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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Crewe's Career - Book 2 - Chapter 11. The Hopper
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Mr. Crewe's Career - Book 2 - Chapter 11. The Hopper Post by :driverx Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :1645

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Mr. Crewe's Career - Book 2 - Chapter 11. The Hopper

BOOK II
CHAPTER XI. THE HOPPER

It is certainly not the function of a romance to relate, with the exactness of a House journal, the proceedings of a Legislature. Somebody has likened the state-house to pioneer Kentucky, a dark and bloody ground over which the battles of selfish interests ebbed and flowed,--no place for an innocent and unselfish bystander like Mr. Crewe, who desired only to make of his State an Utopia; whose measures were for the public good--not his own. But if any politician were fatuous enough to believe that Humphrey Crewe was a man to introduce bills and calmly await their fate; a man who, like Senator Sanderson, only came down to the capital when he was notified by telegram, that politician was entirely mistaken.

No sooner had his bills been assigned to the careful and just consideration of the committees in charge of the Honourable Brush Bascom, Mr. Botcher, and others than Mr. Crewe desired of each a day for a hearing. Every member of the five hundred was provided with a copy; nay, nearly every member was personally appealed to, to appear and speak for the measures. Foresters, road builders, and agriculturists (expenses paid) were sent for from other States; Mr. Ball and others came down from Leith, and gentlemen who for a generation had written letters to the newspapers turned up from other localities. In two cases the largest committee rooms proved too small for the gathering which was the result of Mr. Crewe's energy, and the legislative hall had to be lighted. The State Tribune gave column reports of the hearings, and little editorial pushes besides. And yet, when all was over, when it had been proved beyond a doubt that, if the State would consent to spend a little money, she would take the foremost rank among her forty odd sisters for progression, the bills were still under consideration by those hardheaded statesmen, Mr. Bascom and Mr. Botcher and their associates.

It could not be because these gentlemen did not know the arguments and see the necessity. Mr. Crewe had had them to dinner, and had spent so much time in their company presenting his case--to which they absolutely agreed--that they took to a forced seclusion. The member from Leith also wrote letters and telegrams, and sent long typewritten arguments and documents to Mr. Flint. Mr. Crewe, although far from discouraged, began to think there was something mysterious about all this seemingly unnecessary deliberation.

Mr. Crewe, though of great discernment, was only mortal, and while he was fighting his battle single-handed, how was he to know that the gods above him were taking sides and preparing for conflict? The gods do not give out their declarations of war for publication to the Associated Press; and old Tom Gaylord, who may be likened to Mars, had no intention of sending Jupiter notice until he got his cohorts into line. The strife, because it was to be internecine, was the more terrible. Hitherto the Gaylord Lumber Company, like the Winona Manufacturing Company of Newcastle (the mills of which extended for miles along the Tyne), had been a faithful ally of the Empire; and, on occasions when it was needed, had borrowed the Imperial army to obtain grants, extensions, and franchises.

The fact is that old Tom Gaylord, in the autumn previous, had quarreled with Mr. Flint about lumber rates, which had been steadily rising. Mr. Flint had been polite, but firm; and old Tom, who, with all his tremendous properties, could ship by no other railroad than the Northeastern, had left the New York office in a black rage. A more innocent citizen than old Tom would have put his case (which was without doubt a strong one) before the Railroad Commission of the State, but old Tom knew well enough that the Railroad Commission was in reality an economy board of the Northeastern system, as much under Mr. Flint's orders as the conductors and brakemen. Old Tom, in consulting the map, conceived an unheard-of effrontery, a high treason which took away the breath of his secretary and treasurer when it was pointed out to him. The plan contemplated a line of railroad from the heart of the lumber regions down the south side of the valley of the Pingsquit to Kingston, where the lumber could take to the sea. In short, it was a pernicious revival of an obsolete state of affairs, competition, and if persisted in, involved nothing less than a fight to a finish with the army, the lobby of the Northeastern. Other favoured beings stood aghast when they heard of it, and hastened to old Tom with timely counsel; but he had reached a frame of mind which they knew well. He would listen to no reason, and maintained stoutly that there were other lawyers in the world as able in political sagacity and lobby tactics as Hilary Vane; the Honourable Galusha Hammer, for instance, an old and independent and wary war-horse who had more than once wrung compromises out of the Honourable Hilary. The Honourable Galusha Hammer was sent for, and was now industriously, if quietly and unobtrusively, at work. The Honourable Hilary was likewise at work, equally quietly and unobtrusively. When the powers fall out, they do not open up at once with long-distance artillery. There is always a chance of a friendly settlement. The news was worth a good deal, for instance, to Mr. Peter Pardriff (brother of Paul, of Ripton), who refrained, with praiseworthy self-control, from publishing it in the State Tribune, although the temptation to do so must have been great. And most of the senatorial twenty saw the trouble coming and braced their backs against it, but in silence. The capital had seen no such war as this since the days of Jethro Bass.

