Story type: Essay
The subject of meals, lunch-counters, dining-cars and buffet-cars came up the other day, incidentally. I had ordered a little breakfast in the buffet-car, not so much because I expected to get anything, but because I liked to eat in a car and have all the other passengers glaring at me. I do not know which affords me the most pleasure–to sit for a photograph and be stabbed in the cerebellum with a cast-iron prong, to be fed in the presence of a mixed company of strangers, or to be called on without any preparation to make a farewell speech on the gallows.
However, I got my breakfast after awhile. The waiter was certainly the most worthless, trifling, half-asleep combination of Senegambian stupidity and poor white trash indolence and awkwardness that I ever saw. He brought in everything except what I wanted, and then wound up by upsetting the little cream pitcher in my lap. He did not charge for the cream. He threw that in.
So all the rest of the journey I was trying to eradicate a cream dado from my pantaloons. It made me mad, because those pantaloons were made for me by request Besides, I haven’t got pantaloons to squander in that way. To some a pair of pantaloons, more or less, is nothing, but it is much to me.
There was a porter on the same train who was much the same kind of furniture as the waiter. He slept days and made up berths all night. Truly, he began making up berths at Jersey City, and when he got through, about daylight, it was time to begin to unmake them again. All night long I could hear him opening and shutting the berths like a concertina. He sang softly to himself all night long:
“You must camp a little in the wilderness
And then we’ll all go home.”
He played his own accompaniment on the berths.
When in repose he was generally asleep with a whisk broom in one hand and the other hand extended with the palm up, waiting for a dividend to be declared.
He generally slept with his mouth open, so that you could read his inmost thoughts, and when I complained to him about the way my bunk felt, he said he was sorry, and wanted to know which cell I was in.
I rode, years ago, over a new stage line for several days. It was through an almost trackless wilderness, and the service hadn’t been “expedited” then. It was not a star route, anyhow. The government seemed to think that the man who managed the thing ought not to expect help so long as he had been such a fool asterisk it.
(Five minutes intermission for those who wish to be chloroformed.)
The stage consisted of a buckboard. It was one of the first buckboards ever made, and the horse was among the first turned out, also. The driver and myself were the passengers.
When it got to be about dinner time, I asked him if we were not pretty near the dinner station. He grunted. He hadn’t said a word since we started. He was a surly, morose and taciturn man. I was told that he had been disappointed in love. A half-breed woman named No-Wayno had led him to believe that she loved him, and that if it had not been for her husband she would gladly have been the driver’s bride. So the driver assassinated the disagreeable husband of No-Wayno. Then he went to the ranch to claim his bride, but she was not there. She had changed her mind, and married a cattle man, who had just moved on to the range with a government mule and a branding iron, intending to slowly work himself into the stock business.
So this driver was a melancholy man. He only made one remark to me during that long forty-mile drive through the wilderness. About dinner time he drove the horse under a quaking asp tree, tied a nose bag of oats over its head and took a wad of bread and bacon from his greasy pocket. The bacon and bread had little flakes of smoking tobacco all over it, because he carried his grub and tobacco in the same pocket. For a moment he introduced one corner of the bacon and bread in among his whiskers. Then he made the only remark that he uttered while we were together. He said:
“Pardner, dinner is now ready in the dining-car.”