The American House Of Lords by Christopher Morley

Story type: Essay

I am not a travelling salesman (except in so far as all men are) so I do not often travel in the Club Car. But when I do, irresistibly the thought comes that I have strayed into the American House of Lords. Unworthily I sit among our sovereign legislators, a trifle ill at ease mayhap. In the day coach I am at home with my peers–those who smoke cheap tobacco; who nurse fretful babies; who strew the hot plush with sandwich crumbs and lean throbbing foreheads against the window pane.

But the Club Car which swings so smoothly at the end of a limited train is a different place, pardee. It is not a hereditary chamber, but it is none the less the camera stellata of our prosperous carnivora. Patently these men are Lords. In two facing rows, averted from the landscape, condemned to an uneasy scrutiny of their mutual prosperity, they sit in leather chairs. They curve roundly from neck to groin. They are shaven to the raw, soberly clad, derby hatted, glossily booted. Always they smoke cigars, those strange, blunt cigars that are fatter at one end than at the other. Some (these I think are the very prosperous) wear shoes with fawn-coloured tops.

Is it strange then that I, an ill-clad and pipe-smoking traveller, am faintly uneasy in this House of Lords? I forget myself while reading poetry and drop my tobacco cinders on the rug, missing the little silver gourd that rests by my left foot. Straight the white-jacketed mulatto sucks them up with a vacuum cleaner and a deprecating air. I pass to the brass veranda at the end of the car for a bracing change of atmosphere. And returning, the attendant has removed my little pile of books which I left under my chair, and hidden them in his serving grotto. It costs me at least a whiskey and soda to get them out.

See also  Footprints on the Sea-Shore by Nathaniel Hawthorne

It means, I suppose, that I am not marked for success. I am cigarless and derbyless; I do not wear those funny little white margins inside my vest. My scarf is still the dear old shabby one in which I was married (I bought it at Rogers Peet’s, and I shall never forget it) and when I look up from Emily Dickinson’s poems with a trembling thrill of painful ecstasy, I am frightened by the long row of hard faces and cynic eyes opposite me.

The House of Lords disquiets me. Even if I ring a bell and order a bottle I am not happy. Is it only the swing of the car that nauseates me? At any rate, I want to get home–home to that star-sown meadow and the two brown arms at the journey’s end.

December, 1914.

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *