The piston rod, threshing about with nothing to hold it, had broken several parts of the engine, and some pieces of the driving rods had been hurled up into the cab, narrowly missing the engineer.
“It sure is a bad break,” said the fireman as he got down from the cab, after opening the door of the fire box, so that the engine would cool down. “Never saw a worse.”
“Me either,” fairly growled the conductor.
“Why couldn’t it have held off a couple of hours more and we’d been near some place where we could telegraph for help.”
“You don’t mean to say we are away out on the prairies not near a telegraph station, do you?” asked an excited man.
“That’s just what I do mean to say,” replied the conductor. “I’ve got to send a brakeman on foot eight miles to wire the news of this accident.”
“You ought to have a telegraph instrument on the train,” said the excited man. “This delay is a bad thing for me. If I don’t arrive on time I’ll sue the road. Why don’t you have a telegraph instrument on the train?”
“I don’t know,” replied the conductor wearily, for he realized he was now in for a cross-fire of all sorts of questions.
“How long will we have to wait here?” asked another man.
“It’s hard to say. The brakeman will go as fast as he can, but it will take some time to get the wrecking crew here with a new engine, and then it will take some time to get all the cars back on the track.”
“Railroads oughtn’t to have such accidents!” declared the excitable man. “I’ll sue ’em, that’s what I’ll do. What made the piston rod break, conductor?”
“Oh— I guess it got tired of going in and out of the cylinder,” retorted the conductor, starting towards the baggage car.
“Humph! I’ll report you for impertinence!” declared the now angry passenger, taking out his notebook and making a memorandum lest he forget the conductor’s retort. “It’s a disgrace the way this road is managed,” he went on to the crowd of passengers that had gathered. “I’m going to write to the newspapers about it. They’re always having accidents. Why, only last week, they run over a steer, somewhere in this locality, the engine was derailed, two cars smashed, the road bed torn up, baggage and express stuff scattered all over, everything upside down, topsy-turvy and—”
“Was the steer killed?” asked a little boy, who was listening with opened mouth and eyes to the story the excited passenger was telling.
“What!” fairly roared the man, and then, as he saw who had asked the question, he turned away, and there was a general laugh.
“Do you think we’ll be here long?” asked Bob of the colored porter of the sleeping car they had occupied.
“Oh, yes, indeedy!” exclaimed the attendant, “If we gits on de move befo’ night we’ll be mighty lucky.”
“Then we’ve got to stay out here on the prairie all day,” exclaimed Jerry.