilman had again been appreciative.

And now, for the first time, the unpredictable: Dilman had rejected their speech in favor of one he had written, was writing, himself. He had displayed his first evidence of decisive action, of individuality, of independence, of ignoring advice from his betters-no, not his betters-his more experienced advisers.

Eaton had tried to penetrate the President’s motivation for this silly and small rebellion. It did not mean that Dilman was opposing their wishes, the wishes, in fact, of Congress, the country, his own race, in regard to the important bill. No, one unaccountable action did not imply or indicate a more drastic one to follow. All Dilman was doing was demanding to write their speech his way. A sensitive colored man was asserting his rights. That was it. Eaton could see it more clearly now. By overlooking consideration of that one dimension of President Dilman’s color, Eaton had almost erred in anticipating his behavior. Dilman’s color had been largely responsible for his quick servility, his readiness to come along, his indecisiveness. This same color, Eaton saw, must occasionally drive him into some action of immature self-assertion, as if to remind the whites around him that he was their equal, a man with a mind of his own. That was it, of course, the complete explanation. Dilman was doing their bidding, whatever his secret qualms, on the Minorities Rehabilitation Bill, but was reminding them that although he must do what he was being told to do, he still would not allow himself to be held in utter contempt. In short, Eaton saw, the President must at least be permitted to say in his own words what his advisers wanted said.

Eaton told himself that his analysis made sense. He congratulated himself on clearing up the enigma. Yet, he realized, he was still unnerved. Why? Well, dammit, what President of the United States had ever shielded the contents of a vital domestic policy speech-in this case the most vital one in a decade-from everyone around him?

Tired of trying to solve mysteries with insufficient clues, impatient to learn the details of Talley’s encounter with Dilman, or with the protective Miss Foster, Arthur Eaton left his office. He proceeded through his stenographer’s office-reminded, those moments, that he was to have met Sally Watson in his home shortly after the speech, resenting the fact that he might now be delayed, and had better phone her to come later-and then he entered the small reception room and went on into the main reception room. The desk there, too, was empty. He noted the time. It was eleven minutes after six o’clock. Everyone had gone home.

Yet not quite everyone, Eaton realized. Two clerks passed busily through the corridor. Assistant Secretary Stover, in his shirt-sleeves, carrying a dispatch, waved at him. The sight of such activity pleased Eaton. At least here, in his dominion, there were no mysteries, and nothing was unknown to him. Under his exacting rule, guided by his cool intelligence and supported by a five-hundred-million-dollar annual budget, his army of seven thousand foreign affairs specialists toiled, and one thousand of these worked through the night. It gave him pride that his palace, the Department of State Building, was never dark-as, so suddenly, the White House had become dark.

Restlessly, to kill time, Arthur Eaton wandered into the corridor. He turned right, made his way across the rich blue carpeting, absently glanced at the framed pictures of the nation’s previous Secretaries of State on the wall, then came to a halt before Room 7228, the corridor entrance to his own office. He studied the two words lettered on the walnut panel of his door. They read simply: the secretary. He thought of the many persons who saw these two words daily, and how few understood the encompassing, far-reaching nature of his responsibility, reaching back to T. C., reaching ahead to every American citizen everywhere, reaching now into that suddenly secretive Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was time for Talley to arrive, he decided.

Quickiy he went to his private elevator, found and inserted his special key, observed the arrow light up red. Once inside, he was whisked to the eighth floor, a treasure house of history visited by no one except himself, his luncheon guests, and those he invited to attend diplomatic functions and State Department dinners during the evenings.

Leaving the elevator, Eaton hastened through the lounge, past the bar, and pulled open the two doors that led into the small, dimly lighted Madison Dining Room, the private hideaway where he ate lunch almost daily. None of the dozen chairs around the center table, nor the chairs drawn up before the television set, were occupied.

Annoyed, Eaton crossed the room, entered the adjacent dining room, also empty, and then he continued through this room and made his way to the outside terrace. The night air had turned cold, and he shivered. He went to the cement rail, kept his balance by holding onto a metal pillar, and peered down into E Street, studying the area between the parked automobiles and the green canopy that covered the walk to his private elevator. There was no one to be seen.

He looked up, and in the distance he could make out the Lincoln Memorial and the mass of the Pentagon Building behind it. Tonight he wished that he could see the White House half so clearly. He became aware that as he exhaled, his breath was condensing into visible clouds of vapor. Why the devil was Talley being so slow? Well, he told himself, it was not worth risking pneumonia to catch sight of his arrival.

He left the terrace for the heated interior of the eight floor, and then returned to the Madison Dining Room. As he entered, he saw Wayne Talley bustling in from the lounge, tugging off his camel’s hair overcoat, and dropping it and his hat across a chair.

“My God, Wayne, it’s about time.” Eaton tried to keep the peevishness out of his voice. “Where have you been?”

“The traffic,” said Talley breathlessly. “Even Moses couldn’t have made that sea of cars part, let alone a White House limousine.”

They met at the dining table. “What happened?” Eaton demanded. “Try to remember everything.”

“I wish there was much more to tell you besides what I told you on the phone, but there isn’t,” Talley said. “When I gave him the draft of the speech last night, I assured him I’d be waiting to consult with him on any changes. He said he was grateful, and I thought he was. I waited around in my office all morning, and not a word from him. After lunch I dropped in on Edna Foster and asked if the President had been looking for me. She said no, he was tied up. I asked if he had the speech on his desk. She said she thought she had seen it there. I told her to be sure to tell him I was standing by for any last-minute changes or modifications. She said she’d tell him. Well, the whole afternoon passed and not a word-”

“Didn’t you see Dilman at all today? I mean, on anything else?”

“Not even a glimpse of him.” Talley complained. “I think this is the first day that’s ever happened Well, about an hour ago I couldn’t stand it any more, so I went back to Miss Foster’s office and again I asked if he’d been looking for me. She said no, not as far as she knew. That was too much, so I said, ‘Edna I’d like to see the President.’ And she said-you know what she said?-she said, ‘I’m sorry, Governor Talley, but he canceled every one of his appointments and left strict orders not to be disturbed.’ How do you like that, Arthur? Well, I didn’t, not at all, so I said, ‘What in the heck is he so busy with?’ She said, ‘I really don’t know, except he’s been writing the entire morning and afternoon.’ Writing? That exasperated me-”

Eaton looked up from his watch crossly. “Governor, do you mind skipping your feelings and traumas, and sticking to what happened? In a few more minutes, we won’t be alone.”

Hurt, Talley said, “Geez, Arthur, I was only trying-okay, okay-so I said to her firmly, ‘Edna, I’m his aide, and if he knows I’m out here he will probably want to see me. So you go in there, you tell him I sent you in, and tell him I’d like to know what he thinks of the speech, and if he’d like to talk it over.’ She was kind of hesitant, but I insisted. So she went inside, and I cooled my heels for maybe a minute. Then she came out, and you know what she had in her hand? This.” Wayne Talley reached inside his suit coat and jerked forth the folded typescript of the speech they had jointly prepared for Dilman the night before, Talley opened it and pointed to the pen-written scrawl across the top.

Eaton cocked his head, squinted his eyes, trying to decipher the scrawl. Haltingly, he read the President’s notation aloud. “ ‘Thanks for all your trouble. D. D.’ ” Eaton frowned, and pursed his lips. “I wonder if he even read it.”

“I don’t know,” said Talley. “All I know is Miss Foster stuck it in my hands and said, ‘President Dilman asked me to tell you he appreciates this, the work that went into it, but he won’t need it because he’s writing his own speech.’ I was so appalled, I blurted out to her, I said, ‘Edna, for Chrissakes, no President in living memory has ever written his own speech. It takes writers, real writers, and in this instance, specialists in domestic matters. No man can do it alone. He’d botch it.’ And she said, ‘I don’t think you have to worry, Governor. He didn’t do it entirely alone. When I told him you were standing by to help, he said to tell you he’d had plenty of help all day long from friends of his.’ I got sore, and I said, ‘I thought you told me no one saw him today.’ She said, ‘That’s right, at least not through this office or Mr. Lucas’ office. But he may have seen someone in his own apartment at lunch. Besides, I didn’t say that no one talked to him today. There were plenty of telephone calls.’ I couldn’t ask her who he called or who called him, so I thanked her, double checked with Lucas to see if there’d been any visitors through his office-there weren’t-and then I hoped right back to my desk and telephoned you. That’s the whole of it, Arthur. What do you think?”

“I think I don’t like it, and I thin our President is a fool,” Eaton said. “He is liable to make a bloody mess of it. I can only pray he is literate and lucid enough to make the meaning and intent of the bill clear to the people.”

