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CHAPTER XV BARRY REDEEMS HIMSELF
For many days after the unfortunate incident of the Congressional Library Barry found it very embarrassing to be in the presence of Mr. Carlton. He realized more deeply as time went on how greatly he had neglected his duty, and that fact did not tend to keep him in a very pleasant state of mind. He was morose, irritable, and dissatisfied with himself and with the world in general.

He still retained enough false pride to prevent him from making any overtures to his friend and benefactor. Besides that, he had come to know Mr. Carlton's character well enough to appreciate that soft words could not, with him, take the place of a plain performance of duty. Mr. Carlton, on his part, made no further reference to the incident. He did not treat Barry unkindly, but there was[Pg 200] in his manner an absence of that cordiality that had existed before Barry's fall from grace.

To put it plainly, the friendly relations that had existed between the man and the boy, while not absolutely broken, were strained in a manner that made it very painful to Barry. He wondered in a heartsick way whether he would ever again be the same to his old friend. He dwelt upon the existing conditions all the time, and this only served to make him still more uncomfortable.

A few nights after the occurrence he made up his mind to write to his mother and make a frank confession of the whole business. He felt that it was due her and that it would be wrong for him to keep her in the dark. Almost immediately he received an impulsive, motherly reply. She said that she was very greatly chagrined to hear of the incident, but that she felt certain that it would be a warning to prevent him from failing in his duty in the future. She concluded by speaking of the great [Pg 201]kindness of heart of John Carlton, and offered to write to him in behalf of her son. Barry was startled at this unexpected suggestion, and he lost no time in dispatching a reply in which he begged her very fervently not to think of writing to the Congressman. He said that he would have to depend on his own resources, and that under all circumstances he was willing to let events take their course.

During this trying period in his Washington career Barry had one good, loyal friend who never failed him. It is needless to say that this person was little Joe Hart. He was like a faithful dog that never deserts even in the days of greatest danger and trouble. He never obtruded his friendship on Barry, but he always managed to be by his side in his big-hearted way, snuggling up to the other in that half-whimsical, half-affectionate way which wholly won the heart of the boy from Cleverly. Joe was apologetic, explanatory, and defiant by turns.

"You're not the first fellow that ever made[Pg 202] a slip," he said. "Why don't you go to Mr. Carlton and have it out with him?"

Barry smiled sadly.

"There is nothing to have 'out,' as you put it. Mr. Carlton says nothing. He won't even scold me, and for that reason it is impossible for me to explain or to talk back."

"Well," said Joe, reflectively, as he wiped his freckled face with the back of his hand, "then the only thing to do is to defy him."

"Defy him?" echoed Barry, in amazement.

"Yes, just tell him you're going to chuck up your job."

"Chuck up my job?" gasped Barry. "Why, I couldn't do that. I couldn't think of such a thing. I wouldn't dare go back to mother and tell her that I failed in Washington!"

"But," persisted the young diplomat, "Congress isn't the only thing in Washington. You can get a job as a telegraph boy, or you might become an office boy with one of the morning newspapers."

"I don't think I'd like that."

[Pg 203]

"Why, it's great," said Joe. "Felix Conway is right in with those people and he could get you on one of the papers. I know boys that started as messengers and afterwards became reporters."

Barry shook his head decidedly.

"I have no intention of resigning my position as page, and I don't think that Mr. Carlton desires it either."

"Very well," was the reply, with a resigned air. "If your mind's settled, I'm not going to try to change it."

"It's settled," said Barry.

"By the way," said Joe, changing the subject, "did you know that I had a typewriter?"

"No, I did not."

"Well, if you'll come up to my room, I'll show it to you. It's a second-hand affair. I bought it for fifteen dollars, but it has been fixed up so that it is almost as good as new. I have been learning to work it, and I think it might come in useful some day."

Barry was interested at once, and after[Pg 204] supper that night he went up to Joe's room and examined the wonderful purchase of the page boy. Joe had not misrepresented the case at all. The machine was in fairly good repair. Joe sat down for the edification of his friend and wrote him a letter. It was a slow and somewhat painful process. He used one finger like a boarding-school miss who had not yet received her first lesson on the piano. Sometimes he struck a comma for a period, and occasionally he used a dash instead of an interrogation point, and when the letter was finished an unbiased observer would have immediately ranked it among the curiosities of literature. But it served its purpose, for it awoke a half-slumbering desire that Barry had in his mind ever since he came to Washington.

"Joe," he said, "I wonder if I couldn't go to one of those night schools and increase my speed in typewriting and stenography."

"Sure you could," was the reply; "I know a good place, and I'll take you there tonight if you want me to do it."

[Pg 205]

Barry was willing, and the two boys proceeded to one of the business colleges in the lower section of the city and obtained an interview with the manager. Barry placed his case very clearly.

"I am anxious to get speed in stenography and typewriting, and learn bookkeeping," he said, "and if I thought I could get through in three months I'd be glad to undertake it."

The teacher, thus appealed to, reflected a moment before replying, and then said:

"It all depends on your own ability. Some boys are quicker than others. If you want to join this school we will do the best we can for you within the time appointed. We have branches in all of the large cities, and if you do not get through here while you are in Washington you could readily finish your course elsewhere."

