THE ADVENTURES OF A BOY REPORTER
by Harry Steele Morrison
LIVING IN THE COUNTRY—LIFE AT SCHOOL—THE HUT CLUB IS FORMED—THE COMING OF THE CIRCUS
ARCHIE LONGS FOR A CHANGE IN SURROUNDINGS—A TRIP TO NEW YORK WITH UNCLE HENRY
ARCHIE DETERMINES TO GO TO THE CITY TO WORK—LEAVING HOME AT NIGHT
WORKING ON A FARM TO EARN SOME MONEY—CRUEL TREATMENT
THE NIGHT AMONG THE RUINS—THE CAMP-FIRE OF THE TRAMPS
STEALING A RIDE—KICKED OUT BY THE BRAKEMAN
ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK—A NIGHT IN A LODGING-HOUSE
LOOKING FOR WORK—WASHING DISHES IN A BOWERY RESTAURANT
IN THE STREET AGAIN—THE POLICE STATION—VISITS THE NEWSPAPER OFFICE, AND IS KINDLY RECEIVED BY THE EDITOR
LIVING IN COMFORT AGAIN—FEATURED AS "THE BOY REPORTER"
A DAY AND A NIGHT IN CONEY ISLAND—RAIDING A GAMBLING DEN
A SUCCESSFUL REPORTER—THE EDITOR DECIDES TO SEND HIM AS CORRESPONDENT TO THE PHILIPPINES—LEAVING NEW YORK—IN CHICAGO
SAN FRANCISCO—THE TRANSPORT GONE—WORKING HIS WAY TO HONOLULU BY PEELING VEGETABLES ON A PACIFIC LINER—THE CAPITAL OF HAWAII
THE VOYAGE ON THE TRANSPORT—A STORM AT SEA—ARRIVAL IN MANILA
ARCHIE STARTS OUT ON AN EXPLORING TOUR, AND HAS SOME STRANGE ADVENTURES AMONG THE NATIVES—SEIZED BY THE REBELS
A PLEASANT CAPTOR—BRAVE BILL HICKSON ALLOWS ARCHIE TO ESCAPE—FIRST GLIMPSE OF AGUINALDO
ARRIVAL OF THE AMERICAN TROOPS—ARCHIE THE HERO OF THE REGIMENT
THE MARCH AFTER THE REBELS—THE FIRST BATTLE—ARCHIE WOUNDED
RETURN TO MANILA—IN THE HOSPITAL—CONGRATULATED BY ALL—WRITING TO THE PAPER OF HIS EXPERIENCES
AROUND THE ISLAND ON A WAR-SHIP—BOMBARDING A FILIPINO TOWN
CONTINUING THE CRUISE—ANOTHER VILLAGE CAPTURED—THE ADMIRAL ARCHIE'S FRIEND—A GREAT BATTLE AND AN UNEXPECTED VICTORY—LONGING TO BE HOME AGAIN
RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS—A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR, WITH PERMISSION TO RETURN TO NEW YORK—BILL HICKSON GOES, TOO
HONG KONG—A HAPPY TIME IN TOKIO—HONOLULU AGAIN—ARRIVAL IN SAN FRANCISCO, AND A GREAT RECEPTION BY THE PRESS—ARCHIE AND BILL ARRIVE IN NEW YORK, AND ARE THE HEROES OF THE HOUR
DOING "SPECIAL" WORK UPON THE EVENING PAPER—INTERVIEWS WITH FAMOUS MEN—CALLS UPON OLD FRIENDS
PRIVATE SECRETARY TO A MILLIONAIRE—STUDYING AT EVENING SCHOOL—LIVING AMID ELEGANT SURROUNDINGS
DECIDES TO VISIT HOME—A GREAT RECEPTION IN THE TOWN—A PUBLIC CHARACTER NOW—DINNER TO THE HUT CLUB—DEMONSTRATION AT THE TOWN HALL—A TELEGRAM FROM HIS EMPLOYER LEAVING FOR EUROPE
THE ADVENTURES OF A BOY REPORTER.
LIVING IN THE COUNTRY—LIFE AT SCHOOL—THE HUT CLUB IS FORMED—THE COMING OF THE CIRCUS.
"YES," said Mrs. Dunn to her neighbour, Mrs. Sullivan, "we are expecting great things of Archie, and yet we sometimes hardly know what to think of the boy. He has the most remarkable ideas of things, and there seems to be absolutely no limit to his ambition. He has long since determined that he will some day be President, and he expects to enter politics the day he is twenty-one."
"Is that so, indeed," said Mrs. Sullivan. "Well, we can never tell what is going to come of our boys. As I says to Dannie to-day, says I, 'Dannie, you must do your best to be somebody and make something of yourself, for you and Jack bees all that I has to depend upon now.' But Dannie pays no attention to my entreaties, and somehow it seems to me that since Mr. Sullivan died the boys are gettin' worse and worse. It's beyond me to control them, anyhow."
"Oh, take heart, Mrs. Sullivan," said Mrs. Dunn, "our boys will all turn out well in the end, and all we can do is to bring them up in the best way we know, and trust to them to take care of themselves after they leave home. Now Dannie is certainly an industrious lad. I hear him pounding nails all day long in the back yard, and he made a good job of shingling the woodshed the other day. He seems made to be a carpenter."
"Yes, I think so myself," said the Widow Sullivan. "The whole lot of them is out by the railroad now, building a hut. They've organised a 'Hut Club' to-day, and never a lick of work have I had out of them boys since mornin'. They've always got something going on, and when I want a bit of water from the well, or a little wood from the shed, they're never around."
"Yes, but boys will be boys, Mrs. Sullivan, and we'd better keep them contented at home as long as we can. They'll be leaving us soon enough. It seems that no boys are content to stay in town any longer; they're all anxious to be off to the city."
"That's true, that's true, Mrs. Dunn," said Mrs. Sullivan. "I must be going now. I'm much obliged for the rain-water, and whenever you want a bit of milk call over the fence, and I'll bring it to you with pleasure. It's a good neighbour you are, Mrs. Dunn."
And Mrs. Sullivan went slowly around the house and out at the front gate, while good Mrs. Dunn returned to her ironing, a few clothes having to be ready for Sunday.
While these mothers were discussing their boys, the youngsters themselves were busy behind the barn, building a hut down near the railway track. There were six of them altogether, the three extra ones, besides Archie Dunn and the Sullivan boys, having come from across the railway to play for the day. Two hours before they had solemnly organised themselves into the "Hut Club," each boy walking three times around the block blindfolded, and swearing upon his return to be true to all the rules and regulations of the organisation, which had been written with chalk on the side of the barn. The regulations were numerous, but the most important one was that no East Side boys were to be allowed within the club-room when it was built, and that the club's policy should be one of warfare against the East Siders on every occasion when they met. This fight against the East Side was, indeed, responsible for the organisation of the club. It was felt necessary to have some head to their forces, and some means of holding together. So the club was organised, and now the next thing on the programme was the erection of a hut to serve as a club-house. Archie Dunn, who had been elected president, volunteered to get three boards and a hammer if the other boys would each get two boards and some nails. This proposition was agreed to, and when the boys returned from their foraging expeditions it was found that there were more than enough boards to build the hut, so the work began at once. Holes were dug in the ground, and some posts planted as supports for the structure, and then the boards were hastily nailed together from post to post. In three hours the hut was practically completed, and it remained only to lay a floor until they could hold their first meeting in the new club-house. The floor itself was down by noon, and the club then served a memorable dinner to mark the completion of the structure.
A hole was dug in the ground outside the door, and a furnace made. A skillet was brought from Archie's house, together with some dishes and a coffee-pot, and Dan Sullivan brought some more dishes, and six eggs from his nests under the barn. The boys were obliged to make several trips to and from the houses, but finally nearly everything was ready, and the eggs were carefully cooked by Archie, who was really a good housekeeper, from long experience in the kitchen with his mother. Some potatoes were fried in the grease remaining in the skillet after the eggs were cooked, and then the feast began. The eggs may have been rather black with grease, and the potatoes were certainly not done, but the boys all pronounced it the finest meal of their lives, notwithstanding the bitter coffee, and the dirty bread, which had been allowed to fall into the gutter beside the railway track. They were eating in their own house, and they had cooked in the open air, "just like tramps," Harry Rafe said, and it was little wonder that they enjoyed the novel experience.
The only trouble came when the meal was finished. No one wanted to wash the dishes, and, finally, it was decided to return them to their respective kitchens just as they were, and to let them be washed with the rest of the dinner dishes at home. And this decision came near putting an end to Hut Club dinners, for both Mrs. Dunn and the Widow Sullivan were determined not to wash any more dirty dishes from the hut.
