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A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

Another Ride From Ghent To Aix

Title:     Another Ride From Ghent To Aix
Author: James Whitcomb Riley [More Titles by Riley]

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--"chewang!"
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 grovelled 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.

[The end]
James Whitcomb Riley's poem: Another Ride From Ghent To Aix