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        RAILWAY NIGHTMARES.

SOME men are born to be madmen; some
to be idiots; and some to be hanged; but I
was born to be a shareholder. Some men
spend their money like noblemen and
princes; some lose it at the gaming-table;
some on the turf; some hide it in
gardens, in wells, in brick walls, and die,
forgetting to reveal their secret; but my
property is securely sunk for the benefit of my
country in the Direct Burygold, and
the Great Deadlock Railways.* While, on
one hand, I am lowered to the condition
of a beggar; on the other, I am elevated
to the rank of a patriot. What I have
done would, in the ancient days, have
earned me a statue; but now, under unheroic
forms of business, it is silently accepted
as a matter of course. If I had sunk my
property in endowing a hospital, I might
have secured the immortality of a tablet, and
the gratitude of a committee; but my
prodigal generosity has only taken the form of
an investment. I sign a deed of settlement,
pocket my liability, see my name recorded
in a ledger of shareholdersand that is all.
* See page 265 of the present volume.

Having no faith in reformers, I have joined
no Committee of Investigation; I have
subscribed to no society for improving our
prospects. I have quietly accepted my
position as a melancholy and accomplished fact.
I have sold my withered shares for the trifle
they would fetch; and, having no family or
kindred depending upon me for support, I
have taken to opium-eating.

I am surprised that I never turned my
attention to this agreeable investment before.
Like my former ventures, it pays me no
dividends, except in dreams; but then those
dreams are of the most varied and amusing
kind. They come to me without effort;
they cry to me for no food; they make no
calls. When they leave me, I feel no regret;
for I know that a few pence will, at any
time, call them back. Beggar as I am, I
recline in all the state of kings, with no
painful memories of yesterday; no care for to-day;
no thought for to-morrow. Relieved from
the dull checks and surroundings of active
life, my fancy runs riot in a shadowy world,
where all distinctions are reversed; and
those things that were once my sorrow and
my dread, have now become my pleasure
and my toys.

The long, silent panorama of the Direct
Burygold Railway passes before me: the
whole line in Chancery; choked and stiffened
by the icy, relentless hand of legal death.
The Burygold station, once so full of life, is
now an echoing, deserted cavern; its crystal
roof is an arch of broken glass; its rails are
torn away; its rooms and offices are empty,
or boarded up; and its walls are defaced
with old ghastly time-bills, the mocking
records of its former wealth and activity.
The long refreshment-corridor is dusty and
bare; its fixtures are rudely torn from the
walls, its floor is strewn with remnants of
placards and broken china; and nothing
living is now left, except a wild, half-famished
cat, ravenously gnawing a bone as smooth as
glass.

Passing out of this ruined station to the
open line, I find no signs of traffic.
Carriages are not to be seen, and the rails in
places have been torn up by the roots.
Rank grass has spread across the once
busy way, and sheep are calmly browsing,
with no fear of coming danger. Breaking
through a narrow cutting between two lofty
hills, whose passage, once open and bare, is
now grown over with underwood and brambles,
I emerge into a broad amphitheatre
of landscape, saddened with ruins, like the
plains of ancient Greece. Standing at the
extreme verge, upon the ragged edge of
what was once a smooth, lofty, curving
viaduct, I gaze down far below into a winding
stream, whose course is broken and
turned by the fallen arches which once
spanned the broad, deep valley. Large iron
girders, spreading masses of brickwork, and
blocks of heavy masonry, lie helplessly in
the clear, glassy stream. In the distance
another ragged edge of tall, narrow, broken
arches, issue from a cleft in the opposite
mountain. The blue, misty hills close in
the scene on every side; and the solemn
stillness of undisturbed nature reigns over
all. Struggling down the steep sides of this
chasm, I pick my way, across the ruins, to
the divided limb of the railway on the
further side. Here I turn for one final look at
the silent valley, and then pursue my course.

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