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Put Yourself In Her Place

Put Yourself In Her Place image
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The long slimmer day liad crept slowly away, and it was nearly 5 o'clock. The hoiirs at the railway station were markcd as by sonie gigantic clock that told the laggard minutes by screaining whistle and clanging bell. The 4:30 accommodation had gone east, the western expresa chïe there at 4:55 had thundered through the village, gone on over the great viaduct and disappeared round the vast curve beyond. So one connted the hours by the trains, Lydia by name, a girl of the best New Eiigland type, quiet and yet with an immense capacity for doing and daring should love and the occasion demand. The local freight would come next, and then - then she would see him again. She laid aside her work, put some splitzephyr vanity upon her head, and went out towards the railroad. As she approached the station she saw her brother, the station-master, opening the little freight house on the farther side of the track. By this she knew that the local freight would stop this time. Her heart beat the faster and she quickened her step. On reaching the passenger station where the village street cressed the railway, she looked up and down fhe line and then crossed over and turned to the left and walked beside the track towards the freight house. To understand all that took place on this occasion, and to fully appreciate her consummate skill in controlling the evcnts so quickiy to crowd upon her, we must study the construction of the road at this point. The main line for more than a mile to the right, or towards the east, was perfectly straight and comparatively level. To the left, or the west, it crossed a deep valley by a lofty stone viaduct, and beyond the valley it curved to the aorth and mounted 1 the hill by a long grade. Just east of the passenger station a branch road entered the main line and there was, as might be supposed, a cross-over switch. Beyond the passenger station, on the west, was. a short siding ending in a smiill iroight house, and directly opposite was another siding with a freight shed and coal yard. At this point there was also another cross-over switch. Lydia walked on past the freight house, and, crossing the side track, found a large Hat rock beside the way, and there, onder the shade of an ancient apple tree, she sat down to wait till her lover should come. He comes ! She heard the three long whistles soimding down the line, and n bright blush mounted to her face. The train would stop. This was the signal for the station-master. Her brother came out of the freight house, spoke pleasantly to her, and then walked on towards the switch at the head of the siding. Buddcnly the main line track before hor began to sing in sharp metallic murmurs. The train had entered that section of the road and he was near. Then there came the sound of eseaping stcam. The engine was slowing down and the steam, no longer employed, was bursting with a loud roar from the sai'ety valve as if impatient of dc-lay. With a jar that shook the ground the immense freight engine rolled past her, and the engineer, leaning out of his wiudow, nodded to her as he slid past. Then the cars in long procession came into sight and moved past with slowly decreasing Speed. Four brakemen busy . at the brakes went past and still he came not. At last the rear car peared, and a young man swung himself down f rom the iron ladder on the car and sprang to the ground at he f eet. A sooty man, ciad in blue canvas now black with smoke and dust. Only a brakeman ! Oh; a triflo better- the conductor of the froiglit train. A year ago lie had been glad to take the place of a brakeman, and already lie had been promoted. Love did it. He had met and loved Lydia in the days of his foolish idleness; and Bhe had insÍBted that he do some manly work or shc could not - yes, she could and did love him; but he must show himself wortby of her love. Already he had advanced, and sliewaswell p'leased with Iris progresa, and they had become engageil. A grimy, dusty man m unlovely garmentB ; but, in her eyes, he was a man made for beller tilinga. As he stopcj beside her ono could sèe in liis plear eyes and sensible face that he liad good stuff in him and was wortliy of her love. It becomes us not to linger wliile they tíilk quirtly togetlier bcside the track. Tlic train moved slower and slower, ti.ll, finally, it Btopped with the last car just boyond the switch. The ironhorse was moved on, the station master signiüed with hia arrns in a curioUs fashion, and each of the four brakemen repeated tlie motion in turo. Wliite puffs of stoain rose high in the air írom the farther end of the train. A curious, rattling sound spread through the train, and the last car backed down, turned aside, and entered the siding. The station-master left the switch, and carne hastily toward the lovers. " Good day, Álí'red. Light