When the meal was over, the boys lounged about the hut, and Dan Sullivan brought a lot of things from his sister's playhouse with which to furnish it more suitably. Archie Dunn brought a lot of hay from the loft in his mother's barn, and when a piece of old carpet was spread upon it it made an acceptable couch. A piece of old carpet was laid in front of the hut, too, where the boys could sit and watch the trains switching back and forth on the railway, and the tramps who were heating coffee in cans over by the cattle-pen.
Finally, some cattle arrived in the pen to be loaded into cars for the city, and the boys had just decided to go and watch the men loading them, when an engine came up the side-track with the most beautiful car they had ever seen, behind it. The car was painted in all colours of the rainbow, and in giant letters was printed the magic name of "The World's Greatest Show."
The boys lost no time in getting down from the cattle-pen fence, and the car had barely stopped when they were aboard. "Hooray," shouted Charlie Huffman, "we'll all get jobs of passin' bills." And it was with this end in view that they sought the advertising manager in the car, who promised to give them all jobs when the circus came in two weeks. The boys deluged him with questions of every sort. "Will there be any elephants?" "Is there goin' to be a parade?" and "Will there be any trapeze performances?" The poor man was finally obliged to lock the door to keep them out, and the boys stood about the car until nearly six o'clock, admiring the paintings, and speculating as to whether they would be able to work their way into the circus or not, when it finally came. Their speculations were interrupted by the appearance on the scene of the Widow Sullivan with a good-sized maple switch, which she used to good effect in getting the two Sullivans and Archie Dunn home for supper. For Mrs. Dunn had given Mrs. Sullivan instructions before she started, so that when Archie complained that he had been whipped by "that woman next door," he received no sympathy whatever.
And when he went to bed at nine o'clock, he could hardly sleep for thinking of the wonderful things which had happened this day. The coming circus and the great Hut Club kept him awake until far after ten, so that he got up too late for Sunday school the next morning, and was punished accordingly.
The next week was a hard one at school, and the boys had but little time to devote to the club. But after four o'clock in the afternoon they sometimes got together and did various things which improved their club-house. Some very fair chairs were constructed from empty soap boxes, and various contrivances were put together to guard against the intrusion of any East Siders or tramps while they were away at school. There was no padlock used, and any one coming up to the hut would imagine it a simple thing to enter—until he tried. But the boys had fixed a secret cord which, when pulled, shifted the bar inside, and every boy was sworn not to betray the existence of the cord.
The day set for the circus came nearer and nearer, and the boys began to be anxious for fear the schools would not close, so that they could attend. But the superintendent finally announced that they would; so early on the eventful day the entire club was on the grounds, waiting to get some work to do. Archie Dunn got the first job, being selected to carry water for the elephant because he was stronger than any of the others. But the rest were given something to do, and when the day was over they had all seen the circus, and went to bed happy, to dream of the great trip to be taken by the Hut Club on the next Saturday.
ARCHIE LONGS FOR A CHANGE IN SURROUNDINGS—A TRIP TO NEW YORK WITH UNCLE HENRY.
THE Hut Club went out on a picnic the next Saturday, and had a jolly time. They camped upon an island in the middle of a shallow stream, and while there made coffee and cooked their dinner, having brought most of the necessary apparatus from the Hut. They fished a little, and hunted for turtles in the water, and altogether had a good time, if nothing exciting did occur. It was after nine o'clock at night when they reached town again, footsore and weary, and Archie Dunn had hardly entered the house before he was on the dining-room lounge, half-asleep. His mother seemed to be out, and as he lay there he wondered how long it would be before she came back. Archie truly loved his mother, but of late he had often thought that he would like to leave home and go to the famous city, where he felt sure he could get something to do. But he disliked the idea of leaving his mother.
"I'm getting to be a big boy, now," he often said to himself, "and it's time that I began to look out for myself. I'm nearly seventeen, and I think I ought to be earning some money. This thing of belonging to Hut Clubs and spending my time in going to picnics and to circuses ought to stop. It's all right for boys, but I'm getting to be a man, now."
All these thoughts were flying through his mind when his mother came in. "Oh, Archie," she exclaimed, "I've been so worried about you. I've just been over to Mrs. Sullivan's to see if Dannie had come home, and whether he had seen you. Wherever have you been?"
"We didn't think it would take so long to walk home," said Archie, jumping up from the sofa, "but we were awfully tired, and we didn't come very fast. I'm so sorry you were worried.
"And I'm as hungry as a bear, mother. Can't you find me something to eat?"
"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Dunn, softly, "and when you've finished your supper I have something for you. I won't give it to you now for fear you won't be able to eat, but as soon as you have finished your meal, you shall have it."
So Archie was obliged to eat his baked beans and brown bread and drink his milk without knowing what was in store for him, and he hurried as fast as he could, so that he could learn. When he had finished he went into the sitting-room, and found his mother sitting with a letter spread open upon her lap. "Uncle Henry has written me asking if you cannot go with him to New York on Monday, for a couple of days. He is obliged to go down there on business, and says he will be glad to take you along and show you something of the wonderful city, for he knows you won't be any trouble to him. Now I hardly know what to say, Archie. If I can feel that you are behaving yourself properly, and are doing your best to be as little trouble as possible, I am willing that you shall go."
"Oh, mother," cried Archie, "I'll promise anything. Only let me go this once, and I'll promise to stay at home all the rest of the summer."
"All right, then," said Mrs. Dunn. "You shall go on the first train Monday morning, and Uncle Henry will join you at Heddens Corner. Run along to bed now."
Archie went up-stairs almost dumb with delight Was it really true that he was to see the great city at last? He had heard some of the boys at school telling what their fathers saw there, but he had never even hoped that he would see it for himself so soon. Of course he had determined to see it all some day, but that was to be far in the future. The lad could hardly sleep for the joy of it all, and when he did finally lose consciousness, it was only to dream of streets of gold, and great buildings reaching to the skies.
Sunday passed slowly by. At Sunday school, Archie told the boys that he was going to New York on the morrow, and from that moment he was the hero of the class. The boys looked at him with wondering admiration, and seemed scarcely able to realise that one of their number was to go so far from home. The city was in reality little more than a hundred miles, but to their boyish minds this distance seemed wonderfully great.
Early on Monday morning Archie was at the depot waiting for the train. His mother was there to see him off, and there were tears in her eyes at the thought of parting with her only child, if only for a day or two. And Archie was radiant with delight at the glorious prospect ahead of him. He walked nervously up and down the platform, and wished frequently that it were not so early in the morning, so that some of the boys might be there to see him off. Finally, the great hissing locomotive drew up, with its long train of coaches, and Archie was soon aboard, hurrying off to Heddens Corner and the city. In a few minutes Uncle Henry was with him, a tall, fine-looking man, with an air of business. Uncle Henry kept the general store at the Corner, and was an important person in the neighbourhood. He was of some importance in the city, too, for his name was known in politics, and his custom was always desired at the wholesale stores. So Archie was going to see the city under good auspices, if his uncle would only have time to take him about with him.
After a couple of hours, during which Archie kept his face glued to the window-pane, watching the flying landscape, the great train pulled through a long, dark tunnel, and finally entered an immense shed, covered with glass where it came to a final stop. Crowds left the coaches, and passed out of the station, where they were swallowed up in the great rush of traffic. Some drove away in cabs and carriages. Some entered the street-cars, and some went up a stairway and entered what seemed to Archie a railway train in the air.
Uncle Henry told Archie to follow him carefully, and they, too, were soon flying away from the neighbourhood of the terminal, past hotels, stores, and dwellings, until they finally left the trolley-car, and passed through a cross street into a long, quiet thoroughfare which looked old enough to have been there for a hundred years. The houses were built far back from the street, with pillars in front, and into one of these quaint old dwellings went Archie and his uncle.
"I always stop down-town," explained Uncle Henry, "because I am near to the great wholesale establishments. It is central to the retail stores, too, and to many of the places of interest."
When they were settled in their room, Uncle Henry explained that he would have to be away most of this first day, but that to-morrow he would take Archie out and show him the sights. So Archie expected to remain indoors all day; but when his uncle had left the house he decided that he couldn't possibly remain in this close room when so many wonderful things were taking place outside. So he decided to walk up and down the street, anyhow, and when he went out he felt like a prisoner just escaped from a cell. But the noise was terrible, and there were a great many wagons and trucks passing through the street. The greatest crowd seemed to be on that cross street about two blocks away, so Archie decided to go there, and see if there was anything new on that street.
