"Oh," she replied--and seemed to hesitate for just an instant--"Mr.
Woods has given us instructions always to call by name."
"You mean in my case?" I asked, somewhat nervously.
"In making all morning calls," she explained. "At night, when the night operator isn't busy, she takes the call list, gets the names of the people, and notes them down opposite the room numbers so that I can read them off, when I ring, in the morning. Mr. Woods says that it makes guests feel more at home."
"It does," I assured her sadly. Then, in justice, I added: "Nevertheless you have a most agreeable voice."
"It's very kind of you to speak of it," she returned.
"Not at all," said I. "I am writing something about San Francisco, and I want to know your name so that I can mention you as the owner of the voice."
"Oh," she said, "are you a writer?"
"I am," I declared firmly.
"And you're really going to mention me?"
"I am if you will give me your name."
"It's Lulu Maguire," she said. "Will you let me know when it comes out?"
"I will," said I.
"Thank you very much," she answered. "I hope you'll come again."
"I hope so too."
Then we said good-by. And though I cannot say of the angel-voiced Miss Maguire that she taught me about women, she did teach me something about writers, and something else about hotels.
I had always fancied that an unbroken flight across the continent would prove fatiguing and seem very, very long, but however others may have found it, it seemed short to me.
Looking back over the run from the Pacific Coast to Chicago I feel as though it had consumed but a night and one long, interesting day--a day full of changing scenes and episodes. The three things I remember best about the journey are the beauty of the Bad Lands, the wonderful squab guinea chicken I had, one night, for dinner, in the dining car, and the pretty girl with the demure expression and the mischievous blue eyes, who, before coming aboard at a little western station, kissed a handsome young cattleman good-by, and who, having later made friends with a gay young blade upon the train, kissed him good-by, also, when they parted on the platform in Chicago.
Railroad travel in the West does not seem so machine-like as in the East. That is true in many ways. West of Chicago you do not feel that your train is sandwiched in between two other trains, one just ahead, the other just behind. You run for a long time without passing another train, and when you do pass one, it is something in the nature of an event, like passing another ship, at sea. So, also, on the train, the relations between passengers and crew are not merely mechanical. You feel that the conductor is a human being, and that the dining-car conductor is distinctly a nice fellow.
But once you pass Chicago, going east, the individuality of train officials ceases to be felt. They become automatons, very efficient, but cold as cogs in a machine. As for you, you are a unit, to be transported and fed, and they do transport and feed you, doing it all impartially and impersonally, performing their duties with the most rigid decorum, and the most cold-blooded correctness.
Even the food in the dining-car seems to be standardized. The dishes look differently, and vary mildly in flavor, but there is one taste running through everything, as though the whole meal were made from some basic substance, colored and flavored in different ways, to create a variety of courses. The great primary taste of eastern dining-car food is, as nearly as I can hit on it, that of wet paper. The oysters seem to be made of slippery wet paper with oyster-flavor added. The soup is a sort of creamy essence of manilla. The chicken is damp paper, ground up, soaked with chicken-extract, and pressed into the form of a deceased bird. And, above all, the salad is green tissue-paper, soaked in vinegar and water.
[Illustration: New York--Everyone is in a hurry. Everyone is dodging everyone else. Everyone is trying to keep his knees from being knocked by swift-passing suitcases]
As with the officials, so with the passengers. They become frigid, too.
If, forgetting momentarily that you are no longer in the West, you speak to the gentleman who has the seat beside you in the buffet smoker, after dinner, he takes a long appraising look at you before replying. Then, after answering you briefly, and in such a way as to give you as little information as possible, and to impress upon you the idea that you have been guilty of gross familiarity in speaking to a social superior without having first been spoken to by him--then the gentleman will rise from his chair and move to another seat, feeling, the while, to make sure that you have not got his watch.
That, gentle reader, is the sweet spirit of the civilized East.
Easterners regard men with whom they are not personally acquainted as potential pickpockets; and men with whom they are acquainted as established thieves.
On you rush towards the metropolis. The train is crowded. The farms, flying past, are small, and are divided into little fields which look cramped after the great open areas of the West. Towns and cities flash by, one after another, in quick succession, as the floors flash by an express elevator, shooting down, its shaft in a skyscraper; and where there are no towns there are barns painted with advertisements, and great advertising signboards disfiguring the landscape. There are four tracks now. A passenger train roars by, savagely, on one side, and is gone, while on the other, a half-mile freight train tugs and squeaks and clatters.
