The Young Train Dispatcher

By Burton Egbert Stevenson

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Title: The Young Train Dispatcher
       The Boy's Story of the Railroad Series

Author: Burton E. Stevenson

Illustrator: A. P. Button

Release Date: September 25, 2017 [EBook #55624]

Language: English


Produced by David Edwards, Tom Cosmas and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (Images
courtesy of the Digital [email protected] University

Transcriber's Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italics_. Whole and fraction part of numbers are
dentoed as 123-4/5.

                       THE YOUNG TRAIN DISPATCHER

                    *       *       *       *       *

                              The Works of

                           Burton E. Stevenson


              _The Boys' Story of the Railroad Series_

              The Young Section-Hand           $1.75
              The Young Train Dispatcher        1.75
              The Young Train Master            1.75
              The Young Apprentice              1.75


            _Other Works_

              The Spell of Holland             $3.75
              The Quest for the Rose of Sharon  1.65


                            THE PAGE COMPANY

                   53 Beacon Street      Boston, Mass.

                    *       *       *       *       *


  (_See page 271_)

                _The Boys' Story of the Railroad Series_


                               YOUNG TRAIN

                        _By_ BURTON E. STEVENSON

                                Author of
                 "The Young Section-Hand," "The Holladay
                               Case," etc.

                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                              A. P. BUTTON

                          [Illustration: logo]

               _Boston_   [Illustration]          THE PAGE
               COMPANY      [Illustration]    _Publishers_

  _Copyright, 1907_
  By The Page Company

  _Entered at Stationers' Hall, London_

  _All rights reserved_

  Made in U. S. A.

  First Impression, June, 1907
  Second Impression, October, 1907
  Third Impression, April, 1909
  Fourth Impression, August, 1910
  Fifth Impression, September, 1911
  Sixth Impression, May, 1913
  Seventh Impression, April, 1915
  Eighth Impression, February, 1918
  Ninth Impression, March, 1920
  Tenth Impression, March, 1923
  Eleventh Impression, May, 1926
  Twelfth Impression, June, 1931



  E. R. S., W. W. W., G. W. P., and F. M. C.

  .. -. .- ..... ..... . ... . .. .- - .. . . -. .. .-.
  -.... . .. . .. .- ... ... .. ... - .- -. ... .
  .-- -. -.. -.- .. -. -.. ¬¬ .... .. -. - . ... . ... -

[Transcriber Note: ¬¬ = long single dash. Translation at end of book.]


    CHAPTER                                         PAGE

         I. The New Position                           1

        II. A Rescue                                  12

       III. A New Friend                              22

        IV. The Young Operators                       33

         V. "Flag Number Two!"                        43

        VI. A Private Line                            54

       VII. The Call to Duty                          67

      VIII. An Old Enemy                              88

        IX. An Unwelcome Guest                        98

         X. A Professional Friendship                107

        XI. The President's Special                  116

       XII. Placing the Blame                        127

      XIII. Probing the Mystery                      138

       XIV. To the Rescue                            150

        XV. Light in Dark Places                     160

       XVI. All's Well That Ends Well                171

      XVII. Allan Entertains a Visitor               185

     XVIII. Facing the Lion                          200

       XIX. The First Lesson                         211

        XX. What Delayed Extra West                  221

       XXI. A Call for Aid                           237

      XXII. The Treasure Chest                       248

     XXIII. "Hands Up!"                              260

      XXIV. Jed Hopkins, Phoenix                     270

       XXV. How the Plot Was Laid                    281

      XXVI. The Pursuit                              292

     XXVII. A Gruesome Find                          303

    XXVIII. Jed Starts for Home                      313

      XXIX. The Young Train Dispatcher               326



  "Hurled itself on across the waiting-room and through
     the outer door to safety" (_See page 271_)     _Frontispiece_

  "'Look out!' he cried, and seizing him by the  arm,
    dragged him sharply backwards"                              21

  "Snatched up the fusee, and fairly hurled himself
    down the track"                                             56

  "In the next instant, the tall figure had been flung
    violently into the room"                                   153

  "The afternoon passed happily"                               200

  "'It b'longs t' th' mine company,' said Nolan"               291




Stretching from the Atlantic seaboard on the east to the Mississippi
River on the west, lies the great P. & O. Railroad, comprising, all told,
some four thousand miles of track. Look at it on the map and you will
see how it twists and turns and sends off numberless little branches;
for a railroad is like a river and always seeks the easiest path--the
path, that is, where the grades are least and the passes in the mountains

Once upon a time, a Czar of Russia, asked by his ministers to indicate
the route for a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow, placed a ruler on
the map before him and drew a straight line between those cities, a line
which his engineers were forced to follow; but that is the only road in
the world constructed in so wasteful a fashion.

That portion of the P. & O. system which lies within the boundaries of
the Buckeye State is known as the Ohio division, and the headquarters are
at the little town of Wadsworth, which happens, by a fortunate chance of
geographical position, to be almost exactly midway between the ends of
the division. A hundred miles to the east is Parkersburg, where the road
enters the State; a hundred miles to the southwest is Cincinnati, where
it gathers itself for its flight across the prairies of Southern Indiana
and Illinois; and it is from this central point that all trains are
dispatched and all orders for the division issued.

Here, also, are the great division shops, where a thousand men work night
and day to repair the damage caused by ever-recurring accidents and to
make good the constant deterioration of cars and engines through ordinary
wear and tear. It is here that the pay-roll for the division is made out;
hither all complaints and inquiries are sent; and here all reports of
business are prepared.

In a word, this is the brain. The miles and miles of track stretching
east and west and south, branching here and there to tap some near-by
territory, are merely so many tentacles, useful only for conveying food,
in the shape of passengers and freight, to the great, insatiable maw. In
fact, the system resembles nothing so much as a gigantic cuttle-fish.
The resemblance is more than superficial, for, like the cuttle-fish, it
possesses the faculty of "darting rapidly backward" when attacked, and
is prone to eject great quantities of a "black, ink-like fluid,"--which
is, indeed, ink itself--to confuse and baffle its pursuers.

The headquarters offices are on the second floor of a dingy, rectangular
building, the lower floor of which serves as the station for the town.
It is surrounded by broad cement walks, always gritty and black with
cinders, and the atmosphere about it reeks with the fumes of gas and
sulphur from the constantly passing engines. The air is full of soot,
which settles gently and continually upon the passers-by; and there is a
never-ceasing din of engines "popping off," of whistles, bells, and the
rumble and crash of cars as the fussy yard engines shunt them back and
forth over the switches and kick them into this siding and that as the
trains are made up. It is not a locality where any one, fond of quiet and
cleanliness and pure air, would choose to linger, and yet, in all the
town of Wadsworth, there is no busier place.

First of all, there are the passengers for the various trains, who,
having no choice in the matter, hurry in and hurry out, or sit
uncomfortably in the dingy waiting-rooms, growing gradually dingy
themselves, and glancing at each other furtively, as though fearing
to discern or to disclose a smut. Then, strange as it may seem, there
are always a number of hangers-on about the place--idlers for whom the
railroad seems to possess a curious and irresistible fascination, who
spend hour after hour lounging on the platform, watching the trains
arrive and depart--a phenomenon observable not at Wadsworth only, but
throughout this broad land at every city, town, or hamlet through which a
railroad passes.

Across one end of the building is the baggage-room, and at the other is
the depot restaurant, dingy as the rest notwithstanding the valiant and
unceasing efforts made to keep it clean. The sandwiches and pies and
pallid cakes are protected from the contamination of the atmosphere by
glass covers which are polished until they shine again; the counter,
running the whole length of the room, is eroded by much scrubbing as
stones sometimes are, and preserves a semblance of whiteness even amid
these surroundings. Behind it against the wall stand bottles of olives,
pickles, and various relishes and condiments, which have been there for
years and years, and will be there always--for who has time for food of
that sort at a railway restaurant? Indeed, it would seem that they must
have been purchased, in the first place, for ornament rather than for use.

At one end of the counter is a glass case containing a few boxes of
stogies and cheap cigars, and at intervals along its length rise polished
nickel standards bearing fans at the top, which are set in motion by a
mechanism wound up every morning like a clock; but the motion is so slow,
the fans revolve with such calm and passionless deliberation, that they
rather add to the drowsy atmosphere of the place, and the flies alight
upon them and rub the jam from their whiskers and the molasses from their
legs, and then go quietly to sleep without a thought of danger.

How often has this present writer sat before that counter in admiring
contemplation of the presiding genius of the place as he sliced up a
boiled ham for sandwiches. He was a master of the art; those slices were
of more than paper thinness. It was his peculiar glory and distinction to
be able to get more sandwiches out of a ham than any other mere mortal
had ever been able to do, and he was proud of it as was Napoleon of the
campaign of Austerlitz.

The greater part of the custom of the depot restaurant was derived
from "transients;" from passengers, that is, who, unable to afford the
extravagance of the diner, are compelled to bolt their food in the
five minutes during which their train changes engines, and driven by
necessity, must eat here or nowhere. And they usually got a meal of
surprising goodness; so good, in fact, that there were and still are many
men who willingly plough their way daily through smoke and cinders, and
sit on the high, uncomfortable stools before the counter, in order to
enjoy regularly the entertainment which the restaurant offers--a striking
instance of the triumph of mind over environment.

These, then, are the activities which mark the lower floor of the
building; those of the upper floor are much more varied and interesting,
for it is there, as has been said, that the division offices are located.
A constant stream of men pours up and down the long, steep flight of
stairs which leads to them. Conductors and engineers must report there
and register before they take out a train and as soon as they bring
one in; trainmen of all grades climb the stair to see what orders have
been posted on the bulletin-board and to compare their watches with the
big, electrically adjusted clock which keeps the official time for the

Others ascend unwillingly, with downcast countenances, summoned for a
session "on the carpet," when trainmaster or superintendent is probing
some accident, disobedience of orders, or dereliction of duty. Still
others, in search of employment, are constantly seeking the same
officials, standing nervously before them, cap in hand, and relating,
more or less truthfully, the story of their last job and why they left
it;--so that the procession up and down the stair never ceases.

The upper floor is not quite so dingy as the lower. It is newer, for one
thing, its paint and varnish are fresher, and it is kept cleaner. But it
is entirely inadequate to the needs of the business which is done there;
for here are the offices of the division engineer, the division passenger
and freight agents, the timekeeper, the division superintendent, the
trainmaster--and dominating them all, the dispatchers' office, whence
come the orders which govern the movements of every train. Near by is a
lounging-room for trainmen, where they can loiter and swap yarns, while
waiting to be called for duty. It is a popular place, because if one only
talks loud enough one can be overheard in the dispatchers' office across
the hall.

So the men gather there and express their opinions of the dispatchers at
the top of the voice--opinions, which, however they may differ in minor
details, are always the reverse of complimentary. For the dispatchers are
the drivers; they crack the whip over the heads of the trainmen by means
of terse and peremptory telegraphic orders, which there is no answering,
and which no one dares disobey; and the driver, however well-meaning, is
seldom popular with the driven.

Such is the station and division headquarters at Wadsworth: unworthy
alike as the one and the other. The whole effect of the building is of an
indescribable, sordid dinginess; it is a striking example of that type of
railroad economy which forbids the expenditure of money for the comfort
and convenience of its patrons and employees--a type which, happily, is
fast passing away.

       *       *       *       *       *

On a certain bright spring morning--bright, that is, until one passed
beneath the cloud of smoke which hung perpetually above the yards at
Wadsworth--a boy of about eighteen joined the procession which was
toiling up the stair to the division offices, and, after hesitating an
instant at the foot, as though to nerve himself for an ordeal which
he dreaded, mounted resolutely step after step. As he pushed open
the swinging-door at the top, the clamour of half a dozen telegraph
instruments greeted his ears. He glanced through the open window of the
dispatchers' office as he passed it, pushed his way through a group
of men gathered before the bulletin-board, and, after an instant's
hesitation, turned into an open doorway just beyond.

There were two men in the room, seated on either side of a great desk
which stood between the windows looking down over the yards. They glanced
up at the sound of his step, and one of them sprang to his feet with a
quick exclamation of welcome.

"Why, how are you, Allan!" he cried, holding out his hand. "I'm mighty
glad to see you. So you're ready to report for duty, are you?"

"Yes, sir," answered the boy, smiling into the genial gray eyes, and
returning the warm handclasp, "I'm all right again."

"You're a little pale yet, and a little thin," said the trainmaster,
looking him over critically; "but that won't last long. George," he
added, turning to his companion, "this is Allan West, who saved the
pay-car from that gang of wreckers last Christmas Eve."

"Is it?" and the chief-dispatcher held out his hand and shook the boy's
heartily. "I'm glad to know you. Mr. Schofield has told us the story of
that night until we know it by heart. All the boys will be glad to meet

The boy blushed with pleasure.

"Thank you," he said.

"Allan's to take a job here as office-boy," added Mr. Schofield. "When
will you be ready to go to work?"

"Right away, sir."

"That's good. I was hoping you'd say that, for there's a lot of work
piled up. The other boy was promoted just the other day, and I've been
holding the place open. That will be your desk there in the corner, and
your principal business for the present will be to see that each official
here gets promptly the correspondence addressed to him. That basketful
of letters yonder has to be sorted out and delivered. In this tray on my
desk I put the messages I want delivered at once. Understand?"

"Yes, sir," answered Allan, and immediately took possession of the pack
of envelopes lying in the tray.

He sat down at his desk, with a little glow of pride that it was really
his, and sorted the letters. Three were addressed to the master mechanic,
three to the company's freight agent, two to the yardmaster, and five or
six more to other officials. As soon as he got them sorted, he put on
his hat and started to deliver them.

The trainmaster watched him as he left the office, and then smiled across
at the chief-dispatcher.

"Bright boy that," he commented. "Did you notice--he didn't ask a single
question; just went ahead and did as he was told--and he didn't have to
be told twice, either."

The chief dispatcher nodded.

"Yes," he said; "he'll be a valuable boy to have about."

"He's already proved his value to this road," added Mr. Schofield, and
turned back to his work.

No one familiar with Allan West's history will dispute the justice of
the remark. It was just a year before that the boy had secured a place
on the road as section-hand--a year fraught with adventure, which had
culminated in his saving the pay-car, carrying the men's Christmas money,
from falling into the hands of a gang of desperate wreckers. The lives
of a dozen men would have been sacrificed had the attempt succeeded.
That it did not succeed was due to the ready wit with which the boy had
managed to defeat the plan laid by the wreckers, and to the sheer grit
which had carried him through a situation of appalling danger. He had
barely escaped with his life; he had spent slow weeks recovering from
the all-but-fatal bullet-wound he had received there. It was during this
period of convalescence, spent at the little cottage of Jack Welsh, the
foreman under whom he had worked on section, that the trainmaster had
come to him with the offer of a position in his office--a position not
important in itself, but opening the way to promotion, whenever that
promotion should be deserved. Allan had accepted the offer joyfully--how
joyfully those who have read the story of his adventures in "The Young
Section-Hand" will remember--and at last he was ready to begin his new
duties, where yet other adventures awaited him.



With the packet of envelopes in his hand, Allan descended the stair
and came out upon the grimy platform. Just across the yards lay the
low, dark, brick building which was the freight office, and he made
his way toward it over the tangle of tracks and switches, where the
freight-trains were being "made up" to be sent east or west. After some
inquiry, he found the freight agent gazing ruefully at a barrel of oil
which had just been smashed to pieces by a too vigorous freight-handler.
Allan gave him the letters addressed to him and hurried away to deliver
the others.

Farther down the yards was the office of the yardmaster, a little,
square, frame building, standing like an island amid the ocean of tracks
which surrounded it. Here was kept the record of every car which entered
or left the yards--the road it belonged to, its number, whence it came,
whither it went, by what train, at what hour. This dingy little building
was one link in that great chain of offices which enables every road in
the country to keep track of the cars it is using, to know where they
are, what progress they are making, and what service they are performing.

Every one who has seen a freight-train has noticed that it is almost
always composed of cars belonging to many different roads, and must have
wondered how these cars were kept accounted for. Every road would prefer
to use only its own cars, and to keep them on its own system, but this is
impossible. A car of sugar, for instance, sent from New York to Denver,
must pass over at least two different lines. It can go from New York to
Chicago over the New York Central, and from Chicago to Denver over the
Santa Fé. Now, if the car belonging to the New York Central in which the
sugar was loaded at New York be stopped at Chicago, the sugar must be
reloaded into another car belonging to the Santa Fé, a long and expensive
process to which neither the shipper nor the road would agree.

To avoid this loading and unloading, freight in car-load lots is always
sent through to its destination without change, no matter how many
roads the car must traverse, and when it reaches its destination and is
emptied, it is usually held until it can be loaded again before it is
sent back whence it came. When the traffic is not evenly balanced,--when
there is more freight, that is, being sent one way than another,--the
"empties" must be hauled back, and as "empties" produce no revenue, this
is a dead expense which cuts deeply into the earnings. The roads which
use a car must pay the road which owns it a fee of fifty cents for every
day they keep it in their possession, whether loaded or empty; hence the
road holding it tries to keep it moving, and when business is slack and
it is not needed, gets it back to its owner as quickly as possible. If it
is damaged in an accident on a strange road, it must be repaired before
it is returned to its owner; if it is totally destroyed, it must be paid

It is the duty of the conductor of every freight-train, as soon as he
reaches a terminal, to mail to the superintendent of car service at
headquarters, a report giving the initial and number of every car in his
train, its contents, destination, and the hour of its departure from one
terminal and arrival at another. These reports, as they come in from
day to day, are entered in ledgers and enable the superintendent of car
service to note the progress of every car, and to determine the per diem
due its owner. These accounts are balanced every month.

The books at headquarters are always, of necessity, at least three days
behind, since the conductors' reports must come in from distant parts
of the road; but reports so old as that are of small service in tracing
a car, so it is the duty of the employees of the yardmaster's office to
keep a daily record of the movement of cars, which shall be up-to-date
and instantly available. Every train which enters the yards is met by
a yard-clerk, book in hand, who makes a note of the number and name of
every car as it passes him. The men who do this gain an amazing facility,
and as the cars rush past, jot down numbers and initials as unconcernedly
as though they had all the time in the world at their disposal. Allan had
observed this more than once, and had often wondered how it was possible
for a man to write down accurately the number of a car which had flashed
past so rapidly that he himself was not able to distinguish it.

There was a train coming in at the moment, and Allan paused to watch the
accountant with his note-book; then he went on to the office to leave the
two letters addressed to John Marney, the yardmaster, a genial Irishman
with bronzed face and beard tinged with gray, who knew the yards and the
intricacies of "making up" better than most people know the alphabet.
Allan knew him well, for many an evening had he spent in the little
shanty, where conductors and brakemen assembled, listening to tales
of the road--tales grave and gay, of comedy and tragedy--yes, even of
ghosts! If I stopped to tell a tenth of them, this book would never be.

"How are ye, Allan?" the yardmaster greeted him, as he opened the door.
"So ye've got a new job?"

"Yes, sir; official mail-carrier," and he handed him the letters.

"Hum," grunted Marney; "this road never was over-liberal. You're
beginnin' at th' bottom, fer sure!"

"Just where I ought to begin! I've got to learn the ropes before I can
begin to climb."

"Well, it won't take ye long, my boy; I know that," said Marney, his eyes
twinkling. "You'll soon begin t' climb, all right; they can't kape ye

"I fully expect to be superintendent some day," said Allan, laughing.

"Of course ye will!" cried the other. "I don't doubt it--not fer a
minute. Yes--an' I'll live t' see it! I'll be right here where I've
allers been; an ye mustn't fergit old Jack Marney, me boy."

"I won't," Allan promised, still laughing. "I'll always speak to you, if
I happen to think of it."

"Let me give you one piece of advice," went on Marney, with sudden
earnestness. "You'll be knockin around these yards more or less now, all
th' time, an' if ye want t' live t' be suprintindint, you've got t' kape
your eyes open. Now moind this: when you're crossin' th' yards, niver
think of anything but gittin' acrost; niver step on a track without
lookin' both ways t' see if anything's comin; an' if anything _is_ comin'
an' you're at all doubtful of bein' able t' git acrost ahead of it at an
ordinary walk, don't try. Give it th' right o' way. I've been workin'
in these yards goin' on forty year, an' I've managed t' kape all my
arms an' legs with me by allers rememberin' that rule. Th' boys used t'
laugh at me, but them that started in when I did are ayther sleepin' in
th' cimitery, or limpin' around on one leg, or eatin' with one hand. A
railroad yard is about th' nearest approach to a human slaughter-house
there is on this earth. Don't you be one o' th' victims."

"I'll certainly try not to," Allan assured him, and went out with a
livelier sense of the dangers of the yard than he had ever had before;
and, indeed, the yardmaster had not overstated them, though the crushing
and maiming and killing which went on there were due in no small degree
to the carelessness and foolhardiness of the men, who grew familiar with
danger and contemptuous of it from looking it every day in the face, and
took chances which sooner or later ended in disaster.

The person Allan had next to find was the master-mechanic, whose office
was a square, one-storied building behind the great shops which closed in
the lower end of the yards. He knew the shops thoroughly, for he had been
through them more than once under Jack Welsh's guidance, and had spent
many of his spare moments there, for there was a tremendous fascination
about the intricate and mammoth machinery which filled them, almost
human in its intelligence, and with which so many remarkable things were

So on he went, past the great roundhouse where stood the mighty engines
groomed ready for the race, or being rubbed down by the grimed and
sweaty hostlers after a hundred-mile run; past the little shanty with
"21" in big figures on its door--headquarters of Section Twenty-One, and
receptacle for hand-car and tools,--the hand-car which he had pumped
along the track so many times, the tools with which his hands had grown
familiar. The door of the "long-shop" lay just beyond, and he entered
it, for the shortest path to the master-mechanic's office lay through
the shops; and Allan knew that he would probably find the official he
was seeking somewhere among them, inspecting some piece of machinery, or
overseeing some important bit of work.

The "long-shop," so named from its peculiar shape, very long and narrow,
is devoted wholly to repairing and rebuilding engines. Such small
complaints as leaking valves and broken springs and castings may be
repaired in the roundhouse, as the family medicine-chest avails for minor
ailments; but for more serious injuries the engines must be taken to
the experts in the long shop, and placed on one of the operating-tables
there, and taken apart and put together and made fit for service again.
When the injuries are too severe--when, in other words, it would cost
more to rebuild the engine than the engine is worth--it is shoved along
a rusty track back of the shop into the cemetery called the "bone-yard,"
and there eventually dismantled, knocked to pieces, and sold for
"scrap." That is the sordid fate, which, sooner or later, overtakes the
proudest and swiftest empress of the rail.

In the long-shop, four or five engines are always jacked up undergoing
repairs; each of them has a special gang of men attached to it, under a
foreman whose sole business it is to see that that engine gets back into
active service in the shortest possible time.

To the inexperienced eye, the shop was a perfect maze of machinery.
Great cranes ran overhead, with chains and claws dangling; shafting
whirred and belts rattled; along the walls were workbenches, variously
equipped; at the farther end were a number of drills, and beyond them
a great grindstone which whirred and whirred and threw out a shower of
sparks incessantly, under the guidance of its presiding genius, a little,
gray-haired man, whose duty it was to sharpen all the tools brought to
him. There was a constant stream of men to and from the grindstone,
which, in consequence, was a sort of centre for all the gossip of the
shops. Once the grindstone had burst, and had carried the little man with
it through the side of the shop, riding a great fragment much as Prince
Feroze-shah rode his enchanted horse; and though there was no peg which
he could turn to assure a safe landing, he _did_ land safely, and next
day superintended the installation of a new stone, from which the sparks
were soon flying as merrily as ever.

And even if the visitor was not confused by this tangle of machinery,
he was sure to be confounded by the noise, toward which every man in
the shop contributed his quota. The noise!--it is difficult to give an
adequate idea of that merciless and never-ceasing din. Chains clanked,
drills squeaked, but over and above it all was the banging and hammering
of the riveters, and, as a sort of undertone, the clangour from the
boiler-shop, connected with the long-shop by an open arch. The work of
the riveters never paused nor slackened, and the onlooker was struck with
wonder and amazement that a human being could endure ten hours of such

Allan, closing behind him the little door by which he had entered, looked
around for the tall form of the master-mechanic. But that official was
nowhere in sight, so the boy walked slowly on, glancing to right and left
between the engines, anxious not to miss him. At last, near the farthest
engine, he thought that he perceived him, and drew near. As he did so,
he saw that an important operation was going forward. A boiler was being
lowered to its place on its frame. A gang of men were guiding it into
position, as the overhead crane slowly lowered it, manipulated by a lever
in the hands of a young fellow whose eyes were glued upon the signalling
hand which the foreman raised to him.

"Easy!" the foreman shouted, his voice all but inaudible in the din.
"Easy!" and the boiler was lowered so slowly that its movement was
scarcely perceptible.


There was a pause, a quick intaking of breath, a straining of muscles--

"Now!" yelled the foreman, and with a quick movement the young fellow
threw over the lever and let the boiler drop gently, exactly in place.

The men drew a deep breath of relief, and stood erect, hands on hips,
straightening the strained muscles of their backs.

There was something marvellous in the ease and certainty with which the
crane had handled the great weight, responsive to the pressure of a
finger, and Allan ran his eyes admiringly along the heavy chains, up to
the massive and perfectly balanced arm--

Then his heart gave a sudden leap of terror. He sprang forward toward the
young fellow who stood leaning against the lever.

"Look out!" he cried, and seizing him by the arm, dragged him sharply

The next instant there was a resounding crash, which echoed above the din
of the shop like a cannon-shot above the rattle of musketry, and a great
block smashed the standing-board beside the lever to pieces.



The crash was followed by an instant's silence, as every man dropped his
work and stood with strained attention to see what had happened; then the
young fellow whose arm Allan still held turned toward him with a quick

"Why," he cried, "you--you saved my life!"

"Yes," said Allan; "I saw the block coming. It was lucky I happened to be
looking at it."

"Lucky!" echoed the other, visibly shaken by his narrow escape, and he
glanced at the splintered board where he had been standing. "I should
say so! Imagine what I'd have looked like about this time, if you hadn't
dragged me out of the way!"

The other men rushed up, stared, exclaimed, and began to devise
explanations of how the accident had occurred. No one could tell
certainly, but it was pretty generally agreed that the sudden rebound
from the strain, as the boiler fell into place, had in some way loosened
the block, thrown it away from its tackle, and hurled it to the floor

But neither Allan nor his companion paid much attention to these
explanations. For the moment, they were more interested in each other
than in anything else. A sudden comradeship, born in the first glance
they exchanged, had arisen between them; a mutual feeling that they would
like to know each other--a prevision of friendship.

"My name is Anderson," the boy was saying, his hand outstretched; "my
first name is James--but my friends call me Jim."

"And my name is Allan West," responded Allan, clasping the proffered hand
in a warm grip.

"Oho!" cried Jim, with a start of surprise, "so you're Allan West! Well,
I've always wanted to know you, but I never thought you'd introduce
yourself like this!"

"Always wanted to know me?" repeated Allan in bewilderment. "How could
that be?"

"Hero-worship, my boy!" explained Jim, grinning at Allan's blush. "Do you
suppose there's a man on this road who hasn't heard of your exploits? And
to hero-worship there is now added a lively sense of gratitude, since you
arrived just in time to save me from being converted into a grease-spot.
But there--the rest will keep for another time. Where do you live?"

"At Jack Welsh's house," answered Allan; "just back of the yards yonder."

"All right, my friend," said Jim. "I'll take the liberty of paying you a
call before very long. I only hope you'll be at home."

"I surely will, if you'll let me know when to look for you,"
answered Allan, heartily. "But I've got some letters here for the
master-mechanic--I mustn't waste any more time."

"Well!" said Jim, smiling, "I don't think you've been exactly wasting
your time--though of course there might be a difference of opinion about
that. But there he comes now," and he nodded toward the tall figure of
the master-mechanic, who had heard of the accident and was hastening to
investigate it.

Allan handed him his letters, which he thrust absently into his pocket,
as he listened with bent head to the foreman's account of the mishap.
Allan did not wait to hear it, but, conscious that the errand was taking
longer than it should, hurried on to deliver the other letters. This was
accomplished in a very few minutes, and he was soon back again at his
desk in the trainmaster's office.

He spent the next half-hour in sorting the mail which had accumulated
there. The trainmaster was busy dictating letters to his stenographer,
wading through the mass of correspondence before him with a rapidity
born of long experience. Allan never ceased to be astonished at the
vast quantity of mail which poured in and out of the office--letters
upon every conceivable subject connected with the operation of the
road--reports of all sorts, inquiries, complaints, requisitions--all of
which had to be carefully attended to if the business of the road was to
move smoothly.

There was no end to it. Every train brought a big batch of
correspondence, which it was his duty to receive, delivering at the
same time to the baggage-master other packets addressed to employees at
various points along the road. The road took care of its own mail in this
manner, without asking the aid of Uncle Sam, and so escaped a charge for
postage which would have made a serious hole in the earnings.

As soon as he had received the mail, Allan would hasten up-stairs to his
desk to sort it. Always about him, echoing through the office, rose the
clatter of the telegraph instruments. The trainmaster had one at his
elbow, the chief-dispatcher another, and in the dispatchers' office next
door three or four more were constantly chattering. It reminded Allan of
nothing so much as a chorus of blackbirds.

Often Mr. Schofield would pause in the midst of dictating a letter, open
his key and engage in conversation with some one out on the line. And
Allan realized that, after all, the pile of letters, huge as it was,
represented only a small portion of the road's business--that by far the
greater part of it was transacted by wire. And he determined to master
the secrets of telegraphy at the earliest possible moment. It was plainly
to be seen that that way, and that way only, lay promotion.

He was still pondering this idea when, the day's work over, he left
the office and made his way toward the little house perched high on an
embankment back of the yards, where he had lived ever since he had come
to Wadsworth, a year before, in search of work. Big-hearted Jack Welsh
had not only given him work, but had offered him a home--and a real home
the boy found it. He had grown as dear to Mary Welsh's heart as was her
own little girl, Mamie, who had just attained the proud age of seven and
was starting to school.

Allan found her now, waiting for him at the gate, and she escorted him
proudly up the path and into the house.

"Well, an' how d' you like your new job?" Mary asked, as they sat down to

"First rate," Allan answered, and described in detail how he had spent
the day.

Mary sniffed contemptuously when he had finished.

"I don't call that sech a foine job," she said. "Why, anybody could do
that! A boy loike you deserves somethin' better! An' after what ye did
fer th' road, too!"

"But don't you see," Allan protested, "it isn't so much the job itself,
as the chance it gives me. I'm at the bottom of the ladder, it's true,
just as John Marney said; but there _is_ a ladder, and a tall one, and if
I stay at the bottom it's my own fault."

Jack nodded from across the table.

"Right you are," he agreed. "And you'll git ahead, never fear!"

"I'm going to try," said Allan, and as soon as supper was over, he left
the house and hastened uptown to the Public Library, where he asked for
a book on telegraphy. He was just leaving the building with the coveted
volume under his arm, when somebody clapped him on the shoulder, and he
turned to find Jim Anderson at his side.

"I say," cried the latter, "this is luck! Where you going?"

"I was just starting for home," said Allan.

"I'll go with you," said Jim, promptly wheeling into step beside him and
locking arms. "That is, if you don't mind."

"Mind!" cried Allan. "You know I'm glad to have you."

"All right then," said Jim, laughing. "That's a great load off my mind.
What's that book you're hugging so lovingly?"

"It's a book on telegraphy," and Allan showed him the title.

"Going to study it?"

"Yes; it didn't take me long to find out that to amount to anything in
the offices, one has to understand what all that chatter is about."

"Right you are," assented Jim, "but you'll find it mighty hard work
learning it from a book. It'll be a good deal like learning to eat
without any food to practise on. Have you got an instrument?"

"No. But of course I'll get one."

"Look here!" cried Jim, excitedly, struck by a sudden idea; "I have it!
My brother Bob has two instruments stored away in the attic, batteries
and everything. He's the operator at Belpre now, and hasn't any more
use for them than a dog has for two tails. He'll be glad to let us have
them--glad to know that his lazy brother's improving his spare time. Why
can't we rig up a line from your house to mine, and learn together? I'm
pretty sure I can get some old wire down at the shops for almost nothing."

"That's a great idea," said Allan, admiringly; "if we can only carry it
out. Where do you live? Is it very far?"

"Well, it's quite a way; but I think we can manage it," said Jim.
"Suppose we look over the ground."

"All right; only wait till I take this book home; I live just over
yonder," and a moment later they were at the gate. "Won't you come in?"

"No, not this time; it'll soon be dark and we'll have to step out pretty

"I won't be but a minute," said Allan; and he wasn't.

The two started up through the yards together, arm in arm. Jim's house
was, as he had said, "quite a way;" in fact, it was nearly a mile away,
straight out the railroad-track. The house was a large brick, which stood
very near the track, so near, indeed, that one corner had been cut away
to permit the railroad to get by. The house had been built there nearly a
century before by some wealthy farmer who had never heard of a railroad,
and never dreamed that his property would one day be wanted for a right
of way. But the day came when the railroad's surveyors ran their line of
stakes out from the town, along the river-bank, and up to the very door
of the house itself. Condemnation proceedings were begun, the railroad
secured the strip of land it wanted, and tore down the corner of the
house which stood upon it. Whereupon the owner had walled up the opening
and rented what remained of the building to such families as had nerves
strong enough to ignore the roar and rumble of the trains, passing so
near that they seemed hurling themselves through the very house itself.

Allan knew it well. He had passed it many and many a time while he was
working on section. Indeed, it was this old house, when he learned its
history, which made him realize for the first time, how young, how
very modern the railroad was. Looking at it--at its massive track, its
enduring roadway carried on great fills and mighty bridges--it seemed
as old, as venerable, as the rugged hills which frowned down upon the
valley; it seemed that it must have been there from the dawn of time,
that it was the product of a force greater than any now known to man.
And yet, really, it had been in existence scarce half a century. Many
men were living who had seen the first rail laid, who had welcomed the
arrival of the first train, and who still recalled with mellow and tender
memory the days of the stage-coach--a mode of travel which, seen through
the prism of the years, quite eclipsed this new fashion in romance, in
comfort, and in good-fellowship.

This leviathan of steel and oak had grown like the beanstalk of Jack the
Giant-killer--had spread and spread with incredible rapidity, until it
reached, not from earth to heaven, but from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
from the Lakes to the Gulf. It had brought San Francisco as near Boston
as was Philadelphia in the days of the post rider. The four days' stage
journey from New York to Boston it covered in four hours. It had bound
together into a concrete whole a country so vast that it equals in area
the whole of Europe. And all this in little more than fifty years!
Verily, there are modern labours of Hercules beside which the ancient
ones seem mere child's play!

"It's a long stretch," said Allan, looking back, through the gathering
darkness, along the way that they had come. "It must be nearly a mile
from here to the station."

"Just about," agreed Jim. "But I know Tom Mickey, the head lineman,
pretty well, and I believe that I can get him to let us string our wire
on the company's poles. You see there's three or four empty places on the

"Oh, if we can do that," said Allan, "it will be easy enough. Do you
suppose he will let us?"

"I'm sure he will," asserted Jim, with a good deal more positiveness
than he really felt. "I'll see Mickey in the morning--I'll start early so
I'll have time before the whistle blows."

"It seems to me that you're doing it all, and that I'm not doing
anything," said Allan. "You must let me furnish the wire, anyway."

"We'll see about it," said Jim. "Won't you come in and see my mother?" he
added, a little shyly.

"It's pretty late," said Allan. "Do you think I'd better?"

"Yes," Jim replied. "She--she asked me to bring you, the first chance I

"What for?" asked Allan, looking at him in surprise.

"No matter," said Jim. "Come on," and he opened the door and led him into
the house.

They crossed a hall, and beside a table in the room beyond, Allan saw a
woman seated. She was bending over some sewing in her lap, but she looked
up at the sound of their entrance, and as the beams of the lamp fell upon
her face, Allan saw how it lighted with love and happiness. And his heart
gave a sudden throb of misery, for it was with that selfsame light in her
eyes that his mother had welcomed him in the old days.

"Mother," Jim was saying, "this is Allan West."

She rose with a little cry of pleasure, letting her sewing fall unheeded
to the floor, and held out her hands to him.

"So this is Allan West!" she said, in a voice soft and sweet and gentle.
"This is the boy who saved my boy's life!"

"It was nothing," stammered Allan, turning crimson. "You see, I just
happened to be there--"

"Nothing! I wonder if your mother would think it nothing if some one had
saved you for her!"

A sudden mist came before Allan's eyes; his lips trembled. And the woman
before him, looking at him with loving, searching eyes, understood.

"Dear boy!" she said, and Allan found himself clasped close against her



Tom Mickey, chief lineman of the Ohio division of the P. & O., was, like
most other human beings, subject to fluctuations of temper; only, with
Tom, the extremes were much farther apart than usual. This was due,
perhaps, to his mixed ancestry, for his father, a volatile Irishman,
had married a phlegmatic German woman, proprietress of a railroad
boarding-house, where Mickey found a safe and comfortable haven, with no
more arduous work to do than to throw out occasionally some objectionable
customer--and Mickey never considered that as work, but as recreation
pure and simple. It was into this haven that Tom was born; there he grew
up, alternating between the chronic high spirits of his father and the
chronic low ones of his mother, and being, on the whole, healthy and
well-fed and contented.

He had entered the service of the road while yet a mere boy, preferring
to go to work rather than to school, which was the only alternative
offered him; and he soon became an expert lineman, running up and down
the poles as agile as a monkey and dancing out along the wires in a way
that earned him more than one thrashing from his boss. Advancing years
had tempered this foolhardiness, but had only served to accentuate the
eccentric side of his character. He would be, one day, buoyant as a lark
and obliging to an almost preposterous degree, and the next day, ready to
snap off the head of anybody who addressed him, and barely civil to his
superior officers.

These vagaries got him into hot water sometimes; and more than once
he was "on the carpet" before the superintendent; but the greatest
punishment ever meted out to him was a short vacation without pay. The
road really could not afford to do without him, for Tom Mickey was the
best lineman in the middle west. The tangle of wires which were an
integral part of the system was to him an open book, to be read at a
glance. Was any wire in trouble, he would mount his tricycle, a sort of
miniature hand-car, spin out along the track, and in a surprisingly short
time the trouble was remedied and the wire in working order. Tom was a
jewel--in the rough, it is true, and not without a flaw--but a jewel just
the same.

Luckily he was in one of his buoyant moods when Jim Anderson approached
him on the morning following his conversation with Allan. Perhaps it is
only right to say that this was not wholly luck, for Jim had reconnoitred
thoroughly beforehand, and had not ventured to approach the lineman
until assured by one of his helpers that he was in a genial humour.

Mickey was just loading up his tricycle with wire and insulators,
preparatory to a trip out along the line, when Jim accosted him.

"Mr. Mickey," he began, "another fellow named Allan West and myself
want to rig up a little telegraph line from my house, out near the two
bridges, to his, just back of the yards here, and we were wondering if
you would let us string our wire on the company's poles. There seem to be
some vacant places, and of course we'd be mighty careful not to interfere
with the other wires."

He stopped, eying Mickey anxiously, but that worthy went on with his
work as though he had not heard. He was puffing vigorously at a short
clay pipe, and with a certain viciousness that made Jim wonder if he had
approached him at the wrong moment, after all.

"What 'd ye say th' other kid's name is?" Mickey asked, after what seemed
an age to the waiting boy.

"Allan West."

"Is that th' kid that Jack Welsh took t' raise?"

"Yes; he lives with the Welshes. He worked in Welsh's section-gang last
year--took Dan Nolan's place, you know."

"Yes--I moind," said Mickey, and went on smoking.

"How does it happen," he demanded at last, "that he wants t' learn t' be
a operator?"

"He's got a job in th' trainmaster's office," Jim explained. "He wants to
learn the business."

Mickey nodded, and knocking out his pipe against his boot-heel,
deliberately filled it again, lighted it, and turned back to his work.
Finally the tricycle was loaded and he pushed it out on the main line,
ready for his trip. Jim followed him anxiously. He watched Mickey take
his seat on the queer-looking machine, spit on his hands and grasp the
lever; then he turned away disappointed. That line was not going to be
possible, after all.

"Wait a minute," called Mickey. "What th' blazes are ye in such a hurry
about? Do ye see that wire up there--th' outside wire on th' lowest

"Yes," nodded Jim, following the direction of the pointed finger.

"Well, that's a dead one. We don't use it no more, an' I'm a-goin' t'
take it down afore long. Ye kin use it, if ye want to, till then--mebbe
it'll be a month 'r two afore I git around to it."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Mickey," cried Jim, his face beaming. "That will be
fine. We're a thousand times obliged--"

But the lineman cut him short with a curt nod, bent to the lever, and
rattled away over the switches, out of the yards.

Jim hurried on to his place in the long-shop, getting there just as the
whistle blew, and went about his accustomed work, but he kept an eye out
for Allan, who, he knew, would be coming through before long in search of
the master-mechanic. Allan, you may be sure, did not neglect the chance
to say good-morning to his new friend, and listened with sparkling eyes
while Jim poured out the story of his success with Mickey.

"And now," he concluded, "all we'll have to do is to run a wire into our
house from the pole just in front of it, and then run another across the
yards here to your house. We can do it in a couple of evenings."

"And we'll have it for a month, anyway," added Allan.

"A month! We'll have it as long as we want it. That was just Mickey's
way. He didn't want to seem to be too tender-hearted. He'll never touch
the wire as long as we're using it. I'll get some old wire to make the
connections with, and fix up the batteries."

"All right," agreed Allan, and went on his way.

The work of stringing the wires was begun that very evening; the
batteries were overhauled and filled with dilute sulphuric acid, and
the keys and sounders were tested and found to be in good shape. Three
evenings later, one of the instruments was clicking on the table in
Allan's room, and Jim was bending over the other one in his room a mile
away. Only, alas, the clicks were wild and irregular and without meaning.

But that did not last long. The book on telegraphy helped them; Allan
himself, in the dispatchers' office, had ample opportunity to observe how
the system worked, and each of the boys copied out the Morse alphabet and
set himself to learn it, practising on his key at every spare moment.

They found that telegraphic messages are transmitted by the use of three
independent characters: short signals, or dots; long signals, or dashes;
and dividing intervals or spaces between adjacent signals. Thus, a dot
followed by a dash represents the letter a; a dash followed by three
dots represents the letter b, while two dots, space, dot, represents the
letter c, and so through the alphabet, which, according to the Morse
code, is written like this: a, .-; b, -...; c, .. .; d, -..; e, .; and so
on. Longer spaces or pauses divide the words, and longer dashes are also
used in representing some of the letters.

The dots and dashes are made by means of a key which opens and closes the
electric circuit, and causes the sounders of all the other instruments
connected with the wire to vibrate responsively. When an operator desires
to send the letter a, he depresses his key for a short interval, then
releases it, and, after an interval equally brief, depresses it again,
holding it down three times as long before releasing it. All the other
sounders repeat this dot and dash, and the listening operators recognize
the letter a. Every word must be spelled out in this manner, letter by

As may well be believed, the boys found the sending and receiving of
even the shortest words difficult and painful enough at first, but
in a surprisingly short time certain combinations of sounds began to
stand out, as it were, among their surroundings. The two combinations
which first became familiar were - .... . and .- -. -.., representing
respectively "the" and "and." Following this, came the curious
combination of sounds, ..--.., which represents the period, one of the
most difficult the learner has to master. Other combinations followed,
until most of the shorter words began to assume the same individuality
when heard over the wire that they have when seen by the eye. It was no
longer necessary to listen to them letter by letter; the ear grasped them
as a whole, just as the eye grasps the written word without separating it
into the letters which compose it.

