IF ONE supposes that Fate every once in a while becomes intolerably bored with the multitude of commonplace affairs she is called on to attend to, the explanation of those extraordinary happenings which everyone occasionally hears of becomes clear; Fate being a woman requires diversions.
One velvety night in June she chose the Fannings, father and daughter, for her playthings. Returning to Berklym from a roof garden party in town followed by supper, their motor broke down in the middle of the bridge. This in itself was out of the common, for an $8,000 Gaspard is expected to be superior to such eccentricities—but it was nothing to what followed. The trouble proving to be beyond immediate repair, the travelers were compelled to get aboard one of Mr. Fanning’s trolley cars, which they never used if it could be avoided, and Fate caused it to fall out that the first car on the Royce Avenue and Emery Street fine should be number 2112 with one Dick Warder driving the motor.
Now Warder was a Yale junior and these do not commonly spend their vacations driving trolley cars. The present situation arose from the fact that young Dick and old Dick, his father, were at temporary variance on a matter of no importance to this narrative, and young Dick had chosen to show his independence of the authority, fame, and fortune of his household by getting such a position as would be most shocking to old Dick for the period of the long vacation. Thanks to University and other festivities the young man and Ailsa Fanning were not unacquainted, out of which fact arose all that followed.
Dick recognized the Fannings, but he could not be sure whether Ailsa had recognized him: probably not. At any rate she led her father up to the front of the car and sat down not three feet from Dick’s conscious back. The front door stood open and by edging a little to one side of his platform he could steal a glance at her over his shoulder now and then. She was a sight to rejoice a young man’s eyes. It will probably he remarked that stealing glances over his shoulder is not the safest thing for a motorman at his controller, and the fact is not denied. Adding to this that Dick had been a motorman for nine days only, and the wonder is that nothing worse happened.
Young Warder was naturally entirely ignorant of the intricities of vast sprawling Berklym, which embraces half a dozen good-sized towns within the sweep of its trolley system, excepting Royce Avenue and Emory Street, his own route— and the latter thoroughfare only as far as the car barns. A suburban line carried the tracks beyond; what happened to them after they dipped over the first hill, it had never occurred to him to inquire. “Rusurban,” the Fanning’s place, was not far from the barns.
Dick started old 2112 with a jerk which sent the passengers rocking against each other. Mr. Fanning was very indignant, and audibly requested his daughter to take down the motorman’s number, his own eyesight being poor. It was an inauspicious beginning to the ride, and there was worse to come. 2112 was both disreputable and decrepit ; her iron front was a mass of rusty dents ; her dingy sides bore the scratches and holes of many a brisk engagement with laden trucks ; as for her ailments, not only was she a sufferer from the prevailing flat-wheel of her kind, but she had likewise a mysterious internal lesion, which caused her to set up a pitiful screech whenever the current was turned on. It was the very last car that would have been chosen to convey the president of the road.
The stout old gentleman was of a dormouse tendency; nothing irritated him so much as having his naps interrupted. He was in a very bad temper already from the breakdown of his motor, and the uncanny howling of 2112 further exasperated him. He was heard to tell his daughter to remind him to see Coulsen, the superintendent of rolling stock, next day. But the climax of his irritation was reached when Abey Harris, a typically untidy, scorbutic, little specimen of the genus conductor, failing to recognize him, demanded “fehs.” Dick, turning, saw the old gentleman, purple in the face, searching vainly in the pockets of his evening clothes for a dime. He quickly put Abey right ; and the bell-pull beat a precipitate retreat to the rear platform. Ailsa rewarded Dick with a grateful smile; he was sure now that she recognized him ; and old 2112, leaving the bridge, took Royce Avenue “under five notches.”
The passengers alighted one by one during their long course up this street, until besides the Fannings there was but one other, a nervous maiden lady with a sallow complexion and a striking hat, tall like a tower and fearfully green. Her destination was Beverwyck Avenue.
“I have to change at the car barns,” she had announced more than once to the passengers at large ; also mentioning that she had never been out so late alone in her life. Meanwhile, old Mr. Fanning had disposed himself to resume his nap, and the motorman was casting around in his mind for some expedient whereby he might take advantage of such a rare opportunity. Suddenly Warder heard a soft voice behind him say :
“I suppose it’s against the rules to speak to the motorman!”