“Well, I’ve had time to cool off, and I’m becoming philosophical about the whole thing,” Talley said. “What difference what he says about it, as long as he signs it? I only resent his being so high-handed, and ignoring us. Besides”-Talley smoothed the typescript almost lovingly where it lay on the table-“it was such a damn beautiful bit of rhetoric, would have kicked the whole minorities program off in high. Christ, what T. C. could have done with this. Lookee here-”

He began to read snatches of the rejected speech. “ ‘This magnificent Federal program follows in the great American tradition of the WPA at home and the Marshall Plan abroad, both milestones in our democratic effort to lend a strong, undemanding hand to those of our citizens who need a hand, and to give aid and comfort to those millions who desire their country’s help even as they help themselves. It is with pride in my fellow citizens, and with the greatest confidence in our future well-being and security, that I endorse the Minorities Rehabilitation Program approved by our Congress, and that I put my name to it before all of you.’ ” Talley looked up. “Not bad, Arthur?” He dipped his head again. “I like this part best. ‘This bill, my fellow Americans, will stand as a monument more enduring than granite to the name and memory of my predecessor, the late President, who-’ ”

“That’s enough, Governor,” Eaton interrupted. “It’s a waste of time. It has as much meaning now as a letter that was never mailed.” He paused, and listened. “Is that the elevator?”

Quickly Talley folded the speech and shoved it into his pocket. He sidled up to Eaton. “What do we tell them?”

“Nothing, except that Dilman told you he was revising our draft at length, and we have no idea how he has altered the language.” He looked off. “Hello, Allan… Evening, Senator-”

The Majority Leader of the Senate, John Selander, came into the room, followed by Allan Noyes, chairman of the Party. Minutes later, Gorden Oliver, full of cheer and carrying a bottle of Cutty Sark as his entry pass, arrived with Harvey Wickland, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Shortly after, Secretary of the Interior Lionel Ruttenberg was the last to arrive.

Arthur Eaton found that he had no patience for the usual small talk and gossip, and he drifted apart from his guests to smoke and think. When he consulted his wristwatch, it was only three minutes to speech time.

He returned to the group, but hung back while Gorden Oliver finished the latest addition to his endless store of jokes.

“-stood waiting on the Montgomery street corner for his transportation,” Oliver was saying, “and when it came, this dark-skinned gentleman climbed on, paid his fare, and started to sit down in the front seat. Then the driver yelled at him, ‘Get in the back of the bus!’ Then the man said, ‘But I’m Jewish.’ Then the driver yelled, ‘Get off the bus!’ ”

They all roared with glee, and Oliver, encouraged, was about to embark on another story when Eaton said loudly, “The President is speaking in one minute. Let’s settle down.”

As Talley hastened to turn on the television set, find the clearest channel, adjust the volume, the others took their places in the semi-circle of chairs set before the screen. Eaton did not join them, but propped himself against the table edge, arms folded across his chest.

The television screen was filled by a commercial, and then the station break with the network’s emblem.

Senator Selander, tipping his chair backward, twisting, whispered to Eaton, “What’s this that Wayne was telling me about the President doing considerable rewriting on the address we prepared? I thought it was a gem. Are you sure you have no idea what parts he changed?”

“No idea whatsoever, Senator. Apparently it was a last-minute thing. In all probability, he beefed up the sections on civil rights. I think he’s trying to woo back his Negro following. But quite honestly, I don’t-” Eaton uncrossed his arms and pointed past Selander. “There it goes. We’ll know soon enough.”

They concentrated on the screen, which now showed the Presidential seal.

Eaton’s memory of the many times he had been in that Oval Office when T. C. had waited to address the nation enlarged the screen in his mind. A minute or two before, the still photographers had been shooed out, and what remained were four or five television cameras and their operators focusing on T. C.’s hearty figure, solid and ready in the big leather chair behind the Buchanan desk. Eaton remembered too, with an ache of nostalgia, the little things that prepared T. C. for this moment; the thick cables leading from the cameras across the rug and through the French doors to the colonnaded walk where the Secret Service men stood; the black drape hung and pinned across the windows behind the President; the brown felt cloth thrown over the desk from which the gadgets and framed photographs of Hesper and Freddie had been temporarily removed; the tilted stand atop the desk, holding the cards on which the President’s address had been typed; the two members of the press pool, sitting out of view at the President’s left; the television monitor set off screen at his right, but facing him so he could see the image that he was projecting; the two secretaries in the rear, holding transcripts of the speech, to check his spoken words against the printed words, and pencil in any changes he improvised or ad-libbed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.”

The camera cut from the close-up of the Presidential seal to a full shot of the President behind his desk. And to Eaton’s surprise, he had succumbed completely to memory’s sorcery. For it was not T. C. who sat there at all, but a black stranger. The camera moved in until the screen was entirely occupied by Douglass Dilman’s broad African visage and features. These features, blended and made indistinguishable by his blackness, contrasted with the lightness of his suit and shirt, but matched the blackness of his hands resting on the sides of the stand. For the first time in many weeks, Eaton sensed his loss, the nation’s loss, and felt deeply embittered by the sheer insanity of human existence.

“Good evening, my fellow citizens.”

If not T. C., Eaton thought, then at least a reasonable facsimile. Thank the Lord, he thought, that all of them here were alive to see that T. C. would not be wholly dead.

By an effort of will, he ceased his thinking of what could not be. He listened. President Douglass Dilman was addressing the nation.

“One week ago there reached my desk the original enrolled bill, printed on parchment paper, certified and signed by the acting Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Acting President of the Senate, that has come to be popularly known as the Minorities Rehabilitation Program. It requires only the scratch of my pen to enact it into public law-or, on the other hand, it takes only my returning it unsigned to the House in which it originated, with my objectins stated, to institute a Presidential veto.

“To this date, I have neither approved the bill nor rejected it, because I have needed as much time as possible to consider every aspect of it, to weigh its cost against its value to all of us. Before rendering my decision, I felt it necessary to discuss briefly with you, the people, certain aspects of the bill, of this Minorities Rehabilitation Program.

“The preponderance of opinion is behind this program. Four out of five of your representatives in Congress are behind it. They are behind it, they say, because they feel that it will repay a minority of the population, largely Negro, for years of deprivation, it will restore economic dignity to those who have suffered loss of it because of their color, and it will bring a dramatic end to racial strife. Business leaders, as well as labor leaders, are behind it because they believe that the program will boost the national economy, bring prosperity to all, and bring civil peace to the land. Even the majority of Negro organization directors favor the bill as an expedient measure of restitution that would, to a degree, make up for losses suffered through a century of actual slavery and continued segregation thereafter.

“Without bothering to explore in detail every provision of the bill, and speaking to you in the plainest of language, what are the general arguments for and against the Minorities Rehabilitation Program?

“Those who want me to sign this bill-and they are, I repeat, the overwhelming majority-sincerely believe that by dispersing in various ways seven billion dollars of your tax payments, over a period of five years, to the underprivileged racial minorities of this nation, they will be bringing internal peace to the United States. They feel that the Federal government can now accomplish, by this massive outpouring of money, what the prejudices of private industry and restrictions of labor unions have heretofore prevented doing: close the economic gap between black and white. They feel that this financial restitution to the colored man will make up for a century of oppression. And they feel that, by giving twenty-three million of the nation’s blacks economic equality, by giving them higher wages, jobs or better jobs, subsidized training, by so occupying their minds and hands, by so filling their stomachs, they will have brought tranquility and order through the democratic process to the United States.

“However, there is a smaller, less vocal number of Americans, as concerned about the depriation of minorities, as desirous of bringing about tranquility and order, who strongly believe this nation cannot afford the minorities bill, not because of its financial cost but because of the means by which it will bankrupt our ideals, our democracy, our Constitution.

“What are their arguments against the bill? You have seen little discussion of their reservations in the press, and heard few of their protests on the floors of Congress or on the airwaves. In all fairness, their objections should be heard tonight, and considered by you, as they have been considered by me.

“The dissenters believe that this bill is a governmental conspiracy to bride the oppressed into silence. It may bring racial peace, but at what price to our democratic integrity? The Constitution will be converted into a checkbook. We will have given our minorities not civil rights, not equality, but a giant payoff to end their clamor. Under this bill, the Negro will not have gained his vote, his equal place in public accommodations, his dignity as a free American. Instead, he will have gained employment. He will have been detoured from the hard, uphill road to that place where free men live, to remain at the roadside beneath and below them, diverted from his goal by the dollars he has suddenly found. And when the money is spent, where will he be? Still too far from freedom, and perhaps unable to find the public road again.

“Yes, my fellow citizens, there are thoughtful men, Americans as decent as you and I, who believe in their deepest conscience that one cannot substitute dollars for the dignity of liberty. By so doing, we undermine the humanity of the giver as well as the taker, we weaken the majority as well as the minority. And worse, by so doing, we reinforce the anti-American caricature of Uncle Sam throughout the world by showing him not as a man but as a figure-head in the shape of a dollar sign, an Uncle Sam who offers his flock cash instead of love, respect, and freedom.

“The proponents of the Minorities Rehabilitation Program believe that through a seven-billion-dollar outlay they will have bought time. The opponents of the program wonder, time for what? And how much time? There are those who believe that the time to solve our minority problem is today, no matter how high the cost in civil strife and discontent, and that the means to solve it is not through huge Federal bribes, but through total Federal support of any human being who is treated as less than an American and less than a man because of his race, religion, color, or national origin.

