Colonel Carter of Cartersville
F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Phil McLaury, Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
COLONEL CARTER OF CARTERSVILLE
BY F. HOPKINSON SMITH
I dedicate this book to the memory of my counselor and my
friend,--that most delightful of story-tellers, that most charming of
comrades,--my dear old Mother; whose early life was spent near
the shade of the Colonel's porch, and whose keen enjoyment of the
stories between these covers--stories we have so often laughed over
together--is still among my pleasantest recollections.
F. H. S.
New York, May, 1891.
CONTENTS AND LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"My fire is my friend."
I. THE COLONEL'S HOUSE IN BEDFORD PLACE.
The Street Entrance.
Chad "dishin' the Dinner."
"Gentlemen, a true Southern lady."
II. THE GARDEN SPOT OF VIRGINIA SEEKS AN OUTLET TO THE SEA.
"Chad was groaning under a square wicker basket."
"The little negroes around the door."
III. AN OLD FAMILY SERVANT.
The old Clock Tower.
IV. THE ARRIVAL OF A TRUE SOUTHERN LADY.
V. AN ALLUSION TO A YELLOW DOG.
The Colonel's Office.
The Advance Agent.
The Nervous Man.
VI. CERTAIN IMPORTANT LETTERS.
"Like an ebony Statue of Liberty."
VII. THE OUTCOME OF A COUNCIL OF WAR.
"Down a flight of stone steps."
VIII. A HIGH SENSE OF HONOR.
"Klutchem looked at him in perfect astonishment."
IX. A VISIT OF CEREMONY.
The Colonel's Door.
X. CHAD IN SEARCH OF A COAL-FIELD.
XI. CHAD ON HIS OWN CABIN FLOOR.
Polishing the Parlor Floor.
Some Stray Pickaninnies.
XII. The ENGLISHMAN'S CHECK.
_The Colonel's House in Bedford Place_
The dinner was at the colonel's--an old-fashioned, partly furnished,
two-story house nearly a century old which crouches down behind a
larger and more modern dwelling fronting on Bedford Place within a
stone's throw of the tall clock tower of Jefferson Market.
The street entrance to this curious abode is marked by a swinging
wooden gate opening into a narrow tunnel which dodges under the front
house. It is an uncanny sort of passageway, mouldy and wet from a
long-neglected leak overhead, and is lighted at night by a rusty lantern
with dingy glass sides.
On sunny days this gruesome tunnel frames from the street a delightful
picture of a bit of the yard beyond, with the quaint colonial door and
its three steps let down in a welcoming way.
Its retired location and shabby entrance brought it quite within the
colonel's income, and as the rent was not payable in advance, and the
landlord patient, he had surrounded himself not only with all the
comforts but with many of the luxuries of a more pretentious home. In
this he was assisted by his negro servant Chad,--an abbreviation of
Nebuchadnezzar,--who was chambermaid, cook, butler, body-servant, and
boots, and who by his marvelous tales of the magnificence of "de old
fambly place in Caartersville" had established a credit among the
shopkeepers on the avenue which would have been denied a much more
To this hospitable retreat I wended my way in obedience to one of the
colonel's characteristic notes:--
No. 51 BEDFORD PLACE
Everything is booming--Fitz says the scheme will take like the
measles--dinner tomorrow at six--don't be late.
The colonel had written several similar notes that week,--I lived but
a few streets away,--all on the spur of the moment, and all expressive
of his varying moods and wants; the former suggested by his unbounded
enthusiasm over his new railroad scheme, and the latter by such requests
as these: "Will you lend me half a dozen napkins--mine are all in the
wash, and I want enough to carry me over Sunday. Chad will bring, with
your permission, the extra pair of andirons you spoke of." Or, "Kindly
hand Chad the two magazines and a corkscrew."
Of course Chad always tucked them under his arm, and carried them away,
for nobody ever refused the colonel anything--nobody who loved him.
As for himself, he would have been equally generous in return, and
have emptied his house, and even his pocketbook, in my behalf, had
that latter receptacle been capable of further effort. Should this
have been temporarily overstrained,--and it generally was,--he would
have promptly borrowed the amount of the nearest friend, and then have
rubbed his hands and glowed all day with delight at being able to
relieve my necessity.
"I am a Virginian, suh. Command me," was his way of putting it.
So to-night I pushed open the swinging door, felt my way along the
dark passage, and crossed the small yard choked with snow at the precise
minute when the two hands of the great clock in the tall tower pointed
The door was opened by Chad.
"Walk right in, suh; de colonel's in de dinin'-room."
Chad was wrong. The colonel was at that moment finishing his toilet
upstairs, in what he was pleased to call his "dressing-room," his
cheery voice announcing that fact over the balusters as soon as he
heard my own, coupled with the additional information that he would
be down in five minutes.
What a cosy charming interior, this dining-room of the colonel's! It
had once been two rooms, and two very small ones at that, divided by
folding doors. From out the rear one there had opened a smaller room
answering to the space occupied by the narrow hall and staircase in
front. All the interior partitions and doors dividing these three rooms
had been knocked away at some time in its history, leaving an L interior
having two windows in front and three in the rear.
Some one of its former occupants, more luxurious than the others, had
paneled the walls of this now irregular-shaped apartment with a dark
wood running half way to the low ceiling badly smoked and blackened
by time, and had built two fireplaces--an open wood fire which laughed
at me from behind my own andirons, and an old-fashioned English grate
set into the chimney with wide hobs--convenient and necessary for the
various brews and mixtures for which the colonel was famous.
Midway, equally warmed by both fires, stood the table, its centre
freshened by a great dish of celery white and crisp, with covers for
three on a snow-white cloth resplendent in old India blue, while at
each end shone a pair of silver coasters,--heirlooms from Carter
Hall,--one holding a cut-glass decanter of Madeira, the other awaiting
its customary bottle of claret.
On the hearth before the wood fire rested a pile of plates, also
Indiablue, and on the mantel over the grate stood a row of bottles
themselves, like all good foreigners, to the rigors of our climate.
Add a pair of silver candelabra with candles,--the colonel despised
gas,--dark red curtains drawn close, three or four easy chairs, a few
etchings and sketches loaned from my studio, together with a modest
sideboard at the end of the L, and you have the salient features of
a room so inviting and restful that you wanted life made up of one
long dinner, continually served within its hospitable walls.
But I hear the colonel calling down the back stairs:--
"Not a minute over eighteen, Chad. You ruined those ducks last Sunday."
The next moment he had me by both hands.
"My dear Major, I am pa'alized to think I kep' you waitin'. Just up
from my office. Been workin' like a slave, suh. Only five minutes to
dress befo' dinner. Have a drop of sherry and a dash of bitters, or
shall we wait for Fitzpatrick? No? All right! He should have been here
befo' this. You don't know Fitz? Most extraord'nary man; a great mind,
suh; literature, science, politics, finance, everything at his fingers'
ends. He has been of the greatest service to me since I have been in
New York in this railroad enterprise, which I am happy to say is now
reachin' a culmination. You shall hear all about it after dinner. Put
yo' body in that chair and yo' feet on the fender--my fire and yo'
fender! No, Fitz's fender and yo' andirons! Charmin' combination!"
It is always one of my delights to watch the colonel as he busies
himself about the room, warming a big chair for his guests, punching
the fire, brushing the sparks from the pile of plates, and testing the
temperature of the claret lovingly with the palms of his hands.
He is perhaps fifty years of age, tall and slightly built. His iron
gray hair is brushed straight back from his forehead, overlapping his
collar behind. His eyes are deep-set and twinkling; nose prominent;
cheeks slightly sunken; brow wide and high; and chin and jaw strong
and marked. His moustache droops over a firm, well-cut mouth and unites
at its ends with a gray goatee which rests on his shirt front.
Like most Southerners living away from great cities his voice is soft
and low, and tempered with a cadence that is delicious.
He wears a black broadcloth coat,--a double-breasted garment,--with
similar colored waistcoat and trousers, a turn-down collar, a shirt
of many plaits which is under-starched and over-wrinkled but always
clean, large cuffs very much frayed, a narrow black or white tie, and
low shoes with white cotton stockings.
This black broadcloth coat, by the way, is quite the most interesting
feature of the colonel's costume. So many changes are constantly made
in its general make-up that you never quite believe it is the same
ill-buttoned, shiny garment until you become familiar with its
When the colonel has a funeral or other serious matter on his mind,
this coat is buttoned close up under his chin showing only the upper
edge of his white collar, his gaunt throat and the stray end of a black
cravat. When he is invited to dinner he buttons it lower down, revealing
as well a bit of his plaited shirt, and when it is a wedding this old
stand-by is thrown wide open discovering a stiff, starched, white
waistcoat with ivory buttons and snowy neck-cloth.
