“Darling Bill—” by Dalton Trumbo

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Editor’s note: “Darling Bill—” was the first in a series of political satire Dalton Trumbo wrote for magazines and film. The epistolary fiction first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on April 20, 1935.

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Things have let up a minute, so maybe I’ll get a chance to write you. It isn’t that I don’t want to write oftener, honey. I just don’t get the time. Being secretary to Congressman Bilchester is no party. He is a gloomy old guy, as you must know from seeing him around Dubroc’s store at home so much, and he is always very much alarmed about what is going on here in Washington. He has been having what he calls his nervous stomach all morning about some silly statement to the press. So please excuse all the scratchings-out and misspellings you may find in this letter, because he has been hounding me and I’m so nervous I could just bawl. The thing that has upset him is the Sparling Bill, and I just know he’ll pop in right in the middle of this letter with some more old dictation about it.

Believe me, Bill, I sure wish I was back in Chillburg with you and Mom and Pop. Don’t you be blue about not getting a job. A young man with a fine engineering education like you is bound to get somewhere. If I can ever get old Bilchester cornered long enough, maybe I can talk him out of an appointment for you. But it seems the other side is building all the dams—a thing which I can tell you certainly does not help Mr. Bilchester’s stomach. He says it’s nothing but a scandal anyhow, and that he has a hard enough time getting a janitor appointed, much less somebody important like an engineer. And anyhow, a girl is so unimportant around here she hasn’t much chance to do anything but act dumb and take press statements.

Just a minute, sweet. Here he comes with his press release about the Sparling Bill. I’ll run it off and then finish this letter to you. Until then, darling—

PRESS STATEMENT, REPRESENTATIVE BILCHESTER,
re Federal extravagance:
“The country is being stampeded into insolvency,” declared Representative George W. Bilchester, minority keynoter, in his weekly press conference today. Pointing to billions being “poured into administration rat holes,” Rep. Bilchester reiterated his successful campaign cry of last November by declaring that “nobody is going to shoot Santa Claus, but the old man can be bled to death.”

Decrying Federal appropriations as “mass buying of votes equaled only in decadent ancient Rome,” Bilchester pointed to the Darling Bill as a typical example of legislation which is “saddling unborn generations with present debt.” “The project as outlined in this bill,” warned the prominent conservative, “is not only unnecessary; it is impossible of achievement, unsound in conception, obscure in meaning. Construction at this point is totally unwarranted by the needs of the surrounding community. After the first orgy of Federal spending, it will actually impose a handicap upon all legitimate business men of the district.”

… Well, Bill, here I am back again. Mr. Bilchester has been blowing off to the press about the Sparling Bill, which, I think, calls for a dam somewhere. Gosh, I wish you could help put the darned thing up! Anyhow, honey, don’t worry. The minute you get a job, I’ll be back. I’m not going out with any fellows here, and I don’t even want to, so what you said is all wrong. Lots of them ask me—cute looking ones, too—but I’d rather go to my room and dream about a house of our own, with you and me in it. I hope it’ll be in Chillburg, because Mom and Pop are getting old, and, besides, they would be handy to take care of the children. But I guess an engineer lives most anywhere there’s work. Anyway, I want you to quit worrying and talking about yourself being a hound, because it will give you a complex or something.

Your lovingest,

DORA.

WASHINGTON SKELETON
By A. E. McBride

Representative George W. Bilchester, one of the few to escape last fall’s steam roller, roared into page 1 of the conservative press yesterday with a denunciation of the Darling Bill. Unpleasant repercussions on Capitol Hill may result. Administration spokesmen are inclined to pooh-pooh the veteran congressman as a black reactionary, but Bilchester has a fanatical following in his fork of the creek, and his thunderings are not to be taken lightly. Moreover, he has selected a vulnerable spot for his attack. If the considerable study I have given the Darling Bill is worth anything, it is just the measure to crystallize opposition opinion in the House. Majority whips, unawed by meager opposition, fear most the possible insurgents within the party. They are clubbing down opposition to avoid any semblance of a party schism. Upon this fact I base a prediction that we will hear much more about the Darling Bill.

 

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Oh, gosh, honey, what a mess I’m in! You keep writing me and accusing me of not loving you and of going out with other fellows until I just want to cry. I’ve been crying pretty steady now for almost all night. And it’s all because I love you, Bill, with all my heart and soul. I should think you’d believe in me, darling; and after you hear what has happened to me, I guess you won’t need any more proof. I’ve got to tell somebody, and when I’m tired and homesick, I always think of my darling and of Mom and Pop in Chillburg. So now, at three in the morning, I’m writing, and maybe you’ll see the tear spots on this very paper.

1935_04_20--008_SP-DAltonValentine2

1935_04_20--008_SP-DaltonValentineHe kept waving a paperweight in front of me, and I thought he was going to kill me. He said he would smash my head, except that he was no Moses and couldn’t strike water out of a rock. (Illustration by D’Alton Valentine, © SEPS)

Do you remember the letter I wrote you that was interrupted by Mr. Bilchester coming in with an old press statement? Well, in that statement he got awfully mad at the Sparling Bill, which, as I explained in that letter, is going to be a dam somewhere which I sure wish you could help put up. But, honey dear, all the time I was taking his dictation for that statement, I was thinking of you and how you say that you’re a hound, and that I don’t love you and all, and I wrote it down in my notebook as “Darling Bill” instead of “Sparling Bill.” Because, sweetest, whatever you think or hear, you are always in my mind and in my heart. So this statement went to all the newspapers in the world with Mr. Bilchester talking about a Darling Bill which simply doesn’t exist anywhere—except you know where, honey.

