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- The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 4/23 -


"I wonder what he's goin' to do," they all said, as in one breath, and as there was seldom much fun in the club when Archie was absent, they all went home in a few minutes, or down-town to watch the farmers, who were in town to do their weekly buying.

When Archie reached home he went up-stairs to his little room, and began to lay out a few things which he wanted to take with him, for he had determined to start for New York this very night. Then he tied the things up in a small bundle, and sat down to write a note to his mother. When he had finished it, he pinned it up at the head of his cot, and this is what it said:

"MY DARLING MOTHER:-- Please don't worry about me, I'm bound to come through all right, and if anything happens to me, I promise that I will write to you immediately and let you know. I have the ten dollars which I have saved, and if I don't get work at once I will write to you for some more. Now, I am not doing this thing for the sake of adventure, but because I am sure it is the best thing for me, and I don't want you to worry at all. I shall write to you often and let you know just what I'm doing, so don't worry, but be a brave mother. I'm not going off this way as a sneak, but because I want to avoid a 'scene.'

"Your loving

"ARCHIE."

And at three o'clock the next morning Archie Dunn got out of bed, shouldered his bundle, and started off for the great city, which seemed to be drawing him like a magnet.

CHAPTER IV.

WORKING ON A FARM TO EARN SOME MONEY-- CRUEL TREATMENT.

WHEN daylight came, Archie was far out of the town walking quickly along the southern road. He figured that he had walked nearly six miles in the two hours since he had let himself out of the back door at home, and, as he looked ahead, he planned that he would walk at least thirty miles every day. Of course, he had never done much walking before, or he would have known better than to have expected to accomplish so much in twelve hours, but he felt fresh and full of strength this morning, and nothing seemed too hard to accomplish. As yet he had not regretted his departure from home. The excitement of it all, and the adventurous side of his exploit, had kept him interested, and made him feel that he was a real hero. But he was not so foolish as to imagine that there would not be times when he would regret having set out for New York. He was too old and too sensible for his age to allow his ambition to run away with him entirely, and he fully expected to meet with many great discouragements. "But I'm sure of one thing," he said to himself, as he walked along, "I never will return home until I have something to show for the trip. I won't have the club boys and the neighbours saying that Archie Dunn had to come home discouraged. If I return without accomplishing anything, I will be held up to the whole town as a boy who made a fool of himself by not taking his friends' advice, and I never will be made an example of if I can help it." And Archie walked faster as he thought of the possibility of failure.

When seven o'clock came he was passing through the county-seat, but though there were many interesting things to look at in the town, Archie determined not to stop. He was afraid he might meet some one he knew, who would be sure to ask him where he was going with his bundle, and what he was doing out so early. And anyhow he was very hungry, and decided to get out of the town and to the farmhouses as soon as possible. "I can work for my meal at a farmhouse," he said to himself, "but in the town they'll take me for a regular tramp."

So poor Archie walked quickly through the town, still keeping to the southern road, and saying to himself, as he passed every milestone, "So much nearer New York." About a mile out in the country he came to a large farmhouse, and he determined to enter and ask for a meal. He had hard work to muster up enough courage to go in and ask for anything, but finally he knocked timidly at the kitchen door, and was frightened by a large dog which came barking around the corner. It seemed to him that the animal would surely bite, but a large fat woman opened the door just in time to let him in. "Hurry in, boy," she said, "fer there's no tellin' what Tige might do ef he once gets a hold of ye." So Archie stepped into the large kitchen, with its rafters overhead, and its dining-table in the corner. "Sit down, boy," said the woman. "I reckon you's thet new lad thet's come ter work over at Mullins's, ain't ye?"

"No'm," said Archie, "I don't work anywhere. I'm on my way to New York, where I expect to find a position, and I thought perhaps you'd allow me to do a little work here this morning to earn my breakfast."

Good Mrs. Lane, for that was the woman's name, was horrified to think that any one was alive and without breakfast at eight o'clock in the morning. "Goodness me!" said she. "Why, you must be half-famished fer want of food, ain't ye?" And she bustled about the kitchen, putting the kettle on to boil, and stirring up the fire. "You'll have some nice ham and eggs, my boy, and then I have somethin' in mind fer you. I reckon yer ain't in no hurry ter get ter the city, be ye? Well, even if ye do be in a hurry, I reckon you'll be glad of the chance to earn four dollars. I ain't goin' to ask ye no questions about how ye come to be walkin' to New York, because I never wuz no hand ter meddle in other folkses affairs, but ye look to be a likely lad, and a strong un, and ez my sister's husband, what lives two miles down the pike, needs a boy to drive a plough fer a week, I b'lieve ye'll suit 'im first-rate. So ez soon ez ye have finished yer vittles, I'll walk down there with ye, and we'll see the old man."

