Confessions of an Exiled Bus
After all, it was a hoary-haired scoundrel of a bus; a very reprobate of a bus; an envious, evil-thinking, ill-conditioned, flagrantly thieving, knavish blackguard of a bus. Under no circumstances am I proud of the acquaintance. But then, in extenuation, be it said that it was never anything but an acquaintance of Shadow-Land, conjured up, perhaps, by a material repast that had been palatable and indigestible.
Have you read Alphonse Daudet’s delightful “Tartarin of Tarascon”? Are you acquainted with the “baobab villa,” and the elusive Montenegrin Prince, who had spent three years in Tarascon, but who never went out, and who decamped with Tartarin’s well-filled wallet; and the jaundiced Costlecalde, and the embarrassingly affectionate camel, and the blind lion from the hide of which grew the great man’s subsequent fame, and all the other whimsical creations of the novelist’s pleasant fancy? The book is one of my favourite books, one of the tomes that are taken to bed to pave the way to restful, happy slumber. Perhaps that night it had been the last volume to be tossed aside before turning out the light, for as I slept, to use the words of the tinker of Bedford, I dreamed a dream.
There was a consciousness of being jolted about abominably in a ramshackle vehicle. The surroundings were vague, as they always are in dreams. Low hills and sandy waste and sparse shrubs. Where was it, the “Great Desert,” or some stretch in South America or in Mexico? In my dream I was dozing, trying to forget the painful bumping and twisting. A familiar voice brought me to with a sudden start.
“Say! Listen! Hey you! Wake up, can’t you?” Far off as the voice seemed at first, there was a delicious, home-sickness-provoking, nasal twang to the accents.
“Who are you?” I asked sleepily.
“Who am I? Now that is a question. Don’t you recognize me? Why I am one of the old Fifth Avenue buses that used to run from Washington Square up to Fifty-ninth Street. That’s who I am.”
“But why are you here?” I stammered. “What brought you to this strange corner of the world?”
“Believe me,” the spluttering voice replied, “I am not here of my own will. You can bet your tintype on that, Mr. Washington Arch, or Mr. Hoffman House Bar, or Mr. Flatiron Building.”
“Your mode of address is somewhat obsolete,” I ventured. “Changes have taken place.”
“Yes, I know. You want to be strictly up-to-date, like all the rest of the New Yorkers. As you say, changes have taken place. That is our unfortunate story. We were discarded, tossed aside, just as soon as they found that they could replace us by those evil-smelling, noise-making, elongated, double-decked children of the devil. Without a word, without a regret, they packed us off. Some of us were sent to the end of Long Island, some to Florida to