Remarkable, Exciting And Unique Examples Of The Bravery, Daring And Stoicism In The Midst Of Danger Of TRAIN DISPATCHERS AND RAILROAD ENGINEERS
JOHN A. HILL and JASPER EWING BRADY
ABSORBING STORIES OF MEN WITH NERVES OF STEEL, INDOMITABLE COURAGE AND WONDERFUL ENDURANCE
CHICAGO JAMIESON-HIGGINS CO. 1902
Copyright 1898, 1899 By S. S. McClure Co.
Copyright 1899 By Doubleday & McClure Co.
Copyright 1900 By Jamieson-Higgins Co.
PART I. PAGE
Jim Wainright's Kid 7
An Engineer's Christmas Story 35
The Clean Man and the Dirty Angels 57
A Peg-legged Romance 75
My Lady of the Eyes 97
Some Freaks of Fate 151
Mormon Joe, the Robber 191
A Midsummer Night's Trip 227
The Polar Zone 253
I. Learning the Business—My First Office 1
II. An Encounter with Train Robbers 11
III. In a Wreck 12
IV. A Woman Operator Who Saved a Train 25
V. A Night Office in Texas—A Stuttering Despatcher 33
VI. Blue Field, Arizona, and an Indian Scrimmage 42
VII. Taking a Whirl at Commercial Work—My First Attempt—The Galveston Fire 52
VIII. Sending a Message Perforce—Recognizing an Old Friend by His Stuff 62
IX. Bill Bradley, Gambler and Gentleman 68
X. The Death of Jim Cartwright—Chased off a Wire by a Woman 80
XI. Witnessing a Marriage by Wire—Beating a Pool Room—Sparring at Long Range 87
XII. How a Smart Operator was Squelched—The Galveston Flood 96
XIII. Sending My First Order 104
XIV. Running Trains by Telegraph—How It is Done 111
XV. An Old Despatcher's Mistake—My First Trick 125
XVI. A General Strike—A Locomotive Engineer for a Day 137
XVII. Chief Despatcher—An Inspection Tour—Big River Wreck 147
XVIII. A Promotion by Favor and Its Results 160
XIX. Jacking up a Negligent Operator—A Convict Operator—Dick, the Plucky Call Boy 168
XX. An Episode of Sentiment 185
XXI. The Military Operator—A Fake Report that Nearly Caused Trouble 192
XXII. Private Dennis Hogan, Hero 203
XXIII. The Commission Won—In a General Strike 222
XXIV. Experiences as a Government Censor of Telegraph 237
XXV. More Censorship 246
XXVI. Censorship Concluded 257
XXVII. Conclusion 269
List of Illustrations
"Quick as a flash the Kid had my arm." Frontispiece
TO FACE "I noticed his long, slim hand on the top of the reverse-lever" 22
"It was a strange courting ... there on that engine" 70
"We carried him into the depot" 100
"He was the first man I ever killed" 176
"'Mexican,' said I" 236
"What seemed to be a giant iceberg...." 282
"A white city ... was visible for an instant" 292
Facsimile of a completed train-despatcher's order 1
"Two of the men tied my hands in front of me" 16
"After many efforts I finally reached the lowest cross-arm" 30
"One of them picked up the lantern, and swaggering over to where I sat all trembling...." 38
"He looked at me ... then catching me by the collar...." 100
"... Half lying on the table, face downward, dead by his own hand" 128
"'See here, who is going to pull this train?'" 144
"Are you not doing it just because I am a woman?" 190
"... Dennis, lying under the telegraph line. His left hand still grasped the instrument" 219
JIM WAINRIGHT'S KID
As I put down my name and the number of the crack engine of America—as well as the imprint of a greasy thumb—on the register of our roundhouse last Saturday night, the foreman borrowed a chew of my fireman's fine-cut, and said to me:
"John, that old feller that's putting on the new injectors wants to see you."
"What does he want, Jack?" said I. "I don't remember to have seen him, and I'll tell you right now that the old squirts on the 411 are good enough for me—I ain't got time to monkey with new-fangled injectors on that run."
"Why, he says he knowed you out West fifteen years ago."
"So! What kind o' looking chap is he?"
"Youngish face, John; but hair and whiskers as white as snow. Sorry-looking rooster—seems like he's lost all his friends on earth, and wa'n't jest sure where to find 'em in the next world."
"I can't imagine who it would be. Let's see—'Lige Clark, he's dead; Dick Bellinger, Hank Baldwin, Jim Karr, Dave Keller, Bill Parr—can't be none of them. What's his name?"
"Winthrop—no, Wetherson—no, lemme see—why, no—no, Wainright; that's it, Wainright; J. E. Wainright."
"Jim Wainright!" says I, "Jim Wainright! I haven't heard a word of him for years—thought he was dead; but he's a young fellow compared to me."
"Well, he don't look it," said Jack.
After supper I went up to the hotel and asked for J. E. Wainright.
Maybe you think Jim and I didn't go over the history of the "front." "Out at the front" is the pioneer's ideal of railroad life. To a man who has put in a few years there the memory of it is like the memory of marches, skirmishes, and battles in the mind of the veteran soldier. I guess we started at the lowest numbered engine on the road, and gossiped about each and every crew. We had finished the list of engineers and had fairly started on the firemen when a thought struck me, and I said:
"Oh, I forgot him, Jim—the 'Kid,' your cheery little cricket of a firesy, who thought Jim Wainright the only man on the road that could run an engine right. I remember he wouldn't take a job running switcher—said a man that didn't know that firing for Jim Wainright was a better job than running was crazy. What's become of him? Running, I suppose?"
Jim Wainright put his hand up to his eyes for a minute, and his voice was a little husky as he said:
"No, John, the Kid went away—"
"Yes, across the Great Divide—dead."
"That's tough," said I, for I saw Jim felt bad. "The Kid and you were like two brothers."
"John, I loved the—"
Then Jim broke down. He got his hat and coat, and said:
"John, let's get out into the air—I feel all choked up here; and I'll tell you a strange, true story—the Kid's story."
As we got out of the crowd and into Boston Common, Jim told his story, and here it is, just as I remember it—and I'm not bad at remembering.
"I'll commence at the beginning, John, so that you will understand. It's a strange story, but when I get through you'll recall enough yourself to prove its truth.
"Before I went beyond the Mississippi and under the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, I fired, and was promoted, on a prairie road in the Great Basin well known in the railway world. I was much like the rest of the boys until I commenced to try to get up a substitute for the link motion. I read an article in a scientific paper from the pen of a jackass who showed a Corliss engine card, and then blackguarded the railroad mechanics of America for being satisfied with the link because it was handy. I started in to design a motion to make a card, but—well, you know how good-for-nothing those things are to pull loads with.
"After my first attempt, I put in many nights making a wooden model for the Patent Office. I was subsequently informed that the child of my brain interfered with about ten other motions. Then I commenced to think—which I ought to have done before. I went to studying what had been done, and soon came to the conclusion that I just knew a little—about enough to get along running. I gave up hope of being an inventor and a benefactor of mankind, but study had awakened in me the desire for improvement; and after considerable thought I came to the conclusion that the best thing I could do was to try to be the best runner on the road, just as a starter. In reality, in my inmost soul, my highest ideal was the master mechanic's position.
"I was about twenty-five years old, and had been running between two or three years, with pretty good success, when one day the general master mechanic sent for me. In the office I was introduced to a gentleman, and the G. M. M. said to him in my presence:
"'This is the engineer I spoke to you of. We have none better. I think he would suit you exactly, and, when you are through with him, send him back; we are only lending him, mind,' and he went out into the shop.
"The meaning of it all was that the stranger represented a firm that had put up the money to build a locomotive with a patent boiler for burning a patent fuel—she had an improved valve motion, too—and they had asked our G. M. M. for a good engineer, to send East and break in and run the new machine and go with her around the country on ten-day trials on the different roads. He offered good pay, it was work I liked, and I went. I came right here to Boston and reported to the firm. They were a big concern in another line, and the head of the house was a relative of our G. M. M.—that's why he had a chance to send me.
"After the usual introductions, the president said to me:
"'Now, Mr. Wainright, this new engine of ours is hardly started yet. The drawings are done, and the builders' contract is ready to sign; but we want you to look over the drawings, to see if there are any practical suggestions you can make. Then stay in the shops, and see that the work is done right. The inventor is not a practical man; help him if you can, for experience tells us that ten things fail because of bad design where one does because of bad manipulation. Come up into the drawing-room, and I will introduce you to the inventor.'
"Up under the skylight I met the designer of the new engine, a mild little fellow—but he don't figure in this story. In five minutes I was deep in the study of the drawings. Everything seemed to be worked out all right, except that they had the fire-door opening the wrong way and the brake-valve couldn't be reached—but many a good builder did that twenty years ago. I was impressed with the beauty of the drawings—they were like lithographs, and one, a perspective, was shaded and colored handsomely. I complimented him on them.
"'They are beautiful, sir,' he said; 'they were made by a lady. I'll introduce you to her.'
"A bright, plain-faced little woman with a shingled head looked up from her drawing-board as we approached, shook hands cordially when introduced, and at once entered into an intelligent discussion of the plans of the new record-beater.
"Well, it was some months before the engine was ready for the road, and in that time I got pretty well acquainted with Miss Reynolds. She was mighty plain, but sharp as a buzz-saw. I don't think she was really homely, but she'd never have been arrested for her beauty. There was something 'fetching' about her appearance—you couldn't help liking her. She was intelligent, and it was such a novelty to find a woman who knew the smoke stack from the steam chest. I didn't fall in love with her at all, but I liked to talk to her over the work. She told me her story; not all at once, but here and there a piece, until I knew her history pretty well.
"It seems that her father had been chief draughtsman of those works for years, but had lately died. She had a strong taste for mechanics, and her father, who believed in women learning trades, had taught her mechanical drawing, first at home and then in the shop. She had helped in busy times as an extra, but never went to work for regular wages until the death of her father made it necessary.
