Another Ride from Ghent to Aix

We sprang for the side-holts — my gripsack and I —
It dangled — I dangled — we both dangled by.
" Good speed! " cried mine host, as we landed at last —
" Speed? " chuckled the watch we went lumbering past;
Behind shut the switch, and out through the rear door
I glared while we waited a half hour more.

I had missed the express that went thundering down
Ten minutes before to my next lecture town,
And my only hope left was to catch this " wild freight, "
Which the landlord remarked was " most luckily late —
But the twenty miles distance was easily done,
If they run half as fast as they usually run! "

Not a word to each other — we struck a snail's pace —
Conductor and brakeman ne'er changing a place —
Save at the next watering-tank, where they all
Got out — strolled about — cut their names on the wall,
Or listlessly loitered on down to the pile
Of sawed wood just beyond us, to doze for a while.

'Twas high noon at starting, but while we drew near
" Arcady, " I said, " We'll not make it, I fear!
I must strike Aix by eight, and it's three o'clock now;
Let me stoke up that engine, and I'll show you how! "
At which the conductor, with patience sublime,
Smiled up from his novel with, " Plenty of time! "

At " Trask, " as we jolted stock-still as a stone,
I heard a cow bawl in a five o'clock tone;
And the steam from the saw-mill looked misty and thin,
And the snarl of the saw had been stifled within:
And a frowzy-haired boy, with a hat full of chips,
Came out and stared up with a smile on his lips.

At " Booneville, " I groaned, " Can't I telegraph on? "
No! Why? " 'Cause the telegraph-man had just gone
To visit his folks in Almo " — and one heard
The sharp snap of my teeth through the throat of a word,
That I dragged for a mile and a half up the track,
And strangled it there, and came skulkingly back.

Again we were off. It was twilight, and more,
As we rolled o'er a bridge where beneath us the roar
Of a river came up with so wooing an air
I mechanic'ly strapped myself fast in my chair
As a brakeman slid open the door for more light,
Saying: " Captain, brace up, for your town is in sight! "

" How they'll greet me! " — and all in a moment — " che-wang! "
And the train stopped again, with a bump and a bang.
What was it? " The section-hands, just in advance. "
And I spit on my hands, and I rolled up my pants,
And I clumb like an imp that the fiends had let loose
Up out of the depths of that deadly caboose.

I ran the train's length — I lept safe to the ground —
And the legend still lives that for five miles around
They heard my voice hailing the hand-car that yanked
Me aboard at my bidding, and gallantly cranked,
As I groveled and clung, with my eyes in eclipse,
And a rim of red foam round my rapturous lips.

Then I cast loose my ulster — each ear-tab let fall —
Kicked off both my shoes — let go arctics and all —
Stood up with the boys — leaned — patted each head
As it bobbed up and down with the speed that we sped;
Clapped my hands — laughed and sang — any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix we rotated and stood.

And all I remember is friends flocking round
As I unsheathed my head from a hole in the ground;
And no voice but was praising that hand-car divine,
As I rubbed down its spokes with that lecture of mine,
Which (the citizens voted by common consent)
Was no more than its due. 'Twas the lecture they meant.
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