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HOME > Inspiring Novel > Simeon Tetlow's Shadow > CHAPTER XXVIII
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Who is managing?” said Simeon.
They had finished breakfast and sat with chairs pushed back from the table. It was the first question he had asked about the road. He had devoted himself to the business of getting well as thoroughly as to any business he had ever undertaken. But he was well now. “Who is managing!’ he said quietly.
The young man looked at him with a frank smile. “Nobody is managing,” he said—“That ’s the worst of it. I ’ve been doing things—things that had to be done—and trying to stave off other people’s managing.”
Simeon nodded quickly. “That ’s the best thing could have happened. I hope you ’ve done it.”
“Well, not altogether—The men in the office were all right.... But the directors fidgeted some—”
“Corbin,” said Simeon, “I know.”
The young man nodded.
“Oh, I know,” said Simeon testily. “And Dickerman, I suppose—yes, yes, I know—Go ahead now—Tell me everything.” He leaned forward with elbows on the table—the old alert look in his eyes.
When the recital was finished, he stood up, stretching his arms with a gesture of content. “It might be worse,” he said.
“You may find it worse than you think,” said the young man, “No head to anything.”
“Just legs and arms,” said Simeon. He laid his hand in passing on the boy’s shoulder. “I’d rather have legs and arms—good ones—than any heads I know of—except my own,” he added laughing. “When do we go?”
“I brought down the special last night. She’s at Bridgewater.”
“Stetson with her! That ’s good. We start tonight—Get there at ten—Sleep home—Ready for business.”
John smiled at the old, quick orders and went out to set them in motion. He looked up to the clear, keen sky with a sudden lightness of heart. A new day had come. Perhaps the tortoise had something the same feeling when Atlas stooped his shoulder to the world.
By night, the little house was stripped of its belongings. Some of them were packed in bags and boxes and the rest were to be stored in the loft overhead. The boughs of spruce and hemlock and pine had been taken down from the walls and burned in the fireplace during the day. The room was filled with the sweet, pungent odor.
At the last minute John had hurried to the woods and brought back an armful of fresh boughs—spruce and pine, hemlock and blue-berried cedar—clustered thick—and trailing green vines. He tossed them lightly into the back of the sleigh and sprang in.
The special was waiting on the siding. They saw the little, flying puffs rise from her and float on the clear air.... Stetson was ready—with steam up—They would be off at once.
The baggage master came forward to help with the bags. He spoke a word in John’s ear as he passed him.
The young man glanced quickly toward the engine that puffed and chugged at the head of the little train. He helped Simeon into the car and hurried forward. The man standing by the engine looked at him with troubled eyes.
“He’s sick,” he said slowly, as John came up. “He was took bad just after he came down.” He nodded toward the baggage room, “He told me to fire Up—ready to go ahead. Said you’d know what to do.”
The young man turned toward the baggage room. The engineer, out of a heap of blankets, spread across some trunks, regarded him somberly. “I can’t do it,” he said, “I don’t dare. It gripes too hard when it comes. It’s easier now, for a minute—But it ’ll come back.” He writhed a little as he spoke.
“You must n’t stay here,” said John quickly. He looked about him.
The man put out a hand. “I’m going,” he said, “as soon as she starts. I waited for you.” John nodded. “Is there anyone—on the others?” He motioned toward the yard.
The man shook his head gloomily—“Freights,” he said. A kind of subtle pride underran the words—“I would n’t trust ’em with Her.”
The young man lifted his head—A swift thought had crossed his face. “I saw Tomlinson on the street as we drove in—Could he-?”
The man stared at him—“Old Tomlinson?” Justice weighed in the tone. “You can ask him,” he said grudgingly at last.
“He ’s all right for it?” questioned John.
The man writhed a little in his place. But justice held—“He’s all right if he says so,” he answered. His teeth bit at the under lip, holding it firm, and he breathed hard. “He’s first-class—Tomlinson. He won’t say he can take her unless he’s able. You can trust Tomlinson—same as you would me.” The pride of brotherhood breathed in the words—lifting them mightily.
“I ’ll see him,” said John.
The hand held him back. “Don’t urge him.” He gasped a little for breath between the words. “If he says he can do it—let him take Her.”
“I understand,” said John. “I ’ll send some one for you.” He was gone from the room.
As he passed the car, he hesitated a minute. Then he sprang up the step and went in. “All ready!” said Simeon looking up.
“Stetson ’s sick—Shall we wait over?”
“Wait over? No! Get somebody—Get anybody!” He threw out the words.
The young man hesitated a minute. He had not mentioned Tomlinson’s name to Simeon. Something had always pulled him back when he had thought to do it. “There’s a man—” he said slowly—“lives here—He ’s not running now—”
“Competent?” said Simeon.
“Stetson says so.”
“Get him.”
Tomlinson, one foot on the sleigh, looked at him under keen, shaggy brows. He glanced toward the station, with its wreathing, drifting lines of smoke. He shook his head. “I’m going home,” he said. He threw the halter into the sleigh and knocked the snow from his boots against the side.
John watched him silently, as he climbed in and gathered up the reins in big,-mittened hands.
“We need you, Hugh,” he said slowly.
The old man nodded—impassive. “Can’t go,” he said.
“Why not!”
“She ’ll be waiting.” He pulled a little on the reins.
“Send some one home with the team—There’s Russell! Get him.”
The Scotchman glanced with indifferent eye at a man crossing the street. “I ’ve got my chores to do.” He pulled again on the reins.
The old horse lifted his head.
John laid a hand on the sleigh. “See here, Hugh. We need you—There’s no one else—He told me to get you.”
