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HOME > Biographical > A Book About Myself > CHAPTER XXXVII
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 As the time drew near, though, the thought of being a sort of literary chaperon to a lot of school-teachers, probably all of them and uninteresting, was not as cheering as it might have been. I wondered how I should manage to be civil and interesting to so many, how I was to extract news out of them. Yet the attitude of the business manager and the managing editor, as well as the editor-in-chief or publisher, Mr. Knapp, to whom I was now introduced by my city editor, was enough to convince me that whatever I thought of it I was plainly rising in their . Although no word was said about any increase in pay, which I still consider the limit of beggarly, pennywise policy, these magnificoes were most cordial, smiled and congratulated me on my work and then turned me over to the man who had the financing of the trip in charge. He reminded me a good deal of a banker or church elder, small, dark, full-whiskered, solemn, affable, and assured me that he was glad that I had been appointed, that I was the ideal man for the place, and that he would see to it that anything I needed to make my trip pleasant would be provided. I could scarcely believe that I was so important.  
After asking me to go and see the of schools, also of the party as guest of the Republic, he said he would send to me a Mr. Dean, who would be his agent en route to look after everything—baggage, fares, hotels, meals. The latter came and at once threw a wet blanket over me: he was so dull and commonplace. His clothes, his shoes, his loud tie and his muddy, commonplace intellect all irritated me beyond measure. Something he said—“Now, of course, we all want to do everything we can to please these ladies and make them happy”—irritated me. The usual pastoral, supervisory stuff, I thought, and I at once that I did not want him to bother me in any way. “What! Did this horrible bounder assume that he was regulating my conduct on this trip, or that I was going out of my way to accommodate myself to him and his theory of how the trip should be conducted, or to accept him as a social equal? ‘We must’ indeed!—I, Theodore Dreiser, the well-known newspaper writer of St. Louis! The ! Well, he would get attention from me, and the more he let me alone the better it would be for him and all of us!”
And now Wandell also began to irritate me by attempting to give me minute instructions as to just what was wanted and how I was to write it, although, as I understood it, I was now working for the managing editor who was to have the material edited in the telegraph department. Besides, I thought that I was now entitled to a little leeway and in the choice of what I should report. The idea of making it all for the Republic and myself a literary wet-nurse to a school party was a little too much.
However, I down to the train that was waiting to carry this party of damsels to Chicago and the World’s Fair, a solid Pullman train which left St. Louis at dusk and arrived in Chicago early the next morning. The fifth of the Pullmans was reserved to carry the school-teachers and their chaperons, Mr. Soldan, superintendent of schools, Mr. Dean, the business-manager-representative, and myself. I entered the car wondering of course what the result of such a temporary companionship with so many girls might be. They were all popular, hence beautiful, prize-winners, as I had heard; but my pessimistic mind had registered a somewhat depressing conception of the ordinary school-mistress and I did not expect much.
For once in my life I was agreeably disappointed. These were young, Missouri school-teachers and as attractive as that profession will permit. I was no sooner seated in a car than one of the end doors opened and there was in by the porter a pretty, -cheeked, black-haired girl of perhaps twenty-four. This was a good beginning. Immediately thereafter there came in a tall, fair girl with light brown hair and blue eyes. Others now entered, blondes and brunettes, and slender, with various intermediate grades or types. Instead of a mounting contempt I suddenly began to suffer from a sickening sense of inability to hold my own in the face of so many pretty girls. What could I do with twenty girls? How write about them? Maybe the business-manager-representative or the superintendent would not come on this train and I should be left to introduce these girls to each other! God! I should have to find out their names, and I had not thought to inquire at the office!
Fortunately for my peace of mind a large, rather showily dressed man with big soft ruddy hands decorated with several rings and a full oval face with health, now entered by the front door and beamed cheerfully upon all.
“Ah, here we are now,” he began with the impressive air of one in authority, going up to the first he saw. “I see you have arrived safely, Miss—ah—C——. I’m glad to see you again. How are you?” We went on to another: “And here is Miss W——! Well, I am glad. I read in the Republic that you had won.”
I realized that this was the Professor Soldan so earnestly recommended to me, the superintendent of schools and one upon whom I was to comment. I rather liked him.
An engine went and clanging by on a neighboring track. I gazed out of the window. It seemed essential for me to begin doing something but I did not know how to begin. Suddenly the large jeweled hand was laid on my shoulder and the professor stood over me. “This must be Mr. Dreiser, of the Republic. Your business manager, Mr. ——, phoned me this morning that you were coming. You must let me introduce you to all these young ladies. We want to get the formalities over and be on easy terms.”
I bowed heavily for I felt as though I were turning to stone. The prettiness and sparkle of these girls all chatting and laughing had fairly done for me. I followed the professor as one marches to the and he began at one end of the car and introduced me to one girl after another as though it were a state affair of some kind. I felt like a boob. I was and yet delighted by his and the fact that he was me over a very situation. I envied him his case and self-possession. He soon betook himself elsewhere, leaving me to as best I might with a pretty black-haired Irish girl whose eyes made me wish to be agreeable. And now, idiot, I struggled for bright things to say. How did one entertain a pretty girl, anyhow? The girl came to my rescue by commenting on the nature of the contest and the difficulties she had had. She hadn’t thought she would win at all. Some others joined in, and before I knew it the train was out of the station and on its way. The porter was closing the windows for the long tunnel, the girls were sinking into comfortable attitudes, and there was a general air of and good nature. Before East St. Louis was reached a general conversation was in progress, and by the time the train was a half-hour out a party of familiars had gathered in the little bridal , which was at the rear of the car, laughing and gesticulating. But I was not of it, nor was the girl with whom I was chatting.
