There is a page in Hill Division history that belongs to Jimmy Beezer. This is Beezer's story, and it goes back to the days of the building of the long-talked-of, figure-8-canted-over-sideways tunnel on the Devil's Slide, that worst piece of track on the Hill Division, which is to say, the worst piece of track, bar none, on the American continent.

Beezer, speaking generally, was a fitter in the Big Cloud shops; Beezer, in particular, wore a beard. Not that there is anything remarkable in the fact that one should wear a beard, though there are two classes of men who shouldn't—the man who chews tobacco, and the man who tinkers around a railroad shop and on occasions, when major repairs are the order of the day, is intimate with the "nigger-head" of a locomotive. Beezer combined both classes in his person—but with Beezer there were extenuating circumstances. According to Big Cloud, Beezer wore a beard because Mrs. Beezer said so; Mrs. Beezer, in point of size, made about two of Beezer, and Big Cloud said she figured the beard kind of took the cuss off the discrepancy.

Anyway, whether that is so or not, Beezer wore a beard, and the reason it is emphasized here is because you couldn't possibly know Beezer without it. Its upper extremity was nicotine-dyed, in spots, to a nut brown, and from thence shaded down to an indeterminate rust color at its lower edge—when he hadn't been dusting off and doing parlor-maid work with it in the unspeakable grime of a "front-end." In shape it never followed the prevailing tonsorial fashions—as far as any one knew, no barber was ever the richer for Beezer's beard. Beezer used to trim it himself Sunday mornings—sort of half moon effect he always gave it.

He was a spare, short man, all jump and nerves, and active as a cat. He had shrewd, brown, little eyes, but, owing to the fact that he had a small head and wore a large-size, black, greasy peaked cap jammed down as far over his face as it would go, the color of his eyes could hardly be said to matter much, for when you looked at Beezer, Beezer was mostly just a round knob of up-tilted nose—and beard.

Beezer's claims to immortality and fame, such as they are, were vested in disease. Yes; that's it, you've got it right—disease. Beezer had a disease that is very common to mankind in general. There's a whole lot of men like Beezer. Beezer envied the other fellow's job.

Somebody has said that the scarcest thing on earth is hen's teeth, but the man who hasn't some time or other gone green-eyed over the other chap's trick, and confidentially complained to himself that he could "sit in" and hold it down a hanged sight better himself, has the scarcity-of-hen's-teeth-oracle nailed to the mast from the start. And a curious thing about it is that the less one knows of what the men he envies is up against the more he envies—and the better he thinks he could swing the other's job himself. There's a whole lot like Beezer.

Now Beezer was an almighty good fitter. Tommy Regan said so, and Regan ought to know; that's why he took Beezer out of the shops where the other had grown up, so to speak, and gave Beezer the roundhouse repair work to do. And that's where Beezer caught the disease—in the roundhouse. Beezer contracted a mild attack of it the first day, but it wasn't bad enough to trouble him much, or see a doctor about, so he let it go on—and it got chronic.

Beezer commenced to inhale an entirely different atmosphere, and the more he inhaled it the more discontented he grew. An engine out in the roundhouse, warm and full of life, the steam whispering and purring at her valves, was a very different thing from a cold, rusty, dismantled boiler-shell jacked up on lumbering blocks in the erecting shop; and the road talk of specials, holding orders, tissues, running time and what-not had a much more appealing ring to it than discussing how many inches of muck No. 414 had accumulated on her guard-plates, the incidental damning of the species wiper, and whether her boxes wanted new babbitting or not. Toiling like a slave ten hours a day for six days a week, and maybe overtime on Sundays, so that the other fellow could have the fun, and the glory, and the fatter pay check, and the easy time of it, began to get Beezer's goat. The "other fellow" was the engineer.

Beezer got to contrasting up the two jobs, and the more he contrasted the less he liked the looks of his own, and the more he was satisfied of his superior ability to hold down the other over any one of the crowd that signed on or off in the grease-smeared pages of the turner's book, which recorded the comings and goings of the engine crews. And his ability, according to Beezer's way of looking at it, wasn't all swelled head either; for there wasn't a bolt or a split-pin in any type of engine that had ever nosed its pilot on the Hill Division that he couldn't have put his finger on with his eyes shut. How much, anyhow, did an engineer know about an engine? There wasn't a fitter in the shops that didn't have the best engineer that ever pulled a throttle pinned down with his shoulders flat on the mat on that count—and there wasn't an engineer but what would admit it, either.

But a routine in which one is brought up, gets married in, and comes to look upon as a sort of fixed quantity for life, isn't to be departed from offhand, and at a moment's notice. Beezer grew ardent with envy, it is true; but the idea of actually switching over from the workbench to the cab didn't strike him for some time. When it did—the first time—it took his breath away—literally. He was in the pit, and he stood up suddenly—and the staybolts on the rocker-arm held, and Beezer promptly sat down from a wallop on the head that would have distracted the thoughts of any other man than Beezer.

