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Title: Cab and Caboose - The Story of a Railroad Boy
Author: Munroe, Kirk, 1850-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CAB AND CABOOSE

The Story of a Railroad Boy

by

KIRK MUNROE



OFFICERS OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL

Honorary President, THE HON. WOODROW WILSON
Honorary Vice-President, HON. WILLIAM H. TAFT
Honorary Vice-President, COLONEL THEODORE ROOSEVELT
President, COLIN H. LIVINGSTONE, Washington, D. C.
Vice-President, B. L. DULANEY, Bristol, Tenn.
Vice-President, MILTON A. McRAE, Detroit. Mich.
Vice-President, DAVID STARR JORDAN, Stanford University, Cal.
Vice-President, F. L. SEELY, Asheville, N. C.
Vice-President, A. STAMFORD WHITE, Chicago, Ill.
Chief Scout, ERNEST THOMPSON SETON, Greenwich, Connecticut
National Scout Commissioner, DANIEL CARTER BEARD, Flushing, N. Y.


NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
THE FIFTH AVENUE BUILDING, 200 FIFTH AVENUE
TELEPHONE GRAMERCY 545
NEW YORK CITY


FINANCE COMMITTEE

John Sherman Hoyt, Chairman
August Belmont
George D. Pratt
Mortimer L. Schiff
H. Rogers Winthrop

GEORGE D. PRATT, Treasurer

JAMES E. WEST, Chief Scout Executive


ADDITIONAL MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD

Ernest P. Bicknell
Robert Garrett
Lee F. Hanmer
John Sherman Hoyt
Charles C. Jackson
Prof. Jeremiah W. Jenks
William D. Murray
Dr. Charles P. Neill
George D. Porter
Frank Presbrey
Edgar M. Robinson
Mortimer L. Schiff
Lorillard Spencer
Seth Sprague Terry
                                July 31st, 1913.


TO THE PUBLIC:--

In the execution of its purpose to give educational value and moral worth
to the recreational activities of the boyhood of America, the leaders of
the Boy Scout Movement quickly learned that to effectively carry out its
program, the boy must be influenced not only in his out-of-door life but
also in the diversions of his other leisure moments. It is at such times
that the boy is captured by the tales of daring enterprises and
adventurous good times. What now is needful is not that his taste should
be thwarted but trained. There should constantly be presented to him the
books the boy likes best, yet always the books that will be best for the
boy. As a matter of fact, however, the boy's taste is being constantly
vitiated and exploited by the great mass of cheap juvenile literature.

To help anxiously concerned parents and educators to meet this grave
peril, the Library Commission of the Boy Scouts of America has been
organized. EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY is the result of their labors. All the
books chosen have been approved by them. The Commission is composed of the
following members: George F. Bowerman, Librarian, Public Library of the
District of Columbia, Washington, D. C.; Harrison W. Graver, Librarian,
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Claude G. Leland, Superintendent,
Bureau of Libraries, Board of Education, New York City; Edward F.
Stevens, Librarian, Pratt Institute Free Library, Brooklyn, New York;
together with the Editorial Board of our Movement, William D. Murray,
George D. Pratt and Frank Presbrey, with Franklin K. Mathiews, Chief Scout
Librarian, as Secretary.

                      "DO A GOOD TURN DAILY."

In selecting the books, the Commission has chosen only such as are of
interest to boys, the first twenty-five being either works of fiction or
stirring stories of adventurous experiences. In later lists, books of a
more serious sort will be included. It is hoped that as many as
twenty-five may be added to the Library each year.

Thanks are due the several publishers who have helped to inaugurate this
new department of our work. Without their co-operation in making available
for popular priced editions some of the best books ever published for
boys, the promotion of EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY would have been impossible.

We wish, too, to express our heartiest gratitude to the Library
Commission, who, without compensation, have placed their vast experience
and immense resources at the service of our Movement.

The Commission invites suggestions as to future books to be included in
the Library. Librarians, teachers, parents, and all others interested in
welfare work for boys, can render a unique service by forwarding to
National Headquarters lists of such books as in their judgment would be
suitable for EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY.

                              Signed
                                  James E. West [handwritten]
                                      Chief Scout Executive.


[Illustration: THE PURSUIT OF THE TRAIN ROBBER.--(_Page 156._)
_Frontispiece._]



EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY--BOY SCOUT EDITION


CAB AND CABOOSE

The Story of a Railroad Boy

by

KIRK MUNROE

Author of
Under Orders, Prince Dusty,
The Coral Ship, Etc.

ILLUSTRATED



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

Copyright, 1892
by
Kirk Munroe

This edition is issued under arrangement with the publishers
G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER.                                                      PAGE.

      I.--"RAILROAD BLAKE"                               1

     II.--A RACE FOR THE RAILROAD CUP                    8

    III.--A CRUEL ACCUSATION                            16

     IV.--STARTING INTO THE WORLD                       22

      V.--CHOOSING A CAREER                             27

     VI.--SMILER, THE RAILROAD DOG                      34

    VII.--ROD, SMILER, AND THE TRAMP                    40

   VIII.--EARNING A BREAKFAST                           52

     IX.--GAINING A FOOTHOLD                            59

      X.--A THRILLING EXPERIENCE                        66

     XI.--A BATTLE WITH TRAMPS                          71

    XII.--BOUND, GAGGED, AND A PRISONER                 79

   XIII.--HOW BRAKEMAN JOE WAS SAVED                    86

    XIV.--THE SUPERINTENDENT INVESTIGATES               92

     XV.--SMILER TO THE RESCUE                          99

    XVI.--SNYDER APPLEBY'S JEALOUSY                    106

   XVII.--ROD AS A BRAKEMAN                            115

  XVIII.--WORKING FOR A PROMOTION                      121

    XIX.--THE EXPRESS SPECIAL                          126

     XX.--TROUBLE IN THE MONEY CAR                     135

    XXI.--OVER THE TOP OF THE TRAIN                    142

   XXII.--STOP THIEF!                                  148

  XXIII.--A RACE OF LOCOMOTIVES                        155

   XXIV.--ARRESTED ON SUSPICION                        161

    XXV.--THE TRAIN ROBBER LEARNS OF ROD'S ARREST      168

   XXVI.--A WELCOME VISITOR                            174

  XXVII.--THE SHERIFF IS INTERVIEWED                   180

 XXVIII.--LIGHT DAWNS UPON THE SITUATION               186

   XXIX.--AN ARRIVAL OF FRIENDS AND ENEMIES            192

    XXX.--WHERE ARE THE DIAMONDS?                      198

   XXXI.--ONE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR!                   205

  XXXII.--SNATCHING VICTORY FROM DEFEAT                211

 XXXIII.--A WRECKING TRAIN                             217

  XXXIV.--ROD ACCEPTS THE LEGACY                       223

   XXXV.--FIRING ON NUMBER 10                          231

  XXXVI.--THE ONLY CHANCE OF SAVING THE SPECIAL        237

 XXXVII.--INDEPENDENCE OR PRIDE                        245

XXXVIII.--A MORAL VICTORY                              252

  XXXIX.--SNYDER IS FORGIVEN                           258



ILLUSTRATIONS


THE PURSUIT OF THE TRAIN ROBBER       _Frontispiece_

                                               PAGE

ROD BLAKE WINS BY A LENGTH                       15

SMILER DRIVES OFF THE TRAMP                      42

IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY                        82

ROD ASSISTS THE YOUNG MAN TO THE "LIMITED"      132

THE SHERIFF HANDS ROD THE LEATHER BAG           202

IN THE RAILROAD WRECK                           214

"HE LAUNCHED HIMSELF FORWARD"                   240



CAB AND CABOOSE:
THE STORY OF A RAILROAD BOY.

CHAPTER I.

"RAILROAD BLAKE."


"Go it, Rod! You've got to go! One more spurt and you'll have him! There
you are over the line! On time! On railroad time! Three cheers for
Railroad Blake, fellows! 'Rah, 'rah, 'rah, and a tigah! Good for you, Rod
Blake! the cup is yours. It was the prettiest race ever seen on the Euston
track, and 'Cider' got so badly left that he cut off and went to the
dressing-room without finishing. Billy Bliss was a good second, though,
and you only beat him by a length."

Amid a thousand such cries as these, from the throats of the excited boys
and a furious waving of hats, handkerchiefs, and ribbon-decked parasols
from the grand stand, the greatest bicycling event of the year so far as
Euston was concerned, was finished, and Rodman Blake was declared winner
of the Railroad Cup. It was the handsomest thing of the kind ever seen in
that part of the country, and had been presented to the Steel Wheel Club
of Euston by President Vanderveer of the great New York and Western
Railroad, who made his summer home at that place. The race for this trophy
was the principal event at the annual meet of the club, which always took
place on the first Wednesday of September. If any member won it three
years in succession it was to be his to keep, and every winner was
entitled to have his name engraved on it.

Snyder Appleby or "Cider Apples" as the boys, with their love for
nicknames, sometimes called him, had won it two years in succession, and
was confident of doing the same thing this year. He had just obtained,
through President Vanderveer, a position in the office of the Railroad
Company, and only waited to ride this last race for the "Railroad Cup,"
as it was called in honor of its donor, before going to the city and
entering upon his new duties.

Now to be beaten so badly, and by that young upstart, for so he called
Rod Blake, was a mortification almost too great to be borne. As Snyder
left the track without finishing the last race and made his way to the
dressing-room under the grand stand, he ground his teeth, and vowed to get
even with his victorious rival yet. The cheers and yells of delight with
which the fellows were hailing the victor, made him feel his defeat all
the more bitterly, and seek the more eagerly for some plan for that
victor's humiliation.

Snyder Appleby was generally considered by the boys as one of the meanest
fellows in Euston, and that is the reason why they called him "Cider
Apples"; for those, as everybody knows, are most always the very poorest
of the picking. So the name seemed to be appropriate, as well as a happy
parody on that to which he was really entitled. He was the son, or rather
the adopted son, of Major Arms Appleby, who, next to President Vanderveer,
was the richest man in Euston, and lived in the great, rambling stone
mansion that had been in his family for generations.

The Major, who was a bachelor, was also one of the kindest-hearted, most
generous, and most obstinate of men. He loved to do good deeds; but he
loved to do them in his own way, and his way was certain to be the one
that was contrary to the advice of everybody else. Thus it happened that
he determined to adopt the year-old baby boy who was left on his doorstep
one stormy night, a little more than sixteen years before this story
opens. He was not fond of babies, nor did he care to have children about
him. Simply because everybody advised him to send this one to the county
house, where it might be cared for by the proper authorities, he declared
he would do nothing of the kind; but would adopt the little waif and bring
him up as his own son.

As the boy grew, and developed many undesirable traits of character, Major
Appleby was too kind-hearted to see them, and too obstinate to be warned
against them.

"Don't tell me," he would say, "I know more about the boy than anybody
else, and am fully capable of forming my opinion concerning him."

Thus Snyder Appleby, as he was called, because the name "Snyder" was
found marked on the basket in which he had been left at the Major's door,
grew up with the fixed idea that if he only pleased his adopted father
he might act about as he chose with everybody else. Now he was nearly
eighteen years of age, big and strong, with a face that, but for its
coarseness, would have been called handsome. He was fond of display, did
everything for effect, was intolerably lazy, had no idea of the word
punctuality, and never kept an engagement unless he felt inclined to do
so. He always had plenty of pocket money which he spent lavishly, and was
not without a certain degree of popularity among the other boys of Euston.
He had subscribed more largely than anybody else to the Steel Wheel Club
upon its formation, and had thus succeeded in having himself elected its
captain.

As he was older and stronger than any of the other members who took up
racing, and as he always rode the lightest and best wheel that money could
procure, he had, without much hard work, easily maintained a lead in the
racing field, and had come to consider himself as invincible. He regarded
himself as such a sure winner of this last race for the Railroad Cup,
that he had not taken the trouble to go into training for it. He would not
even give up his cigarette smoking, a habit that he had acquired because
he considered it fashionable and manly. Now he was beaten, disgracefully,
and that by a boy nearly two years younger than himself. It was too much,
and he determined to find some excuse for his defeat, that should at the
same time remove the disgrace from him, and place it upon other shoulders.

Rodman Ray Blake, or R. R. Blake as he signed his name, and "Railroad
Blake" as the boys often called him, was Major Appleby's nephew, and the
son of his only sister. She had married an impecunious young artist
against her brother's wish, on which account he had declined ever to see
her again. When she died, after two years of poverty-stricken widowhood,
she left a loving, forgiving letter for her brother, and in it committed
her darling boy to his charge. If she had not done this, but had trusted
to his generous impulses, all would have gone well, and the events that
serve to make up this story would never have taken place. As it was, the
Major, feeling that the boy was forced upon him, was greatly aggrieved.
That the lad should bear a remarkable resemblance to his handsome artist
father also irritated him. As a result, while he really became very fond
of the boy, and was never unkind to him, he treated him with an assumed
indifference that was keenly felt by the loving, high-spirited lad. As for
Snyder Appleby, he was jealous of Rodman from the very first; and when,
only a short time before the race meeting of the Steel Wheel Club, the
latter was almost unanimously elected to his place as captain, this
feeling was greatly increased.



CHAPTER II.

A RACE FOR THE RAILROAD CUP.


Young Blake had now been in Euston two years, and was, among the boys,
decidedly the most popular fellow in the place. He was a slightly-built
chap; but with muscles like steel wires, and possessed of wonderful
agility and powers of endurance. He excelled in all athletic sports, was a
capital boxer, and at the same time found little difficulty in maintaining
a good rank in his classes. He had taken to bicycling from the very first,
and quickly became an expert rider, though he had never gone in for
racing. It was therefore a great surprise, even to his friends, when, on
the very day before the race meeting, he entered his name for the event
that was to result in the winning or losing of the Railroad Cup. It would
not have been so much of a surprise had anybody known of his conversation,
a few weeks before, with Eltje Vanderveer, the railroad president's only
daughter. She was a few months younger than Rod, and ever since he had
jumped into the river to save her pet kitten from drowning, they had been
fast friends.

So, when in talking of the approaching meeting, Eltje had said, "How I
wish you were a racer, and could win our cup, Rod," the boy instantly made
up his mind to try for it. He only answered, "Do you? Well, perhaps I may
go in for that sort of thing some time."

Then he began training, so secretly that nobody but Dan, a stable boy on
his uncle's place and Rod's most ardent admirer, was aware of it; but with
such steady determination that on the eventful day of the great race his
physical condition was very nearly perfect.

He was on hand at the race track bright and early; for, as captain of the
club, Rod had a great deal to do in seeing that everything went smoothly,
and in starting on time the dozen events that preceded the race for the
Railroad Cup, which came last on the programme.

While these earlier events were being run off Snyder Appleby, faultlessly
attired, sat in the grand stand beside his adopted father, and directly
behind President Vanderveer and his pretty daughter, to whom he tried to
render himself especially agreeable. He listened respectfully to the
Major's stories, made amusing comments on the racers for Eltje's benefit,
and laughed heartily at the puns that her father was given to making.

"But how about your own race, Mr. Appleby?" asked Eltje. "Don't you feel
any anxiety concerning it? It is to be the hardest one of all, isn't it?"

Immensely flattered at being addressed as Mister Appleby, Snyder replied
carelessly, "Oh, yes! of course I am most anxious to win it, especially as
you are here to see it run; but I don't anticipate much difficulty. Bliss
is a hard man to beat; but I have done it before, and I guess I can do it
again."

"Then you don't think Rodman has any chance of winning?"

"Well, hardly. You see this is his first race, and experience goes a long
way in such affairs. Still, he rides well, and it wouldn't surprise me to
see him make a good third at the finish."

Eltje smiled as she answered, "Perhaps he will finish third; but it would
surprise me greatly to see him do so."

This pretty girl, with the Dutch name, had such faith in her friend Rod,
that she did not believe he would ever be third, or even second, where he
had once made up his mind to be first.

Failing to catch her real meaning, Snyder replied: "Of course he may not
do as well as that; but he ought to. As captain of the club he ought to
sustain the honor of his position, you know. If he doesn't feel able to
take at least third place in a five-starter race, he should either resign,
or keep out of the racing field altogether. Now I must leave you; for I
see I am wanted. You'll wish me good luck, won't you?"

"Yes," answered Eltje mischievously, "I wish you all the luck you
deserve."

Forced to be content with this answer, but wondering if there was any
hidden meaning in it, Snyder left the grand stand, and strolled leisurely
around to the dressing-room, lighting a cigarette as he went.

"Hurry up!" shouted Rod, who was the soul of punctuality and was
particularly anxious that all the events of this, his first race meeting,
should be started on time. "Hurry up. Our race will be called in five
minutes, and you've barely time to dress for it."

"Where's my wheel?" asked Snyder, glancing over the dozen or more machines
stacked at one side of the room, but without seeing his own.

"I haven't seen it," answered Rod, "but I supposed you had left it in some
safe place."

"So I did. I left it in the club house, where there would be no chance of
anybody tampering with it; for I've heard of such things happening, but I
ordered Dan to have it down here in time for the race."

"Do you mean to insinuate--" began Rod hotly; but controlling himself, he
continued more calmly, "I didn't know that you had given Dan any orders,
and I sent him over to the house on an errand a few minutes ago. Never
mind, though, I'll go for your machine myself, and have it here by the
time you are dressed."

Without waiting for a reply, the young captain started off on a run, while
his adopted cousin began leisurely to undress, and get into his racing
costume. By the time he was ready, Rod had returned leading the beautiful
machine, which he had not ridden for fear lest some accident might happen
to it.

Then the race was called, and a pistol shot sent the five young athletes
bending low over their handle-bars spinning down the course. They all wore
the club colors of scarlet and white; but from Rod's bicycle fluttered the
bit of blue ribbon that Dan had been sent to the young captain's room to
get, and which he had hastily knotted to the handle-bar of his machine
just before starting. Eltje Vanderveer smiled and flushed slightly as she
noticed it, and then all her attention was concentrated upon the varying
fortunes of the flying wheelmen.

It was a five-mile race, and therefore a test of endurance rather than of
strength or skill. There were two laps to the mile, and for seven of these
Snyder Appleby held an easy lead. His name was heard above all others in
the cheering that greeted each passing of the grand stand, though the
others were encouraged to stick to him and not give it up yet. That two of
them had no intention of giving it up, was shown at the end of the eighth
lap, when the three leading wheels whirled past the grand stand so nearly
abreast that no advantage could be claimed for either one.

Now the cheering was tremendous; but the names of Rod Blake and Billy
Bliss were tossed from mouth to mouth equally with that of Snyder Appleby.
At the end of nine laps the champion of two years had fallen hopelessly
behind. His face wore a distressed look, and his breath came in painful
gasps. Cigarettes had done their work with him, and his wind was gone. The
two leaders were still abreast; but Rod had obtained the inside position,
and if he could keep up the pace the race was his.

Eltje Vanderveer's face was pale, and her hands were clinched with the
intense excitement of the moment. Was her champion to win after all? Was
her bit of blue ribbon to be borne triumphantly to the front? Inch by inch
it creeps into a lead. Now they are coming down the home stretch. The
speed of that last spurt is wonderful. Nothing like it has ever been seen
at the wind-up of a five-mile race on the Euston track. Looking at them,
head on, it is for a few seconds hard to tell which is leading. Then a
solitary shout for Rod Blake is heard. In another moment it has swelled
into a perfect roar of cheering, and there is a tempest of tossing hats,
handkerchiefs, and parasols.

[Illustration: ROD BLAKE WINS BY A LENGTH.--(_Page 15._)]

Rod Blake has won by a length, Billy Bliss is second, Snyder Appleby was
such a bad third that he has gone to the dressing-room without finishing,
and the others are nowhere.

The speed of the winning wheels cannot be checked at once, and as they go
shooting on past the stand, the exhausted riders are seen to reel in their
saddles. They would have fallen but for the willing hands outstretched to
receive them. Dan is the first to reach the side of his adored young
master, and as the boy drops into his arms, the faithful fellow says:

"You've won it, Mister Rod! You've won it fair and square; but you want to
look out for Mister Snyder. I heerd him a-saying bad things about you when
he passed me on that last lap, and I'm afeard he means some kind of
mischief."



CHAPTER III.

A CRUEL ACCUSATION.


The attention of the spectators, including the club members, was so
entirely given to the finish of the famous race for the Railroad Cup,
that, for a few minutes Snyder Appleby was the sole occupant of the
dressing-room. When a group of the fellows, forming a sort of triumphal
escort to the victors, noisily entered it, they found him standing by his
machine. It was supported by two rests placed under its handle bars, and
he was gazing curiously at the big wheel, which he was slowly spinning
with one hand.

"Hello, 'Cider'!" cried the first of the new-comers, "what's up? Anything
the matter with your wheel?"

"I believe there is," answered the ex-captain, in such a peculiar tone of
voice that it at once arrested attention. "I don't know what is wrong, and
I wouldn't make an examination until some of you fellows came in. In a
case like this I believe in having plenty of witnesses and doing
everything openly."

"What do you mean?" asked one of the group, whose noisy entrance was now
succeeded by a startled silence.

"Turn that wheel and you'll see what I mean," replied Snyder.

"Why, it turns as hard as though it were running on plain bearing that had
never been oiled!" exclaimed the member who had undertaken to turn the
wheel as requested.

"That's just it, and I don't think it's very surprising that I failed to
win the race with a wheel in that condition, do you?"

"Indeed I do not. The only surprising thing is that you held the lead so
long as you did, and managed to come in third. I know I couldn't have run
a single lap if I'd been on that wheel. What's the matter with it? Wasn't
it all right when you started?"

"I thought it was," replied Snyder, "but I soon found that something was
wrong, and before I left the track it was all I could do to move it. Now,
I want you fellows to find out what the matter is."

A few moments of animated discussion followed, while several of the
fellows made a careful examination of the bicycle.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed one; "what's in this oil cup? It looks as though
it were choked with black sand."

"It's emery powder!" cried another, extracting a few grains of the black,
oil-soaked stuff on the point of a knife blade. "No wonder your wheel
won't turn. How on earth did it get there?"

"That is what I would like to find out," answered the owner of the
machine. "It certainly was not there when I left the club house; for I had
just gone over every part and assured myself that it was in perfect order.
Since then but two persons have touched it, and I am one of them. I don't
think it likely that anybody will charge me with having done this thing,
seeing that my sole interest was to win the race, and that if I so nearly
succeeded with my wheel in this condition, I could easily have done so had
it been all right. Nothing could be more painful to me than to bring a
charge against one who lives under the same roof that I do; but you all
know who had the greatest interest in having me lose this race. I think
you all know, too, that he is the only person besides myself who handled
my wheel immediately before it. The one whom I trusted to bring it here in
safety was sent off by this person on some frivolous errand at the last
moment. Then, neglecting other and important duties, he volunteered to get
the machine himself. He was gone before I had a chance to decline his
offer. That is all I have to say upon this most unpleasant subject, and I
should not have said so much had not my own reputation, both as a racing
man and a gentleman, been at stake. Now I place the whole affair in the
hands of the club, satisfied that they will do me justice."

Rod Blake, seated on a camp-stool, with a heavy "sweater" thrown over his
shoulders, and slowly recovering from the exhaustion of the race, had
observed and listened to all this with a pained curiosity. He could not
believe any member of the club guilty of such a cowardly act. When Snyder
began to charge him with having committed it, his face became deadly pale,
and he gazed at his adopted cousin with an expression akin to terror. As
the latter finished, the young captain sprang to his feet, exclaiming:

"Snyder Appleby, how dare you bring such an accusation against me? You
know I am incapable of doing such a thing! Your wheel was in perfect
condition when I delivered it to you, and you know it was."

"I can easily believe that the fellow who would perform the act would be
equally ready to lie out of it," replied Snyder.

"Do you mean that I lie?"

"That is about the size of it."

This was more than the hot-tempered young athlete could bear; and almost
before the words were out of Snyder's mouth, a blow delivered with all the
nervous force of Rodman's right arm sent him staggering back. It would
have laid him on the floor, had not several of the fellows caught him in
their arms.

He was furious with rage, and would have sprung at Rodman had he not been
restrained. As it was, he hissed through his clinched teeth, "I'll make
you suffer for this yet, see if I don't."

Immediately after delivering the blow, Rod turned, without a word, and
began putting on his clothes. The fellows watched him in silence. A minute
later he was dressed, and stood in the doorway. Here he turned and said:

"I am going home, fellows, and I shall wait there just one hour for an
assurance that you have faith in me, and do not believe a word of this
horrible charge. If such a message, sent by the whole club, reaches me
within that time, I will undertake to prove my innocence. If it does not
come, then I cease, not only to be your captain, but a member of the
club."



CHAPTER IV.

STARTING INTO THE WORLD.


As Rod finished speaking he left the room and walked away. He had hardly
disappeared, and the fellows were still looking at each other in a
bewildered fashion, when a message was sent in. It was that President
Vanderveer, who was distributing the prizes for the several races out in
front of the grand stand, was ready to present the Railroad Cup to Rodman
Blake, and wanted him to come and receive it. Then somebody went out and
whispered to the President. Excusing himself for a moment to the throng of
spectators, he visited the dressing-room, where he heard the whole story.
It was hurriedly told; but he comprehended enough of it to know that the
cup could not, at that moment, be presented to anybody. So he went back,
and with a very sober face, told the people that owing to circumstances
which he was not at liberty to explain just then, it was impossible to
award the Railroad Cup at that meeting.

The crowd slowly melted away; but before they left, everybody had heard
one version or another of the story told to President Vanderveer in the
dressing-room. Some believed Rod to be innocent of the charge brought
against him, and some believed him guilty. Almost all of them said it was
a pity that such races could not be won and lost honestly, and there must
be some fire where there was so much smoke; and they told each other how
they had noticed from the very first that something was wrong with Snyder
Appleby's wheel.

Major Appleby heard the story, first from President Vanderveer, and
afterwards from his adopted son, who confirmed it by displaying the side
of his face which was swollen and bruised from Rodman's blow. Fully
believing what Snyder told him, the Major became very angry. He declared
that no such disgrace had ever before been brought to his house, and that
the boy who was the cause of it could no longer be sheltered by his roof.
In vain did people talk to him, and urge him to reflect before he acted.
He had decided upon his course, and the more they advised him, the more
determined he became not to be moved from it.

While he was thus storming and fuming outside the dressing-room, the
members of the wheel club were holding a meeting behind its closed door.
Did they believe Rodman Blake guilty of the act charged against him or did
they not? The debate was a long and exciting one; but the question was
finally decided in his favor. They did not believe him capable of doing
anything so mean. They would make a thorough investigation of the affair,
and aid him by every means in their power to prove his innocence.

This was the purport of the message sent to the young captain by the club
secretary, Billy Bliss; but it was sent too late. The members had taken no
note of time in the heat of their discussion, and the hour named by Rodman
had already elapsed before Billy Bliss started on his errand. The fellows
did not think a few minutes more or less would make any difference, though
they urged the secretary to hurry and deliver his message as quickly as
possible. A few minutes however did make all the difference in the world
to Rod Blake. With him an hour meant exactly sixty minutes; and when
Billy Bliss reached Major Appleby's house the boy whom he sought was
nowhere to be found.

Major Appleby and his adopted son walked home together, the former full of
wrath at what he believed to be the disgraceful action of his nephew, and
the latter secretly rejoicing at it. On reaching the house, the Major went
at once to Rodman's room where he found the boy gazing from the window,
with a hard, defiant, expression on his face. He was longing for a single
loving word; for a mother's sympathetic ear into which he might pour his
griefs; but his pride was prepared to withstand any harshness, as well as
to resent the faintest suspicion of injustice.

"Well, sir," began the Major, "what have you to say for yourself? and how
do you explain this disgraceful affair?"

"I cannot explain it, Uncle; but----"

"That will do, sir. If you cannot explain it, I want to hear nothing
further. What I do want, however, is that you shall so arrange your future
plans that you may no longer be dependent on my roof for shelter. Here is
sufficient money for your immediate needs. As my sister's child you have
a certain claim on me. This I shall be willing to honor to the extent of
providing you against want, whenever you have settled upon your mode of
life, and choose to favor me with your future address. The sooner you can
decide upon your course of action the better." Thus saying the
kind-hearted, impetuous, and wrong-headed old Major laid a roll of bills
on the table, and left the room.

