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Title: How We Got Up the Glenmutchkin Railway
Author: W. E. Aytoun
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605121.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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HOW WE GOT UP THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY AND HOW WE GOT OUT OF IT
W. E. AYTOUN




I WAS confoundedly hard up. My patrimony, never of the largest, had
been for the last year on the decrease--a herald would have emblazoned
it, "ARGENT, a moneybag improper, in detriment"--and though the
attenuating process was not excessively rapid, it was, nevertheless,
proceeding at a steady ratio. As for the ordinary means and appliances
by which men contrive to recruit their exhausted exchequers, I knew
none of them. Work I abhorred with a detestation worthy of a scion of
nobility; and, I believe, you could just as soon have persuaded the
lineal representative of the Howards or Percys to exhibit himself in
the character of a mountebank, as have got me to trust my person on
the pinnacle of a three-legged stool. The rule of three is all very
well for base mechanical souls; but I flatter myself I have an
intellect too large to be limited to a ledger. "Augustus," said my
poor mother to me, while stroking my hyacinthine tresses, one fine
morning, in the very dawn and budding-time of my existence--"Augustus,
my dear boy, whatever you do, never forget that you are a gentleman."
The maternal maxim sunk deeply into my heart, and I never for a moment
have forgotten it.

Notwithstanding this aristocratical resolution, the great practical
question "How am I to live!" began to thrust itself unpleasantly
before me. I am one of that unfortunate class who have neither uncles
nor aunts. For me, no yellow liverless individuals, with
characteristic bamboo and pigtail--emblems of half-a-million--returned
to his native shores from Ceylon or remote Penang. For me, no
venerable spinster hoarded in the Trongate, permitting herself few
luxuries during a long-protracted life, save a lass and a lanthorn, a
parrot, and the invariable baudrons of antiquity. No such luck was
mine. Had all Glasgow perished by some vast epidemic, I should not
have found myself one farthing the richer. There would have been no
golden balsam for me in the accumulated woes of Tradestown,
Shettleston, and Camlachie. The time has been when--according to
Washington Irving and other veracious hisstorians--a young man had no
sooner got into difficulties than a guardian angel appeared to him in
a dream, with the information that at such and such a bridge, or under
such and such a tree, he might find, at a slight expenditure of
labour, a gallipot secured with bladder, and filled with glittering
tomauns; or in the extremity of despair, the youth had only to append
himself to a cord, and straightaway the other end thereof, forsaking
its staple in the roof, would disclose amidst the fractured ceiling
the glories of a profitable pose. These blessed days have long since
gone by--at any rate, no such luck was mine. My guardian angel was
either woefully ignorant of metallurgy or the stores had been
surreptitiously ransacked; and as to the other expedient, I frankly
confess I should have liked some better security for its result, than
the precedent of the 'Heir of Lynn.'

It is a great consolation amidst all the evils of life, to know that,
however bad your circumstances may be, there is always somebody else
in nearly the same predicament. My chosen friend and ally, Bob
M'Corkindale, was equally hard up with myself, and, if possible, more
averse to exertion. Bob was essentially a speculative man--that is, in
a philosophical sense. He had once got hold of a stray volume of Adam
Smith, and muddled his brains for a whole week over the intricacies of
the Wealth of Nations. The result was a crude farrago of notions
regarding the true nature of money, the soundness of currency, and
relative value of capital, with which he nightly favoured an admiring
audience at 'The Crow'; for Bob was by no means---in the literal
acceptation of the word--a dry philosopher. On the contrary, he
perfectly appreciated the merits of each distinct distillery; and was
understood to be the compiler of a statistical work entitled, A Tour
through the Alcoholic Districts of Scotland. It had very early
occurred to me, who knew as much of political economy as of the
bagpipes, that a gentleman so well versed in the art of accumulating
national wealth, must have some remote ideas of applying his
principles profitably on a smaller scale. Accordingly, I gave
M'Corkindale an unlimited invitation to my lodgings; and, like a good
hearty fellow as he was, he availed himself every evening of the
license; for I had laid in a fourteen-gallon cask of Oban whisky, and
the quality of the malt was undeniable.

These were the first glorious days of general speculation. Railroads
were emerging from the hands of the greater into the fingers of the
lesser capitalists. Two successful harvests had given a fearful
stimulus to the national energy; and it appeared perfectly certain
that all the populous towns would be united, and the rich agricultural
districts intersected, by the magical bands of iron. The columns of
the newspapers teemed every week with the parturition of novel
schemes; and the shares were no sooner announced than they were
rapidly subscribed for. But what is the use of my saying anything more
about the history of last year? Every one of us remembers it perfectly
well. It was a capital year on the whole, and put money into many a
pocket. About that time, Bob and I commenced operations. Our available
capital, or negotiable bullion, in the language of my friend, amounted
to about three hundred pounds, which we set aside as a joint fund for
speculation. Bob, in a series of learned discourses, had convinced me
that it was not only folly, but a positive sin, to leave this sum
lying in the bank at a pitiful rate of interest, and otherwise
unemployed, whilst every one else in the kingdom was having a pluck at
the public pigeon. Somehow or other, we were unlucky in our first
attempts. Speculators are like wasps; for when they have once got hold
of a ripening and peach-like project, they keep it rigidly for their
own swarm, and repel the approach of interlopers. Notwithstanding all
our efforts, and very ingenious ones they were, we never, in a single
instance, succeeded in procuring an allocation of original shares; and
though we did now and then make a hit by purchase, we more frequently
bought at a premium, and parted with our scrip at a discount. At the
end of six months, we were not twenty pounds richer than before.

"This will never do," said Bob, as he sat one evening in my rooms
compounding his second tumbler. "I thought we were living in an
enlightened age; but I find I was mistaken. That brutal spirit of
monopoly is still abroad and uncurbed. The principles of free-trade
are utterly forgotten, or misunderstood. Else how comes it that David
Spreul received but yesterday an allocation of two hundred shares in
the Westermidden junction; whilst your application and mine, for a
thousand each, were overlooked? IS this a state of things to be
tolerated? Why should he, with his fifty thousand pounds, receive a
slapping premium, whilst our three hundred of available capital
remains unrepresented? The fact is monstrous, and demands the
immediate and serious interference of the legislature."

"It is a bloody shame," I said, fully alive to the manifold advantages
of a premium.