But even then, Allan still found the clicking of the instruments in
the office an unsolvable riddle. This was due largely to the system
of abbreviation which railroad operators use, a sort of telegraphic
shorthand incomprehensible to the ordinary operator; but the sending
was in most cases so rapid that even if the words had been spelled out
in full the boy would have had great difficulty in following them.
Train-dispatchers, it may be said in passing, have no time to waste;
their messages are terse and to the point, and are sent like a flash. And
woe to the operator who has to break in with the . .. . .. which
means "repeat!" The dispatchers themselves, of course, are capable of
taking the hottest ball or the wildest that ever came over the wires.
Indeed, most of them can and do work the key with one hand while they
eat their lunch with the other; and the call or signal for his office
will instantly awaken him from a sleep which a cannon-shot would not
disturb. Telegraphy, in a word, develops a sort of sixth sense, and the
experienced operator receives or sends a message as readily as he talks
or reads or writes. It is second nature.

It was about this time that one of the old dispatchers resigned to seek
his fortune in the West, and a new one made his début in a manner that
Allan did not soon forget. He was a slender young fellow, with curly
blond hair, and he came on duty at three o'clock in the afternoon, just
when the rush of business is heaviest. The induction of a new dispatcher
is something of a ceremony, for the welfare of the road rests in his
hands for eight hours of every day, and everybody about the offices is
always anxious to see just what stuff the newcomer is made of. So on this
occasion, most of the division officials managed to have some business in
the dispatchers' office at the moment the new man came on.

He glanced over the train-sheet, while the man he was relieving
explained to him briefly the position of trains and what orders were
outstanding. His sounder began to click an instant later, and he leaned
over, opened his key, and gave the signal, .. .., which showed that he
was ready to receive the message. Then, as the message started in a
sputter which evidenced the excited haste of the man who was sending it,
he turned away, took off his coat, and hung it up, deliberately removed
his cuffs, and lighted a cigar. Then he sat down at his desk, and picked
up a pen. Something very like a sigh of relief ran around the office.
But the pen did not suit him. He tried it, made a wry face, and looked
inquiringly at the other dispatcher.

"The pens are over yonder in that drawer," said that worthy, with assumed
indifference, and went on sending a message he had just started.

The newcomer arose, went to the drawer, opened it, and selected a pen
with leisurely care. Allan watched him, his heart in his mouth. He could
see that the chief-dispatcher was frowning and that the trainmaster
looked very stern. He knew that neither of these officials would tolerate
any "fooling," when the welfare of the road was in question. But at last
the newcomer was in his seat again. He reached forward and opened his
key, and every one waited for the . .. . .., which would ask that
the message, a long and involved one, be repeated. But instead, a curt
"Cut it short," flew over the line, followed by an order so terse, so
admirable, so clean-cut, that the trainmaster turned away with a sudden
relaxation of countenance.

"He'll do," he murmured, as he got out a match and lighted his forgotten
cigar. "He'll do."

And, indeed, at a later day, Allan saw the same dispatcher receive and
answer two messages simultaneously. But these were merely the trimmings
of the profession. They savoured of sleight of hand, and had little to do
with the real business of train-dispatching.

So Allan did not despair. Every evening, he and Jim laboured at their
keys. First, Allan would send an item, perhaps, from the evening paper,
and Jim would receive it. Then he would send it back, and Allan would
write it out, as his sounder clicked along, and compare his copy with the
original, to detect any errors. At first, errors were the rule; but as
time went on, they became more and more infrequent; and at the end of two
months, both the boys had acquired a very fair facility in sending and
receiving. Indeed, one evening, after an unusually satisfactory bout, Jim
was moved to a little self-approval.

"I think we're both pretty good," he clicked out. "Let's apply for a job
as operator."

"Not yet," Allan answered. "This line hasn't done all it can for us yet."

Nor for the road, he might have added, could he have foreseen the events
of the next twenty-four hours.



The snow was falling steadily, a late spring snow, but as heavy as any of
the winter. It had started in the early morning as sleet, which clung to
everything it touched with a vise-like grip. Then, the wind veering to
the north had turned the sleet to snow, soggy, tenacious, and swirling
fast and faster, until now, as night closed in, nearly six inches had

It was a bad night for railroading, and the instruments in the office
clicked incessantly as the dispatchers laboured, with tense faces, to
keep their trains straight. The wires were working badly under the burden
of snow and sleet; some were crossed, some were down, and the instruments
slurred the dots and dashes which rattled over them in a way that brought
a line of worry between the eyes of the men upon whom rested so great a

As for the less experienced operators along the line, they were--to use
the expressive phrase usually applied to them--"up in the air." They
knew that a single mistake might cost the lives of a score of people,
and yet how were mistakes to be avoided when the instruments, instead of
their usual clear-cut enunciation, stuttered and stammered and chattered
meaninglessly. It was one of those crises which grow worse with each
passing moment; when nerves, strained to snapping, finally give way;
when brains, aching with anxiety, suddenly refuse to work; when, in a
word, there is a break in the system to which even the smallest cog is

So it was that the trainmaster, having swallowed his supper hastily, had
hurried back to the office, and stood now peering out into the night,
chewing nervously the end of a cigar which he had forgotten to light,
and listening to the instruments clattering wildly on the tables behind
him. Although there were two of them, and their clatter never ceased, he
followed without difficulty the story which each was telling, for he had
risen to his present position after long years at the key.

Allan West had also hurried back to the office as soon as he had eaten
his supper. It seemed to him that disaster was in the air; besides, he
might be needed to carry a message, or for some other service, and he
wanted to be on hand. It had been a hard day, for he had toiled back
and forth across the slippery yards a score of times, but he forgot
his fatigue as he sat there and listened to the crazy instruments and
realized the tremendous odds against which the dispatchers were fighting.

For the trains must be moved, and as nearly on time as human effort could
do it. There is no stopping a railroad because of unfavourable weather.
The movement of trains ceases only when an accident breaks the road in
two or wreckage blocks the track, and then only until arrangements can be
made to détour them past the place where the accident has occurred. When
this cannot be done, a train is run to the spot from either side, and
passengers, mail, and baggage transferred.

And then the passengers get a fleeting and soon-forgotten glimpse of
how the road is struggling to set things right again. For as they hurry
past the place, they see a gang of men--a hundred, perhaps--toiling like
the veriest galley-slaves to repair the damage; they see a huge derrick
grappling with wrecked cars and engines and swinging them out of the way;
they see locomotives puffing and hauling, and in command of it all, two
or three haggard and dirt-begrimed men whom no one would recognize as
the well-dressed and well-groomed gentlemen who fill the positions of
superintendent, trainmaster, and superintendent of maintenance of way.
All this the passengers pause a moment to contemplate, as one looks at
a play at the theatre; then they hasten on and forget all about it. As
for the labourers, they do not even raise their heads. It is no play for
them, but deadly earnest. They have been toiling in just that fashion
for hours and hours; they will keep doggedly at it until the road is open.

To-night a dozen passengers in the luxuriantly appointed Pullmans of the
east-bound flyer were fuming and fretting because their train was ten
minutes late. They complained to the conductor; they expressed their
opinion of the road at length and in terms the most uncomplimentary. They
vowed one and all that never again would they travel by this route. Not
that the delay really made any difference to any of them; but average
human nature seems to be so constituted that it is most deeply annoyed by
trifles. And the conductor reassured them, talked confidently of making
up the lost time, did his best to keep them cheerful and contented, joked
and laughed and seemed to be thinking about anything rather than the
storm which swirled and howled outside. Only for an instant, as he passed
from one coach to another, and found himself alone, did the careless
smile leave his lips. His face lined with anxiety as he glanced out
through the door of the vestibule at the driving snow, and he shook his
head. Then he resumed his jaunty air and passed on into the next coach.

Every profession has its ethics--some citadel, some point of honour,
which must be defended to the death. The physician may not refuse a call
for aid, may not hesitate to risk his own life in the work of saving
others--that is the implied agreement he makes with humanity when he
accepts his diploma. The captain may not leave his ship until the last
passenger has done so; his life is negligible and worthless in comparison
with that of any passenger on board; if his passengers cannot be saved,
he must go down with them; to think of his own life at such a time is to
confess himself a coward and a traitor to a noble calling. The conductor
of a passenger-train occupies much the same position. He is responsible
for his train and his passengers; never must he seem worried, or admit
that there is any danger; he must front death with a smile on his
lips, and when the crash comes, his first duty is to the men and women
entrusted to his charge. And what a glorious commentary it is on human
nature that so few, brought face to face with that duty, seek to evade it!

       *       *       *       *       *

Back in the dispatchers' office, the situation grew worse and worse.
The dispatcher in charge of the east end had lost a freight-train.
He supposed that it was somewhere between two stations, but it was
long overdue, and the conviction began to be forced upon him that it
had somehow got past a station unnoticed and unreported, in the snow
and storm. The operator swore it hadn't; swore that he had not slept
a second; swore that he had kept a sharp lookout for the train, and
hazarded the opinion that it had run off the track somewhere. The
dispatcher retorted that when he wanted his opinion he would ask for it;
and in the meantime that section of track was closed until the missing
train could be found.

A missing train! The words send a shiver through the bravest. Somewhere,
out yonder in the storm, it is careening along the rails; its crew is
confident that its passage has been noted by the operator at the last
station, and that the dispatcher will keep clear the track ahead. They
do not suspect their peril; they do not know that another train may be
speeding toward them, and that, in a few minutes, there will be a roar, a
crash, the shriek of escaping steam, and then the cruel tongues of flame
licking around the wrecked cars. So the fireman bends to his task, the
engineer stares absently out into the night, his hand on the throttle,
the front brakeman dozes upon the fireman's box, and back in the caboose,
the conductor and hind-end brakeman engage in a social game of seven-up--

In safety, this time; for the dispatcher is one who knows his business
and takes no chances. Proceeding on the theory that the train has got
past, he keeps the track clear and holds up the road's traffic until the
missing train can be found. Which, of course, is as soon as it reaches
the next station--for on that end of the road, every operator, knowing
what is wrong, has his eyes wide open. A mighty sigh of relief goes up
as it is reported; traffic starts again with a rush. And the next day,
the operator who swore so positively that the train had not got past was
hunting another job.

The dispatcher in charge of the west end was doing his best to keep the
track clear for Number Two, the east-bound flyer, the premier train of
the road, with right of way over everything; but there was no telling
what any train would do on such a night, and the flyer had already been
held ten minutes at Vienna because a freight-train had stuck on the hill
east of there and had to double over. The dispatcher set his teeth and
vowed that there should be no more delay if he had to hold every other
train on the division until the flyer passed. But freight conductors have
a persuasive way with them, and when Lew Johnson reported from Lyndon
at 8.40 that his train was made up, engine steaming finely, and that he
could make Wadsworth easily in half an hour, the dispatcher yielded and
told him to come ahead.

But Johnson had exaggerated a little, for his wife was sick and he was
anxious to get home to her; the engine was not steaming so well, after
all, the flues got to leaking, and when the train finally coasted down
the grade into the yards at Wadsworth, the flyer was only ten minutes
behind. Still, a miss is as good as a mile, and the dispatcher heaved a
sigh of relief, as he looked out from the window and saw the freight pull
into the yards. He stood staring a moment longer, then sprang to his key
and began calling Musselman.

The trainmaster swung around sharply.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"An extra west has just pulled out of the yards," gasped the dispatcher.
"It had orders to start as soon as Number Two pulled in. The engineer
must have thought that freight was the flyer," and he kept on calling

In a moment came the tick-tick, tick-tick, which told that the operator
at Musselman had heard the call.

"Flag Number Two!" commanded the dispatcher, "and hold till arrival extra

There was an instant's suspense; then the reply came ticking slowly in:

"Number Two just passed. Was just going to report her."

The dispatcher leaned back in his chair, his face livid, and stared
mutely at the trainmaster.

"There's no night office between here and Musselman," he said, hoarsely.
"There'll be a head-end inside of ten minutes."

Allan had listened with white face. He shut his eyes for an instant and
fancied he could see the passenger and freight rushing toward each other
through the night. Then, suddenly, he sprang erect.

"Do you know the number of that outside wire on the lower cross-arm?" he
asked the trainmaster.


"Can you cut it in?"

"Of course--but what--"

"No matter--do it!" cried Allan, and sat down at the key, while the
trainmaster went mechanically to the switchboard and pushed the proper
plug into place.

"J--J--J!" Allan called. "J--J--J!"

Would Jim hear? Was he within call of his instrument? Perhaps he was in
some other part of the house; perhaps he was not at home at all. Even if
he were, how would he be able--

Then, suddenly, the circuit was broken, and as Allan held down his key,
there came the welcome tick-tick, tick-tick, which told that Jim had

"Flag Number Two!"

Allan's hand was trembling so that he could scarcely control the key.

"R--R," clamoured Jim. "Repeat--repeat!"

Small wonder that he doubted he had heard correctly!

"Flag Number Two--quick--collision!"

This time Allan controlled the trembling of his hand and sent the message

"O. K.," flashed back the answer, and Jim was gone, forgetting in his
agitation to close his key.

"Who is it?" demanded Mr. Schofield, who had listened to this interchange
with strained attention.

"It's Jim Anderson," Allan explained. "He lives in that house right
by the track about a mile west of here. He and I rigged up a private
line--Mr. Mickey let us use that old wire. Perhaps he'll be in time."

"Perhaps--perhaps," agreed the trainmaster; but he did not permit himself
to hope. The chance was too slender. How was the boy to flag the train?
How could he make the engineer see him through that driving snow? It was
absurd to suppose it could be done.

"I think we'd better order out the wrecking-train," he said, to the
chief-dispatcher. "Call up a couple of doctors, too; we'll probably need
them; and tell the hospital to have its ambulance at the station here
before we get back. As for that fool who made the mistake--"

He stopped abruptly. For, in the driving snow, the mistake was not so
surprising, after all--the flyer was running ten minutes late, and the
freight had come in exactly on her time--two facts with which the crew of
the extra west could not have been familiar.

"Perhaps he's paid for it with his life by now," added the trainmaster,
after a moment, and started toward the telephone to order the
wrecking-train got ready.

Then, suddenly, he stopped, rigid with expectancy, for the instrument on
the table in front of Allan had begun to sound.

"A--A," it called. "A--A."

"Tick-tick, tick-tick," Allan answered, instantly.

"I have Number Two, also extra west stopped here," came the message.
"What shall they do?"

"I guess I'll have to turn this over to you, sir," said Allan, looking at
Mr. Schofield, his eyes bright with emotion. "Don't send too fast," he
added, with a little, unsteady laugh, as the trainmaster took the key.
"Neither Jim nor I is very expert, you know."



The conductor of Number Two, having consoled and encouraged his
passengers to the best of his ability, went forward into the smoker and
sat down in a corner seat to sort his tickets and make up his report.
From time to time, he glanced out the window, and though the driving
snow shut off any glimpse of the landscape, he could tell, by a sort of
instinct, just where the train was. He knew the rattle of every switch,
the position of every light. The quick rattle of a target told him that
the train had passed Harper's. He recognized the clatter of the switches
at Roxabel as the train swept over them; then, from the peculiar echo,
he knew that it had entered a cut and that Musselman was near. Then the
train struck another cut, whirred over a bridge, and began to coast down
a long grade, while the shrill blast of the whistle sounded faintly
through the storm, and he knew that they were approaching Wadsworth. The
lights of the city would have been visible upon the right but for the
swirling snow. There was a sharp repeated roar as the train shot over
the two iron bridges at the city's boundary--and then there came a shock
which shook the train from end to end, and sent the parcels flying from
the wall-racks.

Instantly the conductor swung up his feet and braced himself against the
seat in front of him. He knew that that sudden setting of the brakes
meant danger ahead, and he wanted to be prepared for the crash which
might follow. It is a trick which every trainman knows and which every
passenger should know. The passengers who are injured in a collision
are usually those who were sitting carelessly balanced on the edge of
their seats, and who, when the crash came, were hurled about the car,
with the inevitable result of broken bones. To trainmen and experienced
travellers, the unmistakable shock which tells of brakes suddenly applied
is always a signal to brace themselves against the more violent one
which may follow in a moment. Often this simple precaution means all the
difference between life and death.

But in this case, the train came shrieking to a stop without any
shock more violent than the first, and the conductor hastened out to
investigate. He found the engineer and fireman standing in front of the
engine, staring at a fusee burning red in the darkness, and questioning a
young fellow who stood near by.

"What is it?" demanded the conductor, hurrying up.

"This here youngster says he had orders t' flag th' train," answered the

"Orders from whom?" asked the conductor sharply, turning to the boy.

"Orders from--"

The boy stopped and turned red.

"Well, go on. Who gave the orders?"

"A chum of mine," burst out the boy desperately. "He works in the
trainmaster's office. He wired me a minute ago to flag Number Two and
be quick about it. I just had time to get that fusee lighted when you
whistled for the crossing."

The conductor frowned. The whole affair savoured of a boyish prank.

"And do you mean to say," he demanded, sternly, "that because another boy
told you to, you stopped this train--"

He paused, his mouth open, and listened, hand to ear. Then he stooped,
snatched up the fusee, and fairly hurled himself down the track, waving
the blazing torch above his head. And an instant later, his companions
caught the sound of an engine pounding up the grade toward them.

The red light disappeared through the snow; then two sharp whistles
testified that the signal had been seen; and a moment later, a great
mogul of a freight-engine loomed through the darkness and came grinding
to a stop not thirty feet away.

Her engineer swung himself to the ground and came running forward.


"What's all this?" he demanded; and then he saw the headlight of the
other engine, almost obscured by the snow which encrusted it, and turned
livid under his coat of tan. "What train's that?"

"That's Number Two," answered the conductor, who had returned with the
smoking fusee still in his hand.

"Number Two!" echoed the engineer, and a cold sweat broke out across his
forehead. "Nonsense! I saw Number Two pull into the yards ten minutes

"No you didn't," retorted the conductor, grimly, "for there's Number Two
back there."

The engineer passed his hand before his eyes and stared, scarce able to
understand. Then his face hardened and his lips tightened.

"There must have been a freight ahead of you," he said. "It came in just
on your time."

"We're ten minutes late--and getting later every minute," the conductor
added, and stamped impatiently.

Just then the conductor of the freight came hurrying up. The engineer
turned to him with a little sardonic laugh.

"Well, Pete," he said, "I guess this is our last run over this road."

The conductor's face turned ghastly white.

"Wha-what do you mean?" he stammered.

The engineer answered with a wave of the hand toward the headlight
glaring down at them.

"That's Number Two," he said.

"Number Two!" echoed the conductor, blankly. "But then--why weren't we
smashed to kindling wood?"

"Blamed if I know," answered the engineer, turning to clamber back on his
engine. "And I don't much care. I reckon we're done, anyway."

And they were, for a railroad never forgives or overlooks a mistake so
serious as this.

Jim Anderson came out of the house a moment later with an order from the
trainmaster for the freight to back into the yards, and the flyer to

Only the driving storm had kept the passengers on the flyer from coming
out to inquire what the matter was; and when the conductor swung himself
on board again, he was greeted with a volley of questions. What was the
trouble? What had happened?

"Trouble?" he repeated, with a stare of surprise. "There wasn't any. We
had to stop for orders, that was all."

"You stopped pretty sudden, it seems to me," growled one old traveller.

"The engineer didn't see the stop signal till he was right on it,"
answered the conductor, blandly.

"Snow so thick, you know."

And the passengers returned to their seats satisfied, and none of them
ever knew how narrow their escape had been--for it is the policy of all
railroads that the passengers are never to know of mistakes and dangers,
if the knowledge can by any means be kept from them.

However, the employees in the yards at Wadsworth had realized the mistake
almost as soon as the dispatchers had--and there was quite a crowd
waiting to greet the trains--a crowd which even yet did not understand
how a terrible accident had been averted. It was not until the conductor
of the flyer stepped off upon the platform and told the story in a few
words, with voice carefully lowered lest some outsider should hear him,
that they did understand; and even then, it was not as clear as it might
have been until Tom Mickey came along and told how he had permitted the
boys to use the old wire.

As for the engineer of the freight, he dropped off his engine the moment
it stopped, and hurried away to his home without even pausing to remove
his overalls. Six hours later, he was boarding a train on the N. & W., to
seek a job in the south. The conductor remained for the inquiry and tried
to brazen it through, but the evidence showed that, instead of staying
out in the storm to watch for the arrival of Number Two and give the
engineer the signal to go ahead, he had told the latter to start as soon
as the passenger pulled in, and had ensconced himself in his berth in the
caboose and gone comfortably to sleep. So he, too, was informed that the
P. & O. no longer required his services.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Jim Anderson reported for work next morning, his foreman told
him he was to go at once to the office of Mr. Heywood, the division
superintendent. He obeyed the order with some inward trepidation, crossed
the yards to the division headquarters, mounted the stairs, and knocked
tremulously at the door of the superintendent's office. A voice bade him
enter. He opened the door, and saw, sitting at a great desk, a small,
dark, dapper man who was dictating at fever heat to a stenographer. He
paused for an instant, looking inquiringly at Jim.

"I'm Jim Anderson," said the boy. "My foreman told me--"

The superintendent nodded.

"That will do, Graves," he said to the stenographer. "Send young West in
here at once."

"Very well, sir," answered the stenographer, and went out.

Mr. Heywood turned abruptly in the direction of his visitor.

"So you're Jim Anderson?" he began.

"Yes, sir."

"It was you who flagged Number Two last night?"

"Yes, sir."

"Tell me about it."

Jim told the story as briefly as he could. Allan came in before he had

"Now let's hear your story," added the superintendent, turning to Allan,
and the latter related his share in the adventure.

"There's only one thing I don't understand," said the superintendent,
when Allan had finished, turning back to Jim, "and that is how you came
to have that fusee."

Jim reddened.

"I found it, sir," he explained. "You remember when the caboose of Number
Ninety-seven was derailed about a month ago, near the bridges, and rolled
down the bank and was smashed to pieces?"

"Perfectly," answered the superintendent, dryly.

"Well," Jim continued, "I suppose the box of fusees in the caboose must
have been broken open and scattered about. Anyway, I found this one the
next day in some bushes at the foot of the embankment. I suppose I should
have returned it to the company--but--well--I thought I'd keep it for the
Fourth of July."

His voice trembled and stopped, and he stood with hanging head, like a
criminal waiting his sentence.

Let it be explained here that a fusee is a paste-board tube filled with
powder--the same sort of powder which produces the red fire which forms
a part of every exhibition of fire-works. At one end of this tube is a
spike which can be thrust into the ground. The other end of the tube is
closed by a cap containing a piece of emery-paper. To light the powder it
is only necessary to remove the cap and scrape it on the end of the tube
till a spark falls into it. A fusee burns with a bright red light for
exactly ten minutes, and no train may run past one which is burning.

Its uses are manifold. It makes a brilliant danger signal, and one
which no engineer can fail to see, which no mist nor snow can obscure,
and which no wind can extinguish. But it is usually used by night--as
torpedoes are by day--to protect the rear of a train which has been
temporarily disabled and delayed between stations.

If a train is stopped by a hot-box, for instance, a brakeman is at once
sent out to protect the rear. He walks to a distance of two or three
hundred yards, carrying a flag in the daytime or a lantern by night, with
which to stop any train which may happen to come along before his train
is ready to proceed. Ordinarily, there is no danger to be apprehended
from in front, because the dispatcher will permit no train coming toward
them to pass the next station until the train which is in trouble arrives

As soon as the heated journal has been cooled sufficiently to allow the
train to proceed, the engineer blows four blasts on the whistle to recall
the brakeman. But, obviously, during the time that he is walking back
to the train and the train itself is getting under way, another train
may come along at full speed and run into it. So, before he returns,
the brakeman sticks a fusee in the middle of the track and lights it.
It will burn for ten minutes, and during that time no train may run
past the spot, so all danger of accident is avoided. If the breakdown
occurs during the daytime, the brakeman will affix two torpedoes to the
track instead of using the fusee. The first train which runs over these
torpedoes explodes them, and the engineer must at once get his train
under control, reduce speed, and look out for a stop signal. A single
torpedo is a signal to stop.

It was one of these fusees, a number of which are carried in every
caboose, which had enabled Jim Anderson to flag Number Two, and lucky it
was that he had it, for on a night such as the one before had been, a
lantern would almost certainly have failed to be seen. But Jim did not
think of that, as he stood there with hanging head. His only thought
was that he should not have kept the fusee, that it belonged to the
company--that he might be thought a thief. He looked up at last to find
the superintendent smiling at him.

"My boy," said Mr. Heywood, "if, as you go through life, you never do
anything worse than you have done in keeping possession of that fusee,
you will never have any reason for remorse. It had been abandoned there
by the company; you found it. You were under no obligation to return it.
We had lost it through our own carelessness; it may have been missed,
but was thought not worth searching for. So dismiss that from your mind.
I called you boys before me for a very different purpose than to reproach
either of you. In the first place, I want to thank you for your prompt
and intelligent action, which saved the road what would probably have
been one of the worst wrecks in its history. It is the sort of thing the
road never forgets."

There were four cheeks now, instead of two, that were flaming red. The
praise was almost more embarrassing than the expected blame.

"In the second place," continued the superintendent, "I have ordered
Lineman Mickey to overhaul your private line and to equip it with
up-to-date instruments."

He smiled as he looked at the beaming countenances before him.

"In the third place," he went on, "I have ordered a box of fusees and
another of torpedoes left at your home, Anderson. And they're not to be
used on the Fourth of July, either--at least, not more than one or two.
They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but it's just
possible that some day we may want you to flag another train out there,
and so we provide you with the means to do it.

"In the fourth place," he added, rising and glancing at his watch, "I'm
going to offer you the first positions as operator that are vacant. Now
don't thank me," he protested, as exclamations of pleasure burst from the
young lips before him. "I don't deserve any thanks. I'm simply looking
out for the best interests of the road. We want operators who are more
than mere telegraphers--we want men who are equal to an emergency, who
have their wits about them, who can think quickly, and who don't get
rattled--men like that are a good deal harder to find than you might
think. That's the reason we want you two. I don't believe that one boy in
a hundred would have had the wit to act as promptly and intelligently as
you did last night. Now, I'll let you know--"

The door burst suddenly open and a girl rushed in--a girl of perhaps
seventeen, with flushed, excited face--the loveliest face, Allan thought,
that he had ever seen.

"Oh, papa!" she cried. "Our train will start in a minute! We mustn't miss

Mr. Heywood laughed and glanced at his watch again.

"We won't miss it, Bess," he said. "We've got three minutes and a half.
No train has ever started ahead of time on this road since Mr. Round
took charge of it. Good-bye, boys," he added, and shook hands with them
heartily. "Hold yourselves ready for orders--and meanwhile get all the
practice you can. Come, Bess," and the father and daughter went out
together, leaving the boys staring after them with a mixture of emotions
difficult to describe.



One can easily understand with what enthusiasm Jim Anderson and Allan
West continued the study of telegraphy. Here was something worth while,
something vital, something with which great things might be accomplished;
for surely there are few things in this world greater than the saving of
human life.

Then, too, there was the protection of the company's property. A
collision such as that which had been averted would have demolished
engines and cars worth a hundred thousand dollars. Damage suits,
destroyed freight, the interruption of traffic, the cost of repairing the
right of way, the loss of prestige which attends every great wreck--all
these might easily have carried the total loss to a quarter of a million.

Yet neither in this accident nor in any other was it the money loss to
the company of which the officials thought. They thought only of the
danger to the passengers, for the passenger is the road's most sacred
trust. In his behalf, the road exacts eternal vigilance from every man
in its employ. His safety comes first of all. For it, no railroad man
must hesitate to risk his life; nay, if need be, to throw his life away.
He enters the service of the road on that condition--and rarely does he
fail when the moment of trial comes, as it is sure to come, sooner or

The boys, then, had reason to be pleased with what they had accomplished.
The superintendent kept his word, and instruments of the latest pattern
were soon installed by Lineman Mickey, while the current for the line was
furnished by the company's batteries, and was stronger and more constant
than their own little battery had been able to give them. Nor was that
all the help they had, for the trainmaster and the dispatchers took an
interest in their work, and drilled them in the various abbreviations and
code signals in use on the road, as well as the calls for the various

They were permitted to "cut in" with the main line whenever they wished;
the messages which flashed over it were then repeated on their own
sounders, and they could try their hands at transcribing them. Needless
to say, they progressed rapidly under this tuition, which was the very
best they could have had; and the day came at last when Allan, sitting
at his desk sorting the mail, could understand perfectly what all the
instruments about him were saying.

There is within us, so scientists say, a sort of second-self which
takes care of all actions which become habitual, without troubling us to
think of them, or to will their performance. Thus we breathe without any
effort of consciousness--a wise provision of nature, else we should die
of asphyxiation as soon as we went to sleep. The muscles which control
the heart keep on working of themselves from birth to death. Thus, too,
while the baby must distinctly _will_ every step it takes, the child
soon learns to walk or run automatically, without thinking about it at
all, the muscles moving of themselves at the proper instant. So the
fingers of the piano-player come to perform the duties required of them
instinctively; and so, at last, the ear of the telegrapher recognizes
a certain combination of sounds as having a certain meaning, and the
brain has no need whatever to puzzle them out. The sounds are recorded
mechanically, and the brain furnishes the translation.

Nay, more than that. The operator, worn out by long hours, sometimes
goes to sleep beside his key. His slumber is so deep that the roar of
passing trains does not disturb it, nor the clicking of his sounder, as
messages flash over the wire. But let his call be sounded, that short and
insistent combination of dots and dashes which means his office--a single
letter usually--and he will start awake. The ear has caught the call, has
sent it into the brain, and some second-self there rouses the sleeper and
tells him he is wanted. Operators are not supposed to go to sleep on
duty; to be caught asleep means a "lay-off," if not dismissal. Yet they
_do_ go to sleep, for the long hours of the night pass slowly, and there
are times when the weary eyes refuse to remain open. If it were not for
the little monitor within which stays awake, on guard, listening for its
call, accidents on the rail would be of much more frequent occurrence,
and few operators but would, sooner or later, lose their jobs. And there
is nothing especially peculiar or remarkable in this. Almost any one,
worn out with fatigue, will go to sleep with the buzz of conversation
about him; but let some one speak his name insistently over and over and
the sound of it will somehow waken him. An operator's call is as familiar
to him as his name, and will attract his attention just as surely.

It was to this sixth sense, this second-self, that Allan was at last able
to assign the duty of listening to the instruments in the office. He knew
what they were saying, without having to stop all other work to listen;
nay, without consciously listening at all. He had reached the place where
he was competent to "take a trick"--much more competent, indeed, than
young operators usually are.

But still there came no opening for a regular position. A railroad does
not "play favourites," no matter how deserving they may be. So long as
a man does his work well, his position is his; and he stands in regular
line for promotion. Incompetency brings its punishment, swift and sure;
just as signal services, in time, bring their reward; but reward and
punishment are according to an established rule.

For the record of every man is kept minutely from the hour he enters the
employ of the road. What he may have been or done before that does not
matter, once employment is given him--he starts square. But even the
smallest thing he does after that _does_ matter, as he finds out, in
course of time, to his amazement and chagrin. The trainmaster keeps, in a
drawer of his desk, a little book bound in red leather, wherein entries
are made every day; and the heart of the trainman who is "on the carpet"
falls when he sees it produced. It affects him a good deal as the book
wherein the Recording Angel writes will affect most of us at the Day of

It happened, at this particular moment, that all the operators' positions
on the road were filled by competent men, and so Allan had to wait
until some one of them was promoted or resigned. As for Jim, he had
reconsidered his decision to become an operator. He had a natural love
and aptitude for machinery, and he finally determined to remain in the
branch of the service where he was, and seek promotion where he would
probably deserve it most. But Allan's mind was made up, and he lost no
opportunity to perfect himself. Often, after supper, he would return to
the dispatchers' office and prevail upon the night operator to permit
him to attend to his work for awhile, and in this way he got valuable
practice; but he longed for the day when he should be given a key of his
own--when the responsibility would be all his.

The chance came at last. He was just finishing up his work, one evening,
preparatory to going home to supper, when the instrument on the
chief-dispatcher's desk began to call. Allan, without really listening,
heard the message:

"Night man at Byers Junction reported sick. Send substitute."

The chief-dispatcher clicked back "O. K.," and closed the key. Then he
wheeled about in his chair and met Allan's eager eyes.

"There's a job for you," he said, "if you want it."

"Want it!" echoed Allan. "I certainly do!"

"And if you think you can fill it," the chief added. "The work at Byers
is pretty heavy."

"I'll do my best," Allan promised.

The chief looked at him for a moment longer, then nodded quickly and
glanced at his watch.

"You'll do," he said. "And you've only got thirty minutes. You'll have to
catch Number Sixteen."

"All right, sir; I'll catch it," said Allan, and he went down the steps
two at a time.

Mary Welsh was just spreading the cloth preparatory to getting supper
when Allan raced up the steps leading from the street below and burst in
at the door.

"Why!" cried Mary. "What ails th' boy!"

"Hooray!" yelled Allan, and seized her and danced around with her in his
arms. "I'm going to be an op-e-ra-tor!"

"Well, I'm sure," gasped Mary, releasing herself and reaching up to push
the loosened hairpins back into place, "that ain't so wonderful. You'd
ought t' been a oppeyrator long ago! A railroad ain't got no sense o'

"There, there!" cried Allan. "The road's all right--and I've got to
catch Number Sixteen--and I wonder if there's a crust of bread or a cold
potato, or anything of that sort handy?"

"Crust o' bread, indade!" snorted Mary, glancing at the clock. "You'll
have your supper. Go an' git washed, an' I'll have it ready fer ye in a

"All right," said Allan, "but I warn you I'll be back in just a minute
and a half."

Indeed, it was not much longer than that; but when he came in again, his
face shining from a vigorous rubbing, supper was almost ready--an egg
fried to a turn, with a bit of broiled ham beside it, bread and butter,
blackberry jam, a glass of milk, and a piece of apple-pie--just the sort
of toothsome, topsy-turvy meal a healthy boy likes.

"Mary," he said, "you're a jewel!" and he stopped to hug her before he
sat down.

"None o' yer blarney!" she retorted, and affected to push him away, as
she gave the last touches to the table.

Allan pulled up his chair and fell to with an appetite born of health and
good digestion--an appetite unspoiled by over-indulgence, or by French
confections, requiring no stimulus but that which work honestly done gave
it. He ate with one eye on the clock, for he was not going to run any
risk of missing his train, and at the end of five minutes, pushed back
his chair and rose with a sigh of satisfaction.

"That was great!" he said. "Now if I may have one of those luscious
doughnuts of yours, or a piece of that pie, to keep the wolf from the
door to-night--"

"Doughnut, indade!" cried Mary. "What do you suppose I've been doin' all
this toime! Here's your lunch," and she set on the table a little basket,
covered with a snowy napkin.

Allan's eyes were shining at this new proof of her thoughtfulness for him.

"Mary," he began.

"There, there," she interrupted; "git along or you'll miss your train.
Good-bye. An' take good keer o' yerself, my dear."

Allan snatched up hat and basket.

"Good-bye," he said. "I'm certainly a lucky boy!"

She stood at the door watching him as he crossed the yards.

"Yes," she murmured to herself, turning back into the house as he passed
from sight, "an' I'm a lucky woman!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan Breen, the caller, met Allan as he stepped upon the station platform.

"Here's yer card," he said, and held out a little envelope.

"My card?" repeated the boy, taking the envelope mechanically.

"Yes, yer card; how did ye expect t' ride--pay yer way?"

"Oh," said Allan, understanding suddenly; "my pass. Yes; thank you," and
he swung aboard Number Sixteen just as it was pulling out.

When the conductor came through to collect the tickets, the boy proudly
produced the card, which commanded all employees of the road to "pass
the bearer, Allan West, on all trains, over main line and branches, Ohio
Division, P-- & O-- Railway." The conductor glanced at it and then at the
boy, nodded, and passed on.

Half an hour later, with fast-beating heart, Allan dropped off the train
at the little frame shanty which served as the operator's office at Byers
Junction. The day operator had been compelled to work thirty-five minutes
overtime, and was in no very genial humour in consequence, for if there
is one point of honour upon which all operators agree, it is that they
shall relieve each other promptly. So the day operator, whose name was
Nevins, and who knew that his supper would probably be cold when he got
to it, merely nodded to the boy when he appeared in the doorway, put on
his coat and hat, picked up his lunch-basket, and went out without saying
a word.

Allan, his pulses racing, set his basket on the table, took off coat and
hat, hung them on a nail near the window, and looked about the little
room. The instrument was calling, but not for him, so he had leisure to
examine the orders which fluttered from a hook on the wall near by. One
was for a train which would be due in a few minutes, and Allan went to
the door to see that the signals were properly set and burning.

White is no longer a safety signal on any of the larger railroads. The
colours now in use are red for danger, and green for safety. Under
the old system, the red lens of the lantern might drop out or a tramp
might smash it, leaving the lantern showing a white light past which
the engineer would run, thinking everything all right. So green was
substituted for white, and now white means danger just as much as red
does. The only light past which an engineer may run is a green one.
In fact, the first rule under the "Use of Signals" is that a signal
imperfectly displayed, or the absence of a signal from a place where one
is usually shown, must be regarded as a stop signal.

The railroads are trying all the time to find some third colour which
can be used satisfactorily in signalling. Red for danger and green for
safety are very well, as far as they go; but a caution signal is badly
needed--one which will not absolutely stop a train, but which will warn
the engineer to get it under control and proceed carefully. No such
signal which will do the work required of it under all conditions has
as yet been devised, although yellow is now used on some roads for this

Of course there are one or two other colours used. A combined green and
white signal, for instance, is used to stop a train at a flag station;
and a blue flag by day, or a blue light by night, displayed at one or
both ends of an engine, car, or train, indicates that workmen are under
or about it. When thus protected, it must not be coupled to or moved, and
no man may remove these signals but the one who placed them there. This
rule is enforced absolutely to safeguard, as far as possible, the lives
of the employees of the road.

The only fault in the system--as in all systems--is that human beings
are not infallible, and mistakes are sometimes bound to happen. The
signals may be wrongly set, or when rightly set, may not be seen. Fog
or smoke may obscure them, and the engineer rushes by, trusting that
all is well. If he obeyed the rules, he would stop and make sure; but
that would delay the train, perhaps needlessly, and trains must be
run on time. The engineer who fails to run on time, either through
timidity or overcaution, is very soon relegated to the work-train or the
yard-engine--a humiliating fall for the master of the queenly flyer.

As Byers was a junction, there were two signals there for the government
of trains, one a train-signal on the front of the shanty, and the other
a semaphore just outside the door. The train-signal was merely an arm
or signal-blade, operated by a lever inside the shanty. Normally, this
arm hung down in a perpendicular position and showed green, which meant
proceed; but when the operator wanted an approaching train to stop, he
pulled the lever, raising the arm to a horizontal position. At night, of
course, it would not be possible for an engineer to see the position of
this arm, so at the inner end of it was a large casting with two holes
in it, one fitted with a green lens and the other with a red one. Behind
this a lamp was placed, and when the arm hung down for safety, the light
shone through the green lens. When it was raised, the red lens was thrown
before the light and indicated danger.

The semaphore was a tall pole just outside the door. At its top was a
cross-arm, bearing at either end red lanterns at night, to indicate its
position, and operated by a lever at the foot of the pole. When the arm
at the top stood in a perpendicular position, displaying the signals
one above the other, it indicated that P. & O. trains could pass; when
the arm was thrown to a horizontal position, displaying the signals one
beside the other, it cleared the track for the connecting road. A ladder
on the side of the pole enabled the person in charge of it to mount and
attach the lanterns at nightfall. He was supposed to take them down and
fill and clean them sometime during the day. There is, it may be added,
a semaphore at every railroad-crossing which is worked on just this

Allan had, of course, in preparing himself for the duties of operator,
familiarized himself with all the signals used; and, as has been said, he
stepped to the door of the shanty to assure himself that the train-signal
was raised and showing red and that the lanterns on the semaphore were
burning properly, so that the train which was almost due would stop
to receive the orders intended for it. Then his heart gave a sudden
sickening leap, for the light of neither train-signal nor semaphore was
showing at all!

Already he fancied that, far down the road, he could hear the hum of the
approaching train! The day operator, despite the lateness of the hour,
had not taken the trouble to light the signals. It was not his duty,
strictly speaking, but there are times when more is expected of a man
than his mere duty. It might not have really mattered, of course; the
absence of any signal would bring the train to a stop, if the engineer
obeyed the rules; but at the very least, it would have been his duty to
report at headquarters that the signals at Byers were not burning, and
Allan would have incurred a reprimand, and a severe one, in the first
half-hour in his new position.

All this flashed through the boy's mind much more rapidly than it can be
set down here. In an instant, he had sprung to the train-signal, lowered
it, touched a lighted match to the wick of the lamp, and then, as the
flame flared up, hoisted the signal into place. Then, with a single
glance, he assured himself that the semaphore lanterns were not in the
shanty. Evidently the day man had not taken the trouble to bring them
down and clean them; and the boy, without pausing to take breath, started
to climb the pole. As he neared the top, he saw the lanterns swinging in
place; but to light them, especially for the first time, was a ticklish

He heard the train whistle for the crossing half a mile away, and his
hands began to tremble a little, despite all effort to steady them. He
reached out, drew one lantern to him, snapped it open, and, after an
instant's agony, got it lighted. Then he grabbed for the other. It swung
for a moment beyond his reach, and the effort nearly overbalanced him;
but he caught himself, got it at last, drew it to him, lighted it, and
snapped it shut again, just as the headlight of the approaching engine
flashed into view. He ran hurriedly down the ladder. As he reached the
door of the office, he heard his call. He jumped to the instrument and

"Where have you been--asleep?" came the question.

"I was fixing the lanterns on the semaphore," Allan answered.

"Hasn't first ninety-seven reached Byers?"

"There's a train just pulling in," Allan answered, and at that moment the
conductor appeared in the doorway.

"Are you first ninety-seven?" Allan asked him.

"Yes," replied the newcomer. "Any orders?"

Allan handed them to him with a sigh of relief that all was well, and
notified the dispatcher that first ninety-seven had reached Byers at 7.16.

It may be well to explain, at this point, that the regular freight-trains
on every road are usually run in sections, the number of sections
depending upon the amount of freight to be moved. For instance, if,
toward the middle of the afternoon, there has accumulated in the yards at
Wadsworth only enough west-bound freight for a single train, the cars are
made up, and at seven o'clock, immediately following the accommodation,
regular west-bound freight-train No. 97 is started toward Cincinnati, and
runs as nearly as possible on the schedule given it in the time-table.

If, however, there are too many cars for one engine to handle, they
are made up into two trains, and the first one that goes out is called
the first section, and displays at the front of the engine two green
lights to show that another section is following. Ten minutes later,
the second section is sent out, displaying no signals. Theoretically,
both sections constitute one train, and the track cannot be used by any
other train until both get by; but this is a theory which is constantly
broken in practice. Sometimes, when freight business is heavy--in
the fall, for instance, when the grain crops are being moved and the
merchants throughout the country are laying in their supplies for the
holidays--there will be three or four sections of each of the regular

But while this system allows for a certain expansion of traffic to suit
the road's business, by far the greater part of the freight in the busy
season is handled by "extras"--that is, by trains which have no place on
the time-card and no regular schedules, but which must run from station
to station, whenever the track happens to be clear. For instance, as soon
as Number Two, the east-bound flyer, pulls into the yards at Wadsworth,
an extra west-bound freight will be started out, with orders to run extra
to the end of the division. The conductor is armed with the time-card,
and must keep out of the way of all trains which appear on it. He is also
provided with meeting orders for all the other extras which happen to be
going over the road at the same time, and must take care to comply with
them. As he goes from station to station, he is kept informed as to
whether any of the regular trains are behind time, so that he need not
wait on any of them unnecessarily, but may get over the road as rapidly
as possible. The actual conduct of the train is left largely to him and
to the engineer, so that their responsibility is no light one.