“My fellow citizens, there is something to be said for both sides, but as your President I can choose only one side, and for me the moment of decision has arrived. Addressing you then, not as one who is prejudiced by white or black demands, not as one heeding majority or minority wishes, but rather addressing you as one who has come to believe that any travail or sacrifice is worthwhile if it will strengthen the foundation of a stronger, totally democratic United States of America that can stand before the world unashamed, indeed, proud, for having practiced those noble ideas upon which it was founded, I hereby notify my former colleagues in Congress, and my fellow citizens everywhere, that I cannot and shall not sign the Minorities Rehabilitation Program into law.

“Tonight I am vetoing this bill, and returning it to the House where it originated, with the prayer that never again will I or any President be forced to consider an example of legislation so cynical as to pretend that freedom has a price tag.

“Yet we do need powerful legislation to replace this bill. We need legislation concerned with equality, not tranquility, and in due time I intend-”

Before the gasps, groans, and angry exclamations from those in the Madison Dining Room could drown out the remainder of the President’s speech, Arthur Eaton leaped forward, cursing under his breath, and savagely turned off the television set.

White-faced, trembling, he stood with his back to the others, unable to face them until he had regained his composure.

He heard Talley say, “I’ll be goddamned, that sonofabitch torpedoed us!”

He heard Oliver demand, “That bastard, who does he think he is?”

He heard Noyes explode, “The Party can’t let him get away with it!”

He heard Senator Selander predict, “He’s split the country, even if we can override his veto.”

As the voices became increasingly furious and uncontrolled behind him, Eaton tried to block out the din, to assemble his thoughts. His first thoughts were of T. C. The minorities bill was to have been T. C.’s enduring monument. Tonight, no matter what followed, it was a monument no more. Until tonight T. C. had been alive, his government kept alive, through the works he had instigated and the men he had left behind to see them through. Yet tonight a semiliterate black man, defying the wishes of his superiors and the majority of the nation, had trampled on moderation to cater to extremists of his color. Tonight a black interloper, employing the rankest demagoguery in a crude and inciting play for power, had sold out national unity to dress his personal pride.

Then, filtering through Arthur Eaton’s initial shock and disgust, the real implication of Dilman’s rebellion could be seen: It was not T. C. who had been ousted from the White House Oval Office, for T. C. was a ghost, but it was himself, Arthur Eaton himself, T. C.’s heir, who had been banished from decision making and rule.

“What’s left without Party rule?” he could hear Congressman Wickland cry out behind him. “Anarchy, that’s what is left!”

Eaton heard the telephone across the room. Glad of an excuse to escape from the others, he hastily went to answer it.

Immediately he recognized the excitable voice, with its mean Southern slur, on the other end.

“Oh, hello, Zeke.”

“Arthur?” shouted Congressman Zeke Miller. “What do you think, Arthur? Don’t answer. You’re too goldarn gentlemanly for your own good. Let me tell you what I think, Arthur. I’m not afraid of speaking out the truth. You know what I think, Arthur? I think that there black Nigra just did us and the country the greatest goldarn service in history. He showed us he’s ready to dump all branches of government, executive, legislative, judicial, all, to make himself the Nigra dictator like they once had down in Haiti. He stripped and showed his true colors-ha, you betcha-showed us he’s making a black republic exclusive for his brother Nigras-banning the Turnerites, then showing himself to be worse than-”

Eaton had little patience for this line. “Zeke, he’s already alienated the Negro extremists. This won’t win them back. What he’s done, for whatever reason, is simply to alienate most everyone else. I think he’s left himself high and dry-”

“All the better!” Zeke Miller shouted. “Now we can bring him down. Now he’s in the open for what he is, and no more bleeding hearts to guard him, no more poor oppressed black Tom mask to gain sympathy, but just a big black bull Nigra as mean as Mr. Hyde himself. He downright showed his hand, his malignant hand, with that veto, Arthur, and made a mess for us on the Hill and all over the country. Now he’s in the open, and we’re coming out in the open, too. You’ve got to get off the dime now, Arthur. You’re not going to let some all-fired ignoramus lout of a nigger do that to T. C.’s memory, besmirch our great friend, and drag the country to hell and deeper because he’s fixing to make us into another Africa. Arthur, you’re not letting him get away with that, are you? For the sake of the country and our prestige, you got to play ball with us. We’re suffering this together. We’re going to put old Sambo on the hot seat good, and we’re going to roast his ass plenty, until he yells enough, and begs us to get him off it. I’m going to force him to resign, to resign because of disability or whatever, but to resign, and if he refuses, I’m going to resign him by force.”

“How do you intend to do all of that, Zeke?”

“You’ll see. Watch and see. Meanwhile, the boys want to know, I want to know, are you with us, Arthur?”

Eaton said, “Let’s not do anything rash, Zeke. Let Dilman dig his own grave for a while-”

“Takes too long!” snapped Miller. “I want to hustle him into it before we wind up in that hole, too.”

“Well, let me think awhile, let all of us think, and play it by ear until-”

“You play it by ear. You just remember what that ear heard from our Nigra President tonight. There’s only two sides left, Arthur, his and ours. You’ve got to be on ours. I’m counting you in. I’ll have more for you later, Arthur, a lot more.”

Although holding less distaste tonight than he usually did for the Southern Congressman, Arthur Eaton was relieved to hang up on him.

He turned to find Wayne Talley behind him. “That was Zeke Miller,” Eaton explained.

“I guessed it would be,” said Talley. “What’s he after? Throwing Dilman out?”

“Something like that. All kinds of wild, impractical talk. You don’t throw someone out because you disagree with him.”

“Sometimes you do,” said Talley. “But if you don’t or can’t, at least you try to control him.”

“How can we control him? Look what happened tonight.”

“Arthur, when someone’s dangerous, you isolate him from causing any more trouble.” Talley paused meaningfully. “Certainly, you don’t give him a gun. You know what I mean?”

“I think so-I think I do.”

Talley looked around, to make sure they were out of hearing of the others, and then he said, “Arthur, I wouldn’t send him that CIA report, not that one.”

“Aren’t you worrying too much? It may be inconsequential. It doesn’t have a very high reliability evaluation.”

“No matter,” Talley persisted. “Dilman’s irresponsible. He could make a mountain out of a molehill-before we get to the summit meeting in Chantilly. I think we’ve got to start right now, this instant, keeping the seat of government where it belongs.”

“You may be right.”

“If Zeke Miller’s too wild for you, then somebody else has got to do something. I think it’s up to us to save the country.”

“What there is left of it after tonight,” said Eaton bitterly. He considered this, then added, “You are right, Wayne. We have no choice. Dilman has just had his fair trial in public. He can be judged honestly. He is irresponsible, and therefore potentially dangerous. If we cannot punish him, we should seek means to contain him. That should be our private policy. As you so succinctly put it-no gun; we are not going to give him another opportunity to shoot this country down.”


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office of the White House Press Secretary

THE WHITE HOUSE

THE PRESIDENT IS LUNCHING TODAY WITH MAJORITY LEADERS AND MINORITY LEADERS OF BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS TO DISCUSS HIS VETO OF THE MINORITIES REHABILITATION PROGRAM AND DISCUSS AN AMENDED BILL.


FOLLOWING IS THE FULL TEXT OF A CABLE FROM NIKOLAI KASATKIN, PREMIER OF THE U.S.S.R., STATING HIS OPTIMISM CONCERNING THE CHANTILLY CONFERENCE TO BEGIN IN FOUR DAYS. FOLLOWING ALSO IS THE TEXT OF PRESIDENT DILMAN’S REPLY.


AT 3 P.M., THE PRESIDENT WILL MEET WITH SECRET SERVICE CHIEF HUGO GAYNOR TO APPROVE SPECIAL SECURITY MEASURES BEING PREPARED FOR THE PRESIDENT’S TRIP ABROAD.


AT four-fifteen of an overcast, chilly afternoon, a time when he was normally posted between the President’s Oval Office and the Rose Garden, Otto Beggs sat sprawled deeply and comfortably in the foam cushions of Ruby Thomas’ sofa and listened to the high-fidelity phonograph he had repaired an hour ago.

He was tieless and shoeless, and filled with a single-minded lust he had not felt in years, a passion gradually heightened by his second gin-and-tonic and the perfume and fleshy scent of Ruby’s dusky sensuous person so near to him. The insinuating rhythms were a part of it, too, he supposed, all that Bunk Johnson, Muggsy Spanier, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton that he pretended to understand but only felt.

But mostly it was the drinks. Ordinarily Otto Beggs was a beer man, a Coca-Cola man, because sobriety was a cornerstone of his exacting job, and an integral part of his devotion to physical fitness. Only at rare times had he ever indulged himself in gin-and-tonic (on his vacation, and at Christmas, and on Big Occasions like his wedding anniversary or when he received a raise in salary or chose diversions after hours on assignments away from Washington, but never on an ordinary weekday-and during an afternoon yet!). But this afternoon, at first guiltily, then as the gin took its potent effect, its taste becoming less medicinal, more pleasurable, he drank, because this was, indeed, a Big Occasion.

“What you thinkin’, Otter?” Ruby Thomas asked.

He looked at her, feasting his gaze upon her tousled dark hair, almond eyes, perfect dark complexion, open-collar orange-yellow blouse, bare feet tucked under her skirt. He said, “I’m too relaxed to think much, Ruby. This is great.”

