: Nearly Bedtime
"The poor dog, in life the firmest friend--
The first to welcome, foremost to defend--
Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone."
The electric-bell in the guard's van suddenly began to tinkle. Something
was wrong with one of the passengers. The train slackened speed, and
then stopped altogether.
One by one the passengers' heads appeared at the windows. Such a variety
of heads, too! Some wrapped in handkerchiefs, some with hats all awry,
some wearing neither hat nor cap, and all looking ruffled and rubbed
up, as if a minute before their owners had been snoring in peaceful
forgetfulness that they were not in their own quiet beds at home.
This, very likely, was the case, for it was five o'clock on a warm
summer morning, and the train from the North had been tearing along with
its burden of drowsy passengers ever since nine o'clock the evening
Was it any wonder that this abrupt stoppage--here, where there was
not even a platform in sight--somewhat disturbed and irritated the
"A most irregular proceeding!" cried one indignant gentleman who, in his
anxiety to see what was wrong, had pulled the blue window-blind over his
"It's always the way," cried another fretfully. "Just my luck! Delaying
the train, just when I particularly wished to be in town early."
"Perhaps the train is on fire! Oh, guard! guard!" screamed a frightened
old lady a few doors further down. "Help me out! This is dreadful!"
But the guard, a kindly, warm-hearted Scotchman, was far too busy to
attend to any one but the poor heart-broken young mother, who was
clinging to him in her first paroxysm of grief and fear.
"Noo! noo!" he was saying. "Dinna be greeting sae sairly, mem! We'll
all be doing our best to find the bit bairn. Jack has gone to tak' a
look along the line. But the train's o'erdue, and we maun get to yonder
station before we can have asseestance."
Then the news was carried the length of the Scotch express.
A little child had fallen out of the train while his mother was asleep.
The lady's dog had gone too!
All the heads disappeared, with different expressions of sorrow for the
poor young mother, and that was all.
Not quite, though!
One bright face reappeared. A girlish hand unfastened the carriage door,
and in another moment a young lady had scrambled down to the six-foot
way and, with her handbag and a bundle of wraps, was making her way to
an open door, from which came the sound of bitter, hysterical weeping.
"Guard, I have come to see if I can help in any way. What are you going
"There is but one way, mem. Yonder comes Jack. He's seen nothing, I'm
fearing. We must put the gude leddie down at the next station, and she
maun get an engine there and go seek the puir bit bairn."
"Very well, guard. Then I will stay with this lady until we stop." And
as the old man thankfully returned to his duties and the train was
quickly put in motion, she sat down and put a pair of sisterly arms
round the distracted stranger.
"Let us think what we will do," she said in her kind cheery voice, "and
let us remember that the angels have been about your little one all this
time. It may not be as bad as we think."
"We? Who are you?" asked the dazed, bewildered mother. "I don't know
"I am Hetty Saunders. I am going to London to spend the last days of my
holiday with my brother. But I can spare the time to help you a little,
you know. Let us forget that I am a stranger."
And with true womanly capableness she took the management of affairs
into her own hands, drawing Mrs. Hayling on to tell her all she would
about her little Willie--and something, too, of Boxer, the gentle,
clever Scotch collie.
Half an hour ago they had both been with her. Where were they now?
* * * * *
Let us go back and look at the other side of this little story--Willie
and Boxer's side.
They were both of an inquiring turn of mind. This was only their second
railway journey; and it was not, therefore, very wonderful that Willie's
fingers and Boxer's sharp, inquisitive nose, seemed determined to
You can guess that it was with no small relief that Mrs. Hayling saw
her little son's round blue eyes grow dim with sleep, as she tucked him
up--for the sixth time at least--in the thick railway rug, and told
Boxer to lie down beside him.
But it was quite a long time after Willie's mouth opened, to let out
some not unmusical snores, that Mrs. Hayling's thoughts were hushed into
Mothers have so many things to think about and puzzle over!
About four o'clock her little son suddenly opened his eyes, and as
suddenly remembered where he was.
He was wide awake!
Boxer did not like the vigorous shake that his little master gave him.
He roused himself, it is true; but when Willie climbed on to the seat
and looked out of the window, he curled himself round for another nap.
Why did not his little master do the same?
"Boxer, I'm 'samed of you! How lazy you are! Come and play wid me."
And the fat arms dragged the dog up again and held him in a tight
embrace, from which there seemed no escaping.
"Mother is fast as'eep! We'll play widout her, dis time," and Willie
fixed his eyes longingly upon the window-strap. Then he looked back
again at his mother's white tired face.
He was thinking to himself, "Mother said, Willie mustn't play wid dat
fing--and--and me wants to."
Poor mother! why do you not wake? See! your little child is getting
nearer and nearer to that forbidden plaything.
He leant against the door and held the window-strap in one hand, while
his little face grew grave and ashamed. It was not quite so nice to be
disobedient as Willie thought it would be.
Mother, mother! why do you not wake? There is something wrong with the
fastening of the door, and even the child's light weight has made it
shift a little.
He was peeping down with eager eyes into the depths out of which the
window-sash had been drawn.
"I'll send dis strap down dere, and fis' somefing up. S'all I, Boxer?"
The dog stood close beside him, wagging his bushy tail and looking up
with two bright loving eyes.
And then the train gave a sudden lurch, the door flew open, and as the
child fell forward with a little cry, Boxer sprang after him and seized
him by his sailor-collar. Powerless to save his little master from
falling, he yet dragged him sideways to the ground, and received the
full force of the fall, as they rolled over and over down the long green
And yet mother did not wake! No! not until that motionless bundle--the
child and the dog--had been left many miles away.
* * * * *
"Boxer! wake up! It's time for bekfust."
Boxer did not move.
"I said I was 'samed of you. Now I'm 'sameder. You are a lazy dog!"
And then Willie's eyes opened wider, and he turned over on his bed. His
bed? Why! it was soft green grass! and that was not a bed-curtain up
there. It was a tree, and branches of whispering leaves.
Slowly the truth crept into the child's mind, and very slowly it drove
two large tears into his blue eyes. Where was mother--dear, dear mother?
He sat up and looked round him. "Mother! mother! I'm very, very
sorry!" he cried; the remembrance of his disobedience being full upon
him. But his voice ended in sobs, as he buried his face in the grass
again. "Oh, mother! Willie does want you so!"
* * * * *
Mother was coming. Her strained, anxious eyes had already discovered the
little figure lying stretched upon the ground.
In another moment the pilot-engine had stopped, and she had clasped her
darling in her arms--alive--unhurt--and was covering him with kisses,
while thankful tears ran down her cheeks.
It was left to Hetty Saunders to stoop down and stroke Boxer's
motionless figure, and in that touch to learn how the dear doggie had
lost his life for his little master.