"I'll tell you what, Dunshunner," rejoined M'Corkindale. "It's no use
going on in this way. We haven't shown half pluck enough. These
fellows consider us as snobs, because we don't take the bull by the
horns. Now's the time for a bold stroke. The public are quite ready to
subscribe for anything-and we'll start a railway for ourselves."

"Start a railway with three hundred pounds of capital?"

"Pshaw, man! you don't know what you're talking about--we've a great
deal more capital than that. Have not I told you seventy times over,
that everything a man has-his coat, his hat, the tumblers he drinks
from, nay, his very corporeal existence--is absolute marketable
capital? What do you call that fourteen-gallon cask, I should like to
know?"

"A compound of hoops and staves, containing about a quart and a half
of spirits-you have effectually accounted for the rest."

"Then it has gone to the fund of profit and loss, that's all. Never
let me hear you sport those old theories again. Capital is
indestructible, as I am ready to prove to you any day, in half an
hour. But let us sit down seriously to business. We are rich enough to
pay for the advertisements, and that is all we need care for in the
mean time. The public is sure to step in, and bear us out handsomely
with the rest."

"But where in the face of the habitable globe shall the railway be?
England is out of the question, and I hardly know of a spot in the
Lowlands that is not occupied already."

"What do you say to a Spanish scheme--the Alcantara Union? Hang me if
I know whether Alcantara is in Spain or Portugal; but nobody else
does, and the one is quite as good as the other. Or what would you
think of the Palermo Railway, with a branch to the sulphur mines?--
that would be popular in the North--or the Pyrenees Direct? They would
all go to a premium."

"I must confess I should prefer a line at home."

"Well, then, why not try the Highlands? There must be lots of traffic
there in the shape of sheep, grouse, and Cockney tourists, not to
mention salmon and other et-ceteras. Couldn't we tip them a railway
somewhere in the west?"

"There's Glenmutchkin, for instance--"

"Capital, my dear fellow! Glorious? By Jove, first-rate!" shouted Bob
in an ecstasy of delight. "Theres a distillery there, you know, and a
fishing-village at the foot-at least there used to be six years ago,
when I was living with the exciseman. There may be some bother about
the population, though. The last laird shipped every mother's son of
the aboriginal Celts to America; but, after all, that's not of much
consequence. I see the whole thing! Unrivalled scenery-stupendous
waterfalls--herds of black cattle--spot where Prince Charles Edward
met Macgrugar of Glengrugar and his clan! We could not possibly have
lighted on a more promising place. Hand us over that sheet of paper,
like a good fellow, and a pen. There is no time to be lost, and the
sooner we get out the prospectus the better."

"But, heaven bless you, Bob, there's a great deal to be thought of
first. Who are we to get for a provisional committee?"

"That's very true," said Bob, musingly. "We must treat them to some
respectable names, that is, good sounding ones. I'm afraid there is
little chance of our producing a Peer to begin with?"

"None whatever---unless we could invent one, and that's hardly safe--
Burke's Peerage has gone through too many editions. Couldn't we try
the Dormants?"

"That would be rather dangerous in the teeth of the standing orders.
But what do you say to a baronet? There's Sir Polloxfen Tremens. He
got himself served the other day to a Nova Scotia baronetcy, with just
as much title as you or I have; and he has sported the riband, and
dined out on the strength of it ever since. He'll join us at once, for
he has not a sixpence to lose."

"Down with him, then," and we headed the Provisional list with the
pseudo Orange-tawny.

"Now," said Bob, "it's quite indispensable, as this is a Highland
line, that we should put forward a Chief or two. That has always a
great effect upon the English, whose feudal notions are rather of the
mistiest, and principally derived from Waverley."

"Why not write yourself down as the Laird of MCorkindale?" said I. "I
daresay you would not be negatived by a counterclaim."

"That would hardly do," replied Bob, "as I intend to be Secretary.
After all, what's the use of thinking about it? Here goes for an
extempore Chief"; and the villain wrote down the name of Tavish
M'Tavish of Invertavish.

"I say, though," said I, "we must have a real Highlander on the list.
If we go on this way, it will become a Justiciary matter."

"You're devilish scrupulous, Gus," said Bob, who, if left to himself,
would have stuck in the names of the heathen gods and goddesses, or
borrowed his directors from the Ossianic chronicles, rather than have
delayed the prospectus. "Where the mischief are we to find the men? I
can think of no others likely to go the whole hog, can you?"

"I don't know a single Celt in Glasgow except old M'Closkie, the
drunken porter at the corner of Jamaica Street."

"He's the very man! I suppose, after the manner of his tribe, he will
do anything for a pint of whisky. But what shall we call him? Jamaica
Street, I fear, will hardly do for a designation."

"Call him THE M'CLOSKIE. It will be sonorous in the ears of the Saxon!
"

"Bravo!" and another Chief was added to the roll of the clans.

"Now," said Bob, "we must put you down. Recollect, an the management--
that is, the allocation-will be intrusted to you. Augustus--you
haven't a middle name, I think?--well, then, suppose we interpolate
'Reginald', it has a smack of the Crusades. Augustus Reginald
Dunshunner, Esq. of--where, in the name of Munchausen?"

"I'm sure I don't know. I never had any land beyond the contents of a
flower-pot. Stay--I rather think I have a superiority somewhere about
Paisley."

"Just the thing," cried Bob. "It's heritable property, and therefore
titular. What's the denomination?"

"St. Mirrens."

"Beautiful! Dunshunner of St. Mirrens, I give you joy! Had you
discovered that a little sooner--and I wonder you did not think of
it--we might both of us have had lots of allocations. These are not
the times to conceal hereditary distinctions. But now comes the
serious work. We must have one or two men of known wealth upon the
list. The chaff is nothing without a decoy-bird. Now, can't you help
me with a name?"

"In that case," said I, "the game is up, and the whole scheme
exploded. I would as soon undertake to evoke the ghost of Croesus."

"Dunshunner," said Bob very seriously, "to be a man of information,
you are possessed of marvellous few resources. I am quite ashamed of
you. Now listen to me. I have thought deeply upon this subject, and am
quite convinced that, with some little trouble, we may secure the co-
operation of a most wealthy and influential body--one, too, that is
generally supposed to have stood aloof from all speculation of the
kind, and whose name would be a tower of strength in the moneyed
quarters. I allude," continued Bob, reaching across for the kettle,
"to the great Dissenting Interest."