“Now you talkin’, ’cause I’m ’joyin’ this, too,” she said. She brought her second J and B on ice to her lips, and drained the glass. “Yum. Sure gits this pickaninny’s naycher up. Yum, good.” She studied him over the glass. “Hope you not gonna leave me too quick like, Otter, jes when I’m gittin’ to ’joy myself. Can you stay awhile?”

“Remember, I told you before, Ruby, I took the day off. I can stay all day and evening, if you’re up to it.”

“Up to it? Mothah! I never been happier, man, you bet.” She set the glass down. “How you manage it, Otter? I mean, takin’ all day from you p’ofessional duty? Ever done this before?”

“Never done it before, Ruby. There’s always a first time, though, if there’s good enough reason. I figured you’re a good enough reason. So I made up to go to work, then parked behind the Walk Inn, then phoned my boss and told him I had a bellyache and was going to the doctor. Nothing to it.”

He thought about that call to Lou Agajanian, which had been taken, ironically, by the Negro, Roscoe Prentiss, who had been promoted to the position that was rightfully Otto’s own. If he had been hesitant before making the call, the fact that Prentiss answered had hardened his resolve to have some things his own way. Beggs had said that he was unwell, and was on his way to his doctor, and would then take it easy, but he’d probably be okay tomorrow.

Prentiss had been definitely upset. Ten of the White House Detail had been dispatched to Paris to look things over at Chantilly and Versailles nearby. Two others were in bed with influenza. There would be no one to substitute for Beggs but that new kid, Ross, transferred to the Detail from Baltimore only a week ago and still unfamiliar with the White House routine and the President’s habits. Maybe the doctor would give Beggs a clean bill of health, and he could report for duty anyway, even if a little late. Momentarily, Beggs had wavered-duty-but then he had revived his resentment toward Prentiss and Dilman, Negroes who had put him down, were still trying to put him down, trying to keep him from one of their girls. It had been difficult for him, but he had insisted, in a pained voice, that he was just too sick, and he’d check back with Agajanian tonight.

Working his way through back streets toward Ruby’s apartment, to be sure that no neighbor would observe him, he had worried briefly that Agajanian might be concerned and call the house, and Gertrude would learn of his deception. But that was unlikely, he had decided, for he had told Prentiss he would be at the doctor’s long enough for a complete physical examination. Furthermore, Agajanian was too busy to give him a second thought at any time. The new kid, Ross, could do the job.

A half hour after his arrival in Ruby’s small walk-up apartment through the private entrance to which she had carefully directed him, his last lingering guilt about dereliction from duty had been washed away by the two generous servings of gin and Ruby’s provocative warmth.

She had asked how he had managed to arrange seeing her, and he had told her that there had been nothing to it. It had not been really easy, yet it had been easier than he had expected.

He saw her pleased face, and was in turn pleased himself by his aggressive independence. This was worth any risk. She was the most beautiful dark animal on earth, and he was alone with her.

She was saying, “You mean, Otter, I’m more important for you to see than the Pres? You mean you don’t mind givin’ up p’ofessional work jes ’cause you wanna be with me?”

The gin, and the scent of her, now mixed together behind his temples and made him light-headed and reckless. “Honey, I’d rather be here than anywhere on earth. This is all I’ve been dreaming about, day and night, being with you like this.”

“Whee!” she exclaimed, and suddenly she was up on her knees, reaching out for him. “Man, I sure like you sweet-talkin’ me, makin’ me tingle all ovah-you is deservin’ a reward-”

She was over him, to his surprise, playfully mouthing little kisses upon his cheek. The fluttering opening and closing of her soft lips aroused him. Unable to control himself further, he threw his arms around her, and handling her as easily as a flexible plaything, pulled her down to his chest, pressed his lips hard against her half-open mouth. She responded with her lips, and wriggled her body in his grasp, until the sensuous movements of her back and the sides of her breasts against his palms almost suffocated him.

When she came away from him, eyes now open and staring up at him, gasping to breathe as he gasped too, she said, “Man, you sure is potent-you gittin’ poor Ruby’s naycher stirrin’ up a mile high an’ wantin’ to go-”

“Honey-”

She pushed herself off his lap and came around to stare at him solemnly. “Man, you know what you is doin’ to me?”

“Ruby-”

“You sure enuff full of powers, man, got me hot and full up with naycher-better lemme change-wanna let lil Ruby change?”

Bewildered, frightened, Beggs said, “Whatever you want, Ruby. Yes, you’d better.”

“Yum,” she said. She jumped off the sofa, and then abruptly sat on his lap again, her back to him, one finger pointing behind her. “Unbutton me, darlin’, so’s I can change.”

His thick fingers fumbled at the buttons, and he had difficulty opening them, but at last the back of her blouse fell apart revealing the smooth black shoulders and ridge of spine and the white band and clasp of her brassière. Her head came around, and her lower lip pouted. “Otter, you been ’round too much for this lil pickaninny. Ummm-” She kissed his nose and stood up, chastely holding up the front of her unfastened blouse with her palm. “Won’t be more than a minute changin’. Wanna freshen the drinks?”

“Sure thing.”

“You be waitin’ for lil Ruby-oh, mothah me! Dog my cats! I loves you, man-”

She went quickly, hips and skirt swinging, out of the small living room into the bedroom, half closing the door behind her.

Otto Beggs sat unmoving. She was gone, but the fragrance of her flesh still enveloped him, entered his pores, kindled his desire for her even more intensely. She had said that she wanted to “change.” What did that mean? Change to what? He had an idea to what. Still, would she? Was it possible? Of course, it was possible. She had said that she was hot and full up with “naycher”-meaning, he woozily deducted, that her natural instincts, her primitive instincts, had been aroused by him. Criminy, what did a colored girl do, how did she behave, when she felt like that? It was a mystery to him, yet his wonder at the unknown was secondary to his great expectations. Shortly, if he had not misread her, he would be initiated into the club-the club of coarse jokes-to be one with all those who had changed their luck.

He left the sofa for the kitchenette, dropped ice into the glasses, poured a double amount of J and B over her ice, and a long shot of gin over his, and forgot about the tonic. He walked back into the living room, holding her drink, taking a swallow of his, and suddenly he stood still. There she was, and he had never seen anything like it except in the movies and men’s magazines.

She posed, one hand on a hip, standing between the mosaic coffee table and the sofa.

“How you like it, Otter?” she asked, and as she pirouetted gracefully, the dark definite lines of her body were clearly revealed from behind the flimsy, long lemon-colored negligee. “I had to git myself some expensive underwear, price of three LPs, jes for this occasion with my Otter.”

“It fits you great,” he said, embarrassed by the thick huskiness of his voice. “This is sure a treat.”

“Don’t sweet-talk cottonpickin’ me-you a big hero with all them fancy whitegirls fussin’ ’round you-”

He took another drink, and protested, “None of them hold a candle to you, Ruby. You look like a movie star, no kidding.”

She lowered herself to the sofa, crossing one leg over the other in a new pose, this one of languor, and watched him. He placed her drink before her and looked down at her, at the ebony flesh running from the hollow of her throat to the exposed cleft between her breasts. She raised her hands behind her head, and he was hypnotized by the shifting and spreading of the mounds of her bosom, no longer covered by the brassière, hardly concealed by the transparent negligee.

She patted the soft sofa beside her. “Come on, Otter, ain’t you gonna show this woman no friendshipness?”

Stiffly, almost asthmatically wheezing, he moved between the sofa and table, drinking again. Then, daringly, he sank down beside her, one arm high on the sofa behind her, his free hand holding the drink. Without trying to look, he could see the reddish bikini panties she was wearing, and the flesh of one broad dark thigh as it lay over the other. He tried to lift his eyes to her face, but he could not help holding his gaze on her protruding breasts.

“Thirty-eight,” she said.

His head came up quickly. “What?”

She cupped her hands beneath her breasts. “Size thirty-eight,” she said. “Figger you’d wanna know exactly.”

He brought the trembling glass to his flushed face. “You should be an actress, Ruby, something like that.” He drank to reinforce his giddy hopes.

“Naw, like I told you before, I been there bein’ leered at by the whiteboys. I don’t like paradin’ myself before any ol’ body. You-you is somethin’ special, Otter-”

She reached out, gently but firmly removed the glass from his clutch, set it on the table, and squirmed closer to him, head against his shoulder, fingers playfully opening his shirt, and then her hand slipping underneath his shirt and caressing his hairy chest.

He dropped his arm from the sofa down around her shoulders, loosely, listening to the throaty sounds of her, like a cat’s motor-purrings. He was not positive what he should do next, take the plunge at once, grab her, start it, or tell her first what he wanted, or be more subtle and find out if what he thought was being led up to was really understood by both of them. If he came right out and made the move, or the demand, and she was just teasing around, it would be embarrassing and ruin everything. He had to be positive. Also, there were some women, even among the paid ones, who liked to go slow, and maybe she was one of these. If she was, he didn’t want to spoil his chances. There was time, plenty of time.

“Why do you think I’m so special, Ruby?” he asked, feeling foolish. “I like hearing it, believe me, but you must’ve known plenty of young men.”

“Not so many, Otter, an’ no somebody like you-you is handsome and strong-Jee-sus-you feels all muscle-an’ a hero with them medals, botherin’ ’bout lil pickaninny me-nobody me, sep I admit to bein’ thirty-eight where it counts-” She enjoyed this, and giggled. “You knows what, Otter, I was thinkin’ last night. You is too impo’tant to be wastin’ time even guardin’ the Pres of the U.S.A.-you knows that? You too impo’tant in you own right to be wastin’ time on a finky culludman Pres who ain’t half the man you is. Thass what I think of you, Otter. You is better than him. Mothah an’ Lordy, you sure is.”

“Thank you for the compliments, Ruby, but he is President of the United States, and nobody’s more important.”

“Ummm. You smell jes good… you is more impo’tant. That black man in the White House ain’t fit to shine you shoes.”

A little more, he thought, a little more of this aimless chatter, and he’d be sure, and take the plunge. “Last time we talked, you had no feelings one way or the other about President Dilman. What’s happened since, Ruby? You don’t have to answer-who gives a damn about him-except I’d think you’d be happy about a Negro in-”

Suddenly she removed her hand from his chest and turned on her side, her silky, cooing voice turning resolute and strident. “I ain’t happy ’bout him no more. Lots been happenin’ to him and us. Dilman ain’t good enuff to be colored man or whiteboy, either. He ain’t good enuff to be any ol’ thing. He a turd, nothin’ better. Lookit him bannin’ the Turners, not liftin’ a finger for poor ol’ Jeff Hurley. Lookit him even takin’ away the crummy minority law money from my kinfolk. Otter, that man you guardin’ with you life no good for nobody-he spellin’ only evil-”

Silently Beggs cursed himself for inciting her with a conversation that he had meant to use only as a bridge to the ultimate seduction. Now, judging from the indignation in her eyes, he saw that her mood was anything but sensual. Desperately, he tried to sidetrack her. “Ruby, just as you said before, he isn’t important enough to get riled up about. I don’t like him much either, I can admit it to you since we’re so close, and not because he’s a Negro or for what he’s doing to Negroes-I don’t know much about that, except the whites are plenty sore at him too for vetoing that bill, throwing his weight around-I don’t like him because he’s a weakling. That’s the main thing. That banning, somebody else did that for him, that’s how weak he is. And the veto, hell, that showed no guts, only he got scared of the banning and tried to make up for it-”

Ruby shook her head. “You too charitable, Otter-my friends and relatives, they don’t think that Dilman weak-they think him evil all day long, ’cause he resents his color, thass what.”

There was imagining and there was performing, and Otto Beggs had had enough of the imagining and was ready for the performing. He lowered his arm further, and encircled her tighter, feeling the spongy give of her breast beneath the lingerie.

“Aw, forget him, Ruby. He’s not worth you and your friends getting so sore about. Believe me, and you know how well I know him, take my word for it from the inside, he’s scared of his shadow, and that’s why he acts the way he does.”

She seemed hardly aware of Beggs’s arm or hand or increasing ardor. She sat up a little. “What is you meanin’-thass why he acts way he does? Don’t tell me he ain’t ’shamed of his own people an’ actin’ against us.” Her tone had become concerned. “You knows somethin’ different, bein’ with him? I won’t believe anythin’, sep if you-”

Ruby, listen.” He was determined to end this conversation fast, and get going with her. “Like I said, I hold no brief for the guy, and I don’t like being put in the position of defending him. At the same time, I think enough of you not to want to see you all worked up and angry, for no reason. So let me tell you the truth of it, between us, strictly you and me-”

“For sure, I promise, Otter.”

“-and let’s get you relaxed and at ease again, and have ourselves a ball. Few people have had as close a look at the President as I have. You agree to that?”

“Sure enuff, Otter, but don’t you think he-?”

“He’s no more against Negroes than you are or your friends are or I am. He’s just on the spot being President, being a colored President, and he knows it and feels it. He knows whatever which-way he turns, a whole bunch of people will think he’s wrong, simply because he’s a minority person. Whenever I get sore at him and at myself for having to spend my good time guarding him, guarding a man who is contributing nothing to improve us, I remember a couple things I’ve seen and heard, and then, instead of being sore, well, I pity him. That’s true, Ruby, I’m not puffing myself up, but me, I pity him.” He paused. “You know why? Because even though he’s sitting where F. D. R. and Harry and Ike and J. F. K. and Lyndon and The Judge and T. C. sat, he still feels he’s sitting in the back of the bus, because that’s where a lot of people around him make him think he belongs. I don’t know politics, but I’ve got eyes and ears. Certain people are trying to run him, and to make it easier they’re pressuring him, letting him know he doesn’t belong, and he feels it and suffers like a dog, and that’s the only thing he’s got from me, my sympathy.”

Ruby seemed curiously chastened and troubled. “What you mean with that there talkin’, Otter? What you mean?”

Beggs was becoming increasingly furious at the time this was taking. “Okay, I’ll give it to you quickly, and then you promise, no more politics or Dilman?”

“ ’Course, Otter, I promise. But what you mean by-?”

“Remember that big speech he delivered the other night, vetoing the minorities bill everyone wanted? I was outside his open door, the door to his office, during it and afterwards. I could see and hear everything. You should have seen him after that speech, almost sick with nervousness and worry. Then there were a lot of phone calls, apparently from big shots in government and all over, and most of them must have been awful, calling him names, giving him hell. Anyway, later, I heard him on the phone with somebody who’s a friend of his, a lawyer from Chicago, and I heard Dilman saying-these aren’t the exact words, but something like this-‘Don’t kid me, Nat, they want to crucify me. There’s a whole race of people around here like them, not white or black, but selfish, thinking of themselves and no one else and not the country. I could’ve been popular, a little popular, by playing along the way I have all my life, but I figured just once I’d like to be myself and do what I think is right. I thought everyone would see I have nothing to gain by doing wrong. I don’t have to play politics, because I don’t have to worry about getting re-elected. I have only a short time to go, so I can afford to be honest. I figured everyone would see that, and kind of think twice about the veto, and sit down and talk out a real bill and not a bribe. I didn’t think they’d come down on me like this. I can’t repeat what I’ve been called tonight. How do you reach people like that? How do you reach anyone at all?’ And he went on, Ruby, not in those exact words, but like that. Well, Christ, I never felt sorrier for him than I did then, until the next-”

Beggs found that Ruby was holding his arm, clutching it. “Otter, that really did happen? I can’t-it’s sorta-”

“It happened, you bet it happened,” Beggs said. “It’s just more of the same. You read about the time he gave his first official dinner for the African President, and half the big guests never showed up? Can you beat that? It’s true. I was there.”

“Oh, no-” said Ruby. She released Beggs’s arm, reached for her drink, and took a long swallow of it.

Fascinated now by the way his words were upsetting her, feeling there was some strength and ascendancy to win over her in this way, Otto Beggs went on. “One more little thing I started to tell you. The next day, after the television speech, I happened to be alone with Dilman’s secretary, and she was kind of disturbed and unraveled from the way he was being beaten up on the phone and in the papers, and we got to talking about it. She’s a white girl, you know, from Wisconsin, and usually cool and steady, but she was kind of emotional, and when I said it was too bad the way the President was getting knocked around for his color, she said that I didn’t know the half of how he really felt.”

Ruby was staring at her drink, not at Beggs. “What-what she mean by that there talk, Otter?”

“Miss Foster, her name is. She said she’d never forget his first day as President. She was alone with him the first time, planning to hand in her resignation, and when she’d come in his office, there was one door open. She started to shut it, so they could be in privacy, and he wouldn’t let her close the door, he didn’t want it shut. She couldn’t understand, and then he said that Eisenhower once had a Negro adviser who found that white girls always left a door open when they came in to see him, sort of as protection, as if he was a lower animal or habitual rapist. And so Dilman took to the habit of being sure one door was left open whenever a white girl came in and-” To Beggs’s astonishment, Ruby had jumped up from the sofa and gone to the center of the room, her back turned to him. “Anyway,” he concluded lamely, “Miss Foster said she wanted to cry for him, and she shut that door and did not resign. So whatever your friends think about Dilman being evil-”

He halted, and listened.

It was incredible. Ruby’s shoulders were shaking, and her face was in her hands, and she was sobbing.

Utterly confounded, Otto Beggs left the sofa and hurried to her side. “Ruby, what the hell-” He grabbed her arms, and pulled her around, and then drew her hands from her eyes. She was crying, mascara running, and tears streaking her face. “Otter-Otter-Otter,” she kept repeating.

He shook her a little. “Ruby, what’s got into you?”

She swallowed, trying to control herself. “Otter, the devil’s in me an’ I’ll burn in front of Jesus if I don’t tell you-Otter, from what you told me, you swear it-”

“What I told you? I only told you the truth about-”

“Jesus in Heaven, I done did an awful an’ wicked act, I think I did, I think, I don’t know, but I’m worryin’, Jesus, I’m worryin’-’cause I don’t wan’ Pres Dilman hurt if he’s like you say.”

Beggs felt the blood coursing to his head. “What-what do you mean-?” A chill of apprehension, intensified by guilt and fear, crept across his chest and forearms, leaving goose pimples. “How-how could anything you do hurt him-the President?”

