‘IT was my fault, and it was n’t; it was hiss fault, and it was n’t; it was the fault of the big contractin’ company, and it was n’t. Everybody’s fault, nobody’s fault. That’s the way things go nowadays. And through it all the workin’ men see kind o’ blindly that somehow the big fellows is to blame and yet you can’t put it on ’em, ’cause they slam it right back on us poor devils that does the dirty work, and, what with their “fellow-servants” acts and their “contributory-negligence” acts, and all the damned tangle o’ laws that was ever got up to befuddle a workin’ man, the very men that gets the worst of it are the ones that are blamed. Do you wonder the workin’ men feel like they was fightin’ a devil in the dark? Whenever they try to cover up, they get a blow from some other quarter and — ’
Lind broke off and glowered at the astonished Harris.
‘Your fault?’ Harris shouted. ‘Your fault that Fenway is dead from an old wound that he got in the B. & O. smash-up, two years ago? Say, you’re bughouse! ’
‘I’m a lot more sane and sensible than you are, Ben,’ retorted the station-agent. ‘ When are you goin’ to settle down and quit tryin’ to be the smart young reporter that you ain’t, and be content to remain the tol’ably good A. P. telegrapher that you are?’
Ben Harris smiled good-naturedly. And be a cross-roads baggage-master and utility man at sixty per for the rest o’ my life, like you, after the opportunity of your life with a big contracting company? Nix; I want to see the big end of the game, and may be there’s somethin’ in this Fenway business to get me started. Everybody in town knew him and they are n’t through talkin’ about the buildin’ of that terminal yet. If I get the whole story, I’ll write it up and the city editor ’ll run it in a jiffy. That is, if I can get all the local color and the facts about that accident he was in.’
Lind shivered, and turned up his coat-collar. His moody eyes gazed vacantly at the toes of his boots, cocked up on the desk before him.
‘ Poor Mr. Fenway,’ he mused. ‘ Who made and spent the few dirty dollars that cost him his life? Well, they can have it that want it. I’ve had my fling as a little duck in a big game, and I’ve seen how it’s played. Big men, big things, big risks — an’ hell all through it, with human life the littlest chip on the table. No; runnin’ this here 5.9, with a sure sixty per month is good enough for me— leastwise safest; and here at this little old telegraph-key I’m content to stay. It’s goin’ on now just as it did when they were buildin’ down here, only worse, ’cause there’s more of ’em in the game, and men are workin’ under bigger strains.’ He turned his eyes to the reporter’s bewildered face. ‘You can write it up or not, Ben; and the city editor can take it or not, just as he likes. But it’s been hauntin’ my sleep for two years now, I guess I’ll get it off my chest.’ ‘Just as you say,’ agreed Harris uneasily; but he settled down to listen.
‘The first I ever heard of Mr. Fenway’ — Lind always spoke of him in the most respectful terms — ‘was when I was one of the bill clerks in the B. & O. freight-office where they had the old terminal yards. Shortly after the contract for the new terminal was let, a letter comes sayin’ that a lot of contractors’ outfit was billed down, and would we notify the home office when it arrived; would the “ B. & O. tell the writer who to deal with in the office, for the contractor would be havin’ a lot of freight,” and soon. It was signed “Fenway,” and somethin’ about the letter, for it was turned over to me, made me like the man. I pictured him to be a big husky with a jaw like a gorilla, and somehow I took a shine to the job of lookin’ after the whole outfit; so I goes to the boss and asks to be specially assigned to the work, and I gets the assignment. So the outfit comes down, and right on the heel of it, just the right number of trucks and men to handle it off nice and easy in about six hours; no fuss—just business.
‘ “ You and I are goin’ to get along fine, Mr. Fenway, if that’s the way you do things,” says I to myself. For every one around a freight office knows the mess it gets us in to have the unloadin’ badly handled. And as time went on we never had a word o’ complaint, about the unloadin’ or releasin’ of cars for Mr. Fenway’s concern.
