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Travelling with a Reformer
by [?]

‘Yes, I see: but everybody wouldn’t have had your opportunity. It isn’t everybody that is on those familiar terms with the President of the Western Union.’

‘Oh, you misunderstand. I don’t know the President–I only use him diplomatically. It is for his good and for the public good. There’s no harm in it.’

I said with hesitation and diffidence:

‘But is it ever right or noble to tell a lie?’

He took no note of the delicate self-righteousness of the question, but answered with undisturbed gravity and simplicity:

‘Yes, sometimes. Lies told to injure a person and lies told to profit yourself are not justifiable, but lies told to help another person, and lies told in the public interest–oh, well, that is quite another matter. Anybody knows that. But never mind about the methods: you see the result. That youth is going to be useful now, and well-behaved. He had a good face. He was worth saving. Why, he was worth saving on his mother’s account if not his own. Of course, he has a mother–sisters, too. Damn these people who are always forgetting that! Do you know, I’ve never fought a duel in my life–never once–and yet have been challenged, like other people. I could always see the other man’s unoffending women folks or his little children standing between him and me. They hadn’t done anything–I couldn’t break their hearts, you know.’

He corrected a good many little abuses in the course of the day, and always without friction–always with a fine and dainty ‘diplomacy’ which left no sting behind; and he got such happiness and such contentment out of these performances that I was obliged to envy him his trade–and perhaps would have adopted it if I could have managed the necessary deflections from fact as confidently with my mouth as I believe I could with a pen, behind the shelter of print, after a little practice.

Away late that night we were coming up-town in a horse-car when three boisterous roughs got aboard, and began to fling hilarious obscenities and profanities right and left among the timid passengers, some of whom were women and children. Nobody resisted or retorted; the conductor tried soothing words and moral suasion, but the toughs only called him names and laughed at him. Very soon I saw that the Major realised that this was a matter which was in his line; evidently he was turning over his stock of diplomacy in his mind and getting ready. I felt that the first diplomatic remark he made in this place would bring down a landslide of ridicule upon him, and maybe something worse; but before I could whisper to him and check him he had begun, and it was too late. He said, in a level and dispassionate tone:

‘Conductor, you must put these swine out. I will help you.’

I was not looking for that. In a flash the three roughs plunged at him. But none of them arrived. He delivered three such blows as one could not expect to encounter outside the prize-ring, and neither of the men had life enough left in him to get up from where he fell. The Major dragged them out and threw them off the car, and we got under way again.

I was astonished: astonished to see a lamb act so; astonished at the strength displayed, and the clean and comprehensive result; astonished at the brisk and business-like style of the whole thing. The situation had a humorous side to it, considering how much I had been hearing about mild persuasion and gentle diplomacy all day from this pile-driver, and I would have liked to call his attention to that feature and do some sarcasms about it; but when I looked at him I saw that it would be of no use–his placid and contented face had no ray of humour in it; he would not have understood. When we left the car, I said: