The Iron Horse
by R. M. Ballantyne
TREATS OF THE
Chapter II. THE
DRIVER VISITS A
IRON HORSE FOR
Chapter III. IN
WHICH THE WIDOW
WITH A CAPTAIN,
A YOUNG MAN, AND
ENDS IN A
Chapter IV. A
Chapter V. AN
ACCIDENT AND ITS
HISTORY OF THE
COMES OUT IN A
NEW LIGHT, AND
MRS. MARROT AND
BOB VISIT THE
Chapter X. SHARP
WHICH IS TOO
FULL OF VARIED
MATTER TO BE
TREATS OF MRS.
AND A HARMONIOUS
CARED FOR —SAM
Chapter XVIII. A
FOLLOWED UP BY
Chapter XIX. A
Chapter XX. A
Chapter XXI. THE
DIAMOND RING AND
MRS. TIPPS GOES
ON A JOURNEY,
AND MEETS A
RESULTS OF THE
Chapter XXV. THE
Chapter I. TREATS OF THE
ENGINE-DRIVER'S HOUSE AND HOUSEHOLD.
Talk of earthquakes! not all the earthquakes that have rumbled in
Ecuador or toppled over the spires and dwellings of Peru could compare,
in the matter of dogged pertinacity, with that earthquake which
diurnally and hourly shocked little Gertie's dwelling, quivered the
white dimity curtains of little Gertie's bed and shook little Gertie's
frame. A graceful, rounded little frame it was; yet strong, and firmly
knit—perhaps in consequence of its having been from infancy so
constantly and so well shaken together.
Her neat little body was surmounted by a head which no sculptor in
search of an antique model would have chosen. Gertie's profile was not
Grecian; her features were not classic—but they were comely, and rosy,
and so sweet that most people wanted to kiss them, and many people did.
Gertie did not object. Probably, being only six, she imagined that this
was the ordinary and natural method of salutation. Yet it was
observable that the child did not reciprocate kisses except in one or
two special cases. She had evidently a mind of her own, a fact which
was displayed most strikingly, in the passionate manner in which she
reciprocated the embraces of John Marrot, her father, when that large
hairy individual came in of an evening, and, catching her in his long
arms, pressed her little body to his damp pilot-cloth- coated breast
and her chubby face to his oily, smoke-and-soot begrimed countenance,
forgetful for the moment of the remonstrance from his wife that was
sure to follow:—
“Now then, John, there you go again. You ain't got no more power of
subjewin' your feelings than one of your own ingines, w'ich is the
schreechin'ist, fizzin'ist, crashin'ist, bustin' things I ever 'ad the
misfortune to 'ave to do with. There's a clean frock just put on this
mornin' only fit for the wash-tub now?”
But John was an easy-going man. He was mild, kind, sedate,
undemonstrative by nature, and looked upon slight matrimonial breezes
as being good for the health. It was only Gertie who could draw him
into demonstrations of feeling such as we have described, and, as we
have said, she always reciprocated them violently, increasing thereby
the wash-tub necessity tenfold.
It would have been strange indeed if John Marrot could have been
much put about by a small matrimonial breeze, seeing that his life was
spent in riding on an iron monster with white-hot lungs and boiling
bowels which carried him through space day and night at the rate of
fifty miles an hour! This, by the way, brings us back to our text—
Gertie's house—or Gertie's father's house, if you prefer it—stood
close to the embankment of one of our great arterial railways—which of
them, for reasons best known to ourself, we don't intend to tell, but,
for the reader's comfort, we shall call it the Grand National Trunk
Railway. So close did the house stand to the embankment that timid
female passengers were known occasionally to scream as they approached
it, under the impression that the train had left the rails and was
about to dash into it—an impression which was enhanced and somewhat
justified by the circumstance that the house stood with one of its
corners; instead of its side, front, or back; towards the line; thereby
inducing a sudden sensation of wrongness in the breasts of the twenty
thousand passengers who swept past it daily. The extreme edge of its
most protruding stone was exactly three yards four inches—by
measurement—from the left rail of the down line.
Need we say more to account for the perpetual state of
earthquakedom, in which that house was involved?
But the tremors and shocks to which it was exposed—by night and by
day—was not all it had to bear. In certain directions of the wind it
was intermittently enveloped in clouds of mingled soot and steam, and,
being situated at a curve on the line where signalling became
imminently needful, it was exposed to all the varied horrors of the
whistle from the sharp screech of interrogation to the successive
bursts of exasperation, or the prolonged and deadly yell of
intimidation, with all the intermediate modulations—so that, what with
the tremors, and shocks, and crashes, and shrieks, and thunderous roar
of trains, Gertie's father's house maintained an upright front in
circumstances that might have been equalled but could not have been
surpassed by those of the Eddystone Lighthouse in the wildest of winter
storms, while it excelled that celebrated building in this, that it
faced a storm which knew no calm, but raged furiously all the year
John Marrot was an engine-driver on the Grand National Trunk
Railway. This is equivalent to saying that he was a steady, sober,
trustworthy man. None but men of the best character are nowadays put in
so responsible a position. Nearly all the drivers on the line were of
this kind—some better than others, no doubt, but all good. Of course
there are exceptions to every rule. As in the best regulated families
accidents will happen, so, on the best conducted lines, an occasional
black sheep will get among the drivers, but this is the exception that
proves the rule. The rule in the Grand National Trunk Railway was—get
the best drivers and pay them well. The same may be said of the
firemen, whose ambition was ultimately to drive the iron chargers which
they fed. Besides being all that we have said, John was a big, burly,
soft-hearted, hard-headed man, who knew that two and two in ordinary
circumstances made four, and who didn't require to be told that his
left foot was not his right one.
It was generally supposed that John Marrot had no nerves, and that
his muscles had imbibed some of the iron of which his engine was
composed. This was a mistake, though there was some truth in both
John's family consisted of himself when at home, which, although
often, was never for long; his wife—fat and fair, capable of being
roused, but, on the whole, a good, sensible, loving woman; his eldest
daughter, Lucy or Loo—nineteen, dark, pretty, and amiable; his
youngest daughter, Gertrude, ALIAS Gertie—six, sunny and serious, at
least as serious as was possible for one so young, so innocent, so
healthy, and so happy as she; his son Bob, aged twelve, who was a lamp-boy at the great station not far off, and of whom it may be briefly
said that he was “no better than he should be,” and, lastly, the baby
—not yet at the walking period of life, with a round head, round body,
round eyes, and a round dozen at least—if not more—of hairs standing
straight up on the top of his bald pate, suggesting the idea that he
must at some period of his life have been singed by a passing
locomotive—an event not by any means beyond the bounds of possibility,
for it may be written, with more truth of this, than of any other
infant, that he had been born and nurtured amid thunder, smoke, and
As might have been expected in the circumstances, he was a powerful
baby. We cannot afford space for a full description, but it would be
wrong to omit mention of the strength of his lungs. The imitative
tendency of children is proverbial. Clearly the locomotive was baby
Marrot's pattern in many things. No infant that ever drew breath
equalled this one at a yell. There was absolutely a touch of sublimity
in the sound of the duet—frequently heard—when baby chanced to be
performing a solo and his father's engine went shrieking past with a
running accompaniment! It is a disputed point to this day which of the
two beat the other; and it is an admitted fact that nothing else could
There were two other inmates of John Marrot's house—not members of
the family. One was his fireman, William Garvie, who lodged with him,
the other a small servant or maid-of-all-work who led a rugged
existence, but appeared to enjoy it, although it kept her thin. Her
name was Ann Stocks, familiarly known as Nanny.
We are thus particular in describing the engine-driver's household
because, apart from other reasons, a group of human beings who could
live, and thrive, and eat, and sleep, and love, and learn, and so
forth, in such circumstances is noteworthy.
It was quite a treat—believe it, reader—to see little Gertie and
the baby slumber while the engines were apparently having “a night of
it” outside! Come with us and behold. It is 10.30 p.m. Father is
crossing country on the limited mail at any pace you choose between
fifty and eighty miles an hour, time having been lost at the last
station, owing to the unaccountable disappearance of a first-class
passenger, and time having to be made up by fair means or otherwise.
His mate stands beside him. In the family mansion pretty Loo sleeps
like a “good angel,” as she is, in a small room farthest from the
corner next the line, but with her we have nothing to do at present.
Nanny, also sound asleep, lies in some place of profound obscurity
among the coals in the lower regions of the house, laying in that store
of health and vigour which will enable her to face the rugged features
of the following day. We dismiss her, also, with the hope that she may
survive the coal-dust and the lack of oxygen, and turn to the chief
room of the house—the kitchen, parlour, dining-room, drawing-room,
nursery, and family bedroom all in one. Engine-drivers are not always
so badly off for space in their domiciles, but circumstances which are
not worth mentioning have led John Marrot to put up with little. In
this apartment, which is wonderfully clean and neat, there are two
box-beds and a sort of crib. Baby sleeps—as only babies can—in
perfect bliss in the crib; Gertie slumbers with her upturned sweet
little face shaded by the white dimity curtains in one bed; Mrs. Molly
Marrot snores like a grampus in the other. It is a wide bed, let deep
into the wall, as it were, and Mrs. M.'s red countenance looms over the
counterpane like the setting sun over a winter fog-bank.
Hark? A rumble in the far distance—ominous and low at first, but
rapidly increasing to the tones of distant thunder. It is the night
express for the North—going at fifty miles an hour. At such a rate of
speed it might go right round the world in twenty-one days! While yet
distant the whistle is heard, shrill, threatening, and prolonged.
Louder and louder; it is nearing the curve now and the earth trembles
—the house trembles too, but Gertie's parted lips breathe as softly as
before; baby's eyes are as tight and his entire frame as still as when
he first fell asleep. Mrs. Marrot, too, maintains the monotony of her
snore. Round the curve it comes at last, hammer and tongs, thundering
like Olympus, and yelling like an iron fiend. The earthquake is “on!”
The embankment shudders; the house quivers; the doors, windows, cups,
saucers, and pans rattle. Outside, all the sledge-hammers and anvils in
Vulcan's smithy are banging an OBBLIGATO accompaniment to the hissing
of all the serpents that St. Patrick drove out of Ireland as the
express comes up; still Gertie's rest is unbroken. She does indeed give
a slight smile and turn her head on the other side, as if she had heard
a pleasant whisper, but nothing more. Baby, too, vents a prolonged sigh
before plunging into a profounder depth of repose. Mrs. Marrot gives a
deprecatory grunt between snores, but it is merely a complimentary
“Hallo! 's that you?” sort of question which requires no answer.
As the rushing storm goes by a timid and wakeful passenger happens
to lower the window and look out. He sees the house. “It's all over?”
are his last words as he falls back in his seat and covers his face
with his hands. He soon breathes more freely on finding that it is not
all over, but fifteen or twenty miles lie between him and the house he
expected to annihilate, before his nervous system has quite recovered
This, reader, is a mere sample of the visitations by which that
family was perpetually affected, though not afflicted. Sometimes the
rushing masses were heavy goods trains, which produced less fuss, but
more of earthquake. At other times red lights, intimating equally
danger and delay, brought trains to a stand close to the house, and
kept them hissing and yelling there as if querulously impatient to get
on. The uproar reached its culminating point about 12.45, on the night
of which we write, when two trains from opposite directions were
signalled to wait, which they did precisely opposite John Marrot's
windows, and there kept up such a riot of sound as feeble language is
impotent to convey. To the accustomed ears the whistle and clank of a
checked and angry pilot-engine might have been discerned amid the
hullabaloo; but to one whose experience in such matters was small, it
might have seemed as though six or seven mad engines were sitting up on
end, like monster rabbits on a bank, pawing the air and screaming out
their hearts in the wild delirium of unlimited power and ungovernable
fury. Still, although they moved a little, the sleepers did not awake
—so potent is the force of habit! However, it did not last long. The
red lights removed their ban, the white lights said “Come on,” the
monster rabbits gave a final snort of satisfaction and went away—each
with its tail of live-stock, or minerals, or goods, or human beings,
trailing behind it.
The temporary silence round the house was very intense, as may well
be believed—so much so that the heavy foot-fall of a man in the bypath
that led to it sounded quite intrusive.
He was a tall broad-shouldered man in a large pilot coat, cap and
boots, and appeared to walk somewhat lame as he approached the door. He
tried the handle. It was locked, of course.
“I thought so,” he muttered in a low bass voice; “so much for a bad
He rapped twice on the door, loudly, with his knuckles and then
kicked it with his boot. Vain hope! If a burglar with a sledge-hammer
had driven the door in, he would have failed to tickle the drum of any
ear there. The man evidently was aware of this, for, changing his plan,
he went round to a back window on the ground-floor, and opened it at
the top with some difficulty. Peeping in he gazed for some time
intently, and then exclaimed under his breath, “Ha! it's open by good
luck.” Gathering a handful of gravel, he threw it into the house with
The result proved that he had not aimed at random, for the shower
entered the open door of Nanny's sleeping-cellar and fell smartly on
It is well-known that sailors, although capable of slumbering
through loud and continuous noises, can be awakened by the slightest
touch, so likewise Nanny. On receiving the shower of gravel she
incontinently buried her head in the blankets, drew an empty
coal-scuttle over her shoulders and began to shout thieves! and murder!
at the top of her voice. Having taken such pains to muffle it, of
course no one heard her cries. The man, if a burglar, had evidently a
patient philosophical turn of mind, for he calmly waited till the
damsel was exhausted, and when she at length peeped out to observe the
effect of her heroic efforts at self-preservation he said quietly,
“Nanny, lass, don't be a fool! It's me; open the door; I've gone an'
forgot my latch- key.”
“Oh la! master, it ain't you, is it? It ain't thieves and robbers,
“No, no. Open the door like a good girl.”
“And it ain't an accident, is it?” continued Nanny partially
dressing in haste. “Oh, I knows it's a accident, Missus always
prophesied as a accident would come to pass some day, which has come
true. You're not maimed, master?”
“No, no; be quick, girl!”
“Nor Willum ain't maimed, is he? He ain't dead? Oh DON'T say Willum
“Bill Garvie's all right,” said the engine-driver, as he brushed
past the girl and went up-stairs.
Now, although Mrs. Marrot's ears were totally deaf to locomotives
they were alert enough to the sound of her husband's voice. When,
therefore, he entered the kitchen, he found her standing on the floor
with an ample shawl thrown round her.
“Nothing wrong?” she inquired anxiously.
“Nothing, Molly, my dear, only I got a slight bruise on the leg in
the engine-shed to-day, and I had to go up an' show it to the doctor,
d'ye see, before comin' home, which has made me later than usual.”
“Are you SURE it's not a back hurt, father?” asked Loo, coming in at
the moment—also enveloped in a shawl, and looking anxious.
“Sure? ay, I'm sure enough; it's only a scratch. See here.”
Saying this he removed one of his boots, and pulling up his trousers
displayed a bandaged leg.
“Well, but we can't see through the bandages, you know,” said Mrs.
“Let me take them off, father, and I'll replace—”
“Take 'em off!” exclaimed John, pulling down the leg of his trouser
and rising with a laugh. “No, no, Loo; why, it's only just bin done up
all snug by the doctor, who'd kick up a pretty shindy if he found I had
undid it. There's one good will come of it anyhow, I shall have a day
or two in the house with you all; for the doctor said I must give it a
short rest. So, off to bed again, Loo. This is not an hour for a
respectable young woman to be wanderin' about in her night-dress. Away
“Was any one else hurt, father?” said Loo. She asked the question
anxiously, but there was a slight flush on her cheek and a peculiar
smile which betrayed some hidden feeling.
“No one else,” returned her father. “I tell 'ee it wasn't an
accident at all—it was only a engine that brushed up agin me as I was
comin' out o' the shed. That's all; so I just came home and left Will
Garvie to look after our engine. There, run away.”
Loo smiled, nodded and disappeared, followed by Mrs. Marrot, who
went, like a sensible woman, to see that her alarmed domestic was all
right. While she was away John went to the crib and kissed the rosy
cheek of his sleeping boy. Then he bent over the bed with the white
dimity curtains to Miss Gertie's forehead, for which purpose he had to
remove a mass of curly hair with his big brown hand.
“Bless you, my darling,” he said in silent speech, “you came near
bein' fatherless this night—nearer than you ever was before.” He
kissed her again tenderly, and a fervent “thank the Lord!” rose from
his heart to heaven.
In less than half-an-hour after this the engine-driver's family sank
into profound repose, serenaded by the music of a mineral train from
the black country, which rushed laboriously past their dwelling like an
Chapter II. THE DRIVER VISITS A
LITTLE ELDERLY GENTLEWOMAN AND PREPARES THE IRON HORSE FOR ACTION.
Next day John Marrot spent the brief period of repose accorded by
the doctor to his leg in romping about the house with the baby in his
arms. Being a large man, accustomed to much elbow-room and rapid
motion, and the house being small, John may be said to have been a
dangerous character in the family on such occasions. Apart from baby,
no elephant was ever more sluggish in his motions; but when coupled—
professionally speaking—to his own tender infant, John knew no bounds,
his wife knew no rest and his baby knew no higher earthly bliss.
Sometimes it was on his shoulder, sometimes on his head and often on
his foot, riding with railway speed to “Banbury Cross.” Again it was on
its back in the crib or on the bed being tickled into fits of laughter,
which bid fair at times to merge into fits of convulsion, to the horror
of little Gertie, who came in for a large share of that delightful
holiday's enjoyment, but whose spirit was frequently harrowed with
alarm at the riotous conduct of her invalid father. In his glee the man
might have been compared to a locomotive with a bad driver, who was
constantly shutting off the steam and clapping on the brakes too soon
or too late, thus either falling short of or overshooting his mark.
What between the door and the dresser, the fire, the crib, the window,
and the furniture, John showed himself a dreadfully bad pilot and was
constantly running into or backing out of difficulties. At last towards
the afternoon of that day, while performing a furious charge round the
room with baby on his head, he overturned the wash-tub, which filled
the baby with delirious joy, and Gertie with pleasurable alarm.
As for Mrs. Marrot, she was too happy to have her husband at home
for a whole day to care much about trifles, nevertheless she felt it
her duty to reprove him, lest the children should learn a bad lesson.
“There now, John, I knew you'd do it at last. You're much too
violent, and you shouldn't ought to risk the baby's neck in that way.
Such a mess! How CAN you expect me to keep things tidy if you go on
John was very penitent. He did not reply at first, but putting baby
into the crib—where it instantly drowned with a great yell the shriek
of a passing train—he went down on his knees and began to “swab” up
the water with a jack-towel. Loo ran laughingly from the corner where
she had been sewing, and insisted on doing it for him.
“You'll hurt your leg, father, if you bend it so, and I'm sure it
must be swelled and pained enough already with so much romping.”
“Not a bit, Loo,” objected John. “It was me as caused the mess, an'
justice requires that I should swab it up. There, go sew that sentiment
into a sampler an' hang it up over yer bed.”
But Loo would not give in. While they were still engaged in the
controversy the door opened, and young Bob Marrot stood before them
with his eyes wide open and his hair straight up on end, as if he had
recently seen a ghost. This aspect, however, was no sign of alarm,
being his normal condition.
“Ha! seems to me, somehow, that somebody's bin up to somethin'.”
“Right Bob,” replied his father, rising from his knees and throwing
the jack-towel at him.
The lad easily evaded the shot, being well accustomed to elude much
more deadly missiles, and, picking up the towel, quietly set to work to
perform the duty in dispute.
“You're wanted,” he said, looking up at his father while he wrung
the towel over a tin basin.
“Up at the shed.”
“I'm on sick leave,” said John.
“Can't help that. The 6.30 p.m. passenger tram must be drove, and
there's nobody left but you to drive it. Jones is away with a goods
train owin' to Maxwell having sprained his ankle, and Long Thompson is
down with small-pox, so you'll have to do it. I offered 'em my
services, but the manager he said that intelligent lads couldn't be
spared for such menial work, and told me to go and fetch you.”
“Maxwell had no business to sprain his ankle,” said John Marrot.
“Hows'ever,” he added cheerfully, “I've had a rare good holiday, an'
the leg's all but right again, so, Molly, let's have an early tea; I'll
give it a good rest for another half-hour and then be ready for the
6.30 p.m.-ers. Cut off your steam, will you?”
This last observation was made to the baby, and was accompanied by a
shake and a toss towards the ceiling which caused him to obey
instantly, under the impression, no doubt that the fun was to be
renewed. Being, however, consigned to the care of Gertie he again let
on the steam and kept it up during the whole time the family were at
tea—which meal they enjoyed thoroughly, quite regardless of the storm.
He was asleep when his father rose at last and buttoned his heavy
coat up to the chin, while Mrs. Marrot stood on tiptoe to arrange more
carefully the woollen shawl round his neck.
“Now, don't stand more than you can help on your hurt leg, John.”
“Certainly not, duckie,” said John, stooping to kiss the upturned
face; “I'll sit on the rail as much as I can, like a 'Merican racoon.
By the way,” he added, turning suddenly to Loo, “you delivered that
note from young Mr. Tipps to his mother?”
“Yes, immediately after I got it from you; and I waited to see if
there was an answer, but she said there wasn't. It must have contained
bad news, I fear, for she turned pale while she read it.”
“H'm, well,” said John, putting on his cap, “don't know nothin'
about what was in it, so it's no bizzness o' mine.”
With a hearty good-evening to all, and a special embrace to Gertie,
the engine-driver left his home, accompanied by Bob his hopeful son.
“Mr. Sharp,” said Bob, as they walked along, “has bin makin'
oncommon partikler inquiries among us about some o' the porters. I
raither think they're a bad lot.”
“Not at all,” replied his father severely. “They're no more a bad
lot than the drivers, or, for the matter of that, than the clerks or
the directors, or the lamp-boys. You ought to be gittin' old enough by
this time, Bob, to know that every lot o' fish in this world, however
good, has got a few bad uns among 'em. As a rule railway directors and
railway clerks, and railway porters and railway officials of all sorts
are good—more or less—the same may be said of banks an' insurances,
an' all sorts of things—but, do what ye may, a black sheep or two WILL
git in among 'em, and, of course, the bigger the consarn, the more
numerous the black sheep. Even the clergy ain't free from that
uniwersal law of natur. But what's Mr. Sharp bin inquiring arter?”
“Ah—wot indeed!” replied Bob; “'ow should I know? Mr. Sharp ain't
the man to go about the line with a ticket on his back tellin' wot he's
arter. By no means. P'lice superintendents ain't usually given to that;
but he's arter SOMETHIN' partickler.”
“Well, that ain't no bizzness of ours, Bob, so we don't need to
trouble our heads about it. There's nothin' like mindin' yer own
bizzness. Same time,” added John after a short pause, “that's no reason
why, as a sea-farin' friend o' mine used to say, a man shouldn't keep
his weather-eye open, d'ye see?”
Bob intimated that he did see, by winking with the eye that chanced
to be next his parent; but further converse between father and son was
interrupted at a turn in the road, where they were joined by a stout,
broad-shouldered young man, whose green velveteen jacket vest, and
trousers bespoke him a railway porter.
“Evenin', Sam,” said our driver with a friendly nod; “goin' on night
“Yes, worse luck,” replied Sam, thrusting his powerful hands into
“Why so, Sam, you ain't used to mind night dooty?”
“No more I do,” said Sam testily, “but my missus is took bad, and
there's no one to look after her properly—for that old 'ooman we got
ain't to be trusted. 'Tis a hard thing to have to go on night dooty
when a higher dooty bids me stay at home.”
There was a touch of deep feeling in the tone in which the latter
part of Sam Natly's remark was uttered. His young wife, to whom he had
been only a year married, had fallen into bad health, and latterly the
doctors had given him little encouragement to hope for her recovery.
“Sam,” said John Marrot stopping, “I'll go an' send a friend, as I
knows of, to look after yer wife.”
“A friend?” said Sam; “you can't mean any o' your own family, John,
for you haven't got time to go back that length now, and—”
“Well, never mind, I've got time to go where I'm agoin'. You run on
to the shed, Bob, and tell Garvie that I'll be there in fifteen
The engine-driver turned off abruptly, and, increasing his pace to a
smart walk, soon stood before the door of one of those uncommonly small
neat suburban villas which the irrigating influence of the Grand
National Trunk Railway had caused to spring up like mushrooms around
the noisy, smoky, bustling town of Clatterby—to the unspeakable
advantage of that class of gentlefolk who possess extremely limited
incomes, but who, nevertheless, prefer fresh air to smoke.
“Is your missus at 'ome?” he inquired of the stout elderly woman who
answered to his modest summons—for although John was wont to clatter
and bang through the greater part of his daily and nightly career, he
was tender of touch and act when out of his usual professional beat.
“Yes; do you wish to see her?”
“I does, my dear. Sorry I 'aven't got a card with me, but if you'll
just say that it's John Marrot, the engine-driver, I dessay that'll do
for a free pass.”
The elderly woman went off with a smile, but returned quickly with
an anxious look, and bade the man follow her. He was ushered into a
small and poorly furnished but extremely neat and clean parlour, where
sat a thin little old lady in an easy-chair, looking very pale.
“Ev'nin', ma'am,” said John, bowing and looking rougher and bigger
than usual in such a small apartment.
“You—you—don't bring bad news, I hope!—my son Joseph—”
“Oh no, Mrs. Tipps, not by no means,” said Marrot, hasting to
relieve the timid old lady's feelings, “Mr. Joseph is all right
—nothing wotiver wrong with him—nor likely to be, ma'am. Leastwise he
wos all right w'en I seed 'im last.”
“And when might that be?” asked the timid old lady with a sigh of
relief as she clasped her hands tightly together.
“W'y, let me see,” said John, touching his forehead, “it was
yesterday evenin' w'en I came up with the northern express.”
“But many accidents might have happened since yesterday evening,”
said Mrs. Tipps, still in an anxious tone.
“That's true, ma'am. All the engines on the Grand Trunk from the
Pentland Firth to the Channel might have bu'sted their bilers since
that time—but it ain't likely,” replied John, with a bland smile.
“And—and what was my son doing when you passed him? Did you speak
“Speak to him! Bless your heart, ma'am,” said John, with another
benignant smile, “I went past Langrye station at sixty mile an hour, so
we hadn't much chance to speak to each other. It would have been as
much as we could have managed, if we'd tried it, to exchange winks.”
“Dreadful!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps in a low tone. “Is that the usual
rate of travelling on your railway?”
“Oh dear no, ma'am. It's only MY express train as goes at that rate.
Other expresses run between forty and fifty miles, an' or'nary trains
average about thirty miles an hour—goods, they go at about twenty,
more or less; but they varies a good deal. The train I drives is about
the fastest in the kingdom, w'ich is pretty much the same as sayin'
it's the fastest in the world, ma'am. Sometimes I'm obleeged to go as
high as nigh seventy miles an hour to make up time.”
“The fastest mail-coaches in MY young days,” said Mrs. Tipps, “used
to go at the rate of ten miles an hour, I believe.”
“Pretty much so,” said John. “They did manage a mile or two more,
I'm told, but that was their average of crawlin' with full steam on.”
“And YOU sometimes drive at sixty or seventy miles an hour?”
“With people in the carriages?”
“How I WISH that I had lived a hundred years ago!” sighed poor Mrs.
“You'd have bin a pretty old girl by this time if you had,” thought
the engine-driver, but he was too polite to give utterance to the
“And what was my son doing when you passed him at that frightful
speed—you could SEE him, I suppose?”
“Oh yes, ma'am, I could see him well enough. He was talkin' an'
laughin', as far as I could make out, with an uncommon pretty girl.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps, flushing slightly—for she was
extremely sensitive,—and evidently much relieved by this information.
“Well, my good man, what do you wish me to do for you? anything that is
in my power to—”
“Thankee, ma'am, but I don't want you to do nothin' for ME.”
“Then what have you to say to me?” added the old lady with a little
smile that was clearly indicative of a kind little heart.
“I've come to take the liberty, ma'am, of askin' you to do one of my
mates a favour.”
“Most willingly,” said Mrs. Tipps with animation. “I shall never
forget that you saved my dear Joseph's life by pulling him off the line
when one of your dreadful engines was going straight over him. Anything
that I am capable of doing for you or your friends will be but a poor
return for what you have done for me. I have often asked you to allow
me to make me some such return, Mr. Marrot, and have been grieved at
your constant refusal. I am delighted that you come to me now.”
“You're very good to say so, ma'am. The fact is that one o' my
friends, a porter on the line, named Sam Natly, has a young wife who
is, I fear, far gone wi' consumption; she's worse to-night an' poor
Sam's obliged to go on night dooty, so he can't look arter her, an' the
old 'ooman they've got ain't worth nothin'. So I thought I'd make bold,
ma'am, to ask you to send yer servant to git a proper nurse to take
charge of her to-night, it would be—”
“I'll go myself!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps, interrupting, and starting
up with a degree of alacrity that astonished the engine-driver. “Here,
write down the address on that piece of paper—you can write, I
“Yes, ma'am,” replied John, modestly, as he bent down and wrote the
address in a bold flowing hand, “I raither think I CAN write. I write
notes, on a paper I've got to fill up daily, on the engine; an' w'en a
man's trained to do that, ma'am, it's my opinion he's fit to write in
any circumstances whatsomedever. Why, you'd hardly believe it, ma'am,
but I do assure you, that I wrote my fust an' last love-letter to my
missus on the engine. I was drivin' the Lightenin' at the time—that's
the name o' my engine, ma'am, an' they calls me Jack Blazes in
consikence—well, I'd bin courtin' Molly, off-an'-on, for about three
months. She b'longed to Pinchley station, you must know, where we used
to stop to give her a drink—”
“What! to give Molly a drink?”
“No, ma'am,” replied John, with a slight smile, “to give the ingine
a drink. Well, she met me nigh every day 'xcept Sundays at that
station, and as we'd a pretty long time there—about five minutes—we
used to spend it beside the pump, an' made the most of it. But somehow
I took it into my head that Molly was playin' fast an' loose with me,
an' I was raither cool on her for a time. Hows'ever, her father bein' a
pointsman, she wos shifted along with him to Langrye station—that's
where your son is, ma'am—an' as we don't stop there we was obleeged to
confine our courtship to a nod an' a wave of a handkerchief. Leastwise
she shook out a white handkerchief an' I flourished a lump o'
cotton-waste. Well, one day as we was close upon Langrye station—
about two miles—I suddenly takes it into my head that I'd bring the
thing to a pint, so I sings out to my mate—that was my fireman, ma'am
—says I, `look out Jim,' an' I draws out my pencil an' bends my legs
—you must always bend your legs a little, ma'am, w'en you writes on a
locomotive, it makes springs of 'em, so to speak—an' I writes on the
back of a blank time-bill, `Molly, my dear, no more shilly- shallyin'
with ME. Time's up. If you'll be tender, I'll be locomotive. Only say
the word and we're coupled for life in three weeks. A white
handkerchief means yes, a red 'un, no. If red, you'll see a noo driver
on the 10.15 a.m. express day after to-morrow. John Marrot.' I was just
in time to pitch the paper crumpled up right into her bosom,” continued
the driver, wiping his forehead as if the deep anxiety of that eventful
period still affected him, “an' let me tell you, ma'am, it requires a
deal o' nice calculation to pitch a piece o' crumpled paper true off a
locomotive goin' between fifty and sixty miles an hour; but it went all
straight—I could see that before we was gone.”
“And what was the result?” asked the little old lady as earnestly as
if that result were still pending.
“W'y, the result wos as it should be! My letter was a short 'un, but
it turned out to be a powerful brake. Brought her up sharp—an' we was
coupled in less than six weeks.”
“Amazing phase of human life!” observed Mrs. Tipps, gazing in
admiration at the stalwart giant who stood deferentially before her.
“Well, it WAS a raither coorious kind o' proposal,” said Marrot with
a smile, “but it worked uncommon well. I've never wanted to uncouple
“Pardon ME, Mr. Marrot,” said Mrs. Tipps, with little hysterical
laugh—knowing that she was about to perpetrate a joke—“may I ask if
there are any—any LITTLE tenders?”
“Oh, lots of 'em,” replied John, “quite a train of 'em; four livin'
an' three gone dead. The last was coupled on only a short time ago.
You'll excuse me now, ma'am,” he added, pulling out and consulting the
ponderous chronometer with which the company supplied him, “I must go
now, havin' to take charge o' the 6.30 p.m. train,—it ain't my usual
train, but I'm obleeged to take it to-night owin' to one of our drivers
havin' come by an accident. Evenin', ma'am.”
John bowed, and retired so promptly that poor Mrs. Tipps had no time
to make further inquiry into the accident referred to—at the very
mention of which her former alarm came back in full force. However, she
wisely got the better of her own anxieties by throwing herself into
those of others. Putting on her bonnet she sallied forth on her errand
Meanwhile John Marrot proceeded to the engine-shed to prepare his
iron horse for action. Here he found that his fireman, Will Garvie, and
his cleaner, had been attending faithfully to their duty. The huge
locomotive, which looked all the more gigantic for being under cover,
was already quivering with that tremendous energy—that artificial life
—which rendered it at once so useful and so powerful a servant of man.
Its brasses shone with golden lustre, its iron rods and bars, cranks
and pistons glittered with silvery sheen, and its heavier parts and
body were gay with a new coat of green paint. Every nut and screw and
lever and joint had been screwed up, and oiled, examined, tested, and
otherwise attended to, while the oblong pit over which it stood when in
the shed—and into which its ashes were periodically emptied—glowed
with the light of its intense furnace. Ever and anon a little puff
issued from its safety-valve, proving to John Marrot that there was
life within his fiery steed sufficient to have blown the shed to wreck
with all its brother engines, of which there were at the time two or
three dozen standing—some disgorging their fire and water after a
journey, and preparing to rest for the night; some letting off steam
with a fiendish yell unbearably prolonged; others undergoing trifling
repairs preparatory to starting next day, and a few, like that of our
engine-driver, ready for instant action and snorting with impatience
like war-horses “scenting the battle from afar.” The begrimed warriors,
whose destiny it was to ride these iron chargers, were also variously
circumstanced. Some in their shirt sleeves busy with hammer and file at
benches hard by; others raking out fire-boxes, or oiling machinery; all
busy as bees, save the few, who, having completed their preparations,
were buttoning up their jackets and awaiting the signal to charge.
At last that signal came to John Marrot—not in a loud shout of
command or a trumpet-blast, but by the silent hand of Time, as
indicated on his chronometer.
“But how,” it may be asked, “does John Marrot know precisely the
hour at which he has to start, the stations he has to stop at, the
various little acts of coupling on and dropping off carriages and
trucks, and returning with trains or with `empties' within fixed
periods so punctually, that he shall not interfere with, run into, or
delay, the operations of the hundreds of drivers whose duties are as
complex, nice, important, and swift as his own.”
Reader, we reply that John knows it all in consequence of the
perfection of SYSTEM attained in railway management. Without this, our
trains and rails all over the kingdom would long ago have been smashed
up into what Irishmen expressively name smithereens.
The duty of arranging the details of the system devolves on the
superintendents of departments on the line, namely, the passenger,
goods, and locomotive superintendents, each of whom reigns
independently and supreme in his own department, but of course, like
the members of a well-ordered family, they have to consult together in
order that their trains may be properly horsed, and the time of running
so arranged that there shall be no clashing in their distinct though
united interests. When the number of trains and time of running have
been fixed, and finally published by the passenger superintendent—who
is also sometimes the “Out-door superintendent,” and who has duties to
perform that demand very considerable powers of generalship,—it is the
duty of the locomotive superintendent to supply the requisite engines.
This officer, besides caring for all the “plant” or rolling-stock, new
and old, draws out periodically a schedule, in which is detailed to a
nicety every minute act that has to be done by drivers—the hour at
which each engine is to leave the shed on each day of the week, the
number of each engine, its driver and fireman, and the duties to be
performed; and this sheet contains complete DAILY (nay, almost hourly)
directions for passenger, goods, and pilot- engines.
In order to secure attention to these regulations, each engineman is
fined one shilling for every minute he is behind time in leaving the
shed. The difficulty of making these runnings of trains dovetail into
each other on lines where the traffic is great and constant, may well
be understood to be considerable, particularly when it is remembered
that ordinary regular traffic is interfered with constantly by numerous
excursion, special, and other irregular trains, in the midst of which,
also, time must be provided for the repair and renewal of the line
itself, the turning of old rails, laying down of new ones, raising
depressed sleepers, renewing broken chairs, etc.,—all which is
constantly going on, and that, too, at parts of the line over which
hundreds of trains pass in the course of the twenty-four hours.
Besides the arrangements for the regular traffic, which are made
monthly, a printed sheet detailing the special traffic, repairs of
lines, new and altered signals, working arrangements, etc., is issued
weekly to every member of the staff; particularly to engine-drivers and
guards. We chance to possess one of these private sheets, issued by one
of our principal railways. Let us peep behind the scenes for a moment
and observe how such matters are managed.
The vacation has come to an end, and the boys of Rapscallion College
will, on a certain day, pour down on the railway in shoals with money
in hand and a confident demand for accommodation. This invading army
must be prepared for. Ordinary trains are not sufficient for it. Delay
is dangerous on railways; it must not be permitted; therefore the
watchful superintendent writes an order which we find recorded as
“WEDNESDAY, 26TH APRIL,—Accommodation must be provided on
this day in the 3.10 and 6.25 p.m. Up, and 2.25 and 6.10 p.m.
Down Trains, for the Cadets returning to Rapscallion College.
By the Trains named, Rapscallion College tickets will be
collected at Whitewater on the Down journey, and at Smokingham
on the Up journey. Oldershot to send a man to Whitewater to
assist in the collection of these tickets.”
Again—a “Relief Train” has to be utilised. It won't “pay” to run
empty trains on the line unnecessarily, therefore the superintendent
has his eye on it, and writes:—
“APRIL 23rd.—An Empty Train will leave Whiteheath for
Woolhitch at about 8.10 p.m., to work up from Woolhitch at 9.5
p.m., calling at Woolhitch Dockyard and Curlton, and forming
the 9.15 p.m. Up Ordinary Train from Whiteheath. Greatgun
Street to provide Engines and Guards for this service.”
This is but a slight specimen of the providing, dovetailing, timing,
and guarding that has to be done on all the lines in the kingdom. In
the same sheet from which the above is quoted, we find notes, cautions,
and intimations as to such various matters as the holding of the levers
of facing points when trains are passing through junctions; the
attention required of drivers to new signals; the improper use of
telegraph bells; the making search for lost “passes;” the more careful
loading of goods waggons; the changes in regard to particular trains;
the necessity of watchfulness on the part of station-masters, robberies
having been committed on the line; the intimation of dates when and
places where ballast trains are to be working on the line; the times
and, places when and where repairs to line are to take place during the
brief intervals between trains of the ordinary traffic; and many other
matters, which naturally lead one to the belief that superintendents of
railways must possess the eyes of Argus, the generalship of Wellington,
and the patience of Job.
Being carefully hedged in, as we have shown, with strict rules and
regulations, backed by fines in case of the slightest inattention, and
the certainty of prompt dismissal in case of gross neglect or
disobedience, with the possibility of criminal prosecution besides
looming in the far distance, our friend, John Marrot, knowing his
duties well, and feeling perfect confidence in himself and his
superiors, consulted his chronometer for the last time, said, “Now,
then, Bill!” and mounted his noble steed.
Will Garvie, who was putting a finishing drop of oil into some part
of the machinery, took his station beside his mate and eased off the
brake. John let off two sharp whistles (an imperative duty on the part
of every driver before starting an engine) and let on the steam. The
first was a very soft pulsation—a mere puff—but it was enough to move
the ponderous engine as if it had been a cork, though its actual weight
with tender was fifty-three tons. Another puff, and slowly the iron
horse moved out of its stable. There was a gentle, oily, gliding,
effect connected with its first movements that might have won the
confidence even of timid Mrs. Captain Tipps. Another puff of greater
strength shot the engine forward with a sudden grandeur of action that
would certainly have sent that lady's heart into her throat. In a few
seconds it reached and passed the place where the siding was connected
with the main line, and where a pointsman stood ready to shift the
points. Here the obedient spirit of the powerful steed was finely
displayed. Will Garvie reversed the action of the engines by a process
which, though beautifully simple and easily done, cannot be easily
described. John let on a puff of steam, and the engine glided backwards
as readily as it had run forward. A few seconds afterwards it moved
slowly under the magnificent arch of Clatterby station, and its buffers
met those of the train it was destined to draw as if with a gentle
touch of friendly greeting.
At the station all was bustle and noise; but here we must venture to
do what no human being could accomplish in reality, compel the 6.30
p.m. train to wait there until it shall be our pleasure to give it the
signal to start! Meanwhile we shall put back the clock an hour or so,
ask the reader to return to Mrs. Tipps' residence and observe what
transpired there while John Marrot was in the shed getting his iron
steed ready for action.
Chapter III. IN WHICH THE WIDOW HOLDS
CONVERSE WITH A CAPTAIN, MAKES THE
ACQUAINTANCE OF A YOUNG MAN, AND RECEIVES A TELEGRAPHIC SHOCK,
WHICH ENDS IN A RAILWAY JOURNEY.
Mrs. Captain Tipps was, as we have said, a thin old lady of an
excessively timid temperament. She was also, as we have shown,
impulsively kind in disposition. Moreover, she was bird-like in aspect
and action. We would not have it supposed, however, that her features
were sharp. On the contrary, they were neat and rounded and well
formed, telling of great beauty in youth, but her little face and mouth
were of such a form that one was led irresistibly to expect to hear her
chirp; she fluttered rather than walked and twittered rather than
talked. Altogether she was a charming little old lady, with a pair of
bead-like eyes as black as sloes. Happy that captain—a sea- captain,
by the way, long since dead—round whom she had fluttered in days gone
bye, and happy that son Joseph round whom, when at home, she fluttered
But Joseph was not often at home at the time we write of. He was an
honest soul—a gentle, affectionate man with a handsome face, neat
dapper little frame, something like his mother in many ways, yet not
unmanly. He was too earnest, simple, unassuming, and unaffected to be
that. He was a railway clerk, and had recently been appointed to
Langrye station, about fifty miles from Clatterby, which necessitated
his leaving his mother's roof; but Mrs. Tipps consoled herself with the
intention of giving up her little villa and going to live at Langrye.
Poverty, after the captain's death, had seized upon the widow, and
held her tightly down during the whole of that period when Joseph and
his only sister Netta were being educated. But Mrs. Tipps did her duty
bravely by them. She was a practically religious woman, and tried most
earnestly to rule her life in accordance with the blessed Word of God.
She trained up her children “in the way that they should go,” in
thorough reliance on the promise that “they would not depart from it
when they were old.” She accepted the command, “owe no man anything but
to love one another,” as given to herself as well as to the world at
large—hence she kept out of debt, and was noted for deeds of kindness
wherever she went.
But she was pinched during this period—terribly pinched—no one
knew how severely save her daughter Netta, to whom she had been in the
habit of confiding all her joys and sorrows from the time that the
child could form any conception of what joy or sorrow meant. But Mrs.
Tipps did not weep over her sorrows, neither did she become boisterous
over her joys. She was an equable, well-balanced woman in everything
except the little matter of her nervous system. Netta was a counterpart
of her mother. As time went on expenses increased, and living on small
means became more difficult, so that Mrs. Tipps was compelled to
contemplate leaving the villa, poor and small though it was, and taking
a cheaper residence. At this juncture a certain Captain Lee, an old
friend of her late husband—also a sea-captain, and an extremely gruff
one—called upon the widow, found out her straitened circumstances, and
instantly offered her five hundred pounds, which she politely but
“But madam,” said the excitable captain on that memorable occasion,
“I must insist on your taking it. Excuse me, I have my own reasons,
—and they are extremely good ones,—for saying that it is my duty to
give you this sum and yours to take it. I owe it to your late husband,
who more than once laid me under obligations to him.”
Mrs. Tipps shook her little head and smiled.
“You are very kind, Captain Lee, to put it in that way, and I have
no doubt that my dear husband did, as you say, lay you under many
obligations because he was always kind to every one, but I cannot I
“Very well,” interrupted the captain, wiping his bald head with his
pocket-handkerchief angrily, “then the money shall go to some charity
—some—some ridiculous asylum or hospital for teaching logarithms to
the Hottentots of the Cape, or something of that sort. I tell you,
madam,” he added with increased vehemence, seeing that Mrs. Tipps still
shook her head, “I tell you that I ROBBED your husband of five hundred
“Robbed him!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps, somewhat shocked. “Oh, Captain
“Yes I did,” replied the captain, crossing his arms and nodding his
head firmly, “robbed him. I laid a bet with him to that extent and won
“That is not usually considered robbery, Captain Lee,” said Mrs.
Tipps with a smile.
“But that ought to be considered robbery,” replied the captain, with
a frown. “Betting is a mean, shabby, contemptible way of obtaining
money for nothing on false pretences. The man who bets says in his
heart, `I want my friend's money without the trouble of working for it,
therefore I'll offer to bet with him. In so doing I'll risk an equal
sum of my own money. That's fair and honourable!' Is that logic?”
demanded the captain, vehemently, “It is not! In the first place it is
mean to want, not to speak of accepting, another man's money without
working for it, and it is a false pretence to say that you risk your
own money because it is NOT your own, it is your wife's and your
children's money, who are brought to poverty, mayhap, because of your
betting tendencies, and it is your baker's and butcher's money, whose
bread and meat you devour (as long as they'll let you) without paying
for it, because of your betting tendencies, and a proportion of it
belongs to your church, which you rob, and to the poor, whom you
defraud, because of your betting tendencies; and if you say that when
you win the case is altered, I reply, yes, it is altered for the worse,
because, instead of bringing all this evil down on your own head you
hurl it, not angrily, not desperately, but, worse, with fiendish
INDIFFERENCE on the head of your friend and his innocent family. Yes,
madam, although many men do not think it so, betting IS a dishonourable
thing, and I'm ashamed of having done it. I repent, Mrs. Tipps, the
money burns my fingers, and I MUST return it.”
“Dear me!” exclaimed the old lady, quite unable to reply at once to
such a gush. “But Captain Lee, did you not say that it is mean to
accept money without working for it, and yet you want me to accept five
hundred pounds without working for it?”
“Oh! monstrous sophistry,” cried the perplexed man, grasping
desperately the few hairs that remained on his polished head, “is there
no difference then between presenting or accepting a gift and betting?
Are there not circumstances also in which poverty is unavoidable and
the relief of it honourable as well as delightful? not to mention the
courtesies of life, wherein giving and receiving in the right spirit
and within reasonable limits, are expressive of good-will and conducive
to general harmony. Besides, I do not offer a gift. I want to repay a
debt; by rights I ought to add compound interest to it for twenty
years, which would make it a thousand pounds. Now, DO accept it, Mrs.
Tipps,” cried the captain, earnestly.
But Mrs. Tipps remained obdurate, and the captain left her, vowing
that he would forthwith devote it as the nucleus of a fund to build a
collegiate institute in Cochin-China for the purpose of teaching
Icelandic to the Japanese.
Captain Lee thought better of it, however, and directed the fund to
the purchase of frequent and valuable gifts to little Joseph and his
sister Netta, who had no scruples whatever in accepting them.
Afterwards, when Joseph became a stripling, the captain, being a
director in the Grand National Trunk Railway, procured for his protege
a situation on the line.
To return to our story after this long digression:—
We left Mrs. Tipps in the last chapter putting on her bonnet and
shawl, on philanthropic missions intent. She had just opened the door,
when a handsome, gentlemanly youth, apparently about one or two and
twenty, with a very slight swagger in his gait stepped up to it and,
lifting his hat said—
“Mrs. Tipps, I presume? I bring you a letter from Clatterby station.
Another messenger should have brought it, but I undertook the duty
partly for the purpose of introducing myself as your son's friend. I—
my name is Gurwood.”
“What!—Edwin Gurwood, about whom Joseph speaks so frequently, and
for whom he has been trying to obtain a situation on the railway
through our friend Captain Lee?” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps.
“Yes,” replied the youth, somewhat confused by the earnestness of
the old lady's gaze, “but pray read the letter—the telegram—I fear—”
He stopped, for Mrs. Tipps had torn open the envelope, and stood
gazing at it with terrible anxiety depicted on her face.
“There is no cause for immediate fear, I believe,” began Edwin, but
Mrs. Tipps interrupted him by slowly reading the telegram.
“From Joseph Tipps, Langrye station, to Mrs. Tipps, Eden Villa,
Clatterby. Dear Mother, Netta is not very well—nothing serious, I hope
—don't be alarmed—but you'd better come and nurse her. She is
comfortably put up in my lodgings.”
Mrs. Tipps grew deadly pale. Young Gurwood, knowing what the message
was, having seen it taken down while lounging at the station, had
judiciously placed himself pretty close to the widow. Observing her
shudder, he placed his strong arm behind her, and adroitly sinking down
on one knee received her on the other, very much after the manner in
which, while at school, he had been wont to act the part of second to
Mrs. Tipps recovered almost immediately, sprang up, and hurried into
the house, followed by Gurwood.
“You'll have time to catch the 6.30 train,” he said, as Mrs. Tipps
fluttered to a cupboard and brought out a black bottle.
“Thank you. Yes, I'll go by that. You shall escort me to it. Please
ring the bell.”
The stout elderly female—Netta's nurse—answered.
“Come here, Durby,” said the widow quickly; “I want you to take this
bottle of wine to a poor sick woman. I had intended to have gone
myself, but am called away suddenly and shan't be back to-night. You
shall hear from me to-morrow. Lock up the house and stay with the woman
to look after her, if need be—and now, Mr. Gurwood.”
They were gone beyond recall before Mrs. Durby could recover
“I never did see nothink like my poor missus,” she muttered, “there
MUST be somethink wrong in the 'ead. But she's a good soul.”
With this comforting reflection Mrs. Durby proceeded to obey her
On reaching the station Mrs. Tipps found that she had five minutes
to wait, so she thanked Gurwood for escorting her, bade him good-bye,
and was about to step into a third-class carriage when she observed
Captain Lee close beside her, with his daughter Emma, who, we may
remark in passing, was a tall, dark, beautiful girl, and the bosom
friend of Netta Tipps.
“Oh, there is Captain Lee. How fortunate,” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps, “he
will take care of me. Come, Mr. Gurwood, I will introduce you to him
and his daughter.”
She turned to Gurwood, but that youth did not hear her remark,
having been forced from her side by a noiseless luggage truck on
India-rubber wheels. Turning, then, towards the captain she found that
he and his daughter had hastily run to recapture a small valise which
was being borne off to the luggage van instead of going into the
carriage along with them. At the same moment the guard intervened, and
the captain and his daughter were lost in the crowd.
But Edwin Gurwood, although he did not hear who they were, had
obtained a glance of the couple before they disappeared, and that
glance, brief though it was, had taken deadly effect! He had been shot
straight to the heart. Love at first sight and at railway speed, is but
a feeble way of expressing what had occurred. Poor Edwin Gurwood, up to
this momentous day woman-proof, felt, on beholding Emma, as if the
combined powers of locomotive force and electric telegraphy had smitten
him to the heart's core, and for one moment he stood rooted to the
earth, or—to speak more appropriately—nailed to the platform.
Recovering in a moment he made a dash into the crowd and spent the
three remaining minutes in a wild search for the lost one!
It was a market-day, and the platform of Clatterby station was
densely crowded. Sam Natly the porter and his colleagues in office were
besieged by all sorts of persons with all sorts of questions, and it
said much for the tempers of these harassed men, that, in the midst of
their laborious duties, they consented to be stopped with heavy weights
on their shoulders, and, while perspiration streamed down their faces,
answered with perfect civility questions of the most ridiculous and
“Where's my wife?” frantically cried an elderly gentleman, seizing
Sam by the jacket.
“I don't know, sir,” replied Sam with a benignant smile.
“There she is,” shouted the elderly gentleman, rushing past and
nearly overturning Sam.
“What a bo-ar it must be to the poatas to b' wearied so by stoopid
people,” observed a tall, stout, superlative fop with sleepy eyes and
long whiskers to another fop in large-check trousers.
“Ya-as,” assented the checked trousers.
“Take your seats, gentlemen,” said a magnificent guard, over six
feet high, with a bushy beard.
“O-ah!” said the dandies, getting into their compartment.
Meanwhile, Edwin Gurwood had discovered Emma. He saw her enter a
first- class carriage. He saw her smile ineffably to her father. He
heard the guard cry, “Take your seats; take your seats,” and knew that
she was about to be torn from him perhaps for ever. He felt that it was
a last look, because, how could he hope in a populous city to meet with
her again? Perhaps she did not even belong to that part of the country
at all, and was only passing through. He did not even know her name!
What WAS he to do? He resolved to travel with her, but it instantly
occurred to him that he had no ticket. He made a stride or two in the
direction of the ticket office, but paused, remembering that he knew
not her destination, and that therefore he could not demand a ticket
for any place in particular.
