THE Claim-Agent of the Brass Bound R. R. Company sat in his office, his desk piled high with correspondence. He had disposed of sixteen claims for cows killed, thirteen sheep claims, and several personal injuries--about the usual daily average of accidents--when the office-door opened, and a tall, angular woman entered.
"Be you the claim agent?" she demanded, with a voice which sounded like a cross between a buzz-saw and a steam whistle.
"I be," responded that official, briefly.
"I come up here to git pay for the trunk I lost in the Coon Creek collision."
There had been a bad smashup on the road a few weeks before and this was one of the claims growing out of it, which remained unadjusted.
"What is your name?" asked the agent.
"Mrs. Lovelock, of Geneva," she replied.
"Ah, yes," said the claim-agent, "I remember now. How much do you think your trunk was worth, Mrs. Lovelock?"
"Well, I dunno exactly, but I sh'd think abaout two hundred dollars would be nigh the value of it, and I wouldn't want you should pay me any more'n it was worth."
"That's pretty steep," mused the claim-agent, looking at his note-book. "Let's see how you make it. What was the trunk itself worth, for instance?"
"Well, it was a fine, large, new trunk, an' I had jest paid fifteen dollars for it before I started."
The claim-agent made a note of the fifteen dollars. "Well, what was in the trunk?" he asked.
"Lemme see--there was my best Sunday dress--a black silk--the material in it cost twenty-five dollars, an' the makin' ten--that makes thirty-five. Then there was an alpaca dress, worth about fifteen dollars, an' a new bunnit I had jest paid fifteen dollars for."
The claim-agent kept track of the items. "That makes seventy-eight dollars; now what else."
"Well," she said, "there was consid'able other clothin'."
"What was that worth?"
"I dunno exactly, but I guess about fifty dollars."
"Well, what else now?"
Her memory seemed to fail her at this point, but after a moment she continued: "There was about seventy-five dollars worth o' jewelry in the trunk."
"That makes something over two hundred dollars," said the claim agent.
"Well," she said magnanimously, "I don't want to be hard on the Compn'y, so we'll call it jest an even two hundred."
"Trunk have any marks on it?" asked the claim agent, casually.
"It had a kyard with my name on it," she answered.
"Got the check?"
She produced it.
"Seems to me you are a little hard on us," said the claim agent. "Don't you think you could reduce the amount a little?"
"No, sir," she said, "an' if you don't pay, I'll sue."
"Sorry to go to law with you, ma'am, but we won't pay that claim."
She flounced out of her chair, and started for the door.
"Wait a minute," said the claim-agent, soothingly. "I guess we can make some arrangement."
She sat down again, and the claim-agent stepped out into the hall. When he came back a porter followed him, bringing under one arm a small, yellow trunk, tied about with a rope, and somewhat the worse for wear. It could have been bought anywhere for a dollar and a half. The claim-agent looked at the card and compared the checks. "Is that your trunk?" he asked.
Her face was red as a beet, as she acknowledged, with very bad grace, that it was.
"The trunk hasn't been hurt at all," said the claim-agent, "except by the wetting it got when the baggage-car fell into the creek. If you've got the key there, we'll open it, and see what the damage was."
"I--I've--lost the key," she stammered.
"Oh, well, then we'll break it open," said the claim-agent, cheerfully.
"Oh, no, don't do that," she remonstrated. "It--it--ain't my trunk--I borrered it from my sister, an' she wouldn't like that I should break the lock. I'd rather take less money."
"I guess you would," said the claim-agent, with a chuckle. "I ain't been claim-agent on this road for five years without meeting lots of people like you. We'll give you fifteen dollars for what damage the water may have done to your baggage--or, I'll open the trunk, and you can bring your lawsuit."
"I'll take the fifteen dollars," she replied, quickly, but snappishly. And when she had got the money and signed a receipt, she relieved her mind by saying, as she left the office:
"I wouldn't a thought a rich comp'ny like this would insult a lady that way. But all men ain't gentlemen, an' corporations ain't got no soul nohow."