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[Illustration: BEN SWUNG HIS HAT AND SHOUTED, AND AT LAST CAUGHT THE
NOTICE OF THE PEOPLE ON THE BANK.--P. 51.]

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THE TELEGRAPH MESSENGER BOY
Or
The Straight Road to Success

By
EDWARD S. ELLIS

Author of "Down the Mississippi," "Life of Kit
Carson," "Lost in the Wilds," "Red Plume," Etc.

CHATTERTON-PECK COMPANY
NEW YORK, N. Y.

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Copyright, 1889, by
N. L. MUNRO

Copyright, 1904, by
THE MERSHON COMPANY

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CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I. On a Log 1
II. The Collision 8
III. The Office Boy 16
IV. A Message in the Night 22
V. In Storm and Darkness 29
VI. "Tell Mother I Am All Right" 36
VII. A Thrilling Voyage 43
VIII. The Cipher Telegram 50
IX. The Translation 57
X. Farmer Jones 64
XI. The Value of Courtesy 71
XII. A Call 78
XIII. At the Grandin Mansion 85
XIV. The Conspiracy 93
XV. An Affray at Night 99
XVI. The Third Telegram 106
XVII. Decidedly Mixed 113
XVIII. Between Two Fires 120
XIX. Baffled! 127
XX. Watching and Waiting 134
XXI. "Lay Low!" 141
XXII. The Battle of Life 148
XXIII. Face to Face 155
XXIV. Startling Discoveries 160
XXV. In the Nick of Time 169
XXVI. Conclusion 176

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THE TELEGRAPH MESSENGER BOY

CHAPTER I

ON A LOG


I made the acquaintance of Ben Mayberry under peculiar circumstances. I
had charge of the Western Union's telegraph office in Damietta, where my
duties were of the most exacting nature. I was kept hard at work through
the winter months, and more of it crowded on me during the spring than I
could manage with comfort.

I strolled to the river bank one summer afternoon, and was sauntering
lazily along when I noticed a young urchin, who was floating down-stream
on a log, which had probably drifted thither from the lumber regions
above. The boy was standing upright, with a grin of delight on his face,
and he probably found more real enjoyment in floating down-stream in this
style than any excursionist could obtain in a long voyage on a palace
steamer.

He had on an old straw hat, through the crown of which his brown hair
protruded in several directions; his pantaloons were held up by a single
suspender, skewered through them in front by a tenpenny nail--an
arrangement which caused the garments to hang in a lopsided fashion to
his shoulders. He was barefooted, and his trousers were rolled up to his
knees. He wore no coat nor vest, and his shirt was of the coarsest
muslin, but it was quite clean.

This boy was Ben Mayberry, then ten years old, and he was a remarkable
fellow in more than one respect. His round face was not only the picture
of absolutely perfect health, but it showed unusual intelligence and
brightness. His figure was beautiful in its boyish symmetry, and no one
could look upon the lad without admiring his grace, of which he was
entirely unconscious.

In addition to this, Ben Mayberry was known to possess two accomplishments,
as they may be called, to an extraordinary degree--he was very swift of
foot and could throw with astonishing accuracy. Both of these attainments
are held in high esteem by all boys.

I had met Ben at intervals during the year past, but could hardly claim
to be acquainted with him. I usually bought my morning paper of him
during the cold weather, and I knew that his father was killed by a
blasting accident some years before. Ben was the only child of his
widowed mother, who managed to eke out a subsistence somehow with the aid
of the little fellow, who was ever ready and cheerful with his work.

While I stood looking at Ben, drifting slowly down-stream, and reflected
that the water was fully two fathoms deep at that point, three other boys
stopped on the bank below me to view him. They were strangers to me, but
I observed they were unusually well dressed. They had that effeminate,
exquisite appearance which satisfied me they were visitors from Boston,
sauntering along the river in order to learn whether there was anything
in our town worthy of their attention. They were apparently of nearly the
same age, and each was certainly one or two years older than Ben
Mayberry.

"Hello," exclaimed one, as the three came to an abrupt halt, "look at
that country boy out on that log over there; he thinks he's smart."

"He's trying to show off, Rutherford," said another.

"I say, boys, let's stone him," suggested the third, in a voice so
guarded that I was barely able to catch the words.