All of this sounds much easier than it really is. As a matter of fact,
the task of carrying on the business of a single-track road, where
it is practically impossible for all trains to run on time, where
meeting-points must be provided for all freight-trains, without delaying
them unduly, and where the passenger-trains must have always a clear
track and opportunity to make up as much time as possible, if they happen
to be late, is one of the most delicate and nerve-racking that could be
imagined, though under the new double-order system it is not so bad as it
was under the old single-order one.

The burden of keeping things moving and of getting the trains over the
road in the shortest possible time, falls principally upon the dispatcher
at headquarters, but every operator along the road bears his part, and
an important part. He must keep awake and alert for any orders the
dispatcher may wish to send him; he must note the passage of every train
and report to the dispatcher the exact moment at which it passed; and he
must be sure that the station signals are properly displayed, and that
all orders are properly delivered. Upon the faithful fulfilment of these
duties does the safety of trains depend; but especially upon the second,
for unless the dispatcher knows accurately the exact position of every
train, disaster is sure to follow.

Only once that night did Allan have any trouble. That was about three
o'clock in the morning. There had not been many orders for Byers, for
traffic was light, and he had passed the time listening to the orders
sent the other operators and studying the time-card and book of rules
with which all operators are provided. But at last his sounder began to
clatter out the already familiar "-..., -..., B, B," which was the call
for Byers. He answered it and took down the following message on his
manifold sheet:

"Hold extra east, eng. 632, at B."

Allan repeated it at once from his copy, and a moment later, "Com 3.10 C
R H" was flashed back to him.

The "com" meant "complete," showing that the order had been accurately
repeated; the "3.10" was the time the order was sent, and the "C R
H" were the initials of the superintendent, which are signed to all
train-orders. Three copies must be made of every such order, one for the
conductor, one for the engineer, and the other for preservation by the
operator. This is done by using tissue-paper for the orders--which are
usually called "flimsies" for that reason--between the sheets of which
carbon-paper has been placed. A steel-pointed instrument called a stylus
is used to write with, instead of pen or pencil, in order that the
impression through the three sheets may be clear and distinct.

A few minutes after Allan had taken the order, the extra east pulled in,
and the conductor, Bill Higgins, stalked into the office.

"Any orders?" he asked.

Allan handed him two copies of the order just received, then waited, his
own copy in his hand, for Higgins to read the order aloud to him, as
required by the rules. But instead, the conductor merely glanced at it,
then, with a savage oath, crumpled it up in his hand and started to leave.

"Aren't you going to read it?" Allan asked.

"Read it? I have read it!" answered Higgins, savagely.

"Not aloud to me," Allan pointed out.

"What do you mean, you young fool?" demanded Higgins, turning upon him
fiercely. "D' you think I don't know my business?"

"I only know," replied Allan, paling a little as he saw that Higgins had
been drinking and was in a very ugly mood, "that the rules require you to
read that order aloud in my presence."

"Well, what of it? That rule was made, mebbe, by th' same fool that just
sent this order holdin' me here fer an hour, when I could git into Hamden
easy as pie afore Number Ten was due! What do I care fer th' rules? This
here road's goin' t' blazes, anyway!" and he turned to go.

"Very well," said Allan, evenly; "you will do as you think best, of
course. But if you don't obey the rules, I shall have to report you."

At the words, Higgins sprang around again, purple with rage.

"Report me!" he shouted. "Why, you young whipper-snapper, I'll spoil that
putty face o' your'n," and he raised his fist.

"Hello, here," called a voice from the door. "What's the trouble?" and
Allan glanced past the irate conductor to see the engineer standing in
the doorway. "What's up, Bill?" he repeated, coming in. "What's the kid

"Threatened to report me if I don't read this here order to him,"
answered Higgins sullenly.

The engineer glanced sharply from one to the other.

"Is _that_ all?" he said. "And you were going to fight about a little
thing like that, Bill?"

"No kid shall report me!" growled Bill, but he looked a little foolish.

"Well, then, read the order," advised the engineer, easily.

Bill hesitated an instant, then smoothed out the crumpled paper.

"'Hold extra east, engine 632, at Byers,'" he snapped out, and handed the
engineer his copy.

"'Hold extra east, engine 632, at Byers,'" repeated the latter. "Correct."

The conductor turned without another word and left the office. The
engineer followed him with his eyes until he disappeared in the
darkness, and then turned back to Allan.

"Would you really have reported him?" he asked, eying the boy curiously.

"Yes," answered Allan, slowly. "I think I should. He was drunk."

"He has been drinking," admitted the engineer. "Personally, I detest him.
But he's got the sweetest little wife you ever saw, and three kids that
worship him; so he can't be wholly bad. What would become of them if he'd
lose his job? Of course, you can report him yet, if you want to. But I'd
think it over first," and the engineer followed Higgins out into the

Allan did think it over, and the result was that the superintendent never
heard of that encounter in the little Byers office.



Every night must end, although that one, as it seemed to Allan, was at
least forty hours long. His greatest difficulty was to keep awake, for he
had been working all day before he came on duty. More than once he caught
himself nodding, until, at last, he dared not sit still in his chair,
but went out upon the stretch of cindered path before the shanty and
tramped up and down it, pausing now and then at the door to make sure his
instrument was not calling him. The cool air of the night blew sleepiness
from his eyes, at last, and he stood for a long time gazing out over the
silent fields. Away in the distance a cock crew; others answered it,
hailing the dawn; for the eastern sky began to show a tinge of gray. From
every tree and coppice came sleepy twitterings, which, as the east grew
brighter, burst into songs of joy to greet the rising sun.

Birds never make the mistake that some boys and girls do, of rising
with sour faces--"wrong end first." They know how much it adds to
the day's happiness to start the day right; they are always glad when
morning comes, and they never forget to utter a little song of praise
and gratitude for another sunrise. Then they fly to the brook and take
their bath, and hunt cheerfully for breakfast. Nor do they lose their
tempers if they can't find some particular worm or bug of which they are
especially fond. Truly, bird-ways are worth imitating.

Allan sat down in the door of the shanty to watch the daily miracle
which was enacting before him, but which most people have come to regard
as a matter of course. It was the first sunrise he had seen for many
months--in fact, since the days, seemingly years ago, when he had risen
every night to take his trick at guarding the track from train-wreckers.
Now, as he sat here, watching the brightening east, all the adventures
of that time came vividly back to him, and he smiled to himself as he
reviewed them one by one. He had made many firm friends--and one enemy,
Dan Nolan, the vicious and vindictive scoundrel who had tried in so many
ways to injure him; and had finally joined the gang of desperate tramps
who had given the road so much trouble, and who, caught in the very act
of trying to wreck the pay-car, had been sentenced to a term in the

Allan had incurred Nolan's enmity the very first day of his service with
the road. Nolan had been a member of Jack Welsh's section-gang, and had
been discharged for drunkenness. He knew, however, that the place on the
gang would be hard to fill, and expected to be taken back again. But that
very day, Allan, who had walked all the way from Cincinnati in search
of employment, came along, and Welsh, impressed by the boy's frank and
honest face, had given him the place. Nolan had blustered, threatened,
and even tried to kill him; and had ended by being sent to the State

Allan's face darkened as he recalled Nolan's many acts of enmity, and the
thought came to him that he had not yet heard the last of the scoundrel.
But this gloomy mood did not endure long, for suddenly a radiant yellow
disk peeped over the hills to the east, and flooded the world with golden
splendour. The birds' songs of praise burst forth afresh, and every tree,
every plant, every flower and blade of grass, seemed to lift its head and
bow toward the east to greet the luminary upon which all life upon the
earth depends. Its warm rays drank the dew from the meadows, and over the
brook, which ran beside the road, a filmy mist steamed upward from the
water. Away off, across the fields, Allan could see a man ploughing, and
a herd of cows wandered slowly over a near-by pasture, cropping the fresh
grass and blowing clouds of warm and fragrant breath out upon the cool
air. Allan resolved that so long as he held this trick, every dawn should
find him at the door watching for the sunrise, the wonder and mystery
and beauty of which he was just beginning to understand.

A call from his instrument summoned him back into the office. There were
a number of orders to take for trains from east and west, which were to
meet and pass at Byers, and by the time these had been duly received,
repeated, and O. K.'d, six o'clock had come and gone. Six o'clock was
the hour of relief, but Nevins did not appear. After that, every minute
seemed an hour, and Allan began to understand Nevins's feelings the night
before, when his own relief did not arrive. He began to fear that he
would miss the morning accommodation train to Wadsworth. If he did, he
could not get home before noon, and he was desperately tired and sleepy.
He went to the door and looked out, but saw no sign of Nevins, and was
just turning back into the office, when a low, sneering laugh almost at
his elbow caused him to start around. It was Nevins, who stood there
grinning maliciously. He had evidently come around the corner of the
house, while Allan was looking out across the fields.

"Well," he sneered, "how d' ye like it?"

"I don't like it at all," said Allan.

"After this," added Nevins, pushing past him, "you be on time and I will.
That's all I want of _you_."

"We'll have to rearrange our tricks," said Allan, his cheek flushing at
the other's tone. "I can't get here until the evening accommodation at
six-thirty; so suppose you come on half an hour later in the morning.
That will even things up."

Nevins growled a surly assent, and turning his back ostentatiously, he
hung up his coat and flung himself into the chair.

"There are three orders," added Allan. "One of them--"

"Oh, shut up!" snarled Nevins. "I can read, can't I?"

"Yes; no doubt you can. But the rules require that I explain outstanding
orders to you before I go off duty."

Nevins looked up at him, an ugly light in his eyes.

"So you're that kind, are you?" he queried. "Little Sunday-school boy.
Ain't you afraid your mamma's worryin' about you?"

"Don't you want me to--"

"I don't want you to do nothin' but get out!" Nevins broke in, and took
the orders from the hook and looked over them. "As I said before, I can
read. I suppose you can, too. So don't bother me."

An angry retort rose to Allan's lips, but he choked it back; and at that
instant a whistle sounded down the line, and the roar of an approaching
train. He had just time to grab coat and lunch-basket and swing aboard,
and in a moment was off toward Wadsworth.

He sank into a seat, his heart still hot at Nevins's insolence; and yet,
on second thought, he was glad that he had not yielded to the impulse
to return an angry answer. It was natural that Nevins should have been
provoked, though the delay of the night before was not Allan's fault
in the slightest degree; and, in any event, there was no use making an
enemy of a fellow who might be able to do a great deal of mischief. But
one thing Allan resolved on, his lips set: he would explain outstanding
orders to Nevins, whether the latter chose to listen or not.

Mary Welsh was waiting for him at the door.

"You poor boy," she said. "You're half-dead fer sleep!"

"Only a quarter dead," Allan corrected, "and I'll soon be good as new.
What's that I smell?" he added, wrinkling his nose, as he stepped inside
the door. "Hot biscuits?"

"You go git washed," retorted Mary, with affected sternness, "an' you'll
see what it is when ye git t' table. Hurry up, now!"

"All right," laughed the boy. "I know you, Mary Welsh."

And when he sat down, he found that his nose had told him correctly. The
biscuits were flaky and white and piping hot, with golden butter melting
over them; and there were three slices of bacon cut very thin and browned
to a turn; and potato-cakes--not those soggy, squashy potato-cakes which
are, alas! too familiar--but crisp and brown, touching the palate in just
the right way. Ah, Mary, you have achieved something in this world that
many of your more "cultured" sisters may well envy you! How few of them
could create potato-cakes like yours!

It was after eight o'clock when Allan finally climbed the stair to his
little room under the roof, and went to bed. Mary had darkened the
windows, so that the light should not disturb him, and he dropped off to
sleep almost at once. I know the physiologists tell us that sound sleep
is impossible after a hearty meal, but, candidly, I don't believe it.
Healthy animals, at least, have no difficulty in sleeping after eating;
in fact, a nap almost always follows a meal. Watch your cat or dog after
you have fed them. The cat will make a hasty toilet and curl up for a
snooze; the dog will drop down behind the stove or in a sunny corner
out-of-doors without even that formality. It is only when the stomach
has been ruined by long years of overfeeding that one must use all the
precautions which physical culturists and health-food advocates and
cranks of that ilk advise--must eschew biscuits for bread two days old,
and half-starve oneself in order to live at all. But the healthy boy may
eat whatever he pleases, in moderation, and be none the worse for it.

So all the day Allan slept, never once so much as turning over, hearing
nothing of the comings and goings in the house. Indeed, Mary Welsh took
care that there should be little noise to disturb him. Mamie, when she
came home from school at noon, was promptly warned to keep quiet, and
ate her dinner as silently as a mouse. Not until the sun was sinking
low in the west and a glance at the clock assured her that he must be
awakened, did she climb the stair which led to his little room and tap
gently at his door.

"Allan!" she called. "Allan!"

"Yes?" he answered sleepily, after a moment.

"You must be gittin' up, if you're goin' t' ketch your train," she said.

"All right; I'll be down in a minute," and he sprang out of bed and into
his clothes in a jiffy.

Mary had his supper smoking hot on the table, and Mamie, who had just
come home from school, sat down with him to keep him company.

"I don't like your new position very well, Allan," she said, as she
poured out his coffee for him.

"Why not?" he asked, smiling down into the serious little freckled face.

"Why, you're going to be away from home every evening," she explained.
"Who's going to help me get my lessons, I'd like to know?"

Allan laughed outright.

"So that's it? Well, we'll have to make some arrangement about it. Maybe
in the morning, as soon as I get in--"

"You'll do no such thing," broke in Mrs. Welsh, sharply. "When you git
home in th' mornin' you're goin' straight t' bed, jest as soon as you
git your breakfast. Mamie kin git her own lessons. It'll do her good.
You're fair spoilin' th' child."

"I'll tell you," said Allan, "I'll get up half an hour earlier in the
afternoon. There's no sense in my sleeping so long, anyway. It'll make
me stupid. You hurry straight home from school, and we'll have plenty of

Mamie clapped her hands. Then she sprang from her chair, flew around the
table, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

"Allan, you're a dear!" she cried. "A perfect dear!"

It was at this moment that the door opened and Jack Welsh came in,
grinning broadly as he saw the tableau at the table.

"Mary," he said, "it seems to me that Mamie's gittin' t' be a very
forrerd sort o' body. It's scandalous th' way she runs arter th' boys."

"Only arter one boy, Jack," corrected his wife, "an' I don't care how
much she runs arter him. But how did ye happen t' git home so early?"

"I was hungerin' fer a sight o' your black eyes, me darlint," answered
Jack, winking at Allan, and he passed his arm about his wife's trim waist
and gave her a tremendous hug.

"Go way, ye blarney!" she cried, beating him off. "Do ye wonder your
child's forrerd when her father sets her sich an example? An' I s'pose
you'll be wantin' your supper now. Well, it ain't ready!"

"No," said Jack, releasing her, "I've got t' go back t' th' yards first
t' see th' roadmaster. I'll be back in about half an hour. Come along,
Allan, if you're goin'."

Allan put on coat and hat, picked up the luncheon-basket, which Mary
had already packed for him, kissed Mamie again, and followed Jack down
the steep path which led to the street. He turned at the gate to wave
good-bye to Mary and Mamie, who stood watching them from the door above,
then followed Jack across the maze of tracks toward the station.

"Th' fact o' th' matter is, Allan," said Jack, in a low voice, as the boy
caught up with him, "I come home early on purpose t' see you."

"To see me?" Allan repeated, and when he glanced at Jack, he saw that his
face was very grave.

"Yes, t' see you," said Jack again, and hesitated, as though reluctant to
impart the news which he knew would be unwelcome.

"What is it?" asked Allan, and a little shiver ran through him, for he
knew that Jack would not speak so without good reason.

The elder man hesitated yet a moment.

"Dan Nolan's loose," he said, at last, his voice hoarse with emotion.



"Dan Nolan's loose," repeated Jack, as though his companion had not
heard, and then walked on in silence.

Allan's heart gave a sickening leap--not in the least of fear, for he
had never been afraid of Nolan, but of anxiety for the property of the
company. He knew Nolan's revengeful and vindictive nature; he knew that
he would never rest content until he had avenged himself upon the company
for sending him to the penitentiary. For himself he did not fear; Nolan,
who was a coward at heart, a lazy, overgrown bully, had never dared
attack him openly. He recalled how the thought of Nolan had oppressed him
that morning. There was something prophetic in it!

"But I don't understand," he said, at last. "I thought Nolan had been
sent to the penitentiary for three years."

"So he was," growled Jack, "an' he'd got a stiffer dose than that if he
hadn't been the coward an' traitor he was. You know he turned State's
evidence an' testified agin his pals, an' so managed t' git hisself off
with three year, while all th' others got ten. I'd hate t' be in Nolan's
shoes when they _do_ git out. They'll certainly never rest till they git
even with him."

"But how did he get out?" asked Allan, again. "He hasn't been in the
penitentiary more than six months."

"Only five months," corrected Jack, grimly. "Purty justice I call that!
It's enough t' disgust an honest man! What's th' use o' being honest,
anyway, if that's all they do to a dirty scoundrel like Dan Nolan? No
wonder they's lynchin' parties every now an' then!"

"Jack," laughed Allan, "you don't believe a word you're saying, and you
know it!"

"Well, anyway," said Jack, "it makes me fair sick at heart t' think of
it! Here's this cowardly blackguard loose agin, an' y' know he's got it
in fer ye!"

"Oh, I can take care of myself," said Allan, easily.

"In a fair fight ye could," agreed Jack. "But ye know as well as I do
that he won't fight fair. He'll be tryin' some of his cowardly tricks on
ye, jest like he did afore. I won't be able t' sleep fer worritin' about

"Oh, nonsense, Jack! You don't need to worry, at all. I'll keep my eyes
open. But you haven't told me yet how he got out. Was he pardoned?"

"Oh, wuss'n that!" answered Jack, disgustedly. "They went an' put him on
th' pay-roll!"

"On the pay-roll!" repeated Allan. "Oh, you mean he's been parolled?"

"Yes; what's that mean?"

"It means that he's released during good behaviour. As soon as he does
anything wrong he'll be whisked back into the penitentiary, and won't get
out again till his term's out."

"Much good that'll do," commented Jack, "arter th' mischief's done!
That's like lockin' th' stable door arter th' hoss is stole!"

"He's probably promised to be good."

"He'd promise anything," said Jack; "why, he'd sell his soul t' th'
devil, t' git another chance at ye. Ye must look out fer yourself, me

"I will," promised Allan, with a laugh, as he swung himself aboard the
train. "Don't worry."

But when the train had started and he was alone with his thoughts,
without the fear of Jack's sharp eyes seeing what was passing in his
mind, the smile faded from his lips. After all, seek to evade it as he
might, there _was_ some danger. Nolan was vindictive--he would seek
revenge first of all, unless his nature had been completely changed,
which was scarcely to be expected. If he would fight fairly, there was
very little to apprehend from him; but Allan knew perfectly well that
he would not do this. He would work in the dark, undoubtedly; he would
watch for a chance to injure his enemy without running any risk himself.

So it was in a decidedly serious frame of mind that Allan left the train
at Byers Junction and entered the little frame building which was his
office. Nevins, the day man, grunted the gruffest kind of a greeting,
caught up his coat and lunch-basket, and hastened away, while Allan sat
down, looked over the orders, and familiarized himself with the condition
of things. There was an order or two to acknowledge, and a report to
make, and half an hour passed almost before he knew it.

As he leaned back in his chair to rest a moment, he happened to glance
through the window, and was surprised to see Nevins walking up and down
the track, at a little distance, as though waiting for some one. He still
had his lunch-basket in his hand, and evidently had not yet gone home to
supper. Allan watched him, with a feeling of uneasiness which he could
not explain. At last, he saw Nevins make an impatient gesture, and after
looking up and down the track again, walk rapidly away in the direction
of the little village where he boarded.

First Ninety-eight pulled in at that moment and stopped for orders;
orders for an extra west had to be received, and a train on the
connecting road had to be passed on its way, and by the time he was at
leisure again he had forgotten all about Nevins. He got out his copy of
the book of rules, and looked through it to be sure that he was familiar
with the rules which governed each emergency.

The book opened with a "General Notice," to the effect that "to enter or
remain in the service is an assurance of willingness to obey the rules;
obedience to the rules is essential to the safety of passengers and
employees; the service demands the faithful, intelligent, and courteous
discharge of duty; to obtain promotion, capacity must be shown for
greater responsibility; and employees, in accepting employment, assume
its risks."

The general rules which followed were easily remembered. Among other
things they prohibited the use of intoxicants by employees, while on
duty, and the warning was given that "the habitual use of intoxicants,
or the frequenting of places where they are sold, is sufficient cause
for dismissal." The officials of the railroads all over the country have
come to realize the need for a cool head, steady nerves, and unimpaired
judgment in every man who holds a railroad position, from the lowest to
the highest, and conditions which were only too common a generation ago
would not now be tolerated for a moment. The standard of character, of
intelligence, and of conduct required from their employees by railroads,
and by almost every other industrial enterprise, has been steadily
growing higher, and while skill and experience, of course, still count
for much, character and habits also weigh heavily in the scale.

A whistle down the line told him that the extra west, for which he had
an order, was approaching. He went to the door and assured himself that
the signal was properly set, then, as the train pounded up, called up the
dispatchers' office and reported its arrival. A moment later, a heavy
step sounded on the platform and Bill Higgins entered. Allan handed him
the order silently, and stood waiting for him to read it, wondering if
there would be another quarrel like that of the night before. But Higgins
read the order aloud, without protest, then folded it up, put it in his
pocket, and turned to go. Allan sat down again at his key; but after a
moment he realized that Higgins was still standing beside his chair.
He glanced up in surprise, and saw that the big conductor was fiddling
nervously with his lantern.

"Fact is," he burst out, catching Allan's eye, "I made a fool o' myself
last night. I want you to fergit it, m' boy."

"I will," said Allan, heartily, and held out his hand.

Bill grasped it in his mammoth palm and gave it a mighty squeeze.

"'Tain't fer my own sake," he added, and his voice was a little husky.

"I know," said Allan, quickly. "It's all right. I've forgotten it."

"Thank'ee," said Bill, awkwardly, and turned away.

Allan watched his burly figure until it disappeared through the door. He
was glad that he had taken the engineer's advice and not reported him.
After all, the man was good, at heart; and besides, there were the wife
and children.

He waited until he heard the train puff away, reported its departure,
and then picked up the book of rules again. He ran over the
definitions--definition of "train," "section," "extra," and so on, which
there is no need to repeat here--with which, indeed, the readers of this
series ought already to be familiar.

Following the definitions came the train-rules, with instructions as
to the time-card, and the signal rules. The latter are especially
interesting, for every one who has travelled on a railway has noticed the
signals made by hand, flag, or lantern, and has no doubt wondered what
they meant. A hand, flag, or lantern swung across the track means stop;
raised and lowered vertically, proceed; swung vertically in a circle
across the track, when the train is standing, back; and there are other
signals to indicate when the train has broken in two, and to order the
release or application of the air-brakes. Rule No. 13 is that "any object
waved violently by any one on or near the track is a signal to stop," and
a stop signal must always be obeyed, no matter at what cost--to run by
such a signal means instant dismissal.

There are other signals, too, which are of interest to passengers,
particularly the whistle signals. There are sixteen of these, but the
more important ones are: one short blast, stop; one long blast on
approaching stations, junctions, or railroad-crossings at grade; two
long blasts followed by two short ones on approaching public crossings
at grade, which is the signal most frequently heard by the travelling
public. A succession of short blasts means danger ahead--and is used,
too, to scare cows and horses off the track.

There is yet another class of signals, which are given with the
signal-cord which runs overhead through every passenger-coach. Every one,
of course, has seen this cord, and has also seen the conductor use it to
signal to the engineer. It is connected with a little valve over the door
of the car, and every time the conductor pulls it, there is a little hiss
from the valve as of escaping steam. This is the compressed air escaping.
The valve is connected with a compressed-air line which runs through the
entire train, and every pull on the cord blows a little whistle in the
cab of the engine. Two pulls at this cord, when the train is moving,
means stop at once; when the train is standing, two pulls is the signal
to start. Four pulls means reduce speed, and five, increase speed. Three
pulls is the signal usually heard, and indicates that the train is to
stop at the next station. It is always answered by two toots from the
whistle to show that the engineer understands. This compressed-air line
long ago replaced the old signal-cord which rang a bell in the cab.

A call sounded on his instrument, and Allan laid down the book again to
answer it. There was a short order to be taken, and just as he repeated
it and snapped his key shut, he heard a step at the door behind him. He
glanced around carelessly, then started suddenly upright, for on the
threshold peering in at him stood Dan Nolan.



For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Nolan drew back as though to
go away, but thought better of it, entered the little room slowly, and
without waiting for an invitation, sat down in the remaining chair.

"Howdy," he said, and smiled at Allan in a manner intended to be amiable.

"How are you?" Allan answered, striving vainly to guess what object Nolan
could have had in coming here.

Nolan coughed dismally.

"You see I'm out," he said, grinning sheepishly.

"Yes; I heard this evening that you had been parolled."

Nolan coughed again.

"It'd have been murder to keep me in any longer," he said. "One lung's
gone as it is. Th' doctor told th' board I'd be dead inside o' six months
if I wasn't let out."

And, indeed, as Allan looked at him more closely, he could see the change
in him. He was thinner and his face had a ghastly pallor, revolting
to see. An experienced police officer would have recognized the prison
pallor at a glance--the pallor which all criminals acquire who serve a
term in jail; but to Allan it seemed proof positive of the progress of
his old enemy's disease, and his heart was stirred with pity.

"That's too bad," he said. "I hope you'll get well, now you're out again."

Nolan shook his head lugubriously.

"Not much hope o' that, I guess," he answered. "Arter all, it's no more'n
I deserve fer treatin' you th' way I did."

Allan stared at him in astonishment. Repentance was the last thing he had
ever expected of Nolan, and he scarcely knew how to answer.

"Oh, it wasn't so bad as that," he managed to say, at last.

"It's mighty kind o' you t' say so," replied Nolan, humbly, "but I know
better. I tell you, durin' th' last three months, arter I was locked up
in my cell every night, I had plenty o' time t' think things over, an' I
begun t' see what a blamed skunk I'd been."

There was a whine in his voice not wholly genuine. Allan would have
doubted its genuineness still more could he have seen the grimace which
Nolan made at his back as he turned away to take an order. He was vaguely
troubled. If Nolan was sincerely repentant, he did not wish to be unjust
to him, yet, at the same time, he could not wholly believe in the
reality of a change so at variance with Nolan's character. Something of
this hesitation was visible in his face, as he looked up from taking the

"I don't blame you fer doubtin' me," Nolan added. "If I was in your
place, I'd kick me out."

"Oh, I'm not going to do that," protested Allan, laughing at the twisted
pronouns. "How did you happen to come to Byers?"

Nolan's face wrinkled a little, but the answer came readily enough.

"I'd been to Wadsworth," he explained. "Th' people at th' pen. bought me
a ticket an' sent me back--but I was ashamed t' stay there--I was ashamed
fer anybody t' see me. They all knowed what I'd done. So I thought I'd go
t' Parkersburg, where I've got an uncle who kin git me work, an' give me
a chance t' earn an honest livin'."

"And you're going to walk?" asked Allan.

"Sure," answered Nolan. "How else? I ain't a-goin' t' jump no
train--that's agin th' law. An' I knows mighty well none o' th' trainmen
'd let me ride."

Allan was silent a moment. He remembered vividly the time when he himself
had walked from Cincinnati to Wadsworth in search of work; he remembered
how long and weary each of those hundred miles had seemed. And he had
been strong and healthy, while Nolan was evidently weak and sick, not
fit at all for such a journey.

Nolan, who had been watching Allan's face intently, rose suddenly to his

"Don't you worry about me," he said. "I ain't wuth it. Besides, I'll git
along all right."

"But maybe I can help you," Allan began.

"No, you can't; I won't let you. I ain't got that low," and Nolan,
crushing his hat fiercely down upon his head, strode to the door.
"Good-bye," he called over his shoulder, "an' good luck."

"Good-bye," answered Allan, and watched him with something almost like
respect until his figure was swallowed up in the darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Outside in the night, Nolan was striding up and down, waving his clenched
fists wildly in the air, his face convulsed with passion.

"Th' fool!" he muttered, hoarsely. "Th' fool! Th' goody-goody ape! Wanted
t' help me! Oh, I couldn't 'a' stood it--I'd 'a' been at his throat in a
minute more. I'll show him! I'll show him!"

He circled the shanty cautiously until he reached a spot whence, through
the window, he could see Allan bending over his key. He shook his fist at
the unconscious boy in a very ecstasy of rage.

"I'll fix ye!" he cried. "I'll fix ye!"

He saw Allan stir uneasily in his chair, as though he had heard the
threat, and for an instant he stood motionless, with bated breath, his
clenched fist still in the air. Then he realized the impossibility of
being overheard at such a distance, and laughed weakly to himself.

"You've lost yer nerve, Dan," he said. "You've lost yer nerve! No, I'm
blamed if y' have!" and he straightened up again and shook his fist
fiercely in the air.

"Hello," said a voice just behind him, "what's all this about?" and a
hand grabbed his wrist.

Nolan turned with a little cry of fright. He gave a gasp of relief as he
recognized Nevins.

"What d' ye want t' scare a feller like that fer?" he demanded, wrenching
his wrist loose.

"Were you scared?" asked Nevins, with a little sneer. "Lost your nerve,

"No, I ain't lost my nerve," retorted Nolan, savagely, "an' you'll soon
find it out, if you tries t' git smart with _me_! I didn't tell all I
knowed at th' trial!"

Even in the darkness, Nolan could see how Nevins's face changed, and he
laughed triumphantly. Nevins echoed the laugh, but in an uncertain key.

"Oh, come, Dan," he said, "don't get mad. I didn't mean anything."

But Nolan was not one to be generous with an adversary when he had him

"No," he went on slowly, "I didn't tell all I knowed. Let's see--last
fall you was night operator at Harper's--an' th' station was robbed--an'
when th' day man come on in th' mornin' he found you gagged an' bound
in yer chair, sufferin' terrible. I didn't tell th' court how willin'
you was t' git tied up, nor how we happened t' choose th' night when th'
station was full o' vallyble freight, nor how you got a share o' th'

"Oh, come, Dan," Nevins broke in, "what's the use of raking all that up
again? Of course you didn't tell. I knew mighty well you wouldn't give a
friend away."

"There's no tellin' what I'll do if I lose my nerve," said Nolan,
threateningly. "Where 're you stoppin'?"

"Over here at the village. And mighty dull it is."

"Well, they's nobody here knows me," said Nolan. "S'pose we go over to
your room an' have a talk."

"All right," agreed Nevins, after an instant's hesitation. And they
walked away together. "What are you going to do now?" he asked, a moment

"Th' fust thing I'm a-goin' t' do," answered Nolan, his eyes shining
fiercely, "is t' git even with that dirty rat of an Allan West, who sent
me to th' pen."

"All right," said Nevins, heartily. "I'm with you there. I don't like
him, either. Only, of course, you'll not--you'll not--"

"Oh, don't be afeerd," snarled Nolan. "I ain't a-goin' t' kill him. I
got too much sense t' run my head in a noose. Besides, that ain't what I
want. That ain't good enough! I want somethin' t' happen that'll disgrace
him, that he'll never git over--somethin' that'll haunt him all his life.
He holds his head too high, an' I'm a-goin' t' make him hold it low!"

"I see," said Nevins, thoughtfully. "Well, we can manage it some way."

"O' course we kin," agreed Nolan, and licked his lips eagerly. "Afore I
git through with him, he'll be sorry he was ever born!"

Nevins nodded.

"We can manage it," he repeated. "Here we are," he added, and stopped
before a two-story frame dwelling-house. "My room is up-stairs. Come
along," and he opened the front door.

Nolan followed him through the door and up the stairs. Nevins opened
another door, struck a match to show his companion the way, and then
lighted a lamp which stood on a table in the middle of the room. Then
he closed the door and locked it, and going to the window, pulled down
the blind so that no one could see in from the outside. Then he went
to a bureau which stood in one corner, unlocked it and got out a box
of stogies, a sack of sugar, a bottle of whiskey, and two glasses. He
stirred up the fire in the little stove which warmed the room, and set
over it a kettle which he filled with water from the pitcher on his
washstand. Nolan, who had been watching him with greedy eyes, licking
his lips from time to time, dropped into a chair with a grunt of

"You're all right, Nevins," he said. "You treat a feller decent."

"Of course I do," agreed Nevins, "especially when he's my friend. Now we
can talk."

An hour later, any one looking in upon them, would have seen them sitting
together before the fire, their heads nodding, and the room so filled
with tobacco-smoke that the flame of the lamp showed through it dim and
yellow. Nevins was snoring heavily, but Nolan was still awake and was
muttering hoarsely to himself.

"That's it!" he said. "That's th' ticket! You've got a great head,
Nevins! No, I'll never tell--not arter you're helpin' me out this way.
Why, we kin work it easy as greased lightnin'. Nobody'll ever know--an'
that kid'll never git over it. He's that kind--it'll haunt him! Why, I
wouldn't be surprised if he went crazy!"

Nevins awoke with a start.

"Come on," he said, "let's go to bed."

"All right," assented Nolan, and arose heavily, and began to undress,
lurching unsteadily from side to side. "But you certainly are a peach,
Nevins, t' think of a scheme like that!"

"Oh, that was easy," protested Nevins, who was winding his alarm-clock.
"That was easy."

"It'll fix him," Nolan chuckled. "He'll never sleep sound ag'in!"

"And he won't be such a pet at headquarters," Nevins added. "In fact, I
think his connection with the P. & O. will end then and there."

"O' course," Nolan assented. "But it ain't that I'm thinkin' of so much.
It's of him thinkin' an' worryin' an' goin' crazy about it. Mebbe he'll
kill hisself!"

Even Nevins, hardened as he was, could not repress a shudder as he saw
Nolan's countenance convulsed with horrible mirth. There was something
revolting and fiendish about it. He turned quickly and blew out the light.

"Come on," he said, almost harshly. "Get to bed. It's nearly midnight."

But even after they were in bed, he could hear Nolan chuckling
ecstatically to himself, and shrank away from him in disgust.



The operator's work at Byers Junction was more important and difficult
than at any of the other small stations on the line, because, as has
already been explained, it was at that point that the track of the D. W.
& I. joined that of the P. & O., and all D. W. & I. trains ran over the
P. & O. tracks as far as West Junction, a distance of about eight miles.
This complicated the traffic problem and the movement of trains much more
than a simple crossing would have done, for the trains had to be kept out
of each other's way not only at the junction, but for the whole length of
that stretch of track which was used in common by the two roads.

The P. & O. was considerably the older of the two, and had been built
along the main line of traffic from east to west--the line which, in the
old days, had been followed by the stage-coach. As the State became more
thickly settled, other lines sprang up, and finally, when rich deposits
of coal were discovered in Jackson County, the D. W. & I. was built to
tap this territory and connect it with the northwestern part of the
State. The P. & O. also ran through Jackson County, and, of course, soon
built a branch to the coal-fields, so that when the work of construction
on the new road began it was found that it would closely parallel the P.
& O. for a distance of about eight miles. The new road was short of cash
at the time, as most roads in the building are, and decided to use the P.
& O. track for that distance, instead of building a track of its own.

So a traffic arrangement was made, the junction points established, and
joint operators placed there. This arrangement, which, as was at first
supposed, would be only temporary, was continued from year to year, the
P. & O. getting a good rental out of this stretch of track, and the D. W.
& I. never accumulating a sufficient balance in the treasury to build a
track of its own--at least, whenever it _did_ get such a balance, it was
always needed for some more pressing purpose, and the old arrangement was
allowed to stand. When a railroad has to fight to earn the interest on
its bonds, it is willing to do anything that will give it a longer lease
of life.

The D. W. & I. was, as will be seen, an unimportant road. It ran only one
passenger-train a day in each direction, and, as it was not on the way to
anywhere, its business, both freight and passenger, was purely local. At
the beginning of its existence, it had hauled a great deal of coal for
the Chicago market, but this business had been killed by the development
of the great Pocahontas fields in West Virginia. Luckily for the road,
it was discovered at this time that it might serve as a link between
the mighty N. & W. and C. H. & D. to connect the Pocahontas fields with
Chicago, so, while the east end of the line gradually degenerated into a
streak of rust, traffic on the west end, from Wadsworth to Dayton, became
heavier than ever, as train after train of coal and coke, from the West
Virginia fields, passed daily over this little stretch of track, and then
rushed away to the busy city by the lake. It was a good deal like a man
living on one lung, or with one side partially paralyzed; yet a certain
sort of life is possible under those conditions, and this one-sided
traffic provided the only dividend the D. W. & I. had ever paid, and
permitted the road to struggle along without going into the hands of a

Owing to this double use of this little stretch of track, the operators
at both Byers and West Junction were what is called "joint operators;"
that is, they served as operator for both roads, received orders from
both headquarters, and so managed the traffic that there should be no
conflict. This consisted, for the most part, in holding the D. W. & I.
trains until the P. & O. trains were out of the way; for the trains of
the more important road were always given precedence, and the others had
to make the best of it and hurry through whenever there was an opening.
The P. & O. dispatcher had absolute control over the track, and the D. W.
& I. trains were not turned back to the control of that road until they
had got back upon their own line.

At night, luckily, there was very little traffic over the D. W. & I.--so
little that it had not bothered Allan at all. But during the day trick,
traffic was much livelier, and it required a cool head and steady
judgment to get everything past without confusion. There was, both at
Byers and West Junction, a long siding upon which trains could be held
until the track ahead was clear, but they were used only when absolutely
necessary, for the ideal and constant endeavour of dispatcher, operator,
and every other employee of a railroad is to keep things moving.

Only by keeping things moving, can a railroad be profitably operated.
One stalled train soon blocks a dozen others, and any derangement of the
time-card means delayed mails, wrathful passengers, irate trainmen, and
a general tangle of traffic almost certain to result in accident. To
keep things moving on a single-track road, such as the P. & O., requires
no little judgment and experience, as well as the power of reaching the
wisest decision instantly. There must be, too, in the ideal dispatcher,
an element of daring, for chances have to be taken occasionally, and in
railroading, more than in any other business, he who hesitates is lost.
Not of foolhardiness, be it understood, for the foolhardy dispatcher soon
comes to grief; but he must, as it were, expect the best, not the worst,
and govern himself accordingly. Before he sits down at his desk, he must
make up his mind that during his trick, every train is going to get over
the road on time, and then bend every energy to accomplish that result.
This, it may be added, is the secret of all successful train-dispatching.

Nevins reported on time next morning, and greeted Allan with unusual
affability; but his eyes were bloodshot, and though he pretended to
listen to Allan's explanation of the orders in force, it was evident that
his attention wandered and that he was making no effort to understand.

"All right," he said, when Allan had finished. "I've got that all
straight," and he sat down heavily before the table.

His hand trembled perceptibly as he opened his key, and Allan, as he put
on his coat, noticed the confused way in which he started to answer the
dispatcher's question about the position of a train.

The dispatcher cut in sharply.

"Who is this?" he asked.


"What's the matter--been out all night?"

Nevins, who knew that Allan had heard the question, reddened to his ears.

"Now try again," added the dispatcher, "and brace up."

Nevins, by a mighty effort, controlled his uncertain muscles, and sent
the remainder of the message accurately, but considerably slower than

The dispatcher acknowledged it.

"All right," he said, "but take my advice and go out and put your head
under the pump. You need it. The way you sent that message reminds me
of a man going down the street so drunk that the only way he can walk
straight is to watch every step he takes."

Nevins reddened again and growled unintelligibly.

As for Allan, he caught up his lunch-basket and hurried out of the
office, sorry that he had overheard the reprimand, but scarcely able to
suppress his laughter at the aptness of it. For Nevins _had_ sent the
message in just that slow, painful, dignified way.

The accommodation stopped at the junction a few minutes later, and
he swung aboard and settled into a seat. As the train started, some
unaccountable impulse caused him to lean toward the window and look back
at the little shanty. A man was just entering the door. Allan caught
but a glimpse of him, and yet it seemed to him in that instant that he
recognized the slouching figure of Dan Nolan.

He sank back into his seat strangely troubled. Could it, indeed, be
Nolan? Was he hanging about the place for some sinister purpose? Then he
thrust the thought away. It could not have been Nolan. That worthy was
by this time many miles away, on the road to Parkersburg, in search of a
chance to make an honest living.

When Allan stepped upon the platform of the Wadsworth station that
evening, lunch-basket in hand, to take the train back to Byers, he was
surprised to find Jack Welsh there awaiting him.

"I didn't want t' go home early agin," Jack explained. "Mary 'd scent
somethin' wrong and 'd git th' whole story out o' me. I don't want her t'
be worrited about this business."

"About what business?" asked Allan.

"Oh, you know well enough. About Dan Nolan. He was here yistidday
arternoon. Some o' th' boys seen him over t' James's saloon. Jem Tuttle
says he seen him jump on second ninety-eight. I thought mebbe he might
'a' gone t' Byers."

"He did," said Allan, quietly. "I saw him."

"Ye did!" cried Jack. "I hope ye did fer him!"

"Why, Jack," protested Allan, "the poor fellow's nearly dead with
consumption. He's on his way to Parkersburg to look for work. He says he
wants a chance to earn an honest living."

"He told ye that, did he? An' was ye fool enough t' set there with your
mouth open an' gulp it all down? I give ye credit fer more sense than

Allan reflected that Nolan certainly had lied about his unwillingness to
steal a ride. And the figure he had seen that morning vanishing through
the door of the Byers station recurred to him.

"I _did_ believe it," he admitted finally. "He looked so sick and weak
that I couldn't help but pity him."

"Pity a toad!" said Jack, contemptuously. "Pity a snake! An' he's a
thousand times wuss 'n any snake! He's jest waitin' fer a good chance t'

"Well, I'll take care he doesn't get the chance," Allan assured him, and
clambered aboard the train at the sharp "all aboard!" of the conductor.

The more he thought over the circumstances of Nolan's appearance the
night before, the more strongly was he inclined to believe that Jack's
warning was not without reason. Nolan, perhaps, hoped to put him off his
guard, to catch him napping, and then, in some underhanded way, to "get

"Well, he sha'n't do that," murmured Allan to himself. "I'll keep my eyes
open. And if Mr. Nolan _is_ up to any such little game, I think he'll get
the worst of it."

With which comforting reflection, he leaned back in his seat and closed
his eyes, and took a little cat-nap until the junction was reached.

When he entered the little office, he found Nevins sitting listlessly at
the table, his head in his hands. He glanced up quickly as Allan entered,
with a kind of guilty start, and the boy noticed how pale and tired he
looked. Nevins nodded, in answer to his greeting, then got unsteadily to
his feet and stood drumming nervously with his fingers upon the table.

"You look regularly done up," said Allan. "Had a hard day?"

"Hard!" echoed Nevins, hoarsely. "I should say so--hard's no name for it!
They've been tryin' to send all the freight in the country through here.
And everybody snortin' mad, from the dispatchers down to the brakemen.
You heard how that smarty lit into me the first thing this mornin'. It's
enough to make a man throw up the job!"

Allan saw how overwrought he was and dropped into the chair without
replying, and began to look over the orders on the hook. Nevins watched
him, his face positively haggard. Just then the sounder clicked off a
rapid message, as the operator at Hamden reported the passage of a train
to the dispatcher at headquarters.

"Hello," said Allan; "there's a special coming west. Do you know what it

"It's the president's special," answered Nevins, moistening his lips
nervously. "A lot of the big guns are on it, on their way to attend a
meeting at Cincinnati. They've kept the wires hot all day--nothing but
thirty-nine, thirty-nine, thirty-nine. The other business had to take its

Thirty-nine, it may be explained in passing, is the signal used for
messages of the general officers, and indicates that such messages have
precedence over all other messages except train-orders.

Nevins paused a moment longer, gazing down at Allan's bent head, and
opened his mouth once or twice as though to speak; then, seizing his
coat and hat, fairly rushed from the place.

