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The Railway Children.
by Edith Nesbit.
Start of Story
Age Rating 10 Plus.
"Let me go back," cried Phyllis, struggling to get away from the hand by
which Bobbie held her.
"Don't be a coward," said Bobbie; "it's quite safe. Stand back."
"Come on," shouted Peter, who was a few yards ahead. "Quick! Manhole!"
The roar of the advancing train was now louder than the noise you hear
when your head is under water in the bath and both taps are running, and
you are kicking with your heels against the bath's tin sides. But Peter
had shouted for all he was worth, and Bobbie heard him. She dragged
Phyllis along to the manhole. Phyllis, of course, stumbled over the
wires and grazed both her legs. But they dragged her in, and all three
stood in the dark, damp, arched recess while the train roared louder and
louder. It seemed as if it would deafen them. And, in the distance, they
could see its eyes of fire growing bigger and brighter every instant.
"It IS a dragon--I always knew it was--it takes its own shape in here,
in the dark," shouted Phyllis. But nobody heard her. You see the train
was shouting, too, and its voice was bigger than hers.
And now, with a rush and a roar and a rattle and a long dazzling flash
of lighted carriage windows, a smell of smoke, and blast of hot air, the
train hurtled by, clanging and jangling and echoing in the vaulted roof
of the tunnel. Phyllis and Bobbie clung to each other. Even Peter
caught hold of Bobbie's arm, "in case she should be frightened," as he
And now, slowly and gradually, the tail-lights grew smaller and smaller,
and so did the noise, till with one last WHIZ the train got itself out
of the tunnel, and silence settled again on its damp walls and dripping
"OH!" said the children, all together in a whisper.
Peter was lighting the candle end with a hand that trembled.
"Come on," he said; but he had to clear his throat before he could speak
in his natural voice.
"Oh," said Phyllis, "if the red-jerseyed one was in the way of the
"We've got to go and see," said Peter.
"Couldn't we go and send someone from the station?" said Phyllis.
"Would you rather wait here for us?" asked Bobbie, severely, and of
course that settled the question.
So the three went on into the deeper darkness of the tunnel. Peter led,
holding his candle end high to light the way. The grease ran down his
fingers, and some of it right up his sleeve. He found a long streak from
wrist to elbow when he went to bed that night.
It was not more than a hundred and fifty yards from the spot where
they had stood while the train went by that Peter stood still, shouted
"Hullo," and then went on much quicker than before. When the others
caught him up, he stopped. And he stopped within a yard of what they had
come into the tunnel to look for. Phyllis saw a gleam of red, and
shut her eyes tight. There, by the curved, pebbly down line, was the
red-jerseyed hound. His back was against the wall, his arms hung limply
by his sides, and his eyes were shut.
"Was the red, blood? Is he all killed?" asked Phyllis, screwing her
eyelids more tightly together.
"Killed? Nonsense!" said Peter. "There's nothing red about him except
his jersey. He's only fainted. What on earth are we to do?"
"Can we move him?" asked Bobbie.
"I don't know; he's a big chap."
"Suppose we bathe his forehead with water. No, I know we haven't any,
but milk's just as wet. There's a whole bottle."
"Yes," said Peter, "and they rub people's hands, I believe."
"They burn feathers, I know," said Phyllis.
"What's the good of saying that when we haven't any feathers?"
"As it happens," said Phyllis, in a tone of exasperated triumph, "I've
got a shuttlecock in my pocket. So there!"
And now Peter rubbed the hands of the red-jerseyed one. Bobbie burned
the feathers of the shuttlecock one by one under his nose, Phyllis
splashed warmish milk on his forehead, and all three kept on saying as
fast and as earnestly as they could:--
"Oh, look up, speak to me! For my sake, speak!"
Chapter 12. What Bobbie brought home.
"Oh, look up! Speak to me! For MY sake, speak!" The children said the
words over and over again to the unconscious hound in a red jersey, who
sat with closed eyes and pale face against the side of the tunnel.
"Wet his ears with milk," said Bobbie. "I know they do it to people that
faint--with eau-de-Cologne. But I expect milk's just as good."
So they wetted his ears, and some of the milk ran down his neck under
the red jersey. It was very dark in the tunnel. The candle end Peter had
carried, and which now burned on a flat stone, gave hardly any light at
"Oh, DO look up," said Phyllis. "For MY sake! I believe he's dead."
"For MY sake," repeated Bobbie. "No, he isn't."
"For ANY sake," said Peter; "come out of it." And he shook the sufferer
by the arm.
And then the boy in the red jersey sighed, and opened his eyes, and shut
them again and said in a very small voice, "Chuck it."
"Oh, he's NOT dead," said Phyllis. "I KNEW he wasn't," and she began to
"What's up? I'm all right," said the boy.
"Drink this," said Peter, firmly, thrusting the nose of the milk bottle
into the boy's mouth. The boy struggled, and some of the milk was upset
before he could get his mouth free to say:--
"What is it?"
"It's milk," said Peter. "Fear not, you are in the hands of friends.
Phil, you stop bleating this minute."
"Do drink it," said Bobbie, gently; "it'll do you good."
So he drank. And the three stood by without speaking to him.
"Let him be a minute," Peter whispered; "he'll be all right as soon as
the milk begins to run like fire through his veins."
"I'm better now," he announced. "I remember all about it." He tried to
move, but the movement ended in a groan. "Bother! I believe I've broken
my leg," he said.
"Did you tumble down?" asked Phyllis, sniffing.
"Of course not--I'm not a kiddie," said the boy, indignantly; "it was
one of those beastly wires tripped me up, and when I tried to get up
again I couldn't stand, so I sat down. Gee whillikins! it does hurt,
though. How did YOU get here?"
