One day last summer I went to Pittsburgh--well, I had to go there on
My chair-car was profitably well filled with people of the kind one
usually sees on chair-cars. Most of them were ladies in brown-silk
dresses cut with square yokes, with lace insertion, and dotted veils,
who refused to have the windows raised. Then there was the usual
number of men who looked as if they might be in almost any business
and going almost anywhere. Some students of human nature can look at
a man in a Pullman and tell you where he is from, his occupation and
his stations in life, both flag and social; but I never could. The
only way I can correctly judge a fellow-traveller is when the train is
held up by robbers, or when he reaches at the same time I do for the
last towel in the dressing-room of the sleeper.
The porter came and brushed the collection of soot on the window-sill
off to the left knee of my trousers. I removed it with an air of
apology. The temperature was eighty-eight. One of the dotted-veiled
ladies demanded the closing of two more ventilators, and spoke loudly
of Interlaken. I leaned back idly in chair No. 7, and looked with
the tepidest curiosity at the small, black, bald-spotted head just
visible above the back of No. 9.
Suddenly No. 9 hurled a book to the floor between his chair and the
window, and, looking, I saw that it was The Rose-Lady and Trevelyan,
one of the best-selling novels of the present day. And then the
critic or Philistine, whichever he was, veered his chair toward the
window, and I knew him at once for John A. Pescud, of Pittsburgh,
travelling salesman for a plate-glass company--an old acquaintance
whom I had not seen in two years.
In two minutes we were faced, had shaken hands, and had finished with
such topics as rain, prosperity, health, residence, and destination.
Politics might have followed next; but I was not so ill-fated.
I wish you might know John A. Pescud. He is of the stuff that heroes
are not often lucky enough to be made of. He is a small man with a
wide smile, and an eye that seems to be fixed upon that little red
spot on the end of your nose. I never saw him wear but one kind of
necktie, and he believes in cuff-holders and button-shoes. He is as
hard and true as anything ever turned out by the Cambria Steel Works;
and he believes that as soon as Pittsburgh makes smoke-consumers
compulsory, St. Peter will come down and sit at the foot of
Smithfield Street, and let somebody else attend to the gate up in the
branch heaven. He believes that "our" plate-glass is the most
important commodity in the world, and that when a man is in his home
town he ought to be decent and law-abiding.
During my acquaintance with him in the City of Diurnal Night I had
never known his views on life, romance, literature, and ethics. We
had browsed, during our meetings, on local topics, and then parted,
after Chateau Margaux, Irish stew, flannel-cakes, cottage-pudding, and
coffee (hey, there!--with milk separate). Now I was to get more of
his ideas. By way of facts, he told me that business had picked up
since the party conventions, and that he was going to get off at
"Say," said Pescud, stirring his discarded book with the toe of his
right shoe, "did you ever read one of these best-sellers? I mean the
kind where the hero is an American swell--sometimes even from Chicago-
-who falls in love with a royal princess from Europe who is travelling
under an alias, and follows her to her father's kingdom or
principality? I guess you have. They're all alike. Sometimes this
going-away masher is a Washington newspaper correspondent, and
sometimes he is a Van Something from New York, or a Chicago wheat-
broker worthy fifty millions. But he's always ready to break into the
king row of any foreign country that sends over their queens and
princesses to try the new plush seats on the Big Four or the B. and
0. There doesn't seem to be any other reason in the book for their
"Well, this fellow chases the royal chair-warmer home, as I said, and
finds out who she is. He meets here on the corso or the strasse one
evening and gives us ten pages of conversation. She reminds him of
the difference in their stations, and that gives him a chance to ring
in three solid pages about America's uncrowned sovereigns. If you'd
take his remarks and set 'em to music, and then take the music away
from 'em, they'd sound exactly like one of George Cohan's songs.
"Well, you know how it runs on, if you ve read any of 'em--he slaps
the king's Swiss body-guards around like everything whenever they get
in his way. He's a great fencer, too. Now, I've known of some
Chicago men who were pretty notorious fences, but I never heard of any
fencers coming from there. He stands on the first landing of the
royal staircase in Castle Schutzenfestenstein with a gleaming rapier
in his hand, and makes a Baltimore broil of six platoons of traitors
who come to massacre the said king. And then he has to fight duels
with a couple of chancellors, and foil a plot by four Austrian
archdukes to seize the kingdom for a gasoline-station.