"The what?" cried I, aghast.

"The great Dissenting Interest. You can't have failed to observe the
row they have lately been making about Sunday travelling and
education. Old Sam Sawley, the coffin-maker, is their principal
spokesman here; and wherever he goes the rest will follow, like a
flock of sheep bounding after a patriarchal ram. I propose, therefore,
to wait upon him to-morrow, and request his co-operation in a scheme
which is not only to prove profitable, but to make head against the
lax principles of the present age. Leave me alone to tickle him. I
consider his name, and those of one or two others belonging to the
same meeting-house-fellows with bank-stock and all sorts of tin, as
perfectly secure. These dissenters smell a premium from an almost
incredible distance. We can fill up the rest of the committee with
ciphers, and the whole thing is done."

"But the engineer--we must announce such an officer as a matter of
course."

"I never thought of that," said Bob. "Couldn't we hire a fellow from
one of the steamboats?"

"I fear that might get us into trouble. You know there are such things
as gradients and sections to be prepared. But there's Watty Solder,
the gas-fitter, who failed the other day. He's a sort of civil
engineer by trade, and will jump at the proposal like a trout at the
tail of a May fly."

"Agreed. Now, then, let's fix the number of shares. This is our first
experiment, and I thing we ought to be moderate. No sound political
economist is avaricious. Let us say twelve thousand, at twenty pounds
a-piece."

"So be it."

"Well, then, that's arranged. I'll see Sawley and the rest to-morrow;
settle with Solder, and then write out the prospectus. You look in
upon me in the evening, and we'll revise it together. Now, by your
leave, let's have in the Welsh rabbit and another tumbler to drink
success and prosperity to the Glenniutchkin Railway."

I confess that, when I rose on the morrow, with a slight headache and
a tongue indifferently parched, I recalled to memory, not without
perturbation of conscience, and some internal qualms, the conversation
of the previous evening. I felt relieved, however, after two spoonfuls
of carbonate of soda, and a glance at the newspaper, wherein I
perceived the announcement of no less than four other schemes equally
preposterous with our own. But, after all, what right had I to assume
that the Glenmutchkin project would prove an ultimate failure? I had
not a scrap of statistical information that might entitle me to form
such an opinion. At any rate, Parliament, by substituting the Board of
Trade as an initiating body of inquiry, had created a responsible
tribunal, and freed us from the chance of obloquy. I saw before me a
vision of six months' steady gambling, at manifest advantage, in the
shares, before a report could possibly be pronounced, or our
proceedings be in any way overhauled. Of course I attended that
evening punctually at my friend M'Corkindale's. Bob was in high
feather; for Sawley no sooner heard of the principles upon which the
railway was to be conducted, and his own nomination as a director,
than he gave in his adhesion, and promised his unflinching support to
the uttermost. The Prospectus ran as follows:

DIRECT GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY In 12,000 Shares of 20 pounds each.
Deposit 1 pound per Share.

Provisional Committee SIR POLLOXFEN TREMENS, Bart. of Toddymains.
TAVISH MTAVISH of Invertavish. THE M'CLOSKIE. AUGUSTUS REGINALD
DUNSHUNNER, Esq., of St. Mirrens. SAMUEL SAWLEY, Esq., Merchant. MHIC-
MHAC-VICH-INDUIBH. PHELIM O'FINLAN, Esq., of Castle-rook, Ireland. THE
CAPTAIN of M'ALCOHOL. FACTOR for GLENTUMBLERS. JOHN JOB JOBSON, Esq.,
Manufacturer. EVAN M'CLAW of Glenscart and Inveryewky. JOSEPH HECKLES,
Esq. HABBAKUK GRABBIE, Portioner in Ramoth-Drumclog. Engineer--WALTER
SOLDER, Esq. Interim-Secretary--ROBERT M'CORKINDALE, Esq.

"The necessity of a direct line of Railway communication through the
fertile and populous district known as the valley of GLENMUTCHKIN, has
been long felt and universally acknowledged. Independently of the
surpassing grandeur of its mountain scenery, which shall immediately
be referred to, and other considerations of even greater importance,
GLENMUTCHKIN is known to the capitalist as the most important BREEDING
STATION in the Highlands of Scotland, and indeed as the great emporium
from which the southern markets are supplied. It has been calculated
by a most eminent authority, that every acre in the strath is capable
of rearing twenty head of cattle; and, as has been ascertained after a
careful admeasurement, that there are not less than TWO HUNDRED
THOUSAND improvable acres immediately contiguous to the proposed line
of Railway, it may confidently be assumed that the number of cattle to
be conveyed along the line will amount to FOUR MILLIONS annually,
which, at the lowest estimate, would yield a revenue larger, in
proportion to the capital subscribed, than that of any Railway as yet
completed within the United Kingdom. From this estimate the traffic in
Sheep and Goats, with which the mountains are literally covered, has
been carefully excluded, it having been found quite impossible (from
its extent) to compute the actual revenue to be drawn from that most
important branch. It may, however, be roughly assumed as from
seventeen to nineteen per cent upon the whole, after deduction of the
working expenses.

"The population of Glenmutchkin is extremely dense. Its situation on
the west coast has afforded it the means of direct communication with
America, of which for many years the inhabitants have actively availed
themselves. Indeed, the amount of exportation of live stock from this
part of the Highlands to the Western continent, has more than once
attracted the attention of Parliament. The Manufacturers are large and
comprehensive, and include the most famous distilleries in the world.
The Minerals are most abundant, and amongst these may be reckoned
quartz, porphyry, felspar, malachite, manganese, and basalt.

"At the foot of the valley, and close to the sea, lies the important
village known as the CLACHAN of INVERSTARVE. It is supposed by various
eminent antiquaries to have been the capital of the Picts, and,
amongst the busy inroads of commercial prosperity, it still retains
some interesting traces of its former grandeur. There is a large
fishing station here, to which vessels from every nation resort, and
the demand for foreign produce is daily and steadily increasing.

"As a sporting country Gleumutchkin is unrivalled; but it is by the
tourists that its beauties will most greedily be sought. These consist
of every combination which plastic nature can afford--cliffs of
unusual magnitude and grandeur--waterfalls only second to the sublime
cascades of Norway--woods, of which the bark is a remarkably valuable
commodity. It need scarcely be added, to rouse the enthusiasm
inseparable from this glorious glen, that here, in 1745, Prince
Charles Edward Stuart, then in the zenith of his hopes, was joined by
the brave Sir Grugar M'Grugar at the head of his devoted clan.