‘A little later on, big derricks commenced to get stood up, and a tipple and sidin’ was built in short order. Now and again I see a party of their engineers squintin’ around through surveyin’ instruments, and everything seemed to be movin’ like clockwork over at that hundred acres o’ disorder they called the “site,” and it used to be a wonder to me where the feller Fenway kept himself. Freight commenced comin’ faster, and every day more and more cars kept comin’ bringing this, that, and the other thing, till I was hard put to it to keep up with my billin’, and what with the other freight comin’ into the yard and the disturbance of traffic, due to the changing of the yard to suit the new terminal, we had a busy season of it. But as far as I knew then, I never saw Mr. Fenway, although nearly every day letters from him came in, and the monthly checks we got for freight, signed by him, would ’a’ paid the dividends on our division.
‘ In the followin’ spring, when everything ought to have been runnin’ the best, we commenced to have our first trouble with the freight consigned to the contractors, and it was n’t long before I had my first look at a chaser, which is nothin’ more than a young cub sent out by the contractor to look up cars that go astray. He comes in to where I’m workin’ my head off over the bills, and looks me over like I was the office-boy.
‘ “ Say, Lind,” says he, — an’ I never laid eyes on him before, — “I want you to get cars so-and-so and so-andso released at Baltimore quick — we need ’em now,” says he.
‘ “Get to hell out of this office,” says I; and then I looks down where his hand was on my desk, and there was a couple o’ mean-lookin’ cigars.
‘“Take your dirty weed out o’ here and tell your boss he’ll git his cars when they come — Git!”
‘“But I’m from Fenway,” says he; and with that some o’ the boys in the office takes it up and starts yellin’, “An’ we’re from Missouri!”
‘ The cub was mad and so was I, but he got no satisfaction from me.
‘Next day, as I was pausin’ over my work, another young chap comes up. He takes off his hat, asks if I’m Mr. Lind, and then says he is from the contractors. His voice was that soft you ’d ’a’ thought he was askin’ for a dance, but his eye looked right through you, and he never wasted a word except to be that polite that you had to give him your attention.
‘I was for handin’ it to him, ’cause I figured he was another of them cub “chasers” and I’d already had too much of ’em, but I hesitated, and says, “And who are you?”
‘“I’m Mr. Fenway,” says he; “I know what happened yesterday and I know you ’re workin’ hard keepin’ your end up. It’s only in the last month we’ve been havin’ trouble with cars and it’s taken me a week to locate the trouble. I want you to help us, Mr. Lind, although it’s goin’ to add to your work. I’ve written Mr. Murray that you need assistance, but meanwhile, we’ve got to keep our freight movin’. Work with us and we’ll appreciate it.”
‘You could a floored me with a feather. “So you’re the guy that’s been squintin’ around with the surveyors, are you — an’ how do you get time to do anything else?” says I. “An’,” says I, “how do you know just what’s the matter with the freight when the whole office here is breakin’ their bally necks to locate the trouble? You’re not the only one. The whole division is by the ears, and if the yardmasters and dispatchers don’t loosen up on the Baltimore and Wilmington yards, we’ll be bughouse,” says I.
‘“Part of the trouble goes further than that,” says he, “ but I know you ’re busy now. Please come into the office this afternoon,” says he, “and I’ll show you what I think is the trouble and how we ought to try to get over it.”
‘An’ sure enough, he did. He had every car spotted from Burlington to Pittsburg, and more inside information than I thought there was, but all the time talking like I knew as much as he did.
‘“Say,” I says, “I’m in the wrong place. I ought to be workin’ for you. I can’t help you ’cause I get the trouble after it’s happened. You put me in touch with how you get all this information and I’ll follow it through.” An’ right then and there we made a deal.
‘“What’s the name o’ my job goin’ to be?” says I.
‘“Chaser, Mr. Lind,” says he.
‘ Shades o’ the devil! I thinks o’ that little skunk that tried to bluff me the day before.
‘ “What’s to become o’ him?” I asks.
‘“He’s resigned,” says Mr. Fenway smilin’. “We want people around who can do constructive things.”
