At the rear of the string of Pullmans was a private car, with a deep observation platform, much polished brass railing, and sundry other luxurious appointments, apparent even to the eye of unsophistication. Thomas Jefferson spelled the name in the medallion, “Psyche,”—spelled it without trying to pronounce it—and then turned his attention to the people who were descending the rubber-carpeted steps and grouping themselves under the direction of a tall man who reminded Thomas Jefferson of his Uncle Silas with an indescribable something left out of the face.
“As I was about to say, General, this station building is one of the relics. You mustn’t judge South Tredegar—our new South Tredegar—by this. Eh?—I beg your pardon, Mrs. Vanadam? Oh, the hotel? It is just across the street, and a very good house; remarkably good, indeed, all things considered. In fact, we’re quite proud of the Marlboro.”
One of the younger women smiled.
“How enthusiastic you are, Mr. Parley. I thought we had outgrown all that—we moderns.”
“But, my dear Miss Elleroy, if you could know what we have to be enthusiastic about down here! Why, these mountains we’ve been passing through for the last six hours are simply so many vast treasure-houses; coal at the top, iron at the bottom, and enough of both to keep the world’s industries going for ages! There’s millions in them!”
Thomas Jefferson overheard without understanding, but his eyes served a better purpose. Away back in the line of the Scottish Gordons there must have been an ancestor with the seer’s gift of insight, and some drop or two of his blood had come down to this sober-faced country boy searching the faces of the excursionists for his cue of fellowship or antipathy.
For the sweet-voiced young woman called Miss Elleroy there was love at first sight. For a severe, be-silked Mrs. Vanadam there was awe. For the portly General with mutton-chop whiskers, overlooking eyes and the air of a dictator, there was awe, also, not unmingled with envy. For the tall man in the frock-coat, whose face reminded him of his Uncle Silas, there had been shrinking antagonism at the first glance—which keen first impression was presently dulled and all but effaced by the enthusiasm, the suave tongue, and the benignant manner. Which proves that insight, like the film of a recording camera, should have the dark shutter snapped on it if the picture is to be preserved.
Thomas Jefferson made way when the party, marshaled by the enthusiast, prepared for its descent on the Marlboro. Afterward, the royalties having departed and a good-natured porter giving him leave, he was at liberty to examine the wheeled palace at near-hand, and even to climb into the vestibule for a peep inside.
Therewith, castles in the air began to rear themselves, tower on wall. Here was the very sky-reaching summit of all things desirable: to have one’s own brass-bound hotel on wheels; to come and go at will; to give curt orders to a respectful and uniformed porter, as the awe-inspiring gentleman with the mutton-chop whiskers had done.