He saw many wonderful things. There were cars running along without any apparent motive power, there were thousands and thousands of people in the streets, and the stores looked so handsome and interesting that he simply couldn't resist going into one or two of them, just to see what they were like. And when he had finished with one or two he could think of no reason why he shouldn't go on up the street, where he was sure he would find a great many more interesting things to see. So on and on he went, until at last he was tired and hungry, and then, for the first time, he was a little frightened, because he thought of all he had read about people losing their way in the city, and not being able to find their relatives again. But he was a brave boy, so he determined to make an effort to find his way back without appealing to a policeman. And after a time he was successful, and entered the queer old house in the ancient street at just three o'clock in the afternoon. His uncle was there waiting for him, and was nearly beside himself with apprehension.
"I was about to send out a general alarm for you, at the police station," he said. "How did you happen to go away?"
"Oh, I was so very tired of staying in the house," said Archie, "and I felt sure that I could find my way back without getting lost at all. And to-morrow I'm sure I can get along all right, Uncle Henry, so you needn't bother with me at all, unless you want to."
And it so happened that Mr. Kirk was very busy the next day, and would have found it quite impossible to show Archie about. So it was fortunate that he was able to go everywhere alone, or he would have had to return home without seeing anything at all of the city.
As it was, he went here, there, and everywhere, and saw a great deal of the city, the people, and the way in which they lived. The entire place had a strange fascination for him, and all the time he was thinking how glad he would be to live where he could see all this rush of business, this varied life, every day. And he fully determined to return some day and get something to do, so that he might work himself up, and come to own one of the handsome houses on the avenues, or drive one of the elegant carriages on the boulevard. And he observed every boy who passed him, and talked with several of them, trying to find out whether positions were easy to secure, and whether they paid much when they were secured.
So when they took the four o'clock train for home, and arrived at Archie's house in time for supper, he told more about the city boys and their work than about the tall buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Central Park. He talked so much, in fact, about the delights of the city boy, and the money he earned, that after he had gone to bed Mrs. Dunn took her brother aside and talked with him concerning Archie's future. And between them they definitely decided that Archie must not go to the city to work.
ARCHIE DETERMINES TO GO TO THE CITY TO WORK—LEAVING HOME AT NIGHT.
ARCHIE DUNN was not more ambitious than many other boys of his age, but he possessed one quality which is not developed in every boy, determination. Once Archie decided upon doing a thing, once he had made up his mind that it was truly a good thing to do, nothing could keep him from putting his plans into action, and making an effort, at least, to accomplish his ends. Most boys of seventeen have not decided what they want to become when they are men, and, until his visit to the city, Archie was equally at sea concerning his future. He knew, of course, that he wanted to be rich and famous, but when he tried to think up some suitable profession which would bring him these possessions, he was never able to decide.
The two days in the city with Uncle Henry had opened to his boyish mind a new world, and when he returned to the humble home surrounded by gardens, he felt that he would never be satisfied to live and work in this small town. There was now no question in his mind but what the city was the place for any one who wished to become either rich or famous. It would certainly be impossible for him to make a name for himself in this village, while in the city he would have every opportunity for improving himself, and advancing himself in every way. He wondered, indeed, that he had never thought of going to New York before, and was disgusted with himself when he thought of the time he had wasted here at home.
But there was no use in thinking of the past. The thing to do now was to get to the city as quickly as possible, for to Archie every day seemed precious, and each delay kept him further from the consummation of his hopes. It never occurred to the boy that his mother might have objections to his leaving home. She had always been very ambitious for his future, and he supposed that she would be delighted at the idea of having her boy in the great city, where he would have innumerable chances for improving himself. So when they sat on the front porch, one evening, and he told her of his plan, he was surprised to hear his mother pleading with him to remain at home. "Archie," she said, "I am almost sure you will come to some bad end in the city. You really must not go, for my sake, if for no other reason."
"But, mother, I can't remain here in town always. I must go out into the world some time to earn a living and make a place for myself, and I think the sooner I go the better, don't you?"
"Yes, Archie, but you're so young, and you've had no experience. You have no idea of the things there are in great cities to drag young men down. I don't think I could stand it to have you so far away from home and in such danger."
"Well, mother," said Archie, "there isn't much use in arguing about it. I have reached a point where I don't think I can be any longer satisfied at home. I have been here seventeen years, and I think I can remain here that much longer without improving myself. In the city I am sure I can make rapid progress, and in a year or two you can come there and live with me."
Archie got up from the porch and went down the street, while poor Mrs. Dunn ran over next door to see her neighbour, Mrs. Sullivan. When she had entered the disorderly kitchen, and seated herself on one of the home-made chairs, the anxious mother burst into tears. "I don't know what to think of Archie, Mrs. Sullivan," she said. "He is determined, now, to go to New York, and I know that if he goes I will never be able to see him again. I am nigh distracted with worrying over it. I have talked with him, but he seems determined, and I know I can never hold out against his entreaties and arguments."
"Sure, now, Mrs. Dunn," said the Widow Sullivan, "don't yez be a worryin' about 'im at all. That Archie is a smart boy, he is, and if he goes to New York he'll come out all right, never fear, I only wish my Dannie had as much get-up about him as your boy."
"Yes, yes, Archie is very ambitious for his age," said Mrs. Dunn, "but I sometimes wish he were less so. I know I could keep him at home longer if he wasn't so anxious to be at work. I don't believe I can let him go, Mrs. Sullivan, not yet. I want him to stay in school another year, and then I'll think about it."
"Well, ye're wise, Mrs. Dunn, ye're a wise woman," said the Widow Sullivan. "Since yer husband died ye've been a good mother to the lad, and have brought 'im up well. And now, how is yer chickens, Mrs. Dunn? Have ye got that cochin hen a 'settin'' yit?"
And the two women began to discuss their various fowls, and the conversation was so interesting that Mrs. Dunn remained late, and found Archie in bed when she went home. "Ah, well, poor boy, I'll have to tell him of my decision in the morning. He'll be terribly disappointed, and I hate to do it I'm afraid it's selfishness that makes me want to keep him with me. I almost wish he would take things into his own hands, and start for the city himself. I would be rid then of the responsibility of sending him, and the question would be settled for me. Boys sometimes know best how to settle their own difficulties, anyhow."
Mrs. Dunn kneaded the bread before retiring, for to-morrow was Saturday, and, therefore, baking-day, and then she went into her little room off the kitchen, and prayed earnestly for her boy before sleeping. She prayed that she might be helped in advising him, and that he might always do what was best for himself and for his mother.
The next day was Saturday, and in the morning the Hut Club met, as usual, and prepared to have an open-air dinner for this day. The furnace, which had been knocked down during the week by the East Siders, was rebuilt, and the skillet and other utensils were brought from the nearest kitchens. Archie went to the grocery around the corner and bought five cents' worth of cakes, and then the six boys sat down in a circle and prepared to devour their home-made feast. But before they began Archie stood up. "I want to say that this will probably be my farewell dinner with the club," he said, in a low tone, "and I hope that you will appoint another president in my place."
The boys were horror-struck, but Archie refused to explain where and when he was going. Finally, they refused to appoint another president, all agreeing that Archie should hold that office for ever, wherever he was. And the meal was eaten in silence, for the announcement had thrown a sort of chill over the proceedings. When they had finished, Archie silently shook hands with each of the boys, who were dumb with amazement, gathered up his skillet and coffee-pot, and went home through the gate to the chicken-lot.
"I wonder what he's goin' to do," they all said, as in one breath, and as there was seldom much fun in the club when Archie was absent, they all went home in a few minutes, or down-town to watch the farmers, who were in town to do their weekly buying.
When Archie reached home he went up-stairs to his little room, and began to lay out a few things which he wanted to take with him, for he had determined to start for New York this very night. Then he tied the things up in a small bundle, and sat down to write a note to his mother. When he had finished it, he pinned it up at the head of his cot, and this is what it said:
"MY DARLING MOTHER:—Please don't worry about me, I'm bound to come through all right, and if anything happens to me, I promise that I will write to you immediately and let you know. I have the ten dollars which I have saved, and if I don't get work at once I will write to you for some more. Now, I am not doing this thing for the sake of adventure, but because I am sure it is the best thing for me, and I don't want you to worry at all. I shall write to you often and let you know just what I'm doing, so don't worry, but be a brave mother. I'm not going off this way as a sneak, but because I want to avoid a 'scene.'
And at three o'clock the next morning Archie Dunn got out of bed, shouldered his bundle, and started off for the great city, which seemed to be drawing him like a magnet.
WORKING ON A FARM TO EARN SOME MONEY—CRUEL TREATMENT.