‘And that’s about the worst I ever heard him say about anybody.
‘So back I goes to tell the boss that I was for travelin’ in faster company, and somehow, I felt like I’d made the move of my life. I had n’t known the man more ’n about six hours and yet I knew him and me was goin’ to hit it up like I’d known him all my life.’
Evening was closing in. Lind got up and lit the semaphore light and fell to musing again. Harris sat in silence watching him.
‘Well, I took to my new job like a duck to water,’ he went on presently. ‘Mr. Fenway had figured the thing out right. The whole trouble lay with the car inspectors along the line and not altogether in the Baltimore and Wilmington yards. To begin with, they were over-particular. They had a way of walkin’ along a train and markin’ “Shop” on every car that did n’t just suit their finicky eyes. Now “Shop” means that the car has got to go to the shop for repairs before it can go on to its destination, and if anything plays hell with shipments o’ freight it’s these blasted “shopped” cars. No freighttrain conductor ’ll touch one of ’em if he knows it, for love or money; and when they “shop” ’em it’s good-bye. Sometimes they transfer the cargo to other cars, and they go astray quick ’cause the original way-bills don’t record ’em; and altogether it’s about the most troublesome thing in railroadin’.
‘Well, sir, those inspectors did have the “ shop” habit. I went out and spent about a month livin’ round the yards and I come away with the answer. In plain English, it was graft, — plain, simple, dirty graft, —and we buildin’ a big terminal for their very bosses that they was graftin’ off of.
‘By that time I knew every crew on every division of the road from New York to Baltimore; on our end I knew ’em all from old days, when I was billclerk; and what with ridin’ in the cabooses and ridin’ on the engines and passin’ out cigars here and there and generally followin’ the policy of bein’ decent, that Mr. Fenway was such a good one at, I soon got to know the road better ’n the General Superintendent himself. Sometimes I’d be out for a couple of weeks at a time, ridin’ cars in and runnin’ back, pickin’ up lame ducks and tendin’ to cars that was shopped. But the graft game o’ the inspectors, that was the limit; so I says to myself, “I’ll do a little inspectin’ o’ my own.”
‘ I’d go to the yards and get chummy with these inspectors, and pretty soon I found out that they had a way o’ their own in markin’ “Shop.” If it was done like that,’ — and here Lind made an imaginary diagonal mark, — ‘it was meant the car must be “ shopped ”; but if it was done so,’ — and here the angle of the imaginary mark changed,— ‘it meant that for a piece of money the car could be released. If some consignee down the line who was in a hurrry for the car did n’t pay up, the car went to the shop anyway, ’cause they could always find some little tinkerin’ to do; but there was ways o’ gettin’ ’em released; and, believe me, some of the chasers, with unlimited expense account, shelled out handsomely; for the rule of the big consignee was to “get ’em no matter what it costs; get ’em — no excuses or alibis, and no questions asked.” They got so bad with their little game that they did n’t take the trouble to keep any record o’ what they was shoppin’, and every once in a while through their carelessness a car marked “Shop” woidd n’t be cut out o’ the train, but would be pulled on out o’ the yard, and as soon as some o’ the train crew’d discover it the train-conductor’d go and rub the mark off to save his skin, ’cause it was against the rules to haul a shopped car.
‘Well, it did n’t take me long to find out that I could rub off the chalk, same as a train-conductor; and what with knowin’ a dangerous car when I saw it and knowin’ this secret markin’, I ran the summer through, bein’ my own car inspector, conductor, and everything else, as a matter of fact; so that by fall our freight was movin’ as pretty as anything you ever seen. And all the time I was gettin’ more and more to do as I pleased.
‘A train’d roll into the yard, and while it was bein’ broke up and drilled,1 these bally inspectors’d go through, markin’ “Shop” the cars they thought was badly needed, billed for points along the line, till I thought the roads’d suspend business for want o’ sound cars to haul. I’d follow right along, and just on my own hook, I’d look ’em over, and if any o’ mine were shopped I ’d say to myself, “All O.K., old fellow, — guess you ’re good enough to run another hundred miles”; and I’d just rub my coat-sleeve over them marks, and right off the car’d be as good as new. I always figured I was savin’ the road money, which I surely was, so my conscience was easy.’
