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CHAPTER XIV BARRY FALLS A SECOND TIME
For several days after his unexpected interview with the President, Barry was filled with a sense of his own importance. He related the incident to Congressman Carlton and to Joe Hart, and in the course of time, it became very generally known about the Capitol. Mr. Carlton seemed very much pleased at the honor that had been shown to his protégé, but the page boys received the story in silence. Barry attributed their attitude to envy, and that fact caused him to walk about with his chin very high in the air. Indeed, he felt like a boy who was walking on clouds. To use the words of one of the messengers at the Capitol, he "didn't know whether he stood on his head or his heels."

A great deal of praise had been accorded him at the time of the Warrington incident, and he[Pg 184] was pointed out as the page boy who had been instrumental in saving an important piece of legislation in which the President was personally interested. The visit of the delegation from Cleverly also caused him much self-gratification. The words of Mr. Smithers to Congressman Carlton were still ringing in his ears. He could hear the old teacher yet as he called out to the Congressman:

"I am sure you won't fail us—not when you have the assistance of such a bright boy as Barry Wynn."

All of these things combined had the effect of making him feel that the fate of a nation—in a measure—depended upon him. He even became somewhat frigid in his relations with Joe Hart.

Barry, without knowing it, was passing through that period which comes to nearly every boy,—the period between boyhood and manhood, when self-importance is apt to overshadow and conceal real worth. But, whatever the cause, there was no doubt of the effect[Pg 185] that he produced. He succeeded effectively in winning the ill will of the other boys. They naturally resented the idea of a new page receiving so much praise from the members of Congress.

The Sergeant-at-Arms of the House had provided the boys with a dressing room in one of the alcoves in the basement of the Capitol, and they frequently assembled here when not otherwise engaged. It was provided with basins, towels, clothes-closets, and the other furnishings of a room of this character. On cloudy days it was quite dark in this apartment. On the third day after the Presidential adventure, Barry hurried down to this room to wash his hands and comb his hair before beginning his duties at the noonday session of the House. It was a gloomy day, but he managed to find his way to the wash-basin. He opened the spigot and filled the receptacle with water. At that moment one of the boys attracted his attention to something that was going on in another part of the room, and in[Pg 186] the interval another little fellow crept over to the basin and poured something into the water. Barry, all unsuspecting of what had gone on in the brief interval, returned to the basin and hastily washed his face and hands and then, boy-like, gave his hair a quick smooth-down with a brush that lay on the marble wash table.

"Barry! Barry!" cried a voice at the door. "Mr. Carlton wants you right away."

"I will come in a minute," was the reply. "I want to see if my hair's all right."

"You haven't any time for that," was the retort. "He's calling you, and he'll be very angry if you don't come at once."

Without further ado, Barry hurried up the marble stairway and along the corridor and into the House. Several persons who passed him on the way, looked at him and laughed, but he paid no attention to them. Presently he reached the House and hurried over to where Mr. Carlton sat. The Congressman[Pg 187] looked at him for a moment and then burst into laughter.

"Why, Barry," he exclaimed, "what in the world is the matter with you?"

"Nothing," said the boy, innocently. "I was told that you wanted me in a hurry."

"No," was the answer, "I don't want you, but if I were you I'd go and wash my face before I began my duties."

"Wash my face?" echoed Barry. "What do you mean?"

"Why, you look as though you had just emerged from darkest Africa."

Wonderingly, Barry left the House and went out into the corridor again. He went down stairs and before going back into the dressing room, took a look at himself in a big pier mirror. What he saw caused him to gasp with horror. His face was all black and smeared. He looked at his hands. They were no better. As he turned from the glass a roar of laughter greeted him. A crowd of the boys stood behind him, giggling and[Pg 188] going through all sorts of contortions. Barry turned from the glass indignantly. As he started into the dressing room he saw Joe Hart.

"What does this mean," he exclaimed.

"It means that the boys have given you the first degree."

