Once there was a princess, so the story runs. And this princess wasn’t too big, and she wasn’t too little. She was “just right.” Her throne was plush and green instead of plush and purple. And all the gold that should have been on the throne seemed to be of mahogany instead.
But she was a princess nevertheless, for did she not ride in a palatial coach of orange and gold, drawn by an engine of a hundred thousand horses? But better than that, this princess’ coach had such most astonishing things as running hot and cold water, uniformed coachmen, and an obedient servant who jumped at the touch of a button to serve her needs.
But you guessed already who the princess was!
Well, the Princess rode and rode all day long, watching absorbedly the beauty of the country though which she travelled. The hills and the valleys. The cornfields, and once in a while a farmhouse and barn with its chickens and garden flashed by. Then a herd of cattle, frightened by the noise of the engine, would be seen clattering across a meadow away from the tracks. Telegraph poles seemed to fly past one after the other. You could play a little game with them, if you were good… watch two or three pass, and then say to yourself: The next one will pass when I start to count. And I’ll bet that I can count one hundred before I see the next one. A funny game it is, with no rules, no prizes, and you always win.
By now you’ve settled down, and the time wanders along. Station after station passes. When you reach Oacoma, you can open the next letter. I think you’ll find that it’s interesting… but don’t open till the train pulls out of Oacoma!
I’ll bet that when you left White River, everybody you knew told you to be as quiet as a mouse and not even to move out of your seat all day long. Well… let’s fool them. Of course, you can’t tell who is on the train, but there really are some nice people sometimes. But there’s one man you really ought to get acquainted with. I think that he’ll probably come around to look you up, and maybe sit down and talk with you. But here’s what you do. Get out your very nicest smile, and shoot it at him when he comes down the aisle. Who is it? Why the conductor, of course.
In spite of all his gold buttons and gold lace all over his blue uniform, I think he’ll be quite a nice fellow to meet. Usually they (conductors, I mean) are not so very young perhaps, and you never did meet anyone so full of stories. Every one I ever met used to have a bagful of them, and liked nothing better than to sit down and talk to a young person.
But be on your guard — he might start telling you some whoppers! Maybe he’ll tell you the one about the absent minded engineer who forgot where his train was going, and landed his passengers in New York instead of San Francisco. That’s an old story, and don’t you let him kid you.
Well, let’s look at the timetable. Next big stop is Chamberlain at 8:20. Not much doing right now, is there? Never mind. You’ll find plenty of interesting things to do a little later. Remember, we’ve got to explore that observation car when they put it on at Canton. That’s just this very afternoon, though it’s a hundred miles or more down the track.