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Travelling with a Reformer
by [?]

‘There, there, gentlemen, that won’t do. Put up the cards–it’s not allowed.’

The Major was shuffling. He continued to shuffle, and said:

‘By whose order is it forbidden?’

‘It’s my order. I forbid it.’

The dealing began. The Major asked:

‘Did you invent the idea?’

‘What idea?’

‘The idea of forbidding card-playing on Sunday.’

‘No–of course not.’

‘Who did?’

‘The company.’

‘Then it isn’t your order, after all, but the company’s. Is that it?’

‘Yes. But you don’t stop playing! I have to require you to stop playing immediately.’

‘Nothing is gained by hurry, and often much is lost. Who authorised the company to issue such an order?’

‘My dear sir, that is a matter of no consequence to me, and–‘

‘But you forget that you are not the only person concerned. It may be a matter of consequence to me. It is, indeed, a matter of very great importance to me. I cannot violate a legal requirement of my country without dishonouring myself; I cannot allow any man or corporation to hamper my liberties with illegal rules–a thing which railway companies are always trying to do–without dishonouring my citizenship. So I come back to that question: By whose authority has the company issued this order?’

‘I don’t know. That’s their affair.’

‘Mine, too. I doubt if the company has any right to issue such a rule. This road runs through several States. Do you know what State we are in now, and what its laws are in matters of this kind?’

‘Its laws do not concern me, but the company’s orders do. It is my duty to stop this game, gentlemen, and it must be stopped.’

‘Possibly; but still there is no hurry. In hotels they post certain rules in the rooms, but they always quote passages from the State law as authority for these requirements. I see nothing posted here of this sort. Please produce your authority and let us arrive at a decision, for you see yourself that you are marring the game.’

‘I have nothing of the kind, but I have my orders, and that is sufficient. They must be obeyed.’

‘Let us not jump to conclusions. It will be better all around to examine into the matter without heat or haste, and see just where we stand before either of us makes a mistake–for the curtailing of the liberties of a citizen of the United States is a much more serious matter than you and the railroads seem to think, and it cannot be done in my person until the curtailer proves his right to do so. Now–‘

‘My dear sir, will you put down those cards?’

‘All in good time, perhaps. It depends. You say this order must be obeyed. Must. It is a strong word. You see yourself how strong it is. A wise company would not arm you with so drastic an order as this, of course, without appointing a penalty for its infringement. Otherwise it runs the risk of being a dead letter and a thing to laugh at. What is the appointed penalty for an infringement of this law?’

‘Penalty? I never heard of any.’

‘Unquestionably you must be mistaken. Your company orders you to come here and rudely break up an innocent amusement, and furnishes you no way to enforce the order! Don’t you see that that is nonsense? What do you do when people refuse to obey this order? Do you take the cards away from them?’


‘Do you put the offender off at the next station?’

‘Well, no–of course we couldn’t if he had a ticket.’

‘Do you have him up before a court?’

The conductor was silent and apparently troubled. The Major started a new deal, and said:

‘You see that you are helpless, and that the company has placed you in a foolish position. You are furnished with an arrogant order, and you deliver it in a blustering way, and when you come to look into the matter you find you haven’t any way of enforcing obedience.’