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HOME > Classical Novels > The Young Section-Hand > CHAPTER V. ALLAN PROVES HIS METAL
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 As Allan dashed forward toward the child, he saw the engineer, his face livid, reverse his engine and jerk open the sand-box; the sand under the drivers, whirling madly in the midst of a shower of sparks, but sliding down upon the terror-stricken child. It was over in an instant—afterward, the boy could never tell how it happened—he knew only that he stooped and caught the child from under the very wheels of the engine, just as something struck him a terrific blow on the leg and him to one side.  
He was dimly conscious of holding the little one close in his arms that she might not be injured, then he struck the ground with a crash that left him dazed and shaken. When he struggled to his feet, the engineer had jumped down from his cab and Welsh was speeding toward them across the tracks.
“Hurt?” asked the engineer.
“I guess not—not much;” and Allan stooped to rub his leg. “Something hit me here.”
“Yes—the footboard. Knocked you off the track. I had her pretty near stopped, or they’d be another story.”
Allan turned to Welsh, who came panting up, and placed the child in his arms.
“I guess she’s not hurt,” he said, with a little smile.
But ’s emotion had quite mastered him for the moment.
“Mamie!” he cried, her to him. “My little girl!” And the great tears shattered down over his cheeks upon the child’s dress.
The others stood looking on, understanding, sympathetic. The fireman even turned away to rub his sleeve across his eyes, for he was a very young man and quite new to railroading.
The moment passed, and Welsh gripped back his self-control, as he turned to Allan and held out his great hand.
“You’ve got nerve,” he said. “We won’t fergit it—Mary an’ me. Come on home—it’s your home now, as well as ours.”
Half-way across the tracks they met Mary, who, after one scream of at sight of her darling’s , had started wildly down the path to the gate, though she knew she must arrive too late. She had seen the rescue, and now, with streaming eyes, she threw her arms around Allan and kissed him.
“My brave boy!” she cried. “He’s our boy, now, ain’t he, Jack, as long as he wants t’ stay?”
“That’s jest what I was tellin’ him, Mary dear,” said Jack.
“But he’s limpin’,” she cried. “What’s th’ matter? Y’re not hurted, Allan?”
“Not very badly,” answered the boy. “No bones broken—just a knock on the leg that took the skin off.”
“Come on home this instant,” commanded Mary, “an’ we’ll see.”
“Ain’t y’ goin’ t’ kiss Mamie?” questioned Jack.
“She don’t deserve t’ be kissed!” protested her mother. “She’s been a bad girl—how often have I told her never t’ lave th’ yard?”
Mamie was weeping bitter tears of , and her mother suddenly and caught her to her breast.
“I—I won’t be bad no more!” Mamie.
“I should hope not! An’ what d’ y’ say t’ Allan? If it hadn’t ’a’ been fer him, you’d ’a’ been ground up under th’ wheels.”
“I—I lubs him!” cried Mamie, with a very tender look at our hero.
She held up her lips, and Allan and kissed them.
“Well, m’ boy,” laughed Jack, as the triumphal procession moved on again toward the house, “you seem t’ have taken this family by storm, fer sure!”
“Come along!” cried Mary. “Mebbe th’ poor lad’s hurted worse’n he thinks.”
She hurried him along before her up the path, sat him down in a chair, and rolled up his trousers leg.
“It’s nothing,” protested Allan. “It’s nothing—it’s not worth worrying about.”
“Ain’t it!” retorted Mary, with compressed lips, removing shoe and sock and cutting away the blood-stained underwear. “Ain’t it? You poor boy, look at that!”
And, indeed, it was rather an ugly-looking wound that lay revealed. The flesh had been crushed and torn by the heavy blow, and was bleeding and turning black.
“It’s a mercy it didn’t break your leg!” she added. “Jack, you !” she went on, with a fierceness assumed to keep herself from bursting into tears, “don’t stand starin’ there, but bring me a basin o’ hot water, an’ be quick about it!”
Jack was quick about it, and in a few moments the wound was washed and nicely dressed with a cooling which Mary produced from a cupboard.
