Saturday, February 27, 2010

Train Tunnel Stories


Richard Pike, ed., Railway Adventures and Anecdotes, third edition (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1888).


We cannot help repeating a narrative which we heard on one occasion, told with infinite gravity by a clergyman whose name we at once inquired about, and of whom we shall only say, that he is one of the worthiest and best sons of the kirk, and knows when to be serious as well as when to jest. “Don’t tell me,” said he to a simple-looking Highland brother, who had apparently made his first trial of railway travelling in coming up to the Assembly — “don’t tell me that tunnels on railways are an unmitigated evil: they serve high moral and ├Žsthetical purposes. Only the other day I got into a railway carriage, and I had hardly taken my seat, when the train started. On looking up, I saw sitting opposite to me two of the most rabid dissenters in Scotland. I felt at once that there could be no pleasure for me in that journey, and with gloomy heart and countenance I leaned back in my corner. But all at once we plunged into a deep tunnel, black as night, and when we emerged at the other end, my brow was clear and my ill-humour was entirely dissipated. Shall I tell you how this came to be? All the way through the tunnel I was shaking my fists in the dissenters’ faces, and making horrible mouths at them, and that relieved me, and set me all right. Don’t speak against tunnels again, my dear friend.” — Fraser’s Magazine. [Pp. 126-7]


On one of the seats in a railway train was a married lady with a little daughter; opposite, facing them, was another child, a son, and a coloured “lady” with a baby. The mother of these children was a beautiful matron with sparkling eyes, in exuberant health and vivacious spirits. Near her sat a young lieutenant, dressed to kill and seeking a victim. He scraped up an acquaintance with the mother by attentions to the children. It was not long before he was essaying to make himself very agreeable to her, and by the time the sun began to decline, one would have thought they were old familiar friends. The lieutenant felt that he had made an impression — his elation manifested it. The lady, dreaming of no wrong, suspecting no evil, was apparently pleased with her casual acquaintance. By-and-by the train approached a tunnel. The gay lieutenant leaned over and whispered something in the lady’s ear. It was noticed that she appeared as thunderstruck, and her eyes immediately flamed with indignation. A moment more and a smile lighted up her features. What changes? That smile was not one of pleasure, but was sinister. It was unperceived by the lieutenant. She made him a reply which apparently rejoiced him very much. For the understanding properly this narrative, we must tell the reader what was whispered and what was replied. “I mean to kiss you when we get into the tunnel!” whispered the lieutenant. “It will be dark; who will see it?” replied the lady. Into earth’s bowels — into the tunnel ran the train. Lady and coloured nurse quickly change seats. Gay lieutenant threw his arms around the lady sable, pressed her cheek to his, and fast and furious rained kisses on her lips. In a few moments the train came out into broad daylight. White lady looked amazed — coloured lady, bashful, blushing — gay lieutenant befogged. “Jane,” said the white lady, “what have you been doing?” “Nothing!” responded the coloured lady. “Yes, you have,” said the white lady, not in an undertone, but in a voice that attracted the attention of all in the carriage. “See how your collar is rumpled and your bonnet smashed.” Jane, poor coloured beauty, hung her head for a moment, the “observed of all observers,” and then, turning round to the lieutenant, replied: “This man kissed me in the tunnel!” Loud and long was the laugh that followed among the passengers. The white lady enjoyed the joke amazingly. Lieutenant looked like a sheep-stealing dog, left the carriage at the next station, and was seen no more. — Cape Argus. [Pp. 256-7]

[Thomas Edison's one-minute film What Happened in the Tunnel (1903) is similarly racist. -- bc]


An incident has occurred on one of the suburban lines which will certainly be supposed by many to be only ben trovato, but it is a real fact. A lady, who seemed perfectly well before the train entered a tunnel, suddenly alarmed her fellow-passengers during the temporary darkness by exclaiming, “I am poisoned!” On re-emerging into daylight, an awkward explanation ensued. The lady carried with her two bottles, one of methylated spirit, the other of cognac. Wishing, presumably, for a refresher on the sly, she took advantage of the gloom; but she applied the wrong bottle to her lips. Time pressed, and she took a good drain. The consequence was she was nearly poisoned, and had to apply herself honestly and openly to the brandy bottle as a corrective, amidst the ironical condolence of the passengers she had previously alarmed. -- Once a Week. [P. 262]