The Hack Driver Summary


The Hack Driver

The Hack Driver Summary

The story's narrator explains that after graduating, he began working for a well-known law firm in the city. He was employed there as an assistant clerk. He was dissatisfied with his job of serving summons because he had to deal with difficult situations on occasion. One day, he was assigned the task of serving summons on Oliver Lutkins, a key witness in a case. He lived in New Mullion, a small town.

The narrator was very excited to visit a small and beautiful town, but his excitement was dashed by the town's dull appearance. He noticed a cheerful and nice hack driver standing on the platform. He approached him and inquired about Oliver Lutkins, as he was new to town and wanted to locate him. The driver informed him that Oliver was a nasty man who owed a lot of people money. He also deceived the lawyer into telling him that he needed Lutkins for some court case.

Both parties agreed to a deal in which he agreed to hire Bill's hack and go on the hunt for Lutkins. Bill somehow traps the lawyer in his storey, and they travel to various locations in search of Lutkins. He always requests that the lawyer remain behind. They go to Fritz's in order to catch Lutkins while he is playing poker. However, he informs them that he has gone to Gustaff for a shave. They were unable to meet him at Gustaff's and were told that he was seen in the pool room. Someone else mentioned that he left the poolroom after purchasing cigarettes.

Bill described Lutkins as cunning and assumed he had gone to Gray's for a shave. In the afternoon, Bill offered to buy him lunch from his wife because it would be less expensive than going out to eat. They ate lunch at Wade's Hill, which was a stunning location. By that point, the clerk had been completely won over by Bill's pleasant and upbeat demeanour. He'd even started comparing village dwellers to city dwellers. Later, based on information obtained from one of Lutkins' friends, they went to look for him at his mother's house.

The lady there was dreadful, and they had to flee as she was about to attack them with a hot iron rod. Finally, the lawyer had to leave without serving Lutkins with the summons. The next day, he was severely reprimanded by his chief and sent back to New Mullion with a companion who knew Lutkins. When they arrived at the station, the clerk was overjoyed to tell them that Bill had been so helpful in their search for Lutkins.

At this point, his companion revealed that the hack driver was none other than Lutkins himself. The clerk felt terrible and embarrassed about being duped by a villager.

The Hack Driver Lesson and Explanation

AFTER graduating with honours, I became a junior assistant clerk in a magnificent law firm. I was sent, not to prepare legal briefs, but to serve summons, like a cheap private detective. I had to go to the dirty and shadowy corners of the city to seek out my victims. Some of the larger and more self-confident ones even beat me up. I hated this unpleasant work, and the side of city life it revealed to me.

I even considered fleeing to my hometown, where I could have been a real lawyer right away, without going through this unpleasant training period.

  • Magnificent: glorious, majestic
  • Legal briefs: A written legal document
  • Summons: court order
  • Detective: investigator
  • Shadowy: dark, dim
  • Unpleasant: horrible

The narrator begins by stating that after graduating with honours, he was chosen for a position as a junior assistant clerk in a well-known law firm. Instead of preparing legal documents like a lawyer, he had to deliver court orders to various people he referred to as his victims. He said this because he had to deal with many awkward situations in which he was beaten up by them.

They did so in order to avoid having to comply with court orders. As a result, the narrator expresses his dissatisfaction with his job. He despised it so much that he considered fleeing to his hometown, where he could work as a real lawyer rather than a clerk.

So I rejoiced one day when they sent me out forty miles in the country, to a town called New Mullion, to serve summons on a man called Oliver Lutkins. We needed this man as a witness in a law case, and he had ignored all our letters.

  • Rejoiced: happiness, joy
  • Witness: viewer, observer

One day, the narrator was overjoyed to learn that he had a forty-mile trip to make to a location forty miles away from where he lived. He claims that the town he was required to visit was New Mullion. He had to come here to serve summons (court orders) on a man named Oliver Lutkins. Oliver Lutkins was a witness or observer in a case, and the firm required him for that case, but he had consistently ignored the letters sent by the law firm.

