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CHAPTER III THE NEW PAGE
After a few minutes at the Capitol with Congressman Carlton, Barry found himself walking along the streets of Washington with Master Joe Hart, who had graciously volunteered to pilot him to his boarding house, which was located on a street radiating from one of the avenues surrounding the Treasury Department. It was some distance from the hall of the House of Representatives, but as Barry desired to see as much of the city as possible, they walked instead of taking a trolley car.

The two boys made the trip by way of Pennsylvania Avenue, and at every turn in that noble thoroughfare, Barry found himself gasping with undisguised admiration. Joe Hart, who had lived in Washington for a number of years, and who was old in the ways of the[Pg 29] world, seemed greatly amused at the frank astonishment of his companion; in fact, Master Joe indulged in a good deal of sarcasm. He told Barry that if he did not stop looking up at the buildings, he would get a kink in the neck and that would disbar him from the position as page in Congress. He wanted to know how crops were coming on "down home"; whether they were having much rain in Cleverly, and finally asked him if this year's corn would be equal to the kind that was grown last year. Barry took all of this with perfect good nature. He realized that Joe was worldly-wise, and that his manners were not as good as they might be, but something about the Washington boy attracted him mightily.

Finally they reached the boarding house. It was a three-story brick house with an air of genteel decay about it. Joe, who had a latch key, walked in without knocking. As they passed the parlor an elderly lady, who stood at the window, approached them.

[Pg 30]

"Mrs. Johnson," said Hart, "this is Barry Wynn, who is to live here for a little while."

The lady approached Barry with a smile and shook hands with him cordially.

"Mr. Carlton has been telling me about you," she said graciously, "and I think I can give you a third story back room that will suit your purposes."

"Thank you," said Barry.

"If you will come this way I will show you the room."

The boarding house mistress and the two boys walked to the third story and looked at the room that had been assigned to Barry. It was plainly but neatly furnished. The outlook was very pleasant, because for a distance of many blocks there were no buildings to obstruct the view, and most of the surrounding plots were tastefully laid out in grass and flowers. Barry learned later that the cause of this unusually luxurious outlook was a public park which was almost on the edge of Mrs. Johnson's dwelling.

"I can give you this room, with board," said[Pg 31] Mrs. Johnson, interrupting the boy's musings, "for six dollars a week."

It seemed like a large sum to Barry, but he said bravely, and with a show of cheerfulness: "All right, Mrs. Johnson; I'll take it."

Supper at the Johnson boarding house was a very modest meal, and after it was over Barry and Joe went out, in order that the new boy might have some idea of the national capital in the evening. Barry found that the city was well paved and well lighted. It was all very interesting, but he had traveled a great distance that day and the excitement of the occasion served to add to the fatigue, so that when he heard a neighboring clock strike ten, he intimated a desire to go to bed. Joe was quite willing, and in a little while the two boys had retired for the night. Barry slept soundly, but his dreams were a strange mixture of trains, and boarding houses, and domes, and page boys, and Joe Harts.

He arose early in the morning very much refreshed. He learned that the House of [Pg 32]Representatives would not meet until noon, but at the suggestion of his friend and mentor, he decided to go to the Capitol early in the day, in order to take the oath of office and to get acquainted with the duties of a page boy.

At nine o'clock he found himself in the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The clerk was an elderly gentleman with a beard, and he treated Barry very kindly.

"I've heard of you, Wynn," he said. "John Carlton says that he wants us to take good care of you, and you can wager all you're worth we are only too glad to do anything that Carlton desires."

Barry bowed and blushed. He did not know exactly what to say to this tribute to his friend.

"I suppose," resumed the clerk, "that you are ready to be sworn in?"

"Yes, sir; I am."

"By the way, how old are you?" asked the clerk.

Barry looked at him in a startled way.

[Pg 33]

Was he to run up against a snag? His lips trembled in spite of himself.

"Is there an age limit for page boys?" he asked.

"Yes," was the response; "under the law, they must be over twelve years old."

Barry heaved a sigh of relief.

