Signe staggered down into the dimly lighted steerage. Most of the poor emigrants had crawled into their bunks, and were rolling back and forth with each lurch of the ship. Signe sat and talked with a Danish girl, each clinging to a post.
“I don’t feel like going to bed,” said the girl.
“Nor I. What a night it is!”
“Do you think we shall get safely across?”
“Why, certainly,” replied Signe. “You mustn’t be frightened at a storm.”
“I try not to be afraid, but I’m such a coward.”
“Think about something pleasant, now,” suggested the other. “Remember where you’re going and whom you are going to meet.”
The girl from Denmark had confided to Signe that she was going to join her lover in America.
The girl tried to smile, and Signe continued: “What a contrast between us. I am running away; you are going to meet someone—”
Crash! A blow struck the ship and shook it from end to end; and presently the machinery came to a full stop. Then there was hurrying of feet on deck, and they could hear the boatswain’s shrill pipe, and the captain giving commands. The steerage was soon a scene of terror. Those who rushed up the stairs were met with fastened doors, and were compelled to remain below. Women screamed and prayed and raved. Then the steward came in, and informed them that there was no danger, and the scene somewhat quieted down. On further inquiry it was learned that they had collided with another ship. Some damage had been done forward, but there was no further danger. However, very few slept that night, and when morning broke, clear and beautiful, with glad hearts they rushed up into the open air.
The second class was forward. Three of the passengers had been killed and quite a number injured.
If Signe had not been so poor, and had not refused help from Hr. Bogstad, she would have taken second class passage. But now, thank God for being poor and—independent!
In another week they landed at New York, and each went her own way. Signe Dahl took the first train for Chicago.
“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away.”—Job 1:22.
The news startled the young city of Willowby from the Honorable Mayor to the newest comer in the place. The railroad company had found a shorter route to its northern main line, and it had been decided to remove, or, at least, to abandon for a time, the road running through the valley. The short cut would save fifty miles of roadbed and avoid some heavy grades, but it would leave the town of Willowby twenty-five miles from the railroad. Everybody said it would be a death-blow to the place. Petitions and propositions from the citizens to the railroad company availed nothing.
The most diresome predictions came true. After the change, the life of the young town seemed to wither away. Its business almost ceased. The speculator whose tenement houses were without roof, hurriedly closed them in, and so let them stand. Safer is the farmer, in such times. His fields will still yield the same, let stocks and values in real estate rise and fall as they will.