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- The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 2/23 -
their foraging expeditions it was found that there were more than enough boards to build the hut, so the work began at once. Holes were dug in the ground, and some posts planted as supports for the structure, and then the boards were hastily nailed together from post to post. In three hours the hut was practically completed, and it remained only to lay a floor until they could hold their first meeting in the new club-house. The floor itself was down by noon, and the club then served a memorable dinner to mark the completion of the structure.
A hole was dug in the ground outside the door, and a furnace made. A skillet was brought from Archie's house, together with some dishes and a coffee-pot, and Dan Sullivan brought some more dishes, and six eggs from his nests under the barn. The boys were obliged to make several trips to and from the houses, but finally nearly everything was ready, and the eggs were carefully cooked by Archie, who was really a good housekeeper, from long experience in the kitchen with his mother. Some potatoes were fried in the grease remaining in the skillet after the eggs were cooked, and then the feast began. The eggs may have been rather black with grease, and the potatoes were certainly not done, but the boys all pronounced it the finest meal of their lives, notwithstanding the bitter coffee, and the dirty bread, which had been allowed to fall into the gutter beside the railway track. They were eating in their own house, and they had cooked in the open air, "just like tramps," Harry Rafe said, and it was little wonder that they enjoyed the novel experience.
The only trouble came when the meal was finished. No one wanted to wash the dishes, and, finally, it was decided to return them to their respective kitchens just as they were, and to let them be washed with the rest of the dinner dishes at home. And this decision came near putting an end to Hut Club dinners, for both Mrs. Dunn and the Widow Sullivan were determined not to wash any more dirty dishes from the hut.
When the meal was over, the boys lounged about the hut, and Dan Sullivan brought a lot of things from his sister's playhouse with which to furnish it more suitably. Archie Dunn brought a lot of hay from the loft in his mother's barn, and when a piece of old carpet was spread upon it it made an acceptable couch. A piece of old carpet was laid in front of the hut, too, where the boys could sit and watch the trains switching back and forth on the railway, and the tramps who were heating coffee in cans over by the cattle-pen.
Finally, some cattle arrived in the pen to be loaded into cars for the city, and the boys had just decided to go and watch the men loading them, when an engine came up the side-track with the most beautiful car they had ever seen, behind it. The car was painted in all colours of the rainbow, and in giant letters was printed the magic name of "The World's Greatest Show."
The boys lost no time in getting down from the cattle-pen fence, and the car had barely stopped when they were aboard. "Hooray," shouted Charlie Huffman, "we'll all get jobs of passin' bills." And it was with this end in view that they sought the advertising manager in the car, who promised to give them all jobs when the circus came in two weeks. The boys deluged him with questions of every sort. "Will there be any elephants?" "Is there goin' to be a parade?" and "Will there be any trapeze performances?" The poor man was finally obliged to lock the door to keep them out, and the boys stood about the car until nearly six o'clock, admiring the paintings, and speculating as to whether they would be able to work their way into the circus or not, when it finally came. Their speculations were interrupted by the appearance on the scene of the Widow Sullivan with a good-sized maple switch, which she used to good effect in getting the two Sullivans and Archie Dunn home for supper. For Mrs. Dunn had given Mrs. Sullivan instructions before she started, so that when Archie complained that he had been whipped by "that woman next door," he received no sympathy whatever.
And when he went to bed at nine o'clock, he could hardly sleep for thinking of the wonderful things which had happened this day. The coming circus and the great Hut Club kept him awake until far after ten, so that he got up too late for Sunday school the next morning, and was punished accordingly.
The next week was a hard one at school, and the boys had but little time to devote to the club. But after four o'clock in the afternoon they sometimes got together and did various things which improved their club-house. Some very fair chairs were constructed from empty soap boxes, and various contrivances were put together to guard against the intrusion of any East Siders or tramps while they were away at school. There was no padlock used, and any one coming up to the hut would imagine it a simple thing to enter-- until he tried. But the boys had fixed a secret cord which, when pulled, shifted the bar inside, and every boy was sworn not to betray the existence of the cord.
The day set for the circus came nearer and nearer, and the boys began to be anxious for fear the schools would not close, so that they could attend. But the superintendent finally announced that they would; so early on the eventful day the entire club was on the grounds, waiting to get some work to do. Archie Dunn got the first job, being selected to carry water for the elephant because he was stronger than any of the others. But the rest were given something to do, and when the day was over they had all seen the circus, and went to bed happy, to dream of the great trip to be taken by the Hut Club on the next Saturday.
