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HOME > Short Stories > Ted and the Telephone > CHAPTER IV THE FIRST NIGHT IN THE SHACK
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 Throughout the long summer afternoon Ted worked on, fitting up his new quarters. Not only did he make a comfortable bunk for himself such as he had frequently constructed when at logging or sugaring-off camps in Vermont, but having several boards left he built along the racks originally intended for canoes some shelves for the books he meant to bring from home. By late afternoon he had finished all it was possible for him to do and he decided to go to Freeman's Falls and join his own family at supper, and while there collect the possessions he wished to transfer to the shack.  
Accordingly he washed up and started out.
It was a little late when he reached the house and already his father and sisters were at table.
"Mercy on us, Ted, what under the sun have you been doing until this time of night?" demanded Mr. Turner. "I should call from seven in the morning until seven at night a pretty long day."
"Oh, I haven't been working all this time," laughed the boy. "Or at least, if I have, I have been having the time of my life doing it."
Eagerly, and with youthful enthusiasm, he poured out the tale of the day's happenings while the others listened.
"So you are starting out housekeeping, are you?" chuckled Mr. Turner, when the narrative was finished. "It certainly ain't a bad idea. Not that we're glad to get rid of you—although I will admit we ain't got the room here that I wish we had. It is the amount of time you'll save and the strength, too, that I'm thinking of. It must be a good three miles up to Aldercliffe and Pine Lea is at least two miles farther. Being on the spot is going to make a lot of difference. But how are you going to get along? What will you do for food? I ain't going to have you eating stuff out of tin cans."
"Oh, you needn't worry about me, Dad. Mr. Wharton has arranged for me to take my meals with Mr. and Mrs. Stevens who have a cottage on the place. Stevens is the head farmer, you know."
"A pretty penny that will cost you! What does the man think you are—a millionaire?"
"Mr. Wharton told me the Fernalds would see to the bill."
"Oh! That's another matter," ejaculated Mr. Turner, entirely mollified. "I will say it's pretty decent of Mr. Wharton. Seems to me he is doing a good deal for you."
"Yes, he is."
"Well, all is you must do your full share in return so he won't lose anything by it." The elder man paused thoughtfully. "Ain't there anything we could do to help out? Perhaps we could donate something toward your furnishings."
"Mr. Wharton said if I could supply my own bedding——"
"We certainly can do that," put in Ruth quickly. "There is a trunkful of extra comforters and blankets in the back room that I should be thankful enough to ship off somewhere else. And wouldn't you like some curtains? Seems to me they'd make it cosy and homelike. I've a piece of old chintz we've never used. Why not make it into curtains and do away with buying window shades?"
"That would be great!"
"It would be lots more cheerful," remarked Nancy. "What kind of a bed have you got?"
"I've built a wooden bunk-two bunks, in fact—one over the other like the berths in a ship. I thought perhaps sometime Dad might want to come up and visit me; and while I was at it, it was no more work to make two beds than one."
Mr. Turner smiled in friendly fashion into his son's eyes. The two were great pals and it pleased him that the lad should have included him in his plans.
"Beds like that will do all very well for a night or two; but for a steady thing they will be darned uncomfortable. Cover 'em with pine boughs after a long tramp through the woods and they seem like heaven; but try 'em day after day and they cease to be a joke. Wasn't there a wire spring round here somewhere, Ruth? Seems to me I remember it standing up against something. Why wouldn't that be the very thing? You could fasten it in place and have a bed good as you have at home."
"That's a corking idea, Dad!"
"I wish we could go up and see the place," Ruth suggested. "I am crazy to know what it looks like. Besides, I want to measure the windows."
"Maybe we could run up there to-night," her father replied rising. "It is not late and the Maguires said they would take us out for a little spin in their Ford before dark. They might enjoy riding up to Aldercliffe and be quite willing we should take along the spring bed. Mat is a kind soul and I haven't a doubt he'd be glad to do us a favor. Run down and ask him, Ted; or wait—I'll go myself."
The Maguires had the apartment just below the Turner's and Mat, a thrifty and good-humored Irishman, was one of the night watchmen at the Fernald mills. He had a plump little wife, but as there were no children he had been able to save more money than had some of his neighbors, and in consequence had purchased a small car which it was his delight to use for the benefit of his friends. In fact, he often called it the Maguire jitney, and the joke never became threadbare to his simple mind, for every time he made it he laughed as heartily as if he had never heard it before, and so did everybody else. Therefore no sooner had Mr. Turner proposed his plan than Mat was all eagerness to further the project.
"Sure I'll take you—as many of you as can pile in, and the spring bed, too! If you don't mind the inconvenience of the luggage, I don't. And tell Ted to bring along anything else he'd like to carry. We can pack you all in and the stuff on top of you. 'Twill be easy enough. Just make ready as soon as you can, so the dark won't catch us."
