When, about five o’clock, the conference was ended and we were dismissed, United States Senator, railroad presidents, field-marshals of the law, the great banker fell into an eager conversation with Grolier over the Canon on Divorce, the subject of warm debate in the convention that day. Grolier, it appeared, had led his party against the theological liberals. He believed that law was static, but none knew better its plasticity; that it was infallible, but none so well as he could find a text on either side. His reputation was not of the popular, newspaper sort, but was known to connoisseurs, editors, financiers, statesmen and judges,—to those, in short, whose business it is to make themselves familiar with the instruments of power. He was the banker’s chief legal adviser, the banker’s rapier of tempered steel, sheathed from the vulgar view save when it flashed forth on a swift errand.
“I’m glad to be associated with you in this case, Mr. Paret,” Mr. Grolier said modestly, as we emerged into the maelstrom of Wall Street. “If you can make it convenient to call at my office in the morning, we’ll go over it a little. And I’ll see you in a day or two in Washington, Watling. Keep your eye on the bull,” he added, with a twinkle, “and don’t let him break any more china than you can help. I don’t know where we’d be if it weren’t for you fellows.”
By “you fellows,” he meant Mr. Watling’s distinguished associates in the Senate....
Mr. Watling and I dined together at a New York club. It was not a dinner of herbs. There was something exceedingly comfortable about that club, where the art of catering to those who had earned the right to be catered to came as near perfection as human things attain. From the great, heavily curtained dining-room the noises of the city had been carefully excluded; the dust of the Avenue, the squalour and smells of the brown stone fronts and laddered tenements of those gloomy districts lying a pistol-shot east and west. We had a vintage champagne, and afterwards a cigar of the club’s special importation.
“Well,” said Mr. Watling, “mow that you’re a member of the royal council, what do you think of the King?”
“I’ve been thinking a great deal about him,” I said, and indeed it was true. He had made, perhaps, his greatest impression when I had shaken his hand in parting. The manner in which he had looked at me then had puzzled me; it was as though he were seeking to divine something in me that had escaped him. “Why doesn’t the government take him over?” I exclaimed.
Mr. Watling smiled.
“You mean, instead of his mines and railroads and other properties?”
“Yes. But that’s your idea. Don’t you remember you said something of the kind the night of the election, years ago? It occurred to me to-day, when I was looking at him.”