Not on the Gallows
by Harry Turtledove
Only a few minutes after coming out of the tunnel under the Hudson River, the train
pulled into Penn Station. Lucas van Haltren had the window seat. He stared like a rube at the new
station's imposing classical bulk. He knew he was staring like a rube, but he couldn't help it.
"Will you look at that?" he said to his wife, who was on the aisle. "I mean, will you just
look at that? The things they can do nowadays!"
"I'd have an easier time seeing if you'd lean back a trifle," Stella van Haltren answered
"I am leaning back." Lucas sounded slightly injured. As soon as he'd hit thirty, he'd
started putting on some good, healthy flesh. Now, ten years later, he had a double chin and a
more than respectable potbelly. He also had more and more gray hairs in his bushy
mustache--too many, he'd decided at last, to keep plucking them out with a tweezer.
Despite his bulk, Stella did manage to get some kind of look out the window. "Well, you
can see why New York is the big city, all right," she said.
Still slightly injured, Lucas answered, "Hey, Pittsburgh is a big city, too." Their home
town was a big city. In the 1910 census, it had come in at more than half a million people. But
that didn't make Stella wrong. New York was the big city. It boasted more than four and a half
million. Except for London, it was the biggest city in the world.
"Yes, dear." Stella was more deflating than anything England had managed to do against
the zeppelins that raided Great Yarmouth this past January.
The train chuffed to a stop. "Penn Station!" a conductor shouted. "You're coming into
New York City! Penn Station!"
Lucas wanted to laugh. There couldn't be much doubt about where a traveler was, not
here. Even he had to admit that. All the same, he said, "The limeys like Pittsburgh just fine. They
wouldn't be paying our way across the Atlantic if they didn't fancy what the company turns out."
"Yes, dear." This time, Stella sounded warmer. And well she might. Her husband was a
mover and shaker with the Monongahela Spring and Screw Company. Nobody thought much
about springs and screws, but everybody needed them. England sure did. Here in April 1915,
caught up in the murderous madness tearing Europe to pieces, she needed more than she could
make for herself. And so she reached out to smoke-belching factories across the sea--factories
like the ones that belonged to the Monongahela Spring and Screw Company.
Lucas and Stella left their car. Signs pointed them to the baggage-claim area. Penn Station
was as modern as next week. Stella took the claim checks from her handbag. The colored man
who gave them their suitcases looked almost like an admiral. He wore a cap with a patent-leather
bill and a dark blue jacket festooned with gold braid and brass buttons. Lucas gave him twenty
cents--a dime for each suitcase. "Obliged, suh," he baggage man said, and touched the cap's bill
in a not-quite-salute.
The suitcases' weight made Lucas van Haltren grunt. Along with clothes, he had business
papers in there. He wasn't sure how long he and his wife would stay in England. Anything they
ran short of, they could buy over there.
He waddled out to the curb, breaking trail for Stella. "The air smells so clean!" she
exclaimed when they got outside.
"Not so many steel mills here," Lucas answered. Coal smoke shrouded Pittsburgh in
"Danny would like it," Stella said wistfully. They had two boys. John was nine, Danny
seven; they were staying with Stella's sister's family while their parents went overseas. Danny
wheezed and coughed all the time. Lucas knew the filthy air in Pittsburgh wasn't good for his
son, but that was where he worked, so what could you do?
Eight or ten taxicabs waited for fares outside the station. Some were French autos, others
Model Ts. They were all painted bright yellow, even if God and Henry Ford hadn't made the
Model Ts that way. The first car in line was a Ford. The bearded Jew driving it hopped out and
helped Lucas wrestle the suitcases aboard.
"Vere to?" he asked in accented English.
"I want to go to the Sherman Square Hotel--Broadway and Seventy-first," Lucas said as
he and Stella boarded the taxi.
"Hokay." The Jew started the taxi meter. It clicked as the clockwork inside spun into
motion. Lucas eyed it with interest. In Pittsburgh, you still dickered a fare with the hackman
before you set out. Not here. New York City really was modern. He wondered whether the meter
included any of his company's screws or springs.
They went up along the Hudson for a while. When they passed Pier 54, Lucas smiled.
Cunard and White Star liners sailed from there. They had a ticket on the ship that left the first of
May. She sat at the pier now, taking on cargo. She was enormous, close to four city blocks long,
her four stacks red topped with black.
"A week after we pull out, we'll be in London," Lucas said. "Only a week! Isn't the
twentieth century wonderful?"