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A Day Of Change


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Mature Content: No

Author: Flip

With: Hector Wigfall, Dutton Peabody,
Location: Add specific location information here.
When: May / 1 / 1876
Time of Day: Morning.

 

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It would become a busy day at the telegraph office, what with the regular in and out messaging regarding orders from the mercantile, the general store, and several other businesses along main street, including ink and paper for the Kalispell Union, two message for two men in town arrived almost at the same time, one right after the other. Although not out of the ordinary by any means, it was where they were from, and what they were about that was out of the ordinary.


Each would be life changing missives for the two men involved. Funny how these things happen in the stream of life, one day a body is laying plans for what they will do, perhaps the following day, or in the weeks and moths ahead, and the next, everything is dashed. Something more important has intervened, be it a crisis, an change in employment, a death, actually, any number of things, the point being, change was occurring.


The first to arrive most likely raised young Hector Wigfall’s eyebrows as he jotted down the message, from whom it came, and for whom it was intended. The Territorial Governors Office, Helena Montana, for Dutton Peabody. The second, a cry for help from the neighboring community of Columbia Falls, some twenty miles north east. This one was for Doctor Josiah Boone, who, while in Whitefish, had also been available to Columbia Falls whenever he was needed.

 

Now young Wigfall held their futures in his hands.

@Javia

 

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Hector recognised his best friend, Helena Central operator Henry Clay Lomax's, distinctive hand immediately as the message came through and got it in one, long though it was. Pretty neat piece of work, if he said so himself: he immediately sent the received signal back in a strong, clear Morse. People thought that the secret of good electric telegraphy operation was speed, it wasn't. The fellow at the other end had to get the message first time if possible, not be amazed at the rapidity of your taps.

 

The second was actually from the Columbia Falls office, via Central. Hector didn't know this operator’s name outside of the wires and dubbed him, in his head, Columbia Falls operator number 3. He seemed to have replaced #2, but he couldn't sure. Number 3 was slow and a little clumsy, but at least wasn't trying to run before he could walk and normally the message was through clear in two attempts. 

 

It was an odd world: he thought of some of these operators as personal friends, they were closer to him than just about anyone in his home town: but he had never seen their faces, never heard their voices, never shaken their hands, never even seen their handwriting. Yes, they were intimates; a friendship in electric blips: dots and dashes.

 

Another operator was about to begin his shift, so Hector stood up and grabbed the two important messages. As per usual, there was no sign of the asthmatic fat boy that had been hired as a telegraph delivery boy. “I’ll take these.” he explained to his relief man, slapping on his cap and pulling on his pea jacket, into which he slipped the messages and a couple of receipt forms. He wasn’t about to parade round Kalispell with a Western Union satchel around his shoulders: people might think he was a mere delivery boy, not a fully fledged operator.

 

Instead of going straight to the Saloon after work, like he usually did, he found his way to Doctor Boone’s place and rapped on the door. While he waited for an answer, he fetched out the two telegrams and put the one for Peabody back away, holding onto the one for Boone carefully, not to crumple or get fingerprints all over it.

 

@Flip

 

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The rap on the door interrupted Josiah and Dutton who were discussing what it would take for Dutton to maintain his sobriety, as perilous as it might be, it was just days, but in actually it mattered not, if the recovering party took his malady seriously, and was willing to fight for what he had gained.

 

"Coming, be right back Dutton." Josiah turned and went to the door opening it to find young  Hector Wigfall standing there with the notorious yellow papers in his and. "Hello hector, both for me?" This was highly unusual to receive one wire, let alone two. "Well, come in, come in."

@Javia

 

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"Coming, be right back Dutton." Josiah turned and went to the door opening it to find young  Hector Wigfall standing there with the notorious yellow papers in his and. "Hello hector, both for me?" This was highly unusual to receive one wire, let alone two. "Well, come in, come in."

 

“Just this one Doctor Boone, it looked important, so I brought it right over.” he said.

 

Looked important. Of course, Hector knew exactly what the sealed message said as he had had to process it. In a way, Hector was like Doctor Boone, trusted with secrets, bound by oath not to reveal them, not to intimate to the recipient that they knew their most joyous or terrible news far sooner than they themselves did.

 

“Can I get the receipt signed… just er…” he started to get the receipt slips out as he followed the doctor in. He would then let the medical man have a chance to read it and see if there was reply needed.

 

The other message he tucked into his pocket.

 

He wondered if Dutton Peabody was in the Saloon this evening, as per usual. He hoped so: half the time the drunken old bastard was ‘of no fixed abode’ which made it difficult to deliver messages to him. Not that they were exactly inundated, this was the first ever to come in with his name on it: -.. ..- - - --- -. ....... .--. . .- -... --- -.. -.--

 

@Flip

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"Well certainly I'll sign the receipt, must be important to require a signature." He agreed, he was smiling but the reception of a wire was generally perceived as bad new, and he really didn't need bad news at the moment.