"The Railway will be twelve miles long, and can be completed within
six months after the Act of Parliament is obtained. The gradients are
easy, and the curves obtuse. There are no viaducts of any importance,
and only four tunnels along the whole length of the line. The shortest
of these does not exceed a mile and a half.

"In conclusion, the projectors of this Railway beg to state that they
have determined, as a principle, to set their face AGAINST ALL SUNDAY
TRAVELLING WHATSOEVER, and to oppose EVERY BILL which may hereafter be
brought into Parliament, unless it shall contain a clause to that
effect. It is also their intention to take up the cause of the poor
and neglected STOKER, for whose accommodation, and social, moral,
religious, and intellectual improvement, a large stock of evangelical
tracts will speedily be required. Tenders of these, in quantities of
not less than 12,ooo may be sent in to the Interim Secretary. Shares
must be applied for within ten days from the present date."

By order of the Provisional Committee.

ROBT. M'CORKINDALE, Secretary.

"There!" said Bob, slapping down the prospectus on the table, with the
jauntiness of a Cockney vouchsafing a Pint of Hermitage to his
guests--"What do you think of that? If it doesn't do the business
effectually, I shall submit to be caned a Dutchman. That last touch
about the stoker will bring us in the subscriptions of the old ladies
by the score."

"Very masterly, indeed?" said I. "But who the deuce is Mhic-Mhac-vich-
Induibh?"

"A bona-fide chief, I assure you, though a little reduced: I picked
him up upon the Broomielaw. His grandfather had an island somewhere to
the west of the Hebrides; but it is not laid down in the maps."

"And the Captain of M'Alcohol?"

"A crack distiller."

"And the Factor for Glentumblers?"

"His principal customer. But, bless you, my dear St. Mirrens! don't
bother yourself any more about the committee. They are as respectable
a set--on paper at least--as you would wish to see of a summer's
morning, and the beauty of it is that they will give us no manner of
trouble. Now about the allocation. You and I must restrict ourselves
to a couple of thousand shares a-piece. That's only a third of the
whole, but it won't do to be greedy."

"But, Bob, consider! Where on earth are we to find the money to pay up
the deposits?"

"Can you, the principal director of the Glemmutchkin Railway, ask me,
the secretary, such a question? Don't you know that any of the banks
will give us tick to the amount 'of half the deposits.' All that is
settled already, and you can get your two thousand pounds whenever you
please merely for the signing of a bill. Sawley must get a thousand
according to stipulation--Jobson, Heckles, and Grabbie, at least five
hundred a-piece, and another five hundred, I should think, will
exhaust the remaining means of the committee. So that, out of our
whole stock, there remain just five thousand shares to be allocated to
the speculative and evangelical public. My eyes! won't there be a
scramble for them!"

Next day our prospectus appeared in the newspapers. It was read,
canvassed, and generally approved of. During the afternoon, I took an
opportunity of looking into the Tontine, and whilst under shelter of
the Glasgow Herald, my ears were solaced with such ejaculations as the
following:--

"I say, Jimsy, hae ye seen this grand new prospectus for a railway tae
Glenmutchkin?"

"Ay--it looks no that ill. The Hieland lairds are pitting their best
fit foremost. Will ye apply for shares?"

"I think I'll tak' twa hundred. Wha's Sir Polloxfen Tremens?"

"He'll be yin o' the Ayrshire folk. He used to rin horses at the
Paisley races."

("The devil he did!" thought I.)

"D'ye ken ony o' the directors, Jimsy?"

"I ken Sawley fine. Ye may depend on't, it's a gude thing if he's
in't, for he's a howkin' body."

"Then it's sure to gae up. What prem. d'ye think it will bring?"

"Twa pund a share, and maybe mair."

"'0d, I'll apply for three hundred!"

"Heaven bless you, my dear countrymen!" thought I as I sallied forth
to refresh myself with a basin of soup, "do but maintain this liberal
and patriotic feeling-this thirst for national improvement, internal
communication, and premiums--a short while longer, and I know whose
fortune will be made."

On the following morning my breakfast-table was covered with shoals of
letters, from fellows whom I scarcely ever had spoken to--or who, to
use a franker phraseology, had scarcely ever condescended to speak to
me--entreating my influence as a director to obtain them shares in the
new undertaking. I never bore malice in my life, so I chalked them
down, without favouritism, for a certain proportion. Whilst engaged in
this charitable work, the door flew open, and M'Corkindale, looking
utterly haggard with excitement, rushed in.

"You may buy an estate whenever you please, Dunshunner," cried he,
"the world's gone perfectly mad! I have been to Blazes the broker, and
he tells me that the whole amount of the stock has been subscribed for
four times over already, and he has not yet got in the returns from
Edinburgh and Liverpool!"

"Are they good names though, Bob--sure cards--none of your M'Closkies,
and M'Alcohols?"

"The first names in the city, I assure you, and most of them holders
for investment. I wouldn't take ten millions for their capita."

"Then the sooner we close the list the better."

"I think so too. I suspect a rival company will be out before long.
Blazes says the shares are selling already conditionally on allotment,
at seven-and-sixpence premium."

"The deuce they are! I say, Bob, since we have the cards in our hands,
would it not be wise to favour them with a few hundred at that rate? A
bird in the hand, you know, is worth two in the bush, eh?"

"I know no such maxim in political economy," replied the secretary.
"Are you mad, Dunshunner? How are the shares ever to go up, if it gets
wind that the directors are selling already? Our business just now, is
to bull the line, not to bear it; and if you will trust me, I shall
show them such an operation on the ascending scale, as the Stock
Exchange has not witnessed for this long and many a day. Then, to-
morrow, I shall advertise in the papers that the committee, having
received applications for ten times the amount of stock, have been
compelled, unwillingly, to close the lists. That will be a slap in the
face to the dilatory gentlemen, and send up the shares like wildfire."

Bob was right. No sooner did the advertisement appear, than a
simultaneous groan was uttered by some hundreds of disappointed
speculators, who with unwonted and unnecessary caution had been
anxious to see their way a little before committing themselves to our
splendid enterprise. In consequence, they rushed into the market, with
intense anxiety to make what terms they could at the earliest stage,
and the seven-and-sixpence of premium was doubled in the course of a
forenoon.