In the meantime Mr. Crewe, blissfully ignorant of this impending conflict, was preparing a speech on national affairs and national issues which was to startle an unsuspecting State. Mrs. Pomfret, who had received many clippings and pamphlets, had written him weekly letters of a nature spurring to his ambition, which incidentally contained many references to Alice's interest in his career. And Mr. Crewe's mind, when not intent upon affairs of State, sometimes reverted pleasantly to thoughts of Victoria Flint; it occurred to him that the Duncan house was large enough for entertaining, and that he might invite Mrs. Pomfret to bring Victoria and the inevitable Alice to hear his oration, for which Mr. Speaker Doby had set a day.

In his desire to give other people pleasure, Mr. Crewe took the trouble to notify a great many of his friends and acquaintances as to the day of his speech, in case they might wish to travel to the State capital and hear him deliver it. Having unexpectedly received in the mail a cheque from Austen Vane in settlement of the case of the injured horse, Austen was likewise invited.

Austen smiled when he opened the letter, and with its businesslike contents there seemed to be wafted from it the perfume and suppliance of a September day in the Vale of the Blue. From the window of his back office, looking across the railroad tracks, he could see Sawanec, pale in her winter garb against a pale winter sky, and there arose in him the old restless desire for the woods and fields which at times was almost irresistible. His thoughts at length descending from the azure above Sawanec, his eyes fell again on Mr. Crewe's typewritten words: "It may be of interest to you that I am to deliver, on the 15th instant, and as the Chairman of the House Committee on National Affairs, a speech upon national policies which is the result of much thought, and which touches upon such material needs of our State as can be supplied by the Federal Government."

Austen had a brief fancy, whimsical as it was, of going to hear him. Mr. Crewe, as a type absolutely new to him, interested him. He had followed the unusual and somewhat surprising career of the gentleman from Leith with some care, even to the extent of reading of Mr. Crewe's activities in the State Tribunes which had been sent him. Were such qualifications as Mr. Crewe possessed, he wondered, of a kind to sweep their possessor into high office? Were industry, persistency, and a capacity for taking advantage of a fair wind sufficient?

Since his return from Pepper County, Austen Vane had never been to the State capital during a session, although it was common for young lawyers to have cases before the Legislature. It would have been difficult to say why he did not take these cases, aside from the fact that they were not very remunerative. On occasions gentlemen from different parts of the State, and some from outside of it who had certain favours to ask at the hands of the lawmaking body, had visited his back office and closed the door after them, and in the course of the conversation had referred to the relationship of the young lawyer to Hilary Vane. At such times Austen would freely acknowledge the debt of gratitude he owed his father for being in the world--and refer them politely to Mr. Hilary Vane himself. In most cases they had followed his advice, wondering not a little at this isolated example of quixotism.

During the sessions, except for a day or two at week ends which were often occupied with conferences, the Honourable Hilary's office was deserted; or rather, as we have seen, his headquarters were removed to room Number Seven in the Pelican Hotel at the capital. Austen got many of the lay clients who came to see his father at such times; and--without giving an exaggerated idea of his income--it might be said that he was beginning to have what may be called a snug practice for a lawyer of his experience. In other words, according to Mr. Tooting, who took an intense interest in the matter, "not wearing the collar" had been more of a financial success for Austen than that gentleman had imagined. There proved to be many clients to whom the fact that young Mr. Vane did not carry a "retainer pass" actually appealed. These clients paid their bills, but they were neither large nor influential, as a rule, with the notable exception of the Gaylord Lumber Company, where the matters for trial were not large. If young Tom Gaylord had had his way, Austen would have been the chief counsel for the corporation.