When I got to New Mullion, my eager expectations of a sweet and simple country village were severely disappointed. Its streets were rivers of mud, with rows of wooden shops, either painted a sour brown, or bare of any paint at all. The only agreeable sight about the place was the delivery man at the station. He was about forty, red-faced, cheerful, and thick about the middle. His working clothes were dirty and well-worn, and he had a friendly manner. You felt at once that he liked people.

  • Eager: impatient
  • Expectation: belief, supposition
  • Disappointed: upset
  • Agreeable: pleasing, nice

The narrator's excitement about visiting a village washed away when he arrived in New Mullion. It happened because the village did not live up to his expectations. The streets were in disrepair because they were strewn with mud. The shops were also uninteresting. Everything he saw was dull, which made him sad. But then he noticed a delivery man, about forty years old and very cheerful.

He appeared to be very friendly with other people, according to the narrator. This made him like the delivery man, and he said he was the only person in the village who made him feel good.

“I want,” I told him, “to find a man named Oliver Lutkins.”

“Lutkins? I saw him around here about an hour ago. Hard fellow to catch though — always up to something or other. He’s probably trying to start up a poker game in the back of Fritz’s shop. I’ll tell you, boy — is there any hurry about locating Lutkins?”

  • Poker game: a type of card game.

The narrator approached the cheerful delivery man and informed him that he was looking for a man named Oliver Lutkins. The name of the person being searched by the clerk was quickly repeated by the delivery man. He then told him that he had seen Lutkins an hour before. He also told him that finding him was difficult because he was always up to something. Then he told him that Lutkins could be found at Fritz's shop, where he played poker. He also enquired about the importance of finding Lutkins.

“Yes. I want to catch the afternoon train back to the city.” I was very important and secret about it.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ve got a hack. I’ll get it out and we can drive around together and find Lutkins. I know most of the places he hangs out.”

  • Hack: A horse drawn vehicle, horse cart
  • Hangs out: To spend time doing nothing in particular

The clerk narrator responded that it was critical to locate Lutkins because he needed to return to the city by the afternoon train. The delivery man responded by saying that he had a horse cart and would assist him in finding Lutkins.

He was familiar with all of the places where Lutkins spent his free time.

He was so open and friendly that I glowed with the warmth of his affection. I knew, of course, that he wanted the business, but his kindness was real. I was glad the fare money would go to this good fellow. I managed to bargain down to two dollars an hour, and then he brought from his house nearby a sort of large black box on wheels. He remarked, “Well, young man, here’s the carriage,” and his wide smile made me into an old friend. These villagers are so ready to help a stranger. He had already made it his own task to find Oliver Lutkins for me.

  • Glowed: Here, it means impressed
  • Affection: love and care for someone
  • Bargain: to negotiate the price of something
  • Black box on wheels: refers to the horse cart

The delivery man's friendly and caring demeanour impressed the clerk. He claims that even though he was aware that he was attempting to extort money from him, he accepted his offer because he was a very nice man. He accepted the offer because of his pleasant and friendly demeanour, but he cut the deal at two dollars per hour.

Later, the delivery man arrived with his horse cart and invited him to sit. The clerk remembered the kindness and helpfulness of the villagers who helped a stranger and adopted his problem as his own.

He said, “I don’t want to interfere, young fellow, but my guess is that you want to collect some money from Lutkins. He never pays anybody a cent. He still owes me fifty cents on a poker game I was fool enough to play with him. He’s not really bad, but it’s hard to make him part with his money. If you try to collect from him, in those fancy clothes, he’ll be suspicious and get away from you. If you want I’ll go into Fritz’s and ask for him, and you can keep out of sight behind me.”

  • Owes: be in a debt/ an obligation to pay money
  • Suspicious: doubtful

The delivery man struck up a conversation with the clerk, asking if he needed to return his money to Lutkins. He also informed him that Lutkins had never paid his debts. He, too, had to return the fifty cents he had won in the poker game. The delivery man regretted being a fool who played with Lutkins despite being aware of his habit of not paying his bills.

Later, he advised him not to appear in front of Lutkins because his fancy clothes might cause Lutkins to doubt him and give him an opportunity to flee. So he told him to follow him to Fritz's shop.

