Several days later, Angus found himself seated in a Pullman car speeding away from New York. He had purchased a sandwich at the station and he unwrapped it now and ate. As he did, he watched a man make his way slowly through the car scanning the faces of the passengers, most of whom went on peaceably about their business.

But soon he paused and greeted a man sitting by the window who, before the interruption, had been reading a book. It was “The Way of All Flesh,” Angus noted, by Samuel Butler.

The man who had been walking exchanged a greeting with the seated man and accepted the invitation to sit beside him, gratefully it seemed. The train rocked and hummed, and Angus turned his attention to the farmland passing by. Then he fell asleep. He woke when the conductor laid his hand on his shoulder and said firmly, “Last stop. Zenith.”

Shaking off the remnants of his nap, Angus disembarked and began to walk through the busy station. Men in sleek business suits rushed by in every direction. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to get to, and quickly. It was a little overwhelming.

So when he noticed a bench against the far wall situated beneath a painting of Woodrow Wilson Angus made a beeline for it. Just as he began to sit down, another man joined him. He recognized him as the man who had been reading on the train.

“I noticed your book,” he said, nodding towards the novel in the man’s hands. “It’s been a few years since I read it, but I’ve always remembered the Pontifex family.”

“Yes, certainly. They’re not an easy family to forget, are they?” He smiled and held out his hand. “My name is Seneca Doane.”

“I am Angus – ” but just then a train whistle sounded. The people passing by walked faster. “What do you do, Mr. Doane?”

Doane replied that he was a lawyer and that he had recently stood for election as mayor of Zenith but lost. He shrugged his shoulders at that. “There will be other elections,” he said.

“Of course,” said Angus. “What sort of law do you practice?”

“Unions, mostly. Unions and labor. Hasn’t made me very popular in town, I’m afraid. The man you saw me talking with, back on the train? His name is George Babbitt. We were at college together, and honestly, you’d have expected him to have become the radical back then, and me the business tycoon. Quite the opposite has happened.”

“Interesting,” said Angus.

“I was asking him to help me with a little cause of mine. A local preacher has been coming in for abuse with, well, let’s call them the town stalwarts. They don’t care for change, and poor Beecher Ingram is the latest scapegoat. Babbitt is one of the stalwarts. I’ve asked him to speak to his pals on Ingram’s behalf.”

“And do you think he will?”

“I do. Babbitt’s not a bad man, he’s just not a thinking man. Something in him has changed lately, though. At least it seems so to me. Oh, he’ll never be a socialist.” At that Doane chuckled to himself. “But I think he’ll find it possible to tear itself away from the herd. In some small way, at least.”

“Not an easy thing to do,” Angus replied.

“No, it’s not, surely. But it is the principle our legal system is built upon, isn’t it? The notion that one man can find it within himself to do the right thing, to hold to a principle, even when eleven others might think differently. We depend on that man.”

Angus agreed. They sat quietly a little while.

And now the afternoon sunlight was fading. There were fewer people in the station and the newspaper stand was closing up for the day. Doane said that he was waiting for a friend who was to arrive on a later train. They said good-bye. Angus headed for the cab stand.

…to be continued ….

(apologies to Sinclair Lewis, author of Babbitt, from whom I have borrowed the town of Zenith, Seneca Doane, and George Babbitt)


1.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkein

Remember all those freaks and geeks you gave swirlies to in high school?  They run Google now.  (Some of them write geeky law/lit blogs, but you’re not marketing to me.)   

2.  Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

After this, every corporate structure deposition you ever attend will seem witty, enjoyable, and deeply fulfilling.   

3.  Lord of the Flies, William Golding

This is what happens when depositions are not witty, enjoyable or deeply fulfilling and few judges will accept telephone calls from the conference room these days.

4.  Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis

You know why.

5.  Ulysses, James Joyce

Opposing parties are sometimes pro se and they love to handwrite their pleadings.