These several make-ups used once to surprise me, and I often found
myself insisting that the looseness and grace with which this garment
flapped about the colonel's thin legs was only possible in a brand-new
coat having all the spring and lightness of youth in its seams. I was
always mistaken. I had only to look at the mis-mated buttons and the
raveled edge of the lining fringing the tails. It was the same coat.
The colonel wore to-night the lower-button style with the white tie.
It was indeed the adjustment of this necessary article which had
consumed the five minutes passed in his dressing-room, slightly
lengthened by the time necessary to trim his cuffs--a little nicety
which he rarely overlooked and which it mortified him to forget.
What a frank, generous, tender-hearted fellow he is: happy as a boy;
hospitable to the verge of beggary; enthusiastic as he is visionary;
simple as he is genuine. A Virginian of good birth, fair education,
and limited knowledge of the world and of men, proud of his ancestry,
proud of his State, and proud of himself; believing in states' rights,
slavery, and the Confederacy; and away down in the bottom of his soul
still clinging to the belief that the poor white trash of the earth
includes about everybody outside of Fairfax County.
With these antecedents it is easy to see that his "reconstruction" is
as hopeless as that of the famous Greek frieze, outwardly whole andyet
always a patchwork. So he chafes continually under what he believes
to be the tyranny and despotism of an undefined autocracy, which, in
a general way, he calls "the Government," but which really refers to
the distribution of certain local offices in his own immediate vicinity.
When he hands you his card it bears this unabridged inscription:--
Colonel George Fairfax Carter,
of Carter Hall,
He omits "United States of America," simply because it would add nothing
to his identity or his dignity.
* * * * *
"There's Fitz," said the colonel as a sharp double knock sounded at
the outer gate; and the next instant a stout, thick-set, round-faced
man of forty, with merry, bead-like eyes protected by big-bowed
spectacles, pushed open the door, and peered in good-humoredly.
The colonel sprang forward and seized him by both shoulders.
"What the devil do you mean, Fitz, by comin' ten minutes late? Don't
you know, suh, that the burnin' of a canvasback is a crime?
"Stuck in the snow? Well, I'll forgive you this once, but Chad won't.
Give me yo' coat--bless me! it is as wet as a setter dog. Now put yo'
belated carcass into this chair which I have been warmin' for you,
right next to my dearest old friend, the Major. Major, Fitz!--Fitz,
the Major! Take hold of each other. Does my heart good to get you both
together. Have you brought a copy of the prospectus of our railroad?
You know I want the Major in with us on the groun' flo'. But after
dinner--not a word befo'."
This railroad was the colonel's only hope for the impoverished acres
of Carter Hall, but lately saved from foreclosure by the generosity
of his aunt, Miss Nancy Carter, who had redeemed it with almost all
her savings, the house and half of the outlying lands being, thereupon,
deeded to her. The other half reverted to the colonel.
I explained to Fitz immediately after his hearty greeting that I was
a humble landscape painter, and not a major at all, having not the
remotest connection with any military organization whatever; but that
the colonel always insisted upon surrounding himself with a staff, and
that my promotion was in conformity with this habit.
The colonel laughed, seized the poker, and rapped three times on the
floor. A voice from the kitchen rumbled up:--
It was Chad "dishin' the dinner" below, his explanations increasing
in distinctness as he pushed the rear door open with his foot,--both
hands being occupied with the soup tureen which he bore aloft and
placed at the head of the table.
In a moment more he retired to the outer hall and reappeared brilliant
in white jacket and apron. Then he ranged himself behind the colonel's
chair and with great dignity announced that dinner was served.
"Come, Major! Fitz, sit where you can warm yo' back--you are not thawed
out yet. One minute, gentlemen,--an old custom of my ancestors which
I never omit."
The blessing was asked with becoming reverence; there was a slight
pause, and then the colonel lifted the cover of the tureen and sent
a savory cloud of incense to the ceiling.
The soup was a cream of something with baby crabs. There was also a
fish,--boiled,--with slices of hard boiled eggs fringing the dish,
ovaled by a hedge of parsley and supplemented by a pyramid of potatoes
with their jackets ragged as tramps. Then a ham, brown and crisp, and
bristling all over with cloves.
Then the ducks!
It was beautiful to see the colonel's face when Chad, with a bow like
a folding jack-knife, held this dish before him.
"Lay 'em here, Chad--right under my nose. Now hand me that pile of
plates sizzlin' hot, and give that carvin' knife a turn or two across
the hearth. Major, dip a bit of celery in the salt and follow it with
a mou'ful of claret. It will prepare yo' palate for the kind of food
we raise gentlemen on down my way. See that red blood, suh, followin'
"Suit you, marsa?" Chad never forgot his slave days.
"To a turn, Chad,--I wouldn't take a thousand dollars for you," replied
the colonel, relapsing as unconsciously into an old habit.
It was not to be wondered at that the colonel loved a good dinner. To
dine well was with him an inherited instinct; one of the necessary
preliminaries to all the important duties in life. To share with you
his last crust was a part of his religion; to eat alone, a crime.
"There, Major," said the colonel as Chad laid the smoking plate before
me, "is the breast of a bird that fo' days ago was divin' for wild
celery within fo'ty miles of Caarter Hall. My dear old aunt Nancy sends
me a pair every week, bless her sweet soul! Fill yo' glasses and let
us drink to her health and happiness." Here the colonel rose from his
chair: "Gentlemen, the best thing on this earth--a true Southern lady!
"Now, Chad, the red pepper."
"No jelly, Colonel?" said Fitz, with an eye on the sideboard.
"Jelly? No, suh; not a suspicion of it. A pinch of salt, a dust
ofcayenne, then shut yo' eyes and mouth, and don't open them 'cept for
a drop of good red wine. It is the salt marsh in the early mornin'
that you are tastin', suh,--not molasses candy. You Nawtherners don't
really treat a canvasback with any degree of respect. You ought never
to come into his presence when he lies in state without takin' off yo'
hats. That may be one reason why he skips over the Nawthern States
when he takes his annual fall outin'." And he laughed heartily.
"But you use it on venison?" argued Fitz.
"Venison is diff'ent, suh. That game lives on moose buds, the soft
inner bark of the sugar maple, and the tufts of sweet grass. There is
a propriety and justice in his endin' his days smothered in sweets; but
the wild duck, suh, is bawn of the salt ice, braves the storm, and
lives a life of peyil and hardship. You don't degrade a' oyster, a
soft shell crab, or a clam with confectionery; why a canvasback duck?
"Now, Chad, serve coffee."
The colonel pushed back his chair, and opened a drawer in a table on
his right, producing three small clay pipes with reed stems and a
buckskin bag of tobacco. This he poured out on a plate, breaking the
coarser grains with the palms of his hands, and filling the pipes with
the greatest care.
Fitz watched him curiously, and when he reached for the third pipe,
"No, Colonel, none for me; smoke a cigar--got a pocketful."
"Smoke yo' own cigars, will you, and in the presence of a Virginian?
I don't believe you have got a drop of Irish blood left in yo' veins,
or you would take this pipe."
"Too strong for me," remonstrated Fitz.
"Throw that villainous device away, I say, Fitz, and surprise yo'
nostrils with a whiff of this. Virginia tobacco, suh,--raised at
Cartersville,--cured by my own servants. No? Well, you will, Major.
Here, try that; every breath of it is a nosegay," said the colonel,
turning to me.
"But, Colonel," continued Fitz, with a sly twinkle in his eye, "your
tobacco pays no tax. With a debt like ours it is the duty of every
good citizen to pay his share of it. Half the cost of this cigar goes
to the Government."
It was a red flag to the colonel, and he laid down his pipe and faced
"Tax! On our own productions, suh! Raised on our own land! Are you
again forgettin' that you are an Irishman and becomin' one of these
money-makin' Yankees? Haven't we suffe'd enough--robbed of our
property, our lands confiscated, our slaves torn from us; nothin' left
but our honor and the shoes we stand in!"
The colonel on cross-examination could not locate any particular
wholesale robbery, but it did not check the flow of his indignation.
"Take, for instance, the town of Caartersville: look at that peaceful
village which for mo' than a hundred years has enjoyed the privileges
of free government; and not only Caartersville, but all our section
of the State."
"Well, what's the matter with Cartersville?" asked Fitz, lighting his
"Mattah, suh! Just look at the degradation it fell into hardly ten
years ago. A Yankee jedge jurisdictin' our laws, a Yankee sheriff
enfo'cin' 'em, and a Yankee postmaster distributin' letters and sellin'
"But they were elected all right, Colonel, and represented the will
of the people."
"What people? Yo' people, not mine. No, my dear Fitz; the Administration
succeeding the war treated us shamefully, and will go down to postehity
The colonel here left his chair and began pacing the floor, his
indignation rising at every step.
