"Now then, jump in, Lil! Hurry up, young woman! What is the matter with the girl! Has not the guard just told us that the train is crowded, and that there is not another seat?" and Ralph Moore took hold of his sister's arm rather impatiently. Lilian had her foot on the step; but she still hesitated, and there was a decided frown on her pretty face.
"It is quite full too," she said, rather crossly, "and it is so hot and stuffy;" and indeed, a crowded third-class compartment on a sultry August day is not a desirable locality; and Lilian's distaste and reluctance were only natural under the circumstances.
"There's no help for it - in you go!" muttered Ralph, in a gruff voice, and a pair of muscular arms lifted the girl in; and the next moment the guard gave the signal, and the train moved slowly away. Ralph grinned triumphantly, as he lifted his straw hat a little derisively to his sister. Sheer muscular force of argument had prevailed over a girl's contumacy.
"Little stupid!" he said to himself, as he whistled to his dogs. "I do believe she would rather have lost the train than put up with a little discomfort on the way."
Lilian stood helplessly for a moment with her small Yorkshire terrier under her arm. No one moved or made room for her, until a cheery voice from the end of the compartment broke the silence."There is lots of room, miss, between those two ladies. Let me hold your basket, ma'am, until the young lady is settled," and then, with a discontented expression, Lilian wedged herself into the fraction of space assigned for her use.
"It is too bad of Ralph," she thought. "I shall get out at the next station; it is like the Black Hole in Calcutta; it is worse than a cattle-pen." On one side of her was the inevitable fat woman with a basket; on the other a shabby, red- faced widow, with a fretful baby; then came a couple of loutish-looking lads. On the seat opposite her there was a surly-looking man, and an old labourer in corduroy; two young market-women, with bundles of vegetables, and then the owner of the voice. Lilian regarded him with youthful arrogance and distrust. He looked like a shopman; he was a small, undersized young man, with a round boyish face. He had a thick crop of red hair, and looked as spruce as though he was out for a holiday; his red silk tie and the scarlet geranium in his buttonhole seemed to make a flaming spot of colour in the carriage.
"The sun is in your eyes, miss," he observed the next moment; "the curtain has got wrong somehow; but if one of you ladies could oblige me with a pin, I will soon fix it," and he regarded Lilian with an affable smile.
"It is of no consequence," she returned stiffly, drawing herself up. "Please do not trouble." In her present temper she would rather have endured any amount of discomfort than be indebted to that very officious, vulgar young man.
"Oh, it is no trouble" - with beaming good nature. "Thank you, ma'am" - as the widow gloomily produced a pin - "I will soon have things ship-shape. There, miss, you are more comfortable now."
But though Lilian thanked him with some outward show of civility, she was inwardly chafing under what she chose to consider his impertinent freedom of address. She had done her duty and thanked him, and now she meant to ignore his existence; but she had reckoned without her host.
>"Beg your pardon, miss," the brisk voice began again, "is your little dog a Yorkshire terrier? I never saw such a small one before."
"Yes." Just this monosyllable and nothing more. She would keep him in his place; she was determined on that.
"He's a real beauty, if I may make so bold. May I ask his name? I am a dog- lover, miss, and always was."
"Musume," dropped from Lilian's lips, but she frowned again.
"Is that Latin, miss? It ain't a word I know."
"No; it is Japanese." But her manner was so repressive; it said so plainly, "How dare you address me in this familiar way?" that the young man flushed and looked a little disconcerted. This pretty young creature in the white dress had a decided temper.
"Beg pardon," she heard him mutter. "No offence, I hope." But the next moment he was on his feet again. The dust was dreadful; he must close the window. They were coming to Layton tunnel; he hoped the ladies would not be nervous, for he had discovered there was no light. Here Lilian glanced furtively at the gas-lamp overhead. Even when they had entered the tunnel the voice was still audible at intervals. "Beg pardon, madam." He had evidently trodden on the fat woman's toes. "Great Scott!" as a shrill whistle nearly deafened them, and one of the young market-women called out: "Bless your heart, madam, they are only a-clearing the way. There is no call to be frightened. Makes you feel a bit jumpy in the dark, so it does. Here we are in the light again, and we are slackening for the station. Shall I put down the window for a moment, miss, just to give us an airing?" But Lilian took no notice, and the next moment the train stopped.The carriage seemed to be emptying. First the loutish lads and the surly man got out then the labourer and the red-faced widow, the fat woman and the two young market-women followed, and yes - oh, the joy of it! - her redheaded tormentor was getting out too.