The pull on the reins was checked. “Who told you!”
“President Tetlow. He ’s waiting—” He motioned toward the track where the special was blowing off steam. Hugh’s eye followed the motion. It dropped to the young man. “He told you—Sim Tetlow—” he demanded, “He wants me!”
“Yes. He wants you—But not if you ’re not up to it—” He had remembered Stetson’s words.
The old man leaned forward, winding the reins slowly around the whip. “I ’ll take Her,” he said.
“You ’re not afraid!” said John. Something in the face disturbed him.
“I ’ll take Her,” said Hugh briefly.
“Stetson’s jumpers are in the cab,” said John as they came down the platform.
“Too short,” said the old man. He was striding with mighty step.
John glanced at him. “That ’s so—The coat’s all right.”
“Like enough,” said Hugh absently. His face had an absorbed look—The eyes beneath the fur cap gleamed like little points of light. When they reached the engine, the light broke and ran over his face. He mounted to the cab and laid his hand on the lever—“I ’ll take her down, Johnny—Don’t you worry.” He nodded to the young man standing below.
The face cleared. “All right, Hugh—It’s the President of the Road you ’re carrying, you know.”
“Aye—It ’s Sim Tetlow—I know,” said Hugh. He opened the lever a little.
The young man hurried toward the car.
“All right!” asked Simeon as he came in. The train was in slow motion.
“All right,” said John.
Supper was brought in and they ate it leisurely, watching the light change and fade upon the hills and darkness settle down outside. Simeon’s eyes came back to the young man’s face. “I mean to know this country,” he said, “every mile of it.”
The young man smiled a little. “Don’t you know it now!”
“I don’t know anything,” said Simeon. “I was born last night.—I was born last night,” he said looking at the black window in a reverie. “Who lives along here?” He nodded toward the darkness. “What kind of people!”
John peered out. “Winchendon, we just passed, was n’t it? I don’t know. I’ve never been here.”
“Ever lived outside of Bridgewater!” said Simeon.
“No, sir.”
“Tell me about that.”
“About—!” The lifted eyebrows held it.
Simeon nodded. “About anything. Steel works—button shop—everything.”
John thought a minute—“You know as much as I do—more. They do a big business.”
“What kind of men?” asked Simeon brusquely.
“Men?—In the works—you mean?”
“In them—over them—on top—outside, inside,” said Simeon. “You know ’em, don’t you? Lived with ’em—been to school with ’em—?”
“Oh—if you mean that—!” A smile had come into the puzzled face.
“I mean that,” said Simeon. He had lighted a cigar and was watching the tip intently.
The cigar went out and was relighted many times before the story of Bridgewater was finished. The slow mind of the narrator wandered in and out through the past, nudged by keen, quick questions from the nervous listener beside him. Little things loomed large—big things faded and slipped away in John’s vision. It had been a mighty day for Bridgewater when the county house was built; but Simeon scoffed at the court-house and listened with rapt face to the story of two truckmen that John knew who had quarreled over their stand and made up, and joined against a third and held up the transportation of Bridgewater for three days.
Simeon sighed a little. “I ’ve never lived,” he said slowly. “I’ve made money—I’ve sat with my face close to a board, making money, studying moves—I’ve played a good game—” He said it grimly—“But I ’ve never lived yet. My father always said ‘Go in to win,’ and there was n’t any mother.” He said the words between the puffs.... “And then I married—” He waited a minute—“Yes—I guess I lived—a year. But I did n’t know-then.”
There was silence in the car. The train sped through soft, even darkness. The engine shrieked at a solitary grade crossing and was past.
The man lifted his head. There was a deep smile in his eyes.... “It ’s all going to be different,” he said slowly, “Just wait till we get things in hand—I ’m going over the road.”... He drew a map from his pocket and spread it on the table.... “Here is a place I want to know.” He pointed to a corner of the map, “They ’re always making a fuss up there—saying the road’s got to come their way. The division superintendent says it won’t pay—They say it will. I ’m going up.”
John leaned forward—“Chester County.” He spelled the name across the map. “My father knows Chester County.”
Simeon looked up with quick stare... “Your father?”
“He lived there when he was a boy.”
“I must know him,” said Simeon. “I ’ll take him with me.”
John smiled at the picture—but underneath the smile ran a swift sense of his father’s presence—its slow, steadying power upon the nervous, hurrying man. He would rest in the stolid strength of it. “I ’ll bring him to see you,” he said.
“Yes—What is your mother like?—You have not told me about your mother.” He gazed at the boy deeply.
“There’s no one like her,” said John. “I could n’t tell you. Nobody could tell about Mother.” His glance had traveled to the rack overhead where the fragrant boughs hung out, filling the air with light fragrance—He saw the light in her face and her hands held out to them—He smiled.
Simeon sighed and moved restlessly. He held another match to the cigar and his eye, as it followed the steady hand, filled with quick pride.
John was watching the hand, too, and the eyes of the two men met.
“I ’m all right,” said Simeon, throwing away the match with a little laugh.
“You ’re all right,” said John with deeper meaning.
“And I ’m a young man.” He rose and paced a few steps in the car—“I ’m forty-three—You don’t call that old?”
The eyes watching him smiled.
“That is not old,” said Simeon. He stretched himself to his full height, rapping his chest softly. He threw out his arm—toward the night. “I’m just beginning,” he said.
The brakeman passed through the car-carrying something on his arm. A piece of old cloth, a bit of signal flag, was thrown carelessly across it.
John’s eye followed him to the rear of the car. After a minute he got up and went to the door. He opened it and stepped onto the platform. The brakeman was bending over the end of the car, peering down at something. He ............
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