A Louisville Daily Times reporter submitted this interview with Secret Service operatives Merritt and Argent, aboard a private car on the Marietta & Cincinnati railroad.
REPORTER: Well, gentlemen, how is it that two agents of the general government can rate a private car on this train?
ARGENT: We are merely guests in this car, accommodations afforded to us by Judge Stallo, in Cincinnati.
REPORTER: You have just recently left Louisville, have you not? Our readers are curious about all your trips to our fair city and especially about all your visits to the Warner farm, outside the city.
MERRITT: We go where we are told and Louisville, being as close as it is to Cincinnati, is becoming more tempting to counterfeiting gangs as a place to circulate their queer and to move it further into the South, using the L&N to do so.
REPORTER: Yes, yes. But these trips out to the Warner farm — what is the allure there?
ARGENT: I hardly think our personal affairs can be of any interest to your readers.
REPORTER: But they are! And I must tell you, the rumors are troubling. Here is your chance to correct them. Miss Warner may be a lunatic, but she is Louisville’s lunatic, and we protect our own.
MERRITT: That is the first rumor that needs correcting: Miss Warner is not a lunatic. She may be a recluse and a little eccentric, but she is as sane as you or I. And I hardly know how I myself might respond to a collection of grief these last few years, as Miss Warner has had to endure.
ARGENT: What are these troubling rumors?
REPORTER: It is said that you both stay in her home, without benefit of chaperone. You can see how this can be troubling to the better elements of society.
ARGENT: But we are her chaperones. With her brothers and father gone — may they rest in peace — we are keenly aware of her vulnerability. She — and Louisville — need not fear any impropriety from us. We visit her at the request of President Grant, and as representatives of the President, we would hardly take advantage of the situation. And, I might add, as gentlemen the affront to our honor is considerable.
REPORTER: Yes, that is another rumor whispered in Louisville. What is her connection with Grant?
MERRITT: Mr. Warner consulted for the President — then General Grant — during the war. Bridges and dams and railroads, that sort of thing.
ARGENT: There was an earlier connection between the two men. Mr. Warner was a guest teacher or instructor of some kind when President Grant attended West Point. Mr. Warner was a civilian engineer and, of course, President Grant graduated as an engineer from West Point. I am given to understand that a friendship arose between the two and they stayed in touch over the years and General Grant engaged Mr. Warner during the war, as Mr. Merritt has said.
REPORTER: But why does the President send you?
MERRITT: As you know, Miss Warner lives alone and manages the family farm on her own. The President merely likes to know how she is doing and if she needs anything, if there is anything he can help her with.
REPORTER: Surely he could write her or even send telegrams, if that is all there is to it.
ARGENT: Miss Warner is an abysmal correspondent. Many —
ARGENT: Many of the President’s attempts at correspondence go unanswered.
REPORTER: But the expense to send to men, merely to gather intelligence!
ARGENT: It is not intelligence gathering; just a how-do-you-do between acquaintances. And there is no added expense to the general government for these trips. We visit Miss Warner only when our work brings us to Louisville, and when we can spare the time — at our own expense.
REPORTER: And what is your connection to the President? Why does he send you two to look in on Miss Warner?
MERRITT: We merely happened to be at hand. We were wrapping up a counterfeit case in Cincinnati last spring when the request came to us to go to Louisville and request the honor of her accompanying us to see her father’s friend at the White house.
REPORTER: About that trip. Miss Warner had not been seen in town for over a year, at that time last spring. It is well known that she avoids society in general and, if it weren’t for the occasional need to replenish food stuffs, she would never leave her farm. Yet she left with you — two strangers — and was gone for months. And it was later learned that the first month was spent in merely traveling to Washington City, a trip that would normally take, at most, three days. What took so very long? What happened along the way that caused such a delay?
ARGENT: That would fill a book.
MERRITT: Two books.
REPORTER: I see that I will get nothing more from you today, and I have only room for one column of print. Perhaps I could interview you further at another time.
MERRITT: Another time is always preferable.
After the death of G. S. Boarman, a great niece cleaned out the old Kentucky family farmhouse and in the attic, amid the rusting coffee mill, the rickety outdated furniture that was still awaiting repairs, and the stacks of vermin-eaten Harper’s Weekly’s and Police Gazette’s, she found a curious box marked simply “M”.
On the kitchen floor, the metal hasps were flipped back and the top pried off. Lying on the top of a very neat and orderly collection of things was a scrapbook and lying loose inside the scrapbook was a note that said simply, “Please finish the story.” The scrapbook itself contained a rough outline of a narrative with sometimes undecipherable glosses and cryptic references to mysterious sources.
From letters and notebooks, ledgers and calendars, train schedules and stockholders’ reports, the story was slowly extracted and pieced together, and the small treasures, carefully wrapped and preserved in the box, took their place in the narrative.
Boarman’s will had already been read, probated, and executed, but the niece, as executrix, felt obligated to fulfill Boarman’s last wish — to breathe life into the long-ago story of a woman who held some importance to Boarman.