Doors began to slam, and John Marrot's iron horse let off a little
impatient steam. Just then the “late passenger” arrived. There is
always a late passenger at every train. On this occasion the late
passenger was a short-sighted elderly gentleman in a brown top-coat and
spectacles. He was accompanied by a friend, who assisted him to push
through the crowd of people who had come to see their friends away, or
were loitering about for pastime. The late passenger carried a bundle
of wraps; the boots of his hotel followed with his portmanteau.
“All right sir; plenty of time,” observed Sam Natly, coming up and
receiving the portmanteau from boots. “Which class, sir?”
“Eh—oh—third; no, stay, second,” cried the short-sighted
gentleman, endeavouring vainly to open his purse to pay boots. “Here,
hold my wraps, Fred.”
His friend Fred chanced at that moment to have been thrust aside by
a fat female in frantic haste and Edwin Gurwood, occupying the exact
spot he had vacated, had the bundle thrust into his hand. He retained
it mechanically, in utter abstraction of mind. The bell rang, and the
magnificent guard, whose very whiskers curled with an air of calm
serenity, said, “Now then, take your seats; make haste.” Edwin grew
desperate. Emma smiled bewitchingly to a doting female friend who had
nodded and smiled bewitchingly to Emma for the last five minutes, under
the impression that the train was just going to start, and who
earnestly wished that it WOULD start, and save her from the necessity
of nodding or smiling any longer.
“Am I to lose sight of her for ever?” muttered Gurwood between his
The magnificent guard sounded his whistle and held up his hand.
Edwin sprang forward, pulled open the carriage door, leaped in and sat
down opposite Emma Lee! The iron horse gave two sharp responsive
whistles, and sent forth one mighty puff. The train moved, but not with
a jerk; it is only clumsy drivers who jerk trains; sometimes pulling
them up too soon, and having to make a needless plunge forward again,
or overrunning their stopping points and having to check abruptly, so
as to cause in timorous minds the impression that an accident has
happened. In fact much more of one's comfort than is generally known
depends upon one's driver being a good one. John Marrot was known to
the regular travellers on the line as a first-rate driver, and some of
them even took an interest in ascertaining that he was on the engine
when they were about to go on a journey. It may be truly said of John
that he never “started” his engine at all. He merely as it were
insinuated the idea of motion to his iron steed, and so glided softly
Just as the train moved, the late passenger thrust head and
shoulders out of the window, waved his arms, glared abroad, and
shouted, or rather spluttered—
A smart burly man, with acute features, stepped on the footboard of
the carriage, and, moving with the train, asked what sort of rug it
“Eh! a b-b-blue one, wi—wi—”
“With,” interrupted the man, “black outside and noo straps?”
“All right, sir, you shall have it at the next station,” said the
acute-faced man, stepping on the platform and allowing the train to
pass. As the guard's van came up he leaped after the magnificent guard
into his private apartment and shut the door.
“Hallo! Davy Blunt, somethin' up?” asked the guard.
“Yes, Joe Turner, there IS somethin' up,” replied the acute man,
leaning against the brake-wheel. “You saw that tall good-lookin' feller
wi' the eyeglass and light whiskers?”
“I did. Seemed to me as if his wits had gone on wi' the last train,
an' he didn't know how to overtake 'em.”
“I don't know about his wits,” said Blunt, “but it seems to me that
he's gone on in THIS train with somebody else's luggage.”
The guard whistled—not professionally, but orally.
“You don't say so?”
The acute man nodded, and, leaning his elbows on the window-sill,
gazed at the prospect contemplatively.
In a few minutes the 6.30 p.m. train was flying across country at
the rate of thirty-five or forty miles an hour.
Chapter IV. A DOUBLE DILEMMA AND ITS
Meanwhile, the “tall good-looking fellow with the eyeglass and light
whiskers” sat quaking opposite Emma Lee. The extreme absurdity, not to
say danger, of his position as a traveller to nowhere without a ticket,
flashed upon him when too late, and he would have cheerfully given
fifty pounds, had he possessed such a sum, if the boards under his feet
would have opened and let him drop between the rails. In fact he felt
so confused and guilty that—albeit not naturally a shy youth—he did
not dare to look at Emma for some time after starting, but sat with
downcast eyes, revolving in his mind how he was to get out of the
dilemma; but the more he revolved the matter the more hopeless did his
case appear. At length he ventured to look at Emma, and their eyes
encountered. Of course Gurwood looked pointedly out at the window and
became fascinated by the landscape; and of course Emma, looked out at
the OTHER window, and became equally interested in the landscape.
Feeling very unhappy; Edwin soon after that took out a newspaper and
tried to read, but failed so completely that he gave it up in despair
and laid the paper on the seat beside him.
Just then a happy thought flashed into his mind. He would go on to
Langrye station, get out there, and make a confidant of his friend
Joseph Tipps, who, of course, could easily get him out of his
difficulty. He now felt as if a mighty load were lifted off his heart,
and, his natural courage returning, he put up his eyeglass, which had
been forgotten during the period of his humiliation, and gazed at the
prospect with increasing interest—now through the right window, and
then through the left—taking occasion each time to glance with still
greater interest at Emma Lee's beautiful countenance.
The captain, whose disposition was sociable, and who had chatted a
good deal with his daughter while their VIS-a-VIS was in his agony,
soon took occasion to remark that the scenery was very fine. Edwin,
gazing at the black walls of a tunnel into which they plunged, and
thinking of Emma's face, replied that it was—extremely. Emerging from
the tunnel, and observing the least possible approach to a smile on.
Emma's lips, Edwin remarked to the captain that railway travelling
presented rather abrupt changes and contrasts in scenery. The captain
laughingly agreed with this, and so, from one thing to another, they
went on until the two got into a lively conversation—Captain Lee
thinking his travelling companion an extremely agreeable young fellow,
and Edwin esteeming the captain one of the jolliest old boys he had
ever met! These are the very words he used, long after, in commenting
on this meeting to his friend Joseph Tipps.
During a pause in the conversation, Emma asked her father to whom a
certain villa they were passing belonged.
“I don't know,” replied the captain; “stay, let me see, I ought to
know most of the places hereabouts—no, I can't remember.”
“I rather think it belongs to a Colonel Jones,” said Gurwood, for
the first time venturing to address Emma directly. “A friend of mine
who is connected with this railway knows him, and has often spoken to
me about him. The colonel has led an extremely adventurous life, I
There was not much apparently in that little word, but there must
have been something mysterious in it, for it caused Edwin's heart to
leap as it had never leapt before. On the strength of it he began to
relate some of Colonel Jones's adventures, addressing himself now
partly to the captain and partly to Emma. He had a happy knack of
telling a story, and had thoroughly interested his hearers when the
train slowed and stopped, but as this was not the station at which he
meant to get out—Langrye being the next—he took no notice of the
stoppage. Neither did he pay any regard to a question asked by the
acute man, whose face appeared at the window as soon as the train
“Is that your bundle, sir?” repeated Mr. Blunt a little louder.
“Eh? yes, yes—all right,” replied Edwin, annoyed at the
interruption, and thinking only of Emma Lee, to whom he turned, and
went on—“Well, when Colonel Jones had scaled the first wall—”
“Come, sir,” said Blunt, entering the carriage, and laying his hand
on Edwin's shoulder, “it's NOT all right. This is another man's
The youth turned round indignantly, and, with a flushed countenance,
said, “What do you mean?”
“I mean that you are travelling with another man's property,” said
Blunt, quietly pointing to the strapped rug.
“THAT is not my property,” said Edwin, looking at it with a
perplexed air, “I never said it was.”
“Didn't you though?” exclaimed Blunt, with an appealing look to the
captain. “Didn't you say, when I asked you, `Yes, it's all right.'
Moreover, young man, if it's not yours, why did you bring it into the
carriage with you?”
“I did not bring it into the carriage,” said Edwin, firmly, and with
increasing indignation. “I came down to this train with a lady, who is
now in it, and who can vouch for it that I brought no luggage of any
kind with me. I—”
At this moment the elderly gentleman with brown top-coat and
spectacles bustled up to the carriage, recognised his rug, and claimed
it, with a good deal of fuss and noise.
“Where are you travelling to?” demanded Blunt, with a touch of
sarcasm in his tone.
Poor Gurwood's countenance fell. He became somewhat pale, and said,
in a much less resolute voice, “You have no right to ask that question;
but since you suspect me, I may tell you that I am going to Langrye.”
“Show your ticket,” said the guard, looking in at that moment.
A glance showed the unhappy youth that Captain Lee was regarding him
with surprise and Emma with intense pity. Desperation gave him courage.
He turned abruptly to the captain, and said—
“I regret deeply, sir, that we part with such a foul suspicion
hanging over me. Come,” he added sternly to Blunt, “I will go with you,
and shall soon prove myself innocent.”
He leaped to the platform, closely accompanied by Blunt.
“Where do you intend to take me?” he asked, turning to his guardian,
whom he now knew to be a detective.
“Here, step this way,” said Blunt, leading his prisoner towards the
rear of the train.
“Such a nice-looking young man, too, who'd 'ave thought it!”
whispered one of the many heads that were thrust out at the
carriage-windows to look at him as he passed.
“Get in here,” said Blunt, holding open the door of an empty second-class compartment of the same train; “we shan't want a ticket for this
part of the journey.”
“But the lady I mentioned,” said poor Edwin, “she can—”
“You can see her at Langrye, young man; come, get in,” said Blunt,
sternly, “the train's just starting.”
Edwin's blood boiled. He turned to smite the acute-visaged man to
the earth, but encountering the serene gaze of the magnificent guard
who stood close beside him, he changed his mind and sprang into the
carriage. Blunt followed, the door was banged and locked, the signal
was given and the train moved on.
“Why do you take me to Langrye instead of back to town?” asked
Edwin, after proceeding some distance in silence.
“Because we have an hour to wait for the up train, and it's
pleasanter waiting there than here,” replied Blunt; “besides, I have
business at Langrye; I want to see one of my friends there who is
looking after light-fingered gentry.”
As this was said significantly Edwin did not deign a reply, but,
leaning back in a corner, gazed out at the window and brooded over his
unhappy fate. Truly he had something to brood over. Besides being in
the unpleasant position which we have described, he had quite recently
lost his only relative, a “rich uncle,” as he was called, who had
brought Edwin up and had led him to believe that he should be his heir.
It was found, however, on the examination of the old gentleman's
affairs, that his fortune was a myth, and that his house, furniture,
and personal effects would have to be sold in order to pay his debts.
When all was settled, Edwin Gurwood found himself cast upon his own
resources with good health, a kind but wayward disposition, a strong
handsome frame, a middling education, and between three and four
hundred pounds in his pocket. He soon found that this amount of capital
melted with alarming rapidity under the influence of a good appetite
and expensive tastes, so he resolved at once to commence work of some
kind. But what was he to turn to? His uncle had allowed him to do as he
pleased. Naturally it pleased the energetic and enthusiastic boy to
learn very little of anything useful, to read an immense amount of
light literature, and to indulge in much open-air exercise.
Bitterly did he now feel, poor fellow, that this course, although
somewhat pleasing at the time, did not fit him to use and enjoy the
more advanced period of life. He had disliked and refused to sit still
even for an hour at a time in boyhood; it now began to dawn upon him
that he was doomed for life to the greatest of all his horrors, the top
of a three-legged stool! He had hated writing and figures, and now
visions of ledgers, cash-books, invoice-books and similar literature
with endless arithmetical calculations began to float before his mental
vision. With intense regret he reflected that if he had only used
reasonably well the brief period of life which as yet lay behind him,
he might by that time have been done with initial drudgery and have
been entering on a brilliant career in one of the learned professions.
As to the army and navy, he was too old to get into either, even if he
had possessed interest, which he did not. Sternly did he reproach his
departed uncle when he brooded over his wrongs, and soliloquised
thus:—“You ought to have known that I was a fool, that I could not be
expected to know the fact, or to guide myself aright in opposition to
and despite of my own folly, and you ought to have forced me to study
when I declined to be led—bah! it's too late to say all this now.
Come, if there is any manhood in me worthy of the name, let me set to
work at once and make the most of what is left to me!”
Edwin reflected with complacency on the fact that one part of what
was left to him was a tall strong frame and broad shoulders, but his
judgment told him that though these were blessings not to be despised,
and for which he had every reason to be thankful, he ought not to plume
himself too much on them, seeing that he shared them in common with
numerous prize-fighters and burglars, besides which they could not
prove of very much value professionally unless he took to mining or
coal-heaving. He also reflected sadly on the fact that beyond the three
R's, a little Latin and French, and a smattering of literary knowledge,
he was little better than a red Indian. Being, as we have said, a
resolute fellow, he determined to commence a course of study without
delay, but soon found that the necessity of endeavouring to obtain a
situation and of economising his slender fortune interfered sadly with
his efforts. However, he persevered.
In the time of his prosperity, young Gurwood had made many friends,
but a touch of pride had induced him to turn aside from these—
although many of them would undoubtedly have been glad to aid him in
his aims—to quit the house of his childhood and betake himself to the
flourishing town of Clatterby, where he knew nobody except one soft
amiable little school-fellow, whom in boyish days he had always deemed
a poor, miserable little creature, but for whom nevertheless he
entertained a strong affection. We need scarcely say that this was
Joseph Tipps, the clerk at Langrye station.
Chapter V. AN ACCIDENT AND ITS
Locomotives and telegraphy are mere snails compared to thought. Let
us therefore use our advantage, reader, stride in advance of the 6.30
p.m. train (which by the way has now become a 7.45 p.m. train), and see
what little Joseph Tipps is doing.
There he stands—five feet four in his highest-heeled boots—as
sterling and warm-hearted a little man as ever breathed. He was writing
at a little desk close to a large window, which, owing to the station
being a temporary one and its roof low, was flimsy, and came nearer to
the ground than most windows do.
Mr. Tipps wrote somewhat nervously. He inherited his mother's
weakness in this respect; and, besides, his nerves had been a little
shaken, by the sudden illness, with which his sister had been seized
that day, at his lodgings.
Outside on the platform a few people lounged, waiting the arrival of
the expected train. Among them was one whose bulky frame and firm
strongly-lined countenance spoke of much power to dare and do. He was
considerably above the middle height and somewhere about middle age.
His costume was of that quiet unobtrusive kind which seems to court
retirement, and the sharp glance of his eyes seemed to possess
something of the gimblet in their penetrating power. This was no less a
personage than Mr. Sharp, the inspector of police on the Grand National
Trunk Railway. Mr. Inspector Sharp had evidently an eye for the
beautiful, for he stood at the farther extremity of the platform gazing
in rapt attention at the sun, which just then was setting in a flood of
golden light. But Mr. Sharp had also a peculiar faculty for observing
several things at once. Indeed, some of his friends, referring to this,
were wont to remark that he was a perfect Argus, with eyes in his
elbows and calves and back of his head. It would seem, indeed, that
this, or something like it, must really have been the case, for he not
only observed and enjoyed the sunset but also paid particular attention
to the conversation of two men who stood not far from him, and at the
same time was cognisant of the fact that behind him, a couple of
hundred yards or more up the line, a goods engine was engaged in
This process of shunting, we may explain for the benefit of those
who don't know, consists in detaching trucks from trains of goods and
shoving them into sidings, so that they may be out of the way, until
their time comes to be attached to other trains, which will convey them
to their proper destination, or to have their contents, if need be,
unloaded and distributed among other trucks. Shunting is sometimes a
tedious process, involving much hauling, pushing, puffing, and
whistling, on the part of the engine, and uncoupling of trucks and
shifting of points on the part of pointsmen and porters. There is
considerable danger, too, in the process,—or rather there WAS danger
before the introduction of the “block system,” which now, when it is
adopted, renders accidents almost impossible,—of which system more
shall be said hereafter. The danger lies in this, that shunting has
frequently to be done during intervals between the passing of
passenger-trains, and, on lines where passenger and goods traffic is
very great, these intervals are sometimes extremely brief. But, strange
to say, this danger is the mother of safety, for the difficulty of
conducting extensive traffic is so great, that a combination of all but
perfect systems of signalling, telegraphing, and organisation is
absolutely needful to prevent constant mishap. Hence the marvellous
result that, in the midst of danger, we are in safety, and travelling
by railway is really less dangerous than travelling by stage-coach used
to be in days of old. Yes, timid reader, we assure you that if you
travel daily by rail your chances of coming to grief are very much
fewer than if you were to travel daily by mail coach. Facts and figures
prove this beyond all doubt, so that we are entitled to take the
comfort of it. The marvel is, not that loss of life is so great, but
that it is so small.
Do you doubt it, reader? Behold the facts and figures—wonder, be
thankful and doubt no more! A “Blue Book” (Captain Tyler's General
Report to the Board of Trade on Railway Accidents during the year 1870)
tells us that the number of passengers killed on railways last year was
ninety. The number of passenger journeys performed was 307 millions,
which gives, in round numbers, one passenger killed for every three and
a half millions that travelled. In the best mail and stage-coaching
days the yearly number of travellers was about two millions. The
present railway death-rate applied to this number amounts to a little
more than one-half of a unit! Will any one out of Bedlam have the
audacity to say that in coaching days only half a passenger was killed
each year? We leave facts to speak for themselves, and common-sense to
judge whether men were safer then than they are now.
But to return. When Mr. Sharp was looking at the distant waggons
that were being shunted he observed that the engine which conducted the
operation was moved about with so much unnecessary fuss and jerking
that he concluded it must be worked by a new, or at all events a bad,
driver. He shook his head, therefore, pulled out his watch, and
muttered to himself that it seemed to him far too near the time of the
arrival of a train to make it safe to do such work.
The calculations, however, had been made correctly, and the train of
trucks would have been well out of the way, if the driver had been a
smarter man. Even as things stood, however, there should have been no
danger, because the distant signal was turned to danger, which thus
said to any approaching train, “Stop! for your life.” But here occurred
one of these mistakes, or pieces of carelessness, or thoughtlessness,
to which weak and sinful human nature is, and we suppose always will
be, liable. Perhaps the signalman thought the goods train had completed
its operation, or fancied that the express was not so near as it proved
to be, or he got confused—we cannot tell; there is no accounting for
such things, but whatever the cause, he turned off the danger-signal
half a minute too soon, and set the line free.
Suddenly the down train came tearing round the curve. It was at
reduced speed certainly, but not sufficiently reduced to avoid a
collision with the trucks on a part of the line where no trucks should
Our friend John Marrot was on the look-out of course, and so was his
mate. They saw the trucks at once. Like lightning John shut off the
steam and at the same instant touched his whistle several sharp
shrieks, which was the alarm to the guard to turn on HIS brakes. No men
could have been more prompt or cool. Joe Turner and Will Garvie had on
full brake-power in a second or two. At the same time John Marrot
instantly reversing the engine, let on full steam—but all in vain.
Fire flew in showers from the shrieking wheels—the friction on the
rails must have been tremendous, nevertheless the engine dashed into
the goods train like a thunderbolt with a stunning crash and a noise
that is quite indescribable.
The police superintendent, who was all but run over, stood for a few
seconds aghast at the sight and at the action of the engine. Not
satisfied with sending one of its own carriages into splinters, the
iron horse made three terrific plunges or efforts to advance, and at
each plunge a heavy truck full of goods was, as it were, pawed under
its wheels and driven out behind, under the tender, in the form of a
mass of matchwood—all the goods, hard and soft, as well as the heavy
frame of the truck itself being minced up together in a manner that
defies description. It seemed as though the monster had been suddenly
endued with intelligence, and was seeking to vent its horrid rage on
the thing that had dared to check its pace. Three loaded trucks it
crushed down, over-ran, and scattered wide in this way, in three
successive plunges, and then, rushing on a few yards among chaotic
DEBRIS, turned slowly on its side, and hurled the driver and fireman
over the embankment.
The shock received by the people at the station was tremendous. Poor
Tipps, standing at his desk, was struck—nervously—as if by
electricity. He made one wild involuntary bolt right through the
window, as if it had been made of tissue paper, and did not cease to
run until he found himself panting in the middle of a turnip-field that
lay at the back of the station. Turning round, ashamed of himself, he
ran back faster than he had run away, and leaping recklessly among the
DEBRIS, began to pull broken and jagged timber about, under the
impression that he was rescuing fellow-creatures from destruction!
Strange to say no one was killed on that occasion—no one was even
severely hurt, except the driver. But of course this was not known at
first and the people who were standing about hurried, with terrible
forebodings, to lend assistance to the passengers.
Mr. Sharp seemed to have been smitten with feelings somewhat similar
to those of Tipps, for, without knowing very well how or why, he
suddenly found himself standing up to the armpits in DEBRIS, heaving
might and main at masses of timber.
“Hallo! lift away this beam, will you?” shouted a half-smothered
voice close beside him.
It came from beneath the carriage that we have described as having
been broken to splinters.
Sharp was a man of action. He hailed a porter near him and began
with energy and power to tear up and hurl aside the boards. Presently
on raising part of the broken framework of the carriage a man struggled
to his feet and, wiping away the blood that flowed from a wound in his
forehead, revealed the countenance of Edwin Gurwood to the astonished
“What! Edwin!” he exclaimed.
“Ay—don't stand there, man. Your mother is in the train.”
Poor Tipps could not speak—he could only gasp the word, “Where?”
“In a third-class, behind—there, it is safe, I see.”
His friend at once leaped towards the vehicle pointed out, but Edwin
did not follow, he glanced wildly round in search of another carriage.
“You are hurt—Mr. Gurwood, if I mistake not,—lean on me,” said Mr.
“It's nothing—only a scratch. Ha! that's the carriage, follow me,”
cried Edwin, struggling towards a first-class carriage, which appeared
considerably damaged, though it had not left the rails. He wrenched
open the door, and, springing in, found Captain Lee striving in vain to
lift his daughter, who had fainted. Edwin stooped, raised her in his
arms, and, kicking open the door on the opposite side, leaped down,
followed by the captain. They quickly made their way to the station,
where they found most of the passengers, hurt and unhurt, already
assembled, with two doctors, who chanced to be in the train, attending
Edwin laid his light burden tenderly on a couch and one of the
doctors immediately attended to her. While he was applying restoratives
Mr. Blunt touched Edwin on the elbow and requested him to follow him.
With a feeling of sudden anger Gurwood turned round, but before he
could speak his eye fell on Mrs. Tipps, who sat on a bench leaning on
her son's breast, and looking deadly pale but quite composed.
“My dear Mrs. Tipps,” exclaimed the youth, stepping hastily forward,
“I hope—I trust—”
“Oh, Edwin—thank you, my dear fellow,” cried Joseph, grasping his
hand and shaking it. “She is not hurt, thank God—not even a scratch
—only a little shaken. Fetch a glass of water, you'll find one in the
Gurwood ran out to fetch it. As he was returning he met Captain Lee
leading his daughter out of the waiting-room.
“I sincerely hope that your daughter is not hurt,” he said, in
earnest tones. “Perhaps a little water might—”
“No, thank you,” said the captain somewhat stiffly.
“The carriage is waiting, sir,” said a servant in livery, coming up
at the moment and touching his hat.
Emma looked at Edwin for a second, and, with a slight but perplexed
smile of acknowledgment, passed on.
Next moment the carriage drove away, and she was gone. Edwin at the
same time became aware of the fact that the pertinacious Blunt was at
his side. Walking quickly into the waiting-room he presented the glass
of water to Mrs. Tipps, but to his surprise that eccentric lady rose
hastily and said,—“Thank you, Mr. Gurwood, many thanks, but I am
better. Come, Joseph—let us hasten to our darling Netta. Have you sent
for a fly?”
“There is one waiting, mother—take my arm. Many, many thanks for
your kindness in coming with her, Gurwood,” said Tipps. “I can't ask
you to come with me just now, I—”
The rest of his speech was lost in consequence of the impatient old
lady dragging her son away, but what had been heard of it was
sufficient to fill Mr. Blunt with surprise and perplexity.
“Well, Blunt,” said Mr. Superintendent Sharp, coming up at that
moment, “what has brought you here?”
The detective related his story privately to his superior, and
remarked that he began to fear there must be some mistake.
“Yes, there is a mistake of some sort,” said Sharp, with a laugh,
“for I've met him frequently at Clatterby station, and know him to be a
friend of Mr. Tipps; but you have done your duty, Blunt, so you can now
leave the gentleman to me,” saying which he went up to Edwin and
entered into an under-toned conversation with him, during which it
might have been observed that Edwin looked a little confused at times,
and Mr. Sharp seemed not a little amused.
“Well, it's all right,” he said at last, “we have telegraphed for a
special train to take on the passengers who wish to proceed, and you
can go back, if you choose, in the up train, which is about due. It
will be able to get past in the course of half-an-hour. Fortunately the
rails of the up-line are not damaged and the wreck can soon be
Just then the dandy with the sleepy eyes and long whiskers sauntered
up to the porter on duty, with an unconcerned and lazy air. He had
received no further injury than a shaking, and therefore felt that he
could afford to affect a cool and not-easy-to-be-ruffled demeanour.
“Aw—po-taw,” said he, twirling his watch-key, “w'en d'you expect
anotha twain to take us on?”
“Don't know, sir, probably half-an-hour.”
“Aw! Dooced awkwad. My fwend has got the bwidge of his nose damaged,
besides some sort of internal injuway, and won't be able to attend to
business to-night, I fear—dooced awkwad.”
“D'you hear that?” whispered Sharp to Gurwood, as the “fwend” in
question—he with the checked trousers—sauntered past holding a
handkerchief to his nose. “I know by the way in which that was said
that there will be something more heard some day hence of our fop in
checks. Just come and stand with me in the doorway of the waiting-room, and listen to what some of the other passengers are saying.”
“Very hard,” observed a middle-aged man with a sour countenance, who
did not present the appearance of one who had sustained any injury at
all, “very hard this. I shall miss meeting with a friend, and perhaps
lose doin' a good stroke of business to-night.”
“Be thankful you haven't lost your life,” said Will Garvie, who
supported the head of his injured mate.
“Mayhap I HAVE lost my life, young man,” replied the other sharply.
“Internal injuries from accidents often prove fatal, and don't always
show at first. I've had a severe shake.”
Here the sour-faced man shook himself slightly, partly to illustrate
and partly to prove his point.
“You're quite right, sur,” remarked an Irishman, who had a bandage
tied round his head, but who did not appear to be much, if at all, the
worse of the accident. “It's a disgrace intirely that the railways
should be allowed to trait us in this fashion. If they'd only go to the
trouble an' expense of havin' proper signals on lines, there would be
nothing o' this kind. And if Government would make a law to have an
arm-chair fitted up in front of every locomotive and a director made to
travel with sich train, we'd hear of fewer accidents. But it's meself
'll come down on 'em for heavy damages for this.”
He pointed to his bandaged head, and nodded with a significant
glance at the company.
A gentleman in a blue travelling-cap, who had hitherto said nothing,
and who turned out to have received severer injuries than any other
passenger, here looked up impatiently, and said—
“It appears to me that there is a great deal of unjust and foolish
talk against railway companies, as if they, any more than other
companies, could avoid accidents. The system of signalling on a great
part of this line is the best that has been discovered up to this date,
and it is being applied to the whole line as fast as circumstances will
warrant; but you can't expect to attain perfection in a day. What would
you have? How can you expect to travel at the rate you do, and yet be
as safe as if you were in one of the old mail- coaches?”
“Right, sir; you're right,” cried John Marrot energetically, raising
himself a little from the bench on which he lay, “right in sayin' we
shouldn't ought to expect parfection, but wrong in supposin' the old
mail-coaches was safer. W'y, railways is safer. They won't stand no
comparison. Here 'ave I bin drivin' on this 'ere line for the last
eight year an' only to come to grief three times, an' killed no more
than two people. There ain't a old coach goin', or gone, as could say
as much. An' w'en you come to consider that in them eight years I've
bin goin' more than two-thirds o' the time at an average o' forty mile
an hour—off an' on—all night a'most as well as all day, an' run
thousands and thousands o' miles, besides carryin' millions of
passengers, more or less, it do seem most rediklous to go for to say
that coaches was safer than railways—the revarse bein' the truth. Turn
me round a bit, Bill; so, that'll do. It's the bad leg I come down on,
else I shouldn't have bin so hard-up. Yes, sir, as you truly remark,
railway companies ain't fairly dealt with, by no means.”
At this point the attention of the passengers was attracted by a
remarkably fat woman, who had hitherto lain quietly on a couch
breathing in a somewhat stertorous manner. One of the medical men had
been so successful in his attention to her as to bring her to a state
of consciousness. Indeed she had been more or less in this condition
for some time past, but feeling rather comfortable than otherwise, and
dreamy, she had lain still and enjoyed herself. Being roused, however,
to a state of activity by means of smelling-salts, and hearing the
doctor remark that, except a shaking, she appeared to have sustained no
injury, this stout woman deemed it prudent to go off into hysterics,
and began by uttering a yell that would have put to shame a Comanchee
Indian, and did more damage, perhaps, to the nerves of her sensitive
hearers than the accident itself. She followed it up by drumming
heavily on the couch with her heels.
Singularly enough her yell was replied to by the whistle of the up
train, that had been due for some time past. She retorted by a renewed
shriek, and became frantic in her assurances that no power yet
discovered—whether mechanical, moral, or otherwise—could or would,
ever persuade her to set foot again in a railway train! It was of no
use to assure her that no one meant to exert such a power, even if he
possessed it; that she was free to go where she pleased, and whenever
she felt inclined. The more that stout woman was implored to compose
herself, the more she discomposed herself, and everybody else; and the
more she was besought to be calm, the more, a great deal, did she fill
the waiting-room with hysterical shrieks and fiendish laughter, until
at last every one was glad to go out of the place and get into the
train that was waiting to take them back to Clatterby. Then the stout
woman became suddenly calm, and declared to a porter—who must have had
a heart of stone, so indifferent was he to her woes—that she would be,
“glad to proceed to the nearest 'otel if 'e would be good enough to
fetch her a fly.”
“H'm!” said Mr. Sharp, as he and young Gurwood entered a carriage
together, after having seen John Marrot placed on a pile of rugs on the
floor of a first-class carriage; “there's been work brewin' up for me
“How? What do you mean?” asked Edwin.
“I mean that, from various indications which I observed this
evening, we are likely to have some little correspondence with the
passengers of the 6.30 p.m. train. However, we're used to it; perhaps
we'll get not to mind it in course of time. We do all that we can to
accommodate the public—fit up our carriages and stations in the best
style compatible with giving our shareholders a small dividend—carry
them to and fro over the land at little short of lightning speed, every
day and all day and night too, for extremely moderate fares, and with
excessive safety and exceeding comfort; enable them to live in the
country and do business in the city, as well as afford facilities for
visiting the very ends of the earth in a few days; not to mention other
innumerable blessings to which we run them, or which we run TO them,
and yet no sooner does a rare accident occur (as it WILL occur in every
human institution, though it occurs less on railways than in most other
institutions) than down comes this ungrateful public upon us with
indignant cries of `disgraceful!' and, in many cases, unreasonable
demands for compensation.”
“Such is life,” said Gurwood with a smile.
“On the rail,” added Mr. Superintendent Sharp with a sigh, as the
whistle sounded and the train moved slowly out of the station.
Chapter VI. HISTORY OF THE IRON
Having gone thus far in our tale, permit us, good reader, to turn
aside for a little to make a somewhat closer inspection of the Iron
Horse and his belongings.
Railways existed long before the Iron Horse was born. They sprang
into being two centuries ago in the form of tramways, which at first
were nothing more or less than planks or rails of timber laid down
between the Newcastle-on-Tyne collieries and the river, for the purpose
of forming a better “way” over which to run the coal-trucks. From
simple timber-rails men soon advanced to planks having a strip of iron
nailed on their surface to prevent too rapid tear and wear, but it was
not till the year 1767 that cast-iron rails were introduced. In order
to prevent the trucks from slipping off the line the rails were cast
with an upright flange or guide at one side, and were laid on wooden or
This form of rail being found inconvenient, the flange was
transferred from the rails to the wheels, and this arrangement, under
various modifications has been ever since retained.
These “innocent” railroads—as they have been sometimes and most
appropriately named, seeing that they were guiltless alike of blood and
high speed—were drawn by horses, and confined at first to the
conveyance of coals. Modest though their pretensions were, however,
they were found to be an immense improvement on the ordinary roads,
insomuch that ten horses were found to be capable of working the
traffic on railroads, which it required 400 horses to perform on a
common road. These iron roads, therefore, began to multiply, and about
the beginning of the present century they were largely employed in the
coal-fields and mineral districts of the kingdom. About the same time
thoughtful men, seeing the immense advantage of such ways, began to
suggest the formation of railways, or tramways, to run along the side
of our turnpike-roads—a mode of conveyance, by the way, in regard to
towns, which thoughtful men are still, ever at the present day of
supposed enlightenment, endeavouring to urge upon an unbelieving public
—a mode of conveyance which we feel very confident will entirely
supersede our cumbrous and antiquated “'bus” in a very short time.
What, we ask, in the name of science and art and common-sense, is to
prevent a tramway being laid from Kensington to the Bank, “or
elsewhere,” which shall be traversed by a succession of roomy carriages
following each other every five minutes; which tramway might be crossed
and recrossed and run upon, or, in other words, used by all the other
vehicles of London except when the rightful carriages were in the way?
Nothing prevents, save that same unbelief which has obstructed the
development of every good thing from the time that Noah built the ark!
But we feel assured that the thing shall be, and those who read this
book may perhaps live to see it!
But to return. Among these thoughtful and far-seeing men was one Dr.
James Anderson, who in 1800 proposed the formation of railways by the
roadsides, and he was so correct in his views that the plans which he
suggested of keeping the level, by going round the base of hills, or
forming viaducts, or cutting tunnels, is precisely the method practised
by engineers of the present day. Two years later a Mr. Edgeworth
announced that he had long before, “formed the project of laying iron
railways for baggage waggons on the great roads of England,” and, in
order to prevent tear and wear, he proposed, instead of conveying heavy
loads in one huge waggon, to have a train of small waggons. With the
modesty of true genius, which never over-estimates or forms wildly
sanguine expectations, he thought that each waggon might perhaps carry
one ton and a half! Edgeworth also suggested that PASSENGERS might
travel by such a mode of conveyance. Bold man! What a goose many people
of his day must have thought him. If they had been alive now, what
geese they might have thought themselves. The Society of Arts, however,
were in advance of their time. They rewarded Edgeworth with their gold
This man seems to have been a transcendent genius, because he not
only devised and made (on a small scale) iron railways, but proposed to
take ordinary vehicles, such as mail-coaches and private carriages, on
his trucks, and convey them along his line at the rate of six or eight
miles an hour with one horse. He also propounded the idea of the
employment of stationary steam-engines (locomotives not having been
dreamed of) to drag the trains up steep inclines.
Another semi-prophetic man of these days was Thomas Gray, of Leeds,
who in 1820 published a work on what he styled a “General Iron Railway,
or Land Steam Conveyance, to supersede the necessity of Horses in all
public vehicles, showing its vast superiority in every respect over the
present pitiful Methods of Conveyance by Turnpike- Roads and Canals.”
Gray, whose mind appears to have been unusually comprehensive, proposed
a system of railway communication between all the important cities and
towns in the kingdom, and pointed out the immense advantage that would
be gained to commerce by such a ready and rapid means of conveying
fish, vegetables, and other perishable articles from place to place. He
also showed that two post deliveries in the day would become possible,
and that fire insurance companies would be able to promote their
interests by keeping railway fire- engines, ready to be transported to
scenes of conflagration without delay.
But Gray was not esteemed a prophet. His suggestions were not
adopted nor his plans acted on, though unquestionably his wisdom and
energy gave an impulse to railway development, of which we are reaping
the benefit to-day. His labours were not in vain.
Horse railways soon began to multiply over the country. The first
authorised by Act of Parliament was the Surrey Railway in 1801. Twenty
years later twenty lines of railway were in operation.
About this time, too, another man of note and of great scientific
and mechanical sagacity lent his powerful aid to advance the interests
of the railway cause. This was Charles Maclaren, of Edinburgh, editor
of the SCOTSMAN newspaper for nearly thirty years. He had long
foreseen, and boldly asserted his belief in, the certain success of
steam locomotion by rail, at a time when opinions such as his were
scouted as wild delusive dreams. But he did more, he brought his able
pen to bear on the subject, and in December 1825 published a series of
articles in the SCOTSMAN on the subject of railways, which were not
only extensively quoted and republished in this country and in America,
but were deemed worthy of being translated into French and German, and
so disseminated over Europe. Mr. Maclaren was thus among the foremost
of those who gave a telling impulse to the cause at that critical
period when the Iron horse was about to be put on the rail—the right
horse in the right place—for it was not many years afterwards that
that auspicious event took place. Mr. Maclaren not only advocated
generally the adoption of railways, but logically demonstrated the
wonderful powers and capacities of the steam locomotive, arguing, from
the experiments on friction made more than half a century before by
Vince and Colomb, that by the use of steam- power on railroads a much
more rapid and cheaper transit of persons as well as merchandise might
be confidently anticipated. He leaped far ahead of many of even the
most hopeful advocates of the cause, and with almost prophetic
foresight wrote, “there is scarcely any limit to the rapidity of
movement these iron pathways will enable us to command.” And again,
—“We have spoken of vehicles travelling at twenty miles an hour; but we
see no reason for thinking that, in the progress of improvement, a much
higher velocity might not be found practicable; and in twenty years
hence a shopkeeper or mechanic, on the most ordinary occasion, may
probably travel with a speed that would leave the fleetest courser
behind.” Wonderful words these! At a first glance we may not deem them
so, being so familiar with the ideas which they convey, but our
estimate of them will be more just if we reflect that when they were
penned railways had scarcely sprung into being, steam locomotives had
only just been born, and not only men in general, but even many
learned, scientific and practical men regarded the statement of all
such opinions as being little short of insanity. Nevertheless, many
deep-thinking men thought differently, and one contemporary, reviewing
this subject in after years, said of Mr. Maclaren's papers, that, “they
prepared the way for the success of railway projectors.”
We have said that the steam locomotive—the material transformer of
the world—our Iron Horse, had just been born. It was not however born
on the rails, but on the common road, and a tremendous baby-giant it
was, tearing up its cradle in such furious fashion that men were
terrified by it, and tried their best to condemn it to inactivity, just
as a weak and foolish father might lock up his unruly boy and restrain
him perforce, instead of training him wisely in the way in which he
But the progenitors of the Iron Horse were, like their Herculean
child, men of mettle. They fought a gallant fight for their darling's
freedom, and came off victorious!
Of course, many men and many nations were anxious to father this
magnificent infant, and to this day it is impossible to say precisely
who originated him. He is said by some to have sprung from the brains
of Englishmen, others assert that brains in France and Switzerland
begat him, and we believe that brother Jonathan exercised his prolific
brain on him, before the actual time of his birth. The first name on
record in connexion with this infant Hercules is that of Dr. Robison,
who communicated his ideas to Watt in 1759. The latter thereupon made a
model locomotive, but entertained doubts as to its safety. Oliver
Evans, of Philadelphia, patented a “steam waggon” in 1782. William
Murdoch, the friend and assistant of Watt, made a model in 1787 which
drew a small waggon round a room in his house in Cornwall. In the same
year Symington exhibited a model locomotive in Edinburgh, and in 1795
he worked a steam-engine on a turnpike-road in Lanarkshire. Richard
Trevethick, who had seen Murdoch's model, made and patented a
locomotive in 1802. It drew on a tramway a load of ten tons at the rate
of five miles an hour. Trevethick also made a carriage to run on common
roads, and altogether did good service in the cause.
Blenkinsop, of Middleton Colliery, near Leeds, made locomotives in
1811 which hauled coals up steep ascents by means of a toothed rail,
with a toothed propelling wheel working into it. This unnatural infant,
however, turned out to be not the true child. It was found that such a
powerful creature did not require teeth at all, that he could “bite"
quite well enough by means of his weight alone,—so the teeth were
plucked out and never allowed to grow again.
After this, in 1813, came Brunton of Butterley, with a curious
contrivance in the form of legs and feet, which were attached to the
rear of his engine and propelled it by a sort of walking motion. It did
not walk well, however, and very soon walked off the field of
At last, in the fulness of time there came upon the scene the great
railway king, George Stephenson, who, if he cannot be said to have
begotten the infant, at all events brought him up and effectually
completed his training.
George Stephenson was one of our most celebrated engineers, and the
“father of the railway system.” He may truly be said to have been one
of mankind's greatest benefactors. He was a self-taught man, was born
near Newcastle in 1781, began life as a pit-engine boy with wages at
two-pence a day, and ultimately rose to fame and fortune as an
In 1814 he made a locomotive for the Killingworth Colliery Railway.
It drew thirty tons at the rate of four miles an hour, and was regarded
as a great success. In 1825 an engine of the same kind was used on the
Stockton and Darlington Railway, of which Stephenson had been made
But the great crowning effort of Stephenson, and the grand impulse
to the railway cause, which carried it steadily and swiftly on to its
present amazing degree of prosperity, did not occur till the year 1829.
Previous to that date the Manchester and Liverpool Railway was being
constructed, and so little was known as to the capabilities of railways
and the best mode of working them, that the directors and engineers had
some difficulty in deciding whether the line should be worked by fixed
engines or by locomotives. It was ultimately decided that the latter
should be used, and a premium of œ500 was offered for the best
locomotive that could be produced, in accordance with certain
conditions. These were—That the chimney should emit no smoke—that the
engine should be on springs—that it should not weigh more than six
tons, or four-and-a-half tons if it had only four wheels—that it
should be able to draw a load of twenty tons at the rate of ten miles
an hour, with a pressure of fifty pounds to the square inch in the
boiler, and should not cost more than œ500.
The Iron Horse was now at last about to assume its right position.
It was no longer an infant, but a powerful stripling—though still far
from its full growth; as far as six tons is from sixty!
Four iron steeds were entered to compete for the prize. It was in
October 1829 that this celebrated trial came off, and great was the
interest manifested on the occasion, for not only did the public
entertain doubts as to the capabilities of locomotives, but very few
even of the engineers of the country would admit the possibility of a
locomotive engine attaining a speed greater than ten miles an hour!
First came the “Novelty” of Braithwaite and Ericson; then the “Sans
pareil” of Hawkworth; the “Perseverance” of Burstall; and, lastly, the
“Rocket” of Stephenson. Of the first three we shall merely say that the
“Novelty,” being weak in the wheels, broke down; the “Sans pareil"
burst one of her cylinders; and the “Perseverance” turned out to be too
heavy to comply with the conditions of the trial.
The “Rocket” advanced, and was harnessed to a train of waggons
weighing thirteen tons; the fire was lighted, and the steam got up. The
valves lifted at the stipulated fifty pounds pressure, and away it went
with its load at an average speed of fifteen, and a maximum speed of
twenty-nine miles an hour! Thus triumphantly the “Rocket” won the prize
of œ500, and the Iron Horse was fairly and finally married to the Iron
Road. One of the important elements of Stephenson's success lay in the
introduction of numerous tubes into his boiler, through which the fire,
and heat passed, and thus presented a vast amount of heating surface to
the water. Another point was his allowing the waste steam to pass
through the chimney, thus increasing the draught and intensifying the
combustion; for heat is the life of the locomotive, and without much of
this, high rates of speed could not be attained.
The difference between the first locomotive and those now in use is
very great—as may be seen any day in London, by any one who chooses to
visit one of our great railway stations, and go thence to the
Kensington Museum, where the “Rocket” is now enshrined—a memorial of
Stephenson's wisdom, and of the beginning of our magnificent railway
system. Yet though the difference be great it is wonderful how complete
the “Rocket” was, all things considered. The modern improvements made
on locomotives consist chiefly in clothing the boiler with wood, felt,
and other non-conductors to increase the life- giving heat; in heating
the feed-water, coupling the driving-wheels, working the cylinders
horizontally, economising steam by cutting off the supply at any part
of the stroke that may be required, and economising fuel by using raw
coal instead of coke, and consuming the smoke, besides many other minor
contrivances, but all the great principles affecting the locomotive
were applied by George Stephenson, and illustrated in the “Rocket.”
It is no wonder that the first Iron Horse was clumsy in appearance
and somewhat grotesque, owing to the complication of rods, cranks, and
other machinery, which was all exposed to view. It required years of
experience to enable our engineers to construct the grand, massive,
simple chargers which now run off with our monster-trains as if they
were feathers. When the iron horse was first made, men were naturally
in haste to ascertain his power and paces. He was trotted out, so to
speak, in his skeleton, with his heart and lungs and muscles exposed to
view in complex hideosity! Now-a-days he never appears without his skin
well-groomed and made gay with paint and polished brass and steel.
We have said that the “Rocket” drew thirteen tons at nearly thirty
miles an hour. Our best engines can now draw hundreds of tons, and they
can run at the rate of above sixty miles an hour at maximum speed. The
more ordinary speed, however, for passenger-trains is from thirty to
forty-five miles an hour. The weight of the “Rocket” was six tons. That
of some of our largest engines with tenders is from forty to above
From the time of the opening of the old Manchester and Liverpool
Railway in 1830 to the present day—a period of little more than forty
years—railway construction has gone forward throughout the land—and
we may add the world—with truly railway speed, insomuch that England
has become covered from end to end with an absolute network of iron
roads, and the benefit to our country has been inconceivably great. It
would require a large volume to treat of these and correlative
subjects, as they deserve.
Two hundred years ago the course of post between London and
Edinburgh was one month; before an answer could be received two months
had to elapse! About a hundred years later there was one stage-coach
between the two cities, which did the distance in a fortnight,
rendering communication and reply possible once in each month. In those
days roads were uncommonly bad. One writer tells us that, while
travelling in Lancashire, a county now traversed by railways in all
directions, he found one of the principal roads so bad that there were
ruts in it, which he measured, four feet deep, and that the only
mending it received was the tumbling of stones into these holes to fill
them up. The extremely limited goods traffic of the country was
conducted by the slow means of carts and waggons. Enterprising men,
however, then as now, were pushing the world forward, though they were
by no means so numerous then as now. In 1673 it took a week to travel
between London and Exeter, and cost from forty to forty-five shillings.
About the same period a six-horse coach took six days to perform the
journey between Edinburgh and Glasgow and back. To accomplish fifty
miles or thereabouts in two days with a six-horse stage-coach, was
considered good work and high speed about the beginning of last
century. Near the middle of it (1740) travelling by night was for the
first time introduced, and soon after that a coach was started with a
wicker- basket slung behind for outside passengers! Some years
afterwards an enterprising individual started a “flying coach” drawn by
eight horses, which travelled between London and Dover in a day—the
fare being one guinea. Even at the beginning of the present century
four miles an hour was deemed a very fair rate of travelling for a
With the improvement of roads by the famous Macadam in 1816, began
improved travelling and increased speed. The process was rapid. Mail-coaches began to overrun the country in all directions at the then
remarkable pace of from eight to ten miles an hour,—and, let us remark
in passing, there was a whirl and dash about these stage- coaches which
railway trains, with all their velocity can never hope to attain to,
except when they dash into each other! Man is but a weak creature in
some senses. Facts are scarcely facts to him unless they touch his eye
or ear. The smooth run of a train at twenty or even thirty miles an
hour, with its gradual start and gentle pull up, has but a slight
effect on him now compared with the splendid swing of the
well-appointed mail coach of old as it swept round the bend of a road,
and, with red-coated driver and guard, cracking whip, flying dust and
stones, and reeking foam-flecked horses, dashed into town and pulled
up, while at nearly full speed, amid all the glorious crash and turmoil
of arrival! No doubt the passing of an express train within a yard of
your nose is something peculiarly awful, and if you ever get permission
to ride on the engine of an express, the REAL truth regarding speed,
weight, momentum, will make a profound impression on you, but in
ordinary circumstances the arrival of a train cannot for a moment
compare with the dash, the animal spirit, the enthusiasm, the romance
of the mail coach of days gone by.
About the time that the day of slow speed was drawing to a close
(1837) licenses were granted to 3026 stage-coaches, of which 1507 went
to and from London, besides 103 mail-coaches. And it has been estimated
that the number of passengers carried in the year about that time was
two millions. In regard to the merchandise traffic of the kingdom, we
cannot give statistics, but we ask the reader to bear in mind that it
was all conducted by means of heavy waggons and slow- going canal
Now, let us contrast this state of things with the condition and
influence of railways up to the present time. As we have said, the iron
horse began his career in 1830 on the Liverpool and Manchester line
—long since become part of the London and North-Western Railway—at
that time thirty-one miles long. Eight years later, Liverpool,
Manchester, and Birmingham were completely connected with London by
railway. Then, as success attended the scheme, new lines were
undertaken and opened at a still more rapid rate until, in 1843—
despite the depression caused for a time by over-speculating—there
were nearly 2000 miles of railway open for traffic. In 1850 there were
above 6000 miles open; in 1860, above 10,000. In 1864 the railways of
the kingdom employed upwards of 7200 locomotives, 23,470 passenger
carriages, and 212,900 goods and mineral waggons. In that one year
about five million passengers and goods trains ran 130 millions of
miles—a distance that would encircle the earth 5221 times—the earth
being 24,896 miles in circumference. In 1866 the gross receipts of
railways was about forty millions of pounds sterling. At the present
date (1871) above 14,000 miles of railway are open in the United
Kingdom. This mileage is divided amongst about 430 companies, but a
considerable number of these have been incorporated with the larger
companies, such as the London and North west, the Great Western, etc.
All the lines carried in one year (1870) somewhere about 307
millions of passengers—in other words, that number of passenger
journeys were performed on them. The mail and stage-coaches in their
best days only conveyed, as we have said, two millions! See note at end
It is almost overwhelming to consider what a vast change in the
condition and habits of the people of this country is implied in these
figures. Forty years ago none travelled but the comparatively rich, and
that only to an extent equal to about two-thirds of the present
population of London. Now-a-days the poorest artisan can, and does,
afford to travel, and the number of journeys performed each year on all
our British railways is equal to more than the entire population of
Europe! which, in Stewart's “Modern Geography,” is set down at 285
millions. From this of course it follows, that as many thousands of
men, women, and children never travel at all, many others must have
undertaken numerous journeys in that year.
The facilities afforded by railways are altogether innumerable. If
so disposed you may sup one night in the south of England and the next
night in the north of Scotland. Thousands of families dwell in the
country, while the heads thereof go to their business in town by rail
every morning and return home every evening. Huntsmen, booted and
spurred, are whirled off, horses and all, to distant fields, whence,
after “crossing country” all day, they return to the railway and are
whirled back to town in time for dinner. Navvys and artisans are
conveyed to their work at a penny a mile, and monster-trains carry
thousands of excursionists to scenes of rural delight that our fathers
never dreamed of in their wildest flights of fancy.
One of the most remarkable and interesting facts in connexion with
all this is, that although mail-coaches have been beaten off the field,
there are actually more horses employed in this country now than there
were in 1837, while canals are doing more business than they ever did,
and are making higher profits too. In 1865 the carriage of cattle by
railway amounted to between fourteen or fifteen million head of all
kinds. The consumption of coal, in the same year, by our railways
amounted to four million tons, and the quantity of that and other
minerals carried by rail continually is enormous.
The benefit derived by the post-office also from our railways is
incalculable. We cannot afford space to enter into details, but it may
be truly said that but for railways the Post-Office Savings Bank system
could not have existed; and of course, also, our frequent deliveries of
letters and rapid as well as cheap communication with all parts of the
kingdom would have been impossible. The railway service of the
Post-Office is over 60,000 miles a day, and the gross sum paid by the
Post-Office to railways in one year was œ570,500.
These are but a few of the amazing statistics connected with our
railway system, which, if fully enlarged upon, would fill a bulky
volume. If our readers desire more there are several most interesting
and instructive works on the subject, which are well worthy of perusal.
See note 2 at the end of the chapter.
Before closing this perhaps too statistical chapter, we shall say a
few words as to the construction of a railway. No one who has not
looked pretty closely into the subject can form any adequate conception
of the difficulties that beset an engineer-in-chief in the formation of
a line of railway. We will suppose that all the Parliamentary battles
have been fought, opposition overcome, the heavy expenses connected
therewith paid, and the work begun.
The engineer has walked again and again over the country through
which the railway is to be carried and selected the best route, his
assistants having meanwhile taken for him “flying levels” and “cross
levels.” Too frequently prejudice, ignorance, and selfishness interpose
to prevent the best route being taken, and immense sums that might have
been saved are spent in constructing the line on the next best route.
As soon as the course of a line is fixed, accurate surveys are made by
the assistant engineers, copies of which are placed, according to Act
of Parliament, with the various clerks of the peace of the counties,
through which the line is to pass, with the Commissioners of Railways
and others, besides which there has to be prepared for each parish its
proportion, and for each landholder a section showing the greatest
depth of cutting or embankment in any of his fields.