 

It had been said that Doctors notoriously had terrible, if not illegible hand writing. Not Doc Boone, His scrawl was almost artistic. Once signed he reached into his pocket and withdrew a quarter dollar to pay the young man "Thank you, I hope."

 

Dutton walked out of the other room, a cup of coffee in his hand. He smiled and nodded to the young telegrapher and proceeded to the table and chair to set the cup down and have a seat. He surmised that there was certainly more to discuss about his malady.

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@Javia

 

 

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"Thank you, I hope."

 

The telegram had been paid for at the sending end, so Hector took the quarter as a tip, and was not too proud to accept it. He quite liked money. Transaction complete, he just waited now for the doctor to read it. Knowing what it said, he did his best to maintain as neutral a face as possible. He then had to wait for any reply and as he did so, a surprise met his eye.

 

Dutton walked out of the other room, a cup of coffee in his hand. He smiled and nodded to the young telegrapher and proceeded to the table and chair to set the cup down and have a seat. He surmised that there was certainly more to discuss about his malady.

 

Judge!” yelped Hector, calling Dutton by his usual nickname “Er, I mean, Mr Peabody. I…” he felt about himself and fished out the other telegraph message. “I’ve got a message for you, too!” he said, proffering the sealed card and bending forward to look into the room that the usually drunken man had, quite soberly, walked out of.

 

“You got anybody else in there, Doctor Boone?!” he wondered as he squinted in.

 

@Flip

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The telegram had been paid for at the sending end, so Hector took the quarter as a tip, and was not too proud to accept it. He quite liked money. Transaction complete, he just waited now for the doctor to read it. Knowing what it said, he did his best to maintain as neutral a face as possible. He then had to wait for any reply and as he did so, a surprise met his eye.

 

Dutton walked out of the other room, a cup of coffee in his hand. He smiled and nodded to the young telegrapher and proceeded to the table and chair to set the cup down and have a seat. He surmised that there was certainly more to discuss about his malady.

 

“Judge!” yelped Hector, calling Dutton by his usual nickname “Er, I mean, Mr Peabody. I…” he felt about himself and fished out the other telegraph message. “I’ve got a message for you, too!” he said, proffering the sealed card and bending forward to look into the room that the usually drunken man had, quite soberly, walked out of.

‘What’s the matter, Hector? Never seen a man with a cup of coffee?” Dutton asked with a smile. “A wire for me? How odd, who would that be from, I don’t believe I owe anyone the kind of money that would warrant sending me a telegram, for God’s sakes.”
 

“You got anybody else in there, Doctor Boone?!” he wondered as he squinted in.


Josiah laughed, not yet unfolding the paper. No, no, Dutto is it. Here lad.” He said fishing out another coin. “By the way, how is your sister, your mother, these days?” Professional inquiries into the boy’s family, though he really could not be considered a boy any longer, he was just younger looking than his true age. He still held the telegram as if it  were nothing more than a note from some local asking for an appointment.

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@Javia

 

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‘What’s the matter, Hector? Never seen a man with a cup of coffee?” Dutton asked with a smile.

 

Heck just gave a tight smile. Sure, he’d seen plenty of fellers with a cup of coffee; he’d just never seen Judge Peabody with one. it was ... disturbing.

 

“A wire for me? How odd, who would that be from, I don’t believe I owe anyone the kind of money that would warrant sending me a telegram, for God’s sakes.”

 

Again, Hector couldn’t even pass off the pleasantry of don’t ask me! He knew that Dutton knew that he knew the contents of the missive already.

 

“You got anybody else in there, Doctor Boone?!” he wondered as he squinted in.

 

Josiah laughed, not yet unfolding the paper. No, no, Dutto is it. Here lad.” He said fishing out another coin. “By the way, how is your sister, your mother, these days?”

 

“Oh, Mother’s just wonderful, Mister Peabody, I’ll tell her you asked after her.” He nodded, finding himself treating this new, sober man with some respect: there was a kind of gravitas about him in this condition, which he had always lacked when he had been boozed up and boasting of his court room exploits or lying dead drunk in a puddle of his own making in the middle of the street.

 

“No improvement with Jemima though, sorry. We’re thinking of taking her to the veterinarians to be put to sleep. Kindest thing really.” He joked in a deadpan and utterly earnest manner. Many a true word spoken in jest, he ruminated.

 

Professional inquiries into the boy’s family, though he really could not be considered a boy any longer, he was just younger looking than his true age. He still held the telegram as if it  were nothing more than a note from some local asking for an appointment.