Goodness! I never saw anything like Mr. Bilchester when he read that statement in the papers. He came running into my office and yelled at me that I’d ruined him after sixteen years of fearlessly fighting for the people of Chillburg. Fighting for Mom and Pop, he said, and for everybody, including the country and the Constitution; and then I had run a knife in his back, and brought the temple crashing down on his head like Delilah, and disgraced him before all civilization, and set him up in the stocks for history and the administration to hoot at. He said I had betrayed my country and made it possible for the depression to last forever—and a lot more, darling, that I can’t remember.

He kept waving a paperweight in front of me, and I thought he was going to kill me. He said he would smash my head, except that he was no Moses and couldn’t strike water out of a rock. He said he was only Job, and that I was his affliction, and that he was going to purge himself of uncleanliness, and that I was fired. Well, honey, I just broke down and bawled. With that paperweight waving and him yelling and hollering, I lost my head, and first thing I knew I was screaming for Gladys Satter, who is two offices down. I yelled, “Help, Gladys, help!” Then Mr. Bilchester put his hand over my mouth, and I thought maybe he was going to strangle me, and I bit him good and hard.

Just then the phone rang. I guess that sure was a lucky phone call for me, because he stopped with his hand raised in the air, and hollered for me to get out and never show my face in his office again.

I ran out of the office and straight home, and I’ve been here ever since, even though a boy did call me up and ask me to go down to the Mayflower Grill with him. I guess I had a nervous chill, because the landlady said I looked terrible, and asked me if I had any statuary charges against Mr. Bilchester, because if I did, her brother was very good at that kind of thing. Then she put me to bed. I’ve been crying ever since, until it got so I just couldn’t stand it. So now I am writing to you. And I guess I’ll be home pretty soon, honey, and everybody’ll know that I was fired.

I hope you still love me, Bill, because if you didn’t, I’d just die. I want you so bad, and I will be glad to get away from this crazy town. It is no place for a person with refinement, honey. I’ll send you a telegram to let you know when you should come down to the station to meet

Your lovingest,

DORA.

INTEROFFICE CORRESPONDENCE

Memo from: E. J. S.
To: SENATOR MAPES

MY DEAR MAPES: Bilchester ran wild again yesterday. The administration doesn’t want to horn in on this, because the Darling Bill is fairly unimportant. But you know we can’t give an inch, or some of these funny new party members may kick over the traces.

Will you get the press boys together this afternoon and give old Bilchester the works? Make it strong. Believe me, I’m going to work on that district of his from now on.

E. J. S.

WASHINGTON SKELETON
By A. E. McBride

In one of the most withering blasts of recent months, Senator Chester L. Mapes today named Representative George W. Bilchester as “archconservative public enemy Number One.” The senator’s attack, in which he accused Bilchester of being “brazenly in league with Wall Street piracy,” was a response to Bilchester’s choleric denunciation of the Darling Bill, now pending in the House.

Challenging Bilchester to “name one constructive piece of legislation fostered by his party in the last three years,” Mapes denounced the small but potent bloc in Congress which, he declares, “values a balanced budget above a balanced diet.” Mapes asserted that “so long as there is human misery, this administration will spend money to relieve it, and so long as there is a need for such constructive projects as that embodied in the Darling Bill, the Federal Government will open Treasury gates for their realization.”

Astute observers, among them your correspondent, take the senator’s statement as indicative of the administration attitude. Opposition leaders declare the Mapes statement to be a brazen threat of punishment in the form of patronage limitation for anyone who tosses a wrench in the smooth passage of the Darling Bill.

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Well, sweetness, things are beginning to look better, and I may not be back in Chillburg as soon as I thought I would be. You know what you always say about people having to have self-confidence and fighting for the right whenever they are clear on what the right is? Well, I got to thinking about that. And finally I decided that it wasn’t right for Mr. Bilchester to fire me just because I misspelled a tiny little word. And then I figured, like you say, that you should fight for the right just as hard when it’s yourself you’re fighting for as when it’s somebody else.

So the next morning I went down to the office just as if I was still working there, only I had much more self-confidence than usual, because I knew I really wasn’t. I walked right up to Mr. Bilchester, who was looking like he hadn’t slept all night, and told him that I had thought the matter out. I said I had decided that if the mistake I had made was so important, I guessed I would just go down to the newspapers myself and tell them there wasn’t any Darling Bill, and save Mr. Bilchester all that embarrassment. I told him also that I would tell the newspapermen how mean he had been in firing me, and how he had tried to break my head with a paperweight and strangle me, and how I had had to scream for help.

When he heard that he almost jumped across the desk. He told me I shouldn’t take that attitude, and began to pat my back. He told me that, after all, I shouldn’t take things so seriously, and that, of course, I wasn’t fired, and that he wouldn’t think of me taking all the blame for that mistake; just to let it pass and say nothing. He said he hadn’t meant all he said about Moses and Job and firing me, and that maybe I’d get a nice little present from him later. So I went into my office and he cocked his feet on his desk and began reading the morning papers.

caption
They’d give a million dollars for just some little swap. (Illustration by D’Alton Valentine, © SEPS)

In just a minute he came running into my office and showed me a piece in the paper where Senator Mapes had said a lot of nasty things about Mr. Bilchester and a lot of nice things about this old Darling Bill. I got all shaky when I read it, and started to bawl again. But Mr. Bilchester patted me on the head and said something about “out of the mouths of babes.”