Dick looked over his shoulder and smiled. “There are no spotters out at two o’clock in the morning,” he said, “except your father, and he's asleep!”
“What a strange way for us to meet again!” she murmured.
“I’ve been hoping it might happen!” Dick confessed.
She steered the conversation into a safer channel and presently they were embarked in a spirited, whispered discussion of the Junior Prom., the latest popular book, and equally important subjects, while old 2112 hobbled past corner after corner, unheeded. It is not the subject of these delightful conversations which counts; that may be trivial to the point of inanity, while all the time the interchange of shining glances and friendly smiles is making the best kind of a poem.
But such a conversation is a dangerous pastime for the man at the controller. They were drawing nearer and nearer to the branching of Emory Street, where 2112 should leave the main line for her own toute, and there was none to remind him. The switchman at this point goes off duty at midnight ; thereafter the motorman must stop and turn his own switch; as for the little bell pull, who was technically supposed to be in command, wedged between the brake and the controller box on the rear platform, Abey Harris was enjoying a nap in imitation of the president. The street was wholly deserted. When they actually reached the fateful corner, Ailsa happened to be telling Dick how she had watched
him through the Thanksgiving day game; and the gratified young man's mind was lifted far above mundane rails. Old 2112 bumped indifferently over the switch—it was all the same to her—and sped on down Royce Avenue, while the motorman described to his fair passenger how he made his forty-five-yard run in the same historic game.
Some minutes later Warder was brought sharply back to earth, together with everyone else on the car, by a strange rumble, followed1 by a muffled roar, some distance away in the direction of town. The maiden lady remarked she had a premonition something was going to happen that night. As it turned out she was not wrong. Old Mr. Fanning woke up with a start, and discussed with his daughter what the strange noise might portend. Ailsa advised him to wait for the morning paper. It was while Ailsa was devoting herself to her father that Dick’s eyes returned to the track ahead; with a shock he perceived that the street was totally unfamiliar. The great new Atlantic storage warehouse, a landmark for many blocks up and down Emory Street, was nowhere to be seen. Too late he recollected the switch.
Little Abey came hurrying through the car, with his change jingling in his pocket.
“Yeh run by Em'ry Street near a mile back!” he announced to Dick as if he had known it all along.
His triumphant tone was exasperating. “Why in thunder didn’t you tell me?” mutered Dick.
“Ge ! I t’ought yeh knew w'ere yeh was goin’ !” said Abey, calmly. “It’s up to you to run her back, all right, all right.”
Dick brought his car to a stop and leaned out to look back over the track. Alas ! not four blocks behind 2112 a car of the Royce Ave. through line was bearing down on him effectually cutting off his retreat. He put on full power and ran ahead, trusting to find a switch to the returning track. The next time he
looked, the car behind had perceptibly gained on him ; doubtless it was in a better state of health than old 2112; and the motorman discovering a car ahead where no car should have been at that hour, was anxious, very likely, to learn what was up.
Old Mr. Fanning having fallen asleep again, Dick told Ailsa what had happened.
“What fun!” she said, and laughed in sheer delight; what girl worth her salt is there who does not rejoice in the prospect of an adventure? “Don't let it overtake us !” she urged with sparkling eyes ; “it would be so humiliating to have to explain that we missed our way !”
That “we” was like a strong tonic in Dick’s veins; he felt able to overthrow a dozen men for her sake. Unfortunately not all his ardor could extract a single additional mile per hour from 2112; she pounded along at her own gait; not a jot more or less. The most Dick could do to overcome this handicap was to take the curves recklessly and run the down grades at full speed. But the pursuing car overhauled them hand over hand ; Ailsa’s face fell and Dick was plunged in gloom.
He knew nothing about the drawbridge over the Flatwick canal, of course ; and took the long down grade approaching it at the top notch. At the bottom of the hill old 2112 must have been making a good thirty miles an hour. It happened the gates were just closing preparatory to opening the draw for the passage of a coal barge; a semaphore in the sidewalk showed a red light; but Dick, associating red lights with locomotives, failed to appreciate that they might be used to stop trolley cars also. 2112 with her flat wheel came tearing down the hill like a syncopated cyclone ; there was a shout from the bridge tender ; a crash as she carried away the first gate ; a roar as she leaped across the bridge ; another crash as the opposite gate went by to board. She sped on up the hill with scarcely diminished speed.
