Page images
[ocr errors]

their hideously incongruous environment of stained glass and partition, and stand out in all their massive beauty. Really, the hall is as handsome a place as I have ever seen. Upstairs, where the public does not come, a wide corridor, I should think quite twenty feet, that is in itself a cozy living-room, with its prevailing colors dark green and gray, runs the whole length of the building from east to west, and upon it open the family rooms and the guest-rooms. The great hall makes a splendid ball-ground, as I know from experience, for I joined Ethel and Archie in a game there, which they would have won by about 99 to 0, I should say, if there had been any score, which there was n't. At the east end of the hall is the President's den, where the lamp burns late into the small hours many a night when the world sleeps without. There he keeps the swords and the sticks with which he takes vigorous exercise when he cannot ride. The woodman's ax he leaves behind at Oyster Bay.

The day begins at exactly 8:30 at the White House. The President himself pours the coffee at breakfast. It is one of his privileges, and he looks fine as host. I can almost hear my woman reader say, “What do they eat at a White House breakfast?” Oatmeal, eggs and bacon, coffee and rolls—there is one morning's menu. I don't think they would object to my telling, and I like to think that in thousands of homes all over our land they are sharing the President's breakfast, as it were. It brings us all so much nearer together, and that is where we belong. That was why I told of the children's play. And if there is any who thinks that his sporting with the little ones when it is the hour of play makes him any less fitted for the work he has to do for all of us, -why, he never made a bigger mistake. Ask the politicians and the place-seekers who come to see him in the early hours of the afternoon, and hear what they think of it.

From breakfast to luncheon the President is in his office, seeing the people who come from everywhere to shake hands, or with messages for the Chief Magistrate.

Along in the afternoon the horses are brought up and the President goes riding with Mrs. Roosevelt or alone. Once I heard him tempt Secretary Root to go, and the Secretary agreed if he would guarantee that Wyoming, the horse he offered him, would not kneel. He was averse to foreign customs, he said.

Yes,” laughed the President, you are a good American citizen, and home ways are good enough for you."

I have a ride on Wyoming coming to me, and I am glad. I was cheated out of it the last time, because Washington had so tired me out that the President would not take me. And Wyoming can kneel if he wants to. I think I would let him jump a fence with me where his master led. I guess I know how his Rough-Riders felt.

That was the only time Washington tired me out. I had come to help tackle its slums, for it has them, more 's the pity. Ordinarily it is one of my holiday cities: I have three, Washington, Boston, and Springfield, Massachusetts. As to Boston and Springfield, I suppose it is just because I like them. But Washington is a holiday city to me because he is there. When he was in Albany that was one. To Washington I take my wife when we want to be young again, and we go and sit in the theater and weep over the miseries of the lovers, and rejoice with them when it all comes right in the end. There should be a law to make all lovers happy in the end, and to slay all the villains, at least in the national capital. And then, nowadays, we go to the White House, and that is the best of all. I shall never forget the Christmas before last, when I told the President and Mrs. Roosevelt at breakfast of my old mother who was sick in Denmark and longing for her boy, and my hostess's gentle voice as she said, “ Theodore, let us cable over our love to her.' And they did. Before that winter day was at an end (and the twilight shadows were stealing over the old town by the bleak North Sea even while we breakfasted in Washington) the telegraph messenger, in a state of bewilderment, - I dare say he has not got over it yet-brought mother this despatch:

[ocr errors]


“ Your son is breakfasting with us. We send you our loving sympathy.


Where is there a mother who would not get up out of a sick-bed when she received a mes

[ocr errors]

sage like that, even though at first she would not believe it was true? And where is the son who would not cherish the deed and the doer forever in his heart of hearts? But it is the doing of that sort of thing that is their dear delight, those two; and that is why I am writing about them here, for I would like every one to know them just as they are. Here is a friend ’way out in Kansas, whose letter came this minute, writing, “ the President who walks through your pages is a very heroic and kingly figure, , a very Arthur among his knights at the round table.” Truly the President is that. I think we can all begin to make it out, except those who are misled and those in whose natures there is nothing to which the kingly in true manhood appeals. But could I show you him as he really is, as husband, father, and friend, you would have to love him even if you disagreed with him about everything. You just could n't help it any more than could one of the old-time employés in the White House who stopped beside me as I stood looking at him coming across from the Executive Office the other day.

“ There he is,” said he, and his face lighted up. “I don't know what there is about that man

« PreviousContinue »