The Belated Russian Passport

“One fly makes a summer.”—Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.


A great beer-saloon in the Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, towards mid-afternoon. At a hundred round tables gentlemen sat smoking and drinking; flitting here and there and everywhere were white-aproned waiters bearing foaming mugs to the thirsty. At a table near the main entrance were grouped half a dozen lively young fellows—American students—drinking good-bye to a visiting Yale youth on his travels, who had been spending a few days in the German capital.

“But why do you cut your tour short in the middle, Parrish?” asked one of the students. “I wish I had your chance. What do you want to go home for?”

“Yes,” said another, “what is the idea? You want to explain, you know, because it looks like insanity. Homesick?”

A girlish blush rose in Parrish’s fresh young face, and after a little hesitation he confessed that that was his trouble.

“I was never away from home before,” he said, “and every day I get more and more lonesome. I have not seen a friend for weeks, and it’s been horrible. I meant to stick the trip through, for pride’s sake, but seeing you boys has finished me. It’s been heaven to me, and I can’t take up that companionless dreariness again. If I had company—but I haven’t, you know, so it’s no use. They used to call me Miss Nancy when I was a small chap, and I reckon I’m that yet—girlish and timorous, and all that. I ought to have been a girl! I can’t stand it; I’m going home.”

The boys rallied him good-naturedly, and said he was making the mistake of his life; and one of them added that he ought at least to see St. Petersburg before turning back.

“Don’t!” said Parrish, appealingly. “It was my dearest dream, and I’m throwing it away. Don’t say a word more on that head, for I’m made of water, and can’t stand out against anybody’s persuasion. I can’t go alone; I think I should die.” He slapped his breast-pocket, and added: “Here is my protection against a change of mind; I’ve bought ticket and sleeper for Paris, and I leave to-night. Drink, now—this is on me—bumpers—this is for home!”

The good-byes were said, and Alfred Parrish was left to his thoughts and his loneliness. But for a moment only. A sturdy, middle-aged man with a brisk and business-like bearing, and an air of decision and confidence suggestive of military training, came bustling from the next table, and seated himself at Parrish’s side, and began to speak, with concentrated interest and earnestness. His eyes, his face, his person, his whole system, seemed to exude energy. He was full of steam—racing pressure—one could almost hear his gauge-cocks sing. He extended a frank hand, shook Parrish cordially, and said, with a most convincing air of strenuous conviction:

“Ah, but you mustn’t; really you mustn’t; it would be the greatest mistake; you would always regret it. Be persuaded, I beg you; don’t do it—don’t!”

There was such a friendly note in it, and such a seeming of genuineness, that it brought a sort of uplift to the youth’s despondent spirits, and a telltale moisture betrayed itself in his eyes, an unintentional confession that he was touched and grateful. The alert stranger noted that sign, was quite content with that response, and followed up his advantage without waiting for a spoken one:

“No, don’t do it; it would be a mistake. I have heard everything that was said—you will pardon that—I was so close by that I couldn’t help it. And it troubled me to think that you would cut your travels short when you really want to see St. Petersburg, and are right here almost in sight of it! Reconsider it—ah,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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