As soon as all this has been done, and the Act of Parliament
authorising the line obtained, an accurate plan and section of the
whole line is made, from which the engineer ascertains and lays down
its gradients, in other words its ascents and descents, determines the
number and size of the bridges and viaducts to be made, calculates the
quantity of embankments required to fill up hollows, and the number of
cuttings to level obstructions, in which latter calculations he
estimates that the cutting down of elevations will be made subservient
as far as may be, to the elevation of depressions. All this involves
very nice and exact calculation as to quantity of material, masonry,
etc., and the sinking of “trial shafts” to ascertain the nature of the
various strata to be excavated or tunnelled. Then the cost of all the
works has to be estimated in detail, apportioned into lengths and
advertised for execution by contract. To each section of the line thus
apportioned—forty or fifty miles—an experienced engineer is
appointed, having under him “sub-assistants,” who superintend from ten
to fifteen miles each, and these again are assisted by “inspectors” of
masonry, mining, earth-work and permanent way, to each of whom a
district is assigned.
These managing and guiding men having been appointed, the physical
workers are then called into action, in the form of bands of navvies.
As the steam and mechanism of the locomotive are useless except in
regulated combination, so brain and muscle can achieve nothing without
wise and harmonious union. If boys and men would reflect more deeply on
this great truth, pride, boasting, and the false separation of classes
would be less rife. We say FALSE, because there is a separation of
classes which is natural and unavoidable. No one ever complains of
THAT. If ill-advised or angry navvies were to refuse to work, what
could directors and engineers do? If, on the other hand, ill-advised or
angry directors and engineers refused to pay, what could navvies do?
Antagonism is an unhealthy condition of things. There is far too much
of it between employers and employed in this world. “Agree with thine
adversary quickly” is a command which applies to bodies of men quite as
much as to individuals, and the word is “agree,” not coerce or force.
If we cannot agree, let us agree to differ; or, if that won't do in our
peculiar circumstances, then let us agree to separate. Fighting, save
in self-defence, is only fit for fools.
But to return. When bone and muscle have been for the time welded to
brain, then the work of construction goes on “full swing.” Difficulties
and obstructions are overcome in a way that appears to the unskilled
eye nothing less than miraculous. But the work is often hindered and
rendered greatly more expensive by the sudden appearance of evils
against which no amount of human wisdom or foresight could have
The Kilsby tunnel of the London and North west Railway is a case in
point. When that tunnel was proposed, it was arranged that it should be
about 3000 yards long, and 160 feet below the surface, with two great
ventilating shafts 60 feet in diameter. It was a gigantic work. The
engineer examined the ground in the usual way, with much care, and then
advertised for “tenders.” The various competing contractors also
examined the ground minutely, and the offer of one of them to work it
for œ99,000 was accepted. Forthwith the contractor went to work, and
all went well and busily for some time, until it was suddenly
discovered that a hidden quicksand extended 400 yards into the tunnel,
which the trial shafts had just passed without touching. This was a
more tremendous blow to the contractor than most readers may at first
thought suppose, for he believed that to solidify a quicksand was
impossible. The effect on him was so great that he was mentally
prostrated, and although the company generously and justly relieved him
from his engagement, the reprieve came too late, for he died. It then
came to be a question whether or not the tunnel should be abandoned.
Many advised that it should. At this juncture Mr. Robert Stephenson,
son of the great George, came forward and undertook the work. He placed
his chief dependence on the steam-engine to keep the water down while
the work was in progress. At first he was successful, but one day,
while the men were busy laying their bricks in cement one of them drove
into the roof, and a deluge of water burst in on them, and although
they tried to continue their work on a raft the water prevailed and at
last drove them out. They escaped with difficulty up one of the
air-shafts. The water having put an effectual stop to the work, the
directors felt disposed to give it up, but Stephenson begged for a
fortnight more. It was granted. By means of thirteen steam- engines,
the amazing quantity of 1800 gallons of water per MINUTE was pumped out
of the quicksand night and day for eight months. With the aid of 1250
men and 200 horses the work was finally completed, having occupied
altogether thirty months from the laying of the first brick.
Two very singular accidents occurred during the course of the
construction of this tunnel. On one occasion a man who had been working
in it was being hauled up one of the shafts, when his coat caught in an
angular crevice of the partition, that separated the pumps from the
passage for the men, and became so firmly jammed that he was compelled
to let go the rope, and was left there dangling in the air, about a
hundred feet from the bottom, until his horrified comrades went down
and rescued him by cutting away the piece of his coat. This piece of
cloth was long preserved in the engineer's office as a memorial of the
event! On another occasion some men were at work on a platform,
half-way down the shaft, executing some repairs, when a huge navvy,
named Jack Pierson, fell from the surface, went right through the
platform, as if it had been made of paper, and fell to the bottom.
Fortunately there was water to receive him there, else he had been
killed on the spot. The men, whom of course he had narrowly missed in
his fall, began to shout for a rope to those above, and they hallooed
their advice down the shaft in reply. In the midst of the confusion
Jack Pierson himself calmly advised them to make less noise and pull
him out, which they very soon did, and the poor man was carried home
and put to bed. He lay there for many weeks unable to move, but
What we have said of the Kilsby tunnel gives a slight glimpse of
some of the expenses, difficulties, and dangers that occasionally
attend the construction of a railway.
Of course these difficulties and expenses vary according to the
nature of the ground. In some places the gradients are slight, bridges
few, and cuttings, etc., insignificant; but in other places the reverse
is emphatically the case, and costly laborious works have to be
One such work, which occurred at the very opening of our railway
system in 1828, was the bridging of the Chat Moss, on the Liverpool and
Manchester line. George Stephenson, the constructer of the “Rocket,”
was also the hero of the Chat Moss. This moss was a great swamp or bog,
four miles in extent, which was so soft that it could not be walked on
with safety, and in some places an iron rod laid on the surface would
sink by its own weight. Like many other difficulties in this world, the
solidification of the Chat Moss was said to be impossible, but the
great engineer scarce admitted the propriety of allowing the word
“impossible” to cumber our dictionaries. He began the work at once by
forming an embankment twenty feet high, which he carried some distance
across the treacherous soil, when the whole affair sank down one day
and disappeared! Undismayed, Stephenson began again, and went on
steadily depositing thousands on thousands of tons of earth, which were
greedily swallowed up, until at last a solid foundation was obtained
over the greater part of the bog. But there was a particularly soft
part of it, known by the name of the “flow moss.” which was insatiable.
Over this hurdles interwoven with heath were spread, and on these earth
and gravel were laid down. When this road showed a tendency to sink
below the level, Stephenson loaded the moss beyond the track to balance
it; when water oozed through, he invented a new kind of drain-pipe
formed of old tallow casks, headed into each other, and ballasted to
keep them down, and at last the feat was accomplished—the railway was
run over the wet quaking moss on firm dry land.
It was in the formation of this, the true beginning of railways,
that the British “navvy” was called into being. To perform the
laborious work, Stephenson employed the men called “inland navigators,”
in other words, the canal excavators. This body of strong “navigators"
or “navvies” formed the nucleus, which gathered recruits from all parts
of the kingdom. As the work of railway making, which thenceforward grew
fast and furious, was unusually severe, only men who were unusually
powerful were suited for the navvy ranks, so that they became a
distinct class of gigantic men, whose capacity for bread and beef was
in accordance with their muscular development and power to toil.
Splendid fellows they were, and are; somewhat rugged and untamed, no
doubt, with a tendency to fight occasionally, and a great deal of
genuine kindness and simplicity. That they are capable of being imbued
with refined feeling, noble sentiment, and love to God, has been shown
by the publications of Miss Marsh, which detail that lady's interesting
and earnest labours to bring the unbelievers among these men to our
Another celebrated piece of railway engineering is the BRITANNIA
BRIDGE over the Menai Straits, which separates Caernarvonshire from the
island of Anglesey. This was the first bridge ever built on the tubular
principle. The importance of crossing the strait was very great, as it
lay in the direct route to Holyhead and Ireland. Telford, the engineer,
daringly resolved to span the strait with a suspension bridge 100 feet
above the water. He began it in 1818, and on the last day of January
1826 the London mail coach passed over the estuary. The bridge remains
to this day a vast and beautiful monument of engineering skill. But
when railways began to play, something more ponderous and powerful
became necessary. A bridge with arches was talked of, but this was
considered likely to be obstructive to the navigation of the strait,
therefore another plan was demanded. At this juncture Robert Stephenson
came forward with a plan. Pounding his opinion on the known fact that
hollow columns are stronger than solid ones; that hollow beams are
better than solid beams, he leaped to the bold conclusion that a hollow
iron beam, or tube, could be made large enough to allow a train to pass
through it! As usual there sprang up a host of cold-waterers, but
thanks to British enterprise, which can dare anything, there were found
enough of men willing to promote the scheme. It was no sooner resolved
on than begun. Massive abutments of stone were raised on each shore to
the height of 100 feet above high- water. The width of the strait
between these abutments is nearly 500 yards. Midway across is the
Britannia Rock, just visible at half tide. The engineer resolved to
found one of his towers on that rock. It was done; but the distance
being too great for a single span of tube, two other towers were added.
The centre towel rises 35 feet higher than the abutments, thus giving
to the tube a very slight arch, which, however, is barely perceptible.
The tubes were rectangular, with double top and bottom made of
plates of wrought-iron, from three-eighths to three-quarters of an inch
thick, and varying in length according to their position—the whole
when put together forming a single tube about 500 yards long. The two
centre ones were the largest and most difficult to manage, each having
to be built on shore, floated off on barges, and lifted by hydraulic
power a height of about 100 feet. Some idea of what this implied may be
gathered from the following fact. Each tube weighed 1800 tons—the
weight of a goodly-sized ocean steamer! A perfect army of men worked at
the building of the tubes; cutting, punching, fitting, riveting, etc.,
and as the place became the temporary abode of so many artificers and
labourers, with their wives and children, a village sprang up around
them, with shops, a school, and a surgery. Two fire- engines and large
tanks of water were kept in constant readiness in case of fire, and for
many months rivet-making machines, punching machines, shearing
machines, etc., were in full work. There were two million rivets used
altogether, and the quantity of three-quarter-inch iron rod used in
making them measured 126 miles. The total weight of iron used was
nearly 12,000 tons. The bridge was strengthened by eighty-three miles
of angle iron. For many months the outlay in wages alone was œ6000 a
week, and the cost for the whole of the works more than œ600,000. A
curious fact connected with this enormous mass of iron is, that
arrangements had to be made to permit of shrinkage and expansion. The
tubes were placed on a series of rollers and iron balls, and it was
afterwards found that in the hottest part of summer they were twelve
inches longer than in winter—a difference which, if not provided for,
would have caused the destruction of the towers by a constant and
irresistible pull and thrust! The Menai Bridge was begun in 1846 and
opened for traffic in March 1850.
Space would fail us were we to attempt even a slight sketch of the
great engineering works that railways have called into being. We can
merely point to such achievements as the high-level bridges at
Newcastle-on-Tyne, Berwick-on-Tweed, and at Saltash, over the Tamar.
There are viaducts of great height, length, and beauty in all parts of
the kingdom; there are terminal stations so vast and magnificent as to
remind one of the structures of Eastern splendour described in the
ARABIAN NIGHTS ENTERTAINMENTS; and there are hundreds of miles of
tunnelling at the present time in the United Kingdom.
The Metropolitan Railway is the most important and singular of these
tunnels—for it is entitled to be regarded as a gigantic tunnel—which
burrows under the streets of London.
This stupendous work was undertaken in order to relieve the traffic
in the streets of London. The frequent blocks that used to occur not
many years ago in the main thoroughfares of the Metropolis, had
rendered relief absolutely necessary. When the increase of railways
began to pour human beings and goods from all parts of the kingdom into
London in a continuous and ever-increasing stream, it became obvious
that some new mode of conveyance must be opened up. After much
deliberation as to the best method, it was finally resolved that an
underground railway should be made, encircling the Metropolis, so that
travellers arriving from all points of the compass might find a ready
and sufficient means of conveyance into the central parts of the city.
There was opposition to the scheme, of course; but, through the
persevering energy of the solicitor to the undertaking and others, the
work was at length begun, and the line opened for traffic in January
1863. Its extraordinary success soon proved the wisdom of its
At first it was thought that the chief revenues would be derived
from the conveyance of goods from the west to the eastern districts of
London, but its enormous passenger traffic eventually became the chief
cause of its great prosperity. In the very first year of its opening
the number of passengers who travelled by it between Farringdon Street
and Bishop's Road, Paddington, amounted to nearly nine and a half
millions of individuals, which is more than three times the entire
population of London—also, let us add, more than three times the
entire population of Scotland!
The number of trains which are constantly following each other in
quick succession (at times every two or three minutes) on this
magnificent railway has rendered a most perfect system of signalling
necessary, as well as a working staff of superior intelligence and
activity. The drivers are all picked men, and indeed it is obvious to
every one who travels by it that the porters, and guards, and all
employed on the line are unusually smart men. The engineering
difficulties connected with the Metropolitan railway were very great as
may easily be believed, seeing that it had to be formed under streets
whose foundations were unavoidably shaken, and amongst an infinite
ramification of gas and water-pipes and sewers whose separate action
had to be maintained intact while the process of construction was going
on. Some of the stations are most ingeniously lighted from the streets
above by bright reflecting tile-work, while others, too deep for such a
method, or too much overtopped with buildings to admit of it, are lit
perpetually with gas. The whole of the works are a singular instance of
engineering skill, reflecting great credit on Mr. Fowler, the
engineer-in-chief. Despite its great length of tunnelling the line is
perfectly dry throughout.
At first fears were entertained that human beings could not with
safety travel through such tunnels as were here formed, but experience
has proved those fears, like many others, to have been groundless, and
a very thorough analysis of the atmosphere of the line in all
circumstances, and by the most competent men of the day, has
demonstrated that the air of the Metropolitan railway is not injurious
to health. The excellent general health of the employes also affords
additional and conclusive testimony to this fact even although it is
unquestionably true that there is at times a somewhat sulphurous smell
This thorough ventilation, of course, could only have been achieved
by ingenious arrangements and a peculiar construction of the engines,
whereby the waste steam and fumes of the furnaces should be prevented
from emitting their foul and sulphurous odours. The carriages are
brilliantly lighted with gas, contained in long india-rubber bags on
their roofs, and the motion of the trains is much gentler than that of
ordinary railways, although they travel at the rate of from fifteen to
twenty miles an hour, including stoppages,—a rate, be it observed,
which could not have been ventured on at all but for the thorough and
effective system of telegraphic and semaphore signalling employed, to
indicate from station to station the exact state of the line—as to
trains—at all times. On the whole the Metropolitan Railway has proved
one of the most useful and successful undertakings of modern times. See
Note 3 at the end of the chapter.
In reference to foreign railways, we have only space to say that
there are works as grand, and as worthy of note, as any of which we can
boast; and it is with much regret that we feel constrained to do no
more than point to such magnificent undertakings as the MONT CENIS
Railway, which ascends and tunnels through the Alps; and that
stupendous line, the Union Pacific Railroad, 3000 miles in length,
formed by the daring and enterprising Americans, by means of which the
prairies and the Rocky Mountains are made of no account and New York is
brought within seven days of San Francisco! The engineering works on
the Sommering Railway, between Vienna and Trieste; the mighty Victoria
Tubular Bridge at Montreal; the railway bridge over Niagara; the
difficulties encountered and overcome in India; the bold achievements
of railway engineers amid the dizzy heights and solitudes of the Andes
—all these subjects must be passed over in silence, else our readers
will, we fear, come to the conclusion that we have lost command of the
Iron Horse altogether, allowed him to take the bit in his teeth and
fairly run away.
Note 1. Many readers may find it difficult to form an adequate
conception of such a vast number as 307 millions. It may help one to
some idea of it to know that, if a man were to devote himself to count
it, one by one,—sitting down after breakfast counting at the rate of
one every moment, and working without intermission for eight hours
every day, excepting Sundays,—he would not conclude his task until the
Note 2. We would refer them particularly to Messrs. W. &R. Chambers'
comprehensive and popularly written work on “Railways, Steamer, and
Telegraphs;” Money's “Rambles on Railways,” which bristles with figures
and swarms with anecdote; “Stokers and Pokers,” by Sir Francis Head, a
capital and very full work, though somewhat old; W.B. Adams' “Roads and
Rails,” and Bremrer's “Industries of Scotland.”
Note 3. We had intended to devote much larger space to this most
interesting line, but the nature of our book forbids it. We quit the
subject regretfully; referring the reader, who may desire to know more,
to an able notice of the Metropolitan Railway in “The Shops and
Companies of London,” edited by Henry Mayhew.
Chapter VII. LITTLE GERTIE COMES OUT
IN A NEW LIGHT, AND BOB RECEIVES GOOD NEWS.
Poor little earnest curly-haired Gertie had been so thoroughly
reared in the midst of crashing sounds and dire alarms without any
mischance resulting, that she had come to feel at last as if the idea
of danger or disaster were a mere fiction. It was therefore a new and
terrible shock which she received, when she saw her father carried to
his cottage by four railway porters and tenderly laid in his bed; and
it went to her heart with an unaccountable thrill when she heard her
father's usually loud hearty voice say, in soft, womanly tones, “Thank
'ee, lads; thank 'ee. I'll be all right soon, please God. Good-night
and thank 'ee kindly.”
“Good-night—good-night, Jack,” they replied in various tones of
cheeriness; for these hard-muscled men had soft hearts, and although
they entertained fears for their friend, they were anxious, by the
hearty tones of their voices, to keep up his spirits.
“You mustn't take on like that, Missis,” whispered one of them as
they were leaving the cottage door; “the doctor said for sartin that
there warn't no bones broken, and 'e didn't think there was nothink
“It ain't that I'm afear'd of,” whimpered poor Mrs. Marrot, “but it
does go to my 'art so, to 'ear my John speak in that voice. I never
'ear'd him do it except once before, when he was very low with fever,
an' thought himself a-dyin'.”
“But 'e ain't agoin' to die THIS time,” returned the kindly porter;
“so cheer up, Missis. Good-night.”
Mrs. Marrot returned to the room where her husband lay, evidently
suffering severe pain, for he was very pale and his lips were
compressed. He was anxious not to alarm Gertie and Loo who stood at the
bedside. The former could not speak, and the blood had so completely
fled from her face and her small tightly-clasped hands that she
resembled a creature of wax.
“Can I do nothing to relieve the pain, dear father?” said Loo, as
she wiped the perspiration from his brow.
“Nothin', nothin', dear lass,” said John, with some of his wonted
heartiness, “except git me a cup o' tea. Mayhap that'll do me good; but
the doctor'll be here soon, and he'll put me all to rights in no time.”
The idea of a cup of tea was a deep device on the part of John, who
meant thereby to give Loo some active work to do and thus take her
attention off himself.
“And don't you be uneasy, Molly,” he added, turning to his wife, “it
ain't a bad hurt, I'm told, an' it ain't hard for a man to suffer a bit
o' pain now an' agin when it's the Lord's will. Come, that's the
doctor's knock. Don't keep him waitin'. I knew he'd be here soon,
'cause Mr. Able said he'd send him without delay.”
A prolonged and somewhat painful examination of John's injuries
ensued, during which time little Gertie, with clasped hands, parted
lips, and eager eyes, watched the doctor's countenance intently. After
it was over, the doctor turned to Mrs. Marrot, and said,—
“I'm happy to tell you, that your husband's injuries, although
severe and painful, are not serious. No bones are broken, but he has
been severely bruised, and will require careful nursing for some time—
and,” he added, turning with a smile to the patient, “no more rushing
about the country at sixty miles an hour for several weeks to come.”
Little Gertie began to breathe freely again. Her hands unclasped,
and the colour came slowly back, as she crept quietly to the bedside,
and, taking her father's large horny hand, laid her cheek softly upon
“Are you easier NOW, daddy?” she asked.
“Ay, much easier, God bless you, Gertie. The doctor has made things
much more comfortable. They've got a wonderful knack o' puttin' things
right—these doctors have. W'y, it minds me o' my ingine after a
longish run; she looks dirty an' all out o' sorts; but w'en I gits her
into the shed, and gives her an overhaul, you'd scarce know 'er again.”
At this moment baby Marrot who had been sleeping when his father was
brought in, became suddenly conscious of internal vacuity, and
forthwith set up a lusty howl, whereupon Mrs. Marrot pounced upon and
throttled him—to some extent.
“Don't stop him, Molly, my dear; you—”
The remainder of the sentence was drowned by the night express which
rushed past, joining baby Marrot in a yell, as the latter freed his
throat from his mother's grip.
“Don't stop him, Molly,” repeated John; “you don't suppose that
after drivin' a locomotive for eight years I'm agoin' to be disturbed
by the small pipe of our own youngster. Let him yell, Molly; it does
him good, and it don't do me no harm.”
It was now arranged that Gertie was to be head nurse on this trying
occasion—not that the appointment was considered appropriate, but it
was unavoidable, seeing that Gertie wanted it intensely, and her father
was pleased to have it so.
Gertie had never before been called upon to do anything in the
nursing way more serious than to look after baby when he had eaten too
much or scalded himself—nevertheless, the way in which she went about
her nursing would have done credit to an hospital training. She
evidently possessed a natural aptitude for the work, and went about it
with a sense of the importance of the trust that was quite charming.
She was at that tender age when such work becomes barely possible, and
the performance of it seems quite miraculous! Her father gazed at her
in bewilderment while she went about gravely smoothing his pillow and
tucking in corners of blankets, and bringing cups, and tumblers, and
spoons, and handkerchiefs, and sundry other articles, to a chair at his
bedside, so as to be within reach of his hand. Molly and Loo, besides
being highly interested, were intensely amused. It is a matter of
dispute even to this day whether baby did not perceive the marvellous
aptitude of Gertie, for he continued for a prolonged period to gaze at
her as if in solemn wonder. Mrs. Marrot declared baby's gaze to be one
of admiration, but John held that it was owing to the state of
exhaustion that resulted from an unusually long fit of yelling. While
he stared thus, Gertie, having completed a number of little operations
and put the finishing touches or PATS to them, became suddenly aware
that every one was laughing quietly.
“What is it?” she asked, relaxing the severity of her brow and
They all laughed still more at this, and Gertie, looking round for
an explanation, encountered baby's glaring eyes, whereupon, supposing
that she had found out the cause, she laughed too. But she quickly
dismissed her levity and recurred to her work with renewed diligence.
It was well for the engine-driver that he had been trained in a
rough school, for his powers of endurance were severely tested that
night, by the attentions of his numerous friends who called to inquire
for him, and in some cases insisted on seeing him.
Among others came one of the directors of the company, who, seeing
how matters stood, with much consideration said that he would not sit
down, but had merely looked in for a moment, to tell John Marrot that
an appointment had been found for his son Robert in the “Works,” and
that if he would send him over in the morning he would be introduced to
the locomotive superintendent and initiated into the details of his new
sphere of action.
This was very gratifying to the engine-driver of course, but much
more so to Bob himself, whose highest earthly ambition was to become,
as he styled it, an engineer. When that aspiring youth came home that
night after cleaning his lamps, he wiped his oily hands on a bundle of
waste, and sat down beside his sire to inquire considerately into his
state of body, and to give him, as he expressed it, the noos of the
“You see, daddy,” he said, “the doctor tells me you're to be kep'
quiet, an' not allowed to talk, so in course you've got nothin' to do
but lie still an' listen while I give 'ee the noos. So 'ere goes. An'
don't you sit too near baby, mother, else you'll wake 'im up, an' we'll
have a yell as'll put talkin' out o' the question. Well then—”
“Bob,” said Loo, interrupting her brother as she sat down opposite,
and began to mend one of baby's pinafores—which by the way was already
so mended and patched as to have lost much of its original form and
appearance—“Bob, Mr. Able has been here, and—”
“Who's Mr. Able?” demanded Bob.
“One of the directors,—don't you know?”
“How should I know?” retorted Bob; “you don't suppose that the
d'rectors is all my partikler friends, do you? There's only two or
three of 'em as has the honer of my acquaintance.”
“Well,” resumed Loo with a laugh, “you ought to consider Mr. Able
one of your particular friends at all events, for he has been here this
evening making kind inquiries after father, and telling him that he has
got you appointed to the works that you've been so long hankering—”
“What!” interrupted Bob in great excitement; “you don't mean that,
“Yes, I do.”
“To the great Clatterby Works, where the big hammer is?”
“Well, I suppose it is to these works,” said Loo.
“Ay, Bob, to the Clatterby Works, lad; so you're a made man if you
only behave yourself and do your dooty,” said John Marrot in reply to
his son's look of inquiry.
In the strength of his satisfaction the boy rose, and, taking Loo
round the neck, kissed her pretty mouth heartily, after which he
bestowed the same favour on his mother and little Gertie, and looked as
if he meant to do it to baby too, but he thought better of it.
“Why, mother,” he said, resuming his seat at the bedside, “these are
the works where they've got the big hammers—so big, mother; oh! you've
no notion how big they are, and heavy. Why, one of 'em is full five
tons in weight—think o' that! equal to five carts of coals, mother,
all rolled into one.”
“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Marrot.
“But it's TRUE,” said Bob, earnestly.
“Nonsense!” repeated Mrs. Marrot; “w'y, what would be the use of a
hammer as no one could lift?”
“Steam lifts it, mother,” said Bob, “as easy—yes, as easy as you
lift the rollin' pin.”
The unbelieving woman still shook her head, smiled, and said,
“Moreover,” continued Bob, waxing enthusiastic on his favourite
topic, “I'm told, for I haven't seen 'em yet, that they've got a pair
o' scissors there as can cut cold iron as easy as you can cut paper—
they could cut through,” said Bob, pausing and looking round, “they
could cut through the poker and tongs and shovel, all at one go, as
easy as if they was straws.”
“Gammon!” said Mrs. Marrot.
“Isn't it a fact, daddy?” cried Bob.
“Quite true, Molly, my dear. I must take you over to see the works
some day and convince you,” said John with a faint smile. “But what's
the news you were goin' to give us, Bob?” he added.
“The noos?—ah; that GOOD noos drove it all out o' my 'ead. Well, as
I wos agoin' to say, there's a great to-do down at the shed, 'cause
it's said that an awful lot o' thefts has bin goin' on of late at
Bingly station, and it's bin reported that some of the drivers or
firemen are consarned in it. An' d'ee know, father,” continued Bob,
suddenly becoming grave and very earnest, “I heard one o' the men say
that Will Garvie is suspected.”
There was a momentary deep silence, as if every one had received a
shock; then Mrs. Marrot exclaimed “What say 'ee, boy?”
At the same time her husband demanded sternly, “Who said that?”
“I don't know, father. I was passing through the shed at the time
and didn't see who spoke, I only heerd 'im.”
“Father,” said Leo, over whose face a deep crimson flush had spread,
“SURELY you don't for a moment believe it?”
“Believe it,” replied John, “believe that my mate, Will Garvie, is a
thief? I'd as soon believe that my Molly was a murderer!”
The energetic driver here struck his fist so violently on the bed as
to cause his wounded side an acute twinge of pain. It had scarcely
passed away when the door opened and Will Garvie himself entered.
“Well, Jack,” he said, going up to his friend's couch and taking his
hand, “how d'you feel now—better?”
The frank open countenance of the young man—albeit begrimed with
smoke, and his clear laughing blue eyes, were such a flat contradiction
to the charge which had been made against him that John looked up in
his face and laughed.
“Well, you MUST be better, if that's the way you answer me!”
“Oh, I'm all right,” said John, quietly; “leastwise I'm on the rails
agin, an' only shunted on to a sidin' to be overhauled and repaired a
bit. You've heard the noos, I fancy?”
“What of Bob's appointment?” said Will, glancing at Loo; for he knew
that anything that was for Bob's advantage gave her intense delight,
and he liked to watch her countenance in such circumstances—“of course
I've heard of that. Moreover, I've bin to the locomotive superintendent
and got leave to go over with him to-morrow and show him through the
works, along with any of his family that might want to go. I made a
special request for this, thinkin' that mayhap—”
He looked pointedly at Loo, and Loo looked pointedly at the pinafore
which suddenly claimed her undivided attention. Bob, before Will could
finish his sentence, broke in with—
“Now, AIN'T that a su'cumstance? w'y, we was just talkin' of havin'
mother over to see the works, an' lettin' her be convinced by her own
eyes that there is a hammer there of five ton weight, drove by steam,
an' a pair o' scissors as can cut cold iron an inch thick. You'll go
mother, won't you?”
“Well, I dessay it would be amoosin'; yes, I'll go, Bob, if father's
Accordingly, much to Will Garvie's disappointment it was arranged
that Mrs. Marrot was to accompany him and Bob to the great railway
“Works” on the following day.
Chapter VIII. MRS. MARROT AND BOB
VISIT THE GREAT CLATTERBY “WORKS.”
We cannot presume to say what sort of a smiddy Vulcan's was, but we
feel strongly inclined to think that if that gentleman were to visit
the works of the Grand National Trunk Railway, which are about the
finest of the kind in the kingdom, he would deem his own old shop a
very insignificant affair!
The stupendous nature of the operations performed there; the
colossal grandeur of the machinery employed; the appalling power of the
forces called into action; the startling CHIARO SCURO of the furnaces;
the Herculean activity of the 3500 “hands;” the dread pyrotechnic
displays; the constant din and clangour—pshaw! the thing is beyond
conception. “Why then,” you will say, “attempt description?” Because,
reader, of two evils we always choose the less. Description is better
than nothing. If you cannot go and see and hear for yourself, there is
nothing left for you but to fall back on description.
But of all the sights to be seen there, the most interesting,
perhaps, and the most amusing, was the visage of worthy Mrs. Marrot as
she followed Will Garvie and her son, and gazed in rapt amazement at
the operations, and listened to the sounds, sometimes looking all round
with a half-imbecile expression at the rattling machinery, at other
times fixing her eyes intently down on one piece of mechanism in the
vain hope of penetrating its secrets to the core. Bob was not much less
amazed than his mother, but he had his sharp wits about him, and was
keenly alive to the delight of witnessing his mother's astonishment.
The works covered several acres of ground, and consisted of a group
of huge buildings which were divided into different departments, and in
these the railway company manufactured almost every article used on the
line—from a locomotive engine to a screw-nail.
Here, as we have said, above 3500 men and boys were at work, and all
sorts of trades were represented. There were draughtsmen to make
designs, and, from these, detailed working drawings. Smiths to forge
all the wrought-iron-work, with hammermen as assistants. Pattern-makers to make wooden patterns for castings. Moulders, including loam,
dry-sand and green-sand moulders and brass-founders. Dressers to dress
the rough edges off the castings when brought from the foundry. Turners
in iron and brass. Planers and nibblers, and slotters and drillers.
Joiners and sawyers, and coach-builders and painters. Fitters and
erecters, to do the rougher and heavier part of fitting the engines
together. Boiler-makers, including platers or fitters, caulkers and
riveters. Finishers to do the finer part of fitting—details and
polishing. In short almost every trade in the kingdom concentrated in
one grand whole and working harmoniously, like a vast complex machine,
towards one common end—the supply of railway rolling-stock, or “plant"
to the line.
All these were busy as bees, for they were engaged on the equitable
system of “piece-work,”—which means that each man or boy was paid for
each piece of work done, instead of being paid by time, which of course
induced each to work as hard as he could in order to make much as
possible—a system which suited both masters and men. Of course there
are some sorts of employment where it would be unjust to pay men by the
amount of work done—as, for instance, in some parts of tin- mines,
where a fathom of rock rich in tin is as difficult to excavate as a
fathom of rock which is poor in tin—but in work such as we are
describing the piece-work system suits best.
Like a wise general, Will Garvie began with the department in which
the less astonishing operations were being performed. This was the
timber and sawing department.
Here hard wood, in all sizes and forms, was being licked into shape
by machinery in a way and with an amount of facility that was eminently
calculated to astonish those whose ideas on such matters had been
founded on the observation of the laborious work of human carpenters.
The very first thing that struck Bob Marrot was that the tools were so
heavy, thick, and strong that the biggest carpenter he had ever seen
would not have been able to use them. Bob's idea of a saw had hitherto
been a long sheet of steel with small teeth, that could be easily bent
like a hoop—an implement that went slowly through a plank, and that
had often caused his arm to ache in being made to advance a few inches;
but here he saw circular steel-discs with fangs more than an inch long,
which became invisible when in a state of revolution.
“What IS that?” said Mrs. Marrot concentrating herself on one of
these implements, after having indulged in a stare of bewildered
curiosity round the long shed.
“That's a circular saw,” replied Will Garvie; “one of the large
ones,—about four feet in diameter.”
“A saw!” exclaimed Mrs. Marrot, in surprise. “W'y, Will, it's round.
How can a round thing saw? An' it han't got no 'andle! How could any
man lay 'old of it to saw?”
“The carpenter here don't require no handles,” replied Will. “He's a
queer fellow is the carpenter of this shop, as well as powerful. He
works away from morning till night with the power of more than a
hundred horses, an' does exactly what he's bid without ever making any
mistakes or axin' any questions. He's a steam-carpenter, Missis, but
indeed he's a jack-of-all-trades, and carries 'em on all at the same
time. See, they're goin' to set him to work now—watch and you shall
As he spoke, two men approached the circular saw bearing a thick log
of oak. One of them fitted it in position, on rollers, with its edge
towards the saw; then he seized a handle, by means of which he
connected the steam-carpenter with the saw, which instantly revolved so
fast that the teeth became invisible; at the same time the plank
advanced rapidly and met the saw. Instantly there was a loud hissing
yet ringing sound, accompanied by a shower of sawdust, and, long before
Mrs. Marrot had recovered from her surprise, the log was cut into two
thick substantial planks.
After two or three more had been cut up in this way in as many
minutes, Will Garvie said,—
“Now, let's see what they do with these planks. Come here.”
He led them to a place close beside the saw, where there was a
strong iron machine, to one part of which was attached a very large
chisel—it might have been equal to two or three dozen of the largest
ordinary chisels rolled into one. This machine was in motion, but
apparently it had been made for a very useless purpose, for it was
going vigorously up and down at the time cutting the atmosphere!
“It's like a lot of people as I knows of,” observed Mrs. Marrot,
“very busy about nothin'.”
“It'll have somethin' to do soon, mother,” said Bob, who was already
beginning to think himself very knowing.
Bob was right. One of the oak-planks had been measured and marked
for mortice-holes in various ways according to pattern, and was now
handed over to the guardian of the machine, who, having had it placed
on rollers, pushed it under the chisel and touched a handle. Down came
the implement, and cut into the solid wood as if it had been mere
putty. A dozen cuts or so in one direction, then round it went—for
this chisel could be turned with its face in either direction without
stopping it for the purpose—another dozen cuts were made, and an
oblong hole of three or four inches long by two broad and three deep
was made in the plank in a few seconds.
Even Mrs. Marrot had sufficient knowledge of the arts to perceive
that this operation would have cost a human carpenter a very much
greater amount of time and labour, and that therefore there must have
been a considerable saving of expense. Had she been aware of the fact
that hundreds of such planks were cut, marked, morticed, and turned out
of hands every week all the year round, and every year continuously,
she would have had a still more exalted conception of the saving of
time, labour, and expense thus effected.
The guardian of the chisel having in a few minutes cut the requisite
half dozen or so of holes, guided the plank on rollers towards a pile,
where it was laid, to be afterwards carried off to the carriage-builders, who would fit it as one side of a carriage-frame to its
appropriate fellow-planks, which had all been prepared in the same way.
Not far from this machine the visitors were shown another, in which
several circular saws of smaller dimensions than the first were at work
in concert, and laid at different angles to each other, so that when a
plank was given into their clutches it received cuts and slices in
certain parts during its passage through the machine, and came out much
modified and improved in form—all that the attendants had to do merely
being to fit the planks in their places and guide them safely through
the ordeal. Elsewhere Mrs. Marrot and Bob beheld a frame—full of
gigantic saws cut a large log into half a dozen planks, all in one
sweep, in a few minutes—work which would have drawn the sweat from the
brows of two saw-pit men for several hours. One thing that attracted
the attention of Bob very strongly was the simple process of
hole-boring. Of course, in forming the massive frames of railway
carriages, it becomes necessary to bore numerous holes for large nails
or bolts. Often had Bob, at a neighbouring seaport, watched the heavy
work and the slow progress of ship-carpenters as they pierced the
planks of ships with augers; but here he beheld what he called, “augers
and drills gone mad!”—augers small and great whirling furiously, or,
as Bob put it, “like all possessed.” Some acting singly, others acting
together in rows of five or six; and these excited things were
perpetually whirling, whether at work or not, ready for service at a
moment's notice. While Bob was gazing at one huge drill—probably an
inch and a half broad, if not more—a man came up to it with a plank,
on the surface of which were several dots at various distances. He put
the plank under the drill, brought it down on a dot, whizz went the
drill, and straightway there was a huge round hole right through almost
before Bob had time to wink,—and Bob was a practised hand at winking.
Several holes were bored in this way, and then the plank was carried to
another machine, where six lesser holes were drilled at one and the
same time by six furious little augers; and thus the planks passed on
from one machine to another until finished, undergoing, in the course
of a few minutes, treatment that would have cost them hours of torture
had they been manipulated by human hands, in addition to which the work
was most beautifully, and perfectly, and regularly done.
Many other operations did the visitors behold in this department
—all more or less interesting and, to them, surprising—so that Mrs.
Marrot was induced at last to exclaim,—
“W'y, Willum, it seems to me that if you go on improvin' things at
this rate there won't be no use in a short time for 'uman 'ands at all.
We'll just 'ave to sit still an' let machinery do our work for us, an'
all the trades-people will be throwd out of employment.”
“How can you say that, Missis,” said Will Garvie, “you bein' old
enough to remember the time w'en there wasn't five joiners' shops in
Clatterby, with p'rhaps fifty men and boys employed, and now there's
hundreds of joiners, and other shops of all kinds in the town, besides
these here railway works which, as you know, keeps about 3500 hands
goin' all the year round?”
“That's so, Willum,” assented Mrs. Marrot in a meditative tone.
Thus meditating, she was conducted into the smiths' department.
Here about 140 forges and 400 men were at work. Any one of these
forges would have been a respectable “smiddy” in a country village.
They stood as close to each other as the space would allow,—so close
that their showers of sparks intermingled, and kept the whole shed more
or less in the condition of a chronic eruption of fireworks. To Bob's
young mind it conveyed the idea of a perpetual keeping of the Queen's
birthday. To his mother it was suggestive of singed garments and sudden
loss of sight. The poor woman was much distressed in this department at
first, but when she found, after five minutes or so, that her garments
were unscathed, and her sight still unimpaired, she became reconciled
In this place of busy vulcans—each of whom was the beau-ideal of
“the village blacksmith,” all the SMALLER work of the railway was done.
As a specimen of this smaller work, Will Garvie drew Mrs. Marrot's
attention to the fact that two vulcans were engaged in twisting red-hot
iron bolts an inch and a half thick into the form of hooks with as much
apparent ease as if they had been hair-pins. These, he said, were hooks
for couplings, the hooks by which railway carriages were attached
together, and on the strength and unyielding rigidity of which the
lives of hundreds of travellers might depend.
The bending of them was accomplished by means of a powerful lever.
It would be an endless business to detail all that was done in this
workshop. Every piece of comparatively small iron-work used in the
construction of railway engines, carriages, vans, and trucks, from a
door-hinge to a coupling-chain, was forged in that smithy. Passing
onward, they came to a workshop where iron castings of all kinds were
being made; cylinders, fire-boxes, etc.,—and a savage-looking place it
was, with numerous holes and pits of various shapes and depths in the
black earthy floor, which were the moulds ready, or in preparation, for
the reception of the molten metal. Still farther on they passed through
a workroom where every species of brass-work was being made. And here
Bob Marrot was amazed to find that the workmen turned brass on
turning-lathes with as much facility as if it had been wood. Some of
the pieces of brazen mechanism were very beautiful and delicate
—especially one piece, a stop-cock for letting water into a boiler, the
various and complex parts of which, when contrasted with the huge
workmanship of the other departments, resembled fine watch- work.
As they passed on, Bob observed a particularly small boy, in whom he
involuntarily took a great and sudden interest—he looked so small, so
thin, so intelligent, and, withal, so busy.
“Ah, you may well look at him,” said Will Garvie, observing Bob's
gaze. “That boy is one of the best workers of his age in the shop.”
“What is 'e doin'?” inquired Bob.
“He's preparin' nuts for screws,” replied Will, “and gets one penny
for every hundred. Most boys can do from twelve to fourteen hundred a
day, so, you see, they can earn from six to seven shillin's a week; but
that little feller—they call him Tomtit Dorkin—earns a good deal
more, I believe, and he has much need to, for he has got an old granny
to support. That's the work that you are soon to be set to, lad.”
“Is it?” said Bob, quite pleased at the notion of being engaged in
the same employment with Tomtit; “I'm glad to 'ear it. You see, mother,
when you gits to be old an' 'elpless, you'll not need to mind, 'cause
I'LL support you.”
The next place they visited was the great point of attraction to
Bob. It was the forge where the heavy work was done, and where the
celebrated hammer and terrific pair of scissors performed their
At the time the visitors entered this department the various hammers
chanced to be at rest, nevertheless even Mrs. Marrot's comparatively
ignorant mind was impressed by the colossal size and solidity of the
iron engines that surrounded her. The roof of the shed in which they
stood had been made unusually high in order to contain them.
“Well, I s'pose the big 'ammer that Bob says is as 'eavy as five
carts of coals must be 'ereabouts?” observed Mrs. Marrot looking round.
“Yes, there it is,” said Will, pointing in front of him.
“W'ere? I don't see no 'ammer.”
“Why there, that big thing just before you,” he said, pointing to a
machine of iron, shaped something like the letter V turned upside down,
with its two limbs on the earth, its stem lost in the obscurity of the
root and having a sort of tongue between the two limbs, which tongue
was a great square block of solid iron, apparently about five feet high
and about three feet broad and deep. This tongue, Will Garvie assured
his companion, was the hammer.
“No, no, Willum,” said Mrs. Marrot, with a smile, “you mustn't
expect me for to believe that. I MAY believe that the moon is made of
green cheese, but I won't believe that that's a 'ammer.”
“No: but IS it, Bill?” asked Bob, whose eyes gleamed with suppressed
“Indeed it is; you shall see presently.”
Several stalwart workmen, with bare brawny arms, who were lounging
before the closed mouth of a furnace, regarded the visitors with some
amusement. One of these came forward and said,—
“You'd better stand a little way back, ma'am.”
Mrs. Marrot obediently retreated to a safe distance. Then the
stalwart men threw open the furnace door. Mrs. Marrot exclaimed, almost
shrieked, with surprise at the intense light which gushed forth,
casting even the modified daylight of the place into the shade. The
proceedings of the stalwart men thereafter were in Mrs. Marrot's eyes
absolutely appalling—almost overpowering,—but Mrs. M. was tough both
in mind and body. She stood her ground. Several of the men seized
something inside the furnace with huge pincers, tongs, forceps—
whatever you choose to call them—and drew partly out an immense rudely
shaped bar or LOG of glowing irons thicker than a man's thigh. At the
same time a great chain was put underneath it, and a crane of huge
proportions thereafter sustained the weight of the glowing metal. By
means of this crane it was drawn out of the furnace and swung round
until its glowing head or end came close to the tongue before
mentioned. Then some of the stalwart men grasped several iron handles,
which were affixed to the cool end of the bar, and prepared themselves
to act. A signal was given to a man who had not hitherto been noticed,
he was so small in comparison with the machine on which he stood—
perhaps it would be better to say to which he stuck, because he was
perched on a little platform about seven or eight feet from the ground,
which was reached by an iron ladder, and looked down on the men who
manipulated the iron bar below.
On receiving the signal, this man moved a small lever. It cost him
no effort whatever, nevertheless it raised the iron tongue about six
feet in the air, revealing the fact that it had been resting on another
square block of iron embedded in the earth. This latter was the anvil.
On the anvil the end of the white-hot bar was immediately laid. Another
signal was given, and down came the “five-carts-of-coals weight” with a
thud that shook the very earth, caused the bar partially to flatten as
if it had been a bit of putty, and sent a brilliant shower of sparks
over the whole place. Mrs. Marrot clapped both hands on her face, and
capped the event with a scream. As for Bob, he fairly shouted with
Blow after blow was given by this engine, and as each blow fell the
stalwart men heaved on the iron handles and turned the bar this way and
that way, until it was pounded nearly square. By this time Mrs. Marrot
had recovered so far as to separate her fingers a little, and venture
to peep from behind that protecting screen. By degrees the unwieldy
mass of misshapen metal was pounded into a cylindrical form, and Will
Garvie informed his friends that this was the beginning of the
driving-axle of a locomotive. Pointing to several of those which had
been already forged, each having two enormous iron projections on it
which were afterwards to become the cranks, he said,—
“You'll see how these are finished, in another department.”
But Mrs. Marrot and Bob paid no attention to him. They were
fascinated by the doings of the big hammer, and especially by the cool
quiet way in which the man with the lever caused it to obey his will.
When he moved the lever up or down a little, up or down went the hammer
a little; when he moved it a good deal the hammer moved a good deal;
when he was gentle, the hammer was gentle; when he gave a violent push,
the hammer came down with a crash that shook the whole place. He could
cause it to plunge like lightning to within a hair's-breadth of the
anvil and check it instantaneously so that it should not touch. He
could make it pat the red metal lovingly, or pound it with the violence
of a fiend. Indeed, so quick and sympathetic were all the movements of
that steam-hammer that it seemed as though it were gifted with
intelligence, and were nervously solicitous to act in prompt obedience
to its master's will. There were eleven steam-hammers of various sizes
in this building, with a staff of 175 men to attend to them, half of
which staff worked during the day, and half during the night—besides
seven smaller steam-hammers in the smiths' shops and other departments.
With difficulty Will Garvie tore his friends away from the big
hammer; but he could not again chain their attention to anything else,
until he came to the pair of scissors that cut iron. With this
instrument Mrs. Marrot at first expressed herself disappointed. It was
not like a pair of scissors at all, she said, and in this she was
correct, for the square clumsy-looking blunt-like mass of iron, about
five feet high and broad, which composed a large portion of it, was
indeed very unlike a pair of scissors.
“Why, mother,” exclaimed Bob, “you didn't surely expect to see two
large holes in it for a giant's thumb and fingers, did you?”
“Well, but,” said Mrs. Marrot, “it ain't got no blades that I can
“I'll let 'ee see 'em, Missis, in a minute,” said a workman who came
up at that moment with a plate of iron more than a quarter of an inch
thick. “Turn it on, Johnny.”
A small boy turned on the steam, the machine moved, and Will Garvie
pointed out to Mrs. Marrot the fact that two sharp edges of steel in a
certain part of it crossed each other exactly in the manner of a pair
“Well,” remarked Mrs. M., after contemplating it for some time, “it
don't look very like scissors, but I'm free to confess that them two
bits of iron DO act much in the same way.”
“And with the same result, Missus,” observed the machine-man,
putting the plate between the clippers, which, closing quietly, snipped
off about a foot of iron as if it had been paper. There was, however, a
crunching sound which indicated great power, and drew from Mrs. Marrot
an exclamation of surprise not altogether unmingled with alarm.
The man then seized a bit of iron about as thick as his own wrist—
full an inch and a half in diameter—which the scissors cut up into
lengths of eighteen inches or so as easily as if it had been a bar of
lead or wood.
“Didn't I say it could cut through the poker, mother?” cried Bob
with a look of triumph.
“The poker, boy! it could cut poker, tongs, shovel, and fender, all
at once!” replied Mrs. Marrot—“well, I never! can it do anything
In reply to this the man took up several pieces of hard steel, which
it snipped through as easily as it had cut the iron.
But if Mrs. Marrot's surprise at the scissors was great, not less
great was it at the punching machine, which punched little buttons the
size of a sixpence out of cold iron full half-an-inch thick. This
vicious implement not only punched holes all round boiler-plates so as
to permit of their being riveted together, but it cut patterns out of
thick iron plates by punching rows of such holes so close to each other
that they formed one long cutting, straight or crooked, as might be
required. In short, the punching machine acted the part of a saw, and
cut the iron plates in any shape that was desired. Here also they saw
the testing of engine springs—those springs which to most people
appear to have no spring in them whatever—so very powerful are they.
One of these was laid on an iron table, with its two ends resting
against an iron plate. A man approached and measured it exactly. Then a
hydraulic ram was applied; and there was something quite impressive in
the easy quiet way, in which the ram shoved a spring, which the weight
of a locomotive can scarcely affect, QUITE FLAT against the iron plate,
and held it there a moment or two! Being released, the spring resumed
its proper form. It was then re-measured; found not to have expanded a
hair's-breadth, and, therefore,—as Will Garvie took care to explain,
—was passed as a sound well-tempered spring; whereat Bob remarked that
it would need to be a good-tempered spring, to suffer such treatment
It seemed to Mrs. Marrot now as if her capacity for surprise had
reached its limit; but she little knew the wealth of capacity for
creating surprise that lay in these amazing “works” of the Grand
National Trunk Railway.
The next place she was ushered into was a vast apartment where iron
in every shape, size, and form was being planed and turned and cut. The
ceiling of the building, or rather the place where a ceiling ought in
ordinary circumstances to have been, was alive with moving bands and
whirling wheels. The first thing she was called on to contemplate was
the turning of the tyre or rim of one of the driving-wheels of a
locomotive. Often had Mrs. Marrot heard her husband talk of tyres and
driving-wheels, and many a time had she seen these wheels whirling,
half-concealed, in their appropriate places, but never till that day
had she seen the iron hoop, eight feet in diameter, elevated in bare
simplicity on a turning-lathe, where its size impressed her so much
that she declared, “she never COULD 'ave imagined engine-wheels was so
big,” and asked, “'ow did they ever manage to get 'em lifted up to
w'ere they was?”
To which an overseer kindly replied by pointing out a neat little
crane fitted on a tail, which, when required, ran along the apartment
like a strong obedient little domestic servant, lifting wheels, etc.,
that a man could scarcely move, and placing them wherever they were
wanted. Mrs. Marrot was then directed to observe the rim of the wheel,
where she saw a small chisel cutting iron curls off it just as easily,
to all appearance, as a turner cuts shavings off wood—and these iron
curls were not delicate; they were thick, solid, unpliant ringlets,
that would have formed a suitable decoration for the fair brow of a
locomotive, or, perhaps, a chignon—supposing that any locomotive could
have been prevailed on to adopt such a wild monstrosity!
This same species of chisel, applied in different ways, reduced
masses of iron in size, planed down flat surfaces, enlarged holes, made
cylinders “true” and smooth inside, besides doing a variety of other
After seeing the large tyre turned, Mrs. Marrot could not be induced
to pay much regard to the various carriage and truck wheels which were
being treated in a similar manner in that department, but she was
induced to open her ears, and her eyes too, when the overseer informed
her that the “works” turned out complete no fewer than one hundred and
thirty pairs of locomotive, carriage, and waggon wheels a week.
“How many did you say?” she asked.
“A hundred and thirty pair of wheels in the week,” repeated the
“Every week?” asked Mrs. Marrot.
“Yes; every week. Sometimes more, sometimes less; but altogether,
pretty well on for 6000 pairs of wheels every year.”
“W'y, what DO you make of 'em all?”
“Oh, we make good use of 'em,” replied the overseer, laughing. “We
wear them out so fast that it keeps us working at that rate to meet our
necessities. But that,” he continued, “is only a small part of what we
do. We turn out of the works 156 first-class carriages besides many
seconds and thirds, and about 1560 trucks every year; besides three
engines, new and complete, every fortnight.”
“Three noo engines every fortnight!” echoed Mrs. Marrot; “how many's
that in the year, Bob?”
“Seventy-eight,” replied Bob, promptly. Bob was a swift mental
calculator, and rather proud of it.
“Where ever do they all go to?” murmured Mrs. Marrot.
“Why,” replied Will Garvie, “they go to all the stations on the
line, of course; some of 'em go to smash at once in cases of accidents,
and all of 'em goes to destruction, more or less, in about fifteen or
twenty years. We reckon that to be the life of a locomotive. See,
there's a drivin' axle, such as you saw forged by the big hammer, being
turned now, and cut to shape and size by the same sort of machine that
you saw cuttin' the tyres.”
They passed on, after looking at the axle for a few minutes, until
they came to a part of the building where rails were being forged. This
also, although not done by hammer, was a striking process. The place
was so hot owing to the quantity of uncooled metal on the floor, that
it was not possible to remain long; they therefore took a rapid survey.