And such proved to be the case. A mischievous page boy had deliberately emptied a bottle of ink in the wash basin with a consequence that had been fatal to Barry's dignity. He did not take it in good part. Indeed, he threatened to thrash the boy who had been guilty of the offense. At this exhibition of temper the boys all filed down stairs after him, and when they were safely away from public view, surrounded the new page and told him to take his place on an elevated platform. He gazed at them defiantly, but fight was out of the question. There were at least ten boys in the crowd, and he realized that at the first move he made they were likely to pounce on him and possibly tear the clothes from his[Pg 189] back. So he determined to submit with the best grace possible.

"Now," said one tall fellow, who appeared to be the ringleader, "we want you to recite your lesson."

"My lesson?"

"Yes," said the other, handing him a large volume, "your lesson, and if you don't do it correctly you'll be kept in after school."

Barry took the big book obediently. It was an unabridged dictionary.

"Now," said the moving spirit, "turn to the letter E."

Barry did so.

"Please find the word 'egotism.'"

Barry obeyed.

"Have you got it?"

"Yes," said Barry.

"Well, read the definition of the word as you find it in that book."

Barry did as he was bid, just as a pupil would respond to the commands of his teacher.

"Egotism," he read, "is the practice of too[Pg 190] frequently using the word 'I'; hence a speaking or writing overmuch of one's self; self-exaltation; self-praise; the act or practice of magnifying one's self or parading one's doings."

"Correct," cried the chief of the bad boys. "You're likely to be promoted. You may report for duty to the Sergeant-at-Arms."

It is hardly necessary to say that Barry did not relish this ceremony. Mr. Carlton, when he learned of the affair a day or so later, laughed. He wondered if, after all, Barry did not need the punishment. However, whatever the feelings of those most concerned, it had a chastening effect on the new page boy. But it did not entirely deprive him of his feeling of self-importance, and he continued to keep most of his fellow pages at a distance.

It was about this time that Barry began to realize that, even with his youth and inexperience, he was likely to be in the midst of great happenings. There had been a "lagging" tendency in Congress. The President[Pg 191] had been urging important legislation from the very beginning of the session, but a strong opposition effectively blocked him. The big party leaders, it must be confessed, were not entirely in sympathy with the chief executive of the nation, and as a consequence, their support of his pet measures was lukewarm and lacking in the effectiveness which produces successful legislation. Jesse Hudson was counted among the President's supporters, although his actions did not give color to the assumption; John Carlton, on the other hand, was classed among the neutral members of the House, but was outspoken in the advocacy of certain bills which the President had at heart.

There was something about the very air of Washington that portended a political storm. The House seemed to be "marking time," as far as the business of the nation was concerned. The President, in the White House at the other end of the long avenue, was plainly dissatisfied with the condition of affairs. Few expressed their convictions publicly, but every[Pg 192] now and then hints were dropped which suggested the possibility of a big political contest. Those who loved war for the sake of the fighting, begged Carlton to throw down the gage of battle, but he smiled that wise smile of his—and said nothing.

During all of this time a sort of armed neutrality existed between John Carlton and Jesse Hudson. On the morning after the day that Barry had his experience with his fellow pages, Mr. Carlton got into a controversy with Congressman Hudson on the floor of the House. It began in a debate over a certain clause in the tariff bill. Hudson made an assertion which was combated by Carlton. For a few moments there was a running fire of assertions and contradictions. Finally Hudson challenged Carlton for proof of the statements which he made.

"Mr. Speaker," said the latter, "if the gentleman from Illinois will indulge me, I think I can produce the proof of my assertion before the conclusion of this debate. It will be [Pg 193]necessary, however, for me to procure a certain book which is now in the Congressional Library."

Hudson arose with a mocking smile.

"I will give the gentleman all the time he desires, and all the rope he wants, because I feel satisfied that if I give him enough he will eventually hang himself."

The members of the House laughed at this retort, and then proceeded with the consideration of the bills before them. Mr. Carlton clapped his hands and Barry rushed to his side.

"Barry," he said, "I want you to hurry over to the Congressional Library and get me a copy of a book which contains a report showing the wages paid to certain workmen of Birmingham, England."

