Speciously he argued this out in his mind and reached the wrong conclusion which he wished to reach.
If he could but get one of those sticks of dynamite! When progress came, as, now, he felt convinced it would, to drive him from his mountains and the still which made life possible to him, he could meet it, at the start, with one of its own weapons. That, even though he had a hundred such, he could fight the fight successfully, could, in the end, find triumph, he did not for an instant think. The might of the encroaching army had impressed him, and he knew that, soon or late, he would be forced to yield to it; but he coveted those sticks of dynamite. One of them would give him some slight power, at least. He acknowledged to himself that he would steal one if he got the chance, despite his innate hatred of all pilferers. Such theft would merely be the taking of an unimportant tribute from the power which would, eventually, claim much, indeed, from him.
From the distance came the screaming whistle of a locomotive pulling in along the newly built roadway to eastward. It was followed by a flurry of excitement among all the men at work around about him.
“There comes the mail,” he heard one handsome young chap shout.
He wore a suit like that which Joe had learned to hate because Frank Layson wore it.
This youth started running down the track, bright-eyed, expectant, and a dozen others ran to follow him, leaving blue-prints, their surveyors’ instruments and other tokens of their mysterious might of education, lying unheeded on the ground behind them. There was much excitement. Even the rough laborers stopped delving at their tasks for a few minutes, to straighten from their work and stand, with curious eyes agaze down-track.
In the distance Joe saw smoke arise above the tops of the invaded forest-trees. Then he heard the growing clangor of a locomotive’s bell, then other whistling and the approaching rumble of steel wheels upon steel rails, the groan of brake shoes gripping, the rattle of contracted couplings, the impact of car-bumpers.
The excitement grew among the working gangs. Even the laborers left their tasks and started down the rough surface of the new embankment toward the place, a quarter-of-a-mile away, where the train would stop at the end of the crude ballasting.
Lorey sat there on his stump, apparently impassive, watching all this flurry with resentful, discontented eyes. He himself was infinitely curious about the coming train; but he could not bring himself to go to see it. He had never seen a railway train, but it somehow seemed to him that if he hurried with the rest to meet this one it would mean a certain sacrifice of dignity in the face of the invading conqueror. He sat there, grimly wondering what it might be like, what the people whom it brought were like, until, suddenly, he discovered that he was alone. The last workman yielding to temptation, free from supervision for the moment, had run down the bank to meet the train, get mail, see who had come. Lying not a dozen feet away from Joe on their grey blanket were the sticks of dynamite.