The Railway Children
E. Nesbit

Part 5 out of 5

"I'd be more alive in the garden, I think," said Bobbie.

But she could not stay in the garden. The hollyhocks and the asters
and the late roses all seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
It was one of those still, shiny autumn days, when everything does
seem to be waiting.

Bobbie could not wait.

"I'll go down to the station," she said, "and talk to Perks and ask
about the signalman's little boy."

So she went down. On the way she passed the old lady from the Post-
office, who gave her a kiss and a hug, but, rather to Bobbie's
surprise, no words except:--

"God bless you, love--" and, after a pause, "run along--do."

The draper's boy, who had sometimes been a little less than civil
and a little more than contemptuous, now touched his cap, and
uttered the remarkable words:--

"'Morning, Miss, I'm sure--"

The blacksmith, coming along with an open newspaper in his hand, was
even more strange in his manner. He grinned broadly, though, as a
rule, he was a man not given to smiles, and waved the newspaper long
before he came up to her. And as he passed her, he said, in answer
to her "Good morning":--

"Good morning to you, Missie, and many of them! I wish you joy,
that I do!"

"Oh!" said Bobbie to herself, and her heart quickened its beats,
"something IS going to happen! I know it is--everyone is so odd,
like people are in dreams."

The Station Master wrung her hand warmly. In fact he worked it up
and down like a pump-handle. But he gave her no reason for this
unusually enthusiastic greeting. He only said:--

"The 11.54's a bit late, Miss--the extra luggage this holiday time,"
and went away very quickly into that inner Temple of his into which
even Bobbie dared not follow him.

Perks was not to be seen, and Bobbie shared the solitude of the
platform with the Station Cat. This tortoiseshell lady, usually of
a retiring disposition, came to-day to rub herself against the brown
stockings of Bobbie with arched back, waving tail, and reverberating

"Dear me!" said Bobbie, stooping to stroke her, "how very kind
everybody is to-day--even you, Pussy!"

Perks did not appear until the 11.54 was signalled, and then he,
like everybody else that morning, had a newspaper in his hand.

"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

"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

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

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.


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