Wild driver almost runs over his own son
THAT was Nottman waving at me,
But the steam fell down, so you could not see;
He is out to-day with the fast express,
And running a mile in the minute, I guess.
Danger? none in the least, for the way
Is good, though the curves are sharp as you say,
But bless you, when trains are a little behind,
They thunder around them-a match for the wind.
But he once got a fear, though, that shook him with pain,
Like sleepers beneath the weight of a train.
I remember the story well, for, you see,
His stoker¹, Jack Martin, told it to me.
Nottman had sent down the wife for a change
To the old folks living at Riverly_Grange,
A quiet sleepy sort of a town,
Save when the engines went up and down.
For close behind it the railway ran
In a mile of a straight if a single span;
Three bridges were over the straight, and between
Two the distant_signal¹ was seen.
She had with her her boy 'a nice little chit¹
Full of romp and mischief, and childish wit,
And every time that we thunder'd by,
Both were out on the watch for Nottman and I.
"Well, one day," said Jack, "on our journey down,
Coming round on the straight at the back of the town,
I saw right ahead, in front of our track,
In the haze on the rail something dim-like and black.
"I look'd over at Nottman, but ere I could speak,
He shut off the steam, and with one wild shriek,
A whistle took to the air with a bound;
But the object ahead never stirr'd at the sound.
"In a moment he flung himself down on his knee,
Leant over the side of the engine to see,
Took one look, then sprung up, crying, breathless and pale,
'Brake, Jack, it is some one asleep on the rail!'
"The rear brakes were whistled on in a trice
While I screw'd on the tender brake firm as a vice,
But still we tore on with this terrible thought
Sending fear to our hearts-'Can we stop her or not?'
"I took one look again, then sung out to my mate,
'We can never draw up, we have seen it too late.'
When, sudden and swift, like the change in a dream,
Nottman drew back the lever¹ and flung on the steam. [Note 282.2]
"The great wheels stagger'd and span with the strain,
While the spray from the steam fell around us like rain,
But we slacken'd our speed, till we saw with a wild
Throb at the heart, right before us,-a child!
"It was lying asleep on the rail, with no fear
Of the terrible death that was looming so near;
The sweat on us both broke as cold as the dew
Of death as we question'd-'What can we do?'
"It was done-swift as acts that take place in a dream-
Nottman rush'd to the front and knelt down on the beam¹,
Put one foot in the couplings; the other he kept
Right in front of the wheel for the child that still slept.
"'Saved!' I burst forth, my heart leaping with pride,
For one touch of the foot sent the child to the side,
But Nottman look'd up, his lips white as with foam,
'My God, Jack,' he cried, 'It's my own little Tom!'
"He shrunk, would have slipp'd, but one grasp of my hand,
Held him firm till the engine was brought to a stand,
Then I heard from behind a shriek take to the air,
And I knew that the voice of a mother was there.
"The boy was all right, had got off with a scratch:
He had crept through the fence in his frolic to watch
For his father; but, wearied with mischief and play,
Had fallen asleep on the rail where he lay.
"For days after that on our journey down,
Ere we came to the straight at the back of the town,
As if the signal were up with its gleam
Of red, Nottman always shut off the steam."