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- The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 3/23 -
coaches, and passed out of the station, where they were swallowed up in the great rush of traffic. Some drove away in cabs and carriages. Some entered the street-cars, and some went up a stairway and entered what seemed to Archie a railway train in the air.
Uncle Henry told Archie to follow him carefully, and they, too, were soon flying away from the neighbourhood of the terminal, past hotels, stores, and dwellings, until they finally left the trolley-car, and passed through a cross street into a long, quiet thoroughfare which looked old enough to have been there for a hundred years. The houses were built far back from the street, with pillars in front, and into one of these quaint old dwellings went Archie and his uncle.
"I always stop down-town," explained Uncle Henry, "because I am near to the great wholesale establishments. It is central to the retail stores, too, and to many of the places of interest."
When they were settled in their room, Uncle Henry explained that he would have to be away most of this first day, but that to-morrow he would take Archie out and show him the sights. So Archie expected to remain indoors all day; but when his uncle had left the house he decided that he couldn't possibly remain in this close room when so many wonderful things were taking place outside. So he decided to walk up and down the street, anyhow, and when he went out he felt like a prisoner just escaped from a cell. But the noise was terrible, and there were a great many wagons and trucks passing through the street. The greatest crowd seemed to be on that cross street about two blocks away, so Archie decided to go there, and see if there was anything new on that street.
He saw many wonderful things. There were cars running along without any apparent motive power, there were thousands and thousands of people in the streets, and the stores looked so handsome and interesting that he simply couldn't resist going into one or two of them, just to see what they were like. And when he had finished with one or two he could think of no reason why he shouldn't go on up the street, where he was sure he would find a great many more interesting things to see. So on and on he went, until at last he was tired and hungry, and then, for the first time, he was a little frightened, because he thought of all he had read about people losing their way in the city, and not being able to find their relatives again. But he was a brave boy, so he determined to make an effort to find his way back without appealing to a policeman. And after a time he was successful, and entered the queer old house in the ancient street at just three o'clock in the afternoon. His uncle was there waiting for him, and was nearly beside himself with apprehension.
"I was about to send out a general alarm for you, at the police station," he said. "How did you happen to go away?"
"Oh, I was so very tired of staying in the house," said Archie, "and I felt sure that I could find my way back without getting lost at all. And to-morrow I'm sure I can get along all right, Uncle Henry, so you needn't bother with me at all, unless you want to."
And it so happened that Mr. Kirk was very busy the next day, and would have found it quite impossible to show Archie about. So it was fortunate that he was able to go everywhere alone, or he would have had to return home without seeing anything at all of the city.
As it was, he went here, there, and everywhere, and saw a great deal of the city, the people, and the way in which they lived. The entire place had a strange fascination for him, and all the time he was thinking how glad he would be to live where he could see all this rush of business, this varied life, every day. And he fully determined to return some day and get something to do, so that he might work himself up, and come to own one of the handsome houses on the avenues, or drive one of the elegant carriages on the boulevard. And he observed every boy who passed him, and talked with several of them, trying to find out whether positions were easy to secure, and whether they paid much when they were secured.
So when they took the four o'clock train for home, and arrived at Archie's house in time for supper, he told more about the city boys and their work than about the tall buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Central Park. He talked so much, in fact, about the delights of the city boy, and the money he earned, that after he had gone to bed Mrs. Dunn took her brother aside and talked with him concerning Archie's future. And between them they definitely decided that Archie must not go to the city to work.
ARCHIE DETERMINES TO GO TO THE CITY TO WORK-- LEAVING HOME AT NIGHT.
ARCHIE DUNN was not more ambitious than many other boys of his age, but he possessed one quality which is not developed in every boy, determination. Once Archie decided upon doing a thing, once he had made up his mind that it was truly a good thing to do, nothing could keep him from putting his plans into action, and making an effort, at least, to accomplish his ends. Most boys of seventeen have not decided what they want to become when they are men, and, until his visit to the city, Archie was equally at sea concerning his future. He knew, of course, that he wanted to be rich and famous, but when he tried to think up some suitable profession which would bring him these possessions, he was never able to decide.
The two days in the city with Uncle Henry had opened to his boyish mind a new world, and when he returned to the humble home surrounded by gardens, he felt that he would never be satisfied to live and work in this small town. There was now no question in his mind but what the city was the place for any one who wished to become either rich or famous. It would certainly be impossible for him to make a name for himself in this village, while in the city he would have every opportunity for improving himself, and advancing himself in every way. He wondered, indeed, that he had never thought of going to New York before, and was disgusted with himself when he thought of the time he had wasted here at home.
