THE COMMECIAL ADONIS
Joys by the Way That Enliven the Drummer’s Life on the Road
He was in the seat in front of me reading a yellow book that had been loaned to him by the train boy. He knew the train boy, and seemed to know most of the people at the stations. When the train stopped he would raise the window, push out his head and yell at the agent or operator. They would respond with hearty surprise and joyous profanity. It was at Pegasus, I believe, where the operator came out and shook hands through the window.
“Know any new stories, mac?” he asked.
“Say, I’ve got a bird, but it’s too long to tell now. I’m goin’ to the house to spend Sunday, but I make you some time next week. How’s the fairy?”
“She was askin’ for you at the house yesterday.”
“I’m givin’ it to you straight.”
Then it was at Mount Carmel where he leaned out of the coach as we drew up to the squatty station and waved his hand at a white-aproned figure in a window of the occidental hotel across the street. She did not seem to recognize him until the train had started, and then her response was frantic. She shook a pillowcase at the retreating train and motioned for some one to come. Just as the view was shut by a red elevator I saw two capped heads hanging from the window.
At the second stop after that, while the man in front was getting deep into the chapters of his book, a girl with one of those flat, masculine hats, and a feather boa came tripping down the aisle. Her brown hair was lifted into defiant curls, and she chewed gum with serious vigor and a lateral motion of the jaw. She caught the eye of the traveling man, who immediately dropped his book and straightened up in the seat to make room for her.
Said he: “Hello, Min! Which way?”
“Why, hod-do-Mac? Why, I’m goin’ to Frankfort. How air ye, anyway?”
“Oh, so so; how are you comin’ on?”
“Oh, all right. Y’ain’t been to Flory for a long spell, have ye?”
“That’s right. Aw, I quit makin’ these whistling posts. They ain’t no business in my lien there. An’ say, that’s the bummest hotel old Sanders keeps I ever see.”
“Well, I should say so. Say, I had a kick comin’ six months before I quit puttin’ up there. Say, he had the freshest lot o’ dinin’ room girls I ever see. You knew Kate Mahaffy?”
“Well, say, Min, honestgawd, one day I seen her set a plate of soup down in front of that little feller that sells notions out o’ Terry Hut, an’ one of her hairpins dropped into the soup. He kicked like a steer, and what d’ye think? Kate up and says to his nibs: ‘Wire noodles to-day, mister; no extra charge.’ What d’ye think of that, eh?” Got her nerve with her?”
“That’s right,” responded Min, without relapsing her busy features.
When the train stopped at Frankfort, she flounced down the aisle, calling back, “S’long, Mac; take keer of yourself.”
“Good by, Min; you do the same.”
“Don’t get killed on the cars and spile your beauty,” she said to him after she had reached the platform, and he had again raised the window.
“Ha, ha! That’s right,” laughed Mac.
As the conductor came along for the tickets he gravely winked at the man in front. The brakeman went through with a red flag and he stopped to say something about a “bute.” The train boy, when he came for his book, grinned exceedingly, but failed to learn her name.
As the train came to a stop in the pretentious little city at the end of the run, I saw the man who had been sitting in front gather up two telescope grips and join a little woman in black, whom he kissed rapturously.
“Great Scott!” said I to the friendly brakeman, “he has one in every town.”
“No,” he replied, “that’s his wife.”
Dallas [TX] Morning News 10 January 1893: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a sprightly slice of Americana is this little account! One can only admire the drummer’s stamina and hope that he is never, like the travelling salesman in the smoking-room stories, caught with the farmer’s daughter.