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Katie's Lantern

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Truth to teil, theoomfortable, old-íashioned farm-house at the foot of the narrow and rocky ledge had a moet picturesque position. Away to the southward wound and smiled the fertile valley, a goodly proportion of whose acres appertaineá to grandfather Crownishield, and along the edge thereof swept the curves of the railroad, after what seenied its ïirth in the cloven ledge so very near 0 Katie Crowninshield's home. As for Catie herself, with her sweet, fresh face and her merry brown eyes, the little valey and her nestling home were all the world to her - all, indeed, that she had ver known, for she had been but a wee hing when grandfather and grandmothr Crowninshield became father and mother to her, in place of those whose 'aces she could not now remember. íeither did it eyer occur to her that she was in any sense an heiress, for she seemd rather to belong to the valley than ihe valley to her ; while the idea, if anyhing had brought it to her inind, that ïer good old grandparents were not to ive forever would have turned the brightst June day to the gloomiest December. But, in these latteryears, one great enity had painfully struggled into Katie's world, with an apparent mission to unite ;he valley with that great unknown that ay beyond the hills and ledges. Katie ïad seen the ragged riit cloven in the ranite wall, watching it curiously from oor or window, and listoning to the uil reports of the blasting charges, until he barrier was pierced and the railway rept out and found its way down through he valley ; and ever sinoe the trains )egan to run, she had connected with ,hem the idea oí' a life that was almoet luman. She had waved a handkerchief nthusiastically to the first train, and had een liberally responded to by the pas engers and conductor; and although he had been a little girl and was now a roung lady, she had never yet dfeained f any unmaidenly boldness in giving ie same white signal of welcouae, at imes, when the great railway mission ame ruBhing out of the cloven wall. 'here was one train in particular to which Katie's attention was at last pret7 well restricted - a through express which went by at eight o'clock in the morning, and there was another from the ame direction again at eight o'clock at ight. With the latter, for a long time, -atie had feit no eort of sympathy, since 1 could, as she thought, neither see nor cknowledge courteous greetings, while 'rom the former, just as surely as her own ainty "good-morning !" fluttered above ie garden gate, so certainly would there se a fleeting flash of white to answer her rom the platform of one of the cars, or ven from the engine itself, for that, too, ïad happened. And Katie knew very well that, in these latter days at least, ïer answer had always come from the ame hand. A tall, erect, manly fellow, ie was dressed in dark-blue cloth ; and iatie had been well aware, for a good while, that he was the conductor of the rain ; but she had never yet been near nough to speak to him, or getany clearr notion of his face and his meaning ïan might be given her in those swift mt almost daily glimpses. When or ïow he found his way back to the begining of his perpetual journey was a quesion that Katie never asked even herself. ; was enough that every morning the wift train brought him out of the uncnown country beyond the hills, and aded a something that had grown to be ery pleasant to the peace and quiet of ïer day. There was something very noteworthy, ven to railway-men, about the manner n which the road broke in upon that valey. A deep cut, a sharp curve, and a ïeavy down-grade, combiBed to make je precise point where the conductor ïad learned to look for Katie's greeting n interesting oue ; and her white kerbief may even have seemed to wave a aecies of congratulation at his repeated afe passage of what might at any time ïave shaped itself into a danger. Be that as it may, the rail-"cut ' had jrought to Katie Crowninshield, among ther results, a shorter and easier path ;o the home of her aunt, her mother's ister, who lived just a little way beyond be ledge, and who was never satisfied if ,00 many days passed by without bringng the sunlight of Katie's face across ïer threshold. And so Katie had gone and eturned, many and many a time, by the narrow path between the granite walls. ihe had learned to walk the rails like a ope-dancer, and she know the time of very train too well, as she had often old Aunt Betsey, ever to get herself in he cut. Even if she shouid, she said, .here were ever so many places where he could claniber up the rocks at the ide and bo entiroly safe. Nobody in that )eaceful región dreamed of fear at being ' out after dark ; " and again and again ïad good Aunt Betsey detained her pet till night had fallen, although her only company homeward was her little star of a lantern. It was a neat little lantern, with a soit of a piquant and winning character of its own, like everything else that belonged to