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Railroad Wars
by [?]

It had been said in the papers for some time that rate-cutting was going on in San Francisco, and this made me hurry down not to lose the opportunity. The morning after my arrival I walked into an office in Kearney Street and said briefly, “What are you doing to New York?” The clerk said in a business way, “Seventy-two dollars.” I laughed a little and looked at him straight without speaking. “Hum,” said he; “well, you can go for sixty-five.” “Thanks,” I said, “it isn’t enough.” I walked out, and though he called me back I would not return. Then I went to Mr P., a well-known agent for railroads and steamships. To use a vulgarism, he did not open his mouth so wide as the other, but at once offered me a through ticket to Liverpool for $72. I thanked him and said I would call again. Deducting the $12 for a steerage passage, his railroad fare was $60. So far I had knocked off 12. And now it began to rain very hard. It did not cease all day. And my day’s work was only begun, for it was only ten o’clock then. I went from one office to another, quoting one’s rates here and another’s there, and slowly I dropped the fare to fifty. I had to explain to some of these men that I was not a fool, and that I knew what I was doing; that if they took me for a “tenderfoot,” or a “sucker,” they were mistaken. My explanations always had an effect, and down the fare tumbled. At last, about three o’clock, I had got things to a very fine point, and was working two rival offices which stood side by side near the Palace Hotel. One man–Mr A., whom I knew by name, who indeed knew a friend of mine–offered me $45. I shook my head, and going next door, Mr V. made it a dollar less. It took me half-an-hour to reduce that again to forty-three; but at last Mr A., who was as much interested in this little game as if I were a big stake at poker, went suddenly down to $41. I offered to toss him whether it should be $40 or $42. He accepted, and I won the toss. As he made out the ticket, he remarked, almost sadly, “We don’t make anything out of this.” But he cheered up, and added, “Well, the others don’t either.” So I got my ticket; and it was over one of the best lines. By that day’s work, though I got wet through, covered with mud, and very tired, I saved $32.

When on board the east-bound train next day I got talking with some dozen men who were going east with me, and, naturally enough, we asked each other what fares we had paid, I found they varied greatly, but the average was about $60. One little Jew, a tobacconist, was very proud that his only cost $48. He almost wept when I told him that I beat him by eight whole dollars. Moreover, I reached New York twenty hours before him, for when we parted at Chicago we made arrangements to meet in New York, and then I found that he had been obliged to round into Canada, and lie over all one night, while I had come direct on the Chicago and Alton with only two hours’ wait at Lima; so on the whole I did not think I did very badly.