his face flushing suddenly

THE storm was not long in bursting. Again there was a special meeting of
the lodge; again a grievance committee waited on Mr. Plumfield, but it
met a very different reception from that which had been given the former

“I have just one thing to tell you,” he said, when he had listened to
their complaint, “and that is that Rafe Bassett will never be given a
job on this road while I’m train master. He was drunk the other night,
and you know it.”

“He denies it,” said the chairman of the committee. “He admits he’d had
a glass or two of beer, but that ain’t a penitentiary offence.”

“Especially when a man ain’t on duty,” chimed in another.

“And he says he thought he was still suspended,” chimed in a third, “and
he supposed he could do as he pleased.”

“He didn’t think anything of the sort,” said Mr. Plumfield, sharply.
“The first words he said to me were that I’d had to crawfish. So he knew
he’d been reinstated. But he’ll never be reinstated again.”

“Are them your last words, Mr. Plumfield?” inquired one of his auditors,

“Yes, they’re my last words,” retorted the train master, and turned to
his work, while the committee filed out.

He foresaw, of course, what would happen, but he felt that to reinstate
Bassett would for ever destroy discipline among the men under him. He
stated the case to Mr. Schofield, and that official agreed with him that
Bassett could never be reinstated, but that the matter must be fought
out to a finish.

Hostilities were not long in commencing. The local lodge made a
report—more or less biased—of the occurrence to the general officials of
the order, and one of the latter came posthaste to the scene. A day or
two later, Mr. Schofield received the following letter:

“WADSWORTH, OHIO, January 16, 190-


“_Superintendent Ohio Division_,

“_P. & O. Railway_.

“_Dear Sir_:—As a representative of the Grand Lodge of the Independent
Order of Railway Engineers, I ask a conference with you at the earliest
possible moment.

“Yours truly,


“_Special Delegate_.”

Mr. Schofield answered at once, setting the conference for next day and
asking both Mr. Plumfield and Allan to be present. For he desired some
witnesses of the interview.

Nixon showed up promptly at the appointed time. He was a heavy-set man
with a red face and big black moustache. He wore a sweeping fur
overcoat, and, when he drew off his gloves, a big seal-ring with diamond
settings was visible upon the little finger of his right hand. Mr.
Schofield greeted him courteously, invited him to take off his overcoat
and sit down, and then stepped to the door.

“Bob,” he called to his office boy, “ask Mr. Plumfield and Mr. West to
step this way at once, will you?”

Nixon, who had thrown his overcoat across a chair and got out a big
black cigar, paused with it halfway to his lips.

“Not calling the company for me, are you?” he asked.

“Why, yes,” said the superintendent, quietly. “You’ve come about the
Bassett business, haven’t you?”

Nixon nodded.

“Well, Mr. Plumfield is the one with whom Bassett had the trouble. I
thought you’d like to hear his story.”

“Oh, all right,” said Nixon, sitting down and lighting his cigar. “Only
I know the story already.”

“Maybe you’ve only heard one side of it,” suggested Mr. Schofield,

“Well, maybe I have,” assented Nixon, and when Mr. Plumfield and Allan
entered, he greeted them with a fair degree of cordiality.

“And now, Mr. Plumfield,” said the superintendent, when the
introductions were over, “I wish you would tell Mr. Nixon exactly what
happened between you and Bassett.”

So the train master told the story of his encounter with the drunken
engineer, while Nixon sat back in his chair puffing his cigar
meditatively, and nodding from time to time.

“You know, of course,” he said, when Mr. Plumfield had finished, “that
Bassett denies he was drunk, and so do the boys who were with him. He
admits that he’d had a glass or two of beer, but there’s nothing against
that, is there, when a man’s off duty?”

“There’s a rule against the use of intoxicants,” replied the
superintendent, slowly, “and against a man’s being impudent on duty or

“And there’s no prospect of your taking Bassett back?” asked Nixon.

“Not the slightest,” answered Mr. Schofield.

“I suppose you know what that means?” inquired Nixon, blowing out a puff
of smoke and gazing at it with half-closed eyes, as it floated slowly

“What does it mean?”

“It means a strike.”

“Is the brotherhood as foolish as all that?”

“The brotherhood is bound to protect the interests of all its members.”

“Even those who don’t deserve it?”

“The brotherhood must decide who’s worthy and who’s not. It can’t let
outsiders do it.”