I loved him for this. By myself, I might never have found Lutkins. With the hack driver’s knowing help, I was sure of getting my man. I took him into my confidence and told him that I wanted to serve the summons on Lutkins — that the man had refused to be a witness, when his information would have quickly settled our case. The driver listened earnestly. At the end, he hit me on the shoulder and laughed,”Well, we’ll give Brother Lutkins a little surprise.”

  • Hack Driver: the one drives a horse cart or hack
  • Confidence: trust, belief
  • Earnestly: sincerely

While the hack driver was hard at work for him, he revealed the truth about his search. He informed him that Lutkins was a witness in a crucial case, but he was not assisting them by providing details. Lutkins' information could aid them in quickly resolving the case. The driver took all of this seriously and then hit the clerk on the shoulder, telling him that they would surprise Lutkins by catching him and completing the clerk's task.

“Let’s start, driver.”

“Most folks around here call me Bill or Magnuson. My business is called ‘William Magnuson Fancy Carting and Hacking’.”

“All right, Bill. Shall we proceed to Fritz’s”.

“Yes, Lutkins is just as likely to be there as anywhere. Plays a lot of poker. He’s good at deceiving people.” Bill seemed to admire Lutkins’ talent for dishonesty. I felt that if he had been a policeman, he would have caught Lutkins respectfully, and jailed him with regret.

  • Proceed: to begin
  • Deceiving: cheating
  • Admire: praise, appreciate
  • Regret: to be sorry

They begin their hunt for Lutkins. On the way, the hack driver introduced himself as Bill or Magnuson and stated that his company was "William Magnuson Fancy Carting and Hacking." The clerk responded in a friendly manner that he and Bill should now begin their search mission. Bill also mentioned that Lutkins enjoyed playing poker and praised his ability to defraud others.

This made the clerk think about Bill and how, if he had been a cop, he would have apprehended Lutkins in a very respectful manner. Not only that, but he would have felt bad if he had put that man in jail.

Bill led me into Fritz’s. “Have you seen Oliver Lutkins around today? Friend of his looking for him,” said Bill cheerily.

Fritz looked at me, hiding behind Bill. He hesitated, and then admitted, “Yes, he was in here a little while ago. Guess he’s gone over to Gustaff’s to get a shave.”

“Well, if he comes in, tell him I’m looking for him.”

  • Cheerily: happy
  • Hesitated: be in two minds, stall
  • Admitted: confess

Bill accompanied the clerk to Fritz's shop and inquired about Oliver Lutkins. He attempted to appear natural by stating that a friend had come to meet him. He did this in order to force Fritz to reveal the truth about Lutkins. Fritz was perplexed at first, but then he explained that Lutkins had been there a few hours before, but he had left for Gustaff's shop, where he had gone for a shave. After receiving the information, Bill asked Fritz to notify Lutkins that he was looking for him.

We drove to Gustaff’s barber shop. Again Bill went in first, and I lingered at the door. He asked not only the Swede but two customers if they had seen Lutkins. The Swede had not. He said angrily, “I haven’t seen him, and don’t care to. But if you find him you can just collect that dollar thirty-five he owes me.” One of the customers thought he had seen Lutkins walking down Main Street, this side of the hotel.

  • Lingered: waited around
  • Swede: a native or inhabitant of Sweden, or a person of Swedish descent.

They then went to Gustaff's store. Bill went inside the shop first, and the clerk waited outside for him. They had to face the hairdresser's wrath because Lutkins had not paid his thirty-five dollars. One of the customers, however, informed them that he had seen Lutkins on the main street near the hotel.

As we climbed back into the hack, Bill concluded that since Lutkins had exhausted his credit at Gustaff’s he had probably gone to Gray’s for a shave. At Gray’s barber shop we missed Lutkins by only five minutes. He had just left — probably for the poolroom. At the poolroom it appeared that he had just bought a pack of cigarettes and gone out. So we pursued him, just behind him but never catching him, for an hour till it was past one o’clock. I was hungry. But I had so enjoyed Bill’s rough country opinions about his neighbours that I scarcely cared whether I found Lutkins or not.