"I have just celebrated my fifteenth birthday!"

"Good," was the reply. "Now, if you will hold up your right hand I will administer the oath of office."

Barry held up his right hand impressively.

"Now," said the clerk, "repeat what I say."

"All right, sir."

Then the clerk recited, and Barry repeated the following form:

    "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter."

[Pg 34]

"It sounds very solemn, doesn't it?" commented Joe Hart.

"It sounds solemn and it is solemn," said the clerk. "It is the oath that everybody takes on entering the service of the United States Government. To break that oath, or to fail to fulfil its obligations would be little less than treason."

As they were turning away, Barry suddenly remembered something.

"Might I inquire how much pay I am to receive?"

"Certainly," said the clerk, "you will receive $2.50 a day while Congress is in session."

Barry could scarcely believe his ears. He had never dreamt that he would receive so much money. He mentally calculated what this would amount to in the course of a month, and then figured out how much money he would be able to send his mother after he had paid his board and refunded the money which Congressman Carlton had advanced for his railroad fare to Washington. The result must[Pg 35] have been gratifying, because his face beamed like a new moon.

After this Joe took Barry through the Capitol in order that he might become familiar with the place. They passed through the corridors of the Senate Chamber and then down stairs where Joe pointed out the House and Senate restaurant.

"If you are sent to find a member and don't know where to go, always try the restaurant first," said the humorous one.

"Very well," replied Barry, seriously, "I will remember what you say."

"Now," said Joe, with an air of dignity, "I will take you up and introduce you to the Speaker of the House."

And so he did with all of the assurance in the world. The Speaker greeted Barry very kindly. He was a benevolent looking gentleman, without any pretense at greatness. He shook hands with the boy very cordially.

"I am glad to meet you," he said. "I am always glad to meet boys. You know," with[Pg 36] a smile, "I was once a boy myself. If you want to be a success here, be attentive. Make up your mind that a member will not have to call you twice. Do that and you will be popular. Be economical, too. To save is good for all boys, and you should try to save most of your salary. I am an old man now and I am rich, but I can't help being economical, because it has become a habit with me. I might go to the finest hotel in the city and eat a heavy dinner, but I don't do it. I go over to a lunch place near the Capitol and have a sandwich and a glass of milk, and maybe a piece of pie, and I am perfectly satisfied. If you are economical when you are young, you will acquire all the money you need to keep you later on in life, and you can acquire it honestly, too, and that will make you feel very comfortable."

"I think I will make good," ventured Barry, shyly.

"My boy," said the Speaker, pointing a stubby forefinger at him, "if you are frugal and industrious, you are bound to succeed.[Pg 37] These are two homely virtues that ought to be cultivated by every boy in the land, but unfortunately they are not. You will find as you go on in years that contentment does not consist of great wealth, but rather of few wants. Make up your mind that you will have regular habits; that you will take daily exercise; that you will be clean, and that you will be moderate in all things, and there is nobody in the world that can prevent you from being a success."

"I'm sure I'll do the best I can," said Barry.

"Of course you will," cried the Speaker, "but make up your mind that idleness is one of the seven deadly sins, and then you will be sure to be prosperous and happy."

He pulled out his watch and started away.

"I'm afraid that I'll have to be going, or I won't be able to get through with my work. If I can ever do anything for you, let me know."

After leaving the Speaker, Barry was [Pg 38]presented to the head doorkeeper, who was to be his official superior. He did not waste many words with the boys.

"I suppose you're ready to go to work?"

"Yes," Barry said, "I am."

"Well, start in," he remarked, "and fill and clean the ink wells on the desks of the members."

Barry did not have any false pride, but this took him somewhat by surprise. Joe's talk had given him the impression that he was to be a statesman almost at once, but now he had come down to earth and was to fill ink wells. For the moment his hope of glory went glimmering, but he had the right stuff in him, and he was soon at work carrying out the orders of his chief. He did it well, too. He polished the ink wells until they were spotless, and he made sure not to drop any of the ink on the desks of the members. He was reassured also by the fact that one or two other boys were doing the same work. One of them, he noticed, was doing it very carelessly.