Lilian put down Musume that she might stretch her little legs, then she established herself in the fat woman's corner, and pulled the curtain across the dusty window - the heat would be more bearable now. Then Musume uttered a shrill little bark and fled growling to her mistress as some one entered with a flying leap. It was the red-headed young man. Lilian nearly gasped, but there was no time to leave the carriage, for the whistle had already sounded.
"Just saved myself by the skin of my teeth," observed the young fellow, in his chirpy voice. He had a Graphic and a bag of greengages, and seemed more cheerful than ever.
"Like to see the Graphic, miss?" holding out the paper with an ingratiating smile that seemed to say, "Let's be sociable."
"Thanks very much, but I've seen it" - distinctly a white lie.
"Dear, what a bad job" - in a disappointed tone. "I could easily have got Black and White or the Sketch."
"Thank you" in a freezing tone. "I do not care to read."
"Ah, you prefer to look at the scenery; know every yard of it myself between Layton and Brocklebank. My old mother lives at Brocklebank." (Lilian had a mother, too, at Brocklebank, but she kept this fact to herself.) "Beg pardon, may I offer you some greengages? They are very sweet and juicy."
"No, thank you." and then Lilian attempted a yawn and closed her eyes. Sleep was never farther from her, but she saw no other way of reducing him to silence, absurd and officious as he was; she had no wish to quarrel with him; it was evident the poor creature knew no better, she said to herself, with a superb tolerance.
Once when the silence had lasted a long time, she peeped through her fingers at him.
He was in a high state of enjoyment; he had the Graphic on his knee, and the open bag stood at his elbow; his hat was off, and his red crop gleamed in the sunshine, his round face and wide open blue eyes made him look like a radiant infant.
"I don't believe there's any harm in him; he can't help being vulgar," thought Lilian. "It was really very good-natured of him to offer to share his fruit with me; there goes another stone. Mr Redhead evidently has a fancy for greengages."
Lilian's sense of humour, always her strong point, was overcoming her moodiness. She was just then thinking how she would dramatise the situation for Ralph's benefit, when a sudden shock hurled her to the other end of the carriage.
"Beg pardon - hold on, miss - I believe we are in for a scrimmage, as sure as my name's Tom Hunter," but before the words were out of his mouth, there was a second shock; then darkness, a crash, terrified screams, and then Lilian heard no more.
"Beg pardon, miss, but if you are alive... - These were the first words that greeted Lilian on her return to consciousness. Where was she? Where had she heard that voice? Why was it dark? had she fainted? What was that heaving substance under her?
Beg pardon, but if you could move a little, miss. I am a bit crushed and numb-like."
Then recollection returned to the girl. There had been a railway accident. They were in it. That poor fellow was under her. If she could only raise herself; if she could reach the window. What was it over her head? Then as the light of a friendly lantern flashed across the carriage she screamed loudly,
"Help - help, for mercy's sake!"
"Shift that lantern, Jones, there is some poor body here," exclaimed a voice near them. Then the door was wrenched open and strong hands grasped the girl and lifted her out. "There's another down there. I am afraid he is badly hurt. You had better hail the chap who says he is a doctor."
"Come along with me, miss," said a second voice; "we are just at the mouth of the tunnel, but you will have to clamber a bit over the wreckage. Can you walk - all right, we'll be out in a minute."
But it looked longer than that before Lilian saw the blessed sunshine again.
"Then you can sit on the grass," continued the friendly porter, "while we bring the young man round. You are not much hurt, miss; that's a blessing." And then he hurried off, and Lilian, shaken and miserable, and bruised all over, sank down on a patch of long grass.
She remembered afterwards how gay the poppies looked, then she hid her eyes and sobbed, as a broken inert form was carried past her.