"To give you an idea, suh," he continued, "of what we Southern people
suffe'd immediately after the fall of the Confederacy, let me state
a case that came under my own observation.
"Colonel Temple Talcott of F'okeer County, Virginia, came into
Talcottville one mornin', suh,--a town settled by his ancestors,--ridin'
upon his horse--or rather a mule belongin' to his overseer. Colonel
Talcott, suh, belonged to one of the vehy fust families in Virginia.
He was a son of Jedge Thaxton Talcott, and grandson of General Snowden
Stafford Talcott of the Revolutionary War. Now, suh, let me tell you
right here that the Talcott blood is as blue as the sky, and that every
gentleman bearin' the name is known all over the county as a man whose
honor is dearer to him than his life, and whose word is as good as his
bond. Well, suh, on this mornin' Colonel Talcott left his plantation
in charge of his overseer,--he was workin' it on shares,--and rode
through his estates to his ancestral town, some five miles distant.
It is true, suh, these estates were no longer in his name, but that
had no bearin' on the events that followed; he ought to have owned
them, and would have done so but for some vehy ungentlemanly fo'closure
proceedin's which occurred immediately after the war.
"On arriving at Talcottville the colonel dismounted, handed the reins
to his servant,--or perhaps one of the niggers around the do',--and
entered the post-office. Now, suh, let me tell you that one month
befo', the Government, contrary to the express wishes of a great many
of our leadin' citizens, had sent a Yankee postmaster to Talcottville
to administer the postal affairs of that town. No sooner had this man
taken possession than he began to be exclusive, suh, and to put on
airs. The vehy fust air he put on was to build a fence in his office
and compel our people to transact their business through a hole. This
in itself was vehy gallin', suh, for up to that time the mail had
always been dumped out on the table in the stage office and every
gentleman had he'ped himself. The next thing was the closin' of his
mail bags at a' hour fixed by himself. This became a great inconvenience
to our citizens, who were often late in finishin' their correspondence,
and who had always found our former postmaster willin' either to hold
the bag over until the next day, or to send it across to Drummondtown
by a boy to catch a later train.
"Well, suh, Colonel Talcott's mission to the post-office was to mail
a letter to his factor in Richmond, Virginia, on business of the utmost
importance to himself,--namely, the raisin' of a small loan upon his
share of the crop. Not the crop that was planted, suh, but the crop
that he expected to plant.
"Colonel Talcott approached the hole, and with that Chesterfieldian
manner which has distinguished the Talcotts for mo' than two centuries
asked the postmaster for the loan of a three-cent postage stamp.
"To his astonishment, suh, he was refused.
"Think of a Talcott in his own county town bein' refused a three-cent
postage stamp by a low-lived Yankee, who had never known a gentleman
in his life! The colonel's first impulse was to haul the scoundrel
through the hole and caarve him; but then he remembered that he was
a Talcott and could not demean himself, and drawin' himself up again
with that manner which was grace itself he requested the loan of a
three-cent postage stamp until he should communicate with his factor
in Richmond, Virginia; and again he was refused. Well, suh, what was
there left for a high-toned Southern gentleman to do? Colonel Talcott
drew his revolver and shot that Yankee scoundrel through the heart,
and killed him on the spot.
"And now, suh, comes the most remarkable part of this story. If it had
not been for Major Tom Yancey, Jedge Kerfoot, and myself there would
have been a lawsuit."
Fitz lay back in his chair and roared.
"And they did not hang the colonel?"
"Hang a Talcott! No, suh; we don't hang gentlemen down our way. Jedge
Kerfoot vehy properly charged the coroner's jury that it was a matter
of self-defense, and Colonel Talcott was not detained mo' than haalf
The colonel stopped, unlocked a closet in the sideboard, and produced
a black bottle labeled in ink, "Old Cherry Bounce, 1848."
"You must excuse me, gentlemen, but the discussion of these topics has
quite unnerved me. Allow me to share with you a thimbleful." Fitz
drained his glass, cast his eyes upward, and said solemnly, "To the
repose of the postmaster's soul."
_The Garden Spot of Virginia seeks an Outlet to the Sea_
Chad was just entering the small gate which shut off the underground
passage when I arrived opposite the colonel's cozy quarters. I had
come to listen to the details of that booming enterprise with the
epidemic proclivities, the discussion of which had been cut short by
the length of time it had taken to kill the postmaster the night before.
It was quite evident that the colonel expected guests, for Chad was
groaning under a square wicker basket, containing, among other luxuries
and necessities, half a dozen bottles of claret, a segment of cheese,
and some heads of lettuce; the whole surmounted by a clean
leather-covered pass-book inscribed with the name and avenue number
of the confiding and accommodating grocer who supplied the colonel's
"De colonel an' Misser Fizpat'ic bofe waitin' for you, sah," said that
obsequious darky, preceding me through the dark passage. I followed,
mounted the old-fashioned wooden steps, and fell into the outstretched
arms of the colonel before I could touch the knocker.
"Here he is, Fitz!" and the next instant I was sharing with that genial
gentleman the warmth of the colonel's fire.
"Now then, Chad," called out the colonel, "take this lettuce and give
it a dip in the snow for five minutes; and here, Chad, befo' you go
hand me that claret. Bless my soul! it is as cold as a dog's nose;
Fitz, set it on the mantel. And hurry down to that mutton, Chad. Never
mind the basket. Leave it where it is."
Chad chuckled out to me as he closed the door: "'Spec' I know mo' 'bout
dat saddle den de colonel. It ain't a-burnin' none." And the colonel,
satisfied now that Chad's hand had reached the oven door below, made
a vigorous attack on the blazing logs with the tongs, and sent a flight
of sparks scurrying up the chimney.
There was always a glow and breeze and sparkle about the colonel's
fire that I found nowhere else. It partook to a certain extent of his
personality--open, bright, and with a great draft of enthusiasm always
rushing up a chimney of difficulties, buoyed up with the hope of the
broad clear of the heaven of success above.
"My fire," he once said to me, "is my friend; and sometimes, my dear
boy, when you are all away and Chad is out, it seems my only friend.
After it talks to me for hours we both get sleepy together, and I cover
it up with its gray blanket of ashes and then go to bed myself. Ah,
Major! when you are gettin' old and have no wife to love you and no
children to make yo' heart glad, a wood fire full of honest old logs,
every one of which is doing its best to please you, is a great comfort."
"Draw closer, Major; vehy cold night, gentlemen. We do not have any
such weather in my State. Fitz, have you thawed out yet?"
Fitz looked up from a pile of documents spread out on his lap, his
round face aglow with the firelight, and compared himself to half a
slice of toast well browned on both sides.
"I am glad of it. I was worried about you when you came in. You were
Then turning to me: "Fact is, Fitz is a little overworked. Enormous
strain, suh, on a man solving the vast commercial problems that he is
called upon to do every day."
After which outburst the colonel crossed the room and finished unpacking
the basket, placing the cheese in one of the empty plates on the table,
and the various other commodities on the sideboard. When he reached
the pass-book he straightened himself up, held it off admiringly,
turned the leaves slowly, his face lighting up at the goodly number
of clean pages still between its covers, and said thoughtfully:--
"Very beautiful custom, this pass-book system, gentlemen, and quite
new to me. One of the most co'teous attentions I have received since
I have taken up my residence Nawth. See how simple it is. I send my
servant to the sto' for my supplies. He returns in haalf an hour with
everything I need, and brings back this book which I keep,--remember,
gentlemen, which I _keep_,--a mark of confidence which in this
degen'rate age is refreshin'. No vulgar bargaining suh; no disagreeable
remarks about any former unsettled account. It certainly is delightful."
"When are the accounts under this system generally paid, Colonel,"
With the exception of a slight tremor around the corners of his mouth
Fitz's face expressed nothing but the idlest interest.
"I have never inquired, suh, and would not hurt the gentleman's feelin's
by doin' so for the world," he replied with dignity. "I presume, when
the book is full."
Whatever might have been Fitz's mental workings, there was no mistaking
the colonel's. He believed every word he said.
"What a dear old trump the colonel is," said Fitz, turning to me, his
face wrinkling all over with suppressed laughter.
All this time Chad was passing in and out, bearing dishes and viands,
and when all was ready and the table candles were lighted, he announced
that fact softly to his master and took his customary place behind his
The colonel was as delightful as ever, his talk ranging from politics
and family blood to possum hunts and modern literature, while the
mutton and its accessories did full credit to Chad's culinary skill.
In fact the head of the colonel's table was his throne. Nowhere else
was he so charming, and nowhere else did the many sides to his
delightful nature give out such varied hues.