You may be sure the Turners needed no second bidding. Ruth and Nancy scrambled the supper dishes out of the way while Ted and his father hauled the wire spring out, brushed it, and dragged it downstairs. Afterward Ted collected his box of electrical treasures, his books, and clothing. What he would do with all these things he did not stop to inquire. The chance to transfer them was at hand and he seized it with avidity. His belongings might as well be stored in the shack as anywhere else,—better, far better, for the space they left behind would be very welcome to the Turner household.
Therefore with many a laugh, the party crowded into the waiting car and set out for Aldercliffe; and when at length they arrived at the house in the pines and Ted unlocked the sliding doors and pushed them wide open, ushering in his guests, what a landholder he felt!
"My, but this is a tidy little place!" Maguire ejaculated. "And it's not so little, either. Why, it's a regular palace! Look at the fireplace and the four windows! My eye! And the tier of bunks is neat as a ship's cabin. Bear a hand here with the spring. I'm all of a quaver to see if it fits," cried the man.
"I made the bunks regulation size, so I guess there won't be any trouble about that," Ted answered.
"The head on the lad!" the Irishman cried. "Ain't he the brainy one, though? You don't catch him wool-gathering! Not he!"
Nevertheless he was not content until the spring had been hoisted into place and he saw with his own eyes that it was exactly the proper size. "Could anything be cuter!" observed he with satisfaction. "Now with a good mattress atop of that you will have a bed fit for a king. You'll be comfortable as if you were in a solid gold bedstead, laddie!"
"I'm afraid I may be too comfortable," laughed Ted. "What if I should oversleep and not get to breakfast, or to work, on time!"
"That would never do," Mr. Turner said promptly. "You must have an alarm clock. 'Twould be but a poor return for Mr. Wharton's kindness were you to come dawdling to work."
"I guess you can trust Ted to be on time," put in Ruth soothingly. "He is seldom late—especially to meals. Even if he were to be late at other places, I should always be sure he would show up when there was anything to eat."
"You bet I would," announced the boy, with a good-humored grin.
"I shall have enough chintz for curtains for all your windows," interrupted Nancy, who had been busy taking careful measurements during the conversation. "We'll get some brass rods and make the hangings so they will slip back and forth easily; they will be much nicer than window shades."
"Ain't there nothin' I can donate?" inquired Mat Maguire anxiously. "A rag rug, now—why wouldn't that be a good thing? The missus makes 'em by the dozen and our house is full of 'em. We're breakin' our necks mornin', noon, and night on 'em. A couple to lay down here wouldn't be so bad, I'm thinking. You could put one beside your bed and another before the door to wipe your feet on. They'd cheer the room up as well as help keep you warm. Just say the word, sonny, and you shall have 'em."
"I'd like them tremendously."
The kind-hearted Irishman beamed with pleasure.
"Sure, they'll be better out of our house than in it," remarked he, trying to conceal his gratification. "You can try stumbling over 'em a spell instead of me. 'Twill be interesting to see which of us breaks his neck first."
It was amazing to see how furniture came pouring in at Ted's bachelor quarters during the next few days. The chintz curtains were finished and hung; the Maguire rugs made their appearance; Mr. Turner produced a shiny alarm clock; and Nancy a roll of colored prints which she had cut from the magazines.
"You'll be wanting some pictures," said she. "Tack these up somewhere. They'll brighten up the room and cover the bare walls."
Thus it was that day by day the wee shack in the woods became more cheery and homelike.
"I've managed to hunt up a few trap's for you," called Mr. Wharton one morning, as he met the boy going to work. "If you want to run over to the cabin now and unlock the door, I'll send a man over with them."
Want to! Ted was off in a second, impatient to see what new treasures he was to receive. He had not long to wait, for soon one of the farm trucks came into sight, and the driver began to deposit its contents on the wooden platform which sloped from the door down to the river.
As Ted helped the man unload, his eyes shone with delight. Could any gifts be rarer? To be sure the furniture was not new. In fact, some of it was old and even shabby with wear. But the things were all whole, and although they were simple they were serviceable and perhaps looked more in harmony with the old-fashioned curtains and the quaint rugs than if they had come fresh from the shop. There was a chest of drawers; a rocking chair, a leather armchair, and a straight wooden chair; a mirror with frame of faded gilt; a good-sized wooden table; and, best of all, a much scarred, flat-topped desk. Ted had never owned a desk in all his life. Often he had dreamed of sitting behind one when he grew to be a man. But to have it now—here! To have it for his own! How it thrilled him!