To make certain that he would obtain exactly what he wanted, the Congressman gave Barry a memorandum containing the name of the volume desired. Ordinarily, when a member desires to obtain a book from the Library[Pg 194] of Congress, he utilizes a device for transporting books between the library and the Capitol. It is a pneumatic tube running from the library to a small receiving room just back of Statuary Hall. Books, as a rule, are obtained very expeditiously in this manner, but Mr. Carlton was so anxious that there should be no error that he decided to send Barry personally to the Librarian of Congress.

The boy hurried on his errand and in a few minutes was in the library. He presented the memorandum to the official in charge, and in a few minutes had obtained the book that was desired. While he was waiting, he gazed about the building with wondering eyes. It was the first visit that he had made to this beautiful structure, and he readily believed the assertion of one of the attendants that it was the handsomest building for public purposes in the world. After he had obtained the book for Mr. Carlton, he walked through the labyrinth of beauty, gazing with wide-open eyes on the treasures of art and sculpture that met him at[Pg 195] every turn. Imaginary figures of History, Science, and Art stood out at every point in the long corridors and galleries. It was so well lighted and ventilated that the boy felt that he was in a bookish Paradise.

After going through the galleries he finally went into the library proper and gazed at many of the curiosities of literature that abounded in that place. He was examining a copy of Eliot's Indian Bible, published in Cambridge in 1669, when the striking of a clock aroused him to a realization of the business that had brought him to the library. He remembered, with a pang of remorse, that Mr. Carlton was probably still waiting for the book that he had under his arm.

He hastened back to the House. As he entered through one of the swinging doors he noticed that Jesse Hudson was on his feet.

"Now," he was saying, "if the gentleman from Maine is ready to produce the proof of the assertion that he made earlier in the day, I would like to have it."
 
Carlton arose from his seat in an apologetic manner.

"I am sorry to say that I have not yet secured the data I wanted."

Hudson, who was still standing, sneered at his adversary:

"Probably," he said, "it is because there is no such data!"

"Gentlemen, you will please refrain from indulging in personalities," warned the Speaker. "The question before the House is on the motion of the gentleman from Illinois. All in favor will please say 'Aye.'"

A roar of "Ayes" came from the members of the House.

The echo had scarcely died out when a voice from the corner could be heard:

"I move that the House do now adjourn."

"The members have heard the motion," said the Speaker. "All in favor of adjournment will please say 'Aye.'"

There was a roar of "Ayes."

"All who are opposed will say 'Nay.'"
 
A few scattered voices, among them Mr. Carlton's, cried "Nay."

"The 'Ayes' have it," declared the Speaker, "and the House now stands adjourned."

At that moment Barry reached Mr. Carlton's side, holding a copy of the much needed book in his hand. The Congressman turned around and the moment he saw the boy a glint of anger appeared in his eyes. John Carlton was a very amiable man, but like most men of that type, he could be exceedingly angry at times. The thought of the manner in which he had been worsted by his adversary did not help his temper at this particular moment. He waved his hand toward Barry with a motion of disgust:

"You may take the book back now," he said; "I have no use for it!"

"I am sorry, Mr. Carlton," began Barry, "but—"

"Your sorrow comes too late," was the angry retort, "I have done my best for you, and now you have succeeded in doing your worst for me!"
 
"But, Mr. Carlton—"

"I don't care for any explanation; I have nothing more to say."

And, turning on his heel, the Congressman walked away, leaving Barry standing in the aisle, flushed and embarrassed.

It was a very sore trial for the boy from Cleverly. When Barry sought his bed that night all of the vanity that had influenced his words and actions during the previous days had vanished. He realized that he had been at fault, and he wondered vaguely whether Mr. Carlton would ever forgive him for his carelessness. He tried to keep up bravely, but his pillow was damp with the tears that persisted in welling up in his eyes. He realized that, after all, he was only a boy, with all of the defects of boyhood. He thought of the lost money at the moving picture show, and then of the manner in which he had failed his benefactor at a very critical moment. After all, he was very, very human—and he had fallen a second time.


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