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Travelling with a Reformer
by [?]

Then he quoted with admiration the conduct of a certain division superintendent of the Consolidated road, in a case where a switchman of two years’ experience was negligent once and threw a train off the track and killed several people. Citizens came in a passion to urge the man’s dismissal, but the superintendent said:

‘No, you are wrong. He has learned his lesson, he will throw no more trains off the track. He is twice as valuable as he was before. I shall keep him.’

We had only one more adventure on the train. Between Hartford and Springfield the train-boy came shouting with an armful of literature, and dropped a sample into a slumbering gentleman’s lap, and the man woke up with a start. He was very angry, and he and a couple of friends discussed the outrage with much heat. They sent for the parlour-car conductor and described the matter, and were determined to have the boy expelled from his situation. The three complainants were wealthy Holyoke merchants, and it was evident that the conductor stood in some awe of them. He tried to pacify them, and explained that the boy was not under his authority, but under that of one of the news companies; but he accomplished nothing.

Then the Major volunteered some testimony for the defence. He said:

‘I saw it all. You gentlemen have not meant to exaggerate the circumstances, but still that is what you have done. The boy has done nothing more than all train-boys do. If you want to get his ways softened down and his manners reformed, I am with you and ready to help, but it isn’t fair to get him discharged without giving him a chance.’

But they were angry, and would hear of no compromise. They were well acquainted with the President of the Boston and Albany, they said, and would put everything aside next day and go up to Boston and fix that boy.

The Major said he would be on hand too, and would do what he could to save the boy. One of the gentlemen looked him over and said:

‘Apparently it is going to be a matter of who can wield the most influence with the President. Do you know Mr. Bliss personally?’

The Major said, with composure:

‘Yes; he is my uncle.’

The effect was satisfactory. There was an awkward silence for a minute or more; then the hedging and the half-confessions of over-haste and exaggerated resentment began, and soon everything was smooth and friendly and sociable, and it was resolved to drop the matter and leave the boy’s bread and butter unmolested.

It turned out as I had expected: the President of the road was not the Major’s uncle at all–except by adoption, and for this day and train only.

We got into no episodes on the return journey. Probably it was because we took a night train and slept all the way.

We left New York Saturday night by the Pennsylvania road. After breakfast the next morning we went into the parlour-car, but found it a dull place and dreary. There were but few people in it and nothing going on. Then we went into the little smoking compartment of the same car and found three gentlemen in there. Two of them were grumbling over one of the rules of the road–a rule which forbade card-playing on the trains on Sunday. They had started an innocent game of high-low-jack and had been stopped. The Major was interested. He said to the third gentleman:

‘Did you object to the game?’

‘Not at all. I am a Yale professor and a religious man, but my prejudices are not extensive.’

Then the Major said to the others:

‘You are at perfect liberty to resume your game, gentlemen; no one here objects.’

One of them declined the risk, but the other one said he would like to begin again if the Major would join him. So they spread an overcoat over their knees and the game proceeded. Pretty soon the parlour-car conductor arrived, and said, brusquely: