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HOME > Short Stories > Ted and the Telephone > CHAPTER XVII SURPRISES
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 During the next few days tidings of the Melton disaster proved the truth of Mr. Hazen's charitable suppositions, for it was definitely learned that the calamity which befell the village came entirely without warning, and as the main part of the town was wiped out almost completely and the river front destroyed, all communication between the unfortunate settlement and the outside world had been cut off so that to send warnings to the communities below had been impossible. Considering the enormity of the catastrophe, it was miraculous that there had not been greater loss of life and wider spread devastation.  
A week of demoralization all along the river followed the tragedy; but after the bulk of wreckage was cleared away and the stream had dropped to normal, the Fernalds actually began to congratulate themselves on the direful event.
"Well, the thing has not been all to the bad, by any means," commented Grandfather Fernald. "We have at least got rid of those unsightly tenements bordering the water which were such a blot on Freeman's Falls; and once gone, I do not mean to allow them ever to be put back again. I have bought up the land and shall use it as the site of the new granite bridge I intend to build across the stream. And in case I have more land than is needed for this purpose, the extra area can be used for a park which will be an ornament to the spot rather than an eyesore. Therefore, take it altogether, I consider that freshet a capital thing."
He glanced at Ted who chanced to be standing near by.
"I suppose you, my lad, do not entirely agree with me," added he, a twinkle gleaming beneath his shaggy brows. "You are thinking of that playhouse of yours and Laurie's that was carried off by the deluge."
"I am afraid I was, sir."
"Pooh! Nonsense!" blustered the old gentleman. "What's a thing like that? Besides, Laurie's father proposes to rebuild it for you. Hasn't he told you?" questioned the man, noticing the surprise in the boy's face. "Oh, yes, indeed! He is going to put up another house for you; and judging from his plans, you will find yourself far better off than you were in the first place for this time he is to give you a real cottage, not simply a made-over boathouse. Yes, there is to be running water; a bedroom, study, and kitchenette; to say nothing of a bath and steam heat. He plans to connect it by piping with the central heating plant. So you see you will have a regular housekeeping bungalow instead of a camp."
Ted gasped.
"But—but—I can't let Mr. Fernald do all this for me," he protested. "It's—it's—too much."
"I shouldn't worry about him, if I were you," smiled the elder man. "It won't scrimp him, I imagine. Furthermore, it will be an excellent investment, for should the time ever come when you did not need the house it could be rented to one of our tenants. He is to put a foundation under it this time and build it more solidly; and possibly he may decide to set it a trifle farther back from the water. In any case, he will see that it is right; you can trust him for that. It will not be carried away a second time."
"I certainly hope not," Ted agreed. "What a pity it was they did not have some way of notifying us from Melton! If they had only had a wireless apparatus——" he broke off thoughtfully.
"I doubt if all the wireless in the world could have saved your little hut," answered Mr. Fernald kindly. "It was nothing but a pasteboard house and wireless or no wireless it would have gone anyway. I often speculate as to how ships ever dared to go to sea before they had the protection of wireless communication. Ignorance was bliss, I suppose. They knew nothing about it and therefore did not miss it. When we can boast no better way we are satisfied with the old. But think of the shipwrecks and accidents that might have been averted! You will be studying about all this some day when you go to Technology or college."
Ted's face lighted at the words.
"You have all been so kind to me, Mr. Fernald," he murmured. "When I think of your sending me to college it almost bowls me over."
"You must never look upon it as an obligation, my boy," the old gentleman declared. "If there is any obligation at all (and there is a very real one) it is ours. The only obligation you have will be to do well at your studies and make us proud of you, and that you are doing all the time. Mr. Hazen tells me you are showing splendid progress. I hope by another week Laurie will be out of the woods, Pine Lea will be fumigated, and you can resume your former way of living there without further interruptions from floods and illness. Still, I shall be sorry to have your little visit at Aldercliffe come to an end. You seem to have grown into the ways of the whole family and to fit in wherever you find yourself."
Mr. Fernald smiled affectionately at the lad.
"There is something that has been on my tongue's end to whisper to you for some time," he went on, after a brief interval of hesitancy. "I know you can keep a secret and so I mean to tell you one. In the spring we are going to take Laurie over to New York to see a very celebrated surgeon who is coming from Vienna to this country. We hear he has had great success with cases such as Laurie's and we hope he may be able to do something for the boy. Of course, no one knows this as yet, not even Laurie himself."
"Oh, Mr. Fernald! Do you mean there would be a chance that Laurie could walk sometime?" Ted cried.
The old man looked into the young and shining face and nervously brushed the back of his hand across his eyes.
"Perhaps; perhaps!" responded he gruffly. "Who can tell? This doctor has certainly performed some marvelous cures. Who knows but the lad may some day not only walk about, but leap and run as you do!"
"Oh, sir—!"
"But we must not be too sure or allow ourselves to be swept away by hope," cautioned Grandfather Fernald. "No one knows what can be done yet and we might be disappointed—sadly disappointed. Still, there is no denying that there is a fighting chance. But keep this to yourself, Ted. I must trust you to do that. If Laurie were to know anything about it, it would be very unfortunate, for the ordeal will mean both pain and suffering for him and he must not be worried about it in advance. He will need all his nerve and courage when the time for action comes. Moreover, we feel it would be cruel for him to glimpse such a vision and then find it only a mirage. So we have told him nothing. But I have told you because you are fond of him and I wanted you to share the secret."
"It shall remain a secret, Mr. Fernald."
"I feel sure of that," the man replied. "You are a good boy, Ted. It was a lucky day that brought you to............
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