At the other side of the runnel, the machine shrieked, groaned and rattled, and drilled. then all at once it shook and shuddered – wheezed – and stopped. Frantically, men worked to get it going again. But they couldn’t. It had collapsed! John Henry’s hammering still rang and echoed through the tunnel with a strong and steady beat.
Suddenly there was a great crash. Light streamed through the tunnel. John Henry had broken through! Wild cries of joy burst from the men. Still holding one of his hammers, John Henry stepped out into the glowing light of a dying day. It was the last step he ever took.
“Slaves whispered what no one was allowed to say: That Mathis know how to make…a Show Way. Came to her when they needed to talk; came to her for the stories of brave people; came to her for the patch pieces just before they disappeared into the night.”