"She seemed to like to hear stories of the road, and often asked me to tell her some thrilling experience the second time. Her eyes sparkled and her face kindled when I touched on a snow-bucking experience. She often said that if she was a man she'd go on the railroad, and after such a remark she would usually sigh and smile at the same time. One day, when the engine was pretty nearly ready, she said to me:
"'Mr. Wainright, who is going to fire the Experiment?'
"'I don't know. I had forgot about that; I'll have to see about it.'
"'It wouldn't be of much use to get an experienced man, would it—the engine will burn a new fuel in a new way?'
"'No,' said I, 'not much.'
"'Now,' said she, coloring a little, 'let me ask a favor of you. I have a brother who is just crazy to go out firing. I don't want him to go unless it's with a man I can trust; he is young and inexperienced, you know. Won't you take him? Please do.'
"'Why, I'll be glad to,' said I. 'I'll speak to the old man about it.'
"'Don't tell him it's my brother.'
"'Well, all right.'
"The old man told me to hire whoever I liked, and I told Miss Reynolds to bring the boy in the morning.
"'Won't you wait until Monday? It will be an accommodation to me.'
"Of course I waited.
"The next day Miss Reynolds did not come to the office, and I was busy at the shop. Monday came, but no Miss Reynolds. About nine o'clock, however, the foreman came down to the Experiment with a boy, apparently about eighteen years old, and said there was a lad with a note for me.
"Before reading the note I shook hands with the boy, and told him I knew who he was, for he looked like his sister. He was small, but wiry, and had evidently come prepared for business, as he had some overclothes under his arm and a pair of buckskin gloves. He was bashful and quiet, as boys usually are during their first experience away from home. The note read:
"'DEAR MR. WAINRIGHT.—This will be handed you by brother George. I hope you will be satisfied with him. I know he will try to please you and do his duty; don't forget how green he is. I am obliged to go into the country to settle up some of my father's affairs and may not see you again before you go. I sincerely hope the "Experiment," George, and his engineer will be successful. I shall watch you all.
"'G. E. REYNOLDS.'
"I felt kind of cut up, somehow, about going away without bidding Old Business—as the other draughtsman called Miss Reynolds—good-by; but I was busy with the engine.
"The foreman came along half an hour after the arrival of young Reynolds, and seeing him at work cleaning the window glass, asked who he was.
"'The fireman,' said I.
"'What! that kid?'
"And from that day I don't think I ever called young Reynolds by any other name half a dozen times. That was the 'Kid' you knew. When it came quitting time that night, I asked the Kid where they lived, and he said, Charlestown. I remarked that his voice was like his sister's; but he laughed, and said I'd see difference enough if they were together; and bidding me good-night, caught a passing car.
"We broke the Experiment in for a few days, and then tackled half a train for Providence. She would keep her water just about hot enough to wash in with the pump on. It was a tough day; I was in the front end half the time at every stop. The Kid did exactly what I told him, and was in good spirits all the time. I was cross. Nothing will make a man crosser than a poor steamer.
"We got to Providence in the evening tired; but after supper the Kid said he had an aunt and her family living there, and if I didn't mind, he'd try to find them. I left the door unlocked, and slept on one side of the bed, but the Kid didn't come back; he was at the engine when I got there the next morning.
"The Kid was such a nice little fellow I liked to have him with me, and, somehow or other (I hardly noticed it at the time), he had a good influence on me. In them days I took a drink if I felt like it; but the Kid got me into the habit of taking lemonade, and wouldn't go into drinking places, and I soon quit it. He gave me many examples of controlling my temper, and soon got me into the habit of thinking before I spoke.
"We played horse with that engine for four or five weeks, mostly around town, but I could see it was no go. The patent fuel was no good, and the patent fire-box little better, and I advised the firm to put a standard boiler on her and a pair of links, and sell her while the paint was fresh. They took my advice.
"The Kid and I took the engine to Hinkley's, and left her there; we packed up our overclothes, and as we walked away, the Kid asked: 'What will you do now, Jim?'
"'Oh, I've had a nice play, and I'll go back to the road. I wish you'd go along.'
"'I wouldn't like anything better; will you take me?'
"'Yes, but I ain't sure that I can get you a job right away.'
"'Well, I could fire for you, couldn't I?'
"'I'd like to have you, Kid; but you know I have a regular engine and a regular fireman. I'll ask for you, though.'
"'I won't fire for anybody else!'
"'You won't! What would you do if I should die?'
"'Honest; if I can't fire for you, I won't fire at all.'
"I put in a few days around the 'Hub,' and as I had nothing to do, my mind kept turning to Miss Reynolds. I met the Kid daily, and on one of our rambles I asked him where his sister was.
"'Out in the country.'
"'Send word to her that I am going away and want to see her, will you, Kid?'
"'Well, yes; but Sis is funny; she's too odd for any use. I don't think she'll come.'
"'Well, I'll go and see her.'
"'No, Sis would think you were crazy.'
"'Why? Now look here Kid, I like that sister of yours, and I want to see her.'
"But the Kid just stopped, leaned against the nearest building, and laughed—laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks. The next day he brought me word that his sister had gone to Chicago to make some sketches for the firm and hoped to come to see us after she was through. I started for Chicago the day following, the Kid with me.
"I had little trouble in getting the Kid on with me, as my old fireman had been promoted. I had a nice room with another plug-puller, and in a few days I was in the old jog—except for the Kid. He refused to room with my partner's fireman; and when I talked to him about saving money that way, he said he wouldn't room with any one—not even me. Then he laughed, and said he kicked so that no one could room with him. The Kid was the butt of all the firemen on account of his size, but he kept the cleanest engine, and was never left nor late, and seemed more and more attached to me—and I to him.
"Things were going along slick enough when Daddy Daniels had a row with his fireman, and our general master mechanic took the matter up. Daniels' fireman claimed the run with me, as he was the oldest man, and, as they had an 'oldest man' agreement, the master mechanic ordered Smutty Kelly and the Kid changed.
"I was not in the roundhouse when the Kid was ordered to change, but he went direct to the office and kicked, but to no purpose. Then he came to me.
"'Jim,' said he, with tears in his eyes, 'are you satisfied with me on the 12?'
"'Why, yes, Kid. Who says I'm not?'
"'They've ordered me to change to the 17 with that horrible old ruffian Daniels, and Smutty Kelly to go with you.'
"'They have!' says I. 'That slouch can't go out with me the first time; I'll see the old man.'
"But the old man was mad by the time I got to him.
"'That baby-faced boy says he won't fire for anybody but you; what have you been putting into his head?'
"'Nothing; I've treated him kindly, and he likes me and the 12—that's the cleanest engine on the—'
"'Tut, tut, I don't care about that; I've ordered the firemen on the 12 and 17 changed—and they are going to be changed.'
"The Kid had followed me into the office, and at this point said, very respectfully:
"'Excuse me, sir, but Mr. Wainright and I get along so nicely together. Daniels is a bad man; so is Kelly; and neither will get along with decent men. Why can't you—'
"'There! stop right there, young man. Now, will you go on the 17 as ordered?'
"'Yes, if Jim Wainright runs her.'
"'No ifs about it; will you go?'
"'No, sir, I won't!'
"'You are discharged, then.'
"'That fires me, too,' said I.
"'Not at all, not at all; this is a fireman row, Jim.'
"I don't know what struck me then, but I said:
"'No one but this boy shall put a scoop of coal in the 12 or any other engine for me; I'll take the poorest run you have, but the Kid goes with me.'
"Talk was useless, and in the end the Kid and I quit and got our time.
"That evening the Kid came to my room and begged me to take my job back and he would go home; but I wouldn't do it, and asked him if he was sick of me.
"'No, Jim,' said he. 'I live in fear that something will happen to separate us, but I don't want to be a drag on you—I think more of you than anybody.'
"They were buying engines by the hundred on the Rio Grande and Santa Fe and the A. & P. in those days, and the Kid and I struck out for the West, and inside of thirty days we were at work again.
"We had been there three months, I guess, when I got orders to take a new engine out to the front and leave her, bringing back an old one. The last station on the road was in a box-car, thrown out beside the track on a couple of rails. There was one large, rough-board house, where they served rough-and-ready grub and let rooms. The latter were stalls, the partitions being only about seven feet high. It was cold and bleak, but right glad we were to get there and get a warm supper. Everything was rough, but the Kid seemed to enjoy the novelty. After supper I asked the landlord if he could fix us for the night.
"'I can jest fix ye, and no more,' said he; 'I have just one room left. Ye's'll have to double up; but this is the kind o' weather for that; it'll be warmer.'
"The Kid objected, but the landlord bluffed him—didn't have any other room—and he added: 'If I was your pardner there, I'd kick ye down to the foot, such a cold strip of bacon as ye must be.'
"About nine o'clock the Kid slipped out, and not coming in for an hour, I went to look for him. As I went toward the engine, I met the watchman:
"'Phy don't that fireman o' yourn sleep in the house or on the caboose floor such a night as this? He'll freeze up there in that cab wid no blankets at all; but when I tould him that, he politely informed meself that he'd knowed men to git rich mindin' their own biz. He's a sassy slip of a Yankee.'
"I climbed up on the big consolidation, and, lighting my torch, looked over the boiler-head at the Kid. He was lying on a board on the seat, with his overcoat for a covering and an arm-rest for a pillow.
"'What's the matter with you, Kid?' I asked. 'What are you doing freezing here when we can both be comfortable and warm in the house? Are you ashamed or afraid to sleep with me? I don't like this for a cent.'
"'Hope you won't be mad with me, Jim, but I won't sleep with any one; there now!'
"'You're either a fool or crazy,' said I. 'Why, you will half freeze here. I want some explanation of such a trick as this.'
