Charles Dickens

Therefore, I desire to ask the public whether the servants of the great railways--who, in fact, are their servants, their ready, zealous, faithful, hard-working servants--whether they have not established, whether they do not every day establish, a reasonable claim to liberal remembrance.

Now, gentlemen, on this point of the case there is a story once told me by a friend of mine, which seems to my mind to have a certain application. My friend was an American sea-captain, and, therefore, it is quite unnecessary to say his story was quite true. He was captain and part owner of a large American merchant liner. On a certain voyage out, in exquisite summer weather, he had for cabin passengers one beautiful young lady, and ten more or less beautiful young gentlemen. Light winds or dead calms prevailing, the voyage was slow. They had made half their distance when the ten young gentlemen were all madly in love with the beautiful young lady. They had all proposed to her, and bloodshed among the rivals seemed imminent pending the young lady's decision. On this extremity the beautiful young lady confided in my friend the captain, who gave her discreet advice. He said: "If your affections are disengaged, take that one of the young gentlemen whom you like the best and settle the question." To this the beautiful young lady made reply, "I cannot do that because I like them all equally well." My friend, who was a man of resource, hit upon this ingenious expedient, said he, "To-morrow morning at mid- day, when lunch is announced, do you plunge bodily overboard, head foremost. I will be alongside in a boat to rescue you, and take the one of the ten who rushes to your rescue, and then you can afterwards have him." The beautiful young lady highly approved, and did accordingly. But after she plunged in, nine out of the ten more or less beautiful young gentlemen plunged in after her; and the tenth remained and shed tears, looking over the side of the vessel. They were all picked up, and restored dripping to the deck. The beautiful young lady upon seeing them said, "What am I to do? See what a plight they are in. How can I possibly choose, because every one of them is equally wet?" Then said my friend the captain, acting upon a sudden inspiration, "Take the dry one." I am sorry to say that she did so, and they lived happy ever afterwards.

Now, gentleman, in my application of this story, I exactly reverse my friend the captain's anecdote, and I entreat the public in looking about to consider who are fit subjects for their bounty, to give each his hand with something in it, and not award a dry hand to the industrious railway servant who is always at his back. And I would ask any one with a doubt upon this subject to consider what his experience of the railway servant is from the time of his departure to his arrival at his destination. I know what mine is. Here he is, in velveteen or in a policeman's dress, scaling cabs, storming carriages, finding lost articles by a sort of instinct, binding up lost umbrellas and walking sticks, wheeling trucks, counselling old ladies, with a wonderful interest in their affairs- -mostly very complicated--and sticking labels upon all sorts of articles. I look around--there he is, in a station-master's uniform, directing and overseeing, with the head of a general, and with the courteous manners of a gentleman; and then there is the handsome figure of the guard, who inspires confidence in timid passengers. I glide out of the station, and there he is again with his flags in his hand at his post in the open country, at the level crossing, at the cutting, at the tunnel mouth, and at every station on the road until our destination is reached. In regard, therefore, to the railway servants with whom we do come into contact, we may surely have some natural sympathy, and it is on their behalf that I this night appeal to you. I beg now to propose "Success to the Railway Benevolent Society."


[On presiding at a public Meeting of the Printers' Readers, held at the Salisbury Hotel, on the above date, Mr.