In one place several men were in the act of conveying to the
steam-hammer a mass of shapeless white-hot iron, which had just been
plucked from a furnace with a pair of grippers. They put it below the
hammer for a few minutes, which soon reduced it to a clumsy bar; then
they carried it to a pair of iron rollers driven by steam. The end of
the bar being presented to these, it was gripped, dragged in between
them, and passed out at the other side, flat and very much lengthened,
as well as thinned. Having been further reduced by this process, it was
finally passed through a pair of rollers, which gave it shape, and sent
it out a complete rail, ready to be laid down on the line.
Here Garvie took occasion to explain that steel rails, although very
expensive, were now being extensively used in preference to iron rails,
because they lasted much longer. “For instance,” he said, “steel costs
about œ12 a ton and iron only costs about œ7; but then, d'ye see, steel
rails will last two years and more, whereas iron rails get wore out,
and have to be renewed every six weeks in places where there's much
“Now, I can't stand no more o' this,” said Mrs. Marrot, down whose
face the perspiration was streaming; “I'm a'most roasted alive, an'
don't understand your explanations one bit, Willum, so come along.”
“Oh, mother, DO hold on a moment,” pleaded Bob, whose mechanical
soul was in a species of paradise.
“You'd better come, Bob,” interposed Garvie, “else we won't have
time to see the department where the engines are fitted.”
This was sufficient for Bob, who willingly followed.
The fitting shed at that time contained several engines in various
stages of advancement. In one place men were engaged in fitting
together the iron framework or foundation of a locomotive, with screws,
and bolts, and nuts, and rivets. Others were employed near them, on an
engine more advanced, in putting on the wheels and placing the boilers
and fire-boxes, while another gang were busy covering the boiler of a
third engine with a coating of wood and felt, literally for the purpose
of keeping it warm, or preventing its heat from escaping. Farther on,
three beautiful new engines, that had just been made and stood ready
for action, were receiving a few finishing touches from the painters.
Fresh, spotless, and glittering, these were to make their DEBUT on the
morrow, and commence their comparatively brief career of furious
activity—gay things, doomed emphatically to a fast life! Beyond these
young creatures lay a number of aged and crippled engines, all more or
less disabled and sent there for repair; one to have a burst steam-pipe
removed and replaced, another to have a wheel, or a fire-box or a
cylinder changed; and one, that looked as if it had recently “run
a-muck” against all the other engines on the line, stood sulkily grim
in a corner, evidently awaiting its sentence of condemnation,—the
usual fate of such engines being to be torn, bored, battered,
chiselled, clipt, and otherwise cut to pieces, and cast into the
While gazing round this apartment, Mrs. Marrot's eyes suddenly
“Wot's the matter NOW?” demanded Bob, in some alarm.
“I DO believe—w'y—there's a locomotive IN THE AIR!” said Mrs.
Marrot in an undertone.
“So it is!” exclaimed Bob.
And, reader, so it was. In that shed they had a crane which rested
on a framework overhead, and ran on wheels over the entire shop. It was
capable of lifting above fifty tons' weight and as a large locomotive,
ponderous though it be, is not much over twenty tons, of course this
giant crane made short work of such. When the men have occasion to
remove a wheel from the iron horse, not being able to make it lift up
its leg, so to speak, to have it taken off, they bring it under the
crane, swing it up as a little boy might swing a toy-cart, and operate
on it at their leisure.
Mrs. Marrot felt an unpleasant sensation on beholding this. As the
wife of an engine-driver, she had long felt the deepest respect, almost
amounting to reverence, for locomotives, in regard to the weight,
speed, and irresistible power of which she had always entertained the
most exalted ideas. To see one of the race—and that too, of the
largest size—treated in this humiliating fashion was too much for her,
she declared that she had seen enough of the “works,” and wouldn't on
any account remain another minute!
“But you won't go without seein' the carriage and truck department,
surely?” said Bob.
“Well, I'll just take a look to please YOU,” said the amiable woman.
Accordingly, to the truck and van department they went, and there
Bob, whose mind was sharp as a needle, saw a good many pieces of
mechanism, which formerly he had only seen in a transition state, now
applied to their ultimate uses. The chiselled, sawn, and drilled planks
seen in the first department, were here being fitted and bolted
together in the form of trucks, while the uses of many strange pieces
of iron, which had puzzled him in the blacksmiths' department, became
obvious when fitted to their appropriate woodwork. Here, also, he saw
the internal machinery of railway carriages laid bare, especially the
position and shape of the springs that give elasticity to the buffers,
which, he observed, were just the same in shape as ordinary carriage
springs, placed so that the ends of the buffer-rods pressed against
But all this afforded no gratification to Mrs. Marrot, whose
sensitive mind dwelt uneasily on the humiliated locomotive, until she
suddenly came on a row of new first-class carriages, where a number of
people were employed stuffing cushions.
“Well, I declare,” she exclaimed, “if here ain't cushion-stuffing
going on! I expect we shall come to coat-and-shift-making for porters
and guards, next!”
“No, we haven't got quite that length yet,” laughed Will Garvie;
“but if you look along you'll see gilding, and glazing, and painting
going on, at that first-class carriage. Still farther along, in the
direction we're going, is the infirmary.”
“The infirmary, Willum!”
“Ay, the place where old and damaged trucks and carriages are sent
for repair. They're all in a bad way, you see,—much in need o' the
This was true. Looking at some of these unfortunates, with
crushed-in planks, twisted buffers and general dismemberment, it seemed
a wonder that they had been able to perform their last journey, or
crawl to the hospital. Some of the trucks especially might have been
almost said to look diseased, they were so dirty, while at the corners,
where address cards were wont to be affixed, they appeared to have
broken out in a sort of small-pox irruption of iron tackets.
At last Mrs. Marrot left the “works,” declaring that her brain was
“whirling worser than was the wheels and machinery they had just left,”
while Bob asseverated stoutly that his appetite for the stupendous had
only been whetted. In this frame of mind the former went home to nurse
her husband, and the latter was handed over to his future master, the
locomotive superintendent of the line.
Reader, it is worth your while to visit such works, to learn what
can be done by the men whom you are accustomed to see, only while
trooping home at meal hours, with dirty garments and begrimed hands and
faces—to see the grandeur as well as the delicacy of their
operations, while thus labouring amongst din and dust and fire, to
provide YOU with safe and luxurious locomotion. We cannot indeed,
introduce you to the particular “works” we have described; but if you
would see something similar, hie thee to the works of our great
arterial railways,—to those of the London and North-Western, at Crewe;
the Great Western, at Swindon; the South-eastern, at Ashford; the Great
Northern, at Doncaster; the North British, at Cowlairs; the Caledonian,
at Glasgow, or any of the many others that exist throughout the
kingdom, for in each and all you will see, with more or less
modification, exactly the same amazing sights that were witnessed by
worthy Mrs. Marrot and her hopeful son Bob, on that
never-to-be-forgotten day, when they visited the pre-eminently great
Clatterby “works” of the Grand National Trunk Railway.
Note. The foregoing description is founded on visits paid to the
locomotive works of the Great Western, at Swindon, and those of the
North British, near Glasgow—to the General Managers and
Superintendents of both which railways we are indebted for much
Chapter IX. CONCERNING DOMESTIC
ECONOMY AND DIFFICULTIES—SURPRISES AND EXPLANATIONS.
How to “make the two ends meet,” is a question that has engaged the
attention and taxed the brains of hundreds and thousands of human
beings from time immemorial, and which will doubtless afford them free
scope for exercise to the end of time.
This condition of things would appear to arise from a misconception
on the part of those who are thus exercised as to the necessities of
life. They seem to imagine, as a rule, that if their income should
happen to be, say three hundred pounds a year, it is absolutely
impossible by any effort of ingenuity for them to live on less than two
hundred and ninety-nine pounds nineteen shillings and eleven-pence
three farthing. They therefore attempt to regulate their expenditure
accordingly, and rather plume themselves than otherwise on the fact
that they are firmly resolved to save and lay bye the farthing. They
fail in this attempt as a matter of course, and hence the difficulty of
making the two ends meet. If these unfortunates had been bred to the
profession of engineering or “contracting,” they would have known that
it is what we may style a law of human nature to under-estimate
probable expenses. So thoroughly is this understood by the men of the
professions above referred to, that, after they have formed an
estimate,—set down every imaginable expense, and racked their brains
in order to make sure that they have provided for every conceivable and
inconceivable item, they coolly add to the amount a pretty large sum as
a “margin” to cover unexpected and unthought-of contingencies. But
anything of this sort never seems to enter into the calculations of the
people who are so much tormented with those obstinate “two ends” that
won't meet. There is one sure and easy mode of escape for them, but
they invariably hold that mode to be ridiculous, until in dire
extremity they are forced to adopt it. This is simply to make one's
calculations for living CONSIDERABLY WITHIN one's income!
We make no apology for going into the minutiae of this remarkable
phase of human existence, because it is necessary, in order to the
correct appreciation of the circumstances and feelings of good little
Mrs. Tipps, when, several weeks after the accident described in a
previous chapter, she sat down in her little parlour to reconsider the
subject of her annual expenditure.
Netta sat beside her looking somewhat pale, for she had not quite
recovered from the effects of her recent illness.
“My darling,” said Mrs. Tipps, “how CAN you charge me with having
made an error somewhere? Have I not got it all down here on black and
white, as your dear father used to say? This is the identical paper on
which I made my calculations last year, and I have gone over them all
and found them perfectly correct. Look there.”
Mrs. Tipps held up in triumph, as if it were an incontestable
evidence of the rectitude of her calculations, a sheet of note-paper so
blotted and bespattered with figures, that it would have depressed the
heart even of an accountant, because, besides the strong probability
that it was intrinsically wrong, it was altogether illegible.
“Dear mamma,” remonstrated Netta, with a twinkle of her eye, “I do
not call in question the correctness of your calculations, but I
suggest that there may perhaps be an error of some sort somewhere. At
all events the result would seem to indicate—to imply—that—that
everything was not QUITE right, you know.”
“Quite true, darling,” replied Mrs. Tipps, who was a candid though
obtuse soul; “the result is unsatisfactory, eminently so; yet I cannot
charge myself with careless omissions. See—here it is; on one side are
my receipts. Your dear father always impressed it SO earnestly on me
that I should keep the receipts of money on one side of the accounts,
and the payments on the other. I never could remember, by the way, on
which side to put the receipts, and on which the payments, until he hit
on the idea of making me contradict myself, and then I should be sure
to keep right. He used to say (how well I remember it), `Now, darling,
this is the way: Whenever you receive a sum of money to enter in your
cash-book, always say to yourself, What side shall I put it on? If your
mind suggests on the right, at once say No—because that would be wrong
—right being WRONG in THIS case,' and he did use to laugh so over that
Mrs. Tipps' gravity deepened as she recalled these interesting
lessons in book-keeping.
“Yes,” she continued, with a sigh, “and then he would go on to say,
that `if it was wrong to go to the right, of course it must be right to
go the other way.' At first I used to be a good deal puzzled, and said,
`But suppose my mind, when I receive a sum of money, should suggest
putting it on the LEFT, am I to contradict myself THEN?' `Oh no!' he
would say, with another laugh, `in that case you will remember that
your mind is to be LEFT alone to carry out its suggestion.' I got to
understand it at last, after several years of training, but I never
COULD quite approve of it for it causes so much waste of paper. Just
look here!” she said, holding up a little account-book, “here are all
the right pages quite filled up, while all the left pages are blank. It
takes only four lines to enter my receipts, because you know I receive
my money only once a quarter. Well, that brings me back to the point.
Here are all the receipts on one side; my whole income, deducting
income-tax—which, by the way, I cannot help regarding as a very unjust
tax—amounts to two hundred and fifty pounds seventeen shillings and
two-pence. Then here you have my paper of calculations—everything set
down—rent, taxes, water rates, food, clothing, coals, gas, candles,
sundries (sundries, my darling, including such small articles as soap,
starch, etc.); nothing omitted, even the cat's food provided for, the
whole mounting to two hundred and forty-five pounds. You see I was so
anxious to keep within my income, that I resolved to leave five pounds
seventeen shillings and two-pence for contingencies. But how does the
case actually stand?” Here poor Mrs. Tipps pointed indignantly to her
account-book, and to a pile of papers that lay before her, as if they
were the guilty cause of all her troubles. “How does it stand? The
whole two hundred and fifty pounds seventeen shillings spent—only the
two-pence left—and accounts to tradesmen, amounting to fifty pounds,
“And have we NOTHING left to pay them?” asked Netta, in some
“Nothing, my love,” replied Mrs. Tipps, with a perplexed look,
“except,” she added, after a moment's thought, “the tuppence!”
The poor lady whimpered as she said this, seeing which Netta burst
into tears; whereupon her mother sprang up, scattered the accounts
right and left, and blaming herself for having spoken on these
disagreeable subjects at all, threw her arms round Netta's neck and
“Don't think me foolish, mamma,” said Netta, drying her eyes in a
moment; “really it almost makes me laugh to think that I should ever
come to cry so easily; but you know illness does weaken one so, that
sometimes, in spite of myself, I feel inclined to cry. But don't mind
me; there, it's past now. Let us resume our business talk.”
“Indeed I will not,” protested Mrs. Tipps.
“Then I will call nurse, and go into the subject with her,” said
“Don't be foolish, dear.”
“Well, then, go on with it, mamma. Tell me, now, is there nothing
that we could sell?”
“Nothing. To be sure there is my gold watch, but that would not
fetch more than a few pounds; and my wedding-ring, which I would sooner
die than part with.”
Netta glanced, as she spoke, at an unusually superb diamond ring, of
Eastern manufacture, which adorned her own delicate hand. It was her
father's last gift to her a few days before he died.
“What are you thinking of, darling?” inquired Mrs. Tipps.
“Of many things,” replied Netta slowly. “It is not easy to tell you
Here she was saved the necessity of further explanation by the
entrance of Joseph Tipps, who, after kissing his mother and sister
heartily, threw his hat and gloves into a corner, and, rubbing his
hands together as he sat down, inquired if Edwin Gurwood had been
“No, we have neither seen nor heard of him,” said Netta.
“Then you shall have him to luncheon in half-an-hour, or so,” said
Joseph, consulting his watch. “I got leave of absence to-day, and
intend to spend part of my holiday in introducing him to Captain Lee,
who has promised to get him a situation in the head office. You've no
idea what a fine hearty fellow he is,” continued Tipps
enthusiastically, “so full of humour and good sense. But what have you
been discussing? Not accounts, surely! Why, mother, what's the use of
boring your brains with such things? Let me have 'em, I'll go over them
for you. What d'you want done? The additions checked, eh?”
On learning that it was not the accounts so much as the discrepancy
between the estimate and the actual expenditure that puzzled his
mother, Tipps seized her book, and, turning over the leaves, said,
“Here, let me see, I'll soon find it out—ah, well, rent yes; taxes,
h'm; wine to Mrs. Natly, you put that, in your estimate, under the head
of food, I suppose?”
“N-no, I think not.”
“Under physic, then?”
“No, not under that. I have no head for that.”
“What! no head for physic? If you'd said you had no stomach for it I
could have understood you; but—well—what DID you put it under;
“I'm afraid, Joseph, that I have not taken note of that in my
extract—your dear father used to call the thing he did with his
cash-book at the end of the year an extract—I think I've omitted
“Just so,” said Tipps, jotting down with a pencil on the back of a
letter. “I'll soon account to you for the discrepancy. Here are six
bottles of wine to Mrs. Natly, the railway porter's wife, at three-and-six—one pound one—not provided for in your estimate. Any more physic,
I wonder? H'm, subscription for coals to the poor. Half-a- guinea—no
head for charities in your estimate, I suppose?”
“Of course,” pleaded Mrs. Tipps, “in making an estimate, I was
thinking only of my own expenses, you know—not of charities and such-like things; but when poor people come, you know, what IS one to do?”
“We'll not discuss that just now, mother. Hallo! `ten guineas
doctor's fee!' Of course you have not that in the estimate, seeing that
you did not know Netta was going to be ill. What's this?—`five pounds
for twenty wax dolls—naked—(to be dressed by—)'“
“Really, Joseph, the book is too private to be read aloud,” said
Mrs. Tipps, snatching it out of her son's hand. “These dolls were for a
bazaar in aid of the funds of a blind asylum, and I dressed them all
myself last winter.”
“Well, well, mother,” said Tipps, laughing, “I don't want to pry
into such secrets; but here, you see, we have seventeen pounds odd of
the discrepancy discovered already, and I've no doubt that the
remainder could soon be fished up.”
“Yes,” sighed Mrs. Tipps, sadly, “I see it now. As the poet truly
says,—`Evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart.' I
have been assisting the poor at the expense of my trades-people.”
“Mother,” exclaimed Tipps, indignantly, “you have been doing nothing
of the sort. Don't imagine that I could for a moment insinuate such a
thing. You have only made a little mistake in your calculations, and
all that you have got to do is to PUT DOWN A LARGER SUM FOR
CONTINGENCIES next time. What nonsense you talk about your trades-people! Every one of them shall be paid to the last farthing—”
Here Tipps was interrupted by the entrance of Edwin Gurwood, who at
once began with much interest to inquire into the health of Mrs. Tipps,
and hoped that she had not suffered in any way from her recent
Mrs. Tipps replied she was thankful to say that she had not suffered
in any way, beyond being a little shaken and dreadfully alarmed.
“But railways have suffered,” said Tipps, laughing, “for mother is
so strongly set against them now that she would not enter one for a
“They have suffered in worse ways than that,” said Gurwood, “if all
that I hear be true, for that accident has produced a number of serious
Hereupon Gurwood and his friend plunged into an animated
conversation about railway accidents and their consequences, to the
intense interest and horror of Mrs. Tipps.
Meanwhile Netta left the room, and went to her old nurse's
“Nurse,” she said, hurriedly, “when did you say you proposed paying
your brother in London a visit—about this time, was it not?”
“Yes, dear,” said old Mrs. Durby, taking off her tortoise-shell
spectacles and laying down her work, “I thought of going next week, if
it is quite convenient.”
“It IS quite convenient, nurse,” continued Netta, in a somewhat
flurried manner; “it would be still more convenient if you could go to-morrow or next day.”
“Deary me—what's wrong?” inquired Mrs. Durby, in some surprise.
“Listen, I have not time to explain much,” said Netta, earnestly,
sitting down beside her faithful nurse and putting her hand on her
shoulder. “We have got into difficulties, nurse—temporary
difficulties, I hope—but they must be got over somehow. Now, I want
you to take this diamond ring to London with you—pawn it for as much
as you can get, and bring me the money.”
“Me pawn it, my dear! I never pawned a thing in my life, and don't
know how to go about it.”
“But your brother knows how to do it,” suggested Netta. “Now, you
won't refuse me this favour, dear nurse? I know it is an unpleasant
business, but what else can be done? The ring is my own; besides, I
hope to be able to redeem it soon. I know no more about pawning than
yourself, but I do know that a considerable time must elapse before the
ring shall be lost to me. And, you know, our bills MUST be paid.”
Good Mrs. Durby did not require much persuasion. She consented to
set off as soon as possible, if she should obtain permission from Mrs.
Tipps, who was aware that she had intended to visit her brother about
that time. She received the precious ring, which, for security, was put
into a pill-box; this was introduced into an empty match-box, which
Netta wrapped in a sheet of note-paper and put Mrs. Durby's name on it.
For further security Mrs. Durby enlarged the parcel by thrusting the
match-box into an old slipper, the heel of which she doubled over the
toe, and then wrapped the whole in several sheets of brown paper until
the parcel assumed somewhat the shape and size of her own head. It was
also fastened with strong cords, but Mrs. Durby's powers of making a
parcel were so poor that she left several uncouth corners and ragged
ends of paper sticking out here and there. She wrote on it in pencil
the simple name—Durby.
Meanwhile Joseph and his friend, having finished luncheon, prepared
to set out on their visit to Captain Lee. As they quitted the house,
Tipps ran back to the door and called his sister out of the parlour.
“I say, Netta, what about this fifty pounds that mother was talking
of?” he said. “Do you mean to say that you are really short of that
sum, and in debt?”
“We are, but I see a way out of the difficulty. Don't distress
yourself, Joe; we shall have everything squared up, as you call it in a
“Are you QUITE sure of that?” asked Tipps, with a doubting look.
“You know I have got an uncommonly cheap lodging, and a remarkably
economical landlady, who manages so splendidly that I feed on a mere
trifle a week. Seventy-five pounds a year, you know, is more than I
know what to do with. I can live on thirty-five or so, and the other
“We don't require it Joe,” said Netta, laughing. “There, go away,
you are giving me cold by keeping me in the passage, and your friend is
She pushed him out, nodded, and shut the door. Tipps hastened after
his friend, apologised for the delay, and, stepping out smartly, they
were soon ushered into Captain Lee's drawing-room. The captain was
writing. Emma was seated near the window sewing.
“Ha! Tipps, my fine fellow, glad to see you; why, I was just
thinking of you,” said the captain, extending his hand.
“I have called,” began Tipps, bowing to Emma and shaking the
captain's hand, “to introduce my—my—eh!—ah, my—what's the matter?”
There was some reason for these exclamations, for Captain Lee stood
gazing in mute amazement at young Gurwood, while the latter returned
the compliment with his eyebrows raised to the roots of his hair. The
similarity of their expressions did not, however, last long, for Edwin
became gradually confused, while the captain grew red and choleric-looking.
“So,” said the latter at length, in a very stern voice, “THIS is
your friend, Mr. Tipps?”
“Sir,” exclaimed Edwin, flushing crimson, “you ought not to condemn
any one unheard.”
“I do not condemn you, sir,” retorted the captain.
“By word, no, but by look and tone and gesture you do.”
“Captain Lee,” exclaimed Tipps, who had stood perfectly aghast with
amazement at this scene, “what DO you mean?—surely.”
“I mean,” said the captain, “that this youth was taken up by one of
our own detectives as a thief, some weeks ago, and was found travelling
in a first-class carriage without a ticket.”
Young Gurwood, who had by this time recovered his self-possession,
turned to his friend and said,—“Explain this matter, Tipps, you know
all about it. The only point that can puzzle you is, that I did not
know the name of Captain Lee when I travelled with him, and therefore
did not connect him with the gentleman to whom you said you meant to
Tipps drew a long breath.
“Oh,” said he, “I see it all now. Why, Captain Lee, my friend is
PERFECTLY innocent. It was quite a mistake, I assure you; and the best
proof of it is that he is a personal friend of our police
superintendent, who was on the spot at the time the accident occurred,
but we were all thrown into such confusion at the time, that I don't
wonder things were not cleared up.”
Tipps hereupon went into a detailed account of the matter as far as
he knew it, at first to the surprise and then to the amusement of
Captain Lee. Fortunately for Gurwood, who would have found it difficult
to explain the circumstance of his travelling without a ticket, the
captain was as prompt to acknowledge his erroneous impression as he had
been to condemn. Instead of listening to Tipps, he stopped him by
suddenly grasping Gurwood's hand, and thanking him heartily for the
prompt and able assistance he had rendered in rescuing his daughter
from her perilous position on the day of the accident.
Of course Edwin would not admit that “rescue” was the proper term to
apply to his action, and refused to admit that Miss Lee was in the
slightest degree indebted to him, at the same time assuring her and her
father that it had afforded him the highest possible pleasure to have
been of the slightest service to them. The end of it was that they all
became extremely good friends, and the captain in particular became
quite jocular in reference to mistakes in general and stealing in
particular, until Tipps, pulling out his watch, declared that
procrastination was the thief of time, and that as he happened to have
business to transact with the police superintendent in reference to the
very accident which had caused them all so much trouble, he must
unwillingly bid them adieu.
“Stay, Tipps,” exclaimed the captain, rising, “I shall accompany you
to the station, and introduce our friend Gurwood to the scene of his
future labours, where,” continued the captain, turning with a hearty
air and patronising smile to Edwin, “I hope you will lay the foundation
of a career which will end in a manager's or secretary's situation, or
some important post of that sort. Good-bye, Emma I'll not be back till
Emma bowed to the young men, and said good-bye to her father with a
smile so ineffably captivating, that Edwin resolved then and there to
lay the foundation of a career which would end in a wife with nut-brown hair and large lustrous eyes.
Poor Edwin! He was not the first man whose wayward spirit had been
chained, his impulses directed to good ends and aims, and his destiny
fixed, by the smile of an innocent, loving, pretty girl. Assuredly,
also, he was not the last!
Chapter X. SHARP PRACTICE.
Standing with his back to the fireplace, his legs slightly apart,
his hands in his pockets, and his eyes fixed on the ceiling, Mr. Sharp,
Police Superintendent of the Grand National Trunk Railway, communed
with himself and dived into the future.
Mr. Sharp's powers of diving were almost miraculous. He had an
unusually keen eye for the past and the present, but in regard to the
future his powers were all but prophetic. He possessed a rare capacity
for following up clues; investigating cases; detecting falsehoods, not
only of the lip, but of the eye and complexion; and, in a word, was
able to extract golden information out of the most unpromising
circumstances. He was also all but ubiquitous. Now tracking a suspicion
to its source on his own line in one of the Midland counties; anon
comparing notes with a brother superintendent at the terminus of the
Great Western, or Great Northern, or South-Eastern in London. Sometimes
called away to give evidence in a county court; at other times taking a
look in at his own home to kiss his wife or dandle his child before
dashing off per express to follow up a clue to John O'Groats or the
Land's End. Here, and there, and everywhere—calm, self-possessed, and
self-contained, making notes in trains, writing reports in his office,
making discoveries and convictions, and sometimes making prisoners with
his own hands by night and day, with no fixed hours for work, or rest,
or meals, and no certainty in anything concerning him, save in the
uncertainty of his movements, Mr. Sharp with his myrmidons was the
terror of evil doers, and, we may truly add, the safeguard of the
Little did that ungrateful public know all it owed to the untiring
watchfulness and activity of Mr. Sharp and his men. If he and his
compeers were to be dismissed from our lines for a single week, the
descent of a host of thieves and scoundrels to commit wide-spread
plunder would teach the public somewhat severely how much they owe to
the efficient management of this department of railway business, and
how well, constantly and vigilantly—though unobtrusively—their
interests are cared for.
But to return. Mr. Sharp, as we have said stood communing with
himself and diving into the future. Apparently his thoughts afforded
him some amusement, for his eyes twinkled slightly, and there was a
faintly humorous twist about the corners of his mouth.
David Blunt sat at a desk near him, writing diligently. Against the
wall over his head hung a row of truncheons. Besides the desk, a bench,
two or three wooden chairs, and a chest, there was little furniture in
Blunt's busy pen at length ceased to move, and Sharp looked at him.
“Well, Blunt,” he said, “I see nothing for it but to make a railway
porter of you.”
“By all means, sir,” said Blunt, with a smile, laying down his pen.
“Gorton station,” continued Sharp, “has become a very nest of
thieves. It is not creditable that such a state of things should exist
for a week on our line. They have managed things very cleverly as yet.
Five or six bales of cloth have disappeared in the course of as many
days, besides several loaves of sugar and half-a-dozen cheeses. I am
pretty sure who the culprits are, but can't manage to bring it home to
them, so, as I have said, we must convert you into a porter. You have
only been once engaged on this part of the line—that was at the
accident when you were so hard on poor Mr. Gurwood, so that none of the
Gorton people will know you. I have arranged matters with our passenger
superintendent. It seems that Macdonell, the station-master at Gorton,
has been complaining that he is short-handed and wants another porter.
That just suits us, so we have resolved to give you that responsible
situation. You will get a porter's uniform from—”
At this point Mr. Sharp was interrupted by the door opening
violently, and a detective in plain clothes entering with a stout young
man in his grasp.
“Who have we here?” asked Mr. Sharp.
“Man travelling without a ticket sir,” replied the detective, whose
calm demeanour was in marked contrast to the excitement of his
“Ha! come here; what have you to say for yourself?” demanded the
superintendent of the man.
Hereupon the man began a violent exculpation of himself, which
entailed nearly half-an-hour of vigorous cross-questioning, and
resulted in his giving a half-satisfactory account of himself, some
trustworthy references to people in town, and being set free.
This case having been disposed of, Mr. Sharp resumed his
conversation with Blunt.
“Having been changed, then, into a railway porter, Blunt, you will
proceed to Gorton to discharge your duties there, and while doing so
you will make uncommonly good use of your eyes, ears, and
Mr. Sharp smiled and Blunt chuckled, and at the same time Joseph
Tipps entered the room.
“Good-evening, Mr. Sharp,” he said. “Well, anything more about these
“Nothing more yet, Mr. Tipps, but we expect something more soon, for
a new porter is about to be sent to the station.”
Tipps, who was a very simple matter-of-fact man in some ways, looked
“Why, how will the sending of a new porter to the station throw
light on the matter?”
“You shall know in the course of time, Mr. Tipps,” replied the
superintendent. “We have wonderful ways of finding out things here.”
“Indeed you have,” said Tipps; “and, by the way, that reminds me
that they have some wonderful ways of finding out things on the
Continent as well as here. I have just heard of a clever thing done by
a German professor. It seems that on one of the lines—I forget which
—a large box full of silver-plate was despatched. It had a long way to
go, and before reaching its destination the plate was stolen, and the
box filled up with sand. On this being discovered, of course every sort
of investigation was set on foot, but without success. At last the
thing came to the ears of a professor of chemistry—or the police went
to him, I don't know which—and it occurred to him that he might get a
clue to the thieves by means of the sand in the box. You see the great
difficulty the police had, was to ascertain at which of the innumerable
stations on the long line, it was likely that the theft had taken
place. The professor ordered samples of the sand at all the stations on
the line to be sent to him. These he analysed and examined with the
microscope, and found that one of the samples was precisely similar in
all respects to the sand in the box. The attention of the police was at
once concentrated on the station from which that sand had been
gathered, and in a short time the guilty parties were discovered and
the theft brought home to them. Now, wasn't that clever?”
“Very good, very good, indeed,” said Mr. Sharp, approvingly, “and
rather peculiar. I had a somewhat peculiar case myself last week. You
know some time ago there was a quantity of cloth stolen on this line,
for which, by the way, we had to pay full compensation. Well, I could
not get any clue to the thieves, but at last I thought of a plan. I got
some patterns of the cloth from the party that lost it, and sent one of
these to every station on the line where it was likely to have been
stolen. Just the other day I got a telegram from Croon station stating
that a man had been seen going about in a new suit exactly the same as
the pattern. Off I went immediately, pounced on the man, taxed him with
the theft, and found the remainder of the cloth in his house.”
“Capital,” exclaimed Tipps, “that was smartly managed. And, by the
way, wasn't there something about a case of stealing muffs and boas
“Yes, and we got hold of that thief too, the day before yesterday,”
replied Mr. Sharp. “I felt sure, from the way in which the theft was
committed, that it must be one of our own men, and so it turned out. He
had cut open a bale and taken out several muffs and boas of first- rate
sable. One set of 'em he gave to his sweetheart, who was seen wearing
them in church on Sunday. I just went to her and said I was going to
put a question to her, and warned her to speak the truth, as it would
be worse for all parties concerned if she attempted to deceive me. I
then asked her if she had got the muff and boa from Jim Croydon, the
porter. She blushed scarlet, and admitted it at once, but said, poor
thing, that she had no idea they had been stolen, and I believe her.
This case occurred just after I had watched the milk- truck the other
night for three hours, and found that the thief who had been helping
himself to it every morning for some weeks past was the watchman at the
“I fear there are a great many bad fellows amongst us,” said Tipps,
shaking his head.
“You are quite mistaken,” replied the superintendent. “There WERE a
good many bad fellows, but I flatter myself that there are very few NOW
in proportion to the number of men on the line. We are constantly
winnowing them out, purifying the ore, as it were, so that we are
gradually getting rid of all the dross, and leaving nothing but
sterling metal on the line. Why, Mr. Tipps, you surely don't expect
that railways are to be exempted from black sheep any more than other
large companies. Just look at the army and navy, and see what a lot of
rascals have to be punished and drummed out of the service every now
and then. Same everywhere. Why, when I consider that we employ over
twenty thousand men and boys, and that these men and boys are tempted,
more almost than any other class of people, by goods lying about
constantly in large quantities in the open air, and in all sorts of
lonely and out-of-the-way places, my surprise is that our bad men are
so few. No doubt we shall always have one or two prowling about, and
may occasionally alight on a nest of 'em, but we shall manage to keep
'em down—to winnow them out faster, perhaps, than they come in. I am
just going about some little pieces of business of that sort now,”
added Mr. Sharp; putting on his hat. “Did you wish to speak with me
about anything in particular, Mr. Tipps?”
“Yes; I wished to ask you if that fat woman, Mrs. —, what's her
“You mean Mrs. Podge, I suppose?” suggested Sharp; “she who kicked
her heels so vigorously at Langrye after the accident.”
“Ah! Mrs. Podge—yes. Does she persist in her ridiculous claim for
“She does, having been urged to do so by some meddling friend; for
I'm quite sure that she would never have thought of doing so herself,
seeing that she received no damage at all beyond a fright. I'm going to
pay her a visit to-day in reference to that very thing.”
“That's all right; then I won't detain you longer. Good-bye, Mr.
Sharp,” said Tipps, putting on his hat and quitting the office.
Not long afterwards, Mr. Sharp knocked at the door of a small house
in one of the suburbs of Clatterby, and was ushered into the presence
of Mrs. Podge. That amiable lady was seated by the fire knitting a
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Podge,” said Mr. Sharp, bowing and speaking in
his blandest tones. “I hope I see you quite well?”
Mrs. Podge, charmed with the stranger's urbanity, wished him good
afternoon, admitted that she was quite well, and begged him to be
“Thank you, Mrs. Podge,” said Mr. Sharp, complying. “I have taken
the liberty of calling in regard to a small matter of business—but
pardon me,” he added, rising and shutting the door, “I inadvertently
left the door open, which is quite inexcusable in me, considering your
delicate state of health. I trust that—”
“My delicate state of health!” exclaimed Mrs. Podge, who was as fat
as a prize pig, and rather piqued herself on her good looks and vigour
“Yes,” continued Mr. Sharp, in a commiserating tone; “I have
understood, that since the accident on the railway your—”
“Oh, as to that,” laughed Mrs. Podge, “I'm not much the worse of—
but, sir,” she said, becoming suddenly grave, “you said you had called
“I did. My business is to ask,” said Mr. Sharp, with a very earnest
glance of his penetrating eyes, “on what ground you claim compensation
from the Grand National Trunk Railway?”
Instantly Mrs. Podge's colour changed. She became languid, and
“Oh, sir—damages—yes—my nerves! I did not indeed suffer much
damage in the way of cuts or bruises, though there WAS a good piece of
skin torn off my elbow, which I could show you if it were proper to—
but my nerves received a TERRIBLE shock. They have not yet recovered.
Indeed, your abrupt way of putting it has quite—thrown a—”
As Mrs. Podge exhibited some symptoms of a hysterical nature at this
point Mr. Sharp assumed a very severe expression of countenance, and
“Now, Mrs. Podge, do you really think it fair or just, to claim
damages from a company, from whom you have absolutely received NO
“But sir,” said Mrs. Podge, recovering, “my nerves DID receive
“I do not doubt it Mrs. Podge, but we cannot compensate you for
that. If you had been laid up, money could have repaid you for lost
time, or, if your goods had been damaged, it might have compensated for
that but money cannot restore shocked nerves. Did you require medical
“N-no!” said Mrs. Podge, reddening. “A friend did indeed insist on
my seeing a doctor, to whom, at his suggestion, I gave a fee of five
shillings, but to say truth I did not require him.”
“Ha! was it the same friend who advised you to claim compensation?”
“Ye-es!” replied Mrs. Podge, a little confused.
“Well, Mrs. Podge, from your own admission I rather think that there
seems something like a fraudulent attempt to obtain money here. I do
not for a moment hint that you are guilty of a fraudulent INTENTION,
but you must know, ma'am, that the law takes no notice of intentions—
only of facts.”
“But HAVE I not a right to expect compensation for the shock to my
nervous system?” pleaded Mrs. Podge, still unwilling to give in.
“Certainly not, ma'am, if the shock did not interfere with your
ordinary course of life or cause you pecuniary loss. And does it not
seem hard on railways, if you can view the subject candidly, to be so
severely punished for accidents which are in many eases absolutely
unavoidable? Perfection is not to be attained in a moment. We are
rapidly decreasing our risks and increasing our safeguards. We do our
best for the safety and accommodation of the public, and as directors
and officials travel by our trains as frequently as do the public,
concern for our own lives insures that we work the line in good faith.
Why, ma'am, I was myself near the train at the time of the accident at
Langrye, and MY nerves were considerably shaken. Moreover, there was a
director with his daughter in the train, both of whom were severely
shaken, but they do not dream of claiming damages on that account. If
you could have shown, Mrs. Podge, that you had suffered loss of any
kind, we should have OFFERED you compensation promptly, but as things
“Well, well,” exclaimed Mrs. Podge, testily. “I suppose I must give
it up, but I don't see why railway companies should be allowed to shock
my nerves and then refuse to give me any compensation!”
“But we do not absolutely refuse ALL compensation,” said Mr. Sharp,
drawing out his purse; “if a sovereign will pay the five shilling fee
of your doctor, and any other little expenses that you may have
incurred, you are welcome to it.”
Mrs. Podge extended her hand, Mr. Sharp dropped the piece of gold
into it, and then, wishing her good afternoon, quitted the house.
The superintendent of police meditated, as he walked smartly away
from Mrs. Podge, on the wonderful differences that were to be met with
in mankind, as to the matter of acquisitiveness, and his mind reverted
to a visit he had paid some time before, to another of the passengers
in the train to which the accident occurred. This was the commercial
traveller who had one of his legs rather severely injured. He willingly
showed his injured limb to our superintendent, when asked to do so, but
positively declined to accept of any compensation whatever, although it
was offered, and appeared to think himself handsomely treated when a
few free passes were sent to him by the manager.
Contrasting Mrs. Podge unfavourably with this rare variety of the
injured human race, Mr. Sharp continued his walk until he reached a
part of the line, not far from the station, where a large number of
vans and waggons were shunted on to sidings,—some empty, others
loaded,—waiting to be made up into trains and forwarded to their
Chapter XI. SHARP PRACTICE
Mr. Sharp had several peculiarities, which, at first sight, might
have puzzled a stranger. He was peculiar in his choice of routes by
which to reach a given spot appearing frequently to prefer devious,
difficult, and unfrequented paths to straight and easy roads. In the
time of his visits to various places, too, he was peculiarly irregular,
and seemed rather to enjoy taking people by surprise.
On the present occasion his chief peculiarity appeared to be a
desire to approach the station by a round-about road. In carrying out
his plans he went round the corner of a house, from which point of view
he observed a goods train standing near a goods-shed with an engine
attached. In order to reach it he had the choice of two routes. One of
these was through a little wicket-gate, near to which a night-watchman
was stationed—for the shades of evening were by that time descending
on the scene, the other was through a back yard, round by a narrow lane
and over a paling, which it required more than an average measure of
strength and agility to leap. Mr. Sharp chose the latter route. What
were palings and narrow lanes and insecure footing in deepening gloom
to him! Why, he rejoiced in such conditions! He didn't like easy work.
He abhorred a bed of roses—not that he had ever tried one, although it
is probable that he had often enjoyed a couch of grass, straw, or
nettles. Rugged circumstances were his glory. It was as needful for him
to encounter such—in his winnowing processes—as it is for the harrow
to encounter stones in preparing the cultivated field. Moving quietly
but swiftly round by the route before mentioned Mr. Sharp came suddenly
on the night-watchman.
“Keep your eyes open to-night, Jim. We MUST find out who it is that
has taken such a fancy to apples of late.”
“I will, sir; I'll keep a sharp look-out.”
It was Jim's duty to watch that locality of the line, where large
quantities of goods of all descriptions were unavoidably left to wait
for a few hours on sidings. Such watchmen are numerous on all lines;
and very necessary, as well as valuable, men most of them are—fellows
who hold the idea of going to rest at regular hours in quiet contempt;
men who sleep at any time of the night or day that chances to be most
convenient, and who think no more of a hand-to-hand scuffle with a big
thief or a burglar than they do of eating supper. Nevertheless, like
every other class of men in this wicked world, there are black sheep
amongst them too.
“Is that train going up to the station just now, Jim?” asked Mr.
Sharp, pointing to the engine, whose gentle simmering told of latent
energy ready for immediate use.
“I believe so, sir.”
“I'll go up with her. Good-night.”
Mr. Sharp crossed the line, and going towards the engine found that
the driver and fireman were not upon it. He knew, however, that they
could not be far off—probably looking after something connected with
their train—and that they would be back immediately; he climbed up to
the foot-plate and sat down on the rail. He there became reflective,
and recalled, with some degree of amusement as well as satisfaction,
some of the more recent incidents of his vocation. He smiled as he
remembered how, not very far from where he sat, he had on a cloudy
evening got into a horse-box, and boring a hole in it with a gimlet,
applied his eye thereto,—his satellite David Blunt doing the same in
another end of the same horse-box, and how, having thus obtained a
clear view of a truck in which several casks of wine were placed, he
beheld one of the servants on the line in company with one of his
friends who was NOT a servant on the line, coolly bore a hole in one of
the wine casks and insert a straw, and, by that means, obtain a
prolonged and evidently satisfactory draught—which accounted at once
for the fact that wine had been leaking in that locality for some time
past, and that the said servant had been seen more than once in a
condition that was deemed suspicious.
Mr. Sharp also reflected complacently—and he had time to reflect,
for the driver and fireman were rather long of coming—on another case
in which the thieves were so wary that for a long time he could make
nothing of them, although their depredations were confined to a train
that passed along the line at a certain hour, but at last were caught
in consequence of his hitting on a plan of having a van specially
prepared for himself. He smiled again—almost laughed when he thought
of this van—how it was regularly locked and labelled on a quiet
siding; how a plank was loosened in the bottom of it, by which means he
got into it, and was then shunted out, and attached to the train, so
that neither guard, nor driver, nor fireman, had any idea of what was
inside; how he thereafter bored several small gimlet holes in the
various sides of the van and kept a sharp look-out from station to
station as they went along; how at last he came to the particular place
—not a station, but a place where a short pause was made—where the
wary thieves were; how he saw them—two stout fellows—approach in the
gloom of evening and begin their wicked work of cutting tarpaulings and
abstracting goods; how he thereupon lifted his plank and dropped out on
the line, and how he powerfully astonished them by laying his hands on
their collars and taking them both in the very act!
At last Mr. Sharp's entertaining reflections were interrupted by the
approach of the driver of the engine, who carried a top-coat over his
As he drew near and observed who stood upon his engine, the man gave
an involuntary and scarcely perceptible start.
There must have been something peculiarly savage and ungenerous in
the breast of Mr. Sharp, one would have thought, to induce him to
suspect a man whose character was blameless. But he did suspect that
man on the faith of that almost imperceptible touch of discomposure,
and his suspicion did not dissipate although the man came boldly and
“Ho-ho!” thought Mr. Sharp, “there is more chaff here to be winnowed
than I had bargained for.” His only remark, however, was—
“Good-evening; I suppose you start for the station in a few
“Yes, sir,” said the man, moving towards the rear of the tender.
“You'd better get up at once, then,” said Mr. Sharp, descending
quickly—“what have you got there, my good man?”
“My top-coat sir,” said the driver, with a confused look.
“Ah, let us see—eh! what's all this? A salmon! a brace of grouse!
and a pair of rabbits! Well, you seem to have provided a good supper
for to-night. There don't appear to be very stringent game-laws where
you come from!”
The man was so taken aback that he could not reply. As the fireman
came out of the neighbouring goods-shed at that moment, Mr. Sharp
ordered the driver to mount to his place, and then waiting beside the
engine received the fireman with an amiable “Good-night.”
This man also had a top-coat over his arm, betrayed the same
uneasiness on observing Mr. Sharp, went though precisely the same
examination, and was found to have made an identically similar
provision for his supper.
Almost immediately after him the guard issued from the shed, also
burdened with a top-coat! Mr. Sharp muttered something about, “birds of
a feather,” and was about to advance to meet the guard when that
individual's eyes fell on him. He turned back at once, not in a hurry,
but quietly as though he had forgotten something. The superintendent
sprang through the open door, but was too late. The guard had managed
to drop his booty. Thereupon Mr. Sharp returned to the engine, ordered
the steam to be turned on, and the driver drove himself and his friends
to the station and to condign punishment.
Having disposed of this little incidental case, Mr. Sharp—after
hearing and commenting upon several matters related to him by the
members of his corps, and having ordered David Blunt to await him in
the office as he had a job for him that night,—returned towards the
locality which he had so recently quitted. In doing this he took
advantage of another goods train, from which he dropped at a certain
hole-and-corner spot, while it was slowly passing the goods-shed before
mentioned. From this spot he took an observation and saw the pipe of
Jim, the night-watchman, glowing in the dark distance like a star of
the first magnitude.
“Ha!” thought Mr. Sharp, “smoking! You'll have to clear your eyes of
smoke if you hope to catch thieves to-night, my fine fellow; but I
shall try to render you some able assistance.”
So thinking, he moved quietly about among the vans and trucks,
stooping and climbing as occasion required, and doing it all so
noiselessly that, had the night permitted him to be visible at all, he
might have been mistaken for a stout shadow or a ghost. He went about
somewhat like a retriever snuffing the air for game. At last he reached
a truck, not very far from the place where Jim paced slowly to and fro,
watching, no doubt, for thieves. Little did he think how near he was to
a thief at that moment!
The truck beside which Mr. Sharp stood sent forth a delicious odour
of American apples. The superintendent of police smelt them. Worse than
that—he undid a corner of the thick covering of the track, raised it
and smelt again—he put in a hand. Evidently his powers of resistance
to temptation were small, for both hands went in—he stooped his head,
and then, slowly but surely, his whole body went in under the cover and
disappeared. Infatuated superintendent! While he lay there gorging
himself, no doubt with the dainty fruit, HONEST Jim paced slowly to and
fro until, a very dark and quiet hour of the night having arrived, he
deemed it time to act, put out his pipe, and moved with stealthy tread
towards the apple-truck. There were no thieves about as far as he could
see. He was placed there for the express purpose of catching thieves.
Ridiculous waste of time and energy—he would MAKE a thief! He would
become one; he would detect and catch himself; repay himself with
apples for his trouble, and enjoy himself consumedly! Noble idea! No
sooner thought than carried into effect. He drew out a large
clasp-knife, which opened and locked with a click, and cut a tremendous
slash about two feet long in the cover of the truck—passing, in so
doing, within an inch of the demoralised superintendent's nose.
Thieves, you see, are not particular, unless, indeed, we may regard
them as particularly indifferent to the injuries they inflict on their
fellow-men—but, what did we say? their fellow- men?—a railway is not
a fellow-man. Surely Jim's sin in robbing a railway must be regarded as
a venial one. HONEST men do that every day and appear to think nothing
of it! Nobody appears to think anything of it. A railway would seem to
be the one great unpardonable outlaw of the land, which does good to
nobody, and is deemed fair game by everybody who can catch it—napping.
But it is not easily caught napping. Neither was Mr. Superintendent
Jim's hand came through the hole in the covering and entered some
sort of receptacle, which must have been broken open by somebody, for
the hand was quickly withdrawn with three apples in it. Again it
entered. Mr. Sharp might have kissed it easily, but he was a man of
considerable self-restraint—at least when others were concerned. He
thought it advisable that there should be some of the stolen goods
found in Jim's pockets! He did not touch the hand, therefore, while it
was drawn back with other three apples in it. You see it was a large
hand, and could hold three at a time. A third time it entered and
grasped more of the forbidden fruit.
“There's luck in odd numbers,” thought Mr. Sharp, as he seized the
wrist with both of his iron hands, and held it fast.
The appalling yell which Jim uttered was due more to superstitious
dread than physical fear, for, on discovering that the voice which
accompanied the grip was that of Mr. Sharp, he struggled powerfully to
get free. After the first violent effort was over, Mr. Sharp suddenly
slid one hand along Jim's arm, caught him by the collar, and, launching
himself through the hole which had been cut so conveniently large,
plunged into Jim's bosom and crushed him to the earth.
This was quite sufficient for Jim, who got up meekly when permitted,
and pleaded for mercy. Mr. Sharp told him that mercy was a commodity in
which he did not deal, that it was the special perquisite of judges,
from whom he might steal it if they would not give or sell it to him,
and, bidding him come along quietly, led him to the station, and locked
him up for the night.
Not satisfied with what he had already accomplished, Mr. Sharp then
returned to his office, where he found the faithful Blunt awaiting him,
to whom he related briefly what he had done.
“Now,” said he, in conclusion, “if we can only manage to clear up
that case of the beer-cask, we shall have done a good stroke of
business to- day. Have you found out anything in regard to it?”
The case to which Mr. Sharp referred was that of a cask of beer
which had been stolen from the line at a station not three miles
distant from Clatterby.
“Yes, sir,” said David Blunt with a satisfied smile, “I have found
out enough to lead to the detection of the thief.”
“Indeed, who d'ye think it is?”
“One of the men at the station, sir. There have been two about it
but the other is a stranger. You see, sir,” continued Blunt, with an
earnest look, and in a business tone of voice, “when you sent me down
to investigate the case I went d'rect to the station-master there and
heard all he had to say about it—which wasn't much;—then off I goes
to where the truck was standin', from which the cask had bin taken and
pottered about there for some time. At last I tried on the Red Indian
dodge—followed up tracks and signs, till at last I came upon a mark as
if somethin' had bin rolled along the bank, and soon traced it to a gap
broken through a hedge into a field. I followed it up in the field, and
in a short time came on the cask itself. Of course I made a careful
examination of the locality, and found very distinct foot-prints,
particularly one of 'em on a piece of clay as sharp as if it had been
struck in wax. While thus engaged I found a shoe—”
“Ha!” exclaimed Mr. Sharp.
“And here it is,” said Blunt taking the shoe from under his chair
and laying it on the table.
The superintendent took it up, examined it and then replaced it on
the table with a nod, saying, “Proceed.”
“Well, sir, of course I looked well for the other shoe, but didn't
find it; so I came away with what I had got, takin' care to place a
lump of a stone over the foot-print in the clay, so as to guard but not
touch it,—for it wasn't the print of THIS shoe, sir, though somewhat
“Ha!” exclaimed Mr. Sharp again.
After revolving the matter in his mind for some minutes, and
consulting with his satellite, Mr. Sharp resolved to go down at once to
the place and watch the beer-cask.
“It is not very late yet,” he said, “and these thirsty boys will be
sure to want a drop of beer to their supper to-night. What makes you so
sure that Bill Jones is the thief?”
“Because,” answered Blunt, “I observed that he was the only man at
the station that had on a pair of new shoes!”
“Well, come along,” said Sharp, smiling grimly, “we shall find out
They soon reached the scene of the robbery, and were able to examine
the place by the light of the moon, which had just managed to pierce
the thick veil of clouds that had covered it during the earlier part of
that night. Then they retired to a shady cavern, or hole, or hollow at
the foot of the embankment, near to the gap in the hedge, and there
they prepared to pass the night, with a heap of mingled clods and
stones for their couch, and an overhanging bank of nettles for their
It was a long weary watch that began. There these patient men sat,
hour after hour, gazing at the moon and stars till they almost fell
asleep, and then entering into animated, though softly uttered,
conversation until they roused themselves up. It was strange converse
too, about struggles and fights with criminals and the detection of
crime. But it was not ALL on such subjects. No, they forsook the
professional path occasionally and strayed, as pleasantly as other men
do, into the flowery lanes of social life—talking of friends, and
wives, and children, and home, with as much pathos and tenderness as if
their errand that night had been to succour some comrade in distress,
instead of to watch like wolves, and pounce on unawares, and half
throttle if need be, and bear off to punishment, an erring fellow-mortal.
But no fellow-mortal came that night to be thus pounced on,
throttled, and borne off. When it became obvious that there was no use
in remaining longer, Mr. Sharp and his satellite returned to the
office, and the former bade the latter go home for the night.
The satellite, thus set free, went home and set immediately—in his
bed. The luminary himself postponed his setting for a time, put the
thief's shoe in his pocket and went straight to the residence of Bill
Jones, which he reached shortly after the grey dawn had appeared. Here
he found Bill in bed; but being peremptory in his demand for admission,
Bill arose and let him in.
“You look rather pale this morning, Bill?”
“Bin at work late, sir,” said Bill uneasily, observing that the
superintendent was casting an earnest glance all round his room.
Jones was a bachelor, so there wasn't much of any kind to look at in
“You've been treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, I see, Jones,
what have you done with the old ones?”
“I—they're worn-out, sir—I—”
“Yes, I see—ah! here is ONE of them,” said Mr. Sharp, drawing an
old shoe out of a corner; “you don't require to look for the other,
I've got it here,” he added, drawing its fellow from his pocket.
Jones stood aghast.