“Scoundrels, all of them!” he said. “And this proves it! They don’t even know their own bills! That fellow McBride doesn’t know either. They’ve fallen into my trap! Oh, I’ll bet they’d give a million dollars for just some little swamp named ‘ Darling.’ For years I’ve fought the rascals, and now I have them where I want them! We’ll scourge ’em, Dora! We’ll scourge the Philistines!”

He gave me a funny look, like a crazy man or something, and I almost started hollering for Gladys again, I was so scared. He said something about justice, and told me I was going to get a raise for sure, and not to mention to anyone about my mistake, because it might make it hard for me ever to get another job. So, please, honey, don’t mention it down at Dubroc’s store. Then he said: “I’m going to issue a statement to the press. And it’s going to be about the Darling Bill—get it? And if you dare make a mistake and say Sparling Bill, I’ll strangle you with my bare hands.” So I took his statement, and my, you never saw anything like the things he said about the Darling Bill. He even challenged Senator Mapes to a debate about it, and he dared anyone from the President down to come out and tell the people what the bill called for.

So, you see, darling, everything is all right, and it’s all because you told me about self-confidence and fighting for the right. I’ve got my job, and Mr. Bilehester seems happy again with something to make press statements about, and although I’m crying my heart out to see you again, still it’s just as well one of us has a job, especially if what Mr. Bilchester said about my mistake helping the depression along to get worse is true. If things do get worse on account of a little mistake in spelling, it may be a long while before there are dams enough to go around, since, I understand, there are lots of engineers out of work; although none are as smart as you or half as sweet.

I am not going out with any fellows, darling, although, as I told you, I don’t go without plenty of invitations. I wish you’d stop accusing me of things which I don’t do. Goodness, it’s bad enough around here getting accused of things you really do do. I would like to be at the Gem Theater with you tonight instead of lonesome in my room. Stella wrote me, and said she saw you there with Vergie Peck. I hope you had a good time. Good night for now, honey.

Your lovingest,

DORA.

THE NEW YORK CALL HOME OFFICE

Memo from: CITY DESK
To: A. E. MCBRIDE
ANDY: Notice a lot of stink about the Darling Bill lately. Give us fifteen hundred words to catch the Sunday-feature sheet. Bilchester may stir up quite a mess out of this, and I think we should be protected. Your column notices on it weren’t very specific.

WALTER HARRIS.

THE NEW YORK CALL
WASHINGTON BUREAU

SENATOR CHESTER L. MAPES,
SENATE OFFICE BUILDING,
WASHINGTON, D. C.
MY DEAR SENATOR: The Call plans to run a detailed analysis of the Darling Bill Sunday. I remember it only vaguely as a hang-over from the last session. I ran something on it then, but I want to avoid a rehash. Perhaps you will dictate to your secretary those points involved which you consider most important.

Yours respectfully,
A. E. MCBRIDE.

INTEROFFICE CORRESPONDENCE

Memo from: SENATOR MAPES
To: E. J. S.
DEAR ED: What the hell is this Darling Bill about? I thought I remembered it vaguely as a hang-over from last session. Bilchester is heaping coals on me in the newspapers. McBride wants a story on it. On your suggestion, I saw Jim Lacey. He tells me there is no Darling Bill, has never been any Darling Bill. Now, if there isn’t any Darling Bill, we’d better find one damn quick. Bilchester will crucify the whole administration. You were the one who wanted me to lower the boom on Bilchester re Darling Bill, so what are you going to do about it? I’m not going to be the goat this time.

Yours,

CHET MAPES.

INTEROFFICE CORRESPONDENCE

Memo from: E. J. S.
To: SENATOR MAPES
CHET: Did you, or did you not, make a statement to the press praising the Darling Bill? If not, you have a swell libel suit against four press agencies and every first-rate daily in the country. If you did make such a statement, what were you talking about? Looks like you’ve got us in another jam. Agree we must find a Darling Bill. Suggest we meet tonight, 7:30, Mayflower. This is no time to be talking about goats.

E. J. S.

OFFICE OF SENATOR CHESTER L. MAPES

MR. A. E. MCBRIDE,
WASHINGTON BUREAU,
NEW YORK CALL.
MY DEAR McBRIDE: I hope you will pardon a little delay in regard to the Darling Bill. To tell you the truth, I have been ill since this matter came up, and am not at all well yet. Rotten weather here, for one from my part of the country. However, I am now going into the bill carefully, with a view to giving you a complete history of the thing. It is entirely too important to be slighted in any way. I suggest you postpone your story a week, in the meanwhile dining with me Monday at the Mayflower, at which time we can have a pleasant chat and also clear up any questions in your mind. Accept again my regrets for the delay.

Sincerely,

CHESTER L. MAPES.

THE NEW YORK CALL
WASHINGTON BUREAU

REP. GEORGE W. BILCHESTER,
HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING,
WASHINGTON, D. C.
MY DEAR CONGRESSMAN BILCHESTER: The Call is very anxious to run an analysis of the Darling Bill for the Sunday-feature section, and, of course, no summary would be complete without your opinion. While I know you oppose the bill, I am extremely desirous of having something specific from you upon it. What do you think of the type of structure it calls for? Is, in your opinion, the appropriation for it too heavy? What do you think of the circumstances surrounding its introduction to the lower House? I confess I’m a bit hazy on its history, and I know you can give me the most accurate résumé available. I’ll call at your office tomorrow for a good talk.