freight today ; only one car - by the way, the brake-chain is broken, and you had better drop the car at the repair shops. The freight can be thrown out without leaviug the car." So saying, the station-master went on into the freight house, followed by the rattling and rurabling cars. The gradually lost their speed, and then caine to a stop with the end of the train lost in the dark cavern of the freight-house. There was a shemt fronj the building, and then one of the brakemen began to move bis arms as a signal to go on. Again the white pnffs of steain shot up in the distance, and, with a jar and quiver, the train started again. Car after car rolled passed them. There werc hurried whispers, a warm hand-shake and perhaps a kiss, and the young man swung forward, grasped the ladder sn the last car, climbed quickly to the top and sat down. She stood gazing after hini as he was drawn away from her, and smiled and waved farewell to him with her handkerchief. " Here, Lydia, you must help me." It was' hor brother vho sfcood boeide hor with a bunch of keys in his hand. " The passenger train follows this at once and I must go to the station. Will you please close the switch ai'tor them ?" Bhe took the keys mechanically, and theu turned again to gaze after her lover seated on the last car of the retreating train. It had paf sed out of the switch and was crossing the great viaduct and moving more and more swiftly away. To dose and lock the switch was neither difficult nor dangerons, and she quietly walked on toward the end of the siding till she came to the switoh-post. Here she leaned against the wooden frame for a little space, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand and watching the train. It had run around the valley and was turning into the great curve that crept üpward in a long grade ovér the hill bevond. It was now a milo away, and she could no longer distinguish any one on the cars. She tumed slowly away, seized the iron bar of the switch and easily thi-ew it over in to place so as to leavethe rnain line open for the nest train. She looked back down the road and saw that the passenger train had entered the line from the branch and was just up at the station to discharge passengers. It may seem surprising that a passenger train should be allowed to follow a freight train so closely. Bad engineering as this arrangement was, it was not so serious as it seemed, for this passenger train dia not follow the freight except for three miles, when it reached the end of its trip and was turned off upon a siding. She turned once more to look after the retreating freight train. It was in Ml view, climbing the grade on the great curve. Suddenly she put Up both hands to shade her eyes and leaned forward on the switch frame. What had happened ? Two tiny puffe of steam rose from the engine. It was the signal to .stop. All ! the train has parted ! Paint and far away caine the short, sharp danger whistle. A single car had broken loose from the train, and had been luft behind. It was standing on the track. No. It was moving backward. It was beginning to roll down the grade. It was moving fastcr and f aster. There was a man upon it - her lover. Involuntarily she spread out her arms and let them f all to her side three oriour times in succcssion - the signal to put on the brakea. "How foolish! He cannot see me, and ." She leaned against the switch frame, and shook with and agonyj The brake was broken. Swift and swifter rolled the disubled car. It was coming down the track gaining speed at cvery rod. She sprang to the middle of the track and tried to shout to the engineer of the train at the station. She made the motions to back down out of the danger. Her tongue clovo to the roof of her mouth, and her cry became an inarticulate groan. Onward came the car. She could see her lover upon it frautieally waving hlB arms from right to left. What did it mean ? Her bram seemed to be on fire. She could do nothing but gaze on the atlvancing car in diunb horror. Ah ! The passengere ! Could she not save thuni ? With a violent wrench she oponed the switch igain and stood holding tlio bar in both hands. Better so- botter one life lost than a dozen. Her feet seemed bolted to the ground. She must stay and see him killed, and by her own hand. Ah ! wliy had she not thought of it before ? The cross-over switch ! Could she reach it in time she might save him. She snatched the key from the switch and ran with frantic spoed up the line. She never knew how she opened that switch. With moans and cries she threw herself across the line and began to run down the other side. Could she reach the switch before the car ? lts roaring rang in her ears. Panting, with almost bursting ■ boaom she reaehed the switch, opened it, and stood clinging to it as the car came thundering over the viaduct. She looked up at her lover upon the car. He had seen and understood the cLumge in the switches, His car, helpless though it was, vould croes over to