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Phil Blake's Exploit

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The growing city of Granopolis was exoited. lts three stores, five saloous, and a dozen or more of soattered " dences " fairly glowed - not under the broad benms of the Anglist sun, so rnuch as under the inspiration of the moment. Por to-day the last tie was firmly laid, the last nail driven into the grain depot, extending townward from the bridge that spanned the somewhat narrow ana rather muddy curren t of the Wildcat; and to-morrow the happy citizens wovdd fee blessed with the sight of the fnriousf" looomotive turning the curve of the liills, f uil in sight of the town, and steaming past the stubble-fields flauking both si des of the track - rushing, aa it were, f uil into their welcome arnis. To this effeet were the enthusiastic speeches delivered to the tliirsty crowd assembled on the following day to swelter in the heat and await the oncoming passenger train ; speeches givon by Dr. Burns, tlie big man of the place, whose little white cottage, nearly lridden by its orchai-d, on the slope of the liill facing tho river, and j its well-kept grounds, to say nothing of the owner's prosperous air and Miss Susie's fine piano, the boasted ornament of Granopolis, aeemed to give credence to the report that sheep ranches were more lucrativo to their fortúnate j or than the practice of liis noble profession. Given, also, by Philip Blake, one of that tide of good-for-nothings whose hands turn naturally to anything, ctipccially to raking up the ashes and invigorating a couiity paper, well-nigh dead of iiianition. This handsome specimen of such a class, swept onward with the progress of the railroad, first au j overacer, then a book-keeper, had uudertaken such a task at Granopolis, and ]l:'1. to liis owu ijnijritwi, foitnd himsolf unnsually willing to pnrsne it in the dull town, finding his only gleam of a brighter atmosphere in Susie Burns' oyes. Speeches were given, also, by the most prominent tradesmen and saloon-keepers - -men who have found their business wonderfully increased by the inhabitants of yonder canvas dwelliiigs, which have sprang ap like mushrooms along the line of the road, aud who trust to iiud a still fiu-ther profit iu the business always thronging to the "terminus " - dignified j title; evidenced already, they proudly I assert, in yonder imposing structures - I the red-wood depot and the frame of the ten-roomed hotel - wliieh scorch the eyes of all beholders. Now, men look at their watehes constan tly; a hum of' expectation runs through the crowd; a bell is heard, a harp whistle - hurrah ! here it comes, rounding the curve ■ in grand style, and i with flags flying, amid cheers and wavings of hat and handkerchief - for the softer sex have turned out to a woman - here it comes, panting and snorting, and stops short, amid the crowd edging off on each side like some proud, impatient yet tractable thing, its work completed, awaiting the praises of its master. A party - a wonderfnl thing in that work-day town - was to be given on that uight at the Burns residence. To it were bidden the young farmers of the neighborhood, their wives, sisters and sweethearts. Philip Blake, who, as editor, occupied a higher position than ever before, some employés of the railroad, the few clerks of the stores in town, and i a few old cronies of the Doctor and his J long dead wife. The house was decorated to the utmost extent of Susie's knowledge; all the rooms were thrown open to the guests, and in the long, cool 'dtchen were spread tables covered with country dainties. Dr. Burns was thoriiughry hospitable when hospitality did not interfere with his comfort, and tonight was in lus most genial mood, happy in the prosperity of the little town where Fate had cast his lot, and in the near prospect of incorporation, which would probably add to his emolumenta the honorable office of Mayor. Susie, with her sweet, innocent j face, brilliant complexion, and great j liquid eyes, made a charming hostess in her utter forgetfulness of elf and anxiety that every guest should find each moment full of pleasure. So at least thought Phillip, as he lounged j over a photograph album, seemingly oblivious of the fact that every girl in the ; room sLole looks at hini in the pauses of the dance and every heart throbbed with j hope when he roso at last to seek a ' ner. Susie had been playing for sometime ; he leaned over the piano and said : "Here comes old Simms with liis fiddle ; do leave this tiresome playing to him, 1 and have one good dance yourself . WJiy, you look tired to death already. " She loved to dance, and gladly resigned the task of playing to the old man, whose great delight it was to show off his profleiency in the art ; yet she did not like the tone of her partner. He certainly was the handsomest and bent dressed man in the room ; hismanners, too,wore those of :t gentleman - yet how different. Here her thoughts wandered off to the young medical student, the kou of her father's doar old friend, who ha. i vifúted them two years ago, aud then gone East, promising to return when he should gradúate, and she was snddenly recalled by her partner' voice, as they joined hands and "went down the middle," for the oldfashioned reel was the favorite dance in the unfashionable town. The evening wore away and the gueste departed one by one. The Doctor feil I asleep in" his easy chair and only Philip Blake loitered by the open window gazj ing at the myriad stars and list'ning to ! the fainfrustle made by the sultry breeze ! among the leaves in the orchard. A lonely ijird, frighten"d at some distant Round, roused itself from its leafy cover, uttered a melanoholy ci'y and tiuttered heavily to another tree. The young man I watched ite aimlees course, saw it sink (ttfocÖy among the branches and likened it, somewhat bitterly, to himself ; liiei lonely, unoared fair Efe, bis enee - there the likeness stopped, No I friendiy shelter, no reating placo, elosefolded by love i'or him. He knew liimself to bè unworthy of the fair girl who I stejjped softly about the room, ing the soattered furnitnre, laying the stamp of a sweet and quiet guiding spirit upon everything fihe touched ; lie had not meant even to teil her how lie loved i her, yet tho spirit was upon him, and Í ing her to his side he held her fast, and in the solemn quiet falling fromtho stars., i lie poured out all his soul to her ; told har of his mistake in lifo, butthat, if sbe would only trust him, love him a littlo, he would begin to live in solemn earnest i'or her sweet sake and for the sake of God. Love made him reverent, and purposes and desires undreamed of before tired his soul with energy and purpose. Slie could not stay tho tide of his glowing words, but even as he spoke lus eager eyes read her answer in her earnest ' and piteous ones, and he kuew that liis ; pleadings were in vain. She had no need to teil him so ; she only sobbed out her regrets, bitter and useless ; and he, with the ehivalry that true inanhood teaehes, silenced the pain iu his heart till she waá somewhat comforted, and then went out into the londy street, and so I down to the river's odge, wondering what i next. This was the iirst cuj? of disappointment, wliich lifo had forced him to drink; hitherto no advantages or triumphs had seemed to him worth the pains taken to gain them, and the chief faults of his nature were his sluggishness of ament and his passive aoceptance of i cumstances, which had more than once led him into difficnltiea which, in a less generous or less naturally honorable man, would surely have proven the high road to ruin. Hitherto he had avoided the i meaucr vices of those companions with whom fate had thrownhim, andwhom he had not tried to avoid ; now he feit that his future life would hold the image "of one sweet girl, which, like an amulet, would keep Mm pure. He did not blame j her, only liimself , for the hasty speech j which could never be recalled, and his j was not a nature to turn bitter ander Í appointment. " Well," he thinks, "life has something left still, and I am not one to throw it away for the sake of a woman, if she be the one of all the world for me." How hot it grew, while he paced up aiid down ! The breeze which had been gradually increasing for the last hour, blew now with fury from the west - a j scorching wind, like that blowing over i acres of lire. Stay; what was that clond j upon the hill-top, that iiery tongue i creeping aross ites rim, licking along the stubble-fields, wrapping the dry fences in blazing garments. What is this fleroe j glare that lights the heavens through half their circle, and turns all the earth [ to the sickly hue of blood ! And this erackling sound, as of a thounand j mons, treading down the dry stubble of j the iields ! Kre in the iields, thought Pliilip: and to-night, of all nights with such á wind, and this ïrightful heat for tliree days past ! Well, it's got to bufa; there's no stopping it now. Thank heaven, it's on the other side of tlie river, that's all. He watched it a moment, then, with a sudden pause of heart, followed by a spasai of beating, he saw Öie growing column waver, tremble, the smoke blown southward toward the town; then, with a furious pluuge, the moving masa swept downward toward the -rivor's bank. Heavens! the wind has changed ! He knew the bridge lay right in the way of the destroying army; that once eaught, then the depot, then the whole town must go, and Susie - Ouly a moment, and his clear, strong voice rang out, "Firel fire!" They hoard it even to the doctor's, on the hill; and men, women, and :hildreii came pouring out; the old ma.i raised from the slumber in his chair, and the young girl who had sobbed by his side, in her thin, white dress; many, startled from sleep, came with wrappers thrown loosely about them, or with garments awry. All thronged down near the bridge where Phiiip stood, and where tho men were hurriedly diacussing tho j danger, mly too evident now. On swept the royal eloment, searing the few trees in its route, leaping creeks, and stealing down to the edge of the river, oatcMng on tho festoons of wild roses and irax berries, hissing on the damp mud, retiring for a moment, then rene win g the assault; now creeping close to the ground, shrouded in the dense mass of smoke, now leaping high in air with hellish exultation. The discussion was of short diiration. "Men," cried Dr. Burns, "the bridge must go down. Bring axes, yon that i want to save your homes!" And he seized one near at hand liimself and swimg it on high, when a workman hurried up and interfered. "Dr. Burns," he cried, "I hearn 'emsay there's a constrnction train coming in at twelve tonight for to lay them switches yender, and now it wants ouly