“I keep it fer Jack,” Mary explained, as she spread it tenderly over the wound. “He’s allers gittin’ pieces knocked off o’ him. Now how does it feel, Allan darlint?” “It feels fine,” Allan declared. “It doesn’t hurt a bit. It’ll be all right by morning.”
“By mornin’!” echoed Mary, indignantly. “I reckon y’ think yer goin’ out on th’ section t’-morrer!”
“Why, of course. I’ve got to go. We’re getting it ready for the Irish Brigade. We’ve got to win that prize!”
“Prize!” cried Mary. “Much I care fer th’ prize! But there! I won’t quarrel with y’ now. y’ walk?”
“Of course I can walk,” and Allan rose to his feet.
“Well, then, you men git ready fer supper. I declare it’s got cold—I’ll have t’ warm it up ag’in! An’ I reckon I’ll put on a little somethin’ extry jest t’ celebrate!”
She put on several things extra, and there was a regular thanksgiving feast in the little Welsh home that evening, with Allan in the place of honour, and Mamie looking at him adoringly from across the table. Probably not a single one of the employés of the road would have hesitated to do what he had done,—indeed, to risk his life for another’s is the ordinary duty of a railroad man,—but that did not the merit of the deed in the eyes of Mamie’s parents. And for the first time in many days, Allan was quite happy, too. He felt that he was making himself a place in the world—and, sweeter than all, a place in the hearts of the people with whom his life was cast.
But the injury was a more serious one than he had been willing to admit. When he tried to get out of bed in the morning, he found his leg so stiff and sore that he could scarcely move it. He set his teeth and managed to dress himself and hobble down-stairs, but his white face showed the agony he was suffering.
“Oh, Allan!” cried Mary, flying to him and him to a chair. “What did y’ want t’ come down fer? Why didn’t y’ call me?”
“I don’t want to be such a nuisance as all that!” the boy protested. “But I’m afraid I can’t go to work to-day.”
Mary scornfully.
“No—nor to-morrer!” she said. “You’re goin’ t’ stay right in that chair!”
She flew around, making him more comfortable, and Allan was coddled that day as he had not been for a long time. Whether it was the nursing or the magic qualities of Mary’s lotion, his leg was very much better by night, and the next morning was scarcely sore at all. The quickness of the healing—for it was quite well again in three or four days—was due in no small part to Allan’s healthy young blood, but he persisted in giving all the credit to Mary.
After that, Allan noticed a shade of difference in the treatment accorded him by the other men. Heretofore he had been a stranger—an outsider. Now he was so no longer. He had proved his right to consideration and respect. He was “th’ boy that saved Jack Welsh’s kid.” Report of the deed even to the offices where dwelt the men who ruled the destinies of the division, and the made a mental note of the name for future reference. The train-master, too, got out from his desk a many-paged, much-thumbed book, indexed from first to last, and, under the letter “W,” wrote a few lines. The records of nearly a thousand men, for good and bad, were in that book, and many a one, hauled up “on the carpet” to be disciplined, had been astonished and dismayed by the train-master’s familiarity with his career.
Of all the men in the gang, after the foreman, Allan found Reddy Magraw the most lovable, and the merry, big-hearted Irishman took a great to the boy. He lived in a little house not far from the Welshes, and he took Allan home with him one evening to introduce him to Mrs. Magraw and the “childer.” The former was a somewhat faded little woman, worn down by hard work and ceaseless self-denial, but happy despite it all, and the children were as healthy and merry a set of young scalawags as ever rolled about upon a sanded floor. There were no carpets and only the most necessary furniture,—a stove, two beds, a table, and some chairs, for there was little money left after feeding and clothing that ever hungry swarm,—but everywhere there was a , almost painful, cleanliness. And one thing the boy learned from this visit and succeeding ones—that what he had considered poverty was not poverty at all, and that brave and cheerful hearts can light up any home.
His trunk arrived from the storage house at Cincinnati in due time, affording him a welcome change of clothing, while Mrs. Welsh set herself to work at once sewing on missing buttons, darning socks, patching trousers—doing the hundred and one things which always need to be done to the clothing of a motherless boy. Indeed, it might be fairly said that he was motherless no longer, so closely had she taken him to her heart.