Engineer Beezer! He had to lift the peak of his cap to dig the tears out of his eyes, but when he put it back again the peak was just a trifle farther up his nose. Engineer Beezer—a limited run—the Imperial Flyer—into division on the dot, hanging like a lord of creation from the cab window—cutting the miles on the grades and levels like a swallow—roaring over trestles—diving through tunnels—there was excitement in that, something that made life worth living, instead of everlastingly messing around with a hammer and a cold chisel, and pulling himself thin at the hips on the end of a long-handled union wrench. Day dreams? Well, everybody day-dreams, don't they? Why not Beezer?

It is not on record that any one ever metamorphosed himself into a drunkard on the spot the first time he ever stepped up to a bar; but as the Irishman said: "Kape yer foot on the rail, an' yez have the makin's av a dombed foine bum in yez!"

Of course, the thing wasn't feasible. It sounded all right, and was mighty alluring, but it was all dream. Beezer put it from him with an unctuous, get-thee-behind-me-Satan air, but he purloined a book of "rules"—road rules—out of Pudgy MacAllister's seat in the cab of the 1016. He read up the rules at odd moments, and moments that weren't odd—and gradually the peak of his cap crept up as far as the bridge of his nose. Beezer was keeping his foot on the rail.

Mrs. Beezer found the book. That's what probably started things along toward a showdown. She was, as has been said, a very large woman; also she was a very capable woman of whom Beezer generally stood in some awe, who washed, and ironed, and cooked for the Beezer brood during the day, and did overtime at nights on socks and multifarious sewing, including patches on Beezer's overalls—and other things, which are unmentionable. The book fell out of the pocket of one of the other things, one evening. Mrs. Beezer examined it, discovered MacAllister's name scrawled on it, and leaned across the table under the paper-shaded lamp in their modest combination sitting and dining room.

"What are you doing with this, Mr. Beezer?" she inquired peremptorily; Mrs. Beezer was always peremptory—with Beezer.

Beezer coughed behind his copy of the Big Cloud Daily Sentinel.

"Well?" prompted Mrs. Beezer.

"I brought it home for the children to read," said Beezer, who, being uncomfortable, sought refuge in the facetious.

"Mr. Beezer," said Mrs. Beezer, with some asperity, "you put down that paper and look at me."

Mr. Beezer obeyed a little doubtfully.

"Now," continued Mrs. Beezer, "what's got into you since you went into the roundhouse, I don't know; but I've sorter had suspicions, and this book looks like 'em. You might just as well make a clean breast of what's on your mind, because I'm going to know."

Beezer looked at his wife and scowled. He felt what might be imagined to be somewhat the feelings of a man who is caught sneaking in by the side entrance after signing the pledge at a Blue Ribbon rally. It was not a situation conducive to good humor.

"There ain't anything got into me," said he truculently. "If you want to know what I'm doing with that book, I'm reading it because I'm interested in it. And I've come to the conclusion that a fitter's job alongside of an engineer's ain't any better than a mud-picking Polack's."

"You should have found that out before you went into the shops ten years ago," said Mrs. Beezer, with a sweetness that tasted like vinegar.

"Ten years ago!" Beezer flared. "How's a fellow to know what he's cut out for, and what he can do best, when he starts in? How's he to know, Mrs. Beezer, will you tell me that?"

Mrs. Beezer was not sympathetic.

"I don't know how he's to know," she said, "but I know that the trouble with some men is that they don't know when they're well off, and if you're thinking of——"

"I ain't," said Beezer sharply.

"I said 'if,' Mr. Beezer; and if——"

"There's no 'if' about it," Beezer lied fiercely. "I'm not——"

"You are," declared Mrs. Beezer emphatically, but with some wreckage of English due to exceeding her speed permit—Mrs. Beezer talked fast. "When you act like that I know you are, and I know you better than you do yourself, and I'm not going to let you make a fool of yourself, and come home here dead some night and wake me up same as poor Mrs. Dalheen got her man back week before last on a box car door. Don't you know when you're well off? You an engineer! What kind of an engineer do you think you'd make? Why——"

"Mrs. Beezer," said Beezer hoarsely, "shut up!"

Mrs. Beezer caught her breath.

"What did you say?" she gasped.

"I said," said Beezer sullenly, picking up his paper again, "that I'd never have thought of it, if you hadn't put it into my head; and now the more I think of it, the better it looks."

"I thought so," sniffed Mrs. Beezer profoundly. "And now, Mr. Beezer, let this be the last of it. The idea! I never heard of such a thing!"