Allan hung up the order-hook again, and as he did so, he noticed that
Nevins's lunch-basket was standing on the floor near the window. Nevins
had evidently been so upset and nervous from the hard day's work that he
had forgotten it.

He glanced at his watch and saw that it was 6.58. Hamden, which had
reported the passage of the special, was only eight miles away, so the
train would pass the junction within five or six minutes. Allan knew
that when a train carrying the high officials went over the road, the
way was kept clear for it, it was given the best engine and the nerviest
engineer, and every effort was made to break records. There was no order
for it at the junction, his signal would give it a clear track, and it
would sweep by without slackening speed.

As a matter of precaution, he went to the door to be sure the signal was
properly set, and stood there, looking down the track in the direction
whence the train was coming. He had a clear view for perhaps half a mile,
and sure enough, a minute later, he saw a headlight flash into view, and
the rails began to hum as they only do when a train is running a mile a
minute. A long whistle from the engine showed that the engineer had seen
the signal and knew that the track was clear.

Then suddenly, the boy's heart stood still, for down the track, toward
West Junction, he heard the chug-chug of an approaching freight!

Just what happened in the instant that followed Allan never clearly
remembered. His brain seemed paralyzed; his senses swam and the world
grew dark before him as though some one had struck him a heavy blow
upon the head. Then, instinctively, his hand flew to the lever which
controlled the train-signal and swung it over; but he had no hope that
the engineer of the special would note the change. He was too close upon
it, and besides he had assured himself that it showed an open track and
so would not look at it again.

An instant later, there was a report like a pistol-shot. Allan heard the
sharp shriek of applied brakes, the shrill blast from the whistle which
told of "Danger ahead!" He saw the special sweep past, shaken throughout
its entire length by the mighty effort made to stop it; then he sank
limply down on the threshold of the door, and buried his face in his
hands, not daring to see more.



The crowd of officials aboard the president's special was a jolly one. To
get away, even for a few days, from the toil and moil of headquarters was
a genuine and welcome vacation, and though there were three stenographers
aboard, all of whom were kept busy, there remained plenty of time for
story-telling and good-natured quizzing. At the head of the party was
President Bakewell, dressed in the height of fashion, holding his present
position not so much because of any intimate knowledge of practical
railroading as because of his ability as a financier, his skill as a
pilot in days when earnings decreased, when times were bad, and when the
money for running expenses or needed improvements had to be wrung from
a tight market. At doing that he was a wizard, and he wisely left the
problems of the actual management of the road to be solved by the men
under him.

These, with very few exceptions, had risen from the ranks. They knew how
to do everything from driving a spike to running an engine. They had
been drilled in that best of all schools, the school of experience. The
superintendents knew their divisions, every foot of track, every siding,
every fill, bridge, and crossing, more thoroughly than the ordinary man
knows the walk from his front door to the gate. They had gone over the
road so often, had studied it so thoroughly, that they had developed a
sort of special sense in regard to it. Put them down anywhere along it,
blindfolded, on the darkest night, and, at the end of a moment, they
could tell where they were. They knew each target by its peculiar rattle
as the train sped past. They knew the position of every house--almost of
every tree and rock--along it. They knew the pitch of every grade, the
degree of every curve; they knew the weak spots, and laboured ceaselessly
to strengthen them.

Now, as the special swept westward from general headquarters,
superintendent after superintendent clambered aboard, as his division was
reached, and pointed out to the president and other general officers the
weak spots along it. He showed where the sidings were insufficient, where
the grade was too steep to be passed by heavy trains, where a curve was
too sharp to be taken at full speed without danger, where a bridge needed
strengthening or replacing by a masonry culvert. He pointed out stations
which were antiquated or inadequate to the growing business of the road,
and suggested changes in schedule which would make for the convenience
of the road's patrons.

For a railroad is like a chain--it is only as strong as its weakest link,
and the tonnage which an engine can handle must be computed, not with
reference to the level track, but with reference to the stiffest grade
which it will have to pass before reaching its destination--except, of
course, in cases where the grade is so stiff, as sometimes happens on a
mountain division, that it becomes a matter of economy to keep an extra
engine stationed there to help the trains over, rather than trim the
trains down to a point where a single engine can handle them.

The president listened to the arguments and persuasive eloquence of his
superintendents, and nodded from time to time. His stenographer, sitting
at his elbow, took down the recommendations and the reasons for them,
word for word, as well as a comment from the president now and then.
As soon as general headquarters were reached again, all this would be
transcribed, typewritten copies made and distributed among the general
officers; the recommendations would then be carefully investigated and
approved or disapproved as might be.

At Parkersburg, Superintendent Heywood and Trainmaster Schofield, of
the Ohio division, got aboard, to see that the needs of their division
received proper consideration. Athens, Zaleski, McArthur, and Hamden
were passed, and the two officials exchanged a glance. They had a
recommendation to make which, if approved, would mean the expenditure of
many thousands of dollars.

"The next station is Byers Junction," said Mr. Heywood. "From there to
West Junction, as you know, the D. W. & I. uses our track. In view of the
great increase of traffic during the last year both Mr. Schofield and
I feel that the D. W. & I. should either be compelled to build its own
track, or that the P. & O. should be double-tracked between those points."

"Hm!" commented the president. "How far is it?"

"Seven and a half miles."

"Do you know how much another track would cost?"

"Not less than fifty thousand dollars."

"What return do we get from the D. W. & I. for the use of our track?"

"It has averaged ten thousand dollars a year. But their freight business
is increasing so that I believe it will soon be fifteen thousand."

"Hm!" commented the president again. "Why don't they borrow the money and
build their own track?"

"In the first place, their credit isn't very good," Mr. Heywood
explained, "and in the second place, for them to buy and get into shape a
separate right of way would cost probably two hundred thousand dollars.
We have our right of way, all grades are established, and all we have to
do is to lay a second track along the one we already have."

"It sounds easy, doesn't it?" laughed the president. "I don't know
anything that's easier than building a railroad--on paper."

"It would be a good investment," said Mr. Schofield, rallying to the
support of the superintendent. "It would return at least twenty per cent.
on the cost. If we don't get another track, we'll have to shut the D.
W. & I. out. A single track won't handle the business any more. There's
always a congestion there that affects the whole road."

The president puffed his cigar meditatively. Good investments appealed to
him, and the reasons for the improvement certainly seemed to be weighty

"Besides," went on Mr. Schofield, "there's always the danger of accident
to be considered. A single one might cost us more than the whole eight
miles of track."

"Ever had any there?"

"No--none so serious as all that. But we've escaped some mighty bad ones
by the skin of our teeth."

The president smiled.

"Don't try to scare me," he said.

"I'm not. But it's a serious matter, just the same. There's the office
now," added Mr. Schofield, pointing to the little frame building. He
saw a figure standing in the doorway, and knew that it was Allan West.
"There's the boy," he began, when a report like a pistol-shot stopped him.

Instantly he grasped the arms of his seat, as did all the others, for
they knew that the train had run over a torpedo. A second later, they
were all jerked violently into the air as the brakes were jammed on and
the engine reversed. Every loose object in the car was hurled forward
with terrific force, and a negro porter, who was walking past bearing a
tray of glasses, was shot crashing through the thin front partition, and
disappeared with a yell of terror. A window, shattered by the strain,
rained its fragments in upon the floor, and through the opening thus
made, the occupants of the car could hear the shrieking brakes and
labouring engine. In a moment, it was over; the train jerked itself
to a stop; paused an instant as if to regain breath, and then, as the
brakes were released, started with a jump back toward the office it had
just passed. A moment later, something seemed to strike it and hurl it
backward, but the car did not leave the rails. The impetus slowly ceased,
and the train came to a stop just opposite the semaphore.

Without saying a word, the officials hastened outside. They knew
perfectly well what had happened. A head-end collision had been averted
by the narrowest possible margin; indeed, it had not been wholly averted,
but had been so reduced in force that no great damage had been done.

"Lucky our train was a light one," muttered Mr. Schofield, as he jumped
to the ground. "I wonder if he thinks now I was trying to scare him?" and
he shuddered at the thought of what would have happened had the engineer
been unable to control the train. If it had been a regular passenger,
with eight or ten heavy Pullmans crowding after the engine, even the most
powerful brakes would have been unable to hold it.

Superintendent Heywood, his face very stern, hurried forward toward the
engine. It was his duty to investigate the accident, to place the blame,
and to see that the guilty person was punished. He regretted, as he had
often done before, that the only punishment the road could inflict was
dismissal from the service. Such a punishment for such a fault seemed so
feeble and inadequate!

Bill Roth, the engineer of the special, was walking about his engine,
examining her tenderly to see what damage she had sustained from the
tremendous strain to which she had been subjected and from the collision
which had followed.

"She's all right," he announced to Mr. Heywood. "Nothing smashed but her
pilot and headlight," and he patted one of the huge drivers as though the
engine were a living thing and could feel the caress.

The superintendent nodded curtly and hurried on. Twenty feet down the
track, the pilot and headlight also smashed, loomed a freight-engine. A
single glance told Mr. Heywood that it belonged to the D. W. & I.

"I'll run her in on the siding," he said to Mr. Schofield, who was at his

The latter nodded and started on a run for the office, in order to
get into touch at once with the dispatchers' office. Neither official
understood, as yet, how the accident had happened; but there would be
time enough to inquire into that. The first and most important thing was
to get the track clear so that the special could proceed on its way and
the regular schedule be resumed.

As Mr. Schofield sprinted toward the office, he glanced at the
train-signal and noted that it was set at danger. He must find out why
their engineer had disregarded that warning, for he knew that the brakes
had not been applied until the train was past the signal. Bill Roth was
one of the oldest and most trusted engineers on the road, else he would
not have been in charge of the special, but the best record on earth
could not excuse such carelessness as that.

So Mr. Schofield reflected as he sprang up the steps that led to the
door of the shanty. There he paused an instant, for at the table within
stood Allan West, ticking off to headquarters a message telling of the
accident, and asking for orders. Not until he came quite near could the
trainmaster see now drawn and gray the boy's face was. He waited until
the message was finished and the key clicked shut. Then he stepped
forward and laid his hand gently on the boy's arm.

"All right, Allan," he said. "No harm done, though it was a mighty close
shave. You sit down there and pull yourself together, while I get this
thing straightened out."

In a moment he had headquarters.

"Eng. 315 running extra delayed at Byers Junction ten minutes. Will leave
Junction 7.18. A M S."

"O. K.," flashed the answer from the dispatcher, who at once proceeded to
modify his other orders in accordance with this delay.

As the trainmaster snapped the key shut, the superintendent appeared at
the door.

"All ready," he said.

"The track's open," said Mr. Schofield. "I've notified Greggs," and the
two men ran down the steps and started toward the train. "Did you notice
the signal?" he added.

"Yes," answered the superintendent, "and I asked Roth about it. He and
his fireman both swear that it showed clear when they looked at it a
moment before they reached it. Roth merely glanced at it and then looked
back at the track. But the fireman says that it seemed to him it was
swinging up just as they rushed past it. Then they hit the torpedo."

"And where did _it_ come from?"

"Lord only knows. There's something mysterious about this affair,

"I know there is," and the trainmaster's face hardened. "I'm going to
stay right here till I get to the bottom of it."

Mr. Heywood nodded.

"Yes--I think that's best. Who's the night operator here now?"

"Allan West," answered the other, speaking with evident difficulty.

The superintendent stopped for an instant, then went on whistling softly.

"Too bad," he said, at last. "Have you asked him anything about it?"

"No; he seemed all unstrung. But he kept his head. He was reporting the
accident and asking for orders when I got to the office."

"Good; I hope he wasn't to blame--though the setting of the train-signal
at the last instant looks bad."

"Yes," assented Mr. Schofield, "it does."

"Of course, I'm sorry for the boy; but if he was at fault, not even all
he has done for the road can--can--"

"No," broke in Mr. Schofield, curtly; "I know it can't. Don't be afraid.
I'll go to the bottom of the matter, regardless of who is hurt. I'll fix
the blame."

The superintendent nodded without replying. Both men were more moved than
they cared to show. For they were fond of the boy and had been very
proud of him.

Mr. Heywood glanced at his watch, saw that it pointed to 7.18, and gave
the signal to the conductor.

And as the train pulled away, Mr. Schofield started slowly back toward
the shanty. The task before him was about the most unpleasant that he had
ever faced.

But his countenance was impassive and composed as he mounted the steps to
the door.



Allan had recovered somewhat from the nervous shock the threatened
accident had given him, and was receiving a message as Mr. Schofield
entered. The latter paused a moment to look at him--at the handsome,
honest, boyish face; the broad and open brow bespeaking intelligence and
character, the mouth firm beyond his years, the eyes steady and fearless;
and as he looked, a weight seemed to drop from his heart. Whoever was to
blame, he knew instinctively that it was not Allan West.

He sat down with an audible sigh of relief, and got out a cigar and
lighted it. A moment later, Allan repeated the message, closed his key
and looked up with a smile. Mr. Schofield had proved himself a friend
tried and true, and one upon whom he knew he could rely.

"Well," said the trainmaster, answering the smile, "I've come to find out
how it all happened. Suppose you tell me the story."

Allan passed his hand quickly across his eyes.

"I really know very little," he began. "I came on duty at the usual time,
and took an order or two. Then I heard the operator at Hamden report the
special. I knew it would be here in a few minutes, and as I had no order
for it--"

"You're sure there _was_ no order for it?" interrupted Mr. Schofield.

"Yes, sir; I had just looked over the orders on the hook. So I went to
the door to be sure the signal showed a clear track."

"It _did_ show a clear track, did it?"

"Yes, sir. I stood there a moment longer; and then I heard the special
coming and saw its light flash around the curve. I watched it coming--it
must have been running nearly a mile a minute."

"It was--all of it," said Mr. Schofield.

"Well, it was almost at the switch, when I heard another engine
chug-chugging up the grade from West Junction. I don't remember clearly
just what I did for the next moment or two--I have a sort of recollection
that I jerked the signal over and then I heard a shot--"

"It was a torpedo."

"A torpedo?" echoed Allan. "But who--"

"I haven't the slightest idea. We'll look into that after awhile. Go
ahead with your story."

Allan paused a moment to collect his thoughts.

"I heard the brakes go on and saw the special sort of humping itself up
in the effort to stop--"

"It _was_ humping itself, and no mistake," agreed the trainmaster. "And
we were rattling around inside like dried peas in a pod."

"And then," Allan went on, "I thought I heard the trains come together,
and things sort of went black before me; but I managed to pull myself
together enough to report that the track was blocked. I was doing that
when you came in."

"Yes, I heard you. Now let's find out how that freight got past West
Junction. The operator there must have had an order to hold it until the
special passed."

He sat down before the key and called West Junction. The operator
there, who had heard of the accident, answered almost instantly. At the
same moment, the conductor and engineer of the freight, having assured
themselves that no great damage had been done, and having replaced their
shattered headlight by a lantern from the caboose, came in to report and
ask for orders.

Mr. Schofield waited until he had received an answer to his question,
then he closed the key and arose and faced them.

"The operator at West Junction says you left there at 6.20," he said.
"How does it come it took you nearly an hour to make eight miles?"

"We got a hot-box," explained the conductor, "the worst I ever see. It
was about midway of the train, so nobody smelt it till it got so bad it
blazed up, and then I happened to see it when I looked out the winder of
the caboose. When we opened the box, we found it dry as a bone, not a bit
of dope in it--regularly cleaned out. I'll bet it hadn't been packed for
a month. The journal was swelled so tight it took us half an hour to get
it down."

"Yes, an' we used nearly all th' water in th' tank doin' it," broke in
the conductor. "An' then when I tried t' start, I found th' brakes set,
an' we lost ten minutes more lookin' for th' air-hose that had busted an'
puttin' on a new one."

A hot-box, it should be explained in passing, is caused by imperfect
lubrication of the axles of cars or engines, at the point where they
pass through the journal-bearings. As they revolve rapidly under the
great weight upon them, the friction generates heat, unless the surfaces
are properly oiled, and this heat causes the journal to swell until it
sticks in the bearing and refuses to revolve at all. Not infrequently
the heat is so great that it generates a flame and sets the car on
fire. To keep the journal lubricated, it is enclosed in a metal box,
called a journal-box, and this is filled with axle-grease, or "dope," as
railroaders call it. In every railroad yard where trains are made up,
there is a gang of men whose sole business it is to go from car to car,
dope-bucket in hand, and make sure that all journal-boxes are properly
filled. For hot-boxes are a prolific source of trouble. So are burst
air-hose. Air-brakes, operated by compressed air, are very generally in
use now on freight-cars as well as passenger-coaches. The compressed
air is carried under the cars in iron pipes, but the coupling is of
rubber-hose, in order to allow some play as the cars bump together or
strain apart, and this hose frequently bursts under the great pressure. A
burst hose instantly sets all the brakes, and the train-hands must first
find the break, and then replace the burst coupling with a new one.

Mr. Schofield had listened to all these explanations with furrowed brow.
Now he turned abruptly to the conductor.

"When you found you had run over your time," he demanded, "how does it
come you proceeded without a flag?"

"We hadn't run over our time," protested the conductor, hotly. "We had
till 7.08 to make the Junction. We supposed of course the operator here
knew his business and would protect us."

"You would have been protected if I'd known you were coming," said Allan,
quickly, "but I had no order for you."

"What!" demanded the engineer, incredulously, "do you mean to say th'
dispatcher didn't cover us?"

"I certainly do."

"An' you didn't git no order fer th' special to meet us here?"

"I got no order whatever."

The engineer, his face very red, produced from his pocket a soiled piece
of tissue-paper.

"Read that," he said, and handed it to the trainmaster.

Mr. Schofield opened it, his face very stern.

"'Engine 618,'" he read, "'will run extra from West Junction to Byers
Junction and will keep clear of special passenger-train west, engine 315,
after 7.08 P. M.'"

"We'd have got here all right at 7.06," went on the engineer,
truculently. "We had three minutes."

"What time did the special pass?" asked Mr. Schofield.

"At 7.05," answered Allan.

The trainmaster nodded, and handed the order back to the engineer.

"You boys are all right," he said. "You're evidently not to blame."

The engineer chuckled.

"You bet we ain't," he agreed. "But that'll be th' last o' Mister
Dispatcher on this road, I reckon. Who was it?"

"Greggs," answered the trainmaster, tersely.

"Hum!" said the engineer, after a moment's reflection. "I'd never have
thought Greggs'd make a break like that. If it'd been Jenkins, now."

"When did you realize that something was wrong?" asked Mr. Schofield,
with a little impatient jerk of the head.

"When I saw that signal swung up. I knowed nobody'd handle it so rough
as that without mighty good cause. So I jammed on th' brakes an' jerked
open th' sand-box an' reversed her; an' then in about a second, I see
another headlight comin' at me, an' I knowed what was up.

"'Git out o' here!' I yelled to Joe--he's my fireman--but he'd seen her
comin', too, an' didn't need no warnin' from me. I see him jump an' I was
jest a-goin' t' foller suit, when I see th' other feller had his train
under control. We had slowed up considerable, too--we hadn't been comin'
very fast, but th' heavy train behind us shoved us on--so we jest give
her a little love-tap, as it were, an' stopped."

"A little harder one and we'd have been off the track," added the
conductor. "I can't understand Greggs makin' a mistake like that. I
always thought he was the best man in the office. I don't see how he
could have overlooked giving you an order for us."

"Better men than Greggs have made mistakes," retorted the trainmaster, a
little tartly.

"Well, we must be gettin' on," said the conductor, eying Allan,
curiously. "The investigation will show who was to blame."

Allan was already calling up the D. W. & I. headquarters.

"Eng. 618," he reported, "delayed by hot-box, just arrived here and wants

In a moment the answer flashed back.

"Eng. 618 will leave Byers Junction at 7.38 and run extra to Wellston."

Allan repeated it, got it O. K.'d, and handed a copy to each of the two
men. They read it aloud, glanced at their watches, and stalked out. A
moment later, Allan and the trainmaster heard the exhaust as the engine
started. As soon as the train was past the switch, Allan turned the
semaphore and lowered the train-signal to show a clear track. Then he
came back and sat down by the trainmaster, who was puffing his cigar

"You're fonder of fresh air than I am," remarked the latter, as a little
gust of wind rustled the orders which hung on the hook near the window.
"We'd better have that down, hadn't we?"

Allan, glancing at the window, noticed for the first time that the lower
sash was raised.

"Why, I didn't know it was open," he said, and going to it, took out the
stick which supported the sash and let the sash down. "Nevins must have
raised it before he went away."

"Well, if it had been me," remarked the trainmaster, "I'd have noticed
that wind blowing down my back before this. But we don't seem to be
getting much nearer the solution of this accident--or, rather, we haven't
discovered yet why it didn't happen."

"Why it _didn't_ happen?" repeated Allan.

"Yes. Let us review the circumstances. At 6.20, this D. W. & I. freight
passes West Junction, with right of way to Byers Junction until 7.08.
That gives it forty-eight minutes to make a run which is usually made in
twenty-five or less. But it develops a hot-box and bursts an air-hose and
is delayed about half an hour. Still, it would have reached here a minute
or so ahead of time, and it certainly had the right of way until 7.08.

"You, however, have received no order for this freight, and thinking the
track from here to West Junction clear, you set your signals accordingly
for the special which is nearly due, and which passes at 7.05. Just as
it is passing, you hear the freight approaching, and throw the signal
over. But the engineer, being almost upon it, doesn't see it. An instant
later, however, a torpedo explodes, and the engineer manages to stop the
train and begin backing before the freight hits it. The engineer of the
freight, meanwhile, has seen the signal change, and then sees another
headlight rushing down upon him, and manages to get his train pretty well
under control before the crash comes. So not much damage is done. But
why? What was to keep the special from dashing itself to pieces against
the freight?"

"It was the torpedo," answered Allan.

"Precisely. The torpedo. And where did the torpedo come from? Did it drop
from heaven at precisely the right instant? I don't believe in that sort
of miracle. Did it just happen to be there? That would be a miracle,
too. No, I believe that some one, at that spot, heard the trains coming,
or saw you swing the signal up, realized what was about to happen, and
placed that torpedo on the track. Now, who was it?"

Allan, of course, was utterly unable to answer.

"And whoever it was," added the trainmaster, "why doesn't he come and
tell about it? A fellow who does a thing like that has no reason to run
away and hide."

He stopped, chewing the end of his cigar nervously, a wrinkle of
perplexity between his eyes.

"He must have been a railroad man," went on the trainmaster; "a brakeman,
conductor, or section-man, or he wouldn't have had that torpedo in his
pocket. Unless it was a tramp who'd stolen it. But a tramp would have
been here long ago to claim his reward; and a railroad man would have
come to make his report. No; I can't understand it."

He was interrupted by a sharp call on the instrument. Allan answered it.

"Make report at once," clicked the sounder, "of accident to engs. 315 and
618 at Byers Junction. Greggs."

"Eng. 618," Allan reported, "leaving West Junction at 6.20, delayed
thirty minutes by hot-box, in collision with eng. 315 at 7.05 just west
of Byers Junction. Both engines slightly damaged."

"Why didn't you hold special and protect eng. 618?" came the query.

"No order to that effect was sent me," Allan answered. "I supposed the
track clear."

There was a moment's pause. Then the sounder started again.

"Following order was sent Byers Junction at 5.50: 'Eng. 315, special
west, will meet extra east, eng. 618, at Byers Junction.' Operator at
Byers, initial N., repeated this, and it was O. K.'d, so that train was
fully covered and should have been protected. Useless to deny that order
was received."

Allan had turned as white as a sheet, and his hands were trembling
convulsively as he opened the key.

"Will investigate and report in a moment," he answered, and then turned
to the trainmaster, his eyes dark with horror.

"You heard?" he asked.

The trainmaster nodded, and his face, too, was very grave.

"You're sure there was no such order?" he inquired.

"I came on at 6.40," said Allan, "and went over all the orders on the
hook very carefully. I'm sure there was no such order there," and he
motioned toward the "flimsies" which hung on the wall beside the window.

Mr. Schofield took down the hook and began to go slowly over the orders.
In a moment, a sharp exclamation broke from him.

"What is it?" asked Allan, a sudden horrible fear seizing his heart and
seeming to crush it.

The trainmaster detached from the hook one of the sheets of
tissue-paper, and spread it out before him, his face very stern.

"'Engine 315,'" he read, "'special west, will meet extra east, engine
618, at Byers Junction.'"

Then he leaned back in his chair and gazed at Allan with accusing eyes.



For an instant, Allan scarcely understood. He sat as one stunned by a
terrific blow. Then the truth burst upon him like a lightning-flash.
He had overlooked the order; two of the flimsy pieces of tissue-paper
had stuck together, and he had not perceived it! The accident, had it
occurred, would have been his fault; that it did not occur was due to no
act of his, but to some mysterious, unexplainable Providence. Morally,
he was as guilty as though the trains had dashed together at full speed.
Even now, because of his carelessness, they might have been one piled-up
mass of twisted iron and splintered wood, with a score of human beings
buried in the wreckage. The utter horror of the thought turned him a
little dizzy. Then he arose, and took down his coat.

"What are you going to do?" demanded the trainmaster, who had been
watching him closely.

"There's only one thing for me to do, isn't there?" asked Allan, with a
wan little smile. "That is to get out. I see I'm not fit for anything
better than section-work, after all. I'll ask Jack Welsh for my old
job--that is, if the road will have me."

"Sit down," commanded Mr. Schofield, sternly. He saw how overwrought the
boy was. "There's no use jumping at conclusions. Besides, you've got to
stay your trick out here, no matter how guilty you are. There's your call
now," he added, as the key sounded.

Allan answered it mechanically, took down the message, repeated it, and
had it O. K.'d. By the time that was done, he had partially regained his

"Of course I'll serve out the trick," he said. "But I didn't suppose I'd
ever have a chance to serve another. A mistake like that deserves the
severest punishment you can inflict."

"You mean you think Nevins left the order on the hook and that you
overlooked it?"

"Certainly," said the boy. "How else could it have happened?"

"I don't know. But neither can I understand how you could have overlooked
it if you were at all careful. There are only three others on the hook."

"I wasn't as careful as I should have been," said Allan in a low voice,
"that's certain."

He was sure that he, and he only, had been at fault. Any other
explanation seemed ridiculous.

"Did Nevins say anything about this train when you came on duty?" pursued
the trainmaster.

Allan made a mighty effort at recollection.

"No," he said, at last; "I'm sure he didn't. We talked a moment about the
special, and he spoke of the heavy day's work he'd had. That was all. If
he'd said he had an order for it, I certainly shouldn't have forgotten it
right away."

"Then Nevins broke the rules, too," said Mr. Schofield, and got out
his book of rules. "The second paragraph on page seventy-six reads as
follows: 'When both day and night operators are employed, one must not
leave his post until relieved by the other, and the one going off duty
must inform the one coming on respecting unfinished business and the
position of trains.'"

"He waited until I had looked over the orders," said Allan, with a
lively remembrance of Nevins's attitude toward that particular rule. "He
supposed that I could read, and if there was anything I didn't understand
I'd have asked him."

Mr. Schofield put his book back into his pocket, and got out another
cigar. His nerves were jangling badly, and he felt the need of something
to quiet them.

"Well," he said, at last, "I'm sorry."

And Allan bowed his head. He accepted the sentence of dismissal which
the words implied; it was just. He saw all the air-castles which he had
builded so hopefully come tumbling about him; he was overwhelmed in the
ruins. He realized that there was no future for him in railroading; no
place at the top. He had forfeited his right to serve the road, to expect
promotion, by that one mistake, that one piece of carelessness. At least,
he told himself, it had taught him a lesson, and one that he would never
forget. It had taught him--


Some one stumbled heavily up the steps to the door, and Mr. Schofield
uttered a sharp exclamation of astonishment. Allan started around to see
upon the threshold the strangest apparition his eyes had ever rested on.

Two figures stood there so daubed with mud, so bedraggled with dirty
water, so torn and bruised and soiled as scarcely to resemble human
beings. One was tall and thin, the other not so tall and much heavier.
The shorter figure held the tall one by the back of the neck in a grip
so tight and merciless that such of the latter's face as was visible
through its coating of mud was convulsed and purple. One eye was closed
and swollen, while the other seemed starting from its socket. Both men
had lost their hats, and their hair was matted with mud, reddened, in the
case of the shorter one, with blood.

All this Allan saw at a glance, for in the next instant, the tall figure
had been flung violently into the room, while the other entered after
him, closed the door, and stood leaning against it, breathing heavily.

For a moment, not a word was spoken. The trainmaster and Allan stared
in amazement from one of these strange figures to the other. The tall
one lay where he had fallen, gasping for breath; the other, having
recovered somewhat, got out a handkerchief from some recess, and made an
ineffectual effort to blow his nose. Then, as he caught the expression
of the others' faces, he grinned so broadly that some of the mud on his
cheeks cracked and scaled off.

"Ye don't happen t' have a bath-tub handy, do ye, Allan?" he inquired,
in a voice so familiar that the boy jumped in his chair, and even Mr.
Schofield started perceptibly.

"Jack!" cried Allan. "Why, what--"

He stopped, unable to go on, breathless with sheer astonishment.

"Is it really you, Welsh?" asked the trainmaster.

"Yes, Misther Schofield; it's me, or what's left o' me," said Jack,
passing his hand ruefully over his head, and gazing down at his tattered

"And who's this?" asked the trainmaster, with a gesture toward the
prostrate figure on the floor.

"I don't know th' dirty scoundrel's name," answered Jack, "but you'll
know him, I reckon, as soon as we scrape th' mud off. But afore I tell
th' story, I _would_ loike t' wash up."

"All right," said Allan, starting from his chair, "here you are," and he
poured some water from a bucket into a wash-pan which stood on a soap-box
beside the window. A towel hung from a roller on the wall, and a piece
of soap lay on the window-sill. It was here he washed up every night
before he ate his midnight lunch.

Jack took off the remains of his coat, one sleeve of which had been torn
out at the shoulder, rolled up his shirt-sleeves, and plunged his head
into the water with a grunt of satisfaction. He got off the worst of the
mud, threw out the dirty water, and filled the pan with fresh. From this
he emerged fairly like his old self, and rubbed face and head violently
with the towel. When he had finished, an ugly cut was visible high on his
forehead, near the roots of his hair. He touched it tenderly, and held
the towel against it, for the washing had started it to bleeding again.

"Here, let me see that," said Mr. Schofield, peremptorily. He led Jack
near the lamp, despite his protests that it was only a scratch, examined
the cut, got out his handkerchief, dipped it in clean water, and washed
the wound carefully. Then he took from his pocket a little case of
court-plaster, drew the edges of the cut together, and stuck a sheet of
the plaster over it.

"There," he said, when the operation was finished, "that will soon be
all right. And let me give you a piece of advice, Welsh, and you, too,
Allan--never go about this world without a case of court-plaster in your
pocket. Men, especially railroad men, are always getting little knocks
and cuts, not worth considering in themselves, but which may become
poisoned, if left open, and cause a great deal of trouble. A snip of
court-plaster stops all chance of that. So take my advice--"

There was a sudden movement behind them, and Jack hurled himself toward
the door just in time to catch the other mud-bespattered figure as it was
disappearing over the threshold. There was a moment's struggle, then Jack
got his deadly neck-grip again, and walked his captive back into the room.

"So ye thought ye'd git away, did ye?" he demanded, savagely. "Thought
ye'd give me th' slip! Not after th' hard work I had gittin' ye here, me

He closed the door with his disengaged hand, then led his prisoner up to
the light.

"Do ye know him?" he asked of Allan and the trainmaster, but neither of
them saw anything familiar in the distorted and mud-grimed features which
the rays of the lamp disclosed. They noticed, however, with what an agony
of fear the prisoner stared at them with the single eye which was open.

"Ye don't know him, hey?" said Jack, seeing their blank countenances.
"Well, ye wouldn't know yer own father under such a layer o' mud. Let's
wash him off. Then he'll look more nateral."

He shoved the prisoner toward the bucket of water, in spite of his
suddenly desperate struggles. Then, pinching his neck savagely, he bent
him down toward the bucket, and with his free hand splashed the water
over his face. Then he forced him up to the towel, rubbed his face
vigorously, and finally spun him around toward the astonished onlookers.

Allan gave a gasp of amazement.

"Why, it's Nevins!" he said.

"Nevins!" echoed Mr. Schofield, coming a step nearer. "Why, no--yes it
is, too!"

"And who may Nevins be?" demanded Jack.

"Nevins is the day operator here," said Mr. Schofield. "Let him go, Jack;
he can't escape."

Jack reluctantly released his grip of the unlucky operator's neck.

"I don't know," he said, dubiously. "If you'd chased him five mile, an'
fought him at th' bottom of a ditch, an' had him hit you in th' head with
a rock, mebbe you wouldn't be so sure o' that!"

"But what has he done?" demanded Mr. Schofield.

"Well, I don't exactly know," answered Jack, deliberately, moving again
between the prisoner and the door, and sitting down there. "But it was
some deviltry."

Mr. Schofield also sat down, more astonished than ever.

"See here, Welsh," he said, "you're not drunk?"

"Hain't drunk a drop fer a matter o' tin year, Mr. Schofield. Th' effects
wore off long ago."

"He _is_ drunk, Mr. Schofield," broke in Nevins, quickly. "I smelt it on
his breath. I'll have the law on him. He assaulted me out there in a
ditch and nearly killed me. I'll see if a man's to be treated that way by
a big, drunken bully--"

But Mr. Schofield stopped him with a gesture.

"That will do," he said, coldly. "Don't lie about it. I know that Welsh
isn't drunk. We'll have his story first, and then yours. Fire away, Jack."

"Well," began Jack, "jest as th' torpedy went off--"

"Which torpedo?"

"Why, th' one that th' special exploded."

"Oh, begin further back than that--begin at the beginning."

"Well, then, jest as I jammed th' torpedy on th' track--"

"Was it _you_ put it on the track?" cried Mr. Schofield.

"Why, sure," said Jack. "Didn't ye know that? Who else could it 'a' been?"

"But how did you come to do that?"

"Why," said Jack, "whin I heerd th' special whistling away off up th'
line, an' th' signal showin' a clear track, an' knowed they was a freight
comin' up th' grade, what else should I do but plant a torpedy? I didn't
have time t' git t' th' office--besides, I knowed they was some diviltry
on an' I wanted t' lay low till I could git Nolan--"

"Nolan!" echoed the trainmaster, more and more amazed.

"Sure, Nolan--Dan Nolan--you raymimber him. I thought it was him I had,
an' mighty dissipinted I was whin I found my mistake. But I thought I'd
better bring this feller along, anyhow, an' find out what it was he done
when he raised th' windy there an' leaned in--"

A flash of understanding sprang into Mr. Schofield's eyes, and he glanced
quickly at Nevins. But the latter's face was turned away.

"See here, Jack," said the trainmaster, leaning forward in his chair,
"we'll never get anywhere in this way. I want you to begin at the very
beginning and tell us the whole story."

"Well, sir," said Jack, "I would, but I'm afeerd th' story'd be too long."

"No, it wouldn't. We want to hear it."

"All right, then," Jack agreed, and settled back in his chair. "Ye may as
well set down, Misther Nevins," he added.

"Yes, sit down," said Allan, moved with pity at the other's bedraggled
and exhausted condition. He brought forward the box which served as
washstand, and pressed Nevins gently down upon it.

The latter resisted for a moment; then, suddenly, he collapsed in a heap
upon the box and buried his face in his hands, his whole body shaken by a
dry, convulsive sobbing.



The paroxysm lasted only for a moment, then Nevins pulled himself
together with a mighty effort, looking about him with a pitiful attempt
at bravado. Mr. Schofield glanced at him, then turned his back, for
Nevins's countenance, not engaging at any time, was now positively

"Go ahead with your story, Welsh," he said.

"Well, sir," Jack began, "I waited fer Allan this evenin' t' tell him
that Nolan had come back, an' when he told me that Nolan had been out

"Nolan out here?" interrupted the trainmaster, and Allan related the
conversation of the night before.

"When I heerd all that," began Jack, again, "I knowed that Nolan was up
to no good; I knowed that he had come out here t' do th' boy dirt; an'
all th' whinin' an' crocydile tears in th' world couldn't convince me no
different. So when Allan got on th' accommydation, I left a message with
th' caller fer my old woman, tellin' her I'd be late, an' jumped on th'
back platform jest as th' train pulled out."

Mr. Schofield nodded. He was beginning to understand the occurrences
which had seemed so mysterious.

At that moment a freight pulled in, and the conductor entered to get the
orders. He cast an astonished glance at Nevins, but the presence of the
trainmaster stifled any questions which may have been upon his lips, and
he read his order, signed for it, and went out again. Allan went to the
door, assured himself that the signals were properly set, then shut the
door and resumed his seat on the table beside the instrument.

"Well," Jack continued, "I knowed th' boy'd be mad if he thought I was
follerin' him--he never did like it, even when Nolan was arter him last
year--so I stayed there on th' back platform, an' dropped off in th' dark
down there by th' water-plug. I set down in th' shadder of a pile o' ties
an' waited. I see Allan come over here, an' purty soon th' other feller
come out and hiked away fer th' village, like he had a date with his best
girl an' was an hour late.

"I was gittin' mighty hungry, and beginnin' t' feel purty foolish, too;
fer I really hadn't nothin' t' go on except that Dan Nolan had been here
th' day afore. It was gittin' cold, too, but I turned up my collar,
pulled my cap down over my ears, lighted my pipe behind th' ties, an'
arranged myself as comf'table as I could. I rammed my hands down in
my pockets, t' keep 'em warm, an' snuggled up agin th' logs. Somethin'
jabbed me in th' side, an' when I felt t' see what it was, I found I had
a torpedy in my pocket. I'd put it there in th' mornin' thinkin' I might
need it afore night, and hadn't been back t' th' section shanty since.
Well, I eased it around so's it wouldn't jab me, and leaned back agin.

"But th' minutes dragged by mighty slow, an' nothin' happened. I could
see Allan, through th' windy, bendin' over th' table, or readin' in a
book. I couldn't see my watch, it was too dark, an' I didn't dare strike
another match, fer fear somebody'd see it, but I jedge it was clost to
seven o'clock, an' I was sort o' noddin' back agin th' pile o' ties, with
my eyes shet, when I heerd two men a-talkin' on th' other side o' th'
pile, an' in a minute I was wide awake, fer I knowed one o' th' voices
belonged t' Dan Nolan."

Jack paused to enjoy the effect of the words. He could certainly find
no fault with his audience on the score of inattention. Allan and Mr.
Schofield were regarding him with rapt countenances; and at the last
words, Nevins, too, had started to a strained attention, his quick,
uneven breathing attesting his agitation.

"Yes, it was Nolan," Jack repeated, "an' th' other one was that felly
there," and he indicated Nevins with a motion of the finger.

"'Well, did ye do it?' Nolan asked.

"'Yes, I done it,' said th' other. 'How about th' freight?'

"'I left her three mile back,' says Nolan, 'with th' wust hot-box ye iver
see. An' when she tries t' start she'll find an air-hose busted. She
can't git here till way arter seven.'

"'Th' special'll be along about seven-five, I think,' says Nevins, 'an'
it'll be a-comin' a mile a minute.'

"'Bully!' says Nolan, an' laughs to himself. 'I guess that prig'll hev
suthin' t' think about th' rest of his life. I guess he won't stay much
longer with _this_ road.'

"I knowed they was talkin' about Allan," Jack went on, "and I tell you my
blood was a-boilin' considerable; it was all I could do t' keep myself
from jumpin' up an' grabbin' them two scoundrels an' knockin' their heads
together till I'd smashed 'em. But I couldn't see yet jest what it was
they was up to. So I thought I'd set still an' try t' find out. An' purty
soon I _did_ find out.

"'But you've got t' git th' order back on th' hook,' says Nolan. 'If y'
don't, it'll be you who'll suffer an' not that rat.'

"'Niver worry,' says Nevins, 'I'll git it back. I've pervided fer all

"Even yet I couldn't understand," Jack added. "I couldn't believe that
any two human bein's would be sich divils as them words'd indicate. I
thought mebbe I was dreamin', but I pinched myself an' it hurt. Then I
thought mebbe I hadn't heerd right. I jest _couldn't_ b'lieve my own ears.

"'Well, I can't stay here,' says Nevins. 'I must be gittin' over by th'
shanty. I've got t' watch my chance.'

"'I'll go along,' says Nolan. 'Mebbe I kin help. Anyway, I'm a-goin' t'
stay till th' thing comes off.'

"They come around from behind th' pile o' ties, and I see them run across
th' track an' dodge in among that little grove o' saplings down yonder.
In a minute, they come out at th' edge by the shanty, an' I see one
o' them creep up an' look through th' windy. Then he fell flat on th'
ground, an' I see Allan git up an' come t' th' door. Th' semyphore and
train-signal both showed a clear track. I jumped up t' start acrost an'
warn him, an' jest then I heerd th' special whistle. I knowed then what
'd happen unless somethin' was done mighty quick t' keep th' special from
runnin' past. I grabbed out th' torpedy an' jabbed it over th' rail,
an' then started on a run fer th' shanty, but th' special was comin'
lickety-split, an' I hadn't hardly gone a rod afore it come singin'
along. I stopped t' see what'd happen when it hit that torpedy. I knowed
they'd be some mighty lively times fer a minute."

"There were," said Mr. Schofield, ruefully, and rubbed an abrasion on his

"An' then," Jack continued, "my heart jumped right up in my throat, fer
I heerd that freight come chuggin' up th' grade. It hadn't been held
as long as Nolan thought it would, an' it looked to me fer a minute
as though th' trains'd come t'gether right by the semyphore. But that
special was comin' like greased lightnin'. I see th' signal go up with a
jerk, then th' ingine hit my torpedy, and th' brakes went on. I turned
around t' see what Allan was doin', an' I see him kind o' keel over in
th' door. An' then I see somethin' else--I see that scoundrel there raise
th' windy, put th' stick under it, climb up to th' sill, lean in an' do
somethin'--I couldn't tell jest what."

"I know what it was," said Mr. Schofield, his eyes flashing and his face
very stern. "He replaced on the hook the order covering the freight,
which he had taken away with him."

"Well," said Jack, "I knowed it was some deviltry, an' I started fer him
as fast as my legs'd carry me. He slid back t' th' ground, an' reached
up his hand t' let th' windy down agin, an' then he heerd me comin'.
He jest took one look, an' then lighted out across th' fields, over
fences, through a strip o' woods back yonder, up a hill an' down th'
other side--me after him, an' gainin'--fer I was goin' t' ketch him,
if I dropped dead th' next minute. I reckon we must 'a' run three or
four mile, an' he wasn't more'n a hunderd feet ahead o 'me, when I see
him stop sudden, run a little way t' th' right, then stoop an' pick up
somethin'. I was almost on him, when he throwed it at me, an' it was a
rock," Jack added, "with a sharp edge, an' it went through my hat an'
caught me in the head. If it hadn't been fer th' hat, I reckon I'd been
stretched out then and there.

"But at th' time, I didn't hardly feel I was hit. I jest jumped fer him,
an' over we went together, clawin' like Kilkenny cats, into a ditch half
full o' mud. It was that had stopped him, but I didn't see it till I
was right on it, an' it was too late then t' stop. Well, that mud was
somethin' fierce--but ye kin jedge fer yerselves," he added, with an
expressive gesture at his bedraggled attire and that of his opponent.

"It didn't last very long, though," he added, "or I reckon we'd both
been suffycated. I got one good lick at his eye, and then got a hold of
his neck, an' he jest wilted. He wasn't no match fer me, nohow--he's too
long an' spindle-legged. Well, I managed t' git him out o' th' ditch, an'
marched him back here,--an' that's all," he added, abruptly.

For a moment Mr. Schofield did not speak, but sat looking at Nevins with
an expression of loathing as though that worthy were something venomous
and unclean.

