It Might Have Happened Otherwise
The growth of the thing in his mind had been gradual. When it had obtruded upon his consciousness at first he had drawn back in mingled fear and anger. By degrees, however, he tolerated the thought, only always at a distance, and concluded by allowing it to make a rendezvous of his idle meditations, receiving it much as one might welcome an unwholesome but highly fascinating acquaintance. All the time he knew its real name was Theft.
For three years Parsly had served as station agent and telegraph-operator at the Junction. Each day he had observed the transient bustling by the long platform, the spectacle never varying. Long vestibuled trains halted impatiently, and always the same curious or apathetic faces peered out at him from the Pullmans.
It was the branch line, tapping the lumber country, that contributed humanism, consisting of a nodding acquaintance with timber operators and forlorn commercial travelers. The first were always in a hurry to make the big city connection; the latter lingered in his company for the sake of gaining an audience while they cursed the country.