Fifteen minutes later, or five minutes before Billy Bliss reached the
house, Rod Blake also left the room. The roll of bills lay untouched where
his uncle had placed it, and he carried only his M. I. P. or bicycle
travelling bag, containing the pictures of his parents, a change of
underclothing, and a few trifles that were absolutely his own. He passed
out of the house by a side door, and was seen but by one person as he
plunged into the twilight shadows of the park. Thus, through the gathering
darkness, the poor boy, proud, high-spirited, and, as he thought,
friendless, set forth alone, to fight his battle with the world.



CHAPTER V.

CHOOSING A CAREER.


As Rod Blake, heavy-hearted, and weary, both mentally and physically from
his recent struggles, left his uncle's house, he felt utterly reckless,
and paid no heed to the direction his footsteps were taking. His one idea
was to get away as quickly, and as far as possible, from those who had
treated him so cruelly. "If only the fellows had stood by me," he thought,
"I might have stayed and fought it out. But to have them go back on me,
and take Snyder's word in preference to mine, is too much."

Had the poor boy but known that Billy Bliss was even then hastening to
bear a message of good-will and confidence in him from the "fellows" how
greatly his burden of trial would have been lightened. But he did not
know, and so he pushed blindly on, suffering as much from his own hasty
and ill-considered course of action, as from the more deliberate cruelty
of his adopted cousin. At length he came to the brow of a steep slope
leading down to the railroad, the very one of which Eltje's father was
president. The railroad had always possessed a fascination for him, and he
had often sat on this bank watching the passing trains, wondering at their
speed, and speculating as to their destinations. He had frequently thought
he should like to lead the life of a railroad man, and had been pleased
when the fellows called him "Railroad Blake" on account of his initials.
Now, this idea presented itself to him again more strongly than ever.

An express train thundered by. The ruddy glow from the furnace door of its
locomotive, which was opened at that moment, revealed the engineman seated
in the cab, with one hand on the throttle lever, and peering steadily
ahead through the gathering gloom. What a glorious life he led! So full of
excitement and constant change. What a power he controlled. How easy it
was for him to fly from whatever was unpleasant or trying. As these
thoughts flashed through the boy's mind, the red lights at the rear of the
train seemed to blink pleasantly at him, and invite him to follow them.

"I will," he cried, springing to his feet. "I will follow wherever they
may lead me. Why should I not be a railroad man as well as another? They
have all been boys and all had to begin some time."

At this moment he was startled by a sound of a voice close beside him
saying, "Supper is ready, Mister Rod." It was Dan the stable boy; and, as
Rodman asked him, almost angrily, how he dared follow him without orders,
and what he was spying out his movements for, he replied humbly: "I ain't
a-spying on you, Mister Rod, and I only followed you to tell you supper
was ready, 'cause I thought maybe you didn't know it."

"Well, I didn't and it makes no difference whether I did or not," said
Rod. "I have left my uncle's house for good and all, Dan, and there are no
more suppers in it for me."

"I was afeard so! I was afeard so, Mister Rod," exclaimed the boy with a
real distress in his voice, "an' to tell the truth that's why I came after
you. I couldn't a-bear to have you go without saying good-by, and I
thought maybe, perhaps, you'd let me go along with you. Please do, Mister
Rod. I'll work for you and serve you faithfully, an' I'd a heap rather go
on a tramp, or any place along with you, than stay here without you.
Please, Mister Rod."

"No, Dan, it would be impossible to take you with me," said Rodman, who
was deeply touched by this proof of his humble friend's loyalty. "It will
be all I can do to find work for myself; but I'm grateful to you all the
same for showing that you still think well of me. It's a great thing, I
can tell you, for a fellow in my position to know that he leaves even one
friend behind him when he is forced to go away from his only home."

"You leaves a-plenty of them--a-plenty!" interrupted the stable boy
eagerly. "I heerd Miss Eltje telling her father that it was right down
cruel not to give you the cup, an' that you couldn't do a thing, such as
they said, any more than she could, or he could himself. An' her father
said no more did he believe you could, an' you'd come out of it all right
yet. Miss Eltje was right up an' down mad about it, she was. Oh, I tell
you, Mister Rod, you've got a-plenty of friends; an' if you'll only stay
you'll find 'em jest a-swarmin'."

At this Rodman laughed outright, and said: "Dan, you are a fine fellow,
and you have done me good already. Now what I want you to do is just to
stay here and discover some more friends for me. I will manage to let you
know what I am doing; but you must not tell anybody a word about me, nor
where I am, nor anything. Now good-by, and mind, don't say a word about
having seen me, unless Miss Eltje should happen to ask you. If she should,
you might say that I shall always remember her, and be grateful to her for
believing in me. Good-by."

With this Rod plunged down the steep bank to the railroad track, and
disappeared in the darkness. He went in the direction of the next station
to Euston, about five miles away, as he did not wish to be recognized when
he made the attempt to secure a ride on some train to New York. It was to
be an attempt only; for he had not a cent of money in his pockets, and had
no idea of how he should obtain the coveted ride. In addition to being
penniless, he was hungry, and his hunger was increased tenfold by the
knowledge that he had no means of satisfying it. Still he was a boy with
unlimited confidence in himself. He always had fallen on his feet; and,
though this was the worse fix in which he had ever found himself, he had
faith that he would come out of it all right somehow. His heart was
already so much lighter since he had learned from Dan that some of his
friends, and especially Eltje Vanderveer, still believed in him, that his
situation did not seem half so desperate as it had an hour before.

Rod was already enough of a railroad man to know that, as he was going
east, he must walk on the west bound track. By so doing he would be able
to see trains bound west, while they were still at some distance from him,
and would be in no danger from those bound east and overtaking him.

When he was about half a mile from the little station, toward which he was
walking, he heard the long-drawn, far-away whistle of a locomotive. Was it
ahead of him or behind? On account of the bewildering echoes he could not
tell. To settle the question he kneeled down, and placed his ear against
one of rails of the west bound track. It was cold and silent. Then he
tried the east bound track in the same way. This rail seemed to tingle
with life, and a faint, humming sound came from it. It was a perfect
railroad telephone, and it informed the listener as plainly as words could
have told him, that a train was approaching from the west.

He stopped to note its approach. In a few minutes the rails of the east
bound track began to quiver with light from the powerful reflector in
front of its locomotive. Then they stretched away toward the oncoming
train in gleaming bands of indefinite length, while the dazzling light
seemed to cut a bright pathway between walls of solid blackness for the
use of the advancing monster. As the bewildering glare passed him, Rod saw
that the train was a long, heavy-laden freight, and that some of its cars
contained cattle. He stood motionless as it rushed past him, shaking the
solid earth with its ponderous weight, and he drew a decided breath of
relief at the sight of the blinking red eyes on the rear platform of its
caboose. How he wished he was in that caboose, riding comfortably toward
New York, instead of plodding wearily along on foot, with nothing but
uncertainties ahead of him.



CHAPTER VI.

SMILER, THE RAILROAD DOG.


As Rod stood gazing at the receding train he noticed a human figure step
from the lighted interior of the caboose, through the open doorway, to the
platform, apparently kick at something, and almost instantly return into
the car. At the same time the boy fancied he heard a sharp cry of pain;
but was not sure. As he resumed his tiresome walk, gazing longingly after
the vanishing train lights, he saw another light, a white one that moved
toward him with a swinging motion, close to the ground. While he was
wondering what it was, he almost stumbled over a small animal that stood
motionless on the track, directly in front of him. It was a dog. Now Rod
dearly loved dogs, and seemed instinctively to know that this one was in
some sort of trouble. As he stopped to pat it, the creature uttered a
little whine, as though asking his sympathy and help. At the same time it
licked his hand.

While he was kneeling beside the dog and trying to discover what its
trouble was, the swinging white light approached so closely that he saw
it to be a lantern, borne by a man who, in his other hand, carried a
long-handled iron wrench. He was the track-walker of that section, who
was obliged to inspect every foot of the eight miles of track under his
charge, at least twice a day; and the wrench was for the tightening of
any loose rail joints that he might discover.

"Hello!" exclaimed this individual as he came before the little group,
and held his lantern so as to get a good view of them. "What's the matter
here?"

"I have just found this dog," replied Rod, "and he seems to be in pain. If
you will please hold your light a little closer perhaps I can see what has
happened to him."

The man did as requested, and Rod uttered an exclamation of pleasure as
the light fell full upon the dog; for it was the finest specimen of a bull
terrier he had ever seen. It was white and brindled, its chest was of
unusual breadth, and its square jaws indicated a tenacity of purpose that
nothing short of death itself could overcome. Now one of its legs was
evidently hurt, and it had an ugly cut under the left ear, from which
blood was flowing. Its eyes expressed an almost human intelligence; and,
as it looked up at Rod and tried to lick his face, it seemed to say, "I
know you will be my friend, and I trust you to help me." About its neck
was a leathern collar, bearing a silver plate, on which was inscribed:
"Be kind to me, for I am Smiler the Railroad Dog."

"I know this dog," exclaimed the track-walker, as he read these words,
"and I reckon every railroad man in the country knows him; or at any rate
has heard of him. He used to belong to Andrew Dean, who was killed when
his engine went over the bank at Hager's two years ago. He thought the
world of the dog, and it used to travel with him most always; only once in
a while it would go visiting on some of the other engines. It was off that
way when Andrew got killed, and since then it has travelled all over the
country, like as though it was hunting for its old master. The dog lives
on trains and engines, and railroad men are always glad to see him. Some
of them got up this collar for him a while ago. Why, Smiler, old dog, how
did you come here in this fix? I never heard of you getting left or
falling off a train before."

"I think he must have come from the freight that just passed us," said
Rod, "and I shouldn't wonder," he added, suddenly recalling the strange
movements of the figure he had seen appear for an instant at the caboose
door, "if he was kicked off." Then he described the scene of which he had
caught a glimpse as the freight train passed him.

"I'd like to meet the man who'd dare do such a thing," exclaimed the
track-walker. "If I wouldn't kick him! He'd dance to a lively tune if any
of us railroad chaps got hold of him, I can tell you. It must have been an
accident, though; for nobody would hurt Smiler. Now I don't know exactly
what to do. Smiler can't be left here, and I'm afraid he isn't able to
walk very far. If I had time I'd carry him back to the freight. She's
side-tracked only a quarter of a mile from here, waiting for Number 8 to
pass. I'm due at Euston inside of an hour, and I don't dare waste any more
time."

"I'll take him if you say so," answered Rod, who had been greatly
interested in the dog's history. "I believe I can carry him that far."

"All right," replied the track-walker. "I wish you would. You'll have to
move lively though; for if Number 8 is on time, as she generally is, you
haven't a moment to lose."

"I'll do my best," said the boy, and a moment later he was hurrying down
the track with his M. I. P. bag strapped to his shoulders, and with the
dog so strangely committed to his care, clasped tightly in his arms. At
the same time the track-walker, with his swinging lantern, was making
equally good speed in the opposite direction. As Rod rounded a curve, and
sighted the lights of the waiting freight train, he heard the warning
whistle of Number 8 behind him, and redoubled his exertions. He did not
stop even as the fast express whirled past him, though he was nearly
blinded by the eddying cloud of dust and cinders that trailed behind it.
But, if Number 8 was on time, so was he. Though Smiler had grown heavy
as lead in his aching arms, and though his breath was coming in panting
gasps, he managed to climb on the rear platform of the caboose, just as
the freight was pulling out. How glad he was at that moment of the three
weeks training he had just gone through with. It had won him something,
even if his name was not to be engraved on the railroad cup of the Steel
Wheel Club.

As the boy stood in the rear doorway of the caboose, gazing doubtfully
into its interior, a young fellow who looked like a tramp, and who had
been lying on one of the cushioned lockers, or benches, that ran along the
sides of the car, sprang to his feet with a startled exclamation. At the
same moment Smiler drew back his upper lip so as to display a glistening
row of teeth, and, uttering a deep growl, tried to escape from Rod's arms.

"What are you doing in this car! and what do you mean by bringing that dog
in here?" cried the fellow angrily, at the same time advancing with a
threatening gesture. "Come, clear out of here or I'll put you out," he
added. The better to defend himself, if he should be attacked, the boy
dropped the dog; and, with another fierce growl, forgetful of his hurts,
Smiler flew at the stranger's throat.



CHAPTER VII.

ROD, SMILER, AND THE TRAMP.


"Help! Murder! Take off your dog!" yelled the young tramp, throwing up his
arm to protect his face from Smiler's attack, and springing backward. In
so doing he tripped and fell heavily to the floor, with the dog on top of
him, growling savagely, and tearing at the ragged coat-sleeve in which his
teeth were fastened. Fearful lest the dog might inflict some serious
injury upon the fellow, Rodman rushed to his assistance. He had just
seized hold of Smiler, when a kick from the struggling tramp sent his feet
flying from under him, and he too pitched headlong. There ensued a scene
which would have been comical enough to a spectator, but which was
anything but funny to those who took part in it. Over and over they
rolled, striking, biting, kicking, and struggling. The tramp was the first
to regain his feet; but almost at the same instant Smiler escaped from
Rod's embrace, and again flew at him. They had rolled over the caboose
floor until they were close to its rear door; and now, with a yell of
terror, the tramp darted through it, sprang from the moving train, and
disappeared in the darkness, leaving a large piece of his trousers in the
dog's mouth. Just then the forward door was opened, and two men with
lanterns on their arms, entered the car.

They were Conductor Tobin, and rear-brakeman Joe, his right-hand man,
who had just finished switching their train back on the main track, and
getting it again started on its way toward New York. At the sight of Rod,
who was of course a perfect stranger to them, sitting on the floor,
hatless, covered with dust, his clothing bearing many signs of the recent
fray, and ruefully feeling of a lump on his forehead that was rapidly
increasing in size, and of Smiler whose head was bloody, and who was still
worrying the last fragment of clothing that the tramp's rags had yielded
him, they stood for a moment in silent bewilderment.

"Well, I'll be blowed!" said Conductor Tobin at length.

"Me too," said Brakeman Joe, who believed in following the lead of his
superior officer.

"May I inquire," asked Conductor Tobin, seating himself on a locker close
to where Rod still sat on the floor, "May I inquire who you are? and where
you came from? and how you got here? and what's happened to Smiler? and
what's came of the fellow we left sleeping here a few minutes ago? and
what's the meaning of all this business, anyway?"

"Yes, we'd like to know," said the Brakeman, taking a seat on the opposite
locker, and regarding the boy with a curiosity that was not unmixed with
suspicion. Owing to extensive dealings with tramps, Brakeman Joe was very
apt to be suspicious of all persons who were dirty, and ragged, and had
bumps on their foreheads.

"The trouble is," replied Rod, looking first at Conductor Tobin and then
at Brakeman Joe, "that I don't know all about it myself. Nobody does
except the fellow who just left here in such a hurry, and Smiler, who
can't tell."

Here the dog, hearing his name mentioned, dragged himself rather stiffly
to the boy's side; for now that the excitement was over, his hurts
began to be painful again, and licked his face.

[Illustration: SMILER DRIVES OFF THE TRAMP.--(_Page 41._)]

"Well, you must be one of the right sort, at any rate," said Conductor
Tobin, noting this movement, "for Smiler is a dog that doesn't make
friends except with them as are."

"He knows what's what, and who's who," added Brakeman Joe, nodding his
head. "Don't you, Smiler, old dog?"

"My name," continued the boy, "is R. R. Blake."

"Railroad Blake?" interrupted Conductor Tobin inquiringly.

"Or 'Runaway Blake'?" asked Brakeman Joe who, still somewhat suspicious,
was studying the boy's face and the M. I. P. bag attached to his
shoulders.

"Both," answered Rod, with a smile. "The boys where I live, or rather
where I did live, often call me 'Railroad Blake,' and I am a runaway. That
is, I was turned away first, and ran away afterwards."

Then, as briefly as possible, he gave them the whole history of his
adventures, beginning with the bicycle race, and ending with the
disappearance of the young tramp through the rear door of the caboose in
which they sat. Both men listened with the deepest attention, and without
interrupting him save by occasional ejaculations, expressive of wonder and
sympathy.

"Well, I'll be blowed!" exclaimed Conductor Tobin, when he had finished;
while Brakeman Joe, without a word, went to the rear door and examined the
platform, with the hope, as he afterwards explained, of finding there the
fellow who had kicked Smiler off the train, and of having a chance to
serve him in the same way. Coming back with a disappointed air, he
proceeded to light a fire in the little round caboose stove, and prepare a
pot of coffee for supper, leaving Rodman's case to be managed by Conductor
Tobin as he thought best.

The latter told the boy that the young tramp, as they called him, was
billed through to New York, to look after some cattle that were on the
train; but that he was a worthless, ugly fellow, who had not paid the
slightest attention to them, and whose only object in accepting the job
was evidently to obtain a free ride in the caboose. Smiler, whom he had
been delighted to find on the train when it was turned over to him, had
taken a great dislike to the fellow from the first. He had growled and
shown his teeth whenever the tramp moved about the car, and several times
the latter had threatened to teach him better manners. When he and
Brakeman Joe went to the forward end of the train, to make ready for
side-tracking it, they left the dog sitting on the rear platform of the
caboose, and the tramp apparently asleep, as Rod had found him, on one of
the lockers. He must have taken advantage of their absence to deal the dog
the cruel kick that cut his ear, and landed him, stunned and bruised, on
the track where he had been discovered.

"I'm glad he's gone," concluded Conductor Tobin, "for if he hadn't left,
we would have fired him for what he did to Smiler. We won't have that dog
hurt on this road, not if we know it. It won't hurt him to have to walk
to New York, and I don't care if he never gets there. What worries me,
though, is who'll look after those cattle, and go down to the stock-yard
with them, now that he's gone."

"Why couldn't I do it?" asked Rod eagerly. "I'd be glad to."

"You!" said Conductor Tobin incredulously. "Why, you look like too much
of a gentleman to be handling cattle."

"I hope I am a gentleman," answered the boy with a smile; "but I am a very
poverty-stricken one just at present, and if I can earn a ride to the
city, just by looking after some cattle, I don't know why I shouldn't do
that as well as anything else. What I would like to do though, most of all
things, is to live up to my nickname, and become a railroad man."

"You would, would you?" said Conductor Tobin. Then, as though he were
propounding a conundrum, he asked: "Do you know the difference between
a railroad man and a chap who wants to be one?"

"I don't know that I do," answered the boy.

"Well, the difference is, that the latter gets what he deserves, and the
former deserves what he gets. What I mean is, that almost anybody who is
willing to take whatever job is offered him can get a position on a
railroad; but before he gets promoted he will have to deserve it several
times over. In other words, it takes more honesty, steadiness,
faithfulness, hard work, and brains to work your way up in railroad life
than in any other business that I know of. However, at present, you are
only going along with me as stockman, in which position I am glad to have
you, so we won't stop now to discuss railroading. Let's see what Joe has
got for supper, for I'm hungry and I shouldn't be surprised if you were."

Indeed Rod was hungry, and just at that moment the word supper was the
most welcome of the whole English language. First, though, he went to the
wash-basin that he noticed at the forward end of the car. There he bathed
his face and hands, brushed his hair, restored his clothing to something
like order, and altogether made himself so presentable, that Conductor
Tobin laughed when he saw him, and declared that he looked less like a
stockman than ever.

How good that supper, taken from the mammoth lunch pails of the train
crew, tasted, and what delicious coffee came steaming out of the
smoke-blackened pot that Brakeman Joe lifted so carefully from the stove!
To be sure it had to be taken without milk, but there was plenty of sugar,
and when Rod passed his tin cup for a second helping, the coffee maker's
face fairly beamed with gratified pride.

After these three and Smiler had finished their supper, Conductor Tobin
lighted his pipe, and, climbing up into the cupola of the caboose,
stretched himself comfortably on the cushioned seat arranged there for his
especial accommodation. From here, through the windows ahead, behind, and
on both sides of the cupola, he had an unobstructed view out into the
night. Brakeman Joe went out over the tops of the cars to call in the
other two brakeman of the train, and keep watch for them, while they went
into the caboose and ate their supper. They looked curiously at Rod as
they entered the car; but were too well used to seeing strangers riding
there to ask any questions. They both spoke to Smiler though, and he
wagged his tail as though recognizing old friends.

The dog could not go to them and jump up to be petted because Rod was
attending to his wounds. He carefully bathed the cut under the left ear,
from which considerable blood had flowed, and drew its edges together with
some sticking plaster, of which he always carried a small quantity in his
M. I. P. bag. Then, finding one of the dog's fore shoulders strained and
swollen, he soaked it for some time in water as hot as the animal could
bear. After arranging a comfortable bed in one corner of the car, he
finally persuaded Smiler to lie there quietly, though not until he had
submitted to a grateful licking of his face and hands.

Next the boy turned his attention to the supper dishes, and had them very
nearly washed and wiped when Brakeman Joe returned, greatly to that
stalwart fellow's surprise and delight; for Joe hated to wash dishes.
By this time Rod had been nearly two hours on the train, and was so
thoroughly tired that he concluded to lie down and rest until he should be
wanted for something else. He did not mean to even close his eyes, but
within three minutes he was fast asleep. All through the night he slept,
while the long freight train, stopping only now and then for water, or to
allow some faster train to pass it, rumbled heavily along toward the great
city.

He could not at first realize where he was, when, in the gray of the next
morning, a hand was laid on his shoulder, and Conductor Tobin's voice
said: "Come, my young stockman, here we are at the end of our run, and it
is time for you to be looking after your cattle." A quick dash of cold
water on his head and face cleared the boy's faculties in an instant.
Then Conductor Tobin pointed out the two stock cars full of cattle that
were being uncoupled from the rest of the train, and bade him go with them
to the stock-yard. There he was to see that the cattle were well watered
and safely secured in the pen that would be assigned to them. Rod was also
told that he might leave his bag in the caboose and come back, after he
was through with his work, for a bit of breakfast with Brakeman Joe, who
lived at the other end of the division, and always made the car his home
when at this end. As for himself, Conductor Tobin said he must bid the boy
good-by, as he lived a short distance out on the road, and must hurry to
catch the train that would take him home. He would be back, ready to start
out again with the through freight, that evening, and hoped Rod would come
and tell him what luck he had in obtaining a position. Then rough but
kind-hearted Conductor Tobin left the boy, never for a moment imagining
that he was absolutely penniless and without friends in that part of the
country, or in the great city across the river.

For the next two hours Rod worked hard and faithfully with the cattle
committed to his charge, and then, anticipating with a keen appetite a
share of Brakeman Joe's breakfast, he returned to where he had left the
caboose. It was not there, nor could he find a trace of it. He saw plenty
of other cabooses looking just like it, but none of them was the one he
wanted.

He inquired of a busy switch-tender where it could be found, and the man
asked him its number. He had not noticed. What was the number of the train
with which it came in? Rod had no idea. The number of the locomotive that
drew it then? The boy did not know that either.

"Well," said the man impatiently, "you don't seem to know much of
anything, and I'd advise you to learn what it is you want to find out
before you bother busy folks with questions."

So the poor fellow was left standing alone and bewildered in the great,
busy freight-yard, friendless and hungry. He had lost even the few
treasures contained in his M. I. P. bag, and never had life seemed darker
or more hopeless. For some moments he could not think what to do, or which
way to turn.



CHAPTER VIII.

EARNING A BREAKFAST.


If Rod Blake had only known the number of the caboose for which he was
searching, he could easily have learned what had happened to it. Soon
after he left it, while it was being switched on to a siding, one of its
draw-bars became broken, and it had been sent to the repair shop, a mile
or so away, to be put in condition for going out again that night. He had
not thought of looking at its number, though; for he had yet to learn that
on a railroad everything goes by numbers instead of by names. A few years
ago all locomotives bore names, such as "Flying Cloud," "North Wind,"
etc., or were called after prominent men; but now they are simply
numbered. It is the same with cars, except sleepers, drawing-rooms, and a
few mail cars. Trains are also numbered, odd numbers being given to west
or south bound, and even numbers to east or north bound trains. Thus,
while a passenger says he is going out by the Chicago Limited, the Pacific
Express, or the Fitchburg Local, the railroad man would say that he was
going on No. 1, 3, or 5, as the case might be. The sections, from three to
eight miles long, into which every road is divided, are numbered, as are
all its bridges. Even the stations are numbered, and so are the tracks.

All this Rodman discovered afterwards; but he did not know it then, and so
he was only bewildered by the switchman's questions. For a few minutes he
stood irresolute, though keeping a sharp lookout for the hurrying switch
engines, and moving cars that, singly or in trains, were flying in all
directions about him, apparently without any reason or method. Finally he
decided to follow out his original plan of going to the superintendent's
office and asking for employment. By inquiry he found that it was located
over the passenger station, nearly a mile away from where he stood. When
he reached the station, and inquired for the person of whom he was in
search, he was laughed at, and told that the "super" never came to his
office at that time of day, nor until two or three hours later. So,
feeling faint for want of breakfast, as well as tired and somewhat
discouraged, the boy sat down in the great bustling waiting-room of the
station.

At one side of the room was a lunch-counter, from which the odor of
newly-made coffee was wafted to him in the most tantalizing manner. What
wouldn't he give for a cup at that moment? But there was no use in
thinking of such things; and so he resolutely turned his back upon
the steaming urn, and the tempting pile of eatables by which it was
surrounded. In watching the endless streams of passengers steadily ebbing
and flowing past him, he almost forgot the emptiness of his stomach. Where
could they all be going to, or coming from? Did people always travel in
such overwhelming numbers, that it seemed as though the whole world were
on the move, or was this some special occasion? He thought the latter must
be the case, and wondered what the occasion was. Then there were the
babies and children! How they swarmed about him! He soon found that he
could keep pretty busy, and win many a grateful smile from anxious
mothers, by capturing and picking up little toddlers who would persist in
running about and falling down right in the way of hurrying passengers.
He also kept an eye on the old ladies, who were so flustered and
bewildered, and asked such meaningless questions of everybody, that he
wondered how they were ever to reach their destinations in safety.

One of these deposited a perfect avalanche of little bags, packages, and
umbrellas on the seat beside him. Several of them fell to the floor, and
Rod was good-naturedly picking them up when he was startled by the sound
of a clear, girlish voice that he knew as well as he knew his own,
directly behind him. He turned, with a quickly beating heart, and saw
Eltje Vanderveer. She was walking between her father and Snyder Appleby.
They had already passed without seeing him, and had evidently just arrived
by an early morning train from Euston.

Rod's first impulse was to run after them; and, starting to do so, he was
only a step behind them when he heard Snyder say: "He must have money,
because he refused a hundred dollars that the Major offered him. At any
rate we'll hear from him soon enough if he gets hard up or into trouble.
He isn't the kind of a----"

But Rod had already turned away, and what he wasn't, in Snyder's opinion,
he never knew.

He had hardly resumed his seat, when there was a merry jingle on the
floor beside him, and a quantity of silver coins began to roll in all
directions. The nervous old lady of the bags and bundles had dropped her
purse, and now she stood gazing at her scattered wealth, the very image
of despair.

"Never mind, ma'am," said Rod, cheerily, as he began to capture the truant
coins. "I'll have them all picked up in a moment." It took several minutes
of searching here and there, under the seats, and in all sorts of
out-of-the-way hiding places, before all the bits of silver were
recovered, and handed to their owner.

She drew a great sigh of relief as she counted her money and found that
none was lost. Then, beaming at the boy through her spectacles, she said:
"Well, thee is an honest lad; and, if thee'll look after my bags while I
get my ticket, and then help me to the train, I'll give thee a quarter."

Rod was on the point of saying, politely: "I shall be most happy to do
anything I can for you, ma'am; but I couldn't think of accepting pay for
it," when the thought of his position flashed over him. A quarter would
buy him a breakfast, and it would be honorably earned too. Would it not be
absolutely wrong to refuse it under the circumstances? Thus thinking, he
touched his cap, and said: "Certainly I will do all I can to help you,
ma'am, and will be glad of the chance to earn a quarter."

When the old lady had procured her ticket, and Rod had received the
first bit of money he had ever earned in his life by helping her to a
comfortable seat in the right car, she would have detained and questioned
him, but for her fear that he might be carried off. So she bade him hurry
from the car as quickly as possible, though it still lacked nearly ten
minutes of the time of starting.