"In the midst of life we are in death." The words came to her, and she said them over and over again. "In the midst of life we are in death." Slow, stumbling footsteps approaching, but she dare not look up. How could she know what ghastly burden they were carrying.
"Steady, you fellows. Lay him down and put something under his head. No, there is nothing to be done; but, poor chap, he will not suffer. I must see to that broken leg now."
"Perhaps this young lady will stop a bit," observed the friendly porter. "Help me a moment mate, while I shift this 'ere jacket under his head. If we had only a drop of something - not that it would be any good."
Surely they were not leaving her alone with a dying man. Lilian started up in sudden terror; then a feeble voice arrested her.
"Don't go, miss - please don't leave me; you heard what that chap said" - and here a pair of boyish blue eyes looked pitifully at her; then a great wave of womanly sympathy made Lilian forget her bruises and nervous fears.
Could that rigid-looking figure - that colourless face with the grey shade of death already stealing over the features - be her light-hearted and officious fellow-traveller? A sob broke from Lilian's lips.
"Oh, I am so sorry - so sorry!"
"Don't take on, miss - I ain't in pain - only numb and curious-like; but it seems hard, don't it" - his dry lips twitching as he spoke - "that a fellow's holiday should end like this."
"Yes, yes, terribly hard! Is there anything I can do for you?" And Lilian knelt beside him, and the tears were running down her face - some of the warm drops fell on the motionless hand.
"Beg pardon, miss, but there's my old mother and Susie - Susie is my girl, you know - she is stopping along of mother just now" - here the panting voice grew fainter.
"Tell me your mother's name. I will go and see her."
"Will you now" - rousing up - "I call that real kind. Mrs. Hunter; she keeps the sweet-shop in Market Street, Brocklebank. I am her only son, miss," and then almost inaudibly,"she is a widow."
"Yes - yes - I will find her. I live at Brocklebank. Give me your message please?"
"Tom's love. And do you think, miss, you could put your hand in my pocket there's the Testament mother gave me when I went up to London" - and then with some difficulty Lilian extracted a little red book. "Tom's love, and tell mother, please, that I minded her words and read a few verses every day, and that it helped me to keep straight."
"I will tell her, Tom - every word."
"And there's Susie, miss - I bought a bit of a brooch for her; it is in my waistcoat pocket - tell her not to fret; for I loved her true - aye, I loved her true! How dark it is getting, miss! Perhaps you could say a prayer for me?"
"My poor fellow - yes - shall we say the Lord's Prayer together." But after the first petition Lilian said it alone, the blue eyes were growing filmy, the hand she held felt cold to her touch. The porters had come back and were standing near, cap in hand; one of them had tears in his eyes. "Poor chap, he is going fast, mate," he whispered. Lilian heard them, and her voice shook with intense emotion. "Oh, Saviour of the world," she prayed, "who by Thy cross and precious blood has redeemed us, save him and help him, we humbly beseech Thee, 0 Lord."
"That is all; every word, Mrs. Hunter. Does it not make you happy to know that he read his Bible and kept straight?" And Lilian looked anxiously into the mother's wrinkled face. Tom had got his blue eyes from his mother.
"Aye the Lord be praised for that; but I never feared for Tom. He was always straight. It seems to me that he was better than other boys. Never was there a sweeter-tempered lad," murmured Mrs. Hunter. "Susie there will tell you the same. He was never happy unless he was doing kind things. Even as a baby he would give me his crust if I asked for it. It did not seem as though he could keep anything to himself." And here the widow sobbed and put her apron to her eyes. "And to think that my boy, my Tom, was to have his dear life crushed out of him in a railway accident! That is what Susie and I have been saying. If he had only died in his bed."
"It seems hard, Mrs. Hunter, almost cruel, does it not?" - and here there was a lump in Lilian's throat. "It was his holiday, and he was going home to his mother and sweetheart, but God called him and he went straight to his Father's house instead. Perhaps there was work for him to do up there. Oh, we cannot tell, but God knows best, and he will be waiting there for you and Susie. You believe that do you not, dear Mrs. Hunter?" And then she added solemnly, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
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