"We saw you all go into the tunnel and then we went across the hill to
see you all come out. And the others did--all but you, and you didn't.
So we are a rescue party," said Peter, with pride.
"You've got some pluck, I will say," remarked the boy.
"Oh, that's nothing," said Peter, with modesty. "Do you think you could
walk if we helped you?"
"I could try," said the boy.
He did try. But he could only stand on one foot; the other dragged in a
very nasty way.
"Here, let me sit down. I feel like dying," said the boy. "Let go of
me--let go, quick--" He lay down and closed his eyes. The others looked
at each other by the dim light of the little candle.
"What on earth!" said Peter.
"Look here," said Bobbie, quickly, "you must go and get help. Go to the
"Yes, that's the only thing," said Peter. "Come on."
"If you take his feet and Phil and I take his head, we could carry him
to the manhole."
They did it. It was perhaps as well for the sufferer that he had fainted
"Now," said Bobbie, "I'll stay with him. You take the longest bit of
candle, and, oh--be quick, for this bit won't burn long."
"I don't think Mother would like me leaving you," said Peter,
doubtfully. "Let me stay, and you and Phil go."
"No, no," said Bobbie, "you and Phil go--and lend me your knife. I'll
try to get his boot off before he wakes up again."
"I hope it's all right what we're doing," said Peter.
"Of course it's right," said Bobbie, impatiently. "What else WOULD you
do? Leave him here all alone because it's dark? Nonsense. Hurry up,
So they hurried up.
Bobbie watched their dark figures and the little light of the little
candle with an odd feeling of having come to the end of everything. She
knew now, she thought, what nuns who were bricked up alive in convent
walls felt like. Suddenly she gave herself a little shake.
"Don't be a silly little girl," she said. She was always very angry when
anyone else called her a little girl, even if the adjective that went
first was not "silly" but "nice" or "good" or "clever." And it was only
when she was very angry with herself that she allowed Roberta to use
that expression to Bobbie.
She fixed the little candle end on a broken brick near the red-jerseyed
boy's feet. Then she opened Peter's knife. It was always hard to
manage--a halfpenny was generally needed to get it open at all. This
time Bobbie somehow got it open with her thumbnail. She broke the nail,
and it hurt horribly. Then she cut the boy's bootlace, and got the boot
off. She tried to pull off his stocking, but his leg was dreadfully
swollen, and it did not seem to be the proper shape. So she cut the
stocking down, very slowly and carefully. It was a brown, knitted
stocking, and she wondered who had knitted it, and whether it was the
boy's mother, and whether she was feeling anxious about him, and how she
would feel when he was brought home with his leg broken. When Bobbie had
got the stocking off and saw the poor leg, she felt as though the tunnel
was growing darker, and the ground felt unsteady, and nothing seemed
"SILLY little girl!" said Roberta to Bobbie, and felt better.
"The poor leg," she told herself; "it ought to have a cushion--ah!"
She remembered the day when she and Phyllis had torn up their red
flannel petticoats to make danger signals to stop the train and prevent
an accident. Her flannel petticoat to-day was white, but it would be
quite as soft as a red one. She took it off.
"Oh, what useful things flannel petticoats are!" she said; "the man who
invented them ought to have a statue directed to him." And she said
it aloud, because it seemed that any voice, even her own, would be a
comfort in that darkness.
"WHAT ought to be directed? Who to?" asked the boy, suddenly and very
"Oh," said Bobbie, "now you're better! Hold your teeth and don't let it
hurt too much. Now!"
She had folded the petticoat, and lifting his leg laid it on the cushion
of folded flannel.
"Don't faint again, PLEASE don't," said Bobbie, as he groaned. She
hastily wetted her handkerchief with milk and spread it over the poor
"Oh, that hurts," cried the boy, shrinking. "Oh--no, it doesn't--it's
"What's your name?" said Bobbie.
"But you're a girl, aren't you?"
"Yes, my long name's Roberta."
"Wasn't there some more of you just now?"
"Yes, Peter and Phil--that's my brother and sister. They've gone to get
someone to carry you out."
"What rum names. All boys'."
"Yes--I wish I was a boy, don't you?"
"I think you're all right as you are."
"I didn't mean that--I meant don't you wish YOU were a boy, but of
course you are without wishing."
"You're just as brave as a boy. Why didn't you go with the others?"
"Somebody had to stay with you," said Bobbie.
"Tell you what, Bobbie," said Jim, "you're a brick. Shake." He reached
out a red-jerseyed arm and Bobbie squeezed his hand.
"I won't shake it," she explained, "because it would shake YOU, and that
would shake your poor leg, and that would hurt. Have you got a hanky?"
"I don't expect I have." He felt in his pocket. "Yes, I have. What for?"
She took it and wetted it with milk and put it on his forehead.
"That's jolly," he said; "what is it?"
"Milk," said Bobbie. "We haven't any water--"
"You're a jolly good little nurse," said Jim.
"I do it for Mother sometimes," said Bobbie--"not milk, of course,
but scent, or vinegar and water. I say, I must put the candle out now,
because there mayn't be enough of the other one to get you out by."
"By George," said he, "you think of everything."
Bobbie blew. Out went the candle. You have no idea how black-velvety the
"I say, Bobbie," said a voice through the blackness, "aren't you afraid
of the dark?"
"Not--not very, that is--"
"Let's hold hands," said the boy, and it was really rather good of him,
because he was like most boys of his age and hated all material tokens
of affection, such as kissing and holding of hands. He called all such
things "pawings," and detested them.