“Otter-listen-I didn’t know a thing, sep some certain cullud folk were wantin’ me to meet you long time ago from right after Dilman become Pres, ’cause they not likin’ his weaslin’ ’bout the Turners, so they bein’ my folk, I agrees. But meetin’ you, I fo’gits ’bout them, ’cause I gotta admits y’all been excitin’ to me-then when those there certain cullud folk, they see Pres Dilman killin’ off the Turners an’ Hurley, they gits to fussin’ an’ fumin’-an’ they remembers me-an’ come askin’ if I is still friendly-like with Otter Beggs, an’ I says I is, sorta, an’ they says for me to git you up here in my ’partment today, git you off the job today, ’cause they didn’t want you round when they see the Pres-I-Otter-I don’t pay no mind to who tell me this, don’t remember who told me-Otter-don’t look like that, Otter-only there’s some who hate the Pres like you don’t know, like I was tellin’-hate him from the start, hate him with real hate now-an’ wanna have a showdown with him-an’ figgerin’ it was hard to git to him exactly private-like, with you always there, a hero man like you readyin’ to shoot everybody-so they say for me to keep you busy till they can see the Pres when he finishes with his office workin’ today an’ goes up to-”

Beggs was violent with rage. “Goddammit, you little whore!” he shouted, wrenching her arms. “If you’re lying to me or not telling everything-!”

“Otter, Otter, don’t! You hurtin’ me-Otter, it’s true, every word I’m tellin’. Why should I tell, sep I sinned-I know I sinned-”

He could not release her arms. “Damn you, who are your friends-what are they planning-?”

“I don’t know-don’t know-swear to Jesus-”

He flung her arms down fiercely. “I ought to kill you-boy, I ought to kill you for making me such a sucker-”

“But I was likin’ you, Otter-truth, I swears it-”

He was no longer listening.

He looked at his watch. It showed sixteen minutes after five o’clock. Almost every afternoon President Dilman quit his office at five-thirty. Ruby’s friends wanted to see the President when Beggs was not around, when someone less experienced and able than Beggs was there, when someone new was there. It could mean but one thing, one horrifying, life-shattering thing. There were only fourteen minutes for him to intercept Dilman or alert Agajanian.

He looked up and saw that Ruby Thomas had retreated to her bedroom door, frightened, watching him wide-eyed.

“I ought to beat you to a pulp and drag you to the FBI!” he hollered. “My duty’s more important than you, you little whore-”

He spun around, snatching up his coat and holster, and strode to the door.

She cried out, “Otter, I did tell you aforehand-you ain’ sayin’ I didn’t tell you-don’t let them hurt him, please, Otter-!”

He slammed the door on her, hastily buckling on the holster, then yanking on his coat as he went down the stairs two at a time. As he rushed outside, his first instinct was to locate a telephone booth, call Gaynor or Agajanian or Prentiss, any of the Detail, and warn them to keep the President in his office, and throw up a double-a triple-guard, and search for Ruby’s hophead friends. Then, suddenly, he realized it was impossible for him to make such a call. They’d ask him who and what-and how had he got his tip? What could he say? He had a hunch? He’d overheard something? He’d got a crank note with a lead? He possessed no instant evidence-except the truth-Ruby-and if he dared mention her, and she was hauled in, and they found out that he had not been sick, had been trying to have an affair with her, a colored girl, he’d be cooked, through, his present a scandal, his future no more. He’d lose the Secret Service, and Gertrude and the kids. No, the call was out. He’d have to do it himself.

He had been moving fast, now half running, all the while he had been thinking. He arrived at the alley behind the Walk Inn, with its parking slots, leaped into the Nash Rambler, started it, backed up, shifted, and wheeled out of the alley into the street. He gunned the car, running a yellow light, and twisted the vehicle toward the White House.

He drove fast, fast as he could over the route that he had traveled so many days of his life, jumping lights, beating the changing signals, weaving in and out of traffic, knowing he must be there before the President left his Oval Office. If a policeman flagged him down, he’d have to flash his Secret Service badge and bellow emergency. He drove on the brink of recklessness, ignoring the angry horns and curses that chased him briefly and then died away.

There were intervals of lucidity. He had sobered, he knew, but his breath still reeked of gin. If he came into the West Wing lobby like a madman, like some fugitive from a cops-and-robbers television show, and there was nothing there, and Ruby Thomas’ story was a cock-and-bull story, he would not only be the laughingstock of the Service but in real trouble for being drunk in public. Anticipating this, determined to prevent it, he dug into his pocket for the peppermints that he always carried and sucked on after having a beer or two, and was grateful that there was still a half roll. His nail loosened and freed three of them, and he popped them into his mouth.

With difficulty, as he neared his goal, he tried to organize his thoughts. Had that black bitch lied to him, fed him that whopper of a tale? It was possible, if she was some kind of psychopathic nut, a schizo, a fruitcake. Another possibility: maybe-and he hated this, hated the comment on his manliness-maybe she had led him on, for the kicks of it, and then, when the chips were down, had backed off, not wanting to go the distance with him, wanting to go so far for kicks and no farther, wanting to be rid of the whiteboy. There were women like that-teasers. And so she had pulled this wild story out of left field to get rid of him. Maybe. But, unhappily, that made little sense. After all, Beggs remembered, he had got her onto the subject of Dilman, challenged her opinion, changed her, touched the emotional part of her femininity and Negro feeling, and then she had done the about-face, the confessional. More than that, it was unlikely that she would invent so dramatic and serious a lie, knowing as she did that he could cause her so much trouble with the authorities.

Unless she was a psycho-she did not look like one, behave like one, except that Jelly Roll idiocy, and playing around with a white man like himself, who was respectable and married and could offer her nothing-well, there was no other explanation for what had happened except the worst one. And the worst one was: she was telling the truth. Someone she knew personally was plotting to hurt the President, and had used her to divert the best shot in the Secret Service.

The possibility that she had spoken the truth sickened him, and automatically made him thrust his foot harder against the gas pedal as his car rattled and shook out of another turn. My God, he thought, in five minutes it could happen, be happening, whatever it was, and he, Otto Beggs, Medal of Honor winner, Secret Service bodyguard, would not only be absent, derelict in his duty, unable to protect the President’s life, but would have innocently collaborated, in a way, with those who would be harming the President.

For a second he was tempted to skid to a halt, run to a telephone, and, since he could not admit he was calling, place an anonymous call. Then he knew that time had run out for that. There were always so many crank calls, and they were sifted and checked, and before his could be treated seriously, the five-minute leeway, less now, would be gone. Besides, even if there was time, supposing the President had been delayed in his office, Beggs knew that he would be no good at disguising his voice. He was no actor (the word actor was associated in his mind immediately with John Wilkes Booth, to whom he was uncomfortably close in infamy this moment), and it was no use. He kept the Rambler speedometer at fifty-five miles per hour.

The possibility of a real assault on the President, even an assassination attempt, grew on him, refused to go away, and became a firm conviction. These were bad, unsettled times. In Beggs’s experience, he had never known so many people to speak out viciously-not chidingly or satirically or with irritation, but viciously-against a Chief Executive of the land. Perhaps in no rooms of the 132 rooms in the White House was this savagery felt, or known, as thoroughly as in the rooms occupied by the Secret Service. Never in its history had the Protective Research Section of the Secret Service been so overworked. Since President Dilman had outlawed the Turnerites, since he had vetoed the minorities bill, there was evidence that eight out of every ten Americans were against him, and half of the threatening and obscene letters that had poured in recently, and had been referred to the Protective Section, were still unread, a mounting pile of anonymous letters to be analyzed and broken down by geography, writing habits, vocabulary tricks, so that the potential killers could be identified and observed or apprehended.

Whenever Chief Gaynor thought that his agents were becoming complacent and sloppy about routine, he made them read a sampling of the letters. Most, he would admit, were harmless, penned by ordinarily rational citizens letting off steam. But some, he would remind them, came from paranoid personalities, with little hold on reality, with obsessive beliefs that with one tug of a trigger they could right the wrong and save the nation. These were the ones, they existed. Oh, they existed, yes. Remember them, Gaynor would warn, remember Richard Lawrence, John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau, Leon F. Czolgosz, John Schrank, Giuseppe Zangara, Oscar Collazo, Griselio Torresola, even the puzzling Lee Harvey Oswald-remember them and do not be deceived by the preponderance of foreign names. Enough of them were Americans, Gaynor would say, Americans who read the papers, went to amusement parks, shopped for groceries, celebrated holidays, saved their money, ate their meals, voted at election time, slept and woke, and walked crowded city streets, and carried instruments of destruction to bring great men down to their size and to their feet, to settle grievances. They existed. They acted. Expect the unexpected, Gaynor would say, never go slack, be ready and prepared for suddenness.

Otto Beggs saw the White House across the street. He screeched around a car, slowing for the red light on Pennsylvania Avenue, roared across the thoroughfare, and braked as he entered the Northwest Gate.

He began to show his pass, but a grinning White House policeman waved him through. “Hi, Otto. How come the VIP entrance? You being decorated again?”

“Yeh, decorated!” he shouted back. Yeh, with thirty pieces of silver, he thought.

