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- The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 23/23 -
for a week's rest.
DECIDES TO VISIT HOME-- A GREAT RECEPTION IN THE TOWN-- A PUBLIC CHARACTER NOW-- DINNER TO THE HUT CLUB-- DEMONSTRATION AT THE TOWN HALL-- A TELEGRAM FROM HIS EMPLOYER LEAVING FOR EUROPE.
IT was a beautiful April day. There had been a light shower in the morning, and now everything looked as fresh and green as possible all along the railway. Archie lay back in his comfortable Wagner seat, admiring the beauties of spring, and thinking, too, of the days he spent in walking along this very road. It seemed hard to believe that he was now secretary to the president of this railroad, and that he was returning home, after a year and a half, a very successful young man. He had much to think of in the hours it would take him to reach the little town. He tried to remember everything about the place, and his mother as he saw her last, and it wasn't at all difficult for him to do so. But, oh, how he hoped that things had not changed! He almost dreaded going home for fear he would find things different.
He had changed, that much was sure. He knew that he had grown to look much older than his years, and he knew that he was not looking particularly strong. He used to be so sturdy, and he had such a splendid colour in his cheeks. Mother would be sorry to see him now, but of course he would be sure to improve very much during the week he was to remain among old friends.
He was very anxious to see his boy friends, the members of the Hut Club, and the boys and girls who were in his class at school. He had telegraphed his mother that he was coming, so she would probably tell the boys about it. He was sure they would be there.
Now the stations looked more familiar. This one just passed was near the Tinch farm, and Archie remembered the days he spent working for old Hiram, and how he had suffered. He wondered if the farmer had ever seen any copies of the Enterprise. It would be very interesting to him to know that his chore-boy was now a secretary to a millionaire. This next station he remembered very well indeed, because he used to come here every fall to visit the county fair, where he marvelled at the wonderful things he saw in the side-shows.
And now the train was entering the limits of his own town. Here was the old elevator, and the machine shop near the railway track. And, oh, there was his own home, looking green and pleasant as the train sped by. It almost brought tears to Archie's eyes to think that he was so soon to see his mother. Now they had reached the station, and he stood upon the car platform ready to alight. My, what a crowd there was! and why did they cheer as he made his appearance? All at once it dawned upon him that all these people were here to meet him, and to bid him welcome home. He could hardly speak as he found himself in his mother's arms, and then he began to shake the hands of the big crowd. They were all old friends, and then there was the mayor, and the superintendent of schools, and quite a delegation of leading citizens. How nice it was of them to welcome him in this way!
After awhile the handshaking was over, and the mayor was able to get a few minutes with Archie. "We are all very proud of what you have accomplished," he said, "and we want to give you a public reception to-morrow night in the town hall, if you don't object." Archie stared blankly at the mayor, and it was several moments before he realised the meaning of the words. Then he was almost overcome. It was almost too good to be true, it seemed, but he warmly thanked the mayor, and told him how he appreciated the honour which they had done him. He said that he would be glad to attend the reception.
The crowd was scattering now, and Archie, wild to reach home, took his mother to a carriage, in which they drove rapidly out to the little house among the trees and arbours. The old town looked beautiful in every way. The great maple and oak trees along the road were green with new leaves, and every dooryard was bright with snowballs and yellow roses. "This is the very best time of the year," he said to his mother, "and I am the very happiest boy in all the world."
"And I am the happiest mother," was the answer. Then they sat in silence until they reached the old home. They entered by the kitchen door, and, once inside, and seated in the old cane rocking-chair, Archie bowed his head in tears of joy at being home with mother once again.
The hours which followed were sweet with joy. Mrs. Dunn busied herself in preparing the supper, and Archie hung around the kitchen, telling some of the many things he had planned to tell. Mrs. Dunn was smiling, and Archie thought her the sweetest mother any boy could have. She was changed somewhat, but she looked very young to-day.