“Well, all right,” said Mr. Schofield. “It’s up to you. I guess we can
get some more engineers.”

“Oh, you’ll need more than engineers,” said Nixon, easily. “You’ll need
firemen and brakemen and conductors and switchmen—the whole force, in

The superintendent sat staring at his visitor, his brows knitted.

“You mean they’ll strike in sympathy?” he asked, at last.

“Exactly,” and Nixon smiled blandly.

“What kind of fools are railroad men anyhow?”

“I’ll tell you how it is,” said Nixon. “Railroad men realize that
they’ve got to stand together. You remember those spell-binders who used
to go around hollering ‘My country, right or wrong!’ Well, that’s our
principle. Besides, the time’s ripe for a strike.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean there hasn’t been a real strike for some time an’ the boys are
ready for a little excitement. You see, we’ve found a better way than
strikin’, but not half so interestin’.”

“I think I know what you mean,” said Mr. Schofield, slowly.

“Yes—I guess you do. We’ve found out that we can get legislatures to
pass most any law we want. It’s different from the old days, when the
railroads carried the legislatures in their pockets. The pendulum’s
swung the other way. Now it’s as much as a man’s life’s worth to vote
for a railroad measure or against one that railroad employees ask for.
So things come our way easy. Besides, that anti-pass law has hurt you

“Yes, it has,” Mr. Schofield agreed, with a grim smile.

“It was a mighty cheap and convenient way of buyin’ influence,”
continued Nixon. “For a thousand or two miles of mileage, you got
seven-eighths of the legislatures without further expense. They didn’t
consider it takin’ a bribe. Now even money won’t do the trick. You’re up
a tree.”

“Yes, we are,” agreed the superintendent, “until the pendulum swings
back again. You fellows are too eager. You’re killing the goose.”

“Well, I guess we’ll get our share of the eggs,” grinned Nixon. “Have
you heard of the latest?”

“The latest?”

“The caboose bill?”

“No,” said Mr. Schofield. “What’s that?”

“Well,” said Nixon, chuckling to himself, “the railroads, as you know,
never waste a thought on the comfort or safety of their employees—”

“No, of course not,” agreed Mr. Schofield, ironically.

“All they think of is earnings an’ big salaries for the officers. One of
the most inhuman afflictions which freight conductors and brakemen have
to put up with in modern times is the caboose. Have you ever ridden in a

“Hundreds of times!”

“Oh, I forgot,” said Nixon, grinning, “I thought I was addressin’ the
legislature. I was goin’ to paint for them the torture of ridin’ in a
caboose, the impossibility of sleepin’ there; how a few years of it
wrecks a man’s health, and so forth.”

“I see you’re a good hand at fancy pictures,” said the superintendent,

“A man has to be to hold my job,” said Nixon, with a broad grin. “But,
cuttin’ all that out, the bill compels the railroads to use no caboose
less’n forty feet in length. The berths must be comfortable an’
sanitary, with the sheets changed every trip. There must be all the
toilet conveniences—”

“Why not compel us to hitch a Pullman to every freight train, with
porter and everything complete?” inquired the superintendent.

“Oh, no,” protested Nixon, waving his hand. “We’re reasonable. We don’t
want anything but our rights.”

Mr. Schofield’s face was flushed and he opened his lips for an angry
retort, but thought better of it and closed them again. Then he laughed.

“All right,” he said. “Go ahead. Kill the goose. But were you serious
about that strike?”

“Never more serious in my life.”

“When will it be called?”

“When I give the word,” said Nixon, “not before.”

And he cast at the superintendent a glance full of meaning.

The latter stared at him, then down at his desk, drumming with absent

“Well,” he said, at last, looking up, “don’t call it for a couple of
days. I’ll have to ask instructions from headquarters.”

“All right,” agreed Nixon, rising and slipping into his coat. “Let me
see—this is Wednesday. I’ll come in Friday morning at this time for your
answer. How’ll that suit?”

Mr. Schofield nodded curtly, and with a bland wave of the hand to the
others, Nixon went to the door and let himself out.

The superintendent gazed moodily at the closed door for a moment, then
he rose and walked to the window and stared down over the yards.

“Well,” he said at last, turning back to the others, “there are three
courses open.”

“Three?” repeated Mr. Plumfield, in evident surprise.

“Yes, three. In the first place, we can back down and reinstate


“In the second place, we can refuse to do it and fight it out.”