Fitz, practical business man as he was, would listen to his many schemes
by the hour, charmed into silence and attentive appreciation by the
sublime faith that sustained his host, and the perfect honesty and
sincerity underlying everything he did. But it was not until the cheese
had completely lost its geometrical form, the coffee served, and the
pipes lighted, that the subject which of all others absorbed him was
broached. Indeed, it was a rule of the colonel's, never infringed upon,
that, no matter how urgent the business, the dinner-hour was to be
"Salt yo' food, suh, with humor," he would say. "Season it with wit,
and sprinkle it all over with the charm of good-fellowship, but never
poison it with the cares of yo' life. It is an insult to yo' digestion,
besides bein', suh, a mark of bad breedin'."
"Now, Major," began the colonel, turning to me, loosening the string
around a package of papers, and spreading them out like a game of
solitaire, "draw yo' chair closer. Fitz, hand me the map."
A diligent search revealed the fact that the map had been left at the
office, and so the colonel proceeded without it, appealing now and
then to Fitz, who leaned over his chair, his arm on the table.
"Befo' I touch upon the financial part of this enterprise, Major, let
me show you where this road runs," said the colonel, reaching for the
casters. "I am sorry I haven't the map, but we can get along very well
with this;" and he unloaded the cruets.
"This mustard-pot, here, is Caartersville, the startin'-point of our
system. This town, suh, has now a population of mo' than fo' thousand
people; in five years it will have fo'ty thousand. From this point the
line follows the bank of the Big Tench River--marked by this
caarvin'-knife--to this salt-cellar, where it crosses its waters by
an iron bridge of two spans, each of two hundred and fifty feet. Then,
suh, it takes a sharp bend to the southard and stops at my estate, the
roadbed skirtin' within a convenient distance of Caarter Hall.
"Please move yo' arm, Fitz. I haven't room enough to lay out the city
of Fairfax. Thank you.
"Just here," continued the colonel, utilizing the remains of the cheese,
"is to be the future city of Fairfax, named after my ancestor, suh,
General Thomas Wilmot Fairfax of Somerset, England, who settled here
in 1680. From here we take a course due nawth, stopping at Talcottville
eight miles, and thence nawthwesterly to Warrentown and the broad
Atlantic; in all fifty miles."
"Any connecting road at Warrentown?" I asked.
"No, suh, nor anywhere else along the line. It is absolutely virgin
country, and this is one of the strong points of the scheme, for there
can be no competition;" and the colonel leaned back in his chair, and
looked at me with the air of a man who had just informed me of a legacy
of half a million of dollars and was watching the effect of the news.
I preserved my gravity, and followed the imaginary line with my eye,
bounding from the mustard-pot along the carving-knife to the salt-cellar
and back in a loop to the cheese, and then asked if the Big Tench could
not be crossed higher up, and if so why was it necessary to build
twelve additional miles of road.
"To reach Carter Hall," said Fitz quietly.
"Any advantage?" I asked in perfect good faith.
The colonel was on his feet in a moment.
"Any advantage? Major, I am surprised at you! A place settled mo' than
one hundred years ago, belongin' to one of the vehy fust fam'lies of
Virginia, not to be of any advantage to a new enterprise like this!
Why, suh, it will give an air of respectability to the whole thing
that nothin' else could ever do. Leave out Caarter Hall, suh, and you
pa'alize the whole scheme. Am I not right, Fitz?"
"Unquestionably, Colonel. It is really all the life it has," replied
Fitz, solemn as a graven image, blowing a cloud of smoke through his
"And then, suh," continued the colonel with increasing enthusiasm,
oblivious to the point of Fitz's remark, "see the improvements. Right
here to the eastward of this cheese we shall build a round-house marked
by this napkin-ring, which will accommodate twelve locomotives,
construct extensive shops for repairs, and erect large foundries and
caar-shops. Altogether, suh, we shall expend at this point mo' than--
mo' than--one million of dollars;" and the colonel threw back his head
and gazed at the ceiling, his lips computing imaginary sums.
"Befo' these improvements are complete it will be necessary, of course,
to take care of the enormous crowds that will flock in for a
restin'-place. So to the left of this napkin-ring, on a slightly risin'
ground,--just here where I raise the cloth,--is where the homes of
the people will be erected. I have the refusal"--here the colonel
lowered his voice--"of two thousand acres of the best private-residence
land in the county, contiguous to this very spot, which I can buy for
fo' dollars an acre. It is worth fo' dollars a square foot if it is
worth a penny. But, suh, it would be little short of highway rob'ry
to take this property at that figger, and I shall arrange with Fitz
to include in his prospectus the payment of one hundred dollars an
acre for this land, payable either in the common stock of our road or
in the notes of the company, as the owners may elect."
"But, Colonel," said I, with a sincere desire to get at the facts,
"where is the Golconda--the gold mine? Where do I come in?"
"Patience, my dear Major; I am coming to that.
"Fitz, read that prospectus."
"I have," said Fitz, turning to the colonel, "somewhat modified your
rough draft, to meet the requirements of our market; but not materially.
Of course I cannot commit myself to any fixed earning capacity until
I go over the ground, which we will do together shortly. But"--raising
the candle to the level of his nose--"this is as near as I can come
to your ideas with any hopes of putting the loan through here. I have,
as you will see, left the title of the bond as you wished, although
the issue is a novel one to our Exchange." Then turning to me: "This
of course is only a preliminary announcement."
THE CARTERSVILLE AND WARRENTOWN
AIR LINE RAILROAD.
THE GARDEN SPOT OF VIRGINIA SEEKS AN OUTLET
TO THE SEA.
CAPITAL ONE MILLION OF DOLLARS, DIVIDED
50,000 Founders' shares at .... $1000. each
5,000 Ordinary " " .... 100.00 "
BONDED DEBT FOR PURPOSES OF CONSTRUCTION ONLY.
ONE MILLION OF DOLLARS
1,000 FIRST MORTGAGE BONDS OF $1000.00 EACH.
FULL PROTECTION GUARANTEED.
The undersigned, Messrs. . . . . offer for sale $500,000.00 of the 6%
Deferred Debenture Bonds of the C.& W. Air Line Railroad at par and
accrued interest, together with a limited amount of the ordinary shares
Subscription books close. . . . . Promoters reserve the right to advance
prices without further notice.
"There, Major, is a prospectus that caarries conviction on its vehy
face," said the colonel, reaching for the document.
I complimented the eminent financier on his skill, and was about to
ask him what it all meant, when the colonel, who had been studying it
carefully, broke in with:--
"Fitz, there is one thing you left out."
"Yes, I know, the name of the banker; I haven't found him yet."
"No, Fitz; but the words, '_Subscriptions opened Simultaneously in
New York, London, Richmond_,' and"--
"Cartersville?" suggested Fitz.
"Any money in Cartersville?"
"No, suh, not much; but we can _subscribe_, can't we? The name
and influence of our leadin' citizens would give tone and dignity to
any subscription list. Think of this, suh!" and the colonel traced
imaginary inscriptions on the back of Fitz's prospectus with his
forefinger, voicing them as he went on:--
The Hon. JOHN PAGE LOWNES, Member of the State Legislature..
The Hon. I.B. KERFOOT,
Jedge of the District Court of
Fairfax County....... 1,000 shares
Major THOMAS C. YANCEY,
Late of the Confederate Army... 500 shares
"These gentlemen are my friends, suh, and would do anythin' to oblige
Fitz sharpened a lead pencil and without a word inserted the desired
The colonel studied the document for another brief moment and struck
"And, Fitz, what do you mean, by 'full protection guaranteed'?"
"To the bondholder, of course,--the man who pays the money."
"What kind of protection?"
"Why, the right to foreclose the mortgage when the interest is not
paid, of course," said Fitz, with a surprised look.
"Put yo' pencil through that line, quick--none of that for me. This
fo'closure business has ruined haalf the gentlemen in our county, suh.
But for that foolishness two thirds of our fust families would still
be livin' in their homes. No, suh, strike it out!"
"But, my dear Colonel, without that protecting clause you couldn't get
a banker to touch your bonds with a pair of tongs. What recourse have
"What reco'se? Reorganization, suh! A boilin'-down process which will
make the stock--which we practically give away at fifty cents on the
dollar--twice as valuable. I appreciate, my dear Fitz, the effo'ts
which you are makin' to dispose of these secu'ities, but you must
remember that this plan is _mine_.
"Now Major," locking his arm in mine, "listen; for I want you both to
understand exactly the way in which I propose to forward this
enterprise. Chad, bring me three wine-glasses and put that Madeira on
the table--don't disturb that railroad!--so.
"My idea, gentlemen," continued the colonel, filling the glasses
himself, "is to start this scheme honestly in the beginnin', and avoid
all dissatisfaction on the part of these vehy bondholders thereafter.
