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shillings per quarter at the Bar of Lloyd's
Coffee-House in Lombard Street. Such
Gentlemen as are willing to encourage this
Undertaking, shall have them carefully
deliver'd according to their directions."


LATELY it was my duty to proceed to
Belgium on a mission, the nature of which
rendered it necessary that I should transmit
frequent despatches to London the instant
they were written. My avocations did not
commence, however, for a week after my
arrival, and meantime I had full leisure to
see how railways were managed in the Low
Countries: not by any means for the first time,
but with more care and closer scrutinyarising
from the business I had to undertakethan I
bestowed on such matters while travelling
merely for pleasure. There was at the time
a regular glut of English railway murders.
As sure as Galignani or The Times arrived,
there was a diurnal report of death and inquest.
Locomotives appeared to be eternally waiting
round corners to drop into antagonistic trains.
Ash-pans, and driving wheels, and connecting
gear were continually indulging in vagaries,
generally ending in the destruction of human
life; and when that mechanism failed, guards,
drivers, stokers, and pointsmen seemed to have
entered into a grand conspiracy for the
promotion of murder and its usual sequence,
suicide. It was enough, therefore, to make
the slow pace of the Belgian trains pardonable,
when it was seen how higher velocity
on the English railways was productive of
insecurity for life and limb. A vast proportion
of our countrymen have travelled over
these Belgian lines on their way to the Rhine
or to the glorious old city of Flanders. Nearly
every one is familiar with those smooth,
straight roads running between the everlasting
rows of poplar and ash, by fat rich meadows
and corn fieldsstriking through swampy
hollows, across black-looking canals or rivers
which seem to have very serious thoughts
of stopping in their course every moment, and
skirting by white villas with the uniform
vista opening between the trees to a fine view
of a duck-pond or towing-path, or huge towns
sleeping over the thoughts of their ancient
power and renown, and reposing quietly, like
tired giants, under the shadow of their noble
cathedrals. We are all familiar with the warlike
looking guardsall moustache, gold-lace,
and wonderful initial letters in embroidery
who blow their horns with military gusto to
give signal to the hairy engineers; and on
fĂȘte days we have been astonished to see a
chef de la station turn out in cocked hat, with
sword by his side, and spurs and tinsel
enough to emblazon a Lord Mayor's Marshalman.
We have grumbled over the change
of carriages, the constant inspection of tickets,
and the abstraction of our baggage to be
covered all over with little bits of yellow
tickets. Much, too, no doubt, have most of
us lamented over the disappearance of the
little counterfoils, the production of which
will alone enable us to effect a meeting
with our property, and denounced the
formalities of the authorities, which lead,
however, it must be confessed, to great security
in transmitting articles of value. But did
any of your gentle readers ever try to send a
parcel by rail? Were his or her temper as
placid as Patient Grisel's, it would be very soon
roused out of all gentleness; for, assuredly,
a system so tedious and annoying as that
which has been devised by the wisdom
of the Belgian State in that respect, never
drove men into petty treason against the
powers that be, and to the use of forcible,
but unseemly, expletives. For the guidance
and warning of my good countrymen, I will
give them a specimen of Belgian briskness,
by describing how, according to my
experience, they send parcels in that slow-going

In England it is usual, in certain cases, to
forward important despatches as parcels by
the fast trains instead of sending them
as letters, because the delays incidental
to the post-office are obviated, and a small
gratuity ensures a much earlier delivery
than if the despatch was put into a letterbox.
This, moreover, also leaves more
time to write before the departure of the

All that any person engaged in such business
as mine would have to do in England
would be, to book his parcel at the station a
few minutes before the train started. Acting
on the notion that things would be managed
much in the same way in Belgium, I repaired
about half-an-hour before the starting of the
evening train to the office, where I was horrified
to learn that my parcel could not be sent
by that despatch.

"Why?—am I not in time?"

"Certainly not! By the regulations, this
parcel ought to be here six hours before the
train starts; indeed, it is safer to have it
here a clear day before."

It was in vain that the nature and the
importance of the parcel was explained to the
chef du bureau. He stroked his moustaches,
and placidly appealed to the regulations.
So at last, I slunk back into town,
convinced of the superiority of the post in
Belgium, although there was still some
time to be saved if I could send off the
parcel by the early morning train, at six

In order to make all sure about the six hours'
law, I resolved to book my unlucky parcel
that night, and went accordingly to the office
to which I had been referred by the chef for
the conveyance of railway parcels. Imagine
my horror, on being politely told by the very
civil clerk in command, that it was quite
impossible to book it. I fear I had recourse to