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CHAPTER XII SMITHERS TO THE RESCUE
For twenty-four hours after the defeat of the Green Island bill John Carlton was kept busy responding to congratulations. Barry Wynn was one of those who ventured to express his joy to the Congressman.

"I'm awfully glad you've won the fight," said the boy.

The statesman beamed on the youngster.

"You mean well, Barry," he exclaimed, "but I'm afraid you're a little previous."

"But you beat them."

Mr. Carlton nodded.

"Yes, we defeated their bill, but we haven't passed our own!"

"But you will."

"I hope so, but I know we're going to have a terrific battle. Hudson and the others are bitter over their defeat, and they'll move[Pg 154] Heaven and Earth to beat the man from Cleverly."

The session was now drawing near its close, and Mr. Carlton knew that if he was to get his bill through, he would have to get action by the Committee. Accordingly he had a day fixed when the members agreed to hear the citizens of Cleverly. That accomplished, he wired Mr. Smithers to be sure and have his committee in Washington at the time appointed. The caution was heeded, for when the great day arrived, Mr. Carlton received word that the delegation had reached the Capitol city. Barry tried to locate them but failed. He did not know at what time they reached Washington, or where they were domiciled. The only thing he could do was to possess his soul in patience. The public hearing was scheduled for two o'clock in the afternoon in the Committee room, and Barry felt that they would be likely to appear there before the hour indicated.

He was not mistaken. Ten minutes before the time the delegation filed into the office[Pg 155] of Congressman Carlton. Postmaster Ford headed the party, and directly behind him were Mr. Smithers, Hiram Blake, and several other prominent citizens of Cleverly. Mr. Carlton received them cordially, and then Barry went around to them, one by one, shaking hands with a fervency that could not be mistaken. The sight of the familiar faces stirred him until every drop of blood in his body seemed to tingle with delight. The sense of elation was greater than words could properly describe. The sight of their dear old faces was like a whiff of ozone from the ocean to a person parched with the heat of summer.

He had so much to say, and they had so much to say, that none of them knew where to begin. The consequence was a genuine hubbub of voices and a babble of sounds. Hiram Blake, as his relative, naturally claimed his attention. These two talked in whispers for quite a while and the things that Barry learned from his uncle made him very happy indeed. His mother was well and contented, and pleased[Pg 156] with the progress that he was making in Washington.

After he had finished his talk with his uncle, Barry turned his attention to Mr. Smithers. He had to shake hands with him again and again in order to convince himself that it was really the old schoolmaster himself in the flesh that stood before him. Mr. Daniel Smithers, it might be said, parenthetically, was a different person in Washington from Mr. Smithers in Cleverly. He was dressed neatly and in good taste, and had indulged in the luxury of a shave and a hair cut. Mr. Smithers, like most men of his class in the east, was not only highly educated, but was a man of great capacity, and from the moment he landed in Washington he had been fairly drinking in knowledge. He absorbed facts and figures and information generally as a sponge absorbs water. While the other members of the party had been indulging in the pleasure that comes from viewing monuments and paintings, Mr. Smithers had been making the rounds of the [Pg 157]departments, and picking up odd bits of information concerning the government of the country, that he was to retain in his wonderful head the rest of his life. He visited the Treasury, Patent Office, and the computing department of the Census Bureau.

Barry looked at him in open-eyed wonder. He had the usual amount of boyish enthusiasm upon the subject of sight-seeing, but he could not understand the motive that would lead a man to visit what he considered the dullest departments of the Government.

"What in the world did you visit the Census Bureau for?" he asked.

"To satisfy the curiosity which I inherited from Mother Eve," was the dry response.

"But," protested Barry, "it is nothing but figures, and to me figures are so dry."

"Well, it is all a question of taste, my boy. To my mind there is nothing in the world so romantic and so fascinating as figures. I would sooner add up a column of figures any day in[Pg 158] the week than read the finest poem that was ever written."

Barry shook his head.

"I can't understand that feeling," he said.

"I suppose not, but anyhow, this census business has a special attraction for me. I wondered how they computed the figures after they gathered them."

"Well, did you find out?"

"I did, indeed. If the boys at the Cleverly school want any information on this subject, all they have to do is to call on their 'Uncle Daniel.'"

In the midst of their conversation the voice of Mr. Carlton rang out warningly:

"Gentlemen, we haven't a minute to spare. The Committee will be called to order on the stroke of two, and we should be present. Just come with me."

He started away from the room and they followed him in single file. They marched through the subway which leads from the office building of the House of Representatives into[Pg 159] the Capitol. In a few minutes they reached the headquarters of the Committee on Naval Affairs. The members were already in session. A quick survey of the room showed John Carlton that Mr. Jesse Hudson was in his place at the right hand of the Chairman of the Committee. Joel Phipps, the clerk of the Committee, for whom Mr. Carlton had no great relish, was calling the roll in a sing-song voice. Carlton wondered vaguely whether Hudson would openly oppose his bill, and if so, on what ground he would base his opposition. Hudson, on his part, gave no intimation of his intentions. He nodded curtly to Carlton on his entrance, and then buried himself in the perusal of a document that he held in his hand.

Presently the business before the Committee was taken up in regular order. Several of the members made motions for the purpose of regulating the method of considering the various bills that were about to be brought to their attention. Hudson was one of these. He reminded the Committee that it was their policy[Pg 160] not to consider propositions from cities or towns having a population of less than thirty thousand. This, he said, was necessary because of the labor problem.