Katie Crowninshield, and she herself was half inclined to make a contidant of it. In fact, Katie's lantern found its own occasion for putting on almost the semblance of a personal friend. There came a day when Katie's handkerchief fluttored in vain, then another, when even the reply she received from the train viticod her that thore had been a chango of some kind, and she would receive uo more signáis trom the sanie hand. It was odd enough, hut hor long accustomod bit of morning pleasure seemed suddenly turnod into something childsh and uninteresting - a worn-out amusement that it was time to Lut aside with hur discarded dolls. And so she sndly irepared to give it up, in the first fit of genuino bluun she had ever indulge d in ; but, a few evenings afterward, she lingered at the gardengate a little, after her return froui Aunt Betsey's, to see thenight express goflashing by. It was a grand sight whon it carne, incoinparably more interosting and mysterious iu the darkness than over in the day, and Katio wondered she had never thought eo before ; but sho almos unconsoiously raised her lantorn, auc swung it around her head as Bhe usod to wave her handkerchief. Could she beliove her eyesF She almost refused to give them any faith at first, but then there followud quick flush in her check and a warm glow at her heart ; she was sure there had been an ans wering light, and she cjuld almost picture a ttiü-i'orm in dark blue olothing, standing on the platform between two of the cars. She kuew very little of railway mattere, but she was not so dull that there was any special niystery to her mind in such a thing as a change of trains by a conductor. She did not let Graudfather or Grandinother Crowninshield see her, however, the next evemng, when ehe again crept oufc to the gate, almost smothering hor little lantern, for sho had a half fluttering sort of dread that tuis experiment might fail. Fail '{ No ; the groeting from the train was, as was Katie's own, " good evening," and the little lanteru was likely thenceforth to be the very foreinoBt of prime favorites with its mistress. And now, while the October days grew cooler, and the gloriouseveningslonger, Urandmother began to grumble at the disposition ler darling evinced to pay mauy visits to Aunt Betsey. " It's a long walk for you, child," she said; "and it's" through the cut, too. What if a railroad train should come along before you could get out 't " " O, grandmanima, that'll never happen," laughed Katie ; the rtúlroad and I are very good íriends." " You ought to be," said grandinother. "I never saw any living being care more for a dumb thing than you' ve always done for that there train." But grandmother was nearer right than Katie ; for only a night or so after that - it'must have been that Aunt Bot sey's clock was slow - Katie was in the very middle of the cut when her ears were suddenly n'lled with the shriek and roar with which the tritin dashed in at the upper end. Her heart beat quickly for a moment, but not with fear ; for aa she sprung lightly upon a projecting rock that she had often before noted as a very available perch, she gathered her fluttering dress more closely about her and exclaimed: " There, I'm safe enough ; but to think of it's coming so near ! " Near enough, indeed ! and Katie leaued back hard agaiust the crag behind her ; for it seemed as if she could foei the breath of she iron monster on lier cheek. In one hand she clutched more tightly the folds of her shawl, and in the othor she raised her lantern, as if its feeble star could be soiue protection, and then her grasp of it grew suddenly very tight indeed ; for, leaning out a little from the platform of a car, and looking forward, as if patiënt for the train to clear the cut, stood a tall, handsome, bearded man, in dark-blue clothes, with a lantern in his hand, and his eager, watchful, expectant face came so very close to her own ! It was like a flash of lightning, but Katie knew the face, and she knew also hat she herself had been seen, and she ïad even marked the swift paling of the ronzed visage as it recognized her and hen passed out into the darknesa berond. " He was afraid I would bo hurt," she aid ; and then she said aloud : "But he must have seen how safe I was, up here n the rock. I don't believe he swung lis lautern at our garden gate to-night." Katie did not relate her adventure evn to her grandmother, and on her next isit to Aunt Betsey's she was careful to ome away in time. " I don't want to get home so very much too early," sho said to herself as be finished her visit and hurried her dearture ; but I dou't like being caught n the cut at all. I'm glad I'in so sure ot to meet anybody. I believe I'd want o hide away from a stranger, to-night, lmost as much as from a railway train." It was indeed an unusually dark and 'looiny night, but Katie was deBtined to e disappointed in her hope of getting brough the out without seeing anybody. As has been said, the granite ledge had ecessarily been pierced on a curved line, o thas no one standing at one end of the