"Now, suh, in my experience I have always discovered that a vehy general
dissatisfaction is sure to manifest itself if the coupons on secu'ities
of this class are not paid when they become due. As a gen'ral rule
this interest money is never earned for the fust two years, and the
money to pay it with is inva'ably stolen from the principal. All this
dishonesty I avoid, suh, by the issue of my Deferred Debenture Bonds."
"How?" I asked, seeing the colonel pause for a reply.
"By cuttin' off the fust fo' coupons. Then everybody knows exactly
where they stand. They don't expect anythin' and they never get it."
Fitz gave one of his characteristic roars and asked if the fifth would
ever be paid.
"I can't at this moment answer, but we hope it will."
"It is immaterial," said Fitz, wiping his eyes. "This class of
purchasers are all speculators, and like excitement. The very
uncertainty as to this fifth coupon gives interest to the investment,
if not to the investor."
"None of yo' Irish impudence, suh. No, gentlemen, the plan is not only
fair, but reasonable. Two years is not a long period of time in which
to foster a great enterprise like the C.& W.A.L.R.R., and it is for
this purpose that I issue the Deferred Debentures. Deferred--put off;
Debenture--owed. What we owe we put off. Simple, easily understood,
"Now, suh," turning to Fitz, "if after this frank statement any graspin'
banker seeks to trammel this enterprise by any fo'closure clauses, he
sha'n't have a bond, suh. I'll take them all myself fust."
Fitz agreed to the striking out of all such harassing clauses, and the
colonel continued his inspection.
"One mo' and I am done, Fitz. What do you mean by Founders' shares?"
"Shares for the promoters and the first subscribers. They cost one
tenth of the ordinary shares and draw five times as much dividend. It
is quite a popular form of investment. They, of course, are not sold
until all the bonds are disposed of."
"How many of these Founders' shares are there?"
"Fifty thousand at ten dollars each."
The colonel paused a moment and communed inwardly with himself.
"Put me down for twenty-five thousand, Fitz. Part cash, and the balance
in such po'tion of my estate as will be required for the purposes of
The colonel did not specify the proportions, but Fitz made a pencil
memorandum on the margin of the prospectus with the same sort of
respectful silence he would have shown the Rothschilds in a similar
transaction, while the colonel refilled his glass and held it between
his nose and the candle.
"And now, Major, what shall we reserve for you?" said he, laying his
hand on my shoulder. Before I could reply Fitz raised his finger,
looked at me significantly over the rims of his spectacles, and said:--
"With your permission, Colonel, the Major and I will divide the
remaining twenty-five thousand between ourselves."
Then seeing my startled look, "I will give you ample notice, Major,
before the first partial payment is called in."
"You overwhelm me, gentlemen," said the colonel, rising from his seat
and seizing us by the hands. "It has been the dream of my life to have
you both with me in this enterprise, but I had no idea it would be
realized so soon. Fill yo' glasses and join me in a sentiment that is
dear to me as my life,--'The Garden Spot of Virginia in search of an
Outlet to the Sea.'"
Nothing could have been more exhilarating than the colonel's manner
after this. His enthusiasm became so contagious that I began to feel
something like a millionaire myself, and to wonder whether this were
not the opportunity of my life. Fitz was so far affected that he
recanted to a certain extent his disbelief in the omission of the
foreclosure clause, and even expressed himself as being hopeful of
getting around it in some way.
As for the colonel, the railroad was to him already a fixed fact. He
could really shut his eyes at any time and hear the whistle of the
down train nearing the bridge over the Tench. Such trifling details
as the finding of a banker who would attempt to negotiate the loan,
the subsequent selling of the securities, and the minor items of right
of way, construction, etc., were matters so light and trivial as not
to cause him a moment's uneasiness. Cartersville was to him the centre
of the earth, hampered and held back by lack of proper connections
with the outlying portions of the universe. What mattered the rest?
"Make a memorandum, Fitz, to have me send for a bridge engineer fust
thing after I get to my office in the mornin'. There will be some
difficulty in gettin' a proper foundation for the centre-pier of that
bridge, and some one should be sent at once to make a survey. We can't
be delayed at this point a day. And, Fitz, while I think of it, there
should be a wagon bridge at or near this iron structure, and the timber
might as well be gotten out now. It will facilitate haulin' supplies
into Fairfax city."
Fitz thought so too, and made a second memorandum to that effect,
recording the suggestion very much as a private secretary would an
order from his railroad magnate.
The colonel gave this last order with coat thrown open,--thumbs in his
vest,--back to the fire,--an attitude never indulged in except on
rare occasions, and then only when the very weight of the problem
necessitated a corresponding bracing up, and more breathing room.
These attitudes, by the way, were very suggestive of the colonel's
varying moods. Sometimes, when he came home, tired out with the hard
pavements of the city, so different from the soft earth of his native
roads, I would find him bunched up in his chair in the twilight; face
in hands, elbows on knees, crooning over the fire, the silver streaks
in his hair glistening in the flickering firelight, building castles
in the glowing coals,--the old manor house restored and the barns
rebuilt, the gates rehung, the old quarters repaired, the little negroes
again around the doors; and he once more catching the sound of the
yellow-painted coach on the gravel, with Chad helping the dear old
aunt down the porch steps. This, deep down in the bottom of his soul,
was really the dream and purpose of his life.
It never seemed nearer of realization than now. The very thought
suffused his whole being with a suppressed joy, visible in his face
even when he began loosening the two lower buttons of his old threadbare
coat, throwing back the lapels and slowly extending his fingers fan-like
over his dilating chest.
I always knew what suddenly sweetened his smile from one of triumphant
pride to one of tenderness.
"And the old home, Fitz, something must be done there; we must receive
our friends properly."
Fitz agreed to everything, offering an amendment here, and a suggestion
there, until our host's enthusiasm reached fever heat.
It was nearly midnight before the colonel had confided to Fitz all the
pressing necessities of the coming day. Even then he followed us both
to the door, with parting instructions to Fitz, saying over and over
again that it had been the happiest night of his life. And he would
have gone bare-headed to the outer gate had not Chad caught him half
way down the steps, thrown a coat over his head and shoulders, and
gently led him back with:--
"'Clar to goodness, Marsa George, what kind foolishness dis yer? Is
you tryin' to ketch yo' death?"
Once on the outside and the gate shut, Fitz's whole manner changed.
He became suddenly thoughtful, and did not speak until we reached the
tall clock tower with its full moon of a face shining high up against
the black winter night.
Then he stood still, looked out over the white street, dotted here and
there with belated wayfarers trudging home through the snow, and said
with a tremor in his voice which startled me:--
"I couldn't raise a dollar in a lunatic asylum full of millionaires
on a scheme like the colonel's, and yet I keep on lying to the dear
old fellow day after day, hoping that something will turn up by which
I can help him out."
"Then tell him so."
Fitz laid his hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the face, and
"I cannot. It would break his heart."
_An Old Family Servant_
The colonel's front yard, while as quaint and old-fashioned as his
house, was not--if I may be allowed--quite so well bred.
This came partly from the outdoor life it had always led and from its
close association with other yards that had lost all semblance of
respectability, and partly from the fact that it had never felt the
refining influences of the friends of the house; for nobody ever
lingered in the front yard who by any possibility could get into the
front door--nobody, except perhaps now and then a stray tramp, who
felt at home at once and went to sleep on the steps.
That all this told upon its character and appearance was shown in the
remnants of whitewash on the high wall, scaling off in discolored
patches; in the stagger of the tall fence opposite, drooping like a
drunkard between two policemen of posts; and in the unkempt, bulging
rear of the third wall,--the front house,--stuffed with rags and tied
up with clothes-lines.
If in the purity of its youth it had ever seen better days as a
garden--but then no possible stretch of imagination, however brilliant,
could ever convert this miserable quadrangle into a garden.
It contained, of course, as all such yards do, one lone plant,--this
time a honeysuckle,--which had clambered over the front door and there
rested as if content to stay; but which later on, frightened at the
surroundings, had with one great spring cleared the slippery wall
between, reached the rain-spout above, and by its helping arm had thus
escaped to the roof and the sunlight.
It is also true that high up on this same wall there still clung the
remains of a criss-cross wooden trellis supporting the shivering
branches of an old vine, which had spent its whole life trying to grow
high enough to look over the tall fence into the yard beyond; but this
was so long ago that not even the landlord remembered the color of its
Then there was an old-fashioned hydrant, with a half-spiral crank of
a handle on its top and the curved end of a lead pipe always aleak
thrust through its rotten side, with its little statues of ice all
winter and its spattering slop all summer.
Besides all this there were some broken flower-pots in a heap in one
corner,--suicides from the window-sills above,--and some sagging
clothes-lines, and a battered watering-pot, and a box or two that might
once have held flowers; and yet with all this circumstantial evidence
against me I cannot conscientiously believe that this forlorn courtyard
ever could have risen to the dignity of a garden.
