THERE had been some talk at headquarters about our conductors. It
was intimated, and freely, from
the auditing department that the
men of the punch were not dividing fairly
with the company.
To this effect the general manager wrote
Bucks, superintendent of the mountain division. Bucks filed the letter away in the
stove. Another communication fared no
better. But there were some new people at
headquarters; they had a record to make,
and they proposed to write part of it on our
backs. Bucks got another letter; he threw
it in the stove.
Pat Barlie often and often said he recommended no man to drink whisky; he only
recommended the whisky. I recommend no
rising railroad man to burn the third letter
on the same subject from his general manager; I merely recommend Bucks. He was
at that time running the West End. They
had tried running the West End without
Bucks a while; then they had tried again
running it with him. In both instances it
But the next time the general manager was
out in his "special," he spoke to Bucks on
the subject as if the mention were a virgin
touch. Bucks muttered something about
the general character of the trainmen and
the decent lives and habits of the passenger
conductors, and finished with an incidental
expression of confidence in the men; that
was about all.
But the headquarters people, who were
largely Boston, had ways and means all their
own; and failing to interest Bucks in their
hobby, they took a tack like this.
To begin with, the night was bad. A holy
fright, Pat Francis called it, and Pat had
seen most of the bad nights in the mountains
for twenty-two years steady. It was snowing and raining and sleeting that night, all
at once; and blowing - it blew the oil out of
the guide-cups. From the platform of the
Wickiup - nobody in the gorge would call it
a depot - from the Wickiup platform at
Medicine Bend, Number One seemed to roll
into division that night one reeking sheet of
alkali ice-soda and frost solid from lamp to
She was late, too, with a pair of the best
engines that ever climbed a mountain heading her. She had lost time every mile of
the way from the plains, and she was ordered
west with another double-head and a pusher
all the way over the Horseback. It was because there was a Yellowstone excursion
aboard. The Columbian Pacific connection
was on that account especially desired; and
that night at twelve o'clock, mountain time,
with Number One especially late into the
Bend, and the track especially bad, and the
pull especially heavy, it looked - that Columbian Pacific connection - especially doubtful,
except over in the despatcher's offices, where
they were being pounded to make it by the
Bucks was down that night. There were
many bad nights in the mountains, but
Bucks never missed any of them by going to
bed. On bad nights, Bucks, like a switchman's pipe, was always out. He - Bucks -
personally appeared at the Wickiup to see
that things went. The men liked him because he was always ready to do anything
he asked them to do. There was an esprit,
a morale - whatever you call it - and a loyalty to Bucks personally, which made our
men take the chances that pay checks don't
So, although the Columbian Pacific connection looked especially doubtful that night,
nevertheless there was Bucks, under a
slouching Stetson and an Irish frieze that
caught all the water coming its way, standing at the drivers of the head engine, while
Jack Moore, in leather from heel to jaw,
went into the slush under her to touch up
an eccentric with a reputation for cussedness in a pinch. And a minute later Bucks
was walking back to figure with the out conductor, Pat Francis, how to make schedule
across to Wild Hat; though, as they talked,
each man knew the other was not thinking
at all of how to make schedule, but thinking
- though never a word out loud of it, and
hell to face all the way up the gorge on top
of it - of how with flesh and blood and steel
to beat schedule that night and land the
uncertain connection, in spite of wind and
weather and the bureau's fears and the despatcher's growls.
And all this for what? To dump a
hundred or two Brooklyn people into the
Yellowstone twenty-four hours earlier than
they otherwise would have been dumped,
though without doubt they would have been
just that much better off loafing twenty-four
hours longer away from their newspapers
and ferries and street cars. Pat Francis
listened grimly. A short, stocky fellow,
Pat Francis. Not fat, but firm as a Bessemer bar, and with considerably quicker
play in his joints. He listened grimly, for
he thought he could domino every play
Bucks could make when it came to tricks
for saving time on the Wild Hat run. Yet
it heartened even Pat Francis, uncompromising and grim, to have his superintendent
there in the storm helping cut out the work
for such a particularly beastly pull.
As Bucks broke away and started for the
door of the Wickiup, Morris Barker - the
conductor who had just brought the train in
- saluted, walking out. With his coat buttoned snug, in the comfortable insolence of
a man going home, Morris stepped to the
edge of the platform to exchange confidences
with Pat Francis.
