THE TRAIN BOY
The train rolled swiftly along over tht dead level of the prairie, All the after* noon I had looked oat upon the isms landscape, varied only by a town hers and there, and> even the towns were so muoh alike that one could not remember
the -difference between them. The day light had faded, and the oil lamps shed their dim light through the oar. I bad almost fallen asleep, when a shrill, child* lsh treble fell upon my ear ;
' Applos, peanuts, figs, oranges.' I looked up at the merchant, and mjr ey< i rested upon adimlr aive, bright*eyed boy, clad In a natty bloc uniform, including a cap with a gilt band.
'Apples, sir, two for five, oranges five cents, peanuts, figs, bandy,'
When the little merohant bad made tb»
tour of the coaches In the train be seated himself, with bis basket betide him, on the seat oppoiite my own, on »be other side of the aisle. • 1 Sing us a song, Billy,' said a gentleman seated near him, who was evidently well acquainted with the boy. • I'm 'fraid I can't sing good to-night,' replied the little fellow dplomatically 1 Ive got a bad cold.' ♦ Oh, never mind the cold,' Mid the other, ' Here's a dime to bay you some cough mixture/ " The lad deftly oaught the coinwhioh the gentleman tossed to him, bit it to see if it was genuine, and then transferred it to his pocket. ' < What shall I sing ?' he asked. ' Oh, anything, said the other. " Steal Away" will do.' Then m a sweet pare roioe the littit lod Bang the tender ballad " Steal away, steal away, Steal away to Jesus. Steal away, steal away, I ain't got long to live here My Lord calls me, and I must go, I ain't got long to stay hare." 1 Good, "Rood I' aaid tha gentleman w&d had evoked the song, and a shower of omill coin from the neighboring passengers rewarded the little ministrel. 'Now give us something lively.' And after a few moments the Bttle fellow struok up : . . . " Brer Eph'm got ds coon an' gopt on, gont on,
BrerEph'm got de ooon an' gone an, - An'lef'ma lookin' up de tree.'' : He sang the plantation melsdy with £ awing and ascent that brought on> all- the rhythm: and whan the linge.v got. through the amount of contributions ha. no«iv«d probably exceeded the profit* of hU d»»% sales,. • • • • • .... ;"..*•• * Oome here, Billy, 1 isld I when he htff •topped ilnglng, Ha came aorois to my sett. '•• How old are you 1' I aakod, • Ten last month, sir.' ' Where do ym live V He named the town, one of the termini of the railroad. 'Do you live ylth your father an* mother i. , ; '■-.::■..» 1 Live with mamma ; my father Is dead/ ttive you any brothers and listers V 'Seven,; «!r; four diatom and three brothers. ' ' Are you tbe youngest ?' . ' No,' he said, • I'm next to the oldest.' My brother Henry's four years oldei.'n me. but-he'e crippled, and hi goes to SOUOOir' 4 You don't ga to sohool V , ,\ 'Me J No-o 1 I've got to support thY family. Mamma takes In washing. If It wasn't for my earnings I don't know what they wonld do,' And the diminutive faoe beside me took on a serious look.
• How muoh do you earn a week I 1 ' Oh/ be answered, 'I get three dollars from the company. They don't know how young I tm,' he added In a confidential whisper, 'they think I'm 13 or 14. Sometimes I think I ought to tell 'em, but you see they might discharge me. 1 ' I don't see that your age has anything: to do with it, 1 I aald, seassurlnglyj '■> long as]you are «bl« »o do the work.' ' Oh, I do the work,' he replledj c ftot, I sell more than some of the big fellows on the road.'
Then he took op his basket and wenf Into the smoking- oar, urging upon the passengers the meri's of Ills peanut*,' apples, figs and oranges. On the other side of the aisle sat a fair-haired boy, the-' oblld, as I knew, of wealthy parents — hie every want supplied, and every avenue of life standing open wide before him, with trained skill and loving hands to guide him .-,■-..•
Presently Billy oamo back, and after ' •gala oalllDg attention to hit wirea, re•amed his seat on the other side of the a We, . _ - c, ■ The train iped oa across tha prattle. Looking oat of ray window I aonld ace In the distance the lights of th« cltyi. Suddenly from aroand a curva i.ln' front ' of as I saw an approaching head-light. At that moment two whistles united Iri a» UDeartbly shriek. We ooold feel the shook as the al. -brakes were applied to oar own train. Bat It waa too late— a I moment, and two engines oam? together* Borne one had Wandered fatally, an* many people lay crushed and bleed lag under the wreck. The deadly earfetOTe* Ignited the timbers nesreit it and the fl «mes spread. 1 wts braised and stunned, and while none of my limbs had beta injured, had been oaoght by my clothing In such a manner that I could not te— lease myself without the aid of a knife. New me, pinioned by a heavy beam across his feet, lay Billy, the trail boy. Willing haoda were cutting away tber ragged and broken timbers,; bat tbejseemed far away, and the flames war* very near.
' Hard look Bflly V I aald, as 1 noted, the look of pain on his faoe. ' Ye?, sir i my legs are broken and my feet caught. I guess 1 won't get out.' 'If I had a knife, 1 I said, 'loouldcot myself loose and help you out, 1 ' •rvegQta.koife/he»nawef©d. •lt»gi n my pocket,' 1 tried to reach it, bnt conld not : it was a few iqoheß too far.
♦ Never mind, 1 said Billy, « Til get it, 1 I knew that every movement gave' him Hgony. Bnt with some effort he managed to get hold of it and handed me the knife. With a few strokes I freed myself. Then I worked to release the little sufferer ; but m vain. My disappointment waß written on my face. •Nevermind,' said Billy, soothingly,. 4 1 guess my mamma will get along lomsV how.' And then he began to sing : ' My Lord calls me, I mast go, I ain't got long to stay here. Aa the words of the ballad, rose amid the confusion, many a moan waa silenced. Meanwhile the fire grew nearer and nearer ; but before it reaohed my little friend Hie voice waa stilled m death
Permanent link to this item
THE TRAIN BOY, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2068, 20 February 1889
THE TRAIN BOY Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2068, 20 February 1889
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.