WHEN daylight came, Archie was far out of the town walking quickly along the southern road. He figured that he had walked nearly six miles in the two hours since he had let himself out of the back door at home, and, as he looked ahead, he planned that he would walk at least thirty miles every day. Of course, he had never done much walking before, or he would have known better than to have expected to accomplish so much in twelve hours, but he felt fresh and full of strength this morning, and nothing seemed too hard to accomplish. As yet he had not regretted his departure from home. The excitement of it all, and the adventurous side of his exploit, had kept him interested, and made him feel that he was a real hero. But he was not so foolish as to imagine that there would not be times when he would regret having set out for New York. He was too old and too sensible for his age to allow his ambition to run away with him entirely, and he fully expected to meet with many great discouragements. "But I'm sure of one thing," he said to himself, as he walked along, "I never will return home until I have something to show for the trip. I won't have the club boys and the neighbours saying that Archie Dunn had to come home discouraged. If I return without accomplishing anything, I will be held up to the whole town as a boy who made a fool of himself by not taking his friends' advice, and I never will be made an example of if I can help it." And Archie walked faster as he thought of the possibility of failure.
When seven o'clock came he was passing through the county-seat, but though there were many interesting things to look at in the town, Archie determined not to stop. He was afraid he might meet some one he knew, who would be sure to ask him where he was going with his bundle, and what he was doing out so early. And anyhow he was very hungry, and decided to get out of the town and to the farmhouses as soon as possible. "I can work for my meal at a farmhouse," he said to himself, "but in the town they'll take me for a regular tramp."
So poor Archie walked quickly through the town, still keeping to the southern road, and saying to himself, as he passed every milestone, "So much nearer New York." About a mile out in the country he came to a large farmhouse, and he determined to enter and ask for a meal. He had hard work to muster up enough courage to go in and ask for anything, but finally he knocked timidly at the kitchen door, and was frightened by a large dog which came barking around the corner. It seemed to him that the animal would surely bite, but a large fat woman opened the door just in time to let him in. "Hurry in, boy," she said, "fer there's no tellin' what Tige might do ef he once gets a hold of ye." So Archie stepped into the large kitchen, with its rafters overhead, and its dining-table in the corner. "Sit down, boy," said the woman. "I reckon you's thet new lad thet's come ter work over at Mullins's, ain't ye?"
"No'm," said Archie, "I don't work anywhere. I'm on my way to New York, where I expect to find a position, and I thought perhaps you'd allow me to do a little work here this morning to earn my breakfast."
Good Mrs. Lane, for that was the woman's name, was horrified to think that any one was alive and without breakfast at eight o'clock in the morning. "Goodness me!" said she. "Why, you must be half-famished fer want of food, ain't ye?" And she bustled about the kitchen, putting the kettle on to boil, and stirring up the fire. "You'll have some nice ham and eggs, my boy, and then I have somethin' in mind fer you. I reckon yer ain't in no hurry ter get ter the city, be ye? Well, even if ye do be in a hurry, I reckon you'll be glad of the chance to earn four dollars. I ain't goin' to ask ye no questions about how ye come to be walkin' to New York, because I never wuz no hand ter meddle in other folkses affairs, but ye look to be a likely lad, and a strong un, and ez my sister's husband, what lives two miles down the pike, needs a boy to drive a plough fer a week, I b'lieve ye'll suit 'im first-rate. So ez soon ez ye have finished yer vittles, I'll walk down there with ye, and we'll see the old man."
Archie hardly knew whether to be delighted with the prospect or not. Of course four dollars would be nice to have, but he was anxious to get to the city as soon as possible, and every day counted. But perhaps it would be wrong, he thought, to throw away such a good chance to earn some money, and he had decided to accept any offer the farmer made him, long before he finished his breakfast. When he got up from the straight-backed chair, he felt that he had never eaten a better meal in his life, and when Mrs. Lane started off down the road, he gladly followed her. A week on such a farm as this would be no unpleasant experience. Such food was not to be had every day, he knew, and he of course would have precious little that was good to eat when he reached the city.
They soon covered the two miles, Mrs. Lane getting along very fast for such a large woman, and at last they stood before Hiram Tinch, who owned the farm. Archie was made to describe his intentions, and was thoroughly examined by Mr. Tinch. He told the farmer that he knew nothing about farm work, but Mr. Tinch said he would soon teach him, and it was settled that Archie was to remain on the farm a week. Mrs. Lane went inside the house to see her sister, who looked sick with too much work, and the farmer told Archie that he might as well start in, as there was no object in waiting. So the boy donned a pair of "blue jean" trousers, and was taken into a field, where a one-horse plough was standing. Archie knew how to hitch a horse, so he went to the stable and secured his steed, and then harnessed him to the plough. The farmer didn't see fit to give him any instructions about ploughing, and the poor boy hardly knew what to do, but rather than ask he started off, and tried to guide the animal in the right direction, as far as he knew it. Of course the horse went wrong, and the plough refused to stay in the earth, and altogether the attempt was a miserable failure. The farmer leaned against the fence, picking his teeth with a pin, but when he saw the horse going crooked, and the plough bounding along over the earth, his face grew livid with anger. For a minute he seemed unable to speak, but strode toward Archie with a fierce look in his eyes. Then he found his tongue, and opened such a tirade of vile words that the poor boy shrank from him in terror. He was in mortal fear lest the man should lay hands on him and commit some crime, so intense was his rage, but Hiram Tinch seemed to know how far to go, and after five minutes of cursing and swearing he took the plough in his own hands, and guided it through the earth. "Now take it," he growled at Archie, when he had gone a furrow's length, "and see ef ye can do better this time. Remember, not a bite of dinner do ye get until this field is ploughed."
Poor Archie was weak from fright, but there was nothing to do but to obey. He looked at the vast field before him, and made up his mind that he would get nothing to eat until night, anyhow, for it was already nearly noon. He felt very much like bursting into tears, but he was too proud to give way to his feelings. But he couldn't help wishing that he were at home, playing with the members of the Hut Club. "Those boys are much better off than I am," he said, over and over, "though they have made no effort to improve themselves." After a time, however, his ambition returned, and as he looked ahead into the future, and remembered the wonderful things he was going to accomplish, he felt more like working.
He finished the field at five o'clock in the afternoon, and was almost fainting from hunger and from the hard work. The ploughing was fairly well done, but Hiram Tinch could see no merit in the work. He swore at Archie again, and gave him a supper of mush and milk. Mrs. Tinch sat by, and Archie could see that she did not approve of his treatment. The poor woman seemed afraid to speak, almost, but it was plain that she had a good heart. So when Archie heard a noise in his garret room that night, he was not surprised to see Mrs. Tinch at the window, placing some doughnuts and sandwiches there for him to eat.
THE NIGHT AMONG THE RUINS—THE CAMP-FIRE OF THE TRAMPS.
IT seemed to Archie that he had just fallen asleep when old Hiram Tinch was shaking him awake. "Git up out o' here now, ye lazy beggar, and git to the field and finish that there ploughin'," he growled, and the frightened lad awakened from a horrible nightmare, only to find a worse experience awaiting him in the light of day. He hastily drew on his trousers, and didn't wait to don either shoes or stockings, for if he was to spend the day ploughing in a field, he knew he would be more comfortable in his bare feet. When he reached the kitchen, he found that Farmer Tinch had already eaten his breakfast, though it was not daylight. Archie was glad that he was out of the way, and good Mrs. Tinch was glad of it, too, for she was able to give the boy a good breakfast, and some good advice with it. "Don't you pay no attention to what my man says, laddie. He's a powerful man to swear and carry on, but I don't think he'll have the meanness to strike you. Ef he does, ye must come to me, and I'll see thet he doesn't do it no more."
Archie was grateful for this spirit of friendliness, but in his heart he thought that cruel words were often more painful than lashes, and he heartily wished that his week was over.
All this day he spent on the farm, without once going into the road. Farmer Tinch had warned him that if he saw him making for the road at any time, he could go and never come back, and he would forfeit what money he had already earned. So Archie ploughed the field from daylight till dark, with a half hour at noon for a hurried dinner. He was glad when darkness came, and after another supper of mush and milk he was thankful to have a corn-husk bed to sleep on, and was soon in a stupor which was so sound as to be almost like death.
Again the next morning he was awakened at daylight, and he was made to work even harder than on the second day. He had by this time become somewhat used to the labour, however, and stood it better. He was more successful in his work, too, and Farmer Tinch had less opportunity for cursing him. But at night he seemed more tired, even, than before, and he longed for his home again. He thought of the cosy bed he would now be enjoying if he had only taken his mother's advice, and he felt almost like getting up in the night and stealing away on the road to the north. But, always a sensible lad, Archie realised that this discouragement could not last, and he lost himself in sleep, looking forward three days, when his week should be up, and he would be on his way to the city, with four dollars more to add to his slender store.