"But the great scene is when his rival for the princess' hand, Count
Feodor, attacks him between the portcullis and the ruined chapel,
armed with a mitrailleuse, a yataghan, and a couple of Siberian
bloodhounds. This scene is what runs the best-seller into the twenty-
ninth edition before the publisher has had time to draw a check for
the advance royalties.
"The American hero shucks his coat and throws it over the heads of the
bloodhounds, gives the mitrailleuse a slap with his mitt, says 'Yah!'
to the yataghan, and lands in Kid McCoy's best style on the count's
left eye. Of course, we have a neat little prize-fight right then and
there. The count--in order to make the go possible--seems to be an
expert at the art of self-defence, himself; and here we have the
Corbett-Sullivan fight done over into literature. The book ends with
the broker and the princess doing a John Cecil Clay cover under the
linden-trees on the Gorgonzola Walk. That winds up the love-story
plenty good enough. But I notice that the book dodges the final
issue. Even a best-seller has sense enough to shy at either leaving a
Chicago grain broker on the throne of Lobsterpotsdam or bringing over
a real princess to eat fish and potato salad in an Italian chalet on
Michigan Avenue. What do you think about 'em?"
"Why," said I, "I hardly know, John. There's a saying: 'Love levels
all ranks,' you know."
"Yes," said Pescud, "but these kind of love-stories are rank--on the
level. I know something about literature, even if I am in plate-
glass. These kind of books are wrong, and yet I never go into a train
but what they pile 'em up on me. No good can come out of an
international clinch between the Old-World aristocracy and one of us
fresh Americans. When people in real life marry, they generally hunt
up somebody in their own station. A fellow usually picks out a girl
that went to the same high-school and belonged to the same singing-
society that he did. When young millionaires fall in love, they
always select the chorus-girl that likes the same kind of sauce on the
lobster that he does. Washington newspaper correspondents always many
widow ladies ten years older than themselves who keep boarding-houses.
No, sir, you can't make a novel sound right to me when it makes one of
C. D. Gibson's bright young men go abroad and turn kingdoms upside
down just because he's a Taft American aud took a course at a
gymnasium. And listen how they talk, too!"
Pescud picked up the best-seller and hunted his page.
"Listen at this," said he. "Trevelyan is chinning with the Princess
Alwyna at the back end of the tulip-garden. This is how it goes:
"'Say not so, dearest and sweetest of earth's fairest flowers. Would
I aspire? You are a star set high above me in a royal heaven; I am
only--myself. Yet I am a man, and I have a heart to do and dare. I
have no title save that of an uncrowned sovereign; but I have an arm
and a sword that yet might free Schutzenfestenstein from the plots of
"Think of a Chicago man packing a sword, and talking about freeing
anything that sounded as much like canned pork as that! He'd be much
more likely to fight to have an import duty put on it."
"I think I understand you, John," said I. "You want fiction-writers
to be consistent with their scenes and characters. They shouldn't mix
Turkish pashas with Vermont farmers, or English dukes with Long Island
clam-diggers, or Italian countesses with Montana cowboys, or
Cincinnati brewery agents with the rajahs of India."
"Or plain business men with aristocracy high above 'em," added Pescud.
"It don't jibe. People are divided into classes, whether we admit it
or not, and it's everybody's impulse to stick to their own class.
They do it, too. I don't see why people go to work and buy hundreds
of thousands of books like that. You don't see or hear of any such
didoes and capers in real life."
"Well, John," said I, "I haven't read a best-seller in a long time.
Maybe I've had notions about them somewhat like yours. But tell me
more about yourself. Getting along all right with the company?"
"Bully," said Pescud, brightening at once. "I've had my salary raised
twice since I saw you, and I get a commission, too. I've bought a
neat slice of real estate out in the East End, and have run up a house
on it. Next year the firm is going to sell me some shares of stock.
