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A Sleeping Car Serenade by W. G. B.

Not long ago I had to travel by the night-express from Montreal to New York, and feeling drowsy about eleven o'clock, presented my claim for a lower berth in the car paradoxically designated "sleeping," and tantalizingly named "palace," with sanguine hopes of obtaining a refreshing snooze. Knowing from experience the aberrations of mind peculiar to travelers roused from sleep, by which they are impelled to get off at way-stations, I secured my traps against the contingencies liable to unchecked baggage, and creeping into the back of the sepulchral shelf called a bed, I enveloped myself after the fashion of Indian squaws and Egyptian mummies, and fell asleep.

I do not know whether the noise and concussion of the cars excite the same sort of dreams in every one's cranium as they do in mine, but they almost invariably produce in my brain mental phenomena of a pugnacious character, which are nothing modified by palace cars and steel rails. This particular night there was a perfect revelry of dreams in my brain. I was on the frontier with our corps, engaged in a glorious hand-to-hand conflict with men our equals in number and valor. We were having the best of it, giving it to them hot and heavy, crash! through the beggars' skulls, and plunge! into their abominable abdominal regions. "No quarter!" It was a pity, but it seemed splendid.

Bang! roared an Armstrong gun, as I thought, close to my ear: down went a whole column of the enemy like a flash, as I awoke to find it a dream, alas! and the supposed artillery nothing more or less than one of those sharp, gurgling snorts produced during inspiration in the larynx of a stout Jewish gentleman, who had in some mysterious way got on the outer half of my shelf during my sleep, and whose ancient descent was clearly defined in the side view I immediately obtained of the contour and size of his nose. I had got one of my arms out from under the covering, and found I had "cut left" directly upon the prominent proboscis of my friend—a passage of arms that materially accelerated his breathing, and awoke him to the fact that though he had a nose sufficiently large to have entitled him to Napoleon's consideration for a generalship had he lived in the days of that potentate, yet there was something unusual on the end of it, which was far too large for a pimple and rather heavy for a fly. Perhaps it induced a nightmare, and deluded him into the belief that he had been metamorphosed into an elephant, and hadn't become accustomed to his trunk. It puzzled me to know how or why he had been billeted on my palatial shelf, for the whole of which I had paid; but as it was rather a cold night, and there was something respectable in the outline of that Roman nose, I turned my back on him and determined to accept the situation, soothing myself with the reflection that if I repeated the assault upon his nose, such an accident must be excused as a fortuitous result of his unauthorized intrusion.

I had just got freshly enveloped in the "honey-dew of slumber" when my compagnon de voyage began to snore, and in the most unendurable manner, the effect of which was nothing improved by his proximity. It seemed to penetrate every sense and sensation of my body, and to intensify the extreme of misery which I had begun to endure in the hard effort to sleep. His snore was a medley of snuffing and snorting, with an abortive demi-semi aristocratic sort of a sneeze; while to add to the effect of this three-stringed inspiration there was in each aspiration a tremulous and swooning neigh. I had been reading The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man for several previous days, and began to think I had discovered some wandering Jewish lost link between man and the monkey, and that I actually had him or it for a bedfellow; but by the dim light of the car-lamps I managed to see his hands, which had orthodox nails. I was now thoroughly awake, and found myself the victim of a perfect bedlam of snorers from one end of the car to the other, making a concatenation of hideous noises only to be equaled by a menagerie; though, to give the devil his due, a earful of wild animals would never make such an uproar when fast asleep.

It is a well-known fact that when one's ears prick up at night and find the slightest noise an obstacle to slumber, after much tossing and turning, and some imprecating, tired Nature will finally succumb from sheer exhaustion: she even conquers the howling of dogs holding converse with the moon and the cater-wauling of enamored cats. Cats, and even cataracts, I have defied, but of all noises to keep a sober man awake I know of none to take the palm from the snoring in that car. There seemed to be a bond of sympathy, too, among the snorers, for those who did not snore were the only ones who did not sleep.

The varieties of sound were so intensely ridiculous that at first I found it amusing to listen to the performance. A musical ear might have had novel practice by classifying the intonations. The war-whooping snore of my bedfellow changed at times into a deep and mellow bass. To the right of us, on the lower shelf, was a happy individual indulging in all the variations of a nervous treble of every possible pitch: his was an inconstant falsetto in sound and cadence. Above him snored one as if he had a metallic reed in his larynx that opened with each inhalation: his snore struck me as a brassy alto. The tenors were distributed at such distances as to convey to my ears all the discord of an inebriated band of cracked fifes and split bagpipes playing snatches of different tunes. There were snores that beggar description, that seemed to express every temperament and every passion of the human soul. I cannot forget one a couple of berths off, which seemed to rise above the mediocrity of snores, mellowing into a tenderness like the dying strains of an echo, and renewing its regular periods with a highbred dignity which Nature had clearly not assumed. Another broke away from the harsh notes around in soft diapasons, and with a mellifluous soprano which I instinctively knew must belong to a throat that could sing. Was it Nilsson? Just over my head was a jerky croak of a snore, sounding at intervals of half a minute, as if it had retired on half-pay and longed to get back into active service.

