The train had left Sacramento some distance behind, and was now bravely
beginning the long climb that led to the high Sierras and the town of
Truckee. Little patches of snow sparkled in the late afternoon sun along
the way, and far ahead snow-capped peaks suddenly stood out against the
pale sky of a reluctant spring.
Two conductors, traveling together as though for safety, came down the
aisle and paused at section seven. "Tickets on at Sacramento," demanded
the leader. The occupant of the section, a pretty blonde girl who seemed
no more than twenty, handed him the small green slips. He glanced at
them, then passed one to his companion. "Seat in Seven," he said loudly.
"Reno," echoed the Pullman conductor, in an even louder tone.
They passed on, leaving the blonde girl staring about the car with an air
that was a mixture of timidity and defiance. This was the first time,
since she had left home the day before, that she had been so openly
tagged with the name of her destination. All up and down the car, strange
faces turned and looked at her with casual curiosity. Some smiled
knowingly; others were merely cold and aloof. The general public in one
of its ruder moments.
One passenger only showed no interest. Across the aisle, in section
eight, the girl noted the broad shoulders and back of a man in a dark
suit. He was sitting close to the window, staring out, and even from this
rear view it was apparent that he was deeply engrossed with his own
affairs. The young woman who was bound for Reno felt somehow rather
grateful toward him.
Presently he turned, and the girl understood, for she saw that he was a
Chinese. A race that minds its own business. An admirable race. This
member of it was plump and middle-aged. His little black eyes were
shining as from some inner excitement; his lips were parted in a smile
that seemed to indicate a sudden immense delight. Without so much as a
glance toward number seven, he rose and walked rapidly down the car.
Arrived on the front platform of the Pullman, he stood for a moment
deeply inhaling the chilly air. Then again, as though irresistibly, he
was drawn to the window. The train was climbing more slowly now; the
landscape, wherever he looked, was white. Presently he was conscious of
some one standing behind him, and turned. The train maid, a Chinese girl
of whose guarded glances he had been conscious at intervals all
afternoon, was gazing solemnly up at him.
"How do you do," the man remarked, "and thank you so much. You have
arrived at most opportune moment. The need to speak words assails me with
unbearable force. I must release flood of enthusiasm or burst. For at
this moment I am seeing snow for the first time."
"Oh--I am so glad!" answered the girl. It was an odd reply, but the plump
Chinese was evidently too excited to notice that.
"You see, it is this way," he continued eagerly. "All my life I can
remember only nodding palm trees, the trade winds of the tropics, surf
tumbling on coral beach--"
"Honolulu," suggested the girl.
He paused, and stared at her. "Perhaps you have seen Hawaii too?" he
She shook her head. "No. Me--I am born in San Francisco. But I read
advertisements in magazines--and besides--"