Sincerely,

MR. A. E. MCBRIDE.

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

MR. A. E. MCBRIDE,
WASHINGTON BUREAU,
THE NEW YORK CALL.
DEAR McBRIDE: I am leaving tonight for New York, hence am sending you herewith the material you request in connection with the Darling Bill. It would be sheer presumption for me to go into detail concerning this grave piece of legislation when addressing the shrewdest correspondent The Call has ever turned loose on us poor legislators. I won’t, therefore, insult your intelligence with petty details, for I suspect you press boys really know as much about the Darling Bill as we do. However, you may quote me as follows:

The project is typical of the porkbarrel legislation being foisted upon the backs of American taxpayers by the most bureaucratic administration in the history of the republic. It calls for millions of dollars to be thrown into a project which no single engineer of repute has declared practical. The surrounding terrain is entirely unadapted to the plan in view. The benefits to be derived from the project are illusory; indeed, one would be tempted to say that the whole matter is essentially an illusion. Senator Mapes and his little coterie of exploiters are trying to bludgeon the people into accepting this infamous plan. Only a few of us dare oppose the present orgy of Treasury tapping. I shall fight the project with every weapon at my disposal. I pledge myself, to my constituents and to the country at large, that this project will never materialize. You may look for something sensational to develop from this latest evidence of administrative incompetency.

I guess that will hold them. If I can help you again, McBride, you know the doors of my office are wide open to the press.

Cordially,

GEORGE W. BILCHESTER.

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Honey, things are looking awfully bad again. When Mr. Bilchester first fired me, the only thing I had to think of was the disgrace of losing my job and all. But now the fuss about the Darling Bill looks even more serious. I think I’m in actual danger. I think maybe I’m going to jail. Oh, darling, how I wish I had your brains and self-confidence! Because if a girl ever needed something to bolster her up, that girl is me.

Everything seemed to be going fine until a newspaper writer named McBride, who does a column called Washington Skeleton, came in to see Mr. Bilchester while Mr. Bilchester was in New York. Honest, Bill, that Mr. McBride is the nastiest man I ever saw. He got to asking me so many questions about the Darling Bill so terribly fast that before I knew what I was saying, I told him there wasn’t any Darling Bill anywhere but you. I thought he was going to have a fit, Bill. He began to yell and rave something awful, so I had to run and close the door.

I’m not going to write down here all the things he said, because it would make me ashamed. All I can say about his language is that if anybody in Chillburg talked to a lady like Mr. McBride talked to me, he would have a good fight on his hands, because Chillburg may be a little town, but it still has good morals and good sense, which, as far as I can make out, is something Washington has never heard of.

Anyway, it seems that Mr. McBride had written something in his column about that old Darling Bill as though it was something that really existed and which he knew all about. He said that put him up a creek without any paddle to get home. He said, just like Mr. Bilchester said at first, that I had betrayed him. He said I had polluted the great institution of the American press. He said I had written the obituary of the smartest Washington correspondent that ever lived. He said I had starved his wife and children. He told me he had a story that would make the whole world laugh itself sick, and that he couldn’t touch it, because if he did it would ruin him. He said that the biggest chunk of news ‘in the history of America, was lying festering and dead in my lap.

He said he’d kill me if I ever said a word about it. He said there would probably be a revolution, and that they would burn the Capitol and probably hang Mr. Bilchester and Senator Mapes and me from the White House portico. He said he would light the first match himself, and be the first to kick the boxes out from under our dangling feet. He said he was getting the secret service to watch me, and that if I even moaned in my sleep they would hear me and cut my heart out. He said if I breathed a word to Mr. Bilchester about his visit, he would get the President to put a decree on me, so that no decent person would speak to me as long as I live. He said that even if I did keep my mouth shut, he might decide any minute, just for the fun of it, to call the Army out and have me thrown into a leper colony.

And there I am—just because I loved you so much, darling. Oh, honey, honey, you write how I don’t love you, when I’m sick to see you and crying myself to sleep every night, and maybe will be dead or in jail or watching my skin and fingers drop off by the time this gets to Chillburg. Please, darlingest, love me lots. I take back all that I said about you taking Vergie Peck to the Gem. Of course, I want you to have a good time. Of course, you mustn’t mope and get morose. But please believe me that I love you; and if anything happens to me, tell Mom and Pop that I loved them, too, and even in my grave will be theirs and your

Lovingest,

DORA.

THE NEW YORK CALL
WASHINGTON BUREAU

Memo from: A. E. MCBRIDE
To: CITY DESK
DEAR WALT: You know, Walt, that I don’t like to be rushed on a thing like this Darling Bill. I should think the desk would realize sometime that the man in the field has some conception of his job. I’ve been watching this Darling squabble like a hawk. I have more inside dope on it than any man in Washington. I know it like a book. I expect something sensational to develop shortly—something that will nullify any story I might send now. I’ve got Bilchester and Mapes both in my pocket, and when I knock this story out, it’ll be Page 1, not a lousy inside filler. So please believe that little Andy McBride is missing no tricks, and lay off until I can break the thing right.

ANDY.