To tell the truth, Austen Vane had a secret aversion to going to the capital during a session, a feeling that such a visit would cause him unhappiness. In spite of his efforts, and indeed in spite of Hilary's, Austen and his father had grown steadily apart. They met in the office hallway, in the house in Hanover Street when Hilary came home to sleep, and the elder Mr. Vane was not a man to thrive on small talk. His world was the battlefield from which he directed the forces of the great corporation which he served, and the cherished vision of a son in whom he could confide his plans, upon whose aid and counsel he could lean, was gone forever. Hilary Vane had troublesome half-hours, but on the whole he had reached the conclusion that this son, like Sarah Austen, was one of those inexplicable products in which an extravagant and inscrutable nature sometimes indulged. On the rare evenings when the two were at home together, the Honourable Hilary sat under one side of the lamp with a pile of documents and newspapers, and Austen under the other with a book from the circulating library. No public questions could be broached upon which they were not as far apart as the poles, and the Honourable Hilary put literature in the same category as embroidery. Euphrasia, when she paused in her bodily activity to darn their stockings, used to glance at them covertly from time to time, and many a silent tear of which they knew nothing fell on her needle.

On the subject of his protracted weekly absences at the State capital, the Honourable Hilary was as uncommunicative as he would have been had he retired for those periods to a bar-room. He often grunted and cleared his throat and glanced at his son when their talk bordered upon these absences; and he was even conscious of an extreme irritation against himself as well as Austen because of the instinct that bade him keep silent. He told himself fiercely that he had nothing to be ashamed of, nor would he have acknowledged that it was a kind of shame that bade him refrain even from circumstantial accounts of what went on in room Number Seven of the Pelican. He had an idea that Austen knew and silently condemned; and how extremely maddening was this feeling to the Honourable Hilary may well be imagined. All his life long he had deemed himself morally invulnerable, and now to be judged and ethically found wanting by the son of Sarah Austen was, at times, almost insupportable. Were the standards of a long life to be suddenly reversed by a prodigal son?

To get back to Austen. On St. Valentine's Day of that year when, to tell the truth, he was seated in his office scribbling certain descriptions of nature suggested by the valentines in Mr. Hayman's stationery store, the postman brought in a letter from young Tom Gaylord. Austen laughed as he read it. "The Honourable Galusha Hammer is well named," young Tom wrote, "but the conviction has been gaining ground with me that a hammer is about as much use as a shovel would be at the present time. It is not the proper instrument." "But the 'old man'" (it was thus young Tom was wont to designate his parent) "is pig-headed when he gets to fighting, and won't listen to reason. If he believes he can lick the Northeastern with a Hammer, he is durned badly mistaken, and I told him so. I have been giving him sage advice in little drops--after meals. I tell him there is only one man in the State who has sense enough even to shake the Northeastern, and that's you. He thinks this a pretty good joke. Of course I realize where your old man is planted, and that you might have some natural delicacy and wish to refrain from giving him a jar. But come down for an hour and let me talk to you, anyway. The new statesman from Leith is cutting a wide swath. Not a day passes but his voice is heard roaring in the Forum; he has visited all the State institutions, dined and wined the governor and his staff and all the ex-governors he can lay his hands on, and he has that hard-headed and caustic journalist, Mr. Peter Pardriff, of the State Tribune, hypnotized. He has some swells up at his house to hear his speech on national affairs, among them old Flint's daughter, who is a ripper to look at, although I never got nearer to her than across the street. As you may guess, it is something of a card for Crewe to have Flint's daughter here."

Austen sat for a long time after reading this letter, idly watching the snow-clouds gathering around Sawanec. Then he tore up the paper, on which he had been scribbling, into very small bits, consulted a time-table, and at noon, in a tumult of feelings, he found himself in a back seat of the express, bound for the capital.

Arriving at the station, amidst a hurry and bustle of legislators and politicians coming and going, many of whom nodded to him, he stood for a minute in the whirling snow reflecting. Now that he was here, where was he to stay? The idea of spending the night at the Pelican was repellent to him, and he was hesitating between two more modest hostelries when he was hailed by a giant with a flowing white beard, a weather-beaten face, and a clear eye that shone with a steady and kindly light. It was James Redbrook, the member from Mercer.

