"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I have listened with great care to the masterly defence of that corporation on which our material prosperity and civic welfare is founded (laughter); I have listened to the gentleman's learned discussion of the finances of that road, tending to prove that it is an eleemosynary institution on a grand scale. I do not wish to question unduly the intellects of those members of this House who by their votes will prove that they have been convinced by the gentleman's argument." Here Mr. Crewe paused and drew a slip of paper from his pocket and surveyed the back seats. "But I perceive," he continued, "that a great interest has been taken in this debate--so great an interest that since yesterday numbers of gentlemen have come in from various parts of the State to listen to it (laughter and astonishment), gentlemen who hold Federal and State offices. (Renewed laughter and searching of the House.) I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that I do not wish to question the intellects of my fellow-members, but I notice that many of them who are seated near the Federal and State office-holders in question have in their hands slips of paper similar to this. And I have reason to believe that these slips were written by somebody in room Number Seven of the Pelican Hotel." (Tremendous commotion, and craning to see whether one's neighbour has a slip. The, faces of the redoubtable three a study.)
"I procured one of these slips," Mr. Crewe continued, "through a fellow- member who has no use for it--whose intelligence, in fact, is underrated by the gentlemen in Number Seven. I will read the slip.
"'Vote yes on the question. Yes means that the report of the Committee will be accepted, and that the Pingsquit bill will not pass. Wait for Bascom's signal, and destroy this paper."'
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."