“Look here, Jones,” said Mr. Sharp, gazing sternly into the
culprit's face, “you needn't trouble yourself to deny the theft. I
haven't yet looked at the sole of THIS shoe, but I'll engage to tell
how many tackets are in it. We have discovered a little lump of clay
down near the station, with a perfect impression of a sole having
fifteen tackets therein,—three being wanting on the right, side, two
on the left, and one at the toe—now, let us see,” he said, turning it
up, “am I not a good prophet eh?”
Bill gave in at once! He not only made “a clean breast of it,” but
also gave information that led to the capture of his accomplice before
that day's sun went down, and before Mr. Sharp allowed himself to go to
Thus did our superintendent winnow the chaff from the wheat
Now, dear reader, do not say, “From all this it would appear that
railway servants must be a bad lot of men!” It would be a thousand
pities to fail into such an error, when we are labouring to prove to
you the very reverse, namely, that the bad ones being continually and
well “looked after,” none but the good are left. Our aim necessarily
involves that we should dilate much on evil, so that the evil
unavoidably bulks large in your eyes; but if we were capable of laying
before you all the good that is done, felt and said by the thousands of
our true-hearted men-of-the-line, the evil that is mingled with them
would shrink into comparative insignificance.
The truth is, that in writing these details we desire to reassure
ourself, as well as to comfort you, O timid railway traveller, by
asserting and illustrating the unquestionable fact, that if our dangers
on the line are numerous and great, our safeguards at all points are
far more numerous and much greater.
Chapter XII. LOO'S GARDEN.
The plans of nurses, not less than those of mice and men, are apt to
get into disorder. Mrs. Durby having packed up the diamond ring in the
careful manner which we have described in a previous chapter, essayed
to get ready for her important journey to London on pawning purposes
intent, but she found that there were so many little preparations to
make, both in regard to her own toilette and to the arrangements of
Mrs. Tipps' establishment, in prospect of its being left without its
first mate for a time, that a considerable period elapsed before she
got her anchor tripped and herself ready to set sail with the first
fair wind. Worthy Mrs. Durby, we may observe, was fond of quoting the
late captain's phraseology. She was an affectionate creature, and liked
to recall his memory in this somewhat peculiar fashion.
In anticipation of this journey, Netta went one evening, in company
with Emma Lee, to pay Mrs. John Marrot a friendly visit, ostensibly for
the purpose of inquiring after the health of baby Marrot, who, having
recently fallen down-stairs, swallowed a brass button and eaten an
unknown quantity of shoe-blacking, had been somewhat ailing. The real
object of the visit however, was to ask Mrs. Marrot to beg of her
husband to take a special interest in Mrs. Durby on her journey, as
that excellent nurse had made up her mind to go by the train which he
drove, feeling assured that if safety by rail was attainable at all, it
must be by having a friend at court—a good and true man at the helm,
so to speak.
“But la, Miss!” said Mrs. Marrot, sitting on the bed and patting the
baby, whose ruling passion, mischief, could not be disguised even in
distress, seeing that it gleamed from his glassy eyes and issued in
intermittent yells from his fevered throat, “if your nurse is of a
narvish temperment she'd better not go with my John, 'cause HE usually
drives the Flyin' Dutchman.”
“Indeed!” said Netta, with a puzzled smile; “and pray, what is the
A yell and a glare from baby interrupted the reply. At the same
instant the 7.45 P.M. express flew past with a roar, which was
intensified by the whistle into a shriek as it neared the station. The
house trembled as usual. Netta, not unnaturally, shuddered.
“Don't be alarmed, Miss, it's only the express.”
“Do expresses often pass your cottage in that way?” asked Netta,
with a touch of pity.
“Bless you, yes, Miss; they're always passin' day and night
continooly; but we don't think nothink of it. We've got used to it
“Does it not disturb you at night?” asked Emma Lee in some surprise.
“No, Miss, it don't—not in the least. No doubt it sometimes DO
influence our dreams, if I may say so. As my son Bob says—he's a
humorous boy is my Bob, Miss—he says, says he, the trains can't awaken
US, but they DO awaken noo trains of ideas, especially w'en they stops
right opposite the winder an' blows off steam, or whistles like mad for
five minutes at a time. I sometimes think that Bob is right, an' that's
w'y baby have took to yellin' an' mischief with such a 'igh 'and. They
do say that a man is knowd by the company he keeps, and I'm sure it's
no wonder that baby should screech an' smash as he do, considerin' the
example set 'im day an' night by them ingines.”
Here another yell from baby gave, as it were, assent to these
“But, as I was sayin',” continued Mrs. Marrot, “the Flyin' Dutchman
is the name that my 'usband's train goes by, 'cause it is the fastest
train in the kingdom—so they say. It goes at the rate of over sixty
miles an hour, an' ain't just quite the train for people as is narvish
—though my 'usband do say it ain't more dangerous than other trains—
not s'much so, indeed, wich I believe myself, for there ain't nothink
'appened to my John all the eight years he have drove it.”
“Is sixty miles an hour VERY much faster than the rate of ordinary
trains?” asked Emma.
“W'y, yes, Miss. Or'nary trains they run between twenty and forty
miles an hour, though sometimes in goin' down inclines they git up to
fifty; but my 'usband AVERAGES sixty miles an hour, an' on some parts
o' the line 'e gits up the speed to sixty-five an' siventy. For my own
part I'm quite hignorant of these things. To my mind all the ingines
seem to go bangin' an' rushin' an' yellin' about pretty much in the
same furious way; but I've often 'eard my 'usband explain it all, an'
HE knows all about it Miss, just as if it wor A, B, C.”
Having discussed such matters a little longer, and entered with
genuine sympathy into the physical and mental condition of baby, Netta
finally arranged that her old nurse should go by the Flying Dutchman,
seeing that she would be unable to distinguish the difference of speed
between one train and another, while her mind would be at rest, if she
knew herself to be under the care of a man, in whom she could trust.
“Well, Miss, I dessay it won't much matter,” said Mrs. Marrot,
endeavouring to soothe the baby, in whom the button or the blacking
appeared to be creating dire havoc; “but of course my 'usband can't
attend to 'er 'isself, not bein' allowed to attend to nothink but 'is
ingine. But he'll put 'er in charge of the guard, who is a very
'andsome man, and uncommon polite to ladies. Stay, I'll speak to Willum
Garvie about it now,” said Mrs. Marrot, rising; “he's in the garding
“Pray don't call him in,” said Netta, rising quickly; “we will go
down to him. I should like much to see your garden.”
“You'll find my Loo there, too,” said Mrs. Marrot with a motherly
smile, as she opened the door to let her visitors out. “You'll excuse
me not goin' hout. I dursn't leave that baby for a minute. He'd be over
The sentence was cut short by a yell, followed by a heavy bump, and
the door shut with a bang, which sent Emma and her friend round the
corner of the house in a highly amused frame of mind.
John Marrot's garden was a small one—so small that the break-van of
his own “Flyin' Dutchman” could have contained it easily—but it was
not too small to present a luxuriance, fertility, and brilliance of
colour that was absolutely magnificent! Surrounded as that garden was
by “ballast” from the embankment, broken wheels and rail, bricks and
stones, and other miscellaneous refuse and DEBRIS of the line, it could
only be compared to an oasis in the desert, or a bright gem on a rugged
warrior's breast. This garden owed its origin to Lucy Marrot's love for
flowers, and it owed much of its magnificence to Will Garvie's love for
Lucy; for that amiable fireman spent much of his small wage in
purchasing seed and other things for the improvement of that garden,
and spent the very few hours of his life, not claimed by the inexorable
iron horse, in assisting to cultivate the same.
We use the word `assisting' advisedly, because Loo would not hear of
his taking this sort of work out of her hands. She was far too fond of
it to permit that, but she had no objection whatever to his assistance.
There never was, so Will and Loo thought, anything like the love which
these two bore to each other. Extremes meet, undoubtedly. Their love
was so intensely matter of fact and earnest that it rose high above the
region of romance, in which lower region so many of our race do delight
to coo and sigh. There was no nonsense about it. Will Garvie, who was
naturally bold—no wonder, considering his meteor-like style of life
—saw all the flowers in the garden as well as any other man, and
admired them more than most men, but he said gravely that he wouldn't
give the end of a cracked boiler-tube for the whole garden, if she were
not in the midst of it. At which Loo laughed heartily, and blushed with
pleasure, and made no other reply.
It was quite delightful to observe the earnestness with which these
two devoted themselves to the training of honeysuckle and jessamine
over a trellis-work porch in that preposterously small garden, in which
there was such a wealth of sweet peas, and roses, and marigolds, and
mignonette, and scarlet geraniums, and delicately-coloured heliotropes,
that it seemed as though they were making love in the midst of a
glowing furnace. Gertie was there too, like a small female Cupid
nestling among the flowers.
“A miniature paradise,” whispered Emma, with twinkling eyes, as they
approached the unconscious pair.
“Yes, with Adam and Eve training the flowers,” responded Netta quite
Adam making love in the fustian costume of the fireman of the
“Flying Dutchman” was an idea which must have struck Emma in some
fashion, for she found it difficult to command her features when
introduced to the inhabitants of that little Eden by her friend.
“I have called to tell Mrs. Marrot,” said Netta, “that my old nurse,
Mrs. Durby, is going to London soon, and that I wished your father to
take a sort of charge of her, more for the sake of making her feel at
ease than anything else.”
“I'm quite sure he will be delighted to do that,” said Loo; “won't
“Why, yes,” replied the fireman, “your father is not the man to see
a woman in distress and stand by. He'll give her in charge of the
guard, for you see, ma'am, he's not allowed to leave his engine.” Will
addressed the latter part of his remarks to Netta.
“That is just what Mrs. Marrot said, and that will do equally well.
Would YOU like to travel on the railway, Gertie?” said Netta, observing
that the child was gazing up in her face with large earnest eyes.
“No,” answered Gertie, with decision.
“No; why not?”
“Because it takes father too often away, and once it nearly killed
him,” said Gertie.
“Ah, that was the time that my own dear mother received such a
shock, I suppose?”
“No, ma'am,” said Will Garvie, “Gertie is thinkin' of another time,
when Jack Marrot was drivin' an excursion train—not three years gone
by, and he ran into a lot of empty trucks that had broke loose from a
train in advance. They turned the engine off the rails, and it ran down
an embankment into a ploughed field, where it turned right over on the
top of Jack. Fortunately he fell between the funnel and the steam-dome,
which was the means of savin' his life; but he got a bad shake, and was
off duty some six or eight weeks. The fireman escaped without a
scratch, and, as the coupling of the leading carriage broke, the train
didn't leave the metals, and no serious damage was done to any one
else. I think our Gertie,” continued Will, laying his big strong hand
gently on the child's head, “seems to have taken an ill- will to
railways since then.”
“I'm not surprised to hear it,” observed Emma Lee, as she bent down
and kissed Gertie's forehead. “I have once been in a railway accident
myself, and I share your dislike; but I fear that we couldn't get on
well without them now, so you and I must be content to tolerate them,
“I s'pose so,” was Gertie's quiet response, delivered, much to the
amusement of her audience, with the gravity and the air of a grown
“Well, good-evening, Gertie, good-evening,” said Netta, turning to
Garvie; “then I may tell my nurse that the engine-driver of the express
will take care of her.”
“Yes, ma'am, you may; for the matter o' that, the fireman of the
express will keep an eye on her too,” said the gallant William,
touching his cap as the two friends left that bright oasis in the
desert and returned to Eden Villa.
Chapter XIII. TREATS OF RAILWAY
LITERATURE, SLEEPY PORTERS, CROWDED PLATFORMS, FOOLISH PASSENGERS, DARK
PLOTTERS, LIVELY SHAWLS, AND OTHER MATTERS.
John Marrot was remarkably fond of his iron horse. No dragoon or
hussar that we ever read of paid half so much attention to his charger.
He not only rubbed it down, and fed and watered it at stated intervals,
but, when not otherwise engaged, or when awaiting the signal to start a
train, he was sure to be found with a piece of waste rubbing off a
speck of dust here or a drop of superfluous oil there, or giving an
extra polish to the bright brasses, or a finishing touch to a handle or
lever in quite a tender way. It was evidently a labour of love!
On the day which Mrs. Durby had fixed for her journey to London,
John and his fireman went to the shed as usual one hour before the time
of starting, being required to do so by the “Rules and Regulations” of
the company, for the purpose of overhauling the iron horse.
And, by the way, a wonderful and suggestive volume was this book of
“Rules and Regulations for the guidance of the officers and servants of
the Grand National Trunk Railway.” It was a printed volume of above two
hundred pages, containing minute directions in regard to every
department and every detail of the service. It was “printed for private
circulation;” but we venture to say that, if the public saw it, their
respect for railway servants and railway difficulties and management
would be greatly increased, the more so that one of the first “rules"
enjoined was, that each servant should be held responsible for having a
knowledge of all the rules—those relating to other departments as well
as to his own. And it may not be out of place, certainly it will not be
uninteresting, to mention here that one of the rules, rendered
prominent by large black capitals, enjoined that “THE PUBLIC SAFETY
MUST BE THE FIRST AND CHIEF CARE of every officer and servant of the
company.” We have reason to believe that all the railways in the
kingdom give this rule equal prominence in spirit—probably also in
type. In this little volume it was likewise interesting to note, that
civility to the public was strictly enjoined; and sure we are that
every railway traveller will agree with us in the opinion that railway
agents, guards, and porters, all, in short with whom the public come in
contact, obey this rule heartily, in the spirit and in the letter.
The particular rules in the book which affected our engine-driver
were uncommonly stringent, and very properly so, seeing that the lives
of so many persons depended on the constancy of his coolness, courage,
and vigilance. John Marrot, like all the engine-drivers on the line,
was a picked man. In virtue of his superior character and abilities he
received wages to the extent of œ2, 10 shillings per week. Among other
things, he was enjoined by his “rules and regulations,” very strictly,
to give a loud whistle before starting, to start his train slowly and
without a jerk, and to take his orders to start only from the guard;
also, to approach stations or stopping places cautiously, and with the
train well under control, and to be guided in the matter of shutting
off steam, by such considerations as the number of vehicles in the
train, and the state of the weather and rails, so as to avoid violent
application of the brakes. Moreover, he was bound to do his best to
keep to his exact time, and to account for any loss thereof by entering
the cause of delay on his report-ticket. He was also earnestly enjoined
to use every effort which might conduce to the safety of the public,
and was authorised to refuse to proceed with any carriage or waggon
which, from hot axles or otherwise, was in his opinion unfit to run.
These are but a few specimens culled from a multitude of rules bearing
on the minutest details of his duty as to driving, shunting,
signalling, junction and level crossing, etc., with all of which he had
to become not merely acquainted, but so intimately familiar that his
mind could grasp them collectively, relatively, or individually at any
moment, so as to act instantaneously, yet coolly, while going like a
giant bomb-shell through the air—with human lives in the balance to
add weight to his responsibilities.
If any man in the world needed a cool clear head and a quick steady
hand, with ample nightly as well as Sabbath rest, that man was John
Marrot, the engine-driver. When we think of the constant pressure of
responsibility that lay on him, and the numbers in the kingdom of the
class to which he belonged, it seems to us almost a standing miracle
that railways are so safe and accidents so very rare.
While our engine-driver was harnessing his iron steed, another of
the railway servants, having eaten his dinner, felt himself rather
sleepy, and resolved to have a short nap. It was our friend Sam Natly,
the porter, who came to this unwise as well as unfair resolution. Yet
although we are bound to condemn Sam, we are entitled to palliate his
offence and constrained to pity him, for his period of duty during the
past week had been fifteen hours a day.
“Shameful!” exclaims some philanthropist.
True, but who is to take home the shame? Not the officers of the
company, who cannot do more than their best with the materials laid to
their hands; not the directors, who cannot create profits beyond the
capacity of their line—although justice requires us to admit that they
might reduce expenses, by squabbling less with other companies, and
ceasing unfair, because ruinous as well as ungenerous, competition.
Clearly the bulk of the shame lies with the shareholders, who encourage
opposition for the sake of increasing their own dividends at the
expense of their neighbours, and who insist on economy in directions
which render the line inefficient—to the endangering of their own
lives as well as those of the public. Economy in the matter of railway
servants—in other words, their reduction in numbers—necessitates
increase of working hours, which, beyond a certain point, implies
inefficiency and danger. But the general public are not free from a
modicum of this shame, and have to thank themselves if they are maimed
and killed, because they descend on railways for compensation with a
ruthless hand; (shame to Government here, for allowing it!) and still
further, impoverish their already over-taxed coffers. Compensation for
injury is just, but compensation as it is, and has been claimed and
awarded, is ridiculously unfair, as well as outrageously unwise.
Fortunately Sam Natly's wicked resolve to indulge in undutiful
slumber did not result in evil on this occasion, although it did result
in something rather surprising. It might have been far otherwise had
Sam been a pointsman!
In order to enjoy fully the half-hour which he meant to snatch from
duty, Sam entered a first-class carriage which stood on a siding, and,
creeping under a seat, laid himself out at full length, pillowing his
head on his arm. Tired men don't require feather-beds. He was sound
asleep in two minutes. It so happened that, three-quarters of an hour
afterwards, an extra first-class carriage was wanted to add to the
train which John Marrot was to “horse” on its arrival at Clatterby. The
carriage in which Sam lay was selected for the purpose, drawn out, and
attached to the train. Tired men are not easily awakened. Sam knew
nothing of this change in his sleeping apartment.
Meanwhile Clatterby station became alive with travellers. The train
drew up to the platform. Some passengers got out; others got in. The
engine which brought it there, being in need of rest, coal, and water,
moved off to the shed. John Marrot with his lieutenant, Garvie, moved
to the front on his iron horse, looking as calm and sedate in his
conscious power as his horse looked heavy and unyielding in its
stolidity. Never did two creatures more thoroughly belie themselves by
their looks. The latent power of the iron horse could have shot it
forth like an arrow from a bow, or have blown the whole station to
atoms. The smouldering fires in John's manly breast could have raised
him from a begrimed, somewhat sluggish, driver to a brilliant hero.
Some of the characters who have already been introduced at Clatterby
station were there on this occasion also. Mr. Sharp was there, looking
meditative as usual, and sauntering as though he had nothing particular
to do. Our tall superlative fop with the sleepy eyes and long whiskers
was also there with his friend of the checked trousers. Mr. Sharp felt
a strong desire to pommel these fops, because he had found them very
difficult to deal with in regard to compensation, the fop with the
checked trousers having claimed, and finally obtained, an unreasonably
large sum for the trifling injury done to his eye on the occasion of
the accident at Langrye station. Mr. Sharp could not however, gratify
his desire. On the contrary, when the checked trousers remarked in
passing that it was “vewy disagweeable weather,” he felt constrained to
admit, civilly enough, that it was.
The two fops had a friend with them who was not a fop, but a plain,
practical-looking man, with a forbidding countenance, and a large,
tall, powerful frame. These three retired a little apart from the
bustle of the station, and whispered together in earnest tones. Their
names were the reverse of romantic, for the fop with the checked
trousers was addressed as Smith, he with the long whiskers as Jenkins,
and the large man as Thomson.
“Are you sure he is to go by this train?” asked Thomson, somewhat
“Quite sure. There can be no mistake about it,” replied Jenkins,
from whose speech, strange to say, the lisp and drawl had suddenly
“And how are you sure of knowing him, if, as you say, you have never
seen him?” asked Thomson.
“By the bag, of course,” answered Smith, whose drawl had also
disappeared unaccountably; “we have got a minute description of the
money-bag which he has had made peculiarly commonplace and shabby on
purpose. It is black leather but very strong, with an unusually thick
“He's very late,” observed Thomson, moving uneasily, and glancing at
the clock as the moment of departure drew near.
Mr. Sharp observed the consulting party, and sauntered idly towards
them, but they were about as sharp as himself, in practice if not in
name. The lisps and drawls returned as if by magic, and the turf became
the subject of interest about which they were consulting.
Just then a shriek was heard to issue from a female throat, and a
stout elderly woman was observed in the act of dashing wildly across
the line in the midst of moving engines, trucks and vans. Even in these
unwonted circumstances no one who knew her could have mistaken Mrs.
Durby's ponderous person for a moment. She had come upon the station at
the wrong side, and, in defiance of all printed regulations to the
contrary—none of which she could read, being short-sighted—she had
made a bold venture to gain her desired position by the most direct
route. This involved crossing a part of the line where there were
several sidings and branch lines, on which a good deal of pushing of
trucks and carriages to and fro—that is “shunting”—was going on.
Like a reckless warrior, who by a bold and sudden push sometimes
gains single-handed the centre of an enemy's position before he is
discovered and assailed on every side, straight forward Mrs. Durby ran
into the very midst of a brisk traffic, before any one discovered her.
Suddenly a passenger-train came up with the usual caution in such
circumstances, nevertheless at a smart rattling pace, for “usual
caution” does not take into account or provide for the apparition of
stout elderly females on the line. The driver of the passenger engine
saw her, shut off steam, shouted, applied the brakes and whistled
We have already hinted that the weather was not fine. Mrs. Durby's
umbrella being up, hid the approaching train. As for screaming steam-whistles, the worthy woman had come to regard intermittent whistling as
a normal condition of railways, which, like the crying of cross babies,
meant little or nothing, and had only to be endured. She paid no
attention to the alarm. In despair the driver reversed his engine; fire
flew from the wheels, and the engine was brought to a stand, but not
until the buffers were within three feet of the nurse's shoulder. At
that moment she became aware of her danger, uttered a shriek, as we
have said, that would have done credit to the whistle of a small
engine, and, bending her head with her umbrella before her, rushed
frantically away on another line of rails. She did not observe, poor
soul, that a goods train was coming straight down that line towards
her,—partly because her mental vision was turned in terror to the
rear, and partly because the umbrella obscured all in advance. In vain
the driver of the goods engine repeated the warnings and actions of the
passenger engine. His had more speed on and was heavier; besides, Mrs.
Durby charged it at the rate of full five miles an hour, with the
umbrella steadily in front, and a brown paper parcel swinging wildly on
her arm, as if her sole desire on earth was to meet that goods engine
in single combat and beat out its brains at the first blow. Certain it
is that Mrs. Durby's career would have been cut short then and there,
if tall Joe Turner, the guard, had not been standing at the tail of his
own train and observed her danger. In the twinkling of an eye he
dropped his slow dignified air, leaped like a panther in front of the
goods engine, caught Mrs. Durby with both hands—any how—and hurled
her and himself off the line,—not a moment too soon, for the buffer of
the engine touched his shoulder as they fell together to the ground.
A lusty cheer was given by those on the platform who witnessed this
bold rescue, and more than one sympathetic hand grasped the massive
fist of Joe Turner as he assisted Mrs. Durby to a carriage.
“Why,” exclaimed Will Garvie, hurrying forward at that moment, “it's
Mrs. Durby, the woman we promised to take care of! You'll look after
“All right,” said the guard, as Will hurried back to his engine;
“this way, ma'am. Got your ticket?”
“N-no!” gasped the poor nurse, leaning heavily on her protector's
“Here, Dick,” cried Joe, hailing a porter, “run to the
booking-office and get her a ticket for London, first-class; she's got
a bad shake, poor thing. No doubt the company will stand the
difference; if not, we'll make it up amongst us.”
Hereupon a benevolent old gentleman drew out his purse, and insisted
on paying the whole of the fare himself, a point which no one seemed
inclined to dispute, and Mrs. Durby was carefully placed by Joe in a
carriage by herself.
There were two gentlemen—also known to the reader—who arrived just
in time to witness this incident: the one was Captain Lee, the other
Edwin Gurwood. They both carried bags and rugs, and were evidently
going by that train. The captain, who happened to have a bad cold at
the time, was muffled up to the eyes in a white worsted comforter, and
had a fur travelling-cap pulled well down on his forehead, so that
little of him, save the point of his nose, was visible.
The moment that the two fops caught sight of Captain Lee, they
whispered to Thomson—
“That's our man.”
“Sure?” demanded Thomson.
“Quite,” replied Smith. “That's about the size and make of the man
as described to me. Of course they could not tell what sort of
travelling gear he would appear in, but there's no mistaking the bag
—old, stout leather, with flat handle-strap.”
“All right,” said Thomson; “but who's the young fellow with him?”
“Don't know,” replied Smith; “yet I think I've seen his face before.
Stay, Jenkins, wasn't he in the accident at Langrye station?”
“Perhaps he was; but it's of no consequence to us.”
“It will be of consequence to us if he goes with the old gentleman,”
retorted Smith, “for he's a stout fellow, and wouldn't be easy to
“I'LL manage him, no fear,” said Thomson, looking at the unconscious
Edwin with a dark sinister smile.
“What if they get into a carriage that's already nearly full?”
suggested the dubious Smith.
“They won't do that,” replied Jenkins with a laugh. “It seems to be
against the laws of human nature to do that. As long as there are empty
carriages in a train, so long will men and women pass every carriage
that has a soul in it, until they find an empty one for themselves. We
have nothing to do but follow them, and, when they have pitched on a
carriage, get in after them, and fill it up, so we shall have it all to
“Come along, then; it's time to stop talking and to act,” said
Thomson, testily, as he moved towards the carriages.
That even the wisest of men (in his own conceit) may make mistakes
now and then is a fact which was beautifully illustrated on this
occasion. We may here let the reader into the secret of Jenkins, Smith,
and Thomson. They were men who lived by their wits. They had
ascertained that a partner of a certain house that dealt in jewellery
meant to return to London by that particular train, with a quantity of
valuables that were worth running some risk for. On the journey there
was one stoppage quite close to London. The run immediately before that
was a clear one of seventy-five miles without a halt, at full express
speed, which would afford them ample opportunity for their purpose,
while the slowing of the train on approaching the stopping place would
give them opportunity and time to leap out and make off with their
booty. They had been told that their intended victim was a stout
resolute man, but that would avail nothing against numbers.
Having obtained all requisite information they had proceeded thus
far with their villainous design, apparently with success. But at this
point a hitch occurred, though they knew it not. They had not taken
sufficiently into account the fact that black leather bags may be both
stout and peculiar, and in some degree similar without being identical.
Hence Smith and Jenkins in their self-confidence had settled, as we
have seen, that Captain Lee was “their man,” whereas their man was
comfortably seated in another carriage, and by his side the coveted
bag, which was similar in some points to that of the captain, but
different in size and in several small details.
Following the wrong scent, therefore, with wonted pertinacity, the
three men sauntered behind Captain Lee and Edwin, who, true to the
“laws” with which Jenkins had credited human nature, passed one
carriage after another until they found an empty one.
“Here is one, Gurwood,” said the captain.
He was about to step into it, when he observed Mrs. Durby sitting in
the next compartment.
“Hallo! nurse,” he exclaimed, getting in and sitting down opposite
to her; “why, surely it wasn't you, was it, that had such a narrow
“Indeed it was, Capting Lee,” replied Mrs. Durby in a half whimper,
for albeit a woman of strong character, she was not proof against such
rough treatment as she had experienced that day.
“Not hurt, I trust?” asked the Captain sympathetically.
“Oh dear no, sir; only shook a bit.”
“Are you alone?” asked Edwin, seating himself beside his friend.
“Yes, sir; but la, sir, I don't think nothink of travellin' alone.
I'm used to it, sir.”
As she said this the guard's voice was heard desiring passengers to
take their seats, and the three men, who had grouped themselves close
round the door, thus diverging one or two passengers into the next
compartment, entered, and sat down.
At the same moment Mr. Sharp's earnest countenance appeared at the
window. He made a few remarks to Captain Lee and Edwin Gurwood, and
took occasion to regard the three adventurers with much attention. They
evidently understood him, for they received his glances with bland
It was quite touching to note Mr. Sharp's anxiety to lay hold of
these men. He chanced to know nothing about them, save in connexion
with the Langrye accident, but his long experience in business had
given him a delicate power of perception in judging of character, which
was not often at fault. He, as it were, smelt the presence of fair
game, although he could not manage to lay immediate hold of it, just as
that celebrated giant did, who, once upon a time, went about his castle
giving utterance to well-known words—
“Fee, fo, fa, fum, I smell the smell of an Englishman.”
“Joe,” he whispered, as the guard came up to lock the door, “just
keep an eye on these three fellows, will you? I'd lay my life on it
that they're up to mischief to-day.”
Joe looked knowing, and nodded.
“Show your tickets, please,” he said, touching his cap to his
director and Edwin.
The tickets were produced—all right. Mrs. Durby, in getting out
hers, although, of course, having got it for her, Joe did not require
to see it, dropped her precious brown paper parcel. Picking it up again
hastily she pressed it to her bosom with such evident anxiety, that men
much less sharp-witted than our trio, would have been led to suspect
that it contained something valuable. But they aimed at higher booty
just then, and apparently did not notice the incident.
A rapid banging of doors had now set in—a sure precursor of the
starting whistle. Before it was quite completed, the inevitable late
passenger appeared in the distance. This time it was a lady, middle-aged and stout, and short of wind, but with an iron will, as was
clearly evinced by the energy with which she raced along the platform,
carrying a large bundle of shawls in one arm, and a travelling-bag in
the other, which she waved continuously as she shouted, “Stop! stop!
stop the trai-i-i-in! I'm coming!”
The guard, with the whistle already half-way to his lips, paused and
glanced at his watch. There was a fraction of a moment left. He stepped
to a carriage and threw open a door.
“Make haste, ma'am; make haste, please,” was said in urgent, though
The late passenger plunged in—she might, as far as appearances
went, be said to have taken a header into the carriage—and the door
The guard's whistle sounded. The engine-driver's whistle gave prompt
reply, and next instant the train moved. No one could conceive of such
a thing as a train STARTING when John Marrot drove!
As the carriages glided by, Mr. Sharp cast a passing glance on the
late passenger. He observed that her bundle of shawls moved of its own
accord, and, for one whole minute after the train had left, he stood
motionless, meditating on that curious phenomenon. He had often heard
of table-turning, but never until now had he seen inanimate matter move
of its own accord. Can we feel surprised that he was both astonished
and perplexed? Proceeding to the booking-office he held a brief
conversation with the clerks there; then he sauntered into the
telegraph-office and delivered a message, after which he left the
station with a quiet smile on his sedate countenance.
Chapter XIV. WHICH IS TOO FULL OF
VARIED MATTER TO BE BRIEFLY DESCRIBED.
Meanwhile let us fly through space with greater than railway speed
and overtake the “Flying Dutchman.”
It has got up full speed by this time. About one mile a minute
—sixty miles an hour! Sometimes it goes a little faster, sometimes a
little slower, according to the nature of the ground; for a railway is
by no means a level-way, the ascents and descents being occasionally
very steep. Those who travel in the carriages form but a faint
conception of the pace. To realise it to the full you must stand on the
engine with John Marrot and Will Garvie. Houses, fields, trees, cattle,
human beings, go by in wild confusion—they appear only to vanish. Wind
is not felt in the carriages. On the LIGHTNING you are in a gale. It
reminds one of a storm at sea. The noise, too, is terrific. We once had
the good fortune to ride on the engine of the “Flying Dutchman,” and on
that occasion had resolved to converse with the driver, and tried it.
As well might we have tried to converse amid the rattling of ten
thousand tin kettles! John Marrot put his mouth to our ear and ROARED.
We heard him faintly. We tried to shout to HIM; he shook his head, put
his hand to his ear, and his ear to our mouth.
We subsided into silence and wonderment.
We had also resolved to take notes, and tried it. Egyptian
hieroglyphics are not more comprehensible than the notes we took. We
made a discovery, however, near the end of the journey—namely, that by
bending the knees, and keeping so, writing became much more possible
—or much less impossible! We learnt this from John, who had to fill up
in pencil a sort of statement or report-ticket on the engine. It was
interesting and curious to note the fact that of the sentences thus
written, one word was pencilled in the grounds of the Earl of
Edderline, the next opposite the mansion of Lord Soberly, the third in
the midst of Langly Moor, the fourth while crashing through the village
of Efferby, and a full stop was added at the mouth of the great Ghostly
Tunnel. Think of that, ye teachers of “penmanship in twelve lessons,”
and hide your diminished heads.
John Marrot's engine, of which we have said much, and of which we
mean to say still more, was not only a stupendous, but a complex
creation. Its body consisted of above 5,400 pieces, all of which were
almost as delicately fashioned, and put together with as much care, as
watch- work. It was a confirmed teetotaller, too. The morning draught
which John had given it before starting, to enable it to run its
seventy- seven miles, was 800 gallons of cold water. He also gave it a
good feed to begin with, and laid in for its sustenance on the trip one
ton of coals. Its power to act vigorously may be gathered from the fact
that one morning, some years before, John had got the fire up with
unwonted rapidity, and no sooner had the minimum of steam necessary to
move it been created, than it quietly advanced and passed out of its
shed through a brick wall fourteen inches thick with as much ease as it
would have gone through a sheet of brown paper. This being its power
when starting at what we may regard as a quiet walk, some conception
may be formed of its capacity when flying down an incline at sixty-five
miles an hour with a heavy train of carriages at its back. In such
circumstances it would go through an ordinary house, train and all, as
a rifle-bullet would go through a cheese. It was an eight-wheeled
engine, and the driving-wheels were eight feet in diameter. The
cylinder was eighteen inches, with a piston of two feet stroke, and the
total weight of engine and tender was fifty-three tons. The cost of
this iron horse with its tender was about œ3000.
Having fairly started, John took his stand opposite his circular
window in the protecting screen or weather-board and kept a sharp look-out ahead. Will Garvie kept an eye chiefly on the rear to note that all
was well in that direction. And much cause was there for caution! To
rush through space at such a rate, even on a straight line and in clear
weather, was trying enough, but when it is remembered that the day was
wet, and that their course lay through sundry deep cuttings and
tunnels, and round several curves where it was not possible to foresee
obstruction, the necessity for caution will be more apparent.
All went well, however, as usual. After clearing the first
thirty-six miles John Marrot consulted his watch, and observed to Will
that they had done it in thirty-eight and a half minutes. He then “put
on a spurt,” and went for some time at a higher rate of speed.
Observing that something at the head of the engine required looking
after, Will Garvie went out along the side of it, and while doing this
piece of work his hair and jacket were blown straight back by the
breeze which the engine had created for itself. He resembled, in fact,
a sailor going out to work on the sails in a stiff breeze.
This artificial breeze, sweeping round the sides of the screen,
caused an eddy which sent up a cloud of coal-dust, but neither John nor
his mate appeared to care for this. Their eyes were evidently
Presently they approached a canal over which they rushed, and, for
one moment, glanced down on the antipodal mode of locomotion—a boat
going three miles an hour with its steersman half asleep and smoking at
the helm! Next moment they were passing under a bridge; the next over a
town, and then rushed through a station, and it was interesting to note
as they did so, that the people on the platform shrank back and looked
half-terrified, although they were in no danger whatever, while those
in the train—who might at any moment have been hurled into eternity
—looked calm and serene, evidently untroubled by thoughts of danger; so
difficult is it for man to realise his true condition in such
circumstances. Just beyond the station a dog was observed to have
strayed on the line, and ran barking before the engine. It was
overtaken and passed in a few seconds, and Will looked over the side
but saw nothing of it. As no yell was heard, it is probable that the
poor thing escaped. Soon after that, two navvies were observed walking
coolly and slowly on the line in front of the engine. John frowned and
laid his hand on the whistle, but before it could sound, the reckless
men had heard the train, looked round with horrified faces, sprang like
jumping-jacks off the line, right and left, and were gone!
Soon after this, on approaching the distant signal of one of the
stations, they observed that the arms were extended, indicating that
the line was “blocked”—that is, that another train being in advance
they must check speed or perhaps stop. This was a species of insult to
the “Flying Dutchman,” whose way ought to have been kept perfectly
clear, for even a check of speed would inevitably cause the loss of
several minutes. With an indignant grumble John Marrot cut off steam,
but immediately the signals were lowered and he was allowed to go on.
Again, in a few minutes, another signal checked him.
“They've let a train on before us,” growled John, sternly, “and
p'raps we may be checked all the way to London—but some one shall hear
of this, an' have to account for it.”
John was wrong to some extent. While he yet spoke the signal to go
on was given, and a few minutes later the “Flying Dutchman” flashed
past the obstructing train, which had been shunted on to a siding, and
from its windows hundreds of passengers were gazing at the express
which passed them like a meteor—perhaps they were congratulating
themselves, as well they might, for, but for the “block system,” their
danger would have been tremendous; almost equal to that of a man
endeavouring to run away from a cannon-shot. This may be somewhat
better understood when we explain that the “Flying Dutchman” could not
have been stopped in a shorter space than one mile and a half.
At length the iron horse came suddenly on an obstruction which
filled its driver with deep anxiety and alarm. Daily had John driven
that train, but never before had he met with a similar danger. At a
level crossing, less than a mile in advance of him, he observed a horse
and a loaded cart standing right across the line. Either the horse was
a run-away, or the driver had left it for a little and it had strayed.
Whatever the cause of its being there John's alert mind saw at once
that a collision was inevitable. He shut off steam, and was about to
whistle for the guard to apply the brakes, while Will Garvie, who also
saw the danger, was already turning on the brakes of the tender.
John reflected that it would be impossible to come to a stand within
the space that lay between him and the cart and that a partial
concussion would be almost certain to throw his engine off the rails.
Less than a minute remained to him.
“Let her go, mate,” he shouted quickly.
Will Garvie obeyed at once. John put on full steam, the “Flying
Dutchman” leaped forward with increased velocity. Then followed a
slight shock, and; next moment, the cart and horse were smashed to
atoms—all but annihilated!
It was a great risk that had been run; but of two evils John Marrot
had chosen the less and came off in triumph with only a slight damage
to his buffers.
Let us now quit the engine for a little, and, retracing our steps in
regard to time, visit some of the carriages behind it.
When the “late passenger” recovered her breath and equanimity, and
found herself fairly on her journey, she unfolded her bundle of shawls
and disclosed a fat glossy lap-dog, which seemed to enjoy its return to
fresh air and daylight, and acknowledged, with sundry wags of its tail
and blinks of its eyes the complimentary assurance that it was the
“dearest, sweetest, p'ittiest 'ittle darling that ever was born,” and
that, “it wouldn't be allowed to pay a nasty fare to a mean railway
company that let all kinds of ugly parrots and cats and babies travel
A timid little lady, the only other occupant of the carriage,
ventured to suggest that the dog travelling free was against the rules
of the company.
“I am quite aware of that,” said the late passenger somewhat
sharply, “but if people choose to make unjust and oppressive rules I
don't mean to submit to them. Just think of a parrot, a horrid
shrieking creature that every one acknowledges to be a nuisance, being
allowed to travel free, or a baby, which is enough to drive one
distracted when it squalls, as it always does in a railway carriage,
while my sweet little pet that annoys nobody must be paid for,
“It does indeed seem unreasonable,” responded the timid little old
lady; “but don't you think that the company has a perfect right to make
whatever rules it pleases, and that we are bound to obey them when we
make use of their line?”
“No, I don't!” said the late passenger tartly.
The timid little lady thought it advisable to change the subject and
did so by remarking that the dog was a very pretty creature. Upon which
the late passenger thawed at once, admitted that it WAS a VERY pretty
creature, and asserted in addition that it was a “perfect darling.”
Their conversation became miscellaneous and general after this
point, and not worth reporting, therefore we shall get out at the
window and pass along the foot-boards to the carriage occupied by Mrs.
Durby and her friends.
Immediately after the train had started, as before described,
Captain Lee entered into an animated conversation with the nurse as to
the health of the Tipps family. Edwin, who was much interested in them,
listened and put in a word now and then, but neither he nor the
captain, after the first glance, paid any attention to the other
occupants of the carnage.
Meanwhile Thomson, Jenkins and Company spent a short time in taking
a quiet observation of the state of affairs. The former had placed
himself opposite to Edwin and eyed him over critically as a wrestler
might eye his opponent; Jenkins had seated himself opposite the
captain, who had been apportioned to him in the coming conflict, and
Smith, who, although a stout enough fellow, was the smallest of the
three, kept his eye on the coveted bag, and held himself in readiness
to act as might be advisable. The scoundrels were not long in taking
As soon as they were quite clear of the suburbs of Clatterby,
Jenkins suddenly hit Captain Lee a tremendous blow on the head, which
was meant to fell him at once; but the captain's head was harder than
he had expected it to be; he instantly grappled with Jenkins. Edwin's
amazement did not prevent his prompt action; but at the moment he
sprang to the rescue, he received a blow from Thomson, who leaped on
him, and seized him by the throat with a vice-like gripe. At the same
moment Smith also sprang upon him.
Thomson soon found that he had miscalculated young Gurwood's
strength. Strong though his grasp was, Edwin's was stronger. Almost as
quick as thought he threw his left arm round Thomson's waist, grasped
his hair with his right hand, and almost broke his back. There is no
question that he would have overcome him in a few seconds if Smith had
not hampered him. As it was, he disengaged his right arm for a moment
and, hitting a familiar and oft-tried blow straight out from the
shoulder planted his knuckles just above the bridge of Smith's nose. He
fell as if he had been shot but the momentary relief thus afforded to
Thomson enabled that scoundrel to get into a better position for
continuing the struggle. Meanwhile Jenkins, although bravely and
stoutly opposed by the veteran Lee, quickly rendered his adversary
insensible, and at once sprang upon Edwin, and turned the scale in
favour of his comrade, who at the moment was struggling in the youth's
grasp with savage though unavailing ferocity. At the same time Smith,
who had only been stunned, recovered, and seizing Edwin by the legs
endeavoured to throw him down, so that it went hard with our young hero
after that despite his activity, strength and courage.
During this scene, which was enacted in a very few minutes, poor
Mrs. Durby sat drawn up into the remotest corner of the carriage, her
face transfixed with horror, and a terrific yell bursting occasionally
from her white lips. But neither the sound of her cries nor the noise
of the deadly struggle could overtop the clatter of the express train.
Those in the next compartment did indeed hear a little of it but they
were powerless to render assistance, and there was at that time no
means of communicating with the guard or driver. Poor Edwin thought of
Captain Lee, who lay bleeding on the floor, and of Emma, and the power
of thought was so potential that in his great wrath he almost lifted
the three men in the air; but they clung to him like leeches, and it is
certain that they would have finally overcome him, had he not in one of
his frantic struggles thrust his foot below one of the seats and kicked
the still slumbering Sam Natly on the nose!
That over-wrought but erring porter immediately awoke to the
consciousness of being oppressed with a sense of guilt and of being in
a very strange and awkward position. Quickly perceiving, however, by
the wild motion of the feet and an occasional scream from Mrs. Durby,
that something serious was going on, he peeped out, saw at a glance how
matters stood, got to his feet in a moment, and dealt Jenkins such a
blow on the back of the head that he dropped like a stone. To deal
Smith two similar blows, with like result, was the work of two seconds.
Thus freed, Edwin rose like a giant, crushed Thomson down into a seat,
and twisted his neckcloth until his eyes began to glaze and his lips to
Sam Natly was a man of cool self-possession.
Seeing that Edwin was more than a match for his adversary, he left
him, and proceeded to attend to the captain, who showed symptoms of
revival; but happening to glance again at Edwin, and observing the
condition of Thomson, Sam turned and put his hand on the youth's arm.
“I think, sir,” he said quietly, “it would be as well to leave
enough of him to be hanged. Besides, it might be raither awkward, sir,
to do Jack Ketch's dooty without the benefit of judge, jury, witnesses,
Edwin released his hold at once, and Thomson raised himself in the
seat, clenching his teeth and fists as he did so. He was one of those
savage creatures who, when roused, appear to go mad, and become utterly
regardless of consequences. While Sam was engaged in extemporising
handcuffs for Jenkins and Smith out of a necktie and a
pocket-handkerchief, Thomson sat perfectly still, but breathed very
hard. He was only resting a little to recover strength, for in a
moment, without a sound or warning of any kind, he hit Edwin with all
his force on the temple. Fortunately the youth saw the coming blow in
time to partially give way to it, and in another moment the struggle
was renewed, but terminated almost as quickly, for Edwin gave Thomson a
blow that stunned him and kept him quiet for the next quarter of an
During this period Edwin examined Captain Lee's hurts, which turned
out to be less severe than might have been expected. He also assisted
Sam to secure Thomson's wrists with a handkerchief, and then devoted
some time to soothing the agitated spirits of poor Mrs. Durby, whose
luckless shins had not escaped quite scatheless during the MeLEE.
“Oh, sir,” sobbed Mrs. Durby, glancing with horror at the
dishevelled and blood-stained prisoners, “I always thought railways was
bad things, but I never, no I never, imagined they was as bad as this.”
“But, my good woman,” said Edwin, unable to restrain a smile,
“railways are not all, nor always, as bad as this. We very seldom hear
of such a villainous deed as has been attempted to-day; thanks to the
energy and efficiency of their police establishments.”
“Quite true, Gurward, quite true,” said Captain Lee, glancing
sternly at the prisoners, and stanching a cut in his forehead with a
handkerchief as he spoke; “our police arrangements are improving daily,
as scoundrels shall find to their cost.”
Jenkins and Smith did not raise their eyes, and Thomson continued to
frown steadily out at the window without moving a muscle.
“I'm sure I don't know nothink about your p'lice, an' what's more, I
don't care.” said Mrs. Durby; “all that I know is that railways is
dreadful things, and if I was the Queen, which I'm not, I'd have 'em
all put down by Acts of Parlingment, so I would. But never, never,
never,—as long as I'm able to manidge my own—ah!”
Mrs. Durby terminated here with one of her own appalling shrieks,
for it was at this precise moment that John Marrot happened, as already
described, to have occasion to knock a cart and horse to atoms. The
shock, as we have said, was very slight, nevertheless it was sufficient
to overturn the poor nurse's nervous system, which had already been
wrought up to a high pitch of tension.
“That's SOMETHIN' gone, sir,” said Sam, touching his cap to Captain
“What is it, Edwin?” inquired the captain as the youth let down the
window and looked out.
“I can see nothing,” said Edwin, “except that the guard and fireman
are both looking back as if they wanted to see something on the line.
We are beginning to slow, however, being not far from the station now.”
About a mile and three-quarters from the station, in the suburbs of
London, where the tickets were to be collected, John Marrot stopped the
pulse of his iron horse, for so terrific was his speed that he was able
to run the greater part of that distance by means of the momentum
already acquired. By degrees the mighty engine began to “slow.” Trees
and houses instead of rushing madly past began to run hastily by, and
then to glide behind at a rate that was more in keeping with the
dignity of their nature. From sixty miles an hour the train passed by a
rapid transition to ordinary express speed, then to ordinary speed,
then to twenty miles an hour. Then Thomson felt that his opportunity
had come. He suddenly wrenched his wrists from their fastening, leaped
head foremost out of the window, fell on the embankment in a heap, and
rolled to the bottom, where he lay extended on his back as if dead.
Thus much Mrs. Durby saw in one horrified glance and then fainted
dead away, in which condition she remained, to the great anxiety and
distress of Captain Lee, until the “Flying Dutchman,” after doing
seventy-eight miles in one hour and a half, glided as softly up to the
platform of the station in the great Metropolis as if it were a modest
young train which had yet to win its spurs, instead of being a tried
veteran which had done its best for many years past to annihilate space
and time. But, after all, it resembled all other tried veterans in this
Generally speaking, engine-drivers are little—far too little—
thought of after a journey is over. Mankind is not prone to be wise or
discriminating, in giving credit to whom credit is due. We “remember"
waiters after having eaten a good dinner, but who, in any sense of the
word, “remembers” the cook? So in like manner we think of railway
porters and guards at the end of our journeys, and talk of their
civility mayhap, but who thinks or talks of the driver and fireman as
they lean on the rails of their iron horse, wet and weary perchance—
smoke and dust and soot begrimed for certain—and calmly watch the
departure of the multitudes whom they have, by the exercise of
consummate coolness, skill, and courage, brought through dangers and
hairbreadth escapes that they neither knew nor dreamed of?
On this particular occasion, however, the tables were turned for
once. The gentlemen in the train hurried to the guard to ask what had
caused the slight shock which they had felt. Joe Turner had been called
aside for a moment by a clerk, so they went direct to John Marrot
himself, who modestly related what had happened in a half apologetic
tone, for he did not feel quite sure that he had done the best in the
circumstances. His admiring audience had no doubt on the point,
“You're a brick, John!” exclaimed an enthusiastic commercial
“That's true,” said another. “If we had more men like him, there
would be fewer accidents.”
“Let's give him something,” whispered a third.
The suggestion was eagerly acted on. A subscription was made on the
spot, and in three minutes the sum of about ten pounds was thrust into
John's huge dirty hand by the enthusiastic commercial traveller. But
John firmly refused to take it.
“What's to be done with it, then?” demanded the traveller, “I can't
keep it, you know, and I'm not going to sit down here and spend half-an-hour in returning the money. If you don't take it John, I must fling
it under the engine or into the furnace.”
“Well,” said the driver, after a moment's consideration, while he
closed his hand on the money and thrust it into his breeches pocket,
“I'll take it. It will help to replace the cart we smashed, if I can
find the owner.”
While this was going on near the engine, the robbers were being
removed from their carriage to receive the due reward of their deeds.
Three tall and strong-boned men had been on the platform for some time
awaiting the arrival of the “Flying Dutchman.” Swift though John
Marrot's iron horse was, a swifter messenger had passed on the line
before him. The electric spark—and a fast volatile, free-and-easy, yet
faithful spark it is—had been commissioned to do a little service that
day. Half-an-hour after the train had left Clatterby a detective,
wholly unconnected with our friend Sharp, had called and sent a message
to London to have Thomson, Jenkins, and Smith apprehended, in
consequence of their connexion with a case of fraud which had been
traced to them. The three tall strong-boned men were there in virtue of
this telegram. But, accustomed though these men were to surprising
incidents, they had scarcely expected to find that the three culprits
had added another to their many crimes, and that one of them had leaped
out of the train and out of their clutches—in all probability out of
the world altogether! Two of the strong men went off immediately in
search of him, or his remains, while the other put proper manacles on
Jenkins and Smith and carried them off in a cab.
Meanwhile Joe Turner saw that all the other passengers were got
carefully out of the train. He was particularly polite in his
attentions, however, to the “late passenger!”
“You have forgot, ma'am,” he said politely, “to give up your dog-ticket.”
“Dog-ticket!” exclaimed the lady, blushing; “what do you mean? I
have no dog-ticket.”
“Not for the little poodle dog, ma'am, that you carry under your
The lady blushed still deeper as she admitted that she had no ticket
for the dog, but said that she was quite willing to pay for it.
This having been done, her curiosity got the better of her shame at
having been “caught,” and she asked—
“How did you know I had a dog with me, guard?”
“Ah, ma'am,” replied Joe with a smile, “we've got a remarkably
sharp- sighted police force on our line, besides the telegraph. We find
the telegraph very useful, I assure you, at times. The gentlemen who
were removed in handcuffs a few minutes ago were ALSO stopped in their
little game by the telegraph, ma'am.”
The guard turned away to attend to some one else, and the late
passenger, blushing a still deeper scarlet to find that she was classed
with criminals, hurried away to reflect, it is to be hoped, on the fact
that dishonesty has no variety in character—only in degree.
When the guard left the late passenger, he found that his assistance
was required to get Mrs. Durby and her belongings out of the railway
carriage and into a cab.
The poor nurse was in a pitiable state of mind. A railway journey
had always been to her a thing of horror. The reader may therefore form
some conception of what it was to her to have been thus suddenly called
away from quiet suburban life to undertake not only a railway journey,
but to be shut up with a gang of would-be murderers and encounter a
sort of accident in addition! By the time she had reached London she
had become quite incapable of connected thought. Even the precious
parcel, which at first had been an object of the deepest solicitude,
was forgotten; and although she had hugged it to her breast not two
minutes before, she suffered it to drop under the seat as she was led
from the train to the cab.
“Drive to the Clarendon,” said Captain Lee, as he and Gurwood
followed the nurse into the cab; “we will take care of her,” he added
to Edwin, “till she is better able to take care of herself.”
Mrs. Durby gave vent to a hysterical sob of gratitude.
Arrived at the Clarendon they alighted, the captain paid the fare,
and the cab was dismissed. Just at that moment Mrs. Durby became a
temporary maniac. She shrieked, “Oh! my parcel!” and rushed towards the
The captain and waiter restrained her.
“It's in the cab!” she yelled with a fervour there was no resisting.
Edwin, comprehending the case, dashed down the steps and followed
the cab; but he might as well have followed the proverbial needle in
the haystack. Hundreds of cabs, carts, busses, and waggons were passing
the Clarendon. He assaulted and stopped four wrong cabs, endured a deal
of chaff, and finally returned to the hotel discomfited.