The lights twinkled in the distant farmhouses. A freight train rumbled and clanked on its lumbering way. Word came that Lind’s supper was ready, but he sent back word that he would not be home.
‘I’m telling you all this, Ben,’ he said, ‘’cause you’ve got to know it to understand the rest I’m goin’ to tell you, and to show you the deviltry that lies in an innocent little breakin’ of the rules, and the hell that lies in that terrible silent pressure that comes on a man workin’ for a big corporation.
‘ By winter I not only knew all the train-crews, but I knew every yardmaster and every dispatcher and every switchman east of Pittsburg. I hobnobbed with ’em and went to their homes of a Sunday, although I don’t know how I found time to do it, for it seemed like I was goin’ it twenty hours a day, week in an’ week out. It was nothin’ for me to go into a dispatcher’s office and make up my own train-orders, takin’ the yellow press-copy with me and handin’ it to the conductor myself. Cars I needed in a hurry I’d get hooked on to fast freights, and more’n once I tacked a “perishable” label on a car o’ brick just to get her on a fast express freight. Finally I got to carryin’ blank orders myself and makin’ ’em out as I went, but always givin’ strict account o’ what I did, so that no trouble ever came of ’em; and without knowin’ it, I commenced to think our stuff was the only thing of importance on the line, and I was about the only man runnin’ the road.
‘I’ll never forget the circumstances that led up to the accident. It was mid-winter and I was workin’ along the Pennsylvania between Pittsburg and Pencoyd and back to the terminal, hurryin’ through the steel, for we were well into the structure by that time and the job was goin’ full blast. Occasionally I’d skip across into Vermont or New Hampshire to hustle through a shipment of granite; but no matter what I was doin’, the orders was always “hurry, hurry, — rush and hurry everything, so’s no money be lost.”
‘I’d been out on such work for about ten days and was pullin’ into town hopin’ to have a Sunday home and also to have a few pleasant words with Mr. Fenway, for it was like bein’ with your own folks to be around where he was, with his quiet, polite ways that spelled more progress than all the hell-raisin’ that was done in the whole terminal. When I went to the office the lights o’ early evenin’ were lit an’ the whole office force of engineers and timekeepers and the like was there, waitin’ to have a word with the boss.
“‘Where’s Mr. Fenway?” I asks.
‘“Gone to the home office to get your promotion,” says the assistant superintendent, invitin’ me into the private office. “He’s on the limited which just ran through the yard now, and he telegraphed for you to meet him here. He says you’re promoted, but before taking up your new duties, the home office wants you to undertake to get through a shipment that’s badly needed. Here’s Mr. Fenway now,” says he. And at that the boss comes in, stampin’ the snow off and unbuttonin’ his coat.
‘“Hello, Lind,” says he, “congratulations to you. You’ve earned your raise, and what’s more, to-day I made them give it to you. But it means a hard job, ’cause some one must undertake bringin’ in a western shipment that’s badly needed in New York. I know you’re tired, but I’d like it if you’d start right out. I’ve got to go south myself to-night, but I’m goin’ on north Monday night, so please do me the favor, for I’ve told ’em in at the office that you were the only man we had who could be relied on to do it.”
‘Nobody would have refused him anything, but least of all myself, and my pride went up. “Thank you, Mr. Fenway,” I says. “I know you’ve taken three trips to get me my raise and I’m half sure the directors would rather have had a recommendation of a cut in my pay than what you asked ’em for.”
‘ He smiled a tired smile as he hung up his coat. If I was doin’ fifteen hours a day, it was plain he was doin’ twenty, and it was commencin’ to tell on him. “Take these papers,” he says; “pick up these cars somewhere east o’ Harrisburg, and see that they’re in the Greenville yard by Tuesday mornin’ — thank you, Lind.” And with that he sits down to his desk piled a foot high with papers.