[Pg 39]

By this time the members began to assemble for the daily session. They strolled in the various doorways, singly and in groups. Some of them went to their desks and began writing; others stood in groups chatting and discussing subjects in which they were interested. The doorkeeper permitted no one to enter except members or specially privileged persons. The clock pointed to a few minutes of twelve. The Speaker ascended to the rostrum and took his seat back of the white marble desk, which was on a platform about four feet above the floor. To the right of his desk was the pedestal which bore the famous mace, the symbol of authority. It was a bundle of black rods bound with bands of silver and surmounted by a silver eagle. Barry was informed by his young friend that the Sergeant-at-Arms, in executing the orders of the Speaker, was required to bear this mace aloft before him.

Glancing up, the new page noticed a number of men coming into a gallery directly over the Speaker's desk. One of them he recognized as[Pg 40] Felix Conway, the journalist who had spoken to him so kindly on his first arrival at the Capitol. He guessed directly that this was the press gallery for the reporters who were there to take down the proceedings of the House, and send them out broadcast to the millions of readers of the newspapers all over the United States.

While he was standing there staring at the gallery, he was brought to himself by a sound from the Speaker's marble desk. That official was tapping his gavel and calling the House to order. The proceedings began with a prayer by the Chaplain and then the clerk called the roll of members. He had scarcely finished when there were a flood of bills and petitions. For the next half hour Barry was kept busy running from one member to another, and receiving papers which he handed to the chief clerk, who stood at his desk directly beneath the platform of the speaker.

The members called the pages by clapping their hands, and if they did not get an [Pg 41]immediate response, they clapped their hands two or three times in succession. The new page did the best he could under the circumstances, and he did it very well indeed. After this, bills which had been received before and ordered to be printed, were taken up in their order on the calendar and debated. In the midst of the talk one of the members in the rear of the House jumped to his feet and cried:

"Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn."

Instantly the members were thrown into disorder. Loud voices came from all parts of the room. Men talked and gesticulated wildly. A member arose and protested against the motion. The Speaker looked at him calmly, tapped his gavel on the marble desk, and said:

"The motion to adjourn is not debatable."

In the midst of much excitement the clerk began calling the roll.

"Where's Warrington?" shouted one of the members to another, in a stage whisper.

[Pg 42]

"For goodness' sake, get Warrington before the clerk reaches the W's."

Barry heard this whisper and he acted on it at once. He shot out of the hall down the corridor until he came to the stairway which led to the House restaurant. A gentleman sat at a table eating a sandwich and drinking a glass of milk. He had been pointed out to Barry earlier in the day as Congressman Warrington. Barry rushed to him excitedly:

"Mr. Warrington," he cried, "they want you in the House at once."

This message delivered, he hastened back, followed by the member holding a half-eaten sandwich in his right hand. The boy turned into the hall of the House, the member at his very heels. The monotonous drone of the clerk's voice calling the roll could be heard.

"Mr. Warrington," he drawled.

Two members grabbed the bewildered Congressman as he entered the House.

"Vote 'no,'" they cried in chorus.

[Pg 43]

"I vote 'no,'" called the Congressman in a loud, clear tone.

A burst of applause followed the response. Almost immediately the voice of the Speaker could be heard.

"The motion to adjourn is lost," he said, "and the House will continue consideration of the General Land Bill."

An hour later the House adjourned and Barry was surrounded by a number of men who patted him on the head and bestowed all sorts of compliments on him. Presently the Speaker came along and said in an amused tone:

"Is this the boy that found Warrington?"

"The very same," was the response.

The Speaker patted him on the shoulder.

"You're the new boy I met this morning. You've started in right. You will be a great statesman some day."

"What was it all about?" said Barry to Joe Hart, as they journeyed homeward that evening.
 
"All about?" ejaculated the wise one, "why you're a hero, and you don't know it. If that motion to adjourn had carried, it would have defeated one of the most important bills that has ever been presented in Congress."


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