 

“Any reply?” asked Hector, automatically. “Er, either parties?”

 

@Flip

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“Any reply?” asked Hector, automatically. “Er, either parties?”

 

Both men stood there, each still holding the folded yellow papers, neither appearing any too concerned about the contents of the telegrams. Dutton for instance, was more interested in the coffee he was sipping than some bad news that could most definitely wait, as he was in no hurry.

 

“Well,” Doc Boone began, “‘spose I ought to have a look, I can’t for the life of me understand why I would be getting a wire it just,” the paper was unfolded and he was beginning to read the words, ‘My God!”

 

“What is it Josiah?” Dutton asked, dropping his own message as he took a step forward.

 

“Why Leland Howard died of a stroke yesterday and there is an outbreak of some sort, according to the message, they want me to come to Columbia Falls immediately to take over for Leland. He was the Doctor there. Known him for years.”

 

He dropped into a chair. “Yes, yes, tell them I’m on my way, or will be shortly.” He craned his neck to look at Dutton. “And yours, Dutton, what does yours say?”

 

“Why I have no idea. Some bad news I’m sure, gageing by yours.” He was looking around until he located the missive, then bent down and picked it up. Setting the coffee back on the side table, he opened the message and read the words to himself.

 

“Well?” Josiah asked

 

“Uh, oh, ah, well it’s from the Governors office. I’m requested to be there as quickly as possible. A meeting with Governor Samuel Thomas Houser, Territorial Governor, of course. Sent by the Secretary Lincoln Ellsmore. I must have really done it this time.”

 

Josiah was back on his feet. “Just don not take that first drink, Dutton, you’ve worked to hard to throw it all away.” There was a pause. “I’ve people to see, things to pack , this couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. And you Dutton, what of the trial?”

 

Dutton looked at him a long moment. “Well, yes, the trial. Ah, Hector my boy, please reply that I am currently prosecuting and there is no replacement. I am bound to continue, but I will be there as quickly as possible. Yes, that should do it.” He took out a half dollar and flipped it toward Hector.

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@Javia

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While Doctor Boone absorbed the devastating news of the death of his colleague and friend at Columbia Falls, Hector, pulled out a transcription pad and a pencil to get down the reply.

 

He dropped into a chair. “Yes, yes, tell them I’m on my way, or will be shortly.”

 

“Coming shorty.” Murmured the Wigfall youth, scribbling the words. Of course, it was in his, and Western Union’s, interests to make the message as long as possible, but as an Ace operator, he took a certain pride in his ability to encode any long winded message into shorter, more economical cablese. He knew the A.B.C. Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code just about by heart and he and his fellow operators could express many complicated ideas with single words. For instance, rather than spend nearly a dime on saying It is not absolutely necessary, but well worth the outlay why not spend a single red cent on Naloopen?!

 

He craned his neck to look at Dutton. “And yours, Dutton, what does yours say?”

 

After no little farting around, Peabody got his message open and read, too.

 

“Uh, oh, ah, well it’s from the Governors office. I’m requested to be there as quickly as possible. A meeting with Governor Samuel Thomas Houser, Territorial Governor, of course. Sent by the Secretary Lincoln Ellsmore. I must have really done it this time.”

 

Josiah was back on his feet. “Just don not take that first drink, Dutton, you’ve worked to hard to throw it all away.” There was a pause. “I’ve people to see, things to pack, this couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. And you Dutton, what of the trial?”

 

Hector felt doubly awkward: not only did her know the contents of both of the old boys’ telegrams, but was clearly intruding on some sort of life and death struggle between Peabody and the demon drink! He pretended to look at a picture on the wall. It was a picture of Dr Boone himself. Hector thought that was a bit odd, somehow. Hanging up a picture of yourself. A daguerreotype of you and your family, perhaps, but one of just you? You would come home after a hard days doctoring, look on the wall and think, oh there I am, aren’t I…” His daydreaming was cut shot by the bark of the lawyer.

 

Dutton looked at him a long moment. “Well, yes, the trial. Ah, Hector my boy, please reply that I am currently prosecuting and there is no replacement. I am bound to continue, but I will be there as quickly as possible. Yes, that should do it.” He took out a half dollar and flipped it toward Hector.

 

Heck caught it, pocketed it and calculated: 50 cents minus 1 cent per word = Prosecuting back asap = 47 cents for him! He scribbled down the truncated message.

 

“So you’ll … both be back, right?” he asked tentatively. He knew his mother doted Dr Boone; she thought Dr. Danforth altogether too good looking, and suspiciously successful, with his fancy town house practice and his nurse and his 'warm gentle hands'. She preferred a good old country doctor type, like the more experienced Boone, cold hands and all!

 

@Flip

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