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CHAPTER X SUSPENSE

It became evident in the course of a few days that the amendment to the Naval Repair Station bill was to be pushed vigorously. In fact a great deal of sentiment in its favor developed in the most unexpected places.

Mr. Carlton had been under the impression that a large majority of the members of the Committee were for the Cleverly site as against any other, but he learned that he was mistaken. Some of the members declared themselves openly in favor of the Collins amendment; others said that the new proposition was deserving of very careful consideration.

Naturally this worried the Congressman. He spent many anxious hours and days in trying to strengthen his own position. Curious to state no one now seemed to care anything about Cleverly. On the other hand[Pg 129] there was wide-spread interest in Green Island. There was a reason. The amendment in favor of Green Island had just enough mystery about it to pique the curiosity of the law makers.

The fact that Jesse Hudson was behind the bill was also significant. It meant that there was at least a chance of its passage. Hudson was not in the habit of enlisting in losing fights. He was one of the best known members of the House. He had served eight consecutive terms. He was resourceful; he was industrious, and he knew the methods of procedure by heart. Besides that he had a great many friends. And that made him a foeman worthy of any man's steel. Some persons pretend that friendship has ceased to exist in the world. It is not true. The poorest man has some friends. Others—even though they be unworthy—have many friends. Friendship is a great asset to any man. It is invaluable to the man in public life. Carlton realized this fact. He knew that Hudson had served[Pg 130] so many men in his day that some of them would want to serve him now. And the member from Maine felt very, very anxious about his favorite piece of legislation.

Two of the things against the Green Island project were its apparent lack of support from the people of that locality, and the fact that it had not been endorsed by the Secretary of the Navy. Under ordinary circumstances the lack of these two requisites would have been sufficient to defeat any bill. In this case, however, they did not seem to count much. One of the reasons was that the land at Green Island was offered to the Government for a much lower price than had been fixed for the site at Cleverly.

"How can you explain that away?" asked the Secretary of the Navy of Mr. Carlton.

"Easily; it's not worth one-fourth as much."

The cabinet officer laughed.

"I like your positiveness."

"I can prove every word I say."

[Pg 131]

"Maybe you can."

"There's no 'maybe' about it, Mr. Secretary. I know what I'm talking about."

"The other fellows say the same thing," suggested the Secretary.

"See here," cried the Congressman, "you don't intend to indorse this Green Island scheme, do you?"

The Secretary became serious.

"Certainly not. I have already placed the seal of my approval on the Cleverly site. I believe this is the very best location we could get on the Atlantic Coast. But, that is merely my say-so."

"It's sufficient," protested Carlton, stubbornly.

"I hope so; but you mustn't underestimate the shrewdness of the fellows who are against you."

"You wouldn't let it go through, would you?" cried the Congressman, in alarm.

"Not if I could help it, but the thing might get beyond my control."

[Pg 132]

"How?"

"Well, I suppose you know that we are in urgent need of this Naval Repair Station?"

"I'm sure of it."

"You know, in fact, that we must have it at once."

"Yes."

"Well, suppose these fellows pass the Green Island bill and then have Congress adjourn."

"Well?"

"Picture the position in which I would be placed. If I ask the President to veto the bill, I am put in the attitude of killing a project for which I have been fighting."

"But not in the same place."

"No; not in the same place. But the difference in the desirability of the sites might not be considered sufficient cause for killing the bill after it comes from Congress."

"I see."

"Of course, you see. Now, it's up to you to defeat the Green Island scheme, and after that to pass the Cleverly bill."

[Pg 133]

"It's a pretty big contract to give to one man."

The Secretary laughed.

"Your shoulders are broad. Besides, I'm sure you must have some good friends."

"No one ever had better ones," was the fervent retort.

"Well, enlist them in your cause. Good-bye, and good luck to you," were the final words of the Cabinet officer.

John Carlton left with a smiling face, but down in his heart he had grave misgivings. As he entered the hall of the House he met Barry Wynn.

"Well, my boy," he said with outward cheerfulness that never deserted him, "what's new?"

"A great deal," replied the young page. "The members have been handing in petitions this morning in favor of placing the Naval Repair Station at Green Island."

"Many of them?"

"Hundreds and hundreds of them. Why[Pg 134] it looked like a snow storm of white papers. They came from all parts of the House."

"Did you say they were all on the same kind of paper?"

"No, I didn't," retorted Barry; "but now that you speak of it, they were all on one kind of paper."

Mr. Carlton nodded his head knowingly.

"It's just as I thought. This is not a natural outburst from the people. It's a scheme—a set-up job."

Barry looked at him helplessly.

"Can I do anything?" he asked, finally.

The Congressman was plunged in thought. Finally he looked up at the boy:

"Yes," he replied, "everybody can do something, Barry," he added, "we've got to stir up Cleverly as it has never been stirred up before. We must have a delegation of citizens come here and present their claims to the members of the Committee on Naval Affairs; we must get in touch with everyone that is worth his salt, and we must have telegrams,[Pg 135] letters and petitions fairly rain down upon the members from now until the meeting of the Committee."

The shower came and it was helpful. Also, Mr. Smithers sent a telegram, saying that he was organizing a delegation of leading citizens and that they would reach Washington in a few days. Barry, acting under the direction of Mr. Carlton, sent a number of letters to men who would be likely to assist in agitating the superior claims of Cleverly. One day, after a number of these petitions had been presented in the House, Mr. Carlton happened to meet Jesse Hudson.

"Hello," said the rival, who was still smarting over his defeat in the Garner claim, "you seem to be busy."

"This is my busy day," retorted Carlton, with imperturbable good humor.

"What are you trying to do, advertise Cleverly?" persisted Hudson.

"Incidentally," replied Carlton.

"You know that's all you'll ever get out[Pg 136] of it," sneered Hudson. "You know you'll never get that Naval Repair Station."

"No; I don't know that," said the man from Maine; "but I'm glad to get the news from such a distinguished authority. You know you are such a reliable prophet. You remember you said the Garner claim was sure to pass."

Hudson was too angry to reply to this sally. He stalked down the hall with his chin in the air, looking as if he could bite nails. Carlton, on his part, hurried to the office of the Secretary of the Navy. He was anxious to know whether there was anything new in the proposed naval station legislation. The Secretary was not in, but his chief clerk said he would be glad to give the Congressman any information he might have.

"What can you tell me about the proposed station?" asked Carlton.

"Nothing, except that a delegation called here yesterday in the interest of Green Island."

"They did?"

[Pg 137]

"Yes, sir; and they presented a set of blue prints showing how much the Government would gain by locating the repair station at that point."

"Blue prints don't mean everything," commented the Congressman.

"That's what the Secretary said, and he referred them to the Board of Experts that visited Cleverly."

"Did they go to Green Island?"

"No; they have no authority from Congress to examine the site."

"But they scrutinized the plans?"

"Yes."

"What was the verdict?"

"That, leaving out geographical considerations, the land at Green Island would make as good a location as that at Cleverly."

Mr. Carlton left the office of the Secretary of the Navy in a very thoughtful frame of mind. He realized that the opposition was making progress, and that his own cause was losing ground.


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