The Jimmyjohn Boss and Other Stories HTML version

Twenty Minutes for Refreshments
Upon turning over again my diary of that excursion to the Pacific, I find that I set
out from Atlantic waters on the 30th day of a backward and forlorn April, which
had come and done nothing towards making its share of spring, but had gone,
missing its chance, leaving the trees as bare as it had received them from the
winds of March. It was not bleak weather alone, but care, that I sought to escape
by a change of sky; and I hoped for some fellow-traveller who might begin to
interest my thoughts at once. No such person met me in the several Pullmans
which I inhabited from that afternoon until the forenoon of the following Friday.
Through that long distance, though I had slanted southwestward across a
multitude of States and vegetations, and the Mississippi lay eleven hundred miles
to my rear, the single event is my purchasing some cat's-eyes of the news-agent
at Sierra Blanca. Save this, my diary contains only neat additions of daily
expenses, and moral reflections of a delicate and restrained melancholy. They
were Pecos cat's-eyes, he told me, obtained in the rocky canyons of that stream,
and destined to be worth little until fashion turned from foreign jewels to become
aware of these fine native stones. And I, glad to possess the jewels of my
country, chose two bracelets and a necklace of them, paying but twenty dollars
for fifteen or sixteen cat's-eyes, and resolved to give them a setting worthy of
their beauty. The diary continues with moral reflections upon the servility of our
taste before anything European, and the handwriting is clear and deliberate. It
abruptly becomes hurried, and at length well- nigh illegible. It is best, I think, that
you should have this portion as it comes, unpolished, unamended, unarranged--
hot, so to speak, from my immediate pencil, instead of cold from my subsequent
pen. I shall disguise certain names, but that is all.
Friday forenoon, May 5.--I don't have to gaze at my cat's-eyes to kill time any
more. I'm not the only passenger any more. There's a lady. She got in at El Paso.
She has taken the drawing-room, but sits outside reading newspaper cuttings
and writing letters. She is sixty, I should say, and has a cap and one gray curl.
This comes down over her left ear as far as a purple ribbon which suspends a
medallion at her throat. She came in wearing a sage-green duster of pongee silk,
pretty nice, only the buttons are as big as those largest mint-drops. "You porter,"
she said, "brush this." He put down her many things and received it. Her dress
was sage green, and pretty nice too. "You porter," said she, "open every window.
Why, they are, I declare! What's the thermometer in this car?" "Ninety-five,
ma'am. Folks mostly travelling--" "That will do, porter. Now you go make me a
pitcher of lemonade right quick." She went into the state-room and shut the door.
When she came out she was dressed in what appeared to be chintz bedroom
curtains. They hang and flow loosely about her, and are covered with a pattern of
pink peonies. She has slippers--Turkish--that stare up in the air, pretty handsome
and comfortable. But I never before saw any one travel with fly-paper. It must be
hard to pack. But it's quite an idea in this train. Fully a dozen flies have stuck to it
already; and she reads her clippings, and writes away, and sips another glass of
lemonade, all with the most extreme ap- pearance of leisure, not to say sloth. I