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A Little Railway Experience.
By way of a change, I will tell you of a little railway experience I once had. During the Civil War in America, I had occasion to go from New York to Boston on important business, and I was there some days. When my business was ended I decided on leaving Boston by the midnight train.
Each hotel had its coach to convey guests to the depot or railway station. I took my seat in the coach, and was joined by a gentleman also going to New York. We each got our railway tickets, and sat side by side in the same carriage, or "car," and after some little time we got into conversation, and when my companion found that I was a "seafaring man," no one could have been more astonished than he was.
He looked at me and said, "My dear sir, you look to be an intelligent sort of man, and you tell me that you go to sea."
I said, "Yes, and why not?"
"Well," said he, "I don't see how any man possessed with any common sense and reason could ever be such a fool as to go to sea."
I said that possibly that was the reason for my going to sea - just simply a want of good sense on my part. But it suited me very well, and I should like to know what objections he had against a sea life.
"Why, sir, supposing you are in a gale and a fire breaks out on board, what are you going to do? You have no back door to escape through?"
"Well, we may be able to leave in the boats."
"But you can't do it in a terrible storm."
"Well, then, we will do the best we can, and do as sailors often are compelled to do, trust in Providence. But for my part, I don't see that we run more risks in a gale at sea than you do in the cities or than we do now on the rail. What is to prevent us from having a smash-up before morning?"
"Well, now, my good sir, I beg of you don't go to sea any more, but just come out to Iowa and buy a nice farm and settle down ashore. You can buy a nice farm with all improvements at from three thousand to five thousand dollars."
I asked him what was the matter with the other man, that he wanted to sell his farm and all improvements. I did not get any satisfactory answer to this, as we had something more serious to attend to. Just at this time I felt a peculiar motion in the car, like a horse cantering. I clapped my hand on my friend and said, "Sit still," and in a few moments I felt my heels grinding on some one - and the next thing was, that we were landed bottom up down twenty-five feet of embankment, and terrible shrieks on all sides.
Three cars were capsized. One in front of us went down on its side, endways. Ours went a side-somersault, and the next one endways, on its wheels. En route we had gathered a number of soldiers who had been drafted and were on their way South. The cars were jammed full.
The furnace in our car did great damage to some, and altogether about seventy were more or less hurt. The accident was caused by a rail breaking, owing to severe frost.
After this I tried to persuade my friend to go to Iowa, sell his store, and come to sea with me, where he would be safe from any more tricks of this sort. He still seemed inclined to hold on to the rail.