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HOME > Classical Novels > The Young Section-Hand > CHAPTER VI. REDDY TO THE RESCUE
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 Engineer Lister had often been angry in his life, for, truth to tell, running an engine is not conducive1 to good nerves or even temper. It is a trying job, demanding constant alertness, and quick, unerring judgment2. But when to the usual responsibilities of the place are added a cranky engine and a green fireman, even a saint would lose his patience. Ellis Root was the green fireman, and seemed to possess such a veritable genius for smothering3 his fire that more than once the engineer had been compelled to clamber down from his box and wield4 the rake and shovel5 himself. To add to this difficulty of keeping up steam, the 226, a great ten-wheeled aristocrat6 of a freight-engine, had suddenly developed a leaky throttle7, together with some minor8 ailments9, which rendered the task of handling her one of increasing difficulty.  
The last straw was the refusal of the despatcher at headquarters to allow Lister to reduce his tonnage. His train happened to be an unusually heavy one which, ordinarily, the 226 could have handled with ease. The despatcher knew this; he knew also that Lister had an unfortunate habit of complaining when there was nothing to complain about; so when this last complaint came in, he wired back a terse10 reply, telling Lister to “shut up, and bring in your train.”
So Lister was raving11 angry by the time his engine limped feebly into the yards at Wadsworth. He jumped off almost before she stopped, and leaped up the stairs to the division offices two steps at a time, in order to unburden himself without delay of his opinion of the despatcher who had so heartlessly refused to help him out of his difficulties.
He burst into the office like a whirlwind, red in the face, gasping12 for breath.
“What’s the matter, Lister?” asked the train-master, looking up from his desk.
“Matter!” yelled Lister. “Where’s that thick-headed despatcher? He ain’t fit to hold a job on this road!”
“What did he do?” asked the train-master, grinning at the heads that had been stuck in from the adjoining rooms to find out what the noise was about. “Tell me what he did, and maybe I’ll fire him.”
“I’ll tell you what he did! He made me handle my full train when I wired in here an’ told him my engine was leakin’ like a sieve14. What do you think of a roundhouse foreman that’ll send an engine out in that shape?”
“So you want me to fire the foreman, too?” queried15 the train-master, grinning more broadly. “Where is the engine?”
“She’s down there in the yards,” said Lister.
“What! Down in the yards! Do you mean to say you brought her in?”
“Of course I brought her in,” said Lister. “They ain’t another engineer on th’ road could ’a’ done it, but I did it, an’ I want to tell you, Mr. Schofield—”
A succession of sharp blasts from the whistle of the yard-engine interrupted him.
“What’s that?” cried the train-master, and threw up the window, for the blasts meant that an accident of some sort had happened. The other men in the office rushed to the windows, too,—they saw the yardmen running madly about and gesticulating wildly,—and away up the yards they saw the 226 rattling16 over the switches at full speed, running wild!
With a single bound the train-master was at the door of the despatcher’s office.
“Where’s Number Four?” he demanded. Number Four was the fastest through passenger-train on the road—the east-bound flier, to which all other trains gave precedence.
The despatcher in charge of the west end of the road looked up from his desk.
“Number Four passed Anderson three minutes ago, sir,” he said. “She’s on time—she’s due here in eight minutes.”
The train-master’s face grew suddenly livid; a cold sweat burst out across his forehead.
“Good Lord!” he murmured, half to himself. “A wreck17—no power on earth can help it!”
A vision danced before his eyes—a vision of shattered cars, of mangled18 men and women. He knew where the collision must occur; he knew that the flier would be coming down that heavy grade at full speed—and toward the flier thundered that wild engine—with no guiding hand upon the throttle—with nothing to hold her back from her mad errand of destruction!
It had happened in this wise. A moment after Engineer Lister jumped to the ground, and while his fireman, Ellis Root, was still looking after him with a grin of relief, for the trip had been a hot one for him in more ways than one, a yardman came along and uncoupled the engine from the train. The fireman began to kick off his overalls19, when he became suddenly conscious that the engine was moving. The leaky throttle did not shut off the steam completely from the cylinders20, and, released from the weight of the heavy train which had held her back, the engine started slowly forward.
The fireman, whose knowledge of the engine was as yet of the most primitive21 description, sprang to the other side of the cab and pushed the lever forward a notch22 or two. The engine’s speed increased.
“I can’t stop her,” he said, feverishly23, half to himself. “I can’t stop her,” and he pulled the lever back.
The engine sprang back in answer and bumped heavily into the train behind her.
“Hi, there, you ijit!” yelled the yardman, who was under the first car inspecting the air-hose. “What you mean? D’ y’ want t’ kill a feller? Let that ingine alone!”
Ellis, with the perspiration24 trickling25 down his face, threw the lever forward again, and then, as the engine bounded forward in answer, he lost his head entirely26 and leaped off, with a wild yell of dismay.
In a moment the 226 rattled27 over the switches westward28 out of the yards, and shot out upon the main track, gathering29 speed with every revolution!
