The real Horatius of the stirring time of which we write was that old and tried veteran, the Honourable Brush Bascom; and Spurius Lartius might be typified by the indomitable warrior, the Honourable Jacob Botcher, while the Honourable Samuel Doby of Hale, Speaker of the House, was unquestionably Herminius. How the three held the bridge that year will be told in as few and as stirring words as possible. A greater than Porsena confronted them, and well it was for them, and for the Empire, that the Body Guard of the Twenty stood behind them.
"Lars Porsena of Clusium, By the Nine Gods he swore."
The morning after the State Tribune had printed that memorable speech on national affairs--statistics and all, with an editorial which gave every evidence of Mr. Peter Pardriff's best sparkle--Mr. Crewe appeared on the floor of the House with a new look in his eye which made discerning men turn and stare at him. It was the look of the great when they are justly indignant, when their trust--nobly given--has been betrayed. Washington, for instance, must have had just such a look on the battlefield of Trenton. The Honourable Jacob Botcher, pressing forward as fast as his bulk would permit and with the newspaper in his hand, was met by a calm and distant manner which discomposed that statesman, and froze his stout index finger to the editorial which "perhaps Mr. Crewe had not seen."
Mr. Crewe was too big for resentment, but he knew how to meet people who didn't measure up to his standards. Yes, he had seen the editorial, and the weather still continued fine. The Honourable Jacob was left behind scratching his head, and presently he sought a front seat in which to think, the back ones not giving him room enough. The brisk, cheery greeting of the Honourable Brush Bascom fared no better, but Mr. Bascom was a philosopher, and did not disturb the great when their minds were revolving on national affairs and the welfare of humanity in general. Mr. Speaker Doby and Mr. Ridout got but abstract salutations also, and were correspondingly dismayed.
That day, and for many days thereafter, Mr. Crewe spent some time--as was entirely proper--among the back seats, making the acquaintance of his humbler fellow members of the submerged four hundred and seventy. He had too long neglected this, so he told them, but his mind had been on high matters. During many of his mature years he had pondered as to how the welfare of community and State could be improved, and the result of that thought was embodied in the bills of which they had doubtless received copies. If not, down went their names in a leather-bound memorandum, and they got copies in the next mails.
The delight of some of the simple rustic members at this unbending of a great man may be imagined. To tell the truth, they had looked with little favour upon the intimacy which had sprung up between him and those tyrannical potentates, Messrs. Botcher and Bascom, and many who had the courage of their convictions expressed then very frankly. Messrs. Botcher and Bascom were, when all was said, mere train despatchers of the Northeastern, who might some day bring on a wreck the like of which the State had never seen. Mr. Crewe was in a receptive mood; indeed his nature, like Nebuchadnezzar's, seemed to have experienced some indefinable and vital change. Was this the Mr. Crewe the humble rural members had pictured to themselves? Was this the Mr. Crewe who, at the beginning of the session, had told them roundly it was their duty to vote for his bills?
Mr. Crewe was surprised, he said, to hear so much sentiment against the Northeastern Railroads. Yes, he was a friend of Mr. Flint's--they were neighbours in the country. But if these charges had any foundation whatever, they ought to be looked into--they ought to be taken up. A sovereign people should not be governed by a railroad. Mr. Crewe was a business man, but first of all he was a citizen; as a business man he did not intend to talk vaguely, but to investigate thoroughly. And then, if charges should be made, he would make them specifically, and as a citizen contend for the right.
It is difficult to restrain one's pen in dealing with a hero, but it is not too much to say that Mr. Crewe impressed many of the country members favourably. How, indeed, could he help doing so? His language was moderate, his poise that of a man of affairs, and there was a look in his eye and a determination in his manner that boded ill for the Northeastern if he should, after weighing the facts, decide that they ought to be flagellated. His friendship with Mr. Flint and the suspicion that he might be inclined to fancy Mr. Flint's daughter would not influence him in the least; of that many of his hearers were sure. Not a few of them were invited to dinner at the Duncan house, and shown the library and the conservatory.