Oh, I'm in on the line of General Prosperity, no matter who's
"Met your affinity yet, John?" I asked.
"Oh, I didn't tell you about that, did I?" said Pescud with a broader
"0-ho!" I said. "So you've taken time enough off from your plate-
glass to have a romance?"
"No, no," said John. "No romance--nothing like that! But I'll tell
you about it.
"I was on the south-bound, going to Cincinnati, about eighteen months
ago, when I saw, across the aisle, the finest-looking girl I'd ever
laid eyes on. Nothing spectacular, you know, but just the sort you
want for keeps. Well, I never was up to the flirtation business,
either handkerchief, automobile, postage-stamp, or door-step, and she
wasn't the kind to start anything. She read a book and minded her
business, which was to make the world prettier and better just by
residing on it. I kept on looking out of the side doors of my eyes,
and finally the proposition got out of the Pullman class into a case
of a cottage with a lawn and vines running over the porch. I never
thought of speaking to her, but I let the plate-glass business go to
smash for a while.
"She changed cars at Cincinnati, and took a sleeper to Louisville over
the L. and N. There she bought another ticket, and went on through
Shelbyville, Frankfort, and Lexington. Along there I began to have a
hard time keeping up with her. The trains came along when they
pleased, and didn't seem to be going anywhere in particular, except to
keep on the track and the right of way as much as possible. Then they
began to stop at junctions instead of towns, and at last they stopped
altogether. I'll bet Pinkerton would outbid the plate-glass people
for my services any time if they knew how I managed to shadow that
young lady. I contrived to keep out of her sight as much as I could,
but I never lost track of her.
"The last station she got off at was away down in Virginia, about six
in the afternoon. There were about fifty houses and four hundred
niggers in sight. The rest was red mud, mules, and speckled hounds.
"A tall old man, with a smooth face and white hair, looking as proud
as Julius Caesar and Roscoe Conkling on the same post-card, was there
to meet her. His clothcs were frazzled, but I didn't notice that till
later. He took her little satchel, and they started over the plank-
walks and went up a road along the hill. I kept along a piece behind
'em, trying to look like I was hunting a garnet ring in the sand that
my sister had lost at a picnic the previous Saturday.
"They went in a gate on top of the hill. It nearly took my breath
away when I looked up. Up there in the biggest grove I ever saw was a
tremendous house with round white pillars about a thousand feet high,
and the yard was so full of rose-bushes and box-bushes and lilacs that
you couldn't have seen the house if it hadn't been as big as the
Capitol at Washington.
"'Here's where I have to trail,' says I to myself. "I thought before
that she seemed to be in moderate circumstances, at least. This must
be the Governor's mansion, or the Agricultural Building of a new
World's Fair, anyhow. I'd better go back to the village and get
posted by the postmaster, or drug the druggist for some information.
"In the village I found a pine hotel called the Bay View House. The
only excuse for the name was a bay horse grazing in the front yard. I
set my sample-case down, and tried to be ostensible. I told the
landlord I was taking orders for plate-glass.
"'I don't want no plates,' says he, 'but I do need another glass
"By-and-by I got him down to local gossip and answering questions.
"'Why,' says he, 'I thought everybody knowed who lived in the big
white house on the hill. It's Colonel Allyn, the biggest man and the
finest quality in Virginia, or anywhere else. They're the oldest
family in the State. That was his daughter that got off the train.
She's been up to Illinois to see her aunt, who is sick.'
"I registered at the hotel, and on the third day I caught the young
lady walking in the front yard, down next to the paling fence. I
stopped and raised my hat--there wasn't any other way.
"'Excuse me,' says I, 'can you tell me where Mr. Hinkle lives?'
"She looks at me as cool as if I was the man come to see about the
weeding of the garden, but I thought I saw just a slight twinkle of
fun in her eyes.
"'No one of that name lives in Birchton,' says she. 'That is,' she
goes on, 'as far as I know. Is the gentleman you are seeking white?'
"Well, that tickled me. 'No kidding,' says I. 'I'm not looking for
smoke, even if I do come from Pittsburgh.'