 

THE NEW YORK CALL
WASHINGTON BUREAU

SENATOR CHESTER L. MAPES,
SENATE OFFICE BUILDING,
WASHINGTON, D. C.
MY DEAR SENATOR: I have received your invitation for dinner Monday and a discussion of the Darling Bill. I feel that the time has come for us to talk plainly, and Monday may be too late for any kind of talk. Since I am unable to reach you personally, I’m obliged to write what never should be set down on paper, particularly in this town. I am one of the three people living who know the full story of the Darling Bill. The other two are Bilchester and his secretary.

The secretary is a mental paralytic from the sticks who is in love with a home-town boy named Bill. When Bilchester dictated to her a press statement intended to denounce the Sparling Bill, she, being the possessor of a decidedly single-track mind, wrote “ Darling” instead of “ Sparling.” When Bilchester’s rave against the Darling Bill was published, I editorialized about it as though it were right up my alley. The next day you spoke warmly in its defense. When I queried you for facts concerning the bill, you gave me excuses. When I queried Bilchester, he presented me with a mess of fire-eating generalities which, incidentally, he released to the press at large. With each succeeding day he bellows more loudly against the bill you are defending, against the bill about which I have written so learnedly, and against the bill which he knows is nonexistent. He is having the time of his life.

This puts everybody concerned on the spot. I am the only columnist fool enough to touch the thing. The press agencies have confined themselves to quotes, hence have clear skirts. But I must protect you to the last, worse luck. The first newshound who gets wind of this phony Darling Bill will break the damnedest story since the Cardiff Giant. That story will blow A. E. McBride into purgatory, while Senator Mapes will go one degree further. It will even be used with devastating effect in the next election.

I trust I have made it plain that we share a mutual peril, hence must devise mutual protection. Bilchester is going to spring the inside dope very soon. I feel it. I know it. You must realize that it will be impossible at this late date to sneak a Darling Bill into the House calendar without some bright newsboy smelling the general bad odor. And still you go on talking about the Darling Bill. Please, please take a tip from Andy McBride, and refer to it, when you have to, as the Darling project. If anybody says, how come the change from “bill” to “project,” say you were misquoted—the same gag you pulled on me when you said reports of Prof. Rawlings’ resignation were lies, and he resigned next day. Doesn’t this suggested change from “bill” to “ project” give you an idea of your only possible out? If it doesn’t, then we are all sunk. I don’t know why I pull your chestnuts out of the fire like this. It must be because half of them are mine. If you are interested in any more ideas on the subject, drop into my office. But drop in quick, because in a day or two it’s every man for himself, and I may decide to protect myself by throwing you to the lions. I don’t want to, but a job’s still a job.

Cordially,

A. E. MCBRIDE.

 

INTEROFFICE CORRESPONDENCE

Memo from: E. J. S.
To: POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
BUREAU OF RIVERS, HARBORS AND FISHERIES
UNITED STATES FORESTRY SERVICE
UNITED STATES TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY
GENTLEMEN: It is imperative you discover in territory within your jurisdiction a junction, reservation, mountain, creek, river, lake, valley, plateau, mesa, arroyo, gulley, desert, plain, canyon, harbor, cove, bay, sound, estuary, beach, peninsula, island or any other natural object which bears the name “ Darling.” Drop all current projects, devote all available men and energy to above-mentioned search, and report progress twice daily until order rescinded.

E. J. S.

 

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Well, honey, Mr. Bilchester says that we are living here on the edge of a volcano which is boiling with the righteous wrath of a sorely oppressed people, and soon will erupt with results that will be very unpleasant to Senator Mapes, Mr. McBride and the Philistines who have impudently plundered our great nation.

I wouldn’t be a bit disappointed if things would erupt all over that Mr. McBride, although I don’t care much about the rest.

My job is going along fine. I have an assistant now who does nothing but clip references to Mr. Bilchester out of newspapers. I don’t understand it very well, but it seems that all the people who didn’t get elected last fall, or who don’t have any money to build dams, have decided that Mr. Bilchester’s fight against the Darling Bill makes him about the smartest man that ever lived. Since Senator Mapes said he didn’t want to debate about the bill, Mr. Bilchester calls the reporters together every day and gives them statements about the “craven minions of a tottering administration.” I think Mr. Bilchester should be a little careful, and I told him so, but he says that Moses didn’t hesitate to smite the golden idols, and that he is the Moses leading America out of bondage. He also said it is my place to take dictation, not give it, which shows it doesn’t pay to take a personal interest in your work.

So far, Mr. Bilchester has received 146 invitations to address protest meetings. He is awfully depressed because of Congress being in session and him having to stay here instead of going out and “enlightening the people.” The news-clipping girl has 1,378 pieces in her file which say that Mr. Bilchester is the man to lead his party to victory in the next election. There are now twenty-seven Bilchester-for-President Clubs, and many more forming. He has been made what they call an honorary member of fourteen labor unions, eight lodges and two tribes of wild Indians, and a college somewhere in the South wants to give him a diploma for political economy or something like that, although, if they could see the measly paycheck I get, they’d understand he knows plenty about economy already.

Mr. Bilehester says that he is practically ready to spring the trap on his enemies. It seems that he is now taking all the credit for that mistake I made in the first place. He goes around mumbling about the great hoax he has worked on the administration to see how far they would go in defending something which doesn’t exist. Everybody has spies in this town. You never know when somebody is in your pocket and when he isn’t. Mr. Bilchester has some in the departmental offices, and they tell him that everybody from E. J. S. on down is hunting like mad for something called “Darling.” Mr. Bilchester sits in his office and sometimes laughs for as long as ten minutes at a time.