"The Kid sat up, looked at me soberly for a few seconds, reached up and unhooked his door, and said:
"'Come over and sit down, Jim, and I'll tell you something.'
"I blew out the torch and went over, half mad. As I hooked the door to keep out the sharp wind I thought I heard a sob, and I took the Kid's head in my hands and turned his face to the moonlight. There were big tears in the corner of each tightly closed eye.
"'Don't feel bad, Kid,' said I. 'I'm sure there's some reason keeps you at such tricks as this; but tell me all your trouble—it's imaginary, I know.'
"There was a tremor in the Kid's voice as he took my hand and said, 'We are friends, Jim; ain't we?'
"'Why, of course,' said I.
"'I have depended on your friendship and kindness and manhood, Jim. It has never failed me yet, and it won't now, I know. I have a secret, Jim, and it gnaws to be out one day, and hides itself the next. Many and many a time I have been on the point of confessing to you, but something held me back. I was afraid you would not let me stay with you, if you knew—'
"'Why, you ain't killed any one, Kid?' I asked, for I thought he was exaggerating his trouble.
"'No—yes, I did, too—I killed my sister.'
"I recoiled, hurt, shocked. 'You—'
"'Yes, Jim, there is no such person to be found as my sister, Georgiana—for I am she!''
"'You! Why, Kid, you're crazy!'
"'No, I'm not. Listen, Jim, and I will explain.'
"'My father was always sorry I was not a boy. Taught me boyish tricks, and made me learn drawing. I longed for the life on a locomotive—I loved it, read about it, thought of it, and prayed to be transformed into something that could go out on the road. My heart went out to you early in our acquaintance, and one day the thought to get started as a fireman with you shot into my brain and was acted upon at once. After the first move there was no going back, and I have acted my part well; I have even been a good fireman. I am strong, healthy, and happy when on the road with you. I love the life, hard as it is, and can't think of giving it up, and—and you, Jim.'
"And then she broke down, and cried as only a woman can.
"I took both her hands in mine and kissed her—think of kissing your fireman on the engine—and told her that we could be happy yet. Then I told her how I had tried to get a letter to the lost sister, and how they never came back, and were never answered—that I loved the sister and loved her. She reminded me that she herself got all the letters I had sent, and was pretty sure of her ground when she threw herself on my protection.
"It was a strange courting, John, there on that engine at the front, the boundless plains on one side, the mountains on the other, the winds of the desert whirling sand and snow against our little house, and the moon looking coldly down at the spectacle of an engineer making love to his fireman.
"That night the Kid slept in the bed in the house, and I stayed on the engine.
"When we got back to headquarters the Kid laid off to go home, and I made a trip or two with another fireman, and then I had to go to Illinois to fix up some family business—Kid and I arranged that.
"We met in St. Louis, the Kid hired a ball dress, and we were married as quiet as possible. I had promised the Kid that, for the present at least, she could stay on the road with me, and you know that the year you were there I done most of the heavy firing while the Kid did the running. We remained in the service for something like two years—a strange couple, but happy in each other's company and our work.
"I often talked to my wife about leaving the road and starting in new, where we were not known, as man and wife, she to remain at home; but she wouldn't hear of it, asking if I wanted an Irishman for a side-partner. This came to be a joke with us—'When I get my Irishman I will do so-and-so.'
"One day, as our 'hog' was drifting down the long hill, the Kid said to me, 'Jim, you can get your Irishman; I'm going to quit this trip.'
"'Kind o' sudden, hey, Kid?'
"'No, been hating to give up, but—' and then the Kid came over and whispered something to me.
"John, we both quit and went South. I got a job in Texas, and the Kid was lost sight of, and Mrs. J. E. Wainright appeared on the scene in tea-gown, train, and flounces. We furnished a neat little den, and I was happy. I missed my kid fireman, and did indeed have an Irishman. Kid had a struggle to wear petticoats again, and did not take kindly to dish-washing, but we were happy just the same.
"Our little fellow arrived one spring day, and then our skies were all sunshiny for three long, happy years, until one day Kid and I followed a little white hearse out beyond the cypress grove and saw the earth covered over our darling, over our hopes, over our sunshine, and over our hearts.
"After that the house was like a tomb, so still, so solemn, and at every turn were reminders of the little one who had faded away like the morning mist, gone from everything but our memories—there his sweet little image was graven by the hand of love and seared by the branding-iron of sorrow.
"Men and women of intelligence do not parade their sorrows in the market-place; they bear them as best they can, and try to appear as others, but once the specter of the grim destroyer has crossed the threshold, his shadow forever remains, a dark reminder, like a prison-bar across the daylight of a cell. This shadow is seen and recognized in the heart of a father, but it is larger and darker and more dreadful in the mother heart.
"At every turn poor Kid was mutely reminded of her loss, and her heart was at the breaking point day by day, and she begged for her old life, to seek forgetfulness in toil and get away from herself. So we went back to the old road, as we went away—Jim Wainright and Kid Reynolds—and glad enough they were to get us again for the winter work.
"Three years of indoor life had softened the wiry muscles of the Kid, and our engine was a hard steamer, so I did most of the work on the road. But the work, excitement, and outdoor life brought back the color to pale cheeks, and now and then a smile to sad lips—and I was glad.
"One day the Kid was running while I broke up some big lumps of coal, and while busy in the tank I felt the air go on full and the reverse lever come back, while the wheels ground sand. I stepped quickly toward the cab to see what was the matter, when the Kid sprang into the gangway and cried 'Jump!'
"I was in the left gangway in a second, but quick as a flash the Kid had my arm.
"'The other side! Quick! The river!'
"We were almost side by side as she swung me toward the other side of the engine, and jumped as we crashed into a landslide. I felt Kid's hand on my shoulder as I left the deck—just in time to save my life, but not the Kid's.
"She was crushed between the tank and boiler in the very act of keeping me from jumping to certain death on the rocks in the river below.
"When the crew came over they found me with the crushed clay of my poor, loved Kid in my arms, kissing her. They never knew who she was. I took her back to our Texas home and laid her beside the little one that had gone before. The Firemen's Brotherhood paid Kid's insurance to me and passed resolutions saying: 'It has pleased Almighty God to remove from our midst our beloved brother, George Reynolds,' etc., etc.
"George Reynolds's grave cannot be found; but over a mound of forget-me-nots away in a Southern land, there stands a stone on which is cut: 'Georgiana, wife of J. E. Wainright, aged thirty-two years.'
"But in my heart there is a golden pyramid of love to the memory of a fireman and a sweetheart known to you and all the world but me, as 'Jim Wainright's Kid.'"
AN ENGINEER'S CHRISTMAS STORY
In the summer, fall, and early winter of 1863, I was tossing chips into an old Hinkley insider up in New England, for an engineer by the name of James Dillon. Dillon was considered as good a man as there was on the road: careful, yet fearless, kindhearted, yet impulsive, a man whose friends would fight for him and whose enemies hated him right royally.
Dillon took a great notion to me, and I loved him as a father; the fact of the matter is, he was more of a father to me than I had at home, for my father refused to be comforted when I took to railroading, and I could not see him more than two or three times a year at the most—so when I wanted advice I went to Jim.
I was a young fellow then, and being without a home at either end of the run, was likely to drop into pitfalls. Dillon saw this long before I did. Before I had been with him three months, he told me one day, coming in, that it was against his principles to teach locomotive-running to a young man who was likely to turn out a drunkard or gambler and disgrace the profession, and he added that I had better pack up my duds and come up to his house and let "mother" take care of me—and I went.
I was not a guest there: I paid my room-rent and board just as I should have done anywhere else, but I had all the comforts of a home, and enjoyed a thousand advantages that money could not buy. I told Mrs. Dillon all my troubles, and found kindly sympathy and advice; she encouraged me in all my ambitions, mended my shirts, and went with me when I bought my clothes. Inside of a month, I felt like one of the family, called Mrs. Dillon "mother," and blessed my lucky stars that I had found them.
Dillon had run a good many years, and was heartily tired of it, and he seldom passed a nice farm that he did not call my attention to it, saying: "Jack, now there's comfort; you just wait a couple of years—I've got my eye on the slickest little place, just on the edge of M——, that I am saving up my pile to buy. I'll give you the 'Roger William' one of these days, Jack, say good evening to grief, and me and mother will take comfort. Think of sleeping till eight o'clock,—and no poor steamers, Jack, no poor steamers!" And he would reach over, and give my head a gentle duck as I tried to pitch a curve to a front corner with a knot: those Hinkleys were powerful on cold water.
In Dillon's household there was a "system" of financial management. He always gave his wife just half of what he earned; kept ten dollars for his own expenses during the month, out of which he clothed himself; and put the remainder in the bank. It was before the days of high wages, however, and even with this frugal management, the bank account did not grow rapidly. They owned the house in which they lived, and out of her half "mother" had to pay all the household expenses and taxes, clothe herself and two children, and send the children to school. The oldest, a girl of some sixteen years, was away at normal school, and the boy, about thirteen or fourteen, was at home, going to the public school and wearing out more clothes than all the rest of the family.
Dillon told me that they had agreed on the financial plan followed in the family before their marriage, and he used to say that for the life of him he did not see how "mother" got along so well on the allowance. When he drew a small month's pay he would say to me, as we walked home: "No cream in the coffee this month, Jack." If it was unusually large, he would say: "Plum duff and fried chicken for a Sunday dinner." He insisted that he could detect the rate of his pay in the food, but this was not true—it was his kind of fun. "Mother" and I were fast friends. She became my banker, and when I wanted an extra dollar, I had to ask her for it and tell what I wanted it for, and all that.
Along late in November, Jim had to make an extra one night on another engine, which left me at home alone with "mother" and the boy—I had never seen the girl—and after swearing me to be both deaf, dumb, and blind, "mother" told me a secret. For ten years she had been saving money out of her allowance, until the amount now reached nearly $2,000. She knew of Jim's life ambition to own a farm, and she had the matter in hand, if I would help her. Of course I was head over heels into the scheme at once. She wanted to buy the farm near M——, and give Jim the deed for a Christmas present; and Jim mustn't even suspect.
