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Travelling with a Reformer
by [?]

‘It’s the best we can do–we can’t do impossibilities. You will take the section or go without. A mistake has been made and can’t be rectified at this late hour. It’s a thing that happens now and then, and there is nothing for it but to put up with it and make the best of it. Other people do.’

‘Ah, that is just it, you see. If they had stuck to their rights and enforced them you wouldn’t be trying to trample mine underfoot in this bland way now. I haven’t any disposition to give you unnecessary trouble, but it is my duty to protect the next man from this kind of imposition. So I must have my car. Otherwise I will wait in Chicago and sue the company for violating its contract.’

‘Sue the company?–for a thing like that!’


‘Do you really mean that?’

‘Indeed, I do.’

The conductor looked the Major over wonderingly, and then said:

‘It beats me–it’s bran-new–I’ve never struck the mate to it before. But I swear I think you’d do it. Look here, I’ll send for the station- master.’

When the station-master came he was a good deal annoyed–at the Major, not at the person who had made the mistake. He was rather brusque, and took the same position which the conductor had taken in the beginning; but he failed to move the soft-spoken artilleryman, who still insisted that he must have his car. However, it was plain that there was only one strong side in this case, and that that side was the Major’s. The station-master banished his annoyed manner, and became pleasant and even half-apologetic. This made a good opening for a compromise, and the Major made a concession. He said he would give up the engaged state- room, but he must have a state-room. After a deal of ransacking, one was found whose owner was persuadable; he exchanged it for our section, and we got away at last. The conductor called on us in the evening, and was kind and courteous and obliging, and we had a long talk and got to be good friends. He said he wished the public would make trouble oftener– it would have a good effect. He said that the railroads could not be expected to do their whole duty by the traveller unless the traveller would take some interest in the matter himself.

I hoped that we were done reforming for the trip now, but it was not so. In the hotel car, in the morning, the Major called for broiled chicken. The waiter said:

‘It’s not in the bill of fare, sir; we do not serve anything but what is in the bill.’

‘That gentleman yonder is eating a broiled chicken.’

‘Yes, but that is different. He is one of the superintendents of the road.’

‘Then all the more must I have broiled chicken. I do not like these discriminations. Please hurry–bring me a broiled chicken.’

The waiter brought the steward, who explained in a low and polite voice that the thing was impossible–it was against the rule, and the rule was rigid.

‘Very well, then, you must either apply it impartially or break it impartially. You must take that gentleman’s chicken away from him or bring me one.’

The steward was puzzled, and did not quite know what to do. He began an incoherent argument, but the conductor came along just then, and asked what the difficulty was. The steward explained that here was a gentleman who was insisting on having a chicken when it was dead against the rule and not in the bill. The conductor said:

‘Stick by your rules–you haven’t any option. Wait a moment–is this the gentleman?’ Then he laughed and said: ‘Never mind your rules–it’s my advice, and sound: give him anything he wants–don’t get him started on his rights. Give him whatever he asks for; and it you haven’t got it, stop the train and get it.’

The Major ate the chicken, but said he did it from a sense of duty and to establish a principle, for he did not like chicken.

I missed the Fair it is true, but I picked up some diplomatic tricks which I and the reader may find handy and useful as we go along.