In your last letter you told me that you didn’t think Mr. McBride would of talked like he did to me unless I gave him some sort of encouragement. You said no gentleman would dare say insulting things to a girl without she gave him some opening so’s he’d know he could get away with it. Sweetheart, I wish you wouldn’t say or think things like that, because you can’t understand a town like this. They don’t need any encouragement here to say insulting things, and as far as being a gentleman, why, I guess a gentleman wouldn’t last in Washington more than a minute. So please don’t think I go around trying to get insulted. I just act sensible, and when you’re mixed up with congressmen, it is a very, very hard thing to do. Don’t worry about not having a job, Bill, because if things go like Mr. Bilchester thinks they will, you’ll end up by being a cabinet member or something. Because, darling, someone who loves you like nobody’s business is going to be a very influential person around Washington when Mr. Bilchester gets through scourging the Philistines. In fact, she may be secretary to the President of the United States, but in private life she will always be

Your lovingest,

DORA.

MR. A. E. MCBRIDE,
WASHINGTON SKELETON,
WASHINGTON, D. C.

DEAR MR. McBRIDE:

“To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” —Shakespeare.

This is my motto and I am only trying sincerely to live up to it. I am a man of few words, so right off will tell you who I am. My name is Bill Johnson. I live in Chillburg, which is the home town of Representative George W. Bilchester. His secretary, Dora Stamm, is crazy about me. I am going to marry her when I get a job. I do not have a job now. I have been a victim of the depression since I left State U three years ago. I am an engineer, having had two years at State U in that subject.

Due to overcrowded conditions and lack of funds, the university was obliged to raise their grade standards and flunk many students out. I was among those flunked. Since great minds in all fields have been unable to squeeze themselves into the narrow, conventional routine of academic education, the fact that I was flunked makes no impression on me at all. I have self-confidence and a wholesome attitude toward all things, and I will make my mark.

By this time you are wondering why I am writing you, although you have seen that I am a man of insight and intelligence who would not waste your time for nothing. You are right. I am writing you about the Darling Bill. Dora has written me every step about it. I know all. I even know more than all, for I have figured out a solution. It looks to me like this: You made a fool of yourself, writing about the Darling Bill. Senator Mapes also made a fool of himself, talking about the Darling Bill. And the Government will make a fool of itself if it can’t find some place where it can build something with the name of Darling. This will make a bigger stink than anything since the Teapot Dome if it ever comes out. Since I have the solution, I know I am probably the most important man in the whole country. I am modest, but not falsely modest. I am clear-sighted, and you know that I am right.

I have been worried for some time about how to get this information before the right people. At first I hated to think of tripping up Congressman Bilchester, which I am going to do. But after thinking about my motto, I decided he has had a good job for a long while, and is trying very hard to trip up somebody else, so, if he gets tripped up himself, why, it is all in the game. I thought very earnestly about whether I should write you or Senator Mapes, because I want to make absolutely certain that I am not doublecrossed in this matter. I finally decided I would rather trust a newspaperman than a senator, which may or may not be a compliment to you. It is all in the way you think about senators.

When my future wife wrote me that everybody in Washington but Mr. Bilchester was hunting some place called Darling, I got to thinking. As you probably know, the country around Chillburg is very wild, and there is likely to be a place called almost anything in it. I seemed to remember something named Darling Creek, but after inquiring around, I could find no citizens who recalled such a stream. So I went out looking for it myself. If you knew me better, Mr. McBride, you would know that when I look for something, it is practically the same as found. I found Darling Creek. It is 136 miles north of Chillburg, one valley to the west of Jenson Canyon. It is not mentioned on any of the maps, due to the fact that it is only a big spring which comes suddenly out of a mountainside, flows for one mile and fifty-eight feet, then goes into a hole in the ground, never to be seen again.

The reason I thought I remembered this particular stream is because it was beside its banks that Dora Stamm promised to marry me. You will be doing me a big favor by not mentioning this to her. I am very displeased that she should have forgotten Darling Creek, in view of the tender circumstances surrounding it, and since she hasn’t mentioned it in her frequent comments about the search that is going on, I know she has forgotten it. So please say nothing to her about it, and I will take that phase of it up with her by letter. I have found it always the best policy to be very firm and determined in all dealings with women, and when a girl forgets the name of the stream beside which she was proposed to, things have come to a pretty pass.

Now, about the specifications of Darling Creek. I have carefully measured its flow of water and find it to be ten gallons per second, 600 per minute, 36,000 per hour, 155,520,000 per every six months. Unfortunately, this stream dries up part of the year, but I figure that, allowing for seepage, dryness and all, we can count on six months’ flow. 155,520,000 gallons is a lot of water, Mr. McBride, and it is all running into a hole in the ground. My next problem was to figure out what to use it for. The nearest town is Chillburg, 136 miles south, which has plenty of water anyhow. There is only one resident living within fifty miles—this being very wild country—and he is Horace Jenson, who has no need of water in such quantities.