Jim never did.
The next trip I had to buy some underclothes: would "mother" tell me how to pick out pure wool? Why, bless your heart, no, she wouldn't, but she'd just put on her things and go down with me. Jim smoked and read at home.
We went straight to the bank where Jim kept his money, asked for the President, and let him into the whole plan. Would he take $2,100 out of Jim's money, unbeknown to Jim, and pay the balance of the price of the farm over what "mother" had?
No, he would not; but he would advance the money for the purpose—have the deeds sent to him, and he would pay the price—that was fixed.
Then I hatched up an excuse and changed off with the fireman on the M—— branch, and spent the best part of two lay-overs fixing up things with the owner of the farm and arranging to hold back the recording of the deeds until after Christmas. Every evening there was some part of the project to be talked over, and "mother" and I held many whispered conversations. Once Jim, smiling, observed that, if I had any hair on my face, he would be jealous.
I remember that it was on the 14th day of December, 1863, that payday came. I banked my money with "mother," and Jim, as usual, counted out his half to that dear old financier.
"Uncle Sam'd better put that 'un in the hospital," observed Jim, as he came to a ragged ten-dollar bill. "Goddess of Liberty pretty near got her throat cut there; guess some reb has had hold of her," he continued, as he held up the bill. Then laying it down, he took out his pocket-book and cut off a little three-cornered strip of pink court-plaster, and made repairs on the bill.
"Mother" pocketed her money greedily, and before an hour I had that very bill in my pocket to pay the recording fees in the courthouse at M——.
The next day Jim wanted to use more money than he had in his pocket, and asked me to lend him a dollar. As I opened my wallet to oblige him, that patched bill showed up. Jim put his finger on it, and then turning me around towards him, he said: "How came you by that?"
I turned red—I know I did—but I said, cool enough, "'Mother' gave it to me in change."
"That's a lie," he said, and turned away.
The next day we were more than two-thirds of the way home before he spoke; then, as I straightened up after a fire, he said: "John Alexander, when we get in, you go to Aleck (the foreman) and get changed to some other engine."
There was a queer look on his face; it was not anger, it was not sorrow—it was more like pain. I looked the man straight in the eye, and said: "All right, Jim; it shall be as you say—but, so help me God, I don't know what for. If you will tell me what I have done that is wrong, I will not make the same mistake with the next man I fire for."
He looked away from me, reached over and started the pump, and said: "Don't you know?"
"No, sir, I have not the slightest idea."
"Then you stay, and I'll change," said he, with a determined look, and leaned out of the window, and said no more all the way in.
I did not go home that day. I cleaned the "Roger William" from the top of that mountain of sheet-iron known as a wood-burner stack to the back casting on the tank, and tried to think what I had done wrong, or not done at all, to incur such displeasure from Dillon. He was in bed when I went to the house that evening, and I did not see him until breakfast. He was in his usual spirits there, but on the way to the station, and all day long, he did not speak to me. He noticed the extra cleaning, and carefully avoided tarnishing any of the cabfittings;—but that awful quiet! I could hardly bear it, and was half sick at the trouble, the cause of which I could not understand. I thought that, if the patched bill had anything to do with it, Christmas morning would clear it up.
Our return trip was the night express, leaving the terminus at 9:30. As usual, that night I got the engine out, oiled, switched out the cars, and took the train to the station, trimmed my signals and headlight, and was all ready for Jim to pull out. Nine o'clock came, and no Jim; at 9:10 I sent to his boarding-house. He had not been there. He did not come at leaving time—he did not come at all. At ten o'clock the conductor sent to the engine-house for another engineer, and at 10:45, instead of an engineer, a fireman came, with orders for John Alexander to run the "Roger William" until further orders,—I never fired a locomotive again.
I went over that road the saddest-hearted man that ever made a maiden trip. I hoped there would be some tidings of Jim at home—there were none. I can never forget the blow it was to "mother;" how she braced up on account of her children—but oh, that sad face! Christmas came, and with it the daughter, and then there were two instead of one: the boy was frantic the first day, and playing marbles the next.
Christmas day there came a letter. It was from Jim—brief and cold enough—but it was such a comfort to "mother." It was directed to Mary J. Dillon, and bore the New York post-mark. It read:
"Uncle Sam is in need of men, and those who lose with Venus may win with Mars. Enclosed papers you will know best what to do with. Be a mother to the children—you have three of them.
He underscored the three—he was a mystery to me. Poor "mother!" She declared that no doubt "poor James's head was affected." The papers with the letter were a will, leaving her all, and a power of attorney, allowing her to dispose of or use the money in the bank. Not a line of endearment or love for that faithful heart that lived on love, asked only for love, and cared for little else.
That Christmas was a day of fasting and prayer for us. Many letters did we send, many advertisements were printed, but we never got a word from James Dillon, and Uncle Sam's army was too big to hunt in. We were a changed family: quieter and more tender of one another's feelings, but changed.
In the fall of 64 they changed the runs around, and I was booked to run in to M——. Ed, the boy, was firing for me. There was no reason why "mother" should stay in Boston, and we moved out to the little farm. That daughter, who was a second "mother" all over, used to come down to meet us at the station with the horse, and I talked "sweet" to her; yet at a certain point in the sweetness I became dumb.
Along in May, '65, "mother" got a package from Washington. It contained a tin-type of herself; a card with a hole in it (made evidently by having been forced over a button), on which was her name and the old address in town; then there was a ring and a saber, and on the blade of the saber was etched, "Presented to Lieutenant Jas. Dillon, for bravery on the field of battle." At the bottom of the parcel was a note in a strange hand, saying simply, "Found on the body of Lieutenant Dillon after the battle of Five Forks."
Poor "mother!" Her heart was wrung again, and again the scalding tears fell. She never told her suffering, and no one ever knew what she bore. Her face was a little sadder and sweeter, her hair a little whiter—that was all.
I am not a bit superstitious—don't believe in signs or presentiments or prenothings—but when I went to get my pay on the 14th day of December, 1866, it gave me a little start to find in it the bill bearing the chromo of the Goddess of Liberty with the little three-cornered piece of court-plaster that Dillon had put on her wind-pipe. I got rid of it at once, and said nothing to "mother" about it; but I kept thinking of it and seeing it all the next day and night.
On the night of the 16th, I was oiling around my Black Maria to take out a local leaving our western terminus just after dark, when a tall, slim old gentleman stepped up to me and asked if I was the engineer. I don't suppose I looked like the president: I confessed, and held up my torch, so I could see his face—a pretty tough-looking face. The white mustache was one of that military kind, reinforced with whiskers on the right and left flank of the mustache proper. He wore glasses, and one of the lights was ground glass. The right cheek-bone was crushed in, and a red scar extended across the eye and cheek; the scar looked blue around the red line because of the cold.
"I used to be an engineer before the war," said he. "Do you go to Boston!"
"No, to M——."
"M——! I thought that was on a branch."
"It is, but is now an important manufacturing point, with regular trains from there to each end of the main line."
"When can I get to Boston?"
"Not till Monday now; we run no through Sunday trains. You can go to M—— with me to-night, and catch a local to Boston in the morning."
He thought a minute, and then said, "Well, yes; guess I had better. How is it for a ride?"
"Good; just tell the conductor that I told you to get on."
"Thanks; that's clever. I used to know a soldier who used to run up in this country," said the stranger, musing. "Dillon; that's it, Dillon."
"I knew him well," said I. "I want to hear about him."
"Queer man," said he, and I noticed he was eying me pretty sharp.
"A good engineer."
"Perhaps," said he.
I coaxed the old veteran to ride on the engine—the first coal-burner I had had. He seemed more than glad to comply. Ed was as black as a negro, and swearing about coal-burners in general and this one in particular, and made so much noise with his fire-irons after we started, that the old man came over and sat behind me, so as to be able to talk.
The first time I looked around after getting out of the yard, I noticed his long slim hand on the top of the reverse-lever. Did you ever notice how it seems to make an ex-engineer feel better and more satisfied to get his hand on the reverse-lever and feel the life-throbs of the great giant under him? Why, his hand goes there by instinct—just as an ambulance surgeon will feel for the heart of the boy with a broken leg.
I asked the stranger to "give her a whirl," and noticed with what eager joy he took hold of her. I also observed with surprise that he seemed to know all about "four-mile hill," where most new men got stuck. He caught me looking at his face, and touching the scar, remarked: "A little love pat, with the compliments of Wade Hampton's men." We talked on a good many subjects, and got pretty well acquainted before we were over the division, but at last we seemed talked out.
"Where does Dillon's folks live now?" asked the stranger, slowly, after a time.
"M——," said I.
He nearly jumped off the box. "M——? I thought it was Boston!"
"Moved to M——."
"Own a farm there."
"Oh, I see; married again?"
"Widow thought too much of Jim for that."
"Er—what became of the young man that they—er—adopted?"
"Lives with 'em yet."
Just then we struck the suburbs of M——, and, as we passed the cemetery, I pointed to a high shaft, and said: "Dillon's monument."
"Why, how's that?"
"Killed at Five Forks. Widow put up monument."
He shaded his eyes with his hand, and peered through the moonlight for a minute.
"That's clever," was all he said.
I insisted that he go home with me. Ed took the Black Maria to the house, and we took the street cars for it to the end of the line, and then walked. As we cleaned our feet at the door, I said: "Let me see, I did not hear your name?"
"James," said he, "Mr. James."
I opened the sitting-room door, and ushered the stranger in.
"Well, boys," said "mother," slowly getting up from before the fire and hurriedly taking a few extra stitches in her knitting before laying it down to look up at us, "you're early."