“And in the third place we can avoid either.”


“By bribing Nixon.”

“Bribing Nixon?”

“Yes. You heard him say that there wouldn’t be any strike until he
called it?”


“But you didn’t see how he looked at me when he said it. If ever a man
invited a bribe, without putting the invitation in so many words, he
did. A thousand dollars would do it.”

“But you won’t offer it!” cried Allan eagerly. “You won’t do that!”

“No,” said Mr. Schofield, smiling as he looked at the flushed face. “I
won’t do it. I’m going to advise a fight. But the decision doesn’t rest
with me. I’ll have to go to Cincinnati in the morning and take it up
with the general manager.”

“But to give a bribe—” Allan began.

“Sounds bad, doesn’t it? And yet I don’t think the general manager will
waste much time thinking about the moral side of it. That’s not what
he’s there for. He’s there to work for the best interests of the road. A
strike is sure to cost us a good many times a thousand dollars—how many
times nobody can tell till it’s over. Which is best for the road?”

Allan’s head was whirling. After all, there was truth in what Mr.
Schofield said. The only question for the general manager to consider
was just that—what was best for the road.

Mr. Schofield turned from the window and looked at him again.

“I tell you what,” he said, suddenly, “I’d like to have you go along.
Will you?”

“Go along?”

“And hear the other side of it. It’ll do you good, and maybe it’ll do us
good to have you,” he added.

“I’ll be glad to,” answered Allan, his face flushing suddenly, and
hastened back to his desk to get things in shape so that he could be
absent on the morrow.

AND so it happened that Allan arose next morning about two hours earlier
than usual, in order to catch the five o’clock train for Cincinnati. It
reminded him of the far-off days when he was taking his trick of
track-walking in the early morning. As he came down the stairs, he saw a
yellow band of light under the kitchen door, and he heard somebody
clattering about within. He opened the door to find Mary already busy
with the kitchen stove.

“Why, Allan,” she said, “what’re ye doin’ up so early?”

“I’ve got to go to Cincinnati on Number One,” he answered. “I’ll be back
on Two to-night.”

“Why didn’t ye tell me last night?” she demanded. “I’d ’a’ had your
breakfast ready.”

“I know you would,” Allan answered, looking at the patient, kindly face.
“That’s the reason I didn’t say anything. I’ll get breakfast on the
diner. Good-bye,” and snatching up hat and overcoat, he was off.

He reached the station just as the train was pulling in and found Mr.
Schofield awaiting him. Together they clambered into the Pullman and
took their seats in the smoking compartment.

It was still quite dark, but a faint band of gray over the hills to the
east told that the dawn was not far distant. The train rolled out of the
yards, through the deserted streets, along the embankment by the dark
river, past the twin bridges spanning canal and highway at the city
limits, up the long grade that led to the slate cut, through the cut,
over the bridge spanning the deep ravine beyond, and so on toward
Cincinnati. For some time, neither Allan nor Mr. Schofield spoke, but
sat silently staring out of the window, for every foot of the way had
some association for them. It was that embankment which they had
laboured so hard to save in time of flood, when the mighty current of
the river was slowly seeping over it; it was in that cut that Allan had
encountered Reddy Magraw, half crazed, one wild night; it was from the
bridge beyond that a gang of wreckers had attempted to hurl the pay-car.
How familiar it all was—how near, and yet how far-away, those days

Then, as the dawn lightened, a tousle-headed man came in, coat, collar
and shoes in hand, and made a hasty toilet.

“Couldn’t sleep a wink last night,” he said, when he had got his hands
and face washed, his collar on and his tie tied. “This road certainly
has got ’em all beat for curves.”

“It _does_ wind a little as it comes through the mountains,” agreed Mr.
Schofield, smiling.

“Wind!” exclaimed the stranger. “It corkscrews!”

“You see, it has to follow the streams,” explained the superintendent.

“Well, the streams must ’a’ been drunk when they struck out their path,
then. Well, well,” he added, glancing through the window at the
frost-whitened fields, “that’s the first time I’ve seen any frost for
two years.”

“Where’ve you been?” inquired Mr. Schofield.

“Down at Panama. I run an engine on the Isthmus railroad.”

“Do you?” and Mr. Schofield looked at him with interest. “How are things
getting along down there?”