The hungry boy knew well enough where he wanted to go, and what he wanted
to do, now. In about three seconds after leaving the car he was seated at
the railroad lunch-counter, with a cup of coffee, two hard-boiled eggs,
and a big hot roll before him. He could easily have disposed of twice as
much; but prudently determined to save some of his money for another meal,
which he realized, with a sigh, would be demanded by his vigorous appetite
before the day was over.

To his dismay, when he asked the young woman behind the counter how much
he owed for what he had eaten, she answered, "Twenty-five cents, please."
He thought there must be some mistake, and asked her if there was not; but
she answered: "Not at all. Ten cents for coffee, ten for eggs, and five
for the roll." With this she swept Rod's solitary quarter into the
money-drawer, and turned to wait on another customer.

"Well, it costs something to live," thought the boy, ruefully, as he
walked away from the counter. "At that rate I could easily have eaten a
dollar's worth of breakfast, and I certainly sha'n't choose this for my
boarding place, whatever happens."



CHAPTER IX.

GAINING A FOOTHOLD.


Though he could have eaten more, Rod felt decidedly better for the meal so
unexpectedly secured, and made up his mind that now was the time to see
the superintendent and ask for employment. So he made his way to that
gentleman's office, where he was met by a small boy, who told him that the
superintendent had been there a few minutes before, but had gone away with
President Vanderveer.

"When will he be back?" asked Rod.

"Not till he gets ready," was the reply; "but the best time to catch him
is about five o'clock."

For the next six hours poor Rod wandered about the station and the
railroad yard, with nothing to do and nobody to speak to, feeling about as
lonely and uncomfortable as it is possible for a healthy and naturally
light-hearted boy to feel. He strolled into the station twenty times to
study the slow moving hands of its big clock, and never had the hours
appeared to drag along so wearily. When not thus engaged he haunted the
freight yard, mounting the steps of every caboose he saw, in the hope of
recognizing it. At length, to his great joy, shortly before five o'clock
he saw, through a window set in the door of one of these, the
well-remembered interior in which he had spent the preceding night. He
could not be mistaken, for there lay his own M. I. P. bag on one of the
lockers. But the car was empty, and its doors were locked. Carefully
observing its number, which was 18, and determined to return to it as
quickly as possible, Rod directed his steps once more in the direction of
the superintendent's office.

The same boy whom he had seen in the morning greeted him with an
aggravating grin, and said: "You're too late. The 'super' was here half an
hour ago; but he's left, and gone out over the road. Perhaps he won't be
back for a week."

"Oh!" exclaimed Rod in such a hopeless tone that even the boy's stony
young heart was touched by it.

"Is it R. R. B.?" he asked, meaning, "Are you on railroad business?"

"Yes," answered Rod, thinking his own initials were meant.

"Then perhaps the private secretary can attend to it," said the boy. "He's
in there." Here he pointed with his thumb towards an inner room, "and I'll
go see."

In a moment he returned, saying, "Yes. He says he'll see you if it's R. R.
B., and you can go right in."

Rodman did as directed, and found himself in a handsomely-furnished
office, which, somewhat to his surprise, was filled with cigarette smoke.
In it, with his back turned toward the door, and apparently busily engaged
in writing, a young man sat at one of the two desks that it contained.

"Well, sir," said this individual, without looking up, in a voice intended
to be severe and business-like, but which was somewhat disguised by a
cigarette held between his teeth, "What can I do for you?"

"I came," answered Rod, hesitatingly, "to see if the superintendent of
this road could give me any employment on it."

The words were not out of his mouth, before the private secretary,
wheeling abruptly about, disclosed the unwelcome face of Snyder Appleby.

"Well, if this isn't a pretty go!" he exclaimed, with a sneer. "So you've
come here looking for work, have you? I'd like to know what you know about
railroad business, anyhow? No, sir; you won't get a job on this road, not
if I can help it, and I rather think I can. The best thing for you to do
is to go back to Euston, and make up with the old gentleman. He's soft
enough to forgive anything, if you're only humble enough. As for the idea
of you trying to be a railroad man, it's simply absurd. We want men, not
boys, in this business."

Too surprised and indignant to reply at once to this cruel speech, and
fearful lest he should be unable to control his temper if he remained a
moment longer in the room, Rodman turned, without a word, and hurried from
it. He was choked with a bitter indignation, and could not breathe freely
until he was once more outside the building, and in the busy railroad
yard.

As he walked mechanically forward, hardly noting, in the raging tumult of
his thoughts, whither his steps were tending, a heavy hand was laid on his
shoulder, and a hearty voice exclaimed: "Hello, young fellow! Where have
you been, and where are you bound? I've been looking for you everywhere.
Here's your grip that I was just taking to the lost-parcel room."

It was Brakeman Joe, with Rod's M. I. P. bag in his hand, and his honest,
friendly countenance seemed to the unhappy boy the very most welcome face
he had ever seen. They walked together to caboose Number 18, where Rod
poured into the sympathizing ears of his railroad friend the story of his
day's experience.

"Well, I'll be blowed!" exclaimed Brakeman Joe, using Conductor Tobin's
favorite expression, when the boy had finished. "If that isn't tough luck,
then I don't know what is. But I'll tell you what we'll do. I can't get
you a place on the road, of course; but I believe you are just on time for
a job, such as it is, that will put a few dollars in your pocket, and keep
you for a day or two, besides giving you a chance to pick up some
experience of a trainman's life."

"Oh, if you only will!----" began the boy, gratefully.

"Better wait till you hear what it is, and we see if we can get it,"
interrupted Joe. "You see the way of it is this, there was a gent around
here awhile ago with a horse, that he wants to send out on our train, to
some place in the western part of the State. I don't know just where it's
going, but his brother is to meet it at the end of our run, and take
charge of it from there. Now the chap that the gent had engaged to look
after the horse that far, has gone back on him, and didn't show up here as
he promised, and the man's looking for somebody else. We'll just go down
to the stock-yard, and if he hasn't found anybody yet, maybe you can get
the job. See?"

Half an hour later it was all arranged. The gentleman was found, and had
not yet engaged any one to take the place of his missing man. He was so
pleased with Rod's appearance, besides being so thoroughly satisfied by
the flattering recommendations given him by Brakeman Joe, and the master
of the stock-yard, who had noticed the boy in the morning, that he readily
employed him, offering him five dollars for the trip.

So Rod's name was written on the way-bill, he helped get the horse, whose
name was Juniper, comfortably fixed in the car set apart for him, and then
he gladly accepted the gentleman's invitation to dine with him in a
restaurant near by. There he received his final instructions.



CHAPTER X.

A THRILLING EXPERIENCE.


Between the time that Rod took charge of Juniper, and the time of the
train's starting, the young "stockman," as he was termed on the way-bill,
had some pretty lively experiences. Before the owner of the horse left, he
handed the boy two dollars and fifty cents, which was half the amount he
had agreed to pay him, and a note to his brother, requesting him to pay
the bearer the same sum at the end of the trip. After spending fifty cents
for a lunch, consisting of crackers, cheese, sandwiches, and a pie, for
the boy had no idea of going hungry again if he could help it, nor of
paying the extravagant prices charged at railroad lunch-counters, Rod took
his place, with Juniper, in car number 1160, which was the one assigned to
them. Here he proceeded to make the acquaintance of his charge; and, aided
by a few lumps of sugar that he had obtained for this purpose, he soon
succeeded in establishing the most friendly relations between them.

Suddenly, while he was patting and talking to the horse, car number 1160
received a heavy bump from a string of empties, that had just been sent
flying down the track on which it stood, by a switch engine. Juniper was
very nearly flung off his feet, and was greatly frightened. Before Rod
could quiet him, there came another bump from the opposite direction,
followed by a jerk. Then the car began to move, while Juniper, quivering
in every limb, snorted with terror. Now came a period of "drilling," as it
is called, that proved anything but pleasant either to the boy or to the
frightened animal. The car was pushed and pulled from one track to
another, sometimes alone and sometimes in company with other cars. The
train of which it was to form a part was being made up, and the "drilling"
was for the purpose of getting together the several cars bound to certain
places, and of placing those that were to be dropped off first, behind
those that were to make the longest runs.

Juniper's fears increased with each moment, until at length, when a
passenger locomotive, with shrieking whistle, rushed past within a few
feet, he gave a jump that broke the rope halter confining him, and bounded
to the extreme end of the car. Rod sprang to the open door--not with any
idea of leaving the car, oh, no! his sense of duty was too strong for
that, but for the purpose of closing it so that the horse should not leap
out. Then he approached the terrified animal with soothing words, and
caught hold of the broken halter. At the same moment the car was again set
in motion, and the horse, now wild with terror, flew to the other end,
dragging Rod after him. The only lantern in the car was overturned and its
light extinguished, so that the struggle between boy and horse was
continued in utter darkness. Finally a tremendous bump of the car flung
the horse to the floor; and, before he could regain his feet, Rod was
sitting on his head. The boy was panting from his exertions, as well as
bruised from head to foot; but he was thankful to feel that no bones were
broken, and hoped the horse had escaped serious injury as well as himself.

After several minutes of quiet he became satisfied that that last bump
was the end of the drilling, and that car number 1160 had at length
reached its assigned position in the train. Still he did not think it safe
to let the horse up just yet, and so he waited until he heard voices
outside. Then he called for help. The next moment the car door was pushed
open, and Conductor Tobin, followed by Brakeman Joe, entered it.

"Well, I'll be everlastingly blowed!" cried Conductor Tobin, using the
very strongest form of his peculiar expression, as the light from his
lantern fell on the strange tableau presented by the boy and horse. "If
this doesn't beat all the stock-tending I ever heard of. Joe here was just
telling me you was going out with us to-night, in charge of a horse, and
we were looking for your car. But what are you doing to him?"

"Sitting on his head," answered Rod, gravely.

"So I see," said Conductor Tobin, "and you look very comfortable; but how
does he like it?"

"I don't suppose he likes it at all," replied the boy; "but I couldn't
think of anything else to do." Then he told them of the terror inspired in
the animal by the recent drilling; how it had broken loose and dragged
him up and down the car, and how he came to occupy his present position.

"Well, you've got sand!" remarked Conductor Tobin admiringly when the
story was finished. "More 'n I have," he added. "I wouldn't have stayed
here in the dark, with a loose horse tearing round like mad. Not for a
month's pay I wouldn't."

"No more would I," said Brakeman Joe; "a scared hoss is a terror."

Then they brought some stout ropes, and Juniper was helped to his feet,
securely fastened and soothed and petted until all his recent terror was
forgotten. To Rod's great delight he was found to be uninjured, except for
some insignificant scratches; and by his recent experience he was so well
broken to railroad riding that he endured the long trip that followed with
the utmost composure.



CHAPTER XI.

A BATTLE WITH TRAMPS.


After quieting Juniper, and having the satisfaction of seeing him begin to
eat hay quite as though he were in his own stable, Rod left the car and
followed his railroad friends in order to learn something about getting a
train ready for its run. He found them walking on opposite sides of it,
examining each car by the light of their lanterns, and calling to each
other the inscriptions on the little leaden seals by which the doors were
fastened. These told where the cars came from, which information, together
with the car numbers, and the initials showing to what road they belonged,
Conductor Tobin jotted down in his train-book. He also compared it with
similar information noted on certain brown cards, about as wide and twice
as long as ordinary playing-cards, a package of which he carried in his
hand. The destinations of the several cars could also be learned from
these cards, which are called "running slips." Each car in the train was
represented by one of them, which would accompany it wherever it went,
being handed from one conductor to another, until its final destination
was reached.

At length, about ten o'clock, through Freight Number 73, to which car
number 1160 was attached, received its "clearance," or order to start,
from the train-dispatcher, and began to move heavily out from the yard, on
to the main west-bound track. Juniper now did not seem to mind the motion
of the car in the least; but continued quietly eating his hay as though he
had been a railroad traveller all his life. So Rod, who had watched him a
little anxiously at first, had nothing to do but stand at the open door of
his car and gaze at what scenery the darkness disclosed. Now that he was
beginning to comprehend their use, he was deeply interested in the bright
red, green, and white lights of the semaphore signals that guarded every
switch and siding. He knew that at night a white light displayed from the
top of a post, or swung across the track in the form of a lantern, meant
safety, a red light meant danger, and a green light meant caution. If it
had been daytime he would have seen thin wooden blades, about four feet
long by six inches wide, pivoted near the top of the same posts that now
displayed the lights. He would have learned that when these stretched out
horizontally over the track, their warning colors must be regarded by
every engineman; while if they hung down at an angle, no attention need
be paid to them.

Being a very observant boy, as well as keenly interested in everything to
be seen on a railroad, Rod soon discovered that the semaphore lights also
appeared at intervals of a few miles along the track, at places where
there were no switches, and that these always moved as soon as the train
passed them. He afterwards discovered that these guarded the ends of the
five-mile blocks, into which the road was divided along its entire length.
Each of the stations, at these points, is occupied by a telegraph operator
who, as soon as the train enters his block, displays a red danger signal
behind it. This forbids any other train to enter the block, on that track,
until he receives word from the operator at the other end of the block
that the first train has passed out of it. Then he changes his signal
from red to white, as a notice that the block is free for the admission of
the next train. This "block system," as it is called, which is now in use
on all principal railroad lines, renders travel over them very much safer
than it used to be before the system was devised.

After watching the semaphore lights for some time, and after assuring
himself that Juniper was riding comfortably, Rod spread a blanket, that
Brakeman Joe had loaned him, over a pile of loose hay, placed his M. I. P.
bag for a pillow, and in a few minutes was sleeping on this rude bed as
soundly as though he were at home.

Some hours later the long, heavily laden train stopped at the foot of the
steep grade just east of Euston, and was cut in two in order that half of
it might be drawn to the top at a time. Rear Brakeman Joe was left to
guard the part of the train that remained behind, and he did this by
walking back a few hundred yards along the track, and placing a torpedo on
top of one of the rails. Then he went back as much farther and placed two
torpedoes, one a rail's length behind the other.

These railroad torpedoes are small, round tin boxes, about the size of
a silver dollar, filled with percussion powder. To each is attached two
little straps of lead, which are bent under the upper part of the rail to
hold the torpedo in position. When it is struck by the ponderous wheels
of a locomotive, it explodes with the sound of a cannon cracker. The
explosion of two torpedoes, one directly after the other, is the signal
for caution, and bids the engineman proceed slowly, keeping a sharp
lookout for danger. The explosion of a single torpedo is the signal of
immediate danger, and bids him stop his train as quickly as possible. Thus
Brakeman Joe had protected his train by arranging a cautionary signal,
which would be followed immediately by that of danger. Before his train
started again he intended to take up the single torpedo, leaving only
those calling for caution, to show that the freight had been delayed. In
the meantime he decided to walk back to the cars left in his charge and
see that no one was meddling with them.

Rod was too soundly asleep to know anything of all this, nor did he know
when an ugly-looking fellow peered cautiously into his car, and said, in a
low tone: "This here ain't it. It must be the one ahead." The first thing
of which he was conscious was hearing, as in a dream, the sound of blows,
mingled with shouts, and a pistol shot, and then Brakeman Joe's voice
calling: "Rod! Rod Blake! Help! quick!"

An instant later the boy had leaped from the car, and was by his friend's
side, engaged in a desperate struggle with four as villainous-looking
tramps as could well be found; though, of course, he could not judge of
their appearance in the darkness. Joe was wielding the heavy oak stick
that at other times he used as a lever to aid him in twisting the brake
wheels; but Rod was obliged to depend entirely on his fists. The skill
with which he used these was evidently a surprise to the big fellow who
rushed at him, only to receive a stinging blow in the face, which was
followed by others delivered with equal promptness and effect. There were
a few minutes of fierce but confused fighting. Then, all at once, Rod
found himself standing alone beside a car the door of which was half-way
open. Two of the tramps had mysteriously disappeared; he himself had sent
a third staggering backward down the bank into a clump of bushes, and he
could hear Brakeman Joe chasing the fourth down the track.

A few minutes later the locomotive came back, sounding four long blasts
and one short one on its whistle, as a recall signal for the rear flagman.
It was coupled on, and some one waved a lantern, with an up-and-down
motion, from the rear of the train, as a signal to go ahead. The engineman
opened the throttle, and the great driving wheels spun round furiously;
but the train refused to move. He sounded two long whistle blasts as a
signal to throw off brakes. Then a lantern was seen moving over the tops
of the cars, the brakes that had been holding them, were loosened, and the
signal to go ahead was again waved. After this the lantern disappeared as
though it had been taken into the caboose, and the train moved on.

Its severed parts were re-united at the top of the grade, and it passed
on out of the block in which all these events had taken place, before
Conductor Tobin, who had wondered somewhat at not seeing Brakeman Joe,
discovered that the faithful fellow was missing. He was not on top of any
of the cars, nor in the caboose, and must have been left behind. Well, it
was too late to stop for him now. Freight Number 73 must side-track at the
next station, to allow the night express to pass, and it had already been
so delayed, that there was no time to lose.

When the station was reached, and Conductor Tobin had seen his train
safely side-tracked, he went to look for Rod Blake. He meant to ask the
boy to take Brakeman Joe's place for the rest of the run, or until that
individual should rejoin them by coming ahead on some faster train. To his
surprise the young stockman was not in car number 1160, nor could a trace
of him be found. He, too, had disappeared and the conductor began to feel
somewhat alarmed, as well as puzzled, by such a curious and unaccountable
state of affairs.



CHAPTER XII.

BOUND, GAGGED, AND A PRISONER.


When Rod Blake was left standing alone beside the train, after the short
but sharp encounter with tramps described in the preceding chapter, he was
as bewildered by its sudden termination as he had been, on awaking from a
sound sleep, to find himself engaged in it. He knew what had become of two
of the tramps, for one of them he had sent staggering backward down the
embankment, and Brakeman Joe was at that moment pursuing the second; but
the disappearance of the others was a mystery. What could have become of
them? They must have slipped away unnoticed, and taken advantage of the
darkness to make good their escape. "Yes, that must be it; for tramps are
always cowards," thought the boy. "But four of them ought to have whipped
two of us easy enough."

Then he wondered what the object of the attack could have been, and what
the tramps were after. All at once it flashed into his mind that the M. S.
and T. car number 50, beside which he was standing, was filled with costly
silks and laces from France which were being sent West in bond. He had
overheard Conductor Tobin say so; and, now, there was the door of that
very car half-way open. The tramps must have learned of its valuable
contents in some way, and been attempting to rob it when Brakeman Joe
discovered them. What a plucky fellow Joe was to tackle them
single-handed.

"I wonder if they got anything before he caught them?" thought the boy;
and, to satisfy his curiosity on this point, he went to his own car for
the lantern that was still hanging in it, and returned to car number 50,
determined to have a look at its interior. As he could not see much of it
from the ground, he set the lantern just within the open doorway, and
began to climb in after it. He had hardly stepped inside, and was stooping
to pick up his lantern, when he was knocked down by a heavy blow, and
immediately seized by two men who sprang from out of the darkness on
either side of him. Without a word they bound his wrists with a stout bit
of cord, and, thrusting his own handkerchief into his mouth, fastened it
securely so that he could not utter a sound. Then they allowed him to rise
and sit on a box, where they took the precaution of passing a rope about
his body and making it fast to an iron stanchion near the door.

Having thus secured him, one of the men, holding the lantern close to the
boy's face, said in a threatening tone: "Now, my chicken, perhaps this'll
be a lesson to you never to interfere again in a business that doesn't
concern you."

"Hello!" exclaimed the other, as he recognized Rod's features, "if this
ere hain't the same cove wot set the dog onto me last night. Oh, you young
willin, I'll get even with you now!"

With this he made a motion as though to strike the helpless prisoner; but
the other tramp restrained him, saying: "Hold on, Bill, we hain't got no
time for fooling now. Don't you hear the engine coming back? I'll take
this lantern and give 'em the signal to go ahead, in case that fool of a
brakeman doesn't turn up on time, which I don't believe he will." Here the
fellow chuckled meaningly. "You," he continued, "want to stay right here,
and begin to pitch out the boxes as soon as she starts, and the rest of
us'll be on hand to gather 'em in. You can easy jump out when she slows up
at the top of the grade. You want to be sure, though, and shut the door
behind you so as nothing won't be suspected, and so this chap'll have a
good, long ride undisturbed by visitors; see?"

If Rod could not talk, he could still hear; and, by paying close attention
to this conversation, he formed a very clear idea of the tramps' plans.
They meant to rob car number 50 of as many of its valuable packages as
Bill could throw from it while the train was on the grade. He felt
satisfied that they had, in some way, disposed of Brakeman Joe. Now, they
intended to get rid of him by leaving him in the closed car, helplessly
bound, and unable to call for assistance. What would become of him? That
car might be going to San Francisco for aught he knew, and its door might
not be opened for days, or even weeks. It might not be opened until he was
dead of thirst or starvation. What tortures might he not suffer in this
moving prison? It seemed as though these thoughts would drive him crazy,
and he realized that if he wished to retain his senses and think out a
way of escape, he must not dwell upon them.

[Illustration: IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.--(_Page 81._)]

So he tried to think of plans for outwitting the tramps. The chances of so
doing seemed slender enough; but he felt certain there must be some way.
In the meantime one of his assailants had left the car, very nearly
closing the door as he did so for fear lest somebody might come along and
notice it if it were wide open. He had taken the lantern with him, the
train was in motion, the young tramp called Bill was already preparing to
carry out his part of the programme and begin throwing out the boxes.
Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, a plan that would not only save the
car from being robbed, but would ensure its door being opened before he
could die of either thirst or hunger, darted into Rod's mind.

He knew that the car door closed with a spring latch that could only be
opened from the outside. He knew that no one could board the train, now
that it was in motion, to open the door. Above all he knew that if the
young tramp were shut in there with him he would not suffer long from
hunger and thirst before raising his voice and making his presence known
to outsiders. Rod could reach the door with his foot. A quick push, the
welcome click of the latch as it sprang sharply into place, and the plan
was carried out.

It took Bill, the young tramp, several minutes to find out what had
happened, and that the door could not be opened from the inside. When he
finally realized his position he broke out with a torrent of yells and
threats against his recent companions. It never occurred to him that Rod
had closed the door. He imagined that it must have been done from the
outside, by one of his fellow thieves, and his rage against them knew no
bounds. If he had for a moment suspected the captive, whom he regarded as
helplessly bound, he would undoubtedly have directed his fury towards him,
and Rod might have suffered severely at his hands. As it was, he only
yelled and kicked against the door until the train began to slow up at the
top of the grade. Then, fearful of attracting undesirable attention, he
subsided into a sullen silence.

While these things were happening to Rod, Brakeman Joe was suffering even
greater misfortunes. His left arm had been broken by the pistol shot, that
was one of the first sounds of the fight by which the young stockman was
awakened; and when he started in pursuit of the flying tramp, he was
weaker than he realized, from loss of blood. The tramp quickly discovered
that he could easily keep out of his pursuer's way. Judging from this that
the Brakeman must be either wounded or exhausted, he gradually slackened
his pace, until Joe was close upon him. Then springing to one side, and
whirling around, the tramp dealt the poor fellow a blow on the head with
the butt of a revolver, that stretched him senseless across the rails of
the west-bound track. After satisfying himself that his victim was not in
a condition to molest him again for some time to come, and brutally
leaving him where he had fallen, directly in the path of the next
west-bound train, the tramp began leisurely to retrace his steps toward
Freight Number 73, in the plunder of which he now hoped to take a part.



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW BRAKEMAN JOE WAS SAVED.


For ten minutes Brakeman Joe lies insensible and motionless, just as
he fell. His own train has gone on without him, and now another is
approaching. Its shrill whistle sounds near at hand, and the rails, across
which the helpless form is stretched, are already quivering with the
thrill of its coming. There seems no earthly help for him; nothing to warn
the controlling mind of that on-rushing mass of his presence. In a few
seconds the tragedy will be over.

Suddenly, crack! crack! two loud reports ring out sharply above the roar
and rattle of the train, one just after the other. The engineman is keenly
alert on the instant; and, with one hand on the brake lever, the other on
the throttle, he peers steadily ahead. The head-light, that seems so
dazzling, and to cast its radiance so far, to those approaching it, in
reality illumines but a short space to him who sits behind it, and the
engineman sees no evidence of danger. There is no red beacon to stop him,
nor any train on the track ahead. He is beginning to think the alarm a
false one, when another report, loud and imperative, rings in his startled
ear. In an instant the powerful air brakes are grinding against the wheels
of every car in the night express, until the track is lighted with a blaze
of streaming sparks. A moment later the rushing train is brought to a
stop, inside half its own length.

Even now nobody knew why it had been stopped, nor what danger threatened
it. It was not until the engineman left his cab, and discovered the
senseless form of Brakeman Joe lying across the rails, less than a hundred
feet away, that he knew why he had been signalled. The wounded man was
recognized at once, as belonging to the train ahead of them; but how he
came in that sad plight, and who had placed the warning torpedoes to which
he owed his escape from death, were perplexing questions that none could
answer.

Very tenderly they lifted him, and laid him in the baggage car. Here
Conductor Tobin found him a few minutes later, when, to his surprise, the
night express, that generally whirled past him at full speed, slowed up
and halted beside his own train, standing on the siding. "Yes," this was
his brakeman, one of the best and most faithful fellows in the service;
but how he got where they found him, or what had happened, he could not
explain. He had lost another man off his train that night, a young fellow
named Rodman Blake. Had they seen anything of him? "No! well, then he
must have thrown up his job and gone into Euston where he belonged.
Good-night." In another minute only a far-away murmur among the sleeping
hills told of the passing of the night express.

Brakeman Joe was placed on the station agent's little cot bed, and the
doctor was sent for. That was all they could do, and so Freight Number 73
also pulled out, leaving him behind. A minute later, and it too was gone,
and the drowsy echoes answered its heavy rumblings faintly and more
faintly, until they again fell asleep, and all was still.

Through the long hours of the night Rod Blake sat and silently suffered.
The distress of the gag in his mouth became wellnigh intolerable, and his
wrists swelled beneath the cords that bound them, until he could have
cried out with the pain. He grew thirsty too. Oh, so thirsty! and it
seemed as though the daylight would never come. He had no idea what
good, or even what change for the better, the daylight would bring him;
but still he longed for it. Nor was the young tramp who shared his
imprisonment at all happy or comfortable. He too was thirsty, and hungry
as well, and though he was not gagged nor bound, he suffered, in
anticipation, the punishment he expected to receive when he and his
wickedness should be discovered. Thus, whenever the train stopped, a sense
of his just deserts terrified him into silence; though while it was in
motion his ravings were terrible to hear.

At length the morning light began to show itself through chinks and
crevices of the closed car. Conductor Tobin and his men reached the end of
their run, and turned the train over to a new crew, who brought with them
a fresh locomotive and their own caboose.

Still the young tramp would not give in. The morning was nearly gone,
and Rod was desperate with suffering, before he did, and, during a stop,
began to shout to be let out. Nobody heard him, apparently, and when the
train again moved on, the situation of the prisoners was as bad as ever.

Now the fellow began to grow as much alarmed for fear he would not be
discovered, as he had previously been for fear lest he should be. In this
state of mind he decided that at the next stop the shouting for help
should be undertaken by two voices instead of one. So he removed the gag
from Rod's mouth, and cut the cord by which his wrists were bound. The
poor lad's throat was dry and husky; but he readily agreed to aid in
raising a shout, as soon as the train should stop.

In the meantime the arrival of Freight Number 73 was awaited with a lively
interest at the very station it was approaching, when this agreement
between the prisoners was made. It was aroused by a despatch, just sent
along the line by the agent in whose charge Brakeman Joe had been left.
The despatch stated that he had recovered sufficiently to give a partial
account of what had been done to him by a gang of thieves, whom he had
discovered trying to rob car number 50. It requested the first agent who
should see Train Number 73, to examine into the condition of car number
50, and discover if anything had been stolen from it. It also stated that
Brakeman Joe was very anxious concerning the safety of a young stockman,
who had been on the train, and assisted him to drive off the thieves; but
who had not since been heard from.

Thus, while the imprisoned inmates of car number 50 were waiting with
feverish impatience for the train to reach a station at which it would
stop, the railroad men belonging to this station, were waiting for it with
a lively curiosity, that was wholly centered on car number 50.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SUPERINTENDENT INVESTIGATES.


