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- Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 30/44 -
The sullen jar seemed to act like a shock of electricity on the nerves of Nell Darrel. She felt a strange and awful numbness. With a mighty effort the girl roused herself to a consciousness of her awful position.
Louder and louder roared the train. It was but a mile distant now, and the road was straight.
Nell raised her head, and resting on her hands gazed down the track where, in the distance, gleamed the light of the locomotive.
"God help me!" moaned the poor girl. Then she tried to throw herself from the track, but she could not. Her limbs were numb, and refused to obey her will.
A wild laugh rang out on the moonlit air.
Madge Scarlet sprang up and glared through the bushes at her victim with maniacal delight.
"Ha' ha! You cannot escape! Them pretty limbs'll be crushed and torn asunder! the white flesh cut and gashed, and that delicate body made a horrid mass of blood and mangled fragments! THEN I will present them to you, Dyke Darrel. Ho! ho!"
Her voice was raised to a high pitch now, and even reached the ears of the startled Nell.
No help, no hope!
On thundered the iron monster.
On and on till the eye of the engineer catches sight of something on the track--SOMETHING!
Quickly the engine is reversed and the air brakes come into play.
A moan of agonized terror falls from the lips of the half dead girl, and then she sank helplessly to the ground. At the same instant help came from an unexpected source.
A man dashed swiftly through the moonlight and flung a heavy oak tie in front of the slackened engine.
A rumble and a jar, and then the train came to a dead stop, within three feet of the prostrate girl!
It was a narrow escape.
The man who had come so unexpectedly out of the shadows dragged Nell from her dangerous position. The engineer and fireman came down and congratulated the young man on his presence.
"The brakes couldn't quite do it," said the engineer. "That tie saved the girl, with no damage to the train."
"It seems to be a lucky accident all round," said the young man, who had laid Nell on a safe spot, and now turned his attention to assisting in removing the obstruction from the rails.
"Yes. Who is she?"
"I can't say."
"Well, I must be on the way," uttered the engineer, "we are behind time now."
By this time the conductor was on the ground, but the train was running again, and he received a full explanation from the engineer afterward.
When the young man made a closer inspection of the girl he had rescued, a cry of surprise fell from his lips.
"As I live, it is Nell Darrel!"
But she could not speak to thank him for his act, since she had fainted.
Lifting ner tenderly the young man turned his steps in the direction of the farm-house, where he had been stopping during the past two days.
"Curse you! curse you!" were the venomous words flung after the man by Madge Scarlet.
But she dared not interfere to prevent the rescue.
When Nell Darrel again opened her eyes, it was to find herself calmly resting on a couch in a little room, whose cozy appearance was like home indeed. And the face that bent over her was not that of a stranger. Could it be that she was dreaming?
"Thank Heaven!" murmured a manly voice, and then a mustached lip bent and pressed a clinging kiss to the cheek of poor Nell.
"Harry, dear Harry!"
Thus had the lovers met after many long months of separation.
A smile rested on the face of the fair girl as she held Harry's hand while he talked of the past.
She explained as best she could the strangeness of her situation; but everything was so much like a dream, it was a hard matter to reconcile some of the events of the past few weeks.
"The end draws nigh," assured young Bernard, after a time. "If the notorious man calling himself Ruggles was on the train, he will, on discovering his loss, turn back, and then I will capture him."
THE MYSTERIOUS WART.
We left Dyke Darrel, the detective, in a critical position on the railroad track, with the roar of a freight engine in his ears. The rays of the rising sun touched the glittering rails as the long train swept around the bend upon doomed Dyke Darrel.
One more tremendous effort on the part of the detective, and he succeeded in throwing his body squarely across one of the rails. In this position he hung a helpless weight, with the hoarse roar of the engine making anything but sweet music to his fainting soul.
Ha! Look! A hand is outstretched to save at the last moment, and Dyke Darrel is jerked from under the smoking wheels, even as their breath fans his fevered cheek.
The train swept on.
A cheer greeted the man who had come opportunely to the rescue as the engine swept on its course.
And a little later a man, young, yet whose boyish face bore marks of dissipation, stood beside the detective and gazed into his face now for the first time.
The young man started as though cut by a knife, and bent low over the fallen detective, who was now struggling to a sitting posture.
When he looked into the face of his rescuer he uttered a great cry.
"My soul! how came you here, Martin Skidway?"
"I am a fugitive," answered the young convict. "It wasn't through your good will that I got out of prison, I can tell you that. Had I known who it was on the track, I might not have put out my hand to save."
The detective regarded the speaker in no little amazement. This was the second time he had escaped from the Missouri prison, which argued well for the man's keenness and capability, or else ill for the official management of the prison.
"It was from the St. Louis prison that I escaped," explained Martin Skidway a little later. "I never got inside the State institution a second time. I've had a sweet time of it thus far."
"Tell me how you made your escape," said Dyke Darrel, who sat with his back against a tree, and regarded the young counterfeiter in wonder.
"There isn't much to tell," returned Skidway. "I had no assistance, but it seems that a pair of burglars had broken out by filing off the grating to one of the corridor windows, and the opening had not been repaired when I was taken to the jail. I was left in the corridor a minute while the jailor was attending some other prisoners, and that minute gave me the opportunity. I mounted a chair, climbed through the window, and made my escape by the light of the moon. Of course there was a big search, but I remained hidden in an old cellar under a deserted house in a grove within the city limits, for several days, and finally made good my escape from the State."
"I am going to put the ocean between me and the beaks of American law."
Dyke Darrel regarded the speaker with mingled emotions. He saw in this daring young fellow much talent, that had it been rightly directed, might have made an honorable place in the world for Martin Skidway.
"I am helpless to arrest your steps just at present," groaned the detective. "Would you do it after what has happened, if you were in a condition to do so?" demanded the convict, bending over the man on the ground, regarding him with a menacing look.
"Duty often calls one to do that which is disagreeable," answered Dyke Darrel. A deep frown mantled the brows of the convict.
"I see that my mercy was misdirected," he said. "It seems that I have saved your life only to give you a chance to dog me to doom. Think you I am fool enough to permit this?"
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