Sunday came at last, with its welcome relief from . They lay late in bed that morning, making up lost rest, in the unaccustomed luxury of leisure, and in the afternoon Jack took the boy for a tour through the shops, with busy life on week-days, but now , save for an occasional watchman. And here Allan got, for the first time, a glimpse of one great department of a railroad’s management which most people know nothing of. In the first great room, the “long shop,” half a dozen disabled engines were on trucks and were being rebuilt. Back of this was the foundry, where all the needed castings were made, from the tiniest bolt to the massive frame upon which the engine-boiler rests. Then there was the blacksmith shop, with its score of forges and great steam-hammer, that could deliver a blow of many tons; and next to this the lathe-room, where the castings from the foundry were shaved and planed and polished to exactly the required size and shape; and still farther on was the carpenter shop, with its of woodworking , most wonderful of all, in its nearly human intelligence.
Beyond the shop was the great coal chute, where the tender of an engine could be heaped high with coal in an instant by simply pulling a lever; then the big water-tanks, high in air, filled with water pumped from the river half a mile away; and last of all, the sand-house, where the sand-boxes of the engines were carefully before each trip. How many lives had been saved by that simple device, which enabled the wheels to grip the track and stop the train! How many might be sacrificed if, at a critical moment, the sand-box of the engine happened to be empty! It was a startling reflection—that even upon this little cog in the great machine—this thoughtless boy, who poured the sand into the boxes—so much depended.
Bright and early Monday morning they were out again on Twenty-one. Wednesday was , and they knew that up and down those two hundred miles of track hand-cars were flying back and forth, and every inch of the roadway was being examined by eyes critical. They found many things to do, things which Allan would never have thought of, but which appealed at once to the anxious eyes of the foreman.
About the middle of the afternoon, Welsh saw a figure emerge from a of trees beside the road and come slouching toward him. As it drew nearer, he recognized Dan Nolan.
“Mister Welsh,” began Nolan, quite , “can’t y’ give me a place on th’ gang ag’in?”
“No,” said Jack, , “I can’t. Th’ gang’s full.”
“That there kid’s no account,” protested Nolan, with a venomous glance at Allan. “I’ll take his place.”
“No, you won’t, Dan Nolan!” retorted Jack. “He’s a better man than you are, any day.”
“He is, is he?” Nolan. “We’ll see about that!”
“An’ if you so much as harm a hair o’ him,” continued Jack, with fists, “I’ll have it out o’ your hide, two fer one—jest keep that in mind.”
Nolan laughed mockingly, but he also took the precaution to retreat to a safe distance from Jack’s threatening fists.
“Y’ won’t give me a job, then?” he asked again.
“Not if you was th’ last man on earth!”
“All right!” cried Nolan, getting red in the face with anger, which he no longer made any effort to suppress. “All right! I’ll fix you an’ th’ kid, too! You think y’re smart; think y’ll win th’ section prize! Ho, ho! I guess not! Not this trip! Purty section-foreman you are! I’ll show you!”
Jack didn’t answer, but he stopped and picked up a stone; and Nolan dived hastily back into the grove again.
“He’s a big coward,” said Jack, throwing down the stone disgustedly, and turning back to his work. “Don’t let him scare y’, Allan.”
“He didn’t scare me,” answered Allan, quietly, and to give a good account of himself should Nolan ever attempt to him.
But Jack was not as easy in his mind as he pretended; he knew Nolan, and believed him quite capable of any meanness. So he kept Allan near him; and if Nolan was really in the bushes anywhere along the road, he had no opportunity for .
The next morning Jack took his men out directly to the western end of the section, and came back very slowly, stopping here and there to put a finishing touch to the work. Even Reddy was enthusiastic over the condition of the section.
“It’s foin as silk!” he said, looking back over the road they had just traversed. “Ef we don’t git th’ prize this toime, it’s because some other feller’s a lot smarter ’n we are!”

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