Curiously enough, or perhaps naturally enough, Mrs. Beezer's cold-water attitude had precisely the opposite effect on Jimmy Beezer to that which she had intended it should have. It was the side-entrance proposition over again. When you've been caught sneaking in that way, you might just as well use the front door on Main Street next time, and have done with it. Beezer began to do a little talking around the roundhouse. The engine crews, by the time they tumbled to the fact that it wasn't just the ordinary grumble that any man is entitled to in his day's work, stuck their tongues in their cheeks, winked surreptitiously at each other—and encouraged him.

Now it is not to be implied that Jimmy Beezer was anybody's fool—not for a minute—a first-class master fitter with his time served is a long way from being in that class right on the face of it. Beezer might have been a little blinded to the tongues and winks on account of his own earnestness; perhaps he was—for a time. Afterwards—but just a minute, or we'll be running by a meeting point, which is mighty bad railroading.

Beezer's cap, when he took the plunge and tackled Regan, had got tilted pretty far back, so far that the peak stood off his forehead at about the same rakish angle that his upturned little round knob of a nose stuck up out of his beard; which is to say that Beezer had got to the stage where he had decided that the professional swing through the gangway he had been practising every time, and some others, that he had occasion to get into a cab, was going to be of some practical use at an early date.

He put it up to Regan one morning when the master mechanic came into the roundhouse.

Regan leaned his fat little body up against the jamb of one of the big engine doors, pulled at his scraggly brown mustache, and blinked as he listened.

"What's the matter with you, Beezer, h'm?" he inquired perplexedly, when the other was at an end.

"Haven't I just told you?" said Beezer. "I want to quit fitting and get running."

"Talks as though he meant it," commented Regan sotto voce to himself, as he peered earnestly into the fitter's face.

"Of course, I mean it," declared Beezer, a little tartly. "Why wouldn't I?"

"No," said Regan; "that ain't the question. The question is, why would you? H'm?"

"Because," Beezer answered promptly, "I like a snap as well as the next man. It's a better job than the one I've got, better money, better hours, easier all around, and one I can hold down with the best of them."

Regan's eyebrows went up.

"Think so?" he remarked casually.

"I do," declared Beezer.

"Well, then," said Regan, "if you've thought it all out and made up your mind, there's nothing I know of to stop you. Want to begin right away?"

"I do," said Beezer again. It was coming easier than he had expected—there was a jubilant trill in his voice.

"All right," said Regan. "I'll speak to Clarihue about it. You can start in wiping in the morning."

"Wiping?" echoed Beezer faintly.

"Sure," said Regan. "That's what you wanted, wasn't it? Wiping—a dollar-ten a day."

"Look here," said Beezer with a gulp; "I ain't joking about this."

"Well, then, what are you kicking about?" demanded Regan.

"About wiping and a dollar-ten," said Beezer. "What would I do with a dollar-ten, me with a wife and three kids?"

"I don't know what you'd do with it," returned Regan. "What do you expect?"

"I don't expect to start in wiping," said Beezer, beginning to get a little hot.

"You've been here long enough to know the way up," said Regan. "Wiping, firing—you take your turn. And your turn'll come for an engine according to the way things are shaping up now in, say, about fifteen years."

"Fifteen years!"

"Mabbe," grinned Regan. "I can't promise to kill off anybody to accommodate you, can I?"

"And don't the ten years I've put in here count for anything?" queried Beezer aggressively. "Why don't you start me in sweeping up the round-house? Wiping! Wiping, my eye! What for? I know all about the way up. That's all right for a man starting in green; but I ain't green. Why, there ain't a year-old apprentice over in the shops there that don't know more about an engine than any blooming engineer on the division. You know that, Regan—you know it hanged well, don't you?"

"Well," admitted the master mechanic, "you're not far wrong at that, Beezer."

"You bet, I'm not!" Beezer was emphatic. "How about me, then? Do I know an engine, every last nut and bolt in her, or don't I?"

"You do," said Regan. "And if it's any satisfaction to you to know it, I wouldn't ask for a better fitter any time than yourself."

"Then, what's the use of talking about wiping? If I've put in ten years learning the last kink there is in an engine, and have forgotten more than the best man of the engine crews 'll know when he dies, what's the reason I ain't competent to run one?"

Regan reached into his back pocket for his chewing, wriggled his head till his teeth met in the plug, and tucked the tobacco back into his pocket again.

"Beezer," said he slowly, spitting out an undesirable piece of stalk, "did it ever strike you that there's a whole lot of blamed good horse doctors that'd make damn poor jockeys—h'm?"

Beezer scowled deeply, and kicked at a piece of waste with the toe of his boot.

"All I want is a chance," he growled shortly. "Give me a chance, and I'll show you."

"You can have your chance," said Regan. "I've told you that."

