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CHAPTER I UNDER THE BIG DOME

Barry Wynn grabbed the rail of the day coach of the Washington Express and swung himself on to the platform of the car with the ease and enthusiasm of a healthy boy of fifteen. The world had suddenly expanded for him and he was aglow with life and vitality. He had been appointed a page in the National House of Representatives, and now, in response to a telegram from Congressman Carlton, he was about to go to the Capitol to take the oath of office and assume the duties of his position.

His heart was swelling with the thought of the big things in the future. He had studied the history of his country in the Cleverly schools and he had also an intelligent idea of the great organization which we call the United[Pg 2] States Government. He had not neglected to read the debates of Congress in the daily newspapers and now he was to be in the midst of great events, to be a part of our great central law-making machine at Washington. He was dwelling on this thought when his attention was attracted by a voice from the crowd on the platform.

"Barry! Barry!" it shouted above the puffing of the locomotive, "Wait a minute."

The call came from Mr. Smithers who had been his school teacher and who now was also the President of the local Board of Trade. Barry leaned over the platform and Mr. Smithers, making his way through the throng, handed the boy a bulky manilla envelope fastened with rubber bands.

"Give this to Congressman Carlton as soon as you arrive in Washington," he said.

"All right," replied Barry.

"Be careful with it," continued the man; "it contains a matter of vital importance to the people of Cleverly."

[Pg 3]

"You can depend on me," was the confident response.

The conductor gave the final warning, the bell began to clang, and the train steamed out of the station with Barry standing on the platform waving good-bye to his faithful friends. His eyes were so dimmed with tears that could not be suppressed that he scarcely recognized the upturned faces that were shedding their good will upon him in such generous measure. One exception to this was his mother. She seemed to stand out from the crowd, fluttering a little lace handkerchief until the station at Cleverly became a mere speck in the distance.

The journey in itself was uneventful, although it furnished constant interest and amusement for the boy who was about to get his first large view of the world. Thoughtful ones at home had provided him with a dainty box of lunch, and before long he was attacked with the pangs of hunger and devoured every last scrap of the cake and fruit and sandwiches.

Finally, after a ride of nine or ten hours the[Pg 4] city of Washington began to come in view. The outlying section was not very inviting, but as the train came near to its destination the view improved. A sudden turning of the train brought the magnificent dome of the Capitol into the range of his vision. Barry gasped with wonder and delight. It was as though some magician had waved his wand over vacant space and suddenly brought the wonderful creation into being. In all of the time he was in Washington Barry never lost his sense of delight at each recurring sight of that noble specimen of architecture. To him the solidity and beauty of the Capitol seemed symbolic of the strength and splendor of the Republic.

As the train came nearer and nearer to the new union Station the boy was enabled to get a closer view of the great structure which stood outlined on the horizon in all of its majestic proportions. He had an instinctive sense of the beautiful and the symmetrical pile of marble filled him with an unexplainable joy. The main building, with its two finely designed wings,[Pg 5] more than realized Barry's anticipations. But it was the dome rather than the Capitol itself, which kept him under its magic spell. He felt for the first time the full force of the poet's words, that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." The vaulted roof of the rotunda, with its gradual swelling sprang into the air so gracefully that one could hardly look upon it as a thing of iron and steel and marble. And overtopping it all was the colossal statue of Freedom, typifying everything for which the Republic was founded and maintained.

The cry of "All out for Washington" brought to an end Barry's meditations, and also announced the fact that he had finally reached his destination. He picked up his suitcase and hastened out of the train and into the great union Station which burst upon his astonished vision like another scene from the Arabian Nights. It was so great and so impressive that it fairly took his breath away. In a few minutes he was seated in a trolley car and on his way toward the Capitol. He was[Pg 6] so eager to see everything that was to be seen on the way that he almost twisted his neck out of shape. In a very short time the car reached the foot of the hill where the great edifice is located. When Barry alighted he stood for a moment undecided which way to turn. There seemed to be all sorts of entrances to the building. He chose the nearest one, which led him to the basement of the great structure. Looking about, he saw an elevator standing with the door invitingly open. Without further ado, he hustled into the door. The attendant turned to him with a smile:

"Have you got your credentials?" he asked, tauntingly.