"Why, how be you, Austen?" he cried, extending a welcome hand; and, when Austen had told him his dilemma: "Come right along up to my lodgings. I live at the Widow Peasley's, and there's a vacant room next to mine."

Austen accepted gratefully, and as they trudged through the storm up the hill, he inquired how legislative matters were progressing. Whereupon Mr. Redbrook unburdened himself.

"Say, I just warmed up all over when I see you, Austen. I'm so glad to run across an honest man. We ain't forgot in Mercer what you did for Zeb Meader, and how you went against your interests. And I guess it ain't done you any harm in the State. As many as thirty or forty members have spoke to me about it. And down here I've got so I just can't hold in any more."

"Is it as bad as that, Mr. Redbrook?" asked Austen, with a serious glance at the farmer's face.

"It's so bad I don't know how to begin," said the member from Mercer, and paused suddenly. "But I don't want to hurt your feelings, Austen, seeing your father is--where he is."

"Go on," said Austen, "I understand."

"Well," said Mr. Redbrook, "it just makes me tremble as an American citizen. The railrud sends them slick cusses down here that sit in the front seats who know all this here parliamentary law and the tricks of the trade, and every time any of us gets up to speak our honest minds, they have us ruled out of order or get the thing laid on the table until some Friday morning when there ain't nobody here, and send it along up to the Senate. They made that fat feller, Doby, Speaker, and he's stuffed all the important committees so that you can't get an honest measure considered. You can talk to the committees all you've a mind to, and they'll just listen and never do anything. There's five hundred in the House, and it ain't any more of a Legislature than a camp-meetin' is. What do you suppose they done last Friday morning, when there wahn't but twenty men at the session? We had an anti-pass law, and all these fellers were breakin' it. It forbid anybody riding on a pass except railroad presidents, directors, express messengers, and persons in misfortune, and they stuck in these words, 'and others to whom passes have been granted by the proper officers.' Ain't that a disgrace to the State? And those twenty senators passed it before we got back on Tuesday. You can't get a bill through that Legislature unless you go up to the Pelican and get permission of Hilary--"

Here Mr. Redbrook stopped abruptly, and glanced contritely at his companion.

"I didn't mean to get goin' so," he said, "but sometimes I wish this American government'd never been started."

"I often feel that way myself, Mr. Redbrook," said Austen.

"I knowed you did. I guess I can tell an honest man when I see one. It's treason to say anything against this Northeastern louder than a whisper. They want an electric railrud bad up in Greenacre, and when some of us spoke for it and tried to get the committee to report it, those cheap fellers from Newcastle started such a catcall we had to set down."

By this time they were at the Widow Peasley's, stamping the snow from off their boots.

"How general is this sentiment?" Austen asked, after he had set down his bag in the room he was to occupy.

"Why," said Mr. Redbrook, with conviction, "there's enough feel as I do to turn that House upside down--if we only had a leader. If you was only in there, Austen."

"I'm afraid I shouldn't be of much use," Austen answered. "They'd have given me a back seat, too."

The Widow Peasley's was a frame and gabled house of Revolutionary days with a little terrace in front of it and a retaining wall built up from the sidewalk. Austen, on the steps, stood gazing across at a square mansion with a wide cornice, half hidden by elms and maples and pines. It was set far back from the street, and a driveway entered the picket-fence and swept a wide semicircle to the front door and back again. Before the door was a sleigh of a pattern new to him, with a seat high above the backs of two long-bodied, deep-chested horses, their heads held with difficulty by a little footman with his arms above him. At that moment two figures in furs emerged from the house. The young woman gathered up the reins and leaped lightly to the box, the man followed; the little groom touched his fur helmet and scrambled aboard as the horses sprang forward to the music of the softest of bells. The sleigh swept around the curve, avoided by a clever turn a snow-pile at the entrance, the young woman raised her eyes from the horses, stared at Austen, and bowed. As for Austen, he grew warm as he took off his hat, and he realized that his hand was actually trembling. The sleigh flew on up the hill, but she turned once more to look behind her, and he still had his hat in his hand, the snowflakes falling on his bared head. Then he was aware that James Redbrook was gazing at him curiously.

"That's Flint's daughter, ain't it?" inquired the member from Mercer. "Didn't callate you'd know her."

