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What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 5719

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

A Man in a Boat.

On a very pleasant afternoon that fall, a man came down Crooked Creek in a small flat-bottomed boat. He rowed leisurely, as if he had been rowing a long distance and felt a little tired. In one end of the boat was a small trunk.

As this man, who had red hair, and a red face, and large red hands, pulled slowly along the creek, turning his head every now and then to see where he was going, he gradually approached the bridge that crossed the creek near "One-eyed Lewston's" cabin. Just before he reached the bridge, he noticed what seemed to him a curious shadow running in a thin straight line across the water. Resting on his oars, and looking up to see what there was above him to throw such a shadow, he perceived a telegraph wire stretching over the creek, and losing itself to sight in the woods on each side.

A telegraph wire was an ordinary sight to this man, but this particular wire seemed to astonish him greatly.

"What on earth is this?" he asked out loud. But there was no one to answer him, and so, after puzzling his mind for a few minutes, he rowed on.

When that man reached the point in the creek to which he was bound, and, with his trunk on his shoulder, walked up to the house where he used to live, he was still more astonished; for a telegraph wire ran through one corner of the back yard.

Cousin Maria now lived in this house, and George Mason was coming to pay her a visit. His appearance was rather a surprise to her, but still she welcomed him. She was a good soul.

Almost before he asked her how she was, he put the question to her:

"What telegraph line's that?"

So Cousin Maria wiped her hands on her long gingham apron (she had been washing her best set of china), and she sat down and told him all about it.

"You see, George," said she, "that there line was the boys' telegraph line, afore they sold it to the mica people; and when the boys put it up they expected to make a heap of money, which I reckon they didn't do, or else they wouldn't have sold it. But these mica people wanted it, and they lengthened it at both ends, and bought it of the boys-or rather of Harry Loudon, for he was the smartest of the lot, and the real owner of the thing-he and his sister Kate-as far as I could see. And when they stretched the line over to Hetertown, they came to me and told me how the line ran along the road most of the way, but that they could save a lot of time and money (though I don't see how they could save much of a lot of money when, accordin' to all accounts, the whole line didn't cost much, bein' just fastened to pine-trees, trimmed off, and if it had cost much, them boys couldn't have built it, for I reckon the mica people didn't help 'em a great deal, after all) if I would let them cut across my grounds with their wire, and I hadn't no objection, anyway, for the li

ne didn't do no harm up there in the air, and so I said certainly they might, and they did, and there it is."

When George Mason heard all this, he walked out of the back-door and over to the wood-pile, where he got an axe and cut down the pole that was in Cousin Maria's back yard. And when the pole fell, it broke the wire, just as Mr. Martin had got to the sixth word of a message he was sending over to Hetertown.

Cousin Maria was outraged.

"George Mason!" said she, "you can stay here as long as you like, and you can have part of whatever I've got in the house to eat, but I'll never sit down to the table with you till you've mended that wire and nailed it to another pole."

"All right," answered George Mason. "Then I'll eat alone."

When Mr. Martin and the mica-mine people and the Akeville people and Harry and Kate and all the boys and everybody black and white heard what had happened, there was great excitement. It was generally agreed that something must be done with George Mason. He had no more right to cut down that pole because he had once lived on the place, than he had to go and cut down any of the neighbors' beanpoles.

So the sheriff and some deputy sheriffs, (Tony Kirk among them), and a constable and a number of volunteer constables, went off after George Mason, to bring him to justice.

It was more than a week before they found him, and it is probable that they would not have captured him at all, had he not persisted in staying in the neighborhood, so as to be on hand with his axe, in case the line should be repaired.

"It's all along of my tellin' him that that line was got up by them Loudon children," said Cousin Maria. "He hates Mr. Loudon worse than pisen, because he was the man that found out all his tricks."

Mason was taken to the court-house and locked up in the jail. Almost all the people of the county, and some people belonging to adjoining counties, made up their minds to be at the court-house when his trial should take place.

On the second night of his imprisonment, George Mason forced open a window of his cell and went away. And what was more, he staid away. He had no desire to be at the court-house when his trial took place.

No one felt more profound satisfaction when George Mason left the country, and the telegraph line was once more in working order, than Harry and Kate.

They had an idea that if George Mason, should persist in cutting the telegraph line, the Mica Company would give it up, and that they might be called upon to refund the money on which Aunt Matilda depended for support. They had been told that they need not trouble themselves about this, as the Mica Company had taken all risks; but still they were delighted when they heard that George Mason had cleared out, and that there was every reason to suppose that he would not come back.

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