(A True Story)
by Christopher Pearse Cranch
SHE stood beside the iron road,
A little child of ten years old.
She heard two meeting thunders rolled
From north and south, that plainly showed
Danger too fearful to be told.
Nearer, still nearer, rumbling on,
One train approached with crashing speed.
What could she do? Who would give heed
To her — a child, who stood alone
And voiceless as a roadside weed?
A feeble cry she raised, and stood
Across the track, — and then untied
Her little apron from her side,
And waved it swiftly as she could —
If only she might be espied!
If only on the hissing back
Of that huge monster nearing fast
The engineer his eye might cast
On her there on the curving track,
And heed her signal ere he passed!
She stands with shout and warning beck;
On comes the train with thundering roar.
The fireman sees — he looks once more —
He sees a little waving speck,
And slackening, slower moves and slower.
'Hi — little girl! what's all this row?'
'Another train! — my ears it stuns!
It rounds the curve like rattling guns!
Back — back! — for I must signal now
The other.' And away she runs.
So by this little maiden's hand
Were hundreds saved from fearful lot.
But when with awe they spoke of what
They had escaped, and made demand
About the child, they found her not.
For she had vanished through the wood.
None guessed her dwelling-place or name,
Nor by what wondrous chance she came;
While home she ran in blithesome mood,
Nor knew she had done a deed of fame.
But in the old times they would have said
It was an angel had stood there —
The hood above her golden hair
A nimbus glowing round a head
With supernatural radiance fair.
The small white apron that she waved
Across the dangerous iron track
To warn the rushing engines back,
Might have been wings, whose flashing saved
Five hundred souls from mortal wrack.