Thus suddenly was Mrs. Durby bereft of her treasure and thrown into
abject despair. While in this condition she partially unbosomed herself
to Captain Lee, and, contrary to strict orders, revealed all she knew
about the embarrassments of Mrs. Tipps, carefully concealing, however,
the nature of the contents of her lost parcel, and the real object of
her journey to London.
One more paragraph in regard to this eventful trip of the “Flying
Dutchman” ere we have done with the subject.
Having finished his journey, John Marrot took his iron steed to the
stable. Usually his day's work terminated at Clatterby; but, owing to
the horse being in need of extra rest he had to stop in London that
night. And no wonder that the LIGHTNING was sometimes fatigued, for
even an ordinary express engine on the Grand National Trunk Railway was
wont to run over 270 miles of ground in a day, at the rate of about
forty-five miles an hour, and with a dead weight of 120 tons, more or
less, at her tail. This she did regularly, with two “shed- days,” or
days of rest, in the week for cleansing and slight repairs. Such an
engine was considered to do good service if it ran 250 days in the
year. But the engine of the “Flying Dutchman” was more highly favoured
than other engines—probably on the ground of the principle taught by
the proverb, “It is the pace that kills.” Its regular run was 1,544
miles in the day, and assuredly it stood in need of repose and
refreshment quite as much as ordinary horses do. Its joints had become
relaxed with severe labour, its bolts had been loosened, its rubbing
surfaces, despite the oil poured so liberally on them by Will Garvie,
had become heated. Some of them, unequally expanded, strained and
twisted; its grate-bars and fire-box had become choked with “clinkers,”
and its tubes charged with coke.
John therefore ran it into the huge shed or stable prepared for the
reception of twenty-four iron horses, and handed it over to a set of
cleaners or grooms. These immediately set to work; they cleaned out its
fire-box, scraped its grate-bars, tightened all its bolts and rivets,
greased the moving parts, and thoroughly cleansed it, outside and in.
Thus washed, cooled down, and purified, it was left to repose for five
or six hours preparatory to a renewal of its giant energies on the
Although we have somewhat exalted our pet locomotive of the “Flying
Dutchman,” justice requires us to state that goods engines are more
gigantic and powerful, though they are not required to run so fast.
These engines are the heavy dray-horses of the line, express engines
being the racers. The latter can carry a LIGHT LOAD of some seventy or
ninety tons on a good roadway at the rate of fifty miles an hour or
upwards. Goods engines of the most powerful class, on the other hand,
run at a much slower pace, but they drag with ease a load of from 300
to 350 tons, with which they can ascend steep gradients.
But whether light or heavy, strong or weak, all of them are subject
to the same laws. Though powerfully, they are delicately framed, and
like man himself, appear to be incapable of perfect action without
obtaining at the least one day of rest in the week.
Chapter XV. TREATS OF MRS. DURBY'S
LOST PARCEL IN PARTICULAR, AND OF LOST-LUGGAGE IN GENERAL.
We need scarcely say that Edwin Gurwood took a good deal of trouble
to find poor Mrs. Durby's lost parcel. Had he known what its contents
were he might perhaps have done more. As she positively asserted that
she had carried it into the cab with her and had not left it in the
train, immediate application was not made at the station for it, but
Edwin drove her in a cab to Scotland Yard, and there introduced her to
the police officials whose duty it is to take charge of articles left
in cabs. Here she was asked to describe the appearance of her parcel,
which she did, by saying that it was a roundish one in brown paper,
fastened with a piece of string, and having the name of Durby written
on it in pencil, without any address.
Not feeling quite sure however of the fidelity of the nurse's
memory, Edwin then went to the station and made inquiries there, but on
application to the lost-luggage office no such parcel had been
deposited there. The reader may perhaps be surprised at this, as it is
well-known that every train is searched by the porters on its arrival
at a terminus, and all forgotten articles are conveyed at once to the
lost-luggage office. In the ordinary course of things Mrs. Durby's
parcel would have been found and restored to her on application, but it
happened that a careless porter searched the “Flying Dutchman” that
day, and had failed to observe the parcel which lay in a dark corner
under the seat. When the carriage therefore was shunted the parcel was
left to repose in it all night as well as all next day, which happened
to be Sunday.
The parcel had a longish excursion on its own account after that.
The carriage in which it lay happened to be a “through one,” and
belonged to another company, to whose line it was accordingly forwarded
on the following Monday. It reached a remote station in the west of
England that night and there the parcel was discovered. It lay all
night there, and next day was forwarded to the lost-luggage office of
that line. Here it was examined; the various pieces of paper were
unrolled one by one and the doubled-up slipper was discovered; this was
examined, and the little parcel found; the name of Durby having been
noted and commented on, the covering of note-paper was removed, and the
match-box revealed, from the inside of which was produced the pill-box, which, when opened, disclosed to the astonished gaze of the
officials an antique gold ring set with diamonds! As the name “Mrs.
Durby” written in pencil did not furnish a clue to the owner, the ring
was given into the charge of the custodier of the lost-luggage office,
and a description of it with a note of all particulars regarding it,
was forwarded to the Clearing-House in London.
The lost-luggage office, we may remark in passing, was a wonderful
place—a place in which a moralist might find much material for mental
mastication. Here, on an extensive series of shelves, were deposited in
large quantities the evidences of man's defective memory; the sad
proofs of human fallibility. There were caps and comforters and
travelling-bags in great abundance. There were shawls and rugs, and
umbrellas and parasols, and sticks and hat-boxes in such numbers as to
suggest the idea that hundreds of travellers, smitten with irresistible
feelings of gratitude, had left these articles as a trifling testimony
of respect to the railway company. There were carpet-bags here not only
in large numbers but in great variety of form and size.
Smelling-bottles, pocket-handkerchiefs, flasks, pocket- books,
gun-cases, portmanteaux, books, cigar cases, etc., enough to have
stocked a gigantic curiosity shop, and there were several articles
which one could not account for having been forgotten on any other
supposition than that the owners were travelling maniacs. One gentleman
had left behind him a pair of leathern hunting-breeches, a soldier had
forgotten his knapsack, a cripple his crutches! a Scotchman his
bagpipes; but the most amazing case of all was a church door! We do not
jest, reader. It is a fact that such an article was forgotten, or left
or lost, on a railway, and, more amazing still, it was never claimed,
but after having been advertised, and having lain in the lost goods
office the appointed time, it was sold by auction with other things.
Many of the articles were powerfully suggestive of definite ideas. One
could not look upon those delicate kid gloves without thinking of the
young bride, whose agitated soul was incapable of extending a thought
to such trifles. That Mrs. Gamp-like umbrella raised to mental vision,
as if by magic, the despair of the stout elderly female who, arriving
unexpectedly and all unprepared at her journey's end, sought to collect
her scattered thoughts and belongings and launch herself out on the
platform, in the firm belief that a minute's delay would insure her
being carried to unknown regions far beyond her destination, and it was
impossible to look at that fur travelling-cap with ear-pieces cocked
knowingly on a sable muff, without thinking of the bland bald-headed
old gentleman who had worn it during a night journey, and had pulled it
in all ways about his head and over his eyes, and had crushed it into
the cushions of his carriage in a vain endeavour to sleep, and had let
it fall off and temporarily lost it and trod upon it and
unintentionally sat upon it, and had finally, in the great hurry of
waking suddenly on arrival, and in the intense joy of meeting with his
blooming girls, flung it off, seized his hat and bag and rug, left the
carriage in a whirlwind of greeting, forgot it altogether, and so lost
it for ever.
“Nay, not lost,” we hear some one saying; “he would surely call at
the lost-luggage office on discovering his loss and regain his
Probably he might, but certainly he would only act like many
hundreds of travellers if he were to leave his property there and never
call for it at all.
True, much that finds its way to the lost-luggage office is
reclaimed and restored, but it is a fact that the quantity never
reclaimed is so large on almost any railway that it forms sufficient to
warrant an annual sale by auction which realises some hundreds of
pounds. One year's sale of lost-luggage on the Grand National Trunk
Railway amounted to œ500! and this was not more than an average year's
sale. Every possible effort is of course made to restore lost-luggage
before such a sale takes place. In the first place, everything bearing
a name and address is returned at once to the owner, but of course
there are multitudes of small articles which have neither name nor
address. Such of these as are locked or tied up are suffered to remain
for a short time in an office, where they may be readily reclaimed; but
if not claimed soon they are opened, and if addresses are found inside
are sent to their owners. In the event of no addresses being found they
are retained for a year, then advertised for sale by public auction,
and the proceeds go to reduce that large sum—perhaps œ16,000 or more
—which the company has to pay annually as compensation for lost and
damaged goods. On one railway where the lost-luggage was allowed to lie
a considerable time before being examined a singular case occurred. A
hat-box was opened and found to contain Bank of England notes to the
amount of œ65, with two letters, which led to its being restored to its
owner after having lain for more than a year. The owner had been so
positive that he had left the hat-box at a hotel that he had made no
inquiry for it at the railway office.
A sale-catalogue of left and unclaimed property on one of our chief
railways, which now lies before us, presents some curious “lots.” Here
are some of them: 70 walking-sticks, 30 silk umbrellas, and there are
eleven similar lots, besides innumerable parasols—50 muffs and boas—a
crate containing 140 billycocks and hats—24 looking-glasses—160
packets of cloth buttons—15 frying-pans and 18 ploughshares—3 butter
machines—2 gas-meters, 2 shovels, and a pair of spectacles—a box of
sanitary powder and a 15-horse power horizontal steam-engine! How some
of these things, especially the last, could come to be lost at all, is
a mystery which we have been quite unable to fathom. Of these lots the
catalogue contains 404, and the sale was to occupy two days.
After having failed to obtain any information as to the missing
brown paper parcel, Mrs. Durby felt so overwhelmed with distress and
shame that she took the whole matter into serious consideration, and,
resolving to forego her visit to her brother, returned straight to
Clatterby, where, in a burst of tears, she related her misadventures to
Netta. It need scarcely be said that Netta did not blame her old and
faithful nurse. Her disposition was of that mild sympathetic nature
which induces one,—when an accident occurs, such as the breaking of a
valuable piece of china,—to hasten to excuse rather than to abuse the
unhappy breaker, who, in nine cases out of ten, is far more severely
punished by his or her own conscience than the sin deserves! Instead,
therefore, of blaming the nurse, Netta soothed her; said that it did
not matter MUCH; that the ring was valuable to her only as a gift from
her father; that no doubt some other means of paying their debts would
soon be devised; that it would have been an absolute miracle, if nurse
had retained her self-possession, in the terrible circumstances, in
which she had been placed, and in fact tried so earnestly and
touchingly to comfort her, that she unintentionally heaped coals of
intensest fire on the poor woman's head, and caused Mrs. Durby not only
to blame herself more than ever, but to throw her arms round Netta's
neck, and all but fall down on her knees and worship her.
Thereafter the subject was dismissed, and in a short time almost
Chapter XVI. DESCRIBES ENGINEERING
DIFFICULTIES, A PERPLEXING CASE, AND A HARMONIOUS MEETING.
Captain Lee's object in visiting London was twofold. He went there
primarily to attend the half-yearly general meeting of the Grand
National Trunk Railway, and secondarily, to accompany his friend Edwin
Gurwood to the Railway Clearing-House, in which establishment he had
been fortunate enough to secure for him a situation.
The various circumstances which contributed to the bringing about of
an intimacy between Captain Lee and young Gurwood are partly known to
the reader. It was natural that the captain should feel some sort of
regard for one who had twice shown himself so ready to spring to his
assistance in the hour of danger; but that which weighed still more
strongly with the old sailor—who had been a strict disciplinarian and
loved a zealous man—was the energy, with which Edwin threw himself
into the work of the department of the railway, in which he had first
been placed. Perhaps if the captain had known the motives and the hopes
which actuated the youth he might have regarded him with very different
feelings! We know not—and it matters little now.
As a clerk in the Engineers' office, Edwin had, in a few weeks,
evinced so much talent and aptitude for the work as to fill his
patron's heart with delight. He possessed that valuable quality which
induces a man—in Scripture language—to look not only on his own
things but on the things of others. He was not satisfied with doing his
own work thoroughly, but became so inquisitive as to the work of his
companions in the office that he acquired in a short time as much
knowledge as some of these companions had acquired in several years.
The engineer's department of a railway is one which involves some of
the most important operations connected with the line. But indeed the
same may be said of all the departments—passenger, goods, locomotive,
and police, each of which is independent, yet connected. They are
separate wheels, as it were, which work harmoniously together in one
grand system, and the gentlemen at the head of these departments must
be men of experience; of acknowledged talent and power, each supreme in
his own department, but all subject to the general manager.
The engineer-in-chief, who was Edwin Gurwood's superior, had charge
of the entire railway, which was something over one thousand miles in
extent. This vast line was divided into four divisions—namely, the
northern, southern, western, and eastern; each division being under the
superintendence of a resident engineer, who was, of course, subject to
the engineer-in-chief. Each division was about 250 miles long, and was
subdivided into districts varying from thirty to seventy miles. These
were under the charge of inspectors, whose duty it was to travel
constantly over their lengths—almost daily—partly on foot and partly
by train, to see that the line was kept in perfect working order. The
travelling inspectors had under them a large body of “surface-men” or
“plate-layers,” men whose duty it was to perform the actual work of
keeping the line in order. They worked in squads of four or five—each
squad having a foreman or gaffer, who was held responsible for the
particular small portion of the line that he and his squad had to
attend to. The average number of surface-men was about two to the mile
—so that the entire staff of these men on the line numbered over two
thousand. Their business was to go over the entire line twice a day,
drive tight the wooden “keys” which held the rails in their chairs,
lift and re-lay broken or worn-out rails and chairs, raise or depress
sleepers wherever these required alteration, so as to make the line
level, and, generally, to keep in thorough repair the “permanent way.”
Again, each of the four divisions had an inspector of signals and an
inspector of buildings, the former being responsible for the perfect
working order of all signals, and the latter, who had a few masons,
joiners, slaters, blacksmiths, and others under him, having charge of
all the stations, sheds, and other buildings on the line. Every month
each division engineer sent in to the head office a statement of
material used, and of work done; also a requisition for material
required for future use.
From all this it can easily be understood that Edwin had a fair
opportunity of finding scope for his talents; and he had indeed already
begun to attract notice as an able, energetic fellow, when Captain Lee,
as we have said, procured for him an appointment in the Clearing-House.
On the occasion of the change being made, he invited his young friend
to spend a few days at his residence in Clatterby, and thereafter, as
we have seen, they travelled together to London.
It need scarcely be said that Edwin did not neglect this golden
opportunity to try to win the heart of Emma. Whether he had succeeded
or not he could not tell, but he unquestionably received a strong
additional impulse in his good resolves—to achieve for himself a
position and a wife!
“Gurwood,” said Captain Lee, after Mrs. Durby had taken her
departure, “I want you to aid me in a little difficulty I have about
our mutual friend, Mrs. Tipps. She is ridiculously determined not to
accept of assistance from me, and I find from that excellent nurse that
they are actually up to the lips in poverty—in fact, on the point of
going down. I think from what she said, or, rather from what she didn't
say, but hinted, that her errand to London had something to do with
their poverty, but I can't make it out. Now, I have made up my mind to
help them whether they will or no, and the question I wish to lay
before you is,—how is the thing to be done? Come, you have had some
experience of engineering, and ought to be able to cope with
“True,” replied Edwin, with a smile, “but to bend a woman's will
surpasses any man's powers of engineering!”
“Come, sir,” said the captain, “that is a most ungallant speech from
one so young. You deserve to die an old bachelor. However, I ask you
not to exercise your skill in bending a woman's will, but in bridging
over this difficulty—this Chat Moss, to speak professionally.”
“Could you not procure for my friend, Joseph Tipps, a more lucrative
appointment?” said Edwin eagerly, as the idea flashed upon him.
The captain shook his head.
“Won't do, sir; I have thought of that; but, in the first place, I
have not such an appointment to give him at present; in the second
place, if I had, he could not draw his salary in advance, and money is
wanted immediately; and, in the third place, he would not if he had it
be able to spare enough out of any ordinary clerk's salary, because the
debts due by Mrs. Tipps amount to fifty pounds—so Mrs. Durby said.”
“It is indeed perplexing,” said Edwin. “Would it not be a good plan
to send them a cheque anonymously?”
Again the captain shook his head.
“Wouldn't do. The old lady would guess who sent it at once. Come, I
will leave it to you to devise a plan. Never could form a plan all my
life, and have no time just now, as I'm going off to the meeting in ten
minutes. I constitute you my agent in this matter, Gurwood. You know
all the circumstances of the case, and also about my bet of five
hundred pounds with the late Captain Tipps. Your fee, if you succeed,
shall be my unending gratitude. There, I give you CARTE-BLANCHE to do
as you please—only see that you don't fail.”
Saying this, the captain put on his hat and went out, leaving Edwin
much amused and not a little perplexed. He was not the man, however, to
let difficulties stand in his way unassailed. He gave the subject
half-an-hour's consideration, after which he formed a plan and
immediately went out to put it into execution.
Meanwhile Captain Lee went to the head offices of the Grand National
Trunk Railway, and entered the large room, where the directors and
shareholders of the Company were already assembled in considerable
numbers to hold a half-yearly general meeting.
It was quite a treat to see the cordial way in which the captain was
received by such of his brother directors as sat near him, and, when he
had wiped his bald head and put on his spectacles, and calmly looked
round the hall, his bland visage appeared to act the part of a
reflector, for, wherever his eyes were turned, there sunshine appeared
to glow. In fact several of the highly sympathetic people present—of
whom there are always a few in every mixed meeting—unconsciously
smiled and nodded as his eye passed over their locality, even although
they were personal strangers to him.
Very various are the feelings which actuate the directors and
shareholders of different railways at these half-yearly gatherings.
Doubtless some directors go to the place of meeting with the feelings
of men who go to execution, and the shareholders go with the feelings
of executioners, if not worse; while other directors and shareholders
unquestionably go to hold something like a feast of reason and a flow
The half-yearly meeting we write of was imbued with the latter
spirit. Wisdom and conscientious care had steered the ship and swayed
the councils of the Grand National Trunk Railway, so that things were
in what the captain called a highly flourishing condition. One
consequence was, that the directors wore no defensive armour, and the
shareholders came to the ground without offensive weapons.
Sir Cummit Strong having taken the chair, the secretary read the
advertisement convening the meeting.
The chairman, who was a tall, broad-browed, and large-mouthed man,
just such an one as might be expected to become a railway king, then
rose, and, after making a few preliminary observations in reference to
the report, which was assumed to have been read, moved, “that the said
report and statement of accounts be received and adopted.”
“He-ar, he-ar!” exclaimed a big vulgar man, with an oily fat face
and a strong voice, who was a confirmed toady.
“I am quite sure,” the chairman continued, “that I have the sympathy
of all in this meeting when I say that the half-year which has just
come to a close has been one of almost unmixed success—”
“He-ar, he-ar!” from the toady.
“And,” continued the chairman, with pointed emphasis, and a glance
at the toady, which was meant to indicate that he had put in his oar
too soon, but which the toady construed into a look of gratitude—“AND
of very great satisfaction to those whom you have appointed to the
conducting of your affairs.”
Captain Lee, who sat immediately behind the toady and felt his
fingers and toes tingling, lost a good deal of what followed, in
consequence of falling into a speculative reverie, as to what might be
the legal consequences, if he were to put his own hat on the toady's
head, and crush it down over his eyes and mouth.
“Gentlemen,” continued the chairman, “there are three points on
which we have reason to congratulate ourselves to-day, namely, the
safety, the efficiency, and the economy with which our railway has been
worked. As regards the first, I find that ten millions of journeys have
been performed on our line during the half-year with hardly a
detention, with very few late trains, at high speeds, and with only one
accident, which was a comparatively slight one, and was unattended with
loss of life or serious damage to any one.”
“He-ar, he-ar!” from the toady.
At this point a wag in the distance got up and suggested, in a very
weak voice, that if the toady would say, “he-ar, he-ar!” less
frequently, perhaps they would “he-ar” much better—a suggestion which
was received with a burst of laughter and a round of applause. It
effectually quelled the toady and rendered him innocuous for a
“Now,” resumed the chairman, “some people appear to think that it is
an easy thing to work a railway in safety, but I can assure you that
such is not the case. Intelligence, care, foresight, and the strictest
discipline, are necessary to secure this result; and, remember, we have
not the advantage of anything so powerful as military discipline to
help us. We have nothing to appeal to save the hopes and fears of our
staff; and we feel it to be our great difficulty, as it is our
principal duty, to be most careful in the selection of the thousands of
men who, in their various positions and vocations, have to be employed
in the conduct of your enterprise.
“I know well,” continued Sir Cummit Strong, “how men shudder when
statistics are mentioned in their ears! Nevertheless, I shall venture
to give you a few statistics that will, I am quite sure, prove
interesting—all the more so that the figures which I quote apply to
several other railways—and, therefore, will serve to give those of you
who may chance to be unlearned on railway matters, some idea of the
vast influence which railways have on our land.
“We run on this railway (I use round numbers) about 700 trains a
day. In addition to which we have spare engines and empty trains, which
perhaps ought to be added to the number given. Now, just consider for a
moment the operations which have to be performed daily in the ordinary
working and running of your passenger traffic. These 700 trains stop
about 5000 times in the twenty-four hours, and of course they start the
same number of times. The empty trains and engines have also to stop
and start. We have on the line upwards of 1000 signals, including the
telegraphic signals and auxiliaries. Those signals have to be raised
and lowered 10,000 times in the twenty-four hours. There are on our
line 1700 pairs of points, which have to be opened and shut, to be
cleaned, oiled, and attended to, above 5000 times in the day. In
addition to all this there are the operations of shunting,
carriage-examining, greasing, and other things in connexion with trains
which involve operations amounting to nearly 6000 in number. So that
—apart from repairs to the line and to vehicles—there are above 30,000
individual operations which have to be performed every twenty-four
hours in the conduct of this enormous passenger traffic.
“All this information I have obtained from our able and excellent
passenger-superintendent, than whom there is not a more important
officer in the Company's service, unless, indeed,” (here the chairman
turned with a smile and a slight bow to the gentlemen who sat on his
right hand) “I may except the general manager and secretary.
“Well, now, gentlemen, I put it to you, is it surprising that the
6000 men who have to perform these 30,000 operations in the day
—amounting to the vast total of ten millions of operations in the year
—is it surprising, I say, that these 6000 men should now and then fall
into some error of judgment, or make some mistake, or even be guilty of
some negligence? Is it not, on the contrary, most surprising that
accidents are not far more numerous; and does it not seem almost
miraculous that where duties are so severe, the demands made by the
public so great—speed, punctuality, numberless trains by day and night
—there should be only one accident to report this half-year, while last
half-year there were no accidents at all? And does it not seem hard
that the public should insist that we shall be absolutely infallible,
and, when the slightest mistake occurs, should haul us into court and
punish us with demands for compensation for accidents which no human
ingenuity or foresight could prevent?
“Before leaving this subject allow me to direct your attention to
the fogs which occurred this half-year. There were thirty days in which
during a part, if not the whole, of the twenty-four hours we had out
our fog-signal men; that is to say, an additional staff of 300 men,
each with his flag and detonating signals, placed within sight, or
within sound of one another, to assist the ordinary signalmen in the
safe conduct of the traffic. During these fogs the omnibuses had to be
withdrawn from the roads, the steamers had to be moored on the river,
and the traffic on the streets was almost at a standstill, nevertheless
we carried through the fog, in and out of London, above one million six
hundred thousand passengers WITHOUT ACCIDENT!”
The “hear, hear,” which burst from the audience at this point might
have satisfied even the toady himself!
“And yet,” continued the chairman, with emphasis, “if a single
mishap had occurred owing to the mistake of any of our half-blinded
men, we should probably have been let in for compensation to the extent
perhaps of œ20,000! Is this fair? If it be so, then one may be tempted
to ask why does not the same `sauce' suit shipowners, many of whom are
notorious for sending to sea unseaworthy craft, and who consign above
one thousand human beings to an untimely grave EVERY YEAR without being
punished in any way or being asked for a farthing of compensation?
“I have already said so much on this point gentlemen, that I shall
make but a few remarks on the other two subjects. Well, then, as to
efficiency. Our carrying ten millions of passengers in safety and
comfort is one proof of that—and, I may remark in passing, that our
receipts for the conveyance of these ten millions amounts to nearly
half a million of money. Another proof of our efficiency lies in the
fact that all the compensation we have had to pay for loss or detention
of luggage has been only œ100. Then as to goods. For merchandise
carried we have received about œ150,000, and the total compensation for
the half-year amounts to only about œ660. Surely I may say with truth
that such facts speak to the regularity and efficiency of your service.
“If the public only knew the anxiety and care with which its
interests are looked after both by night and by day by our excellent
passenger and goods-managers they would perhaps present each of these
gentlemen with a testimonial piece of plate, and would for evermore lay
aside that wicked and ungrateful idea that railway companies are `fair
game,' to be plundered by every one who receives, or fancies he has
received, the slightest possible amount of damage to limb or property.
Railway companies are not perfect any more than other companies. There
are certain faults, it may be, and weak points, which all of us
deplore, and which are being remedied as fast as experience and the
progress of human knowledge will admit, but I hold, gentlemen, that the
management of railway companies is above the average management of many
other companies. We have much more work—more dangerous work—to do
than other companies, and we do it with much less proportional loss to
life, limb, and property.”
“He-ar, he-ar!” burst from the toady in spite of his recent rebuke;
but as it was drowned in a round of hearty applause no one was the
wiser or the worse of his note of approval.
“When I think,” continued the chairman, “of the condition this
country was in before the days of railways—which probably most of
those present remember—the ingratitude of the public seems to me
utterly unaccountable. I can only understand it on the supposition that
they have somehow obtained false notions as to the great value of
railways and the great blessing they are to the community.
“Why, our goods-manager informs me that there is a certain noble
lord, whom of course I may not name in public, who has a farm at a
considerable distance out of town. He has a fancy that the milk and
cream produced on his own farm is better than Metropolitan milk and
cream—(laughter). He therefore resolves to have fresh milk and cream
sent in from his farm every morning, and asks us to carry it for him.
We agree; but he further insists that the milk and cream shall be
delivered at his residence punctually at nine a.m. To this we also
agree, because the thing can be done; yet it is sharp practice, for it
is only by the train arriving at its time, punctually to a minute, and
by our horse and van being in readiness to start the instant it is
loaded, that the thing can be accomplished. Now, gentlemen, it is owing
to the extreme care and vigorous superintendence of our goods—I had
almost said our good-manager that that noble lord has never missed his
milk or cream one morning during the last six months. And the same
punctuality attends the milk-delivery of `Brown, Jones, and Robinson,'
for railways, as a rule, are no respecters of persons. Should not this,
I ask, infuse a little of the milk of human kindness into the public
heart in reference to railways?
“Then, consider other advantages. In days not long gone by a few
coaches carried a few hundreds of the more daring among our population
over the land at a high cost and at the truly awful rate of ten miles
an hour. In some cases the break-neck speed of twelve was attained.
Most people preferred to remain at home rather than encounter the
fatigues, risks, and expense of travelling. What are the facts now?
Above three hundred millions of separate journeys are undertaken by
rail in the United Kingdom in one year. Our sportsmen can breakfast in
London on the 11th of August, sup the same night in Scotland, and be
out on the moors on the morning of the 12th. On any afternoon any lady
in England may be charmed with Sir Walter Scott's `Lady of the Lake,'
and, if so minded, she may be a lady on the veritable lake itself
before next evening! Our navvies now travel for next to nothing in
luxurious ease at thirty miles an hour, and our very beggars scorn to
walk when they can travel at one penny a mile. But all this is nothing
compared with our enormous increase of goods traffic throughout the
kingdom. I have not time, nor is this the place, to enlarge on such a
subject, but a pretty good commentary on it exists in the simple fact
that on your line alone, which is not, as you know, the largest of the
railways of this land, the receipts for goods, minerals, and live-stock carried amounted to œ500,000 in the last half-year, as you will
see from the report.
“There is one point to which I would now direct your attention—
namely, the great facilities which we give to residential and season-ticket holders. I think it a wise and just course to afford the public
such facilities, because it tends to produce a permanent source of
traffic by tempting men, who would otherwise be content to live within
walking or 'bus distance of their offices, to go down into the country
and build villas there, and if you extend that sort of arrangement
largely, you cause villages at last to grow into towns, and towns to
spread out with population and with manufactures. I regard our course
of action in regard to season-tickets, therefore, as a sowing of the
seed of permanent and enduring income. The receipts from this source
alone, I am happy to say, amounts to œ84,000.”
Captain Lee's spirit had, at the bare mention of season-tickets,
gone careering down the line to Clatterby, in the beautiful suburbs of
which he had the most charming little villa imaginable, but he was
abruptly recalled by a “he-ar, he-ar,” from the toady, who was
gradually becoming himself again, and a round of applause from the
audience, in which, having an amiable tendency to follow suit, he
After this the chairman expatiated at some length on the economical
working of the line and on various other subjects of great importance
to the shareholders, but of little interest to the general reader; we
will therefore pass them all by and terminate our report of this
meeting with the chairman's concluding remark, which was, that, out of
the free revenue, after deduction of the dividends payable on
guaranteed and preference stocks and other fixed charges, the directors
recommended the payment of a dividend on the ordinary stock of six and
a half per cent.
It need scarcely be said that this latter statement was received
with hearty applause and with an irrepressible “he-ar, he-ar!” from the
toady, which was not only tolerated by the meeting, but echoed by the
wag in the distance, who, though his words that day had been few, had
done the shareholders good service nevertheless, inasmuch as he had
quelled, to some extent the propensities of a self-sufficient “bore.”
Lest the reader should regard us as a statistical bore, we shall
bring this chapter to a close.
Chapter XVII. GERTIE IS MYSTERIOUSLY
CARED FOR—SAM NATLY DINES UNDER DIFFICULTIES IN CONNEXION WITH THE
One day, not long after the half-yearly meeting described in the
last chapter, Mrs. Marrot—being at the time engaged with the baby—
received a visit from an elderly gentleman, who introduced himself as a
lawyer, and said that he had been sent by a client to make a proposal
“Of course,” he said, with a bland smile, “I do not refer to a
Mrs. Marrot felt and looked surprised, but waited for more in
“To come to the point at once,” continued the elderly gentleman, “my
client, who is rather eccentric, has taken a great fancy, it seems, to
your little daughter Gertrude—Gertie he calls her—and is desirous of
giving her a good education, if you have no objection.”
Mrs. Marrot, being under the impression that this would involve
Gertie's being taken away from her, and being put to a boarding-school, at once looked her objections so plainly, that her visitor
hastened to explain that his client did not wish Gertie to quit her
parents' house, but merely to go for a few hours each day to the
residence of a teacher in the neighbourhood—a governess—whom he
This altered the case so much that Mrs. Marrot expressed herself
quite ready to allow Gertie to undergo THAT amount of education, and
hoped it would do her good, though, for her part she did not believe in
education herself, seeing that she had got on in life perfectly well
without it. She also expressed some curiosity to know who was so good
as to take such an interest in her child.
“That, my good woman, I cannot tell, for two reasons; first because
my client has enjoined me to give no information whatever about him;
and, secondly, because I do not myself know his name, his business with
me having been transacted through a young friend of mine, who is also a
friend of his. All I can say is, that his intentions towards your child
are purely philanthropic, and the teacher whom he shall select will not
be appointed, unless you approve. That teacher, I may tell you, is Miss
“What! Miss Netta teach my Gertie?” exclaimed Mrs. Marrot in great
“My good woman,” said the lawyer with a perplexed look, “what is
your objection to Miss Tipps?”
“Objection? I've no objection to Miss Netta, but she will have some
objection to me and Gertie.”
“I thought,” said the lawyer, “that Miss Tipps had already taught
your child, to some extent, gratuitously.”
“So she has, God bless her; but that was in the Sunday-school, where
she teaches a number of poor people's children for the sake of our dear
Lord—but that is a very different thing from giving or'nary schoolin'
to my Gertie.”
“That may be,” rejoined the lawyer; “but you are aware that Miss
Tipps already teaches in order to increase her mother's small income,
and she will probably be glad to get another pupil. We mean to pay her
well for the service, and I suppose that if SHE has no objection YOU
will have none.”
“Cer'nly not!” replied Mrs. Marrot with much emphasis.
Whenever Mrs. Marrot said anything with unusual emphasis, baby
Marrot entertained the unalterable conviction that he was being
scolded; no sooner, therefore, did he observe the well-known look, and
hear the familiar tones, than he opened wide his mouth and howled with
injured feeling. At the same moment a train rushed past like an average
earthquake, and in the midst of this the man of law rose, and saying
that he would communicate with Mrs. Marrot soon, took his leave.
Next evening Mrs. Tipps was seated at tea with Netta, planning with
anxious care how to make the two ends meet, but, apparently, without
“It is dreadful, Netta,” said Mrs. Tipps; “I was never before
brought to this condition.”
“It IS very dreadful,” responded Netta, “but that renders it all the
more imperative that we should take some decided step towards the
payment of our debts.”
“Yes, the liquidation of our debts,” said Mrs. Tipps, nodding
slowly; “that was the term your dear father was wont to use.”
“You know, mamma, at the worst we can sell our furniture—or part of
it—and pay them off, and then, with a system of rigid economy—”
A postman's knock cut short the sentence, and in a few seconds Mrs.
Durby—careworn and subdued—presented a letter to her mistress and
“My—my dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps, “th-this is positively
miraculous. Here is a cheque for fifty pounds, and—but read for
Netta seized the letter and read it aloud. It ran thus:—
“Clarendon Hotel, London.
“Dear Madam,—There is a little girl living in your neighbourhood,
in whose father I have a deep interest. I am particularly anxious to
give this child, Gertrude Marrot by name, a good plain education.
Understanding that your daughter has had considerable experience in
teaching the young, and is, or has been, engaged in tuition, I venture
to propose that she should undertake the training of this child, who
will attend at your daughter's residence for that purpose at any hours
you may deem most suitable. In the belief that your daughter will have
no objection to accept of this trust I enclose a cheque for œ50—the
first year's salary—in advance. I am, dear madam, your very obedient
Although the above can scarcely be considered a brilliant
achievement of Edwin Gurwood, it nevertheless accomplished its purpose;
for the letter was, in all respects, so very unlike Captain Lee, that
neither Mrs. Tipps nor her daughter suspected him for an instant. On
the contrary, they took it in good faith. Netta wrote a reply by return
of post agreeing to the proposal, and on the day following began her
pleasant task, to the inexpressible delight of Gertie, who would
joyfully, on any terms whatever, have been Netta's slave—not to
A considerable time after this happy arrangement had been made, Mrs.
Durby, in a moment of confidential weakness, related to little Gertie
the circumstances attending the loss of the diamond ring. Gertie, on
returning home, communicated the matter to Loo, and gave it as her
opinion that it was a pity such a valuable ring had been lost.
“Couldn't father find out about it somehow?” she asked with a
hopeful look—hopeful because she believed her father capable of doing
anything he chose to set his mind to.
“Perhaps he could, but he won't be home to-night,” replied Loo,
“I think Sam Natly could tell us how to find it. Suppose I go and
ask him,” said Gertie.
Loo laughed, and said she thought Sam couldn't help them much. The
child was, however, a resolute little thing, and, having taken up the
idea, determined to go and see Sam forthwith, as he was on duty not far
from John Marrot's cottage.
Sam had recently been advanced from the position of a porter, to the
responsible office of a signalman. The great sin he had committed in
going to sleep in a first-class carriage, when unable to keep his eyes
open, had been forgiven, partly because it was his first offence,
partly because of the good and opportune service he had rendered on the
day of the attempted robbery, and partly on account of his being one of
the steadiest and most intelligent men on the line. Sam's wife, under
the care of Mrs. Tipps and Mrs. Durby, had made a marvellous recovery,
and Sam's gratitude knew no bounds. Mrs. Tipps happened to refer to him
one day when conversing with Captain Lee, and the latter was much
pleased to discover that the man in whom Mrs. Tipps felt so much
interest, was the same man who had come to his help in the hour of his
extremity. He therefore made inquiry about him of the station- master
at Clatterby. That gentleman said that Sam was a first-rate man, a
stout, hard-working, modest fellow, besides being remarkably
intelligent, and clear-headed and cool, especially in the midst of
danger, as had been exemplified more than once in cases of accident at
the station, in addition to which Sam was a confirmed abstainer from
strong drink. All these facts were remembered, and when the block
system of signalling was introduced on that part of the line Sam was
made a signalman.
The scene of his new labours was an elevated box at the side of the
line, not far from Gertie's home. As this box was rather curious we
shall describe it. It was a huge square sentry-box, with three of its
sides composed of windows; these commanded a view of the line in all
directions. On the fourth side of the box hung a time-piece and a
framed copy of signal regulations. There was a diminutive stove in one
corner, and a chest in another. In front of the box facing the clock
were two telegraphic instruments, and a row of eight or ten long iron
levers, which very much resembled a row of muskets in a rack. These
levers were formidable instruments in aspect and in fact, for they not
only cost Sam a pretty strong effort to move them, but they moved
points and signals, on the correct and prompt movements of which
depended the safety of the line, and the lives of human beings.
Just before little Gertie reached the station, Sam happened to be
engaged in attempting to take his dinner. We use the word ATTEMPTING
advisedly, because our signalman had not the ghost of a chance to sit
down, as ordinary mortals do, and take his dinner with any degree of
certainty. He took it as it were, disjointedly in the midst of alarms.
That the reader may understand why, we must observe that the “block
system” of signalling, which had recently been introduced on part of
the line, necessitated constant attention, and a series of acts, which
gave the signalman no rest, during certain periods of his watch, for
more than two minutes at a time, if so long. The block system is the
method of protecting trains by “blocking” the line; that is, forbidding
the advance of trains until the line is clear, thus securing an
interval of SPACE between trains, instead of the older and more common
method of an interval of TIME. The chief objection to the latter system
is this, that one accident is apt to cause another. Suppose a train
despatched from a station; an interval of say quarter of an hour
allowed and then another sent off. If the first train should break
down, there is some chance of the second train overtaking and running
into it. With the block system this is impossible. For instance, a
train starts from any station, say A, and has to run past stations B
and C. The instant it starts the signalman at A rings a telegraph bell
to attract B's attention, at the same time he indicates on another
telegraphic instrument “Train on line,” locks his instruments in that
position, and puts up the “stop” signal, or, blocks the line. B
replies, acknowledging the signal, and telegraphs to C to be ready. The
moment the train passes B's station, he telegraphs to C, “Train on
line,” and blocks that part of the line with the semaphore, “Stop", as
A had done, he also telegraphs back to A, “Line clear,” whereupon A
lets a second train on, if one is ready. Very soon C sends “Line clear"
to B, whereupon B is prepared to let on that second train, when it
comes up, and so on AD INFINITUM. The signals, right and left are
invariably repeated, so that there is no chance of mistake though the
failure of the telegraph instruments, because if any of these should
fail, the want of a reply would at once induce a telegram through the
“speaking” instrument with which each station is furnished, and which
is similar to the telegraph instruments used at most railway stations,
and the line would remain “blocked” until a satisfactory answer set it
free. The working of the semaphore signals, which are familiar to most
people as tall posts with projecting moveable arms, is accomplished by
the mechanical action of the “levers” before mentioned. There are two
“distant” signals and one “home” signal to be worked by each man.
Besides these there are levers for working the various “points” around
the station which lead to sidings, and when these levers are in action,
i.e. placed for the shunting of a goods train, they self-lock the
levers that “block” the line, so that while this operation of shunting
(which just means shoving a train to one side out of the way) is going
on, the signalman could not make the mistake of letting a train pass
the distant signal—the thing is rendered impossible.
From this it will be seen that the signalman has entire control of
the line, and if we consider that shunting of waggons, carriages, and
trains is a pretty constant and lively operation at some stations, we
can easily conceive that the office of signalman can only be filled by
a very able and trustworthy man.
As we have said, just before Gertie's arrival Sam Natly chanced to
be attempting to dine. The telegraph needles pointed to “Line clear” on
both sides of him. Dinner consisted of a sort of Irish stew cooked in a
little square iron pan that fitted into the small stove. Being a
placid, good-humoured man, not easily thrown off his balance either
mentally or physically, Sam smiled slightly to himself as he put the
first bit of meat into his mouth. He thought of his wife, wished that
she was there to assist in the eating of it and shut his lips on the
savoury morsel. A piece of potato was arrested by the sharp telegraph
bell—one beat—of warning. The potato followed the meat as he was in
the act of rising. Sam touched his telegraphic bell in reply to his
signal-friend on the right, and “Train on line” was marked by a
telegraphic needle pointing to these words. As the train was yet a
great way off, at least as to distance, he sat down again and disposed
of bit number two. Number three followed, and he had made some approach
to engulfing number four when a shrill whistle struck his ear. Up he
sprang, glanced at the time-piece, wiped his mouth, and went to the
levers. He touched his bell—a single note of warning to his
signal-friend on the left and received a reply, one beat, meaning
“Ready.” The train appeared, came up like a rocket and went past like a
thunderbolt. When Sam saw its red tail-light, and thus knew that all
the train was there,—that none of the tail carriages or trucks had
broken loose and been left behind,—he gave a mighty pull to one of the
levers, which turned up the arms of his distant signal, and thus
blocked the line to all other trains. The needle was now “pegged down"
or fixed at “Train on line,” so that there could be no mistake about
it, and no trusting to memory. Having accomplished this, he went to a
large book which lay open on a desk in a corner, glanced at the time-piece, recorded the passage of the train—a passenger one, and once
more sat down to dinner.
The distance between his station and the next to the left was
somewhat greater than that on the right, so that at least three
mouthfuls in succession, of the Irish stew, were disposed of before the
wicked little bell summoned him again. He rose as before with alacrity,
rung his bell in reply, and unstopped his needle. The friend on his
left at once pointed it to “Line clear,” whereupon Sam again went to
his levers, and lowered the obstructing arms on his right. Having thus
a clear line on right and left, he sat down for the third time to
dinner, with a clear head and a clear conscience.
But he was interrupted sooner than before, indeed he had barely got
one mouthful deposited when he was rung up by the friend on his right,
with TWO beats of the bell, to pass a heavy goods train, which, with
something like the impatience of stout people in crossing dangerous
roads, was anxious to get on and out of the way as fast as possible,
for it knew that a `limited mail' was tearing after it, at a fearfully
unlimited pace. Sam knew this too—indeed he knew, and was bound to
know, every train that had to pass that station, up and down, during
his period of duty. He therefore replied, sat down, had a bite or two,
and sprang up when the whistle of the train was audible. There was
longer delay this time, for the goods train had to stop, and be
shunted, at this station. Moreover, another goods train that had
quietly, but impatiently, been biding its time in a siding, thought it
would try to take advantage of this opportunity, and gave an impatient
whistle. Sam opened one of his sliding windows and looked out.
“Couldn't you let me shunt over a truck t'other side NOW, Sam?”
asked its driver remonstratively.
Sam glanced at his time-piece with an earnest thoughtful look, and
“Well, yes; but look sharp.”
He had already pulled the lever of the home signal, and now, with
two mighty pulls, blocked both up and down lines with the distant
signals. At the same time he pulled other levers, and shifted the
“points,” so as to let the plethoric goods train just arrived, and the
goods train in waiting, perform their respective evolutions. It
required nearly all Sam's strength to “pull over” several of those
levers, because, besides being somewhat heavy to work, even at their
best, several of them had got slightly out of order—wanted oiling,
perhaps. It was quite evident to the meanest capacity that there was
room for improvement in this department of the Grand National Trunk
Railway. In performing this last operation Sam locked all the
semaphores, and so rendered his part of the line absolutely
impregnable. There was so much vigorous action and whistling here, and
such puffing and backing and pushing on the part of the engines, that a
superficial observer might have supposed there was a great deal of
movement and confusion to no purpose, but we need scarcely say that
such was not the case. Several trucks of goods were dropped by both
trains, to be carried on by other trains, and several trucks that had
been left by other trains, were taken up, and thus in a few minutes a
part of the enormous traffic of the line was assorted.
Sam had judged his time well. He had got a good piece of work
advanced, and both trains well out of the way, just before the bell
again intimated the approach of the limited mail. He replied, set the
line free, booked the passage of the goods train, and sat down once
more to dinner, just as the door of his box opened and the pretty face
of Gertie peeped in.
We are not sure that such a visit would be permitted in these days
of stringent “rules;” at that time they may not have been very
particular as to visitors, or perhaps Gertie, being one of themselves,
as it were, was privileged. Be this as it may, there she was with a
“May I come in, Sam?”
“May a cherub from the skies come in—yes,” replied Sam, rising and
lifting Gertie in his strong arms until he could print a kiss on her
forehead without stooping. “All well at home, Gertie?”
“Very well, thank you. We expect father home to tea.”
“I know that,” said Sam, sitting down at his small table and
attempting dinner once again.
“How do you know that?” asked Gertie in surprise.
“'Cause I've got to pass him up wi' the express in half-an-hour,”
replied Sam, with his mouth full, “and, of course, he don't prefer
takin' tea on the LIGHTENIN' with his mate Bill Garvie, w'en he's got a
chance o' takin' it wi' his wife and a little angel, like you.”
“I wish you'd not talk nonsense, Sam,” remonstrated Gertie with a
“That ain't nonsense,” said Sam, stoutly.
“Yes, it is,” said Gertie; “you know angels are good.”
“Well, and ain't you good?” demanded the signalman, filling his
mouth with a potato.
“Mother says I am, and I feel as if I was,” replied Gertie with much
simplicity, “but you know angels are VERY VERY good, and, of COURSE,
I'm not near so good as them.”
“You are,” said Sam, with an obstinate snap at a piece of meat;
“you're better than any of 'em. You only want wings to be complete.”
Gertie laughed, and then remarked that Sam dined late, to which Sam
replied that he did, that he preferred it, and that he didn't see why
gentlefolk should have that sort of fun all to themselves.
“What's that?” exclaimed Gertie, as Sam dropped his knife and fork,
rang his electric bell, and laid hold of a lever.
“The limited mail, my dear,” said Sam, as the train rushed by.
“Oh, how it shakes the house! I wonder it don't fall,” exclaimed the
“It's made to be well shaken, like a bottle o' bad physic,” replied
Sam, as he went through the various processes already described, before
sitting down to finish his oft-interrupted meal.
“Do you always take your dinner in that uncomfortable way?” asked
Gertie, sitting down on the chest and looking earnestly into the manly
countenance of her friend.
“Mostly,” said Sam, at last finishing off with a draught of pure
water, and smacking his lips.
“Sometimes it's all I can do to get it eaten—other times I'm not so
hard pressed, but it's never got over without interruption, more or
“Are breakfast and tea as bad?”
“Not quite,” replied Sam with a laugh; “about breakfast time the
traffic ain't quite so fast and furious, and I takes tea at home.”
“How long are you here at a time?” asked the inquisitive Gertie.
“Twelve hours, my dear, and no time allowed for meals.”
“Surely you must be very tired?”
“Sometimes, but they talk of shortening the hours soon. There's a
want of signalmen just now, that's how it is. But what good fortune has
sent YOU here this evenin', Gertie?”
“I want to ask you about a ring, Sam.”
“A ring! What! you ain't goin' to get married already, are you?”
Gertie replied by bursting into a hearty fit of laughter; when she
had sufficiently recovered her gravity, she revealed her troubles to
the sympathising signalman.
“Well, it IS a perplexin' business. What was the old woman doin' wi'
such a ring tied up in such a queer way?”
“I don't know,” said Gertie.
“Well, it ain't no business of mine, but we must try to git hold of
it somehow. I'll be off dooty at six, and your dad'll be passin' in a
few minutes. After I'm free, I'll go up to the shed and have a palaver
with 'im. There he is.”
As he spoke the bell was rung by his signal-friend on the left
replied to in the usual way, and in a few minutes the chimney of the
LIGHTNING was seen over the top of the embankment that hid a bend of
the up-line from view.
“Put your head out here at this window, and be ready to wave your
hand, Gertie,” said Sam, placing the child.
The “Flying Dutchman” came on in its wonted wild fashion, and for a
few seconds Gertie saw her father's bronzed and stern face as he looked
straight ahead with his hand on the regulator. John Marrot cast one
professional glance up, and gave a professional wave of his right hand
to the signalman. At that instant his whole visage lighted up as if a
beam of sunshine had suffused it, and his white teeth, uncovered by a
smile, gleamed as he flew past and looked back. Gertie waved
frantically with her kerchief, which flew from her hand and for some
distance followed the train. In another moment the “Flying Dutchman"
was a speck in the distance—its terrific crash suddenly reduced by
distance to a low rumble.
“Evenin', Jack,” said Sam, as his successor or comrade on the
“night- shift” entered the box, “Come along now, Gertie. We'll go and
see your father. He'll be up at the station in no time, and won't take
long to run back to the shed.”
So saying, Sam Natly assisted Gertie down the long iron ladder, by
which his nest was reached, and walked with her to the engine-shed,
which they soon reached. They had not waited long before John Marrot's
iron horse came panting slowly into its accustomed stable.
As there were at least twelve iron horses there in all stages of
being- put-to-bedism, and some, like naughty boys, were blowing off
their steam with absolutely appalling noise, it was next to impossible
for Gertie and Sam to make known their difficulty to John. They
therefore waited until he had seen his satellites in proper attendance
upon his charger, and then left the shed along with him.
When the case was made known to John, he at once said, “Why didn't
they apply to the Clearin' House, I wonder?”
“Ah, why not?” said Sam.
“Nurse doesn't know about that place, I think,” suggested Gertie.
“Very likely not; but if she'd only gone an' seen any one as know'd
anything about the line, she'd have found it out. However, the parcel's
pretty sure to be somewhere, so I'll set some inquiries a- foot w'en I
goes up to town to-morrow. Good-night, Sam.”
“Good-night, John,” answered the signalman, as he turned off in the
direction of his own dwelling, while the engine-driver and his little
daughter pursued the footpath that led to their cottage.
Sam Natly's residence was a very small one, for house-rent was high
in that neighbourhood. There were only two rooms in it, but these two
bore evidence of being tended by a thrifty housewife; and, truly, when
Sam's delicate, but partially recovered, wife met him at the door that
night, and gave him a hearty kiss of welcome, no one with an atom of
good taste could have avoided admitting that she was a remarkably
pretty, as well as thrifty, little woman.
“You're late to-night, Sam,” said little Mrs. Natly.
“Yes, I've had to go to the shed to see John Marrot about a diamond
“A diamond ring!” exclaimed his wife.
“Yes, a diamond ring.”
Hereupon Sam related all he knew about the matter, and you may be
sure the subject was quite sufficient to furnish ground for a very
lively and speculative conversation, during the preparation and
consumption of as nice a little hot supper, as any hard-worked
signalman could desire.
“You're tired, Sam,” said his little wife anxiously.
“Well, I am a bit. It's no wonder, for it's a pretty hard job to
work them levers for twelve hours at a stretch without an interval,
even for meals, but I'm gittin' used to it—like the eels to bein'
“It's a great shame of the Company,” cried Mrs. Natly with
“Come, come,” cried Sam, “no treason! It ain't such a shame as it
looks. You see the Company have just bin introducin' a noo system of
signallin', an' they ha'n't got enough of men who understand the thing
to work it, d'ye see; so of course we've got to work double tides, as
the Jack-tars say. If they CONTINUE to keep us at it like that I'll say
it's a shame too, but we must give 'em time to git things into workin'
order. Besides, they're hard-up just now. There's a deal o' money
throw'd away by companies fightin' an' opposin' one another—cuttin'
their own throats, I calls it—and they're awful hard used by the
public in the way o' compensation too. It's nothin' short o' plunder
and robbery. If the public would claim moderately, and juries would
judge fairly, an' directors would fight less, shareholders would git
higher dividends, the public would be better served, and railway
servants would be less worked and better paid.”
“I don't care two straws, Sam,” said little Mrs. Natly with great
firmness, “not two straws for their fightin's, an' joories, and
davydens—all I know is that they've no right whatever to kill my
'usband, and it's a great shame!”
With this noble sentiment the earnest little woman concluded the
evening's conversation, and allowed her wearied partner to retire to
Chapter XVIII. A SOIREE WILDLY
INTERRUPTED, AND FOLLOWED UP BY SURPRISING REVELATIONS.
One afternoon Captain Lee and Emma called on Mrs. Tipps, and found
her engaged in earnest conversation with Netta. The captain, who was
always in a boiling-over condition, and never felt quite happy except
when in the act of planning or carrying out some scheme for the
increase of general happiness, soon discovered that Netta was
discussing the details of a little treat which she meant to give to the
boys and girls of a Sunday-school which she and her mother
superintended. With all his penetration he did not, however, find out
that the matter which called most for consideration was the financial
part of the scheme—in other words, how to accomplish the end desired
with extremely limited means. He solved the question for them, however,
by asserting that he intended to give all the scholars of all the
Sunday-schools in the neighbourhood a treat, and of course meant to
include Netta's school among the rest—unless, of course, she possessed
so much exclusive pride as to refuse to join him.
