The Baldwin Library
LOST ON THE LINE.
A TRUE INCIDENT.
THE SAFE ARRIVAL OF THE CHILDREN.
LOST ON THE LINE.
dear Mary, it is simply preposterous to
[ think of going off like this. Well! young
people were very different when I was a
"But, dear aunty, I am now twenty-one, and ever
since I was sixteen I have had to travel alone. Why,
this is not even my first night journey."
Well, as Nelly is so ill and they want you imme-
diately, there is some excuse for it, but I fear you may
get into difficulties. Why, even at my age I would
not dare undertake such a thing. But dear me! young
ladies are so independent now-a-days."
You see, we girls have been forced to be so; and
who knows but that before I reach Edinburgh I may
find some one far more helpless than myself, and not
only make my own safe way, but aid them into the
bargain." And Mary Thornton looked quite bright and
hopeful at the thought.
Still the kind aunt was sad and anxious; she was
4 Lost on the Line.
thinking of Mary's mother, and how different had been
her young shielded life. It is generally thus when
poverty and adversity come upon a family; the older
members are almost shocked to see the nerve and
dauntless energy with which the younger ones go forth
to meet the storm.
Mary Thornton was a governess, and now in the
midst of her holidays, she was alarmed by receiving
intelligence of the dangerous illness of her favourite
sister who held a situation in Scotland; and regardless
of Mrs. Hill's remonstrances she had immediately
resolved to catch the night express and repair at once
to her suffering darling. Colton was a little midland
village, and the last train by which she could start left at
four in the afternoon, so that on arriving at the junction
she found there would be five hours to wait, as the
Scotch mail d!d not pass until half-past eleven at night.
It was a chilly, drizzling November evening, but,
resolved to make the best of her misfortunes, she
established herself in the waiting-room, with a book
and some needle-work as a help towards passing the
long dreary hours. A large station is sometimes an
amusing waiting-place, but poor Mary's heart wa
heavy, and she paid little heed to what was going on
around her till suddenly rather a singular reply, given
in answer to the porter who was demanding the
passengers' tickets, struck upon her ear.
Lost on the Line.
"Here is mine, sir, and two halves for my little
ones; there was three of them, but one below age. I
left them behind at Lincoln; do you think they'll be
coming on soon ?"
The tone was piteous and pleading, and Mary did
not hear the man's reply. Indeed she did not know
that, engrossed by important inquiries on the other
side, he had past on unheeding; and selfishly wrapt in
her own grief and anxiety she worked on, also regard-
less of the voice of sorrow without.
She thought of the long, lonely journey; these many
hours to wait, perhaps her poor little sister longing for
her, it was very, very weary. And then as she stitched
on, the thought of her aunt's uncalled for fears about the
night travelling had almost made her smile, when the
remembrance of her remark in answer to them suddenly
flashed across her mind. "Perhaps I may help others,"
she said, half aloud, and rising to her feet; "any way, I
will look around and just see if that woman is waiting
outside still." With this idea she went out upon the
platform, which appeared just then to be almost
deserted; ,however, beneath a gas-light she observed a
young woman with a worn pale face sitting nursing
her baby, so addressing her, Mary inquired if she was
waiting for a train, and advised her going into the
room instead of remaining outside in the cold.
"No, thank you, Miss; I would rather not lose sight
6 Lost on the Line.
of them engines," was the answer, in a meek subdued
voice. On which Mary further asked if she was not the
person whom she had a short time since heard to say
that her children were left behind somewhere by
Yes, indeed, Miss; I left them all at Lincoln--a
man pushed before like, so I could not get them in;
the oldest isn't but seven. Oh do you think they will
be coming on safe, Miss ?"
Mary assured her she had no doubt of this, and
added cheerily, It is no use your sitting watching in
the cold, though that will never bring them any faster.
Come, carry baby to the fire, and we will have a talk
Thus persuaded, the poor mother entered the waiting-
room, and finding she had a sympathizing listener, the
whole history of her troubles was soon poured forth.
She told Mary that her husband was a tailor, and
having been for some time out of employ, he had come
to this his native town about a fortnight before in
hope of finding work. In this he had been so success-
ful that he had written desiring her to come to him,
bringing their family, and promising to meet the train
by which she arrived.
Then you are expecting him," interposed Mary;
"he was to come to meet this train, I suppose ?"
I don' know, Miss; he said the five o'clock train,
Lost on the Line. 7
but he never came, so mayhaps he's busy. Only I am
fearful if I know where's the letter telling the place
he stays at. So I don't mind nothing about my
husband if I could get my poor dear children again."
And the flood-gates once unbarred, the tears now
began to flow rapidly.
Without another word Mary hastened to the
refreshment-room and procured a cup of hot tea, and
some cakes for the baby, for she wisely judged such
small creature comforts were at that moment the most
ffectual consolations she could administer. In this
she was not mistaken, for no sooner had her humble
friend gulped down the comforting beverage, than she
looked up with a grateful smile, remarking-
I had took nothing since twelve o'clock, and what
with my fears and my troubles was getting quite upset,
but now I can tell you it all straightforward like."
