The trolley was packed with people going out to see what had happened, so Jimmie had plenty of company and conversation on the way. But when he came to his stop, he got off and walked alone, for the others were going to the explosives plant, and they rode a mile or so farther on the car.
Never would Jimmie forget that journey—that walk of nightmares. The road was pitch-dark, and before he had gone more than half the distance, he stumbled over something, and fell head-foremost. He got up, and groped, and discovered that it was a tree, lying prone across the road. He searched his mind, and remembered a great dead tree that stood at that spot. Could the explosion have knocked it down?
He went on, feeling his way more cautiously, yet goaded to greater speed by his fears. A little way further was a farm-house, and he went into the yard and shouted, but got no reply. The yard was covered with shingles, apparently blown from the roof. He went on, more frightened than ever.
He came to a turn in the road which he knew was less than half a mile from his home; and here there were several horses and wagons tied, but no one to answer his calls. The road passed through a wood; but apparently there was no road any more—the trees had been picked up bodily and thrown across it. Jimmie had to grope this way and that, and he ran a piece of broken branch into his cheek, and by that time was almost ready to cry with fright. He knew that his home was two miles from the explosives plant, and he could not conceive how an explosion could have done such damage at such a distance.
He saw a lantern ahead, bobbing this way and that, and he shouted louder than ever, and finally succeeded in persuading the bearer of the lantern to wait for him. It proved to be a farmer who lived some way back; he knew no more than Jimmie did, and they made their way together. Beyond the woods, the road was littered with loose dirt, bushes, bits of fence and rubbish, burned black. “It must have been near here,” declared the man, and added words which caused Jimmie’s heart almost to stand still. “It must have been on the railroad track!”
They came to a little rise, from which in day-time the line of the railroad was visible. They saw lanterns, many of them, moving here and there like a swarm of fire-flies. “Come this way,” Jimmie begged of the farmer, and ran towards his home. The road was buried under masses of earth, as if thousands of steam-shovels had emptied their contents on it. When they came to where the fence of Jimmie’s house ought to have been, they found no fence, but a slide of loose earth that had never been there before. Where the apple-tree had been there was nothing; where the lawn had been there was a pitch down a hill, and where the house had been was a huge valley, seeming in the darkness a bottomless abyss!