“It’s absolutely impossible. Moreover, I am shocked to learn that our late brother could so far forget his duty at the very door of death. No, son, a thousand times no,” said the bishop.
“Then give me the crucifix!” demanded the factor, fiercely.
“That, too, is impossible; that is the property of the church.”
“Well,” said the factor, filling his pipe again and gazing into the flickering fire, “they’re all about the same. And they’re all right, too, I presume—all but Wing and Dunraven and me.”
As Waterloo lingered in the memory of the conquered Corsican, so Ashtabula was burned into the brain of Bradish. Out of that awful wreck he crawled, widowed and childless. For a long time he did not realize, for his head was hurt in that frightful crash.
By the time he was fit to leave the hospital they had told him, little by little, that all his people had perished.
He made his way to the West, where he had a good home and houses to rent and a hole in the hillside that was just then being changed from a prospect to a mine.
The townspeople, who had heard of the disaster, waited for him to speak of it—but he never did. The neighbors nodded, and he nodded to them and passed on about his business. The old servant came and asked if she should open the house, and he nodded. The man-servant—the woman’s husband—came also, and to him Bradish nodded; and at noon he had luncheon alone in the fine new house that had just been completed a year before the catastrophe.
About once a week Bradish would board the midnight express, ride down the line for a few hundred miles, and double back.
When he went away they knew he had gone, and when he came back they knew he had returned and that was as much as his house-keeper, his agent, or the foreman at the mines could tell you.
One would have thought that the haunting memory of Ashtabula would have kept him at home for the rest of his life; but he seemed to travel for the sake of the ride only, or for no reason, as a deaf man walks on the railroad-track.
Gradually he extended his trips, taking the Midland over into Utah; and once or twice he had been seen on the rear end of the California Limited as it dropped down the western water-shed of Raton Range.
One night, when the Limited was lapping up the landscape and the Desert was rushing in under her pilot and streaking out below the last sleeper like tape from a ticker, the danger signal sounded in the engine cab, the air went on full, the passengers braced themselves against the seats in front of them, or held their breath in their berths as the train came to a dead stop.
The conductor and the head man hurried forward shouting, “What’s the matter?” to the engineer.
The driver, leaning from his lofty window, asked angrily, “What in thunder’s the matter with you? I got a stop signal from behind.”