At length a long-drawn whistle from the locomotive attached to Freight
Number 73, warned Rod and his fellow-prisoner that the time for them to
make a combined effort for liberty was at hand. It also notified the
curious watchers at the station of the approach of the train for which
they were waiting. The trainmen were surprised at the unusual number of
people gathered about the station, and the evident interest with which
their arrival was regarded. At the same time those composing the little
throng of waiting spectators were amazed, as the train drew up and
stopped, to hear loud cries for help proceeding from a car in its centre.

"It's number 50!" exclaimed one, "the very car we are looking for."

"So it is! Break open the door! Some one is being murdered in there!"
shouted other voices, and a rush was made for the car.

As its door was pushed open, by a dozen eager hands, a wretched-looked
figure, who had evidently been pressing closely against it, and was
unprepared for such a sudden movement, pitched out headlong into the
crowd. As he staggered to his feet he tried to force his way through them,
with the evident intention of running away; but he was seized and held.

For a moment the whole attention of the spectators was directed toward
him, and he was stupefied by the multitude of questions showered upon him
at once. Then some one cried "Look out! There's another in there!" and
immediately poor Rod was roughly dragged to the ground. "Take them into
the waiting-room, and see that they don't escape while I examine the car.
There may be more of the gang hidden in there," commanded the station
agent. So to the waiting-room the prisoners were hustled with scant
ceremony. As yet no one knew what they had done, nor even what they were
charged with doing; but every one agreed that they were two of the
toughest looking young villains ever seen in that part of the country.

During the confusion, no one had paid any attention to the arrival, from
the west, of a locomotive drawing a single car. Nor did they notice a
brisk, business-like appearing man who left this car, and walked, with
a quick step, toward the waiting-room. Every one therefore looked up in
surprise when he entered it and demanded, in a tone of authority, "What's
the trouble here?"

Instantly a murmur was heard of, "It's the superintendent. It's the
'super' himself"; and, as the crowd respectfully made way for him, a dozen
of voices were raised in attempted explanation of what had happened. As no
one really knew what had happened, no two of the voices told the same
story; but the superintendent catching the words "murderers, thieves,
tramps, brakeman killed, and car robbed," became convinced that he had a
most serious case on his hands, and that the disreputable-looking young
fellows before him must be exceedingly dangerous characters. In order to
arrive at an understanding of the case more quickly, he ordered the room
to be cleared of all except the prisoners, the station agent, and the
trainmen of Freight Number 73, whom he told to guard the doors.

He first examined the conductor, who was as surprised as any one else to
find that he had been carrying two passengers of whom he knew nothing on
his train. He had no information to give, excepting what Conductor Tobin
had told him, and what the superintendent had already learned by
telegraph, of Brakeman Joe's condition. The other trainmen knew nothing
more.

The station agent told of the despatch he had received, of the finding of
the lads in car number 50, and that its contents were apparently
untouched.

Here the superintendent dismissed the trainmen, and ordered Freight Number
73 to go ahead. Then, with new guards stationed at the doors, he proceeded
to question the prisoners themselves. As Bill, the tramp, seemed to be the
elder of the two, he was the first examined. In answer to the questions
who he was, where he came from, and what he had been doing in car number
50, Bill said, with exactly the manner he would have used in addressing a
Police Justice:

"Please yer Honor we's pards, me an' him is, an' we's bin tendin' stock on
de road. We was on de train last night when it was attackeded by a lot of
fellers who was beatin' de brakeman. We went to help him, an' was chucked
inter de car, an' de door locked on us. We's bin tryin' to get out even
since, me an' him has, yer Honor, but we couldn't make nobody hear us till
we got here. We's nearly dead for food an' drink, yer Honor, an' we's
honest, hard-working boys, an' dat's de truth if I die for it, yer Honor.
He'd tell yer de same, but fer a bit of a difference me and him had when
he swore to git even wid me. So maybe he'll lie now; but yer Honor can
depend on what I'm--"

"That will do," interrupted the superintendent. Then turning to Rodman he
asked, "What have you to say for yourself?"

"If you'll please give me a drink of water I'll try to tell all I know of
this affair," answered the boy huskily, now speaking for the first time
since he had been taken from the car.

When the water was brought, and Bill had been given a drink as well as
himself, Rod continued, "I was a stockman on that train in charge of a
horse"--

"Jest as I was a-tellin' yer Honor," murmured Bill.

"And there was a fight with tramps, who attempted to rob the car in which
we were found."

Here Bill nodded his head approvingly as much as to say "I told you so."

"But this fellow was one of them, and he helped make a prisoner of me, and
to bind and gag me. He would have thrown the freight out of the car to
those who were waiting outside to receive it, if I hadn't succeeded in
closing the door, and locking us both in--"

"Ooo! didn't I tell yer Honor he'd maybe lie on me?" protested Bill.

"Keep quiet!" commanded the superintendent sharply, and then to Rod he
said: "How can you prove your statements?"

"I can prove that I was bound and gagged by these marks," replied the boy,
pointing to the sides of his mouth which were red and chafed, and holding
out his swollen wrists for the superintendent's inspection. "And I can
prove that I was travelling in charge of a horse by this." Here Rod
produced the note from Juniper's owner, asking his brother to pay the
bearer two dollars and a half upon the safe delivery of the horse.

"I have a paper too," broke in Bill, fumbling in his pockets. From one of
them he finally produced a dirty note, signed by a Western cattle dealer,
and authorizing one Bill Miner to take charge of certain stock about to
be shipped over the New York and Western railroad.

The superintendent read the two notes, and looked at the two young
fellows. In general appearance one was very nearly as bad as the other;
for, though Rod did not realize the fact, his clothing and person were so
torn and dirty from the fight of the preceding night and his subsequent
rough experience, that he looked very nearly as much of a tramp as Bill
himself.

"I wonder which of you I am to believe, or if either is telling me the
truth?" said the superintendent dubiously, half aloud and half to
himself.



CHAPTER XV.

SMILER TO THE RESCUE.


At that moment a small dog walked into the room, wagging his tail with an
air of being perfectly at home there. Rod was the first to notice him, and
his eye lighted with a gleam of genuine pleasure.

"Smiler? Smiler, old dog!" he said.

The next instant Smiler was licking his face and testifying to his joy at
again meeting this friend, in the most extravagant manner. Suddenly he
caught sight of Bill, and drawing back his upper lip with an ominous
growl, would have flown at the young tramp had not Rodman restrained him.

"That settles it, so far as I am concerned," exclaimed the superintendent,
with a relieved air. "Any one that Smiler recognizes as a friend must be
an honest fellow; while the person whom Smiler calls an enemy, must have
given him good cause for his enmity, and is to be regarded with distrust
by all railroad men. Now, I am going to carry you two chaps to the
Junction where Conductor Tobin and his crew are lying off to-day. There,
I have no doubt, this whole matter will be explained satisfactorily to me
and to one of you, as well as with perfect justice to you both."

Smiler, who had reached this station on a passenger locomotive, now
attached himself resolutely to Rod, and followed him into the
superintendent's private car, here he was made as cordially welcome as
he would have been in the humblest caboose on the road. Some of his
enthusiastic admirers declared that Smiler owned the road; while all
admitted that there was but one other individual connected with it, whose
appearance was so uniformly welcome as his, and that was the paymaster.

Now, there was a marked difference shown between the treatment of Smiler's
friend, and that of his enemy. The former was invited to sit down with the
superintendent and eat dinner, which was announced as ready soon after
they left the station; but Bill was consigned to the care of a brakeman
who received strict orders not to give him a chance to escape. He was
given a substantial meal of course; for Mr. Hill the superintendent was
not a man who would permit anybody to suffer from hunger if he could help
it. Here the courtesy extended to him ended, and he was treated in all
respects like a prisoner. Most of the time he rode in sullen silence; but
occasionally he broke forth with vehement protestations of his innocence,
and of the truth of the story he had told.

Rodman, on the other hand, was treated with marked consideration; for,
not only was he a friend of Smiler's, but the more Mr. Hill talked with
him the more he believed him to be a gentleman, as well as an honest,
truth-telling lad, who had, by a brave and prompt action, saved the
railroad company a large amount of property. He was confirmed in his
belief that Rod was a gentleman, by his having asked to be allowed to wash
his face and hands before sitting down to dinner. The lad was shocked at
his own appearance when he glanced into a mirror, and the superintendent
smiled at the wonderful change made by the use of soap, water, and
brushes, when he emerged from the well-appointed dressing-room of the
car.

While they sat at table Mr. Hill drew the lad's story from him, including
the manner in which he had obtained Smiler's friendship, and his desire to
become a railroad man. Rod did not however mention the name of President
Vanderveer; for he was desirous of winning success by himself, and on his
own merits, nor did he give his reasons for leaving Euston.

When the locomotive, drawing the superintendent's private car, and
displaying two white flags in front to denote that it was running as an
"extra" train, drew up, a couple of hours later, at the Junction, Rod was
asked to remain in the car for a few minutes, and Bill was ordered to do
so. Then Mr. Hill walked over to caboose number 18, in which, as he
expected, he found Conductor Tobin and his two brakemen fast asleep, with
bits of mosquito netting spread over their faces to keep off the flies.
Conductor Tobin was greatly confused when he discovered who was shaking
him into wakefulness, and began to apologize for having been asleep.

"No excuses are necessary, Tobin," said the other kindly. "A man who works
as faithfully as you do at night, has a perfect right to sleep in the
daytime. I wouldn't have disturbed you, but that I wanted to ask if you
were acquainted with a young fellow named Rod Blake."

Yes, indeed! Conductor Tobin not only knew the lad, but was, at that
moment, quite anxious concerning him. He had learned by telegraph from
Brakeman Joe, further particulars of the occurrences of the preceding
night, including Rod's splendid behavior during the fight with the
would-be thieves. Since then nothing had been heard from him, and the
conductor greatly feared that the brave young fellow had met with some
harm.

"Do you consider him a person whose word is to be trusted?" asked the
superintendent.

"Well, sir," answered Conductor Tobin, "I haven't known him long, seeing
that I first met him only night before last; but I've already seen enough
of him to be willing to take his word as quick as that of any man living."

"That is saying a good deal," laughed the superintendent, "but I believe
you are right. If I am any judge of character, that lad is an honest
fellow." Then he explained how, and under what circumstances he had met
Rod, and ending by asking, "What sort of a railroad man do you think he
would make?"

"First-rate, sir! He seems to me to be one who knows when he is wanted,
and who always turns up at the right time."

"Then you wouldn't mind having him on your train, while Joe is laid by?"

"I should be proud to have him, sir, and to be the one to start him on the
right track as a railroader."

"Very well, we will consider it settled, then, and I will send him over to
you. I want you to do the best you can by him, and remember that from this
time on I take a personal interest in his welfare, though of course you
needn't tell him so."

Rod was more than delighted when Mr. Hill returned to the car, and offered
him the position of brakeman on Conductor Tobin's train. He promptly and
gladly accepted it, and tried to thank the superintendent for giving it to
him; but that gentleman said: "Never mind expressing any thanks in words.
Express them by deeds instead, and remember, that you can win a certain
success in railroad life, by keeping on as you have begun and by always
being on time."

Thus Rod secured a position; a humble one to be sure, but one that he had
sought and won wholly by merit. When Snyder Appleby heard of it he was
filled with jealous anger. He declared that there was not room for both of
them on that road, even if one was only a brakeman, and vowed that if he
could manage it, his adopted cousin should find it harder to keep his
position than it had been to win it.



CHAPTER XVI.

SNYDER APPLEBY'S JEALOUSY.


Bill Miner, the tramp, underwent some novel mental experiences on the day
that Rod obtained his position. In the first place the young fellow, whom
he had treated so badly, came to him while the superintendent was
interviewing Conductor Tobin, and said:

"Look here, Bill, you and I suffered a good deal together last night, and
you know it was mostly your fault that we did so; but I'll forgive you for
my share of the suffering if you'll only confess the whole business to the
superintendent. He is bound to find out all about it anyway; for he finds
out everything; but he'll think a good deal more of you if you own up
like a man. I would like to be your friend; but my friends must be honest
fellows, who are willing to work for a living, not tramps and thieves. Now
shake hands, and make up your mind to do what I have asked you."

Mr. Hill's return interrupted the conversation at this point; but it left
Bill in an unusually reflective state of mind. No gentleman, such as his
late companion in captivity evidently was, had ever shaken hands with, or
asked a favor of him before. In all his hard young life no one had ever
proposed that he should try honesty and hard work. Ever since he could
remember anything, his associates had advised dishonesty, and the shirking
of work in every possible way. Yet, now that he thought of it, he had
worked hard, all his life, at being dishonest. Now what had he to show for
it? Nothing but rags, and poverty, and a bad reputation. He wondered how
it would seem to be honest, and do honest work, and associate only with
honest people. He had half a mind to try it, just out of curiosity. The
idea of he, Bill the tramp, being an honest workman, and perhaps, even
getting to be called "Honest Bill," struck him as so odd that he chuckled
hoarsely over it.

"What are you laughing at?" demanded the brakeman who stood on the rear
platform of the car to prevent his escape, and who looked suspiciously in
at the door to discover the meaning of this novel sound from his
prisoner.

"Nothing," replied Bill.

"Well, I wish I could get so much fun out of nothing as you seem able to,"
said the brakeman, who was particularly down on tramps. "I reckon the
super'll give you something to laugh about directly that won't seem so
funny," he added significantly.

But Bill did not mind this. He was too busy with his own thoughts. Besides
he was used to such speeches, and was also listening to something else
just at that moment. He was listening to the conversation between Rod and
the superintendent. It certainly was a fine thing for a boy to be talked
to as the greatest man he had ever known was now talking to his one honest
friend, and to be offered such a position too. How he would like to be a
brakeman; and, if he were one, how well he would know how to deal with
tramps. He wondered what Mr. Hill meant by being "on time." Perhaps it
meant being honest.

Then Rod left the car, giving him a nod and a smile as he did so. A moment
later it was again whirling away toward New York, and the superintendent,
coming to where the young tramp was sitting, said: "Now, sir, I'm ready to
attend to your case. Are you willing to tell me what you know about this
business of robbing our freight trains? Or do you prefer to stick to your
lying story and go to prison for it?"

"I'll tell you all I know, if you'll give me a job for it," answered Bill,
with a sudden resolution to try for Rod Blake's friendship, and at the
same time to make a good bargain for himself if he could.

Regarding him keenly, the superintendent said: "So you want to be paid for
being honest, do you? Well, I don't know but what you are right. Honesty
is well worth paying for. So, if you will tell me, truthfully, all you
know of this business I promise you a job that will earn you an honest
living, and that you can keep just so long as you work faithfully at it."

"Honesty again. How often these gentlemen use the word, and how much
they seem to think of it," thought Bill. However, as it seemed to promise
something different from anything he had ever known, he determined to try
it, and see what it would do for him. So he told, in his awkward fashion,
all that he knew of the gang of tramp thieves, who had been for some time
systematically robbing freight trains at several points along the road,
and Mr. Hill listened to him with the deepest interest.

As a speedy result of this confession a freight clerk in the main office
of the company, who had been giving secret information to the thieves,
was discharged the very next day. Brown, the chief of the company's
detectives, learned where and how he could discover the places where the
stolen goods were hidden, and was thus enabled to recover a large portion
of them. And Bill Miner, no longer Bill the tramp, found himself doing
honest work, as a locomotive wiper and assistant hostler, in a round
house, at a salary of one dollar and twenty-nine cents per day.

Certainly Rod Blake's influence was being felt on the New York and Western
railroad.

After his conversation with Bill, the busy superintendent found time to
stop his flying car at the station where Brakeman Joe lay suffering from
his wounds, to speak a few kindly words to the faithful fellow, praise his
bravery, and assure him that his full pay should be continued until he
had entirely recovered from his injuries and was able to resume duty.

Late that afternoon the private car finished its long journey in the
station at the terminus of the road, and Mr. Hill hastened to his own
office. The moment he opened the door of the inner room a cloud of
cigarette smoke issued from it, and a frown settled on his face as he
hesitated a moment on the threshold. His private secretary, who had been
comfortably tilted back in the superintendent's own easy chair, puffing
wreathes of smoke from a cigarette, started to his feet. "We did not
expect you to return so soon, sir"--he began.

"Evidently not," interrupted Mr. Hill dryly; "You are the young man
recommended to me by President Vanderveer, I believe?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, sir, you will please to remember for the future, that neither in
this office, nor in any other belonging to the company, is cigarette
smoking among the qualifications required of our employees. If you must
smoke during business hours, I will endeavor to fill your position with
somebody who is not under that necessity."

For the next half hour Snyder Appleby sat at his own desk, for once in
his life hard at work, and feeling that he had been decidedly snubbed if
not actually insulted. He was even meditating the handing in of his
resignation, when the superintendent again addressed him, but this time
in a much more friendly tone.

"You are from Euston, I believe?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you happen to know a young man from there named Rodman Blake?"

"Yes, sir. I have an acquaintance there of that name," replied Snyder
hesitatingly, and wondering what possible interest the "super" could have
in Rod Blake. "The fact is," he added with an assumed air of frankness,
"the young person in question is a sort of adopted cousin of my own; but
circumstances have arisen that lead me to consider him an undesirable
acquaintance."

"What are they?" inquired the superintendent bluntly.

"It would hardly be becoming in me to state them," replied Snyder, wishing
he knew why the other was making these inquiries. "I should be very sorry
to say anything that might injure the young man's future prospects."

"Had they anything to do with his leaving Euston, and seeking employment
on this road?"

"Yes, sir; I think they had," admitted Snyder with apparent reluctance.

"Then I consider it your duty to tell me what they are," said Mr. Hill;
"for I have just given young Blake the position of brakeman, and if there
is any reason why he is unfit for it I should like to know it."

This aroused all the jealousy in Snyder's nature and he answered: "Well,
sir, if you put it in that light, I suppose I must tell you that Blake's
uncle, with whom he lived, turned him from the house without a penny in
his pocket on account of his connection with a most infamous piece of
rascality. But I beg that you will not question me any further on the
subject. It is most painful to me to speak of even a distant connection
in the terms I should be obliged to use in referring to Rodman Blake.
President Vanderveer knows the whole history of the affair, and can give
you full information regarding it."

"The President has gone West on a business trip that will occupy some
weeks," replied Mr. Hill, "so I could not ask him even if I were inclined
to trouble him with so trifling a matter. I shall certainly investigate
it, however, and if I find this young Blake to be a person of such a
character as you intimate, I shall as certainly discharge him."



CHAPTER XVII.

ROD AS A BRAKEMAN.


In the meantime Rod, who was happily ignorant of this conversation, had
been warmly welcomed in caboose number 18. There Conductor Tobin and the
two brakemen listened with intense interest to all he had to tell them
of his recent experiences. They in turn informed him of Brakeman Joe's
condition, and of how the torpedoes had saved him from being run over by
the night express.

He found his M. I. P. bag in the caboose where Conductor Tobin had been
keeping it until he should hear from him. The conductor also handed Rod
a ten dollar bill, that had been left for him by the brother of Juniper's
owner, as a reward for his gallant struggle with the terrified horse in
the closed car, and the subsequent care of him.

Feeling very rich and independent with this amount of money, of his own
earning, at his disposal, Rod at once bought for himself a blue checkered
shirt and pair of overalls, a cap, a pair of buckskin gloves with which to
handle brake wheels, one of the great tin lunch-pails such as railroad
men carry, and a blanket. Thus equipped he felt he was ready for any
emergency. To these purchases he added a supply of provisions, and a
basket of fruit that he intended to leave for Brakeman Joe when they
should pass the station at which he was.

The train that they were ordered to take came along shortly before sunset.
When it again pulled out, drawing caboose number 18, and with Rod Blake,
brake-stick in hand, standing on the "deck" of one of its rear cars, there
was no happier nor prouder lad than he in the country. How he did enjoy
the novelty of that first ride on top of a freight train, and what a fine
thing it seemed, to be really a railroad man. The night was clear and
cold; but the exercise of setting up brakes on down grades, and throwing
them off for up grades or level stretches, kept him in a glow of warmth.
Then how bright and cosy the interior of the caboose, that was now his
home, seemed during the occasional visits that he paid it.

Before the night grew dark, Conductor Tobin showed him how to place the
two red lanterns on its rear platform, and the lights that showed red
behind, green in front, and green at the side, on its upper rear corners.
Then he was asked to make a fire in the little round stove, and prepare a
huge pot of coffee for the train crew to drink during the night. When
there was nothing else to do he might sit up in the cupola, on the side
opposite to that occupied by Conductor Tobin; but on this first night he
preferred taking his own lantern, and going out on "deck," as the top of
the cars is called. Here he was too far from the locomotive to be annoyed
by its smoke or cinders, and he loved to feel the cool night air rushing
past him. He enjoyed rumbling through the depths of dark forests, and
rattling over bridges or long trestles. It was strange to roll heavily
through sleeping towns, where the only signs of life were the bright
lights of the stations, and the twinkling red, green or white semaphore
lights at the switches.

Some of the time he amused himself by holding his watch in hand, and
counting the clicks of the car wheels over the rail joints; for he
remembered having read that the number of rails passed in twenty seconds
is almost exactly the number of miles run by a train in an hour. If it had
been day time he might also have noted the number of telegraph poles
passed in a minute, and calculated the speed of the train, by allowing
thirty-five poles to the mile.

All this time, however, he was under orders to keep a watch on the
movements of the brakemen ahead of him, and to set up, or throw off,
brakes on at least two of the six cars under his charge, whenever he
noticed them doing so. He was surprised to learn that it was by no means
necessary to put on all the brakes of a train to check its speed, or even
to stop it, and that the application of those on a third, or even a
quarter of its cars answered every purpose. He also soon learned to jump
quickly whenever brakes were called for by a single short whistle blast
from the locomotive, and to throw them off at the order of the two short
blasts that called for brakes to be loosened. At first he thought it
curious that the other brakemen should run along the tops of the cars, and
wondered why they were always in such a hurry. He soon discovered though
that it was much easier to keep his footing running than walking, and
safer to jump from car to car than to step deliberately across the open
spaces between them.

Once, during the night, when he and Conductor Tobin were seated in the
caboose eating their midnight lunch, the latter began to sniff the air
suspiciously, and even to Rod's unaccustomed nostrils, there came a most
unpleasant smell. "Hot box!" said Conductor Tobin, and the next time they
stopped, they found the packing in an iron box at the end of an axle,
under one of the cars, blazing at a furious rate. The journals, or
bearings, in which the axle turned, had become dry and so heated by
friction as to set the oil-soaked cotton waste, or packing, with which the
box was filled, on fire. The job of cooling the box with buckets of water,
and repacking it with waste, and thick, black, evil-smelling oil was a
dirty and disagreeable one, as Rod quickly learned from experience. He
also realized from what he saw, that if it were not done in time, the car
itself might be set on fire, or the axle broken off.

These, and many other valuable lessons in railroading, did Rod Blake
learn that night; and when in the gray dawn, the train pulled into the
home yard, with its run completed, he was wiser, more sleepy and tired,
than he had ever been before in all his life.



CHAPTER XVIII.

WORKING FOR A PROMOTION.


For several weeks Rod Blake continued to lead the life of a brakeman on
Conductor Tobin's train. Although it was a very humble position, and
though the life was one of constant danger and hard work, he thoroughly
enjoyed it. Blessed with youth, health and a perfect physical condition,
he even found pleasure in the stormy nights, when the running boards that
formed his pathway over the roofs of the swaying cars were slippery with
sleet, and fierce winds tried their best to hurl him from them. He
experienced a wild joy in battling with, and conquering, gales that forced
him to crawl along the storm-swept "deck" on hands and knees, clinging
tightly to the running boards, often with lantern extinguished, and making
the passage from car to car through pitchy darkness. On such nights how
warm and cheerful was the interior of the caboose, when at rare intervals
he found a chance to pay it dripping visits! How welcome were the cups of
hot coffee from the steaming pot on the glowing stove, and how the
appreciation of all its comforts was intensified by the wildness of the
outside night!

By his unfailing cheerfulness of disposition, his promptness to answer any
call, and on account of his splendid athletic training, the lad rapidly
extended his circle of friendships, until there was not a trainman on the
division but had a word of greeting, or a friendly wave of the hand for
him, as they met at stations or were whirled past each other on the road.
During the leisure "lay-off" hours at either end of the run, he gave them
boxing lessons in the caboose. These proved so popular as entertainments
that on such occasions the car was always crowded with eager pupils and
enthusiastic spectators. In fact, before he had been a month on the road,
Rod Blake had attained a popularity among the rough, but honest and manly,
fellows who shared his labors, only approached by that of Smiler himself.
With this wise animal he was also such a prime favorite that the dog was
now more frequently to be seen on his train than on any other.

After working as rear brakeman, under Conductor Tobin's especial care,
long enough to become thoroughly acquainted with his duties, Rod was, at
his own request, transferred to the forward end of the train. Here he had
charge of the six or eight cars immediately following the locomotive. This
was not nearly so pleasant a position as that at the rear end; for now,
while running, he seldom had a chance to visit the caboose, and when on
duty he was directly in the path of the very worst of the smoke and
cinders. Then too the work here was harder than anywhere else on the
train; for, in addition to his regular duties as brakeman, he was expected
to assist the fireman at water stations, and by shovelling coal down from
the rear end of the tender so that it was more easily within his reach. It
was for this very reason though that Rod sought the place. He did not wish
to remain a brakeman very long, nor even to become a conductor; but he did
want to learn how to run a locomotive, and looked forward with longing
anticipation to the day when he might fill the proud position of
engineman. So he shovelled coal with a hearty good-will, and seized every
opportunity for riding on the locomotive, and carefully watched the
movements of the men who managed it. Sometimes he asked questions, but not
often; when he did they were of such a nature that the answers were of
practical value to him.

From many years of riding in a locomotive cab, where, with the constant
rattle and roar, conversation is very difficult, the engineman, Truman
Stump, had become a most reticent man, who rarely spoke unless it was
necessary. He had thus gained the reputation of being ill-tempered and
morose, which was exactly what he was not. Everybody admitted, though,
that he was a first-class engine-driver, and one who could always be
relied upon to do exactly the thing in an emergency.

This man took a liking to the bright-faced young brakeman from the very
first; and, when Rod began to appear in his cab, he watched him with a
real, but concealed interest. One day when it was announced that Milt
Sturgis, the fireman, was about to be promoted and get his engine,
everybody wondered who would take his place, and how a new man would get
along with old True Stump. Another bit of news received on the train at
the the same time, was that Brakeman Joe had fully recovered from his
injuries, and was ready to resume his place. While Rod was glad, for Joe's
sake, that he was well enough to come back, he could not help feeling some
anxiety on his own account, now that he would no longer be needed as
brakeman. This anxiety was unexpectedly relieved by the engineman; who,
while standing beside him at a water station, turned and said:

"Joe's coming back."

"Yes; to-morrow."

"Milt's going to leave."

"So I hear."

"How would you like to fire for me in his place?"

"I," exclaimed Rod in astonishment. "Why, I should like it very much if
you think I know enough for the job."

"All right, I'll fix it."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE EXPRESS SPECIAL.


Nothing further was said at the time concerning Rod's most cherished
scheme and as Brakeman Joe reported for duty that very day Rod was at a
loss to know what he should do next. He doubted if Truman Stump could
command sufficient influence to secure his appointment as fireman before
he had undergone a preliminary training as wiper and hostler in the
round-house, though he felt that he already possessed experience as
valuable as any to be gained in those positions. Still it was a rule that
firemen should be taken from the round-house and Rod knew by this time
that railroad rules are rarely broken.

Of course he could not retain Joe's position now that the latter had
returned to it, and he would not if he could. No indeed! Joe's face still
pale from his long confinement was too radiant with happiness at once
more getting back among his old friends and associations for Rod to dim it
by the faintest suggestion that the honest fellow's return to duty was
likely to throw him out of a job. So he congratulated Joe upon his
recovery, as heartily as any one, and retold the story of his plucky fight
with the thieving tramps to the little group of railroad men gathered in
caboose number 18 to welcome him back.