"Yes," said Beezer bitterly. "It's a hell of a chance, ain't it? A dollar-ten a day—wiping! I'd be willing to go on firing for a spell."

"Wiping," said Regan with finality, as he turned away and started toward the shops; "but you'd better chew it over again, Beezer, and have a talk with your wife before you make up your mind."

Somebody chuckled behind Beezer—and Beezer whirled like a shot. The only man in sight was Pudgy MacAllister. Pudgy's back was turned, and he was leaning over the main-rod poking assiduously into the internals of the 1016 with a long-spouted oil can; but Beezer caught the suspicious rise and fall of the overall straps over the shoulders of the fat man's jumper.

Beezer was only human. It got Beezer on the raw—which was already pretty sore. The red flared into his face hard enough to make every individual hair in his beard incandescent; he walked over to Pudgy, yanked Pudgy out into the open, and shoved his face into the engineer's.

"What in the double-blanked, blankety-blanked blazes are you grinning at?" he inquired earnestly.

"H'm?" said Pudgy.

"Yes—h'm!" said Beezer eloquently. "That's what I'm asking you."

Whether Pudgy MacAllister was just plain lion-hearted, or a rotten bad judge of human nature isn't down on the minutes—all that shows is that he was one or the other. With some labor and exaggerated patience, he tugged a paper-covered pamphlet out of his pocket from under his jumper. It was the book of rules Beezer had "borrowed" some time before.

"Mrs. Beezer," said Pudgy blandly, "was over visiting the missus this morning, and she brought this back. From what she said I dunno as it would do any good, but I thought, perhaps, if you were going to take Regan's advice about talking to your wife, you and Mrs. Beezer might like to look it over again together before you——"

That was as far as Pudgy MacAllister got. Generally speaking, the more steam there is to the square inch buckled down under the valve, the shriller the whistle is when it breaks loose. Beezer let a noise out of him that sounded like a green parrot complaining of indigestion, and went at MacAllister head-on.

The oil can sailed through the air and crashed into the window glass of Clarihue's cubby-hole in the corner. There was a tangled and revolving chaos of arms and legs, and lean and fat bodies. Then a thud. There wasn't any professional ring work about it. They landed on the floor and began to roll—and a pail of packing and black oil they knocked over greased the way.

There was some racket about it, and Regan heard it; so did Clarihue, and MacAllister's fireman, and another engine crew or two, and a couple of wipers. The rush reached the combatants when there wasn't more than a scant thirty-second of an inch between them and the edge of an empty pit—but a thirty-second is a whole lot sometimes.

When they stood them up and got them uncoupled, MacAllister's black eye was modestly toned down with a generous share of what had been in the packing bucket, but his fist still clutched a handful of hair that he had separated from Beezer's beard—and Beezer's eyes were running like hydrants from the barbering. Take it all around, thanks mostly to the packing bucket, they were a fancy enough looking pair to send a high-class team of professional comedians streaking for the sidings all along the right of way to get out of their road.

It doesn't take very much, after all, to make trouble, not very much; and, once started, it's worse than the measles—the way it spreads.

Mostly, they guyed Pudgy MacAllister at first; they liked his make-up better owing to the black eye. But Pudgy was both generous and modest; what applause there was coming from the audience he wanted Beezer to get—he wasn't playing the "lead."

And Beezer got it. Pudgy opened up a bit, and maybe drew on his imagination a bit about what Mrs. Beezer had said to Mrs. MacAllister about Jimmy Beezer, and what Beezer had said to Regan, and Regan to Beezer, not forgetting Regan's remark about the horse doctor.

Oh, yes, trouble once started makes the measles look as though it were out of training, and couldn't stand the first round. To go into details would take more space than a treatise on the manners and customs of the early Moabites; but, summed up, it was something like this: Mrs. Beezer paid another visit to Mrs. MacAllister, magnanimously ignoring the social obligation Mrs. MacAllister was under to repay the former call. Mrs. MacAllister received Mrs. Beezer in the kitchen over the washtubs, which was just as well for the sake of the rest of the house, for when Mrs. Beezer withdrew, somewhat shattered, but in good order, by a flank movement through the back yard, an impartial observer would have said that the kitchen had been wrecked by a gas explosion. This brought Big Cloud's one lawyer and the Justice of the Peace into it, and cost Beezer everything but the odd change on his month's pay check—when it came.

