The Little Man
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Afternoon, on the departure platform of an Austrian railway
station. At several little tables outside the buffet persons
are taking refreshment, served by a pale young waiter. On a
seat against the wall of the buffet a woman of lowly station is
sitting beside two large bundles, on one of which she has placed
her baby, swathed in a black shawl.
WAITER. [Approaching a table whereat sit an English traveller and his wife] Two coffee?
ENGLISHMAN. [Paying] Thanks. [To his wife, in an Oxford voice] Sugar?
ENGLISHWOMAN. [In a Cambridge voice] One.
AMERICAN TRAVELLER. [With field-glasses and a pocket camera from another table] Waiter, I'd like to have you get my eggs. I've been sitting here quite a while.
WAITER. Yes, sare.
GERMAN TRAVELLER. 'Kellner, bezahlen'! [His voice is, like his moustache, stiff and brushed up at the ends. His figure also is stiff and his hair a little grey; clearly once, if not now, a colonel.]
WAITER. 'Komm' gleich'!
[The baby on the bundle wails. The mother takes it up to soothe
it. A young, red-cheeked Dutchman at the fourth table stops
eating and laughs.]
AMERICAN. My eggs! Get a wiggle on you!
WAITER. Yes, sare. [He rapidly recedes.]
[A LITTLE MAN in a soft hat is seen to the right of tables. He
stands a moment looking after the hurrying waiter, then seats
himself at the fifth table.]
ENGLISHMAN. [Looking at his watch] Ten minutes more.
AMERICAN. [Addressing them] 'Pears as if they'd a prejudice against eggs here, anyway.
[The ENGLISH look at him, but do not speak. ]
GERMAN. [In creditable English] In these places man can get nothing.
[The WAITER comes flying back with a compote for the DUTCH
YOUTH, who pays.]
GERMAN. 'Kellner, bezahlen'!
WAITER. 'Eine Krone sechzig'.
[The GERMAN pays.]
AMERICAN. [Rising, and taking out his watch—blandly] See here. If I don't get my eggs before this watch ticks twenty, there'll be another waiter in heaven.
WAITER. [Flying] 'Komm' gleich'!
AMERICAN. [Seeking sympathy] I'm gettin' kind of mad!
[The ENGLISHMAN halves his newspaper and hands the advertisement
half to his wife. The BABY wails. The MOTHER rocks it.]
[The DUTCH YOUTH stops eating and laughs. The GERMAN lights a
cigarette. The LITTLE MAN sits motionless, nursing his hat.
The WAITER comes flying back with the eggs and places them
before the AMERICAN.]
AMERICAN. [Putting away his watch] Good! I don't like trouble. How much?
[He pays and eats. The WAITER stands a moment at the edge of
the platform and passes his hand across his brow. The LITTLE
MAN eyes him and speaks gently.]
LITTLE MAN. Herr Ober!
[The WAITER turns.]
Might I have a glass of beer?
WAITER. Yes, sare.
LITTLE MAN. Thank you very much.
[The WAITER goes.]
AMERICAN. [Pausing in the deglutition of his eggs—affably] Pardon me, sir; I'd like to have you tell me why you called that little bit of a feller "Herr Ober." Reckon you would know what that means? Mr. Head Waiter.
LITTLE MAN. Yes, yes.
AMERICAN. I smile.
LITTLE MAN. Oughtn't I to call him that...?