As they were all talking at once and making a hero of Brakeman Joe they
were hushed into a sudden silence by the unexpected entrance of Mr. Hill
the Superintendent. Merely nodding to the others this gentleman stepped up
to Brakeman Joe with extended hand, saying cordially:

"Good evening, conductor. I am glad to see you back among us again. I hope
you are all right and will be able to take your train out on time
to-night."

"Sir! I----" stammered the astonished Joe.

"You must be mistaking me for Conductor Tobin, sir."

"Tobin? oh no! I know him too well ever to mistake any one else for him. I
take you to be Conductor Joseph Miller of the through freight, whose
promotion has just been posted, to take effect immediately. I have also
assigned two new men to your train, with orders to report at once. Here
they come now."

This announcement fell like a bomb-shell; and the cheer of congratulation
that Joe's friends attempted to raise was checked, half-uttered, by the
distressed look on Conductor Tobin's face. Could it be that he had heard
aright? Was it possible that he was thus unceremoniously thrown out of
work to make a place for his former brakeman? His expression was quite as
bewildered as that of Brakeman Joe, and the Superintendent, noticing it,
allowed an amused smile to flit across his own face.

"Don't be alarmed, Tobin," he said, reassuringly; "the Company can't very
well spare your services, and have no idea of doing so. If you can make it
convenient I should like to have you take out number 29 to-night, and, as
you will need an extra hand, I have decided to send young Blake on the
same train; that is, if it will be agreeable to you to have him."

Number 29! The Continental Express Company's Special! Why, only passenger
conductors had that train! What could Mr. Hill mean?

"It's all right, Tobin," continued that gentleman, noting the other's
embarrassment; "your name has gone on to the passenger list, and if you
do as well there as you have with your freights I shall be more than
satisfied. I hope this change strikes you as being one for the better
also?" he added, turning to Rod.

"Yes, sir, only----" began Rodman, who was about to say something
concerning his desire to be made a fireman, when he suddenly remembered
that Truman Stump had requested him not to speak of it just yet.

"Only what?" asked Mr. Hill, a little sharply.

"I was afraid I hadn't experience enough," answered Rod.

"That is a matter of which I claim to be the best judge," replied the
Superintendent, with a smile. "And if I am satisfied of your fitness for
the position you certainly ought to be. Now, Tobin, look lively. Number 29
must be ready to leave in half an hour. Good-night and good luck to you."

Thus Conductor Tobin's long and faithful service, and Brakeman Joe's
suffering, and Rod Blake's strict attention to duty were all rewarded at
once, though in Rodman's case the reward had not taken exactly the shape
he desired. Still, a promotion was a promotion, and where there were so
many competitors for each upward step, as there always are on a railroad,
it was not for him to grumble at the form in which it came.

So as the young railroad man gathered up his few belongings, he gratefully
accepted the congratulations of his friends. A few minutes later he bade
freight conductor Joe good-by, and in company with passenger conductor
Tobin he left caboose number 18 with much the same feeling that a young
scholar leaves his primary school for one a grade higher.

Number 29 was a peculiar train, and one that Rod had often watched rush
past his side-tracked freight with feelings of deep interest, not unmixed
with envy. It always followed the "Limited," with all the latter's
privileges of precedence and right of way. Thus it was such a flyer that
the contrast between it and the freight, which always had to get out
of the way, was as great as that between a thoroughbred racer and a
farm-horse. It was made up of express cars, loaded with money, jewelry,
plate, and other valuable packages, which caused it to be known along the
road as the "gold mine." In its money-car was carried specie and bank
notes from the United States Treasury, and from Eastern banks to Western
cities. Thus it was no unusual thing for this one car to carry a million
dollars' worth of such express matter. Each car was in charge of a trusted
and well-armed messenger, who locked himself in from one end of his run to
the other, and was prepared to defend the valuables entrusted to his care
with his life. Thus number 29 was one of the most important as well as one
of the very fastest trains on the road; while to run on it was considered
such an honor that many envious glances were cast at Rod as he stood on
the platform beside it awaiting the starting-signal.

There had been no time for him to procure the blue uniform suit, such as
the crews of passenger trains, with whom he now ranked, are required to
wear; and as the jumper and overalls of a freight brakeman would have been
decidedly out of place on an express special, Rod had hastily donned his
best suit of every-day clothes. Thus as he stood near the steps of the
single passenger coach that was attached to the train in place of a
caboose for the accommodation of its conductor and brakemen, he was not
to be distinguished from the throng of passengers hastening aboard the
"Limited" on the opposite side of the platform.

For this reason a young man, with a stout leather travelling bag slung on
his shoulder, paid no attention to the young brakeman, as after a hurried
glance up and down the platform, he sprang aboard and entered the coach.

With a bound Rod was after him. "Hello, sir!" he cried; "you must have
made a mistake. This is not a passenger train."

"No?" said the other coolly, and Rod now noticed that he wore a pair of
smoked glasses. I thought it was the "Limited."

"That is the 'Limited,' across the platform," explained Rod politely.

"Are you sure of it?"

"Certainly I am."

"What makes you think this is not it?" asked the other with a provoking
slowness of speech as though time was no object to him, and he did not
care whether the "Limited" started without him or not.

[Illustration: ROD ASSISTS THE YOUNG MAN TO THE "LIMITED."--(_Page
133._)]

"Because I belong on this train and it is my business to be sure of things
connected with it," replied Rod, still speaking pleasantly.

"Oh, you do, do you. Are you its conductor?"

"No, sir, but I am one of its brakemen."

"Are there any more like you?"

"Yes, sir, there is another like me. I sha'n't need his help though to put
you off this train if you don't get off, and in a hurry too," answered Rod
hotly, for he began to suspect that the young man was making fun of him.

"Oh, come now!" said the passenger mildly, "don't get excited, I'm
perfectly willing to go. It was a very natural mistake for a blind man to
make. You may be blind yourself some day, and then you'll find out."

"I didn't know you were blind, sir," exclaimed Rod apologetically and
instantly regretting his harshness toward one so cruelly afflicted. "I am
very sorry, and if you will allow me, I will see you safely aboard the
'Limited.'"

The young man accepted this offer, explaining at the same time that while
he was not totally blind, his sight was very dim. So Rod helped him off
one train and into the other, striving by every attention to atone for
the abruptness with which he had spoken before learning of the other's
infirmity. As he took the stranger's hand to guide him down the steps of
the coach he noticed that the large diamond of a ring worn by the latter,
had cut its way through the back of one of his kid gloves.

A moment later the "Limited" pulled out, and in a few minutes the express
special, laden that night with a freight of unusual value, followed it.



CHAPTER XX.

TROUBLE IN THE MONEY CAR.


Until after midnight the run of the express special was without
interruption or incident. Thus far it had made but two stops. The second
of these was at the end of the freight division where Conductor Tobin had
been accustomed to turn over his train to a relieving crew and spend the
day. With such a flyer as the special, however, his run was now to be
twice as long as formerly, so that he and Rod looked forward to doing a
hundred and fifty miles more before being relieved. There was but one
other brakeman besides Rod, and as there was little for either of them to
do, save to see that the rear end lights burned brightly, and always to be
prepared for emergencies, time hung rather heavily on their hands.

Thanks to automatic air brakes, the life of a passenger brakeman is now a
very easy one as compared with the same life a few years ago. The
brakeman of those days, almost as greasy and smoke begrimed as a fireman,
spent most of his time on the swaying platforms between cars amid showers
of cinders and clouds of blinding dust. At every call for brakes he was
obliged to spring to the wheels of the two entrusted to his care and set
them up by hand with the utmost exercise of his strength. He was not
allowed to remain inside the cars between stations, and the only glimpses
he got of their scant comfort was when he flung open their doors to call
out the names of stations in his own undistinguishable jargon. He was
invariably a well-grown powerfully built fellow, as rough in manner as in
appearance.

To-day, on all passenger trains and on many freights as well, the
automatic brakes are operated by compressed air controlled by the
engineman. By a single pull of a small brass lever within easy reach he
can instantly apply every brake on his train with such force as to bring
it to a standstill inside of a few seconds. The two small cylinders
connected by a piston-rod on the right hand side of every locomotive just
in front of the cab form the air-pump. It is always at work while a train
is standing still, forcing air through lengths of rubber hose between the
cars and into the reservoirs located beneath each one. As brakes are
applied by the reduction of this air the engineman's lever merely opens a
valve that allows the imprisoned force to escape with a sharp hissing
sound. If a train should break in two the connecting lengths of rubber
hose would be torn asunder, and the outrushing air would instantly apply
brakes to the cars of both sections bringing them to a speedy standstill.

Thus the brakeman of to-day, instead of being the powerful, cinder-coated
and rough-voiced fellow of a few years back, may be as slim and elegant as
any of the passengers under his care provided he is polite, wide-awake,
and attentive to his duty. Clad in a natty uniform, he now spends his time
inside the car instead of on its platform. He has reports to make out,
lamps and flags to look after, and in cases of unexpected delay must run
back to protect his train from any other that may be approaching it.
Formerly it was necessary to have as many brakemen on a passenger train as
there were cars, while now it is rare to find more than two on each train.

So Rod had very little to do in his new position, and soon after leaving
the second stopping-place of his train, was sitting near the forward end
of the coach with his head resting on the back of a seat, gazing at the
ceiling and buried in deep thought. Conductor Tobin and the other brakeman
were seated some distance behind him engaged in conversation.

Rod was thinking of what an awful thing it was to be blind, and this chain
of thought was suggested by a glimpse of the young man with smoked
glasses, whom he had assisted on board the "Limited" some hours before,
standing on the platform of the station they had just left. He had
evidently reached his journey's end and was patiently waiting for some one
to come and lead him away--or at least this was what Rod imagined the
situation to be. In reality, that same young man, with unimpaired eyesight
and no longer wearing smoked glasses, was on board the express special at
that very moment. He had sprung on to the forward platform of the money
car undetected in the darkness as the train left the circle of station
lights and was now on its roof fastening a light rope ladder to a ledge
just above one of the middle and half-glazed doors of the car. A red
flannel mask concealed the lower half of his face, and as he swung
himself down on his frail and fearfully swaying support he held a powerful
navy revolver in his right hand. He was taking frightful risks to win a
desperate game. Failing in his effort to conceal himself aboard the very
train he intended to rob, he had taken passage on the "Limited" as far as
its first stopping-place and had there awaited the coming of the Express
Special. Thus far his reckless venture had succeeded, and as Rod sat in
the coach thinking pityingly of him, he was covering the unsuspecting
messenger in the money car with his revolver.

"What would I do if I were blind?" thought Rod. "I suppose uncle would
take care of me; but how humiliating it would be to have to go back to him
helpless and dependent. How thankful I should be that I can see besides
being well and strong and able to care for myself. I will do it too
without asking help from any one, and I'll win such a name for honesty
and faithfulness on this road that even Uncle Arms will be compelled to
believe whatever I may tell him. I wonder if Snyder could have put that
emery into the oil-cup himself? It doesn't seem as though any one could be
so mean."

Just here a slight incident interrupted the lad's thoughts so suddenly
that he sprang to his feet--unconsciously his eyes had been fixed on the
bell-cord that ran through the entire train to the cab of the locomotive.
It had hung a little slack, but all at once this slack was jerked up as
though some one had pulled the cord. This would have been a signal to stop
the train, and if the train were to be stopped at that point something
must be wrong. A backward glance showed Conductor Tobin and the other
brakeman to be still quietly engaged in conversation. Neither of them
could have pulled the cord. Rod stepped to the door and looked out. The
train was tearing along at a terrific speed, and the rush of air nearly
took away his breath. There was no sign of slackening speed and everything
appeared to be all right. The next car ahead of the coach was the money
car. At least Conductor Tobin had thought so, though none of the trainmen
was ever quite sure which one of the half dozen or more express cars it
was. Its rear door was of course closed and locked, but some impulse moved
Rod to clamber up on its platform railing and peer through the little hole
by which the bell-cord entered. He could not see much, but that which
was disclosed in a single glimpse almost caused his heart to cease its
beating. Within his range of vision came the heads of two men evidently
engaged in a struggle and one of them wore a mask over the lower part of
his face. The next instant Rod had sprung down from his perilous perch and
dashed back into the coach shouting breathlessly:

"There's a masked man fighting the messenger in the money car!"



CHAPTER XXI.

OVER THE TOP OF THE TRAIN.


At Rodman's startling announcement Conductor Tobin sprang to his feet,
reached for the bell-cord, and gave it two sharp pulls. A single whistle
blast from the locomotive made instant reply that his signal was received
and understood. So promptly was it obeyed that as the conductor and his
two brakemen ran to the front platform to swing far out and look along the
sides of the express cars ahead of them, the grinding brakes were already
reducing the speed of the flying train.

Suddenly a pistol shot rang angrily out, and a bullet crashed into the
woodwork close above Rod Blake's head. He and the conductor were leaning
out on one side while the other brakeman occupied the opposite one.

"Give the signal to go ahead at once, or I'll come back there and blow
your brains out!" came in a hoarse voice from a side door of the money
car.

"All right, I'll do it; only don't shoot," shouted Conductor Tobin in
answer, giving the desired signal to the engineman, by raising and
lowering his lantern vertically, as he spoke. At the same time he said
hurriedly to the brakeman on the opposite side of the platform, and thus
concealed from the robber's view:

"Drop off, Tom, and run back to number 10. Telegraph ahead to all
stations, and we'll bag that fellow yet!"

The man did as directed, swinging low and giving a forward spring that
landed him safely beside the track, though the train was still moving
fully twenty miles an hour.

The engineman, though greatly puzzled at receiving the signal to go ahead
immediately after being ordered to stop, had obeyed it, thrown off brakes,
and the train was again gathering its usual headway.

"Now Rod," said Conductor Tobin, as the other brakeman disappeared; "I
want you to make your way over the top of the train to the engine, and
tell Eli what is taking place. Tell him to keep her wide open till we
reach Millbank, and not to give her the "air" till we are well up with the
station. It's a tough job for you, and one I hate to send you on. At the
same time it's got to be done, and after your experience on the freight
deck, I believe you are the lad to undertake it. Anyway, you'll be safe
from that pistol when once you reach the cab."

"But I don't like to leave you here alone to be shot," remonstrated Rod.

"Never mind me. I don't believe I'll get shot. At any rate, this is my
place, and here I must stay. Now move along, and God bless you."

There was a strong hand-clasp between the conductor and brakeman, and
then the latter started on the perilous journey he had been ordered to
undertake. It was no easy task to maintain a footing on the rounded roofs
of those express cars as they were hurled on through the night at the rate
of nearly a mile a minute; while to leap from one to another seemed almost
suicidal. Not more than one brakeman in a thousand could have done it; but
Rod Blake, with his light weight, athletic training, and recent experience
combined with absolute fearlessness, was that one. His inclination was to
get down on his hands and knees and crawl along the slippery roofs. If he
had yielded to it he would never have accomplished the trip. He believed
that the only way to make it was by running and clearing the spaces
between cars with flying leaps, and, incredible as it may seem, that is
the way he did it. He had kicked off his shoes before starting, and now
ran with stockinged feet.

The occupants of the cab were as startled by his appearance beside them
as though he had been a ghost, and when his story was told the engineman
wanted to stop the train at once and go back to the assistance of the
imperilled messenger. Rod however succeeded in persuading him that, as
the messenger's fate was probably already decided, their only hope of
capturing the robber lay in carrying out Conductor Tobin's plan of running
at such speed that he would not dare jump from the train until a station
prepared for his reception was reached.

When the engineman finally agreed to this, and before he could utter
the remonstrance that sprang to his lips, Rodman clambered back over the
heaped-up coal of the tender, swung himself to the roof of the forward car
and began to retrace his perilous journey to the rear end of the train. He
argued that if Conductor Tobin's place was back there exposed to the
shots of a desperate man, his brakeman's place was beside him. Even if Rod
had not been a railroad boy, or "man," as he now called himself, his
natural bravery and sense of honor would have taken him back to that
coach. Ever since he had enlisted in the service that demands as strict
obedience as that required of a soldier and an equal contempt of danger,
this lad was doubly alert to the call of whatever he regarded as duty.
There is no service in the world, outside of the army, so nearly
resembling it in requirements and discipline as that of a railroad. It is
no place for cowards nor weaklings; but to such a lad as Rod Blake it adds
the stimulus of excitement and ever-present danger and the promise of
certain promotion and ample reward for the conscientious performance of
every-day duties.

So Rod, feeling in duty bound to do so, made his way back over the reeling
roofs of that on-rushing train to the side of his superior officer. As he
scrambled and slipped and leaped from car to car he fully realized the
imminent peril of his situation, but was at the same time filled with a
wild exhilaration and buoyance of spirits such as he had never before
known.

Conductor Tobin, standing just inside the coach door with pale face and
set lips, was amazed to see him. For a moment he fancied the lad had been
daunted by the task imposed upon him and had turned back without reaching
the locomotive. When he realized that Rod had not only made the perilous
trip once, but twice, his admiration was unbounded, and though he tried to
scold him for his foolhardiness the words refused to come. He shook the
young brakeman's hand so heartily instead that the action conveyed a
volume of praise and appreciation.

Now, as they watched together with an intense eagerness for the lights of
Millbank they became conscious of a yellow glare, like that of an open
furnace, streaming from the side door of the money car.

"The scoundrel has set the car on fire!" gasped Conductor Tobin.

"Don't you think we ought to break in the door with an axe and make a rush
for him?" asked Rod.

Before the other could reply, a long, ear-splitting whistle blast
announcing their approach to a station sounded from the locomotive.



CHAPTER XXII.

STOP THIEF!


As Train Number 29 dashed up to the Millbank station and was brought to a
stop almost as suddenly as a spirited horse is reined back on his haunches
by a curb bit, the many flashing lanterns guarding all approaches, and the
confused throng of dark forms on its platform told that Brakeman Tom had
performed his duty and that its arrival was anticipated.

The abruptness of this unexpected stop caused the messengers in the
several cars to open their doors and look out inquiringly. At the same
time, and even before it was safe to do so, Conductor Tobin and Rod
dropped to the ground and ran to the door of the money car. The glare of
firelight streaming from it attracted others to the same spot. There were
loud cries for buckets and water, and almost before the car wheels ceased
to slide on the polished rails a score of willing hands were drenching
out the fire of way-bills, other papers, and a broken chair that was
blazing merrily in the middle of its floor. The flames were already
licking the interior woodwork, and but for this opportune stop would have
gathered such headway inside of another minute as would not only have
destroyed the car but probably the entire train.

The moment the subsiding flames rendered such a thing possible, a rush was
made for the inside of the car, but Conductor Tobin calling one of the
express messengers and the engineman who had come running back, to aid
him, and telling Rod to guard the door, sternly ordered the crowd to keep
out until he had made an examination. From his post at the doorway Rod
could look in at a sight that filled him with horror. The interior of the
car was spattered with blood. On the floor, half hidden beneath a pile of
packages, lay the messenger, still alive but unconscious and bleeding from
half a dozen wounds. The brave right hand that had tried to pull the
bell cord had been shattered by a pistol ball, and the messenger's own
Winchester lay on the floor beside him. Broken packages that had contained
money, jewelry, and other valuables were scattered in every direction,
while the open safe from which they had come was as empty as the day it
was made.

The trainmen became furious as one after another of these mute witnesses
told of the outrages so recently perpetrated, and swore vengeance on the
robber when they should catch him. They ransacked every corner of the car,
but search as they might they could discover no trace of his presence nor
of the method of his flight. The man had left the car as he had entered it
taking the precaution of removing his rope ladder as he went.

The baffled searchers had just reached the conclusion that he must have
leaped from the train in spite of its speed and of Conductor Tobin's
watchfulness, when Rod, who from his position in the doorway could look
over the heads of the crowd surrounding the car called out:

"Stop that man! The one with a leather bag slung over his shoulder! Stop
him! Stop thief! He is the robber!"

In the glare of an electric light that happened to shine full upon him for
a moment, Rod had seen the man walk away from the forward end of the car
next ahead of the one they were searching as though he had just left it.
He was not noticed by the bystanders as all eyes were directed toward the
door of the money car. To the young brakeman his figure and the stout
leather bag that he carried seemed familiar. As he looked, the man raised
a kid-gloved hand to shift the position of his satchel, and from it shot
the momentary flash of a diamond. With Rod this was enough to at once
establish the man's identity. Although he no longer wore smoked glasses
Rod knew him to be the man who, pretending partial blindness, had first
boarded the Express Special, then taken passage on the "Limited," and whom
he had seen on the platform of the last station at which they had stopped.
How could he have reached Millbank? He must have come by the Express
Special, and so must be connected with its robbery.

All these thoughts darted through Rod's head like a flash of lightning,
and as he uttered his shouts of warning he sprang to the ground with a
vague idea of preventing the stranger's escape. At the same moment the
crowd surged back upon him, and when he finally cleared himself from it he
saw the man backing down the platform, holding his would-be pursuers in
check with a levelled pistol, and just disappearing from the circle of
electric light.

A minute later two frightened men were driven at the point of a revolver
from the cab of a freight locomotive that, under a full head of steam,
was standing on the outer one of the two west-bound tracks. They had
hardly left it in sole charge of the robber, by whom it had already been
uncoupled from its train, before it sprang forward and began to move away
through the darkness.

Rod, who was now well in advance of all other pursuers, instantly
comprehended the situation. His own train stood on the inner west-bound
track and he was near its forward end. The robber with his blood-stained
plunder was disappearing before his very eyes, and if lost to view might
easily run on for a few miles and then make good his escape. He must not
be allowed to do so! He must be kept in sight!

This was Rod's all-absorbing thought at the moment. Moved by it, he jerked
out the coupling-pin, by which the locomotive of the Express Special was
attached to its train, leaped into the cab, threw over the lever, pulled
open the throttle, and had started on one of the most thrilling races
recorded in the annals of railroading, before the astonished fireman, who
had been left in charge, found time to remonstrate.

"Look here, young fellow! what are you about?" he shouted, stepping
threateningly toward Rod.

"We are about chasing the train robber, who has just gone off with that
engine on number four track, and you want to keep up the best head of
steam you know how," was the answer.

"Have we any orders to do so?"

"You have, at any rate, for I give them to you."

"And who are you? I never saw you before to-night."

"I am Rod Blake, one of Tobin's trainmen, and if you don't quit bothering
me with your stupidity and go to work, I'll pitch you out of this cab!"
shouted Rod savagely, in a tone that betrayed the intensity of his nervous
excitement.

The man had heard of the young brakeman and of his skill as a boxer,
though he had never met him before that night, and his half-formed
intention of compelling the lad to turn back was decidedly weakened by
the mention of his name. Still he hesitated. He was a powerful fellow with
whom in a struggle Rod could not have held his own for a minute, but he
was clearly lacking in what railroad men call "sand." Suddenly Rod made a
movement as though to spring at him, at the same time shouting, "Do as I
tell you, sir, and get to work at once!"



CHAPTER XXIII.

A RACE OF LOCOMOTIVES.


In any struggle between two human beings, the one possessed of the more
powerful will is certain to win. In the present case, Rod Blake's will was
so much stronger than that of the fireman that the burly fellow obeyed his
order, turned sullenly away, and began to shovel coal into the roaring
furnace.

Their speed was now tremendous, for though Rod knew but little about the
management of a locomotive engine, he did know that the wider the throttle
was opened the faster it would go. So he pulled the handle as far back as
he dared, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing the dark form of the
fugitive locomotive disclosed by the glare of their own head-light. Now
if he could keep it in sight, and so force the speed, that it would be
impossible for the robber to jump off until some large station was
reached, Rod felt that all would yet go well.

Suddenly the runaway seemed to stop. Then it began to move back toward
them. In another instant they had dashed past it, but not before two
pistol bullets had come crashing through the cab windows. A bit of
splintered glass cut Rod's forehead and a little stream of blood began to
trickle down his face. Without heeding it, he shut off steam, reversed,
opened again, and within half a minute the pursuers were rushing back over
the ground they had just covered.

Again the train robber tried the same game, again the two locomotives flew
by each other, and again pistol balls came singing past Rod Blake's ears.
As for the fireman he had flung himself flat on the floor of the cab. Rod
could hardly believe that he had not been hit by one of those hissing
bullets, but as he felt no wound he again reversed his engine and again
dashed ahead.

Now they gained steadily on the fugitive. His steam was giving out, and he
had neither the time to renew his supply nor the knowledge of how to do
so. The pursuit was decidedly hotter than he had anticipated, and had not
been checked in the least by his pistol shots, as he had hoped it would
be. He must try some other plan of escape, and that quickly. He did not
know how many men were on that fiercely pursuing locomotive, nor whether
they were armed or not. He only knew that within another minute they would
overtake him. He formed a desperate resolve, and a moment later Rod Blake
thought he saw a dark form scrambling from a ditch beside the track as
they flew past. When they reached the "dying" locomotive of which they
were in pursuit and found it abandoned, he knew what had taken place. The
train robber had leaped from its cab and was now making his way across
country on foot.

"We must follow him!" exclaimed Rod.

"You may if you are such a fool; but I'll be blowed if I will," answered
the fireman.

There was no time to be lost in argument, neither was Rod sure that those
locomotives ought to be left unguarded. So, without another word, he
dropped to the ground and started on a run across the fields in the
direction he was almost certain the fugitive had taken.

The young brakeman soon came to a wagon road running parallel to the
railway. Here he was brought to a halt. Which way should he go? To attempt
to continue the pursuit in either direction without some definite
knowledge to act upon seemed foolish. If he could only discover a house at
which to make inquiries, or if some belated traveller would only come that
way.

"'Belated traveller' is good," mused Rod as his eye caught a faint glow in
the eastern sky. "Here it is almost to-morrow while I thought it was still
to-day. What a wild-goose chase I have come on anyway, and what should I
do if I overtook the robber? I'm sure I don't know. I won't give it up
though now that I have started in on it. Hello! Here comes some one now.
Perhaps I can learn something from him. Hi, there!"

The sound that had attracted the lad's attention was that of a rapidly
galloping horse, though it was so deadened by the sandy road that he did
not hear it until the animal was close upon him. The light was very dim,
and as Rod stood in a shadow neither the horse nor its rider perceived him
until he started forward and shouted to attract the latter's attention.

In an instant the startled animal had sprung to one side so suddenly as to
fling its rider violently to the ground, where he lay motionless. The
horse ran a short distance, then stopped and stood trembling.

Horrified at the result of his hasty action, Rod kneeled beside the
motionless man. His head had struck the root of a tree and though the boy
could not discover that he was seriously injured, he was unconscious. In
vain did the distressed lad attempt to restore him. He had little idea of
what to do, there was no water at hand, and to his ignorance it seemed as
if the man must be dying. He lifted one of the limp hands to chafe it, and
started with amazement at the sight of a diamond ring that had cut its way
through the torn and blackened kid glove in which the hand was encased.

Could this be the very train robber of whom he was in pursuit? Where,
then, was his leather satchel? Why, there it was, only a few feet away,
lying where it had fallen as the man was flung to the ground. Incredible
as it seemed, this must be the very man, and now what was to be done? Was
ever a fellow placed in a more perplexing situation? He could not revive
the unconscious form. Neither could he remove it from that place. Clearly
he must have help. As he arrived at this conclusion Rod started on a run
down the road, determined to find a habitation and secure human aid.



CHAPTER XXIV.

ARRESTED ON SUSPICION.


As Rod started on his quest for assistance the riderless horse, which had
begun to nibble grass by the roadside, lifted his head with a snort that
brought the lad to a sudden halt. Why not make use of this animal if he
could catch it? Certainly his mission could be accomplished more quickly
on horseback than on foot. He started gently toward it, holding out his
hand and speaking soothingly; but the cautious animal tossed its head and
began to move away. "How much he resembles Juniper," thought Rod. "Here,
Juniper! Here June, old fellow!" he called. At the sound of his name the
horse wheeled about and faced the lad in whose company he had recently
undergone such a thrilling experience. The next instant Rod grasped the
animal's halter, for it had neither saddle nor bridle, and Juniper was
evidently recognizing him.

