Aunt Mary Telegraphs by Lloyd E. Lonergan
A Comedy of Everyday Life
"Auntie left on the six-o'clock train last night. Meet
her at the depot.—Clara."
This telegram, dated New York, greeted Frank Carey
when he reached his pleasant little home on Indiana Avenue,
"Aunt Mary will be here to-night," he said to his wife, "my
rich aunt from New York, you know. I am to meet her at
"When does she arrive?" fluttered pretty little Mrs. Carey,
a bride of a few months. "Cannot I go with you to
Mr. Carey said she could, then he thought for a moment,
then he put his doubts into words after a second reading of
"I wonder what road she is coming in on?" he said.
"'Twas stupid of her," replied his wife, "but call up the
railroads and find out which one has a six-o'clock train from
New York. Silly!"
Mr. Carey kissed his wife and remarked that she was the
brightest little girl in the world, after which he gaily telephoned,
listened intently to someone on the other end of the
line, made numerous notes, and turned to his wife in despair.
"Bless Clara!" he said devoutly.
His wife looked surprised, so he hastily explained.
"There is a six o'clock train from New York on the Pennsylvania,
also on the Lake Shore, likewise on the Michigan
Central, and the Lehigh Valley, and the Grand Trunk, and the
West Shore, and the B. &. O.!"
"Which one is auntie coming on?" inquired Mrs. Carey
"All of them," replied her husband wrathfully. "She is
sitting on the cow-catcher of each and every train, and if I'm
not there to meet her she'll disinherit me. Haven't you
Whereupon there were tears, apologies, and finally a council
of war. It was Mrs. Carey who solved the problem.
"All we have to do," she cried, "is to meet all the trains.
Won't it be cute?"
Carey didn't think so, but was afraid to express himself.
He simply tried to look impressed and listened.
"There are only seven trains," she continued. "Now
you," counting on her fingers, "are one, and I am two and Mr.
and Mrs. Haines next door, who belong to my whist club, are
four; and Ella Haines is five; and I just saw Mr. What's-his-name
go in to call on Ella—and he'll be six; and that
horrid man on the next block who is in your lodge will have
to be seven."
The "train meeters" were gathered together inside of an
hour. Mrs. Carey overruled all objections and laughed away
all difficulties. She told them it would be a lark, and they
believed it—at the time! As none of them had met Mrs.
Smith (Aunt Mary), Carey was called upon for a description.
"Aunt Mary," he said, "is of medium height, dark complexion
and usually dresses in black. She is fifty-eight
years old, but tells people she is under fifty. You cannot
miss her." And with this they were compelled to be satisfied.
Ella Haines was assigned to the Pennsylvania depot and
arrived late. All the New York passengers had disembarked,
but an old woman was standing at the entrance and looking
anxiously at the passers-by.
"Mrs. Smith?" said Ella, inquiringly.
"Thank heaven, you have come," was the joyous reply.
"Here," and she stepped to one side and revealed a little girl
who was gazing out at the tracks. "I've had such a time
with that brat and I'll never travel with another again. I've
just got time to catch my train for St. Paul. Good-bye!"
Whereupon, disregarding Ella's cries and her protestations,
the woman rushed madly to the other end of the depot and
disappeared through a gate which closed behind her with a
slam. It was the last call for the St. Paul train.
Naturally, Ella did not know what to do. She hung around
the depot for half an hour, hoping someone would claim the
child. Then she put the little one in a cab and gave the
Careys' address in Indiana Avenue.
Walter Haines went to the Lake Shore depot. One of
the first passengers to emerge from the New York train was a
female, who seemed to answer the general description furnished
by Carey. She was breathless as if from running
faster than an old woman should run. As she reached Haines,
she stopped and glared at him.
"Mrs. Smith?" he inquired, lifting his hat.
The woman grabbed him by the arm. "I knew you would
be here, but hurry, that man is after me!"
"What man?" asked Haines in surprise.
"Hush, we cannot talk now," was the reply. "Get a
carriage and drive fast, fast; we must escape him."
"George couldn't come, he sent me. My name is Haines,"
said the puzzled escort.
"I don't care if your name is Beelzebub" was the impatient
retort. "You get that carriage or I'll write to Roosevelt."
And Mr. Haines, very much astonished, complied.
He thought as he drove away that he heard someone shouting,
but was not sure; in fact, he paid no attention, for he was
too busy thinking what a queer old aunt his friend Carey had.
The "horrid man who belonged to the lodge" was named
Perkins. He reached the B. & O. depot half an hour ahead
of time, so he went across the street and had a drink. When
he returned he discovered that No. 7 was late, and so had
another. Also, several more. By the time the train did
arrive he was in such a mellow state that he couldn't tell a
parlor car from a lake steamer—and he didn't care! He
had likewise forgotten what George's aunt looked like, but
that, too, was a trivial matter. So he stood at the gate, beaming
blandly at every person that appeared.
"Are you Georsh's saunt?" he inquired of a tall man with
white side-whiskers and garbed in ministerial black. His
answer was a look of horror, but it had no effect on Perkins,
who repeated his question at intervals without result. His
lack of success finally drove him to tears.
"Poor Georsh!" he sobbed. "Dear old Georsh! Must
have an naunt! Break hish heart if he don't have an naunt!
Can't fine his naunt! Get him one myself!"
A gang of immigrants were passing at the time. Perkins
grabbed one of them by the arm.
"Be nish fellow," he said persuasively, "be Georsh's
The immigrant was obdurate, but Perkins was persistent.
He drew a roll of bills from his pocket and peeled off a five.
This he pressed upon his new-found friend.
"Be a good aunt," he said, "be a nish aunt, and I'll give
you two more like thish!"
