Meanwhile, the pandemonium raging at the shops was beginning to surge backward into the railway yard. Some one had fired a box-car, and the upblaze centred a fresh fury of destruction. Up at the head of the three-sectioned freight train a mad mob was cutting the leading locomotive free.
Dawson, crouching in the roundhouse door directly opposite, knew all that Judson could tell him, and he instantly divined the purpose of the engine thieves. They were preparing to send the freight engine eastward on the Desert Division main line to collide with and wreck whatever coming thing it was that they feared.
The threatened deed wrought itself out before the draftsman could even attempt to prevent it. A man sprang to the footboard of the freed locomotive, jerked the throttle open, stayed at the levers long enough to hook up to the most effective cut-off for speed, and jumped for his life.
Dawson was deliberate, but not slow-witted. While the abandoned engine was, as yet, only gathering speed for the eastward dash, he was dodging the straggling rioters in the yard, racing purposefully for the only available locomotive, ready and headed to chase the runaway—namely, the big eight-wheeler coupled to the president’s car. He set the switch to the main line as he passed it, but there was no time to uncouple the engine from the private car, even if he had been willing to leave the woman he loved, and those with her, helpless in the midst of the rioting.
So there was no more than a gasped-out word to Williams as he climbed to the cab before the eight-wheeler, with the Nadia in tow, shot away from the Crow’s Nest platform. And it was not until the car was growling angrily over the yard-limit switches that Van Lew burst into the central compartment like a man demented, to demand excitedly of the three women who were clinging, terror-stricken, to Judge Holcombe:
“Who has seen Miss Eleanor? Where is Miss Eleanor?”
Only Miss Brewster herself could have answered the question of her whereabouts at the exact moment of Van Lew’s asking. She was left behind, standing aghast in the midst of tumults, on the platform of the Crow’s Nest. Terrified, like the others, at the sudden outburst of violence, she had ventured from the car to look for Lidgerwood’s messenger, and in the moment of frightened bewilderment the Nadia had been whisked away.
Naturally, her first impulse was to fly, and the only refuge that offered was the superintendent’s office on the second floor. The stairway door was only a little distance down the platform, and she was presently groping her way up the stair, praying that she might not find the offices as dark and deserted as the lower story of the building seemed to be.
The light of the shop-yard fire, and that of the burning box-car nearer at hand, shone redly through the upper corridor windows, enabling her to go directly to the open door of the superintendent’s office. But when she reached the door and looked within, the trembling terror returned and held her spell-bound, speechless, unable to move or even to cry out.