Austen flushed. He felt exceedingly foolish, but an answer came to him.

"I met her in the hospital. She used to go there to see Zeb Meader."

"That's so," said Mr. Redbrook; "Zeb told me about it, and she used to come to Mercer to see him after he got out. She ain't much like the old man, I callate."

"I don't think she is," said Austen.

"I don't know what she's stayin' with that feller Crewe for," the farmer remarked; "of all the etarnal darn idiots--why, Brush Bascom and that Botcher and the rest of 'em are trailin' him along and usin' him for the best thing that ever came down here. He sets up to be a practical man, and don't know as much as some of us hayseeds in the back seats. Where be you goin'?"

"I was going to the Pelican."

"Well, I've got a committee meetin' of Agriculture," said Mr. Redbrook. "Could you be up here at Mis' Peasley's about eight to-night?"

"Why, yes," Austen replied, "if you want to see me."

"I do want to see you," said Mr. Redbrook, significantly, and waved a farewell.

Austen took his way slowly across the state-house park, threading among the groups between the snow-banks towards the wide facade of the Pelican Hotel. Presently he paused, and then with a sudden determination crossed the park diagonally into Main Street, walking rapidly southward and scrutinizing the buildings on either side until at length these began to grow wide apart, and he spied a florist's sign with a greenhouse behind it. He halted again, irresolutely, in front of it, flung open the door, and entered a boxlike office filled with the heated scents of flowers. A little man eyed him with an obsequious interest which he must have accorded to other young men on similar errands. Austen may be spared a repetition of the very painful conversation that ensued; suffice it to say that, after mature deliberation, violets were chosen. He had a notion--not analyzed--that she would prefer violets to roses. The information that the flowers were for the daughter of the president of the Northeastern Railroads caused a visible quickening of the little florist's regard, an attitude which aroused a corresponding disgust and depression in Austen.

"Oh, yes," said the florist, "she's up at Crewe's." He glanced at Austen apologetically. "Excuse me," he said, "I ought to know you. Have you a card?"

"No," said Austen, with emphasis.

"And what name, please?"

"No name," said the donor, now heartily repenting of his rashness, and slamming the glass door in a manner that made the panes rattle behind him.

As he stood hesitating on the curb of the crossing, he began to wish that he had not left Ripton.

"Hello, Austen," said a voice, which he recognized as the Honourable Brush Bascom's, "didn't know you ever came down here in session time."

"What are you doing down here, Brush?" Austen asked.

Mr. Bascom grinned in appreciation of this pleasantry.

"I came for my health," he said; "I prefer it to Florida."

"I've heard that it agrees with some people," said Austen.

Mr. Bascom grinned again.

"Just arrived?" he inquired.

"Just," said Austen.

"I thought you'd get here sooner or later," said Mr. Bascom. "Some folks try stayin' away, but it ain't much use. You'll find the honourable Hilary doing business at the same old stand, next to the governor, in Number Seven up there." And Mr. Bascom pointed to the well-known window on the second floor.

"Thanks, Brush," said Austen, indifferently. "To tell the truth, I came down to hear that promising protege of yours speak on national affairs. I understand you're pushing his bills along."

Mr. Bascom, with great deliberation, shut one of his little eyes.

"So long," he said, "come and see me when you get time."

Austen went slowly down the street and entered the smoke-clouded lobby of the Pelican. He was a man to draw attention, and he was stared at by many politicians there and spoken to by some before he reached the stairs. Mounting, he found the door with the numeral, and knocked. The medley of voices within ceased; there were sounds of rattling papers, and of closing of folding doors. The key turned in the lock, and State Senator Nathaniel Billings appeared in the doorway, with a look of polite inquiry on his convivial face. This expression, when he saw Austen, changed to something like consternation.

"Why, hello, hello," said the senator. "Come in, come in. The Honourable Hilary's here. Where'd you come down?"

"Hello, Nat," said Austen, and went in.

