A Walk from London to John O'Groat's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about A Walk from London to John O'Groat's.
and inhuman, is the fiery locomotion of the Iron Horse through these densely-peopled towns! now the screech, the roar, and the darkness of cavernous passages under paved streets, church vaults, and an acre or two of three-story brick houses, with the feeling of a world of breathing, bustling humanity incumbent upon you;—­now the dash and flash out into the light, and the higgledy-piggledy glimpses of the next five minutes.  In a moment you are above thickly-thronged streets, and the houses on either side, looking down into the black throats of smoky chimneys; into the garret lairs of poverty, sickness, and sin; down lower upon squads of children trying to play in back-yards eight feet square.  It is all wrong, except in the single quality of speed.  You enter the town as you would a farmer’s house, if you first passed through the pig-stye into the kitchen.  Every respectable house in the city turns its back upon you; and often a very brick and dirty back too, though it may show an elegant front of Bath or Portland stone to the street it faces.  All the respectable streets run over or under you with an audible shudder of disgust or dread.  None but a shabby lane of low shops for the sale of junk, beer, onions, shrimps, and cabbages, will run a third of a mile by your side for the sake of your company.  The wickedest boys in the town hoot at you, with most ignominious and satiric antics, as you pass; and if they do not shie stones in upon you, or dead cats, it is more from fear of the beadle or the constable than out of respect for your business or pleasure.

Indeed, every town and village, great or small, which you pass through or near on the railway, looks as if you came fifty years before you were expected.  It says, in all the legible expressions of its countenance, “Lack-a-day!—­if here isn’t that creature come already, and looking in at my back door before I had time to turn around, or put anything in shape!” The Iron Horse himself gets no sympathy nor humane admiration.  He stands grim and wrathy, when reined up for two minutes and forty-five seconds at a station.  No venturesome boys pat him on the flanks, or look kindly into his eyes, or say a pleasant word to him, or even wonder if he is tired, or thirsty, or hungry.  None of the ostlers of the greasy stables, in which the locomotives are housed, ever call him Dobbin, or Old Jack, or Jenny, or say, “Well done, old fellow!” when they unhitch him from the train at midnight, after a journey of a hundred leagues.  His driver is a real man of flesh and blood; with wife and children whom he loves.  He goes on Sunday to church, and, maybe, sings the psalms of David, and listens devoutly to the sermon, and says prayers at home, and the few who know him speak well of him, as a good and proper man in his way.  But, spurred and mounted upon the saddle of the great iron hexiped, nearly all the passengers regard him as a part of the beast.  No one speaks to him, or thinks of him on the journey. 

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A Walk from London to John O'Groat's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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