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   Chapter 25 No.25

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 11546

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Profits and Projects

The next morning, Harry was up quite early, and after having eaten a very plain breakfast, which Aunt Judy prepared for him, he ran down to the creek to see what chance there was for business.

There seemed to be a very good chance, for the creek had not fallen, that was certain. If there was any change at all, the water seemed a little higher than it was before.

Before long, Harvey arrived on the other side, accompanied by Tom Selden and Wilson Ogden, who were very anxious to see how matters would progress, now that there was some real work to do.

The boys sent messages and greetings backward and forward to each other for about an hour, and then old Miles arrived with his mailbag, which contained quite a number of telegrams, this time.

Not only were there those on the business of the Mica Company, but Mr. Darby, the storekeeper at Akeville, thought it necessary to send a message to Hetertown by the new line, and there were two or three other private telegrams, that would probably never have been sent had it not been for the novelty of the thing.

But that rascal, Jim Haskins, did not make his appearance, and when Harry found that it was not likely that he would come at all, he induced Aunt Judy to go out and look for some one to carry the telegrams to Hetertown. Harry had just finished copying the messages-and this took some time, for he wrote each one of them in official form-when Aunt Judy returned, bringing with her a telegraphic messenger.

It was Uncle Braddock.

"Here's a man to take yer letters," said Aunt Judy, as she ushered in the old man.

Harry looked up from his table in surprise.

"Why, Uncle Braddock," said he, "you can't carry these telegrams. I want a boy, on a mule or a horse, to go as fast as he can."

"Lor' bress ye, Mah'sr Harry," said the old negro, "I kin git along fas' enough. Aunt Judy said ye wanted Jim, an' Nobleses mule; but dat dar mule he back hindwards jist about as much as he walks frontwards. I jist keep right straight along, an' I kin beat dat dar ole mule, all holler. Jist gim me yer letters, an' I'll tote 'em ober dar fur ten cents. Ye see I wuz cotched on dis side de creek, an' wuz jist comin ober to see Aunt Judy, when she telled me ob dis job. I'll tote yer letters, Mah'sr Harry, fur ten cents fur de bag-full."

"I haven't a bag-full," said Harry; "but I reckon you'll have to take them. There's nobody else about, it seems, and I can't leave the station."

So Uncle Braddock was engaged as telegraph-boy, and Harry having promised him twenty cents to go to Hetertown and to return with any telegrams that were there awaiting transmission to the other side of the creek, the old man set off with his little package, in high good humor with the idea of earning money by no harder work than walking a few miles.

Shortly after noon, he returned with a few messages from Hetertown, and by that time there were some for him to carry back. So he made two trips and forty cents that day-quite an income for Uncle Braddock.

In the evening, Jim Haskins made his appearance with his mule. He said his brother hadn't told him anything about Harry's wanting him until that afternoon. Notwithstanding Uncle Braddock's discouraging account of the mule, Jim was engaged as messenger during the time that the creek should be up, and Uncle Braddock was promised a job whenever an important message should come during Jim's absence.

The next day it rained, and the creek was up, altogether, for five days. During this time the telegraph company did a good deal of paying business. Harry remained at his station, and boarded and lodged with Aunt Judy. He frequently sent messages to his father and mother and Kate, and never failed, from an early hour in the morning until dark, to find the faithful Harvey at his post.

At last the creek "fell," and the bridge became again passable to Miles and his waddling horse. The operators disconnected their wires, put their apparatus in order, locked the wooden cases over their instruments, and rode in triumph (Mr. Loudon had come in the buggy for Harry) to Akeville.

Harry was received with open arms by his mother and Kate; and Mrs. Loudon declared that this should be the last time that he should go on such an expedition.

She was right.

The next afternoon there was a meeting of the Board of Managers of the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company, and the Secretary, having been hard at work all the morning, with the assistance of the Treasurer and the President, made a report of the financial results of the recent five days' working of the company's line.

It is not necessary to go into particulars, but when the sums due the company from the Mica Company and sundry private individuals had been set down on the one side, and the amounts due from the telegraph company to Aunt Judy for candles and board and lodging for one operator; to Uncle Braddock and Jim Haskins for services as messengers; to Hiram Anderson for damages to boat (found near the river, stuck fast among some fallen timber, with one end badly battered by floating logs), and for certain extras in the way of additional stationery, etc., which it had become necessary to procure from Hetertown, had been set down on the other side, and the difference between the sums total had been calculated, it was found, and duly reported, that the company had made six dollars and fifty-three cents.

This was not very encouraging. It was seldom that the creek was up more than five days at a time, and so this was a very favorable opportunity of testing the value of the line as a money-making concern.