Meanwhile, what with a disturbed condition of marital bliss at home, Beezer caught it right and left from the train crews, engine crews and shop hands during the daytime. They hadn't anything against Beezer, not for a minute, but give a railroad crowd an opening, and there's no aggregation on earth quicker on the jump to take it. They dubbed him "Engineer" Beezer, and "Doctor" Beezer; but mostly "Doctor" Beezer—out of compliment to Regan. And old Grumpy, the timekeeper in the shop, got so used to hearing it that he absent-mindedly wrote it down "Doctor Beezer" when he came to make up the pay roll. That put it up to Carleton, the super, who got a curt letter from the auditors' office down East, asking for particulars, and calling his attention to the fact that all medical services were performed by contract with the company. Carleton scowled perplexedly at the letter, scrawled Tommy Regan's initials at the bottom of the sheet, plus an interrogation mark, and put it in the master mechanic's basket. Regan grinned, and wrote East, telling them facetiously to scratch out the "Doctor" and squeeze in a "J" in front of the "Beezer" and it would be all right; but it didn't go—you can't get by a high-browed set of red-tape-bound expert accountants of unimpeachable integrity, who are safeguarding the company's funds like that. Hardly! They held out the money, and by the time the matter was straightened out the pay car had come and gone, and Beezer got a chance to find out how good his credit was. Considering everything, Beezer took it pretty well—he went around as though he had boils.

But if Beezer had a grouch, and cause for one, it didn't make the other fellow's job look any the less good to Beezer. Mrs. Beezer's sharp tongue, barbed with contemptuous innuendo that quite often developed into pointed directness as to her opinion of his opinions, and the kind of an engineer he'd make, which he was obliged to listen to at night, and the men—who didn't know what an innuendo was—that he was obliged to listen to by day, didn't alter Beezer's views on that subject any, whatever else it might have done. Beezer had a streak of stubbornness running through the boils.

He never got to blows again. His tormentors took care of that. They had MacAllister as an example that Beezer was not averse to bringing matters to an intimate issue at any time, and what they had to say they said at a safe distance—most of them could run faster than Beezer could, because nature had made Beezer short. Beezer got to be a pretty good shot with a two-inch washer or a one-inch nut, and he got to carrying around a supply of ammunition in the hip pocket of his overalls.

As for MacAllister, when the two ran foul of each other, as the engineer came on for his runs or signed off at the end of one, there wasn't any talking done. Regan had warned them a little too hard to take chances. They just looked at each other sour enough to turn a whole milk dairy. The men told Beezer that MacAllister had rigged a punching bag up in his back yard, and was taking a correspondence course in pugilism.

Beezer said curried words.

"Driving an engine," said they, "is a dog's life; it's worse than pick-slinging, there's nothing in it. Why don't you cut it out? You've had enough experience to get a job in the shops. Why don't you hit Regan up and change over?"

"By Christmas!" Beezer would roar, while he emptied his pocket and gave vent to mixed metaphor, "I'd show you a change over if I ever got a chance; and I'd show you there was something to running an engine besides bouncing up and down on the seat like balls with nothing but wind in them, and grinning at the scenery!"

A chance—that's all Beezer asked for—a chance. And he kept on asking Regan. That dollar-ten a day looked worse than ever since Mrs. Beezer's invasion of Mrs. MacAllister's kitchen. But Regan was obdurate, and likewise was beginning to get his usually complacent outlook on life—all men with a paunch have a complacent, serene outlook on life as a compensation for the paunch—disturbed a little. Beezer and his demands were becoming ubiquitous. Regan was getting decidedly on edge.

"Firing," said Beezer. "Let me start in firing—there's as much in that as in fitting, and I can get along for the little while it'll be before you'll be down on your knees begging me to take a throttle."

"Firing, eh!" Regan finally exploded one day. "Look here, Beezer; I've heard about enough from you. Firing, eh? There'd have been some firing done before this that would have surprised you if you hadn't been a family man! Get that? The trouble with you is that you don't know what you want or what you're talking about."

"I know what I want, and I know what I'm talking about," Beezer answered doggedly; "and I'm going to keep on putting it up to you till you quit saying 'No.'"

"You'll be doing it a long time, then," said Regan bluntly, laying a few inches of engine dust with blackstrap juice; "a long time, Beezer—till I'm dead."

But it wasn't. Regan was wrong about that, dead wrong. It's unexplainable the way things work out sometimes!

That afternoon, after a visit from Harvey, who had been promoted from division engineer to resident and assistant-chief on the Devil's Slide tunnel, Carleton sent for Regan.

"Tommy," said he, as the master mechanic entered his office, "did you see Harvey?"

"No," said Regan. "I didn't know he was in town."

"He said he didn't think he'd have time to see you," said Carleton; "I guess he's gone back on Number Seven. But I told him I'd put it up to you, anyway. He says he's along now where he is handling about half a dozen dump trains, but that what he has been given to pull them with, as near as he can figure out, is the prehistoric junk of the iron age."

"I saw the engines when they went through," Regan chuckled. "All the master mechanics on the system cleaned up on him. I sent him the old Two-twenty-three myself. Harvey's telling the truth so far. What's next?"