The three days passed slowly, but at length the Saturday night came, and he prepared to be off. But good Mrs. Tinch entreated him to remain with them over Sunday, and, as Archie wasn't sure that it would be quite right for him to travel on Sunday, he decided to do so. So the next day he brushed his only suit of clothes, and drove with his late employer to church, where Farmer Tinch sat in a front seat and passed the bread and wine at communion. Archie's heart rose to his throat as he saw this paragon so devout in church. He felt like rising in his seat and denouncing him before all the people as a tyrant and a hard-hearted wretch. But he kept quiet, though he found it impossible to partake of the communion under such circumstances.
The Tinches had brought their dinner with them, and at noon they all sat on one of the grassy mounds in the churchyard, to take some refreshment before the afternoon service began. When they had finished, Archie wandered off, and came to a crowd of boys who were romping behind the church. When they saw him approach, they all stopped their noise, and looked at him wonderingly. Evidently they were not used to seeing strange boys. The silence was soon broken, however, by one of the boys calling out, "Why, fellers, thet's the chap what's been workin' fer Hiram Tinch." This announcement was enough to make Archie an even greater object of interest than before, for the boys seemed to think that any person who could work for Farmer Tinch, and come out of the ordeal none the worse for wear, must be something wonderful. Archie was soon on good terms with them all, however, and told them of his plan of going to New York. The boys were all attention, and soon he was the hero of the occasion. When the bell rung for the afternoon service he was still telling them of the things he was going to do, and none of them wanted to go into the church. Archie persuaded them to enter, however, but he was not surprised to meet them all along the road when he left Tinch's early Monday morning.
It was almost time to go to bed when they reached the farmhouse that night, so Archie went at once to his attic, being anxious to start fresh on his journey the next day. He was now determined to push on as rapidly as possible, hoping to reach the city within three or four days. He was somewhat afraid that he wouldn't be able to do this, but he was going to try, anyhow.
At daylight Monday morning he was on the way, and when the various boys he met the day before said good-bye to him and wished him good luck, he felt that his stay at Tinch's had not been without benefits of some sort. He had made some boy friends, and he was four dollars richer, Archie was sensible enough, too, to realise that his experience would be a valuable one to him in the future. He knew now what hard work was, at any rate.
The morning walk was delightful. The September weather was perfect, and all along the road were fruit-trees laden with every sort of good thing to eat a boy could wish for. And as the trees were on the public thoroughfare, Archie did net hesitate to help himself freely as he went along, so that he didn't require any meal at noon.
As night drew near, however, he began to wonder what he would do for a bed, and the question became more important with every hour. He had come to no towns since morning, and knew that he couldn't expect to reach one of any size until the next day, anyhow. There were farmhouses, of course, but after his experience of the past week the lad felt that he would rather remain outdoors all night than risk being thrown in with another Hiram Tinch. He didn't know enough of farmers to know that few of them resemble Mr. Tinch in nature, and he did what he thought was best in keeping away from farmhouses after this.
It was five o'clock in the evening, and Archie was beginning to feel very tired and hungry, when he came to the ruins of an old colonial mansion, which lay far back from the road, surrounded by trees, and almost hid with shrubbery. "How interesting," he thought to himself. "It looks just like the pictures of old ruins we see in geographies. I think I must go up and see what they look like at close range." And, fired with a spirit of adventure, and making believe that he was an explorer in an ancient country, the boy made his way through the trees and shrubbery. The ruins looked more and more interesting as he advanced. This had evidently been a magnificent estate at one time. There were massive pillars which had once supported a stately portico at the front of the house, and above all there rose a massive chimney, which seemed to be exceedingly well preserved. As Archie came nearer, he was surprised to notice a thin column of smoke rising from the top of the chimney, and for a moment he stood still with fright. What could this mean? Who could be building a fire in the midst of these ruins. It was almost like what one reads about in books, he thought.
For some time he could not decide what to do, whether he had better keep on, or whether the wisest policy would be to get back to the road as quickly as possible. Finally, his curiosity and thirst for adventure persuaded him to go on, and he continued to push his way through the shrubbery until he stood before the ruins. He then climbed a flight of steps, and stood in what had once been the main entrance to this massive palace. Before him he saw a scene which was almost weird in its unusualness. A fire of pine-knots was blazing in the ruins of the great fireplace, and seated in a semicircle around the fire were several men of picturesque appearance, whose faces looked up angrily when they were disturbed.
STEALING A RIDE—KICKED OUT BY THE BRAKEMAN.
ARCHIE was dumbfounded. Never before had he been among such a motley crowd, and his first impulse was to turn and run. But on second thought he decided that it would be best to put on a bold face and walk up to the men. This he did, and when he reached the fire the men jumped up and asked him who he was. In a few words he told them his simple story, and they all laughed and sat down again about the fire, making a place for him. "You're one of us, then, laddie," said the leader of the gang. "We're all soldiers of fortune, all dependent upon the generous public for our livelihood. But we're not goin' to the city. There's nothin' there for us, and our advice to you is for you to steer clear of the place, too. Them police takes ye and throws ye into jail as quick as a wink, and there's no chance of gettin' anythink to eat at basement doors, neither. They're all on to us, there, laddie, and ye'd better stick to the country."
This bit of advice was endorsed by the entire company, and it was in vain that Archie tried to make them understand that he was no ordinary tramp, walking about the country in search of an easy time. He tried to tell them that he was going to the city to work, not to beg; but the leader, a big, dirty fellow, weighing two hundred pounds or over, said, "Never mind, laddie, we knows you've run away from home to get away from the folks, and we appreciates yer position. If yer a mind to stand by us, we'll stand by you, and see thet ye comes to no harm."
On thinking things over, Archie decided that it was perhaps the wisest thing for him to appear to sympathise with the tramps, and make himself agreeable while with them. He had undoubtedly run into a gang of the worst sort of vagabonds, and there was no way of getting away from there without arousing their suspicions. So he partook of their slender meal, and joined in the general laughter when the leader, "Fattie Foy," made some crude attempt at punning. The meal was one to be remembered. The coffee had been heated in an empty tomato can over the fire, and from its taste was evidently a combination of various collections made from the farmhouses round about. Besides the coffee there was a various collection of sandwiches and bread and butter, and two pieces of cake. One man had succeeded in striking a good house, and came back laden with pickles and crackers and cheese, which were probably the remains of some picnic basket. Another fellow had brought some pieces of cold bacon, and these were warmed on sticks over the fire until they looked really appetising. From some barn had come a half-dozen fresh eggs, and these were quickly boiled in a can of hot water, and made a very fair showing on the slab of granite which served as a table.
When everything was ready the provisions were equally divided among the crowd, and every one shared alike. It made no difference how much more one man collected than another, it was always shared with the entire crowd. Poor Archie found it almost impossible to eat, but the men insisted that he take something, so he did manage to swallow a few sips of coffee and eat a slice of bread and butter. But as he looked about him at the dirty hands and faces, and the filthy garments of the tramps, he determined not to eat again while with them.
When the meal was over the two tin cans were washed at a spring of water, and as it was now quite dark, they all sat close to the fire, in order to see. Some one produced a pack of dirty cards, and they began a game of some kind. Archie was asked to join, but he told them he didn't know anything about card-playing. The poor lad was beginning to wish he had never left home, and felt more miserable than at any other period of the journey. He walked over to a corner of the ruins where the light from the fire did not penetrate, and, once there, he sat down and sobbed bitterly for a time. When he had finished crying it seemed impossible for him to sleep. The scene about the fire fascinated him. The men were seated in every sort of picturesque attitude, and as the flickering light fell upon their dark faces it wasn't hard for the poor lad to imagine that he had fallen among a crowd of brigands. He watched them as they played until he could see no longer, and then he fell into a sound sleep.
When Archie woke it was still dark, but the moon was shining brightly overhead, making everything as light as day. He rubbed his eyes and sat up, and it was some time before he could realise where he was. Then, as he saw the tramps lying about the ground, he remembered his adventures of the night before, and, horrified that he had allowed himself to sleep, he hastily jumped up, and determined to get away from the ruins as quickly as possible. The tramps were all sleeping soundly, and the only noises to be heard were the sound of their breathing and the blood-curdling hoot of some owl perched on the pillars of the old portico. The boy picked his way carefully between the bodies of the sleeping men, and in a minute stood once more on the grand flight of steps outside. He was trembling for fear some tramp would awake and prevent his going, and when a bat brushed him in its flight he almost screamed with terror. Far out beyond the trees and the shrubby he could see the road glistening in the moonlight, and he made his way as rapidly as possible out of the grounds, and was once more on his way to the city.