Welsh’s gang had worked its way eastward30 along the section as far as the mill switch, when the foreman took out his watch and glanced at it.
“Git that hand-car off th’ track, boys,” he said. “Number Four’ll be along in a minute.”
Two of the men derailed the hand-car, while Welsh glanced up and down the road to be sure that the track was clear, and took a look at the mill switch, a little distance away, where they had been working, to make certain that it had been properly closed. He remembered that a work-train had taken a cut of cars out of the switch a short time before, but he could tell by the way the lever was thrown that the switch was closed.
Far in the distance he could hear the train whistling for the curve just beyond the cut. Then, suddenly from the other direction, he caught a sound that brought him sharply round, and saw with horror a great freight-engine rumbling31 rapidly toward him.
“My God, she’s runnin’ wild!” he cried; and, with a yell of warning to his men, turned and ran toward the switch. If he could only get there in time to ditch her!
But the engine whirled past him, and he stopped, seeing already the horror, the destruction, which must follow in a moment. Then, far ahead, he saw Reddy speeding toward the switch, saw him reach it, bend above the short lever that controlled it, and throw it over. Away up the track the “flier” flashed into view, running a mile a minute. He could guess what was happening in her cab, as her engineer saw the danger. The heavy engine rumbled32 on, all too slowly now, in upon the switch to knock the bumper33 at the farther end to splinters and fight her life out in the mud beyond. He saw Reddy throw the lever back again, only in that instant to be hurled34 away to one side as the great train swept by in safety. And the engineer, who had reversed his lever and applied35 the brakes, who had waited the outcome with white face and tight-set lips,—but who, never for an instant, had thought of saving himself by jumping,—released the brakes and threw his lever again on the forward motion. Four minutes later the train swept in to Wadsworth, only forty seconds behind the schedule!
The passengers never knew how near they had been to death—by what a miracle they had escaped destruction! After all, a miss is as good as a mile!
Reddy’s comrades found him lying unconscious twenty feet from the track. His right arm—the arm that had thrown the lever—hung limp by his side, and there was a great gash36 in his head from which the blood was pouring. In a moment Jack37 had torn off the sleeve of his shirt and made an improvised38 bandage of it, which checked to some extent the flow of blood.
“We must git him home,” said Welsh, “where we kin13 git a doctor. He’s hurted bad. Git th’ car on th’ track, boys.”
In an instant it was done, and Reddy was gently lifted on.
“Now you set down there an’ hold his head, Allan,” said Jack. “Keep it as stiddy as y’ kin.”
Allan sat down obediently and placed the mangled head tenderly in his lap. As he looked at the pale face and closed eyes, it was all he could do to keep himself from breaking down. Poor Reddy—good old Reddy—a hero, Allan told himself, with quickening heart, a hero who had not hesitated to risk his life for others.
But they were off!
And how the men worked, pumping up and down until the car fairly flew along the track. They knew the way was clear, since the flier had just passed, and up and down they pumped, up and down, knowing that a few minutes might mean life or death to their comrade. Down the grade they flashed, along the embankment by the river, through the town and into the yards, where a dozen willing hands lifted the inanimate form from the car and bore it tenderly into the baggage-room.
“How did it happen, Welsh?” asked the train-master, after a surgeon had been summoned and an ambulance had taken the still unconscious Reddy to his home.
And Jack told him, while the train-master listened, with only a little nod now and then to show that he understood. At the end he drew a deep breath.
“I thought the flier was gone for sure,” he said. “It would have been the worst wreck in the history of the road. Thank God it was spared us!”
“Yes, thank God,” said Jack, a little hoarsely39; “but don’t fergit t’ thank Reddy Magraw, too!”
“We won’t!” said the train-master, with another little nod. “We’ll never forget Reddy.”
“More especially,” added Jack, a little bitterly, “since it’s not th’ first time he’s saved th’ road a bad wreck. He was fergot th’ first time!”
“Yes, I know,” agreed the train-master. “But he wouldn’t have been if I’d had anything to do with it.”
“I know it, sir,” said Jack, heartily40. “I know it, Mr. Schofield. You’ve always treated us square. But I couldn’t help rememberin’!”
Half an hour later Allan and Jack intercepted41 the doctor as he came out of the little house where Mrs. Magraw sat with her apron42 over her head, rocking back and forth43 in agony.
“He’ll be all right, won’t he, doctor?” asked Jack, anxiously. “He ain’t a-goin’t’ die?”
“No,” answered the doctor, “he’ll not die. But,” and he hesitated, “he got a mighty44 bad crack, and it will be a long time before he’s able to be out again.”
“He’s come to all right, ain’t he, doctor?” questioned Jack, seeing the doctor’s hesitation45.
“Yes, he’s conscious again, but he’s not quite himself yet. But I think he’ll come around all right,” and the doctor walked briskly away, while Jack and Allan, assured that they could do nothing more for Reddy or his family, whom the neighbours had parcelled out among themselves, went slowly home.

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