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A Conversation.

Two gentlemen entered the smoking car of a railroad train in Central Pennsylvania not long since. There being but one vacant seat they were obliged to divide it between them.

One of the gentlemen was a veterinary surgeon, the other a teacher of singing. One of the most characteristic things about a man of the world is his reticence in the presence of strangers—especially so, concerning his own affairs. These two men, in addition to the conventional caution of their kind, were also each a little sensitive as to his profession. It is not quite explicable, yet we sometimes see a full grown man trailing about with a music roll under his wing and not at all shy. There are others, however, who are. These men usually carry their music in a valise, which, while it looks professional, does not advertise a specialty. It is not that they are ashamed of their work; they probably dislike to be classed with the fellows who advertise their business with the music roll.

The veterinarian, meanwhile, though not at all above his work, feared the mental estimate and comparison of a stranger as between the professional care of sick animals and sick men. So the appearance of his valise was quite as innocent of indication as to its contents as was the musician’s.

The conversation opened by a exchange of comment on the weather; from that to business prospects, the political activities next, and by that time each began to wonder who the other was or more particularly what his business was. Naturally, the bolder of the two, who, in this instance, was the veterinarian, took the leap. “By the way, what did you say your business is?” “I did not say,” replied the musician, “but I don’t mind telling you; I am a repairer and builder of harps.” His companion’s face was a study. “Humph,” he grunted, and then added: “Well, that is something out of my line. I didn’t suppose there was much doing in the harp line these days.” “0 yes, quite something,” was the reply. “Yes, I can take new harps and tune them up, put in the strings and fix the pegs and polish them off and get them ready for the market.” “Is there any money in it?” asked the veterinarian. “Yes,” said the harp man. “Some of them bring a great price, and some of them are worthless.” “I suppose harps, like violins, improve with age; is it not so?” “Well, not exactly,” was the reply. “You see, old harps have been played on so long that they become tinny and thin, and then some other fellow who doesn’t know the business has probably had a hand in making or repairing them; we find it a difficult matter to get any tone into them.” “Well! I suppose you do not tell your customers that you can’t fix them up and spoil your own business, do you?” asked the veterinarian. “Not always,” sighed the harp specialist. “Is there any money in it?” “No, not any great amount. I only get paid by the hour.” “What do you call your time worth?” “I usually get about $12.00 an hour from my customers.” “Whew!” whistled the veterinarian. “$12.00 an hour! ” “Yes, but you know there isn’t much in it, for there are only so many working hours a day, and it costs a great deal to advertise.”

The veterinary surgeon sat still and looked puzzled. He couldn’t quite swallow the stories of his companion, and still was too much of a gentleman to say so. Just here came his turn to submit to an examination. “You haven’t told me what your business is yet?” “No, but I will. I am in various lines of activity. I am a plasterer and have something to do with leather; do quite something in oils, powders and hides, and have a good deal to do in ivory filing.” “You certainly have a variety of interests,” said the singing master. “It must require a large plant to carry on such a business.” “It doesn’t require so much of a plant as it does nerve to describe it,” the veterinarian said, rising to his feet, for just at that moment the train reached his station. Strange to relate, the men smilingly exchanged cards as they parted. The veterinarian said to his wife when he arrived home: “I guess we will send Mabel to Prof. Blank for her singing lessons. I met him on the train today and he seems a decent sort of chap. I would like to help him along.”

The teacher remarked to his wife: “If I ever save money enough to buy a horse and he ever gets sick, I shall certainly patronize Dr. ————. I met him on the train today, and he seems a very capable man.”

 

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