Book Excerpt: Telegraph Island by John Milton Langdon
TELEGRAPH ISLAND, by John Milton Langdon, Tate Publishing, 280 pp.
Step back in time to the Victorian age. The industrial revolution in Britain is in full spate and electronic communication is in its infancy. Based loosely on fact author John Milton Langdon weaves a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas and in the Orient.
Jason Smiley Stewart — My Life Story describes the life of an average man. Although he is born in humble circumstances, he shows how a combination of perseverance and intelligence aided by a little good fortune, can help any child overcome the disadvantages of a lowly birth status and poor education.
In Telegraph Island, the second of four novels chronicling the life of Jason Smiley Stewart, the young man’s continuing adventures are described. He has his share of failure and success but once again demonstrates that his poor origins are no bar to fame and fortune when he leaves the life of a sailor to join the communication revolution.
I felt on top of the world and ate a hearty breakfast and as I did so I noticed that Joanna was neither eating very much nor looking very happy. After a time she stopped moving bacon and eggs around her plate, put down her knife and fork and looked at me with a strange and wondering expression.
She said sadly “You seem very happy this morning, Jason. Are you pleased to be leaving me so soon?”
“No of course not, Joanna” I replied and went on “If I seem happy this morning it’s because I am in love with a most wonderful person and she loves me too. I can barely believe that I’m really awake and not locked in a wonderful dream. I don’t want to leave just as we have found each other”. I held her hand and said “I must go Joanna as I cannot change the arrangements now. I know that I will be desperately unhappy until we can be together again”.
“Haven’t you forgotten something, Jason?” she asked obscurely.
I did a quick mental review of my packing and replied “I don’t think so Joanna, thank you. I’m sure I have packed everything”.
She let go of my hand. “Oh! Men can be so obtuse at times” she said with some asperity and then asked angrily “Don’t you remember what you said to me in the night?”
“Yes of course”.
“Do you remember my response?”
“Yes of course I do” I said still puzzled by her questions.
And then realisation struck. She was angry because I had been thoughtless in my misplaced cheerfulness and what was worse I had said nothing about my suggestion that she should be my wife. It was so much worse that Joanna had found it necessary to remind me about something that should have been my first priority.
What a fool I was. My euphoric mood drained away like water down a plug hole and at least mentally I kicked myself around the room.
I tried to take her hand but she was still angry with me and moved it out of reach as I said “Darling Joanna, please forgive me for being such an insensitive clod. I was so happy this morning that I just didn’t think beyond the here and now. I said last night that I would like you to be my wife and this morning I still feel the same, but I will have to ask your Mother’s permission before I can propose to you”.
“So why just sit there eating breakfast, when my mother is sitting in the next room reading,” was Joanna’s tart reply “She intends to go out shortly”.
I jumped to my feet, left the breakfast room and knocked on the door of the morning room. I went in when I heard Mrs. Evans call out. She was sitting in an armchair reading and I stood in front of her chair feeling a little like a child in front of the headmistress.
“Good morning, Jason, I hope you enjoyed a good night’s sleep?”
“I did thank you, Mrs. Evans and I hope you did as well” I said, then paused, not at all sure where to start or what to say. She looked at me, put her book on the side table and waited patiently for me to continue the conversation without saying a word herself. I collected my thoughts and failed totally to remain calm as I said without ceremony or preamble “I would like to have your permission to ask Joanna to marry me. I know it must seem sudden to you, but as I am just about to leave for India I would like to know that Joanna feels as I do and will wait for me to return”.
“Over the tribulations of the past few years I have come to know you quite well, Jason, and I think you will make my daughter a good husband. I think you have a good future and know that you will provide for her to the best of your ability. You have my permission to ask her”.
“Thank you Mrs. Evans. You cannot imagine how relieved I am” I responded formally and returned to the breakfast room where Joanna was waiting.
As I closed the door and walked towards her she said in a worried voice “What did my Mother say? You weren’t very long. She didn’t refuse did she?”
I smiled at her, then went down on one knee and asked simply but very seriously “I should be honoured if you would consent to be my wife Joanna. Please will you marry me?”
— Excerpt from Telegraph Island
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