No, children, my trips are over,
The engineer needs a rest;
My hand is shakey; I’m feeling
A tugging pain in my breast;
But here, as the twilight gathers,
I’ll tell you a tale of the road,
That’ll ring in my head forever,
Till it rests beneath the sod.
We were lumbering along in the twilight
The night was dropping her shade,
And the “Gladiator” labored –
Climbing the top of the grade;
The train was heavily laden,
So I let my engine rest,
Climbing the grading slowly,
Till we reached the upland’s crest.
I held my watch to the lamplight –
Ten minutes behind the time!
Lost in the slackened motion
Of the upgrade’s heavy climb;
But I knew the miles of the prairie
That stretched a level track,
So I touched the gage of the boiler,
And pulled the lever back.
Over the rails agleaming,
Thirty an hour or so,
The engine leaped like a demon,
Breathing a fiery glow;
But to me – ahold of the lever –
It seemed a child alway,
Trustful and always ready
My lightest touch to obey.
I was proud, you know, of my engine,
Holding it steady that night,
And my eye on the tracks before us,
Ablaze with the Drummond light,
We neared a well-known cabin
Where a child of three or four,
As the uptrain passed, oft called me,
A playing around the door.
My hand was firm on the throttle
As we swept around the curve,
When something afar in the shadow,
Struck fire through every nerve.
I sounded the brakes, and crashing
The reverse lever down in dismay,
Groaning to Heaven – eighty paces
Ahead was the child at its play!
One instant, one – awful and only –
The world flew round in my brain,
And I smote my hand hard on my forehead
To keep back the terrible pain;
The train I thought flying forever,
With mad, irresistible roll,
While the cries of the dying, the night wind
Swept into my shuddering soul.
Then I stood on the front of the engine –
How I got there I never could tell –
My feet planted down on the crossbar,
Where the cowcatcher slopes to the rail,
One hand firmly locked on the coupler,
And one hand out in the night,
My eye gaged the distance and measured
The speed of our slackening flight.
My mind, thank the Lord! it was steady;
I saw curls of her hair,
And the face that turning in wonder,
Was lit by the deadly glare.
I know little more – but I heard it –
The groan of the anguished wheels,
And remember thinking – the engine
In agony trembles and reels.
One rod! to the day of my dying
I shall think the old engine reared back,
And as it recoiled, with a shudder
I swept my hand over the track;
Then darkness fell over my eyelids,
But I heard the surge of the train,
And the poor old engine creaking,
As racked by a deadly pain.
They found us, they said, on the gravel,
My fingers enmeshed in her hair,
And she on my bosom a-climbing,
To nestle securely there.
We are not much given to crying –
We men that run on the road –
But that night, they said, there were faces,
With tears on them, lifted to God.
For years in the eve, and the morning,
As I neared the cabin again,
My hand on the lever pressed downward
And slackened the speed of the train.
When my engine had blown her a greeting,
She always would come to the door;
And her look with a fullness of Heaven
Blesses me forevermore.
Sent in by H.W.S. Salem, Mass