"Pat, there's a half-fare back in the Portland sleeper. I heard McIntyre say at McCloud that some of Alfabet Smith's men
are working up here. Anyway there's a
cattleman in a canvas coat in the chair car,
smooth face, red tie, to look out for. He got
on at Harding and tried a short fare on me.
I sized him up for a spotter."
"Why didn't you chuck him off?"
growled Pat Francis.
"He put up after a while - and you
bet that fare goes in with an embroidered
report. Well, good luck, Patsy."
Pat Francis raised his lamp through the
fog and rain at the engineers. Jack Moore
coughed, suddenly and twice, with his hollow
whistle. The hind engine saluted hoarsely;
from the rear the pusher piped shrill, and
Bucks in the doorway watched the panting
train pull taut up the Bend into the swirling
snow. And he knew as he watched that
nothing worth considering would get away
from Pat Francis - not a scheme nor a cut-off nor a minute nor a revamped coupon
ticket. Pat before quitting at Benton, Pat
up the gorge and over the Horseback, was
pretty sure to catch everything inside the
He swung up on the platform of the baggage-car as the train moved out, and shook
the snow off his cap as he opened the door.
He set his lamp on an up-end trunk, took
off his overcoat and hung it up. In the front
end of the car a pack of hunting dogs yelped
a dismal chorus. Old John Parker, the baggageman was checking up a pile of trunks
that rose tier on tier to the roof of the car.
John Parker wore a pair of disreputable iron
spectacles. His hair, scant where it wasn't
extinct, tumbled about his head loose at both
ends. His gray beard was a good bit
stronger in the fly than in the hoist, and it
blew in the wind thin as a coach whip; but
old John had behind his dirty spectacles a
pair of eyes just as fine as steel. Francis
opened his train box and asked the baggageman why he didn't kill those dogs, and getting no answer - for John Parker was
checking hard and stopped only to shift his
whiskers off the clip - the conductor got out
his blue pencil and his black pencil and filed
them away, took up his punch and his trip
checks and put them in their proper pockets,
shifted his time-table from the box to still
another pocket, and picked up his lantern.
The head-end brakeman coming in just then
with a sash puller, Francis asked him to
clean up the globe.
While the brakeman fished for a piece of
waste, the conductor moved his wet overcoat
a peg nearer the stove and spread it out better, and listened to a wild rumor old John
Parker had picked up about Number One's
being turned into a strictly "limited" and
carrying a "diner" west of Bear Dance.
Without wasting any comment, Pat looked
at his watch and listened to the click of the
truck over the fish-plates under foot, and to
the angry tremulous roar of the three furnaces melting coal to push Number One up
against the wind, that curled like a corkscrew down the long, narrow gorge. Then
he took the lantern from his menial, and
strode quickly through the vestibule into the
dirty light and foul air of the smoker.
No "please," that night, just "Tickets!"
short and snappy as a bear trap. He could
talk very differently at home to the babies - but there was no suggestion of kootsying in
the tone that called for transportation in the
smoker. He passed down the aisle, pulling,
hauling, shaking the snorting brutes, noting, punching, checking under the rays of
his lamp, until the last man was passed and
he walked into the chair car. There was
only one "go-back," a sleepy Italian who
couldn't - even after he had been jerked out
of his seat and turned upside down and inside out, and shaken and cursed - still he
couldn't find his ticket. So Pat Francis
passed him with the shocking intimation
which amounted to an assurance, that if he
didn't find it by the time he got back he
would throw him off.
The transportation on Number One was
mostly through tickets and required only ordinary care as to the date limits; not much
scalper's stuff turned up on the west-bound.
Pat called again as he closed the door of the
chair car behind him a shade less harshly
for tickets, because one naturally respects
more people who ride in the chair car; and
then there are women. One speaks more
civilly to women passengers, but scans their
transportation more carefully. However,
he wasn't thinking of women's wiles as he
quietly roused the sleepers and asked for
their credentials. They were worn, tired-looking women; haggard, a good many of
them, from cat naps snatched in the specially
devised discomfort chairs, while their more
fortunate sisters slept peacefully back in the
hair-mattressed Pullman berths. He was
thinking solely as he mechanically went
through the checking operations, of a cattleman in a canvas coat, smooth face, and red
tie, who should by rights be now halfway
down the car, just ahead of him. But
conductor Francis didn't look. His eyes
never rose beyond the passenger under his
nose, for in front of a company detective
the hate and the curiosity are all concealed;
the conductor is strictly on dress parade
with a sting in his right arm that he would
like to land directly under the spotter's ear.
