Tall Tales from the Old West

“Rid this hyere train before, then, have you?”

“No, sir,” I said. “I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure.”

He whistled between his teeth sharply in a way that I found most disagreeable, but in that it did no more than suit the rest of his manner. “Not ridden the midnight train before and gone all innocent to his seat!”

I informed him with some asperity that I was quite accustomed to this rather old-fashioned method of transportation and rode trains often and with a great deal of pleasure.

“Not like this hyere train,” he said. “No, sir, not like this train atall, I reckon.”

I inquired as to the source of this route’s perversity.

“Why, son, this hyere’s the only train the dead can catch between this town and t’next! Many’s the time I’ve seen them, ah, yes, many’s the time, come into my car in marvelously preserved suits of antiquated style, and them no more alive than this glass I’m holding. You may scoff,” — and I fear I had made some small noise of disbelief — “but on my honor it’s no less than the truth.”

An old gentleman at that moment came into the car, and turned small and rheumy eyes over the few passengers in silence before disappearing.

“There, you see,” said my companion. “There was one of them there! Lucky for us he didn’t have a thirst for talk or we’d never have got shut of him.”

I offered the commonly held belief that dead men tell no tales.

“Ah, not of word of it’s true! Except,” and here he paused, as though in some doubt about the taste of his anecdote, “except that, being shut within the ground like they are, oftentimes they don’t get much of a chance for colloquy. But don’t you believe it, no, sir, dead men like to talk, and about themselves more often than not!”

And far off a church bell rang the early hour and sent a palsy through my seatmate, like an intimation of mortality, or the settling of a great garbage-heap.