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The moral of a story is the lesson we should take from it. Morals are usually connected with fables. The engineer has spent so much of his time idealizing the two women he has waved to from his train, he has a sense of urgency when he's finally going to meet them. Instead, he's greatly disappointed, feeling regret and foolishness that he has wasted his time. It even affects him physically, making him realize he's a weak, old man. "His heart, which had been brave and confident when it looked along the familiar vista of the rails, was now sick with doubt and horror." His idealistic vision of the women had given him happiness for so long, and now, with bitter disppointment, he realizes "that all the magic of that bright lost way, the vista of that shining line, the imagined corner of that small good universe of hope's desire, could never be got again."
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