Number forty-eight (the Honourable Jake's) was a free-and-easy democratic resort. No three knocks and a password before you turn the key here. Almost before your knuckles hit the panel you heard Mr. Botcher's hearty voice shouting "Come in," in spite of the closed transom. The Honourable Jake, being a tee-totaller, had no bathroom, and none but his intimate friends ever looked in the third from the top bureau drawer.
The proprietor of the Pelican, who in common with the rest of humanity had fallen a victim to the rough and honest charms and hearty good fellowship of the Honourable Jake, always placed a large padded arm-chair in number forty-eight before the sessions, knowing that the Honourable Jake's constituency would be uniformly kind to him. There Mr. Botcher was wont to sit (when he was not depressing one of the tiles in the rotunda), surrounded by his friends and their tobacco smoke, discussing in his frank and manly fashion the public questions of the day.
Mr. Crewe thought it a little strange that, whenever he entered a room in the Pelican, a silence should succeed the buzz of talk which he had heard through the closed transom; but he very naturally attributed this to the constraint which ordinary men would be likely to feel in his presence. In the mouth of one presumptuous member the word "railroad" was cut in two by an agate glance from the Honourable Brush, and Mr. Crewe noted with some surprise that the Democratic leader of the House, Mr. Painter, was seated on Mr. Botcher's mattress, with an expression that was in singular contrast to the look of bold defiance which he had swept over the House that afternoon in announcing his opposition policy. The vulgar political suggestion might have crept into a more trivial mind than Mr. Crewe's that Mr. Painter was being, "put to bed," the bed being very similar to that of Procrustes. Mr. Botcher extracted himself from the nooks and crannies of his armchair.
"How are you, Crewe?" he said hospitably; "we're all friends here--eh, Painter? We don't carry our quarrels outside the swinging doors. You know Mr. Crewe--by sight, of course. Do you know these other gentlemen, Crewe? I didn't expect you so early."
The "other gentlemen" said that they were happy to make the acquaintance of their fellow-member from Leith, and seemingly with one consent began to edge towards the door.
"Don't go, boys," Mr. Bascom protested. "Let me finish that story."
Some of "the boys" seemed to regard this statement as humorous,--more humorous, indeed, than the story itself. And when it was finished they took their departure, a trifle awkwardly, led by Mr. Painter.
"They're a little mite bashful," said Mr. Botcher, apologetically.