"Nevins," he said, at last, "I have known a good many cold-blooded
scoundrels in my day, but none to compare with you. I believe I am
speaking the exact truth when I say that hanging would be too good for
you. You are a disgrace to humankind--you ought to be hunted off the
earth like vermin--you and that rascally comrade of yours."

Nevins shivered and shrank together under the withering tone.

"How did you get mixed up with such a scoundrel?" asked the trainmaster,
at last.

"He--he made me," Nevins blurted out. He had intended, at first, to deny
everything, to brazen it out, to affirm his innocence of any wrong-doing.
But the net of evidence had been drawn too tightly around him; he saw
there was no possible chance of escape.

"_Made_ you?" repeated Mr. Schofield. "You mean he had a hold of some
kind upon you?"

"He--I was afraid of him," muttered Nevins, sullenly. "He said he wanted
to get even with West for sending him to the pen."

"And you agreed to help? Not only that, it was you who furnished the
plan. I know very well that Nolan hasn't sense enough to work out such a
pretty one."

"He said he wanted to get even with West," Nevins repeated. "He wanted
to break him, to disgrace him, to make him lose his job, to give him
something to think about all the rest of his life."

"Yes, it was a pretty plan," said Mr. Schofield, musingly; "about the
most fiendish I ever heard of. Suppose you tell us how it was worked."

Nevins grinned cunningly.

"I'm not going to incriminate myself," he said "I'm not such a fool."

Mr. Schofield made a gesture of impatience.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "You can't incriminate yourself any more than
you are incriminated. Besides, all I'm going to do to you is fire you,
and I'd do that if you never spoke another word in your life. I've said
hanging is too good for you, but I'm going to let somebody else take the
trouble of having you convicted. This won't be your last scrape--unless
you make a decided 'bout face! But I'll get Nolan," he added. "I'll get
Nolan, if it takes a dozen years."

"Oh, all right," said Nevins, looking vastly relieved. "You're welcome
to Nolan; and I'm going to get as far away from here as my money will
carry me. I don't want to see Nolan, myself. It was this way. I heard
that order for the freight sent to West Junction, and then, pretty soon,
came the order for the special to me. Nolan was here in the office at the
time, and I remarked to him that if the freight could be held up half an
hour or so after it left West Junction, it would be just the chance he
was looking for.

"'I'll fix that,' he said, 'if you'll keep that order off the hook.'

"I promised him I would, and he ran out and hooked on to a freight that
was just pulling out for Wadsworth. He dropped off at West Junction, and
it was pretty dark by that time, so he was able to remove the dope and
packing from one of the journal-boxes of the D. W. & I. freight without
any one seeing him. Then the train started, and he got aboard, and rode
back on it until the hot-box stopped it. Then he dropped off, cut an
air-hose, to be sure they couldn't get here ahead of time, and then
started to walk the rest of the way back.

"I put the order in my pocket, went to supper as soon as West relieved
me, and then hurried back so that I would be sure to get the order back
on the hook. The only thing I was afraid of was that Nolan wouldn't be
able to hold the freight long enough, and that it would pull in here
ahead of the special. I was pretty sure, though, that even in that case I
could get the order back on the hook without any one seeing me. I left my
lunch-basket behind, and if there hadn't been any other way, I was going
back after it, and jab the order on the hook when West wasn't looking. So
there wasn't much risk, after all."

"No," said Mr. Schofield, bitterly, "not for you. But how about the
people in the special?"

"Well," answered Nevins, deliberately, "I don't believe I fully realized
what was going to happen until the special came singing down the track.
Then I turned sort of sick at my stomach; but I kept my head enough to
raise the window, and put the order on the hook. Then I heard that fellow
coming for me and lit out. But I wasn't fast enough."

"I'd 'a' got you," remarked Jack, grimly, "if I'd had to chase you clear
across to 'Frisco."

"All right," said Nevins, who, in telling his story, had regained a
little of his cheerfulness. "You beat me fairly. And I'm glad the wreck
didn't happen. Now, if you gentlemen will permit me, I will bid you a
fond adieu."

"Good-bye," answered Mr. Schofield. "Write me where you are, the first
of the month, and the pay due you will be sent on to you. And if I were
you, I'd let this experience teach me a lesson. You're young yet. You can
get back all you've lost. And remember, besides any question of right or
wrong, it pays to be honest, to do right; for every one who is dishonest
or does wrong is sure to suffer for it."

"I've found that out," agreed Nevins. "I don't believe I'll forget it,"
and he opened the door, from in front of which Jack moved grudgingly, and
vanished into the outer darkness. In that instant, too, he vanished from
this story, for by daybreak he was speeding west toward Cincinnati. There
he bought a ticket for Denver, and somewhere in the west, at the present
day, he is no doubt living--let us hope honestly and usefully.



The lamp seemed to shine more brightly and the air of the office seemed
somehow clearer and cleaner when the door shut behind Nevins and the
sound of his footsteps died away. Mr. Schofield arose and shook himself,
as though to rid himself of some infection. Then he glanced at his watch.
It was nearly midnight.

"It's time I was getting back to town," he said. "I've got to join the
special again in the morning. Isn't there an extra west about due here?"

"Yes, sir," Allan answered. "There's one due in about ten minutes."

"Well, I'll take it; I dare say the conductor can fix me up a berth in
the caboose. You'd better come with me, Jack," he added, as Allan set
the signal to stop the train. "Your wife's probably trying to figure out
what's happened to you, and I think she's entitled to an explanation."

"Not much sleep will she be gittin' this night," Jack chuckled. "She'll
be havin' me tell th' whole story foive times, at least!"

"And, by the way, Allan," went on Mr. Schofield, casually, "you needn't
report for duty to-morrow night."

Allan's face flushed. Of course there would have to be an investigation.
He had forgotten that.

"Very well, sir," he said, quietly, though he could hear the heavy
breathing which told that Jack Welsh did not think it well, at all.

"Because you know," the trainmaster went on, smiling queerly, "that the
day trick here is vacant now, and, of course, it naturally falls to
you. I will get some extra man to take it to-morrow, so that you can
get a good night's rest--you need it. You will report for duty the next

Allan's heart was in his throat, and he dared not trust himself to speak,
but he held out his hand, and the trainmaster gripped it warmly.

"And I'm mighty glad," said Mr. Schofield, not wholly unaffected himself,
"that you've come out of this affair so well. I was afraid for a time
that you wouldn't--and I couldn't have felt any worse if it had been
my own boy. There she comes," he added, in another tone, as a whistle
sounded far down the line. "Come on, Welsh; we mustn't keep her waiting.
Good-bye, Allan," and he sprang down the steps.

But Allan held Jack back for a whispered word.

"After all, Jack," he said, brokenly, squeezing the broad, honest, horny
palm in both his own, "it was you who saved the train, not I. You
deserve the reward, if there's to be one. I didn't do anything--only
stood staring here like a fool--"

"Cut it out, boy; cut it out," broke in Jack, gruffly. "You did all ye
could. I jest happened t' be there."

"But oh, Jack, if you hadn't been! And no one would ever have known who
caused the wreck! Every one would have thought it was my fault!"

"I know three people who wouldn't!" protested Jack. "Their names is Mary,
Mamie, an' Jack Welsh!"

"Nonsense, Jack," said Allan, laughing, though his eyes were bright with
tears. "Why, I'd have thought so myself!"

"There's th' train," broke in Jack, hastily. "See ye in th' mornin'," and
tearing himself away, he followed Mr. Schofield down the steps.

Allan, watching from the door, saw them jump aboard the caboose before it
had fairly stopped. The trainmaster exchanged a word with the conductor,
who swung far out and waved his lantern to the engineer; and as Allan
lowered the signal to show a clear track, the train gathered way again
and sped westward into the night, toward Wadsworth. He watched it until
the tail lights disappeared in the darkness, then he turned back into
the little room and sat down before his key, his heart filled with

The dispatcher at headquarters, calling Byers Junction to send a message
to the trainmaster, soon found out that he was aboard the freight, and in
consequence that fortunate train was given a clear track, and covered the
twenty-eight miles to Wadsworth in forty-five minutes. One o'clock was
striking as Jack Welsh climbed the steep flight of steps that led to his
front door. At the top, he found a shawled figure waiting.

"Why, Mary," said he, "you'll be ruinin' your health, me darlint, stayin'
up so late."

"Yes," she retorted, "an' I'll be goin' crazy, worritin' about ye.
Where've ye been, Jack Welsh?"

"Niver ye mind. Is my supper ready?"

"Supper? Ye mane breakfast, don't ye?"

"Call it what ye like, so it's fillin'. Fer I've got an awful emptiness
inside me. Didn't I send ye word by Dan Breen that I'd be a little late?"

"An' do ye call one o'clock in th' mornin' a little late?" she queried,
with irony.

"Well," said Jack, tranquilly, walking on through toward the kitchen,
"that depends on how ye look at it. Some folks might call it a little

A lamp was burning on the kitchen table, and as Jack came within its
circle of light, Mary, who was close behind, saw for the first time the
condition of his clothes.

"Jack!" she screamed, and rushed up to him, and then she saw the piece
of court-plaster on his forehead, as well as the various minor bumps and
contusions which he had received. "Have ye been fightin'?" she demanded,

"Yes, darlint," answered Jack, cheerfully.

"An' got hurted?" and she touched the wound tenderly.

"Only a scratch, Mary; ye ought t' see th' other felly."

"Who was he, Jack?"

"His name's Nevins--but ye don't know him."

"Tell me about it," she commanded, her eyes blazing. "All about it!"

"Well, it's a long story, darlint," said Jack, teasingly, "an' I don't
feel quite ekal to it on an empty stomach. I guess I'd better go over t'
th' daypo restaurant an' git a snack. I ain't had nothin' t' eat since
noon o' yistidday."

"O' course I kept your supper hot fer ye, Jack," she assured him,
softening instantly. "You go git washed an' git into some clean clothes,
so you'll look a little less like a hobo, an' I'll have it on th' table
in a jiffy."

Mary Welsh was one of those admirable housekeepers whom no emergency
finds unprepared. Jack's supper had long ago evaporated and dried up in
the process of keeping it warm; even the tenderest steak, kept in an
oven for seven hours, will acquire a leathery texture and a flavour of
old shoes. But a fresh piece of steak was frying in a moment, and some
sliced potatoes sputtering in the pan beside it; the coffee-pot was set
on again, and the pantry rummaged for such supplies as it could furnish.
It was some little time before Jack reappeared, for he had to change his
clothes from the skin out, as well as get the mud off the skin itself.
When, at last, he did come down the stairs, the meal, fresh, appetizing,
and smoking hot, was awaiting him on the table.

"Mary, you're a jewel," he said, as he drew up his chair, and fell to.

"Yes," she observed, dryly, "I've allers heerd that th' way to a man's
heart is through his stomach."

"Well, I'd rather have me heart in me belly than in me pocketbook,"
retorted Jack. "Lucky I had on me old clothes," he added; "they'll niver
be fit t' wear agin."

Mary sat down opposite him expectantly.

"Oh, I don't know," she said. "Mebbe I kin wash 'em an' patch 'em so's
they'll be all right, Jack."

"All right fer a scarecrow, mebbe, but not fer a swell like me. Now,
Mary, you go ahead an' tell me all that's happened, while I finish me

"But there hain't anything happened t' me, Jack," she protested, filling
his empty cup. "I jest stayed at home, an' seen Allan off, an' got your
supper. An' then Dan Breen come an' said you'd be late. He'd seen ye git
on th' accommydation an' thought mebbe you'd been called out on th'
road somewheres. So I put Mamie to bed, an' then jest set an' waited. It
seemed an awful long time."

Jack pushed his empty plate away from him, and glanced at the clock,
which was ticking merrily away on the mantelpiece.

"Why, it's half-past one!" he cried, in mock amazement. "We must be
gittin' t' bed, Mary. We won't want t' git up at all in th' mornin',"
but Mary was not alarmed, for she saw him fumbling in his pocket for his
pipe, and knew that the story would not be long delayed.

Nor was it. Once the pipe was started, the story started, too, and Mary
listened to every word with rapt attention, only interrupting from time
to time, as it progressed, with an exclamation of astonishment or anger.
When he had finished, she jumped up and came around the table to him, and
kissed him and hugged him and even cried over him a little, for she loved
him with her whole big Irish heart.

"Why, Jack, darlint," she cried, "you're a reg'lar hayro--like one reads
about in th' story-books."

"A hayro!" echoed Jack, with a roar of laughter which was promptly
stilled for fear of waking Mamie. "Listen to ye! Jack Welsh a hayro!"

"You're my hayro, anyway," said Mary, softly, as they mounted the stairs
together to their bedroom.

One morning, about two weeks later, Mr. Schofield sat at his desk in his
office, looking through his mail.

"You knew that Penlow is going to resign on the first?" he asked,
glancing across at the chief-dispatcher, who sat facing him on the other
side of the broad expanse of quartered oak.

"Yes--what's the matter?"

"Well, he's getting old. He's been roadmaster nearly twenty years; and I
guess he's laid up a snug little fortune--enough to keep him the rest of
his life. I think he's sensible to quit when he's got enough."

"Yes--more sensible than lots of us who keep right on working till we
drop. Who are you going to appoint in his place?"

"Well," answered Mr. Schofield, slowly, "it will go naturally to one of
the section-foremen--and I'm going to offer it to the best one on the

The roadmaster, it may be remarked in passing, is a sort of magnified
section-foreman. He has general supervision over a number of sections
forming a subdivision, and all the foremen on that subdivision report to
him. He has charge of all the track forces employed on his subdivision,
and is responsible for keeping the track, fences, road-bed, bridges,
culverts, and everything else pertaining to the roadway, in repair. He
is supposed to spend most of his time out on his division, and to know
every foot of it more intimately and minutely than any one else. He must
be sure that the men under him understand their duties and perform them
properly; he must attend in person to the removal of landslides, snow, or
other obstructions, and in case of accident must take the necessary force
to the place and use every effort to clear the road. Officially, he is
known as a supervisor, and it will be seen that his position is one of
considerable importance and responsibility.

"I'm going to offer it to the best one," repeated Mr. Schofield.

"I think I know who you mean," said the chief-dispatcher, smiling. "He'll
be all right."

"Yes, he's a good man; and he's done more for this road than most of us.
I'd probably be a dead man by now and you'd be filling my shoes, if it
hadn't been for him. That may not seem to you a cause for unmitigated
rejoicing, but it does to me. I'm not quite ready, yet, to pass in my
checks. It was really he, you know, who prevented that accident at Byers.
If it hadn't been prevented, this road would have needed a whole new
complement of general officers. The old ones would have been wiped out."

The chief-dispatcher nodded.

"Found any trace of Nolan?"

"No--not a trace," and Mr. Schofield's face clouded. "I've had our
detectives scouring that whole country, but he seems to have disappeared
completely. I believe he has left for other parts. I only hope he'll
stay there. If I could catch him, I'd have him back in the pen. in short

He looked up as some one entered, and saw that the newcomer was Jack
Welsh, who came in with a slightly sheepish air, holding his cap in his

"I dunno what Misther Schofield wants t' see me fer," he had said to his
wife that morning, when the trainmaster's message was delivered to him.
"I ain't been doin' nothin' t' git hauled up on th' carpet fer."

"O' course you ain't," agreed Mary, warmly, instantly championing his
cause. "An' don't ye take none o' his lip, Jack. Give him as good as he

"All right, darlint," and Jack chuckled. "O' course it don't matter if I
lose me job. You kin take in washin'. An' I'm feelin' th' need o' resting
fer a year or two, anyway. So I'll slug him in th' eye if he ain't
properly respectful."

Yet the sheepishness in Jack's demeanour, as he stood before the
trainmaster, was not due to any feeling of subserviency or false modesty.
It was rather embarrassment because of unfamiliar surroundings, and
because of the many eyes centred upon him and the many ears straining to
hear what would follow.

"Good morning, Welsh," said Mr. Schofield, with a gruffness assumed for
the occasion. "How is everything on Twenty-one?"

"All right, so far as I know, sir," answered Jack.

"So far as you know?"

"Well, ye see, sir, I ain't been over it since yistidday evenin'. No
tellin' what's happened in the night."

"Does anything ever happen to it in the night?"

"Yes, sir; sometimes a hoss gits acrost a cattle-guard, and a train hits
him an' musses up the road-bed frightful. An' them porters on th' diners
are allers throwin' garbage off th' back platform,--t' say nothin' o'
th' passengers, who don't seem t' do nothin' but stuff theirselves with
oranges, an' banannys an' apples, an' drop th' remains out th' windy.
Th' porters ort t' be ordered t' take their garbage int' th' terminals
an' git rid of it there, an' th' passengers ort t' be pervided with
waste-baskets t' receive sech little odds an' ends as they can't swaller."

"I'll think of it," said Mr. Schofield, making a note on a pad of paper
at his elbow. "I don't know but what the suggestion is a good one. And
now, Welsh, I'm sorry to say that we'll have to get a new foreman for
Section Twenty-one."

Jack blinked rapidly for a moment as though he had received a blow
between the eyes. Then he pulled himself together.

"All right, sir," he said, quietly. "When must I quit?"

"On the first. Who's the best man in your gang?"

"Reddy Magraw knows all th' ins an' outs o' section-work, sir. He'd make
a good foreman."

Mr. Schofield made another note on the pad.

"Penlow's also going to quit on the first," he remarked, casually,
without looking up.

"Not fired, sir?" asked Jack, quickly. "I know he's old, but he's a
mighty good man."

"No; he resigned. Going to take the world easy. You're to take his place."

For a moment, Jack seemed not to understand. Then his face turned very
red; a profuse perspiration broke out across his forehead. He mopped it
away with his big red handkerchief, and I dare say, dabbed his eyes once
or twice, for his first thought was of Mary's joy when she should hear
the news.

"Ye could find a better man fer it, Mr. Schofield," he said, at last.

"No, I couldn't," retorted the trainmaster; "not if I searched this
division from end to end. You're the best section-foreman we've got,
Welsh, and you'll make the best roadmaster we've ever had. And I may add
that I'm mighty glad of the chance to give you a promotion which you
richly deserve. There isn't a man in the employ of this road--no, not
from the superintendent down--who has done more for it than you have. The
road never forgets such services."

The dispatchers had come crowding to the door, and in the corridor
outside a group of trainmen had stopped, attracted by this unusual
orating. And when the trainmaster stopped and wrung Welsh's hand, there
was a little burst of applause, for every man on the road knew and liked
Jack Welsh. This public commendation completed his confusion, and he
stumbled from the room and down the stairs, looking as though he had
received a whipping. It was some time before he could gather courage to
go home; and when he finally got there, he found the news had preceded
him. Reddy Magraw had heard it and had rushed over to congratulate
him--so Mary was waiting for him, her eyes alight, and she hugged him and
kissed him and made much of him.

"Though it's no more than ye deserve, Jack," she said, at last. "Indade,
it's not so much. Why, Reddy tells me that Mr. Schofield stood up there
before th' whole crowd an' said you was th' best man on th' road, from
th' sup'rintindint down."

"I'll break Reddy's head when I ketch him," threatened Jack. "But o'
course I was dissipinted that they didn't make me gineral manager. I told
Mr. Schofield so, an' he said I should 'a' had th' job, only it didn't
happen t' be vacant."

       *       *       *       *       *

Back in the offices, Mr. Schofield continued the work of going through
his mail, another big batch of which had just been brought in. Among
the letters he opened, was a long, portentous-looking one from general
headquarters. He glanced through it and chuckled.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," he remarked. "That narrow
escape at Byers has convinced the general officers that we need a double
track there. That shaking up they got did more good than all the talk
we could have talked. We can go ahead with it as soon as we like," and
he tossed the letter across the desk to the chief-dispatcher, his face
shining. "I don't know anything that could have pleased me more," he
added. "It means so much to this division. Do you know, George, I'm glad
things happened just as they did! Providence certainly had its eye on us
that time!"



Allan, meanwhile, had assumed the day trick at Byers Junction--a position
carrying with it increased responsibilities, and, it may be added, an
increased salary. He had long ago started an account at the Wadsworth
Savings Bank, to which he was now able to make a substantial addition
every month.

Only one incident served to mar the pleasure of those first days in his
new position. Jim Anderson had come to him one evening with a face in
which joy and sorrow struggled for the mastery.

"Read that," he said, and thrust a letter into Allan's hand.

Allan opened it and read. It was a letter from an uncle, a brother of
Jim's father. The two had been estranged by family differences years
before, and the brother, who had moved to Philadelphia and engaged in
business there, had dropped entirely out of the other's life. Now he
was writing that his own wife and child were dead, that he was getting
old and lonely, and that he would be glad to have his brother's son
and widow live with him. He could offer the latter a good home, and the
former would be sent to college, and drilled to succeed his uncle in
business. Although he did not say so, it was evident from the letter that
if Jim proved worthy, he would take the place left vacant by the death of
his uncle's own boy.

"Well," asked Jim, when Allan had finished, "what do you think of it?"

"Think of it? Why, I think it's fine! Don't you?"

"I don't know," said Jim, hesitatingly. "For one thing, I don't want to
leave Wadsworth. For another thing, I want to be a machinist."

"Well, here's a chance to be a big one. There are scientific courses at
college which will give you just what you need. You won't have to work in
the shops all your life--you can be bigger than all that."

"Then you'd advise me to go?"

"I certainly should," answered Allan, warmly. "Though I'll miss you
awfully," he added.

"I tell you what," said Jim, "maybe I can persuade uncle to--"

But Allan interrupted him with a shake of the head.

"No," he said; "it's not the same. You're his nephew and have a claim
upon him--besides, you're going to take his son's place. I haven't any

And Jim, looking at him, decided to say no more about it.

"But I'll come over and visit you," Allan promised, "the first vacation I

So a few evenings later, he saw Jim and Mrs. Anderson off on their way to
Philadelphia, and then walked slowly homeward, a very lonely boy.

Now that his evenings were again his own, he spent many of them at the
Wadsworth Public Library, and also bought some carefully selected books
of his own--which is about the best investment any boy can make. Every
boy ought to have for his very own the books which he likes best, and
these should be added to every year, as the boy's taste changes and
matures, so that his library will come to be a sort of index of his
growth and development. Not many books, but loved ones, should be the

Allan had, in his common-school education, a splendid foundation on which
to build, and on this he reared a beautiful and noble edifice--an edifice
which any boy who wishes can rear for himself--of acquaintance with the
best books. This house of the imagination, with its lofty halls and great
rooms, and gilded towers, was empty enough at first, but it soon became
peopled with most engaging friends,--among them John Halifax, Tom Pinch,
John Ridd, David Copperfield, D'Artagnan and his three comrades, Henry
Esmond, Amyas Leigh, and that sweetest, bravest of all maidens, Lorna
Doone. He accompanied great travellers to far countries; he fought with
Richard Lion Heart against Saladin, with Napoleon against Wellington;
with Washington against Howe and Clinton and Cornwallis. He read of the
gallant Bayard, fearless and without reproach, of King Arthur and his
knights, and something of the beauty and romance of chivalry entered
into his own soul. In a word, he was gaining for himself a priceless
possession--a possession worth more to its owner than gold, or silver,
or precious stones; a continual delight and never-failing comfort--a
knowledge of good books.

The librarian advised him as to the best editions to buy for his own
use, and he soon found that nearly all the great books were published
in little volumes to be slipped easily into the pocket, and costing not
more than fifty or sixty cents each. It was these little volumes which
he grew especially to love--they were so companionable, so pretty, and
yet so strong and serviceable. He got into the habit of putting one into
his pocket every morning. He could read it on the train, going out and
returning, and during the day in such odd times as his work permitted.
It is wonderful how much one can accomplish in the way of reading by
watching the spare moments; Allan realized, as he had never done before,
how much of every day he had wasted. The time that had been lost was lost
for ever; but the present and the future were his, and he determined to
make the most of them.

No one can associate with wise and witty and gallant people, even in
books, without showing the effects of it. Some of their wisdom and wit
and gallantry, be it never so little, passes to the reader; he learns to
look at the world and the people in it with more discerning eyes; life
gains a larger meaning; it becomes more full of colour and interest. The
result, in the end, is what, for want of a better word, we call culture;
a word meaning originally the tilling and cultivating of the ground,
and afterwards coming to be applied to the tilling and cultivating of
the mind. Its most valuable result is the acquirement of what we call
taste--another clumsy word and inexpressive, by which we mean the power
to discern and to enjoy the right things--good literature, good music,
good pictures--and to know and to reject the wrong things.

It was this faculty which Allan was gradually acquiring--so slowly and
subtly that the change was not perceptible from day to day--scarcely from
month to month. But at the end of a year, he was quite a different boy;
he had grown mentally and physically; he was getting more out of life; he
was beginning to understand the people about him; he could distinguish
the gold from the dross, the true from the sham; and the more this power
grew, the more did his respect and love and admiration grow for the
humble friends among whom his lot was cast. They were genuine and true,
speaking from the heart, happy without envy, honest and kind, ready to
excuse and to forget another's fault and to reach out a helping hand to
any one who needed it. He began to see, dimly and imperfectly, that the
great, warm heart of America beats, not in the mansions of the rich, but
in the humble and unpretentious homes scattered up and down this great
land of ours, each sheltering a little family, living its own life,
struggling toward its own ideals, and contributing its own mite to the
world's happiness and progress.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nearly a year had passed; a year of which every day had brought its
pleasures and its duties. Allan had become one of the best operators
on the road; the difficult business of the position at Byers Junction
he handled easily and without confusion. He had gained confidence in
himself. The trainmen liked him, for they found him ever willing and
helpful; they respected him, too, for his decisions were prompt and
intelligent and always just. The dispatchers knew they could rely on
him, and the business of the junction was left more and more under his
control. In fact, he came to be himself a sort of dispatcher over those
eight miles of track between his office and West Junction.

As he stands in the door of the office this spring morning, watching a
passenger-train which has stopped at the big tank to take water, he is
worth looking at. His face is not handsome, as we use the word, but
it is frank and open, with a manliness beyond its years. His eyes are
blue-gray, clear, and direct; his mouth is a little large, with sensitive
lips and a quirk at the corner which shows a sense of humour--altogether
an attractive face and one to inspire liking and confidence.

A good many people had left the train, during its halt, to stretch
themselves and get a breath of fresh air. These clambered on board again,
at the conductor's signal, and after a preliminary puff or two, the train
started slowly, clinking over the switch, and rattling away westward. A
moment later, Allan's eyes caught a glint of colour at the edge of the
little grove of saplings near the office, and a girl, carrying a bouquet
of wild flowers, ran up the little bank to the track. She stood for an
instant staring after the disappearing train, took a quick step or two as
if to follow it, then, evidently seeing the uselessness of such pursuit,
turned and walked slowly toward the operator's shanty. Not until she was
quite near did Allan recognize her; then, with a curious little leap of
the heart, he saw that it was the girl who had rushed into Superintendent
Heywood's office one day long ago, to summon him to his train. Allan
remembered that her father had called her Bess.

She came up the little cinder path and stopped before the door without
any hint of recognition in her eyes.

"Can you tell me when the next train for Wadsworth leaves?" she asked.

"Not until five-nine," he answered.

"And it is now?"

"It is now one-fifty-one."

"Oh, dear," she sighed, and he saw that in the year which had intervened
since he had seen her last, she had grown more distractingly pretty than
ever--more mature and womanly. "Well," she continued, her foot on the
lowest step, "I suppose I may as well come in and sit down. This is the
station, isn't it?"

"This is the operator's office," he said. "The Byers station is that
frame building you can just see up the track yonder."

"It seems an awful way," she remarked, gazing pensively in the direction
of his gesture.

"It's nearly half a mile; altogether too far for you to walk," said
Allan, with conviction.

"Oh, then I may stay here?"

"You certainly may," Allan hastened to assure her, and placed his best
chair at her disposal. "But it isn't--well--palatial."

She glanced around the dingy little room, with its rusty stove, its
primitive lavatory, its rough, clapboarded walls, and then at the
fresh-faced young fellow anxiously awaiting the verdict.

"It's cosy," she said, and settled herself comfortably upon the chair.

"I'm afraid I don't keep it quite as tidy as I might," said Allan,
suddenly conscious that it was anything but tidy. "You see the old broom
wore out, and we haven't got a new one yet."

"Well, it's about time for spring house-cleaning, you know--do men ever
have spring house-cleaning?"

"This one will," Allan promised, and smiled down into her friendly eyes.

Just then the familiar signal, "31," which heralded the transmission of a
train-order, sounded from the table, and he sat down to receive it. After
it had been repeated and confirmed, he turned again to his guest.

"Hadn't I better wire your father," he asked, "that you are here and will
be home on Number Thirteen this evening?"

She stared at him in amazement.

"Why, how do you know who my father is?" she demanded.

"I happened to be in his office one day about a year ago, when you came
after him," he explained.

"Oh," she said, but she still looked at him a little doubtfully.

"My name's West," he added.

"Allan West?" There was a genuine interest in her eyes now. "Oh, I've
heard papa speak of you."

"Nothing very bad, I hope?"

"No--quite the contrary. Why," she added, gasping a little, as though
just realizing it, "then you're the boy who--who saved the pay-car and--"

"The very same," he interrupted, blushing in spite of himself. "Shall I
send the message?"

"Yes; please do. Papa will be worried when he comes to the train to meet
me and finds me not on it--especially as my coat and grip and umbrella
are. He'll think I've been kidnapped."

"You were left, then?" he asked.

"Yes; I was on my way home from visiting a friend at Deer Park, and was
so tired with sitting, that when the train stopped here to take water, I
thought I'd get off and walk the kinks out. Then I saw a beautiful patch
of these wake-robins and violets just at the edge of that little grove,
and I couldn't resist the temptation to gather a few; and I suppose I
must have gone into the grove deeper than I intended, for I didn't hear
the train start, and was never so astonished in my life as when I came
out on the track and found it gone."

Allan smiled at the earnestness with which she told the story.

"I'll wire your father," he said, and called up headquarters. For a few
minutes there was a sharp interchange of dots and dashes. Then Allan
closed the key and turned back to her.

"It's all right," he said. "He understands."

"I think it's perfectly wonderful your being able to talk to each other
that way," she commented. "What did he say?"

"He said," stammered Allan, confused by the sudden question; "he said it
was all right."

What Mr. Heywood really said was: "All right. Keep her there and bring
her in on thirteen, and don't make love to her any more than you can

She noticed the stammer and gazed at him with her clear eyes, which, he
saw now, were blue.

"Was that all he said?"

"Well, he said he'd meet you at the train this evening."

"Yes; and what else?"

"He said," answered Allan, floundering desperately, "that, if you had to
be left somewhere, he was glad it was here."

The Vision bent over ostensibly to brush an imaginary speck of dust from
her skirt, but in reality to conceal a smile. When she sat erect again,
her face was quite demure.

"So am I," she agreed. "It would have been horrible to be left at a place
where I didn't know any one--of course, I don't really know you," she
added, hastily, "but I've heard papa speak of you so much that you seem
to be a sort of friend of the family."

"I should like to be," he said, colouring at his own temerity.

"Well, it isn't so difficult. We're really rather a companionable family."

He gasped a little at the dazzling vista the words suggested.

"I don't know what I should have done," she went on, "if I had had to sit
here so long without any one to talk to or anything to read. Oh, you have
a book there," she added, noticing the little book which was lying open
face downward beside the key. "What is it?"

"This," answered Allan, laughing and picking up the thin little volume
bound in black, "is the book of rules. I'm afraid it wouldn't interest
you. But I have a splendid one in my pocket."

He went to his coat and got it out.

"Have you ever read it?" he asked as he handed it to her.

She glanced at the title.

"Les Misérables," she read, making rather a botch of it. "What does that

"'The miserable ones,' I think."

"I don't like to read about miserable people."

"Oh, they're not all miserable," he protested, taking the book eagerly,
and opening it. "The old bishop, for instance, Bishop Welcome--may I read
you something?"

She nodded, her eyes on his glowing face.

"The old bishop, you know, gave all his money to help others, went to
live in the little old hospital and made them move the beds to the
building which had always been the bishop's palace. He said it was all a
mistake--that there should be twenty-six people crowded together in that
little building, while the big one next door had only him and his sister
and his housekeeper in it. He never locked his door, and came to be so
loved by the people that they called him Bishop Welcome. Let me read you
this chapter," and he turned to the seventh of the first book. "I don't
pronounce the French names very well, but you mustn't mind."

"I won't," she promised, and settled herself more comfortably in her
chair. He interested her strangely--he was somehow different from the
other boys she knew. They never talked to her in this way.

And he began to read her the account of the bishop's meeting with
that redoubtable brigand, Cravatte, a bold wretch who had organized a
band of outlaws, and even robbed the cathedral at Embrun of all its
gold-embroidered vestments. In the midst of the excitement, the bishop
arrived, on the way to visit his parishioners in the mountains. His
friends attempted to persuade him to turn back.

"'There exists, yonder in the mountains,' said the bishop, 'a tiny
community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years.
They need to be told of the good God now and then. What would they say to
a bishop who was afraid? What would they say if I did not go?'

"'But the brigands, monseigneur?'

"'Hold,' said the bishop, 'I must think of that. You are right. I may
meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God.'

"'But, monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!'

"'It may be that it is of this very flock of wolves that Jesus has
constituted me the shepherd. Who knows the ways of Providence?'

"'They will rob you!'

"'I have nothing.'

"'Do not go, monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! you are risking your

"'Is that all?' asked the bishop. 'Well, I am not in the world to guard
my life, but to guard souls.'"

So he went, and the brigands did not harm him. He reached the little
village, and wished to celebrate a mass, but there were no vestments.
Nevertheless, the mass was announced, and then one night there was left
at the house where the bishop was staying a great chest, and when it was
opened all the vestments which had been stolen from the cathedral were
found there, together with a paper reading, "From Cravatte to Bishop

"Wouldn't you like to do a thing like that?" asked Allan, with sparkling
eyes, when the chapter was finished.

And Bess Heywood nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

For a moment their hearts were very close together; for the wholesome,
generous heart of youth longs ever to do noble deeds; to emulate the
hero who "never turned his back, but marched breast forward;" to fight
with strong and valiant soul; to ride forth in knight-errantry, with
lance a-rest and sword on thigh, against wrong and treachery and deceit.
And well it is that youth dreams dreams and sees visions and makes high
resolves, however middle-age may laugh, and cynics sneer, and graybeards
shake their heads. For, in the words of Philip Sidney, "Who shoots at the
midday sun, though he be sure he shall never hit the mark, yet as sure he
is he shall shoot higher than he who aims but at a bush." So let youth
aim at the sun while it has heart for the venture; and leave crabbed age
to choose the bush for its mark if it will.



So the afternoon passed happily; with reading, with talking, with little
confidences, interrupted, now and then, by the busy instrument on the
table, or by some trainman stalking in to get his orders, and going out
with a knowing smile upon his lips. All too soon, as it seemed to Allan,
the night man came up the steps; for the first time in his experience,
Allan found the sight of him unwelcome. Ten minutes later, the train was
bearing him and Bess Heywood homewards. That half-hour journey never
seemed so short.

Mr. Heywood was awaiting them on the grimy Wadsworth platform.

"Thank you, Allan," he said, "for taking care of the runaway. I thought
she was old enough to travel alone, but it seems I was mistaken. I'll
have to send a nurse along hereafter."

"Good-bye, Allan," said the Vision, holding out her hand, and Allan was
quite shocked, when he took it, by its smallness and softness.


"Good-bye," he answered, but his tongue dared not pronounce her name.

He watched them until they disappeared in the darkness, then turned away
across the yards, meditating anxiously whether a Being with a hand so
small and soft, so evidently fragile, could long withstand the buffets of
a world so rude and harsh as this one.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, young lady," said Mr. Heywood, at the dinner-table that evening,
"I hope you were sufficiently punished for your thoughtlessness in
wandering away from your train."

"It wasn't such terrible punishment, papa," answered Bess. "I had a very
pleasant afternoon. I think Allan is just fine."

"So do I," agreed her father promptly. "He's a nice boy."

"And he knows such a lot," added Bess. "I felt a perfect booby."

"Quite a salutary feeling for a young lady," nodded her father.
"Especially for one who has always had an excellent opinion of herself."

"Oh, papa!" protested Bess. "I'm not conceited!"

"No, not that precisely," agreed her father; "but most girls, when they
get to be about eighteen, and have all the boys making sheep's-eyes at
them, begin to think that this world was made especially for them, and
that nobody else has any right in it, except perhaps to hustle around
and provide them with ribbons and chiffon ruffles. It's good for them to
get a hint, now and then, that the world is really something more than a
pedestal for them to stand on."

Bess sighed, a little dismally.

"I never understood before," she said, "how awfully I've been wasting my

"If you never waste any more, my dear, you'll have nothing to regret.
Most women don't wake up to the fact that they're wasting their time
until they're middle-aged, and by that time they've fallen into such a
habit of doing so that they can't change."

"I believe," added Bess, thoughtfully, "that I'll ask Allan to the party
I'm going to give next week."

"Do, by all means," said her father, heartily. "It will do you good, and
it won't hurt him."

So it came to pass, a few days later, that the postman mounted the steps
to the little Welsh cottage and left there a tiny envelope addressed to
"Mr. Allan West." Mary received it, and turned it over and over.

"It's from a girl," was her comment. "Bad cess to her. But I knowed
th' girls couldn't let sich a foine-lookin' lad as that alone. They'll
be makin' eyes at him, an' pertendin' t' edge away, an' all th' toime
invitin' him on--don't I know 'em!" And Mary grew quite warm with
indignation, entirely forgetting that she herself had been a girl once
upon a time, and an adept in all the arts of that pretty game of advance
and retreat which she now denounced so vigorously.

She laid the letter on Allan's plate, and noted the little shock of
surprise with which he found it there when he sat down to supper that

"Hello; what's this?" he asked, picking it up.

"It's a letter come fer ye this mornin'," answered Mary, and she and Jack
and Mamie all waited for him to open it, which he did with a hand not
wholly steady.

"'Miss Elizabeth Heywood,'" he read, "'requests the pleasure of Mr. Allan
West's company, Thursday evening, April 28th. Seven o'clock.'"

"Well, of all th' forrerd minxes!" burst out Mary. "Why, when I was a
girl, I'd a' no more thought o' writin' a young man t' come an' see me--"

Jack interrupted her with a roar of laughter.

"Why, Mary," he cried, "don't ye see! It's a party she's askin' him
to--th' sup'rintindint's daughter!"

"A party! Th' sup'rintindint's daughter!" and Mary paused between
jealousy for her boy and pride that he should have received such an

"An' of course he'll go," added Jack, with decision. "It's a shame t'
kape a foine felly like Allan shut up here with us old fogies."

"Well, I'll say this," said Mary, pouring out the coffee, "if he _does_
go, they won't be no finer lookin' young felly there."

And I am inclined to think that Betty Heywood thought so, too, when she
came forward to meet him that Thursday evening.

"How glad I am to see you," she said, with a bright smile of welcome.

As for Allan, he was for the moment tongue-tied. If she had been a vision
in her gray travelling-suit, what was she now, clad, as it seemed to him,
in a sparkling cloud of purest white? She noticed his confusion, and no
doubt interpreted it aright--as what girl would not?--for she went on,
without appearing to notice it:

"And I want my mother to know you. Here she is, over here," and she led
the way to a beautiful woman of middle age, who sat in a great chair at
one end of the room, the centre of a little court. "Mother, this is Allan

Mrs. Heywood held out to him a hand even smaller and softer than her

"I am glad to know you, my boy," she said. "Mr. Heywood has spoken so
much of you that I feel as though I had known you a long time. Won't you
sit down here by me awhile?"

Betty gave a little nod of satisfaction, and hurried away to meet some
other guests, whirling away with her the circle which had been about her
mother's chair. Allan sat down, thinking that he had never heard a voice
as sweet as Mrs. Heywood's.

"We invalids, you know," she went on, with a little smile, "must be
humoured. We can't go to people, so people must come to us. It's like
Mahomet and the mountain."

"I wasn't thinking of that," answered Allan, with a shy glance of
admiration, "but of the fisherman and the Princess."

"So you know your Arabian Nights!" said Mrs. Heywood, colouring faintly
with pleasure at the compliment. "That is right--every boy ought to know
them. But you make me feel a sort of impostor. I have used that reference
to Mahomet and the mountain all my life, but I don't know that I ever
really heard the story. Do you know it?"

"Bacon tells about it in one of his essays," Allan answered. "It seems
that Mahomet announced one day that he would call a hill to him, and
offer up prayers from the top of it. A great crowd assembled and Mahomet
called the hill again and again, but it didn't move, and finally, without
seeming worried or abashed, he announced that, since the mountain
wouldn't come to Mahomet, Mahomet would go to the mountain, and marched
away to it as proudly as though the mountain had obeyed him."

"That is the first time I ever heard the whole story," said Mrs. Heywood,
laughing, and she shot him a little observing glance, for he seemed an
unusual boy. Then she led him on to tell her something of himself, and
almost before he knew it, he was telling her much more than he had ever
thought to tell any one. There was a subtle sympathy about her--in her
smile, in her quiet eyes--which there was no resisting.

She sent him away, at last, to join the younger guests, but he did not
feel at ease with them, as he had with the older woman. They were all
polite enough, but youth is selfish, and Allan soon found that he and
they had few interests in common; there was nothing to talk about;
they had not the same friends, nor the same habits of thought; there
were no mutual recollections to laugh over, nor plans to make for next
day or next week. Of his hostess he saw very little, for her other
guests claimed her attention at every turn--Betty Heywood was evidently
immensely popular.

So Allan was glad, on the whole, when the time came to take his leave,
and as he walked homeward under the bright stars, he was forced to admit
that his first evening in society had been, in a way, a failure. He
resolved that he did not care for it and would not go again. Indeed,
he had no chance, for Bess Heywood's friends voted him a "stick," and
soon forgot all about him. Nor did that young lady herself preserve a
very vivid recollection of him, for her days were filled with other
duties and pleasures. Her mother's invalidism threw upon her much of the
responsibility of household management, and she was just at the age when
social claims are heaviest and most difficult to evade. Not that she
sought to evade them, for she enjoyed social relaxation, but in the whirl
of party and ball, of calling and receiving calls, the memory of that
afternoon in the operator's shanty at the Junction grew faint and far

And Allan, in the long evenings, buried himself in his books and banished
resolutely whatever dreams may have arisen in his heart, with such
philosophy as he possessed.

He soon had other things to think about. One of the dispatchers, in
a moment of carelessness, had issued contradictory orders which had
resulted in a wreck. In consequence he was compelled to seek a position
somewhere else, and everybody below him in the office moved up a notch.
The extra dispatcher was given a regular trick, and his place in
consequence became vacant.

A day or two later, Allan received a message from the trainmaster
ordering him to report at headquarters, and when he did so, he found that
he was to be initiated into the mysteries of the dispatchers' office.

"That is, if you want the job," added Mr. Schofield.

Allan pondered a moment. The responsibilities of such a position
frightened him. As an operator, he had only to carry out the orders sent
him; but as a dispatcher it would be his duty to issue those orders.
The difference was the same as that between the general of an army and
the private in the ranks. The private has only to obey orders, without
bothering as to their wisdom or folly; if a defeat follows, it is the
general who must answer for it. So each dispatcher has under him, for
eight hours every day, one hundred miles of track, and a regiment of
operators and trainmen, who must obey his orders without question. That
stretch of track is the battlefield, and the victory to be gained is to
move over it, without accident, and on time, such passenger and freight
trains as the business of the road demands. This is the problem which
confronts the dispatcher every time he sits down before his desk.

All this flashed through Allan's mind in that moment of reflection. And
yet he did not really hesitate. He knew that the only road of advancement
open to him lay through the dispatchers' office. There was no way around.
If he faltered now, he must remain an operator always.

"Of course I want the job, sir," he said. "The only question is whether
I'm good enough."

