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CHAPTER XXII PROOF CONCLUSIVE
There was no doubt about the effect of the publication of the story concerning the meeting of the Congressmen. It was a genuine sensation. It was like an unexpected explosion of a bombshell. There was a run to cover. Nearly all of those who had attended the meeting went out of their way to disavow personal responsibility for having called it together. Others, while admitting their presence at the meeting, and conceding their opposition to certain legislation, said they wanted it understood that they did not endorse all of the rash statements made by the speakers at the meeting.

Jesse Hudson found himself the centre of a raging storm. One after another of the men who had attended the meeting came to Hudson and protested against the publicity they had received.

[Pg 288]

"What do you mean by involving me in an affair of this kind?" said one big fellow from California. "I'd like to know why you selected me to pull your chestnuts out of the fire."

"You didn't object last night," retorted Hudson, hotly.

"No," was the answer, "but at that time I had no idea that the story of this meeting was to be spread broadcast."

"Nor did I," said Hudson, drily.

Before the day was over the protests became so numerous and so insistent that Hudson was driven in a corner, so to speak. He realized that he would have to do something to save himself from the sea of unpopularity in which he threatened to be engulfed. Finally he began, in a mild sort of way, to deny the truthfulness of the report in the newspaper. He thought, vaguely, that at best, it would be simply Conway's word against his own, and in such a contest, he thought he might stand a chance to come out even.

[Pg 289]

But Felix Conway was not the man to submit to an injustice of any kind. He promptly sought the Congressman and said:

"Mr. Hudson, I understand that you have questioned the accuracy of my report. I challenge you to refute any portion of it!"

Hudson was manifestly annoyed.

"I have no time to bother with you," he said. "I think you have done enough mischief, and I am too busy to be disturbed just now."

Conway laughed joyously.

"Well, I'd like it to be understood," he said, "that I am always ready for a disturbance."

"I'll give you all you want some other time," was the snappy rejoinder.

Later in the day Conway learned that while Hudson admitted that there had been a meeting, he denied the accuracy of the reported speech in which he had been placed on record as declaring himself against the President's policies. This was put out in such a plausible manner that it made an impression on more[Pg 290] than one member; hence, before the day was over, there was a general feeling among a large number of the members that Conway, while correct in the main, had taken unwarranted liberties in reporting Hudson's speech. Conway first learned of this impression when he met the venerable statesman who was the Chairman of the Committee that had charge of the press galleries of Congress.

Senator Graves was a statesman of the old school. He wore a high silk hat and a long frock coat, and was smoothly shaven and spoke in well modulated sentences. His whole manner and appearance was against the prevailing spirit of speed.

"Conway," he said, solemnly, "I understand that you have been printing some sensational stuff. In other words, to put it plainly, I understand that you have been sending out misleading reports concerning members of Congress."

"Does anyone make the charge?" asked Conway, quickly.

[Pg 291]

"No," said the Congressman, "but the report is being circulated so persistently that it gives me great annoyance."

"I can't meet rumor," said Conway, "but if you can produce anyone who makes such a charge specifically, I shall be glad to face him."

"My dear boy," was the reply, "I don't want you to think for a moment that I have any fault to find with you. My experience is that you have never abused the privileges, or broken any of the rules which govern the press galleries of the House or Senate. You know as well as I do how carefully we have tried to guard these privileges, and the measures that have been taken to keep unworthy persons from obtaining access to the floors or galleries of Congress."

"I understand it very well, Senator," was the reply, "and for that reason, I am most anxious to clear myself of even a suggestion of having done anything improper."

"Well, there is nothing more to say," was the response, "as there are no charges, there can be no investigation."

[Pg 292]

"But," persisted the journalist, "I want an investigation."

"What for?"

"For my own satisfaction and for your satisfaction. I will regard it as a great favor if you will go into this matter personally."

"Well, really," began the other, "I—"

"Senator," pleaded Conway, "I want you to do this as a personal favor."

"Very well," said the statesman, relenting, "if you put it that way I don't see how I can refuse you."

"Thank you, very much, and now if you will fix an hour that will suit your convenience tonight, I shall be glad to bring you the evidence that will convince you that I have acted in good faith."

"All right," was the response, "you may meet me at my hotel at eight o'clock."

The statesman had started away when Conway called to him:

"Oh, Senator, one other word."

"What is it," asked Mr. Graves, pausing.

[Pg 293]

"I'd like you to have an expert stenographer at your room."

"Why, I didn't think you wanted an official investigation."

"I don't."

"Well, then, what do you want a man to take notes for?"

"I don't. I simply want a stenographer who can read the notes of another person."

Mr. Graves looked puzzled.

"Well, have it your own way. I'll be there, and have a stenographer in attendance also."

Promptly at eight o'clock that night Felix Conway reported at the rooms of Senator Graves. Barry Wynn was with him, and carried in his pocket the book he had used in making his shorthand notes of the afternoon meeting.

The Senator waved them all to a seat and then introduced Mr. Conway and Barry to a young man who was present and who proved to be one of the official stenographers of the House of Representatives.

[Pg 294]

"Senator," said Conway, in the voice of an attorney addressing a jury, "my evidence will be brief and to the point. I have to present Mr. Barry Wynn, who is responsible for the report of the speeches made at the meeting in question."

Barry, thus introduced, stepped forward and handed his note book to the Senator.

"This contains the remarks that I reported at the meeting," he said. "I have enclosed an affidavit which declares that they are the identical shorthand notes taken by me at the meeting."

"What now?" asked the Senator, looking at Mr. Conway.

"I'd like your stenographer to read these notes."

The young man, thus called upon, read from the book in a clear and distinct voice. The transcript that he made from the notes was identical with the report of the speeches that Felix Conway had made in his newspaper.

"That is sufficient," said Senator Graves, and[Pg 295] rising, and putting one hand on Conway's shoulder and the other on Barry's, he said:

"There is nothing further to be said in the matter. You boys know your business. You have the proof conclusive that you were in the right. No one can successfully attack Mr. Conway's report."


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