Skeevers was "acting master mechanic" once while the
real article went "down East," got married, and
honeymooned around a while for all the world like a common engineer
or a human being.
Skeevers didn't make any startling
changes, but while he sat in the office he was boss, all the same, and he put the knife
into every sore caused by friction between engineers and firemen.
They couldn't any of 'em shut Skinny Skeevers' eye with a five-act story - Skinny knew
all the stories by heart, and the men, too.
Skeevers went over the road with the officials on a tour of inspection once, and saw,
for the first time, a middle-aged scrapheap on the Coalville branch, and Skeevers made a
note in his book that the '38' was the dirtiest engine he ever saw.
When he got back home he wrote a letter to the engineer, saying that he was ashamed of
the engine and of him; that whoever the fireman was, he, the engineer was responsible for
him, and that if the engine wasn't at once put into decent condition the engineer would
hear something drop.
In a couple of days a reply came in, couched in very dignified language; there was no
excuse for the dirt, no promise to remove it, no word about the fireman, but a protest
against the summary way that Skeevers wrote.
"I want you, sir, to distinctly understand that I am a gentleman and shall insist
on being treated as such," concluded the epistle of the offended
"plug-puller" of the branch run.
Skeevers sent him a pass by the first train - and also a man to relieve him.
The next day he climbed the stairs to Skeevers' office with three gauges of indignation
on. Skeevers knew he was coming, and was busy writing.
"Is Mr. Skeevers here?" he asked, as he leaned his arm on the railing.
"What do you want to see him about?" asked a fresh young clerk.
"I want to see the master mechanic of this here road," said the gentleman
"I am that person," said Skeevers, quiet like. "May I ask who you
"I am the engineer of the '38.'"
"Oh, yes; let's see, how long have you been running an engine here, sir?"
"Six years, and I" -
"Never mind, now, but don't you draw pay from this company for another
"Just hired for an engineer and paid for that and nothing else?"
"I'm glad to know that; I got the impression from a letter you wrote me that you
were down on the pay-rolls as a gentleman. They may need some of them in other
departments, but I want engineers, firemen and mechanics; I wouldn't give the best
gentleman in America $20
a month for my part of the work.
"I understand, sir, that you are connected with some of the first families here,
but that cuts no figure with me. After working-hours you may lead the German at the
Governor's ball if you want to, for all me; but while on duty here you are in charge of a
locomotive, and are responsible for it to me, and I to the management. I don't care a
continental cuss whether you were born in the White House or the gutter, who you married
or what church you belong to. It cuts no figure here, as I remarked before.
"I do care what kind of an engineer you are, though, and you can't be any better
engineer because you belong to the Masons, the Episcopal Church, the Greenback party or
the Holy Rollers. Marrying into the first families won't help you, and being born in a
hovel won't hurt you - as an engineer.
"It's an engineer's duty to see that his engine is kept reasonably tidy; the
fireman should do most of this work under your direction, but you are as responsible for
that as you are for the packing of the valve-stems.
"Now, sir, this road wants good engineers, and gentlemen would be a drug on the
market. If you want to try running the '38' - as an engineer, mind you - I am willing. You
go right ahead and marry a wench or a Pawnee squaw, if you want to, and tell 'em all it's
none of my business; but if you don't clean up that engine before Saturday night, I will
fire you off the face of the earth and hire an engineer.
"Give Mr. Pangborn a pass to Coalville, James. Good-day, sir."
"Good-day, Mr. Skeevers."
"That's what I call a dry roast," said the chief clerk, as the gentleman
runner shut the hall door at the foot of the stairs.
"That's what my old fireman calls an object lesson, illustrated," said
Skeevers, "and, whatever it is, I know that Pangborn sees something in a different
light than he did, and he won't forget it, eyether."