"My credentials," retorted Barry; "what do you mean?"

"I simply want to know whether you are a member of the Supreme Court."

"Why?"

"Because this elevator is for the exclusive use of members of the Supreme Court."

And so it proved to be. Barry turned aside[Pg 7] a little bit confused at his first lesson in American democracy. Finally he found an elevator that was used by the public. He boarded it and in a few minutes found himself standing in the centre of the rotunda of the Capitol. It is, as most boys are aware, the great hall which stands in the centre of the Capitol between the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Barry set his suitcase on the floor and gazed up at the interior of the vast dome, spellbound with wonder and delight. The light, coming through the windows of the great ceiling, revealed a wilderness of art. In the very centre he beheld the marvelous allegorical fresco called the "Apotheosis of Washington." Beneath this were designs in panels and medallions showing Raleigh, Columbus, Cabot, La Salle, and the other great characters that Barry had studied about in school, and below these he gazed on a series of brilliant pictures showing scenes in the Revolutionary war.

How long he remained there in this attitude[Pg 8] of wrapt admiration he could not tell, but when he glanced down at the floor to look for his suitcase, he found that it was gone. He rushed over to a gray-coated guide:

"Did you see anything of my suitcase?" he cried in alarm.

"Your suitcase," smiled the man; "I didn't know you had one."

"I had a minute ago," said Barry; "I set it on the floor here and now it is gone."

"Where could it go to if you had it by your side?"

"Why, I was looking at the pictures in the ceiling," said the agitated boy, "and someone must have crept along and stolen it."

"Well, I didn't see anything of it," was the calm response.

In despair, Barry ran from one person to another until the marble space below the dome was a scene of unusual excitement. In the midst of the agitation a bright-looking, well-dressed young man came striding across the hallway leading from the House of [Pg 9]Representatives. He noticed the stir, and something about Barry's manner attracted him. He went up to the boy and said in kindly tones:

"What's the trouble, my son?"

Barry explained as best he could.

"Do you expect to meet someone here?" asked the stranger.

"I do. I was to report to Congressman Carlton."

"Why, I know him well," was the comment of the young man. "He is one of my best friends. We will have to see if we can't recover your suitcase for you."

At that moment the alert young man happened to see a red-headed youngster peeping from behind one of the pillars that supported the dome. Instantly he understood the situation.

"Joe," he called, in authoritative tones, "come here at once."

Joe, thus called, responded obediently. The stranger took Barry by the arm, and pointing to the other, said:

[Pg 10]

"This is Mr. Joseph Hart, one of the pages of the House of Representatives. Joseph, I want you to meet Mr. Barry Wynn, who is to become your associate."

"Hello," said Joe.

"How are you?" greeted Barry, taking the outstretched hand.

"Joe," continued the gentleman, "get the young man his property."

Very sheepishly Joe went behind the pillar and, bringing out the suitcase, handed it to Barry.

"Now, I will introduce myself," said the stranger, with an engaging smile. "My name is Felix Conway. I am the correspondent of a New York newspaper, and if you ever need any assistance while you are in Washington, don't fail to call on me."

"Thank you," was the grateful reply, "I am not likely to forget you."

"Now, Joe," said the correspondent, turning to the second boy again, "why did you take Mr. Wynn's suitcase?"

[Pg 11]

Joe gazed at the floor in an embarrassed manner for a moment and then, raising his head, said defiantly:

"I couldn't help it. He looked so green that I simply couldn't resist hiding his bag."

"Well," said Mr. Conway, "if you hope to be respected in this world, you'll have to resist a good many temptations."

At this point in the conversation, Congressman Carlton, of all persons in the world, came along. He recognized Barry at once, and going over, shook his hand warmly. He also talked pleasantly with Mr. Conway concerning matters in which they were both interested.

"Barry," he said, finally, "I'm awfully busy this afternoon, but I'm going to put you in care of Joe Hart here. He'll take you to a pleasant boarding-house and see that you are properly installed. Report to me here in the Capitol at ten o'clock in the morning. In the meantime, Joe will post you on[Pg 12] your duties. You will find him a very nice boy."

"Yes," said Barry, gazing at Joe somewhat skeptically, "I suppose I will find him to be a very nice boy."


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