Song of the Lark HTML version

Chapter I.16
The pleasantest experience Thea had that summer was a trip that she and her
mother made to Denver in Ray Kennedy's caboose. Mrs. Kronborg had been
looking forward to this excursion for a long while, but as Ray never knew at what
hour his freight would leave Moonstone, it was difficult to arrange. The call-boy
was as likely to summon him to start on his run at twelve o'clock midnight as at
twelve o'clock noon. The first week in June started out with all the scheduled
trains running on time, and a light freight business. Tuesday evening Ray, after
consulting with the dispatcher, stopped at the Kronborgs' front gate to tell Mrs.
Kronborg--who was helping Tillie water the flowers--that if she and Thea could be
at the depot at eight o'clock the next morning, he thought he could promise them
a pleasant ride and get them into Denver before nine o'clock in the evening. Mrs.
Kronborg told him cheerfully, across the fence, that she would "take him up on it,"
and Ray hurried back to the yards to scrub out his car.
The one complaint Ray's brakemen had to make of him was that he was too
fussy about his caboose. His former brakeman had asked to be transferred
because, he said, "Kennedy was as fussy about his car as an old maid about her
bird-cage." Joe Giddy, who was braking with Ray now, called him "the bride,"
because he kept the caboose and bunks so clean.
It was properly the brakeman's business to keep the car clean, but when Ray
got back to the depot, Giddy was nowhere to be found. Muttering that all his
brakemen seemed to consider him "easy," Ray went down to his car alone. He
built a fire in the stove and put water on to heat while he got into his overalls and
jumper. Then he set to work with a scrubbing-brush and plenty of soap and
"cleaner." He scrubbed the floor and seats, blacked the stove, put clean sheets
on the bunks, and then began to demolish Giddy's picture gallery. Ray found that
his brakemen were likely to have what he termed "a taste for the nude in art,"
and Giddy was no exception. Ray took down half a dozen girls in tights and ballet
skirts,--premiums for cigarette coupons,--and some racy calendars advertising
saloons and sporting clubs, which had cost Giddy both time and trouble; he even
removed Giddy's particular pet, a naked girl lying on a couch with her knee
carelessly poised in the air. Underneath the picture was printed the title, "The
Odalisque." Giddy was under the happy delusion that this title meant something
wicked,-there was a wicked look about the consonants,--but Ray, of course, had
looked it up, and Giddy was indebted to the dictionary for the privilege of keeping
his lady. If "odalisque" had been what Ray called an objectionable word, he
would have thrown the picture out in the first place. Ray even took down a picture
of Mrs. Langtry in evening dress, because it was entitled the "Jersey Lily," and
because there was a small head of Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, in one
corner. Albert Edward's conduct was a popular subject of discussion among
railroad men in those days, and as Ray pulled the tacks out of this lithograph he