Bret Harte was noted for his short fiction stories about life during the California Gold Rush. A book by Harte would have been an interesting choice for the library of Edward Searles, as the fortune of his wife, Mary, had been built by Mark Hopkins Jr., who began his career selling supplies to miners during the Gold Rush. "Poems by Bret Harte," the only book by Harte in Searles' Kellogg Terrace Library, included poems such as "San Francisco, From the Sea", as well as "What the Engines Said." The latter poem is a fictional account of the "Opening of the Pacific Railroad." Incidentally, this presents another connection between the book and Mark Hopkins Jr., as the fortune of Hopkins', and later his widow, was built primarily on the success of the Central Pacific Railroad. Although we may never know if Searles read the poem, or any others from Harte's book, the full version of "What the Engines Said", as Searles may have read it, can be found below:
What the Engines Said
Opening of the Pacific Railroad
What was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching,—head to head
Facing on the single track,
Half a world behind each back?
This is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread.
With a prefatory screech,
In a florid Western speech,
Said the engine from the West,
“I am from Sierra’s crest;
And, if altitude’s a test,
Why, I reckon, it’s confessed,
That I’ve done my level best.”
Said the Engine from the East,
“They who work best talk the least.
S’pose you whistle down your brakes;
What you’ve done is no great shakes,--
Pretty fair,—but let our meeting
Be a different kind of greeting.
Let these folks with champagne stuffing,
Not their Engines, do the puffing.
“Listen! Where Atlantic beats
Shores of snow and summer heats;
Where the Indian autumn skies
Paint the woods with wampum dies,--
I have chased the flying sun,
Seeing all he looked upon,
Blessing all that he has blest,
Nursing in my iron breast
All his vivifying heat,
All his clouds about my crest;
And before my flying feet
Every shadow must retreat.”
Said the Western Engine, “Phew!”
And a long, low whistle blew.
“Come, now, really that’s the oddest
Talk for one so very modest.
You brag of your East. You do?
Why, I bring the East to you!
All the Orient, all Cathay,
Find through me the shortest way;
And the sun you follow here
Rises in my hemisphere.
Really,—if one must be rude,--
Length, my friend, ain’t longitude.”
Said the Union: “Don’t reflect, or
I’ll run over some Director.”
Said the Central: “I’m Pacific;
But, when riled, I’m quite terrific.
Yet to-day we shall not quarrel,
Just to show these folks this moral,
How two Engines—in their vision--
Once have met without collision.”
That is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread;
Spoken slightly through the nose,
With a whistle at the close.