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   Chapter 10 No.10

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 5070

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


A Meeting on the Road.

Some weeks before the little affair between Blinks and Holly, related in our last chapter, Harry and Kate took a ride over to the railroad station.

During the winter Harry had frequently gone over on horseback to attend to the payments for his wood; and now that the roads were in fit condition for carriage travel, he was glad to have an opportunity to take the buggy and give Kate a ride.

For some days previously, Crooked Creek had been "up;" that is, the spring rains had caused it to overflow, and all travel across it had been suspended. The bridges on such occasions-and Crooked Creek had a bad habit of being "up" several times in the course of a year-were covered, and the lowlands were under water for a considerable distance on each side of the stream. There were so few boats on the creek, and the current, in time of freshets, was so strong, that ferriage was seldom thought of. In consequence of this state of affairs Harry had not heard from his wood-cutters for more than a week, as they had not been able to cross the creek to their homes. It was, therefore, as much to see how they were getting along as to attend to financial matters that he took this trip.

It was a fine, bright day in very early spring, and old Selim trotted on quite gayly. Before very long they overtook Miles Jackson, jogging along on a little bay horse.

Miles was a black man, very sober and sedate who for years had carried the mail twice a week from a station farther up the railroad to the village. But he was not a mail-carrier now. His employer, a white man, who had the contract for carrying the mails, had also gone into another business which involved letter-carrying.

A few miles back from the village of Akeville, where the Loudons lived, was a mica mine, which had recently been bought, and was now worked by a company from the North. This mica (the semi-transparent substance that is set into stove doors) proved to be very plentiful and valuable, and the company had a great deal of business on their hands. It was frequently necessary to send messages and letters to the North, and these were always carried over to the station on the other side of Crooked Creek, where there was a daily mail and a telegraph office. The contract to carry these letters and messages to and from the mines had been given to Miles's employer, and the steady negro man had been taken off the mail-route to attend to this new business.

"Well, Miles," said Harry, as he overtook him. "How do you like riding

on this road?"

"How d' y', Mah'sr Harry? How d' y', Miss Kate?" said the colored man, touching his hat and riding up on the side of the road to let them pass. "I do' know how I likes it yit, Mah'sr Harry. Don't seem 'xactly nat'ral after ridin' de oder road so long!"

"You have a pretty big letter-bag there," said Harry.

"Dat's so," said Miles; "but 'taint dis big ebery day. Sence de creek's been up I haint been able to git across, and dere's piles o' letters to go ober to-day."

"It must make it rather bad for the company when the creek rises in this way," said Harry.

"Dat's so," answered Miles. "Dey gits in a heap o' trubble when dey can't send dere letters and git 'em. Though 'taint so many letters dey sends as telegraphs."

"It's a pity they couldn't have had their mine on the other side," remarked Kate.

"Dat's so, Miss Kate," said Miles, gravely. "I reckon dey didn't know about de creek's gittin' up so often, or dey'd dug dere mine on de oder side."

Harry and Kate laughed and drove on.

They soon reached Mr. Loudon's woods, but found no wood-cutters.

When they arrived at the station they saw Dick Ford and John Walker on the store-porch.

Harry soon discovered that no wood had been cut for several days, because the creek was up.

"What had that to do with it?" asked Harry.

"Why, you see, Mah'sr Harry," said John Walker, "de creek was mighty high, and dere was no knowin' how things ud turn out. So we thought we'd jist wait and see."

"So you've been here all the time?"

"Yes, sir; been h'yar all de time. Couldn't go home, you know."

Harry was very sorry to hear of this lost time, for he knew that his wood-cutting would come to an end as soon as the season was sufficiently advanced to give the men an opportunity of hiring themselves for farm-work; but it was of no use to talk any more about it; and so, after depositing Kate at the post-office, where the post-mistress, who knew her well, gave her a nice little "snack" of buttermilk, cold fried chicken, and "light-bread," he went to the station and transacted his business. He had not been there for some weeks, and he found quite a satisfactory sum of money due him, in spite of the holiday his men had taken. He then arranged with Dick and John to work on for a week or two longer-if "nothing happened;" and after attending to some commissions for the family, he and Kate set out for home.

But nothing they had done that day was of so much importance as their meeting with Miles tuned out to be.

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