So with baby, a fine little fellow of eleven months, on
her knee, happily munching his spongecake, Mary sat
by the fire and listened to the simple story given much
in the following manner. She heard that Mrs. Jones
had lived for three years at Lincoln, but had expe-
rienced nothing but what she expressively termed
s' hard times there. It appeared that on the morning
of this eventful day, a neighbour had promised to
accompany her to the station and see her off; she had
not only failed in this promise, but having bought of
8 Lost on the Line.
Mrs. Jones some "bits of things," for which, when it
came to the point, she refused to give half the value,
the altercation on the subject had been so prolonged
that it resulted in the poor woman being almost too
late for the train, from which mishap all her subsequent
misery had ensued.
You see, Miss, Polly Ann she is a handy child and
carried the basket well, but the little one could but
just walk, and I had baby and two bundles to carry,
and before I could get 'em all in, the train started.
Poor little dears, how they did screech, especially little
Jemmy, to see me carried clean away from them.
I am comforted to think the pudding-end was in the
basket, and Polly Ann, being as I said a handy child,
would be sure to give it 'em to eat right enough. Still,
when I think of all my troubles at Lincoln, it is very
hard. Bless you, Miss, I buried one beautiful boy there
just a year older than Jemmy, and now I have lost all
the others." And at this climax the mother's tears began
to flow afresh.
But what have you done about it ?" interposed
Mary. Have you made inquiries, or telegraphed?"
"No, indeed, Miss; I don't understand telegraphting,
I am not used to such ways. You see, I never travelled
but once before, and that was before we had any
children to be mindful of."
Hearing this, Mary set down the baby, and herself
Lost on the Line. 9
proceeded to perform the necessary business. She soon
won the ear and touched the heart of a good-natured
porter, who followed her into the waiting-room with a
half pitiful, half amused expression.
Left your children behind! now you don't say so?
Why, that is worse than losing your luggage or your
lap-dog, which is no such unfrequent occurrence. Well,
you need not fret yourself, they are sure to be
forwarded safe enough; we'll soon see to it." And he
went away, in a few minutes returning to say they
would most likely come up by the very next train.
"When will it be due ?" inquired Mary.
"At 6.go, Miss, and if they are not in that there is
one at 7.45, but after that there is nothing but the
luggage trucks. Maybe they would be forwarded by
them; put on the guard's break, you know; there is no
The mother took heart at this intelligence, and very
soon the 6.50 train came in, snorting and panting.
Forth poured its eager-stream of occupants, crowding
the platform and jostling the two women who stood
anxiously watching for the little ones, and little
dreaming how they were all the time being carried farther
and farther away by the pitiless north bound express.
When the next train arrived it was with no better
result, and as they returned to the waiting-room Mary
could not help noting to herself the drawn, haggard
So Lost on the Line.
look which was stealing over the poor mother's care-
"You must not give up; there is yet the luggage
train, and the porters say they will very likely be sent
by it." Still Mary's heart was also beginning to sink as
she remembered how utterly ineffectual had been her
efforts to obtain tidings of the wanderers from the
guards of either of the preceding trains.
Had you not better begin thinking of your husband?
Try to remember his address," she suggested, "for if
your children come at half past eight, you will then
want to go to him."
Oh, Miss, I care nothing for my husband, he can
take care ofhisself, but they poor little dears, I would
not mind nothing if I could only get 'em safe back again."
Well, if they are all as good as this baby, I am
sure they are getting on well wherever they may be,
as you will find out for yourself half an hour hence,
when you see them."
Just then, the woman who had charge of the waiting-
roommade her appearance; she soon became thoroughly
interested in the poor mother's story, and also did her
utmost to comfort her.
Come, let me hear where your husband works,"
said she; I know every street in -. Have lived all
my life here."
That it was a large shop in the market-place was
Lost on the Line. II
all Mrs. Jones could remember, but when the principal
tailors in the place were enumerated she quickly
recognized the name of the one who was her husband's
Then you must go to him directly the luggage train
is in," said the wise adviser. I can tell you exactly the
way, and as to the children, I tell you our company'
will take better care of them than if they were lodged
in the grandest palace in England; so you may make
your mind easy about that" And then, to pass the
time, she related how some little boys had been lost on
their line some months before.
"They were such pretty little fellows, with golden
hair all in curls on their shoulders, and it seems that
as their papa and mamma walked up and down the
platform, they jumped for fun into a carriage
which stood on a siding, and before they knew what
had happened they were shunted off and attached to
the down express. The parents were well nigh dis-
tracted, ind telegraphed right and left, so when the
young people got here, we soon understood the case,
and sent word they were safe enough, but there was
no train by which we could return them that night.
We did our best, and made them a bed in this room,
and the porters were for bringing them everything
you can think of; and the little fellows, being very
plucky, seemed quite to enjoy the fun."
