“What ever is the matter?” gasped Worcester, quite wide awake by now.
“We’ve landed into a drift, I fancy,” said Acton, “and there’s no home for us to-night. What beastly luck!”
There was now no sound but the roaring of the storm; the engine gave no sign that they could hear, and Acton impatiently let down the window, but was instantly almost blinded by the snow, which whirled through the open window. Crossing over, he tried the other with better success, and the first thing he saw was the guard, waist deep in snow, trying to make his way forward, and holding his lamp well before him. “What’s happened, guard?” he asked.
“Matter!—why, we’re off the line for one thing, and——”
Forward, they could hear the shouts of the driver above the hiss of escaping steam.
“Let me have your cap, Grim,” said Acton, all energy in a moment. “I’m going forward to see what is up. Back in a minute.”
He slipped out carefully, but seeing the predicament of the guard, he did not jump out into the snow, but advanced carefully along the footboards, feeling his way forward by the brass-work of the carriages. To the leeward the bulk of the train gave comparative shelter from the fury of the storm, and Acton was in a minute abreast of the guard, floundering heavily in the drifts.
“This is a better way, guard. Take my hand, and I’ll pull you up.”
“All right, sir. Here’s the lamp.”
Acton’s hand closed on the guard’s wrist, and in a moment the young athlete had the man beside him. Together they made their way forward, and by the light of the lamp they saw what had happened. The engine had taken a drift edge-way, had canted up, and then rolled over against the walls of the cutting. Luckily, the carriages had kept the rails. The driver was up to his neck in the snow, but the fireman was not visible.
Acton availed himself of the overturned engine, which was making unearthly noises, and reached out a hand for the driver. The latter clutched it, and scrambled out.
“Where’s your mate?”
“Tom jumped the other way, sir.”
Acton swung the lamp round, sending its broad sheet of light into the driving snow. For a moment he could see nothing but the dazzling white floor, but next instant perceived the fireman, whose head rested against the horizontal wheel of the overturned engine.
“This man is hurt,” he said, when he saw a crimson stain on the snow. “Take the lamp, guard.”
Acton clambered over the short tender, seized the man by the shoulder, and, with an immense effort of strength, pulled him partly up. The man gave no signs of life.
“Bear a hand, driver, will you? He’s too much for me alone.”
The driver hastily scrambled beside Acton, and in a minute or so they had the insensible man between them.
“He hurt himself as he jumped,” said Acton, looking with concern at a gaping cut over the man’s eye. “Anyhow, our first business is to bring him round.”