The maiden lady screamed. Mr. Fanning started up violently; he was not fated to sleep in peace this night.
“What was that?” he demanded.
“Perhaps a fuse blew out,” suggested Ailsa with instant presence of mind.
“More like a thirteen-inch gun !” snorted the old gentleman.
“I suspect you were dreaming, father dear,’’ said Ailsa, sweetly.
“Aren’t we nearly there?” he demanded', striving vainly to peer into the darkness outside the window.
“Oh, not nearly!” said Ailsa with perfect truth.
Since they continued to run along as smoothly as was possible for 2112, he began to think lie had been dreaming,^ and by and by he dropped off again muttering something about an “investigation to-morrow.” The maiden lady was in a state of partial collapse.
The pursuing car was held up perforce by the red light and the wreckage they had strewn behind them; and 2112 gained a precious two blocks. On the other hand, their retreat by this street was now effectually cut off ; they could scarcely hope to return unchallenged over the brideg they had treated so cavalierly. Indeed his situation looked1 so entirely hopeless, Dick saw small use in worrying about it further; and became quite lighthearted. “Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb,” he thought, privately determining to make the delightful ride last as long as he could.
Half way up the hill beyond the bridge, Dick made out the figure of a man waiting in the roadway, who signalled him to stop. He sounded his gong and kept on, but this determined passenger, experienced in the ways of motormen, stepped squarelv in the centre of the track; and Dick was compelled to slow up to avoid committing homicide. The man swung himself on the front platform.
“Where does this car go to?” he demanded.
“Hanged if I know!” said Dick,
cheerfully. “The never-never land, I guess.”
The man stared at him a moment —he was young and he wore a dinner coat and straw hat—then threw back his head and laughed. “That suits me !” he said ; “I’ve been looking for the route !”
By this pause they lost some of the lead they had gained at the bridge, and on the stiff grade the pursuing car walked right up on 2112, who at her age was no hill-climber. At the top of the hill they had scarcely a block to the good; and Dick, despairing of a second lucky accident, thought he saw the end of their gay journey very close ahead. He fancied he could hear over all the noise of the car, the other motorman shouting to him to stop, and he had no doubt that the outraged bridge tender was also on board seeking explanations.
“They haven't got us yet," whispered Ailsa encouragingly.
Topping the hill they plunged down the other side, losing sight of their pursuers for the moment. Royce Avenue bears away to the left on this hill ; and there is a curve in the tracks ; a side street continues straight and steeply down. Dick was in no humor to slow up for curves : he took this one flying; whereupon Fate again intervened on behalf of the lovers. Old 2112 cleared the rails with scarcely a jolt, and holding a straight course, traveled smoothly down the asphalt of the side street, lights out.
The old man stirred in his sleep and murmured: “Good piece of track here.” The maiden lady was plunged in a fresh panic at the darkening of the lights; and the green hat wagged symptomatically of impending hysteria ; however, the man in the dinner coat constituted himself her protector.
The pursuing car promptly rose over the hill : and taking the curve more prudently, bore away out of sight down Royce Avenue, the motorman and the angry bridge tender little suspecting that 2112 was con-
cealed in the shadows of the side street. But for all they had shaken their pursuers off, the situation of 2112 without rails or power could scarcely be said to have much improved. “The jig is up now!” thought Dick with an unpleasant mental picture of waking the old man up and telling him where he was—or rather where he was not. However, there was no use stopping until he had to ; he allowed 2112 to roll down the centre of the street, under curb of the brake. A belated homecomer turning at his own gate and beholding the dark bulk of the car quietly dropping down his little street, with a shadowy motorman at the box and the dim forms of passengers within, fled into his domicile and slammed the door behind him, as if the whole host of Hades was at his heels.
At the foot of the hill, under an electric light on the corner, Dick suddenly perceived the glint of steel ; and his heart rose with a bound. Another line of rails crossed the street obliquely. “If we can only get her on there !” he whispered to Ailsa with a crazy hope.
Calculating his momentum nicely, he struck the rails a glancing blow ; and, as he had counted, 2112 slewed around parallel With the line. Swinging the trolley on the wire they had plenty of power again ; and with the steel shoe they carried, they worked to get her on the rails.