“The dirt is certainly flying some. But it’s an almighty big job we’ve

“Oh, by the way,” Mr. Schofield added, “there used to be a brakeman on
this road named Guy Kirk, who went to Panama about a year and a half
ago. Did you ever hear of him?”

“Hear of him? I guess I did. He’s a conductor, now, freight, and
everybody thinks a whole lot of him. And he gets around mighty lively
considerin’ what he went through.”

“Went through? How do you mean?”

“Well, sir,” said the stranger, getting out a darkly-coloured brier and
filling it from a red-leather pouch, “it was this way. There’s a mighty
mean grade going down into Ancon—mighty mean. It’s steep and it’s got a
sharp curve at the bottom. It’s pretty ticklish getting down sometimes,
especially when the rails are slippery and the road-bed squashy after
one of them heavy tropical rains. One night a heavy freight, on which
Kirk was front brakeman, started down that grade. The engineer threw on
his air, but there wasn’t any, and the first thing he knowed they were
scootin’ down that grade at forty miles an hour. The engineer whistled
five or six times to warn the crew in the caboose and then he and his
fireman jumped.”

“And what did Kirk do?” asked Mr. Schofield, deeply interested.

“Well, sir,” answered the narrator, slowly exhaling a long puff, “Kirk
didn’t jump. Instead o’ that, he hustled out on that train an’ began to
set the hand-brakes. The first eight or ten cars were full of nut coal.
Kirk only got about two brakes set, when the train hit the curve. The
rails spread, o’ course; Kirk hit the ground first an’ the ten cars o’
nut coal piled up on top of him. Nobody ever expected to see him alive
again, but when they dug the coal off, blamed if there he didn’t set in
a kind o’ little hut the cars had made over him as they fell. Only both
his legs was caught below the knee an’ broke so bad that they never did
get quite straight again. But it wasn’t long after that he got his

Other occupants of the sleeper had come in while the story was in
progress, and a few minutes later came the first call to breakfast.
Allan, at least, was ready for it, and he and Mr. Schofield lost no time
in seeking the diner.

Perhaps no other one improvement in railway service has added as much to
the comfort and convenience of the travelling public as has this, which
enables the passengers on any first-class train to eat their meals at
leisure, when they want them, and to procure well-cooked and appetizing
food, temptingly served amid pleasant surroundings. It is not so many
years since the passenger was dependent for his food either on such
supplies as he had brought with him, or upon hasty lunches in dirty
depot dining-rooms, where the cold and unpleasant food was bolted in
fear and trembling lest the train puffing outside pull away. Not that
the proprietors of the dining-rooms themselves were wholly to blame for
this condition, for they never knew how many customers they were going
to have, trains were often late, fifteen or twenty minutes was the
utmost time allowed for a meal by the management of any road, and not
more than half of that was available for actual eating, while to keep
free from soot and smoke and cinders a dining-room in a depot building
was a task beyond human ingenuity.

After the meal, Mr. Schofield led the way to the rear of the diner,
where, from the platform, they could watch the track spinning backwards
from under them.

“Notice the absence of dust,” he said, and, indeed, as the train swept
onward, there was practically no dust behind it. “We’ve accomplished
that by washing the gravel before we use it as ballast, instead of
dumping it in just as it comes from the gravel-pit, as we used to do. It
only costs about half a cent a yard to wash it, and it makes it as clean
as crushed stone.”

“It certainly makes it a lot cleaner back here,” remarked the man in
charge of the dining-car. “We can keep the back door open now. The only
time we have to shut it,” he added, suiting the action to the word, “is
when we pass the stock-yards. Nobody can enjoy a meal with that scent
blowing in upon them.”

The stock-yards consisted of long rows of flimsy frame buildings, lining
either side of the tracks for perhaps half a mile just outside of
Cincinnati. Here the thousands and thousands of steers, hogs, and sheep
shipped in from the west were loaded and unloaded. Narrow runways led
from the pens up to the level of the freight-car doors, and up and down
these, incoming or outgoing stock was constantly ascending or
descending, urged by prods in the hands of the stock-yard men. It was
not a pleasant sight, and our two friends contemplated it silently as
the train sped past.