ARCHIE LONGS FOR A CHANGE IN SURROUNDINGS-- A TRIP TO NEW YORK WITH UNCLE HENRY.
THE Hut Club went out on a picnic the next Saturday, and had a jolly time. They camped upon an island in the middle of a shallow stream, and while there made coffee and cooked their dinner, having brought most of the necessary apparatus from the Hut. They fished a little, and hunted for turtles in the water, and altogether had a good time, if nothing exciting did occur. It was after nine o'clock at night when they reached town again, footsore and weary, and Archie Dunn had hardly entered the house before he was on the dining-room lounge, half-asleep. His mother seemed to be out, and as he lay there he wondered how long it would be before she came back. Archie truly loved his mother, but of late he had often thought that he would like to leave home and go to the famous city, where he felt sure he could get something to do. But he disliked the idea of leaving his mother.
"I'm getting to be a big boy, now," he often said to himself, "and it's time that I began to look out for myself. I'm nearly seventeen, and I think I ought to be earning some money. This thing of belonging to Hut Clubs and spending my time in going to picnics and to circuses ought to stop. It's all right for boys, but I'm getting to be a man, now."
All these thoughts were flying through his mind when his mother came in. "Oh, Archie," she exclaimed, "I've been so worried about you. I've just been over to Mrs. Sullivan's to see if Dannie had come home, and whether he had seen you. Wherever have you been?"
"We didn't think it would take so long to walk home," said Archie, jumping up from the sofa, "but we were awfully tired, and we didn't come very fast. I'm so sorry you were worried.
"And I'm as hungry as a bear, mother. Can't you find me something to eat?"
"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Dunn, softly, "and when you've finished your supper I have something for you. I won't give it to you now for fear you won't be able to eat, but as soon as you have finished your meal, you shall have it."
So Archie was obliged to eat his baked beans and brown bread and drink his milk without knowing what was in store for him, and he hurried as fast as he could, so that he could learn. When he had finished he went into the sitting-room, and found his mother sitting with a letter spread open upon her lap. "Uncle Henry has written me asking if you cannot go with him to New York on Monday, for a couple of days. He is obliged to go down there on business, and says he will be glad to take you along and show you something of the wonderful city, for he knows you won't be any trouble to him. Now I hardly know what to say, Archie. If I can feel that you are behaving yourself properly, and are doing your best to be as little trouble as possible, I am willing that you shall go."
"Oh, mother," cried Archie, "I'll promise anything. Only let me go this once, and I'll promise to stay at home all the rest of the summer."
"All right, then," said Mrs. Dunn. "You shall go on the first train Monday morning, and Uncle Henry will join you at Heddens Corner. Run along to bed now."
Archie went up-stairs almost dumb with delight Was it really true that he was to see the great city at last? He had heard some of the boys at school telling what their fathers saw there, but he had never even hoped that he would see it for himself so soon. Of course he had determined to see it all some day, but that was to be far in the future. The lad could hardly sleep for the joy of it all, and when he did finally lose consciousness, it was only to dream of streets of gold, and great buildings reaching to the skies.
Sunday passed slowly by. At Sunday school, Archie told the boys that be was going to New York on the morrow, and from that moment he was the hero of the class. The boys looked at him with wondering admiration, and seemed scarcely able to realise that one of their number was to go so far from home. The city was in reality little more than a hundred miles, but to their boyish minds this distance seemed wonderfully great.
Early on Monday morning Archie was at the depot waiting for the train. His mother was there to see him off, and there were tears in her eyes at the thought of parting with her only child, if only for a day or two. And Archie was radiant with delight at the glorious prospect ahead of him. He walked nervously up and down the platform, and wished frequently that it were not so early in the morning, so that some of the boys might be there to see him off. Finally, the great hissing locomotive drew up, with its long train of coaches, and Archie was soon aboard, hurrying off to Heddens Corner and the city. In a few minutes Uncle Henry was with him, a tall, fine-looking man, with an air of business. Uncle Henry kept the general store at the Corner, and was an important person in the neighbourhood. He was of some importance in the city, too, for his name was known in politics, and his custom was always desired at the wholesale stores. So Archie was going to see the city under good auspices, if his uncle would only have time to take him about with him.
After a couple of hours, during which Archie kept his face glued to the window-pane, watching the flying landscape, the great train pulled through a long, dark tunnel, and finally entered an immense shed, covered with glass where it came to a final stop. Crowds left the
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