Our story opens in an Italian railway station, in the spring of 1848. From a train that had just arrived, the passengers were hastening to secure their places in another that stood waiting for them. A guard had succeeded in crowding a party of two ladies and a gentleman into one of these itinerant prison-cells, which already contained seven occupants, before the newcomers perceived that they were being imposed upon. A vigorous protest followed. The elder of the two ladies, seizing the guard by the arm, addressed him in an angry tone, first in German, then in French.
With the calm indifference of an automaton, the uniformed official pointed to a placard against the wall. Per dieci persone was the inscription it bore. Ten persons, it seemed, were expected to find places here.
“But we have first-class tickets,” protested the lady, producing a bit of yellow pasteboard in proof of her assertion.