A shabby traveling man - a cigar manhanded up a local ticket. It was for Antelope Gap. Pat Francis looked at it for a
minute before he punched it and stuck it in
"We don't stop at Antelope Gap to-night," said he shortly.
"Don't stop?" echoed the cigar man,
wide awake in a fraction of a second. "Vy,
since ven? Dey tolt me you dit," he cried
in the most injured tone on the train.
"Can't help it."
"Bud y' god-do! " cried the cigar man,
raising a note of absolute terror, as Pat
Francis passed calmly on without attempting
to controvert the confidence of the drummer.
"Ain't you god-do?" appealed the latter,
weakening a bit as he realized he was against
a quiet man and hard.
"Not on local transportation. Tickets!"
he continued to the next.
But the cigar man happily came of a race
that does not uncomplainingly submit, and
he kicked vociferously, as Pat Francis expected he would. By the time the excited
salesman had woke everybody up in his end
of the car and worked himself into a lather,
Pat came at him with a proposition.
"Where you going from Antelope?"
"What's the matter with going up to Wild Hat to-night, and I'll give
you a train check back to Antelope on Two to-morrow; then you can get back
on Seventy-One to the Bend?"
The injured man considered quickly, accepted speedily. Two hundred miles for
nothing. "My frient! Haff a cigar, aber
don for-ged my dransbordation back, vill
you?" The conductor nodded as he took
the cigar stoically and moved on. It was
one stop saved, and the Antelope stop was a
terror any time with a big train like Number One.
Francis has reached the rear of the chair
car, when he had an impression he had forgotten something. He stopped to think.
The cattleman! Turning, he looked back
sharply over the passengers. He even walked
slowly back through the car looking for the
fellow. There was no cattleman in sight,
and walking back, Francis dismissed him
with the conclusion that he must have gotten
off at the Bend; and at once the air in the
chair car smelt fresher and cleaner. Into
the sleepers then - that was easy. Only to
take the batch of envelopes from each porter
or conductor, and tear off the coupons, and
in the Portland sleeper a half-fare which
meant only a little row with the tactless
man who had gone into a bitter discussion
with a conductor the day before away back
at the Missouri River, as to whether his boy
should pay fare. Instead of gracefully paying when called on, he had abused the conductor, who, maybe because there was a
"spotter" sitting by, had felt compelled for
self-protection to collect the half rate. But
in retaliation for the abuse the conductor
had reported to the next conductor a half-fare in the Portland sleeper, and thus started
an endless chain of annoyance that would
haunt the traveler all the way to the coast.
But sometime travelers will study tact, and
forswear abuse and its penalties.
Conductor Francis, finishing the string of
loaded Pullmans, sat down in the smoking
room of the last car with the hind end brakeman to straighten out his collections. The
headlight of the pusher threw in a yellow
dazzle of light on them, and the continuous
cut of its fire boomed from the stack. Pat
Francis, setting down his lamp, began to
"Smell anything?" he asked presently of
"No," answered the brakeman, drawing
his head from the curtain hood under which
he had been looking out into the storm.
Something here don't smell right," said
Francis shortly, sorting his tickets. "Where
Getting out of the gorge."
Francis looked at his watch. "Is Jack
holding his own?" ventured the brakeman.
"Stop at Antelope to-night?"
"Not on your life."
"How about the pusher?"
"All the way over the Horseback to-night."
"That's the stuff."
"That's Bucks. Bucks is the stuff," said
Pat Francis, arbitrarily picking up his lamp
to go forward. Two minutes later, he was in
the smoker, bending over the Italian and
"Got your ticket, Tony?"
"No gotta ticket."
"No gotta d'mun."
"Come on, then!" Francis gripped him
by the collar.
"Throw you off."
The Italian drew back to resist. They
parleyed a moment longer, only because
Francis was bluffing. If he had meant to
stop the train at any point he would have
said nothing - simply dragged the fellow out
by the hair.
