Mistaken identity

Mistaken identity

Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York, where I was to change trains and take the sleeper. There were crowds of people on the platform, and they were all trying to get into the long sleeper train which was already packed. I asked the young man in the booking-office if I could have a sleeping-berth and he answered: «No.» I went off and asked another local official if I could have some poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping-car, but he interrupted me angrily saying, «No, you can’t, every corner is full. Now, don’t bother me any more,» and he turned his back and walked off. I felt so hurt that I said to my companion, «If these people knew who I was, they…»1 But my companion stopped me there,— «Don’t talk such nonsense, we’ll have to put up with this,» he said, «If they knew who you were, do you think it would help you to get a vacant seat1 in a train which has no vacant seats in it?»

This did not improve my condition at all, but just then I noticed that the porter of a sleeping-car had his eye on me. I saw the expression of his face suddenly change. He whispered to the uniformed conductor, pointing to me, and I realized I was being talked about. Then the conductor came forward, his face all politeness.

«Can I be of any service to you?» he asked. «Do you want a place in a sleeping-car?»

«Yes,» I said, «I’ll be grateful to you if you can give me a place, anything will do.»

«We have nothing left except the big family compartment,» he continued, «with two berths and a couple of armchairs in it, but it is entirely at your disposal. Here, Tom, take these suitcases aboard!»

Then he touched his hat, and we moved along.3 I was eager to say a few words to my companion, but I changed my mind. The porter made us comfortable in the compartment, and then said, with many bows and smiles:

«Now, is there anything you want, sir? Because you can have just anything you want.»

«Can I have some hot water?» I asked.

«Yes, sir, I’ll get it myself.»

«Good! Now, that lamp is hung too high above the berth. Can I have a better lamp fixed just at the head of my bed below the luggage rack, so that I can read comfortably?»

«Yes, sir. The lamp you want is just being fixed in the next compartment. I’ll get it from there and fix it here. It’ll burn all night. Yes, sir, you can ask for anything you want, the whole railroad will be turned inside out to please you.» And he disappeared.

I smiled at my companion, and said:

«Well, what do you say now? Didn’t their attitude change the moment they understood I was Mark Twain? You see the result, don’t you?» My companion did not answer. So I added, «Don’t you like the way you are being served? And all for the same fare.»

As I was saying this, the porter’s smiling face appeared in the doorway and this speech followed:

«Oh, sir, I recognized you the minute I set my eyes on you. I told the conductor so.»

«Is that so, my boy?» I said handing him a good tip. «Who am I?»

«Mr McCleilan, Mayor of New York», he said and disappeared again.

by Mark Twain

No luck what you’re looking for?

Let us know details about your quesiton. We’ll get back to you!