“Man has a good deal to answer for in this world,” remarked Mr.
Schofield, “and I sometimes think he’ll be called to account pretty
severely for the suffering of those poor steers. They are bred out on
the prairies, you know, are left absolutely shelterless in winter and
freeze or starve to death by thousands. Those that manage to survive,
are crowded into the stock-cars and shipped east. There’s a law
requiring that they be fed and watered every so often, and that they be
taken out of the cars after so long a time. But there’s nobody to
enforce the law, and it’s pretty generally disregarded. It’s always been
a wonder to me that the stock reaches the eastern markets at all.”

“What can be done about it?” asked Allan, soberly.

“The railroads can’t do anything. But the government could compel all
stockmen to furnish adequate shelter and food for their stock in winter,
and the torture of this long-distance shipping could be avoided if the
big slaughter-houses were out in the stock-raising district, so that
only the meat need be shipped. Do you remember,” he added, after a
moment, “in Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward,’ how incomprehensible and
repulsive the thought of flesh-eating had become? Well, I believe
Bellamy was right. Already there is a rapidly growing feeling against
meat-eating, and the day is not so very far distant when it will be
practically abolished. And a good thing, too.”

The train had run under the great train-shed, as they were talking, and
five minutes later, Mr. Schofield and Allan were shown into the office
of General Manager Round. It was a plainly-furnished, business-like
room, typical of the man who occupied it—a man who had risen from the
ranks and who had endeared himself to every man under him by justice,
kindness and square-dealing.

“How are you, boys?” he said, shaking hands with both of them heartily.
“Glad to see you. Sit down. Now, Ed, what’s this I hear about a strike?”

“Well,” said Mr. Schofield, “it looks a good deal like we were going to
have one.”

“Let’s have the story,” said Mr. Round, settling back in his chair, and
he listened with half-closed eyes while Mr. Schofield told the story of
the trouble with Bassett and the interview with Nixon.

“And you really think there’ll be a strike?” he asked, when Mr.
Schofield had finished.

“Of course Nixon may have been bluffing,” answered the latter slowly,
“but I don’t believe it. I think there’ll be a strike, unless—”

“Unless what?” asked Mr. Round, as the superintendent paused.

“Well, we can reinstate Bassett.”

“No, we can’t,” said Mr. Round. “We can’t reinstate Bassett and preserve
any discipline on this division. So count that out.”

“I agree with you, of course,” said Mr. Schofield. “There’s a second
course open.”

“What is it?”

“We can bribe Nixon.”

“You think he’s bribable?”

“I know he is.”

“And what’s his price?”

“I don’t know that exactly. But I should say about a thousand dollars.
Of course, a general strike would cost us a great deal more than that.”

Mr. Round nodded. Then he happened to glance at Allan West’s burning

“What do you think about it, Allan?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t bribe a man if it kept the road from being tied up for a
year,” answered Allan, impetuously. “Besides, you’re not really helping
matters—the thing will have to be fought out sooner or later. Let’s
fight it out now. We’ll get out trains through in spite of them. We’ll
have the law back of us.”

“The law isn’t much of a protection,” remarked Mr. Round. “It doesn’t so
much prevent crime, as punish it. And it isn’t much of a compensation to
a railroad, after it has had two or three hundred thousand dollars’
worth of property destroyed, to have the fellows who did it sent to
jail. Besides, what’s the use of being so horror-stricken at the idea of
bribery? We’re always giving or taking bribes. When you tipped the
waiter in the diner this morning, you bribed him to give you better
service than he gave the other people he was serving.”

“I didn’t tip him,” said Allan, smiling, “and that was just the reason.
I agree with you that tipping is petty bribery, and diminishes the
self-respect of both the giver and receiver.”

“You’ve hit it,” approved Mr. Round. “To give a bribe diminishes one’s
self-respect. But has a corporation like a railroad any self-respect?”

“It ought to have.”

“Most people seem to think it hasn’t even common honesty, because it has
had to fight with such weapons as came to hand. Good Lord! does anybody
suppose the railroads _wanted_ to give passes and contribute to campaign
funds, and maintain a lobby, and pay bribes? But they couldn’t get what
they wanted any other way!”

Allan smiled.

“Sometimes they wanted things they hadn’t any business with,” he said,
“and they’re suffering for it now. But I guess they’ll pull through. The
public will see after a while that they’re not so black as they’re
painted. And right here’s a chance to keep this one clean.”

Again Mr. Round nodded. Then he wheeled his chair around and for some
moments sat staring thoughtfully out of the window. Then he wheeled
sharply back.

“Schofield,” he said, “you tell Nixon to go ahead and call a strike, if
he wants to.”