“The Three Traveling-Bags”

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying lost or mixed-up baggage stories. This story, “The Three Traveling-Bags” is from The Continental Monethly  of 1862.

Chapter 1

There were three of them, all of shining black leather; one on top of the pile of trunks; one on the  ground; one in the owner’s hand; all going to Philadelphia; all waiting to be checked.

The last bell rang. The baggageman bustled, fuming, from one pile of baggage to another, dispensing chalk to the trunks, checks to the passagengers, and curses to the porters, in approved railway style.

“Mine! – Philadelphia” cried a stout military-looking man, with enormous whiskers and a red face, crowding forward, as the baggageman laid his hand on the first bag.

“Won’t you please to give me a check for this, now?” entreated a pale, slender, carefully-dressed young man, for the ninth time, holding out bag No. 2. “I have a lady to look after.”

“Say! be you agoin’ to give me a check for that ‘are, or not?” growled the proprietor of bag No. 3, a short, pockmarked fellow, in a shabby over coat.

“All right, gen’l’men. Here you are,’ says the functionary, rapidly distributing the three checks. “Philadelfy, this? Yes, sir, -1092-1740.11-1020. All right.”

“All aboard!” shouted the conductor.

“Whoo-whew!” responded the locomotive; and the train moved slowly out of the station-house.

The baggageman meditatively watched it, as it sped away in the distance, and then, as if a thought suddenly struck him, slapping his thigh, he exclaimed,

“Blest if I don’t believe – “

“What?” inquired the switchman.

“That I’ve gone and guv them three last fellers the wrong checks! The cussed little black things was all alike, and they bothered me.”

“Telegraph,” suggested the switchman.

“Never you mind,’ replied the baggageman. “They was all going to Philadelfy. They’ll find it out when they get there.”

They did.

Chapter II

The scene shifts to the Continental Hotel, Philadelphia. – Front parlor, up stairs. – Occupants, the young gentleman alluded to in Chapter I, and a young lady. In accordance with the fast usages of the times, the twain had been made one in holy matrimony at 7.30 a.m.; duly kissed and congratulated till 8.15; put aboard the express train at 8.45, and deposited at the Continental, bag and baggage, by 12.58.

They were seated on the sofa, the black broadcloth coat-sleeve encircling the slender waist of the gray traveling-dress, and the jetty moustache in equally affectionate proximity to the glossy curls.

“Are you tired, dearest?”

“No, love, not much. But you are, arn’t you?”

“No, darling.”

Kiss, and a pause.

“Don’t it seem funny?” said the lady.

“What, love?”

“That we should be married.”

“Yes, darling.”

“Won’t they be glad to see us at George’s?”

“Of course they will.”

“I’m sure I shall enjoy it so much. Shall we get there to-night?”

“Yes, love, if – “

Rap-rap-rap, at the door.

A  hasty separation took place between man and wife – to opposite ends of the sofa; and  then –

“Come in.”

“Av you plaze, sur, it’s an M.P. is waiting to see yez.”

“To see me! A policeman?”

“Yis, sur.”

“There must be some mistake.”

“No sur, it’s yourself; and he’s waiting in the hall, beyant.”

“Well, I’ll go to – No, tell him to come here.”

“Sorry to disturb you, sir,” said the M.P., with a huge brass star on his breast, appearing with great alacrity at the waiter’s elbow. B’lieve this is your black valise?”

“Yes, that is ours, certainly. It has Julia’s – the lady’s things in it.”

“Suspicious sarcumstances about that ‘ere valise, sir. Telegraph come this morning that a burglar started on the 8.45 Philadelphia train, with a lot of stolen spoons, in a black valise. – spoons marked T. B. – Watched at the Ferry. Saw the black valise. – Followed it up here. – Took a peek inside. Sure enough, there was the spoons. Marked T. B., too. Said it was yours. Shall have to take you in charge.”

“Take me in charge!” echoed the dismayed bridegroom. “But I assure you, my dear sir, there is some strange mistake. It’s all a mistake.”

“S’pose you’ll be able to account for the spoons being in your valise, then?”

“Why, I – I – it isn’t mine. It must be somebody else’s. Somebody’s put them there. It is some villainous conspiracy.”

“Hope you’ll be able to tell a straighter story before the magistrate, young man; ‘cause if you don’t, you stand a smart chance of being sent up for six months.”

“Oh, Charles! This is horrid. Do send him away. Oh dear! I wish I was home,” sobbed the little bride.

“I tell you, sir,” said the bridegroom, bristling up with indignation, “this is all a vile plot. What would I be doing with your paltry spoon? I was married this morning, in Fifth Avenue, and I am on my wedding tour. I have high connections in New York. You’ll repent it, sir, if you dare arrest me.”

“Oh , come, now,” said the incredulous official, “I’ve been hearn stories like that before. This ain’t the first time swindlers has traveled in couples. Do you s’pose I don’t know nothin’? ‘Tan’t no use; you’ve just got to come along to the station-house. Might as well go peaceably, ‘cause you’ll have to.”

“Charles, this is perfectly dreadful! Our wedding night in the station-house! Do send for somebody. Send for the landlord to explain it.”

The landlord was sent for, and came; the porters were sent for, and came; the waiters, and chambermaids, and bar-room loungers came, without being sent for, and filled the room and the adjoining hall, some to laugh, some to say they wouldn’t have believed it, but nearly all to exult that the unhappy pair had been ‘found out.’ Now explanation could be given; and the upshot was, that, in spite of tears, threats, entreaties, rage, and expostulations, the unfortunate newly-married pair were taken in charge by the relentless policeman, and marched down stairs, en rout for the police office.

And here let the curtain drop on the melancholy scene, while we follow the fortunes of black valise No. 2.

 Continued…..

Published in: on March 16, 2013 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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