  • Concluded: draw the judgement
  • Exhausted: used up, finished
  • Poolroom: A place to play pool, a betting shop
  • Scarcely: hardly

When they were about to re-climb the hack, Bill suspected Lutkins had gone to Gray's barber shop because his credit limit with Gustaff had expired. When they arrived at Gray's shop, they discovered that Lutkins had just left the place five minutes before. They decided to go to the poolroom (a betting shop), but they were informed that he had left after purchasing cigarettes.

As a result, their efforts to apprehend him were futile. It had been almost an hour. The clerk was hungry at one o'clock in the afternoon. But Bill's cheerfulness and knowledge of the villagers were so appealing to him that he didn't bother looking for Lutkins.

“How about something to eat?” I suggested. “Let’s go to a restaurant and I’ll buy you lunch.”

“Well, I ought to go home to the wife. I don’t care much for these restaurants — only four of them and they’re all bad. Tell you what we’ll do. We’ll get the wife to pack up a lunch for us — she won’t charge you more than half a dollar, and it would cost you more for a greasy meal in a restaurant — and we’ll go up to Wade’s Hill and enjoy the view while we eat.

  • Greasy meal: oily food

The clerk inquired about Bill's plans for lunch. He offered to buy them both lunch at the restaurant. Bill responded that there were only four restaurants in the area, and none of them were particularly good. He promised to get food from his wife. Bill also advised the clerk to purchase a food parcel from his wife because he would only have to pay half a dollar, which was far less than the price of the restaurant meal, which was oily and unappealing. He also suggested that they both go up Wade's hill for a nice view while they ate their lunch.

I know that Bill’s helpfulness to the Young Fellow from the City was not entirely a matter of brotherly love. I was paying him for his time; in the end I paid him for six hours (including the lunch hour) at what was then a very high price. But he was no more dishonest than I. I charged the whole thing to the firm.

But it would have been worth paying him myself to have his presence. His cheerful country wisdom was very refreshing to a country boy like me who was sick of the city. As we sat on the hilltop, looking over the pastures and creek which slipped among the trees, he talked of New Mullion, and painted a picture in words of all the people in it.

He noticed everything, but no matter how much he might laugh at people, he also understood and forgave their foolishness. He described the minister’s wife who sang the loudest in church when she was most in debt. He commented on the boys who came back from college in fancy clothes. He told about the lawyer whose wife could never succeed in getting him to put on both a collar and a tie on the same day. He made them all live. On that day I came to know New Mullion better than I did the city and to love it better.

  • Pastures: grassland
  • Creeks: a stream or minor tributary

The narrator claims that he knew Bill wasn't helping him because he was kind, but because he was making money off of him. He was paid for the six hours he spent with the clerk, including the lunch hour spent sitting idle on a hilltop. He was fine with it because his law firm would cover all of his expenses. As a result, he perceived it as dishonesty on his part. In any case, he was delighted to be in the company of such a cheerful individual as Bill.

They could see the beautiful grasslands and streams flowing through them while sitting on the hilltop. They were very attractive to the clerk, who was also a villager who disliked city life. Bill told him everything there was to know about New Mullion. He explained everything and everyone in such a way that he felt as if it had all happened right in front of his eyes. Bill told him about the minister's wife, who used to sing so loudly in church whenever she was in debt (liability to pay off your credit or loans).

This means she prayed to God for help with her problems. Then there were the college boys who would dress so formally, and the lawyer's wife who would always fail in her attempt to make her husband wear both the collar and the tie on the same day. The narrator claims that Bill's knowledge of his village neighbours made him fall in love with the small town of New Mullion. He claims that he now knows almost everything about this location, whereas he was previously unaware of the city in which he lived.

Bill didn’t know about colleges and cities, but he had travelled around a lot of the country, and had had a lot of jobs. From his adventures he had brought back a philosophy of simplicity and laugher. He strengthened me.

We left that peaceful scene of meadows and woods, and resumed our search of Oliver Lutkins. We could not find him. At last Bill cornered a friend of Lutkins and made him admit what he guessed,“Oliver’s gone out to his mother’s farm, three miles north.” We drove out there, laying plans.

