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   Chapter 16 No.16

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 10780

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Company Business.

After the selection of the Directors, all of whom accepted their appointments with great readiness, although, with the exception of Tom Selden, none of them had known anything about the company until informed by Harry of their connection with its management, it remained only to get subscriptions to the capital stock, and then the construction of the line might immediately begin.

Harry and Kate made out a statement of the probable expense, and a very good statement it was, for, as Harry had said, he had thoroughly studied up the matter, aided by the counsel of Mr. Lyons, the operator at Hetertown.

This statement, with the probable profits and the great advantages of such a line, was written out by Harry, and the Secretary, considering all clerical work to be her especial business, made six fair copies, one of which was delivered to each of the Board of Directors, who undertook to solicit subscriptions.

A brief constitution was drawn up, and by a clause in this instrument, one-quarter of the profits were to go to the stockholders and the rest to Aunt Matilda.

The mica-mine men, when visited by Harry, who carried a letter from his father, at first gave the subject but little consideration, but after they found how earnest Harry was in regard to the matter and how, thoroughly he had studied up the subject, theoretically and practically, under the tuition of his friend, Mr. Lyons, they began to think that possibly the scheme might prove of advantage to them.

After a good deal of talk-enough to have settled much more important business-they agreed to take stock in the telegraph company, provided Harry and his Board purchased first-class instruments and appliances.

Their idea in insisting upon this was the suggestion of their manager, that if the boys failed in their project they might get possession of the line and work it themselves. Consequently, with a view both to the present success of the association and their own possible acquisition of the line, they insisted on first-class instruments.

This determination discouraged Harry and his friends, for they had not calculated upon making the comparatively large expenditures necessary to procure these first-class instruments.

They had thought to buy some cheap but effective apparatus of which they had heard, and which, for amateur purposes, answered very well.

But when the mica-mine officers agreed to contribute a sum in proportion to the increased capital demanded, Harry became quite hopeful, and the other members of the Board agreed that they had better work harder and do the thing right while they were about it.

The capital of the company was fixed at one hundred and fifty dollars, and to this the mica-mine people agreed to subscribe fifty dollars. They also gave a written promise to give all the business of that kind that they might have for a year from date, to Harry and his associates, provided that the telegraphic service should always be performed promptly and to their satisfaction.

A contract, fixing rates, etc., was drawn up, and Harry, the Directors, the Secretary, and the Treasurer, all and severally signed it. This was not actually necessary, but these officers, quite naturally, were desirous of doing all the signing that came in their way.

Private subscriptions came in more slowly. Mr. Loudon gave fifteen dollars, and Dr. Price contributed ten, as his son was a Director. Old Mr. Truly Matthews subscribed five dollars, and hoped that he should see his money back again; but if he didn't, he supposed it would help to keep the boys out of mischief. Small sums were contributed by other persons in the village and neighborhood, each of whom was furnished with a certificate of stock proportioned to the amount of the investment.

There were fifty shares issued, of three dollars each; and Miss Jane Davis, who subscribed one dollar and a quarter, got five-twelfths of a share. The members of the Board, collectively, put in thirty dollars.

The majority of the shareholders considered their money as a donation to a good cause, for of course, it was known that Aunt Matilda's support was the object of the whole business; but some hoped to make something out of it, and others contributed out of curiosity to see what sort of a telegraph the company would build, and how it would work.

It was urged by some wise people that if this money had been contributed directly to Aunt Matilda, it would have been of much more service to her; but other people, equally wise, said that in that case, the money could never have been raised.

The colored people, old and young, took a great interest in the matter, and some of them took parts of shares, which was better. Even John William Webster took seventy-five cents worth of stock.

The most astonishing subscription was one from Aunt Matilda herself. One day she handed to Kate a ten-cent piece-silver, old style-and desired that that might be put into the company for her. Where she got it, nobody knew, but she had it, and she put it in.

Explanations were of no use. The fact of the whole business being for her benefit made no impression on her. She wanted a share in the company, and was proud of her one-thirtieth part of a share.

A Shareholder

Taking them as a whole, the Board of Directors appeared to have been very well chosen. Tom Selden was a

good fellow and a firm friend of Harry and Kate. They might always reckon upon his support, although he had the fault, when matters seemed a little undecided, of giving his advice at great length. But when a thing was agreed upon he went to work without a word.