The allocation passed over very peaceably. Sawley, Heckles, Jobson,
Grabbie, and the Captain of M'Alcohol, besides myself, attended, and
took part in the business. We were also threatened with the presence
of the M'Closkie and Vich-Induibh; but M'Corkindale, entertaining some
reasonable doubts as the effect which their corporeal appearance might
have upon the representatives of the dissenting interest, had taken
the precaution to get them snugly housed in a tavern, where an
unbounded supply of gratuitous Ferintosh deprived us of the benefit of
their experience. We, how ever, allotted them twenty shares a-piece.
Sir Polloxfen Tremens sent a handsome, though rather illegible letter
of apology, dated from an island in Lochlomond, where he was said to
be detained on particular business.

Mr. Sawley, who officiated as our chairman, was kind enough, before
parting, to pass a very flattering eulogium upon the excellence and
candour of all the preliminary arrangements. It would now, he said, go
forth to the public that this line was not, like some others he could
mention, a mere bubble, emanating from the stank of private interest,
but a solid, lasting superstructure, based upon the principles of
sound return for capital, and serious evangelical truth (hear, hear).
The time was fast approaching, when the gravestone, with the words
'HIC OBIIT' chiselled upon it, would be placed at the head of all the
other lines which rejected the grand opportunity of conveying
education to the stoker. The stoker, in his (Mr. Sawley's) opinion,
had a right to ask the an important question, "Am I not a man and a
brother?" (Cheers). Much had been said and written lately about a work
called Tracts for the Times. With the opinions contained in that
publication he was not conversant, as it was conducted by persons of
another community from that to which he (Mr. Sawley) had the privilege
to belong. But he hoped very soon, under the auspices of the
Glenmutchkin Railway Company, to see a new periodical established,
under the title of Tracts for the Trains. He never for a moment would
relax his efforts to knock a nail into the coffin, which, he might
say, was already made, and measured, and cloth-covered for the
reception of all establishments; and with these sentiments, and the
conviction that the shares must rise, could it be doubted that he
would remain a fast friend to the interests of this Company for ever?
(much cheering).

After having delivered this address, Mr. Sawley affectionately
squeezed the hands of his brother directors, leaving several of us
much overcome. As, however, M'Corkindale had told me that every one of
Sawley's shares had been disposed of in the market the day before, I
felt less compunction at having refused to allow that excellent man an
extra thousand beyond the amount he had applied for, not withstanding
of his broadest hints, and even private entreaties.

"Confound the greedy hypocrite!" said Bob; "does he think we shall let
him Burke the line for nothing? No-no! let him go to the brokers and
buy his shares back, if he thinks they are likely to rise. I'll be
bound he has made a cool five hundred out of them already."

On the day which succeeded the allocation, the following entry
appeared in the Glasgow share-lists. 'Direct Glentnutchkin Railway
15s. 15s. 6d. 15s. 6d. 16s. 15s. 6d. 16s. 16s. 6d. 16s. 6d. 16s. 17s.
18s. 18s. 19s. 6d. 21s. 21s. 22s. 6d. 24s. 25s. 6d. 27S. 29S. 29s. 6d.
30s. 31S. pm.'

"They might go higher, and they ought to go higher," said Bob
musingly; "but there's not much more stock to come and go upon, and
these two share-sharks, Jobson and Grabbie, I know, will be in the
market to-morrow. We must not let them have the whiphand of us. I
think upon the whole, Dunshunner, though it's letting them go dog
cheap, that we ought to sell half our shares at the present premium,
whilst there is a certainty of getting it."

"Why not sell the whole? I'm sure I have no objections to part with
every stiver of the scrip on such terms."

"Perhaps," said Bob, "upon general principles you might be right; but
then remember that we have a vested interest in the line.

"Vested interest be hanged!"

"That's very well--at the same time it is no use to kill your salmon
in a hurry. The bulls have done their work pretty wen for us, and we
ought to keep something on hand for the bears; they are snuffing at it
already. I could almost swear that some of those fellows who have sold
to-day are working for a time-bargain."

We accordingly got rid of a couple of thousand shares, the proceeds of
which not only enabled us to discharge the deposit loan, but left us a
material surplus. Under these circumstances, a two-hand banquet was
proposed and unanimously carried, the commencement of which I
distinctly remember, but am rather dubious as to the end. So many
stories have lately been circulated to the prejudice of railway
directors, that I think it my duty to state that this entertainment
was scrupulously defrayed by ourselves, and not carried to account,
either of the preliminary survey, or the expense of the provisional
committee.

Nothing effects so great a metamorphosis in the bearing of the outer
man as a sudden change of fortune. The anemone of the garden differs
scarcely more from its unpretending prototype of the Woods, than
Robert M'Corkindale, Esq., Secretary and Projector of the Glenmutchkin
Railway, differed from Bob M'Corkindale, the seedy frequenter of 'The
Crow'. In the days of yore, men eyed the surtout--napless at the
velvet collar, and preternaturally white at the seams--which Bob
vouchsafed to wear, with looks of dim suspicion, as if some faint
reminiscence, similar to that which is said to recall the memory of a
former state of existence, suggested to them a notion that the garment
had once been their own. Indeed, his whole appearance was then
wonderfully second-hand. Now he had cast his slough. A most undeniable
Taglioni, with trimmings just bordering upon frogs, gave dignity to
his demeanour and two--fold amplitude to his chest. The horn eyeglass
was exchanged for one of purest gold, the dingy high-lows for well-
waxed Wellingtons, the Paisley fogle for the fabric of the China loom.
Moreover, he walked with a swagger, and affected in common
conversation a peculiar dialect which he opined to be the purest
English, but which no one-except a bagman-could be reasonably expected
to understand. His pockets were invariably crammed with share-lists;
and he quoted, if he did not comprehend, the money article from the
Times. This sort of assumption, though very ludicrous in itself, goes
down wonderfully. Bob gradually became a sort of authority, and his
opinions got quoted on 'Change. He was no ass, notwithstanding his
peculiarities, and made good use of his opportunity.

