But the wheels of justice had begun to turn.
Mr. Tooting had not exaggerated the tumult and affright at the Pelican Hotel. The private telephone in Number Seven was busy all evening, while more or less prominent gentlemen were using continually the public ones in the boxes in the reading room downstairs. The Feudal system was showing what it could do, and the word had gone out to all the holders of fiefs that the vassals should be summoned. The Duke of Putnam had sent out a general call to the office-holders in that county. Theirs not to reason why--but obey; and some of them, late as was the hour, were already travelling (free) towards the capital. Even the congressional delegation in Washington had received telegrams, and sent them again to Federal office-holders in various parts of the State. If Mr. Crewe had chosen to listen, he could have heard the tramp of armed men. But he was not of the metal to be dismayed by the prospect of a great conflict. He was as cool as Cromwell, and after Mr. Tooting had left him to take charge once more of his own armies in the yield, the genlemon from Leith went to bed and slept soundly.
The day of the battle dawned darkly, with great flakes flying. As early as seven o'clock the later cohorts began to arrive, and were soon as thick as bees in the Pelican, circulating in the lobby, conferring in various rooms of which they had the numbers with occupants in bed and out. A wonderful organization, that Feudal System, which eould mobilize an army overnight! And each unit of it, like the bee, working unselfishly for the good of the whole; like the bee, flying straight for the object to be attained. Every member of the House from Putnam County, for instance, was seen by one of these indefatigable captains, and if the member had a mortgage or an ambition, or a wife and family that made life a problem, or a situation on the railroad or in some of the larger manufacturing establishments, let him beware! If he lived in lodgings in the town, he stuck his head out of the window to perceive a cheery neighbour from the country on his doorstep. Think of a system which could do this, not for Putnam County alone, but for all the counties in the State!
The Honourable Hilary Vane, captain-general of the Forces, had had but four hours' sleep, and his Excellency, the Honourable Asa Gray, when he arose in the twilight of the morning, had to step carefully to avoid the cigar butts on the floor which--like so many empty cartridge shells were unpleasant reminders that a rebellion of no mean magnitude had arisen against the power to which he owed allegiance, and by the favour of which he was attended with pomp and circumstance wherever he chose to go.
Long before eleven o'clock the paths to the state-house were thronged with people. Beside the office-holders and their friends who were in town, there were many residents of the capital city in the habit of going to hear the livelier debates. Not that the powers of the Empire had permitted debates on most subjects, but there could be no harm in allowing the lower House to discuss as fiercely as they pleased dog and sheep laws and hedgehog bounties. But now! The oldest resident couldn't remember a case of high treason and rebellion against the Northeastern such as this promised to be, and the sensation took on an added flavour from the fact that the arch rebel was a figure of picturesque interest, a millionaire with money enough to rent the Duncan house and fill its long- disused stable with horses, who was a capitalist himself and a friend of Mr. Flint's; of whom it was said that he was going to marry Mr. Flint's daughter!
Long before eleven, too, the chiefs over tens and the chiefs over hundreds had gathered their men and marched them into the state-house; and Mr. Tooting, who was everywhere that morning, noticed that some of these led soldiers had pieces of paper in their hands. The chaplain arose to pray for guidance, and the House was crowded to its capacity, and the gallery filled with eager and expectant faces--but the hero of the hour had not yet arrived. When at length he did walk down the aisle, as unconcernedly as though he were an unknown man entering a theatre, feminine whispers of "There he is!" could plainly be heard above the buzz, and simultaneous applause broke out in spots, causing the Speaker to rap sharply with his gavel. Poor Mr. Speaker Doby! He looked more like the mock-turtle than ever! and might have exclaimed, too, that once he had been a real turtle: only yesterday, in fact, before he had made the inconceivable blunder of recognizing Mr. Humphrey Crewe. Mr. Speaker Doby had spent a part of the night in room Number Seven listening to things about himself. Herminius the unspeakable has given the enemy a foothold in Rome.
Apparently unaware that he was the centre of interest, Mr. Crewe, carrying a neat little bag full of papers, took his seat beside the Honourable Jacob Botcher, nodding to that erstwhile friend as a man of the world should. And Mr. Botcher, not to be outdone, nodded back.
We shall skip over the painful interval that elapsed before the bill in question was reached: painful, at least, for every one but Mr. Crewe, who sat with his knees crossed and his arms folded. The hosts were facing each other, awaiting the word; the rebels prayerfully watching their gallant leader; and the loyal vassals--whose wavering ranks had been added to overnight--with their eyes on Mr. Bascom. And in justice to that veteran it must be said, despite the knock-out blow he had received, that he seemed as debonair as ever.