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CHAPTER XXIII WHAT BARRY OVERHEARD
John Carlton was very much concerned with the current political developments and felt a particular interest in the storm which had been aroused by Jesse Hudson's ill advised meeting. He was discussing the situation with a fellow member of the House when he was joined by Felix Conway, his Celtic face aglow with enthusiasm.

"We've got 'em going, Mr. Carlton!" he exclaimed.

The Congressman nodded soberly.

"Yes, you've got 'em going, all right," he assented.

The journalist was quick to catch the note of doubt in his friend's voice.

"I hope you're not afraid of a battle," he said, somewhat nettled.

[Pg 297]

Carlton looked at him a moment before replying. Then he spoke rather deliberately.

"No, Felix; I am not afraid of a battle. I am not afraid of war either. I went through one war, as you know, and I've got some scars on me to show for it. But there is one thing you must not forget. There is hardly ever a battle or a war without a list of killed and wounded."

Conway was disposed to be argumentative.

"That's true," he admitted, "but you will have to admit that it's a glorious thing to die in a good cause."

"It's a glorious thing for the survivors," assented the Congressman, "but I don't know how the killed and wounded feel about it."

"Your bill comes up tomorrow, I believe," he said.

"Yes," responded Mr. Carlton, "and that's what I have been thinking about all the time."

"Don't you feel sure about it?"

"I wish I could. It was all right a few weeks ago, but since this factional fight has sprung up, I hardly know where we stand. You know[Pg 298] these contests create enmities that are hard to heal. It's another case of the killed and wounded. You fellows may win your fight against Hudson and his crowd, but my poor bill for the erection of a Naval Repair Station in Cleverly may be numbered among the killed."

"I never thought of that part of it," said Felix, "and I am mighty sorry to know that your interests have been put in jeopardy. If I had to do it over again I'd probably change my tactics."

Carlton took Felix by both hands. He spoke fervently:

"My dear boy," he said, "I wouldn't have you do any such thing for the world. I haven't a single regret for anything that has been done. I have been simply trying to look the situation in the face. I know I'm up against a hard fight and I don't want to deceive myself,—that's all. I am not repining in the least, and you will discover that I am not afraid of the fight."

Conway's face brightened again.

"Now, you make me feel better," he said,[Pg 299] "but, seriously, don't you think you will get away with the trick?"

"Yes, I do. It's going to be mighty close, but I think I'll win."

"When is the meeting?"

"It has been called for three o'clock tomorrow afternoon."

"By George! That's short notice."

"Yes, it is, and that's why I have been giving some serious thought to the proposition. I have counted noses a dozen times today, and I am willing to take my oath that I have got a sure majority of two votes."

"That's good, but it's close."

"Yes, but in a hot race a nose is as good as a mile."

Conway seemed lost in thought for a while. Presently he spoke in a tone of half admiration and half wonder:

"You know, Mr. Carlton," he said, "the more I think of it the more I am surprised at what you have told me."

"What do you mean?"

[Pg 300]

"I simply mean that in the face of this bitter factional fight it is almost a miracle that an overwhelming majority of the Committee has not declared against your bill."

"Oh, I don't know about that," was the calm rejoinder. "Men can't afford to lose their heads altogether. Besides, there are other members that have bills that they want passed."

"What do you mean by that?" was the quick interrogation.

"I mean that successful legislation is largely a matter of compromise."

Barry, who had been listening, now spoke firmly but with due deference.

"I don't like to hear you talk like that," he said, "it doesn't sound right."

The Congressman laughed.

"I am surprised to hear you talking in such a strain, Barry. I thought that a boy of your experience would know that life is a game of give and take. The men that come to Washington to represent their constituents simply carry out this universal law in a concrete way."

[Pg 301]

The page boy shook his head laughingly.

"Now, you 're getting too deep for me," he said. "If you go much farther I won't be able to follow you at all."

"Why, it's as plain as the nose on your face," retorted the other. "Nearly all important legislation takes the form of log-rolling. Theorists who have never gotten down to the rough-and-tumble of real life, look at log-rolling as if, it were a political crime. It is nothing of the sort. It is giving up something you don't want for something that you need very badly, and as long as there is no dishonesty in the transaction I can see no harm being done. You have got to reconcile conflicting interests, and if you do so with a good motive I think you are serving your country."

"That sounds very well, Mr. Carlton," said the insistent Barry, "but I don't believe it's the way the founders of the Republic would have talked. I don't think you can make real patriots believe in that sort of thing."

[Pg 302]

Mr. Carlton did a remarkable thing. He burst out laughing. Barry looked annoyed. His feelings were ruffled.