He rode up the driveway, jerkily parked, came out of the car fast. He realized that he was still tieless, and that would draw attention, but there was no time to put on the necktie stuffed in his pocket. He must make haste without causing a commotion, without letting himself be waylaid by press or colleagues. He must get where he was going quickly, yet without creating panic, lest he be exposed for a fool over a false alarm.

Striding to the West Wing lobby, he glanced at his watch. If the timepiece was correct, it was five thirty-two.

As ever, at this hour, the press foyer with its three telephone booths was teeming with reporters. He shoved past them, ignoring their curiosity at his disheveled appearance. He swallowed the last of his peppermints, hurried into the Reading Room, keeping his back to the Secret Service offices to the right, curtly acknowledging the greeting of the blue-uniformed policeman at the desk to the left. He swung off, past the reporters lolling about on their leather sofas and chairs, past Tim Flannery’s office, and into the corridor with its black-and-white checkered floor.

Alone at last, now unobserved, he ran heavily past the Cabinet Room door and Miss Foster’s door, until he reached the open corridor entrance, with a chain across it, leading into the President’s Oval Office, where Agent Winkler stood guard.

“Hey, Otto,” the agent called out, “where you been?”

“I got a special message for the President. Where is he?” He poked his head into the office. It was empty.

“Left five seconds ago for upstairs.”

Beggs unfastened the chain with one hand as he unbuttoned his coat with the other. “Got to see him, important message,” he said, flipping the end of the chain to his colleague.

Moving swiftly, for his size, Beggs bounded across the President’s office toward the one French door that was still open to the Rose Garden.

Outside, heart hammering, he halted, and in the gloomy dusk of late afternoon scanned the L-shaped colonnaded terrace walk that led from the West Wing offices, past the indoor swimming pool, to the ground-floor entrance into the White House proper. He did not see them at first, and then, at once, he did, as they emerged from behind a white pillar. They were close together as they moved ahead, first President Dilman, then the new young fellow, Agent Ross, a short man, shorter than the President, a half stride behind.

The scene was peaceful and serene, the activity as familiar and routine as every five-thirty stroll he himself had enacted with Dilman in the last two months. Nothing unusual, nothing unexpected, nothing sudden.

False alarm, thank God, Beggs reassured himself, sagging with relief. His pleasure was mitigated only by the anger he had hoarded against that bitch of a colored girl, who had put him through a quarter of an hour of hell simply to be rid of him.

About to turn back into the office, he saw that the President had stopped to point out something concerning the barren hedges that separated the cement walk from the historic garden.

Automatically Otto Beggs’s trained eyes examined the leafless hedges, then lifted to inspect the White House Rotunda and Truman Balcony across the way, then lowered to study the bushy Andrew Jackson magnolia tree, then casually took in the depleted flower beds, the group of empty metal patio chairs around the outdoor table, the busy gardener in olive-drab overalls on his knees digging a hole with his trowel for a new plant, the rectangle of the Rose Garden itself off to the right, the-and then it came to him-the unusual and unexpected.

Beggs’s neck stiffened. His gaze shifted back to the gardener, the gardener in olive-drab overalls, their color almost blending him and losing him against the magnolia tree. The gardener straightened, stood up, rubbing his back, then reached down to pick up his plant, and slowly began working his way from the magnolia tree, unobtrusively, diagonally, across the carpet of lawn toward the spot where the President and Ross still stood, absorbed in their horticultural conversation.

As if propelled by instinct, Beggs stealthily moved to his left across the cement walk, toward the corner turn, toward the ramp leading down to where the President and Ross were talking. Beggs’s narrowed eyes never left the gardener. From eighty feet, he could not make out the laborer clearly, except to see that he was a squat, husky Negro carrying a plant, to all outward appearances absorbed in his work, going toward the chrysanthemum bed and naked hedges and white colonnades.

An innocent and customary pastoral scene, a prosaic scene to be observed daily from his post outside the President’s office, the gardeners, their plants, their tools, something that went on in the daylight and sun of repeated mornings and afternoons. But-Beggs’s mind wondered, as he moved: oddity one, an unfamiliar Negro gardener, he could not remember a Negro, the opposite in build of this husky person, yet Dilman, being Negro, could certainly have hired another recently; oddity two, a gardener at work in the dusk, scant minutes before night, a gardener alone when all the regulars had gone home, a gardener planting at an hour when planting was never done, impossible.

Beggs had arrived, unseen, at the corner colonnade that now separated the two on the walk from himself. Straight ahead of Beggs, Dilman and Ross were still talking, Dilman listening to the new Secret Service agent, and the new agent, his back to the garden, unaware that there was anyone else nearby. And even if Ross should turn, and the walk to the ground floor be resumed, the agent was too unfamiliar with the personnel and routine to realize that this was an unknown gardener who was engaged in planting at an unlikely hour. There they conversed, the unsuspecting pair, there straight ahead, to the left of the corner colonnade. And to the right of the colonnade, at the center of the garden, fifty feet away, the Negro gardener had strangely halted, put down his plant, was reaching inside his overalls.

Overcautious or not, Beggs had a pattern he must follow, one spurred by a foolish warning from a colored chippy and reinforced by a suspicion born of the unusual.

He started down the ramp, then called out, “Hey, Ross! Ross!”

President Dilman looked up, startled, as the new agent started to whirl around.

Beggs cupped his hand to his mouth. “That gardener behind you-check him. Who is he?”

Neither Ross nor the President had been listening when he began to give his order, and now as if by reflex action, to Beggs’s petrified amazement, the new agent quickly left Dilman and started toward Beggs, head cocked, one finger tipping his ear forward.

For a split second, Beggs was too horrified to speak. It was understandable, that reflex to catch more distinctly what had been called out, to draw nearer, but it was a lapse that broke the cardinal rule of Presidential protection. By his action, Ross had left Dilman momentarily alone and unguarded.

“What?” Ross called back, as he came toward Beggs. “What is it?”

Infuriated by a freshman’s stupidity, Beggs sprinted down the sharp decline, shaking his fist. “Dammit, you’re not supposed to leave the President! I told you to check on-” And then, as he was almost upon Ross, the corner of his eye caught the flash of motion, the suddenness of motion.

The Negro gardener had yanked some object from inside his overalls, and at once, from an easygoing planter he had become transformed into a purposeful aggressor, springing forward, dashing across the remaining lawn and flower bed, rapidly closing the distance that separated him from the President.

Beggs’s response was instantaneous, as swift, as positive, as mindless as it had been that memorable frozen night in Korea. Beggs clutched Ross by the shoulder, forcibly flung him aside, sent him pancaking against the wall.

As his free hand plunged to his holster, whipping out his revolver, Beggs stumbled, recovered his balance, and then he raced down the walk toward the President. Ahead, Dilman, hand massaging his forehead in bewilderment, remained inert, as if hypnotized by Beggs’s incredible action. To the right, converging on the President as he himself was, Beggs could make out the Negro gardener running, slipping on the wet grass but retaining his footing and bounding toward the President. The object in his fist, shockingly vivid now, was a Luger that seemed to grow monstrously large.

“Down! Drop down!” Beggs screamed at Dilman.

The President’s head spun from the charging Beggs to the sound of the running on his left. As he saw the looming black figure with its weapon, unmistakably an assailant waving a gun, hurtling from the lawn across the flower bed in order to take dead aim in the near-darkness, Dilman’s strangled throat cried out, “No!” and his arms went up to cover his face.

“Down!” Beggs roared again.

Rooted by fear, Dilman turned only his head and torso from the attack, helpless and a perfect target. Beggs was fifteen feet away when the burly assassin landed in the flower bed, pointing his Luger, sinking in the soft turned soil just as he pulled the trigger.

The explosion, so near, was like a clap of thunder against Beggs’s eardrums. He could see the erratic, tilted shot go high, ripping the cement and plaster above the President’s head.

In a frozen moment, imprinted on Beggs’s mind, there was the tableau of their coming together-murderer, victim, protector. Frozen, and insanely joyous, the white eyes and gold and white teeth of the matted dark Halloween head, over the hedge. Frozen, as unready and incredulous as a defenseless yearling about to go down, the wide, red-flecked eyes of the President, the lifted and ineffectual arms of the President with the sleeves too short and ridiculous. Frozen, Beggs himself, the length of a man’s length away, the length of mortality, his one leg high, high off the walk, his other driven against the cement, his catapult, the Corvallis Beggs, the Korea Beggs, the has-been who would-never-be, the faded physique glued and pressed into the scrapbook page.

The frozen moment heaved and blew sky-high, as the eruption and detonation came simultaneously.

Beggs erupted, vaulted into the air, knees and legs smashing the President’s chest. The assassin’s pistol, at the end of his wavering arm, the barrel an accusing and avenging metallic finger, came over the hedge and discharged its point-blank, vehement, deafening blast.

For an infinity, Beggs felt himself being lifted higher and higher by the blast, and then he was plummeting downward, legless, as if the folding body beneath him were his lower limbs. He heard Dilman groan as they crashed to the cement walk, Dilman beneath and doubled over, and himself atop Dilman.

Trying to rise, Beggs teetered on the rim of a deep invisible canyon, swaying, knowing he must fall. It was all feeling now, feeling and nerve ends, feeling the moist blood on Dilman’s cheekbone, the soaked blood that had pasted his own trousers to his own leg, feeling the security of the metal in the grip of his right palm.