But of course nothing of all this can be seen at night. At night one
sees only the tall clock tower of Jefferson Market with its one blazing
eye glaring high up over the fence, the little lantern hung in the
tunnel, and the glow through the curtains shading the old-fashioned
windows of the house itself, telling of warmth and comfort within.
To-night when I pushed open the swinging door--the door of the tunnel
entering from the street--the lantern was gone, and in its stead there
was only the glimmer of a mysterious light moving about the yard,--a
light that fell now on the bare wall, now on the front steps, making
threads of gold of the twisted iron railings, then on the posts of the
leaning fence, against which hung three feathery objects,--grotesque
and curious in the changing shadows,--and again on some barrels and
boxes surrounded by loose straw.
Following this light, in fact, guiding it, was a noiseless, crouching
figure peering under the open steps, groping around the front door,
creeping beneath the windows; moving uneasily with a burglar-like
I grasped my umbrella, advanced to the edge of the tunnel, and called
The figure stopped, straightened up, held a lantern high over its head,
and peered into the darkness.
There was no mistaking that face.
"Oh, that's you, Chad, is it? What the devil are you doing?"
"Lookin' for one ob dese yer tar'pins Miss Nancy sent de colonel. Dey
was seben ob 'em in dis box, an' now dey ain't but six. Hole dis light,
Major, an' lemme fumble round dis rain-spout."
Chad handed me the lantern, fell on his knees, and began crawling
around the small yard like an old dog hunting for a possum, feeling
in among the roots of the honeysuckle, between the barrels that had
brought the colonel's china from Carter Hall, under the steps, way
back where Chad kept his wood ashes--but no "brer tar'pin."
"Well, if dat don't beat de lan'! Dey was two ba'els--one had dat wild
turkey an' de pair o' geese you see hangin' on de fence dar, an' de
udder ba'el I jest ca'aed down de cellar full er oishters. De tar'pins
was in dis box--seben ob 'em. Spec' dat rapscallion crawled ober de
fence?" And Chad picked up the basket with the remaining half dozen,
and descended the basement steps on his way through the kitchen to the
front door above. Before he reached the bottom step I heard him break
"Oh, yer you is, you black debbil! Tryin' to git in de door, is ye?
De pot is whar you'll git!"
At the foot of the short steps, flat on his back, head and legs
wriggling like an overturned roach, lay the missing terrapin. It had
crawled to the edge of the opening and had fallen down in the darkness.
Chad picked him up and kept on grumbling, shaking his finger at the
motionless terrapin, whose head and legs were now tight drawn between
"Gre't mine to squash ye! Wearin' out my old knees lookin' for ye.
Nebber mine, I'm gwine to bile ye fust an' de longest--hear dat?--de
longest!" Then looking up at me, "I got him, Major--try dat do'. Spec'
it's open. Colonel ain't yer yit. Reckon some ob dem moonshiners is
keepin' him down town. 'Fo' I forgit it, dar's a letter for ye hangin'
to de mantelpiece."
The door and the letter were both open, the latter being half a sheet
of paper impaled by a pin, which alone saved it from the roaring fire
that Chad had just replenished.
I held it to the light and learned, to my disappointment, that business
of enormous importance to the C. & W. A. L. R. R. might preclude the
possibility of the colonel's leaving his office until late. If such
a calamity overtook him, would I forgive him and take possession of
his house and cellar and make myself as comfortable as I could with
my best friend away? This postscript followed:--
"Open the new Madeira; Chad has the key."
Chad wreaked his vengeance upon the absconding terrapin by plunging
him, with all his sins upon him, headlong into the boiling pot, and
half an hour later was engaged at a side table in removing, with the
help of an iron fork, the upper shell of the steaming vagabond, for
my special comfort and sustenance.
"Tar'pin jes like a crab, Major, on'y got mo' meat to 'em. But you got
to know 'em fust to eat 'em. Now dis yer shell is de hot plate, an'
ye do all yo' eatin' right inside it," said Chad, dropping a spoonful
of butter, the juice of a lemon, and a pinch of salt into the impromptu
"Now, Major, take yo' fork an' pick out all dat black meat an' dip it
in de sauce, an' wid ebery mou'ful take one o' dem little yaller eggs.
Dat's de way _we_ eat tar'pin. Dis yer stewin' him up in pote
wine is scand'lous. Can't taste nuffin' but de wine. But dat's
I followed Chad's directions to the word, picking the terrapin as I
would a crab and smothering the dainty bits in the hot sauce, until
only two empty shells and a heap of little bones were left to tell the
tale of my appetite.
"Gwine to crawl ober de fence, was ye?" I heard him say with a chuckle
as he bore away the debris. "What I tell ye? Whar am ye now?"
"Did Miss Nancy send those terrapin?" I asked, watching the old darky
drawing the cork of the new Madeira referred to in the colonel's note.
"Ob co'se, Major; Miss Nancy gibs de colonel eberytin'. Didn't ye know
dat? She's de on'y one what's got anythin' to gib, an' she wouldn't
hab dat on'y frough de war her money was in de bank in Baltimo'. I
know, 'cause I went dar once to git some for her. De Yankee soldiers
searched me; but some possums got two holes."
"And did she send him the Madeira too?"
"No, sah; Mister Grocerman gib him dat."
As he pronounced this name his voice fell, and for some time thereafter
he kept silent, brushing the crumbs away, replacing a plate or two,
or filling my wine-glass, until at last he took his place behind my
chair as was his custom with his master. It was easy to see that Chad
had something on his mind.
Every now and then a sigh escaped him, which he tried to conceal by
some irrelevant remark, as if his sorrow were his own and not to be
shared with a stranger. Finally he gave an uneasy glance around, and,
looking into my face with an expression of positive pain, said:--
"Don't tell de colonel I axed, but when is dis yer railroad gwineter
fotch some money in?"
"Why?' said I, wondering what extravagance the old man had fallen into.
"Nuffin', sah; but if it don't putty quick dar's gwineter be trouble.
Dese yer gemmen on de av'nue is gittin' ugly. When I got dar Madary
de udder day de tall one warn't gwineter gib it to me, pass-book or
no pass-book. On'y de young one say he'd seen de colonel, an' he was
a gemmen an" all right, I wouldn't 'a' got it at all. De tall gemmen
was comin' right around hisself--what he wanted to see, he said, was
de color ob de colonel's money. Been mo' den two months, an' not a cent.
"Co'se I tole same as I been tellin' him, dat de colonel's folks is
quality folks; but he say dat don't pay de bills."
"Did you tell the colonel?"
"No, sah; ain't no use tellin' de colonel; on'y worry him. He's got
de passbook, but I ain't yerd him say nuffin' yit 'bout payin' him.
I been spectin' Miss Nancy up here, an' de colonel says she's comin'
putty soon. She'll fix 'em; but dey ain't no time to waste."
While he spoke there came a loud knock at the door, and Chad returned
trembling with fear, his face the very picture of despair.
"Dat's de tall man hisself, sah, an' his dander's up. I knowed dese
Yankees in de war, an' I don't like 'em when dey's ris'. When I tole
him de colonel ain't home he look at me pizen-like, same as I was
a-lyin'; an' den he stop an' listen an' say he come back to-night.
Trouble comin'; old coon smells de dog. Wish we was home an' out ob
I tried to divert his attention into other channels and to calm his
fears, assuring him that the colonel would come out all right; that
these enterprises were slow, etc.; but the old man only shook his head.
"You know, Major, same as me, dat de colonel ain't nuffin' but a chile,
an' about his bills he's _wuss_. But I'm yer, an' I'm 'sponsible.
'Chad,' he says, 'go out an' git six mo' bottles of dat old Madary;'
an' 'Chad, don't forgit de sweet ile;' an' 'Chad, is we got claret
enough to last ober Sunday?'--an' not a cent in de house. I ain't slep'
none for two nights, worritin' ober dis business, an' I'm mos' crazy."
I laid down my knife and fork and looked up. The old man's lip was
quivering, and something very like a tear stood in each eye.
"I can't hab nuffin' happen to de fambly, Major. You know our folks
is quality, an' always was, an' I dassent look my mistress in de face
if anythin' teches Marsa George." Then bending down he said in a hoarse
whisper: "See dat old clock out dar wid his eye wide open? Know what's
down below dat in de cellar? De jail!" And two tears rolled down his
* * * * *
It was some time before I could quiet the old man's anxieties and coax
him back into his usual good humor, and then only when I began to ask
him of the old plantation days.
Then he fell to talking about the colonel's father, General John Carter,
and the high days at Carter Hall when Miss Nancy was a young lady and
the colonel a boy home from the university.