As the young brakeman was about to leap on the horse's back it occurred
to him that the leather bag, which was undoubtedly filled with valuable
plunder from the rifled express car ought not to be left lying in the
road. No, it would be much better to carry it to a place of safety. With
this thought came a recollection of the pistol shots so lately fired by
the man at his feet. Would it not be well to disarm him lest he should
revive and again prove dangerous before assistance could be found and
brought to the place. Rod believed it would, and, acting upon the thought,
transferred two revolvers from the train-robber's pockets to his own.
Then, after dragging the still unconscious man a little to one side beyond
danger from any wagon that might happen along, the lad slung the heavy
satchel over his shoulder, scrambled on to Juniper's back and galloped
away.

The road was a lonely one, and he rode more than a mile before reaching
a farm-house. Here the excited lad rapped loudly on the front door and
shouted. No one was yet astir, and several minutes passed before an upper
window was cautiously opened and a woman's voice inquired who was there
and what was wanted.

Rod began to explain his errand; but after a few words the woman called to
him to wait until she could come down, and then slammed the window down.
To the young brakeman's impatience the ensuing delay seemed an hour in
length, though in reality not more than five minutes elapsed before the
front door opened and the woman again appeared.

"Now, what were you trying to tell me about men dying in the road?" she
asked sharply.

As Rod was about to reply there came a sound of galloping horses and a
shout from the place where he had left Juniper fastened to a fence post.

"There he is!"

"Now we've got him!"

"Throw up your hands, you scoundrel!"

"Don't you dare draw a pistol or we'll fill you full of holes!"

These and a score of similar cries came to the ears of the bewildered lad
as half a dozen horsemen dashed up to the front gate, and four of them,
leaping to the ground, ran towards him while the others held the horses.

He was too astonished even to remonstrate, and as they seized him he
submitted to the indignity as quietly as one who is dazed.

The woman in the doorway regarded this startling scene with amazement.
When in answer to her eager questions the new-comers told her that the
young desperado whom she had so nearly admitted to her house was a
horse-thief, who, but a short time before, had stolen the animal now
tied to her front fence, at the point of a revolver from the man who was
leading him to water, she said she wouldn't have believed that such a mere
boy could be so great a villian.

"It's the truth though," affirmed the man who acted as spokesman. "Isn't
it, Al?"

"Yes, siree," replied Al, a heavy-looking young farm hand. "An more 'n
that, he fired at me too afore I'd give up the 'orse. Oh, yes, he's a bad
un, young as he looks, an hangin' wouldn't be none too good for him."

"I did nothing of the kind!" cried Rod, indignantly, now finding a chance
to speak. "This is an outrage, and----"

"Is this the fellow, Al?" asked the spokesman, interrupting the young
brakeman's vehement protest.

"Of course it is. I'd know him anywhere by that bag slung over his
shoulders, an he's got pistols in his pockets, too."

"Yes, here they are," replied the leader, thrusting his hands into Rod's
coat pockets and drawing forth the two revolvers. "Oh, there's no use
talking, young man. The proof against you is too strong. The only thing
for you to do is to come along quietly and make the best of the situation.
Horse thieves have been getting altogether too plenty in this part of the
country of late, and we've been laying for one to make an example of for
more 'n a week now. Its mighty lucky for you that you didn't tackle an
armed man instead of Al there, this morning. If you had you'd have got a
bullet instead of a horse."

"But I tell you," cried Rod, "that I took those things from a man who was
flung from that horse back here in the road about a mile. He is----"

"I haven't any doubt that you took them," interrupted the man, grimly,
"the same as you took the horse."

"And I only made use of the horse to obtain assistance for him the more
quickly," continued Rod. "I left him stunned by his fall, and he may be
dead by this time. He will be soon, anyway, if some one doesn't go to him,
and then you'll be murderers, that's what you'll be."

"Let us examine this bag that you admit you took from somebody without his
permission, and see what it contains," said the man quietly, paying no
heed to the lad's statement. So saying, he opened the satchel that still
hung from Rod's shoulders. At the sight of its contents he uttered an
exclamation of amazement.

"Well, if this don't beat anything I ever heard of!"

The others crowded eagerly about him.

"Whew! look at the greenbacks!" cried one.

"And gold!" shouted another.

"He must have robbed a bank!"

"There'll be a big reward offered for this chap."

"He's a more desperate character than we thought."

"A regular jail-bird!"

"There's blood on some of these bills!"

"He ought to be tied."

This last sentiment met with such general approval that some one produced
a bit of rope, and in another moment poor Rod's hands were securely bound
together behind him.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE TRAIN ROBBER LEARNS OF ROD'S ARREST.


"I tell you the man who did it all is lying back there in the road!"
screamed Rod, furious with indignation at this outrage and almost sobbing
with the bitterness of his distress. "He is a train robber, and I'm a
passenger brakeman on the New York and Western road. He made an escape and
I was chasing him."

"Just listen to that now," said one of the men jeeringly. "It's more than
likely you are the train robber yourself."

"Looks like a brakeman, doesn't he?" sneered another, "especially as they
are all obliged to wear a uniform when on duty."

"He's a nice big party of men, he is. Just such a one as the railroad
folks would collect and send in pursuit of a train robber," remarked the
leader ironically. "Oh, no, my lad, that's too thin. If you must tell
lies I'd advise you to invent some that folks might have a living chance
of believing."

"It's not a lie!" declared Rod earnestly and almost calmly; for though his
face was quite pale with suppressed excitement, he was regaining control
of his voice. "It's the solemn truth and I'm willing to swear to it."

"Oh, hush, sonny, don't swear. That would be naughty," remonstrated one of
the men, mockingly.

Without noticing him, Rod continued: "If you will only take me back about
a mile on the road I will show you the real train robber, and so prove
that part of my story. Then at Millbank I can prove the rest."

"Look here, young fellow," said the leader, harshly, "why will you persist
in such nonsense? We have just came over that part of the road and we
didn't see anything of any man lying in it."

"Because I dragged him to one side," explained Rod.

"Oh, well, you'll have a chance to show us your man if you can find him,
for we are going to take you back that way anyhow. Come on, fellows, let's
be moving. The sooner we get this young horse-thief behind bolts and bars
the sooner we'll be rid of an awkward responsibility."

So poor Rod, still bound, was placed on Juniper's back, and, with one man
on each side of him, two in front and two behind, rode unhappily back over
the road that he had traversed on an errand of mercy but a short time
before.

As the little group disappeared, the woman in whose front yard this
exciting arrest had been made turned to hasten the preparations for her
children's breakfast that she might the sooner visit her nearest neighbors
and tell them of these wonderful happenings. She was filled with the
belief that she had had a most remarkable escape, and was eager to have
her theory confirmed.

When she finally reached her neighbor's house and burst in upon them
breathless and unannounced, she was somewhat taken aback to see a strange
young man, wearing a pair of smoked glasses and having a very pale face,
sitting at breakfast with them. The woman of the house informed her in a
whisper, that he was a poor theological student making his way on foot
back to college in order to save travelling expenses, and though he had
only stopped to ask for a glass of water they had insisted upon his
taking breakfast with them.

Then the visitor unburdened herself of her budget of startling news,
ending up with: "An' I knew he was a desp'rate character the minit I set
eyes onto him, for I'm a master-hand at reading faces, I am. Why, sir,"
here she turned to the pale student by whose evident interest in her story
she was greatly flattered, "I could no more take him for the honest lad he
claimed to be than I would take you for a train robber. No, indeed. A face
is like a printed page to me every time and I'm not likely to be fooled, I
can tell you."

"It is truly a wonderful gift," murmured the young man as he rose from the
table and started to leave the house, excusing his haste on the plea of
having a long distance still to travel.

"What a saintly expression that young man has!" exclaimed the visitor,
watching him out of sight, "and what a preacher he will make!"

At the same moment he of the smoked glasses was saying to himself: "So
that is what happened while I lay there like a log by the roadside, is it?
Well, it's hard luck; but certainly I ought to be able to turn the
information furnished by that silly woman to some good account."

In the meantime poor Rod was far from enjoying a morning ride that under
other circumstances would have proved delightful. The sun shone from an
unclouded sky, the air was deliciously cool and bracing, and the crisp
autumn leaves of the forest-road rustled pleasantly beneath the horses'
feet. But the boy was thinking too intently, and his thoughts were of too
unpleasant a nature for him to take note of these things. He was wondering
what would happen in case the train robber should not be found where he
had left him.

He was not left long in suspense, for when they reached the place that he
was certain was the right one there was no man, unconscious or otherwise,
to be seen on either side or in any direction. He had simply regained his
senses soon after Rod left him, staggered to his feet, and, with ever
increasing strength, walked slowly along the road. He finally discovered
a side path through the woods that led him to the farm-house where, on
account of his readily concocted tale, he received and accepted a cordial
invitation to breakfast.

As for Rod, his disappointment at not finding the proof of which he had
been so confident was so great that he hardly uttered a protest, when
instead of carrying him to Millbank or any other station on the line where
he might have found friends, his captors turned into a cross-road from the
left and journeyed directly away from the railroad.

In about an hour they reached the village of Center where the young
brakeman, escorted by half the population of the place, was conducted
through the main street to the county jail. Here he was delivered to the
custody of the sheriff with such an account of his terrible deeds, and
strict injunctions as to his safe keeping, that the official locked him
into the very strongest of all his cells. As the heavy door clanged in
his face, and Rod realized that he was actually a prisoner, he vaguely
wondered if railroad men often got into such scrapes while attempting the
faithful discharge of their duties.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A WELCOME VISITOR.


To be cast into jail and locked up in a cell is not a pleasant experience
even for one who deserves such a fate; while to an honest lad like Rodman
Blake who had only tried to perform what he considered his duty to the
best of his ability, it was terrible. In vain did he assure himself that
his friends would soon discover his predicament and release him from it.
He could not shake off the depressing influence of that narrow room, of
the forbidding white walls, and the grim grating of the massive door. He
was too sensible to feel any sense of disgrace in being thus wrongfully
imprisoned; but the horror of the situation remained, and it seemed as
though he should suffocate behind those bars if not speedily released.

In the meantime the sheriff, whose breakfast had been interrupted by the
arrival of the self-appointed constables and their prisoner, returned to
his own pleasant dining-room to finish that meal. He was a bachelor, and
the only other occupant of the room was his mother, who kept house for
him, and was one of the dearest old ladies in the world. She was a
Quakeress, and did not at all approve of her son's occupation. As she
could not change it, however, she made the best use of the opportunities
for doing good afforded by his position, and many a prisoner in that jail
found occasion to bless the sheriff's mother. She visited them all, did
what she could for their comfort, and talked with them so earnestly, at
the same time so kindly and with such ready sympathy, that several cases
of complete reformation could be traced directly to her influence. Now her
interest was quickly aroused by her son's account of the youthful prisoner
just delivered into his keeping, and she sighed deeply over the story of
his wickedness.

"Is it certain that he did all these things, Robert?" she asked at length.

"Oh, I guess there is no doubt of it. He was caught almost in the very
act," answered the sheriff, carelessly.

"And thee says he is young?"

"Yes, hardly more than a boy."

"Does thee think he has had any breakfast?"

"Probably not; but I'll carry him some after I've been out and fed the
cattle," answered her son, who was a farmer as well as a sheriff.

"Is thee willing I should take it to him?"

"Certainly, if you want to, only be very careful about locking everything
securely after you," replied the sheriff, who was accustomed to requests
of this kind. "I don't know why you should trouble yourself about him
though, I'll feed him directly."

"Why should we ever trouble ourselves, Robert, about those who are
strangers, or sick, or in prison? Besides, perhaps the poor lad has no
mother, while just now he must sorely feel the need of one."

Thus it happened that a few minutes later Rod Blake was startled from his
unhappy reverie by the appearance of an old lady in a dove-colored dress,
a snowy cap and kerchief, in front of his door. As she unlocked it and
stepped inside, he saw that she bore in her hands a tray on which a
substantial breakfast was neatly arranged. The lad sprang to his feet, but
faint from hunger and exhaustion as he was, he cast only one glance at
the tempting tray. Then he gazed earnestly into the face of his visitor.

Setting the tray down on a stool, for there was no table in the cell, the
old lady said: "I thought thee might be hungry my poor lad, and so have
brought thee a bit of breakfast."

"Oh, madam! Don't you know me? Don't you remember me?" cried Rod eagerly.

Although startled by the boy's vehemence, the old lady adjusted her
spectacles and regarded him carefully. "I can't say that I do," she said
at length, in a troubled tone. "And yet thy face bears a certain look of
familiarity. Where have I ever seen thee before?"

"Don't you remember one morning a few weeks ago when you were in a
railroad station, and dropped your purse, and I picked it up, and you gave
me a quarter for seeing you safely on the train? Don't you? I'm sure you
must remember."

The old lady was nervously wiping her spectacles. As she again adjusted
them and gazed keenly at the boy, a flash of recognition lighted her face
and she exclaimed, "Of course I do! Of course I do! Thee is that same
honest lad who restored every cent of the money that but for thee I might
have lost! But what does it all mean? And how came thee here in this
terrible place?"

Rod was only too thankful to have a listener at once so interested and
sympathetic as this one. Forgetful of his hunger and the waiting breakfast
beside him, he at once began the relating of his adventures, from the time
of first meeting with the dear old lady down to the present moment. It was
a long story and was so frequently interrupted by questions that its
telling occupied nearly an hour.

At its conclusion the old lady, who was at once smiling and tearful, bent
over and kissed the boy on his forehead, saying:

"Bless thee, lad! I believe every word of thy tale, for thee has an honest
face, and an honest tongue, as well as a brave heart. Thee has certainly
been cruelly rewarded for doing thy duty. Never mind, thy troubles are now
ended, for my son shall quickly summons the friends who will not only
prove thy innocence and release thee from this place, but must reward thy
honest bravery. First, though, thee must eat thy breakfast and I must go
to fetch a cup of hot coffee, for this has become cold while we talked."

So saying the old lady bustled away with a reassuring little nod and a
cheery smile that to poor Rod was like a gleam of sunlight shining into a
dark place. As she went, the old lady not only left his cell door unlocked
but wide open for she had privately decided that the young prisoner should
not be locked in again if she could prevent it.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE SHERIFF IS INTERVIEWED.


While this pleasant recognition of old acquaintances was taking place
in the jail, the sheriff was sitting in his office and submitting to be
interviewed by a young man who had introduced himself as a reporter from
one of the great New York dailies. He was a pleasant young man, very
fluent of speech, and he treated the sheriff with a flattering deference.
He explained that while in the village on other business he had
incidentally heard of the important arrest made that morning and thought
that if the sheriff would kindly give him a few particulars he might
collect material for a good story. Pleased with the idea of having his
name appear in a New York paper the sheriff readily acceded to this
request and gave his visitor all the information he possessed. The young
man was so interested, and took such copious notes of everything the
sheriff said, that the latter was finally induced to relax somewhat of his
customary caution, and take from his safe the leather bag that had been
captured on the person of the alleged horse-thief. The sheriff had opened
this bag when he first received it, and had glanced at its contents, of
which he intended to make a careful inventory at his first leisure moment.
As this had not yet arrived, he was still ignorant of what the bag really
contained. He knew, however, that its contents must be of great value and
produced it to prove to the reporter that the young prisoner whom they
were discussing was something more than a mere horse-thief.

While the sheriff was still fumbling with the spring-catch of the bag,
and before he had opened it, there came the sounds of a fall just outside
the door, a crash of breaking china, and a cry in his mother's voice.
Forgetful of all else, the man dropped the bag, sprang to the door, and
disappeared in the hall beyond, leaving his visitor alone. In less than
two minutes he returned, saying that his mother had slipped and fallen on
the lowest step of the stairway she was descending. She had broken a cup
and saucer, but was herself unhurt, for which he was deeply grateful. As
the sheriff made this brief explanation, he cast a relieved glance at the
leather bag that still lay on the floor where he had dropped it, and at
some distance from the chair in which the young man was sitting.

Again he took up the bag to open it, and again he was interrupted. This
time the interruption came in the shape of a messenger from the telegraph
office, bringing the startling news of the recent train robbery and the
daring escape of its perpetrator. The sheriff first read this despatch
through to himself, and then handed it to his visitor, who had watched his
face with eager interest while he read it. The moment he had glanced
through the despatch, the young man started to his feet, exclaiming that
such an important bit of news as that would materially alter his plans.
Then he begged the sheriff to excuse him while he ran down to the
telegraph office, and asked his paper for permission to remain there a few
days longer. He said that he should like nothing better than a chance to
assist in the capture of this desperate train robber, which he had no
doubt would be speedily effected by the sheriff. He also promised to call
again very shortly for further information, provided his paper gave him
permission to remain.

The sheriff was not at all sorry to have his visitor depart, as the
despatch just received had given new direction to his thoughts, and he was
wondering if there could be any connection between the train robber, the
young horse-thief, and the bag of valuables that lay unopened on his desk.
He glanced curiously at it, and determined to make a thorough examination
of its contents as soon as he had written and sent off several despatches
containing his suspicions, asking for further information and requesting
the presence at the jail of such persons as would be able to identify the
train robber.

As he finished these, his mother, who had been preparing a fresh cup of
coffee for Rod, entered the office full of her discovery in connection
with the young prisoner and of the startling information he had given her.
She would have come sooner but for the presence of her son's visitor,
before whom she did not care to divulge her news.

Although the sheriff listened with interest to all she had to say, he
expressed a belief that the young prisoner had taken advantage of her
kindly nature, to work upon her sympathies with a plausible but easily
concocted story.

"But I tell thee, Robert, I recognize the lad as the same who helped me on
the train the last time I went to York."

"That may be, and still he may be a bad one."

"Never, with such a face! It is as honest as thine, Robert. Of that I am
certain, and if thee will only talk with him, I am convinced thee will
think as I do. Nor will thee relock the door that I left open?"

"What!" exclaimed the sheriff; "you haven't left his cell-door unlocked,
mother, after the strict charges I gave you concerning that very thing?"

"Yes, I have, Robert," answered the old lady, calmly; "and but for the
others I would have left the corridor-door unlocked also. I was mindful of
them, though, and of thy reputation."

"I'm thankful you had that much common-sense," muttered her son; "and now,
with your permission, I will take that cup of coffee, which I suppose you
intend for your young _protegé_, up to him myself."

"And thee'll speak gently with him?"

"Oh, yes. I'll talk to him like a Dutch uncle."

Thus it happened that when the door at the end of the jail corridor was
swung heavily back on its massive hinges, and Rod Blake, who had been
gazing from one of the corridor windows, looked eagerly toward it, he was
confronted by the stern face of the sheriff instead of the placidly sweet
one of the old lady, whom he expected to see.

"What are you doing out here, sir? Get back into your cell at once!"
commanded the sheriff in an angry tone.

"Oh, sir! please don't lock me in there again. It doesn't seem as though I
could stand it," pleaded Rod.

The sheriff looked searchingly at the lad. His face was certainly a very
honest one, and to one old lady at least he had been kindly considerate.
At the thought of the ready help extended by this lad to his own
dearly-loved mother in the time of her perplexity, the harsh words that
the sheriff had meditated faded from his mind, and instead of uttering
them he said:

"Very well; I will leave your cell-door open, if you will give me your
promise not to attempt an escape."

And Rod promised.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

LIGHT DAWNS UPON THE SITUATION.


On leaving Rodman the sheriff was decidedly perplexed. His prisoner's
honest face had made a decided impression upon him, and he had great
confidence in his mother's judgment concerning such cases, though he was
careful never to admit this to her. At the same time all the circumstances
pointed so strongly to the lad's guilt that, as he reviewed them there
hardly seemed a doubt of it. It is a peculiarity of sheriffs and jailers
to regard a prisoner as guilty until he has been proved innocent.
Nevertheless this sheriff gave his mother permission to visit Rod as
often as she liked; only charging her to lock the corridor-door both upon
entering and leaving the jail. So the dear old lady again toiled up the
steep stairway, this time laden with books and papers. She found the tired
lad stretched on his hard pallet and fast asleep, so she tiptoed softly
away again without wakening him.

While the young prisoner was thus forgetting his troubles, and storing up
new strength with which to meet them, the sheriff was scouring the village
and its vicinity for traces of any stranger who might be the train robber.
But strangers were scarce in Center that day and the only one he could
hear of was the reporter who had interviewed him that morning. He had gone
directly to the telegraph office where he had sent off the despatch of
which he had spoken, to the New York paper he claimed to represent. In it
he had requested an answer to be sent to Millbank, and he had subsequently
engaged a livery team with which he declared his intention of driving to
that place.

Center, though not on the New York and Western railway, was on another
that approached the former more closely at this point than at any other.
To facilitate an exchange of freight a short connecting link had been
built by both roads between Center and Millbank. Over this no regular
trains were run, but all the transfer business was conducted by specials
controlled by operators at either end of the branch. Consequently the few
travellers between the two places waited until a train happened along or,
if they were in a hurry, engaged a team as the reporter had done.

Soon after noon the owner of Juniper, the stolen horse, accompanied by the
thick-headed young farm hand from whom the animal had been taken, appeared
at the jail in answer to the sheriff's request for his presence. These
visitors were at once taken to Rod's cell, where the young prisoner
greatly refreshed by his nap, sat reading one of the books left by the
dear old lady. His face lighted with a glad recognition at sight of
Juniper's owner, and at the same moment that gentleman exclaimed:

"Why, sheriff, this can't be the horse-thief! I know this lad. That is
I engaged him not long since to bring that very horse up here to my
brother's place where I am now visiting. You remember me, don't you,
young man?"

"Of course I do so, sir, and I am ever so glad to see some one who knew me
before all these horrid happenings. Now if you will only make that fellow
explain why he said I was the one who threatened to shoot him, and stole
Juniper from him, when he knows he never set eyes on me before I was
arrested, I shall be ever so much obliged."

"How is this, sir?" inquired the gentleman, turning sharply upon the young
farm hand behind him. "Didn't you tell me you were willing to take oath
that the lad whom you caused to be arrested and the horse-thief were one
and the same person?"

"Y-e-e-s, s-i-r," hesitated the thick head.

"Are you willing to swear to the same thing now?"

"N-n-o, your honor,--that is, not hexactly. Someway he don't look the same
now as he did then."

"Then you don't think he is the person who took the horse from you?"

"No, sir, I can't rightly say as I do now, seeing as the man with the
pistols was bigger every way than this one. If 'e 'adn't been 'e wouldn't
got the 'orse so heasy, I can tell you, sir. Besides it was so hearly that
the light was dim an' I didn't see 'is face good anyway. But when we
caught him 'e 'ad the 'orse an' the bag an' the pistols."

"When you caught who?"

"The 'orse-thief. I mean this young man."

"And you recognized him then?"

"Yes, sir, I knowed 'im by the bag, an' the 'orse."

"But you say he was a much larger man than this one."

"Oh, yes, sir! He was more 'n six foot an' as big across the shoulders as
two of 'im."

Rod could not help smiling at this, as he recalled the slight figure of
the train robber who had appropriated Juniper to his own use.

"This is evidently a badly-mixed case of mistaken identity," said the
gentleman, turning to the sheriff, "and I most certainly shall not prefer
any charge against this lad. Why, in connection with that same horse he
recently performed one of the pluckiest actions I ever heard of." Here the
speaker narrated the story of Rod's struggle with Juniper in utter
darkness and within the narrow limits of a closed box-car.

At its conclusion, the sheriff who was a great admirer of personal
bravery, extended his hand to Rod, saying: "I believe you to be the honest
lad you claim to be, and an almighty plucky one as well. As such I want to
shake hands with you. I must also state that as this gentleman refuses to
enter a complaint against you I can no longer hold you prisoner. In fact I
am somewhat doubtful whether I have done right in detaining you as long as
I have without a warrant. Still, I want you to remain with us a few hours
more, or until the arrival of certain parties for whom I have sent to come
and identify the train robber."

"Meaning me?" asked Rod, with a smile. He could afford to smile now. In
fact he was inclined to laugh and shout for joy over the favorable turn
his fortunes appeared to be taking.

"Yes, meaning you," replied the sheriff good-humoredly. "And to show how
fully persuaded I am that you are the train robber, I hereby invite you to
accompany us down-stairs in the full exercise of your freedom and become
the honored guest of my dear mother for whom you recently performed so
kindly a service. She told me of that at the time, and I am aware now,
that I have not really doubted that you were what you claimed to be, since
she recognized you as the one who then befriended her. I tell you, lad,
it always pays in one way or another, to extend a helping hand to
grandfathers and grandmothers, and to remember that we shall probably
be in need of like assistance ourselves some day."



CHAPTER XXIX.

AN ARRIVAL OF FRIENDS AND ENEMIES.


Thus it happened that although Rod had eaten his breakfast that morning
in a prison cell he ate his dinner in the pleasant dining-room of the
sheriff's house with that gentleman, the dear old lady, and Juniper's
owner, for company. It was a very happy meal, in spite of the fact that
the real train robber was still at large, and as its conversation was
mostly devoted to the recent occurrences in which Rod had been so
prominent an actor, his cheeks were kept in a steady glow by the praises
bestowed upon him.

Directly after dinner Juniper's owner took his departure and soon
afterwards a special train arrived from Millbank. It consisted of a
locomotive and a single passenger coach in which were a number of New York
and Western railroad men. They came in answer to the sheriff's request for
witnesses who might identify the train robber. Among these new arrivals
were Snyder Appleby who had been sent from New York by Superintendent Hill
to investigate the affair, Conductor Tobin who, after taking the Express
Special to the end of his run, had been ordered back to Millbank for this
purpose, his other brakeman who had hurried ahead at the first opportunity
from the station at which he had been left, the fireman of the locomotive
with which Rod had chased the robber, and several others.

As this party was ushered into the sheriff's private office its members
started with amazement at the sight of Rod Blake sitting there as calmly,
as though perfectly at home and waiting to receive them.

Upon their entrance he sprang to his feet filled with a surprise equal to
their own, for the sheriff had not told him of their coming.

"Well, sir! What are you doing here?" demanded Snyder Appleby, who was the
first to recover from his surprise, and who was filled with a sense of his
own importance in this affair.

"I am visiting my friend, the sheriff," answered Rod, at once resenting
the other's tone and air.

"Oh, you are! And may I ask by what right you, a mere brakeman in our
employ, took it upon yourself to desert your post of duty, run off
with one of our engines, endanger the traffic of the line and then
unaccountably disappear as you did last night or rather early this
morning?"

"You may ask as much as you please," answered Rod, "but I shall refuse to
answer any of your questions until I know by what authority you ask them."
The young brakeman spoke quietly, but the nature of his feelings was
betrayed by the hot flush that sprang to his cheeks.

"You'll find out before I'm through with you," cried Snyder savagely. "Mr.
Sheriff I order you to place this fellow under arrest."

"Upon what charge?" asked the sheriff. "Is he the train robber?"

"Of course not," was the reply, "but he is a thief all the same. He is one
of our brakemen and ran off with a locomotive."

"What did he do with it?" asked the sheriff, with an air of interest.

"Left it standing on the track."

"Oh, I didn't know but what he carried it off with him. Did he leave it
alone and unguarded?"

Snyder was compelled to admit that the engine had been left in charge of
its regular firemen; but still claimed that the young brakeman had
committed a crime for which he ought to be arrested.

"I suppose you want me to arrest that fireman too?" suggested the sheriff.

"Oh, no. It was his duty to accompany the engine."

"But why didn't he refuse to allow it to move?"

"He was forced to submit by threats of personal injury made by this
brakeman fellow. Isn't that so?" asked Snyder, and the fireman nodded an
assent.

The sheriff smiled as he glanced first at the burly form of the fireman
and then at Rod's comparatively slight figure. "Can any of these men
identify this alleged locomotive thief?" he asked.

"Certainly they can. Tobin, tell the sheriff what you know of him."

Blazing with indignation at the injustice and meanness of Snyder's absurd
charge against his favorite brakeman, Conductor Tobin answered promptly:
"I know him to be one of the best brakemen on the road, although he is the
youngest. He is one of the pluckiest too and as honest as he is plucky.
I'll own he might have made a mistake in going off with that engine; but
all the same it was a brave thing to do and I am certain he thought he was
on the right track."

"Do you know him too?" asked the sheriff of the other brakeman.

"Yes, sir. I am proud to say I do and in regard to what I think of him
Conductor Tobin's words exactly express my sentiments."

"Do you also know him?" was asked of the fireman.

"Yes, I know him to be the young rascal who ran me twice into such a storm
of bullets from the train robber's pistols that it's a living wonder I'm
not full of holes at this blessed minute."

"What else did he do?"

