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HOME > Classical Novels > The Young Section-Hand > CHAPTER IX. REDDY’S EXPLOIT
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As time went on, it became more and more evident that the doctor’s prediction with regard to Reddy Magraw was to be fulfilled. He regained1 his strength, but the light seemed quite gone from his brain. The officials of the railroad company did all they could for poor Reddy. When the local doctors failed, they brought an eminent2 specialist from Cincinnati for consultation3, but all seemed to agree there was nothing to be done but to wait. There was one chance in a thousand that a surgical4 operation might prove of benefit, but there was just as great a chance that Nature herself might do the work better.
Reddy remembered nothing of his past life. More than this, it gradually became evident to his friends that his genial5 nature had undergone a change through the darkness that had overtaken his brain. He grew estranged6 from his family, and strangely suspicious of some of his friends, those to whom he had really been most attached. Among these last was Allan. He would have nothing whatever to do with the boy.
“It’s one of the most ordinary symptoms of dementia,” the doctor had explained, when Jack7 questioned him about it. “Aversion to friends is what we always expect. His wife feels it more keenly than you do.”
“Of course she does, poor woman!” agreed Jack. “But he hasn’t got to abusin’ her, sir, has he?”
“Oh, no; he doesn’t abuse her; he just avoids her, and shows his dislike in other ways. If he begins to abuse her, we’ll have to send him to the asylum8. But I don’t anticipate any violence—I think he’s quite harmless.”
It was while they were sitting on the porch one evening discussing the sad situation of their friend, that Allan turned suddenly to Jack.
“Do you remember,” he said, “that first noon we were talking together, you started to tell me of some brave thing Reddy had done, and he shut you off?”
“Yes,” Jack nodded; “I remember.”
“Tell me now, won’t you? I’d like to hear about it.”
“All right,” said Jack, and told the story. Here it is:
Six years before, Reddy Magraw had been one of the labourers at the big coal-chute which towered into the air at the eastern end of the yards; just an ordinary labourer, working early and late, as every labourer for a railroad must, but then, as always, happy and care-free.
It was one afternoon in June that a message flashed into the despatcher’s office which sent the chief despatcher headlong into the office of the superintendent9.
“The operator at Baker’s just called me up, sir,” he gasped10, “to report that second Ninety-seven ran through there, going forty miles an hour, and that the engineer dropped a message tied to a wrench12 saying his throttle-valve had stuck, and his brakes wouldn’t work, and that he couldn’t stop his engine!”
The superintendent started to his feet, his face livid.
“They’ll be here in eight minutes,” he said. “Where’s Number Four?”
“Just past Roxabel. We can’t catch her, and the freight will run into her sure if we let it through the yards.”
“We won’t let it through the yards,” said the superintendent, and went down the stairs three steps at a time, and sped away in the direction of the coal-chute.
He had reflected rapidly that if the freight could be derailed at the long switch just below the chute, it could be run into a gravel13 bank, where it would do much less damage than farther up in the yards, among the network of switches there. He ran his swiftest, but as he reached the chute, he heard, far down the track, the roar of the approaching train. Evidently it was not yet under control. Reddy Magraw heard the roar, too, and straightened up in amazement14. Why should a freight approach the yards at that speed? Then he saw the superintendent tugging15 madly at the switch.
“Thet switch won’t work, sir,” he said. “A yard ingine hit the p’int about an hour ago an’ jammed it.”
“Won’t work!” echoed the superintendent, and stared blankly down the track at the train which every second was whirling nearer.
“Is it a
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