She looked up, not ten feet from the stranger, as he took off his slouched hat and brushed back the white hair. In another minute her arms were around his neck, and she was murmuring "James" in his ear, and I, like a dumb fool, wondered who told her his name.
Well, to make a long story short, it was James Dillon himself, and the daughter came in, and Ed came, and between the three they nearly smothered the old fellow.
You may think it funny he didn't know me, but don't forget that I had been running for three years—that takes the fresh off a fellow; then, when I had the typhoid, my hair laid off, and was never reinstated, and when I got well, the whiskers—that had always refused to grow—came on with a rush, and they were red. And again, I had tried to switch with an old hook-motion in the night and forgot to take out the starting-bar, and she threw it at me, knocking out some teeth; and taking it altogether, I was a changed man.
"Where's John?" he said finally.
"Here," said I.
He took my hand, and said, "John, I left all that was dear to me once, because I was jealous of you. I never knew how you came to have that money or why, and don't want to. Forgive me."
"That is the first time I ever heard of that," said "mother."
"I had it to buy this farm for you—a Christmas present—if you had waited," said I.
"That is the first time I ever heard of that," said he.
"And you might have been shot," said "mother," getting up close.
"I tried my darndest to be. That's why I got promoted so fast."
"Oh, James!" and her arms were around his neck again.
"And I sent that saber home myself, never intending to come back."
"Oh, James, how could you!"
"Mother, how can you forgive me?"
"Mother," was still for a minute, looking at the fire in the grate. "James, it is late in life to apply such tests, but love is like gold; ours will be better now—the dross has been burned away in the fire. I did what I did for love of you, and you did what you did for love of me; let us all commence to live again in the old way," and those arms of hers could not keep away from his neck.
Ed went out with tears in his eyes, and I beckoned the daughter to follow me. We passed into the parlor, drew the curtain over the doorway—and there was nothing but that rag between us and heaven.
THE CLEAN MAN AND THE DIRTY ANGELS
When I first went firing, down in my native district, where Bean is King, there was a man on the road pulling a mixed train, by the name of Clark—'Lige Clark.
Being only a fireman, and a new one at that, I did not come very much in contact with Clark, or any of the other engineers, excepting my own—James Dillon.
'Lige Clark was a character on the road; everybody knew "old 'Lige;" he was liked and respected, but not loved; he was thought puritanical, or religious, or cranky, by some, yet no one hated him, or even had a strong dislike for him.
His honesty and straightforwardness were proverbial. He was always in charge of the funds of every order he belonged to, as well as of the Sunday-school and church.
He was truthful to a fault, but above all, just.
"'Cause 'tain't right, that's why," was his way of refusing to do a thing, and his argument against others doing it.
After I got to running, I saw and knew more of 'Lige, and I think, perhaps, I was as much of a friend as he ever had. We never were chums. I never went to his house, and he never went to mine; we were simply roundhouse acquaintances; used to talk engine a little, but usually talked about children—'Lige had four, and always spoke about "doing the right thing by them."
'Lige had a very heavy full beard, that came clear up to his eyes, and a mass of wavy hair—all iron grey. His eyes were steel grey, and matched his hair, and he had a habit of looking straight at you when he spoke.
On his engine he invariably ran with his head out of the side window, rain or shine, and always bareheaded. When he stepped upon the footboard, he put his hat away with his clothes, and there it stayed. He was never known to wear a cap, excepting in the coldest weather.
Once in a while, when I was firing, I have seen him come in, in winter, with his beard white with frost and ice, and some smoke-shoveling wit dubbed him Santa Claus.
'Lige had a way of looking straight ahead and thinking of his work, and, after he got to running express, would go through a town, where other trains were sidetracked for him, looking at the track ahead, and at the trains, but never seeming to care that they were there, never nodding or waving a hand. Once in a while he would blink his eyes,—that was all. The wind tossed his mane and hair and made him look for all the world like a lion, who looks at, but appears to care nothing for the crowds around his den. Someone noticed the comparison, and dubbed him "The Lion," and the name clung to him. He was spoken of as "Old 'Lige, the Lion." Just why he was called old, I don't know—he was little more than forty then.
When the men on the road had any grievances, they always asked 'Lige to "go and see the old man." 'Lige always went to lodge and to meetings of the men, but was never known to speak. When the demands were drawn up and presented to him, he always got up and said: "Them air declarations ain't right, an' I wouldn't ask any railroad to grant 'em;" or, "The declarations are right. Of course I'll be glad to take 'em."
When old 'Lige declined to bear a grievance it was modified or abandoned; and he never took a request to headquarters that was not granted—until the strike of '77.
When the war broke out, 'Lige was asked to go, and the railroad boys wanted him to be captain of a company of them; but he declined, saying that slavery was wrong and should be crushed, but that he had a sickly wife and four small children depending on his daily toil for bread, and it wouldn't be right to leave 'em unprovided for. They drafted him later, but he still said it "wa'n't right" for him to go, and paid for a substitute. But three months later his father-in-law died, up in the country somewhere, and left his wife some three thousand dollars, and 'Lige enlisted the next, day, saying "'Tain't right for any man to stay that can be spared; slavery ain't right; it must be stopped." He served as a private until it was stopped.
Shortly after the war 'Lige was pulling the superintendent over the road, when he struck a wagon, killing the driver, who was a farmer, and hurting his wife. The woman afterward sued the road, and 'Lige was called as a witness for the company. He surprised everybody by stating that the accident was caused by mismanagement of the road, and explained as follows: "I pull the regular Atlantic express, and should have been at the crossing where the accident occurred, an hour later than I was; but Mr. Doe, our superintendent, wanted to come over the road with his special car, and took my engine to pull him, leaving a freight engine to bring in the express. Mr. Doe could have rode on the regular train, or could have had his car put into the train, instead of putting the company to the expense of hauling a special, and kept the patrons of the road from slow and poor service. We ran faster than there was any use of, and Mr. Doe went home when he got in, showing that there was no urgent call for his presence at this end of the line. If there had been no extra train on the road this farmer wouldn't have been killed: 'twa'n't right."
The widow got pretty heavy damages, and the superintendent tried to discharge 'Lige. But 'Lige said '"twa'n't right," and the men on the road, the patrons and even the president agreed with him, so the irate super gave the job up for the time being.
A couple of weeks after this, I went to that super.'s office on some business, and had to wait in the outer pen until "His Grace" got through with someone else. The transom over the door to the "Holy of Holies" was open, and I heard the well-known voice of 'Lige "the Lion".
"Now, there's another matter, Mr. Doe, that perhaps you'll say is none of my business, but 'tain't right, and I'm going to speak about it. You're hanging around the yards and standing in the shadows of cars and buildings half the night, watching employees. You've discharged several yardmen, and I want to tell you that a lot of the roughest of them are laying for you. My advice to you is to go home from the office. They'll hurt you yet. 'Tain't right for one man to know that another is in danger without warning him, so I've done it; 'twouldn't be right for them to hurt you. You're not particularly hunting them but me, but you won't catch me."
Mr. Doe assured "the Lion" that he could take care of himself, and two nights later got sand-bagged, and had about half his ribs kicked loose, over back of the scale house.
When the trouble commenced in '77, old 'Lige refused to take up a request for increase of pay, to headquarters; said the road could afford to keep us just where we were, which was more than some roads were doing, and "'twa'n't right" to ask for more. Two months later they cut us ten per cent., and offered to pay half script. Old 'Lige said '"twa'n't right," and he'd strike afore he'd stand it;—and, in the end, we all struck.
The fourth day after the strike commenced I met 'Lige, and he asked me where I was going to hunt work. I told him I was going back when we won. He laughed, and said there wa'n't much danger of any of us going back; we were beat; mail trains all running, etc. '"Tain't right, Brother John, to loaf longer'n you can help. I'm goin' out West to-morrer"—and he went.
Some weeks afterward Joe Johnson and I concluded that, contrary to all precedent, the road was going to run without us, and we also went West; but by that time the country was full of men just like us. When I did get a job, it was drying sand away out at the front on one of the new roads. The first engine that come up to the sand house had a familiar look, even with a boot-leg stack that was fearfully and wonderfully made. There was a shaggy head sticking out of the side window, and two cool grey eyes blinked at me, but didn't seem to see me; yet a cheery voice from under the beard said: "Hello, Brother John, you're late, but guess you'll catch on pretty quick. There's lots of 'em here that don't know nothin' about railroading, as far as I can see, and they're running engines, too. 'Tain't right."
The little town was booming, and 'Lige invested in lots, and became interested in many schemes to benefit the place and make money. He had been a widower for some years, and with one exception his children were doing for themselves, and that one was with his sister, and well cared for. 'Lige had considerable means, and he brought it all West. He personally laid the corner-stone of the courthouse, subscribed more than any other working man to the first church, and was treasurer of half the institutions in the village. He ought to have quit the road, but he wouldn't; but did compromise on taking an easy run on a branch.
'Lige was behind a benevolent scheme to build a hospital, to be under the auspices of the church society, and to it devoted not a little time and energy. When the constitution and by-laws were drawn up, the more liberal of the trustees struck a snag in old 'Lige. He was bound that the hospital should not harbor people under the influence of liquor, or fallen women. 'Lige was very bitter against prostitution. "It is the curse of civilization," he often said. "Prostitutes ruin ten men where whiskey ruins one. They stand in the path of every young man in the country, gilded tempters of virtue, honesty and manhood; 'tain't right that they should be allowed in the country." If you attributed their existence to man's passions, inhumanity or cruelty, or woman's weakness, he checked you at once.
"Every woman that becomes a crooked woman does so from choice; she needn't to if she didn't want to. The way to stop prostitution is for every honest man and woman to refuse to have anything to do with them in any way, or with those who do recognize them. 'Tain't right."
In this matter 'Lige Clark had no sympathy nor charity. "'Twa'n't right"—and that settled it as far as he was concerned.