The Italian, overcome by the sight of so much wealth,
fell captive to the eloquence of Perkins. The latter was
delighted. He escorted his victim to a saloon across the
street and hurled six drinks into him in rapid succession.
The immigrant beamed and forgot all his troubles. He lit
a fifteen-cent cigar and puffed away as if he were used to it.
"Be your-a aunt," he said, "be-a anybody's aunt. You
This sentiment led to another round of drinks, and then
the pair tumbled into a cab, singing discordantly in two languages.
Perkins fortunately remembered the address of Haines,
and was able to mumble it so that the hackman could understand.
Therefore there was no bar to his enjoyment.
Of course they stopped en route, for Perkins was brimming
over with gratitude and the cabman was included in their
rejoicing. Long before they reached Indiana Avenue, everybody
was drunk except the horse.
In the meantime there was all sorts of trouble in the modest
residence of George Carey. The head of the household had
fumed and fretted about the Michigan Central depot, and
finally started home, auntless. There he met his wife, Mrs.
Haines and Ella's young man with similar stories. Five minutes
later a carriage drove up and Ella and her charge alighted.
"Isn't she a dear little girl?" gurgled Miss Haines, who,
being petite and worried, didn't know anything else to do
under the circumstances except to gurgle.
Carey gazed at the young woman with distinct disapproval
for the first time in his life.
"I know the popular impression is that old ladies shrink,"
he said, "but Aunt Mary could never have shrunk to that
size. Where did you get her and why?"
Falteringly, Miss Haines explained. Then she cried. The
child, who had regarded them gravely up to this point, took
it for a signal. She screamed, then she roared. Nobody
could comfort her or find out who she was.
The arrival of another cab distracted their attention. The
bell rang loudly. As Carey opened the door, an old woman
bounded in. Her hat was on one side of her head and her eyes
"Safe at last!" she cried. Then she ran upstairs, entered
Mrs. Haines's room, and locked the door. Through the panels
came the sound of hysterical laughter.
Walter Haines entered the house at this moment. His
attitude was distinctly apologetic.
"Remarkable old lady, isn't she?" he ventured.
"Who?" asked Mr. Carey.
"Why your aunt, of course; didn't you see her come in?"
Carey choked down his wrath out of respect to the ladies,
but it was hard work.
"I never saw that woman before," he remarked; "you
brought her here uninvited, now you take her away."
Naturally this provoked argument. Mrs. Haines sided
with her husband, Mrs. Carey flew to the aid of her worser
half, Miss Haines wept, and the little girl screamed. Upstairs,
the bogus Aunt Mary was still laughing.
None of the interested parties could tell afterward how long
the talk continued. A louder noise outside drew them all to
the front porch. In front of the house was a hansom cab
drawn by a disgusted-looking horse. He looked and acted
like one who had been compelled against his will to mingle
with disreputable associates.
The driver descended from his seat and fell full length upon
the pavement. He didn't try to get up, but chanted in a
husky tone, "Hail! hail! the gang's all here!!!"
Then the door of the cab opened and Mr. Perkins appeared.
Nobody could deny that he was very much the worse for wear.
But Mr. Perkins bore himself like a conqueror. He advanced
hastily and embraced Carey with enthusiasm. Carey
"Dear Georsh," said Perkins. "Got you an naunt!"
Apprehensively, Carey ran to the carriage. Huddled upon
the floor was an object that moved faintly. From the atmosphere
Sherlock Holmes would have deduced that a whisky
refinery had exploded in that cab a few hours before. The
onlooker gingerly touched the object. It rolled over, then it
rolled out of the cab and lay on the sidewalk beside the driver.
Perkins kept on smiling. "Your naunt," he remarked,
blandly. "Couldn't get you what you wanted. Got you
At this moment, Carey remembered that he had a telephone.
He spurned his "aunt" with his foot and passed into the
house. He called up Police Headquarters. His friend,
Sergeant Bob O'Rourke, was on duty, which made it easier
"Bob," he said, after greetings had been exchanged, "have
you an alarm out for a little girl kidnapped from the Pennsylvania
"And does anybody want a crazy woman, last seen on a
Lake Shore train?"
"Yes; her keeper was here half an hour ago," was the
reply. "He was taking her to Kankakee and she made a get-away.
What do you know about her?"
"They are both here," was the reply. "Send the wagon,
and just for good measure I'll throw in an Italian immigrant
who came in over the B. & O. and a cab-driver. They are
both drunk, very drunk, and please take the cab away too."
The next half hour gave Indiana Avenue residents plenty
to talk about for a month. But finally the combat was over,
and Carey and his friends sat down exhausted.
"But what I would like to know," remarked the head of
the house, "where, oh where is Aunt Mary?"
It was a messenger-boy who brought the answer—a telegram
dated Niagara Falls, current date and reading:
"Stopped over here. Isn't the view from Goat Island
wonderful? Leave for Chicago on the first train. Meet me."
There was a sudden painful silence.
"Does anybody know how many trains there are from
Niagara Falls?" inquired Mrs. Carey, speaking to the company
generally. She didn't dare to address her husband.
"Just about as many as there are from New York," replied
Haines, with a woebegone look. "But—"
"Don't finish it," returned Carey, "I am not going to ask
you to try again, and I am not going to do so myself. Aunt
Mary can leave her money to anybody she pleases. If I
had another night like this the executors would be compelled
to mail me my cheque to an asylum."
And the next evening Aunt Mary, unattended, reached her
nephew's house without any trouble at all. She didn't
disinherit him; in fact, she felt so sorry because of his troubles
that she bought Mrs. Carey a complete spring outfit regardless
It's a good thing to have an Aunt Mary, even if she is
indefinite in her telegrams.