A Day in Gunning, 1903; or, The Eloquent Grumblings of an Educated Man with a Gladstone Bag in Gunning
|"Sadly I clamber down and, gladstone in hand, go to the station to make enquiries". Photo by davidd/CC BY 2.0|
A DAY AT GUNNING: The railway people at Gunning are good citizens, and hospitable. Having once got the stranger within their gates, they are loth to let him depart, and so he gets misleading information regarding trains. At an hour when civilized beings still sleep-about 7 a.m. -I arise, dress, breakfast hurriedly, and hasten to catch a train which a too confident official had assured me would leave for Goulburn about 8 o'clock. A train is there, about to start, and I clamber hurriedly in. Alas for the vanity of human wishes! The guard tells me it goes to Wagga. To all my arguments he is deaf. I tell him that on the word of a railway official-and aught but truth is incompatible with such a man-a train leaves about eight for Goulburn. It is about eight ; here is a train ; so it must be leaving for Goulburn. This is logic ; but the guard knows nothing of the beauties of a well-drawn syllogism-the mysteries of the distributed or undistributed middle are to him a sealed book. His conclusion is not according to Aristotle, to Watts, or to Mill. His quite illogical conclusion is that the train is going to Wagga, and unless I wish to visit that delectable city I must get out. Sadly I clamber down and, gladstone in hand, go to the station to make enquiries. My soul is full of forebodings-my confidence in official infallibility is shaken. My worst fears are confirmed. There is no train : there never was any intention of having a train. Perhaps there will be one at five in the afternoon. With all the vigor of which I am capable I curse the officials severally and collectively, I curse the railway system and the commissioners, I curse the education system which neglected to teach the guard logic. Through the whole gamut I run, with remarkably little tautology. Then, casting down my bag, I depart to think out more curses.
Back to the hotel I wander, a light rain, followed by a heavier shower, hastening my steps. Rain is good for the country, but what about the unfortunate wretch, compelled by a dire fate, to put in the day at Gunning? I read-it is a new book by Mrs. Humphry Ward. It is all about men and women, but the want of logic in this guard has put me out of conceit with my fellow-men. And so I put the book in my pocket and wander forth. The rain has ceased and the sun shines fitfully through banks of clouds. The country round is beautiful. Hills, fairly wooded, of a vivid green when the sun shines, running to deep olive where the clouds cast their shadows. And in the midst of these hills lies Gunning, the slumberous town, awaiting the magic touch before it awakens. The sight is a beautiful one for those who love Nature in her choicer moods. But the stranger, forgotten by the arbiters of the destinies of man, fails to appreciate these beauties. What is the loveliness of smiling Nature to the man whose mind runs only on trains? Cursing the alluring spectacle, I call on the heathen deities, the gods of older days for help. As I pronounce the words of the great Phoebus Apollo, the god mockingly answers me, and from near at hand comes the tinkling of a passe piano played by an immature hand. And so I run back to the hotel and there forgather with an amiable stranger who invites me to drink. I accept-here at least is some relaxation. But the stranger is a man of affairs, and in vain I offer my kingdom if only he will stay to talk to me. He is obdurate, and again I call, now upon the younger deities. The only response is from the great god Ennui, who brings before my mind dream pictures of the days, now seeming so far off, before I came to Gunning, and contrasts that happy past with the miserable present. I wander down the street-scarce a human being in sight. A dog attracts my attention, he appears to be a cross between a fox terrier and a pug. This kills about five minutes, but the greater part of the day is yet in front. Then the gods, tired of the sport of persecuting their servant, graciously smile upon him. Their emissaries come to the rescue, he is borne off to other regions, and with Pangloss he cries, "all is for the best in this best of all possible good worlds." Not a bad place, Gunning.
|Picture from Project Gutenberg|
For those interested, the book mentioned by Mrs Humphry Ward from 1903 is Lady Rose's Daughter. You can read it for free at Project Gutenberg or it is available for purchase in various formats here.