"What else? Why, he jumped from the engine while she was running a good
twenty mile an hour, and started off like the blamed young lunatic he is
to chase after the train robber afoot. Wanted me to go with him too, but I
gave him to understand I wasn't such a fool as to go hunting any more
interviews with them pistols. No, sir; I stuck where I belonged and if
he'd done the same he wouldn't be in the fix he's in now."

"And yet," said the sheriff, quietly, "this 'blamed young lunatic,' as you
call him, succeeded in overtaking that train robber after all. He also
managed to relieve him of his pistols you seem to have dreaded so greatly,
recover the valuable property that had been stolen from the express car,
and also a fine horse that the robber had just appropriated to his own
use. On the whole gentleman, I don't think I'd better arrest him, do
you?"



CHAPTER XXX.

WHERE ARE THE DIAMONDS?


"Yes, sir. I think he ought to be arrested," said Snyder Appleby in reply
to the sheriff's question, "and if you refuse to perform that duty I shall
take it upon myself to arrest him in the name of the New York and Western
Railway Company of which I am the representative here. I shall also take
him back with me to the city where he will be dealt with according to his
desserts by the proper authorities." Then turning to the members of his
own party the self-important young secretary added: "In the meantime I
order you two men to guard this fellow and see that he does not escape,
as you value your positions on the road."

"You needn't trouble yourself, Snyder, nor them either," said Rod
indignantly, "for I sha'n't require watching. I am perfectly willing to go
to New York with you, and submit my case to the proper authorities. In
fact I propose to do that at any rate. At the same time I want you to
understand that I don't do this in obedience to any orders from you, nor
will I be arrested by you."

"Oh, that's all right," replied Snyder, carelessly. "So long as we get you
there I don't care how it is done. Now, Mr. Sheriff," he continued, "we
have already wasted too much time and if you will take us to see the bold
train robber whom you say this boy captured single-handed and alone, we
will finish our business here and be off."

"I didn't say that he captured the train robber," replied the sheriff. "I
stated that he overtook him, relieved him of his pistols, and recovered
the stolen property; but I am quite certain that I said nothing regarding
the capture of the robber."

"Where is he now?" asked Snyder.

"I don't know. This lad left him lying senseless in the road, where he had
been flung by a stolen horse, and went for assistance. Being mistaken for
the person who had appropriated the horse he was brought here. In the
meantime the train robber recovered his senses and made good his escape.
That is, I suppose he did."

"Then why did you telegraph that you had the train robber in custody, and
bring us here to identify him?" demanded Snyder sharply.

"I didn't," answered the sheriff, with a provoking smile, for he was
finding great pleasure in quizzing this pompously arbitrary young man. "I
merely sent for a few persons who could identify the train robber to come
and prove that this lad was not he. This you have kindly done to my entire
satisfaction."

"What!" exclaimed Snyder. "Did you suspect Rod, I mean this brakeman, of
being the train robber?"

"I must confess that I did entertain such a suspicion, and for so doing I
humbly beg Mr. Blake's pardon," replied the sheriff.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he should prove to be connected with it, after
all, for I believe him to be fully capable of such things," sneered
Snyder.

At this cruel remark there arose such a general murmur of indignation, and
the expression of Rod's face became so ominous that the speaker hastened
to create a diversion of interest by asking the sheriff what had been done
with the valuables recovered from the robber.

"They are in my safe."

"You will please hand them over to me."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," retorted the sheriff, as he drew the
stout leather bag from its place of security. "I shall hand this bag, with
all its contents, to the brave lad who recovered it, and entrust him with
its safe delivery to those authorized to receive it."

So saying, the sheriff handed the bag to Rod.

Snyder turned pale with rage, and snatching an unsealed letter from his
pocket, he flung it on the table, exclaiming angrily: "There is my
authority for conducting this business and for receiving such of the
stolen property as may be recovered. If you fail to honor it I will have
you indicted for conspiracy."

"Indeed!" said the sheriff, contemptuously. "That would certainly be a
most interesting proceeding--for you." Then to Rod, to whom he had already
handed the bag, he said: "If you decide to deliver this property to that
young man, Mr. Blake, I would advise you to examine carefully the contents
of the bag in presence of these witnesses and demand an itemized receipt
for them."

"Thank you, I will," replied Rod, emptying the contents of the bag on the
table as he spoke.

There was a subdued exclamation from the railroad men at the sight of the
wealth thus displayed in packages of bills and rolls of coin. Rodman
requested the sheriff to call off the amount contained in each of these
while he made out the list. At the same time Snyder drew from his pocket
a similar list of the property reported to be missing from the express
messenger's safe.

When Rod's list was completed, Snyder, who had carefully checked off its
items on his own, said: "That's all right so far as it goes, but where are
the diamonds?"

"What diamonds?" asked Rod and the sheriff together.

"The set of diamond jewelry valued at seven thousand five hundred dollars,
in a morocco case, that has been missing ever since the robbery of the
express car," was the answer.

"I know nothing of it," said Rod.

"This is the first I have heard of any diamonds," remarked the sheriff.

[Illustration: THE SHERIFF HANDS ROD THE LEATHER BAG.--(_Page 201._)]

"Has the bag been out of your possession since the arrest of
this--person?" asked Snyder, hesitating for a word that should express his
feelings toward the lad who had once beaten him in a race, but who was now
so completely in his power.

"No, sir, it has not," promptly replied the sheriff.

"You have opened it before this, of course?"

"Yes, I glanced at its contents when it was first placed in my keeping,
but made no examination of them, as I should have done had not other
important matters claimed my attention."

"How long was the bag in your possession?" asked Snyder, turning to Rod.

"About half an hour, but----"

"Was any one with you during that half hour?" interrupted the questioner.

"No; but as I was going to say----"

"That is sufficient. I don't care to hear what you were going to say.
Others may listen to that if they choose when the proper time comes. What
I have to say regarding this business is, that in view of this new
development I am more than ever desirous of delivering you into the hands
of the proper authorities in New York. I would also suggest that your
short and brilliant career as a railroader has come to a disgraceful end
more quickly than even I suspected it would."

"Do you mean to say that you think I stole those diamonds?" demanded Rod,
hotly.

"Oh, no," answered Snyder. "I don't say anything about it. The
circumstances of the case speak so plainly for themselves that my
testimony would be superfluous. Now, Mr. Sheriff, as our business here
seems to be concluded, I think we will bid you good-by and be moving
along."

"You needn't bid me good-by yet," responded the sheriff, "for I have
decided to go with you."

"I doubt if I shall be able to find room for you in my special car," said
Snyder, who for several reasons was not desirous of the sheriff's company.

"Very well. Then you will be obliged to dispense with Mr. Blake's company
also, for in view of the recent developments in this case I feel that I
ought not to lose sight of him just yet."



CHAPTER XXXI.

ONE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR!


The sheriff's concluding argument at once prevailed. Snyder was so eager
to witness his rival's humiliation and to hear the Superintendent
pronounce his sentence of dismissal from the company's employ, that he
would have sacrificed much of his own dignity rather than forego that
triumph. As matters now stood he could not see how Rod, even though he
should not be convicted of stealing the missing diamonds, could clear
himself from the suspicion of having done so.

Neither could poor Rod see how it was to be accomplished. For mile after
mile of that long ride back toward New York he sat in silence, puzzling
over the situation. In spite of the attempts of the sheriff and Conductor
Tobin to cheer him up, he grew more and more despondent at the prospect of
having to go through life as one who is suspected. It was even worse than
being locked into a prison cell, for he had known that could not last
long, while this new trouble seemed interminable.

The lad's sorrowful reflections were interrupted by an ejaculation from
the sheriff who sat beside him. On that gentleman's knee lay an open
watch, at which he had been staring intently and in silence for some time.
He had also done some figuring on a pad of paper. Finally he uttered a
prolonged "Wh-e-w!"

Both Rod and Conductor Tobin looked at him inquiringly.

"Do you know," he said, "that we have just covered a mile in forty-two
seconds, and that we are travelling at the rate of eighty-five miles an
hour?"

"I shouldn't be surprised," replied Conductor Tobin, quietly; "I heard Mr.
Appleby tell the engineman at the last stop that if better time wasn't
made pretty soon he'd go into the cab himself and show 'em how to do it.
The idea of his talking that way to an old driver like Newman. Why, I
don't believe he knows the difference between a throttle and an injector.
A pretty figure he'd cut in a cab! Newman didn't answer him a word, only
gave him a queer kind of a look. Now he's hitting her up for all she's
worth, though, and, judging from appearances, Mr. Appleby wishes he'd held
his tongue."

Snyder certainly was very pale, and was clutching the arms of his seat as
though to keep himself from being flung to the floor during the frightful
lurchings of the car as it spun around curves.

"But isn't it middling dangerous to run so fast?" asked the sheriff, as
the terrific speed seemed to increase.

"Not so very," answered the Conductor. "I don't consider that there is any
more danger at a high rate of speed than there is at forty or fifty miles
an hour! If we were to strike a man, a cow, a wagon, or even a pile of
ties while going at this rate we'd fling the obstacle to one side like a
straw and pay no more attention to it. If we were only doing fifteen or
twenty miles though, instead of between eighty and ninety, any one of
these things would be apt to throw us off the track. I tell you,
gentleman, old man Newman is making things hum though! You see he has got
number 385, one of the new compound engines. He claims that she can do one
hundred miles an hour just as well as not, and that he is the man to get
it out of her. He says he can stand it if she can. He made her do a mile
in 39-1/4 seconds on her trial trip, and claims that about a month ago
when he was hauling the grease wagon[1] she did 4-1/10 miles in 2-1/2
minutes, which is at the rate of 98.4 miles an hour.[2] His fireman backs
him up, and says he held the stop-watch between stations. The paymaster
was so nearly scared to death that time that Newman was warned never to
try for his hundred-mile record again without special orders. Now I
suppose he considers that he has received them and is making the most of
his chance."

  [1] Pay-car.

  [2] This time has actually been made by an American locomotive on an
  American railroad.--K. M.

"It's awful!" gasped Snyder, who had drawn near enough to the group to
overhear the last of Conductor Tobin's remarks. "The man must be crazy.
Isn't there some way of making him slow down?"

"Not if he is crazy, as you suggest, sir," replied Conductor Tobin, with a
sly twinkle in his eyes. "It would only make matters worse to interfere
with him now, and all we can do is to hope for the best."

"It's glorious!" shouted Rod, forgetting all his troubles in the
exhilaration of this wild ride. "It's glorious! And I only hope he'll
make it. Do you really think a hundred miles an hour is within the
possibilities, Mr. Tobin?"

"Certainly I do," answered the Conductor. "It not only can be done, but
will be, very soon. I haven't any doubt but what by the time the Columbian
Exposition opens we shall have regular passenger trains running at that
rate over some stretches of our best roads, such as the Pennsylvania, the
Reading, the New York Central and this one. Moreover, when electricity
comes into general use as a motive power I shall expect to travel at a
greater speed even than that. Why, they are building an electric road now
on an air line between Chicago and St. Louis, on which they expect to make
a hundred miles an hour as a regular thing."

"I hope I shall have a chance to travel on it," said Rod.

"I have heard of another road," continued Conductor Tobin, "now being
built somewhere in Europe, Austria I believe, over which they propose to
run trains at the rate of one hundred and twenty-five miles an hour."

Here the conversation was interrupted by Snyder Appleby, who, in a frenzy
of terror that he could no longer control, shouted "Stop him! Stop him! I
order you to stop him at once!"

"All right, sir, I'll try," answered Conductor Tobin, with a scornful
smile on his face. Just as he lifted his hand to the bell-cord there came
a shriek from the locomotive whistle. It was instantly followed by such a
powerful application of brakes that the car in which our friends were
seated quivered in every joint and seemed as though about to be wrenched
in pieces.

As the special finally came to a halt, and its occupants rushed out to
discover the cause of its violent stoppage, they found the hissing
monster, that had drawn them with such fearful velocity, standing
trembling and panting within a few feet of one of the most complete and
terrible wrecks any of them had ever seen.



CHAPTER XXXII.

SNATCHING VICTORY FROM DEFEAT.


The wreck by which the terrific speed of the special had been so suddenly
checked was one of those that may happen at any time even on the best and
most carefully-managed of railroads. The through freight, of which
ex-Brakeman Joe was now conductor, had made its run safely and without
incident to a point within twenty miles of New York. It was jogging along
at its usual rate of speed when suddenly and without the slightest warning
an axle under a "foreign" car, near the rear of the train, snapped in two.
In an instant the car leaped from the rails and across the west-bound
tracks, dragging the rear end of the freight, including the caboose, after
it. Before the dazed train-hands could realize what was happening, the
heavy locomotive of a west-bound freight that was passing the east-bound
train at that moment crashed into the wreck. It struck a tank-car filled
with oil. Like a flash of lightning a vast column of fire shot high in the
air and billows of flame were roaring in every direction. These leaped
from one to another of the derailed cars, until a dozen belonging to both
trains, as well as the west-bound locomotive, were enveloped in their
cruel embrace.

Conductor Joe escaped somehow, but he was bruised, shaken, and stunned
by the suddenness and awfulness of the catastrophe. In spite of his
bewilderment, however, his years of training as a brakeman were not
forgotten. Casting but a single glance at the blazing wreck, he turned and
ran back along the east-bound track. He was no coward running away from
duty and responsibility, though almost any one who saw him just then might
have deemed him one. No, indeed! He was doing what none but a faithful
and experienced railroad man would have thought of doing under the
circumstances; doing his best to avert further calamity by warning
approaching trains from the west of the danger before them. He ran half a
mile and then placed the torpedoes, which, with a brakeman's instinct, he
still carried in his pocket.

_Bang-bang!_ BANG! Engineman Newman, driving locomotive number 385 at
nearer one hundred miles an hour than it had ever gone before, heard the
sharp reports above the rattling roar of his train, and realized their
dread significance. It was a close call, and only cool-headed promptness
could have checked the tremendous speed of that on-rushing train in the
few seconds allowed for the purpose. As it was, 385's paint was blistering
in the intense heat from the oil flames as it came to a halt and then
slowly backed to a place of safety.

Conductor Joe had already returned to the scene of the wreck and was
sending out other men with torpedoes and flags in both directions. Then he
joined the brave fellows who were fighting for the lives of those still
imprisoned in the wrecked caboose. Among these were Rod Blake, Conductor
Tobin, and the sheriff. Snyder Appleby had turned sick at the heartrending
sights and sounds to be seen and heard on all sides, and had gone back to
his car to escape them. He did not believe a soul could be saved, and he
had not the nerve to listen to the pitiful cries of those whom he
considered doomed to a certain destruction.

In thus accepting defeat without a struggle, Snyder exhibited the worst
form of cowardice, and if the world were made up of such as he, there
would be no victories to record. But it is not. It not only contains those
who will fight against overwhelming odds, but others who never know that
they are beaten, and where indomitable wills often snatch victory from
what appears to be defeat. General Grant was one of these, and Rod Blake
was made of the same stuff.

Again and again he and those with him plunged into the stifling smoke to
battle with the fierce flames in their stronghold. They smothered them
with clods of earth and buckets of sand. They cut away the blazing
woodwork with keen-edged wrecking axes torn from their racks in the
uninjured caboose and in Snyder Appleby's special car. One by one they
released and dragged out the victims, of whom the fire had been so
certain, until none was left, and a splendid victory had been snatched
from what had promised to be a certain defeat.

[Illustration: IN THE RAILROAD WRECK.--(_Page 215._)]

There was a farm-house not far away, to which the victims of the disaster
were tenderly borne. Here, too, came their rescuers, scorched,
blackened, and exhausted; but forgetful of their own plight in their
desire to further relieve the sufferings of those for whom they had done
such brave battle. In one of the wounded men Rod Blake was especially
interested, for the young brakeman had fought on with a stubborn
determination to save him after the others had declared it to be
impossible. The man had been a passenger in the caboose of the through
freight, and was so crushed and held by the shattered timbers of the car
that, though the rescuing party reached his side, they were unable to drag
him out. A burst of flame drove them back and forced them to rush into the
open air to save their own lives. Above the roar of the fire they could
distinguish his piteous cries, and this was more than Rod could stand.
With a wet cloth over his mouth and axe in hand he dashed back into the
furnace. He was gone before the others knew what he was about to attempt,
and now they listened with bated breath to the sound of rapid blows coming
from behind the impenetrable veil of swirling smoke. As it eddied upward
and was lifted for an instant they caught sight of him, and rushing to the
spot, they dragged him out, with his arms tightly clasped about the
helpless form he had succeeded in releasing from its fiery prison.

At that moment the young brakeman presented a sorry picture, blackened
beyond recognition by his dearest friends, scorched, and with clothing
hanging in charred shreds. By some miracle he was so far uninjured that a
few dashes of cold water gave him strength to walk, supported by Conductor
Tobin, to the farm-house, whither the others bore the unconscious man
whom he had saved. The lad wished to help minister to the needs of the
sufferer, but those who had cheered his act of successful bravery now
insisted upon his taking absolute rest. So they made him lie down in a
dimly-lighted room, where the sheriff sat beside him, and, big rough man
that he was, soothed the exhausted lad with such tender gentleness, that
after awhile the latter fell asleep. When this happened and the sheriff
stole quietly out to where the others were assembled, he said
emphatically:

"Gentlemen, I am prouder to know that young fellow than I would be of the
friendship of a president."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A WRECKING TRAIN.


While Rod lay in a dreamless sleep, which is the best and safest of
remedies for every ill, mental or physical, that human flesh is heir to, a
wrecking train arrived from New York. With it came a doctor, who was at
once taken to the farm-house. He first looked at the sleeping lad, but
would not allow him to be wakened, then he turned his attention to the
victims of the disaster, whose poor maimed bodies were so sadly in need of
his soothing skill.

During the long hours of the night, while the doctor was busy with his
human wrecks, the gang of experienced workmen who had come by the same
train, was rapidly clearing the wreck of cars from the tracks and putting
them in order for a speedy resumption of traffic. The wrecking train to
which they belonged was made up of a powerful locomotive and three cars.
The first of these was an immensely strong and solid flat, supporting a
small derrick, which was at the same time so powerful as to be capable of
lifting enormous weights. Besides the derrick and its belongings the flat
carried only a few spare car trucks.

Next to it came a box-car, filled with timber ends for blocking, hawsers,
chains, ropes, huge single-, double-, and treble-blocks, iron clamps, rods
and bolts, frogs, sections of rail, heavy tarpaulins for the protection of
valuable freight, and a multitude of other like supplies, all so neatly
arranged as to be instantly available.

Last, and most interesting of all, came the tool-car, which was divided
by partitions into three rooms. Of these, the main one was used by the
members of the wrecking gang as a living-room, and was provided with
bunks, a cooking-stove and utensils, and a pantry, well stocked with
flour, coffee, tea, and canned provisions. The smaller of the two end
rooms contained a desk, table, chairs, stationery and electrical supplies.
It was used by the foreman of the wrecking gang, as an office in which to
write his reports, and by the telegraph operator, who always accompanies
a train of this description. This operator's first duty is to connect an
instrument in his movable office with the railroad wire, which is one of
the many strung on poles beside the track. From the temporary station thus
established he is in constant communication with headquarters, to which he
sends all possible information concerning the wreck, and from which he
receives orders.

In the tool-room at the other end of this car was kept everything that
experience could suggest or ingenuity devise for handling and removing
wrecked cars, freight, or locomotives. Along the sides were ranged a score
or so of jack-screws, some of them powerful enough to lift a twenty-ton
weight, though worked by but one man. There were also wrenches, axes,
saws, hammers of all sizes, crowbars, torches, lanterns, drills, chisels,
files, and, in fact, every conceivable tool that might be of use in an
emergency.

In less than three hours after the arrival of the wrecking train at the
scene of the accident on the New York and Western road, the disabled
locomotive, which had lain on its side in the ditch, had been picked up
and replaced on the track. Such of the derailed cars as were not burned
or crushed beyond hope of repair had also been restored to their original
positions, scattered freight had been gathered up and reloaded, all
inflammable _débris_ was being burned in a great heap at one side, the
tracks were repaired, and so little remained to tell of the disaster, that
passengers by the next day's trains looked in vain for its traces.

The first train to go through after the accident was Snyder Appleby's
special. The private secretary had visited the farm-house to insist that
Rod Blake should accompany him to New York; but he was met at the door by
the watchful sheriff, who sternly refused to allow his sleeping charge to
be awakened or in any way disturbed.

"You needn't worry yourself about him," said the sheriff. "He'll come
to New York fast enough, and I'll come with him. We'll hunt the
Superintendent's office as quick as we get there, and maybe you won't be
so glad to see us as you think you will. That's the best I can promise
you, for that young fellow isn't going to be disturbed before he gets good
and ready to wake up of his own accord. Not if I can help it, and I rather
think I can."

"Oh, well," replied Snyder, who in the seclusion of his car had heard
nothing of Rod's brave fight. "If he is such a tender plant that his sleep
can't be interrupted, I suppose I shall have to go on without him, for my
time is too valuable to be wasted in waiting here any longer. But I warn
you, sir, that if you don't produce the young man in our office at an
early hour to-morrow morning the company will hold you personally
responsible for the loss of those diamonds."

So saying, and ordering Conductor Tobin with the other witnesses to
accompany him, the self-important young secretary took his departure,
filled with anger against Rod Blake, the sheriff who had constituted
himself the lad's champion, the wreck by which he had been delayed, and
pretty nearly everything else that happened to cross his mind at that
moment.

As for Rod, he slept so peacefully and soundly until long after sunrise,
that when he awoke and gazed inquiringly about him, he was but little the
worse for his thrilling experiences of the previous night. His first
question after collecting his scattered thoughts was concerning the
welfare of the man for whom he had risked so much a few hours before.

"The poor fellow died soon after midnight," replied the sheriff. "He did
not suffer, for he was unconscious to the last, but in spite of that he
left you a legacy, which I believe you will consider an ample reward for
your brave struggle to save him. At any rate, I know it is one that you
will value as long as you live."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

ROD ACCEPTS THE LEGACY.


"I sha'n't accept it," declared Rod. "I couldn't take a reward for trying
to save a man's life. You couldn't yourself, sir. You know that all the
money in the world wouldn't have tempted you into those flames, while you
were ready enough to go on the simple chance of saving a human being from
an awful death. I'm sure you must feel that way, and so you know just how
I feel about it. I only wish he could have known it too, and known how
willingly we tried to save him. If he only had, he wouldn't have thought
of offering us a reward. Did you find out who he was?"

"Yes, I found out," answered the sheriff, with a queer little smile. "I
found out, too, that he was some one whom you knew quite well and were
deeply interested in."

"Some one I knew!" cried Rod, in surprise, at the same time taking a
rapid mental note of all his railroad friends who might have been
connected with the accident. "Who was he? Was he a railroad man?"

"No, he was not a railroad man, and I can't tell you his name, but if you
feel strong enough, I should like to have you come and take a look at
him."

"Of course I do," replied Rod whose curiosity was now fully aroused. "I
feel almost as well as ever I did, excepting a little shaky, and with a
smart here and there in the burned places."

As the two entered an adjoining room, Rod's attention was instantly
attracted by the motionless form, covered with a sheet, that lay on a bed.
Several persons were engaged in a low-voiced conversation at one end of
the room; but at first the lad did not notice them. He was too anxious to
discover which of all his friends lay there so silently, to heed aught
else just then.

As he and the sheriff stepped to the side of the bed, the latter gently
withdrew the covering and disclosed a peaceful face, from which every
trace of grime and smoke had been tenderly removed.

Rod instantly recognized it. It was the same that he had last seen only
the morning before lying by the forest roadside more than a hundred miles
away. In a tone of awed amazement he exclaimed, "the train robber!"

"I think that settles it, gentlemen," said the sheriff quietly, and
turning to the other occupants of the room who had gathered close behind
Rod. "We thought it must be the train robber," he continued, addressing
the latter "because we found the missing diamonds in a breast pocket of
his coat; but we wanted your evidence to establish the fact. I have also
recognized him as the alleged reporter who interviewed me yesterday
morning, and who was accidentally left alone for a minute with the leather
bag in my office. The moment I discovered that the diamonds were missing I
suspected that he must have taken them, but thought it best to keep my
suspicions to myself until I could trace him. I learned that a man
answering his description had boarded the east-bound freight somewhere
this side of Millbank and telegraphed Conductor Joe Miller to keep him in
sight. By making use of Mr. Appleby's special I hoped to overtake and pass
him before he reached New York. I thus expected to be on hand to welcome
and arrest him at his journey's end, and by so doing relieve you of all
suspicion of being anything but the honest plucky lad you have proved
yourself. At the same time I looked forward to taking some of the conceit
out of that young sprig of a secretary. That all my calculations were not
upset by last night's accident was largely owing to you, for I must
confess that, but for the shame of being outdone in bravery by a mere slip
of a boy, I should have given up the fight to save this man long before
the victory was won. Of course the evidence of his crime would have
vanished with him, and we should never have known for a certainty what had
become of the train robber or the diamonds. Some persons might even have
continued to suspect you of being connected with their disappearance,
while now your record is one that any man may well envy. Was I not right
then, in saying that this poor fellow had left you a reward for your
bravery that you will value so long as you live?"

"Indeed you were," answered Rod, in a low tone, "and it is a legacy that I
can most gratefully accept, I wish he might have lived, though. It is
terrible to think that by following him as I did I drove him to his
death."

"You must not think of it in that way," said one of the other witnesses of
the scene, taking the lad's hand as he spoke, and at the same time
disclosing the well-known features of Mr. Hill, the Superintendent, "You
must only remember that you have done your duty faithfully and splendidly.
Although I should not have approved the course you took at the outset, the
results fully justify all that you have done, and I am very proud to
number you among the employees of our company. You have certainly
graduated with honors from the ranks of brakemen, and have fairly won your
promotion to any position that you feel competent to fill. It only rests
with you to say what it shall be."

"If the young man would accept a position with us," interrupted another
gentleman, whom Rod knew to be a superintendent of the Express Company,
"we should be only too happy to offer him one, that carries with it a
handsome salary and the promise of speedy promotion."

"No, indeed! You can't have him!" exclaimed Mr. Hill. "A railroad company
is said to be a soulless corporation, but it has at least soul enough to
appreciate and desire to retain such services as this lad has shown
himself capable of rendering. He has chosen to be a railroad man, and I
don't believe he is ready to switch off on any other line just yet. How is
it, Blake? Have you had enough of railroading?"

"No, sir," replied Rod, earnestly. "I certainly have not. I have only had
enough of it to make me desirous of continuing in it, and if you think I
could make a good enough fireman, I should be very glad to take Milt
Sturgis' place on number 10, and learn to run a locomotive engine under
Mr. Stump."

"A fireman!" exclaimed Mr. Hill, in surprise. "Is that the height of your
ambition?"

"I think it is at present, sir," replied Rod, modestly.

"But I thought you knew how to run an engine. It looked that way yesterday
morning when you started off with the one belonging to the express
special."

"I thought I did too, sir; but by that very trial I found that I knew just
nothing at all about it. I do want to learn though, and if you haven't
anyone else in view----"

"Of course you shall have the place if you want it," interrupted Mr. Hill.
"Stump has already applied for you, and you should have had it even if all
the events of yesterday had not happened. I must tell you though, that Joe
Miller wants to resign his conductorship of the through freight to accept
a position on a private car belonging to a young millionaire oil prince,
and I was thinking of offering you his place."

"Thank you ever so much, sir; but if you don't mind, I would rather run on
number 10."

"Very well," replied the Superintendent, "you have earned the right to do
as you think best. Now, as the track is again clear, we will all go back
to the city in the wrecking train, which is ready to start."

When Mr. Hill entered his office an hour later his secretary handed him a
report of his investigations in the matter of the express robbery. This
report cast grave suspicions upon Rod Blake as having been connected with
the affair, and advised his arrest. Snyder had spent some hours in
preparing this document, and now awaited with entire self complaisance the
praise which he was certain would reward his efforts. What then was his
amazement when his superior, after glancing through the report,
deliberately tore it into fragments, which he dropped into a waste-basket.
At the same time he said:

"I am pleased to be able to inform you, Mr. Appleby, that the property you
describe as missing has been recovered through the agency of this very
Rodman Blake. I must also warn you that the company has no employee of
whose integrity and faithfulness in the performance of duty they are more
assured than they are of his. As you have evidently failed to discover
this in your dealings with Mr. Blake, and as you have blundered through
this investigation from first to last, I shall hereafter have no use for
your services outside of routine office work." Thus saying, Mr. Hill
closed the door of his private office behind him, leaving Snyder
overwhelmed with bewilderment and indignation.