"Well, there's only one way to find out," said Mr. Schofield, grimly.
"The principal thing to remember is that never, under any circumstances,
must you lose your head. Keep cool, and you've got the battle half won.
But if you ever let the work get on your nerves, it's all over. You
don't remember Dan Maroney? He was before your time. Well, Maroney was
one of the best operators we had on the road, a bright fellow, and I
finally called him in to take the extra dispatcher's trick. He seemed
to pick up the work all right, and I hadn't any doubt he would make a
good dispatcher. One night, the regular dispatcher reported sick, and so
I sent for Dan. He took off his coat and sat down at the desk, and the
dispatcher who was going off duty explained to him how the trains lay
and what orders had been issued. Dan seemed to catch on all right, so
the other dispatcher put on his coat and went home. About twenty minutes
later, I happened into the office, and there was Dan, lying back in his
chair, white as a sheet and trembling like a leaf.

"'Why, what's the matter, Dan?' I asked. 'Are you sick?'

"'No, I ain't sick, Mr. Schofield,' he said, and grinned the ghastliest
grin I ever saw on a man's face. 'But I ain't fit for this job. I've lost
my nerve.'

"And, in fact, he was nearly scared to death. Well, we tried to bolster
him up and help him along, but it was no use. He'd lost his nerve, as
he said, and he never got it back again. He's agent and operator now at
Bluefield, and that's as far as he'll ever get. So whatever you do, don't
lost your nerve."

"I'll try not to," said Allan.

"I've often thought," added Mr. Schofield, "that a dispatcher was a good
deal like a lion-tamer. You know, the tamer enters the cage with perfect
safety so long as he keeps his beasts under control. But the moment he
loses his nerve, they seem to know it, some way, and perhaps he gets out
of the cage alive and perhaps he doesn't. If he does, he never dares go
back. He's lost his grip on the beasts and they no longer fear him. Well,
the railroad is like that. Lose your grip on it, and it's all over; the
only thing to do is to get out as quick as you can."

"I'm going to do my best," said Allan. "I'll look it right in the eye."

"Good. That's the spirit! You will report here for duty to-morrow morning
at seven o'clock. I'll send Jones out to Byers in your place."

And Allan left the office, resolved that whatever happened, he would keep
his nerve.



The dispatchers' office is, as has already been remarked, the brain of
the railroad. It is there that all orders relating to the movement of
trains originate; and these orders keep the blood circulating, as it
were--keep the system alive. Let the brain be inefficient, and this
movement becomes clogged and uncertain; traffic no longer flows smoothly,
as it does when the brain is well. Fortunately, the brain of a railroad
can be replaced when it breaks down or wears out, and in so far the
road is superior to a mere human being, who has only one brain and can
never, by any possible means, get another. And so there is about the road
something terrible and remorseless.

Every one has heard the story of Frankenstein, that unfortunate scientist
who conceived the idea that he might make a man; who did really succeed
in manufacturing a being something akin to human shape, and in animating
it with life. But, alas, he could not give it a soul, and the monster
turned against its creator, pursuing him and his loved ones with
implacable fury and torturing them with fiendish delight. The railroad
is such a monster; made by man to be his servant, but greater than its
maker; grinding out men's lives, in its fury; wearing out their brains in
its service, and then discarding them; for the road must have always the
best, and the jaded and second-best must step down and out.

Nowhere is the ruthlessness of this great machine more evident than in
the dispatchers' office, for it is here that the strain is always at the
highest; and it is here, too, that deterioration is at once apparent, and
is swiftly and inexorably punished. A defect of judgment, a momentary
indecision, a mistake, and the delinquent's days as a train-dispatcher
are at an end.

In the office at Wadsworth there were always two dispatchers on duty.
One had charge of the hundred miles of track stretching eastward to
Parkersburg, and the other had charge of the hundred miles of track
stretching southwestward to Cincinnati. The first is called the east
end and the other the west end. There are six dispatchers, each of them
being on duty eight hours a day. The first trick begins at seven in the
morning and lasts till three in the afternoon; the second begins at three
and lasts till eleven at night, and the third begins at eleven and lasts
till seven in the morning. The new dispatcher begins with the third
trick, east end, and gradually works up, as the other places are made
vacant by promotions and dismissals, to the first trick, west end. From
there, he graduates to the chief-dispatchership, and on to trainmaster,
superintendent, general superintendent, and general manager. That is the
regular ladder of promotion--a ladder which, it may be added, very few
have the strength to climb.

All the men in the dispatchers' office of course knew Allan, and liked
him, and he received a hearty greeting when he arrived for his first
morning's instruction. He drew up a chair beside the first trick man on
the west end, popularly known as "Goody," not because of any fundamental
traits of character, but because his name happened to be Goodnough.
"Goody" had reached his present position of primacy by working up
regularly through the various grades, and train-dispatching had become
to him a sort of second nature. He was a good-humoured, companionable
fellow, with an inexhaustible fund of anecdote and a fondness for
practical jokes which not even advancing years and a twinge of rheumatism
now and then could diminish. It is related of him--but, there, to recount
half the things related of him would be to add another book to this

Allan, as we have said, drew up his chair beside him and took his first
real lesson in train-dispatching. He had, of course, a general idea of
how the thing was done, but never before had any one taken the time or
trouble to explain its intricacies to him. The dispatcher sat before a
long desk, on which, beside his key, sounder, bottle of ink, pens, and
so on, lay the train-sheet, upon which the movement of every train was
entered. The sheet, reduced to its simplest form, appears on the opposite

Just as Allan sat down, the operator at Harper's called up and reported
that Number Seven had passed there at 7.02. The dispatcher acknowledged
the message and wrote "7.02" in the column devoted to Train No. 7,
opposite Harper's. A moment later, the operator at Madeira reported the
passage of No. 70 at 6.04. This was also duly acknowledged and noted, and
so on through the day, the columns of figures on the sheet were added to,
showing the position, at that particular moment, of every train, freight
or passenger, on the west end of the division. On the opposite side of
the table sat the dispatcher in charge of the east end, recording, in a
precisely similar manner, the progress of the trains on his end of the

When a conductor and engineer are called, they report at once at the
dispatchers' office, where there is a registry-book which they must
sign. Passenger conductors and engineers, as well as passenger-engines,
have regular runs, which they always make unless some accident prevents.
Freight conductors and engineers are assigned to trains in the order in
which they sign the book. There are in the employ of the road two men
known as "callers," whose sole business it is to notify the trainmen when
they are wanted. For instance, three freight-trains are scheduled to
leave, one at ten o'clock, another at 10.10, and a third at 10.20. It is
the caller's business to see that the crews for these trains are ready
to take the trains out. A freight crew consists of engineer and fireman,
conductor and two brakemen. The conductor and one brakeman, known as
the rear-man, ride in the caboose. The other brakeman, known as the
front-man, rides in the cab of the engine, and makes himself useful by
ringing the bell, watching for signals, and so on, when he is not engaged
in setting or releasing the brakes, or helping make up the train.

[Illustration: P. AND O. Railway--Train Sheet]

  ||                     P. AND O. RAILWAY--_Train Sheet_                ||
  ||             EAST BOUND             |            WEST BOUND          ||
  ||     | |      |       |       |          |      |      | |     |     ||
  || No. | |No. 14| No. 22|No. 102|  Train   |No. 1 | No. 7| | No. | No. ||
  || 70  | |      |       |       |          |      |      | | 97  | 71  ||
  ||Grace| |Hawkes|Harris | Smith |Conductor |Brown | Jones| | Hall|Hess ||
  ||Hill | | Curry|Rosland|Jackson| Engineer |Snyder|Hooker| |Price|Roads||
  || 906 | | 1836 |  1430 |  1862 |  Engine  | 1473 | 1416 | | 916 | 912 ||
  ||  26 | |  6   |   5   |   6   |   Cars   |   8  |   5  | |  28 |  32 ||
  ||A. M.| |A. M. | A. M. |  A. M.|          |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||5:15 | |      |  6:15 |  2:40 |Cincinnati|      |      | |     |     ||
  ||5:50 | |      |  6:45 |  3:00 | Norwood  |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | |      |       |  3:12 | Madeira  |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | |      |       |  3:27 | Loveland |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | | 4:35 |       |  4:06 | Midland  | 6:42 |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | |      |       |       |   City   |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | | 5:07 |       |       | Highland | 6:15 |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | | 5:12 |       |       | Leesburg | 6:12 |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | | 5:18 |       |       |   East   | 6:07 |      | |6:59 |     ||
  ||     | |      |       |       |  Monroe  |      |      | |     |     ||
  ||     | | 5:32 |       |       |Greenfield| 5:56 |      | |6:40 |     ||
  ||     | |      |       |       | Thrifton |      |      | |     |7:00 ||
  ||     | | 5:48 |       |       |  Lyndon  | 5:48 |      | |6:24 |6:50 ||
  ||     | | 5:54 |       |       | Harper's | 5:43 |      | |6:18 |6:40 ||
  ||     | | 6:03 |       |       |  Roxabel | 5:34 | 6:54 | |6:03 |6:25 ||
  ||     | | 6:07 |       |       | Musselman| 5:31 | 6:48 | |5:48 |6:07 ||
  ||     | | 6:12 |       |       | Anderson | 5:25 | 6:42 | |5:40 |5:50 ||
  ||     | | 6:25 |       |       | Wadsworth| 5:14 | 6:30 | |5:24 |5:34 ||
  ||     | |A. M. |       |       |          | A. M.| A. M.| |A. M.|A. M.||
  ||     | |      |       |       |          |      |      | |     |     ||

For each train that goes out, then, five men must be in readiness.
The caller looks through his book, sees whose turn it is, goes to the
dwellings of the men to be called, and notifies them of the hour they
must be on duty. If any of them are ill or absent, he goes on and calls
some one else. The passenger-trainmen, having regular runs, know, of
course, the hours they must report for duty and do not need to be called.
They are also paid a monthly salary, whereas the earnings of the freight
crews vary with the amount of business done by the road. For each man
must wait his turn. When business is slack and few freight-trains are
needed, that turn is often a long time coming; but when business is
heavy it frequently happens that the road finds itself short of men
and the same crew which has just brought in one train is compelled to
take out another, and is sometimes on duty for sixteen, twenty-four,
and even thirty-six hours at a stretch. It is then that nerves give
way, that memories fail, that eyes which should be alert grow dim and
weary,--orders are forgotten, signals are unseen, and a bad accident
follows. Freight-men are paid by the trip, and not infrequently, in busy
seasons, they make double time--that is, get in two days' work in every
twenty-four hours.

As has been said, the engineers and conductors register at once at the
dispatchers' office. Then the engineer goes on to the lower yards to look
over his engine and see that it is in good shape, while the conductor
waits for his orders. These are given to him in duplicate, one copy
for himself and one for the engineer. He reads his copy aloud to the
dispatcher, compares his watch with the big official clock, and then goes
down to his train. As soon as the engine is coupled on, he gives the
engineer his copy of the orders, which the engineer must read aloud to
him. Then they compare watches, and the conductor goes off to show the
orders to the rear brakeman, while the engineer shows his copy to the
fireman and front brakeman. Thus every member of the crew knows under
what orders the train is to proceed and its movement is not dependent
upon the memory of one man alone. The dispatcher has also kept a copy of
the orders, which he files away. At the time appointed in the orders, the
conductor gives the word and the train starts on its journey.

The dispatcher has, meanwhile, entered the number of the train, the
names of conductor and engineer, the number of the engine and the number
of cars on the train-sheet, as well as the hour and minute of the train's
departure. When it passes the first station, the operator there calls
up the dispatcher and reports the hour and minute at which it passed.
This also is entered on the sheet, and as the train proceeds, the column
of figures devoted to it grows. The record of east-bound trains starts
at the top of the sheet and grows downward, while that of west-bound
trains starts at the bottom of the sheet and grows upward. It should
be remembered that east-bound trains always bear even numbers, and
west-bound trains odd numbers.

By this method, the dispatcher keeps a record on the sheet before him
of the progress of every train. He knows the exact position of every
train, or, at least, he knows the last station passed by each, and the
probable time of its arrival, barring accident, at the next station. His
problem is to keep all the trains moving, to keep a clear track for the
passengers so that they can run on time, and to arrange meeting-points
for trains going in opposite directions so that there will be no
unnecessary delays.

It should be understood that, while a few of the larger railroads are
double-tracked, the great bulk of the railroad business of this country
is done over single-track roads. On these roads, points of meeting or
passing must be at sidings, upon which one train can run while the other
passes on the main track. Such sidings are usually at stations, and the
problem of making the trains meet there is a very delicate one.

In order to accomplish this with the least delay, the trains are divided
into classes. The east-bound passengers always have the right of way,
and expect a clear track. West-bound passengers must make arrangements
to get out of the way of east-bound ones, but have precedence over all
other trains. Regular freight-trains must make provision to leave the
track clear for the passengers, while the extra freights, which have no
regular schedule, creep from station to station as best they can, giving
all the other trains a clear track--a sort of yellow dog which every one
is privileged to kick.

All the regular trains, passenger and freight, run by the time-card. That
is, each of them has its regular time for reaching and leaving every
station on the road, and as long as all the trains are on time, things
move smoothly and the dispatcher has an easy time of it. But it is indeed
a red-letter day when all trains are on time. So many things may happen,
there are so many possible causes of delay, that almost inevitably some
of the trains will run behind. It is then that the dispatcher shows the
stuff that is in him; if he knows his business thoroughly, he will not
only keep the trains moving promptly, but will give those that are behind
a chance to make up some of the time which they have lost.

The rules given for dispatchers in the book of rules are short--only
about a third as long as those for section-foremen. They state that the
dispatcher reports to the superintendent, that it is his duty to issue
orders for the movement of trains and to see that they are transmitted
and recorded, that he may not go off duty until another dispatcher
relieves him and that he must explain to the dispatcher coming on the
train-orders in force.

But how small a portion of the dispatcher's duty this really represents!
He must "know the road,"--every grade, siding, and curve. Nay, more; he
must know the pitch of every grade, or he will give his engines such
heavy loads that they will not be able to get over the road. He must
know the capacity of every siding, or he may name one as a meeting-point
for trains too long to pass there, except by breaking the trains up and
see-sawing by a few cars at a time. He must know the capacity of every
engine, so that he can tell just how many cars it can handle. He must
know the disposition of every conductor and engineer, for some will
complain without cause, while some will never ask for help until they
absolutely need it. As a telegrapher, he must be expert in the highest
degree; he must be quick and sure of decision, of an iron nerve and with
a calmness which nothing can disturb.

None of which things are mentioned in the book of rules!



"Well, how're ye goin' t' like it?" asked Jack Welsh at supper, that
evening, noticing how thoughtfully the boy was eating.

"Oh, I shall like it," answered Allan, confidently, looking up with a
strange light in his eyes. "A position like that gives one such a sense
of power and of responsibility. It's worth doing."

Jack nodded.

"That's it!" he said. "That's th' spirit! Buck up to it, an' it ain't
half so hard to do. That's th' way with everything in this world. Th'
feller who's afeerd he's goin' t' git licked, most ginerally does."

"Well, I may get licked," said Allan, "but if I do, it'll be because I'm
not strong enough, not because I'm afraid."

"I've seen little men lick big ones by mere force o' will," said Jack.
"Th' big man was whipped afore he started in. I believe that most o' th'
people who make a failure in this world, do it because they don't keep on
fightin' as long as they've got any wind left, but sort o' give up an'
turn tail an' try t' run away--an' th' fust thing they know they git a
clip on th' jaw that puts 'em down an' out."

In the days that followed, Allan certainly felt no inclination to
run away. He applied his whole mind to acquiring a full knowledge of
the dispatcher's work. He studied diligently the various forms of
train-order, and picked up such information as he could concerning the
capacity of the various engines and the character of engineers and
conductors. At the end of the week, he felt that he had the office
work of the dispatcher pretty well learned. Another week was spent in
"learning the road"--a week during which every daylight hour was spent
in travelling over the road on freight and passenger, learning the
location and length of sidings, the position of switches, water-tanks,
and signals. Whenever he could he rode on the engine, for though that
method of travel had long since lost its novelty, its fascination for
the boy had increased rather than diminished. Besides, there was always
a great deal of information to be picked up from the engineer, as well
as no little entertainment. For the engineer, especially if he was an
old one, was sure to possess a rich store of tales of the road--tales
humourous or tragic, as the case might be--tales of practical jokes, of
ghosts, of strange happenings, or of accidents and duty done at any cost,
of fearless looking in the face of death.

He had taken a trip over the entire east end, on the last day of the
week, and decided to make the return trip on an extra freight, which was
to leave Belpre, the eastern terminus of the freight business, about the
middle of the afternoon. So he got a lunch at the depot restaurant at
Parkersburg, and then walked across the big bridge which spans the Ohio
there, reaching the yards at Belpre just as the freight was getting ready
to pull out. He was pleased to find that the engineer was Bill Michaels,
an old friend, who at once suggested that there was a place in the cab at
Allan's disposal, if he cared to occupy it.

Allan thanked him and clambered up right willingly, taking his place on
the forward end of the long seat which ran along the left side of the
cab--the fireman's side. He watched the engineer "oil round"--that is,
walk slowly around the engine, a long-spouted oil-can in his hand, and
make sure that all the bearings were properly lubricated and all the
oil-cups full. The fireman meanwhile devoted his energies to feeding
his fire and getting up steam, and Allan perceived, from a certain
awkwardness with which he handled the shovel and opened and shut the
heavy door of the fire-box, that he was new to the business. But even a
green fireman can get up steam when his engine is standing still, so the
needle of the indicator climbed steadily round the dial, until at last,
the pressure threw up the safety-valve and the engine "popped off."

The fireman leaned wearily upon his shovel and scraped the sweat from his
forehead with bent forefinger.

"Hot work, isn't it?" said Allan, smiling.

"'Tain't near so bad as 'twill be," returned the fireman, whose name was
Pinckney Jones, and who was known by his intimates as Pink, or Pinkey,
a nickname which he had tried in vain to live down. "It'll be a reg'lar
wrastle t' keep 'er goin'. Something's got int' th' cantankerous old
beast, an' she won't steam t' save ye."

He bent again to his task, raking and shaking up the fire, and throwing
two or three more shovelfuls of coal into the blazing fire-box. Then the
engineer clambered up, followed by the front brakeman, and took his seat
on the other side of the cab. He stuck his head out the window, to watch
for the conductor's signal. Presently it came, he opened the throttle
gently, and the train, slowly gathering headway, rattled over the
switches, out of the yards, and straightened out for the journey westward.

"You want to be mighty careful this trip, Bill," remarked the brakeman.
"We've got two car-loads of wild animals back there. If we have a
smash-up, there'll be lions and tigers and Lord knows what all runnin'
loose about the country."

"That _would_ create considerable disturbance," agreed Bill. "Well, I'll
try to keep her on the track. Where're they billed to?"

"They're goin' to the Zoological Garden at Cincinnati. There's a whackin'
big elephant in the first car and a miscellaneous lot of lions, tigers,
snakes, and other vermin in the second. Yes, sir, there _would_ be lively
times if they got loose."

"Ain't there nobody with 'em?"

"Oh, yes; there's a couple of fellers to feed 'em; but these ain't the
broken-to-harness, drawing-room kind of wild animals. They're right
from the jungle, and are totally unacquainted with the amenities of

And then, well pleased with his own facility of diction, he got out a
plug of tobacco, bit off a piece, and offered the plug to Bill. Bill
accepted the offer, took a tremendous chew, and returned the remnant to
its owner.

"And now, Pinkey," he remarked, to the perspiring fireman, "if you'll
kindly git up a few more pounds of steam, we'll be joggin' along. Mebbe
_you_ don't object to stayin' here all night, but _I'd_ like t' git home
t' see my wife an' children."

"I'm a-doin' my best," responded Pinkey, desperately, "th' ole brute jest
_won't_ steam, an' that's all they is to it."

"Yes," said the engineer, with irony, but keeping one eye on the track
ahead, "I've heerd firemen say th' same thing lots o' times. You've got
to nuss her along, boy--don't smother th' fire that a-way. An' keep th'
door shet."

"How'm I a-goin' t' git th' coal int' th' fire-box if I don't open th'
door?" demanded Pinkey.

"Jim, swing it fer him," said the engineer to the brakeman, and the
latter, who had assisted at the breaking-in of many a green fireman,
demonstrated to Pinkey how the door of the fire-box must be swung open
and shut between each shovelful of coal. To fire an engine properly is
an art which requires more than one lesson to acquire, but Pinkey made
a little progress, and after awhile had the satisfaction of seeing the
indicator-needle swing slowly up toward the point desired.

Just then, Michaels, glancing at his water-gauge, saw that it was getting
rather low, and opened the throttle of the injector in order to fill the
boiler; but instead of the water flowing smoothly through from the tank,
there was a spurt of steam which filled the cab. He tried again, and with
the same result.

"You blame fool!" he snorted, turning an irate face upon the unfortunate
fireman, "didn't you know enough t' see that th' tank was full afore we
left Belpre? What 'd you think we'd steam on--air?"

"It _was_ full," quavered Pinkey. "I helped th' hostler fill it."

"Oh, come!" protested the engineer. "Mebbe you'll tell me it's full now!"

Without replying, Pinkey stooped and opened a little cock on the front
of the tank, near the bottom. Not a drop of water came out of it.

"Dry as a bone!" cried the engineer, his face purple. "Mebbe you'll say
I used it--mebbe you'll say th' engine drunk up a whole tankful inside
o' ten mile. Th' only question is," he added, with another glance at his
gauge, "kin we git to Little Hocking?"

Little Hocking, the nearest station, was about four miles away, and
it looked for a time as though the water in the boiler would not be
sufficient to carry the train so far, and the fireman would be compelled
to draw his fire, while the brakeman tramped to the next station for
help. Such an accident would have made both engineer and fireman the
laughing-stock of the road, besides leading to an investigation by the
trainmaster, and a session "on the carpet." So Bill, although boiling
mad, nursed the engine along as carefully as he could, making every pound
of steam count, and finally drew up in triumph beside the water-tank at
Little Hocking.

"There, you lobster," he said to Pinkey, wiping off the perspiration,
"now fill her up."

Pinkey lowered the spout of the water-tank, opened the gate and let the
water rush down into the tank of the engine. It would hold seven thousand
gallons, and the fireman waited until the water brimmed over the top and
splashed down along the sides before he turned it off.

"Now," he said, defiantly, to Michaels, "you see fer yourself she's full.
Th' way she's steamin', I bet that won't carry us to Stewart."

The engineer grunted contemptuously.

"Remarkable, ain't it, how much these green firemen know?" he remarked to
the front brakeman, as he gently opened the throttle.

"You'll see," said Pinkey, doggedly, and fell to work "ladling in the

Michaels watched him for a few moments in silence.

"What's the matter?" he inquired, at length. "Got a hole in the fire-box?"

"No; why?" asked Pinkey, pausing between two shovelfuls.

"Somebody buried back there, an' you're tryin' to dig him out?" pursued
the engineer, with a gesture toward the pile of coal in the tender.

"What you talkin' about, anyway?" demanded Pinkey, staring at him in

"Say, Jim," said the engineer to the brakeman, "take that scoop away from
that idiot, will ye? Pinkey, git up there on your box an' set down or
I'll report ye fer wastin' th' company's fuel."

"She won't steam without coal," protested Pinkey.

"No; nor she won't steam with a bellyful like that, either," retorted the
engineer, throwing on the draft. "Now I've got t' blow about half of it
out the smoke-stack."

He watched grimly as the black smoke swirled upward from the stack and
blew away to the left toward a little farmhouse.

"That feller'll think he's livin' in Pittsburg," remarked the brakeman,
as the smoke closed down over the house and shut it from view for an

Michaels snorted with laughter. Then he opened the injector again--and
again the steam spurted out into the cab.

Without waiting for an order, Pinkey bent and opened the tank-cock. A
thin little trickle told that the water in the tank was almost exhausted.

"Great Jehoshaphat!" cried Michaels, and stared in perplexity at the
brakeman. "Th' tank's sprung a leak," he said, at last, with conviction.
"I ain't pumped a hundred gallon into her since we left Little Hocking."

"They ain't no leak," asserted Pinkey. "I went all around th' tank,
an' it ain't leakin' a drop. I don't believe it'll carry us further 'n
Coolville," he added, triumphantly.

Michaels turned back to his engine without trusting himself to reply;
but it was only by the most careful nursing that those six miles were
covered and the water-plug at Coolville reached. There the engineer made
a personal inspection of the tank while Pinkey filled it, and he found,
as the fireman had said, that it was perfectly tight. Allan, who was as
deeply puzzled as any one, also examined the tank, and with the same

The conductor sauntered forward while the tank was being filled, and
watched the operation with considerable curiosity.

"Say," he asked, at last, "what 're you fellers up to, anyway? Tryin' t'
create a water famine?"

"Oh, go back to your dog-house an' go to sleep," retorted Michaels, whose
temper was beginning to give way under the strain.

"I can't sleep more'n eight hours at a stretch. Think we'll be to Athens
by then?"

The engineer picked up a lump of coal, and the conductor hastily

"Say," he sung out over his shoulder, "don't fergit there's a pen-stock
at Stewart. Don't pass it--it might feel slighted," and he dodged the
lump of coal, as it whizzed past his head.

"Blamed fool!" muttered Michaels, and settled into his seat.

But the four men in the cab were strangely silent as the train started
westward again. There was something mysterious and alarming about all
this--something positively supernatural in the disappearance of fourteen
thousand gallons of water within an hour. The engineer tried his injector
nervously from time to time, but for half an hour or so it worked
properly, and squirted the water into the boiler as required. Then,
suddenly, came the spurt of steam which told that there was no more water
to squirt.

"Well," said the engineer, in an awed voice, "that beats me. Even
with th' injector open all th' time, no engine could drink water that
way--why, it 'd flood her an' flow out of her cupolo! Besides, her boiler
ain't more 'n half-full!"

Pinkey mechanically tried the cock again, and with the same result--the
tank was nearly empty. Then, in a sort of trance, he turned to shovel in
some more coal, but finding there was none lying loose within easy reach,
took his rake, and climbed up the pile at the back of the tender, like
a man walking in his sleep, and started to pull some coal down into the

An instant later, his companions heard a shriek of utter horror, audible
even above the rattle of the engine, and the fireman rolled in a limp
heap down the pile of coal, his face white as death, his eyes fairly
starting from his head. If any man ever looked as though he had seen a
ghost, Pinkey Jones was that man, and his terror was communicated in some
degree to his companions.

"For God's sake!" cried the brakeman, at last, seizing Pinkey by the
collar and pulling him to an upright position. "What's the matter?"

Instead of answering, Pinkey, his teeth chattering, tried to jump off the
engine. The fireman grabbed him and pulled him back by main force.

"Come!" he said, shaking him fiercely. "Brace up! Be a man! What's the

"Th--there's a snake up there," stuttered Pinkey. "Let me go!"

"A snake!"

"Big as my leg," added Pinkey. "Black, with a red mouth! Let me go!"

The brakeman slammed him down on the seat and picked up the rake, while
Allan armed himself with the bar of iron used for stirring up the fire.

"What was he doing?" asked the brakeman, when these preparations had been

"He--he had his head in the tank," said Pinkey. "When he heard me comin',
he lifted it up an' squirted water all over me!"

"Squirted water!" repeated Michaels, incredulously. "A snake? Oh, come!"

"Well, look at me," said Pinkey. And indeed, they saw now that he was
completely soaked.

"Why, he must 'a' sent a stream like a fire-hose!" said the brakeman.

"He did," agreed Pinkey. "It hit me so hard it knocked me backward down
that pile o' coal," and he rubbed his head ruefully.

The three men in the cab stared at each other in amazement. A snake that
could knock a man down with a stream of water!

"Well," said Bill Michaels, grimly, at last, "all I kin say is that if
they ever puts that snake on exhibition th' biggest circus tent on earth
won't hold th' crowds."

"I'm goin' up t' take a look at him," announced the brakeman, grasping
the rake.

"I'll go with you," said Allan, reflecting that, after all, a snake
which did nothing more than deluge its assailants with water was not so
very dangerous, and he followed the brakeman up the pile of coal.

The latter reached the top and peered cautiously over. The next instant,
his cap flew from his head, carried away by a stream of water which
whistled past him and fell upon Allan. The brakeman ducked, and the two
crouched for a moment staring into each other's eyes.

"Well, I'll be blamed!" said the brakeman, hoarsely.

"Did you see anything?" asked Allan.

"Nothin' but a thing that looked like a nozzle squirtin' water at me!"
and he wiped the water from his eyes. "Well, I'm as wet now as I kin git.
I'm a-goin' to see what it is," and again he elevated his head cautiously
over the top of the pile of coal.

Allan saw a stream of water strike him violently in the face; but he held
his place and shook it off, and the next instant, roaring with laughter,
fairly rolled down the coal into the cab, carrying the boy with him.

"What is it?" asked Pinkey with bated breath.

Allan shook his head and pointed to the brakeman, who sat on the floor
of the cab, rocking to and fro, holding his sides, with tears and water
running down his cheeks.

"He's gone crazy!" cried Pinkey. "He's seen it an' 's gone crazy!"

"Ho! ho!" roared the brakeman. "If you'd 'a' seen his eye! If you'd only
seen his eye!"

Michaels, who had managed to keep his lookout ahead only in the most
intermittent fashion, closed the throttle and applied the brakes.

"I'm a-goin' t' see what this is," he said, savagely, "if we never move
another foot! What was it you seen, Jim? Whose eye?"

"If you'd 'a' seen his little wicked eye!" yelled the brakeman. "Oh! I
must go up an' look at it agin!"

But the train creaked to a stop, and the engineer jumped down from his
seat and seized Jim fiercely.

"Here, you," he cried. "What is it? Speak out, or by George--"

"It's th' elephant!" gasped Jim. "Oh, if you'd 'a' seen his eye

Michaels dropped the brakeman and jumped to the ground, the others
following. And there, sure enough, with his trunk sticking out of a
little window in the front end of the car just back of the tender was the
elephant. Even as they looked, the trunk stretched forward, and the end
of it disappeared through the manhole in the top of the tank.

"What's up?" inquired the conductor, running up from the rear of the
train. "What you stoppin' out here for, Bill? They's no plug here!"

A stream of water caught him squarely on the side of the face, and left
him dazed and speechless. The engineer, fireman, and brakeman danced
around, yelling and slapping their knees.

The conductor jumped out of range, wiped away the water, and regarded
them disgustedly.

"Well, of all the blame fools!" he said. "It don't take much to amuse
some people."

"What's the joke?" asked the rear brakeman, coming up at that moment.

The elephant saw him, took deadly aim, and fired. The brakeman, with a
yell of dismay, clapped his hands to his face. When he had cleared the
water from his eyes, he saw four men dancing spasmodically up and down,
fairly howling with mirth.

The brakeman gazed at them for a moment without comment, then turned on
his heel and walked back to the caboose, waving his arms in the air in a
very ecstasy of rage.

"Look at his eye," gasped the front brakeman, when he could get his
breath, and indeed the elephant's right optic, which was the only one
visible through the little window, was shining with unholy glee. He was
having the time of his life.

The trainmen finally calmed down sufficiently to call one of the animal
attendants, and an investigation followed. It was found that the elephant
had managed to open the shutter which closed the little window by pulling
out the catch. He had put his trunk through the window, and after some
exploration, had found the opening through which the tank was filled. The
cool water within had attracted him, he had drank his fill, had given
himself and the other occupants of the car a shower-bath and had then
devoted himself to sprinkling the right of way until the water in the
tank got too low for him to reach. Then he had retired within his car to
meditate; but afterwards, finding the tank full again, had repeated the
performance, and doubtless would have kept on doing so all the way to
Cincinnati if he had not been discovered.

The shutter was closed and nailed shut, and the train finally proceeded
on its way. At the next station, the conductor filed a message for
headquarters, which the operator dutifully sent in.

"Extra west, Engine 1438, delayed twenty minutes by elephant. Stewart."

The dispatcher who received the message requested that the word before
the signature be repeated.

"E-l-e-p-h-a-n-t," repeated the operator.

"What do you mean by elephant?" queried the dispatcher.

The operator happened to have a little pocket dictionary at hand, for he
was not always sure of his spelling. He referred to it now.

"Elephant," he answered, "a five-toed proboscian mammal."

And what the dispatcher said in reply cannot be repeated here.



Allan had learned as much of the science of train-dispatching as it is
possible to do without actual experience, and he was duly appointed
operator at headquarters and extra dispatcher. He had a desk in the
dispatchers' office, where he worked ten and sometimes twelve hours a day
receiving and sending the multitudinous messages which passed between the
various officials of the road. This work was in one way not such good
training for a future dispatcher as a trick out on the road, for here he
had nothing whatever to do with the movement of trains; but on the other
hand he was constantly in touch with the dispatchers, he could listen
to their conversation and pick up matters of detail which no one would
have thought to tell him; in such leisure moments as he had, he could sit
down before the train-sheet and watch the actual business of dispatching
trains; he could see how unusual problems were solved and unusual
difficulties met; and all the information picked up thus, as it were, at
haphazard, he stored away for future use, certain that it would some day
be needed.

Not infrequently one of the dispatchers would relinquish his chair to
him, and, for an hour or so, look after the operator's duties, while
Allan did the actual work of dispatching. But he knew that this was not
a real test, for, in case of emergency, help was always at hand. It was
with him much as it is with those amateur sociologists who assume the
garb and habits of the poor, and imagine that they are tasting all the
misery of life in the slums; forgetting that its greatest misery, its
utter hopelessness, they can never taste, since they have only to walk
out and away from the life whenever they choose, and be rid of it for
ever. So Allan, in case of need, had only to lift his finger, and aid was
at hand.

But at last the time came around when one of the dispatchers was to
take his vacation; and one night, Allan reported for duty, to take the
third trick on the east end. It was not without a certain tingling of
the nerves that he sat down in the chair, looked over the sheet, and
carefully read the written explanation of train-orders in force which the
second-trick man had prepared for him.

"Understand?" the latter asked, when Allan had finished.

"Yes, I think so," said the boy, and the dispatcher, nodding, took up his
lunch-basket and left the office.

The weight of responsibility weighed on the boy for a time, and it was
with no little nervousness that he transmitted his first order; but this
feeling gradually wore away and was replaced by one of confidence. After
all, there was no cause to worry. The position of every train was marked
there on the sheet before him; there was no excuse for mistake. And yet,
as he thought of those mighty engines rushing through the night with
their precious burdens, obedient to his orders, his pulses quickened with
a sense of power.

Fortunately business was light and the trains were running on time, so
he really had little to do; and when, at last, his relief came at seven
o'clock, he arose from the desk with a sense of work well done, without
mistake or accident. For two weeks, night after night, he sat at that
desk, ordering the traffic over that hundred miles of track, and with
every night he felt his confidence increase. Problems arose, of course,
but his training had been of the very best; he never lost his head or his
nerve, and when, at last, the dispatcher came back from his vacation,
Allan returned to the operator's desk conscious that he had "made good,"
and that he would be strong enough to climb the ladder of promotion for
some rounds, at least.

He had been kept at the office rather later than usual the evening after
he had resumed his work as operator, for there happened to be a sudden
rush of business to be attended to, and it was after six o'clock when he
finally put on his coat and started home to supper. As he entered the
dining-room, he saw that supper had not yet been served, and from the
kitchen he heard Jack's voice raised excitedly.

"That you, Allan?" called Jack. "Come on out here."

The boy entered the kitchen and saw Jack standing near the lamp, the
evening paper in his hand.

"Did ye see this?" he asked, holding out the paper, and pointing to some
flaring headlines on the first page. They read:

                             DARING ESCAPE!

                   Four Convicts Scale the Wall of the
                              State Prison!

                    *       *       *       *       *

                      GUARD WHO TRIED TO STOP THEM
                           SERIOUSLY INJURED!

                    *       *       *       *       *

           Had Made a Rope of Their Bedclothing and Carefully
                   Arranged the Details of Their Plan!

                    *       *       *       *       *

          No Present Trace of Their Whereabouts--Had Been Sent
                from Ross County under Ten-year Sentence
                           for Train-wrecking!

Not until he read the last line did Allan understand why Jack appeared so

"Them's our men," said Jack; "but read the article."

"Don't read it now," protested Mary; "supper's about spoiled as it is."
And then an odour from the stove caused her to fly to it. "Look a-there,
now," she added, "th' p'taties nearly burned up! Come along, both o' ye,"
and taking the paper inexorably from Allan, she pushed them all in toward
the table. "They's no use in lettin' th' supper spile, even if all th'
convicts in th' pen. got loose!"

Which, indeed, was true. And Allan did not fully understand the cause of
Jack's excitement until, near the end of the meal, a single remark fell
from him.

"Well, all I've got t' say," he remarked, "is that I certainly pity Dan
Nolan if them fellys git hold o' him!"

Allan looked up with sudden interest.

"You haven't heard anything from Nolan?" he asked.

"No," said Jack; "but I'd like t' bet them fellys'll soon find out where
he is. They ain't a tramp'll stand by him arter what he did, an' they'll
pass th' word along where he's likely t' be found. I reckon Nolan went
south fer th' winter, but it wouldn't surprise me t' see him show up
around here afore th' summer's over."

"Maybe he's not a tramp," objected Allan. "Maybe he's working somewhere."

"Workin' nothin'!" exclaimed Jack, disgustedly. "Why, he's fergot how."

"Well, anyway," said Allan, "I don't believe he'll ever come around here
again. He's broken his parole and he knows the minute he sets foot in
this State he's in danger of being clapped back into prison."

"Yes, he knows that," admitted Jack, "an' yet I don't believe even
that'll keep him away. They's a kind o' fascination seems t' draw a man
back t' th' place where he's committed a crime. If they wasn't, lots
more'd escape than do."

"Well," laughed Allan, "I hope no fascination will draw our friends the
train-wreckers back to this neighbourhood. But perhaps they're safe in
jail again before this."

The morning papers, however, showed that they were anything but safe in
jail. They had disappeared completely, and there seemed every reason to
believe that confederates had been waiting to assist them, and that they
had been able to discard their convict garb as soon as they reached the
street. This conjecture became a certainty on the following day, when a
labourer, cleaning one of the sewer inlets near the prison, had fished
out four suits of convict clothing. All the mechanism of the law was set
in motion in the effort to recapture them; descriptions and photographs
were sent to every police-station in the middle west, a large reward was
offered, the police drag-nets were drawn in, heavy with suspects, but the
four fugitives were not among them. At the end of a week, the public,
diverted by new sensations, had nearly forgotten the episode, and Allan
himself had long since ceased to think about it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Allan had just finished up his work for the day. The hook was clear,
and with a little sigh of relief, he closed his key after sending the
last message. It had been a hard day, for all of the officers were
out on the road at various points, and many of the messages that came
to headquarters for them had to be repeated to the station where they
happened to be at the moment.

The boy glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly six; then he
rose, stretched himself, and was putting on his coat when the door opened
and the chief-dispatcher came in. One glance at his worried countenance
told the boy that something was wrong.

"I just got a 'phone from the hospital," he said, "that Roscoe, the night
man at Coalville, was hurt awhile ago. He was coming down to catch his
train, when a runaway horse knocked him down and broke his leg."

"Who's going out?" inquired one of the dispatchers.

"I don't know yet," answered the chief, a line of worry between his eyes.
"I've sent the caller after Hermann. Here he is now," he added, as the
caller hurried into the office. "Well?"

"Hermann can't come," the caller announced. "He's sick in bed with the

The chief glanced at the clock.

"We've only got ten minutes," he said. "Whoever goes has got to catch the

"Why can't I go?" asked Allan, coming forward. "I'll be glad to, if it'll
be any help."

"Will you?" said the chief, eagerly. "Good for you! But you've had a hard
day. I'll tell you what I'll do," he added. "I'll hunt up an extra man at
Parkersburg or Athens and send him to Coalville on Number Eleven. That
will let you off at midnight."

"All right," agreed Allan. "I can stand it that long. But I want
something to eat before I start."

"Get a lunch at the restaurant. They can fix up a basket for you and you
can eat it on the train."

Allan nodded and went down the steps three at a time. It was raining
heavily, but he dodged around the corner of the building into the
restaurant without getting very wet, and six minutes later, basket
in hand, he jumped aboard the accommodation, waving his hand to the
chief-dispatcher, who stood looking anxiously from the window of his
office to be sure that the boy made the train.

He was genuinely hungry, and he devoted the first fifteen minutes to a
consumption of the lunch which the restaurant-keeper had put up for him.
Then the conductor, who had glanced at his pass, nodded, and gone on to
collect the tickets, came back and sat down beside him.

"I thought you had a trick in the dispatchers' office?" he said.

"I have," answered Allan, "but I'm going out to Coalville on an emergency
call. The night man there had his leg broken, awhile ago, and the chief
couldn't get anybody in a hurry to take his place. So I volunteered."

"Yes," said the conductor, "I saw Roscoe hurt, and it was the queerest
accident I ever heard of. I was coming down Main Street to report for
duty, and I saw Roscoe coming down Bridge, with his lunch-basket in his
hand. There was a horse hitched to a buggy standing at the corner, and a
man who seemed to be fixing something about the harness. Well, sir, just
as Roscoe stepped in front of it, that horse gave a leap forward, went
right over him, and galloped lickety-split up the street. It was stopped
up near the canal, not much hurt. But I couldn't understand what started
it. There wasn't a thing to scare it, and it had been standing quiet as a
lamb the minute before."

"It _was_ queer," agreed Allan, thoughtfully. "Whose horse was it?"

"It was a livery-stable rig. A stranger had hired it for the afternoon.
The livery-stable people said the horse had never run away before."

"Did you find out who the stranger was?"

"No; but he was rather a nice-looking fellow. It was him who was fixing
the harness. He helped pick Roscoe up and carry him into Steele's
drugstore, and seemed to be mighty sorry for what had happened. He
stayed till the doctor came and found Roscoe's right leg broken, and
helped lift him into the ambulance which took him to the hospital. Then
he went up to pay the damages at the livery-stable. He was a drummer,
I reckon. There's a fellow in the smoker looks a good deal like him. I
thought it was him, at first, and spoke to him, but he didn't seem to
know me."

The train slowed up for a station and the conductor hurried away to
attend to his duties. But nobody got aboard and he soon came back and sat
down again by Allan.

"Business light to-night," he remarked, and, indeed, there was not more
than six or eight people on the train. "Though I've got two passengers,"
he added, "riding in the baggage-car."

"In the baggage-car?"

"Yes; they're taking out the money to pay off the miners at Coalville,
to-morrow morning. They've got a big, iron-bound chest, about all that
four men can lift, and they're sitting on it, armed to the teeth. There's
probably fifty or sixty thousand dollars in it. They take it out that way
every month."

"Isn't there a bank at Coalville?"

"A bank? Bless your heart, no! The coal company runs a sort of little
savings institution for its employees; but they don't pay any interest,
and I've heard it said they don't encourage their men to save anything.
You see, as long as they can keep the men living from hand to mouth,
there's less danger of a strike; and if they do strike, it don't take
very long to starve 'em out. Oh, the company's wise! It don't want any
bank at Coalville. Besides, I don't imagine anybody'd be especially
anxious to start a bank there. They'd be afraid the miners 'd get drunk
some night and clean it out."

"Are they so bad as all that?"

"They're a tough gang, especially when they get liquor in them. The
company doesn't take any chances with them. It banks its money at
Wadsworth and brings out just enough every month to pay them off. There's
always a wagon and half a dozen armed men ready to take it over to the
company's office, which is fitted up like a fort, and by noon next day,
it's all paid out and a big slice of it's spent."

"Why don't they pay by check?"

"They tried it, but the saloon-keepers at Coalville charged five per
cent. for cashing them and the men kicked."

"Well, it strikes me it's pretty dangerous," remarked Allan.

"Oh, I don't know. Nothing's ever happened yet. Robbers, I don't care how
desperate they are, ain't fond of running up against a gang of men armed
with Winchesters," and he went off to make another tour of the train.