ut, moderate as were its diraensions, ould see more than half way through. Aunt Betsey's house wassomé little dis;ance from the upper entranoe, and the pproach to the latter was gloomy nough that night, even for one who tnew every inch of the way as well as Latie did ; but her little lantern shone ut oheerily against its bright reflector, browing its radiance ahead, as if it were ;rying to teil her: "There, dear, that's ; ; don't be afraid now - 111 show you be track !" But Katie remembered, just ben, that it was getting later every ïinute, and she tripped briskly into the ut, wondering why the lantern light bould inake it look so strangely high nd narrow. She had not gone far, howver, before the granite walls brought to ïer ears, all the way from tho lower end nd round the curve, as if the cut had een a speaking-tubo the sound of voices bat were evidently nioant to be low and juarded. There were other sounds mingled with tho voices, and Katio could not make out more than a word or so ïere and there, but there was something bout it all that startled and frightened ïer. At first she was half inclined to urn and make the best of her way back ;o Aunt Betsey's ; but that seomed foolish, nd Katie was really a courageous littlo oul. She hid her lantern under her hawl, however, and stepped very lightly and swiftly forward, tryiug to remeraber f thero was not a rock or hollow where he would be as safe from men as she was from the passing train. She did not think of finding any such place, and, after all, the persons whose voices troubled her wero not in the cut, nor were they coming to meet hor. She was very nearly through, herself, before she could mako out what it all all meant ; but, as she paused in the deep shadows of the rocks and peered timidly out toward the now dull and muflied sounds, with which the voices were no longer mingled, a broad, quick gleam, as from a lantern suddeuly shaded or extinguished, shot across the track not many yards below, and thou all was darkness and silence. But that one moment of illumination had revealed extraordinary things to the keen, excited risiou of Katie Crowninshield. There were men ; thrée or four, bIio could not say just how many, but rough, fierce, wild, and anxious-looking, and before them, on tho railway track, from which the rails had been priod away just there, was a confused heap of heavy granite bouldors and fragmenta. Katie understood it as clearly as if those men had tnkon her into their confidence, and , hud told her in words. It was n plot to wreok the train ! No matter why - whether for revenge, ■ plunder, or in the utter malignity of lost bouIs - Katie never paused to so muoh as to ask horself a questiun, but turned and fled back through the cut as for life and death, for both were with her, side by side - hurryiug step for step. She had no thought or dread that tho wreokers had seen or would follow her. Neither was at all likoly ; but Katie's braia was too f uil of her purpose to adinit a thought of self, and she held out her lantern fearlessly enough now, that she might bo doubly sure of her footing on the ties and gravel. And now she was out in the open air, boyond the upper entrance, and she could see the peaceful light still shining from Aunt Betsey's window. But there was no time to go there for help. Tho train must be so very noar ! Katie did for a moment think of kindlitig a bright fire on the track, but that would take too long, and the great ruin and horror would come before even a small fagot would be well ablaze. " There's uothing but my own little lautern," almost sobbed poor Katie. " Maybe ho will know it when he sees it, but he must be warned before he reaches the cut." The lantern shone like a frosty little star, determined to be seen as Katie sprang forward up the track. She had not far to go, for the train was ahead of time that night instead of being behind, as would have been inore desirable under the circumstances. Never had anything appeared to Katie Crowninshield more suddenly than did the great, glaring eyes of the loooniotive bead-light that now glowed upon her out of the overshadowing night, and her lantern seeined to have instantaneusly vanished. ' It is so small," she cried, in agony, " and he will never see it." Nevertheless, on a low mound of earth and stone close by the side of the track Katie took her post of charity and danger, and swung her little lantern frantically to and fro, while she now tried to make her sweot child's voioe heard through the roar and clamor of the rushing train. On carne the railway giant, tugging with him his precious freight of human life, and it flashed upon Katie Crowninshield's mind what an awful capacity for suffering that train might have on board. On, with the great glare and the all-absorbing torrent of sound, and, almost before Katie knewit, the object of her hope and fear had dashedruthlessly past her, and was quickly swallowed up from her sight in the rocky jaws of the deep cut. With a cry of grief and disappointment on her lips and a strange thrill of pain at her