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The Speculators

The night was stormy and dark, The town was shut up in
sleep: Only those were abroad who were out on a lark, Or
those who'd no beds to keep.

I pass'd through the lonely street, The wind did sing and
blow; I could hear the policeman's feet Clapping to and fro.

There stood a potato-man In the midst of all the wet; He
stood with his 'tato-can In the lonely Haymarket.

Two gents of dismal mien. And dark and greasy rags, Came
out of a shop for gin Swaggering over the flags:

Swaggering over the stones,
These snabby bucks did walk
And I went and followed those seedy ones,
And listened to their talk.

Was I sober or awake?
Could I believe my ears?
Those dismal beggars spake
Of nothing but railroad shares.

I wondered more and more:
Says one--"Good friend of mine,
How many shares have you wrote for
In the Diddlesee Junction line?"

"I wrote for twenty," says Jim,
"But they wouldn't give me one;"
His comrade straight rebuked him
For the folly he had done:

"O Jim, you are unawares
Of the ways of this bad town;
_I_ always write for five hundred shares,
And THEN they put me down."

"And yet you got no shares,"
Says Jim, "for all your boast;"
"I WOULD have wrote," says Jack, "but where
Was the penny to pay the post?"

"I lost, for I couldn't pay
That first instalment up;
But here's taters smoking hot--I say
Let's stop, my boy, and sup."

And at this simple feast
The while they did regale,
I drew each ragged capitalist
Down on my left thumb-nail.

Their talk did me perplex,
All night I tumbled and toss'd
And thought of railroad specs,
And how money was won and lost.

"Bless railroads everywhere,"
I said, "and the world's advance;
Bless every railroad share
In Italy, Ireland, France,

For never a beggar need now despair,
And every rogue has a chance."

William Makepeace Thackeray


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