Coalville was a hamlet worthy of its name, for its people not only mined
coal, they breathed it, ate it, slept in it, and absorbed it at every
pore. The town was divided into two parts, one on the hillside, the
other in the valley. That portion on the hillside was popularly known as
"Stringtown," and consisted of row upon row of houses, all built upon the
same plan, and arranged upon the slope which mounted gently upward from
the mouth of the mine which gave the town its only reason for existence.
These houses consisted invariably of three rooms and an attic, and into
them were crowded the miners, for the most part Slavs or Poles. They had
been brought direct from Europe, the immigration laws to the contrary
notwithstanding, shipped out to the mine in car-load lots, assigned
to the houses which were to be their homes, supplied with the tools
necessary to mining, and put to work. By incessant labour, they were able
to earn enough to provide themselves and their ever-increasing families
with food enough to keep body and soul together, and clothing enough to
cover their nakedness. More they did not ask. They were not compelled to
serve in the army, they were not under police surveillance, they paid no
taxes. So they were happy and contented, imagining themselves free.

Down in the valley, a quarter of a mile away, was the town proper--that
is to say, about a hundred houses, larger, cleaner, and more pretentious
than the hovels on the hillside. Here the superintendents lived, the
bosses, the office force, and most of the Americans employed about the
mine. Here, too, were the bakery, the two stores, supposed to be run upon
a competitive basis, but really under one management, and the fifteen
saloons into which no small portion of the miners' wages went, and which
yielded an annual profit of about a thousand per cent. on the investment.

The company which owned the mine owned the town,--not the residences
only, but the stores, the barber-shop, the bakery, the boarding-house,
and even the saloons. The money which it paid out in wages flowed back
to it, practically undiminished, through one of these channels; and
these minor industries contributed in no small degree to the handsome
dividends, issued quarterly, which the mine paid. Perhaps if the
stockholders had known just how these dividends were earned, they might
not have received them so complacently; but none of them thought it worth
while to inquire--or perhaps they feared to investigate too closely the
sources of so satisfactory an income.

The town was not upon the railroad, which passed about half a mile
to the east of it. Two spurs of track connected the mine with the
main line, but these spurs were used solely for the company's
business, and no passengers were carried over them. Hence it was
necessary for every one wishing to leave the town to tramp half
a mile along a road muddy or dusty, according to the weather, to
the little frame shack on the main line, which served as a station
for the town. It may be that the exertion needed to leave the town
was one reason why so many persons, once they had arrived there,
remained, and never thereafter emancipated themselves from bondage
to coal-dust, nor saw the sky except through the black clouds
arising ceaselessly from the dumps. To only one class of person
did the town turn a cold shoulder, and that was to the labour
organizer. The company was most anxious to keep its men free from
the "union" microbe, which was working such disastrous results upon
the dividends of other mining enterprises; it believed that it was
the best and most proper judge of the wages which its men should
receive. Therefore, whenever a union man struck the town he found
himself unable to secure a place to sleep or food to eat--he had
to get out or starve; when he asked for employment, he found all
the places taken and no prospect of a job anywhere. The company,
however, was generous; if the applicant happened to be out of
money, he could always secure the funds necessary to take him away
from Coalville.

The train pulled up before the little Coalville station on time;
and Allan reported at once for duty and relieved the day man, who
lived at Athens, and who hurried out to catch the accommodation,
which would take him home.

For twenty minutes, Allan devoted himself to looking over the
orders on the hook and getting acquainted with the position of
trains; then his attention was attracted by a heavy bumping on
the floor of the little waiting-room. It sounded as though a
heavy trunk was being brought in, but when he looked through the
ticket-window, he saw two men rolling a heavy chest end over end
across the room.

The Coalville station contained three rooms. At one end was the
waiting-room, with a row of benches along the wall; in the centre
was the office, about six feet wide, in which the operator worked;
and beyond it was another room where freight for Coalville was
stored until it could be hauled away. There was a door from the
office into both waiting-room and freight-shed as shown in the

It will be seen that the station had been constructed just as
cheaply as possible. The passenger traffic to and from Coalville
was not such as to require elaborate accommodations, and the
freight for the town was allowed to take care of itself the best it
could.for the town was allowed to take care of itself the best it

[Illustration: The Station at Coalville]

The men who were bringing in the chest stopped where they had it in the
middle of the waiting-room, and one of them, looking up, caught Allan's
eye as he looked at them through the ticket-window.

"We'd like to put this box in the freight-shed for awhile," said the
stranger. "The door's locked, and we thought maybe you'd let us take it
through your office."

"Why, certainly," answered Allan, who suspected at once that this was
the chest containing the money for the miners, and he opened the door
and helped them through with it. It was certainly heavy, but its weight,
Allan decided, was more from its massive, iron-bound construction than
from its contents.

The men went on into the freight-shed with it, and Allan heard them
talking together, but he was called back to his instrument to take
an order and for the moment forgot them. Presently one of them came
out again, passed through the office, jumped down the steps of the
waiting-room, and hastened away into the darkness.

It happened that there were two coal-trains to be started westward
to Cincinnati just then, so perhaps half an hour passed before Allan
looked up again. When he did so, he found the other custodian of the
box standing at his elbow. He was a tall, slim man of middle age, with
a black mustache and dare-devil expression, which somehow made Allan
think that he had been a cowboy. The slouch hat which he wore pulled down
over his eyes added to this effect, as did the repeating rifle whose
butt rested on the floor beside him. When the boy looked up, he nodded
sociably, and sat down on the end of the table, one leg swinging in the

"It allers did beat me," he began, "how a feller could learn t'
understand one o' them little machines," motioning toward the sounder.

"All it takes is practice," answered Allan, leaning back in his chair.
"It's like everything else. Now I couldn't hit a barn door with that
rifle of yours, but I dare say you could hit a much smaller object."

"Why, yes," drawled the other, patting the gun affectionately. "I _hev_
picked off my man at six hundred yards."

"Your man?"

"I used t' be depitty sheriff of Chloride County, Arizony," explained the
stranger. "Hopkins is my name--Jed Hopkins. Mebbe you've heerd o' me?"

But Allan was forced to confess that he never had.

"Well, I've seen some excitin' times," Hopkins went on. "But life out
thar ain't what it was twenty year ago. I got disgusted an' come back
east an' got this job."

"Which job?" asked Allan.

"Oh, I'm special constable an' guardeen o' th' company's property. Not
much doin' now; but last year we had a strike, and I tell you, sir,
things was fast an' furious fer a couple o' weeks. But them dagoes never
saves no money--so we soon starved 'em out. I reckon that's one reason
th' company pays in cash--a dago with cash in his pocket can't pass a
gin-shop--an' they's fifteen in Coalville, one right arter th' other.
About th' only thing I've got t' do now is to guard th' company's cash.
That's what's in that big box in yonder," he added, easily.

"Isn't there some danger?" asked the boy.

"Danger?" repeated Hopkins, scornfully. "I should say not. Them vermin
know me too well!"

Again his instrument called, and again Allan turned to answer it. Hopkins
arose, went to the door of the waiting-room, and looked up and down the

"They's usually a wagon waitin' fer us," he went on, coming back after
a moment and resuming his seat. "Th' company's got an office, over at
th' mine, lined with steel an' with steel shutters to th' winders, with
little loopholes in 'em. They had it fixed up last year when they was
gittin' ready fer th' strike. And it was mighty useful."

"Getting ready for the strike?"

"Sure. They knowed there'd be one as soon as they cut the men's wages,"
answered Hopkins, coolly. "Th' fact is, th' dumps was full o' coal,
business was slack, an' they wanted t' shet down awhile."

It took Allan some moments to digest this answer.

"The miners don't seem to have any show at all," he remarked, at last.

"Well, sir, not much," agreed Hopkins. "You see, they ain't
organized--they don't belong to no union--and th' company takes mighty
good care they sha'n't. My, th' organizers I've bounced out o' this
town--it was right interestin' till th' company got wise an' found a
better way."

"A better way?"

"Sure. You see, as soon as an organizer was fired out, he'd go around th'
country hollerin' about th' company, an' callin' it bad names. Sometimes
this got into th' papers an' made things onpleasant, specially since
th' company couldn't say it wasn't so. So now, th' organizer fer this
district is on th' pay-roll. He gits a hundred dollars a month, an' when
he gits up at th' convention t' report, he tells how he's doin' his best
t' organize our dagoes, but finds 'em so ign'rant an' cantankerous that
they don't want no union. However, he hopes, before another year rolls
around, t' be able t' convince 'em--an' so on. It's a smooth game--an'
has worked first rate, so far."

Allan glanced up at Jed to see if he was in earnest, but he appeared
entirely so.

"And what happened during the strike?"

"Oh, they tried t' rush us an' set fire t' th' mine--an' us in that
steel-lined office, armed with Winchesters! They didn't have no chance."

"Were any of them hurt?"

"Th' newspapers said that ten was slightly injured--which was true as fur
as it went," and Jed grinned. "Eight went t' sleep an' never woke up, but
that was kept quiet. No use makin' a stir about a few dagoes; besides,
th' law was on our side. Only," added Jed, "I'd 'a' liked it better if
we'd fought out in th' open. But th' manager wouldn't hear of it."

Allan shivered slightly. Of course, the law was on the company's side;
the men were trying to destroy its property; and yet that scarcely seemed
to justify shooting them down from behind a wall of steel.

"We ain't had no trouble since," Jed added. "They've l'arnt their lesson.
But it wouldn't surprise me t' wake up 'most any night with a dago knife
in my belly."

He stretched himself and yawned dismally.

"Ten o'clock," he said, glancing at his watch. "Looks like I'd have t'
stay here all night. What's yer name, sonny?"

"Allan West."

"You ain't th' reg'lar night man here?"

"No; the regular night man was hurt this afternoon, and I'm taking his

Hopkins nodded; then suddenly he sat erect and listened.

"There they come," he said; "it's time," and he started for the door.

Allan had heard no sound, and Hopkins came back, after having gone to the
door of the waiting-room and looked up and down the track again.

"False alarm," he said. "I thought I heerd three or four men walkin'.
Say, I'm goin' in an' lay down an' take a nap. I'm most dead fer sleep."

"Do you think it's safe?"

"Safe? Sho! I should say so! Besides, I'll show you a trick. Come along."

Allan followed him into the dark freight-shed.

Hopkins struck a match and by its light gathered together a pile of
burlap from the pieces lying in the corners. He threw this down before
the door.

"There," he said. "Anybody who comes in that door 'll hev t' step over
Jed Hopkins. I reckon nobody 'll try that more 'n once. Now I'm goin'
t' shet th' door. You 'd better tell anybody who comes t' give me fair
warnin' afore they opens it."

"All right," laughed Allan. "Good night."

"Night," answered Hopkins, brusquely, and closed the door.

Allan heard him arranging himself on the other side. Then all was still.
The boy went back to his desk at the front of the office and sat down.
There was no sound to break the stillness, and the sudden sense of
fatigue which stole over him reminded him that he had already done a
hard day's work before starting for Coalville. Luckily, he was to be
relieved at midnight--an hour and a half more, and he would be free to go
to sleep. He would sleep all the way back to Wadsworth. He must be sure
to tell the conductor to call him and not let him be carried past his
station. The conductor would understand--he would know, himself, what it
was to work overtime.

He dropped his head on his hand, and sat staring out of the great window
which formed the front of the office. The rays of light from the lamp
on the wall beside him reached as far as the track which ran before the
station, but beyond that was utter darkness. The rain had ceased, but the
light was reflected in the puddles of muddy water which stood before the
station, and the eaves were drip-dripping like the ticking of a clock.
Once Allan thought he heard steps; and a moment later he fancied the
floor creaked--it was no doubt Hopkins, moving in his sleep. A man must
have nerves of iron to be able to sleep like that with a treasure-chest
to guard; but then--

Some indescribable influence caused him to turn his head, and he found
himself looking straight down the barrel of a revolver.



For an instant, Allan fancied that Jed Hopkins was playing a joke upon
him, but when he glanced at the figure behind the revolver, he saw at
once that it was shorter and heavier than that of the ex-plainsman. A
slouch hat was pulled down over the eyes and a dirty red handkerchief
tied over the mouth and chin, so that none of the face was visible except
a short section of red, pimply, and unshaven cheek. All this the boy saw
in the single second which followed his start of surprise on perceiving
the revolver at his ear.

"Hands up," muttered a hoarse voice, before Allan had time to move a
muscle, and as he mechanically obeyed, his hands were seized from behind
and bound together at the wrists in the twinkling of an eye.

"Now, tie him to his chair, Joe," said his captor, and in another moment
it was done. "Now the gag," and before the boy could protest, a corn-cob,
around which was wrapped a dirty rag, was forced between his teeth and
tied tightly to his head. Allan reflected grimly that he could appreciate
a horse's feelings when a bit was thrust into its mouth and secured there.

The man with the revolver lowered that weapon and regarded this handiwork
with evident satisfaction.

"That'll do," he said, with a chuckle. "I reckon _he_ won't bother us."

Allan, twisting his head around, saw that there were two men in the
office besides the one with the revolver, and he fancied he could detect
another walking up and down before the station. He knew, of course, that
they were after the miners' money, and the robbery had evidently been
planned with great care--as it had need to be, to stand any chance of

"Now, there's just one fellow in there," continued the man, who was
evidently the leader of the expedition, "and we've got to rush him. All

The others drew revolvers from their pockets and nodded, grouping
themselves before the door which led into the freight-shed.

The leader got out a small dark-lantern, tested it, and then leaned over
and blew out the lamp.

At the same instant, Allan, kicking out desperately, upset the other
chair which stood at the operator's desk. It fell with a crash, but the
noise was drowned by a greater one, as the door was flung back and the
robbers plunged through and hurled themselves upon Jed Hopkins.

Just what happened in the next few minutes Allan never definitely knew,
for the lantern carried by the leader was shattered in the first moment
of the onset and the place was in utter darkness. The little station
shook and quivered under repeated shocks, as though some heavy body was
being dashed against the floor and walls of the freight-shed. He could
hear the gasping breath and muttered oaths that told of a desperate
struggle. Evidently, Jed was giving a good account of himself, even
against those heavy odds. Then a revolver spoke, followed by a yell of
pain. A moment later there was a second shot, and instantly all was still.

"I thought I told you," began an angry voice--

"He made me do it!" broke in a fierce falsetto. "He put a hole right
through my hand."

Somebody struck a match and evidently took a quick survey of the place.

"We must be gettin' out of this," went on the first speaker. "Maybe
somebody heard them shots. Charlie, you go out and bring up th' wagon.
We'll break the lock."

One of the men hurried through the office and out of the station, but
Allan scarcely heard him. For he had managed to bring his arms down in
front of him; in an instant he had found his key, and was calling wildly
for Wadsworth. Wadsworth answered at once.

"This is West at Coalville," Allan ticked off with feverish haste. "There
are three robbers in station after coal company's money. Have killed
guard. Rush help. They're going--"

Some one seized him and dragged him violently back from the instrument.

"You young hound!" cried a fierce voice. "I've a good notion to--"

"What was he doin'?" asked a voice from the door.

"Callin' for help."

The man in the door muttered a fierce oath.

"Bat him in the face!" he said, and Allan was struck a savage blow
which sent him over backward upon the floor. He felt that his nose was
bleeding, but he did not lose consciousness.

"We've got plenty of time," went on the second speaker. "They can't get
anybody here inside of an hour. I wonder where that fool Charlie's gone?"

As though in answer to the question, there came a rattle of wheels from
the road outside, and Allan heard the men in the freight-shed smash the
lock and open the door which led out upon the freight-platform at the
side of the station.

"Here she is," said a voice, and a moment later the chest was dragged
toward the open door.

"How'd you manage about the operator?" asked a voice which Allan
recognized with a start as belonging to Dan Nolan.

"He's in there with his face mashed in."

"Is he?" and Nolan laughed joyfully. "I was never gladder in my life than
when I seen him git off th' train t'-night. You know who he is, don't

"No; who is he?"

"He's th' skunk that flagged th' pay-car an' got us all pinched."

There was a moment's astonished silence.

"Are you sure?" asked a voice incredulously, at last.

"Sure? I should say so. I've been tryin' t' do fer him ever since I got
out. You know that."

"Yes," growled one of the men; "we heard about it."

"Well," went on Nolan, triumphantly, "that was one reason I wanted t' git
th' reg'lar man out o' th' way. I knowed they wouldn't have much time t'
git another, an' this feller bein' right there in th' office, might hev
t' come. An' it worked as slick as greased lightnin'."

"You've got more sense than I thought you had, Dan," remarked another of
the men.

"Now we've got him, we kin do fer him," added Nolan.

"Oh, no, we can't," retorted the first speaker. "I won't stand for
that. Let the kid alone. He got a bullet through him that night. That's

"All right," assented Nolan, sulkily; "but I'm goin' in t' take a look at

Allan heard him enter the office. A match flared up and for an instant
blinded him. Then he saw Dan Nolan stooping over him, his eyes glittering
with infernal triumph.

"Well, well," he sneered, "so thet purty face o' your'n 's spiled at
last! It's my time now, you scab!" and he kicked the boy savagely in
the side. "I don't reckon you'll be pokin' your nose into other folks's
affairs much longer!"

Allan gazed up at him with contempt, not unmixed with pity, for he began
to believe that Nolan was insane. That wolf-like ferocity, surely, could
belong only to a disordered brain.

"Hurry up, there," called a hoarse voice.

"What're you goin' to do with this?" asked somebody, and Allan knew that
he referred to the body of Jed Hopkins.

"There's only one thing to do," said a third, and added a word in a voice
so low that Allan could not hear it.

"He's right," agreed the first speaker.

"How about the other one?"

"We'll take him out."

"But he'll peach!"

"I don't care if he does. Besides, what can he tell?"

"If he's heard us talkin' in here, he can tell a good deal."

There was a moment's silence.

"See here," said the first speaker, finally, "you fellows know how I
feel about this sort of thing. It's bad enough as it is; but there's a
difference in killin' a man in a fight an' killin' him in cold blood. I
don't care who he is, I won't stand fer nothin' like that. I've said so
once already and I stick to it."

"Well," remarked one of the others, "I guess you're right. Nolan, you get
him out."

"All right," said Nolan, who had reëntered the freight-shed to listen to
this controversy, and he started toward the office.

"Can you handle him yourself?"

"Sure. I'll jest drag him out in th' cheer an' set him down. Then he
can't bother us."

"Well, be quick about it. And shut all the doors."

Nolan entered the office and closed the door behind him. Then he groped
about until he found the chair which Allan had overturned. This he
dragged across the floor to the door which led into the waiting-room.

"Good-bye, Mr. West," he said, in a low voice, pausing an instant on the
threshold. "Good-bye, an' think o' me."

Then he shut the door, and Allan heard him dragging the empty chair
heavily across the other room. He swung open the outside door, bumped the
chair down the steps, then came up again and closed the door carefully.
A moment later, there came the rattle of wheels and the quick clatter of
horses' hoofs; the noise died away down the road and all was still.

Allan's head was aching horribly from the injuries which he had received
and from the position in which he lay, and he managed finally, by a
mighty effort, to twist himself over on his side. He struggled to get his
hands free, but they had been bound too tightly--so tightly, indeed, that
his wrists were chafed and swollen and his hands were numb. Nor could he
free himself from the chair. The rope, apparently a piece of ordinary
clothes-line, which held him fast to it, was knotted firmly at the back,
hopelessly beyond his reach.

When he had satisfied himself of this, he lay still again, in the easiest
posture he could assume. After all, he had only to possess his soul in
patience, and help would come. The attack, he thought, must have taken
place about half-past ten, and it must now be after eleven. The regular
passenger-train would be along shortly before twelve, bringing his
relief; he could not fail to be discovered then. He had only to lie still
for less than an hour. Perhaps not so long. A freight would probably
precede the passenger. Or it might be that the message he had sent to
headquarters before he was snatched away from his instrument would bring
help more promptly still.

Perhaps they were even now sending him a message of encouragement. He
listened, but heard no sound. Then he remembered that he had not heard
the instrument for a long time. He decided that when he was jerked away
from it, he had left the key open. That would tell them even more surely
that something was wrong. As long as his key remained open, the entire
line was out of service, and an investigation would follow in short order.

Yes, he would soon be found. And a great weariness settled upon him. He
fought against it for a time; but his eyelids drooped and drooped. He had
had a hard day, and a hard night. Tired nature could endure no more. His
eyes closed.

He dreamed that he was upon the topmost pinnacle of a great mountain.
Around him on all sides the rock fell away in abrupt and impassable
precipices. How he had reached that spot he did not know; still less, how
he would be able to leave it safely. He could not see the precipices, for
everything was dark around him, but he felt that they were there. The
darkness was absolute--no night he had ever known had been so dark. There
were no stars in the sky, no moon, and yet it seemed to him that the sky
was very near. And the silence frightened him.

Then, suddenly, to the left he discerned a point of light, which burst
upon the darkness, cutting it like a sword. It grew and grew with
astonishing rapidity, and he saw it was the sun. But it was not rising;
it was coming straight at him from some distant point in space; coming
rapidly and surely. He felt the air about him growing strangely warm and
radiant; warmer and more radiant; until the sweat broke out upon him and
a deadly fear assailed him--a fear that here, upon this pinnacle of rock,
he was to be consumed by fire. He looked wildly from side to side. There
was no escape. Yet any death was preferable to death by fire, and with a
quick intaking of the breath, he leaped far out, and fell, fell--

He opened his eyes with a start. For an instant, under the influence of
the dream, he fancied that he was still upon the rock, so light and warm
was the office. Then he heard the roar of fire, and angry tongues of
flame licked under and around the door, casting a lurid glow across the



For an instant, Allan stared stupidly at those red tongues of flame,
licking merrily about the door--then, in a flash, he understood, and his
pulses seemed to stop. The robbers had set fire to the station! It was in
this way they proposed to get rid of the evidences of a crime far more
serious than robbery. And thus, too, they hoped to get rid of the only
witness of that crime not implicated in it--and then Allan remembered--it
was not the robbers, it was Dan Nolan who had left him here to die--Nolan
who had been told to place him in safety, and who had pretended to do
so! He remembered Nolan's last words, the chuckle which had accompanied
them,--all this passed lightning-like through the boy's mind, as a
drowning man, in the moment before he loses consciousness, sees before
him his whole life, in a kind of wonderful and fearful panorama.

And, indeed, Allan was as near death as any drowning man--and a death
infinitely more horrible. Only for a breath did he lie there passive,
staring at the flames; then he strained and tugged at his bonds,
regardless of torn flesh, of bleeding wrists, of aching muscles, but the
knots held firmly. Finally, still tight to the chair, he managed to turn
upon his hands and knees and to drag himself, inch by inch, toward the
door which opened into the waiting-room. Would he reach it in time? He
scarcely dared hope so, for the other door was crackling and smoking,
threatening every instant to burst into a sheet of flame.

He _did_ reach it, somehow, and raised himself to turn the knob and open
it, when from behind him there came a blood-curdling yell, the smoking
door burst open and a frantic apparition plunged through the sheet of
flame, snatched open the other door before which Allan crouched, and,
catching the boy by the collar as it passed, hurled itself on across
the waiting-room and through the outer door to safety. There it dropped
the boy heavily beside the track, and threw itself into a pool of muddy
water, left by the rain of the evening before. In this it wallowed and
rolled, as though enjoying the utmost luxury of the bath, and Allan,
watching it, began to fancy it some kind of monstrous amphibian.

But at last the monster rose, shook itself, and a hoarse voice issued
from it.

"Thought they had Jed Hopkins, did they? Shoot him an' burn him--bound t'
git him some way! Not this time, gentlemen! Oh, no, not this time," and
Jed rubbed his hand over his head, leaving himself almost bald, for his
hair had been scorched off.

He stood an instant watching the flames. Then he remembered Allan, and
strode toward him.

"Hello, kid," he said. "What'd they do to you?"

The gag prevented Allan from uttering more than a hoarse grunt by way of

Jed stooped down and looked at him more closely.

"Gagged, by gum!" he said, and reaching around behind the boy's head, had
the gag loose in a moment. "Not dead, eh?" he asked.

"No," answered Allan, smiling despite his wounds. "Only knocked up a

"An' tied up, too," added Jed, seeing the ropes for the first time. "I
thought there was something queer about you when I dragged you out, but I
didn't hev time t' stop an' inquire what it was. There you are," and he
drew a knife from his pocket and severed the ropes. "Kin you stand up?"

He helped the boy to his feet, and after a moment of uncertainty, the
latter was able to stand alone.

"Oh, I guess you ain't much hurt," said Jed, cheerfully. "Where'd all
this gore come from?" and he indicated the boy's shirt, the front of
which was fairly soaked with blood.

"From my nose," answered Allan, smiling again.

"Oh, that's good fer ye!" Jed assured him. "Banged you on th' nose, did
they? Break it?"

"I don't know," and Allan touched it tenderly. "It's pretty sore."

"Let's see," said Jed, and seizing the swollen organ, he wiggled it back
and forth, not regarding the boy's pained protest. "No, it ain't broke,"
he announced, after a moment. "Hurt any place else?"

"I think not," Allan replied, feeling himself all over. "Nothing more
than a few bruises, at least. But aren't _you_ hurt? I thought you were

Jed passed his hand over his head again, and laughed.

"So did that feller who put his pistol to my head an' pulled th'
trigger," he said. "You see, they all piled on me so that it wasn't fer
some time I could git an arm loose an' git my gun out."

"I thought the station was coming down," Allan remarked, "from the noise
you made. It felt like an earthquake."

"Yes, we _did_ bump around considerable. Well, when I got my gun out, I
jest fired it into th' air sort o' haphazard, an' winged one o' them."

"Through the hand; it was he who shot at you."

"He didn't take no chance," said Jed. "He made a lucky kick in th' dark
an' caught me right on th' wrist an' knocked th' pistol clean out o' my
hand. Then I felt th' cold muzzle of a revolver pressin' agin my head,
an' I reckoned Jed Hopkins's time was up. Then I didn't know no more till
th' fire begun t' burn one hand, an' that woke me up."

"But how does it come you weren't killed?"

"Mebbe my skull's too thick fer a ordinary pistol-ball t' make a hole in.
But I remember jerkin' my head away, an' I reckon th' ball hit me a kind
o' glance blow, jest enough t' stun me. You kin see how it parted my hair
fer me."

He held down his head, and Allan saw, furrowed in the scalp, a raw and
bleeding wound.

"If you happen t' have a handkercher in yer pocket," Jed added, "mebbe
you'd better tie it up till I have time t' git it sewed t'gether."

Allan got out his handkerchief and tenderly bandaged the wound as well as
he was able.

"I reckon I'll be bald fer quite awhile," remarked Jed, when that
operation was finished. "You see, my hat was knocked off in th' scuffle,
an' my hair was jest ketchin' fire. I reckon I didn't come to any too

"Well," said Allan, "I'm glad you came to when you did, not only for your
sake, but for my own. You saved my life, too, you know."

"Oh, shucks!" Jed protested. "Not a bit of it. You'd 'a' got out all
right. But I'm wastin' time. I've got t' hike away on th' trail o' them
robbers. Hello! Here comes help!"

The station was by this time almost wholly in flames, which shot high
into the air and were reflected on the clouds. The light had been
observed in the village and everybody turned out of bed, awakened by
the shouts, and started for the scene of the fire. The volunteer fire
company, which possessed an antiquated hand-pump engine, got it out and
yanked it along over the muddy road, although, if they had stopped to
think, they would have known that there was no available water within
reach of the station. However, at such a time, very few people do stop to
think. It was, perhaps, a just punishment for their thoughtlessness that
the members of the fire company were forced to tug the heavy engine back
to the village by themselves, after the fire was over,--the populace,
which had been only too eager to pull at the ropes on the outward trip,
utterly refusing to lay a hand to them on the way back.

At the end of fifteen minutes, the station was surrounded by a seething
mass of people, who understood imperfectly what had happened and applied
their imaginations to supplying the details. It was Jed Hopkins who, in
spite of his blistered face and scorched head, took the leadership and
selected twenty men to form a posse to pursue the robbers. And just as
this ceremony was completed, the midnight train pulled in and nearly a
score of armed men leaped off, headed by the sheriff of Athens County.

He explained his presence in a moment. The dispatcher at Wadsworth,
immediately upon receiving Allan's warning, had called up the sheriff
at Athens, told him of the robbery, and asked him to swear in a body
of deputies and proceed to the scene on the first train. He had also
wisely concluded that where there had been so much fighting, there were
doubtless some wounds to dress, and the company's surgeon, armed with
lint, bandages, and what not, had come down from Athens with the posse.

He set to work at once dressing the injuries which Allan and Jed Hopkins
had sustained; while two linemen, who had come by the same train, started
in to straighten out the tangle of wires and reestablish telegraphic
communication. The operator who was to relieve Allan was also on the
train, so the boy was free to return home, when he wished.

But he had no such intention.

"I'm going along," he announced to Jed, as that worthy emerged, his head
elaborately bandaged, from under the hands of the surgeon.

"All right, kid," Jed agreed, good-naturedly. "Kin you ride?"

"Not very well; but I'll manage to stick on."

"Sure you kin stand it?" and Jed looked at him thoughtfully.

"If I can't, I'll drop out."

"Well, come along; you were in at th' beginnin' an' it's no more'n fair
you should be in at th' end. Besides, you'll be useful identifyin'
suspects. You're th' only one that seen 'em--they were on me afore I had
my eyes open. But I left a mark on one of 'em--that'll help. You say it
went through his hand?"

"Right through his hand, I heard him tell one of the others."

"Good; that won't be easy to rub away! Now, men," Jed went on, "we'll
divide into two parties. You men who come with th' sheriff are armed, so
you kin start at once. Th' robbers drove off along this road. You start
ahead, an' I'll go up to th' mine an' git arms fer my men an' as many
hosses as I kin find, an' we'll come right after you."

The men murmured assent and started off along the road, the sheriff in
the lead.

"But how can they ever catch them?" asked Allan, as he watched them
disappear in the darkness.

"Ever hear th' story of th' turtle an' th' rabbit?" queried Jed.

"Yes--but this rabbit isn't going to go to sleep."

"Well, they'll have t' sleep sometime. Besides, we've got a messenger
that kin go a million miles to their one," and he motioned toward the
wires overhead.

"You mean the telegraph?"

"Sure. Th' fust thing fer you to do is t' write out th' best description
ye kin of them robbers, an' have it sent over th' wire jest as soon as
it's fixed. It ort t' go to every police station an' tellygraft office
within fifty mile o' here. By mornin', every road ort t' be guarded, and
them fellers'll have to be mighty slick t' slip through. Meanwhile, we
keep a-follerin' 'em an' pushin' 'em on, an' purty soon they're caught
between two fires. See?"

Allan nodded. He began to perceive that there was not so much urgency in
starting off after the robbers as he had thought. The first thing was to
spread the net, and then to drive them into it.

"An' remember t' make th' description as full as ye kin," added Jed.
"Don't leave out th' bullet-hole. Every little helps. Ye didn't happen t'
know any of 'em, did ye?"

"I recognized one of them," answered Allan, in a low voice, "and I
believe I know the others. They're those convicts who got away from the
penitentiary not long ago."

"Th' deuce they are!" cried Jed, slapping his thigh. "Oh, this is too
easy--this is child's play! Why, we've got 'em sure--every police-station
in th' State has got their photygrafts! Git that off jest as quick as ye
kin, an' then wait fer us here. We've got t' come back this way, from th'
mine, an' I'll bring an extry hoss fer you."

"All right," agreed Allan, and Jed led his men away into the darkness.

A gasoline torch, hung to one of the telegraph-poles, flared and
sputtered above the boy's head, as he sat down on a rock beside the
track to write the description required of him. At the top of the pole,
silhouetted against the sky, he could see the linemen labouring to make
the connection. The operator had already found an old box, placed it
at the foot of the pole, and screwed his instrument down to it, ready
to commence work. Indeed, he had gone farther than that, and attached
to the inside of the box a hook for orders--for that box would no doubt
represent the Coalville station for some days to come.

Allan got from him a sheet of paper, braced his back against the pole,
and began to write, using his knee as a table; he described the men as
accurately as he could; then, with compressed lips, he added that in
company with the gang was Dan Nolan, a prisoner parolled from the Ohio
penitentiary, and that from some words he had overheard, he believed
the other men to be the convicts who had escaped from there about a
week before. As Jed Hopkins had said, every police-station in the State
already had photographs of these men, and it did not seem possible that
they could escape the net which this description would draw around them.

Suddenly the instrument on the box began to chatter, and Allan knew the
connection had been made. As he read over his description, his ears
mechanically caught the first words spelled out on the instrument, and
his eyes clouded with sudden tears, for the words were:

"Is West safe?"

"Yes," the operator answered. "He's right here writing a description of
the robbers."

"O. K. Let's have it," clicked the instrument, and Allan handed the
description over.

As he leaned forward, it seemed to him that something burst in his side;
there was an instant's rending pain, which wrung from him an agonized
cry; then merciful nature intervened, and he fell back unconscious upon
the ground.



Allan had said in his message that he had recognized Dan Nolan; yet,
in the stress of his emotion at the time, the strangeness of Nolan's
appearance under the circumstances had not occurred to him. Yet it was
strange; yes, more than strange. Here was Nolan in company with the men
whom he had basely betrayed by turning State's evidence, and apparently
received by them again on terms of comradeship. How had they come to
forgive him the one offence which criminals never forgive? What was it
had turned aside their anger and persuaded them to admit again to their
company a man who had been proved a traitor?

The chain of circumstances which led to this result was so peculiar that
it is worth pausing a moment to describe.

Nolan had gone south, as Jack Welsh had predicted, after the failure
of his attempt to wreck the special and to revenge himself on Allan;
but drawn, as Jack had foreseen, by an irresistible attraction, he had
gradually worked his way back to the north again, and, not daring to
return to Wadsworth, had finally drifted to Coalville. There, after
loitering around the saloons, until they refused admission to so
penniless and disreputable a customer, he had secured work as hostler in
the company's stables; where, if the wages were not large, neither was
the work exhausting. Here Nolan had remained for some months, believing
himself secure from discovery. He slept in a loft at the rear of the
stable, and here, one night, he was awakened by a savage grip at his
throat. He endeavoured to yell, but as he opened his mouth, something was
stuffed into it that muffled the cry, and nearly choked him. Half-dead
with fright, he felt himself lifted from the hay, passed down the ladder
and borne out into the open air. Then he fainted.

When he opened his eyes, he fancied for a moment that he was dreaming,
so weird and uncanny was the picture which confronted him. Black columns
towered about him into the darkness overhead, like the pillars of a
cathedral, and now and then he caught a glimpse of the ebon ceiling,
shining with moisture, which dripped down the pillars to the floor. Just
in front of him flickered a little fire, over which a pot was simmering.
About the fire were grouped four figures; and as he looked from one to
the other of them, Nolan's senses reeled and his heart quaked, for, by
the dancing light of the fire, he recognized the four men whom he had

How had they come here? Their terms in prison, he knew, would not end for
many years; buried as he was in this hole among the hills, associating
only with the dullest and most depraved of human beings, he had heard
nothing of their escape. How had they found him? Above all, what did
they intend to do with him? He shuddered as he asked himself that last

His captors were talking earnestly among themselves, paying no heed
to him, but at the end of a moment, one of them arose to examine the
contents of the pot, and glancing at Nolan, perceived that his eyes were

"Why, hello, Dannie," he cried, with a sort of unholy glee which
frightened Dan more than any threats could have done, "how are ye?"

Dan could find no voice to answer, but the others got up and, moving
nearer, sat down before him. Their eyes were shining as a cat's do when
it sees the mouse under its paw. And like the cat, they prepared to put
their prey to the torture.

"Well, this _is_ an unexpected pleasure," said one.

"So glad to have you as our guest," said another.

"Yes; we've got the spare room ready," said a third, whereat they all
laughed uproariously.

"The spare room--good!"

"A lofty chamber, Dannie; you'll feel like a king."

"And sleep like a top!"

"Even if the bed is rather hard."

And then they all laughed again.

"Yes--and as long as you like! You're our guest, Dannie. And we're going
to keep you awhile!"

Dan was bathed from head to foot in a cold sweat. He could not guess
their meaning, but he knew it boded no good for him.

"We've been wanting to see you so bad," one of the men went on, "ever
since you treated us so well at the trial. Pity you couldn't have held
your tongue then, Dannie; you'd have had to stay in jail a little longer,
but at least you'd have been alive."

At last Dan found his tongue.

"You ain't a-goin' t' kill me!" he cried. "You wouldn't treat an old pal
like that!"

"No, no, Dannie!" came the answer, soothingly, "we're just going to put
you in our spare room. Then I'm afraid we'll have to bid you adieu. You
see this State don't agree with our health very well. We wouldn't have
stayed this long except for the pleasure of seeing you. Ain't you glad?"

"How'd you know where I was?" Nolan asked.

The man laughed.

"Why, we've known where you were ever since you were let out on parole.
We heard how you'd tried to wreck another train, and then lighted out for
the south; we heard about your roustabouting on the wharves at Mobile,
and stealing a case of tobacco from a warehouse and trying to sell it
and coming so near getting pinched that you had to get out of that place
in a hurry, and start back north again. Why, we've got friends who, at a
word from us, would have done for you a dozen times over--they knew what
you'd done; but we were reserving that pleasure for ourselves, Daniel.
And when we heard that you had stopped here, we decided to pay you a
little visit on our way out of the State, and had this place fixed up for
us, and here we are. But you don't look a bit glad to see us!"

Dan, following the speaker with painful attention, caught a glimpse of an
underworld whose existence he had never suspected--a confederacy of crime
to which he, as a mere novice and outsider, had never been admitted.
The one unforgivable crime to this association was to turn traitor, to
"peach"--that is, to inform against one's accomplices in order to escape
oneself. That was exactly what Nolan had done, and he was now to pay for

The four men, as by a single impulse, rose to their feet, and one of them
picked up a coil of rope which lay at the foot of the nearest pillar.

"Get up," said one of them roughly, to Nolan.

But Nolan was paralyzed by fear, and incapable of movement, for he
believed that they were going to hang him.

"Get up," his captor repeated, and seizing him by the shoulder, jerked
him to his feet.

Nolan clutched for support at the pillar against which he had been
leaning. He saw now that it was of coal, and he suddenly understood where
he was. He had been brought to one of the abandoned workings of the mine;
he knew there were many such, and that no one ever ventured into them
through fear of the deadly fire-damp which almost always gathers in such
neglected levels. And he knew there was no hope of rescue.

"Why, look at the coward!" cried his captor, disgustedly. "He's as weak
as a rag. It's enough to make a man sick!"

Dan turned a piteous face toward him.

"You--you ain't goin' to hang me?" he faltered.

The men burst into a roar of laughter.

"No," one of them answered, "we're goin' to save you from gettin' hanged,
as you certainly would be if we let you go. Really, you ought to thank

Partially reassured, Dan managed to take a few steps forward. After all,
they had said they were not going to kill him!

Then he stopped, with a quick gasp of dismay. At his feet yawned a pit,
whose depth he could not guess. The torch which one of his captors bore
disclosed the black wall below him, dripping with moisture, plunging into
absolute and terrifying darkness.

Then Nolan understood. This was the "spare room."

His teeth were chattering and a sort of hoarse wailing came from
his throat, as they slipped the rope under his arms. He was only
half-conscious; too weak with terror to resist. He felt himself lifted
and swung off over the abyss; his body scraped downward along the rough
wall, hundreds of feet, as it seemed to him; the moisture soaked through
his clothes and chilled him. At last his feet touched solid ground, but
his legs doubled helplessly under him and he collapsed against the wall.
He felt the rope drawn from about him; then a kind of stupor fell upon
him and for a time he knew no more.

At last he opened his eyes again and looked about him. He thought, at
first, that he was sleeping in his loft, and that it was still night.
Then he felt the rock at his back, and suddenly remembered all that had
happened to him. His throat was dry and parched; his muscles ached, and
every particle of strength had left his body. It seemed to him that hours
and even days had passed while he lay there unconscious. Really, it had
been only a few moments.

He stretched his hands out on either side and felt the rough and dripping
wall; then he got uncertainly to his feet, and step by step, advanced
along the wall, stumbling, and stopping from time to time all a-tremble
with fear and weakness. He kept on and on for perhaps half an hour; the
cavern seemed of mammoth proportions, and a new terror seized him.
Perhaps his captors had not really intended to leave him there to die;
perhaps they only wished to frighten him; but if he wandered away into
the mine there would be no hope for him.

He turned, and started back again with feverish haste. Suppose they
should look for him, and finding him gone, give him up for lost? A dry
sobbing choked him, but still he hastened on. And yet, how was he to tell
when he had reached the spot to which he had been lowered? Might he not
go past it? How was he to know?

He stared upward into the black void above him, but it showed no vestige
of light. He raised his voice in a shrill cry, but there was no response
except the echo flung back at him by the vault above. And again that
convulsive trembling seized him, and he sank limply down against the
wall. But whatever manhood he had rallied to his support; that love of
life which is the one controlling force of cowardly natures asserted
itself and gave him some semblance of self-control. He clasped his
head in his hands and tried to think. To find his way back--and then
it suddenly occurred to him that he had in his pocket some matches. He
fumbled for them eagerly. Perhaps, with their help--

He struck one against the under side of his coat-sleeve, which was
comparatively dry. It flared unsteadily, and then burned clearly. For
a moment, Nolan was blinded by the flame; then he stared about him,
scarcely able to believe his eyes. For on every side the black walls
shut him in. He was at the bottom of a pit, not more than thirty feet in
diameter, and he had been walking round and round it, too agitated and
stupefied by fear to notice that he was travelling in a circle.

The match sputtered and went out, and Nolan sat for a long time with the
stump of it in his fingers. He was evidently at the bottom of a shaft
sunk in search of another vein, or, perhaps, of a natural cavity in the
rock. Of the height of the walls he could form no estimate, but they
were so smooth and straight that ten feet were as impossible to him as a
hundred. Decidedly there was no chance of escape unless his captors chose
to assist him.

As he sat there musing, a light fell into the pit, and he looked up to
see one of his captors gazing down at him by the light of a torch which
he held above his head.

"I just came to say good-bye," he called down.

"Good-bye?" echoed Nolan, hoarsely.

"Yes,--it will soon be dark, and we're going to pull out for the west.
Ohio's too hot for us just now."

"And--and you're goin' t' leave me here?" cried Nolan.

"We certainly are. How do you like it?"

"But that'll be murder!" Nolan protested. "You might swing fer it!"

"Oh, no, we mightn't. You'll never be found. You're done with this
world, Daniel. Fix your thoughts upon the next."

Nolan uttered a hollow moan. Then a sudden inspiration brought him to his

"See here," he said, "let me out o' here an' I'll put y' on to somethin'

His captor laughed mockingly.

"I'm afraid it's not good enough, Daniel-in-the-lion's-den," he said.
"You're asking too big a price."

"It's sixty thousand dollars," said Dan, still more eagerly. "You kin git
it day arter t'-morrer, as easy as fallin' off a log."

The smile on the other's face vanished and he stood for a moment looking
thoughtfully down into the pit.

"Is there anything in this, or is it just moonshine?" he asked, at last.

"It's straight!" Nolan protested. "It's dead straight! Pull me out o'
here an' I'll tell you."

"Wait a minute," said the other, and disappeared.

Nolan waited with an anxiety that deepened with every passing second; but
at last the light appeared again at the edge of the pit, and this time
four faces looked down at him instead of one. The rope was lowered, he
slipped it under his arms, and three minutes later stood again facing his


Without speaking, they led him back to the place where their fire was
still burning and motioned him to sit down.

"Now," said one of them, "let's have the story."

"And if it's straight, you'll let me go?"

"If it's straight, we'll let you go. If it's not, back you go into the
pit, and this time you won't have a rope to help you down."