It occurred to me, when amid these paroxysms of turmoil I heard a very fair harmony between the bass of my bedfellow and the tenor of a sleeper in the next berth, that if a Gilmore could take snores, into training, and by animal magnetism or mesmerism manage to make them snore in concert and by note—

In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood Of flutes and soft recorders—

we should have a diverting performance in sleeping-cars, and one objection to their use would be actually utilized as an extra inducement to patronize them.

Several times I was strongly impelled to shunt my bass snorer off the bed or twig his Roman nose, but one experiment of a kick roused such a vigorous snort, like that produced by dropping a brick on a sleeping pig, that I abandoned such physical means of retaliation. I thought of tickling his nose with a feather or a straw, but the bed contained neither, and I had not even a pin. And supposing I should stop my shelf-mate, what could I do to suppress the rest? Should I make some horrible noise between a hoarse cough and a crow, and say, if any one complained, that it was my way of snoring? But I thought that the object to be attained, and the possibility of being voted insane and consigned, in spite of protestation, to the baggage-car, would not compensate me for the exertion required; so I determined to submit to it like a Stoic. (Query: Would a Stoic have submitted?)

The more one meditates upon the reason of wakefulness, the more his chances of sleep diminish; and from this cause, conjoined with the peculiarity of the situation and the mood in which I found myself, I had surely "affrighted sleep" for that night. As I lay awake I indulged in the following mental calculation of my misery to coax a slumber: The average number of inspirations in a minute is fifteen—remember, snoring is an act of the inspiration—the number of hours I lay awake was six. Fifteen snores a minute make nine hundred an hour. Multiply 900 by 6—the number of hours I lay awake—and you have 5400, the number of notes struck by each snorer. There were at least twelve distinct and regular snorers in the car. Multiply 5400 by 12, and you have 64,800 snores, not including the snuffling neighs, perpetrated in that car from about eleven P. M. until five the next morning!

The question follows: "Can snoring be prevented?" It is plainly a nuisance, and ought to be indictable. I have heard of the use of local stimulants, such as camphire and ammonia—how I longed for the sweet revenge of holding a bottle of aqua ammonia under that Roman nose!—and also of clipping the uvula, which may cause snoring by resting on the base of the tongue. The question demands the grave consideration of our railroad managers; for while the traveling public do not object to a man snoring the roof off if he chooses to do it under his own vine and fig tree, tired men and women have a right to expect a sleep when they contract for it. Is there no lover of sleep and litigation who will prosecute for damages?

There is a prospect, however, of a balm in Gilead. An ingenious Yankee—a commercial traveler—has invented and patented an instrument made of gutta percha, to be fitted to the nose, and pass from that protuberance to the tympanum of the ear. As soon as the snorer begins the sound is carried so perfectly to his own ear, and all other sounds so well excluded, that he awakens in terror. The sanguine inventor believes that after a few nights' trial the wearer will become so disgusted with his own midnight serenading that his sleep will become as sound and peaceable as that of a suckling baby.

And yet there is nothing vulgar in snoring. Chesterfield did it, and so did Beau Brummell, and they were the two last men in the world to do anything beyond the bounds of propriety, awake or asleep, if they could help it. Plutarch tells us that the emperor Otho snored; so did Cato; so did George II., and also George IV., who boasted that he was "the first gentleman in Europe." Position has nothing to do with cause and effect in snoring, as there are instances on record of soldiers snoring while standing asleep in sentry-boxes; and I have heard policemen snore sitting on doorsteps, waiting to be wakened by the attentive "relief." We may be sure Alain Chartier did not snore when Margaret of Scotland stooped down and kissed him while he was asleep, or young John Milton when the highborn Italian won from him a pair of gloves; though it did not lessen the ardor of philosophical Paddy, when he coaxingly sang outside of his true love's window—

Shure, I know by the length of your snore you're awake.

But really, I don't know whether women do snore. I'm not sure that the mellifluous soprano snore in the car was Nilsson's, and Paddy may have been joking. I know that only male frogs croak.