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Ralph on the Engine The Young Fireman of the Limited Mail

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“Ralph Fairbanks.”

“On hand, sir.”

“You are to relieve Fireman Cooper on the Dover slow freight.”

“All right, sir.”

Ralph Fairbanks arose from the bench on which he was seated in the roundhouse at Stanley Junction.

Over a dozen men had been his companions for the past hour. There were engineers waiting for their runs, firemen resting after getting their locomotives in order, and “extras,” who, like the young railroader himself, were so far on the substitute list only.

Ralph was glad of his appointment. This was his second month of service as a fireman. It had been by no means regular employment, and, as he was industrious and ambitious, he was glad to get at work with the prospect of a steady run.

The foreman of the roundhouse had just turned from his desk after marking Ralph’s name on the list when a man hurriedly entered the place. He was rather unsteady in his gait, his face was flushed, and he looked dissolute and unreliable.

“Give me the slow freight run, Forgan,” he panted. “I’m listed next.”

“Two minutes late,” observed the foreman, in a business-like way.

“That don’t count on a stormy night like this.”

“System counts in this establishment always, Jim Evans,” said Mr. Forgan.

“I ran all the way.”

“Stopped too long at the corner saloon, then,” put in Dave Adams, a veteran engineer of the road.

Evans glared at the man who spoke, but recognizing a privileged character, stared down the row of loiterers and demanded:

“Who’s got my run?”

“Do you own any particular run, Jim?” inquired Adams, with a grin.

“Well, Griscom’s was due me.”

“Young Fairbanks was on hand, so it’s his run now.”

“That kid’s,” sneered Evans, turning on Ralph with angry eyes. “See here, young fellow, do you think it’s square cutting in on a regular man this way?”

“I’ll answer that,” interposed Tim Forgan sharply. “He was here, you weren’t. He holds the run till a better man comes along.”

Evans stood glaring at Ralph for a few minutes. Then he moved to the youth’s side.

“See here, kid,” he observed, “I want this run specially. It’ll be a regular, for Cooper is going with another road. I’m a man and must earn a man’s wages. You’re only a kid. I’ve got a family. Come, give me the run and I’ll treat you handsomely,” and the speaker extended a cigar.

“Thank you, I don’t smoke,” said Ralph. Then looking the man squarely in the eyes, he said: “Mr. Evans, I’ll give up the run on one condition.”

“What’s that?” inquired Evans eagerly.

“If you will sign the pledge, work steadily, and give your wages to your family as you should do.”

“I’ll do it!” shouted Evans, not a whit shame-facedly.

“No, you won’t,” announced Forgan. “Fairbanks, kindness is kindness, but business is business. If you drop this run, it goes to the next extra on the list according to routine.”

“Bah, you’re all down on me!” flared out Evans, and left the place in a rage....