Explain the difference between what the narrator and Thompson believe to be true and what is really true in "The Invalid's Story."

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In this comedy of errors, nothing is ever quite what it seems. The narrator thinks he's escorting his friend's coffin back to his parents' house is Wisconsin. In actual fact, due to a mix-up at the train station, he unwittingly ends up baby-sitting a box full of guns. The presence...

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In this comedy of errors, nothing is ever quite what it seems. The narrator thinks he's escorting his friend's coffin back to his parents' house is Wisconsin. In actual fact, due to a mix-up at the train station, he unwittingly ends up baby-sitting a box full of guns. The presence of a foul-smelling cheese maintains the facade that there's a corpse in the white pine box.

Either the narrator or Thompson could've cleared things up straight away by looking inside the coffin, but they were probably scared of what they might see. After all, the sight of a corpse, especially the corpse of a dear, departed friend, is not very pleasant at the best of times. But a putrefying corpse—which is what the revolting smell would appear to indicate—is a whole different kind of horrible. So Thompson and the narrator's touching respect for the dead ironically leads to them risking their own lives.

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The narrator of "The Invalid's Story" and Thompson believe that there is a dead body in the box on the train.  It is actually a box of guns, but since it is a long box, it does look like a coffin.  The narrator is supposed to be escorting the body of a dead friend home for burial, but the boxes were accidentally switched at the train station.  Before the train left, a man had climbed into the train car, unbeknownst to the narrator and Thompson, and left a bag of Limburger cheese sitting on the box when he jumped out of the car.  As the train heats up, the cheese begins to melt and smell horrible.  Both the narrataor and Thompson believe that it is the body producing the awful smell and take great lengths to cover it up, including smoking cigars and burning trash.  If either had bothered to look in the bag sitting on top of the box, they would have learned about the cheese and thrown it off the train.   

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