He continued his journey with a feeling of dread and foreboding, and when he reached the
terminus the first thing that caught his eye was a news bill in big black letters which said:
ENGINE DRIVER KILLS WIFE, CHILD AND SELF. He knew without reading the
newspaper that it was Jim.
Of course he should have gone right away when Jim first found out about his affair with
her. It was his own fault. He was to blame for his weakness in not being able to leave her alone.
If only he had been strong enough this terrible tragedy would never have happened. She would
still be alive, and so would the child and Jim.
As fate would have it Brierly was promoted to take his friend's place as driver of the
Night Express and he was asked to take over immediately, on the very night after the tragedy. He
did not funk taking over Jim's engine and having Jim's fireman on the footplate with him; but he
felt dead inside, with no heart and feeling left.
He did the usual things before starting out on his first trip, automatically, feeling more like
a machine than a man, for life now seemed to have lost its meaning. He alone was to blame for
what had happened, and there was nothing he could do about it now. It was too late.
Under his hand the great locomotive moved forward as it pounded out of the station, the
wheels quickly gathering momentum. Soon he was reducing speed as they approached the bend
in the line, where the cottage stood, a dark blur, where no welcoming light would ever shine for
him again from the window. Tears welled up in his eyes and he quickly wiped them away with
the back of his hand, glancing at the fire man to see if he had noticed. But the fireman was
standing cap in hand, also wiping away a tear as they passed. The two men self-consciously
grasped each other's hands, and without a word went back to their respective jobs which ensured
the safe arrival of the express at its destination.
Every night the express swept by the cottage, and after some weeks of uneventful monotony
a frightening thing happened.
They were approaching the bend near the cottage one dark night and as usual Brierly
pulled back the level to reduce speed. He still made a habit of leaning out of the cab as they went
round the bend at quarter speed, staring at the cottage and thinking of Jim's wife, as though
hoping to see her once more.
His thoughts were this time interrupted by the voice of the fireman shouting at him: 'For
God's sake, look at the lever!'
Brierly jerked back into the cab, for he already had felt the steam valves opening, and he
could see to his horror that the regulator lever was being pulled open as if by an unseen hand. He
leapt at the lever to close it, as the engine rapidly gained a speed much too high for the curve.
Trying to close the lever was like pulling against an irresistible force. He slammed on the brakes,
and the engine rounded the curve swaying from side to side and bucking dangerously, while the
long train followed, rocking on its bogeys, brakes hissing and grinding.
Both men thought the engine was going off the rails. Brierly had to pull with all his might
to shut off the steam against the force of the unseen hand, but they got round the bend without
disaster with both men white to the lips. Never was a train crew more thankful to pull safely into
the terminus at the other end of the run.
Brierly had more reason to be afraid than the fireman, because he knew that there was no
natural cause for such a thing to have happened. He was certain that the unseen had which had
fought to open the regulator lever against him was Jim's, and he was equally sure that it would
happen again. Would he always be able to hold it?
From that time he often had to fight against the unseen force which tried to gain control of
the lever. He hung on like grim death every time they approached the bend near the cottage, and
never took his hand off it on that particular stretch of the line. But he realized that each
succeeding time it happened the force was stronger, and he knew that one day he would not be
able to hold it.
He decided to quit and go up North. He should have done this long ago. It was the only
way of avoiding disaster-a disaster which would involve not only him but a trainload of trusting
Soon he was going on his last journey driving the Night Express for the last time, and for
the last time he would drive past the cottage with its memories and its horrors. His wife and little
daughter were traveling with him and were seated in the first coach nearest to the engine, and they
had it to themselves.
Brierly had kissed them both before climbing up into the monster of steel and settling
himself behind the controls. The final whistle sounded and he put his hand on the lever, gripping
it hard, for the feel of it made him shudder despite the intense heat which came from the roaring
furnace being tended by the fireman. There was a great hiss of steam and then another before the
mighty engine started to move and then, gaining momentum, pounded away into the night.
The train was traveling at sixty miles an hour when it approached the bend, and according
to the fireman there was nothing either of them could do to close the regulator. They both hung
on to it with all their might, but it opened full and they could not move it to shut the steam off.
They were pushing helplessly against an irresistible force.
The engine and the first carriage jumped the track. The fireman was thrown clear, but
John Brierly, his wife and child were killed. Through the train was derailed there were no other
Jim Robson had had his revenge.