For myself, I bore my new dignities with an air of modest meekness. A
certain degree of starchness is indispensable for a railway director,
if he means to go forward in his high calling and prosper; he must
abandon all juvenile eccentricities, and aim at the appearance of a
decided enemy to free trade in the article of Wild Oats. Accordingly,
as the first step towards respectability, I eschewed coloured
waistcoasts, and gave out that I was a marrying man. No man under
forty, unless he is a positive idiot, will stand forth as a
theoretical bachelor. It is all nonsense to say that there is anything
unpleasant in being courted. Attention, whether from male or female,
tickles the vanity; and although I have a reasonable, and I hope, not
unwholesome regard for the gratification of my other appetites, I
confess that this same vanity is by far the most poignant of the
whole. I therefore surrendered myself freely to the soft allurements
thrown in my way by such matronly denizens of Glasgow as were
possessed of stock in the shape of marriageable daughters; and walked
the more readily into their toils, because every party, though
nominally for the purposes of tea, wound up with a hot supper, and
something hotter still by way of assisting the digestion.

I don't know whether it was my determined conduct at the allocation,
my territorial title, or a most exaggerated idea of my circumstances,
that worked upon the mind of Mr. Sawley. Possibly it was a combination
of the three; but sure enough few days had elapsed before I received a
formal card of invitation to a tea and serious conversation. Now
serious conversation is a sort of thing that I never shone in,
possibly because my early studies were framed in a different
direction; but as I really was unwilling to offend the respectable
coffin-maker, and as I found that the Captain of M'Alcohol--a decided
trump in his way--had also received a summons, I notified my
acceptance.

M'Alcohol and I went together. The Captain, an enormous browny Celt,
with superhuman whiskers, and a shock of the fieriest hair, had figged
himself out, more majorum, in the full Highland costume. I never saw
Rob Roy on the stage look half so dignified or ferocious. He glittered
from head to foot, with dirk, pistol, and skean-dhu, and at least a
hundredweight of cairngorms cast a prismatic glory around his person.
I felt quite abashed beside him.

We were ushered into Mr. Sawley's drawing-room. Round the walls, and
at considerable distances from each other, were seated about a dozen
characters, male and female, all of them dressed in sable, and wearing
countenances of woe. Sawley advanced, and wrung me by the hand with so
piteous an expression of visage, that I could not help thinking some
awful catastrophe had just befallen his family.

"You are welcome, Mr. Dunshunner--welcome to my humble tabernacle. Let
me present you to Mrs. Sawley"--and a lady, who seemed to have bathed
in the Yellow Sea, rose from her seat, and favoured me with a profound
curtsy.

"My daughter--Miss Selina Sawley."

I felt in my brain the scorching glance of the two darkest eyes it
ever was my fortune to behold, as the beauteous Selina looked up from
the perusal of her handkerchief hem. It was a pity that the other
features were not corresponding; for the nose was flat, and the mouth
of such dimensions, that Harlequin might have jumped down it with
impunity--but the eyes were splendid.

In obedience to a sign from the hostess, I sank into a chair beside
Selina; and not knowing exactly what to say, hazarded some observation
about the weather.

"Yes, it is indeed a suggestive season. How deeply, Mr. Dunshunner, we
ought to feel the pensive progress of autumn towards a soft and
premature decay! I always think, about this time of the year, that
nature is falling into a consumption!"

"To be sure, ma'am," said I, rather taken aback by this style of
colloquy, "the trees are looking devilishly hectic."

"Ah, you have remarked that too! Strange! it was but yesterday that I
was wandering through Kelvin Grove, and as the phantom breeze brought
down the withered foliage from the spray, I thought how probable it
was that they might ere long rustle over young and glowing hearts
deposited prematurely in the tomb!"

This, which struck me as a very passable imitation of Dickens's
pathetic writings, was a poser. In default of language, I looked Miss
Sawley straight in the face, and attempted a substitute for a sigh. I
was rewarded with a tender glance.

"Ah!" said she, "I see you are a congenial spirit. How delightful, and
yet how rare it is to meet with any one who thinks in unison with
yourself! Do you ever walk in the Necropolis, Mr. Dunshunner? It is my
favourite haunt of a morning. There we can wean ourselves, as it were,
from life, and, beneath the melancholy yew and cypress, anticipate the
setting star. How often there have I seen the procession--the funeral
of some very, very little child"--

"Selina, my love," said Mrs. Sawley, "have the kindness to ring for
the cookies."

I, as in duty bound, started up to save the fair enthusiast the
trouble, and was not sorry to observe my seat immediately occupied by
a very cadaverous gentleman, who was evidently jealous of the progress
I was rapidly making. Sawley, with an air of great mystery, informed
me that this was a Mr. Dalgleish of Raxmathrapple, the representative
of an ancient Scottish family who claimed an important heritable
office. The name, I thought, was familiar to me, but there was
something in the appearance of Mr. Dalgleish which, notwithstanding
the smiles of Miss Selina, rendered a rivalship in that quarter
utterly out of the question.

I hate injustice, so let me do due honour in description to the Sawley
banquet. The tea-urn most literally corresponded to its name. The
table was decked out with divers platters, containing seed-cakes cut
into rhomboids, almond biscuits, and ratafia drops. Also, on the
sideboard, there were two salvers, each of which contained a
congregation of glasses, filled with port and sherry. The former
fluid, as I afterwards ascertained, was of the kind advertised as
'curious,' and proffered for sale at the reasonable rate of sixteen
shillings per dozen. The banquet, on the whole, was rather peculiar
than enticing; and, for the life of me, I could not divest myself of
the idea that the selfsame viands had figured, not long before, as
funeral refreshments at a dirige. No such suspicion seemed to cross
the mind of M'Alcohol, who hitherto had remained uneasily surveying
his nails in a corner, but at the first symptom of food started
forwards, and was in the act of making a clean sweep of the china,
when Sawley proposed the singular preliminary of a hymn.

The hymn was accordingly sung. I am thankful to say it was such a one
as I never heard before, or expect to hear again; and unless it was
composed by the Reverend Saunders Peden in an hour of paroxysm on the
moors, I cannot conjecture the author. After this original symphony,
tea was discussed, and after tea, to my amazement, more hot brandy-
and-water that I ever remember to have seen circulated at the most
convivial party. Of course this effected a radical change in the
spirits and coversation of the circle. It was again my lot to be
placed by the side of the fascinating Selina, whose sentimentality
gradually thawed away beneath the influence of sundry sips, which she
accepted with a delicate reluctance. This time Dalgleish of
Raxmathrapple had not the remotest chance. M'Alcohol got furious, sang
Gaelic songs, and even delivered a sermon in genuine Erse, without
incurring a rebuke; whilst, for my own part, I must needs confess that
I waxed unnecessarily amorous, and the last thing I recollect was the
pressure of Mr. Sawley's hand at the door, as he denominated me his
dear boy, and hoped I would soon come back and visit Mrs. Sawley and
Selina. The recollection of these passages next morning was the surest
antidote to my return.