It was lonesome work, walking along a country road at night, and Archie remembered with longing his cosy bed at home. The feeling of homesickness kept growing within him, despite his efforts to down it, and when at last the glorious autumn sun rose over the eastern horizon he was miserable with longing for mother and for home. But he was too proud to even think of turning back. He must reach the city at all hazards, homesick or not.
Archie did not think of breakfast this morning. His experience of the night before seemed to have taken away his appetite entirely, and his only thought was to walk as fast as possible, so that he could reach the city soon. About nine o'clock he entered the outskirts of a busy town, and while there he observed that the railroad going to the city passed through the place. All at once a new idea occurred to him. He had so often heard men and boys tell of how they had stolen a ride from one town to another. Why shouldn't he be able to get a ride on a freight train to the city. Would it be wrong? Archie thought not, since so many men did it. And anyhow it didn't seem a wicked thing to cheat the railroad. He had heard people say that the company ought to be cheated whenever possible, since it cheated so many others. So, from being so tired and so anxious to reach New York, Archie decided to try and steal a ride. He entered the yards, where a train was being made up for the south, and there he saw a cattle-car with an open door. He immediately jumped inside and shut the door, squeezing himself into the farthest corner, hoping that he wouldn't be discovered. He soon found that he wasn't alone, for a couple of tramps were in the opposite corner, and they whispered to him not to make any noise. "The brakie," they said, "will soon be 'round, and if he finds ye he'll put us all in jail."
Poor Archie grew pale at the thought of being put in jail, and huddled himself closer in the corner. After a time the train started, and the tramps, he noticed, climbed up into some sort of compartment under the roof of the car, where they wouldn't be observed, leaving Archie alone down-stairs. Things went smoothly for a time. The train went flying along, and Archie counted every mile which brought him nearer to the city. Finally the train pulled up at a crossing, and a brakeman came along and threw open the door of the car. He was not long in discovering the cowering figure in the corner, and his wrath was dreadful to look upon. "So, ye cussed vagabond," he growled, "ye thought ye'd steal a ride, did ye? Get out o' this now. Quick, out with ye." Archie could have fainted, and, as it was, he almost fell out of the car, propelled by the brakeman's boot. For awhile he stood dazed beside the track, and finally moved on. "I'll keep a 'stiff upper lip,'" he said, "whatever happens." But this was by far the most discouraging adventure yet.
ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK—A NIGHT IN A LODGING-HOUSE.
ON and on for the rest of the day walked Archie. His feet were sore, he was weak from hunger, and he was made miserable with being homesick. People who met him on the road turned around to look at the slender lad with the pale face and the weary step, but he kept walking on, stopping for nothing, and noticing no one. At noon he picked some apples in an orchard, and these appeased his hunger. When evening drew near, however, he felt that he could go without food no longer, so he didn't hesitate to stop at a house and ask for food. "I know mother would give a boy food if one should come to our door," he said to himself, "so I do not think it wrong for me to ask for food here." He was fortunate enough to strike a pleasant housewife, who took him in and made him sit down at the kitchen table, which she covered with good things to eat. There was cold roast beef, some fried potatoes and a glass of good fresh milk. And then she gave him some apple pie, so that when he had finished Archie felt better than for many a day. While he ate he told the good woman why he was going to New York, and her sympathy was enlisted at once. "Why, you poor lad," she exclaimed, "just to think of your being in the city all alone. And what will your mother think?"
Archie couldn't imagine what his mother did think. He had remembered her every minute during the last few days, and was anxious to write her, so he decided to ask the woman for some paper and a pencil. These were gladly given him, and he sat down and told his mother that he was almost to New York and that he had been having a splendid time. He was careful not to say anything about his experience with Farmer Tinch, or the night he spent with the tramps. He knew these things would only make her unhappy, and it was just as well that she should think everything was smooth sailing for him. His letter was filled with his enthusiasm and his hope for the morrow, so that when good Mrs. Dunn received it she was overjoyed, and hurried over to show it to the Widow Sullivan, who enjoyed it thoroughly and said "I told you so." Poor Mrs. Dunn had been having a very miserable time of it. She was hardly surprised that morning when she awoke and found Archie gone, but she was naturally much worried for fear some accident would happen to him before he reached New York. Once there, she felt that she needn't worry much about him, for, strange to say, Mrs. Dunn had a firm belief in the ability of city policemen to take care of every one, and she knew that Archie would not be allowed to suffer for want of food and a place to sleep. And when she received this letter, saying that Archie was nearly to New York, and had even been so successful as to earn some money, she felt more comfortable than for some time, Of course she supposed that he would be home before long. She was positive that he wouldn't be able to get any work in the city, and knew that as soon as his money gave out he would return. "It's all for the best," she said to Mrs. Sullivan. "The habit of running away from home was born in the boy. His father left home when he was no older than Archie, and no harm ever came to him. So I'm not going to worry, Mrs. Sullivan." And then Mrs. Dunn would go back to her home, and at sight of Archie's old hat or some of his football paraphernalia, would burst into tears.
The good woman who gave Archie his supper refused to let him start out again on the road that night. She told him that he must remain with them, for they had an extra bed up over the kitchen which was never needed, and that he might just as well sleep there as not. So for the first time in nearly a week Archie slept comfortably, and, as he heard the familiar sounds in the kitchen below him in the morning, it was hard for him to make up his mind that he was not at home, and that it was not his mother who was grinding the coffee in the kitchen below. He heard the ham frying in the skillet, and the rattle of the dishes as his hostess set the table, and then he dressed himself and hastened downstairs, feeling ready for a good day's walking.
When he had eaten his breakfast he started out again. The woman told him that it was only about fifteen miles to New York, and that after he had walked about six of them he could take a trolley-car and ride the remainder of the distance for five cents. So he thanked her for her kindness, and promised to let her know how he succeeded in the city, for the woman was much interested in his future. He felt almost sorry to leave the home-like place, but the prospect of reaching the city this very day was enough to make him anxious to be off. He covered the six miles to the trolley-car before eleven o'clock in the morning, and then in an hour and a quarter more the trolley landed him in lower New York.
His sensations as he was whirled along the smooth pavements, past beautiful buildings and handsome residences, may be better imagined than described. After looking forward to this day for so long, he was almost overcome at the realisation of his hopes, and took the utmost delight in everything about him. When the car stopped at the terminus of the line, he got out and walked up the busiest street in the neighbourhood. He hardly knew what to do first, but continued walking until he came to the New York end of the great Brooklyn Bridge. Then he couldn't resist the desire to walk across the bridge, and he started out upon the journey. Up the steps he walked, and soon he had climbed as far as the middle of the magnificent structure. There he stood for some time, looking out over Governor's Island, nestled like a green egg in a nest of red buildings, and past Staten Island to the open sea beyond It was all grander, more beautiful than anything he had ever seen before, and he felt glad that he had come. Then in another direction he saw the never-ending succession of buildings, some tall, some low ones, but all inhabited with swarms of people. "There are three million people in this great city," he said to himself, "and over them in New Jersey, in those cities I see, there are a million more, and I am one of four million." The thought was too much for the boy, and he continued his walk across the bridge. Once across, he came back again, for Brooklyn was a strange place to him. In New York City he felt more at home, for he had at least spent two days within its limits.
Once back in the busy streets, he decided to look about for a cheap place to stay for the night. It was the middle of the afternoon now, and he felt that he ought to make some preparation. He knew better than to apply at the police station for lodging, for he knew they would probably turn him over to the famous Gerry Society, which would send him back home before a day had passed, and then where would his ambitions be?
He remembered the place where he had stayed with Uncle Henry, but he knew that this would be too high-priced for his pocketbook, so he started up the Bowery, where he expected to find some very cheap places. He didn't like the looks of the people he met in the street, but his experiences on the way to New York had taught him not to be too particular about a little dirt. So when he came to a rickety building with a sign up, "Beds, ten and fifteen cents," he immediately went up the dark, filthy stairway, and found himself in a large room at the top which served as the "hotel" office. There were rows of chairs in front of the windows and along the walls, and in the chairs were the queerest-looking lot of men he had ever seen. He didn't pay any attention to them, though, but went up to the seedy individual behind the desk, and asked him if he could get a bed for the night. "Sure, Mike," the man replied, and Archie signed his name in a dirty book with torn pages. He paid the man ten cents, and asked if he could leave his bundle while he went outside. "Sure, Mike," was again his answer, and the man took his little bundle of necessities and threw them on the floor behind the counter. When Archie had gone out, a fat man with a baby face came up and whispered to the clerk. "Anything in the bloke?" he inquired. "Nit," said the clerk, "don't yer see his baggage? Does it look like there's anything in it?" And the mysterious conversation closed, to be continued later in the evening.
