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What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 7482

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

A Quandary.

About a week after the meeting of the Board in the Davis corn-house, old Miles, the mail-rider, came galloping up to Mr. Loudon's front gate. The family were at breakfast, but Harry and Kate jumped up and ran to the door, when they saw Miles coming, with his saddle-bags flapping behind him. No one had ever before seen Miles ride so fast. A slow trot, or rather a steady waddle, was the pace that he generally preferred.

"Hello, Mah'sr Harry," shouted old Miles, "de creek's up! Can't git across dar, no how?"

This glorious news for the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company was, indeed, true! There had been wet weather for several days, and although the rain-fall had not been great in the level country about Akeville, it had been very heavy up among the hills; and the consequence was, that the swollen hill-streams, or "branches" as they are called in that part of the country, had rushed down and made Crooked Creek rise in a hurry. It seemed to be always ready to rise in this way, whenever it had a chance.

Now the company could go to work! Now it could show the world, or as much of the world as chose to take notice, the advantages of having a telegraph line across a creek in time of freshets.

Harry was all alive with excitement. He sent for Harvey Davis, and had old Selim saddled as quickly as possible.

"H'yar's de letters and telegrums, Mah'sr Harry," said Miles, unlocking his saddle-bags and taking out a bundle of letters and some telegrams, written on the regular telegraphic blanks and tied up in a little package.

As the mail was a private one, and old Miles was known to be perfectly honest, he carried the key and attended personally to the locking and unlocking of his saddle-bags.

"But I don't want the letters, Miles," said Harry. "I've nothing to do with them. Give me the telegrams, and I'll send them across."

"Don't want de letters?" cried Miles, his eyes and mouth wide open in astonishment. "Why, I can't carry de letters ober no mor'n I kin de telegrams."

"Well, neither can I," said Harry.

"Den what's de use ob dat wire?" exclaimed Miles. "I thought you uns ud send de letters an' all ober dat wire? Dere's lots more letters dan telegrums."

"I know that," said Harry, hurriedly; "but we can't send letters. Give the telegraphic messages, and you go back to the mines with the letters, and if there's anything in them that they want to telegraph, let them write out the messages, and you bring them over to Lewston's cabin."

Harry took the telegrams, and old Miles rode off, very much disturbed in his mind. His confidence in the utility of the telegraph company was wofully shaken.

By this time Harvey had arrived on a mule, and the two operators dashed away as fast as their animals would carry them.

As they galloped along Harry shouted to Harvey, who kept ahead most of the time, for his mule was faster than Selim:

"Hello, Harvey! If Miles couldn't get across, how can either of us go over?"

"Oh, I reckon the creek isn't much up yet," answered Harvey. "Miles is easily frightened."

So, on they rode, hoping for the best; but when they reached the creek they saw, to their dismay, that the water was much higher already than it usually rose in the summer-time. The low grounds on each side were overflowed, and nothing could be seen of the bridge but the tops of two upright timbers near its middle.

It was certainly very unfortunate that both the operators were on the same side of the stream!

"This is a pretty piece of business," cried Harry. "I didn't expect the creek to get up so quickly as this. I was down here yesterday, and it hadn't risen at all. I tell you, Harvey, you ought to live on the other side."

"Or else you ou

ght," said Harvey.

"No," said Harry; "this is my station."

Harvey had no answer ready for this, but as they were hurriedly fastening Selim and the mule to trees near Lewston's cabin, he said:

"Perhaps Mr. Lyons may come down and work the other end of the line."

"He can't get off," said Harry. "He has his own office to attend to. And, besides, that wouldn't do. We must work our own line, especially at the very beginning. It would look nice-now, wouldn't it?-to wait until Mr. Lyons could come over from Hetertown before we could commence operations!"

"Well, what can we do?" asked Harvey.

"Why, one of us must get across, somehow."

"I don't see how it's going to be done," said Harvey, as they ran down to the edge of the water. "I reckon we'll have to holler our messages across, as Tony said; only there isn't anybody to holler to."

"I don't know how it's to be done either," said Harry; "but one of us must get over, some way or other."

"Couldn't we wade to the bridge," asked Harvey, "and then walk over on it? I don't believe it's more than up to our waists on the bridge."

"You don't know how deep it is," said Harry; "and when you get to the bridge, ten to one more than half the planks have been floated off, and you'd go slump to the bottom of the creek before you knew it. There's no way but to get a boat."

"I don't know where you're going to find one," said Harvey. "There's a boat up at the mill-pond, but you couldn't get it out and down here in much less than a day."

"John Walker has his boat afloat again," said Harry, "but that's over on the other side. What a nuisance it is that there isn't anybody over there! If we didn't want 'em, there'd be about sixty or seventy darkies hanging about now."

"Oh, no!" said Harvey, "not so many as that; not over forty-seven."

"I'm going over to Lewston's. Perhaps he knows of a boat," said Harry; and away he ran.

But Lewston was not in his cabin, and so Harry hurried along a road in the woods that led by another negro cabin about a half-mile away, thinking that the old man had gone off in that direction. Every minute or two he shouted at the top of his voice, "Oh, Lewston!"

Very soon he heard some one shouting in reply, and he recognized Lewston's voice. It seemed to come from the creek.

Thereupon, Harry made his way through the trees and soon caught sight of the old colored man. He was in a boat, poling his way along in the shallow water as close to dry land as the woods allowed him, and sometimes, where the trees were wide apart, sending the boat right between some of their tall trunks.

"Hello, Lewston," cried Harry, running as near as he could go without getting his shoes wet, for the water ran up quite a distance among the trees in some places. "What are you about? Where did you get that boat? I want a boat."

"Dat's jist what I thought, Mah'sr Harry," said Lewston, still poling away as hard as he could. "I know de compuny'd want to git ober de creek, an' I jist went up to Hiram Anderson's and borrowed his ole boat. Ise been a-bailing her out all de mornin'."

"You're a trump, Lewston," said Harry. "Pole her down opposite your house, and then one of us will go over. Why don't you go out farther? You can't get along half as fast in here by the trees and hummocks as you could in deeper water."

"You don't ketch me out dar in dat runnin' water," said Lewston. "I'd be in the middle afore I knowed it, and dis pole's pooty short."

"Well, come along as fast as you can," cried Harry, "and I'll run down to your house and get your axe to cut a longer pole."

By the time Harry had found a tall young sapling, and had cut it down and trimmed it off, Lewston arrived with the boat.

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