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CHAPTER V A WINK AND A NOD
At breakfast the next morning Mrs. Johnson informed Barry that Congressman Carlton had sent a message to the house requesting that he call at his office as early as possible that day. The boy hurried through his meal and in a few minutes was swinging down Pennsylvania Avenue on his way to the Capitol. Despite his hurry, his eye lingered on the various edifices which were springing up on either side indicating the beautiful city in store for future generations. Indeed, the charm of Washington always remained fresh in Barry's mind.

He learned that Mr. Carlton had his headquarters in the new office building of the House of Representatives, which was but a stone's throw from the Capitol. In a few minutes the boy was tapping timidly at the door opening from one of the marble corridors of the [Pg 57]substantial building. There was no response and he turned the knob and walked in. He found that he was in a suite of rooms, and through the door he could see the Congressman seated at his desk in another room.

He paused a moment before announcing himself. John Carlton, absorbed in the work before him, presented an interesting study. His smooth-shaven face was most attractive, and even in the privacy of his room he did not lose that appearance of authority which is carried so well by men who mix in the practical affairs of life. A half smile hovered about his lips, but at that very moment a kind of sadness showed itself in his eyes. He was a combination of the man of imagination and the man of the practical world. As he laid down the letter which he had been reading, he raised his eyes and saw the boy standing in the doorway.

"Come in, Barry," he exclaimed. "Come in and let me get a good look at you."

The new page walked in and stood before the desk very modestly.

[Pg 58]

"I suppose," said the Congressman, "that you are feeling very big this morning?"

Barry looked at him in surprise.

"Why, no," he said, "I don't quite understand you, Mr. Carlton."

The legislator lay back in his chair and laughed with undisguised enjoyment.

"I am glad of it. I am heartily glad of it," he said. "It proves that there is one person in Washington who is not likely to be afflicted with the awful disease which goes down here under the name of 'swelled head.'"

The boy's eyes were globular with wonder.

"I don't suppose you know what I am talking about, Barry, do you?"

"No," was the simple response, "I do not."

"Well, I'll tell you," said the Congressman, speaking very slowly. "You came mighty near making yourself famous in the House yesterday. Your alacrity in bringing Warrington to us was the means of saving a very important bill. If he had not come at the time he did, the measure would have been delayed[Pg 59] and probably beaten. As it was, you helped us to win the day. The measure, that is now sure of success, gives the President of the United States the right to withdraw certain public lands for the benefit of future generations. It is a part of what is popularly known as the Conservation Movement."

"I am glad that I was useful," said Barry.

"You are not half so glad as I am," said the Congressman, "and I am delighted to know that you take it so sensibly. You simply did your duty, and if you continue to do your duty in this modest sort of way I know that you will be a success."

The telephone bell rang and Mr. Carlton answered it. As he hung up the receiver the boy said:

"I was told that you wanted to see me this morning."

"Yes," said Mr. Carlton, drumming on his desk with his finger tips. "Barry, can you work the typewriter?"

[Pg 60]

"Yes, sir; and I have a good knowledge of stenography, too."

"Well," was the response, "I suppose it may sound a little sentimental, but I have written the bill to make an appropriation for the new Naval Repair Station at Cleverly, and I want you to run it off on the typewriter. You know very well the feeling I had towards your father, and I would like to be able to say that you wrote the bill for this big improvement in your native town. It's not much, I know, but I thought you might like it."

Barry's eyes were glistening. He spoke eagerly:

"I think it's just fine, Mr. Carlton, and I want to assure you that I appreciate it very much indeed."

Without further ado, Mr. Carlton gave him the manuscript copy of the bill, and Barry, going to a typewriter in a corner of the room, began to transcribe the document. While Barry was at work on the machine Mr. Carlton began the task of going through his mail.[Pg 61] It was no easy job, for there were probably a hundred letters on his desk and that merely represented one day's crop. He ran an opener through one envelope after another and remarked casually as he did so:

"I am waiting for my secretary, Barry. I don't know what keeps him so late."

At that moment the door opened and the tall, spare form of Felix Conway, the journalist, entered the room. Mr. Carlton pretended to frown:

"You're late, sir."

"Yes, sir," was the reply, with mock humility. "I'm sorry to say, sir, that I overslept myself, sir."

At this both men burst into laughter. Barry was so interested and so surprised that he forgot to run his typewriter. Mr. Carlton turned and noticed the look of amazement on the boy's face.

"It's all right, Barry," he exclaimed. "Mr. Conway is not actually my secretary, but he has consented to act the part for the[Pg 62] next few weeks. My real secretary is ill, and I was in dire need of someone who understood legislative and departmental matters when Mr. Conway was good enough to step in and help me out in the emergency."

"Yes," laughed the journalist, "and in helping you out, I will only be repaying, in a small measure, the many kindnesses you have shown me since I came to Washington."

Barry worked slowly on the typewriter, because he was anxious to have his first piece of work as accurate as possible, and besides the fact that the Congressman and Mr. Conway were engaged in conversation distracted him more or less from the task in hand. He could not help but overhear the talk that passed between the two men.

For instance, Mr. Carlton pulled a letter from an envelope and after reading it, passed it over to the volunteer secretary.