‘I went out with a light heart and a feelin’ that I’d bring those cars through if I had to carry ’em on my back. There was nothin’ cheerful in the chill in the air that night, and the fine snow that came siftin’ down with the cruel north wind. “You’re in for a blizzard,” says I to myself, “but it’s Harrisburg this night and that’s all there is to it.”
‘Three cars was in the shipment, — all fabricated stuff, — and, as I expected, they’d got separated. All day Sunday I worked eastward from Harrisburg on way trains, stoppin’ at every little station and lookin’ over cars on sidin’s, for the storm had disorganized the whole road, and there was n’t a freight office could give you a clue of anything that had moved in the past three days. Sunday night I located ’em — that is, two of ’em — on a sidin’ in the Philadelphia yard, — but the third had disappeared. All night long I searched along with a lantern through all the great tangle o’ tracks, with the snow and wind ragin’ about me like the devil turned loose, but never a clue did I get; and when I turned in at a cheap railroad boardin’-house near the yards at five in the mornin’, frozen and chapped, I could ’a cried for the disappointment of it all. I slept till three — three o’clock Monday afternoon — and woke with a jump. One lost car, a blizzard ragin’ outside, and Mr. Fenway’s promise to have all three cars at Greenville barely fifteen hours to come! Do you wonder I was down-hearted?
‘ I dressed in a hurry and hustled over to North Philadelphia to see if by any chance my missing car could be there. Night came and I was still at it, lantern in hand, trudgin’ along in the snow, beside the freight-trains in the yards, lookin’ and despairin’.
‘ In some ways luck was with me and in some ways it pressed hard against me. I’d hoped to get the cars on No. 6 that went through at eight in the evenin’ and when I saw that train pull out without my pets, I could ’a cried. Not ten minutes after, I stumbled on the lost car, way back on a sidin’ well out towards the main line to New York; but it was a sad satisfaction, though, for my No. 6 had gone. And not three car-lengths away on another track, I found the other two, drilled up there from the other yard in the daytime while I was sleepin’. I took my lantern close up, to be sure that it was really our lost car, and sure enough it was; but my heart sank again. There she stood all right and by the flickerin’ lantern light I could see that across the end of her was written in chalk the word “Shop.”
‘In that ragin’ blizzard at that time o’ night, what under heaven could a man do? I set down my lantern. It was dark as pitch and nobody anywhere around. A few semaphore lights twinkled in the howlin’ storm at the yard-limit not twenty yards above me. There was nothin’ else to do; I raised my coat-sleeve and rubbed that cursed mark off the car. Then I looked round for help. Through the swirl of the snow I could see the lights of a switch-tower by the track about fifty yards down the track. In I went, and there sat Jim Driscoll and another fella huddled round a stove.
‘“What’s the next freight train to New York?” says I.
‘They grinned. “None,” says Jim, “and perhaps there won’t be any. The Southern Fruit Express is due here about now, but she’ll have to go some to get through. Anyhow, she’s on passenger schedule and don’t stop for no one.”
‘“Oh,” says I, “we’ll see.”
‘My hands were numb and wet from the meltin’ snow, but the devil was in my heart. After rubbin’ “shop” off that car without examinin’ it, I could ’a’ committed murder. I reaches into my side-pocket and strips off a tissuepaper order-blank an’ makes out like I was goin’ to show it to ’em.
‘“I’ve got somethin’ here ’at’ll stop any of ’em,” says I, “and you better be on the lookout to throw a few switches if you hear of any one wantin’any drillin’.” And with that I slips the paper back in my pocket, grabs my lantern, and rushes out into the storm.
