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The Railway Children.

by Edith Nesbit.
Age Rating 10 Plus.

Start of Story

"Hullo!" he said, "'ere you are. Well, if THIS is the train, it'll be smart work! Well, God bless you, my dear! I see it in the paper, and I don't think I was ever so glad of anything in all my born days!" He looked at Bobbie a moment, then said, "One I must have, Miss, and no offence, I know, on a day like this 'ere!" and with that he kissed her, first on one cheek and then on the other. "You ain't offended, are you?" he asked anxiously. "I ain't took too great a liberty? On a day like this, you know--" "No, no," said Bobbie, "of course it's not a liberty, dear Mr. Perks; we love you quite as much as if you were an uncle of ours--but--on a day like WHAT?" "Like this 'ere!" said Perks. "Don't I tell you I see it in the paper?" "Saw WHAT in the paper?" asked Bobbie, but already the 11.54 was steaming into the station and the Station Master was looking at all the places where Perks was not and ought to have been. Bobbie was left standing alone, the Station Cat watching her from under the bench with friendly golden eyes. Of course you know already exactly what was going to happen. Bobbie was not so clever. She had the vague, confused, expectant feeling that comes to one's heart in dreams. What her heart expected I can't tell--perhaps the very thing that you and I know was going to happen--but her mind expected nothing; it was almost blank, and felt nothing but tiredness and stupidness and an empty feeling, like your body has when you have been a long walk and it is very far indeed past your proper dinner-time. Only three people got out of the 11.54. The first was a countryman with two baskety boxes full of live chickens who stuck their russet heads out anxiously through the wicker bars; the second was Miss Peckitt, the grocer's wife's cousin, with a tin box and three brown-paper parcels; and the third--



"Oh! my Daddy, my Daddy!" That scream went like a knife into the heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of the windows to see a tall pale man with lips set in a thin close line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while his arms went tightly round her. * * * * * * "I knew something wonderful was going to happen," said Bobbie, as they went up the road, "but I didn't think it was going to be this. Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!" "Then didn't Mother get my letter?" Father asked. "There weren't any letters this morning. Oh! Daddy! it IS really you, isn't it?" The clasp of a hand she had not forgotten assured her that it was. "You must go in by yourself, Bobbie, and tell Mother quite quietly that it's all right. They've caught the man who did it. Everyone knows now that it wasn't your Daddy." "_I_ always knew it wasn't," said Bobbie. "Me and Mother and our old gentleman." "Yes," he said, "it's all his doing. Mother wrote and told me you had found out. And she told me what you'd been to her. My own little girl!" They stopped a minute then. And now I see them crossing the field. Bobbie goes into the house, trying to keep her eyes from speaking before her lips have found the right words to "tell Mother quite quietly" that the sorrow and the struggle and the parting are over and done, and that Father has come home.



I see Father walking in the garden, waiting--waiting. He is looking at the flowers, and each flower is a miracle to eyes that all these months of Spring and Summer have seen only flagstones and gravel and a little grudging grass. But his eyes keep turning towards the house. And presently he leaves the garden and goes to stand outside the nearest door. It is the back door, and across the yard the swallows are circling. They are getting ready to fly away from cold winds and keen frost to the land where it is always summer. They are the same swallows that the children built the little clay nests for. Now the house door opens. Bobbie's voice calls:-- "Come in, Daddy; come in!" He goes in and the door is shut. I think we will not open the door or follow him. I think that just now we are not wanted there. I think it will be best for us to go quickly and quietly away. At the end of the field, among the thin gold spikes of grass and the harebells and Gipsy roses and St. John's Wort, we may just take one last look, over our shoulders, at the white house where neither we nor anyone else is wanted now.



THE END

       



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