At last the Italian produced three dollars
and a half. It was only enough to check
him to Red Cloud. He wanted to go
through, and the fare was eleven dollars and
The silent conductor stuck the money in
his pocket, and drew his cash-fare slips.
Just then the pusher whistled a stop signal.
Francis started, suddenly furious at the
sound. Shoving the slips into his pocket, he
hurried to the vestibule and put his head
angrily out. Ahead he saw only old John
Parker's lamp and streamers. John had slid
his door before Francis could open the vestibule. That was why the conductor loved
him, because nobody, not even he himself,
ever got ahead of John. When Francis
poked his head out to look for trouble, John
Parker's head was already in the wind inspecting the trouble, which came this time
from the hind end. Looking back, Francis
saw a blaze leaping from a journal box.
"Just as I expected," he muttered, with a
freezing word. "That hind-end man
couldn't smell a tar bucket if you stuck his
head into it. Get your grease, John," he
shouted at the old baggageman, "and a pair
of brasses. Hustle!"
There was hardly time for the crew to
slip into their overcoats, when Moore made
a sullen stop. But old John Parker was
ready, and waiting ahead of the stop with a
can of grease, because John didn't have any
overcoat. He hustled bad nights without
an overcoat; for his two girls were at
boarding school back in Illinois. John
picked up enough every month carrying
dogs to buy an overcoat, but the dog money
went largely for music and French, which
were extras in Illinois; so the girls parlez-vous'd, and John piled out without any
Pat Francis stormed worse than the
mountains as he followed him. All the
scheming to save a single stop was blazing away in the hot box. Moore, on the
head engine, was too angry to leave his
cab. It was just a bit too exasperating.
The pusher crew stood by, and the second
engineer helped just a little.
But it was Pat Francis and John, with
the safeties screaming bedlam in their ears,
with the sleet creeping confidingly down
their backs, and with the water soaking unawares up their legs - it was Pat and John,
silent and stubborn, who dug bitterly at the
sizzling box, flung out the blazing waste, set
the screw, twisted it, hooked out the smoking brasses, shoved in the new ones,
dumped the grease, stuffed the waste, and
raised their lamps for Moore before the last
of the bad words had blown out of the head
cab and down the canon. With a squeaking and groaning and jerking, with a
vicious break-away and an anxious interval
whenever a pair of drivers let go, Moore
got his enormous load rolling up the grade
again, and kept her rolling hour after hour
along curve and tangent to the Horseback,
At the crest day broke, and the long,
heavy train, far above the night and the
storm, screamed for the summit yard,
slowed up, halted, and every man jack of
the train crew and engine crews jumped off
to shake hands with himself on the plucky
run-in spite of it all, schedule and a hair
"How'd you ever do it, Jack?" asked
Pat Francis at the head engine, as Moore
crawled out of her undersides.
"How late are we?" returned the engineer, stowing his can and calling for a
"Beat the time a little, didn't we?"
laughed Moore, with a face like a lobster.
"Couldn't done it, Pat, if you'd stopped me
anywhere. I wouldn't done it - not for
anybody. Burdick is knocked clean out,
too. Are you all ready back there?" The
pusher, disconnected, galloped by with a
jubilant kick for the round-house; and the
double-header, watered and coaled afresh,
started with Number One down the mountain side.
A different start that - a running past the
wind instead of into it; a sluing that
brought excursionists up in a tumble as the
sleepers swung lariat-like around the canon
corners. It was only a case of hanging on
after that, hanging on all the way to Wild
Hat; and then, just as the Columbian Pacific train passengers left their breakfasts
at Benton, Number One, gray and grimy,
rolled into the junction thirty-five minutes
late - and the agony was over. The connection was safe, but nobody noticed who
made it. Everybody was too much occupied
with the sunshine and the scenery to observe a pair of disreputable, haggard,
streaked, hollow-eyed tramps who made
their way modestly along the edge of the
crowd that thronged the platform. It was
only Francis and Moore, conductor and engineer of Number One.
The agony was over for everybody but
Pat Francis. Ten days later, Bucks, superintendent of the mountain division, sat in
his den at the Wickiup, reading a letter
from the general manager.
Sir: On Thursday, June 28th, Conductor
P. Francis, leaving M. B. on Number One,
collected a cash fare of three dollars and
fifty cents from one of our special service
men. He failed to issue a cash-fare slip
for this as required; furthermore, he carried this passenger all the way to Benton.