‘How I made my way down that track I never knew. The snow was comin’ down so that you could n’t see a semaphore ten yards away, and I knew any engine that was runnin’ would be runnin’ blind. On I stumbled, pitchin’ and fallin’ along the ties, for the snow was quite deep. I must ’a’ traveled half the length of the yard when right ahead o’ me I heard a roar and I knew it was the Southern. She was puffin’ along pretty strong, just gettin’ ready to make speed as soon as she passed the yard-limit. I swung my lantern like a racin’ windmill, but in that storm no lantern could ’a’ been seen—’specially when it was n’t looked for. There I stood whirlin’ the lantern till the engine was almost on me, and just as I figured she’d bowl me over, I jumps clear on the engineer’s side, and as I did I strikes the slopin’ edge of the ballast an’ goes sprawlin’, an’ my lantern goes out. Well, I was frantic seein’ my last chance go, but with my last ounce of strength, I righted myself and slung the lantern full into the engine cab just as she was goin’ by. In doin’ so I fell again, but I had the satisfaction o’ hearin’ the engine stop puffin’ an’ the air-brakes go on with a rattle, and I knew I’d won up to them.
‘As soon as I could scramble to my feet, I ran along with the train and managed to grab the caboose-rail and swing aboard, and as I slips in the back door I sees Con Grayley, the conductor, startin’ through the front door to run over the top o’ the train to find out what’s up, for the way those brakes went on would ’a’ jarred anybody into thinkin’ that somethin’ bad had happened.
‘I knew if I let Con examine in the caboose the paper I intended to show him, it’d be all up with me, so I lays low a few seconds and then follows after him.
‘Just as he climbs down over the coal into the cab o’ the engine, the train comes to a full stop right along side o’ where I knew my three pets was standin’ — easy to drill out and easy to hook on.
‘“What the hell!” he was saying to Dad Sawyer, the engineer.
‘ Dad and the fireman was examinin’ the battered remains o’ my lantern.
‘“Dunno,” says Dad. “This thing came flyin’ through the cab-window and I figured somethin’ must be up.”
‘“You’re right,” says I, buttin’ in just like I belonged there. “Here’s what’s up. Them three cars o’ steel has got to be taken to the Greenville yards P.D.Q.”
‘Con could n’t contain himself, he was that mad. “Don’t you know,” he yells, “that this is the Fruit Express, and don’t carry anything from way points?”
‘“Hold on, Con,” says I; “people higher up can do anything.”
‘We were standin’ under the gaugelight, which at best gave no light fit to read by; but with the swirlin’ of the storm outside and the vibration o’ the safety-valve that was roarin’ just ahead, it flickered so that the chances was all in my favor.
‘“Here’s orders,” says I; and I reaches down and pulls out one o’ the yellow tissues.
‘If it had been day it might ’a been possible to read it, but with my wet dirty gloves on that yellow tissue paper under that light I knew I was safe. Con gave one look, grumbled something, started to take the fake order out of my hand and turned to Dad.
‘“All right,” he grumbled; “thank God, we’re nearly on time! Where’s the drill engine?” says he to me.
‘ “Right where we’re standin’, ” says I. “The little chaps is tucked away in bed on a night like this, but just you unhook behind the tender,” says I, “an’ Dad an’ I’ll drill those three beauties in line and hook ’em up here in no time.”
‘By that time the brakeman had come up, and all hands turned to drillin’. We picked the two up first, pulled out, and shoved in the one I’d rubbed the “Shop” mark off. Then we stuck all three on the front o’ the train and were on our way.
‘ I never knew why we were n’t killed by a train from the rear, ’cause with that storm ragin’ the block and signal lights were about as good as nothin’ at all; but we got through somehow, and when we puffed out under the semaphore that marked the yard-limit, I felt like hell and heaven were closin’ in on me with an even chance either way.
‘I stayed in the engine cab ’cause I wanted to dry out; and besides I did n’t want to talk with Con and have him question me too much about that forged order.
‘We got up pretty good speed, and through Brunswick I commenced to think my troubles was over, and I must ’a’ dozed off sittin’ on the back of a shovel with the fire-door openin’ every five minutes not two feet from my face. I remember wakin’ with a start to notice that Dad was actin’ mighty uneasy at the throttle. He kept lookin’ back and lookin’ back, and every few minutes leanin’ way out o’ the window, peerin’ out into the storm over the roar o’ the swayin’ tender.