The Honourable Hilary sat in his usual arm-chair; Mr. Botcher severely strained the tensile strength of the bedsprings; Mr. Hamilton Tooting stood before the still waving portieres in front of the folding doors; and Mr. Manning, the division superintendent, sat pensively, with his pen in his mouth, before the marble-topped table from which everything had been removed but a Bible. Two gentlemen, whom Austen recognized as colleagues of Mr. Billings in the State Senate, stood together in a window, pointing out things of interest in the street. Austen walked up to his father and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"How are you, Judge?" he said. "I only came into pay my respects. I hope I have not disturbed any--entertainment going on here," he added, glancing in turn at the thoughtful occupants of the room, and then at the curtains which hid the folding doors to the apartment of his Excellency.

"Why, no," answered the Honourable Hilary, his customary grunt being the only indication of surprise on his part; "didn't know you were coming down."

"I didn't know it myself until this morning," said Austen.

"Legislative case, I suppose," remarked the Honourable Jacob Botcher, in his deep voice.

"No, merely a pleasure trip, Mr. Botcher."

The Honourable Jacob rubbed his throat, the two State senators in the window giggled, and Mr. Hamilton Tooting laughed.

"I thought you took to the mountains in such cases, sir," said Mr. Botcher.

"I came for intellectual pleasure this time," said Austen. "I understand that Mr. Crewe is to deliver an epoch-making speech on the national situation to-morrow."

This was too much even for the gravity of Mr. Manning; Mr. Tooting and Mr. Billings and his two colleagues roared, though the Honourable Jacob's laugh was not so spontaneous.

"Aust," said Mr. Tooting, admiringly, "you're all right."

"Well, Judge," said Austen, patting his father's shoulder again, "I'm glad to see you so comfortably fixed. Good-by, and give my regards to the governor. I'm sorry to have missed him," he added, glancing at the portieres that hid the folding doors.

"Are you stopping here?" asked the Honourable Hilary.

"No, I met Mr. Redbrook of Mercer, and he took me up to his lodgings. If I can do anything for you, a message will reach me there."

"Humph," said the Honourable Hilary, while the others exchanged significant glances.

Austen had not gone half the length of the hall when he was overtaken by Mr. Tooting.

"Say, Aust, what's up between you and Redbrook?" he asked.

"Nothing. Why?" Austen asked, stopping abruptly.

"Well, I suppose you know there's an anti-railroad feeling growing in that House, and that Redbrook has more influence with the farmers than any other man."

"I didn't know anything about Mr. Redbrook's influence," said Austen.

Mr. Tooting looked unconvinced.

"Say, Aust, if anything's in the wind, I wish you'd let me know. I'll keep it quiet."

"I think I shall be safe in promising that, Ham," said Austen. "When there's anything in the wind, you generally find it out first."

"There's trouble coming for the railroad," said Mr. Tooting. "I can see that. And I guess you saw it before I did."

"They say a ship's about to sink when the rats begin to leave it," said Austen.

Although Austen spoke smilingly, Mr. Tooting looked pained.

"There's no chance for young men in that system," he said.

"Young men write the noble parts of the governor's inaugurals," said Austen.

"Yes," said Mr. Tooting, bitterly, "but you never get to be governor and read 'em. You've got to be a 'come on' with thirty thousand dollars to be a Northeastern governor and live next door to the Honourable Hilary in the Pelican. Well, so long, Aust. If anything's up, give me the tip, that's all I ask."

Reflecting on the singular character of Mr. Tooting, Austen sought the Gaylords' headquarters, and found them at the furthermost end of the building from the Railroad Room. The door was opened by young Tom himself, whose face became wreathed in smiles when he saw who the visitor was.

"It's Austen!" he cried. "I thought you'd come down when you got that appeal of mine."

Austen did not admit the self-sacrifice as he shook Tom's hand; but remembered, singularly enough, the closing sentences of Tom's letter--which had nothing whatever to do with the Gaylord bill.

At this moment a commotion arose within the room, and a high, tremulous, but singularly fierce and compelling voice was heard crying out:--"Get out! Get out, d----n you, all of you, and don't come back until you've got some notion of what you're a-goin' to do. Get out, I say!"

These last words were pronounced with such extraordinary vigour that four gentlemen seemed to be physically impelled from the room. Three of them Austen recognized as dismissed and disgruntled soldiers from the lobby army of the Northeastern; the fourth was the Honourable Galusha Hammer, whose mode of progress might be described as "stalking," and whose lips were forming the word "intolerable." In the corner old Tom himself could be seen, a wizened figure of wrath.

"Who's that?" he demanded of his son, "another d-d fool?"

