“In a general way, it’s not the thing to interfere in a row with a boss,” he said. “Still, four to two, with two more watching out for a chance to butt in, is pretty steep odds, and Farren’s a straight man. I felt quite good when I hit one of those fellows with a big lump of gravel.”
Hardie could understand his sensations and did not rebuke him. So far as his experience went, the western locomotive crews were of an excellent type, and he was willing to admit that there were occasions when the indignation of an honest man might be expressed in vigorous action.
“It was really four to one, which makes the odds heavier,” he said.
“I guess not,” rejoined the engineer with a smile. “You were laying into one of them pretty lively as I ran up.”
Hardie felt a little disconcerted. Having been partly dazed by the blow he had received, he had no clear recollection of the part he had taken in the scrimmage, though he had been conscious of burning anger when Farren was struck down. It was, however, difficult to believe that the engineer had been mistaken, because the locomotive lamp had lighted the track brilliantly.
“Anyway, one of them put his mark on you,” resumed his companion. “Did you notice it, Pete?”
“Sure,” said the grinning fireman; “big lump on his right cheek.” He fumbled in a box and handed a tool to Hardie. “Better hold that spanner to it, if you’re going to preach to-morrow. But how’s Farren?”
“No sign of consciousness. The sooner we can get him into a doctor’s hands, the better.”
“Stir her up,” ordered the engineer, and nodded when his comrade swung back the fire-door and hurled in coal. Then he turned to Hardie. “We’re losing no time. She’s running to beat the Imperial Limited clip, and the track’s not worked down yet into its bed.”
Hardie, looking about for a few moments, thought the speed could not safely be increased. There was a scream of wind about the cab, though when he had stood upon the track the air had been almost still; a bluff, which he knew was a large one, leaped up, hung over the line, and rushed away behind; the great engine was rocking and jolting so that he could hardly maintain his position, and the fireman shuffled about with the erratic motion. Then Hardie busied himself trying to protect Farren from the shaking, until the scream of the whistle broke through the confused sounds and the pace diminished. The bell began to toll, and, rising to his feet, Hardie saw a cluster of lights flitting back toward him. Shortly afterward they stopped beside a half-built row of elevators.
“Guess you’ll have to be back to-morrow,” the engineer said.
“I’ve been rather worried about it. It would take me all night to walk.”
“That’s so,” agreed the other. “All you have to do is to see Farren safe in the doctor’s hands and leave the rest to me. I’ve got to have some water, for one thing.” He turned to his fireman. “We’ll put in that new journal babbit; she’s not running sweet.”