ten minutes of twelve." Dr. Burns dropped the axe. "Telegraph," he shouted. The man shook .his head. "Too late, sir," he said; " she's left the last station half an hour ago." The men looked at one another with faces from which ali hope had suddenly died out, and sobs were heard distinctly from the group of women huddled together, the mothers clasping theiiehildren closely. "To homes, then," shouted the doctor; "save what yon can, and when we shout ter you hurry to the Bend" - a bend in the river which he evidently hoped they might reach, while the men stayed to fight the lire. But there was a sudden movement in the crowd, and ! Philip Blake stepped forward with somewlmt of his careless air, yet with a manly bearing that sat better upon him thau his usual nonchalance. "Stay here, sir," ! he said, "and cut down the bridge; I I will go and stop the train." A' gighof relief went up from all, and many women I wept and murmured blessings upon him. 1 The men made liaste to próvido him with ' a red handkercliief tied to a slat; he threw off his coat and vest and pulled : his hat his eyes. One man spoke at last. "It's sure death, Phil, and no : good tocóme of it. " His answer was : short and to the point. "D- nyou!" Theu Jie caught a of pleading eyes, and saw that Susie hold him a handkerchiof soaked at the faucet near by. ' ' Put I this over your face when you meet the smoke," she said. "God bless you, Phil!" Ho bent his head M Mweiently to the Messing as if it had come from an angel, then turued quickly, squared hiraBelf i'or a run and was gone over the j bridge aknost before he had started, and 1 in three minutes more the planks were i torn up, the refters severed, the last man ! swam back in barste, then the bridge feil with a terrible sound, and they were ! saved. Men can work rapidly with the (Var el death before their eyes,, Philip heard the sound but did not pause. With the handkercliief close I about his face, tlie smoke was killing him. Hé bent low, but ton thousand fiery-lu-üded (liaiwiiK plucked him by the'sleeve, whispered horrible nothings in bis eais, crispad liis hair, daueed in lnrid prwcèBBitin beftww his eyes, tlirust red-hot ii'ons down his throat. On lic pressedj his feet blistering at every step, the torture of tliirst consuming him, and the thought tngging at his brain: "All in vain; oh, to be bumed alive here, and no onc over to know." It scemed to him that ke wa.s crawling; sometimos he would lose himself for a minuto, aiid wake with a horrible start to find himself stil] running. At last, ai'ter wJiat seemod to be hoivrs, but must have been only a second, for his clotlies had not even caught the blaze, tliough liis faco and boefy were badly burned by the iierce heat, lio left the wall of ilamo behind him, neared the cm-vo. of the track, and with his brain in a whirl, his eyes half blinded, struck his foot upon a pebble, and feil prustrato. A suelden trembling of the earth beneath him - a deep rumbling roused liim. Oh, heayon ! here ie was, bearing down upon him, a great masa of blackness, with one terririo glaring oye, a maviug mountain, threatening destruction to all in its way. What was he here for ? Something about that giant forin, and he - oh, could he never remember? He kiiew it now; he was on his feet in a moment, and shouting with all his force. Trying to shout, rather; all his efforts producing only a dry rattle in his throat. With desperate onergy he seized a handful of stones and fluug them at the train as it cftrúe abresflt of him. They broke the window and rattled about the hend of the engineer, who, looking out, saw by the passing train the blaekelied and wounded remnant of a man, frantically wavüig a stick from wliich fluttered something which had once been a red handkerchief. The sliprt sharp whistle of " down brakes " ran out 011 the air, and the train ftopped within hail of the eager crowd on tKe opposite bank of Wildcat river. Somo went ahead and -iewed the danger escapcd, others went back and fonnd Philip lying in the roadsido insensible. Hè was conscious that night of intense pain and of men who trod softly, and tended him gently, whose horny liands touched him tenderly, and of one whose untiriiig attendance was more skillful, and whose voice was more pleasant than theirs. Wheii, later on the dr.y af ter, the train passed in over the nsw bridge, he was too weak even to ask why they choered so loud outside, or to know that it was his name people were pronouncing so often and so gratefully, he tsrned to the manly face that smiled upon his, and was sntisfied. The excitement had hurt him more than the ilames or the falling bough of a tree that had broken his arm, and when health ciime slowly back he feit too glad to care that even 'his liuiidsome face was a thing of the past. Thon his neighbors began to come in, and the women sent him üowors and daiuties, and many a one left her task to lighten tho long days for him. Uut tbc was ilio m whora he turned üways, and when he was able to sit np in the pleasant September weather, the young man carne to him and said, " Congratúlate me, Phil. ; to-morrow is my wedding day, " he somehow did not need to ask who the bride was, but taking both his friend's haiuls in his two poor, wasted ones' he said: "I do congratúlate you heartily. You have won the very best wife in the world, and you are the only man living worthy of her."


Old News
Michigan Argus