LOOKING FOR WORK—WASHING DISHES IN A BOWERY RESTAURANT.
AFTER a couple of hours spent in going about the streets, Archie went into a place where he bought some coffee and rolls for his supper. He paid only five cents for three sweet rolls and a large cup of coffee which was not at all bad to taste, and he returned to the lodging-house on the Bowery feeling better than he had expected to feel when he started out from the homestead where he spent the previous night, If he could get a good meal for five or ten cents, and could sleep for ten cents more, he would have enough to keep him going for some time.
The Bowery at night presented a wonderful appearance to Archie's mind. The brilliantly lighted shops, the cheap theatres with their bands of musicians on the sidewalk in front of the entrance, were all attractive to his boyish eyes, but he was wise enough to pass them all by, and to make his way as quickly as possible to the cheap lodging-house. The street was jammed with persons of every description. He was surprised particularly at the number of Chinamen he met, for he didn't know that a block or two away was the centre of the Chinese population of New York, where the Celestials have their theatre, their hotels, their great stores, and their joss-house. There were many Italians in the street, too, and Polish Jews, to say nothing of Frenchmen and Germans. Then there was the typical Bowery "tough," who swaggered up and down, looking for trouble, which he usually finds before an evening passes. Archie was not afraid in this cosmopolitan crowd. No one seemed to notice him, and, anyhow, there were a great many policemen about, who seemed to keep a sharp lookout all the time. And as Archie shared his mother's faith in the city policeman, he felt no fear.
In the lodging-house everything looked very much as before. The chairs were still occupied with filthy-looking men, who smoked and spat and talked in undertones among themselves. The boy paid no attention to any of them, but, walking up to the seedy individual behind the counter, asked him if he could go to bed now. The man answered, "Certainly," and sent a fellow with Archie to show him his bed. It was in a long, narrow room, which was poorly lighted with a few gas-jets here and there, and which was filled with about thirty beds, all narrow, and all dirty. One of these was pointed out to Archie, and then the man left him. The poor lad felt more homesick than ever, and had it not been that he had a glorious to-morrow to look forward to, he would have been very miserable indeed. As it was, he undressed and got between the chilly sheets, when he remembered that he hadn't looked after his little roll of bills for a long time, and that some of them might be missing. He crawled out of bed again, and felt inside the lining of his coat for the purse. He had sewed it there for safe-keeping until he reached the city, for he had some little change in his pocket, which he knew would last him for several days.
The poor boy's hand felt nothing but a cut in the lining, where the roll of bills had been, and all at once he realised that the money must have been stolen from him. And he at once thought of the night in the ruins, when he fell asleep among the tramps, and there was no doubt in his mind but that they had taken his money from him. This was a terrible blow. Here he was, with just a few cents in his pocket, and no one to whom he could appeal for aid. It was the worst predicament Archie had ever been in, and he hardly knew what to do. He sat on the side of his dirty little bed for awhile, and then he snuggled under the covers and was soon asleep again. For a boy who has been walking all day seldom stays awake from worry.
But when he awoke in the morning, it was to realise the fact that he must get some money this very day or go to the police station. The few cents he had remaining were only enough to buy some coffee and bread for breakfast, and the poor lad didn't know where his next meal would come from. As he went out, the clerk in the filthy office of the lodging-house told him that he needn't come back any more.
"Why did you tell him that?" asked the fat man with a sly face.
"Because I went through his clothes last night when he was asleep, and he had only six cents in his pocket. We don't want no starvin' brats around here, to bring the Gerry Society down upon us."
It was well that Archie didn't know his pockets had been searched while he was asleep, or his faith in human nature would have been more shaken than ever before. He had not suspected that the men in this lodging-house might be dishonest.
"They are poor," he said to himself when he saw them first, "but they may be good men for all that."
After a slender meal, Archie found a library where he looked over the advertising columns of the morning papers, trying to find some position open which he thought he might fill. There were several advertisements calling for office boys, and all these he made note of, and then as he looked down the page he noticed that a boy was wanted in a restaurant to wash dishes. He decided that if he didn't succeed in getting a place as office boy, he might get the restaurant place. He knew that in a restaurant he would be likely at least to get enough to eat.
For two hours he called at addresses of men who wanted office boys, but at every place he was turned away. "We have already hired one," some of them said, and others told him that they never took any boys in the office who were living away from home. Some asked him for recommendations, and when he had none, they looked at him and told him "good morning." It was all terribly discouraging, and with every minute Archie was wishing more and more that he were back home again. Somehow the city seemed different now from what it had been when Uncle Henry was with him. Everything was less bright, and the things he had been delighted with before were less interesting now.
Finally, he entered a large, handsome suite of rooms, in one of the great sky-scrapers, and was shown into a very elegant private office. There he found an old gentleman seated in a great easy chair, looking over papers, and keeping one eye upon a buzzing instrument at his side which seemed to be spitting out long strips of paper, like a magician in a side-show. The man looked up as he entered, and cleared his throat. "Ahem," he said, "you look as if you were from the country. I wonder, now, if you have came to the city to seek your fortune."
Archie was embarrassed. "Yes, sir, I suppose you might put it that way," he replied.
"Well," continued the old gentleman, "my advice to you is to go back where you came from as quickly as you can. Not one boy in a thousand will gain either fame or fortune in New York, and you stand a wonderful chance of sinking lower every year. And even if you do succeed, you will miss many beautiful things in your life which may come to you in the country. You can have a pleasant home there, and live an easy, natural life, while here it will be years before you can expect to accomplish much, and you will spend your life in a nervous strain. Think well, young man, before choosing the great city as your sphere of usefulness."
"I've made up my mind, sir," said Archie. "I have quite decided to remain in the city."
"Very well," said the old gentleman, "I hope you may never regret it. But we have already hired an office boy. Good morning."
Archie walked out, more discouraged than ever. Perhaps, after all, a country life was not to be so much despised. This man ought to know what he was talking about. But once outside, in the Broadway crowd, Archie forgot everything about the country, and was lost in the delight of being one of four million.
He now decided to accept the place in the restaurant, if it were not taken, and, fortunately for him, it was not. So he rolled up his sleeves, and began to wash dishes as if he had done nothing else in all his life before.
IN THE STREET AGAIN—THE POLICE STATION—VISITS THE NEWSPAPER OFFICE, AND IS KINDLY RECEIVED BY THE EDITOR.
ALL day long Archie washed dishes, and before night came he decided that he had never before had such discouraging work. The restaurant was a popular one, and there were very many dishes to be washed, to say nothing of the pots and pans which were always dirty. Archie no sooner finished one sink full of dishes than another large pile was waiting to be put through the same operation, and there was no time at all for looking about him. There was hardly time for eating, even, and at noon he was only able to snatch a few mouthfuls. The work was not interesting, and it was a new sort of labour to Archie, so that altogether he did not get on as well as he might have wished. The cook was constantly nagging him, and telling him to hurry up, and the poor lad tried his best to please him. But somehow everything went wrong, and he was hardly surprised when the proprietor came in at six o'clock with a new man for the place. "Come around in the morning," he said to Archie, "and I'll pay your day's wages."
So the boy was in the street once more, with no money, and no place to sleep. He wasn't hungry, that was one thing, for he had been allowed to eat a good meal before leaving the restaurant. But where was he to sleep, and what was he to do on the morrow, when he would surely be hungry? His experience at looking for work had not been encouraging, and he began to have serious doubts as to whether he would ever get a place. Certainly he would starve if he waited around New York long without anything to do.
It was quite dark at seven o'clock, and Archie walked over to the brilliantly lighted street which ran north and south through the city. He had never failed to find something interesting to look at there, and he felt now that he would like to see the bright side of city life, even if he couldn't enjoy it himself. So all the evening he walked up and down the street, watching the well-dressed crowds hurrying into the theatres and the other almost innumerable places of amusement. He stared in open-mouthed amazement at some of the costumes of the women he saw alighting from carriages. Never before had he seen anything half so beautiful, and if any one had told him that there were such dresses he would have told them he didn't believe it. Some of them, he thought, must cost hundreds of dollars, and the jewels worn with them many hundreds more. How interesting, how new, it all was to him! Once he thought of the little home in the village, and at first wished that his mother might be there to enjoy the sights with him. "But I wouldn't want her to see me," he thought, "not while I am so miserable, and feeling so discouraged." For Archie was beginning to wonder if he hadn't made a mistake in leaving home, whether he had not been overconfident and hot-headed. But he decided to try it a few days more, that is, if he could manage to live for that length of time in the city.