The proposition was received with favor, but one of them looked furtively
around and noticed me. His manner showed that he was in fear of my
stopping their cruel sport.

"Who cares for him?" said one of the party, in a blustering voice that it
was meant I should hear; "he's nobody. I'll tell him my father is one of
the richest men in Boston and is going to be governor some day."

"And I'll let him know that my father has taken me and our folks all over
Yurrup. Pooh! he daresn't say anything."

Soothed by this conclusion, the three began throwing stones at Ben.

Ben was close at hand, and the first boy who flung a missile poised and
aimed with such deliberation that I was sure Ben would be hit; but the
stone missed him by fully ten feet. It was not until two more had been
thrown that Ben awoke to the fact that he was serving as a target for the
city youth.

"What are you fellers doing?" he demanded, looking angrily toward them.
"Who you trying to hit?"

They laughed, and the tallest answered, as he flung another missile with
great energy but poor aim:

"We're going to knock you off that log, Country! What are you going to do
about it?"

"I'll show you mighty soon," answered the sturdy lad, who straightway
pushed the long pole in his hand against the bottom of the river, so as
to drive the log in toward the shore where his persecutors stood pelting
him.

There was something so plucky in all this that several others stopped to
watch the result. I secretly resolved that if Ben got the worst of it (as
seemed inevitable against three boys), I would interfere at the critical
moment.

"He's coming ashore to whip us!" exclaimed the tallest lad, almost
dropping to the ground with laughter. "I hope he will; I've been taking
sparring lessons of Professor Sullivan for a year, and I would like the
fun of knocking him out of time. I can do it in three rounds, and I want
you boys to stand back and leave him to me. I'll paralyze him!"

The others were reluctant, each claiming the happiness of demolishing the
countryman; but the tallest, who was called Rutherford, at last secured
their pledge that they would keep their hands off and allow him to have
all the fun to himself.

"I'll try the cross-counter on him, the upper cut, and then I'll land a
left-hander on his jug'lar that'll knock him stiff. Oh, how I ache to get
him within reach!"




CHAPTER II

THE COLLISION


Meanwhile Ben Mayberry was vigorously working the log in toward shore. It
moved slowly, but the current was sluggish, the space brief, and he was
certain to land in a few minutes.

One of the stones struck Ben on the shoulder. It must have angered him,
for instead of trying to dodge the rest, he used his pushing-pole with
more energy than before and paid no heed to the missiles, several of
which were stopped by his body.

It was plain that the valorous little fellow meant to attack the three
city lads, who were pestering him not only with stones, but with taunts
that were far more exasperating.

"Wonder who blacked his shoes?"

"Ain't that hat a beauty? He can comb his hair without taking it off."

"That one suspender must have cost him a good deal."

"By gracious, he's going to chew us up," laughed the tallest, as the log
approached land; "stand back, boys, you promised him to me, and I don't
want either of you to say you helped me to knock him out in the third
round."

The next minute the log was so close that the nimble-footed Ben leaped
ashore and strode straight for the valiant Rutherford, who immediately
threw himself in "position." His attitude was certainly artistic, with
his left foot thrown forward, his right fist clinched and held across his
breast, and his left extended ready to be shot forward into the first
opening that his enemy presented.

But it is one thing to assume the proper pugilistic attitude; it is
altogether another to act the part of a trained pugilist.

"Come on, Country!" called out the exultant Rutherford; "but I hope
you've bid your friends farewell."

The other boys stood back and watched the singular contest. I carefully
approached so as to be ready to protect Ben when it should become
necessary.

The brave fellow never hesitated, but the instant he landed lightly on
the shore he went straight for Rutherford, who, it was plain, was
slightly surprised and disconcerted by his unscientific conduct. But the
city youth kept his guard well up, and the moment Ben was within reach he
struck a violent blow intended for the face.

But Ben dodged it easily, dropping his head and running with cat-like
agility directly under the guard of his antagonist, who, before he could
understand precisely what it meant, found himself clasped around the
waist and thrown on his back with such violence that a loud grunt was
forced from him, and his handsome new hat rolled rapidly down into the
water.

And I am free to confess that I was delighted when I saw Ben give him
several of his "best licks," which made the tall boy roar for mercy.

"Take him off, boys!



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