heart, the poor girl sank upon the ground and buried her face in her hands, while the little lantern dropped neglectedly beside her. Only for one brief instant, however, did Katie yield to the terror and the trouble of it, tor in another she had picked up her starry friend, sprung to her feet, and dart.ed away down the railroad track toward the cut. She was light of foot as any fawn, and there were sad wings to her speed, but it seeined to her as if she should never get through the cut. She paused a inotuent, when the lower end was reached, to gather breath and to brush the salt mist from her eyes before she looked upon the awful scène she knew must be prepared for her. And then - why there was the train, the rear car rising clsse in front of her, while the others (and there were but few of them that night) stood all erect upon their wheels - not all upon the track, to be sure, but all apparently safe - all, except one great dark rnass, whose polished metal glittered in the varying lights that flashed upon it, and whose tioarse voice screamed angrily with the escaping steam, for the locomotive had pretty decidedly come to grief upon the granite boulders that were heaped on the track by the fiends who had planned the wreek. The passengers were swarming out of the cars, and none of them seemed to be hurt at all, nor did Katie bear a sound that told of pain as she swiftly threaded her way among and past them She had caught a gliinpse of a group away beyoud even the shattered ocomotive, however, which forbade her inpering for an instant. Right down toward her own garden-gate four men were carrying a heavy burden, and others were following, and Katie heard ;heni say, as she darted by : " Who is it ?" " Why, it's the conductor. He was ,hrown from the platform of the forward car." " Is he killed ?' " They say so. Nobody else was hurt. Eo was a splendid fellow." A tall, handsomo, bearded man,, in dark-blue clothing, but his face was ghastly pale when they laid him on jrandfather Crowninshield's own bed, and the surgeon who had been among the passengers, bent gloomily over him. " Head ail right," muttered the man of science. " Only a cut or so. Ah, there's a rib or two of them and his left arm beow the elbow. Struck the ground bo, ;hat is clear, and the other bones are ikely to be all right. Must have been eamng out to look ahead, I should say. Hallo ! what's that light on his face f The light in the room, what with the crowd and country candles, had been none of tho brightest, but just at that moment a clear, golden gleam was poured down on the face of the injured man, and slowly, as if the radiance itself had awakened him, he opened his eyes and looked dreamily about him. The surgeon heard a Bigh that was half a sob close behind him, and looked up to see that that and the sudden light came from Katie and her lantern, but just then the questioning eyes of the wounded conductor feil upon her face, and he exclaimed, faintly but earnestly : " I knew it waa you. There was hardly room to stop the train in, but we'd have all gone to pieces if it hadn't been for you and your light. You've saved them all, God blesB you !" And so Katie Crowninshield suddenly found herself a heroine, with a swarin of grateful people around her, very much to her diBQomfort. They would have made her a present if sho would have allowed them, but the only really welcome words she heard from any one wero those of tho surgeon : " What, killod ? A man like him '{ Nonsense ! he'll carry his arm in a sling for a month or so, bui he'll be up again in a fortnight." Of course, no time was lost in repairing the track and in forwarding tho passengers, and a few hours only saw the old farm-house as quiot and peaceful looking us ever. Even the surgeon had done his work and gone. The engine lay battered and helpless among the boulders where it had forced its willful way. The conductor lay still on (Jrandfather Crowninshild's bed, and the fitful slumbers the surgeon's opiate gave him were starry with signala that white flugers held up before his droaming eyes. As for Katie and her lantern, the latter had fairly burned itself out and asloep on the little table in Katie's own room, and she herself had by no nieans clearly oomprehexided, as yet, the happy consequencos of her railway signaling. It was very much like a droam to her, for Katio was no prophetess, nor could ovon her lantern throw any liglit on the future. Bhe oould not see, just thon - and yet the days that followod brought it all to pass - that neither she horself, nor Grandfather nor Grandraother Crowninshield, would oonsent to any more railroading or signaling. It was much better, indeed, they all declared, nor did ho himself pretend to deny it, that Katie'a husband should farm broad acres of the fertile valley than that ho should any more be at the mercy of train-wrockers and wayside lanterns. And whon the question was deoided to her liking, such a hug and kiss was that which Katie Crowuinshield gave - " To whom ?" " Why, to hor lantern, of conrse."


Old News
Michigan Argus