In the course of their efforts the old man woke up again, but in his present state of exasperation was quite pleased to learn they had jumped the track; and promised himself to take it out of Coulsen. It never occurred to him, of course, that thev might be putting her on a different track from that she had1 jumped; and the information was not volunteered.
2112 took the new rails without much difficulty and presently they were speeding gaily down the line into the unknown. From the character of its construction it was clear this had originally been a steam railroad ; they were taken straight into the country,
leaving the streets and houses far behind. With heavier rails and more power the going was easier, and the old man slept so blissfully, Ailsa ventured to stand in the doorway, where she and Dick could talk face to face. On such a line as this 2112 needed but little attention from the motorman. A wasted moon was climbing the eastern sky ; the woods and fields were bathed in a pale, misty radiance ; and there was a delicious cool earthiness on the breeze. Ailsa and Dick had not so much to say to each other now ; it was sufficient to be together on the platform. It was little they were caring where the ride ended, so it did not end too soon.
By and by the first pale streaks of dawn showed in the east ; and Dick began to feel the anxieties of responsibility again. As they passed through a suburb, he saw ahead, idly swinging his club under the electric light on the station, a policeman. Feeling that it was due his passengers that he make some inquiries, he stopped his car opposite the officer and said politely;
“Will you please tell me where I am ?”
The mouth of the bluecoat dropped onen at this unexpected question and his eyes bulged. “Wh-what !” he stammered.
“What place is this?” asked Dick.
The bewildered officer’s eyes traveled to the Emory Street sign on Dick’s car. “What in thunder are yez doin’ out here?” he demanded.
“Oh, never mind that now,” said Dick impatiently; “just tell me where I am, please.”
“There’s something wrong here !” pronounced the guardian of the peace with remarkable perspicacity.
Away down the line Dick heard the toot of an air whistle. Thinking of the cruel disparity between the bigheavily-motored cars that run on suburban lines and his own decrepit 2112, he fairly lost his temper. “Can’t you answer a civil question?” he demanded.
“This needs lookin’ into.” said the
wise policeman; “you better come along with me, young man.” He put his foot on the step.
“Sorry, old1 chap, but I can’t stop, really,” said Dick, anxious to be polite. He placed a foot squarely against the blue chest below him, and driving out his leg, sent the representative of the law reeling across the platform. As he disappeared over the other side there was a loud and unexpected splash—there had been a great deal of rain.
“Our goose is cooked now !” said Dick ruefully to Ailsa, as 2112 gathered speed again. “He’ll telephone down the line. I should have kidnapped him !”
Meanwhile the big car behind was gaining on them. The next toot was appreciably nearer ; and looking back they could see the flash of a searchlight over the hills. But Dick, took heart in the thought that a stern chase is necessarily a long one ; and put his car to the curves and bridges at a rate of speed that caused the maiden lady to utter little screams of fright.
“T’m sure that this is not the wav to Reverwyck Avenue,” she moaned.
The gallant young man in the dinner coat hastened to reassure her.
The car behind, after a pause to pick up the discomfited policeman, started after them in good earnest, tooting wildly to alarm the countryside. However, they had a long start, and 2112 was going strong. The eyes of the youthful pair on the front platform were shining with excitement. By and by they heard an answering toot from far down the line ahead. Ailsa turned to Dick question inglv.
“Closing in on us from both sides.” he said with an attempt at carelessness. “If I can find a place to put you and your father off before they arrest me, it’ll be all right.”
“T st'ck bv the car.” said Ailsa brieflv—-and Dick glowed.
Rounding a curve he was suddenly dismaved to see a railroad crossing a short distance ahead, with a freight
train lying squarely across the track, the engine taking water at a tank beyond. There they were effectually blocked; while all the time the tooting down the line drew closer and closer ! It was maddening ! Dick brought his car to a stop and leaping off, ran toward the engine. Ailsa following him, careless now whether her father should wake.
“I say, old man!” cried Dick to the engineer, “for Heaven’s sake pull out quick! I’m in the Dickens of a fix'.” “What’s the matter, lad?” said the old Scotsman with exasperating unconcern.