The ladies of the church sided with old 'Lige in his stand on the hospital board, but the other two men wanted the doors of the institution to be opened to all in need of medical attention or care, regardless of who they were or what caused their ailment. 'Lige gave in on the whiskey, but stood out resolutely against the soiled doves, and so matters stood until midwinter.
Half the women in the town were outcasts from society—two dance-houses were in full blast—and 'Lige soon became known to them and their friends as the "Prophet Elijah, second edition."
The mining town over the hills, at the end of 'Lige's branch, was booming, too, and wanted to be the county seat. It had its church, dance-halls, etc., and the discovery of coal within a few miles bid fair to make it a formidable rival.
The boom called for more power and I went over there to pull freight, and 'Lige pulled passengers only. Then they put more coaches on his train and put my engine on to help him, thus saving a crew's wages. Passenger service increased steadily until a big snow-slide in one of the gulches shut up the road. I'll never forget that slide. It happened on the 26th of January. 'Lige and I were double-heading on nine coaches of passengers and when on a heavy grade in Alder Gulch, a slide of snow started from far up the mountain-side, swept over the track just ahead of us, carrying trees, telegraph poles and the track with it. We tried to stop, but 'Lige's engine got into it, and was carried sideways down some fifty or sixty feet. Mine contented herself with simply turning over, without hurting either myself or fireman—much to my satisfaction.
'Lige fared worse. His reverse lever caught in his clothing and before he could get loose, the engine had stopped on her side, with 'Lige's feet and legs under her. He was not badly hurt except for the scalding water that poured upon him. As soon as we could see him, the fireman and I got hold of him and forcibly pulled him out of the wreck. His limbs were awfully burned—cooked would be nearer the word.
The passengers crowded around, but did little good. One look was enough for most of them. There were ten or twelve women in the cars. They came out slowly, and stood timidly away from the hissing boilers, with one exception. This one came at once to the injured man, sat down in the snow, took his head in her lap, and taking a flask of liquor from her ulster pocket, gave poor 'Lige some with a little snow.
I got the oil can and poured some oil over the burned parts to keep the air from them; we needed bandages, and I asked the ladies if they had anything we could use for the purpose. One young girl offered a handkerchief and another a shawl, but before they were accepted the cool woman holding 'Lige's head got up quickly, laying his head down tenderly on the snow, and without a word or attempt to get out of sight, pulled up her dress, and in a second kicked out two white skirts, and sat down again to cool 'Lige's brow.
That woman attended 'Lige like a guardian angel until we got back to town late that afternoon. The hospital was not yet in shape, so 'Lige was taken to the rather dreary and homeless quarters of the hotel.
As quick as it was known that Elijah Clark was hurt, he had plenty of friends, male and female, who came to take care of him, but the woman who helped him live at the start came not; yet every day there were dainty viands, wine or books left at the house for him—but pains were taken to let no one know from whom they came.
One day a month after the accident I sat beside 'Lige's bed when he told me that he was anticipating quite a discussion there that evening, as the hospital committee was going to meet to decide on the rules of the institution. "Wilcox and Gorman are set to open the house to those who have no part in our work and no sympathy with Christian institutions, and 'tain't right," said he. "Brother John, you can't do no good by prolonging the life of a brazen woman bent on vice."
"Don't you think, 'Lige," said I, "that you are a little hard on an unfortunate class of humanity, who, in nine cases out of ten, are the victims of others' wrong-doing, and stay in the mire because no hand is extended to help them out? Think of the woman of Samaria. It's sinners, not saints, that need saving."
"They are as a coiled serpent in the pathway of mankind, Brother John, fascinating, but poisonous. There can be no good in one of those creatures."
"Oh yes there is, I'm sure," said I. "Why, 'Lige, don't you know who the woman was that gave you brandy, held your head, and used her skirts for bandages when you were hurt?"
Old 'Lige raised up on his elbow, all eagerness. "No, John, I don't, but she wa'n't one of them. She was too thoughtful, too tender, too womanly. I've blessed her from that day to this, and though I don't know it, I think she has sent me all these wines and fruits. She saved my life. Who is she? Do you know?"
"Yes. She is Molly May, who keeps the largest dance-house in Cascade City. She makes lots of money, but spends it all in charity; there has never been a human being buried by the town since she has been there. Molly May is a ministering angel to the poor and sick, but a bird of prey to those who wish to dissipate."
The hospital was opened on Easter, and the first patient was a poor consumptive girl, but lately an inmate of the Red-Light dance-house. 'Lige Clark did not run again; he became mayor of the little city, had faith in its future, invested his money in land and died rich some years ago.
'Lige must have changed his mind as he grew older, or at least abandoned the idea that to crush out a wrong you should push it from all sides, and thus compress and intensify it at the heart, and come to the conclusion that the right way is to get inside and push out, thus separating and dissolving it. For before me lies the tenth annual prospectus of a now noted institution in one of the great cities of the continent, and on its title page, I read through the dimmed glasses of my spectacles: "Industrial Home and Refuge for Fallen Women. Founded by Elijah Clark. Mary E. May, Matron."
A PEG-LEGGED ROMANCE
Some men are born heroes, some become heroic, and some have heroism thrust upon them; but nothing of the kind ever happened to me.
I don't know how it is; but, some way or other, I remember all the railroad incidents I see or hear, and get to the bottom of most of the stories of the road. I must study them over more than most men do, or else the other fellows enjoy the comedies and deplore the tragedies, and say nothing. Sometimes I am mean enough to think that the romance, the dramas, and the tragedies of the road don't impress them as being as interesting as those of the plains, the Indians, or the seas—people are so apt to see only the everyday side of life anyway, and to draw all their romance and heroics from books.
I helped make a hero once—no, I didn't either; I helped make the golden setting after the rough diamond had shown its value.
Miles Diston pulled freight on our road a few years ago. He was of medium stature, dark complexion, but no beauty. He was a manly-looking fellow, well-educated enough, sober, and a steady-going, reliable engineer; you would never pick him out for a hero. Miles was young yet—not thirty—but, somehow or other, he had escaped matrimony: I guess he had never had time. He stayed on the farm at home until he was of age, and then went firing, so that when I first knew him he had barely got to his goal—the throttle.
A good many men, when they first get there, take great interest in their work for a few months—until experience gives them confidence; then they take it easier, look around, and take some interest in other things. Most of them never hope to get above running, and so sit down more or less contented, get married, buy real estate, gamble, or grow fat, each according to the dictates of his own conscience or the inclinations of his make-up. Miles figured a little on matrimony.
I can't explain it; but when a railroad man is in trouble, he comes to me for advice, just as he would go to the company doctor for kidney complaint. I am a specialist in heart troubles. Miles came to me.
Miles was like the rest of them. They don't come right down and say, "Something's the matter with me; what would you do for it?" No, sir! They hem and haw, and laugh off the symptoms, until you come right out and tell them just how they feel and explain the cause; then they will do anything you say. Miles hemmed and hawed a little, but soon came out and showed his symptoms—he asked me if I had ever noticed the "Frenchman's" girl.
"The Frenchman," be it known, was our boss bridge carpenter. He lived at a small place half-way over my division—I was pulling express—and the freights stopped there, changing engines. I knew Venot, the bridge carpenter, very well; met him in lodge occasionally, and once in a while he rode on the engine with me to inspect bridges. His wife was a Canadian woman, and good-looking for her forty years and ten children. The daughter that was killing Miles Diston, Marie Venot, was the eldest, and had just graduated from some sisters' school. She was a very handsome girl, and you could read the romantic nature of her being through her big, round, gray eyes. She was vivacious, and loved to go; but she was a dutiful daughter, and at once took hold to help her mother in a way that made her all the more adorable in the eyes of practical men like Miles.
Miles made the most of his opportunities.
But, bless you, there were other eyes for good-looking girls besides those in poor Miles Diston's head, and he was far from having the field to himself; this he wanted badly, and came to get advice from me.
I advised strongly against wasting energy to clear the field, and in favor of putting it all into making the best show and in getting ahead of all competitors. Under my advice, Miles disposed of some vacant lots, and bought a neat little house, put it in thorough order, and made the best of his opportunities with Marie.
Marie came to our house regularly, and I had good opportunity to study her. She was a sensible little creature, and, to my mind, just the girl for Miles; as Miles was just the man for her. But she had confided to my wife the fact that she never, never could consent to marry and settle down in the regulation, humdrum way; she wanted to marry a hero, some one she could look up to—a king among men.
My wife told her that kings and heroes were scarce just then, and that a lot of pretty good women managed to be comparatively happy with common railroad men. But Marie wanted a hero, and would hear of nothing less.
It was during one of her visits to my house that Miles took Marie out for a ride and (accidentally, of course) dropped around by his new house, induced her to look at it, and told his story, asking her to make the home complete. It would have caught almost any girl; but when Miles delivered her at our door and drove off, I knew that there would be a "For Rent" card on that house in a few days and that Marie Venot was bound to have a hero or nothing.
Miles took his repulse calmly, but it hurt. He told me that Marie was hunting for a different kind of man from him; said that he thought perhaps if he would enlist, and go out to fight Sitting Bull, and come home in a new, brass-bound uniform, with a poisoned arrow sticking out of his breast, she would fall at his feet and worship him. She told him she liked him better than any of the town boys; his calling was noble enough and hard enough; but she failed to see her ideal hero in a man with blue overclothes on and cinders in his ears. If any of Miles's competitors had rescued a drowning child, or killed a bear with a penknife, at this juncture, I'm afraid Marie would have taken him. But, as I have indicated, it was a dull season for heroes.
