The Daughter of a Magnate (Chapter 4, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 4

"If you can recollect the blizzard that Roscoe Conkling went down in
one March day in the streets of New York, it will give you the date;
possibly call to your mind the storm. I had the River Division then,
and we got through the whole winter without a single tie-up of
consequence until March.

"The morning was still as June. When the sky went heavy at noon it
looked more like a spring shower than a snow-storm; only, I noticed
over at the government building they were flying a black flag splashed
with a red centre. I had not seen it before for years, and I asked for
ploughs on every train out after two o'clock.

"Even then there was no wickedness abroad; it was coming fairly heavy
in big flakes, but lying quiet as apple-blossoms. Toward four o'clock
I left the office for the roundhouse, and got just about half-way
across the yard when the wind veered like a scared semaphore. I had
left the depot in a snow-storm; I reached the roundhouse in a blizzard.

"There was no time to wait to get back to the keys. I telephoned
orders over from the house, and the boys burned the wires, east and
west, with warnings. When the wind went into the north that day at
four o'clock, it was murder pure and simple, with the snow sweeping the
flat like a shroud and the thermometer water-logged at zero.

"All night it blew, with never a minute's let-up. By ten o'clock half
our wires were down, trains were failing all over the division, and
before midnight every plough on the line was bucking snow--and the snow
was coming harder. We had given up all idea of moving freight, and
were centring everything on the passenger trains, when a message came
from Beverly that the fast mail was off track in the cut below the
hill, and I ordered out the wrecking gang and a plough battery for the
run down.

"It was a fearful night to make up a train in a hurry--as much as a
man's life was worth to work even slow in the yard a night like that.
But what limit is set to a switchman's courage I have never known,
because I've never known one to balk at a yardmaster's order.

"I went to work clearing the line, and forgot all about everything
outside the train-sheet till a car-tink came running in with word that
a man was hurt in the yard.

"Some men get used to it; I never do. As much as I have seen of
railroad life, the word that a man's hurt always hits me in the same
place. Slipping into an ulster, I pulled a storm-cap over my ears and
hurried down stairs buttoning my coat. The arc-lights, blinded in the
storm, swung wild across the long yard, and the wind sung with a scream
through the telegraph wires. Stumbling ahead, the big car-tink, facing
the storm, led me to where between the red and the green lamps a dozen
men hovered close to the gangway of a switch engine. The man hurt lay
under the forward truck of the tender.

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