3、The old gentleman
The children could not keep away from the railway, and they soon got to know the trains that passed by. There was the 9.15and the 10.07, and the midnight train that sometimes woke them from their dreams.
One morning they were sitting on the fence, waiting for the 9.15 , when Phyllis said, ‘It’s going to London, where Father is. Let’s all wave as it goes by. Perhaps it’s a magic train and it can take our love to Father.’
So when the 9.15 came screaming out of the funnel, the three children waved…
…And a hand waved back! It was holding a newspaper and it belonged to an old gentleman.
The old gentleman traveled on the 9.15 every day. He had white hair and looked very nice, and soon they were waving to him every morning. They pretended he knew Father, and that he was taking their love to him.
At first, they did not visit the station. After the trouble with the coal, Peter was afraid of seeing the Station Master again. But then he did see him. On the road to the village one day.
‘Good morning,’said the Station Master, in a friendly way.
‘G—good morning,’said Peter.
‘I haven’t seen you at the station recently,’said the Station Master.
‘After the trouble with the coal…’began Peter.
‘That’s over and forgotten now,’said the Station Master.‘You come to the station when you like.’
‘Oh, thank you,’said Peter.
And the three children went the very same day. They spent a happy two hours with the Porter, a nice friendly man called Perks, who answered all their questions about trains and railways.
The next day, Mother stayed in bed because her head ached so badly. She was very hot and would not eat anything. And Mrs Viney told her to send for Dr Forrest. So Peter was sent to fetch the doctor.
‘I expect you want to be nurse,’Dr Forrest said to Bobbie, after he had seen Mother.‘Your mother is ill and must stay in bed. I’ll send some medicine for her, but she will need fruit and milk, and some other special things that I’ll write down on a piece of paper for you.’
When the doctor had gone, Bobbie showed Mother the piece of paper. Mother tried to laugh.‘Impossible!’she said.‘We can’t buy all those things! We’re poor, remember?’
Later, the children talked together.
‘Mother must have those things,’said Bobbie.‘The doctor said so. How can we get them for her? Think, everybody, just as hard as you can.’
They did think. And later, when Bobbie was sitting with Mother, the other two were busy with a white sheet, some black paint and a paint brush.
The next morning, the 9.15 came out of the runnel and the old gentleman put down his newspaper, ready to wave at the three children. But this morning there was only one child. It was Peter.
Peter was showing him the large white sheet that was fixed to the fence. On the sheet were thick black letters that read: LOOK OUT AT THE STATION.
A lot of people did look out at the station, but they saw nothing strange. But as the train was getting ready to leave, the old gentleman saw Phyllis running towards him.
‘I thought I was going to miss you!’said shouted, and pushed a letter into his hand, through the window, as the train moved away.
The old gentleman sat back in his seat and opened the letter. This is what he read:
Dear Mr (we do not know your name ),
Mother is ill and the doctor says we must give her these things at the end of the letter, but we haven’t her these things at the end of the letter, but we haven’t got enough money to get them. We do not know anybody here except you, because Father is away and we do not know his address. Father will pay you, or if he has lost all his money, peter will pay you when he is a man. We promise it.
Please give the things to the Station Master, because we do not know which train you come back on. Tell him the things are for Peter, the boy who was sorry about the coal, then he will understand.
Bobbie Phyllis Peter
Written below the letter were all the things the doctor had ordered, and the old gentleman read through them. His eyes opened wide with surprise, but he smiled.
At about six o’clock that evening, there was a knock at the back door. The three children hurried to open it, and there stood Perks, the friendly Porter, with a large box. He put it on the floor.
‘The old gentleman asked me to bring it ,’he said.
Perks left, and the children opened the box. Inside were all the things they had asked for, and some they had not—some wine, two chickens, twelve big red roses. And there was a letter.
Dear Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter,
Here are the things you need. Your mother will want to know where they came from. Tell her they were sent by a friend who heard she was ill. When she is well, you must tell her all about it, of course. And if she says you were wrong to ask for the things, tell her that I say you were right, and that I was pleased to help. The name at the bottom of the letter was G. P. some—thing—the children could not read it.
‘I think we were right,’said Phyllis.
‘of course we were right,’said Bobbie.
‘I hope Mother thinks we were right, too,’said peter. But he didn’t sound very sure.