Harvey Davis was a large, blue-eyed boy, very quiet, with yellow hair. He was one of the best scholars in the Akeville school, and could throw a stone over the highest oak-tree by the church-something no other boy in the village could do. He made an admirable Director.

Dr. Price's son, Brandeth, and Wilson Ogden, lived some miles from the village, and sometimes one or the other of them did not get to a meeting of the Board until the business before it had been despatched. But they always attended punctually if there was a horse or a mule to be had in time, and made no trouble when they came.

George Purvis lived just outside of the village. He was a tall fellow with a little head. His father had been in the Legislature, and George was a great fellow to talk, and he was full of new ideas. If Harry and Kate had not worked out so thoroughly the plan of the company before electing the Directors, George would have given the rest of the Board a great deal of trouble.

When about four-fifths of the capital stock had been subscribed, and there was not much likelihood of their getting any more at present, the Board of Directors determined to go to work.

Acting under the advice and counsel of Mr. Lyons (who ought to have been a Director, but who was not offered the position), they sent to New York for two sets of telegraphic instruments-registers, keys, batteries, reels, etc., etc.-one set for each office, and for about half a mile of wire, with the necessary office-wire, insulators, etc.

This took pretty much all their capital, but they hoped to economize a good deal in the construction of the line, and felt quite hopeful.

But it seemed to be a long and dreary time that they had to wait for the arrival of their purchases from New York. Either Harry or one of the other boys rode over to Hetertown every day, and the attention they paid to the operation of telegraphy, while waiting for the train, was something wonderful.

It was a fortunate thing for the Board that, on account of the sickness of the teacher, the vacation commenced earlier than usual in Akeville that year.

More than a week passed, and no word from New York. No wonder the boys became impatient. It had been a month, or more, since the scheme had been first broached in the village, and nothing had yet been done-at least, nothing to which the boys could point as evidence of progress.

The field of operation had been thoroughly explored. The pine trees which were to serve as telegraph poles had been selected, and contracts had been made with "One-eyed Lewston," a colored preacher, who lived near the creek on the Akeville side, and with Aunt Judy, who had a log house on the Hetertown side, by which these edifices were to be used as telegraphic stations. The instruments and batteries, when not in use, were to be locked up in stationary cases, made by the Akeville carpenter, after designs by Harry.

Of course, while waiting for the arrival of their goods from New York, the Board met every day. Having little real business, their discussions were not always harmonious.

George Purvis grew discontented. Several times he said to Brandeth Price and Harvey Ogden that he didn't see why he shouldn't be something more than a mere Director, and a remark that Harvey once made, that if Harry and Kate had not chosen to ask him to join them he would not have been even a Director, made no impression upon him.

One day, when a meeting was in session by the roadside, near "One-eyed Lewston's" cabin-or the Akeville telegraph station, as I should say-George and Harry had a slight dispute, and Purvis took occasion to give vent to some of his dissatisfaction.

"I don't see what you're President for, anyway," said he to Harry. "After the Board of Directors had been organized it ought to have elected all the officers."

"But none of you fellows knew anything about the business," said Harry. "Kate and I got up the company, and we needn't have had a Board of Directors at all, if we hadn't wanted to. If any of you boys had known anything about telegraphs we would have given you an office."

"I reckon you don't have to know anything about telegraphs to be Secretary, or Treasurer either," said George, warmly.

"No," answered Harry, "but you've got to know how to keep accounts and to be careful and particular."

"Like your sister Kate, I suppose," said George, with a sneer.

"Yes, like Kate," answered Harry.

"I'd be ashamed of myself," said George, "if I couldn't get a better Secretary or Treasurer than a girl. I don't see what a girl is doing in the company, anyway. The right kind of a girl wouldn't be seen pushing herself in among a lot of boys that don't want her."

Without another word, the President of the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company arose and offered battle to George Purvis. The contest was a severe one, for Purvis was a tall fellow, but Harry was as tough as the sole of your boot, and he finally laid his antagonist on the flat of his back in the road.

George arose, put on his hat, dusted off his clothes, and resigned his position in the Board.

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