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CHAPTER XVI A CALL OF THE HOUSE
On the morning after Barry's restoration to the favor of his old friend, John Carlton received an invitation to call at the White House. It was a supreme moment. The big Congressman, with all of his natural modesty, was not insensible of the honor that had been done him. It was half-expected and yet, paradoxical as it may seem, it was a surprise. He felt instinctively that he was to be consulted on the political and legislative situation.

Republics differ from monarchies in many ways. The President is not a king, and yet a request from him is regarded as a command. It is no mean honor to be the confidant and adviser of the chief of a great nation, and Carlton, realizing this, lost no time in going to the White House.

The news that the Congressman was closeted[Pg 214] with the President spread through Washington like a prairie fire after an August drought. It came, if the metaphor may be changed, like a crash of thunder after a long, sultry day. Already the political atmosphere was clearing. Many members, who had been on both sides of great questions, were preparing to scamper to cover. Men who had been on the fence, so to speak, were now making ready to drop down on either side. They knew that the talk between the Congressman and the President would mean a realignment of forces. The interview lasted for a long while, and after it was over Carlton came out of the White House with a look of determination on his strong face.

A few minutes after he returned, he called a conference of a few of his intimate friends and political associates in his private office. Barry Wynn, as a trusted page boy, acted as door tender and admitted only those who were known to be loyal adherents of the administration.

[Pg 215]

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Carlton, "I have had a long talk with the President and he is sincerely anxious to pass certain measures that have been introduced in the House at this session and which are intended to be for the benefit of the people. He feels that unless some radical steps be taken in this direction at once, he will be accused of insincerity, and he has asked me to call a number of his friends together and map out a programme for securing this reform legislation. The most important bill that is to be pushed forward is the one providing for the establishment of a Postal Savings Bank. I have explained the situation to you and if you have any comments or suggestions to make I shall be glad to hear from you."

This introduction on the part of Mr. Carlton was followed by a general discussion which was participated in by all of the dozen gentlemen who were present. The concensus of opinion was that none of the important measures would get through the House unless provision was[Pg 216] made for additional sessions. It was resolved, therefore, that a number of night sessions should be held and all present pledged themselves to remain at their posts until they had accomplished substantial results. Carlton was unanimously selected as the leader of the Administration forces, and he, in turn, picked out Congressmen Bright, Harrison and Brown as his assistants, their duty being to round up all the members within reach and try to have every man respond to his name on the call of the roll.

The caucus called by Mr. Carlton had scarcely adjourned when the participants discovered that a meeting of the opposing forces was being held in another part of the Capitol. It is difficult to keep things of this character quiet, and before long it had leaked out that the opponents of the Postal bill had resolved to resist all efforts to enact the measure into law. It was learned also that Congressman Roland was to be the spokesman of the opposition and that he had selected Congressmen[Pg 217] Wood, Hudson and Collins as his lieutenants. Thus the two armies, properly officered and marshaled, were ready for the coming fray.

The first night session was scheduled for the coming evening. All of the officers and employees of the House received instructions to be at their posts by eight o'clock sharp. Barry and Joe Hart left their boarding house nearly an hour before that time in order that they might report punctually to the Sergeant-at-Arms. As they walked along Pennsylvania Avenue they got the first glimpse of the dome of the Capitol illuminated by electricity. It was a brilliant sight. The night was dark and the lights seemed to dot the heavens without any support, shining out with all the glory of the stars themselves.

Within the Capitol the scene was no less brilliant and much more animated. The electric lights from the ceiling and the sides of the House made the great hall lighter than it was in midday. The Speaker sat in his usual place beneath the sheltering folds of the [Pg 218]American flag. The galleries were crowded with an expectant audience, and when the presiding officer tapped his gavel on the marble desk a large percentage of the membership was seated.

After the usual routine preliminaries had been disposed of, John Carlton secured recognition and called up for consideration his Postal Savings bill, which was then on final consideration. An animated debate followed, and in the course of it, one of the opponents of the bill suddenly rose in his place and demanded a roll call, asserting that a quorum of the House was not present. In a few minutes everything was in confusion and the members and the Speaker threatened to be helplessly entangled in the intricate maze of parliamentary law. Out of it all, a few minutes later, came a call of the House.