  • Adventures; exploit or event
  • Philosophy: ideology, beliefs
  • Meadows: field, pasture
  • Resumed: restart
  • Cornered: forced into a place or situation

Bill knew nothing about colleges or cities, possibly because he never had the opportunity to visit them. But he knew everything about the villages and small towns because he had worked in them in various capacities. By taking advantage of these locations, he received his ideology of simplicity and cheerfulness as a gift. He tried to persuade the narrator that they would undoubtedly catch Lutkins. They both exited the lovely fields and resumed their search.

Finally, Bill coerced one of Lutkin's friends into admitting that Lutkin had fled to his mother's house, which was three miles from New Mullion. As a result, they both prepared to drive to Lutkin's mother in order to locate him.

“I know Oliver’s mother. She’s a terror,” Bill sighed. “I took a trunk out there for her once, and she almost took my skin off because I didn’t treat it like a box of eggs. She’s about nine feet tall and four feet thick and quick as a cat, and she sure can talk. I’ll bet Oliver heard that somebody’s chasing him, and he’s gone on there to hide behind his mother’s skirts. Well, we’ll try her. But you’d better let me do it, boy. You may be great at literature and law, but you haven’t had real training in swearing.”

Bill told him he knew Oliver's mother because he once took a trunk delivery for her. She was enraged at herself for not taking proper care of her trunk, so she treated him harshly. He described her physical appearance as nine feet tall and four feet thick, with the quickness of a cat.

He went on to say that the Lutkins must have learned that they were looking for him, which is why he fled to his mother's house to hide. He also suggested that the narrator let him deal with the mother because he doubted the clerk's ability to extract the truth from the lady's mouth.

We drove into a poor farmyard; we were faced by an enormous and cheerful old woman. My guide bravely went up to her and said, “Remember me? I’m Bill Magnuson, the carter and hackman. I want to find your son, Oliver.”

“I don’t know anything about Oliver, and I don’t want to,” she shouted.

  • Enormous: huge

When they arrived at the farmland, they were greeted by a large, cheerful old lady. Bill bravely approached her and introduced himself as Bill Magnuson, telling her that he was looking for her son Oliver. The lady responded by yelling that she knew nothing about him.

“Now, look here. We’ve had just about enough nonsense. This young man represents the court in the city, and we have a legal right to search all properties for this Oliver Lutkins.”

Bill made me sound very important, and the woman was impressed. She retired into the kitchen and we followed. She seized an iron from the old-fashioned stove and marched on us shouting. “You search all you want to — if you don’t mind getting burnt first.” She shouted and laughed at our frightened retreat.

  • Represents: Be appointed to act on behalf of or speak for someone
  • Retired: Here, went inside
  • Seized: grabbed, snatched
  • Frightened: afraid or anxious
  • Retreat: pull back

Bill became stern with the lady, saying that they had been through difficult and perplexing times, and then introduced her to the clerk by stating that he was a person appointed by the city court. He also stated that they had obtained the legal authority to search her home in order to locate Oliver Lutkins.

The clerk was pleased because Bill was treating him with respect, and even the lady seemed impressed by him. She entered the kitchen, and they both followed her. To their surprise, she took a hot iron from the stove and threatened to burn them. She laughed as they took a step back in fear.

“Let’s get out of here. She’ll murder us,” Bill whispered. Outside, he said, “Did you see her smile? She was laughing at us.” I agreed that it was pretty disrespectful treatment. We did, however, search the house. Since it was only one storey high, Bill went round it, peering in at all the windows.

We examined the barn and stable; we were reasonably certain that Lutkins was not there. It was nearly time for me to catch the afternoon train, and Bill drove me to the station.

  • Whispered: murmured
  • Disrespectful: rude, impolite
  • Examined: to look or consider a person or place
  • Barn: outhouse, shelter
  • Stable: A place where horse is tied up

Bill muttered to the clerk to leave because the lady's reaction was so horrible. He agreed that the woman's behaviour was extremely impolite. Despite this, they were able to search the entire house, including the outhouse and the stable (a place where horse is tied). Because it was a single-story structure, they were able to search the entire structure but were unable to locate Lutkins. As the clerk was running late for his train, Bill drove him to the station.