"Well," Carleton smiled, "he says the string and tin rivets they're put together with come off so fast he can't keep more than half of them in commission at once. He wants a good fitter sent up there on a permanent job. What do you say?"

"Say?" Regan fairly shouted. "Why, I say, God bless that man!"

"H'm?" inquired Carleton.

"Beezer," said Regan breathlessly. "Tell him he can have Beezer—wire him I'll send up Beezer. He wants a good fitter, does he? Well, Beezer's the best fitter on the pay roll, and that's straight. I always liked Harvey—glad to do him a good turn—Harvey gets the best."

Carleton crammed the dottle down in the bowl of his pipe with his forefinger, and looked at Regan quizzically.

"I've heard something about it," said he. "What's the matter with Beezer?"

"Packing loose around his dome cover, and the steam spurts out through the cracked joint all over you every time you go near him," said Regan. "He's had me crazy for a month. He's got it into his nut that he could beat any engineer on the division at his own game, thinks the game's a cinch and is sour on his own. That's about all—but it's enough. Say, you wire Harvey that I'll send him Beezer."

Carleton grinned.

"Suppose Beezer doesn't want to go?" he suggested.

"He'll go," said Regan grimly. "According to the neighbors, his home life at present ain't a perennial dream of delight, and he'll beat it as joyful as a live fly yanked off the sheet of fly paper it's been stuck on; besides, he's getting to be a regular spitfire around the yards. You leave it to me—he'll go."

And Beezer went.

You know the Devil's Slide. Everybody knows it; and everybody has seen it scores of times, even if they've never been within a thousand miles of the Rockies—the road carried it for years on the back covers of the magazines printed in colors. The Transcontinental's publicity man was a live one, he played it up hard, and as a bit of scenic effect it was worth all he put into it—there was nothing on the continent to touch it. But what's the use?—you've seen it hundreds of times. Big letters on top:


There wasn't anything the matter with the electrotypes, either—nature backed up those "ads" to the last detail, and threw in a whole lot more for good measure—even a pessimist didn't hold a good enough hand to call the raise and had to drop out. Pugsley, the advertising man, was an awful liar, and what he said may not be strictly true, but he claimed the road paid their dividends for one quarter through the sale to a junk and paper-dealer of the letters they got from delighted tourists telling how far short anything he could say came to being up to the reality. Anyway, Pugsley and the passenger-agent's department were the only ones who weren't enthusiastic about the double-loop tunnel—it spoiled the scenic effect.

This is Beezer's story. Beezer has "rights" through to the terminal, and pictures of scenery however interesting, and a description of how Harvey bored his holes into the mountain sides however instructive, should naturally be relegated to the sidings; but there's just a word or two necessary before Beezer pulls out into the clear.

One thing the electrotypes didn't show was the approach to the Devil's Slide. It came along the bottoms fairly straight and level, the track did, for some five miles from the Bend, until about a mile from the summit where it hit a long, stiff, heavy climb, that took the breath out of the best-type engine that Regan, representing the motive-power department, had to offer. And here, the last few hundred yards were taken with long-interval, snorting roars from the exhaust, that echoed up and down the valley, and back and forward from the hills like a thousand thunders, or the play of a park of artillery, and the pace was a crawl—you could get out and walk if you wanted to. That was the approach of the Devil's Slide—on a westbound run, you understand? Then, once over the summit, the Devil's Slide stretched out ahead, and in its two reeling, drunken, zigzag miles dropped from where it made you dizzy to lean out of the cab window and see the Glacier River swirling below, to where the right of way in a friendly, intimate fashion hugged the Glacier again at its own bed level. How much of a drop in that two miles? Grade percentages and dry figures don't mean very much, do they? Take it another way. It dropped so hard and fast that that's what the directors were spending three million dollars for—to divide that drop by two! It just dropped—not an incline, not by any means—just a drop. However——

When it was all over the cause of it figured out something like this—we'll get to the effect and Beezer in a second. Engine 1016 with Number One, the Imperial Limited, westbound, and with MacAllister in the cab, blew out a staybolt one afternoon about two miles west of the Bend. And quicker than you could wink, the cab was all live steam and boiling water. The fireman screamed and jumped. MacAllister, blinded and scalded, his hands literally torn from the throttle and "air" before he could latch in, fell back half unconscious to the floor, wriggled to the gangway and flung himself out. He sobbed like a broken-hearted child afterwards when he told his story.

"I left her," he said. "I couldn't help it. The agony wasn't human—I couldn't stand it. I was already past knowing what I was doing; but the thought went through my mind that the pressure'd be down, and she'd stop herself before she got up the mile climb to the summit. That's the last I remember."

