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   Chapter 17 No.17

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 9732

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Principally Concerning Kate.

During all this work of soliciting subscriptions, ordering instruments and batteries, and leasing stations, Kate had kept pretty much in the background. True, she had not been idle. She had covered a great deal of paper with calculations, and had issued certificates of stock, all in her own plain handwriting, to those persons who had put money into the treasury of the company. And she had received all that money, had kept accurate account of it, and had locked it up in a little box which was kindly kept for her in the iron safe owned by Mr. Darby, the storekeeper.

When the money was all drawn out and sent to New York, her duties became easier.

School had closed, as has been before stated, and although Kate had home duties and some home studies, she had plenty of time for outdoor life. But now she almost always had to enjoy that life alone, if we except the company of Rob, who generally kept faithfully near her so long as she saw fit to walk, but when she stopped to rest or to pursue some of her botanical or entomological studies he was very apt to wander off on his own account. He liked to keep moving.

One of her favorite resorts was what was called the "Near Woods," a piece of forest land not far from Mr. Loudon's house, and within calling distance of several dwellings and negro cabins. She visited Aunt Matilda nearly every day; but the woods around her cabin were principally pine, and pine forests are generally very sombre.

But the "Near Woods" were principally of oak and hickory, with dogwood, sweet gum, and other smaller trees here and there; and there were open spots where the sun shone in and where flowers grew and the insects loved to come, as well as heavily shaded places under grand old trees.

She thoroughly enjoyed herself in a wood like this. She did not feel in the least lonely, although she would have found herself sadly alone in a busy street of a great city.

Here, she was acquainted with everything she saw. There was company for her on every side. She had not been in the habit of passing the trees and the bushes, the lichens and ferns, and the flowers and mosses as if they were merely people hurrying up and down the street. She had stopped and made their acquaintance, and now she knew them all, and they were her good friends, excepting a few, such as the poison-vines, and here and there a plant or reptile, with which she was never on terms of intimacy.

She would often sit and swing on a low-bending grape-vine, that hung between two lofty trees, sometimes singing, and sometimes listening to the insects that hummed around her, and all the while as happy a Kate as any Kate in the world.

It was here, on the grape-vine swing, that Harry found her, the day after his little affair with George Purvis.

"Why, Harry!" she cried, "I thought you were having a meeting.

"There's nothing to meet about," said Harry, seating himself on a big moss-covered root near Kate's swing.

"There will be when the telegraph things come," said Kate.

"Oh, yes, there'll be enough to do then, but it seems as if they were never coming. And I've been thinking about something, Kate. It strikes me that, perhaps, it would be better for you to hold only one office."

"Why? Don't I do well enough?" asked Kate, quickly, stopping herself very suddenly in her swinging.

"Oh, yes! you do better than any one else could. But, you see, the other fellows-I mean the Board-may think that some of them ought to have an office. I'd give them one of mine, but none of them would do for Engineer. They don't know enough about the business."

"Which office would you give up, if you were me?" asked Kate.

"Oh, I'd give up the Secretaryship, of course," said Harry. "Nobody but you must be Treasurer. Harvey Davis would make a very good Secretary, considering that there's so little writing to do now."

"Well, then," said Kate, "let Harvey be Secretary."

There was no bitterness or reproachfulness in Kate's words, but she looked a little serious, and began to swing herself very vigorously. It was evident that she felt this resignation of her favorite office much more deeply than she chose to express. And no wonder. She had done all the work; she had taken a pride in doing her work well, and now, when the company was about to enter upon its actual public life, she was to retire into the background. For a Treasurer had not much to do, especially now that there was so little money. There was scarcely a paper for the Treasurer to sign. But the Secretary-Well, there was no use of thinking any more about it. No doubt Harry knew what was best. He was with the Board every day, and she scarcely ever met the members.

Harry saw that Kate was troubled, but he did not know what to say, and so he whittled at the root on which he was sitting.

"I should th

ink, Harry," said Kate directly, "that George Purvis would want to be Secretary. He's just the kind of a boy to like to be an officer of some kind."