“I’ve lost my way!” Dick blurted out. “I’ve busted a bridge ; I’ve assaulted a policeman ; and I’ve got the president of the line on board!”
The engineer whistled. “Lost, eh ?” he said, reflectively.
Dick groaned in his impatience. “I’m the president’s daughter.” added Ailsa in her most winning manner. “He hasn’t done anything really wrong. Please help us !”
The old man stared hard at this love apparation shaping itself out or the darkness. He looked from one to the other of the strangely assorted pair, the motorman in his blue uniform, the girl in her evening draperies; finally his eyes began to twinkle. His deliberations did not take five seconds in reality ; though to Ailsa and Dick with their pursuers pounding down the line, it seemed more like an hour. Suddenly he said :
“There’s an old switch here, from the trolley tracks to our rails. Run your car back a little piece, sonny, and open it for us. I’ll back down and we’ll hitch yotm car to the caboose with rope. I’ll take you back to town, my dears.”
Before he had finished speaking his engine was under way. Running bask with renewed hopes they easily found the switch : under a heavy
growth of weeds is was still intact. The freight train, which was not a loner one. backed down to meet them, and Dick with feverish haste helped
a brakeman lash 2112 to the tail of the caboose. Momentarily they expected to see the searchlight of the suburban car swing around the curve. Fortunately old AIr. Fanning remained dead to the world ; Ailsa watched him. As for the maiden lady, goodness knows what she thought was going on, but the man in the dinner coat was a person of great resource.
They had no more than started be^fore the suburban car was upon them. Brakie had barely time to close the switch and run, before the rays of the searchlight fell upon the spot. That very searchlight proved their salvation ; dazzled by its rays, the motorman could see neither to the right nor left of the swath it cut in the darkness; it just missed 2112 and they were safe from discovery.
The suburban car swept past them not twenty yards away; they could see all hands, including the drenched policeman, straining their eyes ahead. They bumped over the crossing and continued up the line; a little beyond, the other car hove in view and the two cars came to a stop abreast of each other. Ailsa and Dick, traveling townwards, laughed to think of the mystified consultation that would be taking place
“What would I have done if it hadn’t been for you !” murmured the maiden lady to the man in the dinner coat.
The good-natured engineer shunted them back to the trollev tracks, through the depot of the Interurban express company on the outskirts of town. The express company utilizes both the steam railroad and the trolley tracks for its cars. Appearing from nowhere, as it were, 2112 rolled through the depot, Abey swung the pole on the wire, Dick turned on the power, and 2112 gathered way down the street, leaving the expressmen rubbing their eyes and wondering, like a good many others that night, if there was a phantom trolley car abroad.
They ran down a gradual incline toward a long, low building which
had somehow a familiar look to Dick. That young man, it may be mentioned, was feeling tolerably anxious as to the final outcome of his adventure. To his great astonishment he suddenly recognized in the low building the Emory Street car barns ; but seen from the other side. As he drew up before it, a little knot of employees was standing listening gravely to one reading from a newspaper. This was natural enough : but Dick was surprised to see the black mourning bunting carried out, preparatory to being tacked to the front of the budding.
O’Hara, the starter, catching sight of Dick, turned a sickly color and clutched the man nearest. “Look ! Look !” he gasped. Every eye was turned that way.
When he saw Dick step off his car like real flesh and blood, O’Hara plucked up a little courage and approached him.
“For the love of Heaven, Warder, how did you get through? is the old man all right?”
“Sound as a rivet !” said Dick.
“How did you get through?” repeated O’Hara. “We thought sure you were caught in the smash !”
“Oh, I found1 a -way out.” said Dick warily—wondering greatly what else was in the wind. “What does the paner say?” he asked carelessly.
It was thrust at him ; and the headlines conveyed instant information.
“Immense building falls! Unfinished structure of the Atlantic Storage Company collapses in Emory Street! Trollev car 2112 missing, zvith John Fanning and daughter aboard! Believed to be buried in the ruins!'’
“Father! Father!” exclaimed the quick-witted Ailsa, reading this over Dick’s shoulder. “The brave motorman has saved all our lives!”
“Dear ! Dear ! Bless my soul !” murmured the sleepy old gentleman.
“He’s a Yale man,” added Ailsa irrelevantly.
“Ask him up,” said her father handsomely.