"'You are quite a distance from home,' says she.
"'I'd have gone a thousand miles farther,' says I.
"'Not if you hadn't waked up when the train started in Shelbyville,'
says she; and then she turned almost as red as one of the roses on the
bushes in the yard. I remembered I had dropped off to sleep on a
bench in the Shelbyville station, waiting to see which train she took,
and only just managed to wake up in time.
"And then I told her why I had come, as respectful and earnest as I
could. And I told her everything about myself, and what I was making,
and how that all I asked was just to get acquainted with her and try
to get her to like me.
"She smiles a little, and blushes some, but her eyes never get mixed
up. They look straight at whatever she's talking to.
"'I never had any one talk like this to me before, Mr. Pescud,' says
she. 'What did you say your name is--John?'
"'John A.,' says I.
"'And you came mighty near missing the train at Powhatan Junction,
too,' says she, with a laugh that sounded as good as a mileage-book to
"'How did you know?' I asked.
"'Men are very clumsy,' said she. 'I knew you were on every train. I
thought you were going to speak to me, and I'm glad you didn't.'
"Then we had more talk; and at last a kind of proud, serious look came
on her face, and she turned and pointed a finger at the big house.
"'The Allyns,' says she, 'have lived in Elmcroft for a hundred years.
We are a proud family. Look at that mansion. It has fifty rooms.
See the pillars and porches and balconies. The ceilings in the
reception-rooms and the ball-room are twenty-eight feet high. My
father is a lineal descendant of belted earls.'
"'I belted one of 'em once in the Duquesne Hotel, in Pittsburgh,' says
I, 'and he didn't offer to resent it. He was there dividing his
attentions between Monongahela whiskey and heiresses, and he got
"'Of course,' she goes on, 'my father wouldn't allow a drummer to set
his foot in Elmeroft. If he knew that I was talking to one over the
fence he would lock me in my room.'
"'Would you let me come there?' says I. 'Would you talk to me if I
was to call? For,' I goes on, 'if you said I might come and see you,
the earls might be belted or suspendered, or pinned up with safety-
pins, as far as I am concerned.'
"'I must not talk to you,' she says, 'because we have not been
introduced. It is not exactly proper. So I will say good-bye, Mr.--'
"'Say the name,' says I. 'You haven't forgotten it.'
"'Pescud,' says she, a little mad.
"'The rest of the name!' I demands, cool as could be.
"'John,' says she.
"'John-what?' I says.
"'John A.,' says she, with her head high. 'Are you through, now?'
"'I'm coming to see the belted earl to-morrow,' I says.
"'He'll feed you to his fox-hounds,' says she, laughing.
"'If he does, it'll improve their running,' says I. 'I'm something of
a hunter myself.'
"'I must be going in now,' says she. 'I oughtn't to have spoken to
you at all. I hope you'll have a pleasant trip back to Minneapolis --
or Pittsburgh, was it? Good-bye!'
"'Good-night,' says I, 'and it wasn't Minneapolis. What's your name,
"She hesitated. Then she pulled a leaf off a bush, and said:
"'My name is Jessie,' says she.
"'Good-night, Miss Allyn,' says I.
"The next morning at eleven, sharp, I rang the door-bell of that
World's Fair main building. After about three-quarters of an hour an
old nigger man about eighty showed up and asked what I wanted. I gave
him my business card, and said I wanted to see the colonel. He showed
"Say, did you ever crack open a wormy English walnut? That's what
that house was like. There wasn't enough furniture in it to fill an
eight-dollar flat. Some old horsehair lounges and three-legged chairs
and some framed ancestors on the walls were all that met the eye. But
when Colonel Allyn comes in, the place seemed to light up. You could
almost hear a band playing, and see a bunch of old-timers in wigs and
white stockings dancing a quadrille. It was the style of him,
although he had on the same shabby clothes I saw him wear at the
"For about nine seconds he had me rattled, and I came mighty near
getting cold feet and trying to sell him some plate-glass. But I got
my nerve back pretty quick. He asked me to sit down, and I told him
everything. I told him how I followed his daughter from Cincinnati,
and what I did it for, and all about my salary and prospects, and
explained to him my little code of living--to be always decent and
right in your home town; and when you're on the road, never take more
than four glasses of beer a day or play higher than a twenty-five-cent
limit. At first I thought he was going to throw me out of the window,
but I kept on talking. Pretty soon I got a chance to tell him that
story about the Western Congressman who had lost his pocket-book and
the grass widow--you remember that story. Well, that got him to
laughing, and I'll bet that was the first laugh those ancestors and
horsehair sofas had heard in many a day.