12 Lost on the Line.
In such conversation the time passed until the
arrival of the much desired luggage-van, but alas for
vain hopesand expectations, they were not to be realized.
The guard was questioned, but had heard nothing
whatever of the children, and as he returned impa-
tiently to his packages, the poor mother drew back
with one heavy sigh and a look of utter despair on her
meek pale face.
"Look here!" said the waiting-room woman, in a
kind but authoritative voice, "they can't possibly come
till nine o'clock to-morrow now, so you must go and
find your husband at once, and get that poor little
fellow into his bed (I am sure it is time), and come down
as soon as you like in the morning. You will find the
others all safe and sound."
Oh! may I not stop here all night ? indeed I can't
go without 'em. Fancy me in my bed and the poor
little dears lying stark and cold on the line somewhere
"You must not fancy anything so foolish," was the
cheery answer; "it is much more likely they are tucked
snug enough into a warm bed. Besides, you ought to be
thinking of your baby. Look how sleepy he is, poor
little fellow !"
Ay, to be sure, I'll mind what you say, but if you
had heard them screech as the train went off! It just
went to my heart. Now I think of it, surely Jem's
Lost on the Line. 13
letter is in the bundle there; leastways I'll look and
And she began an immediate search in the specified
receptacle, drawing out many and various "bits of
things," such as a broken comb, a tailor's thimble, a
skein of silk, before coming upon the soiled and greasy
sheet of paper which was of such importance to her.
However, just as she had discovered it, and begun
reading aloud for public benefit, No. 8, Little
Gruesby Street," the cheerful voice of a porter at the
door interrupted her.
Surely, this is the little party, come in by the Man-
chester express; they have been took all round there,
bless 'em." And he put forward the three small indivi-
duals who had been causing such anxious solicitude,
with a face almost equalling Mary Thornton's or the
mother's own in its expression of beaming satisfac-
There was Polly Ann with the large wide basket
almost bigger than herself, and the two smaller children
holding tight by her.
"Oh! mother," piped a little voice, "the kind
gentleman gave us such a big bun."
Yes, missus," interposecdthe beneficent donor (viz., a
broad faced guard who stood behind), your little party
has done very nicely, but I am glad to see you all met
together again." And without time to say more he
14 Lost on the Line.
sprang into the box of the fast receding train, which
was speedily lost to sight.
It is impossible to describe the happiness of the poor
woman, who seemed to brood joyously over her little
ones as might a mother-bird over its restored offspring;
so touching a sight was it, that the waiting-room
woman was obliged to turn aside her head and hide her
tears, while Mary, also feeling quite overcome, busied
herself replacing the various odds and ends in the
somewhat unsightly bundle.
Look here, missus," said the kind-hearted porter,
"it's time I was off duty now. I live hard by Gruesby
Street, so I'll carry that little chap for you, and lead
the way, and you will be home in no time."
The opportunity was too welcome to be neglected,
and gladly accepting his offer, Mrs. Jones prepared at
once to depart, saying to the woman who stood by-_
I don't know your name, mum, but as sure as mine
is Mary Ann Jones, I will come here and see you the
first chance, and it seems to me that wont be long
a-coming, for surely we are going to begin afresh, and
have better luck now !"
And then turning to Mary, she said, "I can't thank
you, Miss, I don't know how; but one thing is sure, I
should know you again if I see you anywhere."
"Yes, I am sure you would," said Mary, briskly,
"and help me too if I was in need, so we will say
Lost on the Line. IS
no more about that. Good-bye, God bless you all;"
and she kissed each of the little ones as they passed
Just in the gateway the mother paused once more.
"I must just say this, Miss, of one thing I am sure, you
will never need help indeed, but God will send it you."
And then they all passed out into the gloom, and Mary
having heard the last pattering footfall die away,
turned back into the lighted room with those last
words still ringing in her ears.
Six weeks have passed; for Mary Thornton weeks of
anxious fear and weary watching, indeed at onetime
all hope seemed gone, but then in her hour of darkest,
sorest need had come the unlocked for help and
comfort. When the doctor had shaken his head and
gone, leaving her, as she feared, to keep the last lonely
vigil beside her darling, there had come to her assis-
tance one whose visit seemed like that of an angel
unawares. With noiseless footsteps had the Sister of
Mercy approached, and with cool hand smoothed the
pillow, and eased the aching brow of the sufferer, and
then she gently explained how she had heard of this
sickness and sorrow, and been sent on her mission of
love. And Mary, "remembering the promise," could
but bow her head in speechless thankfulness. Now
that thankfulness is deepened into joy, as with a heart
16 Lost on the Line.
full of Christmas gladness she sees her treasure conva-
lescent, and revelling in the blessedness of returning
health and strength. And still sweetly, like music in
Mary's heart, run the words of that.beautiful precept,
BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS, AND SO
FULFIL THE LAW OF CHRIST." The Christ who for
our sakes was born a helpless babe in Bethlehem.