At twelve o'clock he was walking up and down the street, which was still bright with millions of lights, though the crowds had gone home from the theatres, and the restaurants were beginning to be less popular. He was still wondering how he was going to find a place to sleep, when he was accosted by a policeman, and taken into a doorway. "I've been watching you," said the officer, "and I want to know why you are walking up and down the street at this time of night."
Archie could have cried from fright, but he remembered that he was under suspicion, so decided to tell the policeman his whole story, and perhaps he could help him out in some way. So he described his experiences during the day, and was surprised at the interest shown by the officer in the recital. When he had finished he was told that he would be taken to the police station. "You needn't be afraid, my lad," said the policeman. "I'll see that the Gerry Society doesn't get you and send you home, that is, if you think you want to try it here a few days longer. You can sleep at the station to-night, and the next morning you can try it again." So to the station they went, and Archie was, naturally, a little frightened when he saw, for the first time, the cells, and the terribly severe appearance of all his surroundings. But he was given a good bed in which to sleep, and he passed a delightful night, dreaming of the wonderful adventures which befell him in the city.
He was not awakened until eight o'clock, and then he found the good policeman waiting to take him out to breakfast, He expressed surprise that he should be so kind to him.
"I always thought that officers were cross and unpleasant," he said, "but you're not that kind, anyhow."
"Well," laughed the officer, "we have to be cross very often, though we're sometimes sorry to be so. But I've taken a fancy to you, my lad. I like to see a boy who does things. When a boy of seventeen is willing to come to New York alone, and make his own way, without friends or influence of any kind, it shows a proper spirit, and he ought to succeed. I know you'll get along if you only persevere. I'd advise you to keep on trying."
"Oh, I'm going to, now," said Archie. "I was very homesick and discouraged last night, but since I've met you I seem to have received a new impetus, and I'm ready to make a new beginning."
So Archie and the policeman parted friends.
"Come around to the station to-night if you want a bed, and you shall be cared for," said the officer, as he turned around the corner into the busy street, where he was lost in the crowd.
Archie walked down the street, hardly knowing what to do first. He didn't feel like answering any more advertisements in the newspapers, and he decided to go into a few stores and ask for work. He was about to do this when he saw before him the magnificent building of the New York Enterprise. It was a truly beautiful structure, rising fifteen stories above the ground, and surmounted with an artistic tower, which could be seen from almost any part of the city. The home of the city's greatest daily, it looked as if it were always welcoming strangers to the metropolis, and Archie felt an irresistible impulse to enter. Everything connected with a newspaper had for him the greatest fascination, and he knew he would enjoy seeing through this wonderful building, which was almost wholly occupied by the departments of the Enterprise. So he entered the door, and passed from one floor to another, finally arriving at the highest floor of all, where were located the editorial rooms of the Evening Enterprise. All at once a new plan entered Archie's fertile brain. Why shouldn't he be able to get something to do on a newspaper? It had always been his greatest ambition to become a reporter, and here, although he didn't think the editor would take him in that capacity, he thought he might get some sort of work in which he could work himself up.
There upon the door were the magic words: "Editor of the Evening enterprise. No Admittance." Archie opened the door and entered. He knew it would be useless to send in his name. It was best to see the editor at once, and without ceremony. He was seated before a large desk, which was littered with papers of every description, and he was a very pleasant person in appearance. Archie stood hesitating near the door, and remained there a minute or two before the editor looked up.
"Well, my boy, what is it?"
Archie took courage.
"I—I want to be a reporter, sir, and I thought it would do no harm to ask you for such a position, anyhow."
The distinguished journalist wheeled about in his chair.
"What!" he exclaimed, "you want to be a reporter. Why, my dear boy, how old are you?"
"I'll be eighteen my next birthday," said Archie, "and, sir, I've had some experiences in the last two weeks, which make me feel as if I were about five years older than I really am. I've been through some very trying experiences, sir."
The editor was interested at once. "Tell me what your experiences have been," he said, and Archie began, and told him his whole story; how he had left home to win fame and fortune, and how he had worked on the farm for a week with Farmer Tinch; how he had been robbed the night he stayed with the tramps in the ancient ruins, and how he had finally reached the city. Then he told him of the night in the lodging-house, of his dish-washing experience in the restaurant, and how he had been taken from the street by a policeman the night before, and allowed to sleep in the station-house. When he had finished the editor had a broad grin upon his face.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "this is certainly rich stuff. There's a good story in it, I'll be bound."
Then, speaking to Archie, he said:
"Just wait here a minute, my boy, and I'll see if we can't put some money in your way."
He pressed a button at the side of his desk, and when a boy appeared, he told him to bring "Mr. Jones, please, or one of the other reporters. And tell Jones to bring an artist with him."
The reporter and the artist soon stood before the editor, who told them, with great glee, that he had a leading feature for the next evening edition of the Enterprise. "Just talk to this boy, Jones, and see if you can't make two good columns on the front page and two for the inside from his story. I think it's great, myself. And you Cash," he said, turning to the artist, "you make a good sketch of the boy."
Archie could hardly believe his eyes and ears. Just to think that he was being interviewed, and that his picture was to be in the paper. It seemed almost too good to be true.
When the reporter had finished with him, he was taken down-stairs to the cashier's office and given thirty dollars in bills. "This will pay you for the interview," said the editor, "and give you enough to fix up with. Now, to-morrow, you come in again, and I think I can give you steady employment."
Oh, how happy Archie was! He went out into the street, and seemed to fairly walk on air. Then he heard the newsboys crying, "Extra paper, read about the Enterprise's Boy Reporter." And when Archie saw the paper, there on the front page was his picture, together with the story of his "startling adventures."
LIVING IN COMFORT AGAIN—FEATURED AS "THE BOY REPORTER."
ARCHIE often speaks of the day when he visited the newspaper office for the first time as the happiest day in all his life. The change from despair and homesickness to the joy of being appreciated by some one was so rapid that it made his head fairly swim with the exhilaration of success. With thirty dollars in his pocket, and the knowledge that he would have steady employment of the kind he desired on the morrow, he walked up the Bowery feeling like a prince. He entered the lodging-house where he had left his bundle of clothing, and so surprised the clerk by his new appearance that he was invited to remain there for another night. The shrewd man guessed that some good fortune must have befallen Archie, or he wouldn't be so happy. But the one night of misery which he had spent in the squalid hotel was enough for Archie, and he walked hastily up-town with his bundle, keeping a sharp lookout for a pleasant place where he might get a room. In his previous wanderings he had seen several nice houses with rooms to rent, but now that he wanted a room he found it difficult to find any of these neighbourhoods. He was anxious to get settled as quickly as possible, for he wanted to get everything done to-day, so that to-morrow he could have time to do anything required of him by the editor of the Enterprise. He must get a new suit of clothes, he must get his hair cut, and last, but not least, he must write home to mother and tell her of his great good fortune.
Finally, in his wanderings, Archie came to a beautiful square which was surrounded on every side by business houses and tenements. But the square itself and the houses on it were very quaint and very handsome, so that it seemed to be a very oasis in the desert. The green trees, just a little tinged with the brown and gold of autumn, reminded Archie of the front yard at home, and he decided to get a room in one of the houses here if he could possibly do so.
It so happened that there was a hall bedroom empty in one of the best-looking places, and Archie at once engaged it. The price was more reasonable than he had hoped for, even, and this made him happy, for as yet he had no idea how much his earnings would be, and he was anxious to be able to save something to send home, if he possibly could. The room was nicely furnished, and looked out upon the fountain, with the green trees, so that it was highly satisfactory in every respect. It didn't take Archie long to undo his bundle, and it was a pitiful display that greeted him when it was opened. The little comb and brush, a piece of soap, a Testament given him last Christmas by the teacher at Sunday school, a suit of underwear, and a couple of handkerchiefs. The whole lot of things hardly filled a corner in one of the bureau drawers, and Archie realised that he must buy a great many things within a week or two.
But before going out to do any shopping, he sat down and wrote a long letter home, describing his success of the morning, and telling his mother of the editor's promise to give him regular employment. He enclosed a copy of the paper with his picture and the story of his adventures, and it made him very happy to think of his mother's feelings when she read it all. Then, when he had finished, he went out to a post-office, and bought a money-order for ten dollars, which he also enclosed. "I know I can spare it," he said to himself, "and it will gratify her so much." Then, when the letter with its contents was safely mailed, he bought himself a new suit of clothing, and renovated himself in many ways, so that when he returned to his room in the square it was nearly dark, and he looked a different boy entirely.