"Here's a man who wants a pass from Boston to Cleverly," he said. "Tell him the new Interstate Commerce law forbids the issuance[Pg 63] of passes, and that if the railroad granted his request, the officers of the corporation would be liable to a fine and imprisonment."

The journalist laughed at the sarcasm of the statesman.

"I guess the constituent who wrote that letter must have been asleep for the last two years," he commented. "He don't seem to have kept up with the procession."

Mr. Carlton nodded in assent and handed another letter to the newspaper man.

"Here's a communication from a constituent in the country. He applies for seed. Send it to the Agricultural Department with my endorsement."

Mr. Conway noted the instructions on a corner of the envelope, using a sort of shorthand that was all his own.

After this came a letter from an inventive genius, who had a flying machine which he wished to have adopted by the United States Army. It was referred to the Secretary of War. There were twenty or thirty letters [Pg 64]asking for information of bills that were pending. They were laid aside to be answered in their turn. Finally they reached a communication from a poor widow who was applying for a pension. Mr. Carlton carefully deciphered the uncertain handwriting and then said to his assistant:

"Felix, I wish you would take this up in person with the head of the Pension Bureau. I think the woman deserves consideration. Her husband served his country in its hour of need, and this nation is too great to neglect those who have risked their lives in its service."

"Have you anything else?" asked the young man.

"Yes," was the reply, "here is a five-page letter."

"What is it?"

"It is from a man who wants me to get the Army to purchase a new kind of saddle that he has constructed."

"What shall I say to him?"

"Tell him that I'm not a salesman."

[Pg 65]

Felix Conway gathered up the pile of letters and went into an ante-room for the purpose of dictating suitable replies to a waiting stenographer. The Congressman, in the meantime, looked at Barry with a benevolent smile, and said:

"Barry, you have just had a glimpse of a part of the work that falls to the lot of an active member of Congress. You will see from this that the job of being a statesman is not a sinecure. In fact, it is very hard work, and I am sorry to say that some of the voters look upon the members of Congress as errand boys, whose sole time should be devoted to carrying messages to the various heads of Departments."

"That is not all the work, either?" asked Barry.

"Not by any means; the most exacting work that falls to the lot of a member is that of discussing and digesting proposed legislation when it comes before the various Committees of the House."

[Pg 66]

By this time Barry had finished making his copy of the bill providing for the new Federal building in Cleverly. He handed it to Mr. Carlton, who read it over very carefully. He made one or two minor corrections, and then said he was very much pleased with the work.

The Congressman laid the bill down on the desk, and was about to turn to some other work when there was a tap on the door and two gentlemen entered the room. One of them was a little man, dressed in black, and wearing a white linen bow tie. He wore side whiskers and had a peculiar expression. Barry looked at him the second time, and then discovered that his face was really conventional, and that its unusual expression was caused by the queer drooping of the eyelid of the left eye. The man who accompanied him was a tall, sallow-faced, loose-jointed person, who gazed steadfastly at the floor. Mr. Carlton arose at once and greeted both men heartily. The little man gave him a quick grasp of the hand in reply, while the sallow-faced person said "Good[Pg 67] morning" without looking at his host. They talked in whispers for a few minutes and then Mr. Carlton called Barry over to him.

"Barry," he said, indicating the little man in black, "I want you to meet the Hon. Jesse Hudson. Mr. Hudson is one of my colleagues, a member of the House of Representatives."

Then, turning to Hudson, he said:

"This boy comes from my native town. He is the son of one of my oldest friends. I have made him a page in the House, and if you ever get an opportunity to help him, I wish you would do so."

Congressman Hudson took Barry's hand with that quick, convulsive movement which seemed to be one of his characteristics, and said:

"Glad to meet you. If you ever need anything call on me."

After this Barry was presented to the sallow-faced man, who proved to be Mr. Joel Phipps, who was the clerk to the Committee on Naval Affairs.

[Pg 68]

As the general conversation was resumed, Barry withdrew and took his seat in the corner of the room. Just as they were about to leave, Congressman Carlton said suddenly:

"By the way, Hudson, I am going to introduce a bill in the House in a few days to appropriate a million dollars for a Naval Repair Station at Cleverly. I know that you are a member of the Committee on Naval Affairs, and I wish you would help me to put this measure through. We need it and it's a just and proper appropriation."

Mr. Carlton stooped down to pick up a paper, when Congressman Hudson, turning to the clerk, said:

"Oh, we will help you with it, won't we, Joel?"

As he said this he deliberately winked at the sallow-faced man, and in return he nodded and replied:

"Yes, certainly we will help Mr. Carlton."

And after that they both withdrew. As the[Pg 69] door closed Mr. Carlton turned to the boy and said:

"Those are good people to know, Barry. Both the Congressman and the clerk have considerable influence in legislation and they have the power to either help or hurt you."

"I suppose they have," responded Barry.

He longed to tell his friend of the sign that had passed between the two men, but he was afraid that if he mentioned it, Mr. Carlton might think that he was very presumptuous. Besides that, he thought that possibly he might have been mistaken. However, he said finally, with a great deal of diffidence:

"I can't say, Mr. Carlton, that I am very much attracted by either of those men."

"Well, Barry," said the Congressman, a little coldly, "you must take people as you find them in this world, and not as you think they should be."

All the same, Barry did not relish the recollections of the wink that had passed between the two men.


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