"My dear Barry," said the Congressman, "your assertion does not really need an answer. You have furnished it yourself."

"In what way?"

"By your reference to the founders of the Republic. You believe, don't you, that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were high-minded men and loved their country?"

"I certainly do."

"Well, then, let me tell you that the vote in Congress by which the city of Washington was decided upon as the capital of the nation was the result of a compromise between these two men."

"I think I've heard something about that, but I never thought there was anything in it."

"There's everything in it," was the prompt retort. "The people of today have no idea of the bitterness that was engendered during the fight to locate the capital of the Republic.[Pg 303] Every city in the middle states desired it, and immense sums of money were offered for the privilege of securing the capital city. The Eastern states had openly threatened secession, and their Northern and Southern members were so bitter that they would not meet together for the transaction of public business. Hamilton and Jefferson happened to meet one day and between them they arranged a compromise by which the present city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, was selected as the capital. The compromise was effected by the Northern states agreeing to the capital being placed on the Potomac river on condition that the Southern states should consent that the debt of the creditor states should be assumed by the national Government. The whole affair was patched up at a dinner given by Thomas Jefferson."

Conway interposed with a gesture of mock despair.

"Barry surrenders. Anyhow, he didn't know that he was laying himself open for a[Pg 304] lecture on the early history of the Government."

The two men separated laughingly, and Conway promised to be on hand if it were possible for him to render any assistance in the final consideration of the Cleverly bill.

Before Barry Wynn left the Capitol that day, Mr. Carlton suggested that it would be a good idea for him to be on hand at the meeting of the Committee on Naval Affairs the following afternoon.

"It is impossible to foretell just what may happen," he said, "and I would like you to be near by in case it is necessary for me to send out any messages."

Barry promised and went home that night with his mind very much absorbed in the question of the bill which was to come up for final consideration on the following day. He met Joe Hart at his boarding house that night, and after dinner the little fellow told him that he had been given a message to deliver to Senator Graves at the Cosmopolis Hotel that evening.

[Pg 305]

"I'll go with you," said Barry. "I'm through with the shorthand school, and I feel too restless to stay in the house tonight."

So the two boys walked down Pennsylvania Avenue together to the hotel. Joe went to the desk and informed the clerk that he had a message to deliver to Senator Graves.

"I am sorry," said the clerk, "but the Senator is not in now. We expect him back in about half an hour, if you care to wait that long."

Joe realized that there was nothing to do under the circumstances but to wait. He walked around the corridor of the hotel for a while with Barry, but finally the boys became tired and sat down together on a cushioned seat that had been built around one of the great columns in the lobby of the hotel. It was very comfortable and they enjoyed it very much indeed. The Cosmopolis was one of the leading hotels of the capital, and important men were walking in and out all the time. It was quite comfortable in the lobby and after a while the boys[Pg 306] ceased talking. Presently Joe, boy-like, went to sleep. Barry was in a half doze himself when he was suddenly aroused by the sound of a familiar voice:

"Carlton's bill is going to be taken up by the Committee at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon."

Barry's eyes opened wide. He was thoroughly awake, but he did not move nor speak. He sat perfectly still. Presently the voice sounded again:

"He thinks he is going to get it through, but we will have to give him a surprise party."

Someone answered this sally, but in such a low voice that the reply could not be understood by the listening page.

There was silence for some time after this and Barry, moving very slowly and cautiously, peered round the corner of the big pillar, and was rewarded by a sight of the men on the other side of the column. One was Jesse Hudson, the other was Joel Phipps, and the third was a man he did not know. Barry quickly[Pg 307] dodged back to his former position and listened very quietly in the hope of hearing more of the conversation. It was unsatisfactory. He only got fragments of the talk. Occasionally Hudson raised his voice, but the stranger invariably answered in a whisper. The boy snuggled up closer in the hope of getting some telltale phrase. In a moment he was rewarded to some extent:

"It hinges on Warrington," said Hudson.

"But he's for the bill," whispered the unknown man.

"Yes," muttered Hudson, "but he must stay away."

"I don't think you can get him to do that."

"I think we can."

"I doubt it very much."

"I don't," was the confident rejoinder. "You know that Warrington loves a good dinner?"

In a few moments the three men walked away, leaving the boys alone on the cushioned seat. By this time Senator Graves had arrived[Pg 308] at the hotel and Joe Hart was enabled to deliver his message. Barry did not confide the conversation he had overheard to Joe Hart. He wondered what it all meant. He wondered whether he should tell Mr. Carlton about it. After considerable thought he concluded that it was not very important after all and that, in any event, the Congressman was able to take care of himself. But at intervals during the night he kept hearing a familiar voice saying:

"You know that Warrington loves a good dinner!"


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