But there is one thing we could do, Mr. McBride. We could stuff up that hole in the ground, and let the stream flow 413 feet into a large, shallow valley. Those 155,520,000 gallons equal 20,790,000 cubic feet, which in turn equal 477 acre-feet of water. All of these figures are approximate, because you don’t come to them until your junior year, which, as I explained, I was unable to attend. But because I have a good head for figures, you can rely on them. Now, as I say, we can back up that 477 acre-feet of water, and it would be swell for ducks, a great many of which pass over this district every season. I have read practically every pamphlet from Washington on wildlife preservation, and can easily see that there is a crying need for something like the Darling Water Foul Preserve. I know that in some respects this doesn’t sound very important. But think. What else are you going to do with 477 acre-feet of water 136 miles from the nearest town, and with only Horace Jenson living anywhere within fifty miles of it? The answer, of course, is nothing—unless you make it a Wild Foul Preserve. I have even gone farther. I have secured from Horace Jenson a petition—inclosed—pointing out the necessity for such a project. Horace’s signature to that petition means that all of the citizens within a fifty-mile radius of the stream have unanimously urged the Government to get busy.

There is the Darling Project for which you are all anxiously looking. Naturally, I have personal reasons for giving it to you. It is not because I love you, for you have said some very uncultured things to my future wife. I have a selfish end in view. I want to be engineer in charge of construction of the Darling Water Foul Preserve. With two men and a cement mixer I can stuff up the hole, and there is nothing more to do but let the water flow. I should have a good fee for thinking of this and doing it. No less than $25,000, because of nobody knowing what the dollar will be worth tomorrow. When it is built, I want to be in charge of its care. I will need a crew of maybe half a dozen men, and for myself a salary of $5000 per annum, with a six-room furnished house, one of the rooms to be a nursery with pictures of the Three Little Pigs painted on the walls. The house, of course, to be strictly modern. I will want my job to be under civil service, because I have no faith in politics, and do not want to be thrown out whenever somebody else is elected to Congress. In return I promise to care tenderly for all ducks that pass our way, and to study up on them conscientiously.

I know this is a perfect set-up for you and Senator Mapes and a lot of gentlemen higher up. I know you will jump at Darling Creek as if it was your long-lost brother, and I will not blame you at all. However, if you should jump at it, and then fail to fulfill the terms I have outlined in this letter, why, then I will simply go to Congressman Bilchester and tell him the circumstances surrounding the selection of Darling Creek, along with a carbon copy of this letter. I have no doubt he will make it known in a great many newspapers, which certainly will be a heavy price for you to pay for cheating me out of what is rightfully mine. I know that when you consider this, you will see that everything I have said is just and reasonable. I do not think we will have any trouble.

I will be waiting for your reply. The check should be certified, because I will need cash to get the cement mixer moved so far. I know you will all be very grateful to me, but I am not doing it for thanks. So please notify me immediately when the Chief Engineer and Maintenance Supervisor of the Darling Water Foul Preserve sets about his duties.

Yours very respectfully,

BILL JOHNSON.

 

BILCHESTER DECLARES DARLING BILL A HOAX CHARGES GO UNANSWERED

“The Darling Bill, which administration spokesman Mapes has been defending so noisily for the past week, has never existed except in my own imagination!” With this startling declaration, Rep. George W. Bilchester this afternoon ripped the lid off official Washington, and started a political bonfire which may signalize the most serious congressional revolt in recent years.

“The bill was invented in my office,” explained Bilchester, “as a hoax to see whether or not the administration itself has any clear knowledge of the legislation it is fostering. The day after I publicly denounced the fictitious bill, Senator Mapes obliged me with a scurrilous personal attack and a defense of the legislation in question.

“Curious to know how far the majority leader would go in his desperate attempt to lend reality to a fairy tale, I continued to goad him and he continued to extol the virtues of the Darling Bill—with results which I now lay before the nation. I have nothing to say, aside from drawing the obvious conclusion that the Darling Bill symbolizes two-thirds of the legislation currently being rammed down Congress’s throat.”

While unprejudiced observers frankly declared the Bilchester hoax to be the most serious attack—and the most deadly—ever made against the administration, conservative forces quickly rallied around Bilchester, with an eye to grooming him for the White House. Newsmen scurrying over Capitol Hill in search of an administration reply were informed that none was forthcoming. It was intimated by one high official that a statement will be released early tomorrow. Senator Mapes, confined to his hotel by illness, could not be reached.

 

MAPES HURLS LIE AT BILCHESTER ATTACKS PROJECT OUTLINED

“Brazen chicanery!” was the retort issued from the sick room of Senator Chester L. Mapes, majority whip of the Senate, when informed of charges by Rep. George W. Bilchester that the much-publicized Darling Bill is a fiction invented by the veteran congressman to bait the administration.

“We have patiently given Mr. Bilchester the rope for which he has been screaming,” said Mapes grimly, “and he appears to have hanged himself with it. He erred from the start. There is not and never has been a Darling ‘Bill.’ In my controversy with the legislator I have always referred to the matter—save when misquoted—as the Darling ‘Project.’ For a project it is, under the administration of the PAP, hence completely divorced from Congress. It was here that Bilchester made his first and most serious mistake.

“He has continually referred to the project as involving millions. The actual appropriation is $825,000. He has declared his office to be flooded with protests. The PAP has in its files a petition urging the project signed by every registered voter within a fifty-mile radius of its site. He has stated that no competent engineer has declared the plan feasible. Mr. William Johnson, whose reputation certainly cannot be challenged, has submitted surveys which demonstrate it is not only feasible but necessary. As Chief Engineer, he is now engaged in the first phase of construction. Bilchester has further accused the administration of vote buying with the project. Actually, the district in which it is located was one of the few to turn in a heavy anti-administration vote last fall.