Supper over, Archie went over the fence to see the Sullivan boys, and he found them looking much the same. He was truly glad to see them, and they, of course, were glad to see him, too, though at first they were just a little bashful, remembering, no doubt, all the things which had happened to Archie since they saw him last. The boys were soon telling all about the Hut Club, though, and Archie learned to his joy that it was still a flourishing organisation. "We spoke of you every time we were together," said Jack, "and we always wished you were back again." Archie was delighted to hear that he had been missed, and all at once an idea came to him which he put into execution three days later. He determined to give an elegant dinner to this club of boys, and the very next day he sent to New York for a caterer to arrange it. He wanted it to be something finer than any of the boys had ever seen, and it certainly turned out to be so. The caterer did his best, and when, three days later, the Hut Club sat down together for the first time in more than eighteen months, they partook of a dinner which would have done credit to Mr. Depaw's table. It was a memorable night for them all, and every boy enjoyed himself.
Archie enjoyed this Hut Club dinner more than anything else while he was at home, though of course the great event of his stay was the public reception at the Town Hall on the second evening after his arrival. This was a truly grand affair. The town authorities hired a brass band, which played inside the hall and out, and there was such a crowd in attendance that many were turned away from the doors. It was a night that Archie will never be able to forget. He sat on the platform, in company with the mayor and other town officials, and he listened to several speeches congratulating him on what he had accomplished since leaving the town. Then he had to get up and tell them all of his experiences, from the time he left until now. He told it in a simple manner, but from the close attention he received it was evident his audience was deeply interested. When he had finished, there were calls for "three cheers for Archie Dunn," and they were given with a will. Then Archie, rising from his seat, called for "three cheers for the President of the United States," and they, too, were given, for Archie had told them all his feelings on the subject of the President's policy in the war. After this there were three cheers for Mr. Depaw, whom one man said would be the next United States Senator from the State. The meeting closed with some cheers for the New York Enterprise, and then followed a long siege of handshaking for Archie, who stood beside his mother on the floor in front of the platform. It was a happy night for them both, and Mrs. Dunn said afterward that she could never wish for anything more the rest of her life.
The fourth day of his visit was a Sunday, and, to Archie's joy, brave Bill Hickson and his wife came up from the city to spend the day. What a jolly time they had, all day long! They went to church in the morning, where they saw all the people, it seemed, whom they hadn't seen before, and in the afternoon there were many callers at the little house. The evening was spent quietly by the happy four, talking of old times and plans for the future. The town authorities were anxious to give Bill Hickson a reception while he was in town, but the bashful hero declined the honour, and returned with his wife to New York by the midnight train.
During the two succeeding days Archie talked a great deal with his mother, and finally gained her consent to come to New York to live in a year's time. Mrs. Dunn had never really understood that Archie had so good a position, but now that she realised what a splendid beginning he had made, she was very willing to come and keep house for him. This question settled, everything seemed wholly delightful in the cosy home, and Archie settled down to enjoy the two remaining days of his visit in quiet rest. He had already much improved during his stay, and was sure of going back to the city feeling much better than for a long time past, and this made Mrs. Dunn very happy.
But Archie didn't stay his week out at home. On the fifth night he attended a reception in his honour at one of the neighbours' houses, and he was just in the midst of a description of Tokio when a messenger boy entered with a telegram for him. He opened it at once, and read it aloud to the company:
"Dear Archie," it said, "return as soon as possible. I sail for Europe on Saturday's steamer to remain six months, and wish you to accompany me." It was signed by Mr. Depaw, and there was great applause from the crowd when he finished reading it. But Archie's face was a study. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to go to Europe or not, but of course there was no question about what he should do. He at once telegraphed a reply, saying that he would reach the city to-morrow at noon, leaving home on the early morning train.
Of course the reception soon broke up, and Archie walked quietly home with his mother, who was saddened at the prospect of losing him so soon again. She soon brightened, however, and began to plan things for him to do abroad, and soon she entered into the preparation for his departure with all her heart. But Archie was not so soon made glad, and he didn't rest until he made his mother promise to accompany him to the city on the morrow to spend the two days previous to his departure in helping him get ready. Mrs. Dunn wasn't anxious to make the trip, but for Archie's sake she consented.
And early the next morning they left for the city, where the time passed rapidly until the hour of the steamer's sailing. At the pier they said good-bye. Archie could hardly speak, but Mrs. Dunn was brave. "Archie," she said, "God has been with you so far and he will keep you yet. And remember that a boy with honest ambition will always get along. You are sure to have friends about you always, for you have proved that you possess energy, perseverance and a good heart." She said good-bye without a tear, but as the steamer left the pier Archie saw, on looking back, a sweet mother seated on a coil of rope, with her handkerchief to her eyes.
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