About this time our road invested in some mogul passenger engines, and I drew one. I didn't like the boiler sticking back between me and Dennis Rafferty. I didn't like six wheels connected. I didn't like a knuckle-joint in the side rod. I didn't like eighteen-inch cylinders. I was opposed to solid-end rods. And I am afraid I belonged to a class of ignorant, short-sighted, bull-headed engineers who didn't believe that a railroad had any right to buy anything but fifteen by twenty-two eight-wheelers—the smaller they were the more men they would want. I got over that a long time ago; but, at the time I write of, I was cranky about it. The moguls were high and short and jerky, and they tossed a man around like a rat in a corn-popper. One day, as I was chasing time over our worst division, holding on to the arm-rest and watching to see if the main frame touched the driving-boxes as she rolled, Dennis Rafferty punched me in the small of the back, and said: "Jahn, for the love ave the Vargin, lave up on her a minit. Oi does be chasing that dure for the lasth twinty minits, and dang the wan'st has I hit it fair. She's the divil on th' dodge."
Dennis had a pile of coal just inside and just outside of the door, the forward grates were bare, the steam was down, and I went in seven minutes late, too mad to eat—and that's pretty mad for me. I laid off, and Miles Diston took the high-roller out next trip.
Miles didn't rant and write letters or poetry, or marry some one else to spite himself, or take the first steamer for Burraga, or Equatorial Africa, as rejected lovers in stories do. It hurt, and he didn't enjoy it, but he bore up all right, and went about his business, just as hundreds of other sensible men do every day. He gave up entirely, however, rented his house, and said he couldn't fill the bill—there wasn't a hero in his family as far back as he could remember.
Miles had been making time with the Black Maria for about a week, when the big accident happened in our town. The boilers in a cotton mill blew up, and killed a score of girls and injured hundreds more. Miles was at the other end of the division, and they hurried him out to take a car-load of doctors down. They were given the right of the road, and Miles tested the speed of that mogul—proving that a pony truck would stay on the track at fifty miles an hour, which a lot of us "cranks" had disputed.
A few miles out there is a coaling-station, and at that time they were building the chutes. One of the iron drop-aprons fell just before Miles with the mogul got to it; it smashed the headlight, dented the stack, ripped up the casing of the sand-box and dome, cut a slit in the jacket the length of the boiler, tore off the cab, struck the end of the first car, and then tore itself loose, and fell to the ground.
The throttle was knocked wide open, and the mogul was flying. Miles was thrown down, his head cut open by a splinter, and his foot pretty badly hurt. He picked himself up instantly, and took a look back as he closed the throttle. Everything was "coming" all right, he remembered the emergency of the case, and opened the throttle again. A hasty inspection showed the engine in condition to run—she only looked crippled. Miles had to stand up. His foot felt numb and weak, so he rested his weight on the other foot. He was afraid he would fall off if he became faint, and he had Dennis take off the bell-cord and tie it around his waist, throwing a loop over the reverse lever, as a measure of safety. The right side of the cab and all the roof were gone, so that Miles was in plain sight. The cut in his scalp bled profusely, and in trying to wipe the blood from his eyes, he merely spread it all over himself, so that he looked as if he had been half murdered.
It was this apparition of wreck, ruin, and concentrated energy that Marie Venot saw flash past her father's door, hastening to the relief of the victims of a worse disaster, forty miles away.
Her father came home for his dinner in a few minutes from his little office in the depot. To his daughter's eager inquiry he said there had been some big accident in town and the "extra" was carrying doctors from up the road. But what was the matter with the engine, he didn't know; it was the 170; so it was old man Alexander, he said—and that's the nearest I ever came to being a hero.
Marie knew who was running the 170 pretty well; so after dinner she went to the telegraph office for information, and there she learned that the special had struck the new coal chute at Coalton and that the engineer was hurt. It was time she ran down to see Mrs. Alexander, she said, and that afternoon's regular delivered her in town.
Like all other railroaders not better employed, I dropped round to the depot at train time to talk with the boys and keep track of things in general. The regular was late, but Miles Diston was coming with a special, and came while we were talking about it. Miles didn't realize how badly he was hurt until he stopped the mogul in front of the general office. So long as the excitement of the run was on, so long as he saw the absolute necessity of doing his whole duty until the desired end was accomplished, so long as he had a reputation to protect, his will power subordinated all else. But when several of us engineers ran up to the engine, we found Miles hanging to the reverse lever by his safety cord, in a dead faint. We carried him into the depot, and one of the doctors administered some restorative. Then we got a hack and started him and the doctor for my house; but Miles came to himself, and insisted on going to his boarding-house and nowhere else.
Mrs. Bailey, Miles's boarding-house keeper, had been a trained nurse, but had a few years before invested in a rather disappointing matrimonial venture. She was one of the best nurses and one of the "crankiest" women I ever knew. I believe she was actually glad to see Miles come home hurt, just to show how she could pull him through.
The doctor found that Miles had an ankle out of joint; the little toe was badly crushed; there was a bad cut in the leg, that had bled profusely; there was a black bruise over the short ribs on the right side, and there was a button-hole in the scalp that needed about four stitches. The little toe was cut off without ceremony, the ankle replaced and hot bandages applied, and other repairs were made, which took up most of the afternoon.
When the doctor got through, he called Mrs. Bailey and myself out into the parlor, and said that we must not let people crowd in to see the patient; that his wounds were not dangerous, but very painful; that Miles was weak from loss of blood, and that his constitution was not in particularly good condition. The doctor, in fact, thought that Miles would be in great luck if he got out of the scrape without a run of fever. Thereafter Mrs. Bailey referred all visitors to me. I talked with the doctor and the nurse, and we all agreed that it would stop most inquisitive people to simply say that the patient had suffered an amputation.
That evening, when I went home, there were two anxious women-to receive me, and the younger of them looked suspiciously as if she had been crying. I told them something of the accident, how it all happened, and about Miles's injuries. Both of them wanted to go right down and help "do something," but I told them of the doctor's order and of his fears.
By this time the reporters came; and I called them into the parlor, and then let them pump me. I detailed the accident in full, but declined to tell anything about Miles or his history. "The fact is," said I, "that you people won't give an engineer his just dues. Now, if Miles Diston had been a fireman and had climbed down a ladder with a child, you would have his picture in the paper and call him a hero and all that sort of thing; but here is a man crushed, bleeding, with broken bones, and a crippled engine, who stands on one foot, lashed to his reverse lever, for eighty miles, and making the fastest time ever made over the road, because he knew that others were suffering for the relief he brought."
"That's nerve," said one of the young men.
"Nerve!" said I, "nerve! Why, that man knows no more about fear than a lion; and think of the sand of the man! This afternoon he sat up and watched the doctor perform that amputation without a quiver; he wouldn't take chloroform; he wouldn't even lie down."
"Was the amputation above or below the knee?" asked the reporter.
"Below" (I didn't state how far).
"He is in no great danger?"
"Yes, the doctor says he will be a very sick man for some time—if he recovers at all. Boys," I added, "there's one thing you might mention—and I think you ought to—and that is that it is such heroes as this that give a road its reputation; people feel as though they were safe behind such men."
If Miles Diston had read the papers the next morning he would have died of flattery; the reporters did themselves proud, and they made a whole column of the "iron will and nerves of steel" shown in that "amputation without ether."
Marie Venot was full of sympathy for Miles; she wanted to see him, but Mrs. Bailey referred her to me, and she finally went home, still inquiring every day about him. I don't think she had much other feeling for him than pity. She was down again a week later, and I talked freely of going to pick out a wooden foot for Miles, who was improving right along.
Meanwhile, the papers far and near copied the articles about the "Hero of the Throttle," and the item about the road's interest in heroes attracted the attention of our general passenger agent—he liked the free advertising and wanted more of it—so he called me in one day, and asked if I knew of a choice run they could give Miles as a reward of merit.
I told him, if he wanted to make a show of gratitude from the road, and get a big free advertisement in the papers, to have Miles appointed superintendent of the Spring Creek branch, where a practical man was needed, and then give it out "cold" that Miles had been rewarded by being made superintendent of the road. This was afterwards done, with a great hurrah (in the papers).
The second Sunday after Miles was hurt, Marie was down, and I thought I'd have a little fun with her, and see how she regarded Miles.
"There's quite a romance connected with Diston's affair," said I at the dinner table, rather carelessly. "There is a young lady visiting here in town—I hear she is very wealthy—who saw Miles when we took him off his engine. She sends flowers every day, calls him her hero, and is just crazy for him to get well so she can see him."
"Who is she, did you say?" asked my wife.
"I forgot her name," said I, "but I am here to tell you that she will get Miles if there is any chance in the world. Her father is an army officer, but she says that Miles Diston is a greater hero than the army ever produced."
"She's a hussy," said Marie.
I don't know whether you would call that a bull or a bear movement on the Diston stock, but it went up—I could see that.
A week later Miles was able to come down to our house for dinner, and my wife asked Marie to come also. I met her at the depot, and after she was safe in the buggy, I told her that Miles was up at the house. She nearly jumped out; but I quieted her, and told her she mustn't notice or say a word about Miles's game leg, as he was extremely sensitive about it.
My wife was in the kitchen, and I went to the barn to put out the horse. Marie went to the sitting-room to avoid the parlor and Miles, but he was there, I guess, and Marie found her hero, for when they came out to dinner he had his arm around her. They were married a month later, and went to Washington, stopping to see us on the way back.
As I came home that night with my patent dinner pail, and with two rows of wrinkles and a load of responsibility on my brow, Marie shook her fist in my face and called me "an old story-teller."
"Story-teller," said I; "what story?"
"Oh, what story? That leg story, of course, you old cheat."
"What leg story?"
"Old innocence; that amputation below the knee—you know."
"Wa'n't it below the knee?"
"Yes, but it was only the little toe."
"John," said Miles, "she cried when she looked for that wooden foot and only found a slightly flat wheel."
"That's just like 'em," said I. "Here Marie only expected a part of a hero, and we give her a whole man, and she kicks—that's gratitude for you."
"I got my hero all right, though," said Marie; "you told me a big fib just the same, but I could kiss you for it."
"Don't you do that," said I; "but if the Lord should send you many blessings, and any of 'em are boys, you might name one after me."