Dave Kinlock, the conductor, testified that he hadn't noticed anything wrong until after they were over the summit—they'd come along the bottoms at a stiff clip, as they always did, to get a start up the long grade. They had slackened up almost to a standstill, as usual, when they topped the summit; then they commenced to go down the Slide, and were speeding up before he realized it. He put on the emergency brakes then, but they wouldn't work. Why? It was never explained. Whether the angle-cock had never been properly thrown into its socket and had worked loose and shut off the "air" from the coaches, or whether—and queerer things than that have happened in railroading—it just plain went wrong, no one ever knew. They found the trouble there, that was all. The emergency wouldn't work; and that was all that Dave Kinlock knew then.

Now, Beezer had been out on the construction work about two weeks when this happened, about two of the busiest weeks Beezer had ever put in in his life. Harvey hadn't drawn the long bow any in describing what the master mechanics had put over on him to haul his dump carts with. They were engines of the vintage of James Watt, and Beezer's task in keeping them within the semblance of even a very low coefficient of efficiency was no sinecure. Harvey had six of these monstrosities, and, as he had started his work at both ends at once, with a cutting at the eastern base of the Devil's Slide and another at the summit, he divided them up three to each camp; and it kept Beezer about as busy as a one-handed paper-hanger with the hives, running up and down answering "first-aid" hurry calls from first one and then the other.

The way Beezer negotiated his mileage was simple. He'd swing the cab or pilot of the first train along in the direction, up or down, that he wanted to go—and that's how he happened to be standing that afternoon on the track opposite the upper construction camp about a hundred yards below the summit, when Number One climbed up the approach, poked her nose over the top of the grade, crawling like a snail that's worn out with exertion, and then began to gather speed a little, toboggan-like, as she started down the Devil's Slide toward him.

Beezer gave a look at her and rubbed his eyes. There wasn't anything to be seen back of the oncoming big mountain racer's cab but a swirling, white, vapory cloud. It was breezing pretty stiff through the hills that day, and his first thought was that she was blowing from a full head, and the wind was playing tricks with the escaping steam. With the next look he gulped hard—the steam was coming from the cab—not the dome. It was the 1016, MacAllister's engine, and when he happened to go up or down on her he always chose the pilot instead of the cab—Beezer never forced his society on any man. But this time he let the pilot go by him—there was something wrong, and badly wrong at that. The cab glass showed all misty white inside, and there was no sign of MacAllister. The drivers were spinning, and the exhaust, indicating a wide-flung throttle, was quickening into a rattle of sharp, resonant barks as the cab came abreast of him.

Beezer jumped for the gangway, caught the rail with one hand, clung there an instant, and then the tools in his other hand dropped to the ground, as, with a choking gasp, he covered his face, and fell back to the ground himself.

By the time he got his wits about him again the tender had gone by. Then Beezer started to run, and his face was as white as the steam he had stuck his head into in the empty cab. He dashed along beside the track, along past the tender, past the gangway, past the thundering drivers, and with every foot the 1016 and the Imperial Limited, Number One, westbound, was hitting up the pace. When he got level with the cylinder, it was as if he had come to a halt, though his lungs were bursting, and he was straining with every pound that was in him. He was barely gaining by the matter of inches, and in about another minute he was due to lose by feet. But he nosed in over the tape in a dead heat, flung himself sideways, and, with his fingers clutching at the drawbar, landed, panting and pretty well all in, on the pilot. A minute it took him to get his breath and balance, then he crawled to the footplate, swung to the steam chest and from there to the running board.

Here, for the first time, Beezer got a view of things and a somewhat more comprehensive realization of what he was up against, and his heart went into his mouth and his mouth went dry. Far down below him in a sheer drop to the base of the cañon wall wound the Glacier like a silver thread; in front, a gray, sullen mass of rock loomed up dead ahead, the right of way swerving sharply to the right as it skirted it in a breath-taking curve; and with every second the 1016 and her trailing string of coaches was plunging faster and faster down the grade. The wind was already singing in his ears. There was a sudden lurch, a shock, as she struck the curve. Beezer flung his arms around the handrail and hung on grimly. She righted, found her wheel base again, and darted like an arrow along the opening tangent.

Beezer's face was whiter now than death itself. There were curves without number ahead, curves to which that first was but child's play, that even at their present speed would hurl them from the track and send them crashing in splinters through the hideous depths into the valley below. It was stop her, or death; death, sure, certain, absolute and quick, for himself and every man, woman and child, from colonist coach to the solid-mahogany, brass-railed Pullmans and observation cars that rocked behind him.

There was no getting into the cab through the gangway; his one glance had told him that. There was only one other way, little better than a chance, and he had taken it. Blue-lipped with fear—that glance into the nothingness almost below his feet had shaken his nerve and turned him sick and dizzy—Beezer, like a man clinging to a crag, edged along the running board, gained the rear end, and, holding on tightly with both hands, lifted his foot, and with a kick shattered the front cab-glass; another kick and the window frame gave way, and, backing in feet first, Beezer began to lower himself into the cab.

