It was a weary business lifting the unconscious fireman into an empty compartment, and still more weary work to bring him round, but at last this was done. Acton tore up his handkerchief, and with melted snow washed clean the ugly cut on his forehead, and then left the fireman in charge of his mate.
“We’ll have to roost here, sir, all night. There’s no getting out of this cutting, nohow. Thank you, sir; I’ll see to Tom.”
Acton and the guard made their way back to the rear of the train, where the Amorians were awaiting their schoolfellow with impatience and anxiety.
“The engine is off the rails and the stoker is damaged above a bit,” said Acton, seriously, “and we’re fixtures here until the company comes and digs us out. There’s only one thing to do: we must make ourselves as comfy as possible for the night. I must see that lady, though, before we do anything for ourselves. Back in a moment.”
Acton sallied out once more and devoted a good ten minutes to explaining matters to the very horrified and nervous lady and her tearful little twelve-year-old girl.
“I’ll bring you some cushions, and I’ll steal Dick Worcester’s pillow for the little girl,” he explained cheerfully. “You have one rug, I see. We can spare you a couple more. No danger at all, really, But isn’t it really horrid? We have not a morsel of food to offer you, but I dare say you can, if you don’t worry over it, put up with a makeshift bed—only for one night, I’m sure.”
Acton relieved Dick Worcester—who plumed himself on his pillow—of that article, and one of Senior’s rugs.
On his return he confronted the dubious looks of his chums with his invincible cheerfulness.
“Now, you fellows! we’re to sleep here. Two on a seat is the order, and one on the floor, that’s me. Dicky, darling, please don’t roll off your perch. We’ve plenty of rugs and overcoats: enough to stock Nansen, Grim, so we shan’t all wake up frozen to death.”
Gus Todd smiled dutifully at this bull.
The guard came with a modest request.
“Can you roost with us? Oh! certainly. Bag another cushion for the floor, and then you’re all right. More, the merrier; and let the ventilation go hang. If Mr. Worcester doesn’t fall on you, guard, I dare say you’ll live to tell the tale.”
The Amorians, who trusted to Acton as they would have trusted to no one else on earth, entered into the fun of the thing, and the last joke of the night was a solemn warning to Grim from Dick Worcester to avoid snoring, as he valued his life.
“We can manage like this for one night, anyhow,” whispered Acton to the guard, “for we really keep each other warm. We’ll get out of this to-morrow.”
The guard did not reply to this for fully a minute. He whispered back, “Listen to the wind, sir. The storm isn’t half over yet. I’ve got my doubts about to-morrow. We’re snowed up for more’n a day.”