Three weeks had elapsed, and still the Glenmutchkin Railway shares
were at a premium, though rather lower than when we sold. Our
engineer, Watty Solder, returned from his first survey of the line,
along with an assistant who really appeared to have some remote
glimmerings of the science and practice of mensuration. It seemed,
from a verbal report, that the line was actually practicable; and the
survey would have been completed in a very short time--"If," according
to the account of Solder, "there had been ae hoos in the glen. But
ever sin' the distillery stoppit--and that was twa year last
Martinmas--there wasna a hole whaur a Christian could lay his head,
muckle less get white sugar to his toddy, forbye the change-house at
the clachan; and the auld luckie that keepit it was sair forfochten
wi' the palsy, and maist in the dead-thraws. There was naebody else
living within twal miles o' the line, barring a tacksman, a lamiter,
and a bauldie."

We had some difficulty in preventing Mr. Solder from making this
report open and patent to the public, which premature disclosure might
have interfered materially with the preparation of our traffic tables,
not to mention the marketable value of the shares. We therefore kept
him steadily at work out of Glasgow, upon a very liberal allowance, to
which, apparently, he did not object.

"Dunshunner," said M'Corkindale to me one day, "I suspect that there
is something going on about our railway more than we are aware of.
Have you observed that the shares are preternaturally high just now?"

"So much the better. Let's sell."

"I did this morning--both yours and mine, at two pounds ten shillings
premium."

"The deuce you did! Then we're out of the whole concern."

"Not quite. If my suspicions are correct, there's a good deal more
money yet to be got from the speculation. Somebody has been bulling
the stock without orders; and, as they can have no information which
we are not perfectly up to, depend upon it, it is done for a purpose.
I suspect Sawley and his friends. They have never been quite happy
since the allocation; and I caught him yesterday pumping our broker in
the back shop. We'll see in a day or two. If they are beginning a
bearing operation, I know how to catch them."

And, in effect, the bearing operation commenced. Next day, heavy sales
were affected for delivery in three weeks; and the stock, as if
waterlogged, began to sink. The same thing continued for the following
two days, until the premium became nearly nominal. In the mean time,
Bob and I, in conjunction with two leading capitalists whom we let
into the secret, bought up steadily every share that was offered; and
at the end of a fortnight we found that we had purchased rather more
than double the amount of the whole original stock. Sawley and his
disciples, who, as M'Corkindale suspected, were at the bottom of the
whole transaction, having beared to their heart's content, now came
into the market to purchase, in order to redeem their engagements. The
following extracts from the weekly share-lists will show the results
of their endeavours to regain their lost position:---GLENMUTCHKIN
RAIL., 1 pound paid Sat. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Frid. Sat. and Monday
was the day of delivery.

I have no means of knowing in what frame of mind Mr. Sawley spent the
Sunday, or whether he had recourse for mental consolation to Peden;
but on Monday morning he presented himself at my door in full funeral
costume, with about a quarter of a mile of crape swathed round his
hat, black gloves, and a countenance infinitely more doleful than if
he had been attending the internment of his beloved wife.

"Walk in, Mr. Sawley," said I cheerfully. "What a long time it is
since I have had the pleasure of seeing you-too long indeed for
brother directors. How are Mrs. Sawley and Miss Selina--won't you take
a cup of coffee?"

"Grass, sir, grass!" said Mr. Sawley, with a sigh like the groan of a
furnace-bellows. "We are all flowers of the oven-weak, erring
creatures, every one of us. Ah! Mr. Dunshunner! you have been a great
stranger at Lykewake Terrace!"

"Take a muffin, Mr. Sawley. Anything new in the railway world?"

"Ah, my dear sir--my good Mr. Augustus Reginald--I wanted to have some
serious conversation with you on that very point. I am afraid there is
something far wrong indeed in the present state of our stock."

"Why, to be sure it is high; but that, you know, is a token of the
public confidence in the line. After all, the rise is nothing compared
to that of several English railways; and individually, I suppose,
neither of us have any reason to complain."

"I don't like it," said Sawley, watching me over the margin of his
coffee-cup. "I don't like it. It savours too much of gambling for a
man of my habits. Selina, who is a sensible girl, has serious qualms
on the subject."

"Then why not get out of it? I have no objection to run the risk, and
if you like to transact with me, I will pay you ready money for every
share you have at the present market price."

Sawley writhed uneasily in his chair.

"Will you sell me five hundred, Mr. Sawley? Say the word and it is a
bargain."

"A time bargain?" quavered the coffin-maker.

"No. Money down, and scrip handed over."

"I--I can't. The fact is, my dear friend, I have sold all my stock
already!"

"Then permit me to ask, Mr. Sawley, what possible objection you can
have to the present aspect of affairs? You do not surely suppose that
we are going to issue new shares and bring down the market, simply
because you have realised at a handsome premium?"

"A handsome premium! O Lord!" moaned Sawley.

"Why, what did you get for them?"

"Four, three, and two and a half."

"A very considerable profit indeed," said I; "and you ought to be
abundantly thankful. We shall talk this matter over at another time,
Mr. Sawley, but just now I must beg you to excuse me. I have a
particular engagement this morning with my broker-rather a heavy
transaction to settle--and so--"

"It's no use beating about the bush, any longer," said Mr. Sawley in
an excited tone, at the same time dashing down his crape-covered
castor on the floor. "Did you ever see a ruined man with a large
family? Look at me, Mr. Dunshunner--I'm one, and you've done it!"

"Mr. Sawley! are you in your senses?"

"That depends on circumstances. Haven't you been buying stock lately?"

"I am glad to say I have-two thousand Glenmutchkins, I think, and this
is the day of delivery."

"Well, then--can't you see how the matter stands? It was I who sold
them!"

"Well!"

"Mother of Moses, sir! don't you see I'm ruined?"

"By no means--but you must not swear. I pay over the money for your
scrip, and you pocket a premium. It seems to me a very simple
transaction."