"Dem was high times. We ain't neber seed no time like dat since de
war. Git up in de mawnin' an' look out ober de lawn, an' yer come
fo'teen or fifteen couples ob de fustest quality folks, all on horseback
ridin' in de gate. Den such a scufflin' round! Old marsa an' missis
out on de po'ch, an' de little pickaninnies runnin' from de quarters,
an' all hands helpin' 'em off de horses, an' dey all smokin' hot wid
de gallop up de lane.
"An' den sich a breakfast an' sich dancin' an' co'tin': ladies all out
on de lawn in der white dresses, an' de gemmen in fair-top boots, an'
Mammy Jane runnin' round same as a chicken wid its head off,--an' der
heads was off befo' dey knowed it, an' dey a-br'ilin' on de gridiron.
"Dat would go on a week or mo', an' den up dey'll all git an' away
dey'd go to de nex' plantation, an' take Miss Nancy along wid 'em on
her little sorrel mare, an' I on Marsa John's black horse, to take
care bofe of 'em. Dem _was_ times!
"My old marsa,"--and his eyes glistened,--"my old Marsa John was a
gem-man, sah, like dey don't see nowadays. Tall, sah, an' straight as
a cornstalk; hair white an' silky as de tassel; an' a voice like de
birds was singin', it was dat sweet.
"'Chad,' he use' ter say,--you know I was young den, an' I was his
body servant,--'Chad, come yer till I bre'k yo' head;' an' den when
I come he'd laugh fit to kill hisself. Dat's when you do right. But
when you was a low-down nigger an' got de debbil in yer, an' ole marsa
hear it an' send de oberseer to de quarters for you to come to de
little room in de big house whar de walls was all books an' whar his
desk was, 't wa'n't no birds about his voice den,--mo' like de thunder."
"Did he whip his negroes?"
"No, sah; don't reckelmember a single lick laid on airy nigger dat de
marsa knowed of; but when dey got so bad--an' some niggers is dat
way--den dey was sold to de swamp lan's. He wouldn't hab 'em round
'ruptin' his niggers, he use' ter say.
"Hab coffee, sah? Won't take I a minute to bile it. Colonel ain't been
drinkin' none lately, an' so I don't make none."
I nodded my head, and Chad closed the door softly, taking with him a
small cup and saucer, and returning in a few minutes followed by that
most delicious of all aromas, the savory steam of boiling coffee.
"My Marsa John," he continued, filling the cup with the smoking
beverage, "never drank nuffin' but tea, eben at de big dinners when
all de gemmen had coffee in de little cups--dat's one ob 'em you's
drink-in' out ob now; dey ain't mo' dan fo' on 'em left. Old marsa
would have his pot ob tea: Henny use' ter make it for him; makes it
now for Miss Nancy.
"Henny was a young gal den, long 'fo' we was married. Henny b'longed
to Colonel Lloyd Barbour, on de next plantation to ourn.
"Mo' coffee, Major?" I handed Chad the empty cup. He refilled it,
andwent straight on without drawing breath.
"Wust scrape I eber got into wid old Marsa John was ober Henny. I tell
ye she was a harricane in dem days. She come into de kitchen one time
where I was helpin' git de dinner ready an' de cook had gone to de
spring house, an' she says:--
"'Chad, what ye cookin' dat smells so nice?'
"'Dat's a goose,' I says, 'cookin' for Marsa John's dinner. We got
quality,' says I, pointin' to de dinin'-room do'.
"'Quality!' she says. 'Spec' I know what de quality is. Dat's for you
an' de cook.'
"Wid dat she grabs a caarvin' knife from de table, opens de do' ob de
big oven, cuts off a leg ob de goose, an' dis'pears round de kitchen
corner wid de leg in her mouf.
"'Fo' I knowed whar I was Marsa John come to de kitchen do' an' says,
'Gittin' late, Chad; bring in de dinner.' You see, Major, dey ain't
no up an' down stairs in de big house, like it is yer; kitchen an'
dinin'-room all on de same flo'.
"Well, sah, I was scared to def, but I tuk dat goose an' laid him wid
de cut side down on de bottom of de pan 'fo' de cook got back, put
some dressin' an' stuffin' ober him, an' shet de stove do'. Den I tuk
de sweet potatoes an' de hominy an' put 'em on de table, an' den I
went back in de kitchen to git de baked ham. I put on de ham an' some
mo' dishes, an' marsa says, lookin' up:--
"'I t'ought dere was a roast goose, Chad?'
"'I ain't yerd nothin' 'bout no goose,' I says. 'I'll ask de cook.'
"Next minute I yerd old marsa a-hollerin':--
"'Mammy Jane, ain't we got a goose?'
"'Lord-a-massy! yes, marsa. Chad, you wu'thless nigger, ain't you tuk
dat goose out yit?'
"'Is we got a goose?' said I.
"'_Is we got a goose_? Didn't you help pick it?'
"I see whar my hair was short, an' I snatched up a hot dish from de
hearth, opened de oven do', an' slide de goose in jes as he was, an'
lay him down befo' Marsa John.
"'Now see what de ladies'll have for dinner,' says old marsa, pickin'
up his caarvin' knife.
"'What'll you take for dinner, miss?' says I. 'Baked ham?'
"'No,' she says, lookin' up to whar Marsa John sat; 'I think I'll take
a leg ob dat goose'--jes so.
"Well, marsa cut off de leg an' put a little stuffin' an' gravy on wid
a spoon, an' says to me, 'Chad, see what dat gemman'll have.'
"'What'll you take for dinner, sah?' says I. 'Nice breast o' goose,
or slice o' ham?'
"'No; I think I'll take a leg of dat goose,' he says.
"I didn't say nuffin', but I knowed bery well he wa'n't a-gwine to git
"But, Major, you oughter seen ole marsa lookin' for der udder leg ob
dat goose! He rolled him ober on de dish, dis way an' dat way, an' den
he jabbed dat ole bone-handled caarvin' fork in him an' hel' him up
ober de dish an' looked under him an' on top ob him, an' den he says,
kinder sad like:--
"'Chad, whar is de udder leg ob dat goose?'
"'It didn't hab none,' says I.
"'You mean ter say, Chad, dat de gooses on my plantation on'y got one
"'Some ob 'em has an' some ob 'em ain't. You see, marsa, we got two
kinds in de pond, an' we was a little boddered today, so Mammy Jane
cooked dis one 'cause I cotched it fust.'
"'Well,' said he, lookin' like he look when he send for you in de
little room, 'I'll settle wid ye after dinner.'
"Well, dar I was shiverin' an' shakin' in my shoes, an' droppin' gravy
an' spillin' de wine on de table-cloth, I was dat shuck up; an' when
de dinner was ober he calls all de ladies an' gemmen, an' says, 'Now
come down to de duck pond. I'm gwineter show dis nigger dat all de
gooses on my plantation got mo' den one leg.'
"I followed 'long, trapesin' after de whole kit an' b'ilin', an' when
we got to de pond"--here Chad nearly went into a convulsion with
suppressed laughter--"dar was de gooses sittin' on a log in de middle
of dat ole green goose-pond wid one leg stuck down--so--an' de udder
tucked under de wing."
Chad was now on one leg, balancing himself by my chair, the tears
running down his cheeks.
"'Dar, marsa,' says I, 'don't ye see? Look at dat ole gray goose! Dat's
de berry match ob de one we had to-day.'
"Den de ladies all hollered an' de gemmen laughed so loud dey yerd 'em
at de big house.
"'Stop, you black scoun'rel!' Marsa John says, his face gittin' white
an' he a-jerkin' his handkerchief from his pocket. 'Shoo!'
"Major, I hope to have my brains kicked out by a lame grasshopper if
ebery one ob dem gooses didn't put down de udder leg!
"'Now, you lyin' nigger,' he says, raisin' his cane ober my head, 'I'll
'"Stop, Marsa John!' I hollered; ''t ain't fair, 't ain't fair.'
"'Why ain't it fair?' says he.
"''Cause,' says I, 'you didn't say "Shoo!" to de goose what was on de
table.'" [Footnote: This story, and the story of the "Postmaster" in
a preceding chapter, I have told for so many years and to so many
people, and with such varied amplifications, that I have long since
persuaded myself that they are creations of my own. I surmise, however,
that the basis of the "Postmaster" can be found in the corner of some
forgotten newspaper, and I know that the "One-Legged Goose" is as old
as the "Decameron".]
Chad laughed until he choked.
"And did he thrash you?"
"Marsa John? No, sah. He laughed loud as anybody; an' den dat night
he says to me as I was puttin' some wood on de fire:--
"'Chad, where did dat leg go?' An' so I ups an' tells him all about
Henny, an' how I was lyin' 'cause I was 'feared de gal would git hurt,
an' how she was on'y a-foolin', thinkin' it was my goose; an' den de
ole marsa look in de fire for a long time, an' den he says:--
"'Dat's Colonel Barbour's Henny, ain't it, Chad?'