The reverberations from the assassin’s blast still pounded inside his head. He came around on his side, lightning-fast, trying not to expose the President. He came around as the assassin above shook his gun, raised it unsteadily, as if unsure that he had killed the President and determined to try again, determined to find an opening. All this in the shaving of a second. As the other’s gun came up, steadying itself, Beggs’s wrist snapped the revolver in his palm upward. His proud Medal of Honor reflex. His forefinger tugged the trigger as immediately and gently as once it had pulled the thumb from his infant son’s mouth. The response, the report from his revolver, was as quiet and as firm as his finger’s reproof. There was a muffled metallic cough, a swooshing, humming sound.

He was not surprised to see the assassin’s black face let go its venom, open and broaden in wonder. He was not surprised to see the assassin’s fingers fan outward, like those of a mechanical doll, until the Luger was released and clattered to the cement walk. He was not surprised to see the person above touch both hands to his chest, as if to open the overalls at the reddening stain, and then drop his chin, and then gradually surrender life, and then fold downward and downward into a lumpy heap behind the stark branches of the hedge.

Beggs turned his head at the footsteps, so many hurrying footsteps. Sluggishly, with disinterest, he watched them coming from everywhere, from everywhere, it seemed, from the guardhouse, the Oval Office, the entrance above the ramp, and probably from the ground floor behind him. His vision was poor. There were police, Ross and Prentiss and a half-dozen others of Gaynor’s boys, Miss Foster, Flannery, Talley, countless more.

He heard the babel of voices, the shouts, the yelling, the commands.

“Get the physician-get Oates-right through there, around the corner!”

“Move Beggs-move him-lift him off!”

“The President-is he dead?”

It was pleasant for Beggs, all the hands, all the attention. He found himself on a blanket, on his back, staring up at blurred faces and the overhang above them.

From a distance he heard Ross’s voice. “-the gardener fired, missed, then Beggs jumped on the President and bowled him over as the colored guy fired again. Then Beggs rolled over and just shot him dead… The body’s over there, Chief-”

He thought that he heard Admiral Oates’s voice nearby. “Mr. President-Mr. President-” Then silence. “He’s alive-I don’t think he’s been touched-the blood’s not his-here, nurse, give me the spirits of ammonia-Mr. President, there now, that’s better-”

Then he heard President Dilman, weak but irritable. “I’m all right. Leave me alone. Beggs, he took the shot instead of me. Get over there and help him.”

Beggs opened his eyes. What was wrong with them? Nothing was distinct. Admiral Oates’s face floated into his vision, a face less grouchy because it was not clear. He was saying, “Easy, Mr. Beggs, let me have a look-oh yes, yes-see here, it’s his right leg-really chewed up-Miss Foster! Get an ambulance to take him to Walter Reed Hospital at once! Beggs, do you feel any pain? No, I suppose not. Shock. I’ll give you a shot-”

He felt the sting of the needle and its extraction, but no pain; then he was diverted by Chief Gaynor’s voice behind him somewhere. “Mr. President-you all right, sir? Just wanted to tell you the assassin’s cold dead. Beggs got him with one shot straight through the chest. His wallet here-Burleigh L. Thomas, twenty-eight-truck driver’s license-the clippings-Turnerite stuff-that’s it, I’m sure… This, this is the regular map of the guided tour through the White House. You can see the line he drew in red ink. See? Followed the ground-floor tour upstairs, then into the State Dining Room, and when the others went on to the Red Room, he must have hung behind, slipped into the Family Dining Room-something we’ve always been afraid of-hid out then, apparently had the overalls inside his suit coat or jacket, changed, picked up two plants-Hawkins says he saw a colored man carrying plants downstairs around three-thirty-he must have kept himself busy but out of sight until the regular gardeners left-then kind of blended himself with the magnolia, puttered around, waiting for you… What? No, Mr. Flannery, not yet, give us a chance to cover the grounds. We’ll have something definite for the press in the morning. Just tell them the attempt was made, the President is fine, just fine, and the assailant was shot dead.”

Beggs heard Dilman’s voice, shaky but loud. “Tim, you see that Otto Beggs gets all the credit-you hear? All the credit. Admiral, I want him to receive every bit of care available to-”

Someone was shouting, “That’s spelled B-u-r-l-e-i-g-h, yeh, Burleigh, Burleigh Thomas.”

Miss Foster’s voice, he thought, distinct but so far off. “The ambulance is on its way, Admiral! How is poor Mr. Beggs? Will he-?”

He heard Oates’s distant voice. “He’s a brave man. Thank God for men like that.”

He felt soothed, no pain, too tired and sleepy to listen.

He thought: You hear that, Gertrude? You hear that, Otis, Ogden? Brave man.

He thought: You’re right, Ruby, your Otter here is impo’tant. Brave man.

He thought: Ruby Thomas, Burleigh Thomas. Fair enough, Ruby, all square.

He thought: Am I dying? To save a nigger? Dirty, lousy trick, goddam.

He thought: History books’ll say a President, he saved a President. Not bad, not bad, eh, Gertie girl?

He thought: Dear God, be merciful to me a sinner… dear Lord Jesus, see this, greater love hath no man than this… dear Saviour, cast me not into darkness… lemme live, please lemme live to fill the scrapbook, please, thank you, amen.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office of the White House Press Secretary

THE WHITE HOUSE

ADMIRAL OATES, PERSONAL PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT, ANNOUNCED TODAY THAT, EXCEPT FOR SEVERAL HEAD BRUISES AND A GENERAL CONDITION OF FATIGUE, THE PRESIDENT IS IN EXCELLENT HEALTH, FOLLOWING YESTERDAY’S ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. ALL OF THE PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENTS HAVE BEEN CANCELED, AND HE HAS BEEN CONFINED TO HIS ROOMS FOR “A MUCH-NEEDED REST.” HE WILL ATTEND THE CHANTILLY CONFERENCE IN FRANCE AS SCHEDULED.


ADMIRAL OATES ALSO ANNOUNCED THAT OTTO BEGGS, WHITE HOUSE SECRET SERVICE AGENT WHOSE ACTION SAVED THE PRESIDENT’S LIFE, REMAINS ON THE “CRITICAL” LIST AT WALTER REED GENERAL HOSPITAL. DECISION WILL BE MADE IN NEXT FORTY-EIGHT HOURS WHETHER BEGGS’S INJURED LEG CAN BE SAVED OR WHETHER AMPUTATION WILL BE NECESSARY.


COMPLETE TEXT OF ADMIRAL OATES’S MEDICAL BULLETINS ONE AND TWO ARE ATTACHED.


EDNA FOSTER sat alone in a shadowy recess of the faintly lighted Promenade Lounge of the Mayflower Hotel. She was the small and elegant room’s single occupant in this pre-cocktail hour, lost in thought as she prepared to finish her third vodka Gibson.

She was to have met George Murdock here, their favorite secluded and somewhat-beyond-their-means meeting place when either of them needed a lift, at a quarter to six. Normally she would have finished her day’s work, and taken a taxi up Connecticut Avenue, and arrived here nearly on time, to find George waiting.

However, today had been anything but normal. Because the President had been indisposed, suffering acute hypertension (if the truth were known) induced by the horror of last night, and was confined to his quarters, Edna’s work load had diminished and her workday had been curtailed. Dilman’s usual engagements had been shunted off to the occupants of other offices, and her own duties had been distributed to other White House secretaries. By four-thirty in the afternoon her desk had been clean. She had telephoned the second floor, and the President had insisted that she close shop and go home early. She had found it too late to go to the apartment first, before meeting George, and too early to time her arrival at the lounge with his own. She had decided to go by foot, by some roundabout route, to the Mayflower, to use up the extra time. Once outside, she had found the air too nippy, the sky too bleak, for her thin skin and frayed nerves, and she had immediately altered her plan. She had known, then, what she wanted. Alone or not, she wanted to be drunk.

Now, forty-five minutes later, her little finger excessively crooked as she downed the last of her third Gibson, she was warm and resolute and nicely drunk.

A waiter in a red jacket, a servant gray and smooth as an old British family retainer, glided in from the adjacent Presidential Room, hovered a moment, then came forward and removed her long-stemmed cocktail glass.

“Another, ma’am?”

She was tempted, but then she might forget what she had so carefully rehearsed for George. “I think I’ll wait, if you don’t mind. I’m expecting a friend.”

After the waiter had gone, she took out her compact to prepare for her friend. She peered into the mirror with distaste. That’s what came of buying cheap compacts with cheap mirrors, she told herself. The cheap reflecting glass was always grainy, always gave you lines you did not deserve. But then, she was too inebriated for deceit. It was a good compact, the best she had ever owned, the gift of her generous aunt in Madison. The looking glass was flawless. The lines belonged to her, fact, no argument, and for those new creases engraved on her forehead, under her eyes, around her mouth, she blamed not time but her employer.

A person did not age that much in a couple of months, any scientist would tell you that, except if there was a reason, like the way you read of some person’s hair turning white overnight because of what they’d been through. She had her reason, and his initials were Douglass Dilman. If you were not inhuman, if you had half a heart, if you empathized with even a dumb animal, you had to suffer while b