Have you heard how a girl saved the lightning express—
Of Kate Shelly, whose father was killed on the road?
Were he living to-day, he’d be proud to possess
Such a daughter as Kate. Ah! ’twas grit that she showed
On that terrible evening when Donahue’s train
Jumped the bridge and went down, in the darkness and rain.
She was only eighteen, but a woman in size,
With a figure as graceful and lithe as a doe,
With peach-blossom cheeks, and with violet eyes,
And teeth and complexion like new-fallen snow;
With a nature unspoiled and unblemished by art—
With a generous soul, and a warm, noble heart!
‘Tis evening—the darkness is dense and profound;
Men linger at home by their bright-blazing fires;
The wind wildly howls with a horrible sound,
And shrieks through the vibrating telegraph wires;
The fierce lightning flashes along the dark sky;
The rain falls in torrents; the river rolls by.
The scream of a whistle; the rush of a train!
The sound of a bell! a mysterious light
That flashes and flares through the fast falling rain!
A rumble! a roar! shrieks of human affright!
The falling of timbers! the space of a breath!
A splash in the river; then darkness and death!
Kate Shelly recoils at the terrible crash;
The sounds of destruction she happens to hear;
She springs to the window—she throws up the sash,
And listens and looks with a feeling of fear.
The tall tree-tops groan, and she hears the faint cry
Of a drowning man down in the river near by.
Her heart feebly flutters, her features grow wan,
And then through her soul in a moment there flies
A forethought that gives her the strength of a man—
She turns to her trembling old mother and cries:
“I must save the express—’twill be here in an hour!”
Then out through the door disappears in the shower.
She flies down the track through the pitiless rain;
She reaches the river—the water below
Whirls and seethes through the timbers. She shudders again;
“The bridge! To Moingona, God help me to go!”
Then closely about her she gathers her gown
And on the wet ties with a shiver sinks down.
Then carefully over the timbers she creeps
On her hands and knees, almost holding her breath.
The loud thunder peals and the wind wildly sweeps,
And struggles to hurry her downward to death;
But the thought of the train to destruction so near
Removes from her soul every feeling of fear.
With the blood dripping down from each torn, bleeding limb,
Slowly over the timbers her dark way she feels;
Her fingers grow numb and her head seems to swim;
Her strength is fast failing—she staggers! she reels!
She falls—Ah! the danger is over at last,
Her feet touch the earth, and the long bridge is passed!
In an instant new life seems to come to her form;
She springs to her feet and forgets her despair.
On, on to Moingona! she faces the storm,
She reaches the station—the keeper is there,
“Save the lightning express! No—hang out the red light!
There’s death on the bridge at the river to-night!”
Out flashes the signal-light, rosy and red;
Then sounds the loud roar of the swift-coming train,
The hissing of steam, and there, brightly ahead,
The gleam of a headlight illumines the rain.
“Down brakes!” shrieks the whistle, defiant and shrill;
She heeds the red signal—she slackens, she’s still!
Ah! noble Kate Shelly, your mission is done;
Your deed that dark night will not fade from our gaze;
An endless renown you have worthily won;
Let the nation be just, and accord you its praise,
Let your name, let your fame, and your courage declare
What a woman can do, and a woman can dare!