‘ “ Somethin’ the matter back there,” he yells to me over the roarin’ noise o’ the train; “this thing ain’t pullin’ right.”
‘My heart sank. “I’ll go back an’ look ’em over,” I yells back.
My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and my knees knocked together. Here we were plungin’ along at a terrible pace through that storm with somethin’ wrong with the train, and I knew down in my heart that that somethin’ was the third car back.
‘ “I’ll go,” I says again weakly; but Dad did n’t hear me.
‘I crawled up over the coal to the first car and groped my way over the two gondolas loaded with steel, but I could n’t get on the third. Somethin’ terrible had happened. I could barely see through the swirlin’ snow that the front end of it was way off to one side so that the draw-bar must ’a’ been runnin’ under the corner of the car, and the whole front end seemed to be off the trucks. And there she careened and pitched as that train tore through the night. Every second I expected to hear the crash of the cars tumblin’ over and the roar of the wreck. We ahead might be saved, but there was poor Con and the brakeman behind. They’d be killed, I was sure. I knew the weight of the heavy speedin’ cars behind the disabled one, and all I could think of was the booming and crashing they would make as they piled up in the confusion the second that teeterin’ car o’ steel stuck her nose in the ground.
‘Sick, and with scarcely enough strength to hold on, I crawled back toward the engine. My only idea was to get back and get Dad to stop the train. I’d hardly started when I realized that our greatest danger was from other trains. The damaged car hung out over the north-bound track in the same direction we were goin’, and hardly had my thoughts turned to this, when the accident happened. The Limited, runnin’ past us in the same direction, came thunderin’ up through the storm, and before I jumped I see her crash into the projectin’ car, and then everything faded from my sight.
‘ The next thing I remember was that I was groping round in the wreckage of the Limited. Every one that was able seemed to be runnin’ about, and a dozen lanterns twinkled up and down the track. Some one had given me a lantern, and as I worked and tugged, helpin’ to get the passengers free, I came upon a face that I recognized even in the lantern light in that terrible blizzard. It was Mr. Fenway. He was pinched down like a rat in a trap, with something heavy crushing into his side. God! had n’t I had enough? Here he was on his way to meet me, to be there when the shipment got there, to say that I had done it.
’I worked and worked, and at last I managed to free him and drag him from the wreck. As I helped stretch him out I saw that somehow the thing that had pinned him down had left a great cut in his side. My overcoat came off in a jiffy, and I cried like a baby as I spread it over him, propped up in the lee of an overturned car.
‘And what do you think he said?
‘“Oh, is that you, Lind?” says he, smilin’ that wistful smile. “Did you get ’em?” says he; and before I could say a word, he says, “I knew you would. The directors ’ll now be satisfied with your promotion. Where are they?” says he.
‘“Right here, piled up all around you and scattered along the track, curse ’em!” says I.
‘“Where are we?” His voice was gettin’ kind o’ husky.
‘“We’re about five miles out,” says I.
“‘That’s good.” He smiled again, as he turned his head under the cover of the fur collar of my coat. “Only a few miles from the Greenville yard. The wrecking crane can easily handle ’em in, thank you, Mr. Lind.”’
Ben Harris had caught the nine o’clock back to the city. He sat clutching a handful of notes hastily scribbled on telegraph-blanks. Now and again he would unroll them slowly, reading one sheet after another.
‘How would the city editor like me to handle this?’ he thought to himself. ‘ I wonder if it would n’t be better to play it up as Sunday space on a story about handlin’ freight. May be the one-inch stick about Fenway’d better not be mentioned.’
Again he wavered. ‘May be, if I write it up like that, Lind’ll get into trouble. No, — can’t do that even if he wants me to. He’s had trouble enough, poor devil. May be—’
He fell into a long silence.
‘May be I ’d better stick to my key. Train wrecks are not the only kind.’
- Shifted from one train to another. — THE AUTHOR.↩