|The setting: one of those old time railroad observation cars. The heroine: a composed young lady with a clever attitude.|
Satire on the Commercial Traveler
"Is this seat engaged?" he asked of the prettiest girl in the train car, and, finding that it wasn’t, he put his sample box in the rack above and braced himself up for solid enjoyment.
“Pleasant day,” said the girl, coming for him before he could get his tongue unkinked. “Most bewildering day, isn’t it?”
“Y-yes, miss,” stammered the traveling salesman. He was in the habit of playing pitcher in this kind of a match, and the position of catcher didn’t fit him as tight as his pantaloons.
“Nice weather for traveling,” continued the girl, “much nicer than when it is cold. Are you perfectly comfortable?”
“Oh, yes, thanks,” murmured the drummer.
“Glad of it,” resumed the girl, cheerfully. “You don’t look so. Let me put my shawl under your head, won’t you? Hadn’t you rather sit next to the window and have me describe the landscape to you?”
“No, please,” he murmured, “I am doing well enough.”
“Can I buy you some peanuts or a book? Let me do something to make the trip happy! Suppose I slip my arm around your waist! Just lean forward a trifle, please, so that I can!”
“You’ll---you’ll have to excuse me,” gasped the wretched drummer; “I don’t think you really mean it.”
“You look so tired,” she pleaded; “wouldn’t you like to rest your head on my shoulder? No one will notice. Just lay your head right down and I’ll tell you stories.”
“No, thanks! I won’t today! I’m very comfortable,” and the poor salesman looked around helplessly.
“Your scarf-pin is coming out. Let me fix it. There!” and she arrayed it deftly. “At the next station I’ll get you a cup of tea, and when we arrive at our destination you’ll let me call on you?” and she smiled an anxious prayer right into his pallid countenance.
“I think I’ll go away and smoke,” said the drummer, and hauled down his gripsack and made a bolt for the door, knee-deep in the grins showered upon him by his fellow-passengers.
“Strange!” noted the girl to a lady in front of her. “I only did with him just what he was making ready to do with me, and big and strong as he is, he couldn’t stand it. I really think women have stronger stomachs than men; besides that, there isn’t any smoking-car for us to fly to for refuge. I don’t understand this thing.”
But she settled back contentedly all the same; and at a convention of traveling salesmen, held in the smoking car that morning, it was unanimously resolved that that seat was engaged, as far as they were concerned, for the balance of the journey.
Return to Short Stories to Read Online from Satire on the Commercial Traveler