When the porter calls you in the morning, and you raise your window shade, you see no plains or mountains, but the backs of squalid suburban tenements, with vari-colored garments fluttering on their clothes lines, like the flags of some ship decked for a gala day.
Gathering yourself and your dusty habiliments together, you sneak shamefully to the washroom. Already it is full of men: men in trousers and undershirt, men with tousled hair and stubble chins, men with bags and dressing-cases spread out on the seats, splattering men, who immerse their faces in the swinging suds of the nickel-plated washbowl, and snort like seals in the aquarium.
Ah, the East! The throbbing, thriving, thickly-populated East!
Presently you get your turn at a sloppy washbowl, after which you slip into the stale clothing of the day before, and return to the body of the car, feeling half washed, half dressed and half dead.
Outside are factories, and railroad yards, and everywhere tall black chimneys, vomiting their heavy, muddy smoke. But always the train glides on like some swift, smooth river. Now the track is elevated, now depressed. You run over bridges or under them, crossing streets and other railroads. At last you dive into a tunnel and presently emerging, coast slowly along beside an endless concrete platform raised to the level of the car floor.
Your bags have long since been carried away by the Pullman porter, and you have sat for many minutes in the hot car, wearing the overcoat and hat into which he insisted upon putting you when you were yet many miles outside New York.
Before the train stops you are in the narrow passage-way at the end of the car, lined-up with others eager to escape. The Redcaps run beside the vestibule. That is one good thing: there are always plenty of porters in New York.
The Pullman porter hands your bags to a station porter, and you hand the Pullman porter something which elicits a swift: "Thank you, boss."
Then, through the crowd, you make your way, behind your Redcap, towards the taxi-stand. In the great concourse, people are rushing hither and thither. Every one is in a hurry. Every one is dodging every one else.
Every one is trying to keep his knees from being knocked by swift-passing suitcases. You feel dazed, rushed, jostled.
It is always the same, the arrival in New York. The stranger setting foot there for the first time may, perhaps, sense more keenly than the returning resident, the magnificent fury of the city. But, upon reaching the metropolis after a period of exile, the most confirmed New Yorker must, unless his perceptions are quite ossified, feel his imagination quicken as he is again confronted by the whirling, grinding, smashing, shrieking, seething, writhing, glittering, hellish splendor of the City of New York.
Never before, it seemed to me, had I felt the impact of the city as when I moved through the crowded concourse of the Pennsylvania Terminal with my companion--the comrade of so many trains and tickets, so many miles and meals.
We were at our journey's end. We were in New York again at last and would be in our respective homes as soon as taxicabs could take us to them. But, eager as I was to reach my home, it was with a kind of pang that I realized that now, for the first time in months, we would not drive away together in the same taxicab, but would part here, at the taxi-stand, and go our separate ways; that we would not dine together that night, nor sup together, nor visit in each other's rooms to talk over the day's doings, before turning in, nor breakfast together in the morning, nor match coins to determine who should pay for things.
When the first taxi came up there were politenesses between us as to which should take it--that in itself bespoke the change already coming over us.
I persuaded him to get in. We shook hands hurriedly through the window.
Then, with a jerk, the taxi started.
As I watched it drive away, I thought: "What a fine thing to know that man as I know him! Have I always been as considerate of him, on this trip, as I should have been? Was it right for me to insist on his staying up that night, in San Francisco, when he wanted to go to bed?
Was it right for me to insist on his going to bed that night, in Excelsior Springs, when he wanted to stay up? Shouldn't I have taken more interest in his packing? And if I had done so, would he have left his razor in one hotel, and his pumps in another, and his bathrobe in another, and his kodak in another, and his umbrella in another, and his silver shoehorn in another, and his trousers in another, and his pajamas in every hotel we stopped in?"
Then my taxi drove up and I got in, and as we scurried out into the congested street, I kept on ruminating over my treatment of my traveling companion.
"I never treated him badly," I thought. "Still, if I had it all to do over again I should treat him better. I should tuck him in at night. I should send his shoes to be polished and his clothes to be pressed. I should perform all kinds of little services for him--not because he deserves such treatment, but because that would get him under obligations to me. And it is a most desirable thing to get a man under obligations to you when he knows as much about you as that man knows about me!"