"Oh, he can't be an officer," said Harry, still whittling at the root. "He has resigned."

"George Purvis resigned!" exclaimed Kate. "Why, what did he do that for?"

"Oh, we didn't agree," said Harry; "and we're better off without him. We have Directors enough as it is. Five is a very good number. There can't be a tie vote with five members in the Board."

Kate suspected that something had happened that she was not to be told. But she asked no questions.

After a few minutes of swinging and whittling, in which neither of them said anything, Kate got out of her grape-vine swing and picked up her hat from the ground, and Harry jumped up and whistled for Rob.

As they walked home together, Kate said:

"Harry, I think I'd better resign as Treasurer. Perhaps the officers ought all to be boys."

"Look here, Kate," said Harry; and he stopped as he spoke, "I'm not going to have anybody else as Treasurer. If you resign that office I'll smash the company!"

Of course, after that there was nothing more to be said, and Kate remained Treasurer of the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company.

Before very long, of course, she heard the particulars of George Purvis's resignation. She did not say much about it, but she was very glad that it was not Harry who had been whipped.

The next morning, quite early-the birds and the negroes had been up some time, but everybody in Mr. Loudon's house was still sleeping soundly-Harry, who had a small room at the front of the house, was awakened by the noise of a horse galloping wildly up to the front gate, and by hearing his name shouted out at the top of a boy's voice.

The boy was Tom Selden, and he shouted:

"Oh, Harry! Harry Loudon! Hello, there! The telegraph things have come!"

Harry gave one bound. He jerked on his clothes quicker than you could say the multiplication table, and he rushed down stairs and into the front yard.

It was actually so! The instruments and batteries and everything, all packed up in boxes-Tom couldn't say how many boxes-had come by a late train, and Mr. Lyons had sent word over to his house last night, and he had been over there this morning by daybreak and had seen one of the boxes, and it was directed, all right, to the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company, and-

There was a good deal more intelligence, it appeared, but it wasn't easy to make it out, for Harry was asking fifty questions, and Kate was calling out from one of the windows, and Dick Ford and half-a-dozen other negro boys were running up and shouting to each other that the things had come. Mr. Loudon came out to see what all the excitement was about, and he had to be told everything by Tom and Harry, both at once; and Rob and Blinks were barking, and there was hubbub enough.

Harry shouted to one of the boys to saddle Selim, and when the horse was brought around in an incredibly short time-four negroes having clapped on his saddle and bridle-Harry ran into the house to get his hat; but just as he had bounced out again, his mother appeared at the front door.

"Harry!" she cried, "you're not going off without your breakfast!"

"Oh, I don't want any breakfast, mother," he shouted.

"But you cannot go without your breakfast. You'll be sick."

"But just think!" expostulated Harry. "The things have been there all night."

"It makes no difference," said Mrs. Loudon. "You must have your breakfast first."

Mr. Loudon now put in a word, and Selim was led back to the stable.

"Well, I suppose I must," said poor Harry, with an air of resignation. "Come in, Tom, and have something to eat."

The news spread rapidly. Harvey Davis was soon on hand, and by the time breakfast was over, nearly every body in the village knew that the telegraph things had come.

Harry and Tom did not get off as soon as they expected, for Mr. Loudon advised them to take the spring-wagon-for they would need it to haul their apparatus to the telegraphic stations-and the horse had to be harnessed, and the cases which were to protect the instruments, when not in use, were to be brought from the carpenter-shop, and so it seemed very late before they started.

Just as they were ready to go, up galloped Brandeth Price and Wilson Ogden. So away they all went together, two of the Board in the wagon and three on horseback.

Kate stood at the front gate looking after them. Do what she would, she could not help a tear or two rising to her eyes. Mr. Loudon noticed her standing there, and he went down to her.

"Never mind Kate," said he. "I told them not to unpack the things until they had hauled them to the creek; and I'll take you over to Aunt Judy's in the buggy. We'll get there by the time the boys arrive."

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