"Oh, I ain't afeerd," said Nolan. "It's straight. But I think I ort t'
have some of it."

"How much did you say there is?"

"Between fifty an' sixty thousand dollars."

"It's not in a bank?"

"No; it's in a box."

"And we can get it within a day or two."

"You kin git it day arter to-morrer."

"If everything turns out well, you shall have a thousand dollars."

"Oh, come," protested Nolan, but the other stopped him with an impatient

"That or nothing," he said, curtly, and Nolan surrendered, for he saw the
man was in earnest.

"All right," he said, glumly, and instinctively they all drew a little
nearer the fire. "Th' day arter t'-morrer," he began, "they'll come in on
th' evenin' train a box containin' sixty thousan' in cold cash."

"Whose is it?" asked one of the men.

"It b'longs t' th' mine company," said Nolan; "it's th' men's wages."

And again the group drew a little closer together.



Jed Hopkins, at the head of his men, hastened away from the station
toward the offices of the company. There were several things he wanted
cleared up before starting in pursuit of the robbers. In the first place,
what had happened to the wagon which was to have come after the chest;
and, in the second place, what had become of the man he had sent out to
look for it?

The latter question was quickly answered. As they passed through a little
locust grove just beyond the station, Jed's alert ear caught a stifled
cry or gurgle to the left of the road, and without pausing an instant, he
started toward it. The others followed, and a moment later, they found
Jed's companion bound to a tree and gagged as Allan had been.

His adventures were soon told. He had started along the road leading to
the mine, expecting every moment to meet the wagon coming for the chest.
Just as he reached the grove, he heard wheels approaching, and stopped,
intending to hail it, but before he could open his mouth, some one threw
a heavy cloak or sack over his head from behind and pulled it tight,
while some one else tripped him up and sat on him. His hands were tied,
the gag forced into his mouth, and he was led to the tree and securely
fastened. Then to his astonishment, he heard the wagon stop, and the men
on it exchange greetings with his captors. The latter then clambered
aboard and the wagon continued on toward the station.

"Was it the company's wagon?" asked Jed.

"I couldn't swear to it," answered the other, chafing his wrists to start
the circulation, "but it sounded mighty much like it."

"Well, we must find out," said Jed, and hurried forward.

As they neared the company's office, they became aware of a dull
pounding, as of some one hammering upon iron. It would cease for a moment
and then begin again, louder than before. Not until they came quite near
did any of the posse guess what it was; and it was Jed who guessed first.

"There's somebody shut up in th' office," he said. "I'll bet th' robbers
did it! Well, they're clever ones fer sure!"

And this conjecture proved to be correct, as Jed found after a few
moments' shouted conversation with the prisoners. The first thing to
be done was to get them out, but this was not so easy as might appear,
for, as has already been stated, the little building had been built to
withstand a siege; it was lined with steel, the windows were heavily
barred and the door was armoured. One of the prisoners explained that the
door had been locked on them from the outside, but the key was not in the

"They probably throwed it away arter they locked th' door," said Jed.
"But we can't find it in th' dark. Th' only thing t' do is t' break a
couple o' bars out o' one o' th' winders, an' make a hole big enough fer
'em t' squeeze through."

And, after twenty minutes' hard work, this was accomplished.

There were four prisoners, one of whom was the paymaster and another the
mine superintendent, and after they had crowded through the opening, they
told the story of their capture.

The horses had been hitched to the wagon in the company's stable, and it
had then been driven to the homes of the superintendent and paymaster,
picked them up, as the custom was, and then turned back toward the
company's office to get the two guards who awaited it there and who were
to accompany it to and from the station. The guards were there, and the
superintendent had unlocked the door, and led the way in to get the guns
with which the guards were always armed. He had left the door open and
the key in the lock, as he expected to go out again immediately. It was
at that moment that the door was slammed shut and the key turned. Those
within the office had seen no one, nor heard any noise until the door

"But what was your driver doin' all that time?" asked Jed. "Why didn't he
give the alarm? Did they git him, too?"

"I don't know. Probably they did. I don't see how else his silence can be

"You didn't hear any struggle?"

"No; still they might have silenced him with one blow."

"Mighty hard to do," said Jed, reflectively, "with him up there on th'

"We'll know in the morning," remarked the superintendent. "We'll probably
find his body hid around here somewhere."

"Well, we haven't got time t' look fer him now," said Jed. "How many
hosses kin we hev?"

"We've got six in the stable yet."

"Let's have 'em out," and while they were being saddled and brought
up, Jed picked out four of the men whom he knew to accompany him and
his partner in the mounted pursuit of the robbers. One of them crowded
through the hole in the window and passed out arms and ammunition. The
remainder of the posse was dismissed, and returned slowly toward their
homes, not without considerable grumbling that their services had been so
lightly regarded.

At the end of ten minutes, Jed and his five companions were mounted
and away. They were soon back at the station, which was now only a
smouldering mass of ruins, so quickly had the flames been able to consume
the flimsy frame structure.

"Where's that kid?" asked Jed. "I didn't suppose he'd keep us waitin'."

"Something's th' matter over there," said one of the men, and pointed to
a little group which had gathered at one side of the track.

Jed swung off his horse and hastened to investigate. He found that it had
gathered about Allan West, who lay unconscious, his pale face looking
positively ghastly under the flickering light of the gasoline torch,
which hung from the pole above him.

"What's th' matter with him?" asked Jed. "He told me he wasn't hurt."

"He's hurt in the side," answered the surgeon, who was bending above the
boy. "I think there's a couple of ribs broken. He never mentioned the
injury when I dressed his other wounds. Is there a hospital at Coalville?"

"Hospital?" Jed grunted, derisively. "Well, I should say not!"

"Number Nine's due in about ten minutes," said the operator. "You can fix
up some sort of bed in the baggage-car and take him back to Wadsworth."

"That'll do," agreed the surgeon, and bent again above the boy.

Jed stood watching him for a moment, shifting uneasily from one foot to
the other.

"Think he's very bad, doctor?" he asked, at last.

"Oh, no," answered the surgeon. "Just overdone things, I guess, and
fainted from the pain. He'll be all right, as soon as I can get him to a
place where I can fix him up."

Jed heaved a sigh of relief.

"That's good," he said. "He's a plucky kid. I'd hate to see him knock
under," and he strode away to join his men.

In another moment, they were off up the road in the direction taken by
the robbers. The latter had a start of over an hour, but that did not
worry Jed, because he knew they would soon find themselves on the horns
of a dilemma. Either they must take the chest with them, or leave it
behind. If they took it, they could not abandon the wagon, and yet they
would scarcely dare to use it after daybreak, for it had the name of the
mining company painted on its side. On the other hand, they would not
abandon the chest until they had opened it and secured the contents, and
Jed knew that it would be no easy job to break the chest open. So he rode
on at a sharp canter, confident that the fugitives could not escape.

For some miles there were no branches to the road except such as led
to houses among the hills a little back from it. So he rode on without
drawing rein, until he came to the place where the road forked. Here
he found the sheriff and the posse which had set out on foot unable to
decide which fork to take and unwilling to divide their forces.

"You wait a minute," said Jed, jumping from his horse, and striking a
match, he went a little way up one of the forks and examined the road
minutely. "They didn't come this way," he announced, at last, and came
back and went up the other fork. Here he repeated the same performance,
lighting match after match. At last he stood erect with a grunt of
satisfaction. "All right," he said. "We're on th' trail."

"How do you know we are?" inquired the sheriff, incredulously.

"No matter," said Jed. "Take my word fer it. I didn't live on th' plains
twenty year fer nothin'. Hello! What's that?"

He was listening intently, but for some moments the duller ears of the
other members of the posse could catch no sound. Then they heard, far
up the road, the clatter of horses' hoofs and the rattle of wheels.
The sound came nearer and nearer, and Jed, who was peering through the
darkness, suddenly drew his pistol and sprang to the middle of the road.

"Halt!" he cried, and the other members of the posse instinctively drew
up behind him, their guns ready.

They could hear the wagon still lumbering toward them.

"Halt, or we fire!" cried Jed, again, but still the wagon came on, and a
gray shape appeared in the darkness ahead.

Jed raised his pistol; then, with a sharp exclamation, thrust it back
into his belt, sprang forward, and seized the approaching horses by the

The posse swarmed about the wagon. The sheriff struck a match, and
painted on the wagon's side descried the words:


"Why," said the sheriff, in bewilderment, "this is th' rig they run away

"Precisely," agreed Jed, coolly. "One of you men hold these horses, will

The sheriff clambered to the seat and struck another match.

"The wagon's empty," he announced.

"I thought so," said Jed, mounting beside him. "They took out th' chest
an' then turned th' rig loose."

"And where are they?"

"They're somewhere ahead openin' that box. I'll ride on with my men. You
turn th' wagon around an' foller with as many as she'll hold."

"All right," agreed the sheriff, and Jed sprang to horse again.

"Come on, boys," he called, and set out up the road at a sharp gallop.

Mile after mile they covered, but without finding any sign of the
fugitives. At last, Jed dismounted and again examined the road.

"We've passed 'em," he announced. "They didn't git this far. We've got
'em now, sure."

The east was just showing a tinge of gray, as they turned to retrace
their steps. Jed stopped every now and then to scrutinize the road. At
the end of a mile, they met the sheriff and his party in the wagon.

"See anything of 'em?" he asked.

"Not a thing," said Jed, "but they're back there, somewhere. Wait a
minute," and he got down and looked at the road again. "By George!" he
cried, "they ain't far off! See, here's where they turned th' wagon an'
started her back." Then he looked at the tracks again. "I don't know,
either," he added. "I don't believe they turned it at all. Look how it
ran down in this gully here by the fence--it's a wonder it didn't upset.
The horses turned toward home themselves."

"Well, and where are the convicts?" asked the sheriff.

"They're somewhere between here an' th' forks o' th' road," said Jed.
"They can't git away!"

But by noon he was forced to confess that their capture was not going to
be so easy as he had supposed. Practically every foot of the ground on
both sides of the road had been beaten over, and yet not a trace of the
robbers had been discovered. Nay, more than that, search as he might,
Jed, with all his skill in woodcraft, was not able to discover where they
had left the road. That four men, carrying a heavy chest, should have
been able to cross the muddy fields which extended on both sides of the
road without leaving some mark of their passage seemed absurd, and yet,
after going over the ground for the third time, Jed was forced to confess
himself defeated.

"They're slick ones--that's all I kin say," he remarked, and mounted his
horse and started back to Coalville.

The sheriff picketed every by-path; through all the neighbourhood the
alarm was spread, and men were on the alert. Acting under instructions
from the State authorities, the sheriffs of adjoining counties set a
guard on every road by which Coalville could possibly be approached, and
every one who could not give a satisfactory account of himself and who
resembled in the least degree any one of the four convicts, was placed
under arrest. The police of every city, the constables of every township,
nay, the dwellers in every house, were on the lookout for the fugitives.
It seemed impossible that they could escape through the meshes of a net
so closely drawn. Yet two days passed, and they had not been heard from.
They had disappeared as completely as though the earth had opened and
swallowed them.



When Allan opened his eyes, it was to find the kindly face of Mary Welsh
looking down at him.

"Is it time to get up?" he asked, and tried to rise, but Mary pressed him
gently back against the pillow.

"There, there, lay still," she said.

"But what," he began--and then a sudden twinge in the side brought back
in a flash all that had occurred. "Am I hurt?" he asked.

"Not bad, th' doctor says; but you'll have t' kape quiet fer awhile.
They's two ribs broke."

"Two ribs!" repeated Allan.

"Right there in yer side," said Mary, indicating the place.

"Oh, yes; that's where Dan Nolan kicked me."

"Where what?" cried Mary, her eyes flashing.

And Allan related in detail the story of his encounter with Nolan.

Before he had finished, Mary was pacing up and down the chamber like a
caged tigress, her hands clasping and unclasping, her features working
convulsively. Allan, in the carefully darkened room, did not notice her
agitation, and continued on to the end.

"You lay still," she said, hoarsely, when he had ended; "I'll be back in
a minute," and she hurried down the stair.

Once out of his sight, her self-control gave way completely; a dry
sobbing shook her, a sobbing not of grief but of sheer fury. Jack was
sitting listlessly by the window when she burst into the room.

"Why, what is it, Mary?" he cried, starting to his feet. "Is he worse? He
can't be! Th' doctor said--"

"Jack," said Mary, planting herself before her husband, "I want you t'
promise me one thing. If you iver git yer hands on Dan Nolan, kill him as
you would a snake!"

"What's Nolan been doin' now?" he asked, staring in astonishment at her
working features.

"It was him hurt our boy," she said; "kicked him in th' side as he laid
tied there on th' floor. Stood over him an' kicked him in th' side!"

Jack's face was livid, and his eyes suffused.

"Are you sure o' that?" he asked thickly.

"Allan told me."

"Th' fiend!" cried Jack. "Th' divil!" and shook his fists in the air.
Then he sat heavily down in his chair, shivering convulsively.

"An' more'n that," Mary went on, "he shut th' boy in th' station an'
left him there t' burn," and she repeated the story Allan had just told

When she had done, Jack rose unsteadily.

"You say th' boy's all right?" he asked.

"Yes--he ain't got a bit o' fever."

"Then I'm goin' t' Coalville," he said. "I couldn't sleep with th'
thought of that varmint runnin' loose. I'm goin' t' git him."

Mary's eyes were blazing.

"Good boy!" she cried. "When'll you go?"

"Now," he answered. "I kin jest ketch Number Four. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Jack," she answered, and caught him suddenly in her arms and
kissed him.

She watched him as he went down the path, then turned, and composing her
face as well as she was able, mounted the stair and took up again her
station by Allan's bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour after Jack had got off the train at Coalville, he entered
the office of the Coalville Coal Company.

"I want a gun," were his first words.

"What for?" inquired the man at the desk.

"T' look fer th' robbers."

The man gazed at him thoughtfully. There was something in Jack's
appearance, a certain wildness, which alarmed him a little.

"I don't believe we care to employ any more deputies," he said at last.

"I don't want t' be employed--I don't want no wages--I'm a volunteer."

At that moment, the door opened and a man came in,--a tall, thin man,
whose head was bandaged and the skin of whose face was peeling off.

"Here, Jed," said the man at the desk, glad to turn the task of dealing
with a probable madman into more competent hands, "is a recruit. And,
strangely enough, he doesn't ask for pay."

"It ain't a bit strange," protested Jack, and he explained briefly who he

When he had finished, Jed held out his hand.

"Shake," he said. "That kid o' your'n is all right--grit clear through.
Will he git well?"

"Oh, he'll git well, all right."

"Good!" cried Jed, his face brightening. "I've been worryin' about him
considerable. How'd he git his ribs broke?"

"One o' them fellers kicked him in th' side," explained Jack, and
repeated the story he had heard from Mary.

"Th' skunk!" said Jed, when he had finished, his face very dark. "Th'
low-down skunk! I only wish I could git my hands on him fer about two

"So do I," agreed Jack, his lips quivering. "That's why I came."

Jed held out his hand again.

"I'm with you!" he said. "We'll go on a little still-hunt of our own.
I'd intended t' go by myself, but I'll be glad to hev you along."

So Jack, provided with rifle and revolver, presently sallied forth beside
his new friend.

"No trace o' them yet?" he asked.

"Not a trace," Jed answered. "It beats me. But one thing I'm sure
of--it's possible that they managed t' slip through my lines, but they
didn't take th' chest with 'em."

"Then what did they do with it?"

"That's what I'm a-goin' t' find out," said Jed, grimly. "It's somewhere
here in these hills, an' I'm goin' t' find it if it takes ten years."

And, indeed, after the first day's search, it seemed to Jack that it
might easily take much longer than that.

"There's one thing they might 'a' done with it," Jed remarked, as they
turned homeward in the twilight. "They might 'a' shoved it up in some of
th' old workin's around here. They're full o' fire-damp, o' course, an'
no man could venture in them an' live, so I don't see jest how they'd
work it. But to-morrer we'll take a look at 'em."

So the next morning they set out, carrying, instead of rifles, a
collection of ropes, candles, and lanterns, which Jed had procured from
the mine.

"I've got a plan of th' old workin's, too," he said. "There's some over
on th' other side of th' hill which it ain't any use wastin' time on.
Them fellers couldn't 'a' carried that chest over th' ridge, if they'd
tried a month. But there's six or eight on this side. There's th' fust
one, over yonder," and he pointed to a black hole in the hillside. "All
of these old workin's," he went on, "are what they call drifts--that is,
wherever they found th' coal croppin' out, they started in a tunnel, an'
kept on goin' in till th' vein pinched out. Then they stopped and started
another tunnel on th' next outcrop. They're all driven in on an incline,
so they'll drain theirselves, an' as soon as th' company stopped pumpin'
air into them, they probably filled up with gas, so we've got t' be
mighty careful."

He clambered up to the mouth of the tunnel and peered into it cautiously.

"Can't see nothin'," he said. "Let's try fer gas."

He took from his pocket a leather bag, from which he extracted a little
ball of cotton saturated in oil.

"Stand aside," he said, and himself stood at one side of the mouth of the
tunnel. Then, grasping the ball by a piece of wire attached to it, he
struck a match, touched it to the cotton, and then hurled the ball with
all his force into the opening.

It seemed to Jack that there was a sort of quick throb in the air, a
sheet of flame shot out of the tunnel mouth, and an instant later a dull
rumbling came from within the hill.

Jed caught up a lantern, snapped back the covering of wire gauze which
protected the wick, and lighted it.

"Come on," he said. "It's safe for awhile now," and he led the way into
the cavern.

For a moment Jack could see nothing; then as his eyes grew accustomed to
the gloom, he discerned the black and dripping walls on either hand, and
the dark void before, into which Jed walked, swinging the lantern from
side to side.

But he did not go far. Fifty feet from the entrance, a pile of debris
blocked the way. Jed swung his lantern over it and inspected it.

"No use t' look any further in here," he said. "This stuff's been down a
long time. Let's go on to number two."

The second tunnel was about five hundred feet from the first one, and
resembled it exactly. But when Jed threw into it his blazing ball, there
was no explosion.

"Hello!" he said, in surprise, and then, bending down, he saw the ball
blazing brightly on the floor of the tunnel, some distance from the
entrance. "Why, that hole is ventilated as well as a house!" he added.
"Plenty of air there," and catching up the lantern, which he had not
extinguished, he started into the tunnel.

The air was fresh and pure, and Jed, looking about for an explanation,
was not long in finding it.

"Look up there," he said, pointing to where a glimmer of light showed
through the gloom above. "There's a flue up there--an accident, most
likely,--just a crack in the rock,--but it lets the gas out all right.
Why, a feller could live in here--By George!" he added, "some feller has
been livin' here. Look there."

Jack followed the motion of his finger, and saw, on the floor, a pile
of half-burned coal. Over it was a bent piece of iron which had been
driven into the floor and evidently served as a crane. A pot and a couple
of pans lay near the base of one of the pillars which had been left to
support the roof.

"And they was more than one," Jed continued, and pointed to four lumps
of coal grouped around the central pile. "They used them to set on. It's
dollars to doughnuts here's where th' gang stayed till they was ready t'
spring their trap. Th' question is, are they here yet?"

"You kin bet your life they ain't," answered Jack, confidently.

"'Cause why?"

"'Cause we're here t' tell th' tale. If they was here, they'd 'a' picked
us off ten minutes ago. Think what purty marks we made."

"Mebbe they thought they was a posse with us."

"Well, they don't think so now, an' they ain't shot us yet."

Jed nodded and moved forward.

"Well, if they ain't here, mebbe th' chest is," he said, but they saw no
sign of it, although they explored the chamber thoroughly. "They could
'a' reached here with it easy enough," he went on. "Th' road's jest down
there, an' th' station ain't over half a mile away. Nobody thought o'
their gittin' out so clost to th' station. That's th' reason I didn't
find their tracks. They drove th' wagon on nearly six mile afore they
turned it loose. Steady, steady," he added, suddenly, and stopped.

At his feet yawned a pit of unknown depth. He swung his lantern over it
and peered down, trying to see the bottom. Then he stood upright with a
sharp exclamation.

"It's down there," he said.

"What is?"

"The chest. Look over. Don't you see it?"

"I kin see something," answered Jack, "but it might be a lump o' coal, or
any old thing. What makes you think it's th' chest?"

"I _know_ it is," Jed asserted. "You wait here till I git th' ropes," and
he hurried away toward the mouth of the tunnel.

Jack, holding the lantern at arm's length and shading his eyes with his
other hand, leaned over the pit and stared down long and earnestly. But
strain his eyes as he might, he could discern no details of the oblong
mass below. That it should be the chest seemed too great a miracle.

But Jed was back in a moment, a coil of rope in his hand.

"Now I'll show you," he said, and laying down the rope, took from his
pocket another of the oil-saturated balls, lighted it and dropped it into
the pit.

It struck the bottom and sputtered for a moment, then burned clear and

And the two men gazed fascinated at what it revealed to them.

The chest was there, as Jed had said; and beneath it, crushed against the
rock, lay a man.



Only for an instant did Jed Hopkins and Jack Welsh stand motionless there
on the edge of the pit, staring down at the gruesome sight the burning
cotton disclosed to them. Then Jed sprang erect, his lips compressed,
caught up the rope, and rapidly made a noose in one end of it.

"I'll go down," he said. "I'm th' lightest, an' I guess you kin handle me
all right. Stand well back from th' edge an' git a good hold. Let it play
over th' rock here where it's smooth. Ready?"

"All right," Jack answered, taking a turn of the rope around his arm and
bracing himself for the weight.

Jed sat down at the edge of the pit, placed one foot in the noose he
had made, tested it, and then swung himself off. Jack paid out the line
slowly and carefully, so that it might not get beyond his control. At the
end of a moment, the line slackened, and Jack, looking down into the pit,
saw his companion bending over the ghastly figure crushed against the

"He's dead," Jed announced, after a short examination. "He's mashed right
in. That box must o' caught him square on th' breast. He never knowed
what hit him."

"Who is he?" asked Jack, in an awed whisper, and then he started
violently back, as something dark and uncanny whirred past his face,--for
Jack was not without his superstitions, and the surroundings were
certainly ghostly enough to impress the strongest heart. As he looked up,
he fancied he saw two eyes gleaming at him out of the darkness; again
there was a whir of wings past the lantern, and then he laughed aloud,
for he saw his spectral visitor was only a bat.

"What's th' matter?" queried Jed, looking up in surprise. "I don't see
nothin' t' laugh at."

"There's a lot o' bats up here," explained Jack, a little sheepishly. "I
was jest gittin' ready t' run--I thought they was banshees. Do you know
who th' pore feller is?"

Jed struck a match and examined the dead man's face.

"No, I don't know him," he said at last. "An' yet his face seems sort
o' familiar, too. Why, yes; it's a feller who's been workin' around our
stables. By gum! It's th' one thet druv th' wagon! We've been lookin' fer
his corpse everywhere; an' when we didn't find it, we thought he was in
cahoots with th' robbers an' had skipped out with 'em! Now how do you
suppose he got here?"

Jack, of course, could find no answer to the question, but stood staring
stupidly down until Jed, by a mighty effort, rolled the box to one side,
and passed the noose beneath the dead man's arms.

"All right," Jed called. "I think you kin lift him--he ain't very heavy."

And Jack slowly pulled the body up, hand over hand, the muscles he had
acquired by long years of work on section standing him in good stead.

Then, as the ghastly face, hanging limply back, came within the circle of
light cast by his lantern, he saw it clearly, and in the shock it gave
him almost let the body fall.

"Good God!" he muttered. "Good God!" and stared down, fascinated, into
the half-closed, lustreless eyes.

For the dead man was Dan Nolan.

Just how he had met death there at the bottom of that pit was never
certainly known. Perhaps he had been sent down ahead to steady the chest
in its descent and cast loose the ropes, and the chest had slipped or
got beyond control of the men who were lowering it and crashed down upon
him. Or perhaps he himself, helping to lower it, had lost his balance
and fallen, only to be crushed by it as it, too, fell. His companions,
terrified, no doubt, by the tragedy, had waited only to assure
themselves that he was dead, and had then drawn up the ropes and fled.

Some of those who knew the story of Nolan's treachery to the robbers,
believed that it was not an accident at all, but that his companions had
deliberately used this method of avenging themselves and getting rid of
him, now that his usefulness to them was past. Whether by accident or
design, certain it was that Nolan had met his end miserably at the very
place where his captors had intended him to die.

As soon as Jed was got out of the pit, help was summoned, for the box
was far too heavy for two men to raise. The news that it had been found
spread like wildfire, and a regular procession started for the mouth of
the old mine to see it recovered. Among them was the paymaster, and, as
soon as the box was hauled up, he produced a key from his pocket, turned
it in the lock, and threw back the lid.

"Good!" he said. "They didn't stop to open it. Knew they ran the risk of
being held up and searched, and didn't want any of the stuff to be found
on them. They certainly had every reason to believe that it was safely
planted here."

"They didn't have time t' open it," said Jed. "That lock was specially
made--see how it throws three bolts instead o' one. Nobody could 'a'
picked it. Th' only way they could 'a' got that chest open was t' blow
it, like a safe, an' I don't suppose they was fixed fer that kind o'
work, comin', as they did, straight from th' pen."

"Or perhaps they was scared away by Nolan's death," added Jack. "I
certainly wouldn't 'a' cared t' stay here arter that!"

"Well, whatever the cause, the money's here," said the paymaster, and
closed the lid again and locked it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening shadows were lengthening along the path as Jack climbed up
to the little house back of the railroad yards, and softly opened the
door and entered. Mary was in the kitchen, and, at the sound of his step,
turned toward him, her face very pale, her eyes asking the question her
lips did not dare to utter. Jack saw the question and understood.

"He's dead," he said, briefly.

"Oh, Jack, not that!" cried Mary, her face gray with horror. "Not that! I
didn't mean it! God knows I didn't mean it!"

"Don't worry. 'Twasn't me killed him. T knowed I couldn't do it. But I'd
'a' took him back to th' pen, myself, an' waited t' see him locked up."

Mary drew a deep breath of relief, and the colour returned to her face

"Thank God!" she said. "I was prayin' all night, Jack, that you wouldn't
find him; I was so worrited t' think that I'd let you go like that! And
yet he wasn't no better than a snake!"

"Well, he's gittin' his deserts now," and Jack told her the story of the
finding of the body.

Mary listened to the end without offering to interrupt.

"'Twas God's judgment, Jack," she said, solemnly, when he had finished.
"But," she added, with a quick return of housewifely instinct, "you must
be half-starved."

"I _am_ purty hungry, an' that's a fact," he admitted. "What's that
you've got on th' stove? It smells mighty good," and he sniffed

"It's some chicken broth fer Allan. Would y' like some?"

"A good thick beefsteak 'd be more in my line. How is th' boy?"

"Comin' on nicely," answered Mary, as she hurried to the pantry. She
reappeared in a moment, bringing back with her just the sort of steak
Jack was thinking of.

He stared at it in astonishment.

"What are you," he demanded, "a witch? Do you jest wave your wand an'
make things happen?"

"Oh, no," laughed Mary. "I bought it this mornin'," and the steak was
soon sizzling temptingly in a skillet.

"And you're sure th' boy's comin' along all right?" he asked.

"Th' docther says he kin set up day arter t'-morrer. He's got his side
in a plaster cast, an' says he'll keep it there till th' ribs knit. He
says that won't take long."

The doctor, as will be seen, counted on Allan's perfect health and
vigorous constitution; nor did he count in vain, for two days later he
permitted the patient to rise from the bed, helped him carefully to
descend the stairs, and saw him comfortably installed in a great padded
chair by the front window, whence he could look down over the busy yards.

"Why, it seems like old times," he said, smiling, as he sank back into
the chair. "It isn't so very long ago that I was sitting here with a
bullet-hole through me."

"You certainly have had your share," agreed the doctor. "It's just about
two years since I cut that bullet out from under your shoulder-blade.
What did you do with it?"

"Here it is," said Mary, and taking a small bottle from the mantelpiece,
she showed the little piece of flattened lead inside.

"You'll get over this a good deal quicker," went on the doctor,
reassuringly. "You may walk around a little, only be careful to move
slowly and not to bring any strain or wrench upon the side. I'll look in
once in awhile and make sure you're getting along all right," and with
that he was gone.

At the gate, Allan saw him meet a mail-carrier, and pause to answer a
question which the carrier put to him. Then he jumped into his buggy, and
drove away, while the carrier mounted to the front door and knocked.

"I've got a registered letter here for John Welsh," he said, when Mary
opened the door. "Is he here?"

"Here I am," said Jack, "but th' letter must be fer some other John
Welsh. Where's it from?"

"It's from Coalville."

"Then it's fer you, Jack," said Mary, quickly.

"All right; sign for it here," said the carrier, and presented the card
and book.

Jack signed silently, and waited till the door closed behind the carrier.

"I don't believe it's fer me," he said. "Who'd be sendin' me a registered

"The best way to find out is to open it," suggested Allan.

"Here, you open it," said Jack, "an' if it ain't fer me, shut it up agin.
I've heerd o' people bein' sent t' jail fer openin' letters that didn't
belong to 'em."

"Very well," assented Allan, and tore open the envelope and drew out the

Jack noticed how his face changed and his hands trembled as he glanced
through it.

"Put it back, boy," he cried. "I knowed it wasn't fer me. Put it back!"

"Yes, it _is_ for you, Jack," said Allan, looking up, his eyes bright
with tears. Listen:

  "'Mr. John Welsh,
     "'_Wadsworth, Ohio_.

  "'Dear Sir:--As you are no doubt aware, the Coalville Coal
  Company offered a reward of five thousand dollars for the recovery
  of the chest, with contents intact, which was stolen on the night of
  the 10th inst. Mr. Jed Hopkins and yourself succeeded in finding the
  chest, and an examination proved the contents to be undisturbed. It
  is with great pleasure, therefore, that I enclose the company's check
  for twenty-five hundred dollars, your share of the reward, and the
  company desires also to thank you for the great service which you
  assisted in rendering it. Please acknowledge receipt of check.

                           "Very truly yours,
                              "'S. R. Alderson,

For a moment, Jack stood staring at Allan, incapable of utterance; then,
by a mighty effort, he pulled himself together.

"But that ain't right!" he protested, violently. "I didn't find th'
chest! I didn't do nothin'! It was Jed Hopkins. I jest went along! I
didn't do a blame thing! I won't take it!"

Mary looked at him, her face alight with love and pride.

"That's right, Jack!" she cried. "We don't want nothin we hain't earned
honest--we won't wrong nobody in this world!"

Allan sat looking at the slip of pink paper he held between his fingers.

"I don't know," he said, slowly. "It seems to me that you are certainly
entitled to a portion of the reward--perhaps not to half of it. You
surely helped some."

"If I did, I don't remember it," said Jack. "Besides--"

A knock at the door interrupted him. Mary opened it, to find a tall, lean
figure standing on the threshold.

"Why, it's Jed Hopkins!" cried Allan. "Come in! Come in!"

"Sure I will," laughed Jed, stooping a little as he entered the door.
"An' how is the kid?"

"The kid's first-rate," Allan assured him, clasping warmly the great palm
held out to him. "Mary and Jack," he went on, turning to the others,
"this is the man who saved my life. He was on fire himself and the flames
were all about him, but he stopped long enough to get hold of me and pull
me out."

"Oh, shet up!" protested Jed. "I didn't stop at all. I jest sort o'
hooked on to you as I was goin' past."

Mary came up to him, all her heart in her face.

"We can't thank you," she said. "They ain't no use in our tryin' t' do
that. But if that boy'd died like that--it--it--it would 'a' broke our

"An' this is th' feller they think I'll rob," broke in Jack.

"Rob?" repeated Jed, looking at him.

"Do ye think fer a minute," cried Jack, fiercely, "I'd take one penny o'
that reward? Not me! I didn't earn it! Here!" and he seized the check
from Allan's fingers and crushed it into Jed's hand. "Take it. It's

Jed, his face very red, stared from the check to Jack and from Jack to
the check. Then a queer twinkle came into his eye.

"Oh, all right," he said, "if you feel that way."

"I do," said Jack, "an' so does Mary," and he watched until Jed had
folded the check and placed it in his pocket. "Now," he went on, with a
sigh of relief, "I feel better. O' course you'll stay t' supper?"

"O' course I will," answered Jed, promptly, and Mary bustled away to
prepare the meal.

And when it was served, half an hour later, Jed was given the place of
honour between Jack and Allan, with Mamie and Mary across from him.

"Well," he said, looking around at the smoking dishes, "this reminds me
of old times, afore I pulled up stakes an' went West. I was born in New
Hampshire, an' didn't know when I was well off, an' so run away like so
many fool boys do. I ain't had a home since--an' I've never had th' nerve
t' go back thar an' face my old mother that I deserted like that. You
see, I jest want t' show you what a good-fer-nothin' skunk I am."

"You've got a home right here, if you want it," said Mary, quickly, out
of the depths of her heart.

Jed cleared his throat once or twice before he found the voice to answer.

"Mrs. Welsh," he said, "I'm a-goin' back now, jest as fast as a train kin
take me. I wanted t' come over fust an' say good-bye t' th' kid. He's
clear grit. But I won't never fergit them words o' yours."

At last he pushed his chair back from the table and rose.

"Th' best meal I've eat in twenty year," he said. "But I've got t' go--my
train starts at six-ten. How much do I owe you?"

"What!" cried Jack, his eyes flashing. "Owe us? Ye don't owe us a cent!"

"Do you take me fer a dead beat!" shouted Jed. "I'm a-goin' t' pay fer
that meal. Here," he cried, and fillped a folded bit of pink paper out
upon the table, "take that. It's wuth it."

Allan alone understood, and he began to smile, though his eyes were wet.

"You infernal galoot," went on Jed, excitedly, "did you suppose fer a
minute I'd take that money? I was never so near lickin' a man in my
life! Take it, or by George, I'll lick you yet!"

And with that, he jumped on Mamie, caught her up, kissed her, and fairly
ran from the house.



But those were happy hearts he left behind him, and sweet were the dreams
they dreamed that night. Mary, the summation and perfect example of Irish
housewives, dreamed of a little home in the suburbs, with an orchard and
garden, and a yard for chickens, and a house for the cow, and a pen for
the pigs, where she could be busy and happy all day long, working for
her loved ones. Jack dreamed of a new gown his wife should have, and of
new dresses for Mamie, and some new books for Allan, and a new pipe for
himself,--for Jack had only a limited idea of what twenty-five hundred
dollars would accomplish. And Allan dreamed of the day when he, too,
could come in as Jed Hopkins had done, and leave behind him a princely

"Jack," said Mary, at the table next morning, the memory of her dream
still strong upon her, "I've been wishin' we could move t' some little
place where we could kape chickens an' a cow."

"I wish so, too, Mary," said Jack. "Mebbe some day we kin."

"It 'd be jest th' place fer Mamie,--she don't git enough outdoors."

"Why, what's th' matter with her?" asked Jack, with a quick glance at the

"Nothin' at all," Mary hastened to assure him; "but she ought t' have a
big yard t' play in--an' th' tracks is mighty dangerous."

"Yes, they is," Jack agreed. "I wish we could git away from them."

"Well, I'll look around," said Mary, and wisely let the subject drop

She _did_ look around, and to such good purpose that two days later,
which was Sunday, she led Jack triumphantly to a little house standing
back from the road in a grove of trees, just outside the city limits.

"I wanted ye to look at it," she said. "I thought mebbe you'd like t'
live here."

From the triumphant way in which she showed him about the place, and
pointed out its beauties and advantages, it was quite evident that her
own mind was made up. And, indeed, it was a perfect love of a place. The
house was well-built and contained eight rooms--just the right number;
the yard in front was shaded by graceful maples, and flanked on the left
by a hedge of lilac. Behind it was a milk-house, built of brick, and with
a long stone trough at the bottom, through which cold, pure water from
a near-by spring was always flowing. Then there was a garden of nearly
half an acre; an orchard containing more than a hundred trees, and
outbuildings--just such outbuildings as Mary had always longed for, roomy
and dry and substantial. Nearly an hour was consumed in the inspection,
and finally they sat down together on the steps leading up to the front

"It's a mighty nice place," said Jack. "There can't be no mistake about

"An' it's fer sale," said Mary. "Fer sale cheap."

"Well, he'll be a lucky man what gits it."

"Jack," said Mary, with sudden intensity, "you kin be that man--all you
have t' do is to write your name acrost th' back of that little slip o'
pink paper an' give it t' me. T'-morrer I'll bring you th' deed fer this
place, an' we'll move in jest as soon as I kin git it cleaned up."

Jack looked about him and hesitated.

"I wanted you t' have a new dress, Mary," he said at last. "A silk one,
what shines an' rustles when ye walk--like Mrs. Maroney's."

"What do I keer fer a silk dress?" demanded Mary, fiercely. "Not that!"
and she snapped her fingers. "I got plenty o' duds. But a home like this,
Jack,--I want a home like this!"

There was an appeal in her voice there was no resisting, even had Jack
felt inclined to resist, which he did not in the least. He took from his
pocket the slip of pink paper, now a little soiled, and from the other
the stump of a lead pencil. Slowly and painfully he wrote his name, then
handed the check to Mary.

"There you are," he said. "An' I'm glad t' do it, darlint. Fer this place
suits me, too."

And a pair of red-birds in the lilac hedge were astonished and somewhat
scandalized to see the woman, who had been sitting quietly enough, fling
herself upon him and hug him until he begged for mercy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mamie had remained at home to entertain Allan, which she did by getting
him to read to her. She had grown to like Jean Valjean, too, though
she preferred the thrilling portions of the story to the quieter ones
which told of Bishop Welcome. This time she chose to hear again of Jean
Valjean's flight across Paris with Cosette--how she shivered when he
allowed that piece of money to rattle on the floor, or when, looking
backward, he saw the police following him through the night; how she
shuddered when he found himself trapped in that blind alley, hemmed in
by lofty walls, where all seemed lost; and then the horrors of the hours
that followed--But once Cosette was stowed safely away in the hut of the
old, lame gardener, the curly head began to nod, and Allan, looking up at
last from his reading, saw that she had gone to sleep.

He laid his book aside, and sat for a long time looking down over the
yards, busy even on Sunday; for the work of a great railroad never
ceases, day or night, from year end to year end. He thought of the
evening, nearly three years agone, when he had first crossed the yards by
Jack Welsh's side, a homeless boy, who was soon to find a home indeed.
How many times he had crossed them since! How many times--

A man was crossing them now, a well-dressed, well-set-up man, whom, even
at that distance, the boy knew perfectly. It was Mr. Schofield, who had
proved himself so true a friend. Allan, as he came nearer, waved at him
from the window, pleased at the chance for even a distant greeting; but
instead of passing by, the trainmaster entered the gate and mounted
toward the house. Allan had the door open in a moment.

"Why, hello," said the trainmaster, shaking his outstretched hand warmly.
"Are you as spry as all this? You'll soon be able to report for duty."

"I can report to-morrow, if you need me, sir," Allan answered. "I can't
indulge in any athletics, yet, but I can work a key all right. Besides,
I'm tired of sitting around doing nothing."

"Well, we'll say Thursday," said Mr. Schofield. "I can manage to worry
along without you till then."

"I'll be on hand Thursday morning," Allan promised.

"Oh, I don't want you in the morning--you'll report at eleven at night
for the third trick, east end."

"Why," stammered Allan, his lips trembling, "why, do you mean--"

"I mean you're a regular dispatcher," explained the trainmaster, briefly.
"Nothing extraordinary about it at all. Mr. Heywood has been made general
manager, with headquarters at Cincinnati, so we all take a step up."

"Then you're--"

"Yes, I'm superintendent. Look about the same, don't I?"

Allan held out his hands.

"I'm glad," he said. "And I know one thing--there's not a road on earth
that's got a better one!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor looked rather grave when Allan told him he was going to work
Thursday night, but really there was little danger so long as the boy
was careful to avoid strain on the injured side. The plaster cast had
been removed, and in its place had been substituted by a broad leather
bandage, drawn so tightly about the chest as to prevent all movement of
the ribs. That was to stay there until the injury was quite healed. But,
aside from the discomfort of this bandage, the boy was in no pain, he had
had no fever after the second day; and, despite the fiery protests of
Jack and Mary, the doctor finally consented that Allan should go to work
as he had promised.

"T' think of a boy with two broke ribs in his body a-goin' t' work--an'
at sech a time o' night!" fumed Mary, as she packed his lunch-basket for
him. "But a railroad ain't got no feelin's. All it wants is t' work a man
till he's played out an' done fer, an' then throw him away like an old

"Maybe I can get a job as crossing watchman when that time comes,"
laughed Allan. "I ought to be good for a few years yet, anyway."

"It wouldn't surprise me a bit t' be follerin' yer coffin a week from
now," declared Mary, darkly; but, just the same, it would have surprised
her very much.

Allan laughed again, as he took up his lunch-basket and started across
the yards. He was a little early, but he wanted to spend an extra five or
ten minutes going over the train-orders, to make sure that he understood
them thoroughly. As he approached the station, he saw two carriages drive
up. A number of young men and women got out of them--they had evidently
been packed in pretty tight--and gathered in a voluble group on the
platform, evidently waiting for the east-bound flyer, which was almost

Allan, passing quite near, suddenly found himself looking into the blue
eyes of Betty Heywood. Instinctively he raised his hat.

"Why, how do you do," she said, and held out her hand in the old,
friendly manner. "I hear you've been distinguishing yourself again."

"Just blundering into trouble," he answered, smiling. "Some people are
always doing that, you know."

"Well, that's better than running away from it--some people do that, too."

"Oh, yes," he agreed, and then stopped. He found it strangely difficult
to talk to her with all these friends about her. If they were only alone

"I'm going away to school," she went on, seemingly not noticing his

"Then you'll be gone a long time?"

"Oh, I'm never coming back to Wadsworth--that is to live. You see, we're
moving to Cincinnati, where papa will have his headquarters. But, of
course," she added, "I shall often come back to see my friends. Oh,
there's my train! Good-bye!" and she held out her hand again.

"Good-bye," said Allan; then, not trusting himself to speak, he turned
hastily away and mounted the stairs to the office.

But he carried a sweet thought warm against his heart. Part of the duty
of his first trick would be to guard Betty Heywood from harm, as the
train which bore her sped eastward through the night.

And here this tale must end. Perhaps, some day, the story will be told of
how Allan West fulfilled the duties of his new position; of the trials
he underwent and the triumphs he achieved; of how he made new friends,
yes, and new enemies, as every man must who plays a man's part in the
world; and of how, finally, he won great happiness in the days when the
boys in cab, and caboose, and section-shanty loved to refer to him, with
shining eyes and smiling lips, as "The young trainmaster; the best in the
country--and a true friend to us!"


                    *       *       *       *       *

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                    *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note

The Morse Code image just before the "Contents" page appears to
translate as follows:

    .. -. ¦ .- ..... ..... . .. . .. . .. .- - .. . . -. ¦ . . .-. ¦
     I  n ¦  a   p     p    r   e  c   i  a  t i   o  n  ¦  o   f  ¦

    - .... . .. . .. ¦ .- ... ... .. ... - .- -. .. . . ¦
    t  h   e  i  r   ¦ a   s   s  i   s  t  a n   c   e ¦

    .- -. -.. ¦ -.- .. -. -.. ¬¬ .. .. ¦ .. -. - . . .. . ... -
    a  n   d  ¦  k  i  n   d   l   y   ¦ i  n  t e  r   e  s  t

[Note: ¬¬  equals the longer 'dash' in the image.]

Time Correction

On page 214, No. 70 is reported to pass Madeira at "7.04". However, the
time of travel for No. 102 between Madeira and Norwood was 12 minutes and
No. 70 left Norwood at "5:50" (according to the "Train Sheet"). So, "7.04"
was changed to "6.04".

End of Project Gutenberg's The Young Train Dispatcher, by Burton E. Stevenson


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