On the way to the city I worried very little over my failure to find Lutkins. I was too busy thinking about Bill Magnuson. Really, I considered returning to New Mullion to practise law. If I had found Bill so deep and richly human, might I not grow to love Fritz and Gustaff and a hundred other slow-spoken, simple, wise neighbours? I pictured an honest and happy life beyond the strict limits of universities and law firms. I was excited. I had found a treasure. I had discovered a new way of life.

While returning to the city, the narrator was not disappointed in his failure to deliver summons to Lutkins; rather, he was pleased. He was still thinking about Bill Magnuson and wished he could return to New Mullion and begin his practise there. He had a special bond with all the villagers, including Fritz and Gustaff, whom he regarded as humble speakers and wise neighbours.

He imagined a life that was honest, simple, and joyful, which he had not encountered within the confines of his university or law firm. He was overjoyed, as if he had discovered some kind of treasure and a new way of life.

But if I did not think much about Lutkins, the office did. I found them all upset. Next morning the case was coming up in the court, and they had to have Lutkins. I was a shameful, useless fool. That morning my promising legal career almost came to an end before it had begun.

  • Shameful: disgraceful
  • Promising: hopeful

Though the narrator was unconcerned about finding Lutkins, his company was. When he was unable to serve the summons, the people in the area became very upset. Being called shameful and useless was an insult to him. He felt like it was his last day at work because his career was coming to an end.

The Chief almost murdered me. He hinted that I might do well at digging ditches. I was ordered back to New Mullion, and with me went a man who had worked with Lutkins. I was rather sorry, because it would prevent my loafing all over again with Bill.

  • Hinted: suggest
  • Digging: to till
  • Ditches: a drain or trench
  • Loafing: spend time in idle way

The narrator's boss was furious with him. He treated him so badly that the clerk thought he was going to murder him. Not only that, but he also suggested that he be hired to till a drain or something. He was sent back to New Mullion with a man who had previously worked with Lutkins. The clerk was upset not because of what had occurred, but because he would miss the opportunity to spend time with Bill.

When the train arrived at New Mullion, Bill was on the station platform, near his cart. Strangely enough, that old tigress, Lutkins’ mother was there talking and laughing with Bill, not quarrelling at all. From the train steps I pointed Bill out to my companion and said, “There’s a fine fellow, a real man. I spent the day with him.”

He helped you hunt for Oliver Lutkins?”
“Yes, he helped me a lot.”
“He must have; he’s Lutkins himself.”

  • Companion: associate, partner
  • Hunt: search for

When the narrator and his new companion arrived at New Mullion station, they saw Bill on the platform. But, much to his (narrator's) surprise, Bill was conversing and laughing with Lutkin's mother, whom the narrator compared to a tigress because of her rude behaviour. He then informed his partner that it was Bill, a kind man who assisted him in his search for Lutkins. But he was taken aback by the companion's response, which revealed that the man who assisted him in finding Lutkins was none other than Lutkins himself.

What really hurt me was that when I served the summons, Lutkins and his mother laughed at me as though I were a bright boy of seven. With loving kindness they begged me to go with them to a neighbour’s house for a cup of coffee.

“I told them about you and they’re anxious to look at you,” said Lutkins joyfully. “They’re about the only folks in the town that missed seeing you yesterday.”

  • Begged: To request
  • Anxious: concerned, worried
  • Folks: people

The narrator was taken aback by the fact that both the mother and son were laughing at him when he served the summons on Lutkins. Not only that, but they invited him to join them for coffee at a neighbor's house because they were the only people in the village who hadn't seen him the day before when he was looking for Lutkins, despite the fact that Lutkins was riding with him in the hack.

About the Author

Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was a novelist, short-story writer, and playwright from the United States. He is the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his best-known works are 'Hike and the Aeroplane,' 'The Job: An American Novel,' and 'Free Air.'