“Why don’t you come back here, Myra?” called a voice.
“Having lots of fun up there?” called another.
“Do come back, for goodness’ sake! Don’t try to one whole man.”
I felt my legs going from under me. Could this be true? Must I now go back there and try to face six or seven? Stumblingly I followed Myra, and at the door stopped and looked in. It was full of pretty girls, my partner of the moment before now lightly among them. “I’m gone,” I thought. “It’s all off. Now for the grand and silence! Which way shall I turn? To whom?”
“There’s room for one more here,” said a Juney blonde, making a place for me.
I could not refuse this challenge. “I’m the one,” I said weakly, and sank heavily beside her. She looked at me encouragingly, as did the others, and at a vast expense of energy and will power I managed to achieve a smile. It was pathetic.
“Isn’t train-riding just glorious?” exclaimed one of these bright-faced . “I bet I haven’t been on a train twice before in all my life, and just look at me! I do it all right, don’t I? I’d just love to travel. I wish I could travel all the time.”
“Oh, don’t you, though!” echoed the girl who was sitting beside me and whom up to now I had scarcely noticed. “Do you think she looks so nice riding?”
I cannot recall what I answered. It may have been witty—if so it was an accident.
“What do you call the proper surroundings?” put in a new voice in answer to something that was said, which same drew my attention to blue eyes, a Cupid’s bow mouth and a wealth of corn-colored hair.
“These,” I finally achieved , gazing about the and at my companions. A burst of applause followed. I was coming to. Yet I was still bewildered by the of faces about me. Already the idea of the school-teachers had been dissipated: these were prize-winners. Look where I would I seemed to see a new type of prettiness confronting me. It was like being in the of those nymphs in the Ring of the Nibelungen, yet I had no desire to escape, wishing to stay now and see how I could “make out” as a Lothario. Indeed at this I worked hard. I did my best to gaze gayly and captivatingly into pretty eyes of various colors. They all gazed amusedly back. I was almost the only man; they were out for a . What would you?
“If I had my wishes now I’d wish for just one thing,” I volunteered, expecting to arouse curiosity.
“Which one?” asked the girl with the brown eyes and little face who wished to travel forever. Her look was significant.
“This one,” I said, running my finger around in a circle to include them all and yet stopping at none.
“We’re not won yet, though,” said the girl .
“Couldn’t you be?” I asked smartly.
“Not all at once, anyhow. Could we?” she asked, speaking for the crowd.
I found myself poor at . “It will seem all at once, though, when it happens, won’t it?” I finally managed to return. “Isn’t it always ‘so sudden’?” I was surprising myself.
“Aren’t you smart!” said the blue-eyed girl beside me.
“Oh, that’s clever, isn’t it?” said the girl with the corn-colored hair.
I gazed in her direction. Beside her sat a maiden whom I had but dimly noticed. She was in white, with a mass of sunny red hair. Her eyes were almond-shaped, liquid and blue-gray. Her nose was straight and fine, her lips sweetly curved. She seemed bashful and retiring. At her was a bouquet of pink roses, but one had come loose.
“Oh, your flowers!” I exclaimed.
“Let me give you one,” she replied, laughing. I had not heard her voice before and I liked it.
“Certainly,” I said. Then to the others: “You see, I’ll take anything I can get.” She drew a rose from her bosom and held it out toward me. “Won’t you put it on?” I asked smartly.
She leaned over and began to fasten it. She worked a moment and then looked at me, making, as I thought, a sheep’s eye at me.
“You may have my place,” said the girl next me, to help her, and she took it.
The conversation waxed even freer after this, although for me I felt that it had now taken a definite turn.... I was talking for her benefit. We were still in the midst of this when the conductor passed through and after him Mr. Dean, , dusty, assured, .
“These are the people,” he said. “They are all in one party.” He called me aside and we sat down, he explaining cheerfully and volubly the trouble he was having keeping everything in order. I could have murdered him.
“I’m looking out for the baggage and the hotel bills and all,” he insisted. “In the morning we’ll be met by a tally-ho and ride out to the hotel.”
I was thinking of my splendid of girls and the time I had been having.
“Well, that’ll be fine, won’t it?” I said wearily. “Is that all?”
“Oh, we have it all planned out,” he went on. “It’s going to be a fine trip.”
I did my best to show that I had no desire to talk, but still he kept on. He wanted to meet the teachers and I had to introduce him. Fortunately he became interested in one small group and I sidled away—only to find my original group reduced. Some had gone to the dressingroom, others were arranging their parcels about their unmade . The porter came in and began to make them up. I looked ruefully about me.
“Well, our little group has broken up,” I said............
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