Archie hardly knew whether to be delighted with the prospect or not. Of course four dollars would be nice to have, but he was anxious to get to the city as soon as possible, and every day counted. But perhaps it would be wrong, he thought, to throw away such a good chance to earn some money, and he had decided to accept any offer the farmer made him, long before he finished his breakfast. When he got up from the straight-backed chair, he felt that he had never eaten a better meal in his life, and when Mrs. Lane started off down the road, he gladly followed her. A week on such a farm as this would be no unpleasant experience. Such food was not to be had every day, he knew, and he of course would have precious little that was good to eat when he reached the city.

They soon covered the two miles, Mrs. Lane getting along very fast for such a large woman, and at last they stood before Hiram Tinch, who owned the farm. Archie was made to describe his intentions, and was thoroughly examined by Mr. Tinch. He told the farmer that he knew nothing about farm work, but Mr. Tinch said he would soon teach him, and it was settled that Archie was to remain on the farm a week. Mrs. Lane went inside the house to see her sister, who looked sick with too much work, and the farmer told Archie that he might as well start in, as there was no object in waiting. So the boy donned a pair of "blue jean" trousers, and was taken into a field, where a one-horse plough was standing. Archie knew how to hitch a horse, so he went to the stable and secured his steed, and then harnessed him to the plough. The farmer didn't see fit to give him any instructions about ploughing, and the poor boy hardly knew what to do, but rather than ask he started off, and tried to guide the animal in the right direction, as far as he knew it. Of course the horse went wrong, and the plough refused to stay in the earth, and altogether the attempt was a miserable failure. The farmer leaned against the fence, picking his teeth with a pin, but when he saw the horse going crooked, and the plough bounding along over the earth, his face grew livid with anger. For a minute he seemed unable to speak, but strode toward Archie with a fierce look in his eyes. Then he found his tongue, and opened such a tirade of vile words that the poor boy shrank from him in terror. He was in mortal fear lest the man should lay hands on him and commit some crime, so intense was his rage, but Hiram Tinch seemed to know how far to go, and after five minutes of cursing and swearing he took the plough in his own hands, and guided it through the earth. "Now take it," he growled at Archie, when he had gone a furrow's length, "and see ef ye can do better this time. Remember, not a bite of dinner do ye get until this field is ploughed."

Poor Archie was weak from fright, but there was nothing to do but to obey. He looked at the vast field before him, and made up his mind that he would get nothing to eat until night, anyhow, for it was already nearly noon. He felt very much like bursting into tears, but he was too proud to give way to his feelings. But he couldn't help wishing that he were at home, playing with the members of the Hut Club. "Those boys are much better off than I am," he said, over and over, "though they have made no effort to improve themselves." After a time, however, his ambition returned, and as he looked ahead into the future, and remembered the wonderful things he was going to accomplish, he felt more like working.

He finished the field at five o'clock in the afternoon, and was almost fainting from hunger and from the hard work. The ploughing was fairly well done, but Hiram Tinch could see no merit in the work. He swore at Archie again, and gave him a supper of mush and milk. Mrs. Tinch sat by, and Archie could see that she did not approve of his treatment. The poor woman seemed afraid to speak, almost, but it was plain that she had a good heart. So when Archie heard a noise in his garret room that night, he was not surprised to see Mrs. Tinch at the window, placing some doughnuts and sandwiches there for him to eat.

CHAPTER V.

THE NIGHT AMONG THE RUINS-- THE CAMP-FIRE OF THE TRAMPS.

IT seemed to Archie that he had just fallen asleep when old Hiram Tinch was shaking him awake. "Git up out o' here now, ye lazy beggar, and git to the field and finish that there ploughin'," he growled, and the frightened lad awakened from a horrible nightmare, only to find a worse experience awaiting him in the light of day. He hastily drew on his trousers, and didn't wait to don either shoes or stockings, for if he was to spend the day ploughing in a field, he knew he would be more comfortable in his bare feet. When he reached the kitchen, he found that Farmer Tinch had already eaten his breakfast, though it was not daylight. Archie was glad that he was out of the way, and good Mrs. Tinch was glad of it, too, for she was able to give the boy a good breakfast, and some good advice with it. "Don't you pay no attention to what my man says, laddie. He's a powerful man to swear and carry on, but I don't think he'll have the meanness to strike you. Ef he does, ye must come to me, and I'll see thet he doesn't do it no more."

Archie was grateful for this spirit of friendliness, but in his heart he thought that cruel words were often more painful than lashes, and he heartily wished that his week was over.

All this day he spent on the farm, without once going into the road. Farmer Tinch had warned him that if he saw him making for the road at any time, he could go and never come back, and he would forfeit what money he had already earned. So Archie ploughed the field from daylight till dark, with a half hour at noon for a hurried dinner. He was glad when darkness came, and after another supper of mush and milk


The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 4/23

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