Desire would have guessed it in a minute; but she saw little of either in this week. Mrs. Ledwith was not well, and there was a dress to be made for Helena.
Kenneth Kincaid’s elder men friends said of him, when they saw him in these days, “That’s a fine fellow; he is doing very well.” They could read that; he carried it in his eye and in his tone and in his step, and it was true.
It was a hot morning; it would be a stifling day in the city. They sat quiet while they could, in the cars, taking the fresh air of the fields and the sea reaches, reading the French news, and saying little.
They came almost in to the city terminus, when the train stopped. Not at a station. There were people to alight at the last but one; these grew impatient after a few minutes, and got out and walked.
The train still waited.
Mr. Ledwith finished a column he was reading, and then looked up, as the conductor came along the passage.
“What is the delay?” he asked of him.
“Freight. Got such a lot of it. Takes a good while to handle.”
Freight outward bound. A train making up.
Mr. Ledwith turned to his newspaper again.
Ten minutes went by. Kenneth Kincaid got up and went out, like many others. They might be kept there half an hour.
Mr. Ledwith had read all his paper, and began to grow impatient. He put his head out at the window, and looked and listened. Half the passengers were outside. Brake-men were walking up and down.
“Has he got a flag out there?” says the conductor to one of these.
“Don’t know. Can’t see. Yes, he has; I heard him whistle brakes.”
Just then, their own bell sounded, and men jumped on board. Kenneth Kincaid came back to his seat.
Behind, there was a long New York train coming in.
Mr. Ledwith put his head out again, and looked back. All right; there had been a flag; the train had slackened just beyond a curve.
But why will people do such things? What is the
use of asking? Mr.
Ledwith still looked out; he could not have told you why.
A quicker motion; a darkening of the window; a freight car standing upon a siding, close to the switch, as they passed by; a sudden, dull blow, half unheard in the rumble of the train. Women, sitting behind, sprang up,—screamed; one dropped, fainting: they had seen a ghastly sight; warm drops of blood flew in upon them; the car was in commotion.
Kenneth Kincaid, with an exclamation of horror, clutched hold of a lifeless body that fell—was thrust—backward beside him; the poor head fractured, shattered, against the fatal window frame.
* * * * *
The eleven o’clock train came out.
People came up the street,—a group of gentlemen, three or four,—toward Mr. Prendible’s house.
Desire sat in a back window behind the blinds, busy. Mrs. Ledwith was lying on the bed.