the down-track and roll harmlessly along the level line till its forco was spent. He was savel, and by her ready wit and skill. The passengere in the train were also saved. She had savcd him. Love had heen her inspiration. (ireat heaveus ! what's that? The expresa ! The down express was coming ! All was in vain. He was lost. She saw him throw up his nrms in (lcsiair. The very plan si i e haddevised to k.ivc him would be his destrucción. Better f ar to have thrown him off the siding as she had in tended. Now he would meet a more dreadful deatli, and tlie destrjiötion would include scores of livesinul ;il of a doae. All tliin ihislird throiitih hcv miiid like ás "figlithing'. She feit her lf.give way beneath hor, and she clung to the switch in despair. SUe hut her eyea 1 hide the comiriR disaster, Hnrk ! ' The whistle on the expresa. They had seen the imminent collision and were doing their best to avert it. She, too, must do somcthing. With a bound she sprang to the next switch, toro it open, and stood paaiting and moaning beside it with the bar in lier hand. SJm must save títe train, evon if she buried her lover under tlxe splintered wreek of the car. Onward came the car, thundering over the viaduct, and just anead of the train. It turned quiekly at the switch, crossed over and shot past lior into the siding. He had one look at her upturned face. It was fnli of love and helpless niisery. She was sending him to corfciin destmetion - to save the expresa train. The instant the üar jjassod she closcd the switch and sprang back again to the othër switch, and closed it just in time to see the express train sweep past in safety. In an instant the helpless car ran into the freight-houso with an awful splintering crash. The express pulled up opposite the station, and in a moment a crowd of peoplo rau shouting and i'rantic np the line. Some of them had seen the whole performance and knew wliat it meant, Dut for the majority of them it was a tragic mystery. They found Lydia upon the ground by the switch, and with the keys still elutched in her hand. Wluit luid she done? What had happencd to hér: She could not answer. Nature had mercifully taken away her senses. They took her up tenderly and cai-riod her to the station and laid her upon a seat in the waiting-room. The passngers of the two trains crowded the room and offered every aid, for in some vague rnanner they bcgan to understand tlmi she .was the creditor to the value of all their lives.' She had paid for their safety with costly sacrifice The freight train backed down to the cross-over switch and the engineers of the three trains met and began to examine the positions of the switches. A number of men also came trom the express train, and among them was one who seemed in authority. He, too, examined the line carefully, and the engincers explained the matter to him and listened to las remarks with becoming deference. The little room in the station was packed with people, idlers and others, and they could with diffieulty bring him in. "No," said one of the ladies who were trying to restore the girl. ' ' It may be too great a shock for her. She must not see mm yei. "Mako way there, gentlemen. The Superintendent of the road is here. " Tüe crowd moved slightly, and the Superintendent advanoed into the room. He took off his hat and spoke the people near, and then he stooped over the unconscious girl and softly kissed her, like as a father. "Shesaved all oiir lives, and I fear she thinks she paid dearly for them." Suddenly she opened her eyes and sat up bewildered, "Where is he ? Is ho much hurt ? Oh ! Perhaps he is " - "Let me alone, I teil you," cried a big, bold voice in the erowd, "I must go to her." He escaped from those who would detain him, and in a moment was beside her. Some of the people laughed in foolish joy, others cried. The more delicate and sensible were silent, for the moeting was not for words or description. After a slight pause the Superintendent said to the young man : "I congratúlate you, sir. You were on the car ? " "Yes, sir. I was on the car, and I saved myself at the last moment by jumping off. I landed on a pile of fine coal, and got a rough tumble - and that was all. The car ia a heap of splinters." Then the Superintendent called the young man nearer to him and spoke to ïiim privately, and presently they both shook hands" as ü' greatly pleased over something. The young man sat down beside the girl, andwhisperedin her ear. "I've got the place, Lydia. We're all right now." Then the bells rang, and the people began to disperse towards their trains. As they departed, a small oreature - probably a stookholder - objected to the proceedings, and remarkcd to the Superintendent that ' ' it was not best to give fat offices to brakemcn for doing nothing." " Precisely," said the Superintendent. "But thewoman did somctliing, and, if you wish to know the full measure oí her splendid deed, go put yourself in lier place." -


Old News
Michigan Argus