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Mr. Holiday
by [?]

Mr. Holiday stepped upon the rear platform of his car, the Mishawaka, exactly two seconds before the express, with a series of faint, well-oiled jolts, began to crawl forward and issue from beneath the glass roof of the Grand Central into the damp, pelting snow. Mr. Holiday called the porter and told him for the good of his soul that fifty years ago travelling had not been the easy matter that it was to-day. This off his mind, he pulled an Evening Post from his pocket and dismissed the porter by beginning to read. He still wore his overcoat and high silk hat. These he would not remove until time had proved that the temperature of his car was properly regulated.

He became restless after a while and hurried to the forward compartment of the Mishawaka to see if all his trunks had been put on. He counted them over several times, and each time he came to the black trunk he sniffed and wrinkled up his nose indignantly. The black trunk was filled with the most ridiculous and expensive rubbish that he had ever been called upon to purchase. When his married daughters and his wife had learned, by “prying,” that he was going to New York on business, they had gathered about him with lists as long as his arm, and they had badgered him and pestered him until he had flown into a passion and snatched the lists and thrown them on the floor. But at that the ladies had looked such indignant, heart-broken daggers at him that, very ungraciously, it is true, and with language that made their sensibilities hop like peas in a pan, he had felt obliged to relent. He had gathered up the lists and stuffed them into his pocket, and had turned away with one bitter and awful phrase.

“Waste not, want not!” he had said.

He now glared and sniffed at the black trunk, and called for the porter.

“Do you know what’s in that trunk?” he said in a pettish, indignant voice. “It’s full of Christmas presents for my grandchildren. It’s got crocodiles in it and lions and Billy Possums and music-boxes and dolls and yachts and steam-engines and spiders and monkeys and doll’s furniture and china. It cost me seven hundred and forty-two dollars and nine cents to fill that trunk. Do you know where I wish it was?”

The porter did not know.

“I wish it was in Jericho!” said Mr. Holiday.

He fingered the brass knob of the door that led forward to the regular coaches, turned it presently, and closed it behind him.

His progress through the train resembled that of a mongoose turned loose in new quarters. Nothing escaped his prying scrutiny or love of petty information. If he came to a smoking compartment, he would thrust aside the curtain and peer in. If it contained not more than three persons, he would then enter, seat himself, and proceed to ask them personal questions. It was curious that people so seldom resented being questioned by Mr. Holiday; perhaps his evident sincerity in seeking for information accounted for this; perhaps the fact that he was famous, and that nearly everybody in the country knew him by sight. Perhaps it is impossible for a little gentleman of eighty, very smartly dressed, with a carnation in his buttonhole, to be impertinent. And then he took such immense and childish pleasure in the answers that he got, and sometimes wrote them down in his note-book, with comments, as:

“Got into conversation with a lady with a flat face. She gave me her age as forty-two. I should have said nearer sixty.

“Man of fifty tells me has had wart on nose for twenty-five years; has had it removed by electrolysis twice, but it persists. Tell him that I have never had a wart.”

Etc., etc.

He asked people their ages, whence they came, where they were going; what they did for a living; if they drank; if they smoked; if their parents were alive; what their beefsteak cost them a pound; what kind of underwear they wore; what church they attended; if they shaved themselves; if married; if single; the number of their children; why they did not have more children; how many trunks they had in the baggage-car; whether they had seen to it that their trunks were put on board, etc. Very young men sometimes gave him joking and sportive answers; but it did not take him long to catch such drifts, and he usually managed to crush their sponsors thoroughly. For he had the great white dignity of years upon his head; and the dignity of two or three hundred million dollars at his back.