“Because he obviously hasn’t the faintest idea what the Darling Bill involves, the legislator has carefully refrained from informing his constituents that the project in question is the Darling Water Fowl Preserve, which forms the final link in the nation’s great string of game preserves extending from the Canadian to the Mexican border. And, finally, in none of his vicious attacks has Bilchester once mentioned that the project is situated in his home district, 136 miles north of the city of Chillburg, in which he maintains his legal residence. Further comment seems unnecessary. The entire fabrication demonstrates the hysterical quality of the present reactionary attack.”

Congressman Bilchester’s secretary informed reporters that the legislator flew to New York City yesterday afternoon to fill a speaking engagement. At a late hour last night he had not been located.

 

WASHINGTON SKELETON
By A. E. McBride

Concluding the most dramatic political battle of the current session, Representative George W. Bilchester last night resigned his seat in the lower house and announced his affiliation with the Great Atlantic Life Insurance Company of New York. The veteran legislator, located in his New York hotel, refused to amplify his stand on the Darling Bill. Neither would he confirm reports that his sudden withdrawal from public life at a time when the Presidency seemed almost within his grasp was hastened by an inundation of protest telegrams representing approximately 60 percent of the voters in his Congressional district.

It is not without a touch of melancholy that your Washington correspondent records the passing of one of the town’s greatest political showmen. Once hailed by his constituents as “The Last Conservative,” he has participated in many colorful congressional battles, the most spectacular of which is the Darling controversy, which admittedly occasioned his downfall. His stand on that issue remains a mystery which the most astute political observers are unable to solve. Only one fact can be established in the whole history of the dispute: Bilchester somewhere along the line made a colossal blunder. No one probably will ever know the full history of the Darling affair, unless Bilchester chooses to reveal it. And apparently the ex-congressman, like another famous conservative, “does not choose.” Suffice it to say that a grand fighter has departed from the arena—the last, perhaps, of his kind. The old order passeth, but it is not forgotten.

 

OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE W. BILCHESTER

DARLING BILL: Oh, honey, I feel so cheap and small and ashamed of myself! I’ve been crying almost from the minute I got your letter. I don’t see how I could have done it, Bill dear. And I do understand why you feel so hurt. I remember everything else about that afternoon. You grabbed me all of a sudden, and put your arms around me, and squeezed me real tight. “Dora,” you said, “all I need is the love of a good woman, a woman who will understand and appreciate me. I will go to the top, Dora, if you want to marry me!” And I was so scared and tickled and funny-feeling inside that I bawled. Oh, honey, I thought you’d never get around to saying it! And I remember the water in the creek, and how we waded, and how you caught me when I almost fell off that slippery rock. But I never did once think of that being Darling Creek. And I’ll kiss you a hundred times for every minute you’ve felt hurt about it. And I’m sorry, sweet, forever and ever. But, Bill, with you there, how could I remember anything like the name of a silly old creek?

Well, as you must know, everything here is finished. I got that awful clipping which the Chillburg Herald printed about Mr. Bilchester. I’ve only heard from him once since he left for New York. It was a little note attached to a letter. The note said:

DEAR DORA: The Greeks were very clever people, and they proved it with a wooden horse. If the inclosed letter fulfills its purpose, I shall have surpassed the Greeks both in strategy and deadliness. I hope it will get you a job to replace the one you have lost through my resignation. May you bestow upon your next employer the same talents you gave so unstintingly to me. George W. Bilchester.”

And what do you think the letter he had attached to it was? It was addressed to Senator Mapes, recommending me to the senator for a secretary! I was never so surprised in my life, and I think it’s the nicest thing Mr. Bilchester ever did. But I guess he didn’t know that I am going to be the wife of the Chief Engineer and Maintenance Supervisor of the Darling Water Fowl Preserve, and won’t ever need any job but loving my husband—and that’s no job, sweetness!

I also noticed an item in this afternoon’s paper about Mr. McBride. It said that he was resigning from his job writing for that column, Washington Skeleton. It said that because of his rare understanding of Government procedure, and the wide respect he enjoys among newspapermen, he has been appointed to take charge of all Government news which is given out to the press. It also said that Senator Mapes is going to give a big dinner tonight in his honor at the Mayflower. I am beginning to think that Mr. McBride may be a nice person after all, except when excited, because just about an hour ago I received a great big bouquet of the prettiest roses you ever saw, with a little note attached to them. It said:

“My apologies for ungentlemanly behavior toward the future Mrs. Bill Johnson. Please tell your husband that, were I rewriting a certain part of Longfellow, I should change one word in one line, and make it read, ‘A lady with a typewriter shall stand in the great history of the land.’ Andrew E. McBride.”

I don’t know what it means, but I think it’s awfully nice of him, don’t you? But I didn’t answer, Bill. Because you’re the only man I’ll ever write to. And there is absolutely nothing between us. And if I thought you’d want me to, I’d throw his nasty old roses into the garbage right now.

I am leaving Washington tonight on the 6:10, and will telegraph you from Chicago when I will arrive in Chillburg. I can hardly wait, Bill! I’m so proud of you I could die. I really could. Our own house and you with a fine job and me your wife—oh! What will Vergie Peck think? And, oh, honey, I’ll be so glad to get away from this town! A woman here is just a cog in a machine, and never is paid any attention to, and never gets a chance to do anything that really means something. But with me being with you—well, I guess a baby would mean something, wouldn’t it? Woman’s place is in the home all right, just as you always say, and that’s where a certain party I know is headed for as fast as wishes and wheels and engines will take her. Maybe you never heard of her, dearest, but her name is

Your lovingest,

DORA.

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