Mr. Carlton now arose and said that he desired to have the privilege of presenting arguments to prove that the city of Cleverly should have the new Naval Repair Station, and that he wished to introduce a number of his constituents who had visited Washington for that purpose. The first member who was introduced was Postmaster Ford, who was put forward as a man who was in a position to understand the Government side of the question.

Mr. Ford made an effective little speech, in which he presented statistics to show that Cleverly was just the place for the station. He said that the increasing importance of the place justified the people in making this request. When one of the members suggested that the proposed site might be far from the ocean, he said that very thing insured the Government a fresh-water basin where the barnacles could[Pg 161] be readily cleaned from the largest battleships afloat.

Mr. Smithers was then presented to the Committee, and the force and originality of his remarks immediately attracted the attention of the members. He had the valuable faculty of saying commonplace things in a very impressive manner, and he proved to be the best speaker of the delegation. He dwelt upon the growth of Cleverly, and said that it was the duty of the National Government, not only to keep step with local progress, but, if possible, always to be a few paces in advance.

After Mr. Smithers had taken his seat, the President of the local Board of Trade told the members that the growing importance of Cleverly as a business centre justified the demand which the citizens were making upon the Congress of the United States. The members of the Committee were beginning to get a little bit bored by this time, and they did not pay much attention to the array of facts which the speaker presented in support of his contentions.

[Pg 162]

As he sat down Mr. Carlton arose, and turning to the members, said:

"Gentlemen, have you any questions to ask of my constituents? If so, I know that they will be only too glad to answer them."

The members shook their heads, as much as to say that they had heard as much as they cared to hear, but this did not satisfy Mr. Carlton. He desired, if possible, to spike any opposition that might develop. He turned and looked directly at Jesse Hudson.

"Mr. Hudson, have you any questions to ask?"

"No," said Hudson, in a slow-going way, "I've listened to all that has been said, and I have no desire to combat any of the arguments which have been presented."

Carlton beamed with delight. He had no idea that his proposition would have such plain sailing. He turned to the head of the Committee and said:

"I suppose, Mr. Chairman, that it would not be premature if I were to tell the members of[Pg 163] this Committee that the proposition for a new Naval Repair Station for Cleverly is likely to be reported to Congress with a favorable report?"

"I think that what you say is quite probable," said the Chairman. "For my own part I—"

"One moment," interrupted a determined voice.

Every eye was turned in that direction and discovered Jesse Hudson on his feet, gazing at Carlton in a menacing manner.

"Mr. Hudson has the floor," said the Chairman, respectfully.

"Now, gentlemen," said Hudson, in his bristling, aggressive way, "before we go any further in the business that is before this Committee, I move that we throw out the proposition to give this station to Cleverly."

"Why?" demanded Carlton. "I think we have made it a good case."

"You have made it a splendid case," was the sneering response, "but unfortunately[Pg 164] Cleverly is a city that does not come within the scope of the work which has been mapped out by this Committee."

"What do you mean?" demanded Carlton, angrily.

"I mean that we agreed that we should not consider the application of cities or towns with a population of less than thirty thousand."

"I know that," assented Carlton, "but—"

"There are no 'buts' to it," cried the other, exultingly. "I have here an official copy of the last census," and he held a document in the air, "and according to this book, Cleverly has a population of 29,786."

Carlton looked crestfallen. The other members of the Committee yawned. One of them said with a snicker:

"We have wasted a lot of valuable time."

"Yes," remarked another, "I move that we take up the next bill before the Committee."

"But," protested Carlton, "the figures Mr.[Pg 165] Hudson has given are eight or nine years old."

"Yes," retorted his adversary, "but they are the only official figures we can consider."

"One moment," cried a voice from the rear of the room.

Everybody looked in that direction. Mr. Daniel Smithers was standing up and waving a sheet of paper in the air.

"This gentleman is not a member of the Committee," protested Hudson.

"No," shouted the schoolmaster, "but I have some information that the Committee might like to receive."

"What is it?" asked the Chairman.

"It is simply this: I was in the office of the Director of the Census less than an hour ago. He was good enough to tell me that the computers had just finished the count of the new census of the city of Cleverly."

"Yes, yes," cried Carlton, on his feet, "and what were the figures? What is the population of Cleverly today?"

[Pg 166]

Smithers straightened to his full height in order to fire his shot straight at the bull's eye. He spoke impressively, even dramatically:

"Cleverly, today," he cried, "has a population of 43,986!"

Two or three members of the Committee and the entire delegation from Cleverly broke out in a ripple of applause. Hudson, seated in a corner of the room, looked sick and crestfallen. The Chairman of the Committee turned to the clerk and said, drily:

"Lay the Cleverly bill aside. It is evidently worthy of further consideration."

The Chairman of the delegation thanked the members of the Committee for their attention and then filed out of the room, with Carlton at their head. As they reached the corridor of the Capitol, the big statesman grabbed the schoolteacher by the hand and cried, impulsively:

"By George, Smithers, but you just came in in the very nick of time!"
 
Smithers smiled in his homely way.

"I guess it was all right," he admitted, "but, John, don't you remember when we were boys, they used to say I was the best pinch hitter on our base-ball team?"


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