The Young Railroaders

      Francis Lovell Coombs

The Young Railroaders

ONE KIND OF WIRELESS When, after school that afternoon, Alex Ward waved a good-by to his father, the Bixton station agent for the Middle Western, and set off up the track on the spring’s first fishing, he had little thought of exciting experiences ahead of him. Likewise, when two hours later a sudden heavy shower found him in the woods three miles from home, and with but three small fish, it was only with feelings of disappointment that he wound up his line and ran for the shelter of an old log-cabin a hundred yards back from the stream. Scarcely had Alex reached the doorway of the deserted house when he was startled by a chorus of excited voices from the rear. He turned quickly to a window, and with a cry sprang back out of sight. Emerging from the woods, excitedly talking and gesticulating, was a party of foreigners who had been working on the track near Bixton, and in their midst, his hands bound behind him, was Hennessy, their foreman. For a moment Alex stood rooted to the spot. What did it mean? Suddenly realizing his own possible danger, he caught up his rod and fish, and sprang for the door. On the threshold he sharply halted. In the open he would be seen at once, and pursued! He turned and cast a quick glance round the room. The ladder to the loft! He darted for it, scrambled up, and drew himself through the opening just as the excited foreigners poured in through the door below. For some moments afraid to move, Alex lay on his back, listening to the hubbub beneath him, and wondering in terror what the trackmen intended doing with their prisoner. Then, gathering courage at their continued ignorance of his presence, he cautiously moved back to the opening and peered down. The men were gathered in the center of the room, all talking at once. But he could not see the foreman. As he leaned farther forward heavy footfalls sounded about the end of the house, and Big Tony, a huge Italian who had recently been discharged from the gang, appeared in the doorway. “We puta him in da barn,” he announced in broken English; for the rest of the gang were Poles. “Tomaso, he watcha him.” “An’ now listen,” continued the big trackman fiercely, as the rest gathered about him. “I didn’t tell everyt’ing. Besides disa man Hennessy he say cuta da wage, an’ send for odders take your job, he tella da biga boss you no worka good, so da biga boss he no pay you for all da last mont’!” The ignorantly credulous Poles uttered a shout of rage. Several cried: “Keel him! Keel him!” Alex, in the loft, drew back in terror. “No! Dere bettera way dan dat,” said Tony. “Da men to taka your job come to-night on da Nomber Twent’. I hava da plan. “You alla know da old track dat turn off alonga da riv’ to da old brick-yard? Well, hunerd yard from da main line da old track she washed away. We will turn da old switch, Nomber Twent’ she run on da old track—an’ swoosh! Into da riv’!” Run No. 20 into the river! Alex almost cried aloud. And he knew the plan would succeed—that, as Big Tony said, a hundred yards from the main-line track the old brick-yard siding embankment was washed out so that the rails almost hung in the air....
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