But there was no use in thinking of the past. The thing to do now was to get to the city as quickly as possible, for to Archie every day seemed precious, and each delay kept him further from the consummation of his hopes. It never occurred to the boy that his mother might have objections to his leaving home. She had always been very ambitious for his future, and he supposed that she would be delighted at the idea of having her boy in the great city, where he would have innumerable chances for improving himself. So when they sat on the front porch, one evening, and he told her of his plan, he was surprised to hear his mother pleading with him to remain at home. "Archie," she said, "I am almost sure you will come to some bad end in the city. You really must not go, for my sake, if for no other reason."
"But, mother, I can't remain here in town always. I must go out into the world some time to earn a living and make a place for myself, and I think the sooner I go the better, don't you?"
"Yes, Archie, but you're so young, and you've had no experience. You have no idea of the things there are in great cities to drag young men down. I don't think I could stand it to have you so far away from home and in such danger."
"Well, mother," said Archie, "there isn't much use in arguing about it. I have reached a point where I don't think I can be any longer satisfied at home. I have been here seventeen years, and I think I can remain here that much longer without improving myself. In the city I am sure I can make rapid progress, and in a year or two you can come there and live with me."
Archie got up from the porch and went down the street, while poor Mrs. Dunn ran over next door to see her neighbour, Mrs. Sullivan. When she had entered the disorderly kitchen, and seated herself on one of the home-made chairs, the anxious mother burst into tears. "I don't know what to think of Archie, Mrs. Sullivan," she said. "He is determined, now, to go to New York, and I know that if he goes I will never be able to see him again. I am nigh distracted with worrying over it. I have talked with him, but he seems determined, and I know I can never hold out against his entreaties and arguments."
"Sure, now, Mrs. Dunn," said the Widow Sullivan, "don't yez be a worryin' about 'im at all. That Archie is a smart boy, he is, and if he goes to New York he'll come out all right, never fear, I only wish my Dannie had as much get-up about him as your boy."
"Yes, yes, Archie is very ambitious for his age," said Mrs. Dunn, "but I sometimes wish he were less so. I know I could keep him at home longer if he wasn't so anxious to be at work. I don't believe I can let him go, Mrs. Sullivan, not yet. I want him to stay in school another year, and then I'll think about it."
"Well, ye're wise, Mrs. Dunn, ye're a wise woman," said the Widow Sullivan. "Since yer husband died ye've been a good mother to the lad, and have brought 'im up well. And now, how is yer chickens, Mrs. Dunn? Have ye got that cochin hen a 'settin'' yit?"
And the two women began to discuss their various fowls, and the conversation was so interesting that Mrs. Dunn remained late, and found Archie in bed when she went home. "Ah, well, poor boy, I'll have to tell him of my decision in the morning. He'll be terribly disappointed, and I hate to do it I'm afraid it's selfishness that makes me want to keep him with me. I almost wish he would take things into his own hands, and start for the city himself. I would be rid then of the responsibility of sending him, and the question would be settled for me. Boys sometimes know best how to settle their own difficulties, anyhow."
Mrs. Dunn kneaded the bread before retiring, for to-morrow was Saturday, and, therefore, baking-day, and then she went into her little room off the kitchen, and prayed earnestly for her boy before sleeping. She prayed that she might be helped in advising him, and that he might always do what was best for himself and for his mother.
The next day was Saturday, and in the morning the Hut Club met, as usual, and prepared to have an open-air dinner for this day. The furnace, which had been knocked down during the week by the East Siders, was rebuilt, and the skillet and other utensils were brought from the nearest kitchens. Archie went to the grocery around the corner and bought five cents' worth of cakes, and then the six boys sat down in a circle and prepared to devour their home-made feast. But before they began Archie stood up. "I want to say that this will probably be my farewell dinner with the club," he said, in a low tone, "and I hope that you will appoint another president in my place."
The boys were horror-struck, but Archie refused to explain where and when he was going. Finally, they refused to appoint another president, all agreeing that Archie should hold that office for ever, wherever he was. And the meal was eaten in silence, for the announcement had thrown a sort of chill over the proceedings. When they had finished, Archie silently shook hands with each of the boys, who were dumb with amazement, gathered up his skillet and coffee-pot, and went home through the gate to the chicken-lot.
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