The terms were satisfactory, and Barry made his arrangements then and there. Indeed, he was so filled with the idea of perfecting himself that he started in to work that[Pg 206] very night. Every evening thereafter, as soon as he had finished his supper, he went to the business college and for two or three hours was busy learning the intricacies of stenography and typewriting. Bookkeeping he finally decided to omit, feeling that he could make greater progress if he confined himself to the other two branches.

Three weeks had gone by and Barry was returning from his school one night when something prompted him to go into the office building of the members of Congress. He walked through the corridor leading to Mr. Carlton's office and noticed that a light was burning there. After a minute's hesitancy, he opened the door and walked in. Congressman Carlton was at his desk with a pile of papers about him. He greeted Barry very kindly:

"Hello!" he said; "glad to see you."

"Is there anything I can do?" asked Barry, as he gradually plucked up courage.

Mr. Carlton groaned and then made a grimace.

[Pg 207]

"I wish you could do something," he replied; "I've got 225 agricultural reports that ought to go out the first thing in the morning. Each one of them should be accompanied by a typewritten letter signed by myself. I have the books here, and a form of letter, but I haven't anybody to do the work. I've got to go to a Committee meeting in fifteen minutes and I am almost distracted."

"I think I might be able to help you out some," said the boy, timidly.

"Help me out?" said the Congressman, looking up in surprise.

"Yes," said Barry, "you know I work the typewriter, and I could easily copy your letters."

Mr. Carlton laughed in the joyous, care-free way that Barry remembered so well.

"Barry, you are very kind, but I don't think you could possibly get through with the work. I remember well when you wrote the bill for the Naval Repair Station. While you did it all right, you were [Pg 208]certainly slower than the hearse at the colored funeral."

"Well," said Barry, becoming more confident as he talked, "if you will just let me go ahead I might finish some of the letters tonight, and you know every little helps."

Mr. Carlton meditated for a moment.

"Yes," he agreed, "that's true, but how about the agricultural reports? They would have to be addressed too."

"I have a friend who might help me out with that," suggested Barry.

"All right," said the Congressman, finally, "you may go ahead and do the best you can. Even if you only finish a few of the letters and we get off a part of the books, I will feel somewhat relieved."

Mr. Carlton left the room a few moments afterwards in order to attend the Committee meeting. He said that he would not be back that night, but would meet Barry early in the morning. Within fifteen minutes the young page had communicated with Joe Hart, and in[Pg 209] less than a half hour's time that mischievous boy was engaged in the task of addressing the wrappers on the agricultural reports. Barry, in the meantime, had the list of addresses propped up in front of him and was hard at work on the typewriter in copying the form of letter which had been left there by Mr. Carlton. He was surprised at his own speed and accuracy. He went with some deliberation at first, but after that he "struck his gait," as they say in horse-race parlance, and before very long he was turning letters out at an astonishing rate of speed. For hour after hour the click of the typewriter could be heard in the empty office building, and finally, when the clock struck midnight every one of the letters had been finished and every one of the books had been properly addressed.

Barry and Joe started home, two very tired but very happy boys. Barry thought his fellow page deserved some return for his labor. He was at a loss as to just how he could repay him for the emergency work he had done so[Pg 210] well. Presently, in a sly sort of way, he offered him a two-dollar note. Joe drew back.

"What's that for?" he asked.

"Simply a small return for what you've done tonight."

The little fellow drew himself up to his full height.

"That's an insult to my dignity," he said, proudly.

"I didn't mean to do that," said Barry, half abashed, "but I'd like you to know that I appreciate what you've done."

"You can't do that with money," said the other, with all of the assurance of a millionaire.

"How can I do it?"

"By not speaking of it," said the youngster, sharply.

Barry looked at him smilingly.

"You're a funny fellow, Joe," he said, finally.

"Oh," said the page, with a shrug of his shoulders, "I'm like the great corporation[Pg 211] lawyers. I never do things by halves. It's either a whopping big fee or nothing at all."

They reached home in a few minutes. They both went to bed immediately and slept the sweet, refreshing sleep that comes to those who labor and who go to bed with a clear conscience.

The first thing in the morning Barry stopped in at the office building to see if the letters had been dispatched. Mr. Carlton was seated at his desk and he clapped his hands with satisfaction as he saw Barry peeping in the doorway.

"Come in, my boy," he said, "come in."

"I just wondered whether you had signed your letters," said the boy.

"Yes," replied the Congressman, in his old, jovial way. "They're all signed, sealed and delivered. Every blessed one of them has been mailed and so are the books, and it is a mighty big relief to me, I can assure you."

Barry stood there in an awkward, embarrassed sort of way. He looked at Mr. Carlton[Pg 212] appealingly, but said nothing. The big Congressman arose from his chair, walked around to where the boy stood, and putting his arm around his shoulder, said:

"Yes, I know. I know just what you are thinking about, and I'll answer your unspoken question. It's all right, Barry, you have redeemed yourself."


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