The utterances of politicians and public figures on getting the news that they have just been indicted by a grand jury have an eerie charm all their own. These statements deserve a special category in the literature of incongruity: doctoral theses have been devoted to less; in fact, nothing else equals an indictment in bringing out the latent virtues of the accused — probity, candor, diligence, modesty, and so on. These qualities have of course been more latent in some defendants than in others, but the prospect of arrest and arraignment apparently strips away the surface veneers and shows us the man himself underneath.

We learn first of all from the man underneath that he has not read the charges against himself, but that they are false. “Doakes Brands Charges False,” says the headline, a friendly copydesk staking him to the verb “brands” instead of the more wishywashy “calls.” To brand someone or something not only conveys the accusation but also implies that Doakes is making it stick. Doakes, so the story goes on to describe him, is “an angered Doakes” or “an indignant Doakes” as he sets about his branding. Who wouldn’t be a bit huffy, for that matter, obliged, as Doakes is, to answer a mere calumny?

The defendant, we read — and we are just as surprised to read it as Doakes was by his indictment— has always regarded his office as a “public trust.” His fife is an open book, which we cannot deny when we recall his winter outings in the West Indies, his cars, camps, summer home, all open and aboveboard, with never an attempt to conceal any of it. Only a man of great ability could live this way on the salary of a public servant, stay abreast of his taxes, and keep Mrs. Doakes decently swathed in mink.

It begins to look as if the grand jury had tagged the wrong man: some mix-up in names, perhaps, or just a plain, ordinary misunderstanding. But no, here is Doakes to explain just how his indictment did come to pass. From the various current Doakeses, several possibilities are put forward:

Preposterous: The indictments are preposterous — in other words, a practical joke on the part of the prosecutor and the grand jury. The correctness of this appraisal will of course remain to be seen. It must be remembered that just as the indictment is not proof of guilt, neither is the denial proof of innocence (the latter point being often overlooked by the press). In either case, however, it is refreshing to think that some spirit of fun may still exist even in criminal jurisprudence.

Diabolical: The indictments are diabolical — i. e., the work of The Devil. The forces of evil beset the pure in heart. However tempting theologically, here again is a question for determination by the courts.

Plot: The indictment results from a plot against Doakes on the part of the prosecutor, who has a grudge against Doakes, for reasons no one knows.

Conspiracy: The indictments result from a vast and complicated conspiracy against Doakes on the part of the U.S. government. The Department of Justice is honeycombed with conspirators who are out to “get” Doakes.

Plot: The indictments against Doakes (in this case Doakes is a Democrat) are simply “a plot to undermine the Democratic Party.”

When a corporation is indicted, the statement in behalf of the accused is necessarily cut from more sober cloth and likely to go somewhat along these lines: “The news of the indictments is a surprise. We have not received a copy of the documents. When received they will be carefully studied and the facts fully investigated. I am confident that our company and our present and former employees will be cleared.”

All this might stand, reasonably enough, under the heading Amusements. The indictments may be news, but the behavior of Doakes when he hears about them is rather the stuff to be savored from an orchestra seat. How convincing is his indignation? Does he seethe effectively, or is further coaching needed? Is he wan? Too florid? If asked unexpectedly to define a public trust,” does he go up in his lines? It is plain, in short, that the theater critics are better qualified than the news reporters to tell us how Doakes responds to his accusers.

So, on his performance before the critics Doakes might be reviewed like this: “The accused inspector of weights and measures brings nothing new to the role of honest public servant, but he does fulfill the traditional concept of it with verve and assurance; his husband-andfather interval is less persuasive. . . .”