"We talked two hours. I told him everything I knew; and then he began
to ask questions, and I told him the rest. All I asked of him was to
give me a chance. If I couldn't make a hit with the little lady, I'd
clear out, and not bother any more. At last he says:
"'There was a Sir Courtenay Pescud in the time of Charles I, if I
"'If there was,' says I, 'he can't claim kin with our bunch. We've
always lived in and around Pittsburgh. I've got an uncle in the real-
estate business, and one in trouble somewhere out in Kansas. You can
inquire about any of the rest of us from anybody in old Smoky Town,
and get satisfactory replies. Did you ever run across that story
about the captain of the whaler who tried to make a sailor say his
prayers?' says I.
"'It occurs to me that I have never been so fortunate,' says the
"So I told it to him. Laugh! I was wishing to myself that he was a
customer. What a bill of glass I'd sell him! And then he says:
"'The relating of anecdotes and humorous occurrences has always seemed
to me, Mr. Pescud, to be a particularly agreeable way of promoting
and perpetuating amenities between friends. With your permission, I
will relate to you a fox-hunting story with which I was personally
connected, and which may furnish you some amusement.'
So he tells it. It takes forty minutes by the watch. Did I laugh?
Well, say! When I got my face straight he calls in old Pete, the
super-annuated darky, and sends him down to the hotel to bring up my
valise. It was Elmcroft for me while I was in the town.
"Two evenings later I got a chance to speak a word with Miss Jessie
alone on the porch while the colonel was thinking up another story.
"'It's going to be a fine evening,' says I.
"'He's coming,' says she. 'He's going to tell you, this time, the
story about the old negro and the green watermelons. It always comes
after the one about the Yankees and the game rooster. There was
another time,' she goes on, 'that you nearly got left--it was at
"'Yes,' says I, 'I remember. My foot slipped as I was jumping on the
step, and I nearly tumbled off.'
"'I know,' says she. 'And--and I--I was afraid you had, John A. I
was afraid you had.'
"And then she skips into the house through one of the big windows."
"Coketown!" droned the porter, making his way through the slowing car.
Pescud gathered his hat and baggage with the leisurely promptness of
an old traveller.
"I married her a year ago," said John. "I told you I built a house in
the East End. The belted--I mean the colonel--is there, too. I find
him waiting at the gate whenever I get back from a trip to hear any
new story I might have picked up on the road."
I glanced out of the window. Coketown was nothing more than a ragged
hillside dotted with a score of black dismal huts propped up against
dreary mounds of slag and clinkers. It rained in slanting torrents,
too, and the rills foamed and splashed down through the black mud to
"You won't sell much plate-glass here, John," said I. "Why do you get
off at this end-o'-the-world?"
"Why," said Pescud, "the other day I took Jessie for a little trip to
Philadelphia, and coming back she thought she saw some petunias in a
pot in one of those windows over there just like some she used to
raise down in the old Virginia home. So I thought I'd drop off here
for the night, and see if I could dig up some of the cuttings or
blossoms for her. Here we are. Good-night, old man. I gave you the
address. Come out and see us when you have time."
The train moved forward. One of the dotted brown ladies insisted on
having windows raised, now that the rain beat against them. The
porter came along with his mysterious wand and began to light the car.
I glanced downward and saw the best-seller. I picked it up and set it
carefully farther along on the floor of the car, where the rain-drops
would not fall upon it. And then, suddenly, I smiled, and seemed to
see that life has no geographical metes and bounds.
"Good-luck to you, Trevelyan," I said. "And may you get the petunias
for your princess!"