It was urged, however, by the more sanguine members of the Board that this was not a fair trial. There had been many expenses

which probably would not have to be incurred again.

"But they didn't amount to so very much," said Kate, who, as Treasurer, was present at the meeting. "Aunt Judy only charged a dollar and a half for Harry's board, and the boat was only a dollar. And all the other expenses would have to be expected any time."

After some further conversation on the subject, it was thought best to attend to present business rather than future prospects, and to appoint committees to collect the money due the company.

Harry and Tom Selden were delegated to visit the mica-mine people, while Harvey, Wilson Ogden, and Brandeth Price composed the committee to collect what was due from private individuals.

Before Harry started for the mica mine, he consulted his father in regard to charging full price for the telegrams which he carried across the creek in his pocket.

Mr. Loudon laughed a good deal at the transaction, but he told Harry that there was no reason why he should not charge for those telegrams. He had certainly carried them over in the first place, and the subsequent double transmission over the wire was his own affair.

When Harry and Tom rode over to the mica mine the next morning, and explained their business and presented their bill, their account was found to be correct, and the amount of the bill was promptly handed to them.

When this little business had been transacted, Mr. Martin, the manager of the mine, invited them to sit down in his office and have a talk.

"This line of yours," said he, "is not going to pay you."

"Why not?" asked Harry, somewhat disturbed in mind by this sudden statement of what he had already begun to fear was an unpleasant truth.

"It has paid us," said Tom Selden. "Why, we've only been working it five days, on regular business, and we've cleared-well, we've cleared considerable."

"That may be," said the manager, smiling, "but you can't have made very much, for you must have a good many expenses. The principal reason why I think it won't pay you is that you have to keep up two stations, and you all live on this side of the creek. I've heard that one of you had a hard time getting over the creek last week."

"That was Harry," said Tom.

"So I supposed," said Mr. Martin; "and it must have been a pretty dangerous trip. Now it won't do to do that sort of thing often; and you can't tell when the creek's going to rise, so as to be over before the bridge is flooded."

"That's true," said Harry. "Crooked Creek doesn't give much notice when it's going to rise."

"No, it don't," continued Mr. Martin. "And it won't do, either, for any one of you to live on the other side, just to be ready to work the line in time of freshets. The creek isn't up often enough to make that pay."

"But what can we do?" asked Harry. "You surely don't think we're going to give up this telegraph line just as it begins to work, and after all the money that's been spent on it, and the trouble we've had?"

"No, I don't think you are the kind of fellows to give up a thing so soon, and we don't want you to give it up, for it's been a great deal of use to us already. What I think you ought to do is to run your line from the other side of the creek to Hetertown. Then you'd have no trouble at all. When the creek was up you could go down and work this end, and an arrangement could easily be made to have the operator at Hetertown work the other end, and then it would be all plain sailing. He could send the telegrams right on, on the regular line, and there would be no trouble or expense with messengers from the creek over to Hetertown."

"That would be a splendid plan," said Harry; "but it would cost like everything to have a long line like that."

"It wouldn't cost very much," said Mr. Martin. "There are pine woods nearly all the way, by the side of the road, and so it wouldn't cost much for poles. And you've got the instruments for that end of the line. All you'll have to do would be to take them over to Hetertown. You wouldn't have to spend any money except for wire and for trimming off the trees and putting up the wire."

"But that would be more than we could afford," said Tom Selden. "You ought just to try to make the people about here subscribe to anything, and you'd see what trouble it is to raise money out of them."

"Oh, I don't think you need let the want of money enough to buy a few miles of wire prevent your putting up a really useful line," said Mr. Martin; "our company would be willing to help you about that, I'm sure."

"If you'd help, that would make it altogether another thing," said Harry; "but you'd have to help a good deal."

"Well, we would help a good deal," said Mr. Martin. "It would be to our benefit, you know, to have a good line. That's what we want, and we're willing to put some money in it. I suppose there'd be no difficulty in getting permission to put up the line on the land between the creek and Hetertown?"

"Oh, no!" said Harry. "A good part of the woods along the road belong to father, and none of the people along there would object to us boys putting up our line on their land."

"I thought they wouldn't," said Mr. Martin. "I'll talk to our people about this, and see what they think of it."

As Harry and Tom rode home, Harry remarked, "Mr. Martin's a trump, isn't he? I hope the rest of the mica-mine people will agree with him."

"I don't believe they will," said Tom. "Why, you see they'd have to pay for the whole thing, and I reckon they won't be in a hurry to do that. But wouldn't we have a splendid line if they were to do it?"

"I should say so," said Harry. "It's almost too good a thing to expect. I'm afraid Mr. Martin won't feel quite so generous when he calculates what it will cost."

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