"But I tell you I haven't got the scrip!" cried Sawley, gnashing his
teeth, whilst the cold beads of perspiration gathered largely on his
brow.

"This is very unfortunate! Have you lost it?" "No!--the devil tempted
me, and I oversold!"

There was a very long pause, during which I assumed an aspect of
serious and dignified rebuke.

"Is it possible?" said I in a low tone, after the manner of Kean's
offended fathers. "What! you, Mr. Sawley--the stoker's friend--the
enemy of gambling--the father of Selina--condescend to so equivocal a
transaction? You amaze me! But I never was the man to press heavily on
a friend"--here Sawley brightened up--"your secret is safe with me,
and it shall be your own fault if it reaches the ears of the Session.
Pay me over the difference at the present market price, and I release
you of your obligation."

"Then I'm in the Gazette, that's all," said Sawley doggedly, "and a
wife and nine beautiful babes upon the parish! I had hoped other
things from you, Mr. Dunshunner--I thought you and Selina--"

"Nonsense, man! Nobody goes into the Gazette just now--it will be time
enough when the general crash comes. Out with your cheque-book, and
write me an order for four-and-twenty thousand. Confound fractions! in
these days one can afford to be liberal."

"I haven't got it," said Sawley. "You have no idea how bad our trade
has been of late, for nobody seems to think of dying. I have not sold
a gross of coffins this fortnight. But I'll ten you what--I'll give
you five thousand down in cash, and ten thousand in shares--further I
can't go."

"Now, Mr. Sawley," said I, "I may be blamed by worldly-minded persons
for what I am going to do; but I am a man of principle, and feel
deeply for the situation of your amiable wife and family. I bear no
malice, though it is quite clear that you intended to make me the
sufferer. Pay me fifteen thousand over the counter, and we cry quits
for ever."

"Won't you take Camlachie Cemetery shares? They are sure to go up."

"No!"

"Twelve Hundred Cowcaddens' Water, with an issue of new stock next
week?"

"Not if they disseminated the Ganges!"

"A thousand Ramshorn Gas--four per cent guaranteed until the act?"

"Not if they promised twenty, and melted down the sun in their
retort!"

"Blawweary Iron? Best spec. going."

"No, I tell you once for all! If you don't like my offer--and it is an
uncommonly liberal one-say so, and I'll expose you this afternoon upon
'Change."

"Well, then--there's a cheque. But may the--"

"Stop, sir! Any such profane expressions, and I shall insist upon the
original bargain. So, then--now we're quits. I wish you a very good-
morning, Mr. Sawley, and better luck next time. Pray remember me to
your amiable family."

The door had hardly closed upon the discomfited coffin-maker, and I
was still in the preliminary steps of an extempore pas seul, intended
as the outward demonstration of exceedingly inward joy, when Bob
M'Corkindale entered. I told him the result of the morning's
conference.

"You have let him off too easily," said the Political Economist. "Had
I been his creditor, I certainly should have sacked the shares into
the bargain. There is nothing like rigid dealing between man and man."

"I am contented with moderate profits," said I; "besides, the image of
Selina overcame me. How goes it with Jobson and Grabbie?"

"Jobson has paid, and Grabbie compounded. Heckles--may he die an evil
death!--has repudiated, become a lame duck, and waddled; but no doubt
his estate will pay a dividend."

"So, then, we are clear of the whole Glenmutchkin business, and at a
handsome profit."

"A fair interest for the outlay of capital-nothing more. But I'm not
quite done with the concern yet."

"How so? not another bearing operation?"

"No; that cock would hardly fight. But you forget that I am secretary
of the company, and have a small account against them for services
already rendered. I must do what I can to carry the bill through
Parliament; and, as you have now sold your whole shares, I advise you
to resign from the direction, go down straight to Glenmutchkin, and
qualify yourself for a witness. We shall give you five guineas a-day,
and pay all your expenses."

"Not a bad notion. But what has become of M'Closkie, and the other
fellow with the jaw-breaking name?"

"Vich-Induibh? I have looked after their interests, and in duty bound,
sold their shares at a large premium, and despatched them to their
native hills on annuities."

"And Sir Polloxfen?"

"Died yesterday of spontaneous combustion."

As the company seemed breaking up, I thought I could not do better
than take M'Corkindale's hint, and accordingly betook myself to
Glenmutchkin, along with the Captain of M'Alcohol, and we quartered
ourselves upon the Factor for Glentumblers. We found Watty Solder very
shaky, and his assistant also lapsing into habits of painful
inebriety. We saw little of them except of an evening, for we shot and
fished the whole day, and made ourselves remarkably comfortable. By
singular good-luck, the plans and sections were lodged in time, and
the Board of Trade very handsomely reported in our favour, with a
recommendation of what they were pleased to call 'the Glenmutchkin
system,' and a hope that it might generally be carried out. What this
system was, I never clearly understood; but, of course, none of us had
any objections. This circumstance gave an additional impetus to the
shares, and they once more went up. I was, however too cautious to
plunge a second time into Charybdis, but M'Corkindale did, and again
emerged with plunder.

When the time came for the parliamentary contest, we all emigrated to
London. I still recollect, with lively satisfaction, the many pleasant
days we spent in the metropolis at the company's expense. There were
just a neat fifty of us, and we occupied the whole of an hotel. The
discussion before the committee was long and formidable. We were
opposed by four other companies who patronised lines, of which the
nearest was at least a hundred miles distant from Glenmutchkin; but as
they founded their opposition upon dissent from 'the Glenmutchkin
system' generally, the committee allowed them to be heard. We fought
for three weeks a most desperate battle, and might in the end have
been victorious, had not our last antagonist, at the very close of his
case, pointed out no less than seventy-three fatal errors in the
parliamentary plan deposited by the unfortunate Solder. Why this was
not done earlier, I never exactly understood; it may be, that our
opponents, with gentlemanly consideration, were unwilling to curtail
our sojourn in London--and their own. The drama was now finally
closed, and after all preliminary expenses were paid, sixpence per
share was returned to the holders upon surrender of their scrip. Such
is an accurate history of the Origin, Rise, Progress and Fall of the
Direct Glenmutchkin Railway. It contains a deep moral, if anybody has
sense enough to see it; if not, I have a new project in my eye for
next session, of which timely notice shall be given.



THE END



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