"No," replied young Tom, "it's Austen Vane."

"What's he doin' here?" old Tom demanded, with a profane qualification as to the region. But young Tom seemed to be the only being capable of serenity amongst the flames that played around him.

"I sent for him because he's got more sense than Galusha and all the rest of 'em put together," he said.

"I guess that's so," old Tom agreed unexpectedly, "but it ain't sayin' much. Bring him in--bring him in, and lock the door."

In obedience to these summons, and a pull from young Tom, Austen entered and sat down.

"You've read the Pingsquit bill?" old Tom demanded.

"Yes," said Austen.

"Just because you won a suit against the Northeastern, and nearly killed a man out West, Tom seems to think you can do anything. He wouldn't, give me any peace until I let him send for you," Mr. Gaylord remarked testily. "Now you're down here, what have you got to propose?"

"I didn't come here to propose anything, Mr. Gaylord," said Austen.

"What!" cried Mr. Gaylord, with one of his customary and forceful exclamations. "What'd you come down for?"

"I've been asking myself that question ever since I came, Mr. Gaylord," said Austen, "and I haven't yet arrived at any conclusion."

Young Tom looked at his friend and laughed, and Mr. Gaylord, who at first gave every indication of being about to explode with anger, suddenly emitted a dry cackle.

"You ain't a d-n fool, anyway," he declared.

"I'm beginning to think I am," said Austen.

"Then you've got sense enough to know it," retorted old Tom. "Most of 'em haven't." And his glance, as it fell upon the younger man, was almost approving. Young Tom's was distinctly so.

"I told you Austen was the only lawyer who'd talk common sense to you," he said.

"I haven't heard much of it yet," said old Tom.

"Perhaps I ought to tell you, Mr. Gaylord," said Austen, smiling a little, "that I didn't come down in any legal capacity. That's only one of Tom's jokes."

"Then what in h--l did you bring him in here for?" demanded old Tom of his son.

"Just for a quiet little powwow," said young Tom, "to make you laugh. He's made you laugh before."

"I don't want to laugh," said old Tom, pettishly. Nevertheless, he seemed to be visibly cooling. "If you ain't in here to make money," he added to Austen, "I don't care how long you stay."

"Say, Austen," said young Tom, "do you remember the time we covered the old man with shavings at the mills in Avalon, and how he chased us with a two-by-four scantling?"

"I'd made pulp out'n you if I'd got you," remarked Mr. Gaylord, with a reminiscent chuckle that was almost pleasant. "But you were always a goldurned smart boy, Austen, and you've done well with them little suits." He gazed at Austen a moment with his small, filmy-blue eye. "I don't know but what you might take hold here and make it hot for those d-d rascals in the Northeastern, after all. You couldn't botch it worsen Hammer has, and you might do some good. I said I'd make 'em dance, and by G-d, I'll do it, if I have to pay that Teller Levering in New York, and it takes the rest of my life. Look the situation over, and come back to-morrow and tell me what you think of it."

"I can tell you what I think of it now, Mr. Gaylord," said Austen.

"What's that?" old Tom demanded sharply.

"That you'll never get the bill passed, this session or next, by lobbying."

For the moment the elder Mr. Gaylord was speechless, but young Tom Gaylord clapped his hand heartily on his friend's shoulder.

"That's the reason I wanted to get you down here, Austen," he cried; "that's what I've been telling the old man all along--perhaps he'll believe you."

"Then you won't take hold?" said Mr. Gaylord, his voice trembling on the edge of another spasm. "You refuse business?"

"I refuse that kind of business, Mr. Gaylord," Austen answered quietly, though there was a certain note in his voice that young Tom knew well, and which actually averted the imminent explosion from Mr. Gaylord, whose eyes glared and watered. "But aside from that, you must know that the Republican party leaders in this State are the heads of the lobby of the Northeastern Railroads."

"I guess I know about Number Seven as well as you do," old Tom interjected.

Austen's eye flashed.

"Now hold on, father," said young Tom, "that's no way to talk to Austen."

"Knowing Number Seven," Austen continued, "you probably realize that the political and business future of nearly every one of the twenty State senators depends upon the favour of the Northeastern Railroads."

"I know that the d-d fools won't look at money," said Mr. Gaylord; "Hammer's tried 'em."