She said she'd do it—and she did.
MY LADY OF THE EYES
One morning, some years ago, I struck the general master mechanic of a Rocky Mountain road for a job as an engineer—I needed a job pretty badly.
As quick as the M. M. found that I could handle air on two hundred foot grades, he was as tickled as I was; engineers were not plenty in the country then, so many deserted to go to the mines.
"The 'III' will be out in a couple of days, and you can have her regular, unless Hopkins comes back," said he.
I hustled around for a room and made my peace with the boarding-house people before I reported to break in the big consolidation that was to fall to my care.
She was big and black and ugly and new, and her fresh fire made the asphalt paint on her fire-box and front-end stink in that peculiar and familiar way given to recently rebuilt engines; but it smelt better to me than all the perfumes of Arabia.
A good-natured engineer came out on the ash-pit track to welcome me to the West and the road, and incidentally to remark that it was a great relief to the gang that I had come as I did.
"Why," I asked, "are you so short-handed that you are doubling and trebling?" "No, but they are afraid that some of 'em will have to take out the 'III'—she is a holy terror."
Hadn't she been burned the first trip? Didn't she kill Jim O'Neil with the reverse lever? Hadn't she lain down on the bed of the Arkansas river and wallowed on "Scar Face" Hopkins, and he not up yet? Hadn't she run away time and again without cause or provocation?
But a fellow that has needed a job for six months will tackle almost anything, and I tackled the "holy terror."
In fixing up the cab, I noticed an extra bracket beside the steam gage for a clock, and mentally noted that it would come in handy just as soon as I had a twenty dollar bill to spare for one of those jeweled, nickle-plated, side-winding clocks, that are the pride and comfort of those particular engineers who want nice things, with their names engraved on the case.
Before I had got everything ready to take the "three aces" over the turn-table for her breaking-in trip, the foreman of the back-shop came out with a package done up in a pair of old overalls, and said that here was Hopkins's clock, which I might as well use until he got around again—'fraid someone would steal it if left in his office.
Hopkins's clock was put on its old bracket.
Hopkins must have been one of those particular engineers; his clock was a fine one; "S. H. Hopkins" was engraved on the case in German text. The lower half of the dial was black with white figures, the upper half white with black figures. But what struck me was part of a woman's face burned into the enamel. Just half of this face showed, that on the white part of the dial; the black half hid the rest.
It was the face, or part of the face, of a handsome young woman with hair parted in the middle and waved back over the ears, a broad forehead, and such glorious eyes—eyes that looked straight into yours from every view point—honest eyes—reproving eyes—laughing eyes—loving eyes. I mentally named the picture "Her Eyes."
Now, I was not and am not sentimental or superstitious. I'd been married and helped wean a baby or two even then, but those eyes bothered me. They hunted mine and looked at me and asked me questions and made me forget things, and made me think and dream and speculate; all of which are sheer suicide for a locomotive engineer.
I got a switchman and started out to limber up the "III." I asked him to let me out on the main line, took a five-mile spin, and sidetracked for a freight train. While the man was unlocking the switch, I looked into the eyes and wondered what their owner was, or could be, or had been, to "Scar Faced" Hopkins, and—ran off the switch. Then I wondered if Hopkins was looking into those eyes when he and the "III" went into the Arkansas river that dark night.
A few days after this the "III," Dennis Rafferty and I went into the regular freight service of the road.
On the first trip, when half way up Greenhall grade, I glanced at the clock and was startled. The "Eyes" were looking at me; there was a scared, pained look, a you-must-do-something look in the eyes, or it seemed to me there was.
"Damn that clock," said I to myself, "I'm getting superstitious or have softening of the brain," and I reached over to open the front door, so that the breeze could cool me off. In doing so my hand touched the water pipe to the injector—it was hot. The closed overflow injector was new to merit had "broke," and was blowing steam back to the tank that I thought was putting water into the boiler. I put it to work properly and "felt of the water:" there was just a flutter in the lower gage cock; in five minutes the crown sheet and my reputation would have been burned beyond recognition. Those eyes were good for something after all.
I looked at them and they were calm. "It's all right now, but be careful," they said.
Dennis Rafferty had troubles of his own. The liner came off the new fire door letting the door get red hot, but it wasn't half as hot as Dennis. He hammered it with the coal pick and burned his hands and swore, and Dennis was an artist in profanity. He stepped up into the cab wiping his face on his sleeve, and ripping the English and profane languages into tatters; but he stopped short in the middle of an oath and looked ashamed, glanced at me, crossed himself and went back to his work quietly. When he came back into the cab, I asked him what choked him so sudden.
"Her," said he, nodding his head toward the clock. "Howly Mither, man, she looked hurted and sorry-like, same's me owld mither uster, whin I was noctious with the blasthfemry." So the "Eyes" were on Dennis, too. That took some of the conceit out of me, I was getting foolish about the eyes.
We had a time order against a passenger train, it would be sharp work to make the next station, the train was heavy, the road and the engine new to me, and I hesitated. The conductor was dubious but said the "204" or Frosty Keeler could do it any day of the week. I looked at my watch and then at the clock. The eyes looked "Yes, go, you can do it easily; the 'III' will do all you ask; trust her." I went, and as we pulled our caboose in to clear and before the express whistled for the junction, the eyes looked "Didn't I tell you; wasn't that splendid." Those eyes had been over the road more than I had, and knew the "III" better. I would trust the eyes.
On the return trip, a night run, I had a big train and a bad rail, but the "III" did splendid work and made her time while "Her Eyes" approved every move I made, smiled at me and admired my handling of the engine. The conductor unbent enough to send over word that it was the best run he'd ever had from a new man, but the "Eyes" looked, "That's nothing, you can do it every time, I know you can."
Half over the division, we took a siding for the "Cannon Ball." We cleared her ten minutes and I had time to oil around while Dennis cleaned his fire. I climbed up into the cab, wiping the long oiler and glanced at the clock. The "Eyes" were looking wild alarm—"do something quick." The "Eyes" had the look, or seemed to me to have the look, you might expect in those of a bound woman who sees a child at the stake just before the fire is lighted—immeasurable pain, pity, appeal. I tried the water, unconsciously; it was all right. I stepped into the gangway and glanced back. Our tail-lights were "in" and the white light of the switch flashed safely there, and we had backed in any way. I glanced ahead. The switch light was white, the target showed main line plainly, for my headlight shone on it full and clear. What could be the matter with "Her Eyes."
As I turned to enter the cab the roar of the coming express came down the wind on the frosty air and my eyes fell on the rail ahead. My God, they were full to the siding! It was a stub-rail switch, and the stand had moved the target and the light, but not the rails—the bridle-rod was broken.
I yelled like a mad man, but the brakeman had gone to the caboose for his lunch pail. I ran to the switch. It was useless. I fought it an instant and then turned to the rails. Putting my foot against the main line rail, I grasped the switch rail and throwing all my strength into the effort, jerked it-over to the main line, but would it stay until the train passed over? I felt sure it would not. I looked about for something to hold it. Part of a broken pin was the only thing in sight. The headlight of the express shone in my face, and something seemed to say, "This is your trial, do something quick." I threw myself prone on the ground, my head near the rails, and held the broken pin between the end of the siding rail and the main line. The switch rails could not be forced over without shearing off the pin. The corner of the pilot of the flying demon caught my right sleeve and tore it off, and the cloth threw the cylinder cocks open with a hiss, the wind and dust blinded and shook me, and the rails hammered and bruised and pinched my hand, but I held on. Twenty seconds later I sat watching the red lights of the tenth sleeper whip themselves out of sight. Then I went back to the cab, and "Her Eyes" glorified me. "God bless your dear eyes," said I, "where would we have all been now but for you?"
But the "Eyes" deprecated my remarks, and looked me upon a pedestal, but the company doctor dressed my hand the next day, and the superintendent gave the whole crew ten days for backing into that siding.
Another round trip, and I fear I watched "Her Eyes" more than the signals and the track ahead. "Her Eyes" decided for me, chose for me, approved and disapproved. I was running by "Her Eyes."
In a telegraph office they asked me if I could do something in a certain time and I was dazed. I didn't give my usual quick decision, my judgment was wobbly and uncertain. I must look at my clock—and "Her Eyes." I went out to the "III" to consult them, lost my chance and was "put in the hole" all over the division by the disgusted dispatcher.
Then I got to thinking and moralizing and sitting in judgment on my thraldom. Was I running the "III" or was "Her Eyes?" Did the company pay me for my knowledge, judgment, experience and skill in handling a locomotive, or for obeying orders from "Her Eyes." Any fool could obey orders.
Then I declared for liberty, but I kept away from "Her Eyes." I declared for liberty in the roundhouse.
I am a man of decision, and no sooner had I taken this oath than I got a screw driver, climbed into the cab of the "III," without looking at "Her Eyes," held my hand over the face of the clock and took it down. I wrapped it up and took it back to the foreman.
"Why, yes," said he, "'Scar Face' was here for it this morning. He's round somewhere yet. Ain't goin' to railroad no more, goin' into the real estate business. He's got money, so's his wife—daffool he didn't quit long ago."
"If 'Scar Face' Hopkins puts that clock over his desk and trusts 'Her Eyes,' he'll get rich," thought I. Perhaps, though, those eyes don't reach the soul of "Scar Face" Hopkins; perhaps he don't see them change as I did; men are conceited that way.
During the next month I got acquainted with "Scar Face" Hopkins, who was a first-class fellow, with a hand-clasp like a polar bear, a heart like a steam pulsometer, and a face that looked as if it might have been used for the butting post at the end of the world.
"Scar Face" Hopkins got all his scars in the battle of life. Men who command locomotives on the firing line often get hurt, but Hopkins had votes of thanks from officials and testimonials from men, and life-saver's medals from two governments to show that his scars were the brands of honorable degrees conferred by the Almighty on the field for brave and heroic deeds well done.