There was no resisting Captain Lee. As well might a red-skin attempt
to stop Niagara. When once he had made up his mind to “go in” for
something, no mortal power could stop him. He might indeed be TURNED.
Another object of interest, worthy of pursuit and judiciously put
before him, might perhaps induce him to abandon a previous scheme; but
once his steam was up, as John Marrot used to say, you could not get
him to blow it off into the air. He was unlike the iron horse in that
respect, although somewhat like him in the rigour of his action.
Accordingly the thing was fixed. Invitations were sent out to all the
schools and to all who took an interest in them, and the place fixed on
was a field at the back of Mrs. Tipps's villa.
The day came, and with it the children in their best array. The
weather was all that could be wished—a bright sun and a clear sky,—
so that the huge tent provided in case of rain, was found to be only
required to shade the provisions from the sun. Besides the children
there were the teachers—many of them little more than children as to
years, but with a happy earnestness of countenance and manner which
told of another element in their breasts that evidently deepened and
intensified their joy. There were several visitors and friends of
Captain Lee and Mrs. Tipps. Emma was there, of course, the busiest of
the busy in making arrangements for the feast which consisted chiefly
of fruit, buns, and milk. Netta and she managed that department
together. Of course little Gertie was there and her sister Loo, from
which we may conclude that Will Garvie was there in spirit, not only
because that would have been natural, but because he had expressly told
Loo the day before that he meant to be present in that attenuated
condition. Bodily, poor fellow, he was on the foot-plate of the
LIGHTNING, which is as much as to say that he was everywhere by turns,
and nowhere long. Mrs. Marrot was there too, and baby, with Nanny
Stocks as his guardian. Miss Stocks's chief employment during the
evening appeared to be to forget herself in the excess of her delight,
and run baby's head against all sorts of things and persons. Perhaps it
was as well she did so, because it tended to repress his energy. She
acted the part of regulator and safety-valve to that small human
engine, by controlling his actions and permitting him good-naturedly to
let off much of his superfluous steam on herself. Indeed she was a
species of strong buffer in this respect, receiving and neutralising
many a severe blow from his irrepressible feet and fists. Bob Marrot
was also there with his bosom friend Tomtit Dorkin, whose sole
occupation in life up to that time had been to put screws on nuts; this
must have been “nuts” to him, as the Yankees have it, because, being a
diligent little fellow, he managed to screw himself through life at the
Clatterby Works to the tune of twelve shillings a week. Joseph Tipps,
having got leave of absence for an evening, was also there,—modest
amiable, active and self-abnegating. So was Mrs. Natly, who, in
consideration of her delicate health, was taken great care of, and very
much made of, by Mrs. Tipps and her family—conspicuously by Mrs.
Durby, who had become very fond of her since the night she nursed her.
Indeed there is little doubt that Mrs. Durby and the bottle of wine
were the turning-point of Mrs. Natly's illness, and that but for them,
poor Sam would have been a widower by that time. Mr. Able, the
director, was also there, bland and beaming, with a brother director
who was anything but bland or beaming, being possessed of a grave,
massive, strongly marked and stern countenance; but nevertheless,
owning a similar spirit and a heart which beat high with philanthropic
desires and designs—though few who came in contact with him, except
his intimate friends, would believe it. There were also present an
elderly clergyman and a young curate—both good, earnest men, but each
very different in many respects from the other. The elder clergyman had
a genial, hearty countenance and manner, and he dressed very much like
other gentlemen. The young curate might have breakfasted on his poker,
to judge from the stiffness of his back, and appeared to be afraid of
suffering from cold in the knees and chest, to judge from the length of
his surtout and the height of his plain buttonless vest.
When all were assembled on the green and the viands spread, the
elder clergyman gave out a hymn; and the curate, who had a capital
voice, led off, but he was speedily drowned by the gush of song that
rose from the children's lips. It was a lively hymn, and they evidently
rejoiced to sing it. Then the elder clergyman made the children a short
speech. It was amazingly brief, insomuch that it quite took the little
ones by surprise—so short was it, indeed and so much to the point,
that we will venture to set it down here.
“Dear children,” he said, in a loud voice that silenced every
chattering tongue, “we have met here to enjoy ourselves. There is but
one of your Sunday lessons which I will remind you of to-day. It is
this,—`Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the
glory of God.' Before beginning, then, let us ask God's blessing.”
Thereupon he asked a blessing, which was also so brief, that, but
for the all-prevailing name of Jesus, with which he closed it, some of
those who heard him would scarce have deemed it a prayer at all. Yet
this elderly clergyman was not always brief.
He was not brief, for instance, in his private prayers for himself,
his friends, and his flock. Brevity did not mark his proceedings when
engaged in preparing for the Sabbath services. He was not brief when,
in his study, he pleaded with some awakened but unbelieving soul to
cast itself unreservedly on the finished work of our Saviour. He was a
man who carried his tact and common-sense into his religious duties;
who hated formalism, regarding it as one of the great stumbling-blocks
in the progress of Christianity, and who endeavoured at all times to
suit his words and actions to the circumstances of the occasion.
The children regarded him with a degree of affection that was all
but irrepressible, and which induced them, at his earnest request, to
sit still for a considerable time while his young brother gave them “a
SHORT address.” He was almost emphatic on the word SHORT, but the young
curate did not appear to take the hint, or to understand the meaning of
that word either in regard to discourses or surtouts. He asserted
himself in his surtouts and vests, without of course having a shadow of
reason for so doing, save that some other young curates asserted
themselves in the same way; and he asserted himself then and there in a
tone of voice called “sermonising,” to which foolish young men are
sometimes addicted, and which, by the way, being a false, and therefore
irreligious tone, is another great stumbling-block in the way of
Christianity. And, curiously enough, this young curate was really an
earnest, though mistaken and intensely bigoted young man. We call him
bigoted, not because he held his own opinions, but because he held by
his little formalities with as much apparent fervour as he held by the
grand doctrines of his religion, although for the latter he had the
authority of the Word, while for the former he had merely the authority
of man. His discourse was a good one, and if delivered in a natural
voice and at a suitable time, might have made a good impression. As it
was, it produced pity and regret in his elder brother, exasperation in
Captain Lee, profound melancholy in Joseph Tipps, great admiration in
Miss Stocks and the baby, and unutterable ENNUI in the children.
Fortunately for the success of the day, in the middle of it, he took
occasion to make some reference, with allegorical intentions, to the
lower animals, and pointed to a pig which lay basking in the sunshine
at no great distance, an unconcerned spectator of the scene. A rather
obtuse, fat-faced boy, was suddenly smitten with the belief that this
was intended as a joke, and dutifully clapped his hands. The effect was
electrical—an irresistible cheer and clapping of hands ensued. It was
of no use to attempt to check it. The more this was tried the more did
the children seem to think they were invited to a continuance of their
ovation to the young curate, who finally retired amid the hearty though
unexpressed congratulations of the company.
By good fortune, the arrival of several more friends diverted
attention from this incident; and, immediately after, Captain Lee set
the children to engage in various games, among which the favourite was
One of the new arrivals was Edwin Gurwood, who had come, he said, to
introduce a gentleman—Dr. Noble—to Mrs. Tipps.
“Oh, the hypocrite!” thought Mrs. Tipps; “he has come to see Emma
Lee, and he knows it.”
Of course he knew it, and he knew that Mrs. Tipps knew it, and he
knew that Mrs. Tipps knew that he knew it, yet neither he nor Mrs.
Tipps showed the slightest symptom of all that knowledge. The latter
bowed to Dr. Noble, and was expressing her happiness in making his
acquaintance, when a rush of laughing children almost overturned her,
and hurled Dr. Noble aside. They were immediately separated in the
crowd, and, strange to say, Edwin at once found himself standing beside
Emma Lee, who, by some curious coincidence, had just parted from Netta,
so that they found themselves comparatively alone. What they said to
each other in these circumstances it does not become us to divulge.
While all parties were enjoying themselves to the full, including
the young curate, whose discomfiture was softened by the kind
attentions of Mrs. Tipps and her daughter, an incident occurred which
filled them with surprise and consternation. Dr. Noble was standing at
the time near the large tent looking at the games, and Nanny Stocks was
not far from him choking the baby with alternate sweetmeats and kisses,
to the horror of Joseph Tipps, who fully expected to witness a case of
croup or some such infantine disease in a few minutes, when suddenly a
tall man with torn clothes, dishevelled hair and bloodshot eyes, sprang
forward and confronted Dr. Noble.
“Ha!” he exclaimed with a wild laugh, “have I found you at last,
Dr. Noble looked at him with much surprise, but did not reply. He
appeared to be paralysed.
“I have sought you,” continued the man, trembling with
ill-suppressed passion, “over land and sea, and now I've found you.
You've got the casket—you know you have; you took it from my wife the
night she died; you shall give it up now, or you die!”
He spluttered rather than spoke the last words between his teeth, as
he made a spring at the doctor.
Edwin Gurwood had seen the man approach, and at once to his
amazement recognising the features of Thomson, his old opponent in the
train, he ran towards him, but was not near enough to prevent his first
wild attack. Fortunately for Dr. Noble this was thwarted by no less a
personage than Joseph Tipps, who, seeing what was intended, sprang
promptly forward, and, seizing the man by the legs adroitly threw him
down. With a yell that sent a chill of horror to all the young hearts
round, the madman, for such he plainly was, leaped up, but before he
could renew his attack he was in the powerful grasp of his old enemy,
Edwin Gurwood. A terrific struggle ensued, for both men, as we have
said before, were unusually powerful; but on this occasion madness more
than counterbalanced Edwin's superior strength. For some time they
wrestled so fiercely that none of the other gentlemen could interfere
with effect. They dashed down the large tent and went crashing through
the DEBRIS of the feast until at length Thomson made a sudden twist
freed himself from Edwin's grasp, leaving a shred of his coat in his
hands, and, flying across the field, leaped at a single bound the wall
that encompassed it. He was closely followed by Edwin and by a
constable of the district, who happened to arrive upon the scene, but
the fugitive left them far behind, and was soon out of sight.
This incident put an end to the evening's enjoyment but as the
greater part of it had already passed delightfully before Thomson came
on the ground to mar the sport, the children returned home much pleased
with themselves and everybody else, despite the concluding scene.
Meanwhile Mrs. Tipps invited her friends who had assembled there to
take tea in Eden Villa, and here Dr. Noble was eagerly questioned as to
his knowledge of his late assailant, but he either could not or would
not throw light on the subject. Some of the guests left early and some
late, but to Mrs. Tipps's surprise the doctor remained till the last of
them had said good-night, after which, to her still greater surprise,
he drew his chair close to the table, and, looking at her and Netta
with much earnestness, said—
“Probably you are surprised, ladies, that I, a stranger, have
remained so long to-night. The truth is, I had come here to have some
conversation on private and very important matters, but finding you so
lively, and, I must add, so pleasantly engaged, I deemed it expedient
to defer my conversation until you should be more at leisure.”
He paused as if to collect his thoughts, and the ladies glanced at
each other uneasily, and in some surprise, but made no reply. In truth,
remembering the scene they had just witnessed, they began to suspect
that another style of madman had thought fit to pay them a visit.
He resumed, however, with every appearance of sanity,—
“How the madman who assaulted me this evening found me out I know
not. I was not aware until this day that he had been tracking me, but,
judging from what he said, and from what I know about him, I now see
that he must have been doing so for some years. Here is the
explanation, and, let me add, it intimately concerns yourselves.”
Mrs. Tipps and Netta became more interested as Dr. Noble proceeded.
“You must know,” he said, “that when in India some years ago I made
several coasting voyages with a certain sea-captain as surgeon of his
ship, at periods when my health required recruiting. I received from
that gentleman every attention and kindness that the heart of a good
man could suggest. On one of these voyages we had a native prince on
board. He was voyaging, like myself, for the benefit of his health, but
his case was a bad one. He grew rapidly worse, and before the end of
the voyage he died. During his illness the captain nursed him as if he
had been his own child; all the more tenderly that he thought him to be
one of those unfortunate princes who, owing to political changes, had
been ruined, and had lost all his wealth along with his station. It was
quite touching, I assure you, madam, to listen to the earnest tones of
that captain's voice as he read passages from the Word of God to the
dying prince, and sought to convince him that Jesus Christ, who became
poor for our sakes, could bestow spiritual wealth that neither the
world, nor life, nor death could take away. The prince spoke very
little, but he listened most intently. Just before he died he sent a
sailor lad who attended on him, for the captain, and, taking a small
box from beneath his pillow, gave it to him, saying briefly,—`Here,
take it, you have been my best friend, I shall need it no more.'
“After he was dead the box was opened, and found to contain a most
superb set of diamonds—a necklace, brooch, ear-rings, bracelets, and a
ring, besides a quantity of gold pieces, the whole being worth several
thousands of pounds.
“As the prince had often said that all his kindred were dead, the
captain had no conscientious scruples in retaining the gift. He locked
it away in his cabin. When the voyage was finished—at Calcutta—the
men were paid off. The captain then be-thought him of placing his
treasure in some place of security in the city. He went to his chest
and took out the box—it was light—he opened it hastily—the contents
were gone! Nothing was left to him of that splendid gift save the ring,
which he had placed on his finger soon after receiving it, and had worn
“From some circumstances that recurred to our memories, we both
suspected the young man who had been in attendance on the prince, but,
although we caused the most diligent search to be made, we failed to
find him. My friend and I parted soon after. I was sent up to the
hills, and never saw or heard of him again.
“Several years after that I happened to be residing in Calcutta, and
was called one night to see the wife of an Englishman who was thought
to be dying. I found her very ill—near her end. She seemed to be
anxious to communicate something to me, but appeared to be afraid of
her husband. I thought, on looking at him attentively, that I had seen
him before, and said so. He seemed to be annoyed, and denied ever
having met with me. I treated the matter lightly, but took occasion to
send him out for some physic, and, while he was away, encouraged the
woman to unburden her mind. She was not slow to do so. `Oh, sir,' she
said, `I want to communicate a secret, but dared not while my husband
was by. Long ago, before I knew him, my husband stole a box of diamonds
from a Captain Tipps—'“
“My husband!” exclaimed the widow.
“You shall hear,” said Dr. Noble. “`I often heard him tell the
story, and boast of it,' continued the sick woman, quietly, `and I
resolved to obtain possession of the box, and have it returned, if
possible, to the rightful owner. So I carried out my purpose—no matter
how—and led him to suppose that the treasure had been stolen; but I
have often fancied he did not believe me. This Captain Tipps was a
friend of yours, sir. I know it, because my husband has told me. He
remembers you, although you don't remember him. I wish you to return
the box to Captain Tipps, sir, if he is yet alive. It lies—' here she
drew me close to her, and whispered in my ear the exact spot, under a
tree, where the jewels were hid.
“`You'll be sure to remember the place?' she asked, anxiously.
“`Remember what place?' demanded her husband, sternly, as he
returned with the medicine.
“No answer was given. The woman fell back on hearing his voice, but,
although she lived for nearly an hour, never spoke again.
“The man turned on me, and asked again what place she had been
speaking of. I said that it was idle to repeat what might prove to be
only the ravings of a dying woman. He seized a bludgeon, and, raising
it in a threatening manner, said, `I know you, Dr. Noble; you shall
tell me what I want to know, else you shall not quit this room alive.'
“`I know you, too, Thomson,' said I, drawing a small sword from a
stick which I always carried. `If you proceed to violence, it remains
to be seen who shall quit this room alive.'
“I opened the door and walked quietly out, leaving him glaring like
a tiger after me.
“Going to the place described, I found the diamonds; and from that
day to this I have not ceased to try to discover my old friend, but
have not yet succeeded. Knowing that he might be dead, I have made
inquiry of every one possessing your name, Mrs. Tipps, in the hope of
discovering his widow or children; and, although your name IS an
uncommon one, madam, you would be surprised if you knew how many I have
ferreted out in the course of years. Unfortunately, my friend never
mentioned his family, or the place of his residence in England, so I
have had no clue to guide me save one. I have even found two widows of
the name of Tipps besides yourself, and one of these said that her
husband was a sailor captain, but her description of him was not that
of my friend. The other said her husband had been a lawyer, so of
course HE could not be the man of whom I was in search.”
“But, sir,” said Mrs. Tipps, in some perplexity, “if you are to
depend on description, I fear that you will never attain your end, for
every one knows that descriptions given of the same person by different
people never quite agree.”
“That is true, madam; and the description given to me this evening
of your late husband is a case in point; for, although it agrees in
many things—in most things—there is some discrepancy. Did your
husband never give you the slightest hint about a set of diamonds that
he had once lost?”
“Never; but I can account for that by the fact, that he never
alluded to anything that had at any time given him pain or displeasure,
if he could avoid it.”
“There is but the one clue, then, that I spoke of, namely, the ring
that belonged to the set of diamonds. Did your husband ever possess—”
“The ring!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps and Netta in the same breath. “Yes,
he had a diamond ring—”
They stopped abruptly, and looked at each other in distress, for
they remembered that the ring had been lost.
“Pray, what sort of ring is it? Describe it to me,” said Dr. Noble.
Netta carefully described it and, as she did so, the visitor's
“That's it; that's it exactly; that MUST be it for I remember it
well, and it corresponds in all respects with—my dear ladies, let me
see the ring without delay.”
“Alas! sir,” said Mrs. Tipps, sadly, “the ring is lost!”
A look of blank dismay clouded poor Dr. Noble's visage as he heard
these words, but he quickly questioned the ladies as to the loss, and
became more hopeful on bearing the details.
“Come,” he said at last, as he rose to take leave, “things don't
look quite so bad as they did at first. From all I have heard I am
convinced that my friend's widow and daughter are before me—a sight of
the ring would put the question beyond all doubt. We must therefore set
to work at once and bend all our energies to the one great point of
recovering the lost ring.”
Chapter XIX. A RUN-AWAY LOCOMOTIVE.
Being, as we have had occasion to remark before, a communicative and
confiding little woman, Netta Tipps told the secret of the ring in
strict confidence to her old nurse. Mrs. Durby, in a weak moment as on
a former occasion, related the history of it to Gertie, who of course
told Loo. She naturally mentioned it to her lover, Will Garvie, and he
conveyed the information to John Marrot. Thus far, but no further, the
thing went, for John felt that there might be danger in spreading the
matter, and laid a strict injunction on all who knew of it to keep
silence for a time.
While at the station the day following, just after having brought in
the “Flying Dutchman,” he was accosted by the superintendent of police,
who chanced to be lounging there with, apparently, nothing to do. Never
was there a man who was more frequently called on to belie his true
character. It was a part of Mr. Sharp's duty to look lazy at times, and
even stupid, so as to throw suspicious men off their guard.
“A fine day, John,” he said, lounging up to the engine where John
was leaning on the rail, contemplating the departure of the passengers
whose lives had been in his hands for the last hour and a half, while
Will Garvie was oiling some of the joints of the iron horse.
John admitted that it was a fine day, and asked what was the noos.
“Nothing particular doing just now,” said Mr. Sharp. “You've heard,
I suppose, of the mad fellow who caused such a confusion among Miss
Tipps's Sunday-school children last night?”
“Oh yes, I heard o' that.”
“And did you hear that he turns out to be the man who jumped out of
your train on the day of the attempted robbery?”
“Yes, I've heard o' that too. They haven't got him yet, I believe?”
“No, not yet; but I think we shall have him soon,” said Mr. Sharp
with a knowing glance; “I've heard rumours that lead me to think it
would not be very surprising if we were to see him hanging about this
station to-day or to-morrow. I've got a sort of decoy-duck to attract
him,” continued Mr. Sharp, chuckling, “in the shape of a retired East
India doctor, who agrees to hang about on the condition that we keep a
sharp eye on him and guard him well from any sudden attack.”
“You don't mean THAT?” said the engine-driver in an earnest
Instead of replying, the superintendent suddenly left him and
sauntered leisurely along the platform, with his eyes cast down and
softly humming a popular air.
The act was so brusque and unlike Mr. Sharp's naturally polite
character that John knew at once, as he said, that “something was up,”
and looked earnestly along the platform, where he saw Thomson himself
walking smartly about as if in search of some one. He carried a heavy-headed stick in his hand and looked excited; but not much more so than
an anxious or late passenger might be.
Mr. Sharp went straight towards the madman—still sauntering with
his head down, however; and John Marrot could see that another man,
whom he knew to be a detective, was walking round by the side of the
platform, with the evident intention of taking him in rear. The moment
Thomson set eyes on the superintendent he recognised him, and
apparently divined his object in approaching, for he started, clenched
his teeth, and grasped his stick. Mr. Sharp instantly abandoned all
attempt at concealment and ran straight at him. Thomson, probably
deeming discretion the better part of valour, turned and fled. He
almost ran into the arms of the detective, who now made sure of him,
but he doubled like a hare and sprang off the platform on to the rails.
Here one or two of the men who were engaged in washing or otherwise
looking after empty carriages, seeing what was going on, at once sought
to intercept the madman, but he evaded two or three, knocked down
another, and, finding himself alongside of a detached engine which
stood there with steam up ready to be coupled to its train, he leaped
upon it, felled the driver who was outside the rail, oiling some of the
machinery, seized the handle of the regulator and turned on full steam.
The driving-wheels revolved at first with such tremendous rapidity
that they failed to “bite” and merely slipped on the rails. Thomson was
engineer enough to understand why, and at once cut off part of the
steam. Next moment he shot out of the station, and, again letting on
full steam, rushed along the line like an arrow!
It chanced that the passenger-superintendent was on the platform at
the time. That gentleman had everything connected with the traffic by
heart. He saw that the points had been so set as to turn the run-away
engine on to the down line, and in his mind's eye saw a monster
excursion train, which had started just a few minutes before, labouring
slowly forward, which the light engine would soon overtake. A collision
in a few minutes would be certain. In peculiar circumstances men are
bound to break through all rules and regulations, and act in a peculiar
way. Without a moment's hesitation he ran to John Marrot and said in an
earnest hurried voice—
“Give chase, John! cross over to the up-line, but don't go too far.”
“All right, sir,” said John, laying his hand on the regulator.
Even while the superintendent was speaking Will Garvie's swift mind
had appreciated the idea. He had leaped down and uncoupled the
LIGHTNING from its train. John touched the whistle, let on steam and
off they went crossed to the up-line (which was the wrong line of rails
for any engine to run in THAT direction), and away he went at forty,
fifty, seventy miles an hour! John knew well that he was flying towards
a passenger-train, which was running towards him at probably
thirty-five or forty miles an hour. He was aware of its whereabouts at
that time, for he consulted his watch and had the time-table by heart.
A collision with it would involve the accumulated momentum of more than
a hundred miles an hour! The time was short, but it was sufficient; he
therefore urged Will to coal the furnace until it glowed with fervent
heat and opened the steam valve to the uttermost. Never since John
Marrot had driven it had the LIGHTNING so nearly resembled its
namesake. The pace was increased to seventy-five and eighty miles an
hour. It was awful. Objects flew past with flashing speed. The clatter
of the engine was deafening. A stern chase is proverbially a long one;
but in this case, at such a speed, it was short. In less than fifteen
minutes John came in view of the fugitive—also going at full speed,
but, not being so powerful an engine and not being properly managed as
to the fire, it did not go so fast; its pace might have been forty or
forty-five miles an hour.
“Will,” shouted John in the ear of his stalwart fireman, “you'll
have to be sharp about it. It won't do, lad, to jump into the arms of a
madman with a fire-shovel in his hand. W'en I takes a shot at 'im with
a lump of coal, then's yer chance—go in an' win, lad—and, whatever
—ye do, keep cool.”
Will did not open his compressed lips, but nodded his head in reply.
“You'll have to do it all alone, Bill; I can't leave the engine,”
He looked anxiously into his mate's face, and felt relieved to
observe a little smile curl slightly the corners of his mouth.
Another moment and the LIGHTNING was up with the tender of the run-away, and John cut off steam for a brief space to equalise the speed.
Thomson at that instant observed for the first time that he was
pursued. He looked back with a horrible glare, and then, uttering a
fierce cheer or yell, tugged at the steam handle to increase the speed,
but it was open to the utmost. He attempted to heap coals on the fire,
but being inexpert, failed to increase the heat. Another second and
they were abreast John Marrot opened the whistle and let it blow
continuously, for he was by that time drawing fearfully near to the
train that he knew was approaching.
Seeing that escape was impossible, Thomson would have thrown the
engine off the rails if that had been possible, but, as it was not, he
brandished the fire-shovel and stood at the opening between the engine
and tender, with an expression of fiendish rage on his countenance that
words cannot describe.
“Now, Bill, look out!” said John.
Will stood like a tiger ready to spring. John beside him, with a
huge mass of coal in one hand concealed behind his back. There was a
space of little more than two feet between the engines. To leap that in
the face of a madman seemed impossible.
Suddenly John Marrot hurled the mass of coal with all his might. His
aim was to hit Thomson on the head, but it struck low, hitting him on
the chest, and driving him down on the foot-plate. At the same instant
Will Garvie bounded across and shut off the steam in an instant. He
turned then to the brake-wheel, but, before he could apply it, Thomson
had risen and grappled with him. Still, as the two strong men swayed to
and fro in a deadly conflict, Will's hand, that chanced at the moment
to be nearest the brake-wheel, was seen ever and anon to give it a
Thus much John Marrot observed when he saw a puff of white steam on
the horizon far ahead of him. To reverse the engine and turn full steam
on was the work of two seconds. Fire flew in showers from the wheels,
and the engine trembled with the violent friction, nevertheless it
still ran on for a considerable way, and the approaching train was
within a comparatively short distance of him before he had got the
LIGHTNING to run backwards. It was not until he had got up speed to
nigh forty miles an hour that he felt safe, looked back with a grim
smile and breathed freely. Of course the driver of the passenger-train,
seeing an engine on the wrong line ahead, had also reversed at full
speed and thus prevented a collision, which would inevitably have been
John now ran back to the crossing, and, getting once more on the
down line, again reversed his engine and ran cautiously back in the
direction of the run-away locomotive. He soon came in sight of it,
reversed again, and went at such a pace as allowed it to overtake him
gradually. He saw that the steam was still cut off, and that it had
advanced that length in consequence of being on an incline, but was
somewhat alarmed to receive no signal from his mate. The moment the
buffers of the LIGHTNING touched those of the other engine's tender he
applied the brakes and brought both engines to a stand. Then, leaping
off, he ran to see how it had fared with Will Garvie.
The scene that met his eyes was a very ghastly one. On the
floor-plate lay the two men, insensible and covered with blood and
coal-dust. Each grasped the other by the throat but Will had gained an
advantage from having no neckcloth on, while his own strong hand was
twisted into that of his adversary so firmly, that the madman's eyes
were almost starting out of their sockets. John Marrot at once cut the
'kerchief with his clasp-knife, and then, feeling that there was urgent
need for haste, left them lying there, ran back to his own engine,
coupled it to the other, turned on full steam, and, in a short space of
time, ran into Clatterby station.
Here the men were at once removed to the waiting-room, and a doctor
—who chanced to be Dr. Noble—was called in. It was found that
although much bruised and cut as well as exhausted by their conflict,
neither Will nor Thomson were seriously injured. After a few
restoratives had been applied, the former was conveyed home in a cab,
while the latter, under the charge of Mr. Sharp and one of his men, was
carried off and safely lodged in an asylum.
Chapter XX. A NEST “HARRIED.”
Having thus seen one criminal disposed of, Mr. Sharp returned to his
office to take measures for the arrest of a few more of the same class.
Since we last met with our superintendent, he had not led an idle
life by any means. A brief reference to some of his recent doings will
be an appropriate introduction to the little entertainment which he had
provided for himself and his men on that particular evening.
One day he had been informed that wine and spirits had been
disappearing unaccountably at a particular station. He visited the
place with one of his men, spent the night under a tarpaulin in a
goods-shed, and found that one of the plate-layers was in the habit of
drawing off spirits with a syphon. The guilty man was handed over to
justice, and honest men, who had felt uneasy lest they should be
suspected, were relieved.
On another occasion he was sent to investigate a claim made by a man
who was in the accident at Langrye Station. This man, who was an
auctioneer, had not been hurt at all—only a little skin taken off his
nose,—but our fop with the check trousers advised him to make a job of
it, and said that he himself and his friend had intended to make a
claim, only they had another and more important game in hand, which
rendered it advisable for them to keep quiet. This was just before the
attack made on Mr. Lee in the train between Clatterby and London. The
auctioneer had not thought of such a way of raising money, but jumped
readily at the idea; went to Glasgow and Dundee, where he consulted
doctors—showed them his broken nose, coughed harshly in their ears,
complained of nervous affections, pains in the back, loins, and head,
and, pricking his gums slightly, spit blood for their edification;
spoke of internal injuries, and shook his head lugubriously. Doctors,
unlike lawyers, are not constantly on the watch for impostors. The
man's peeled and swelled nose was an obvious fact; his other ailments
might, or might not, be serious, so they prescribed, condoled with him,
charged him nothing, and dismissed him with a hope of speedy cure.
Thereafter the auctioneer went down the Clyde to recruit his injured
health, and did a little in the way of business, just to keep up his
spirits, poor fellow! After that he visited Aberdeen for similar
purposes, and then sent in a claim of œ150 damages against the Grand
National Trunk Railway.
Mr. Sharp's first proceeding was to visit the doctors to whom the
auctioneer had applied, then he visited the various watering-places
whither the man had gone to recruit and ascertained every particular
regarding his proceedings. Finally, he went to the north of Scotland to
see the interesting invalid himself. He saw and heard him, first, in an
auction-room, where he went through a hard day's work even for a
healthy man; then he visited him in his hotel and found him, the
picture of ruddy health, drinking whisky punch. On stating that he was
an agent of the railway company, and had called to have some
conversation regarding his claim, some of the auctioneer's ruddy colour
fled, but being a bold man, he assumed a candid air and willingly
answered all questions; admitted that he was better, but said that he
had lost much time; had for a long period been unable to attend to his
professional duties, and still suffered much from internal injuries.
Mr. Sharp expressed sympathy with him; said that the case, as he put
it, was indeed a hard one, and begged of him to put his statement of it
down on paper. The auctioneer complied, and thought Mr. Sharp a rather
benignant railway official. When he had signed his name to the paper,
his visitor took it up and said, “Now, Mr. Blank, this is all lies from
beginning to end. I have traced your history step by step, down to the
present time, visited all the places you have been to, conversed with
the waiters of the hotels where you put up, have heard you to-day go
through as good a day's work as any strong man could desire to do, and
have seen you finish up, with a stiff glass of whisky toddy, which I am
very sorry to have interrupted. Now, sir, this is very like an effort
to obtain money under false pretences, and, if you don't know what that
leads to, you are in a very fair way to find out. The Company which I
have the honour to represent, however, is generous. We know that you
were in the Langrye accident, for I saw you there, and in consideration
of the injury to your nerves and the damage to your proboscis, we are
willing to give you a five-pound note as a sort of sticking-plaster at
once to your nose and your feelings. If you accept that, good; if not
you shall take the consequences of THIS!” The superintendent here held
up the written statement playfully, and placed it in his pocket-book.
The auctioneer was a wise, if not an honest, man. He thankfully
accepted the five pounds, and invited Mr. Sharp to join him in a
tumbler, which, however, the superintendent politely declined.
But this was a small matter compared with another case which Mr.
Sharp had just been engaged investigating. It was as follows:—
One afternoon a slight accident occurred on the line by which
several passengers received trifling injuries. At the time only two
people made claim for compensation, one for a few shillings, the other
for a few pounds. These cases were at once investigated and settled,
and it was thought that there the matter ended. Six months afterwards,
however, the company received a letter from the solicitors of a
gentleman whose hat it was said, had been driven down on the bridge of
his nose, and had abraded the skin; the slight wound had turned into an
ulcer, which ultimately assumed the form of permanent cancer. In
consequence of this the gentleman had consulted one doctor in Paris and
another in Rome, and had been obliged to undergo an operation—for all
of which he claimed compensation to the extent of œ5000. The company
being quite unable to tell whether this gentleman was in the accident
referred to or not, an investigation was set on foot, in which Mr.
Sharp bore his part. At great expense official persons were sent to
Paris and to Rome to see the doctors said to have been consulted, and
in the end—nearly two years after the accident—the Company was found
liable for the œ5000!
While we are on this subject of compensation, it may not be
uninteresting to relate a few curious cases, which will give some idea
of the manner in which railway companies are squeezed for damages—
sometimes unjustly, and too often fraudulently. On one occasion, a man
who said he had been in an accident on one of our large railways,
claimed œ1000. In this case the company was fortunately able to prove a
conspiracy to defraud, and thus escaped; but in many instances the
companies are defeated in fraudulent claims, and there is no redress.
The feelings of the juries who try the cases are worked on; patients
are brought into Court exhibiting every symptom of hopeless malady, but
these same patients not unfrequently possess quite miraculous powers of
swift recovery, from what had been styled “incurable damage.” One man
received œ6000 on the supposition that he had been permanently
disabled, and within a short period he was attending to his business as
well as ever. A youth with a salary of œ60 a year claimed and got œ1200
on the ground of incurable injury—in other words he was pensioned for
life to the extent of œ60 a year—and, a year afterwards, it was
ascertained that he was “dancing at balls,” and had joined his father
in business as if there was nothing the matter with him.
A barmaid who, it was said, received “injuries to the spine of a
permanent character,” was paid a sum of œ1000 as—we were about to
write—compensation, but CONSOLATION would be the more appropriate
term, seeing that she had little or nothing to be compensated for, as
she was found capable of “dancing at the Licensed Victuallers' Ball"
soon after the accident and eventually she married! To oblige railways
to compensate for loss of time, or property, or health, TO A LIMITED
EXTENT, seems reasonable, but to compel them to pension off people who
have suffered little or nothing, with snug little annuities of œ50 or
œ60, does really seem to be a little too hard; at least so it appears
to be in the eyes of one who happens to have no interest whatever in
railways, save that general interest in their immense value to the
land, and their inestimable comforts in the matter of locomotion.
The whole subject of compensation stands at present on a false
footing. For the comfort of those who wish well to railways, and love
justice, we may add in conclusion, that proposals as to modifications
have already been mooted and brought before Government, so that in all
probability, ere long, impostors will receive a snubbing, and
shareholders will receive increased dividends!
But let us return to Mr. Sharp. Having, as we have said, gone to his
office, he found his faithful servant Blunt there.
“Why, Blunt,” he said, sitting down at the table and tearing open a
few letters that awaited him, “what a good-looking PORTER you make!”
“So my wife says, sir,” replied Blunt with a perfectly grave face,
but with a twinkle in his eye.
“She must be a discriminating woman, Blunt. Well, what news have you
to-night? You seemed to think you had found out the thieves at Gorton
Station the last time we met.”
“So I have, sir, and there are more implicated than we had expected.
The place is a perfect nest of them.”
“Not an uncommon state of things,” observed Mr. Sharp, “for it is
well- known that one black sheep spoils a flock. We must weed them all
out, Blunt, and get our garden into as tidy a condition as possible; it
is beginning to do us credit already, but that Gorton Station has
remained too long in a bad state; we must harrow it up a little. Well,
let's hear what you have found out. They never suspected you, I
“Never had the least suspicion,” replied Blunt with a slight
approach to a smile. “I've lived with 'em, now, for a considerable
time, and the general opinion of 'em about me is that I'm a decent
enough fellow, but too slow and stupid to be trusted, so they have not,
up to this time, thought me worthy of being made a confidant. However,
that didn't matter much, 'cause I managed to get round one o' their
wives at last, and she let out the whole affair—in strict confidence,
of course, and as a dead secret!
“In fact I have just come from a long and interesting conversation
with her. She told me that all the men at the station, with one or two
exceptions, were engaged in it, and showed me two of the missing bales
of cloth—the cloth, you remember, sir, of which there was such a large
quantity stolen four weeks ago, and for which the company has had to
pay. I find that the chief signalman, Davis, is as bad as the rest. It
was his wife that gave me the information in a moment of over-confidence.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Sharp, in some surprise; “and what of Sam Natly
“They're both of 'em innocent, sir,” said Blunt. “I did suspect 'em
at one time, but I have seen and heard enough to convince me that they
have no hand in the business. Natly has been goin' about the station a
good deal of late, because the wife of one of the men is a friend of
his wife, and used to go up to nurse her sometimes when she was ill. As
to Garvie, of course he knows as well as everybody else that some of
the men there must be thieves, else goods would not disappear from that
station as they do, but HIS frequent visits there are for the purpose
of reclaiming Davis, who, it seems, is an old playmate of his.”
“Reclaiming Davis!” exclaimed Sharp.
“Yes, an' it's my opinion that it'll take a cleverer fellow than him
to reclaim Davis, for he's one of the worst of the lot; but Garvie is
real earnest. I chanced to get behind a hedge one day when they were
together, and overheard 'em talkin' about these robberies and other
matters, and you would have thought, sir, that the fireman was a
regular divine. He could quote Scripture quite in a stunnin' way, sir;
an' DID seem badly cut up when his friend told him that it was of no
use talkin', for it was too late for HIM to mend.”
“Has Garvie, then, been aware all this time that Davis is one of the
thieves, and kept it secret?” asked Sharp.
“No, sir,” replied Blunt. “Davis denied that he had any hand in the
robberies when Garvie asked him. It was about drink that he was
pleadin' with him so hard. You know we have suspected him of that too,
of late; but from what I heard he must be a regular toper. Garvie was
tryin' to persuade him to become a total abstainer. Says he to him,
`You know, Davis, that whatever may be true as to the general question
of abstaining from strong drink, YOUR only chance of bein' delivered
lies in total abstinence, because the thing has become a DISEASE. I
know and believe that Christianity would save you from the power of
drink, but, depend upon it, that it would do so in the way of inducin'
you of your own free will to ®touch not, taste not, handle not, that
which¯ YOU ®will perish by the using.¯' Seems to me as if there was
something in that, sir?” said Blunt, inquiringly.
Sharp nodded assent.
“Then Garvie does not suspect him of being connected with the
robberies?” he asked.
“No,” replied Blunt; “but he's a deep file is Davis, and could throw
a sharper man than Garvie off the scent.”
After a little further conversation on the subject Mr. Sharp
dismissed the pretended porter to his station, and called upon the
superintendent of the police force of Clatterby, from whom he received
an addition to his force of men.
That night he led his men to Gorton station, and when he thought a
suitable hour had arrived, he caused them to surround the block of
buildings in which the men of the station resided. Then, placing Blunt
and two or three men in front of Davis's house, he went up to the door
alone and knocked.
Mrs. Davis opened it. She gave the least possible start on observing
by the light of her lobby lamp who her visitor was—for she knew him
well. Mr. Sharp took note of the start!
“Good-evening, Mrs. Davis,” he said.
“Good-evening, sir; this is an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Sharp.”
“Most of my visits are unexpected, Mrs. Davis, but it is only my
friends who count them a pleasure. Is your husband within?”
“He is, sir; pray, walk this way; I'm sure he will be delighted to
see you. Can you stay to supper with us? we are just going to have it.”
“No, thank you, Mrs. Davis, I'm out on duty to-night,” said Sharp,
entering the parlour, where Davis was engaged in reading the newspaper.
“Good-evening, Mr. Davis.”
Davis rose with a start. Mr. Sharp took note of that also.
“Good-evening, Mr. Sharp,” he said; “sit down, sir; sit down.”
“Thank you, I can't sit down. I'm on duty just now. The fact is, Mr.
Davis, that I am come to make a search among your men, for we have
obtained reliable information as to who are the thieves at this
station. As, no doubt, SOME of the men are honest, and might feel hurt
at having their houses searched, I have thought that the best way to
prevent any unpleasant feeling is to begin at the top of the free and
go downwards. They can't say that I have made fish of one and flesh of
another, if I begin, as a mere matter of form, Mr. Davis, with
“Oh, certainly—certainly, Mr. Sharp, by all means,” replied Davis.
He spoke with an air of candour, but it was quite evident that he
was ill at ease.
Calling in one of his men, Mr. Sharp began a rigorous search of the
house forthwith. Mr. Davis suggested that he would go out and see that
the men were in their residences; but Mr. Sharp said that there was no
occasion for that, and that he would be obliged by his remaining and
assisting in the search of his own house.
Every hole and corner of the ground-floor was examined without any
discovery being made. Mrs. Davis, observing that her visitors were
particular in collecting every shred of cloth that came in their way,
suddenly asked if it was cloth they were in search of. Mr. Sharp
thought the question and the tone in which it was put told of a guilty
conscience, but he replied that he was in search of many things—cloth
Immediately after, and while they were busy with a dark closet, Mrs.
Davis slipped quietly out of the room. Mr. Sharp was stooping at the
time with his back towards her, but the two back buttons of his coat
must have been eyes, for he observed the movement and at once followed
her, having previously ordered Mr. Davis to move a heavy chest of
drawers, in order to keep him employed. Taking off his shoes he went
up-stairs rapidly, and seeing an open door, peeped in.
There he saw a sight that would have surprised any man except a
superintendent of police. Mrs. Davis was engaged in throwing bales of
cloth over the window with the energy of a coal-heaver and the haste of
one whose house is on fire! The poor woman was not robust, yet the easy
way in which she handled those bales was quite marvellous.
Being a cool and patient man, Sharp allowed her to toss over five
bales before interrupting her. When she was moving across the room with
the sixth and last he entered. She stopped, turned pale, and dropped
the bale of cloth.
“You seem to be very busy to-night Mrs. Davis” he observed,
inquiringly; “can I assist you?”
“Oh, Mr. Sharp!” exclaimed Mrs. Davis, covering her face with her
She could say no more.
Mr. Sharp took her gently by the arm and led her down-stairs. They
reached the room below just in time to see Blunt enter, holding the
ejected bales with both arms to his bosom. Blunt had happened to take
his stand just underneath the window of Mrs. Davis's bedroom, and when
that energetic woman tossed the bales out she pitched them straight
into Blunt's willing arms. The accommodating man waited until he had
received all that appeared likely to be delivered to him, and then with
a quiet chuckle bore them, as we have seen, into Davis's parlour.
“This is a bad business, Davis,” said Sharp, as he slipped a pair of
manacles on his prisoner.
Davis made no reply. He was very pale, but looked defiant. Mrs.
Davis sat down on a chair and sobbed.
Leaving them in charge of Blunt, Mr. Sharp then paid a visit to all
the men of the place, and ere long succeeded in capturing all who had
been engaged in the recent robberies, with the various proofs of their
guilt—in the shape of cloth, loaves of sugar, fruit, boxes of tea,
etc., in their apartments.
It had cost Mr. Sharp and his men many weary hours of waiting and
investigation, but their perseverance was at length well rewarded, for
the “nest” was thoroughly “harried;” the men were dismissed and
variously punished, and that portion of the Grand National Trunk
Railway was, for the time, most effectually purified.
Chapter XXI. THE DIAMOND RING AND
THE RAILWAY CLEARING-HOUSE.
Let us turn now, for a brief space, to Edwin Gurwood. He is seated
before a desk in one of the rooms of that large building in Seymour
Street, Euston Square, London, where a perfect army of clerks—about a
thousand—clear up many of the mysteries, and overcome a number of the
difficulties, incident to the railway traffic of the kingdom.
At the particular time we write of, Edwin was frowning very hard at
a business-book and thinking of Emma Lee. The cause of his frown, no
doubt, was owing to the conflict between duty and inclination that
happened to rage in his bosom just then. His time belonged to the
railways of the United Kingdom; to Emma belonged his heart. The latter
was absent without leave, and the mind, thus basely forsaken, became
distracted, and refused to make good use of time.
That day Edwin met with a coincidence, he made what he believed to
be a discovery, and almost at the same moment received an inquiry as to
the subject of that discovery. While endeavouring, without much
success, to fix his attention on a case of lost-luggage which it was
his duty to investigate, and frowning as we have said, at the business-book, his eye was suddenly arrested by the name of “Durby.”
“Durby!” he muttered. “Surely that name is familiar? Durby! why, yes
—that's the name of Tipps's old nurse.”
Reading on, he found that the name of Durby was connected with a
“Well, now, that IS strange!” he muttered to himself. “At the first
glance I thought that this must be the brown paper parcel that I made
inquiry about at the station of the Grand National Trunk Railway long
ago, but the diamond ring puts that out of the question. No nurse, in
her senses, would travel with a diamond ring tied up in a brown paper
parcel the size of her head.”
We may remind the reader here that, when the brown paper parcel was
found and carried to the lost-luggage office of one of our western
railways, a note of its valuable contents was sent to the Clearing-House in London. This was recorded in a book. As all inquiries after
lost property, wheresoever made throughout the kingdom, are also
forwarded to the Clearing-House, it follows that the notes of losses
and notes of inquiries meet, and thus the lost and the losers are
brought together and re-united with a facility that would be
impracticable without such a central agency. In the case of our diamond
ring, however, no proper inquiry had been made, consequently there was
only the loss recorded on the books of the Clearing-House.
While Edwin was pondering this matter, a note was put into his hands
by a junior clerk. It contained an inquiry after a diamond ring which
had been wrapped up in a large brown paper parcel, with the name Durby
written on it in pencil, and was lost many months before between
Clatterby and London. The note further set forth, that the ring was the
property of Mrs. Tipps of Eden Villa, and enclosed from that lady a
minute description of the ring. It was signed James Noble, M.D.
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Edwin. “The most singular coincidence I ever
Having thus delivered himself, he took the necessary steps to have
the ring sent to London, and obtained leave (being an intimate friend
of the Tipps family) to run down by train and deliver it.
While he is away on this errand, we will take the opportunity of
mounting his stool and jotting down a few particulars about the
Clearing-House, which are worth knowing, for that establishment is not
only an invaluable means of effecting such happy re-unions of the lost
and the losers, as we have referred to, but is, in many other ways, one
of the most important institutions in the kingdom.
The Railway Clearing-House is so named, we presume, because it
clears up railway accounts that would, but for its intervention, become
inextricably confused, and because it enables all the different lines
in the country to interchange facilities for through-booking traffic,
and clears up their respective accounts in reference to the same.
Something of the use and value of the Clearing-House may be shown at
a glance, by explaining that, before the great schemes of amalgamation
which have now been carried out, each railway company booked passengers
and goods only as far as its own rails went, and at this point fresh
tickets had to be taken out and carriages changed, with all the
disagreeable accompaniments and delays of shifting luggage, etc. Before
through-booking was introduced, a traveller between London and
Inverness was compelled to renew his ticket and change luggage four
times; between Darlington and Cardiff six times. In some journeys no
fewer than nine or ten changes were necessary! This, as traffic
increased, of course became intolerable, and it is quite certain that
the present extent of passenger and goods traffic could never have been
attained if the old system had continued. It was felt to be absolutely
necessary that not only passengers, but carriages and goods, must be
passed over as many lines as possible, at straight “through” to their
destinations, with no needless delays, and without “breaking bulk.” But
how was this to be accomplished? There were difficulties in the way of
through-booking which do not appear at first sight. When, for instance,
a traveller goes from London to Edinburgh by the East Coast route, he
passes over three different railways of unequal length, or mileage. The
Great Northern furnishes his ticket, and gives him station
accommodation besides providing his carriage, while the North-Eastern
and North British permit him to run over their lines; and the latter
also furnishes station accommodation, and collects his ticket. To
ascertain precisely how much of that traveller's fare is due to each
company involves a careful and nice calculation. Besides this, the
WHOLE fare is paid to the Great Northern, and it would be unjust to
expect that that company should be saddled with the trouble of making
the calculation, and the expense of remitting its share to each of the
other companies. So, too, with goods—one company furnishing the waggon
and tarpaulin, besides undertaking the trouble of loading and
furnishing station- accommodation and the use of its line, while, it
may be, several other companies give the use of their lines only, and
that to a variable extent. In addition to all this, the company
providing its carriages or waggons is entitled to “demurrage” for every
day beyond a certain time that these are detained by the companies to
which they do not belong.
Now, if all this be unavoidable even in the case of a single fare,
or a small parcel, it must be self-evident that in lines where the
interchange of through-traffic is great and constant, it would have
been all but impossible for the railway companies to manage their
business, and the system would have given rise to endless disputes.
In order to settle accounts of this description, it was soon seen to
be absolutely necessary that some sort of arrangement must be come to,
and, accordingly, the idea of a central office was conceived, and a
system established without delay, which, for minute detail and
comprehensive grasp, is unrivalled by any other institution. At first
only a few of the railway companies united in establishing the
Clearing-House in 1842, but by degrees, as its immense value became
known, other companies joined, and it now embraces all the leading
companies in the kingdom. It is said to be not inferior to the War
Office, Colonial Office, and Admiralty in regard to the amount of work
it gets through in a year! Its accounts amount to some twelve millions
sterling, yet they always must, and do, balance to a fraction of a
farthing. There must never be a surplus, and never a deficiency, in its
funds, for it can make no profits, being simply a thoroughly honest and
disinterested and perfectly correct go-between, which adjusts the
mutual obligations of railways in a quick and economical manner. Its
accounts are balanced every month, and every pound, shilling, and penny
can be accounted for. It annually receives and dispenses a revenue
greater than that of many European kingdoms. In 1847 its gross receipts
were only œ793,701. In 1868 they had risen to above eleven millions.
Each line connected with the Clearing-House has a representative on
the committee to look after its interests, and bears its proportion of
the expenses of the establishment.
Before showing the manner in which the work is performed for the
railway companies, it may be well to premise that one great good which
the Clearing-House system does to the public, is to enable them to
travel everywhere with as much facility as if there were only one
railway and one company in the kingdom.
To avoid going too much into detail, we may say, briefly, that in
regard to goods, statements of through-traffic DESPATCHED are sent
daily from thousands of stations to the Clearing-House, also separate
statements of through-traffic RECEIVED. These are compared. Of those
that are found to agree, each company is debited or credited, as the
case may be, with the proportion due to or by it. Where discrepancies
occur, correspondence ensues until the thing is cleared up, and then
the distribution to the accounts of the several companies takes place.
As discrepancies are numerous and constant, correspondence is
necessarily great. So minutely correct and particular are they at the
Clearing-House, that a shilling is sometimes divided between four
companies. Even a penny is deemed worthy of being debited to one
company and credited to another!
As it is with goods, so is it with passengers. Through-tickets are
sent from all the stations to the Clearing-House, where they are
examined and compared with the returns of the tickets issued, and then
sent back to their respective companies. As these tickets amount to
many thousands a day, some idea may be formed of the amount of labour
bestowed on the examination of them. The proportions of each ticket due
to each company are then credited, and statements of the same made out
and forwarded to the several companies daily. From the two sets of
returns forwarded to the Clearing-House, statements of the debit and
credit balances are made out weekly.
Parcels are treated much in the same way as the goods.
“Mileage” is a branch of the service which requires a separate staff
of men. There are hundreds of thousands of waggons, loaded and empty,
constantly running to and fro, day and night, on various lines, to
which they do not belong. Each individual waggon must be traced and
accounted for to the Clearing-House, from its start to its arrival and
back again; and not only waggons, but even the individual tarpaulins
that cover them are watched and noted in this way, in order that the
various companies over whose lines they pass may get their due, and
that the companies owning them may get their demurrage if they be
improperly detained on the way. For this purpose, at every point where
separate railways join, there are stationed men in the pay of the
Clearing-House, whose duty it is to take the numbers of all passenger
carriages and goods, waggons and tarpaulins, and make a DAILY statement
of the same to the Clearing-House.
As daily returns of all “foreign” carriages arriving and departing
from all Clearing-House stations are forwarded to the same office, they
are thus in a position to check the traffic, detect discrepancies, and
finally make the proper entries as to mileage and demurrage in the
accounts of the respective companies. Frequently the charge of
one-tenth of a penny per mile for a tarpaulin is divided among several
companies in various proportions. For a waggon or carriage from
Edinburgh to London, mileage and demurrage accounts are sent out by the
Clearing-House to four companies. Formerly, before demurrage was
introduced, carriages were frequently detained on lines to which they
did not belong, for weeks, and even months, until sometimes they were
lost sight of altogether!
Once a month the balances are struck, and the various railways,
instead of having to pay enormous sums to each other, obtain settlement
by means of comparatively small balances.
For example, the London and North-Western railway sends its through
passengers over the Caledonian line. The mileage charged for its
“foreign” carriages is three farthings per mile. Small though that sum
is, it amounts at the end of a month perhaps to œ5000. This little bill
is sent to the Clearing-House by the Caledonian against the London and
North-Western. But during the same period the latter company has been
running up a somewhat similar bill against the former company. Both
accounts are sent in to the Clearing-House. They amount together to
perhaps some fifteen or twenty thousand pounds, yet when one is set off
against the other a ten or twenty pound note may be all that is
required to change hands in order to balance the accounts.