Kindly effect his discharge. Let it be distinctly understood that all delinquencies of
this nature will be summarily dealt with.
It wasn't a letter to go to the stove - not
that kind of a letter; but Bucks fingered it
much as Pat Francis ought to have fingered
the clever detective who turned from the
chair car to the "smoker" on him and
from a cattleman to a "dago."
Bucks called the trainmaster. Francis
was west, due to leave Benton that afternoon on Two, and, as luck would have it,
to bring back the Brooklyn party from the
Yellowstone. And the passenger department in Chicago was again heating the
wires with injunctions to take care of them,
and good care of them, because the excursion business on a new line is not only profitable, but it is hard to work up, and trouble
with an excursion in the beginning means a
hoodoo for months, and maybe for years
Bucks felt especially gratified to know
that Pat Francis had the precious load, but
what about the cash fare from Medicine
Bend to Red Cloud? Bucks knew these
things couldn't be trifled with - not on his
line - and he faced the pleasant prospect of
next morning greeting his right bower in
the passenger service with an accusation of
theft and a summary discharge. If he had
only asked me for three dollars and a half7
thought Bucks sorely. He would rather
have given his own pay check than to have
had Pat Francis hold up one dollar.
And Pat Francis, taciturn, sphinx-like,
was punching transportation at that particular moment on Number Two on the run
east from Benton. Checking passengers,
keeping one eye on the ventilators and the
other on the date limits, working both pencils, both hands, both ears, both ends of the
punch, and both sides of the car at the same
There wasn't a cinder to break the even
enjoyment of the run up to the clouds.
Everybody was going home, and going
home happy. From the Pullmans - it was
warm and sunny in the mountains - came
nothing but rag time and Brooklyn yells.
To describe our scenery might be invidious,
but the grade where Number Two was then
climbing would alone make the fortune of
an ordinary eastern scenic line.
The Overland Freight, Number Sixty-six, east-bound with a long train of tea, was
pulling out of Toltec station as Number
Two stuck its head into the foot of the
At Toltec, on the day run, we take a
man's breath and give him large value for
his money in a bit of the prettiest engineering anywhere on earth.
Toltec lies in the Powder Range, near the
foot of a great curve called the Noose, be-
cause every time an engineer slips the head
of his train into it he is glad to hold his
breath till he gets it out.
The Toltec Noose is engineering magnificent; but it is railroading without
Words - unless one counts the wicked
words. Eagle Pass station, the head of the
Noose, looks across an unspeakable gulf directly down into Toltec, 500 feet below, and
barely a mile away. But by the rail we
count seven miles around that curve, and
without any land-grant perquisites, either.
Every train that runs the Noose is
double-headed both ways, and now - this
was before - they add, to keep trainmen off
the relief scrap, a pusher.
That day there was no pusher behind the
Overland Freight, and Number Two's
crew, as they pulled out of Toltec to climb
the loop, could plainly see, above and across,
the storming, struggling, choking engines
of the tea train as they neared with their
load the summit of Eagle Pass.
The wind bore down to them in breaking
waves the sucking, roaring cut of the quivering furnaces. Pat Francis stood in the
open door of the baggage-car, old John
Parker and the head brakeman beside him,
looking together at the freight with the
absorbed air of men at the bottom of a well
who watch the loaded bucket near the top.
Through the thin, clear mountain air they
could almost read the numbers on the engine tenders. They could see the freight
conductor start over his train for the headend, and as they looked they saw his train
break in two behind him and the rear end,
parting like a snake's tail, slough off, lose
headway, and roll back down the hill. The
hind-end brakeman, darting from the caboose, ran up the ladder like a cat, and began setting brakes. The passenger crew
saw the brake-shoes clutch in a flame at the
slipping trucks, but the drawbars couldn't
stand it. From one of the big tea cars a
drawhead parted like a tooth. The tea train
again broke in two, this time behind the
rear brakeman, and the caboose with five
6o,ooo-pound cars shot down the grade;
and Number Two was now climbing above
A volley of danger signals curled white
from the freight engine across the gulf.
