Well, you just chalk out a place the size of a blanket anywhere on the tin that ain't already marked off, you know, and that's your property. You and your bed-mate take turn- about carrying up the blanket and pillows and fetching them down again; or one carries them up and the other fetches them down, you fix it the way you like, you know. You'll like the boys, they're everlasting sociable--except the printer. He's the one that sleeps in that single bed-the strangest creature; why, I don't believe you could get that man to sleep with another man, not if the house was afire. Mind you, I'm not just talking, I know. The boys tried him, to see. They took his bed out one night, and so when he got home about three in the morning--he was on a morning paper then, but he's on an evening one now--there wasn't any place for him but with the iron-moulder; and if you'll believe me, he just set up the rest of the night--he did, honest. They say he's cracked, but it ain't so, he's English--they're awful particular. You won't mind my saying that. You--you're English?"
"I thought so. I could tell it by the way you mispronounce the words that's got a's in them, you know; such as saying loff when you mean laff --but you'll get over that. He's a right down good fellow, and a little sociable with the photographer's boy and the caulker and the blacksmith that work in the navy yard, but not so much with the others. The fact is, though it's private, and the others don't know it, he's a kind of an aristocrat, his father being a doctor, and you know what style that is-- in England, I mean, because in this country a doctor ain't so very much, even if he's that. But over there of course it's different. So this chap had a falling out with his father, and was pretty high strung, and just cut for this country, and the first he knew he had to get to work or starve. Well, he'd been to college, you see, and so he judged he was all right--did you say anything?"
"No--I only sighed."
"And there's where he was mistaken. Why, he mighty near starved. And I reckon he would have starved sure enough, if some jour' printer or other hadn't took pity on him and got him a place as apprentice. So he learnt the trade, and then he was all right--but it was a close call. Once he thought he had got to haul in his pride and holler for his father and-- why, you're sighing again. Is anything the matter with you?--does my clatter--"
"Oh, dear--no. Pray go on--I like it."
"Yes, you see, he's been over here ten years; he's twenty-eight, now, and he ain't pretty well satisfied in his mind, because he can't get reconciled to being a mechanic and associating with mechanics, he being, as he says to me, a gentleman, which is a pretty plain letting-on that the boys ain't, but of course I know enough not to let that cat out of the bag."
"Why-would there be any harm in it?"
"Harm in it? They'd lick him, wouldn't they? Wouldn't you? Of course you would. Don't you ever let a man say you ain't a gentleman in this country. But laws, what am I thinking about? I reckon a body would think twice before he said a cowboy wasn't a gentleman."
A trim, active, slender and very pretty girl of about eighteen walked into the room now, in the most satisfied and unembarrassed way. She was cheaply but smartly and gracefully dressed, and the mother's quick glance at the stranger's face as he rose, was of the kind which inquires what effect has been produced, and expects to find indications of surprise and admiration.
"This is my daughter Hattie--we call her Puss. It's the new boarder, Puss." This without rising.
The young Englishman made the awkward bow common to his nationality and time of life in circumstances of delicacy and difficulty, and these were of that sort; for, being taken by surprise, his natural, lifelong self sprang to the front, and that self of course would not know just how to act when introduced to a chambermaid, or to the heiress of a mechanics' boarding house. His other self--the self which recognized the equality of all men--would have managed the thing better, if it hadn't been caught off guard and robbed of its chance.