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THE MANIAC LADY
by
William Aitken
[ A Porter's Story.]

'Who is she? Don't you know her? She's a lady born and bred
Yon's her mansion-house you see beside the hill,
There she lives a lonely widow - husband, children, all are dead.
Since the night that Tommy Temple made the spill,
When he overran the signals, now a dozen years ago,
And rushed right into the mail and smashed her wild.
There's a weird, strange look about her, to a man who does not know,
Yet she flits about as harmless as a child.
Every morning with her carriage she comes regularly down
To drive her husband and the children home,
But the flowers have decked the woodlands, and the fields grown bare and brown
And she's waiting still, and still they do not come.

“Not single day she misses. Promptly at the hour of ten
She must have the carriage waiting at the door,
Where she's always dressed and ready, To the train and back again,
She has driven now a dozen years or more.
And the wagon for their luggage she must order every day,
No matter how, it must be waiting there,
And she never leaves the station till the train has gone away,
Gazing round her with a weird expectant stare.
Not till all the crowd of passengers have hurried out and gone,
Not till hushed is all the noisy stir and hum,
Does she think of going homeward, when, with a sadness in her tone,
She will speak and say, ‘How strange they have not come.'

“And I always answer quietly, as I tell her o'er again,
That same old tale I've told her now so long,
They'll be coming in the morning, they have only missed the train,
They'd have sent her word had anything been wrong.
Then her eyes will gleam a second with a strange, contented glow,
And the glassy film will blind them up once more,
And she'll mutter as she leaves me, that she hopes it may be so,
But she never knew them miss the train before.
And I'll see her to her carriage, and before I shut the door,
She will hand me from her purse a tiny sum,
And I'll get the same quiet order that I've got so oft before,
To assist them with their luggage when they come.

“I never will forget the shock that thrilled me through and through
When the message came that told us of the spill,
But no word came to my Lady from her husband, and I knew,
That his silence on the subject boded ill.
With sweet Rose and May, his daughters, fair as blooming flowers in June,
With his first-born hope, his eldest only son,
“He was travelling next the engine in a splendid new saloon,
When the smash was made that killed them every one.
All that dreary day she waited, hoping eager but in vain,
All the night long too she lingered pale and dumb,
Gazing out into the darkness for the long expected train,
Better far for her if none had ever come.

“But it came at last, and brought her all dear ones bruised and dead,
What a sight for wife and mother's eye to see,
Reason lingered for a while - then from all her being fled,
And she passed into the gloom that was to be.
Down she sunk upon the platform with a strange unearthly sigh,
And a clammy chill crept o're her face and brow,
When we raised her up we noticed in her once bright, cheery eye,
The same dull, vacant stare that's in them now.
All the glorious, gladsome sunlight of her happy life was gone,
A helpless, harmless maniac, went she home,
But before she left the station, she cried over to me, ‘John,
You'll assist them with the luggage when they come.'

* * * * * * * * * *

“What shriek was that! My Lady's? Nay, it cannot be,
She was standing there beside us even now.
Yes; Oh God! struck down and bleeding in the four-foot way was she
‘Mong the carriages she'd stumbled in somehow.
She'd been searching more than usual, peering into every pane,
In a bootless quest for what we could not tell,
And had no doubt seen a vision of her dear ones in the train,
And had made a rush to reach them ere she fell.
Dead! those eyes, though still within them was the same dull leaden stare,
God had thought it meet to call his wanderer home;
And she's gone to join her loved ones in those happy mansions where
They've been waiting all those years till she would come.”
 
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