BLTC Press Titles

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My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Knights of to-day

by Charles Barnard





SHE was a beauty. From head-light to buffer- casting, from spark-arrester to air-brake coupling, she shone resplendent. A thing of grace and power, she seemed instinct with life as she paused upon her breathless flight. Even while resting quietly upon the track, she trembled with the pulsations of her mighty heart. Small wonder that the passengers waiting upon the platform came down to gaze upon the great express engine, No. 59. She seemed long and slender like a greyhound, and her glistening sides, delicate forefeet, and uplifted head were suggestive of speed and power.

The engineer stepped down from his high throne with his long nickel-plated oiler in hand, and the fireman clambered over the glistening heap of coal and swung round the great copper water-pipe that the magnificent creature might have a drink of pure spring water. The engineer looked eagerly up and down the platform as if in search of some one. Two or three tourists of the usual type and a stray idler were all to be seen. A group of big fellows were unloading mail bags, and ,beyond them the busy throng down the platform was lost to view. How lovingly he touched the shining arms of his great pet with the smooth clear oil, golden and limpid. Here her great cylinder, seventeen inches wide, and with a stroke of twenty- four, safely rested behind the sturdy buttress that held her forefoot so daintily thrust out in front. The head-light gleamed in all the sparkle of plate- glass, and her shapely rods fairly glowed in polished beauty. On one side lay her boiler-feed pump, a finished bit of mechanism, and on the other was hung a steam-injector for forcing water into the boiler without the aid of the pump. How perfect everything ! Even the driving-wheels were works of art. From balanced throttle-valves to air-brake she had every device that American skill had produced, or that such an engine could demand,' and her thirty-five tons of chained-up energy seemed the perfect expression of the highest mechanic art. With a loud roar her safety-valve yielded to her pent-up vitality and filled all the air with clouds of steam. The engineer gazed proudly upon his noble steed, and then looked anxiously down the platform to see if any came whose presence wouJd be welcome.

The fireman swung back the great copper pipe, and the idlers suddenly withdrew. The last trunk was thrown in, and the engineer climbed slowly up into his house. He looked anxiously about the long platform. It was nearly clear, and he could see the gold band on the conductor's hat glistening in the sun.

Where can she linger? Why does she not come ? 59 's here, and still she comes not. The gold-banded cap is lifted in the air. With one hand on the throttle-valve, the engineer glances down the long empty platform. The bell rings; there is a hissing sound beneath the giant's feet; the house trembles slightly; the water-tank seems to move backward ; the roar of the safety-valve suddenly stops ; the fury of the great iron monster vents itself in short deep gasps ; clouds of smoke pour down on everything. They almost hide the platform from view.

Ah ! A dress fluttering in the door-way. Some one appears abruptly upon the platform. With both hands on the throttle-valve, the engineer leans out the window. A handkerchief is quickly flirted in the air. He nods, smiles, and then turns grimly away, and stares out ahead with a fixed look as if the world had suddenly grown very dark, and life was an iron road with dangers everywhere. The fireman shovels coal into the fiery cavern at the engineer's feet, and then stirs up the glowing mass till it roars and flames with fury. The steam-gauge trembles at 120°, and quickly rises to 125°. The vast engine trembles and throbs as it leaps forward. The landscape—woods, houses and fields seem to take wings in a wild, Titanic waltz. The engineer gazes ahead with tight-set lips, but his heart can outrun his locomotive, and lingers behind at the deserted way-station.

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