After the furniture was in place and the teamster had gone, he arranged his few papers and pencils in the desk drawers a score of times, trying them first in one spot and then in another. It was marvelous how much room there was in such an article of furniture. What did men use to fill up such a mighty receptacle, anyway? Stretch his possessions as he would, they only made a scattered showing at the bottom of three of the drawers. He laughed to see them lying there and hear them rattle about when he brought the drawers to with a click. However, it was very splendid to have a desk, whether one had anything to put in it or not, and perhaps in time he would be able to collect more pencils, rulers and blocks of paper. The contrast between not having any room at all for his things and then so much that he did not know what to do with it was amusing.
Now at last he was fully equipped to take up residence in his new abode and every instant he could snatch from his duties that day he employed in settling his furniture, making up his bed, filling his water pitcher from the river and completing his final preparations for residence at the boathouse. That night he moved in.
Nothing had been omitted that would contribute to his comfort. Mr. Wharton had given him screens for the windows and across the broad door he had tacked a curtain of netting that could be dropped or pushed aside at will. The candlelight glowing from a pair of old brass candlesticks on the shelf above the fireplace contributed rather than took away from the effect and to his surprise the room assumed under the mellow radiance a quality actually æsthetic and beautiful.
"I don't believe Aldercliffe or Pine Lea have anything better than this to offer," the boy murmured aloud, as he looked about him with pride. "I'd give anything to have Mr. Wharton see it now that it's done!"
Strangely enough, the opportunity to exhibit his kingdom followed on the very heels of his desire, for while he was arranging the last few books he had brought from home on the shelf above his desk he heard a tap at the door.
"Are you in bed, son?" called the manager. "I saw your light and just dropped round to see if you had everything you wanted."
Rushing to the door, Ted threw it open.
"I haven't begun to go to bed yet," returned he. "I've been too excited. How kind of you to come!"
"Curiosity! Curiosity!" responded the man hastily. Although Ted knew well that the comment was a libel, he laughed as Mr. Wharton came in, drawing the door together behind him.
"By Jove!" burst out the manager, glancing about the room.
"You like it?"
"Why—what in goodness have you done to the place? I—I—mercy on us!"
"You do like it then?" the boy insisted eagerly.
"Like it! Why, you've made it into a regular little palace. I'd no idea such a thing was possible. Where did you get your candlesticks and your andirons?"
"From home. We have radiators in the apartment and so my sisters had stored them away and were only too glad to have me take them."
"Humph! And your curtains came from home, too?"
"Yes, sir."
"Well, you've missed your calling, is all I can say. You belong in the interior decorating business," asserted Mr. Wharton. "Wait until Mr. Clarence sees this place." Again the elder man looked critically round the interior. "I wouldn't mind living here myself—hanged if I would. The only thing I don't like is those candles. There is a good deal of a draught here and you are too near the pines to risk a fire. Electricity would be safer."
Whistling softly to himself, he began to walk thoughtfully about.
"I suppose," he presently went on, "it would be a simple enough matter to run wires over here from the barn."
"Wouldn't that be bully!"
"You'd like it?"
"Yes, siree!"
The manager took up his hat.
"Well, we'll see what can be done," he answered, moving toward the door.
But on the threshold he stopped once more and looked about.
"I'm going to bring some of the Fernalds over here to see the place," observed he. "For some time Mr. Clarence has been complaining that this shack was a blot on the estate and threatening to pull it down. He'd better have a peep at it now. You may find he'll be taking it away from you."
He saw a startled look leap into the boy's eyes.
"No, no, sonny! Have no fears. I was only joking," he added. "Nevertheless, the house will certainly be a surprise to anybody who saw it a week ago. I wouldn't have believed such a transformation was possible."
Then as he disappeared with his flash-light through the windings of the pine woods he called:
"We'll see about that electric wiring. I imagine it won't be much of a job, and I should breathe easier to eliminate those candles, pretty as they are. Until something is done, just be careful not to set yourself and us afire!"
With that he was gone.
Ted dropped the screen and loitered a moment in the doorway, looking out into the night. Before him stretched the river; so near was it that he could hear the musical lappings of its waters among the tall grasses that bordered the stream. From the ground, matted thickly with pine needles, rose a warm, sun-scorched fragrance heavy with sleep.
The boy stretched his arms and yawned. Then he rolled the doors together and began to undress.
Suddenly he paused with one shoe in his hand. A thought had come to him. If Mr. Wharton ran the electric wires over to the shack, what was to prevent him from utilizing the current for some of his own contrivances? Why, he could, perhaps, put his wireless instruments into operation and rig up a telephone in his little dwelling. What fun it would be to unearth his treasures from the big wooden box in which they had been so long packed away and set them up here where they would interfere with no one but himself!
He hoped with all his heart the manager would continue to be nervous about those candles.

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