Carlton and his lieutenants were on the alert at once. Their first care was to see that none of those present managed to escape from the room. It was quite late, and the enforced confinement began to have an irritating effect on[Pg 219] the members. Some of them yawned and gaped as though the whole proceeding bored them more than words could express; others quarreled with their neighbors and threatened to do all sorts of unreasonable things if the doors were not thrown open; others, again, tried to reason with their colleagues and explain the necessity of the night sessions; a few of a philosophic frame of mind, composed themselves to the long siege that was before them. Several of them calmly stretched themselves on the sofas against the walls and peacefully proceeded to go to sleep. A few others, without much regard for the dignity of the House, put their heels on the desks and settled their heads on the backs of their chairs and dozed away their feeling of fatigue.

Carlton, who was here, there, and everywhere, had a hurried conference with his three lieutenants and laid his plans for the first stages of the big battle. It was midnight when the call of the House was ordered. The doors were closed and 127 members were found to[Pg 220] be present. The House went into a Committee of the Whole, only to come out of it again, and the clerk called the roll again and again until his voice threatened to give way. The Speaker by this time had dispatched the Sergeant-at-Arms and his assistants to bring in the truant members.

At this stage of the game John Carlton very quietly utilized several of the page boys for the purpose of summoning members whom he knew would be only too glad to comply with his wishes. Barry Wynn was one of these and Joe Hart was another. Barry's list comprised four members whom Carlton knew would vote for the bill in which he was so deeply interested.

The first name on his list was Congressman Henry. Barry knew that this gentleman was living at the Cosmopolis Hotel and he proceeded there on a bicycle which he had borrowed for the occasion from a fellow page. The big hotel was deserted and the night clerk, seated in a chair behind the desk, was [Pg 221]dreaming of pleasanter things than night sessions and unruly members. Barry awoke him instantly by demanding that he send his card to Congressman Henry.

The clerk wiped his eyes, gazed at the boy who stood before him, and then shook his head lazily.

"Nothing doing, young man," he said. "Mr. Henry is probably sound asleep and I don't propose to wake him up at this hour of the night."

"But, it's very urgent," insisted Barry. "There is a night session of Congress and there has been a call of the House."

"I don't care," was the reckless reply; "I would not call him for the President of the United States!"

"Where is his room?" asked Barry, with sudden inspiration flashing through his mind.

"His room is number 40 on the second floor."

"All right," said the boy, turning away and walking down the corridor.

[Pg 222]

Instead of going out of the hotel, however, he turned up the marble hallway and made his way to the second floor. The corridor was dimly lighted but he proceeded on his way until he came opposite room number 40. He looked twice to assure himself of the number and then pounded lustily on the door. A mumbling voice came from the bed-clothes:

"What do you want, anyhow?"

For reply Barry pounded harder than ever. There was a grumbling sound and presently the key was turned in the door, and a big man in pajamas came out. He glared at Barry fiercely.

"What do you want, to wake a man up at this hour of the night?"

"Why, Mr. Henry," said Barry, "I came to say—"

"Henry?" roared the other, with the voice of a mad bull. "My name isn't Henry!"

Barry's heart sank. He looked at the big person timidly and said:

"Why, aren't you Congressman Henry?"

[Pg 223]

"No," thundered the other, "I'm not Congressman Henry!"

"But, but—" stammered the boy, "I was told that Mr. Henry was in room 40."

Once again the man's voice roared through the length of the corridor:

"Room 40! You little blackguard, this is not room 40. This is room 4. Forty is at the other end of the corridor."

"I beg your pardon," stuttered the boy. "I didn't mean—"

"I don't care what you mean, or what you didn't mean," grumbled the man, "but I'd like to know what right you have to wake up people who are sound asleep. I'll complain to the clerk and find out what kind of a house this is, anyhow!"

Before he had finished the sentence, Barry was halfway down the corridor and finally reached the room he was looking for. He knocked on this door a little less defiantly than he had on the first one. In a little while it was opened, and the real Congressman stood[Pg 224] there wanting to know why he had been aroused. Barry hastily explained his mission. Mr. Henry took it quite good-naturedly and said:

"All right, my boy, I will dress and get down to the Capitol in a few minutes."

From the Cosmopolis Barry went to another hotel a few blocks below, where he knew that Congressman Yale lived. To his delight he found this gentleman in the barber's chair indulging in the luxury of a shave. He knew Mr. Yale, and when that gentleman saw him he wanted to know his business. He told him in a few words and said that he would like to know if he was willing to hurry to the House.

"Willing," echoed the other; "I'm not very, but I'll go."