"I told you that before you started in," young Tom remarked, "but when you get mad, you won't listen to sense. And then there's the Honourable Asa Gray, who wants to represent the Northeastern some day in the United States Senate."

"The bill ought to pass," shrieked old Tom; "it's a d-d outrage. There's no reason why I shouldn't be allowed to build a railroad if I've got the money to do it. What in blazes are we comin' to in this country if we can't git competition? If Flint stops that bill, I'll buy a newspaper and go to the people with the issue and throw his d-d monopoly into bankruptcy."

"It's all very well to talk about competition and monopolies and lobbies," said young Tom, "but how about the Gaylord Lumber Company? How about the time you used the lobby, with Flint's permission? This kind of virtuous talk is beautiful to listen to when you and Flint get into a row."

At this remark of his son's, the intermittent geyser of old Tom's wrath spouted up again with scalding steam, and in a manner utterly impossible to reproduce upon paper. Young Tom waited patiently for the exhibition to cease, which it did at length in a coughing fit of sheer exhaustion that left his father speechless, if not expressionless, pointing a lean and trembling finger in the direction of a valise on the floor.

"You'll go off in a spell of that kind some day," said young Tom, opening the valise and extracting a bottle. Uncorking it, he pressed it to his father's lips, and with his own pocket-handkerchief (old Tom not possessing such an article) wiped the perspiration from Mr. Gaylord's brow and the drops from his shabby black coat. "There's no use gettin' mad at Austen. He's dead right--you can't lobby this thing through, and you knew it before you started. If you hadn't lost your temper, you wouldn't have tried."

"We'll see, by G-d, we'll see," said the indomitable old Tom, when he got his breath. "You young men think you know a sight, but you haven't got the stuff in you we old Tellers have. Where would I be if it wasn't for fightin'? You mark my words, before this session's ended I'll scare h-l out of Flint--see if I don't."

Young Tom winked at his friend.

"Let's go down to supper," he said.

The dining room of the Pelican Hotel during a midweek of a busy session was a scene of bustle and confusion not likely to be forgotten. Every seat was taken, and gentlemen waited their turn in the marble-flagged rotunda who had not the honour of being known to Mr. Giles, the head waiter. If Mr. Hamilton Tooting were present, and recognized you, he would take great pleasure in pointing out the celebrities, and especially that table over which the Honourable Hilary Vane presided, with the pretty, red-checked waitress hovering around it. At the Honourable Hilary's right hand was the division superintendent, and at his left, Mr. Speaker Doby--a most convenient and congenial arrangement; farther down the board were State Senator Nat Billings, Mr. Ridout (when he did not sup at home), the Honourables Brush Bascom and Elisha Jane, and the Honourable Jacob Botcher made a proper ballast for the foot. This table was known as the Railroad Table, and it was very difficult, at any distance away from it, to hear what was said, except when the Honourable Jacob Botcher made a joke. Next in importance and situation was the Governor's Table--now occupied by the Honourable Asa Gray. Mr. Tooting's description would not have stopped here.

Sensations are common in the Pelican Hotel, but when Austen Vane walked in that evening between the Gaylords, father and son, many a hungry guest laid down his knife and fork and stared. Was the younger Vane (known to be anti-railroad) to take up the Gaylords' war against his own father? All the indications were that way, and a rumour flew from table to table-leaping space, as rumours will--that the Gaylords had sent to Ripton for Austen. There was but one table in the room the occupants of which appeared not to take any interest in the event, or even to grasp that an event had occurred. The Railroad Table was oblivious.

After supper Mr. Tooting found Austen in the rotunda, and drew him mysteriously aside.

"Say, Aust, the Honourable Hilary wants to see you to-night," he whispered.

"Did he send you with the message?" Austen demanded.

"That's right," said Mr. Tooting. "I guess you know what's up."

Austen did not answer. At the foot of the stairway was the tall form of Hilary Vane himself, and Austen crossed the rotunda.

"Do you want to see me, Judge?" he asked.

The Honourable Hilary faced about quickly.

"Yes, if you've got any spare time."

"I'll go to your room at half-past nine to-night, if that's convenient."

"All right," said the Honourable Hilary, starting up the stairs.

Austen turned, and found Mr. Hamilton Tooting at his elbow.

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