CHAPTER XXXV.

FIRING ON NUMBER 10.


In regard to Rod Blake's new appointment, nothing more was said that day;
but, sure enough, he received an order the following morning to report to
the master mechanic for duty as fireman on engine number 10.

Proud enough of his promotion, the lad promptly obeyed the order; and when
that same evening he climbed into the cab of number 10, as the huge
machine with a full head of steam on stood ready to start out with Freight
Number 73, he felt that one of his chief ambitions was in a fair way of
being realized. He tried to thank Truman Stump for getting him the job;
but the old engineman only answered "Nonsense, you won the place for
yourself, and I'm glad enough to have such a chap as you. The only trouble
is that you'll learn too quick, and be given an engine of your own, just
as you are getting the hang of my ways. I won't teach you anything
though, except how to fire properly, so you needn't expect it."

That is what he said. What he did was to take every opportunity for
showing the young fireman the different parts of the wonderful machine on
which they rode, and of explaining them to him in the clearest possible
manner. He encouraged him to ask questions, often allowed him to handle
the throttle for short distances, and evidently took the greatest pride in
the rapid progress made by his pupil.

Since first obtaining employment on the railroad, Rod had, according to
his promise, written several times to his faithful friend Dan the stable
boy on his uncle's place with requests that he would keep him informed of
all that took place in the village. Dan sent his answers through the
station agent at Euston, and Rod had only been a fireman a few days when
he received a note which read as follows:

     "DEAR MR. ROD:

     "They is a man here, who I don't know, but who is asking all about
     you. He asked me many questions, and has talk with your uncle. He
     may mean good or he may mean bad, I don't know which. If I find out
     ennything more I will let you know.           Yours respectful,

                                                                  "DAN."

Rod puzzled over this note a good deal, and wondered who on earth could be
making inquiries about him. If he had known that it was Brown the railroad
detective, he would have wondered still more. He finally decided that, as
he was not conscious of having done anything wrong, he had no cause for
worry. So he dismissed the affair, and devoted his whole attention to
learning to be a fireman.

Most people imagine it to be a very simple matter to shovel coal into a
locomotive furnace, and so it is; but this is only a small part of a
fireman's responsibility. He must know when to begin shovelling coal, and
when to stop; when to open the blower and when to shut it off; when to
keep the furnace door closed, and when to open it; how to regulate the
dampers; when and how to admit water to the boiler; when to pour oil into
the lubricating cups of the cylinder valves and a dozen other places; when
to ring the bell, and when and how to do a multitude of other things,
every one of which is important. He must keep a constant watch of the
steam-gauge, and see that its pointer does not fall below a certain mark.
The water-gauge also comes in for a share of his attention. Above all, he
must learn, as quickly as possible, how to start, stop, and reverse the
engine, and how to apply, or throw off the air brakes, so that he can
readily do any of these things in an emergency, if his engineman happens
to be absent.

In acquiring all this information, and at the same time attending to his
back-breaking work of shovelling coal, Rod found himself so fully and
happily occupied that he could spare but few thoughts to the stranger who
was inquiring about him in Euston. After a few days of life in the cab of
locomotive number 10, he became so accustomed to dashing through tunnels
amid a blackness so intense that he could not see a foot beyond the cab
windows, to whirling around sharp curves, to rattling over slender
trestles a hundred feet or more up in the air, and to rushing with
undiminished speed through the darkness of storm-swept nights, when the
head-lights seemed of little more value than a tallow candle, that he
ceased to think of the innumerable dangers connected with his position as
completely as though they had not existed.

There came a day, however, when they were recalled to his mind in a
startling manner. It was late in the fall, and for a week there had been
a steady down-pour of rain that filled the streams to overflowing, and
soaked the earth until it seemed like a vast sponge. It made busy work for
the section gangs, who had their hands more than full with landslides,
undermined culverts, and overflowing ditches, and it caused enginemen
to strain their eyes along the lines of wet track, with an unusual
carefulness. At length the week of rain ended with a storm of terrific
violence, accompanied by crashing thunder and vivid lightnings. While this
storm was at its height, locomotive number 10, drawing a heavy freight,
pulled in on the siding of a station to wait for the passing of a
passenger special, and a regular express.

Truman Stump sat on his side of the cab, calmly smoking a short, black
pipe; and his fireman stood at the other side, looking out at the storm as
the special, consisting of a locomotive and two cars, rushed by without
stopping. As it was passing, a ball of fire, accompanied by a rending
crash of thunder, illumined the whole scene with an awful, blinding glare.
For an instant Rod saw a white face pressed against one of the rear
windows of the flying train. He was almost certain that it was the face of
Eltje Vanderveer.

A moment later the telegraph operator of that station came running toward
them, bareheaded, and coatless, through the pitiless rain. The head-light
showed his face to be bloodless and horror-stricken.

"Cut loose from the train, Rod!" he cried in a voice husky and choked
with a terrible dread. "True, word was just coming over the wire that the
centre pier of Minkskill bridge had gone out from under the track, and for
me to stop all trains, when that last bolt struck the line, and cut me
off. If you can't catch that special there's no hope for it. It's the only
thing left to try."

Without waiting to hear all this Rod had instantly obeyed the first order,
sprung to the rear of the tender, drawn the coupling-pin, and was back in
the cab in less time than it takes to write of it. Truman Stump did not
utter a word; but, before the operator finished speaking, number 10 was in
motion. He had barely time to leap to the ground as she gathered headway
and began to spring forward on the wildest race for life or death ever run
on the New York and Western road.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE ONLY CHANCE OF SAVING THE SPECIAL.


So well did Truman Stump and his young fireman understand each other,
that, as locomotive number 10 sprang away on her race after the special,
there was no necessity for words between them. Only after Rod had done
everything in his power to ensure a full head of steam and paused for a
moment's breathing-spell, did he step up behind the engineman and ask,
"What is it, True?"

"Minkskill bridge gone! We are trying to catch the special," answered
the driver, briefly, without turning his head. It was enough; and Rod
instantly comprehended the situation. There was a choking sensation in his
throat, as he remembered the face disclosed by the lightning a few moments
before, and realized the awful danger that now threatened the sunny-haired
girl who had been his playmate, and was still his friend. With a
desperate energy he flung open the furnace-door, and toiled to feed the
roaring flames behind it. They almost licked his face in their mad
leapings, as their scorching breath mingled with his. He was bathed in
perspiration; and, when the front windows of the cab were forced open by
the fierce pressure of the gale, he welcomed the cold blast and hissing
rain that swept through it.

Number 10 had now attained a fearful speed, and rocked so violently from
side to side that its occupants were obliged to brace themselves and cling
to the solid framework. It was a miracle that she kept the track. At each
curve, and there were many of them on this section, Rod held his breath,
fully expecting the mighty mass of iron to leap from the rails and plunge
headlong into the yawning blackness. But she clung to them, and the steady
hand at the throttle opened it wider, and still a little wider, until the
handle had passed any limit that even the old engineman had ever seen.
Still the young fireman, with set teeth and nerves like steel, watched the
dial on the steam-gauge, and flung coal to the raging flames behind the
glowing furnace-door.

Mile after mile was passed in half the same number of minutes, and outside
objects were whirled backward in one continuous, undistinguishable blur.
The limb of a tree, flung to the track by the mighty wind, was caught up
by the pilot and dashed against the head-light, instantly extinguishing
it. So they rushed blindly on, through a blackness intensified by gleams
of electric light, that every now and then ran like fiery serpents along
the rails, or bathed the flying engine with its pallid flames.

They were not more than two miles from the deadly bridge when they first
saw the red lights on the rear of the special. The engineman's hand
clutched the whistle lever; and, high above the shriek of the storm,
sounded the quick, sharp blasts of the danger signal. A moment later they
swept past a glare of red fire blazing beside the track. The enginemen of
the special had not understood their signal, and had thrown out a fusee to
warn them of his presence immediately in front of them.

"I'll have to set you aboard, Rod," shouted Truman Stump, and the young
fireman knew what he meant. He did not answer; but crawling through the
broken window and along the reeling foot-board, using his strength and
agility as he had never used them before, the boy made his way to the
pilot of the locomotive. Crouching there, and clinging to its slippery
braces, he made ready for the desperate spring that should save or lose
everything.

Foot by foot, in reality very quickly, but seemingly at a laggard pace, he
was borne closer and closer to the red lights, until they shone full in
his face. Then, with all his energies concentrated into one mighty effort,
he launched himself forward, and caught, with outstretched hands, the iron
railing of the platform on which were the lights. Drawing himself up on
it, he dashed into the astonished group standing in the glass-surrounded
observation-room, that occupied the rear of the car, crying:

"Stop the train! Stop it for your lives!"

[Illustration: "HE LAUNCHED HIMSELF FORWARD."--(_Page 240._)]

Prompt obedience to orders, without pausing to question them, comes so
naturally to a railroad man, that President Vanderveer himself now obeyed
this grimy-faced young fireman as readily as though their positions had
been reversed. With a quick movement he touched a button at one side of
the car, and instantly a clear-voiced electric bell, in the cab of the
locomotive that was dragging his train toward destruction, rang out an
imperative call for brakes. The engineman's right hand sought the little
brass "air" lever as he heard the sound. With his left he shut off steam.
Ten seconds later the special stood motionless, with its pilot pointing
out over the Minkskill bridge.

President Vanderveer had not recognized the panting, coal-begrimed,
oil-stained young fireman who had so mysteriously boarded his car while it
was running at full speed; but Eltje knew his voice. Now, as her father
turned from the electric button to demand an explanation, he saw the girl
seize the stranger's hand. "It's Rod, father! It's Rodman Blake!" she
cried.

"So it is!" exclaimed the President, grasping the lad's other hand, and
scanning him closely. "But what is the matter, Rodman? How came you here?
Why have you stopped us, and what is the meaning of this disguise?"

A few words served to explain the situation.

Then the President, with Rod and the conductor of the special, left the
car, lanterns in hand, to go ahead and discover how far they were from
the treacherous bridge. As they reached the ground they were joined by
Truman Stump, who had slowed the terrific speed of his locomotive at
the moment of his fireman's leap from its pilot, and brought it to a
standstill close behind the special. In a voice trembling with emotion
the old engineman said:

"It was the finest thing I've seen done in thirty years of running, Rod,
and I thank God for your nerve."

A minute later, when President Vanderveer realized the full extent of the
threatened danger, and the narrowness of their escape, he again held the
young fireman's hand, as he said:

"And I thank God, Rodman, not only for your nerve, but that he permitted
you to be on time. A few seconds later and our run on this line would have
been ended forever."

After a short consultation it was decided that the special should remain
where it was, while locomotive number 10 should run back to the station,
where its train still waited, bearing a message to be telegraphed to the
nearest gang of bridge carpenters.

How different was that backward ride from the mad, breathless race, with
all its dreadful uncertainties, that Truman Stump and Rod Blake had just
made over the same track. How silent they had been then, and how they
talked now. How cheerily their whistle sounded as they approached the
station! How lustily Rod pulled at the bell-rope, that the glad tidings
of number 10's glorious run might the sooner be guessed by the anxious
watchers, who awaited their coming. What an eager throng gathered round
the old locomotive as it rolled proudly up to the station. It almost
seemed conscious of having performed a splendid deed. Long afterwards, in
cab and caboose, or wherever the men of the N. Y. and W. road gathered,
all fast time was compared with the great run made by number 10 on that
memorable night.

The storm had passed and the moon was shining when the station was
reached. Already men were at work repairing the telegraph line, and an
hour later a bridge gang, with a train of timber-laden flats, was on its
way to the Minkskill bridge. Number 10 drew this train, and Rod was
delighted to have this opportunity to learn something of bridge building.
He was glad, too, to escape from the praises of the railroad men; for
Truman Stump insisted on telling the story of his young fireman's brave
deed to each new crew as it reached the station, and they were equally
determined to make a hero of him.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

INDEPENDENCE OR PRIDE


Smiler, the railroad dog, appeared on the scene with the bridge gang,
though no one knew where he came from; and, quickly discovering Rod, he
followed him into the cab of locomotive number 10. Here he took possession
of the cushion on the fireman's side of the cab, and sat on it with a wise
expression on his honest face, that said as plainly as words: "This is an
important bit of work, and it is clearly my duty to superintend it." Rod
was delighted to have this opportunity of introducing the dear dog to
Eltje, and they became friends immediately. As for the President, Smiler
not only condescended to recognize him, but treated him with quite as much
cordiality as though he had been a fireman or a brakeman on a through
freight.

Rod got a few hours' sleep that night after all, and in the morning he and
Engineman Stump accepted an invitation to take breakfast with President
Vanderveer, his daughter, and Smiler, in the President's private car. This
car had just returned from the extended western trip on which it had
started two months before, when Rod was seeking employment on the road. As
neither Eltje nor her father had heard a word concerning him in all that
time, they now plied him with questions. When he finished his story Eltje
exclaimed:

"I think it is perfectly splendid, Rod, and if I were only a boy I would
do just as you have done! Wouldn't you, papa?"

"I am not quite sure that I would, my dear," answered her father, with a
smile. "While I heartily approve of a boy who wishes to become a railroad
man, beginning at the very bottom of the ladder and working his way up, I
cannot approve of his leaving his home with the slightest suspicion of a
stain resting on his honor if he can possibly help it. Don't you think,
Rodman," he added kindly, turning to the lad, "that the more manly course
would have been to have stayed in Euston until you had solved the problem
of who really did disable your cousin's bicycle?"

"I don't know but what it would," replied the young man, thoughtfully;
"but it would have been an awfully hard thing to do."

"Yes, I know it would. It would have been much harder than going hungry or
fighting tramps or capturing express robbers; still it seems to me that it
would have been more honorable."

"But Uncle turned me out of the house."

"Did he order you to leave that very night, or did he ask you to make
arrangements to do so at some future time, and promise to provide for you
when you did go?"

"I believe he did say something of that kind," replied Rod, hesitatingly.

"Do you believe he would have said even that the next morning!"

"Perhaps not, sir."

"You know he wouldn't, Rodman. You know, as well as I do, that Major
Appleby says a great many things on the impulse of the moment that he
sincerely regrets upon reflection. He told me himself the morning I left
Euston how badly he felt that you should have taken his hasty words so
literally. He said that he should do everything in his power to cause you
to forget them the moment you returned, as he hoped you would in a day or
two. He gave Snyder instructions to use every effort to discover you in
the city, where it was supposed you had gone, and provided him liberally
with money to be expended in searching for you. I am surprised that Snyder
has not found you out before this, especially as you are both in the
employ of the same company. Didn't you know that he was private secretary
to our superintendent?"

"Yes, sir; I did," replied Rod, "and----" He was about to add, "And he
knows where I am"; but obeying a more generous impulse, he changed it to
"and I have taken pains to avoid him."

"I am sorry for that," said the President; "for if he had only met you and
delivered your uncle's message you would have been reconciled to that most
impetuous but most kindly-hearted of gentlemen long ago. Now, however, you
will go home with us and have a full explanation with him, will you not?"

"I think not, sir," replied Rod, with a smile. "In the first place, I
can't leave Mr. Stump, here, to run number 10 without a fireman, and in
the second I would a great deal rather wait until I hear directly from my
uncle that he wants me. Besides, I don't want to give up being a railroad
man; for, after the experience I have gained, I am more determined than
ever to be one."

"It would be a great pity, sir, to have so promising a young railroader
lost to the business," said Truman Stump, earnestly, "and I do hope you
won't think of taking him from us."

"I should think, papa, that you would be glad to have anybody on the road
who can do such splendid things as Rod can," said Eltje, warmly. "I'm sure
if I were president, I'd promote him at once, and make him conductor, or
master of something, instead of trying to get rid of him. Why, it's a
perfect shame!"

"I've no doubt, dear, that if you were president, the road would be
managed just as it should be. As you are not, and I am, I beg leave to say
that I have no intention of letting Rodman leave our employ, now that he
has got into it, and proved himself such a valuable railroad man. He
sha'n't go, even if I have to make him 'master of something,' as you
suggest, in order to retain his services. All that I want him to do is to
visit Euston and become reconciled to his uncle. I am certain the dear old
gentleman has forgotten by this time that he ever spoke an unkind word to
his nephew, and is deeply grieved that he does not return to him. However,
so long as Rodman's pride will not permit him to make the first advances
towards a reconciliation, I will do my best to act as mediator between
them. Then I shall expect our young fireman to appear in Euston as quickly
as possible after receiving Major Appleby's invitation, even if he has to
leave his beloved number 10 for a time to do so."

"All right, sir, I will," laughed Rod, "and I thank you ever so much for
taking such an interest in me and my affairs."

"My dear boy," replied the President, earnestly, "you need never thank me
for anything I may do for you. I shall not do more than you deserve; and
no matter what I may do, it can never cancel the obligation under which
you and Truman Stump placed me last night."

"It looks as though you and I were pretty solid on this road, doesn't it,
Rod?" remarked the engineman, after the bridge had been repaired, and
they were once more seated in the cab of locomotive number 10, which was
again on its way toward the city.

"It does so," replied the young fireman.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

A MORAL VICTORY.


The special was the first train to cross the Minkskill bridge after it was
repaired and pronounced safe, and as it was followed by all the delayed
passenger trains, the through freight did not pull out for more than an
hour later. As the special moved at the rate of nearly three miles to the
freight's one, and as it made but one stop, which was at Euston, where
Eltje was left, President Vanderveer reached the terminus of the road in
the evening; while Rod Blake did not get there until the following
morning.

After devoting some time to the discussion of important business matters
with Superintendent Hill, the President suddenly asked: "By the way, Hill,
do you happen to have a personal acquaintance with a young fireman in our
employ named Rodman Blake?"

"Yes, indeed I have," replied the Superintendent, and he related the
incidents connected with the first meeting between himself and Rod. He
also told of the imputation cast upon the lad's character by his private
secretary. "In regard to this," he said, "I have been awaiting your
return, before taking any action, because my secretary came to me with
your recommendation. After Brown finished with the matter of the freight
thieves, I sent him to Euston to make a thorough investigation of this
charge against young Blake, and here is his report."

President Vanderveer read the report carefully, and without comment, to
the end; but a pained expression gradually settled on his face. As he
handed it back, he said, "So Brown thinks Appleby did it himself?"

"He has not a doubt of it," replied Mr. Hill.

"Well," said the President, "I am deeply grieved and disappointed; but
justice is justice, and the innocent must not be allowed to suffer for the
guilty, if it can be helped. I am going to Euston to-night, and I wish
that, without mentioning this affair to him, you would send Appleby out
there to see me in the morning."

"Very well, sir," replied the Superintendent, and then they talked of
other matters.

In the meantime, during the long run in from the Minkskill bridge, Rod
had plenty of time to think over his recent interview with President
Vanderveer. He recalled all the kindness shown him by his uncle, and
realized now, what he had not allowed himself even to suspect before, that
a selfish pride had been the motive of his whole course of action, ever
since that unfortunate bicycle race. Pride had driven him from his uncle's
house. Pride had restrained him from letting that uncle know where he was,
or what he was doing. Even now, though he knew that his dear mother's only
brother was willing and anxious to receive him again, pride forbade him to
go to him. Should he continue to be the slave of pride, and submit to its
dictates? or should he boldly throw off its yoke and declare himself free
and independent? "Yes, I will," he said aloud; "I won't give in to it any
longer."

"Will what, and won't what?" asked the engineman, whose curiosity was
aroused by these words. Then Rod told him of the struggle that had been
going on in his mind, and of the decision he had just reached. When he
finished, the other exclaimed: "Right, you are, lad! and True Stump thinks
more of you for expressing those sentiments than he did when he saw you
board the special last night, and that is saying a good deal. To fight
with one's own pride and whip it, is a blamed sight harder thing to do
than anything else that I know of in this world."

They had already passed Euston, and Rod could not have left his post of
duty then, even if they had not; but he determined to return on the very
first train from the city, and seek a complete reconciliation with his
uncle.

The day express had already left when the freight got in, and so he was
obliged to wait for an excursion train that was to go out an hour later.
It was made up of several coaches and a baggage car; but Rod did not care
to ride in any of these. He already felt more at home on the locomotive
than on any other part of the train, and so he swung himself into the cab,
where he was cordially welcomed by the engineman and his assistant. They
were glad of the chance to learn from him all the particulars of what had
happened up the road during the great storm, and plied him with
questions.

In spite of their friendliness, and of his recent resolution, Rod could
not help feeling some uneasiness at the sight of Snyder Appleby sauntering
down the platform and stepping aboard the train just as it started. He
hoped his adopted cousin was not going to Euston. That is just where
Snyder was going, though; and, having missed the express which he had been
ordered to take, by his failure to be on time for it, he was obliged
to proceed by the "excursion extra." He was feeling particularly
self-important that morning, in consequence of having been sent for on
business by the President, and he sauntered through the train with an
offensive air of proprietorship and authority. Not choosing to remain in
one of the ordinary coaches, with ordinary excursionists, he walked into
the empty baggage car, and stood looking through the window in its forward
door. The moment he spied Rod, comfortably seated in the cab of the
locomotive, all his old feeling of jealousy was aroused. He had applied
to the engineman for permission to ride there a few minutes before Rod
appeared, and it had been refused. Now to see the person whom he had most
deeply injured, and consequently most thoroughly disliked, riding where he
could not, was particularly galling to his pride.

During the first stop made by the train, he walked to the locomotive, and,
in a most disagreeable tone, asked Rod if he had a written order
permitting him to ride there.

"I have not," answered the young fireman.

"Then I shall consider it my duty to report both you and the engineman,
for a violation of rule 116, which provides that no person, except those
employed upon it, shall be permitted to ride on a locomotive without a
written order from the proper authority," said Snyder, as he turned away.

This unwarranted assumption of authority made Rod furious; and, as he
looked back and saw Snyder regarding him from the baggage car, he longed
for an opportunity of giving the young man a piece of his mind. His
feelings were fully shared by the other occupants of the cab. While they
were still discussing the incident, the train plunged into a tunnel, just
east of the Euston grade. Here, before it quite reached the other end, it
became involved in one of the most curious and startling accidents known
in the history of railroads.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

SNYDER IS FORGIVEN.


As the locomotive was beginning to emerge from the blackness of the
tunnel, and those in its cab were just able to distinguish one another's
faces by the rapidly increasing light from the tunnel's mouth, there came
an awful crash and a shock like that of an earthquake. A shower of loose
rocks fell on, and into, the cab. The locomotive was jerked backward with
a sickening violence, and for a moment its driving wheels spun furiously
above the track. Then it broke loose from the train, and sprang forward.
In another moment it emerged from the tunnel, and was brought to a
standstill, like some panting, frightened animal, a few yards beyond its
mouth.

The occupants of the cab, bruised and shaken, stared at each other with
blanched, awe-stricken faces. They had seen the train behind them
swallowed by a vast tumbling mass of rock, and believed themselves the
only survivors of one of the most hideous of railroad disasters. Only
Rod thought he had seen the end of the baggage car protruding from the
crushing mass, just as the locomotive became released and sprang forward.

"The tunnel roof has caved in," said the engineman with a tone of horror;
"and not a soul can have escaped beside ourselves. All those hundreds of
people are lying in there, crushed beyond recognition. Oh, it is terrible!
terrible!" and tears, expressive of the agony of his mind, coursed down
the strong man's cheeks. Partially recovering himself in a moment, he
said, "There is nothing left for us to do but go on to Euston, report what
has happened, and stop all trains."

Rod Blake agreed that this was the engineman's first duty; but declared
his intention of staying behind, and of going back into the tunnel, to see
if there was not some one who might yet be saved. In vain they urged him
not to, and pointed out the danger as well as the hopelessness of the
attempt. He was certain that the end of the baggage car could be reached,
and remembered the figure he had seen standing in it, as they entered the
tunnel. He felt no trace of resentment against Snyder Appleby now; only a
great overwhelming pity, coupled with the conviction that he was still
within reach of help.

Finally they left him; and, armed with an axe from the tender, the young
fireman again entered the dreadful darkness. Loose stones were still
falling from the roof of the tunnel, and more than one of these struck and
painfully bruised him. The air was stifling with clouds of dust and smoke.
Only the lad's dauntless will and splendid courage enabled him to keep on.
All at once the splintered end of a car assumed shape in the obscurity
ahead of him. He heard a slow rending of wood, as one after another of its
stout timbers gave way, and then, above all other sounds, came an agonized
human cry.

How Rod cut his way into that car, how he found and dragged out Snyder
Appleby's mangled form, or how he managed to bear its helpless weight to
the open air and lay it on the ground beside the track, he never knew. He
only knew, after it had been done, that he had accomplished all this
somehow, and that he was weak and faint from his exertions. He also knew
that he had barely escaped from the baggage car with his precious burden,
when it was wholly crushed, and buried beneath the weight of rock from
above.

Snyder had been conscious, and had spoken to him when he found him,
pinned to the side of the car by its shattered timbers; but now he lay
insensible, and apparently lifeless. Rod dashed water in his face, and in
a few minutes had the satisfaction of seeing a faint color flush the
pallid cheeks. Then the closed eyes opened once more, and gazed into the
young fireman's face. The lips moved, and Rod bent his head to catch the
faint sound.

"The cup is fairly yours, Rod; for I put the emery in my wheel myself. Can
you forgive--" was what he heard.

Rodman's eyes were filled with tears as he answered, "Of course I forgive
you, fully and freely, old man. But don't worry about that now. Keep quiet
and don't try to talk. We'll soon have you at home, where you'll be all
right, and get over this shake-up in no time."

A bright smile passed over Snyder's face, and glorified it. Then his eyes
closed wearily, never again to be opened in this world. When help came,
and the poor, torn body was tenderly lifted, its spirit had fled. His
faults had found forgiveness, here, from the one whom he had most deeply
injured. Is there any doubt but what he also found it in the home to which
he had gone so peacefully, and with so happy a smile lighting his face?

Strange as it may seem, Snyder Appleby was the only victim of this curious
accident; for the entire mass of falling material in the tunnel descended
on the baggage car, of which he was the sole occupant. The hundreds of
excursionists in the coaches were badly shaken up, and greatly frightened
by the sudden stopping of the train; but not one was seriously injured.

President Vanderveer first heard of the accident at Major Appleby's house,
where he was engaged in an earnest conversation with that gentleman, about
his nephew and his adopted son. While they were still talking, a carriage
drove to the door, bearing Rod Blake and the lifeless form of him whom the
young fireman had risked his life to save.

After the Major had listened to the story of the lad who brought to him at
the same time joy and grief, the tears streamed down his furrowed cheeks,
and he exclaimed, "My boy! my dear boy! the pride and hope of my old age!
Forgive me as you have forgiven him, and never leave me again."

"I never will, Uncle," was the answer.

At Snyder's funeral the most beautiful floral tribute was an exact copy
of the Steel Wheel Club's railroad cup, in Parma violets, with the
inscription, woven of white violets, "Forgive us our Trespasses." Directly
behind the coffin, the members of the club marched in a body, headed by
their captain, Rod Blake, whose resignation had never been accepted.

As for the young captain's future, the events on which this story is
founded, are of too recent occurrence for it to be predicted just yet.
That he will become a prominent railroad man, in some one of the many
lines now opening before him, is almost certain. He finished his
apprenticeship with Truman Stump, on locomotive number 10, and became so
fully competent to act as engineman himself, that the master mechanic
offered him the position. At the same time President Vanderveer invited
him to become his private secretary, which place Rod accepted, as it
seemed to him the best school in which to study the higher branches of
railroad management. He is still one of the most popular fellows on the
road, and his popularity extends to every branch of the company's service.
Even Smiler, the railroad dog, will leave his beloved trains for days at a
time, to sit in the President's office, and mount guard over the desk of
the private secretary.

Not long ago, when the chief officer of the road was asked to explain the
secret of Rod Blake's universal popularity, he replied: "I'm sure I don't
know, unless it is that he never allows his pride to get the better of his
judgment, and always performs his duties on time."





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