He did not wait for the barber to finish his shave, but told him that he need not go any further, and jumping out of the chair, he took a towel and wiped the lather from his face. Putting on his hat and coat, he hurried out[Pg 225] of the hotel on to the avenue and thence towards the Capitol.

Jones, the third man on Barry's list, lived a few blocks away in a private house. The attendant who answered the door said that the Congressman had been to the theatre with his wife, but that he expected him almost any minute. While they were talking at the door Jones and his wife came up the steps, and when the law-maker found out the condition of affairs, he excused himself to his wife and promised Barry that he would report to John Carlton within the next fifteen minutes.

The last person that Barry was called upon to summon was Congressman Hutchinson. This gentleman was found in the library of his home, with his right foot wrapped in bandages, and propped up in a chair. He was not in a very good humor, and when Barry was ushered into his den he turned to him angrily and said:

"What in the world do you want with me?"

"Mr. Carlton wants you," said Barry,[Pg 226] timidly. "There has been a call of the House and he wants you to come up as soon as you can and vote on the Postal Savings bill."

Mr. Hutchinson did not reply in words at once. He brought his fist with a bang on the table that stood next to the chair, and then he emphasized his disgust by picking up a book that lay on the table and throwing it at a cat that was sleeping in a corner of the room. After this strange and unexpected proceeding, a smile gradually crept over his stern countenance and he said:

"I feel a little better now, and I'll try to accommodate John."

"I know that he'll be glad," ventured Barry.

"Yes, I suppose he will," was the retort, "and I will be glad, too, if I can go over. I doubt if I can ever succeed in getting a shoe on this game foot of mine."

He summoned his servant and for the next fifteen minutes he was engaged in trying to put a shoe on his gouty foot. It was a painful proceeding, interspersed with remarks that[Pg 227] would not look well in print, but presently the task was completed and in a little while afterwards Congressman Hutchinson was fully dressed and ready for his journey to the House.

A servant, in the meantime, had summoned a taxicab and the legislator took Barry in the machine with him. The dash to the Capitol was made in record-breaking time, and the clock was striking one as Barry entered the House with Mr. Hutchinson leaning on his arm. Their entrance was a signal for loud applause from both sides of the House.

In the meantime, during Barry's absence the Sergeant-at-Arms and his assistants had been doing their duties and one by one the captured absentees had stood up before the Speaker and tried to present some plausible reason for their failure to appear. Barry's willing captive was the last to come into the House.

"Mr. Hutchinson," said the Speaker, sternly, "you have absented yourself from the House[Pg 228] during its sitting contrary to law and without the leave of the House. What excuse have you to offer?"

"The best excuse in the world," said the accused one, lifting his leg up very painfully. "My excuse is rheumatic gout."

A roar of laughter greeted this sally, and helped to restore the peevish members to a condition approaching good humor.

After a final call of the roll, for the purpose of establishing a quorum, the debate was renewed and was carried on with much spirit for nearly an hour. At the end of that time Mr. Carlton demanded a roll call on the final passage of his Postal Savings bill. The leaders of the Opposition interposed various dilatory motions, but John Carlton swept them aside one by one. The strength and the power of his mind was never more firmly proven than on this historic occasion. He seemed to thrive on opposition. His strong brain seemed to grow keener and quicker as obstacles were placed in his way, but greatest of all, his iron[Pg 229] will, no less than his great physical endurance, stood as a most effective barrier against repeated onslaughts of the minority.

The demand for the roll call was finally complied with, and each member answered to his name amid intense silence. The vote was pretty evenly divided, but when the last name had been called and it was shown that the bill had the number of votes required by law, a storm of applause broke out that lasted for several minutes.

It was almost daylight when the wearied members streamed out of the doors of the Capitol. John Carlton came along with a group of his admiring friends. He noticed Barry and Joe Hart and several other page boys standing near the doorway and called to them gaily:

"Boys, you all did well."

Barry and Joe walked home together that morning, and discussed the events of the night. Joe, looking at his friend in a furtive sort of way, said:

[Pg 230]

"Barry, do you remember that Mr. Carlton said we all did well?"

"Yes," said Barry, "I heard him say it and I was glad of it. I worked hard, but I didn't do a bit more than any of the other boys. I'm older now and more experienced than when I first came to Washington. I've got sense enough to realize that I'm only a little cog in a great big machine, and the work that I did was simply my duty and nothing more."


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