There was no need, indeed, for Mr. Crewe to say any more than that--no need for the admirable discussion of railroad finance from an expert's standpoint which followed to controvert Mr. Ridout's misleading statements. The reading of the words on the slip of paper of which he had so mysteriously got possession (through Mr. Hamilton Tooting) was sufficient to bring about a disorder that for a full minute--Mr. Speaker Doby found it impossible to quell. The gallery shook with laughter, and honourable members with slips of paper in their hands were made as conspicuous as if they had been caught wearing dunces' caps.
It was then only, with belated wisdom, that Mr. Bascom and his two noble companions gave up the fight, and let the horde across the bridge--too late, as we shall see. The populace, led by a redoubtable leader, have learned their strength. It is true that the shining senatorial twenty of the body-guard stand ready to be hacked to pieces at their posts before the Pingsquit bill shall become a law; and should unutterable treason take place here, his Excellency is prepared to be drawn and quartered rather than sign it. It is the Senate which, in this somewhat inaccurate repetition of history, hold the citadel if not the bridge; and in spite of the howling mob below their windows, scornfully refuse even to discuss the Pingsquit bill. The Honourable Hilary Vane, whose face they study at dinner time, is not worried. Popular wrath does not continue to boil, and many changes will take place in the year before the Legislature meets again.
This is the Honourable Hilary's public face. But are there not private conferences in room Number Seven of which we can know nothing-- exceedingly uncomfortable conferences for Horatius and his companions? Are there not private telegrams and letters to the president of the Northeastern in New York advising him that the Pingsquit bill has passed the House, and that a certain Mr. Crewe is primarily responsible? And are there not queries--which history may disclose in after years--as to whether Mr. Crewe's abilities as a statesman have not been seriously underrated by those who should have been the first to perceive them? Verily, pride goeth before a fall.
In this modern version of ours, the fathers throng about another than Horatius after the session of that memorable morning. Publicly and privately, Mr. Crewe is being congratulated, and we know enough of his character to appreciate the modesty with which the congratulations are accepted. He is the same Humphrey Crewe that he was before he became the corner-stone of the temple; success is a mere outward and visible sign of intrinsic worth in the inner man, and Mr. Crewe had never for a moment underestimated his true value.
"There's, no use wasting time in talking about it," he told the grateful members who sought to press his hands. "Go home and organize. I've got your name. Get your neighbours into line, and keep me informed. I'll pay for the postage-stamps. I'm no impractical reformer, and if we're going to do this thing, we'll have to do it right."
They left him, impressed by the force of this argument, with an added respect for Mr. Crewe, and a vague feeling that they were pledged to something which made not a few of them a trifle uneasy. Mr. Redbrook was one of these.
The felicitations of his new-found friend and convert, Mr. Tooting, Mr. Crewe cut short with the terseness of a born commander.
"Never mind that," he said, "and follow 'em up and get 'em pledged if you can."