Meanwhile, white-faced men stood at Spence's elbow in the despatchers' office at Big Cloud. Some section hands had followed Number One out of the Bend in a handcar, and had found MacAllister and his fireman about two hundred yards apart on opposite sides of the right of way. Both were unconscious. The section hands had picked them up, pumped madly back to the Bend, and made their report.

Carleton, leaning over Spence, never moved, only the muscles of his jaw twitched; Regan, as he always did in times of stress, swore to himself in a grumbling undertone. There was no other sound in the room save the incessant click of the sender, as Spence frantically called the construction camp at the summit of the Slide; there was a chance, one in a thousand, that the section hands had got back to the Bend before Number One had reached the top of the grade.

Then, suddenly, the sounder broke, and Spence began to spell off the words.

"Number One passed here five minutes ago."

Regan went down into a chair, and covered his face with his hands.

"Wild," he whispered, and his whisper was like an awe-stricken sob. "Running wild on the Devil's Slide. No one in the cab. Oh, my God!"

There was a look on Carleton's face no words could describe—it was gray, gray with a sickness that was a sickness of his soul; but his words came crisp and clear, cold as steel, and without a tremor.

"Clear the line, Spence. Get out the wrecking crew, and send the callers for the doctors—that's all that's left for us to do."

But while Big Cloud was making grim preparations for disaster, Beezer in no less grim a way was averting it, and his salvation, together with that of every soul aboard the train, came, in a measure at least, from the very source wherein lay their danger—the speed. That, and the fact that the pressure MacAllister had thought would drop before the summit was reached, was at last exhausting itself. The cab was less dense, and the speed whipping the wind through the now open window helped a whole lot more, but it was still a swirling mass of vapor.

Beezer lowered himself in, his foot touched the segment, and then found the floor. The 1016 was rocking like a storm-tossed liner. Again there came the sickening, deadly slew as she struck a curve, the nauseating pause as she hung in air with whirring drivers. Beezer shut his eyes and waited. There was a lurch, another and another, fast and quick like a dog shaking itself from a cold plunge—she was still on the right of way.

Beezer wriggled over on his back now, and, with head hanging out over the running board, groped with his hands for the levers. Around his legs something warm and tight seemed to clinch and wrap itself. He edged forward a little farther—his hand closed on the throttle and flung it in—a fierce, agonizing pain shot through his arm as something spurted upon it, withering it, blistering it. The fingers of his other hand were clasped on the air latch and he began to check—then, unable to endure it longer, he threw it wide. There was a terrific jolt, a shock that keeled him over on his side as the brake-shoes locked, the angry grind and crunch of the wheel tires, and the screech of skidding drivers.

He dragged himself out and crouched again on the running board. Behind him, like a wriggling snake, the coaches swayed and writhed crazily, swinging from side to side in drunken, reeling arcs. A deafening roar of beating flanges and pounding trucks was in his ears—and shriller, more piercing, the screams of the brake-shoes as they bit and held. He turned his head and looked down the right of way, and his eyes held there, riveted and fascinated. Two hundred yards ahead was the worst twist on the Slide, where the jutting cliff of Old Piebald Mountain stuck out over the precipice, and the track hugged around it in a circle like a fly crawling around a wall.

Beezer groaned and shut his eyes again. They say that in the presence of expected death sometimes one thinks of a whole lot of things. Engineer Beezer, in charge of Number One, the Imperial Limited, did then; but mostly he was contrasting up the relative merits of a workbench and a throttle, and there wasn't any doubt in Beezer's mind about which he'd take if he ever got the chance to take anything again.

When he opened his eyes Old Piebald Mountain was still ahead of him—about ten feet ahead of him—and the pony truck was on the curve. But they had stopped, and Dave Kinlock and a couple of mail clerks were trying to tear his hands away from the death grip he'd got on the handrail. It was a weak and shaken Beezer, a Beezer about as flabby as a sack of flour, that they finally lifted down off the running board.

There was nothing small about Regan—there never was. He came down on the wrecking train, and, when he had had a look at the 1016 and had heard Kinlock's story, he went back up to the construction camp, where Beezer had been outfitted with leg and arm bandages.

"Beezer," said he, "I didn't say all horse doctors wouldn't make jockeys—what? You can have an engine any time you want one."

Beezer shook his head slowly.

"No," said he thoughtfully; "I guess I don't want one."

Regan's jaw dropped, and his fat little face puckered up as he stared at Beezer.

"Don't want one!" he gasped. "Don't want one! After howling for one for three months, now that you can have it, you don't want it! Say, Beezer, what's the matter with you—h'm?"

But there wasn't anything the matter with Beezer. He was just getting convalescent, that's all. There's a whole lot of men like Beezer.

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