Pat Francis sprang for the bell cord, but
it was needless; his engineers at the very
moment threw double chambers of air on
It caught cards off the whist tables, and
swept baked potatoes into the bosoms of
astonished diners, it spoiled the point of
pretty jokes and broke the tedium of stupid
stories, it upset roysterers and staggered
sober men, it basted the cooks with gravy
and the waiters with fruit, it sent the blood
to the hearts and a chill to the brains, it
was an emergency stop and a severe one -
Number Two was against it. Before the
frightened porters could open the vestibules
the passenger engines were working in the
back motion, and Number Two was scuttling down the Noose to get away from
impending disaster. The trainmen huddled
again in the baggage-car door, with their
eyes glued on the runaways; the Noose is
so perfect a curve that every foot of their
flight could be seen. It was a race backwards to save the passenger train; but for
every mile they could crowd into its wheels
the runaways were making two. Pat Francis saw it first - saw it before they had covered half the distance back to Toltec. They
could never make the hill west of the
Noose; it wasn't in steam to beat gravity;
moreover, if they crowded Number Two
too hard she might fly an elevation, and go
into the gulf. It is one thing to run down
hill, and another thing to fall down hill.
The tea train was falling down hill.
Francis turned to bareheaded John Parker, and handed him his watch and his
"What do you mean?" John Parker
choked the words out, because he knew
what he meant.
"Turn this stuff in to Bucks, John, if I
don't make it. It's all company money."
The brakeman, greenish and dazed,
steadied himself with a hand on the jamb;
the baggageman stared wild-eyed through
his rusty lenses. "Pat," he faltered, "what
do you mean?
"I'll drop off at the Toltec switch and
maybe I can open it to catch that string -
we'll never make it this way, John, in God's
"You might a'most as well jump out into
the canon; you'll never live to use a switch
key, Pat - we're crowding a mile a minute -"
Francis looked at him steadily as he
pulled his ring and took a switch key off the
"They're crowding Two, John."
The car slued under them. John Parker
tore off his spectacles.
"Pat, I'm a lighter man than you - give
me the switch key!" he cried, gripping the
conductor's shoulder as he followed him out
the door to the platform.
"Your children are younger than mine,
Pat. Give me the key."
"This is my train, John. Ask Bucks to
look after my insurance."
With these words, Francis tore the old
man's hand roughly away. When a minute
is a mile, action is quick. Sixty, seventy
seconds more meant the Toltec switch, and
the conductor already hung from the bottom step of the baggage-car.
Pat Francis was built like a gorilla. He
swung with his long arms in and out from
the reeling train into a rhythm, one foot
dangling in the suck of dust and cinders,
the other bracing lightly against the step
tread. Then, with the switch key in his
mouth; with Parker's thin hair streaming
over him, and a whirlwind sucking to the
wheels under him; with Number Two's
drivers racing above him and a hundred
passengers staring below him, Pat Francis
Men in the sleepers, only half understanding, saw as he disappeared a burst of
alkali along the track. Only old John Parker's gray eye could see that his conductor,
though losing his feet, had rolled clear of
the trucks and drivers, and was tumbling
in the storm center like a porcupine. Above
him the tea cars were lurching down the
grade. Old John, straining, saw Francis
stagger to his feet and double back like a
jack-knife on the ballast. A lump jumped
into the baggageman's throat, but Francis'
head rose again out of the dust he raised
again on his hands, and dragging after
him one leg like a dead thing crawled heavily towards the switch. He reached the
stand and caught at it. He pulled himself
up on one leg, and fumbled an instant at the
lock, then he jerked the target. As it fell,
clutched in both his hands, the caboose of
the tea train leaped on the tongue rail. The
fore truck shot into the switch. The heels,
caught for a hundredth of a second in the
slue, flew out, and like the head of a foaming cur the caboose doubled frantically on
its tailers. The tea cars tripped, jumped
the main rail like cannon balls, one, two,
three, four, five - out and into the open
The crash rolled up the gorge and down.
It drove eagles from their nests and wolves
from their hollows. Startled birds wheeling above the headlong cars shrieked a
chorus; a cloud like smoke followed the
wreck down the mountain side. And the
good people on Number Two, the pleasure
seekers that Pat Francis was taking care of
- $125 a month - saw it all and tried to
keep cool and think.
