"Good night," he said; "Mr. Jenney is not far behind. I think--I think I should like the walk."
It is given to some rare mortals--with whom fame precedes grey hairs or baldness to read, while still on the rising tide of their efforts, that portion of their lives which has already been inscribed on the scroll of history--or something like it. Mr. Crewe in kilts at five; and (prophetic picture!) with a train of cars which--so the family tradition runs--was afterwards demolished; Mr. Crewe at fourteen, in delicate health; this picture was taken abroad, with a long-suffering tutor who could speak feelingly, if he would, of embryo geniuses. Even at this early period Humphrey Crewe's thirst for knowledge was insatiable: he cared little, the biography tells us, for galleries and churches and ruins, but his comments upon foreign methods of doing business were astonishingly precocious. He recommended to amazed clerks in provincial banks the use of cheques, ridiculed to speechless station-masters the side-entrance railway carriage with its want of room, and the size of the goods trucks. He is said to have been the first to suggest that soda- water fountains might be run at a large profit in London.
In college, in addition to keeping up his classical courses, he found time to make an exhaustive study of the railroads of the United States, embodying these ideas in a pamphlet published shortly after graduation. This pamphlet is now, unfortunately, very rare, but the anonymous biographer managed to get one and quote from it. If Mr. Crewe's suggestions had been carried out, seventy-five per cent of the railroad accidents might have been eliminated. Thorough was his watchword even then. And even at that period he foresaw, with the prophecy of genius, the days of single-track congestion.
His efforts to improve Leith and the State in general, to ameliorate the condition of his neighbours, were fittingly and delicately dwelt upon. A desire to take upon himself the burden of citizenship led--as we know--to further self-denial. He felt called upon to go to the Legislature--and this is what he saw:--
(Mr. Crewe is quoted here at length in an admirable, concise, and hair- raising statement given in an interview to his biographer. But we have been with him, and know what he saw. It is, for lack of space, reluctantly omitted.)
And now we are to take up where the biography left off; to relate, in a chapter if possible, one of the most remarkable campaigns in the history of this country. A certain reformer of whose acquaintance the honest chronicler boasts (a reformer who got elected!) found, on his first visit to the headquarters he had hired--two citizens under the influence of liquor and a little girl with a skip rope. Such are the beginnings that try men's souls.
The window of every independent shopkeeper in Ripton contained a large- sized picture of the Leith statesman, his determined chin slightly thrust down into the Gladstone collar. Underneath were the words, "I will put an end to graft and railroad rule. I am a Candidate of the People. Opening rally of the People's Campaign at the Opera House, at 8 P.M., July 10th. The Hon. Humphrey Crewe, of Leith, will tell the citizens of Ripton how their State is governed."
"Father," said Victoria, as she read this announcement (three columns wide, in the Ripton Record) as they sat at breakfast together, "do you mind my going? I can get Hastings Weare to take me."