The total mileage of lines under the jurisdiction of the Clearing-House, and over which it exercises complete surveillance on every train
that passes up or down night or day, as far as regulating the various
interests of the companies is concerned, amounts to more than 14,000.
The TIMES, at the conclusion of a very interesting article on this
subject, says,—“Our whole railway system would be as nothing without
the Clearing-House, which affords another illustration of the great
truth that the British railway public is the best served railway public
in the world, and, on the whole, the least grateful.” We hope and
incline to believe that in the latter remark, the great Thunderer is
wrong, and that it is only a small, narrow-minded, and ignorant section
of the public which is ungrateful.
Disputed claims between railways are referred to the arbitration of
the committee of the Clearing-House, from whose decision there is no
The trouble taken in connexion with the lost-luggage department is
very great; written communications being sent to almost innumerable
stations on various lines of rails for every inquiry that is made to
the House after lost-luggage.
It is a striking commentary at once on the vast extent of traffic in
the kingdom, and the great value in one important direction of this
establishment, the fact that, in one year, the number of articles
accounted for to the Clearing-House by stations as left by passengers,
either on the platforms or in carriages, amounted to 156,769 trunks,
bags and parcels, and of these nearly ninety-five in every hundred were
restored, through the Clearing-House, to their owners. It is probable
that the property thus restored would amount to half a million of
This reminds us that we left Edwin Gurwood on his way to restore
Mrs. Tipps her lost ring, and that, therefore, it is our duty to resume
the thread of our story, with, of course, a humble apology to the
patient reader for having again given way to our irresistible tendency
Chapter XXII. MRS. TIPPS GOES ON A
JOURNEY, AND MEETS A GENTLEMAN WHO, WITH MUCH ASSURANCE, COMMENTS
FREELY ON INSURANCE.
On a particular holiday, it was advertised that a great excursion
train would start from the Clatterby station at a certain hour. At the
appointed time the long line of carriages was pushed up to the platform
by our friend John Marrot, who was appointed that day to drive the
“Bill,” remarked John to his mate, “it'll be a biggish train.
There's an uncommon lot o' people on the platform.”
“They're pretty thick,” replied Will Garvie, wiping his countenance
with a piece of waste, which, while it removed the perspiration, left
behind a good deal of oil, and streaked his nose with coal-dust. But
Will was not particular!
The excursionists were indeed unusually numerous. It chanced to be a
fine day, and the platform was densely crowded with human beings, many
of whom moved, when movement was possible, in groups, showing that
there were various sections that had a common aim and interest, and
meant to keep together as much as possible. There were men there who
had evidently made up their minds to a thoroughly enjoyable day, and
women whose aspect was careworn but cheerful, to whom a holiday was
probably a memorable event in the year. Of young people there was of
course a considerable sprinkling, and amongst the crowd could be seen a
number of individuals whose amused expression of countenance and
general aspect bespoke them ordinary travellers, who meant to avail
themselves of a “cheap train.” All classes and conditions of men,
women, and children were hustling each other in a state of great
excitement; but the preponderating class was that which is familiarly
though not very respectfully styled “the masses.”
Mrs. Marrot was there too—much against her will—and little Gertie.
A sister of the former, who lived about twenty miles from Clatterby,
had, a short time before, made her husband a present of a fine fat
pugilistic boy, and Mrs. M. felt constrained to pay her a visit.
John was on the look-out for his wife and child, so was Will Garvie.
The former waved a piece of cotton-waste to her when she arrived; she
caught sight of him and gave him a cheerful nod in reply; and an
unexpressed blessing on his weather-beaten face arose in her heart as
Garvie pushed through the crowd and conducted her and Gertie to a
Timid little Mrs. Tipps was also there. It is probable that no power
on earth, save that of physical force, could have induced Mrs. Tipps to
enter an excursion train, for which above all other sorts of trains she
entertained a species of solemn horror. But the excitement consequent
on the unexpected recovery of the diamond ring, and the still more
unexpected accession of wealth consequent thereon, had induced her to
smother her dislike to railways for a time, and avail herself of their
services in order to run down to a town about twenty miles off for the
purpose of telling the good news to Netta, who chanced to be on a short
visit to a friend there at the time. When Mrs. Tipps reached the
station, her ignorance of railway matters, and the confused mental
state which was her normal condition, prevented her from observing that
the train was an excursion one. She therefore took out a first-class
ticket and also an insurance ticket for œ500, for which latter she paid
sixpence! Her ignorance and perturbation also prevented her from
observing that this rate of insurance was considerably higher than she
was accustomed to pay, owing to the fact of the train being an
excursion one. If she had been going by an ordinary train, she could
have insured œ1000, first-class, for 3 pence; half that sum,
second-class, for 2 pence; and œ200, third- class, for the ridiculously
small sum of one penny!
Good Mrs. Tipps held the opinion so firmly that accident was the
usual, and all but inevitable, accompaniment of railway travelling,
that she invariably insured her life when compelled to undertake a
journey. It was of no avail that her son Joseph pointed out to her that
accidents were in reality few and far between, and that they bore an
excessively small proportion to the numbers of journeys undertaken
annually; Mrs. Tipps was not to be moved. In regard to that subject she
had, to use one of her late husband's phrases, “nailed her colours to
the mast,” and could not haul them down even though she would. She
therefore, when about to undertake a journey, invariably took out an
insurance ticket, as we have said,—and this, solely with a views to
Netta's future benefit.
We would not have it supposed that we object, here, to the principle
of insuring against accident. On the contrary, we consider that
principle to be a wise one, and, in some cases, one that becomes almost
When Mrs. Tipps discovered that Mrs. Marrot and Gertie were going by
the same train, she was so much delighted at the unlooked-for
companionship that she at once entered the third-class, where they sat,
and began to make herself comfortable beside them, but presently
recollecting that she had a first-class ticket she started up and
insisted on Mrs. Marrot and Gertie going first-class along with her,
saying that she would pay the difference. Mrs. Marrot remonstrated, but
Mrs. Tipps, strong in her natural liberality of spirit which had been
rather wildly set free by her recent good fortune, would not be denied.
“You must come with me, Mrs. Marrot,” she said. “I'm so frightened
in railways, you have no idea what a relief it is to me to have any one
near me whom I know. I will change your tickets; let me have them,
quick; we have no time to lose—there—now, wait till I return. Oh! I
forgot your insurance tickets.”
“W'y, bless you, ma'am, we never insures.”
“You never insure!” exclaimed Mrs. Tipps in amazement; “and it only
costs you threepence for one thousand pounds.”
“Well, I don't know nothink as to that—” said Mrs. Marrot.
Before she could finish the sentence Mrs. Tipps was gone.
She returned in breathless haste, beckoned Mrs. Marrot and Gertie to
follow her, and was finally hurried with them into a first-class
carriage just as the train began to move.
Their only other companion in the carriage was a stout little old
gentleman with a bright complexion, speaking eyes, and a countenance in
which benevolence appeared to struggle with enthusiasm for the mastery.
He was obviously one of those men who delight in conversation, and he
quickly took an opportunity of engaging in it. Observing that Mrs.
Tipps presented an insurance ticket to each of her companions, he
“I am glad to see, madam, that you are so prudent as to insure the
lives of your friends.”
“I always insure my own life,” replied Mrs. Tipps with a little
smile, “and feel it incumbent on me at least to advise my friends to do
“Quite right, quite right, madam,” replied the enthusiastic little
man, applying his handkerchief to his bald pate with such energy that
it shone like a billiard ball, “quite right, madam. I only wish that
the public at large were equally alive to the great value of insurance
against accident. W'y, ma'am, it's a duty, a positive duty,” (here he
addressed himself to Mrs. Marrot) “to insure one's life against
“Oh la! sir, is it?” said Mrs. Marrot, quite earnestly.
“Yes, it is. Why, look here—this is your child?”
He laid his hand gently on Gertie's head.
“Yes, sir, she is.”
“Well, my good woman, suppose that you are a widow and are killed,”
(Mrs. Marrot looked as if she would rather not suppose anything of the
sort), “what I ask, what becomes of your child?—Left a beggar; an
He looked quite triumphantly at Mrs. Tipps and her companions, and
waited a few seconds as if to allow the idea to exert its full force on
“But, sir,” observed Mrs. Marrot meekly, “supposin' that there do be
an accident,” (she shivered a little), “that ticket won't prevent me
bein' killed, you know?”
“No, ma'am, no; but it will prevent your sweet daughter from being
left a beggar—that is, on the supposition that you are a widow.”
“W'ich I ain't sir, I'm happy to say,” remarked Mrs. Marrot; “but,
sir, supposin' we was both of us killed—”
She paused abruptly as if she had committed a sin in merely giving
utterance to the idea.
“Why, then, your other children would get the œ500—or your heirs,
whoever they may be. It's a splendid system that, of insurance against
accident. Just look at ME, now.” He spread out his hands and displayed
himself, looking from one to the other as if he were holding up to
admiration something rare and beautiful. “Just look at ME. I'm off on a
tour of three months through England, Scotland, and Ireland—not for my
health, madam, as you may see—but for scientific purposes. Well, what
do I do? I go to the Railway Passengers Assurance Company's Office, 64
Cornhill, London, (I like to be particular, you see, as becomes one who
professes to be an amateur student of the exact sciences), and I take
out what they call a Short Term Policy of Insurance against accidents
of all kinds for a thousand pounds—œ1000, observe—for which I pay
the paltry sum of 30 shillings—œ1, 10 shillings. Well, what then? Away
I go, leaving behind me, with perfect indifference, a wife and two
little boys. Remarkable little boys, madam, I assure you. Perfect
marvels of health and intelligence, both of 'em—two little boys,
madam, which have not been equalled since Cain and Abel were born.
Every one says so, with the exception of a few of the cynical and
jaundiced among men and women. And, pray, why am I so indifferent? Just
because they are provided for. They have a moderately good income
secured to them as it is, and the œ1000 which I have insured on my life
will render it a competence in the event of my being killed. It will
add œ50 a year to their income, which happens to be the turning-point
of comfort. And what of myself? Why, with a perfectly easy conscience,
I may go and do what I please. If I get drowned in Loch Katrine—what
matter? If I break my neck in the Gap of Dunloe—what matter? If I get
lost and frozen on the steeps of Ben Nevis or Goatfell—what matter? If
I am crushed to death in a railway accident, or get entangled in
machinery and am torn to atoms—still I say, what matter? œ1000 must AT
ONCE be paid down to my widow and children, and all because of the
pitiful sum of 30 shillings.
“But suppose,” continued the enthusiastic man, deepening his tone as
he became more earnest, “suppose that I am NOT killed, but only
severely injured and mangled so as to be utterly unfit to attend to my
worldly affairs—what then?”
Mrs. Tipps shuddered to think of “what then.”
“Why,” continued the enthusiastic gentleman, “I shall in that case
be allowed from the company œ6 a week, until recovered, or, in the
event of my sinking under my injuries within three months after the
accident, the whole sum of œ1000 will be paid to my family.”
Mrs. Tipps smiled and nodded her head approvingly, but Mrs. Marrot
still looked dubious.
“But, sir,” she said, “supposin' you don't get either hurt or
“Why then,” replied the elderly gentleman, “I'm all right of course,
and only 50 shillings out of pocket, which, you must admit, is but a
trifling addition to the expenses of a three months' tour. Besides,
have I not had three months of an easy mind, and of utter
regardlessness as to my life and limbs? Have not my wife and boys had
three months of easy minds and indifference to my life and limbs also!
Is not all that cheaply purchased at 30 shillings? while the sum
itself, I have the satisfaction of knowing, goes to increase the funds
of that excellent company which enables you and me and thousands of
others to become so easy-minded and reckless, and which, at the same
time, pays its fortunate shareholders a handsome dividend.”
“Really, sir,” said Mrs. Tipps, laughing, “you talk so
enthusiastically of this Insurance Company that I almost suspect you to
be a director of it.”
“Madam,” replied the elderly gentleman with some severity, “if I
WERE a director of it, which I grieve to say I am not, I should only be
doing my simple duty to it and to you in thus urging it on your
attention. But I am altogether uninterested in it, except as a
philanthropist. I see and feel that it does good to myself and to my
fellow-men, THEREFORE I wish my fellow-men to appreciate it more highly
than they do, for it not only insures against accident by railway, but
against all kinds of accidents; while its arrangements are made to suit
the convenience of the public in every possible way.”
“Why, madam,” he continued, kindling up again and polishing his head
violently, “only think, for the small sum of œ4 paid annually, it
insures that you shall have paid to your family, if you chance to be
killed, the sum of œ1000, or, if not killed, œ6 a week while you are
totally laid up, and œ1, 10 shillings a week while you are only
partially disabled. And yet, would you believe it, many persons who see
the value of this, and begin the wise course of insurance, go on for
only a few years and then foolishly give it up—disappointed, I
presume, that no accident has happened to them! See, here is one of
He pulled a paper out of his pocket energetically, and put on a pair
of gold spectacles, THROUGH which he looked when consulting the
pamphlet, and OVER which he glanced when observing the effect of what
he read on Mrs. Tipps.
“What do I find—eh? ha—yes—here it is—a Cornish auctioneer
pushed back a window shutter—these are the very words, madam—what
more he did to that shutter, or what it did to him, is not told, but he
must have come by SOME damage, because he received œ55. A London clerk
got his eye injured by a hair-pin in his daughter's hair—how
suggestive that is, madam! what a picture it calls up of a wearied
toil-worn man fondling his child of an evening—pressing his cheek to
her fair head—and what a commentary it is (he became very stern here)
on the use of such barbarous implements as hair-pins! I am not punning,
madam; I am much too serious to pun; I should have used the word savage
instead of barbarous.
“Now, what was the result? This company gave that clerk compensation
to the extent of œ26. Again, a medical practitioner fell through the
floor of a room. It must have been a bad, as it certainly was a
strange, fall—probably he was heavy and the floor decayed—at all
events that fall procured him œ120. A Cardiff agent was bathing his
feet—why, we are not told, but imagination is not slow to comprehend
the reason, when the severity of our climate is taken into account; he
broke the foot-pan—a much less comprehensible thing—and the breaking
of that foot-pan did him damage, for which he was compensated with œ52,
16 shillings. Again, a merchant of Birkenhead was paid œ20 for playing
with his children!”
“Dear me, sir!” exclaimed Mrs. Marrot in surprise, “surely—”
“Of course, my good woman,” said the elderly gentleman, “you are to
understand that he came by some damage while doing so, but I give you
the exact words of the pamphlet. It were desirable that a LITTLE more
information had been given just to gratify our curiosity. Now, these
that I have read are under the head of `Accidents at Home.' Under other
`Heads', we find a farmer suffocated by the falling in of a sand- pit,
for which his representatives received œ1000. Another thousand is paid
to the heirs of a poor dyer who fell into a vat of boiling liquor;
while, in regard to smaller matters, a warehouseman, whose finger
caught in the cog-wheel of a crane, received œ30. And, again, here is
œ1000 to a gentleman killed in a railway accident, and œ100 to a poor
woman. The latter had insured for a single trip in an excursion train
at a charge of two-pence, while the former had a policy of insurance
extending over a considerable period, for which he probably paid twenty
or thirty shillings. These are but samples, madam, of the good service
rendered to sorrowing humanity by this assurance company, which, you
must observe, makes no pretensions to philanthropic aims, but is based
simply on business principles. And I find that the total amount of
compensation paid in this manner daring one year by this Company
amounts to about œ72,000.”
As Mrs. Marrot yawned at this point and Mrs. Tipps appeared somewhat
mystified, the enthusiastic gentleman smiled, put away his pamphlet,
and wisely changed the subject. He commented on the extreme beauty of
the weather, and how fortunate this state of things was for the people
who went to the country for a day's enjoyment. Thus pleasantly he
whiled away the time, and ingratiated himself with Gertie, until they
arrived at the station where Mrs. Tipps and Mrs. Marrot had to get out,
and where many of the excursionists got out along with them. While the
former went their several ways, arranging to meet in the evening and
return together by the same train, the latter scattered themselves over
the neighbouring common and green fields, and, sitting down under the
hedgerows among the wild-flowers, pic-nicked in the sunshine, or
wandered about the lanes, enjoying the song of birds and scent of
flowers, and wishing, perchance, that their lot had been cast among the
green pastures of the country, rather than amid the din and smoke and
turmoil of the town.
Chapter XXIII. DETAILS A TERRIBLE
In due time that holiday came to a close, and the excursionists
returned to the station where their train awaited them. Among the rest
came Mrs. Tipps and Mrs. Marrot, but they did not arrive together, and
therefore, much to their annoyance, failed to get into the same
The weather, which up to that time had kept fine, began to lower,
and, just as the train started, a smart thunder-shower fell, but, being
under cover, the holiday-makers heeded it not. Upon the whole they were
an orderly band of excursionists. Some of the separate groups were
teetotallers, and only one or two showed symptoms of having sought to
increase their hilarity by the use of stimulants.
When the shower began, John Marrot and his mate put on their pilot-cloth coats, for the screen that formed their only protection from the
weather was a thin flat one, without roof or sides, forming only a
partial protection from wind and rain.
Night had begun to descend before the train left the station, and as
the lowering clouds overspread the sky, the gloom rapidly increased
until it became quite dark.
“We are going to have a bad night of it,” observed John Marrot as
his mate examined the water-gauge.
“Looks like it,” was Garvie's curt reply.
The clatter of the engine and howling of the wind, which had by that
time risen to a gale, rendered conversation difficult; the two men
therefore confined themselves to the few occasional words that were
requisite for the proper discharge of their duties. It was not a night
on which the thoughts of an engine-driver were likely to wander much.
To drive an excursion train in a dark night through a populous country
over a line which was crowded with traffic, while the rain beat
violently on the little round windows in the screen, obscuring them and
rendering it difficult to keep a good look-out was extremely anxious
work, which claimed the closest and most undivided attention.
Nevertheless, the thoughts of John Marrot did wander a little that
night to the carriage behind him in which were his wife and child, but
this wandering of thought caused him to redouble rather than to relax
his vigilance and caution.
Will Garvie consulted the water-gauge for a moment and then opened
the iron door of the furnace in order to throw in more coal. The effect
would have stirred the heart of Rembrandt. The instantaneous blinding
glare of the intense fire shot through the surrounding darkness,
lighting up the two men and the tender as if all were made of red-hot
metal; flooding the smoke and steam-clouds overhead with round masses
and curling lines of more subdued light, and sending sharp gleams
through the murky atmosphere into dark space beyond, where the ghostly
landscape appeared to rush wildly by.
Now it chanced that at the part of the line they had reached, a
mineral train which preceded them had been thrown off the rails by a
bale of goods which had fallen from a previous goods train.
Carelessness on the part of those who had loaded the truck, from which
the bale had fallen, led to this accident. The driver and fireman of
the mineral train were rather severely hurt, and the guard was much
shaken as well as excited, so that they neglected to take the proper
precaution of sending back one of their number to stop the train that
followed them. This would have been a matter of little consequence had
the line been worked on the block system, because, in that case, the
danger-signal would have been kept up, and would have prevented the
excursion train from entering on that portion of the line until it was
signalled “clear;” but the block system had been only partially
introduced on the line. A sufficient interval of TIME had been allowed
after the mineral train had passed the last station, and then, as we
have seen, the excursion train was permitted to proceed. Thus it came
to pass that at a part of the line where there was a slight curve and a
deep cutting, John Marrot looking anxiously through his circular
window, saw the red tail-light of the mineral train.
Instantly he cried, “Clap on the brakes, Bill!”
Almost at the same moment he reversed the engine and opened the
whistle to alarm the guard, who applied his brakes in violent haste.
But it was too late. The speed could not be checked in time. The rails
were slippery, owing to rain. Almost at full speed they dashed into the
mineral train with a noise like thunder. The result was appalling. The
engine was smashed and twisted in a manner that is quite indescribable,
and the tender was turned completely over, while the driver and fireman
were shot as if from a cannon's mouth, high into the air. The first two
carriages of the passenger-train, and the last van of the mineral, were
completely wrecked; and over these the remaining carriages of the
passenger-train were piled until they reached an incredible height. The
guard's van was raised high in the air, with its ends resting on a
third-class carriage, which at one end was completely smashed in by the
At the time of the concussion—just after the terrible crash—there
was a brief, strange, unearthly silence. All was still for a few
seconds, and passengers who were uninjured gazed at each other in mute
and horrified amazement. But death in that moment had passed upon many,
while others were fearfully mangled. The silence was almost immediately
broken by the cries and groans of the wounded. Some had been forcibly
thrown out of the carriages, others had their legs and arms broken, and
some were jammed into fixed positions from which death alone relieved
them. The scenes that followed were heart- rending. Those who were
uninjured, or only slightly hurt, lent willing aid to extricate their
less fortunate fellow-travellers, but the howling of the wind, the
deluging rain, and the darkness of the night, retarded their efforts,
and in many cases rendered them unavailing.
John Marrot, who, as we have said, was shot high into the air, fell
by good fortune into a large bush. He was stunned at first, but
otherwise uninjured. On regaining consciousness, the first thoughts
that flashed across him were his wife and child. Rising in haste he
made his way towards the engine, which was conspicuous not only by its
own fire, but by reason of several other fires which had been kindled
in various places to throw light on the scene. In the wreck and
confusion, it was difficult to find out the carriage, in which Mrs.
Marrot had travelled, and the people about were too much excited to
give very coherent answers to questions. John, therefore, made his way
to a knot of people who appeared to be tearing up the DEBRIS at a
particular spot. He found Joe Turner, the guard, there, with his head
bandaged and his face covered with blood.
“I've bin lookin' for 'ee everywhere, John,” said Joe. “She's
THERE!” he added, pointing to a mass of broken timbers which belonged
to a carriage, on the top of which the guard's van had been thrown,
crushing it almost flat.
John did not require to ask the meaning of his words. The guard's
look was sufficiently significant. He said not a word, but the deadly
pallor of his countenance showed how much he felt. Springing at once on
the broken carriage, and seizing an axe from the hand of a man who
appeared exhausted by his efforts, he began to cut through the planking
so as to get at the interior. At intervals a half-stifled voice was
heard crying piteously for “John.”
“Keep up heart, lass!” said John, in his deep, strong voice. “I'll
get thee out before long—God helping me.”
Those who stood by lent their best aid, but anxious though they were
about the fate of those who lay buried beneath that pile of rubbish,
they could not help casting an occasional look of wonder, amounting
almost to awe, on the tall form of the engine-driver, as he cut through
and tore up the planks and beams with a power that seemed little short
Presently he stopped and listened intently for a moment, while the
perspiration rolled in big drops from his brow.
“Dost hear me, Mary?” he asked in a deeply anxious tone.
If any reply were uttered it was drowned by the howling of the wind
and the noise of the workmen.
Again he repeated the question in an agonising cry.
His wife did not reply, but Gertie's sweet little voice was heard
“I think mother is dead. Oh, take us out, dear father, take us out,
Again John Marrot bowed himself to the task, and exerting his
colossal strength to the utmost, continued to tear up and cast aside
the broken planks and beams. The people around him, now thoroughly
aroused to the importance of haste, worked with all their might, and,
ere long, they reached the floor of the carriage, where they found
mother and child jammed into a corner and arched over by a huge mass of
It was this mass that saved them, for the rest of the carriage had
been literally crushed into splinters.
Close beside them was discovered the headless trunk of a young man,
and the dead body of a girl who had been his companion that day.
Gertie was the first taken out. Her tender little frame seemed to
have yielded to the pressure and thus escaped, for, excepting a scratch
or two, she was uninjured.
John Marrot did not pause to indulge in any expression of feeling.
He sternly handed her to the bystanders, and went on powerfully but
carefully removing the broken timbers and planks, until he succeeded in
releasing his wife. Then he raised her in his arms, staggered with her
to the neighbouring bank and laid her down.
Poor Mrs. Marrot was crushed and bruised terribly. Her clothes were
torn, and her face was so covered with blood and dust as to be quite
unrecognisable at first. John said not a word, but went down on his
knees and began carefully to wipe away the blood from her features, in
which act he was assisted by the drenching rain. Sad though his case
was, there was no one left to help him. The cries of the unfortunate
sufferers still unextricated, drew every one else away the moment the
poor woman had been released.
Ere long the whole scene of the catastrophe was brilliantly
illuminated by the numerous fires which were kindled out of the DEBRIS,
to serve as torches to those who laboured might and main for the
deliverance of the injured. Troops of people from the surrounding
district quickly made their appearance on the scene, and while some of
these lent effective aid in the work of rescue, others brought
blankets, water, and spirits, to cover and comfort those who stood so
much in need of help. As the wounded were got out, and laid upon the
banks of the line, several surgeons busied themselves in examining and
binding their wounds, and the spot bore some resemblance to a battle-field after the tide of war had passed over it. Seventeen dead and one
hundred and fifty injured already lay upon the wet ground, while many
of the living, who went about with blanched, solemn faces, yet with
earnest helpful energy, were bruised and cut badly enough to have
warranted their retiring from the spot, and having their own cases
considered. Meanwhile a telegram had been sent to Clatterby, and, in a
short time, a special train arrived with several of the chief men of
the line, and a gang of a hundred surface-men to clear away the wreck
and remove the dead and injured.
Many of those unhurt had made singularly narrow escapes. One man was
seated in a third-class carriage when the concussion took place. The
side of the carriage fell out, and he slid down on the rails just as
the other carriages and vans piled up on the place he had left, killing
or wounding all his fellow-travellers. Beneath the rubbish next the
tender, a mother and child were buried and several others. All were
dead save the mother and child when the men began to dig them out and
before they succeeded in their labours the mother had died also, but
the child survived. In another carriage, or rather under it, a lad was
seen lying with a woman's head crushed down on his breast and an infant
beside her. They had to saw the carriage asunder before these could be
extricated. The woman died almost immediately on being released, but
the lad and infant were uninjured. Elsewhere a young girl, who had
attracted attention by the sweet expression of her face, had been
strangled, and her face rendered perfectly black. In another case the
surface-men attempted to extricate a woman, by sawing the broken
carriage, under which she lay, but the more they sawed the more did the
splinters appear to cling round her, and when at last they got her out
she was dead, while another passenger in the same carnage escaped
without a scratch.
We would not prolong a painful description which may, perhaps, be
thought too long already—yet within certain limits it is right that
men should know what their fellows suffer. After all the passengers had
been removed to the special train—the dead into vans and horse- boxes
and the living into carriages—the surface-men set to work to clear the
Poor Mrs. Tipps was among the rescued, and, along with the others,
was sent on to the Clatterby station by the special train.
While the people were being placed in this train, John Marrot
observed Edwin Gurwood in the crowd. He chanced to be at Clatterby when
the telegram of the accident arrived, and ran down in the special train
to render assistance.
“I'm glad to see you, sir,” he said in a low, earnest voice. “My
mate, Bill Garvie, must be badly hurt, for he's nowhere to be found. He
must be under the wreck somewheres. I wouldn't leave the spot till I
found him in or'nary circumstances; but my Mary—”
He stopped abruptly.
“I hope Mrs. Marrot is not hurt?” said Edwin anxiously.
John could not reply at first. He shook his head and pointed to a
carriage near at hand.
“She's there, sir, with Gertie.”
“Gertie!” exclaimed Edwin.
“Ay, poor thing, Gertie is all right, thank the good Lord for that;
Again he stopped, then with an effort continued,—
“I couldn't quit THEM, you know, till I've got 'em safe home. But my
mind will be easy, Mr. Gurwood, if you'll look after Bill. We was both
throw'd a good way from the ingine, but I couldn't rightly say where.
You'll not refuse—”
“My dear Marrot,” said Edwin, interrupting him, and grasping his
hand, “you may rely on me. I shall not leave the ground until he is
found and cared for.”
“Thank 'ee, sir, thank 'ee,” said John, in something of his wonted
hearty tone, as he returned Edwin's squeeze of the hand, and hastened
to the train, which was just ready to start.
Edwin went at once to the spot where the surface-men were toiling at
the wreck in the fitful light of the fires, which flared wildly in the
storm and, as they had by that time gathered intense heat, bid defiance
to the rain. There were several passengers, who had just been
extricated, lying on the ground, some motionless, as if dead, others
talking incoherently. These he looked at in passing, but Garvie was not
among them. Leaving them under the care of the surgeons, who did all
that was possible in the circumstances for their relief, he ran and
joined the surface-men in removing the broken timbers of a carriage,
from beneath which groans were heard. With some difficulty a woman was
extricated and laid tenderly on the bank. Just then Edwin observed a
guard, with whom he was acquainted, and asked him if the fireman had
yet been found.
“Not yet sir, I believe,” said the man. “They say that he and the
driver were flung to one side of the line.”
Edwin went towards the engine, and, judging the probable direction
and distance to which a man might be thrown in such an accident, went
to a certain spot and sought carefully around it in all directions. For
some time he sought in vain, and was on the point of giving up in
despair, when he observed a cap lying on the ground. Going up to it, he
saw the form of a man half-concealed by a mass of rubbish. He stooped,
and, raising the head a little, tried to make out the features, but the
light of the fires did not penetrate to the spot. He laid him gently
down again, and was about to hasten away for assistance when the man
groaned and said faintly, “Is that you, Jack?”
“No, my poor fellow,” said Edwin, stooping down. “Are you badly
hurt? I am just going to fetch help to—”
“Mr. Gurwood,” said the man, interrupting, “you don't seem to know
me! I'm Garvie, the fireman. Where am I? Surely there is something
wrong with my left arm. Oh! I remember now. Is Jack safe? And the
Missis and Gertie? Are they—”
“Don't exert yourself,” interrupted Edwin, as Will attempted to
rise. “You must keep quiet until I fetch a doctor. Perhaps you're not
much hurt, but it is well to be careful. Will you promise me to be
“All right sir,” said Will, promptly.
Edwin hastened for assistance, and in a short time the fireman was
carried to a place of comparative shelter and his wounds examined.
Almost immediately after the examination Edwin knelt at his side,
and signed to those around him to retire.
“Garvie,” he said, in a low kind voice, “I'm sorry to tell you that
the doctors say you must lose your left arm.”
Will looked intently in Edwin's face.
“Is there NO chance of savin' it?” he asked earnestly; “it might
never be much to speak of, sir, but I'd rather run some risk than lose
Edwin shook his head. “No,” he said sadly, “they tell me amputation
must be immediate, else your life may be sacrificed. I said I would
like to break it to you, but it is necessary, my poor fellow, that you
should make up your mind at once.”
“God's will be done,” said Will in a low voice; “I'm ready, sir.”
The circumstances did not admit of delay. In a few minutes the
fireman's left arm was amputated above the elbow, the stump dressed,
and himself laid in as sheltered a position as possible to await the
return of the train that was to convey the dead and wounded, more
recently extricated, to Clatterby.
When that train arrived at the station it was touching to witness
the pale anxious faces that crowded the platform as the doors were
opened and the dead and sufferers carried out; and to hear the cries of
agony when the dead were recognised, and the cries of grief, strangely,
almost unnaturally, mingled with joy, when some who were supposed to
have been killed were carried out alive. Some were seen almost fondling
the dead with a mixture of tender love and abject despair. Others bent
over them with a strange stare of apparent insensibility, or looked
round on the pitying bystanders inquiringly, as if they would say,
“Surely, surely, this CANNOT be true.” The sensibilities of some were
stunned, so that they moved calmly about and gave directions in a quiet
solemn voice, as if the great agony of grief were long past, though it
was painfully evident that it had not yet begun, because the truth had
not yet been realised.
Among those who were calm and collected, though heart-stricken and
deadly pale, was Loo Marrot. She had been sent to the station by her
father to await the arrival of the train, with orders to bring Will
Garvie home. When Will was carried out and laid on the platform alive,
an irresistible gush of feeling overpowered her. She did not give way
to noisy demonstration, as too many did, but knelt hastily down, raised
his head on her knee, and kissed his face passionately.
“Bless you, my darling,” said Will, in a low thrilling voice, in
which intense feeling struggled with the desire to make light of his
misfortune; “God has sent a cordial that the doctors haven't got to
“O William!” exclaimed Loo, removing the hair from his forehead—but
Loo could say no more.
“Tell me, darling,” said Garvie, in an anxious tone, “is father
safe, and mother, and Gertie?”
“Father is safe, thank God,” replied Loo, with a choking voice, “and
Gertie also, but mother—”
“She is not dead?” exclaimed the fireman.
“No, not dead, but very VERY much hurt. The doctors fear she may not
survive it, Will.”
No more was said, for at that moment four porters came up with a
stretcher and placed Garvie gently upon it. Loo covered him with her
shawl, a piece of tarpaulin was thrown over all, and thus he was slowly
borne away to John Marrot's home.
Chapter XXIV. RESULTS OF THE
Years passed away—as years inevitably must—and many important
changes took place in the circumstances and the management of the Grand
National Trunk Railway, but the results of that terrible accident did
not quickly pass away. As we have said, it cost Will Garvie an arm, and
nearly cost Mrs. Marrot her life. We have much pleasure, however, in
recording, that it did not make the full charge in this matter. A
small, a very small modicum of life was left in that estimable woman,
and on the strength of that, with her wonted vigour of character and
invincibility of purpose, she set to work to draw out, as it were, a
new lease of life. She succeeded to admiration, so much so, in fact,
that but for one or two scars on her countenance, no one could have
known that she had come by an accident at all. Bob Marrot was wont to
say of her, in after years, that, “if it had bin his mother who had
lost an arm instead of Will Garvie, he was convinced that her firmness,
amountin' a'most to obstinacy, of purpose, would have enabled her to
grow on a noo arm as good as the old 'un, if not better.” We need
scarcely add that Bob was an irreverent scamp!
Poor Will Garvie! his was a sad loss, yet, strange to say, he
rejoiced over it. “W'y, you see,” he used to say to Bob Marrot—Bob and
he being great and confidential friends—“you see, Bob, if it hadn't
bin for that accident, I never would have bin laid up and brought so
low—so very nigh to the grave—and I would never have know'd what it
was to be nursed by your sister too; and so my eyes might have never
bin opened to half her goodness an' tenderness, d'ye see? No, Bob, I
don't grudge havin' had my eyes opened by the loss of an arm; it was
done cheap at the price. Of course I know Loo pretty well by this time,
for a few years of married life is apt to clear a good deal of dust out
of one's eyes, but I do assure you, Bob, that I never COULD have know'd
her properly but for that accident, which was the luckiest thing that
ever happened to me; an' then, don't 'ee see, I'm just as able to work
these there points with one arm as with two.”
To which Bob would reply,—“You're a queer fish, Bill; howsever,
every man's got a right to his own opinions.”
Will Garvie was a pointsman now. On recovering from his prolonged
illness, during which he had been supported out of the Provident Fund
of the railway—to which he and all the other men on the line
contributed—he was put to light work at first at the station of
Clatterby. By degrees his strength returned, and he displayed so much
intelligence, and such calmness of nerve and coolness of courage, that
he was made a pointsman at the station, and had a sentry-box sort of
erection, with windows all round it, apportioned to his daily use.
There he was continually employed in shifting the points for the
shunting of trains, none of which dared to move, despite their mighty
power and impatience, until Will Garvie gave them leave.
To John Marrot, the accident although not severe at first, had
proved more damaging in the long-run. No bones had been broken, or
limbs lost, but John had received a shake so bad that he did not resume
his duties with the same vigour as heretofore. He continued to stick to
his post, however, for several years, and, before giving it up, had the
pleasure of training his son Bob in the situation which Garvie had been
obliged to resign. Bob's heart you see, had been all along set on
driving the LIGHTNING; he therefore gladly left the “Works” when old
enough,—and when the opportunity offered,—to fill the preliminary
post of fireman.
During this period Edwin Gurwood rose to a responsible and
sufficiently lucrative situation in the Clearing-House. At the same
time he employed much of his leisure in cultivating the art of
painting, of which he was passionately fond. At first he painted for
pleasure, but he soon found, on exhibiting one or two of his works,
that picture-dealers were willing to purchase from him. He therefore
began to paint for profit, and succeeded so well that he began to save
and lay by money, with a view to that wife with the nut-brown hair and
the large lustrous eyes, who haunted his dreams by night and became his
guiding-star by day.
Seeing him thus wholly immersed in the acquisition of money, and not
knowing his motive, his faithful little friend Joe Tipps one day
amazed, and half-offended him, by reminding him that he had a soul to
be cared for as well as a body. The arrow was tenderly shot, and with a
trembling hand, but Joe prayed that it might be sent home, and it was.
From that date Edwin could not rest. He reviewed his life. He reflected
that everything he possessed, or hoped for, came to him, or was to
come, from God; yet as far as he could make out he saw no evidence of
the existence of religion in himself save in the one fact that he went
regularly to church on Sundays. He resolved to turn over a new leaf.
Tried—and failed. He was perplexed, for he had tried honestly.
“Tipps,” he said, one day, “you are the only man I ever could make a
confidant of. To say truth I'm not given to being very communicative as
to personal matters at any time, but I MUST tell you that the remark
you made about my soul the other day has stuck to me, and I have tried
to lead a Christian life, but without much success.”
“Perhaps,” said Tipps, timidly, “it is because you have not yet
become a Christian.”
“My DEAR fellow!” exclaimed Edwin, “is not leading a Christian life
becoming a Christian?”
“Don't you think,” said Tipps, in an apologetic tone, “that leading
a Christian life is rather the result of having become a Christian? It
seems to me that you have been taking the plan of putting yourself and
your doings first, and our Saviour last.”
We need not prolong a conversation referring to the “old, old
story,” which ran very much in the usual groove. Suffice it to say that
Edwin at last carefully consulted the Bible as to the plan of
redemption; and, in believing, found that rest of spirit which he had
failed to work out. Thenceforward he had a higher motive for labouring
at his daily toil, yet the old motive did not lose but rather gained in
power by the change—whereby he realised the truth that, “godliness is
profitable for the life that now is as well as that which is to come.”
At last the painting became so successful that Edwin resolved to
trust to it alone—said good-bye to the Clearing-House with regret—for
he left many a pleasant companion and several intimate friends behind
him—and went to Clatterby, in the suburbs of which he took and
furnished a small villa.
Then it was that he came to the conclusion that the time had arrived
to make a pointed appeal to the nut-brown hair and lustrous eyes. He
went off and called at Captain Lee's house accordingly. The captain was
out—Miss Lee was at home. Edwin entered the house, but he left all his
native courage and self-possession on the doorstep outside!
Being ushered into the drawing-room he found Emma reading. From that
moment—to his own surprise, and according to his own statement—he
became an ass! The metamorphosis was complete. Ovid, had he been alive,
would have rejoiced in it! He blushed more than a poor boy caught in
his first grievous offence. The very straightforwardness of his
character helped to make him worse. He felt, in all its importance, the
momentous character of the step he was about to take, and he felt in
all its strength the love with which his heart was full, and the
inestimable value of the prize at which he aimed. No wonder that he was
The reader will observe that we have not attempted to dilate in this
book on the value of that prize. Emma, like many other good people, is
only incidental to our subject. We have been obliged to leave her to
the reader's imagination. After all, what better could we have done?
Imagination is more powerful in this matter than description. Neither
one nor other could, we felt, approach the reality, therefore
imagination was best.
“Emma!” he said, sitting down on the sofa beside her, and seizing
her hand in both of his.
“Mr. Gurwood!” she exclaimed in some alarm.
Beginning, from the mere force of habit, some half-delirious
reference to the weather, Edwin suddenly stopped, passed his fingers
wildly through his hair, and again said, with deep earnestness,
Emma looked down, blushed, and said nothing.
“Emma,” he said again, “my good angel, my guiding-star—by night and
by day—for years I have—”
At that moment Captain Lee entered the room.
Edwin leaped up and stood erect. Emma buried her face in the sofa
“Edwin—Mr. Gurwood!” exclaimed Captain Lee.
This was the beginning of a conversation which terminated eventually
in the transference of the nut-brown hair and lustrous eyes to the
artist's villa in Clatterby. As there was a good garden round the
villa, and the wife with nut-brown hair was uncommonly fond of flowers,
Edwin looked out for a gardener. It was at this identical time that
John Marrot resolved to resign his situation as engine- driver on the
Grand National Trunk Railway. Edwin, knowing that he had imbibed a
considerable amount of knowledge of gardening from Loo, at once offered
to employ him as his gardener; John gladly closed with the offer, and
thus it came about that he and his wife removed to the villa and left
their old railway-ridden cottage in possession of Will and Loo—or, to
be more correct, Mr. and Mrs. Garvie, and all the young Garvies.
But what of timid Mrs. Tipps? The great accident did little for her
beyond shaking her nervous system, and confirming her in the belief
that railways were unutterably detestable; that she was not quite sure
whether or not they were sinful; that, come what might, she never would
enter one again; and that she felt convinced she had been born a
hundred years too late, in which latter opinion most of her friends
agreed with her, although they were glad, considering her loveable
disposition, that the mistake had occurred. Netta did not take quite
such an extreme view, and Joseph laughed at and quizzed them both, in
an amiable sort of fashion, on their views.
Among all the sufferers by that accident few suffered so severely—
with the exception: of course, of those who lost their lives—as the
Grand National Trunk Railway itself. In the course of the trials that
followed, it was clearly shown that the company had run the train much
more with the view of gratifying the public than of enriching their
coffers, from the fact that the utmost possible sum which they could
hope to draw by it was œ17, for which sum they had carried 600
passengers upwards of twenty miles. The accident took place in
consequence of circumstances over which the company had no control, and
the results were—that twenty persons were killed and about two hundred
wounded! that one hundred and sixty claims were made for compensation
—one hundred and forty of which, being deemed exorbitant or fraudulent,
were defended in court; and that, eventually, the company had to pay
from seventy to eighty thousand pounds! out of which the highest sum
paid to one individual was œ6750! The risks that are thus run by
railway companies will be seen to be excessive, especially when it is
considered that excursion trains afford but slight remuneration, while
many of them convey enormous numbers of passengers. On the occasion of
the first excursion from Oxford to London, in 1851, fifty-two of the
broad-gauge carriages of the Great Western were employed, and the
excursionists numbered upwards of three thousand five hundred—a very
town on wheels! Truly the risks of railway companies are great, and
their punishments severe.
Chapter XXV. THE LAST.
A certain Christmas-day approached. On the morning of the day
preceding, Will Garvie—looking as broad and sturdy as ever; a perfect
man, but for the empty sleeve—stood at his post near his sentry-box.
His duties that day were severe. At that season of the year there is a
great increase of traffic on all railways, and you may be sure that the
Grand National Trunk Railway had its full share.
On ordinary occasions about three hundred trains passed Will
Garvie's box, out and in, during the twelve hours, but that day there
had been nearly double the number of passengers, and a considerable
increase in the number of trains that conveyed them, while goods trains
had also increased greatly in bulk and in numbers.
Garvie's box abutted on a bridge, and stood in the very midst of a
labyrinth of intricate crossing lines, over which trains and pilot-engines were constantly rushing and hissing, backing and whistling
viciously, and in the midst of which, Will moved at the continual risk
of his life, as cool as a cucumber (so Bob Garvie expressed it), and as
safe as the bank.
Although thus situated in the midst of smoke, noise, dust, iron, and
steam, Will Garvie managed to indulge his love for flowers. He had a
garden on the line—between the very rails! It was not large, to be
sure, only about six feet by two—but it was large enough for his
limited desires. The garden was in a wooden trough in front of his
sentry-box. It contained mignonette, roses, and heart's-ease among
other things, and every time that Will passed out of or into his box in
performing the duties connected with the station, he took a look at the
flowers and thought of Loo and the innumerable boys, girls, and babies
at home. We need not say that this garden was beautifully kept.
Whatever Will did he did well—probably because he tended well the
garden of his own soul.
While he was standing outside his box during one of the brief
intervals between trains, an extremely beautiful girl came on the
platform and called across the rails to him.
“Hallo! Gertie—what brings YOU here?” he asked, with a look of glad
“To see YOU,” replied Gertie, with a smile that was nothing short of
“How I wish you were a flower, that I might plant you in my garden,”
said the gallant William, as he crossed the rails and reached up to
shake Gertie's hand.
“What a greedy man you are!” said Gertie. “Isn't Loo enough for
“Quite enough,” replied Will, “I might almost say more than enough
at times; but come, lass, this ain't the place for a palaver. You came
to speak with me as well as to see me, no doubt.”
“Yes, Will, I came with a message from Mrs. Tipps. You know that the
railway men are going to present father with a testimonial to-night;
well, Mrs. Tipps thinks that her drawing-room won't be large enough, so
she sent me to ask you to let the men know that it is to be presented
in the schoolroom, where the volunteer rifle band is to perform and
make a sort of concert of it.”
“Indeed!” said Will.
“Yes; and Mrs. Tipps says that Captain Lee is going to give them
what she calls a cold collation, and brother Bob calls a blow-out.”
“You don't say so!” exclaimed Will.
“Yes, I do; won't it be delightful?” said Gertie.
“Splendid,” replied Will, “I'll be sure to be up in good time. But,
I say, Gertie, is young Dorkin to be there?”
Gertie blushed, but was spared the necessity of a reply in
consequence of a deafening whistle which called Will Garvie to his
points. Next moment, a passenger-train intervened, and cut her off from
According to promise, Will was at the schoolroom in good time that
evening, with some thirty or forty of his comrades. Loo was there too,
blooming and matronly, with a troop of boys and girls, who seemed to
constitute themselves a body-guard round John Marrot and his wife, who
were both ignorant at that time of the honour that was about to be done
them. John was as grave, sturdy, and amiable as ever, the only
alteration in his appearance being the increased number of silver locks
that mingled with his black hair. Time had done little to Mrs. Marrot,
beyond increasing her bulk and the rosiness of her countenance.
It would be tedious to comment on all our old friends who assembled
in the schoolroom on that memorable occasion. We can only mention the
names of Captain Lee (ALIAS Samuel Tough), and Mr. Abel, and Mrs.
Tipps, and Dr. Noble, and Mr. Sharp, and David Blunt, and Joe Turner,
and Mrs. Durby, with all of whom time seemed to have dealt as leniently
as with John Marrot and his wife. Sam Natly was also there, with his
invalid wife restored to robust health, and supported on either side by
a blooming boy and girl. And Edwin Gurwood was there with his wife and
son and three daughters; and so was Joseph Tipps, looking as if the
world prospered with him, as, indeed, was the case. And, of course,
Netta Tipps was there, and the young curate, who, by the way, was much
stouter and not nearly so stiff as when we first met him. He was
particularly attentive to Netta, and called her “my dear,” in a cool
free-and-easy way, that would not have been tolerated for a moment, but
for the fact that they had been married for the last three months. Bob
Marrot was there also—as strapping a young blade as one could wish to
see, with a modest yet fearless look in his eye, that was quite in
keeping with his occupation as driver of the “Flying Dutchman.”
There was there, also, a tall, slim, good-looking youth, who seemed
to be on very intimate terms with Bob Marrot. He was well-known as one
of the most rising men at the Clatterby works, who bade fair to become
an overseer ere long. Bob called him Tomtit, but the men of the line
styled him Mister Dorkin. He had brought with him an extremely
wrinkled, dried-up old woman, who appeared to have suffered much, and
to have been dragged out of the lowest depths of poverty. To judge from
appearances she had been placed in a position of great comfort. Such
was in truth the case, and the fine young fellow who had dragged her
out and up was that same Mister Dorkin, who may be said to have been
all but stone-blind that evening, because, from first to last, he saw
but one individual there, and that individual was Gertie. He was almost
deaf too, because he heard only one voice—and that voice was Gertie's.
And Nanny Stocks was there, with “the baby,” but NOT the baby
Marrot! THAT baby—now a stout well-grown lad—was seated beside his
mother, paying her all sorts of delicate attentions, such as picking up
her handkerchief when she dropped it, pushing her bonnet on her head
when, in her agitation, it fell back on her neck, and beating her
firmly on the back when she choked, as she frequently did that evening
from sheer delight. No doubt in this last operation he felt that he was
paying off old scores, for many a severe beating on the back had Mrs.
Marrot given him in the stormy days of his babyhood.
The baby of whom Nanny Stocks was now the guardian was baby Gurwood,
and a strong resemblance it bore to the old baby in the matters of
health, strength, fatness, and self-will. Miss Stocks was one of those
human evergreens which years appear to make no impression on at all.
From her shoe-latchet to her topmost hair-pin she was unalterably the
same as she had been in days gone by. She treated the new baby, too, as
she had treated the old—choked it with sweetmeats and kisses, and
acted the part of buffer to its feet and fists.
It would take a volume to give the full details of all that was said
and done, and played and sung, on that Christmas-eve. We can only touch
on these things. The brass band of the volunteers surpassed itself. The
songs—volunteered or called for—were as good as songs usually are on
festive occasions, a few of them being first-rate, especially one which
was sung by a huge engine-driver, with shoulders about a yard broad,
and a beard like the inverted shako of a guardsman. It ran thus—
SONG OF THE ENGINE-DRIVER.
Oh—down by the river and close by the lake
We skim like the swallow and cut though the brake;
Over the mountain and round by the lea,
Though the black tunnel and down to the sea.
Clatter and bang by the wild riven shore,
We mingle our shriek with the ocean's roar.
We strain and we struggle, we rush and we fly—
We're a terrible pair, my steed and I.
CHORUS—Whistle and puff the whole day round,
Over the hills and underground.
Rattling fast and rattling free—
Oh! a life on the line is the life for me.
With our hearts a-blazing in every chink,
With coals for food and water to drink,
We plunge up the mountain and traverse the moor,
And startle the grouse in our daily tour.
We yell at the deer in their lonely glen,
Shoot past the village and circle the Ben,
We flash through the city on viaducts high,
As straight as an arrow, my steed and I.
CHORUS—Whistle and puff, etc.
The Norseman of old, when quaffing his mead,
Delighted to boast of his “ocean steed;"
The British tar, in his foaming beer,
Drinks to his ship as his mistress dear.
The war-horse good is the trooper's theme—
But what are all these to the horse of steam?
Such a riotous, rollicking roadster is he—
Oh!—the Iron Horse is the steed for me!
CHORUS—Whistle and puff, etc.
The collation also, or, according to Bob Marrot, the “blow-out,” was
superb. Joseph Tipps declared it to be eminently satisfactory, and the
men of the line evidently held the same opinion, if we may judge from
the fact that they consumed it all, and left not a scrap behind.
The speeches, also, were excellent. Of course the great one of the
evening was the best being, delivered by Mr. Abel, who not unnaturally
made a remarkably able oration.
When that gentleman rose with a beautiful silver model of a
locomotive in his hand, which he had been deputed by the men of the
line to present as a mark of their regard, admiration, and esteem, to
John Marrot, he took the worthy ex-engine-driver very much by surprise,
and caused Mrs. Marrot to be seized with such a fit of choking that the
baby (not the new one, but the old) found it as hard work to beat her
out of it, as she had formerly found it to beat HIM out of a fit of
wickedness. When she had been restored, Mr. Abel launched off into a
glowing oration, in the course of which he referred to John Marrot's
long services, to his faithful and unwearied attention to his arduous
duties, and to the numerous instances wherein he had shown personal
courage and daring, amounting almost to heroism, in saving the lives of
comrades in danger, and in preventing accidents on the line by coolness
and presence of mind.
“In conclusion,” said Mr. Abel, winding up, “let me remark that the
gift which is now presented might have been of a more useful character,
but could not have been more appropriate; because the wish of those who
desire to testify their regard for you this evening, Mr. Marrot, is not
to give you an intrinsically valuable or useful present, but to present
you with a characteristic ornament which may grace your dwelling while
you live, and descend, after you are gone, to your children's children
(here he glanced at Loo and her troop), to bear witness to them that
you nobly did your duty in driving that great iron horse, whereof this
little silver pony is a model and a memorial. To perform one's duty
well in this life is the highest ambition that any man can have in
regard to temporal things. Nelson, our greatest naval hero, aimed at
it, and, on the glorious day of Trafalgar, signalled that England
expected every man to do it. Wellington, our greatest soldier, made
DUTY his guiding-star. The effectual and earnest performance of duty
stamps with a nobility which is not confined to great men—a nobility
which kings can neither give nor take away—a nobility which is very,
VERY difficult to attain unto, but which is open alike to the prince
and the peasant, and must be wrought hard for and won—or lost with
shame,—for, as the poet happily puts it—
“`Honour and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part,—there all the honour lies.'
“For myself I can only say that John Marrot has won this nobility,
and I couple his name with a sentiment with which all here, I doubt
not, will heartily sympathise.—Prosperity to the men of the line, and
success to the Iron Horse!”
Reader, we can do no better than echo that sentiment, and wish you a