He lay prostrate across the road, a
bruised and dirty and bloody thing. John
Parker, stumbling on rickety knees, reached
him first, and turned him over. John first
spoke to him, but he spoke again and again
before the bloodshot eyes reluctantly
opened. And then Pat Francis, choking,
spitting, gasping, clutching at John Parker's bony arm, raised his head. It fell
back into the cinders. But he doggedly
raised it again - and shook the broken teeth
from between his lips - and lived. His face
was like a section of beefsteak, and the iron
leg that struck the ballast last had snapped
twice under him. A few minutes afterward he lay in the stateroom of the forward sleeper, and tried with his burning,
swollen tongue to talk to Brooklyn men
who feelingly stared at him, and to Brooklyn women who prettily cried at him, and to
old John Parker who unsteadily swore at
him as he fanned his own whiskers and Pat
Francis' head with the baggage clip.
When Number Two rolled into Medicine
Bend next morning, Bucks climbed aboard,
and without ceremony elbowed his way
through the excursionists dressing in the
aisles to the injured conductor's stateroom.
He was in there a good bit. When he came
out, the chief priests of Brooklyn crowded
around to say fast things to the superintendent about his conductor and their conductor. As they talked, Bucks looked in a
minute over their heads; he did that way
when thinking. Then he singled out the
Depew of the party and put his hand on his
"Look here," said Bucks, and his words
snapped like firecrackers, "I want you gentlemen to do something for your conductor."
"We've made up a purse of $300 for
him, my friend," announced the spokesman
"I don't mean that; not that. He's in
trouble. You needn't waste any breath on
me. I know that man as well as if I'd made
him. I'll tell you what I want. I want you
to come upstairs and dictate your account of
the accident to my stenographer. While
you're eating breakfast, he'll copy it and
you can all sign it afterward. Will you?"
"Will we? Get your slave!"
"I'll tell you why," continued Bucks, addressing the Brooklyn man impressively.
"You look like a man who, maybe, knows
what trouble is -"
"I thought so," exclaimed Bucks, warming. "If that's so, we belong to the same
lodge -same degree. You see, there's
charges against him. They've had spotters
after him," added Bucks, lowering his voice
to the few gentlemen who crowded about.
"There's plenty of Brooklyn men here
for a lynching!"
Bucks smiled a far-off smile. "The boys
wouldn't trouble you to help if they could
catch them. I want your statement to send
in to headquarters with Francis' answer to
the charges. They tried to make him out a
thief, but I've just found out they haven't
touched him. His explanation is perfectly
The men of Brooklyn tumbled up the
Wickiup stairs. At breakfast, the news
traveled faster than hot rolls. When the
paper was drawn, the signing began; but
they so crowded the upper floor that Bucks
was afraid of a collapse, and the testimonial
was excitedly carried down to the waiting-room. Then the women wanted to sign.
When they began, it looked serious, for no
woman could be hurried, and those who
were creatures of sentiment dropped a tear
on their signatures, thinking the paper was
to hang in Pat Francis' parlor.
In the end Bucks had to hold Number
Two thirty minutes, and to lay out the remains of the tea train, which was still waiting to get out of the yard.
After the last yell from the departing excursionists, Bucks went back to his office,
and dictated for the general manager a
report of the Toltec wreck. Then he wrote
this letter to him:
Replying to yours of the eighth, relative
to the charges against conductor P. J.
Francis. I have his statement in the matter. The detective who paid the cash fare
to Red Cloud was not put off there because
no stop was made, the train being that night
under my orders to make no stops below
Wild Hat. It was the first of the Brooklyn
Yellowstone excursions, and Chicago was
anxious to make the Columbian Pacific connection. This was done in spite of Number
One's coming into this division three hours
late and against a hard storm. At Wild
Hat the detective, rigged as an Italian, was
overlooked in the hurry and carried by.
While no cash-fare slip was issued, the fare
was turned in by Conductor Francis to the
auditor in the regular way, and investigation of his trip report will, he tells me, confirm his statement of fact. If so, I think
you will agree with me that he is relieved of
any suspicion of dishonesty in the matter.
I have nevertheless cautioned him on his
failure to hand the passenger a fare-voucher, and have informed him that his
explanation was entirely satisfactory; in
fact, after the affair at Toltec he deserves
a great deal more from the company. By
request of the Brooklyn excursionists, I inclose an expression of their opinion of Conductor Francis' jump from Number Two
to set the Toltec switch. All of which is
Pat Francis is still running passenger. But
Alfabet Smith's men work more now on the East End.
© RailroadStories, 2001.