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   Chapter 18 No.18

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 7309

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The Arrival.

When Kate and her father reached Aunt Judy's cabin, the boys had not yet arrived, but they were anxiously expected by about a dozen colored people of various ages and sizes, and by two or three white men, who were sitting under the trees waiting to see the "telegraph come."

Telegraph apparatus and wires were not at all novel in that part of the country, but this was to be the first time that anything of the kind had been set up in that neighborhood, in those familiar old woods about Crooked Creek.

And then it must be remembered, too, that most of these interested people were "stockholders." That was something entirely novel, and it is no wonder that they were anxious to see their property.

"I hopes, Mah'sr John," said Aunt Judy to Mr. Loudon, "dat dem dar merchines ain't a-goin' to bust up when dey're lef' h'yar all alone by theyselves."

"Oh, there's no danger, Aunt Judy," said Mr. Loudon, "if you don't meddle with them. But I suppose you can't do that, if the boys are going to case them up, as they told me they intended doing."

"Why, bress your soul, Mah'sr John, ye needn't be 'fraid o' my techin' 'em off. I wouldn't no more put a finger on 'em dan I'd pull de trigger ov a hoss pistol."

"There isn't really any danger in having these instruments in the house, is there, father?" asked Kate, when she and Mr. Loudon had stepped out of the cabin where Aunt Judy was busy sweeping and "putting things to rights" in honor of the expected arrival.

"That depends upon circumstances," said Mr. Loudon. "If the boys are careful to disconnect the instruments and the wires when they leave the cabins, there is no more danger than there would be in a brass clock. But if they leave the wires attached to the instruments, lightning might be attracted into the cabins during a thunder-storm, and Aunt Judy might find the 'merchines' quite as dangerous as a horse-pistol."

"But they mustn't leave the wires that way," said Kate. "I sha'n't let Harry forget it. Why, it would be awful to have Aunt Judy and poor old Lewston banged out of their beds in the middle of the night."

"I should think so," said Mr. Loudon; "but the boys-I am sure about Harry-understand their business, to that extent, at least. I don't apprehend any accidents of that kind."

Kate was just about to ask her father if he feared accidents of any kind, when a shout was heard from the negroes by the roadside.

"Dar dey come!" sang out half-a-dozen voices, and, sure enough, there was the wagon slowly turning an angle of the road, with the mounted members of the Board riding close by its side.

All now was bustle and eagerness. Everybody wanted to do something, and everybody wanted to see. The wagon was driven up as close to the cabin as the trees would allow; the boys jumped down from their seats and saddles the horses' bridles were fastened to branches overhead; white, black, and yellow folks clustered around the wagon; and some twenty hands were proffered to aid in carrying the load into the cabin.

Harry was the grand director of affairs. He had a good, loud voice, and it served him well on this important occasion.

"Look out, there!" he cried. "Don't any of you touch a box or anything, till I tell you what to do. They're not all to go into Aunt Judy's cabin. Some things are to go across the creek to Lewston's house. Here, John William and Gregory, take this table and carry it in carefully; and you, Dick, take that chair. Don't be in a hurry. We're not going to open the boxes out here."

"Why, Harry," cried Kate, "I didn't know there were to be tables and chairs."

"To tell the truth, I didn

't think of it either," said Harry; "but we must have something to put our instruments on, and something to sit on while we work them. Mr. Lyons reminded us that we'd have to have them, and we got these in Hetertown. Had to go to three places to get them all, and one's borrowed, anyway. Look out there, you, Bobby! you can't carry a chair. Get down off that wheel before you break your neck.

"Lor' bress your heart, Mah'sr Harry, is ye got a bed? I never did 'spect ye was a-goin' to bring furniture," cried Aunt Judy, her eyes rolling up and down in astonishment and delight. "Dat's a pooty cheer. Won't hurt a body to sot in dat cheer when you all ain't a-usin' it, will it?"

"Blow you right through the roof, if you set on the trigger," said Tom Selden; "so mind you're careful, Aunt Judy."

"Now, then," cried Harry, "carry in this box. Easy, now. We'll take all the wire over on the other side. You see, Tom, that they leave the wire in the wagon. Do you know, father, that we forgot to bring a hammer or anything to open these boxes?"

"There's a hammer under the seat of the buggy. One of you boys run and get it."

At the word, two negro boys rushed for the buggy and the hammer.

"A screw-driver would do better," said Harvey Davis.

"One-eyed Lewston's got a screw-driver," said one of the men.

"Dar Lewston!" cried John William Webster. "Dar he! Jist comin' ober de bridge."

"Shet up!" cried Aunt Judy. "Don't 'spect he got him screw-driber in him breeches pocket, does ye? Why don' ye go 'long and git it?"

And away went John William and two other boys for the screw-driver.

In spite of so many cooks, the broth was not spoiled; and after a reasonable time the beautifully polished instruments were displayed to view on the table in Aunt Judy's cabin.

Everybody looked with all their eyes. Even Mr. Loudon, who had often examined telegraphic apparatus, took a great interest in this, and the negroes thought there was never anything so wonderful. Especially were those delighted who owned stock.

"Some o' dat dar's mine," said a shiny-faced black boy. "Wonder ef dat little door-knob's my sheer."

"You go 'long, dar," said Dick Ford, giving him a punch in the ribs with his elbow. "Dat little shiny screw's 'bout as much as you own."

As for the members of the Board, they were radiant. There was the telegraphic apparatus (or a part of it) of the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company, and here were the officers!

Each one of them, except Brandeth Price, explained some portion of the instruments to some of the bystanders.

As for Brandeth, he had not an idea what was to be done with anything. But he had a vote in the Board. He never forgot that.

"Can't ye work it a little, Mah'sr Harry!" asked Gregory Montague.

"Dat's so!" cried a dozen voices. "Jist let's see her run a little, Mah'sr Harry, please!" Even Kate wanted to see how the things worked.

Harry explained that he couldn't "run it" until he had arranged the battery and had made a great many preparations, and he greatly disappointed the assembly by informing them that all that was to be done that day was to put the instruments in their respective houses (or stations, as the boys now began to call the cabins), and to put up the cases which were to protect them when not in use. These cases were like small closets, with movable tops, and there was great fear that they would not fit over the tables that had been brought from Hetertown.

On the next day, Mr. Lyons had promised to come over and show them how to begin the work.

"There'll be plenty for you fellows to do," said Harry, "when we put up the wires."

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