"'Yes,' marsa, says I.
"Well, de next mawnin' he had his black horse saddled, an' I held the
stirrup for him to git on, an' he rode ober to de Barbour plantation,
an' didn't come back till plumb black night. When he come up I held
de lantern so I could see his face, for I wa'n't easy in my mine all
day. But it was all bright an' shinin' same as a' angel's.
"'Chad,' he says, handin' me de reins, 'I bought yo' Henny dis arternoon
from Colonel Barbour, an' she's comin' ober tomorrow, an' you can bofe
git married next Sunday.'"
* * * * *
A cheerful voice at the yard door, and the next moment the colonel was
stamping his feet on the hall mat, his first word to Chad an inquiry
after my comfort, and his second an apology to me for what he called
his brutal want of hospitality.
"But I couldn't help it, Major. I had some letters, suh, that could
not be postponed. Has Chad taken good care of you? No dinner, Chad;
I dined down town. How is the Madeira, Major?"
I expressed my entire approbation of the wine, and was about to fill
the colonel's glass when Chad leaned over with the same anxious look
in his face.
"De grocerman was here, Colonel, an' lef' word dat he was comin' agin
"You don't say so, Chad, and I was out: most unfortunate occurrence!
When he calls again show him in at once. It will give me great pleasure
to see him."
Then turning to me, his mind on the passbook and its empty pages,--"I'll
lay a wager, Major, that man's father was a gentleman. The fact is,
I have not treated him with proper respect. He has shown me every
courtesy since I have been here, and I am ashamed to say that I have
not once entered his doors. His calling twice in one evening touches
me deeply. I did not expect to find yo' tradespeople so polite."
Chad's face was a study while his master spoke, but he was too well
trained, and still too anxious over the outcome of the expected
interview, to do more than bow obsequiously to the colonel,--his
invariable custom when receiving an order,--and to close the door
"That old servant," continued the colonel, watching Chad leave the
room, and drawing his chair nearer the fire, "has been in my fam'ly
ever since he was bawn. But for him and his old wife, Mammy Henny, I
would be homeless to-night." And then the colonel, with that soft
cadence in his voice which I always noticed when he spoke of something
that touched his heart, told me with evident feeling how, in every
crisis of fire, pillage, and raid, these two faithful souls had kept
unceasing watch about the old house; refastening the wrenched doors,
replacing the shattered shutters, or extinguishing the embers of
abandoned bivouac fires. Indeed, for months at a time they were its
only occupants, outside of strolling marauders and bands of foragers,
and but for their untiring devotion its tall chimneys would long since
have stood like tombstones over the grave of its ashes. Then he added,
with a break in his voice that told how deeply he felt it:--
"Do you know, Major, that when I was a prisoner at City Point that
darky tramped a hundred miles through the coast swamps to reach me,
crossed both lines twice, hung around for three months for his chance,
and has carried in his leg ever since the ball intended for me the
night I escaped in his clothes, and he was shot in mine.
"I tell you, suh, the color of a man's skin don't make much diffe'ence
sometimes. Chad was bawn a gentleman, and he'll never get over it."
As he was speaking, the object of his eulogy opened the hall door, and
the next instant a tall, red-headed man with closely trimmed
side-whiskers, and wearing a brown check suit and a blue necktie, ran
the gauntlet of Chad's profound but anxious bow, and advanced towards
the colonel, hat in hand.
"Which is Mr. Carter?"
The colonel arose gracefully. "I am Colonel Carter, suh, and I presume
you are the gentleman to whom I am indebted for so many courtesies.
My servant tells me that you called earlier in the evenin'. I regret,
suh, that I was detained so late at my office, and I have to thank you
for perseve'in' the second time. I assure you, suh, that I esteem it
a special honor."
The tall gentleman with the auburn whiskers wiped his face with a
handkerchief, which he took from his hat, and stated with some timidity
that he hoped he did not intrude at that late hour. He had sent his
"I have looked it over, suh, repeatedly, with the greatest pleasure.
It is a custom new to us in my county, but it meets with my hearty
approval. Give yo' hat to my servant, suh, and take this seat by the
The proprietor of the hat after some protestations suffered Chad to
bear away that grateful protection to his slightly bald head,--retaining
his handkerchief, which he finally rolled up into a little wad and
kept tightly clenched in the perspiring palm of his left hand,--and
then threw out the additional hope that everything was satisfactory.
"Delicious, suh; I have not tasted such Madeira since the wah. In my
cellar at home, suh, I once had some old Madeira of '28 that was given
to my father, the late General John Caarter, by old Judge Thornton.
You, of course, know that wine, suh. Ah! I see that you do."
And then followed one of the colonel's delightful monologues descriptive
of all the vintages of that year, the colonel constantly appealing to
the dazed and delighted grocerman to be set right in minor technical
matters,--the grocer understanding them as little as he did the Aztec
dialects,--the colonel himself supplying the needed data and then
thanking the auburn gentleman for the information so charmingly that
for the moment that worthy tradesman began to wonder why he had not
long before risen from the commonplace level of canned vegetables to
the more sublime plane of wines in the wood.
"Now the Madeira you sent me this mornin', suh, is a trifle too fruity
for my taste. Chad, open a fresh bottle."
The owner of the pass-book instantly detected a very decided fruity
flavor, but thought he had another wine, which he would send in the
morning, that might suit the colonel's palate better.
The colonel thanked him, and then drifted into the wider field of
domestic delicacies,--the preserving of fruits, the making of pickles
as practiced on the plantations by the old Virginia cooks,--the colonel
waxing eloquent over each production, and the future wine merchant
becoming more and more enchanted as the colonel flowed on.
When he rose to go the grocer had a mental list of the things he would
send the colonel in the morning all arranged in his commercial head,
and so great was his delight that, after shaking hands with me once
and with the colonel three times, he would also have extended that
courtesy to Chad had not that perfectly trained servant checkmated him
by filling his extended palm with the rim of his own hat.
When Chad returned from bowing him through the tunnel, the lines in
his face a tangle of emotions, the colonel was standing on the mat,
in his favorite attitude--back to the fire, coat thrown open, thumbs
in his armholes, his outstretched fingers beating woodpecker tattoos
on his vest.
Somehow the visit of the grocer had lifted him out of the cares of the
day. How, he could not tell. Perhaps it was the fragrance of the
Madeira; perhaps the respectful, overawed bow,--the bow of the tradesman
the world over to the landed proprietor,--restoring to him for one
brief moment that old feudal supremacy which above all else his soul
loved. Perhaps it was only the warmth and cheer and comfort of it all.
Whatever it was, it buoyed and strengthened him. He was again in the
old dining-hall at home: the servants moving noiselessly about; the
cut-glass decanters reflected in the polished mahogany; the candles
lighted; his old, white-haired father, in his high-backed chair, sipping
his wine from the slender glass.
Ah, the proud estate of the old plantation days! Would they ever be
_The Arrival of a True Southern Lady_
"Mistress yer, sah! Come yistidd'y mawnin'."
How Chad beamed all over when this simple statement fell from his lips!
I had not seen him since the night when he stood behind my chair and
with bated breath whispered his anxieties lest the second advent of
"de grocerman" should bring dire destruction to the colonel's household.
To-day he looked ten years younger. His kinky gray hair, generally
knotted into little wads, was now divided by a well-defined path
starting from the great wrinkle in his forehead and ending in a dense
tangle of underbrush that no comb dared penetrate. His face glistened
all over. His mouth was wide open, showing a great cavity in which
each tooth seemed to dance with delight. His jacket was as white and
stiff as soap and starch could make it, while a cast-off cravat of the
colonel's--double starched to suit Chad's own ideas of propriety--was
tied in a single knot, the two ends reaching to the very edge of each
ear. To crown all, a red carnation flamed away on the lapel of his
jacket, just above an outside pocket, which held in check a pair of
white cotton gloves bulging with importance and eager for use. Every
time he bowed he touched with a sweep both sides of the narrow hall.
It was the first time in some weeks that I had seen the interior of
the colonel's cozy dining-room by daylight. Of late my visits had been
made after dark, with drawn curtains, lighted candles, and roaring
wood fires. But this time it was in the morning,--and a bright, sunny,
lovely spring morning at that,--with one window open in the L and the
curtains drawn back from the other; with the honeysuckle beginning to
bud, its long runners twisting themselves inquiringly through the
half-closed shutters as if anxious to discover what all this bustle
inside was about.
It was easy to see that some other touch besides that of the colonel
and his faithful man-of-all-work had left its impress in the bachelor
apartment. There was a general air of order apparent. The irregular
line of foot gear which decorated the washboard of one wall, beginning
with a pair of worsted slippers and ending with a wooden bootjack, was
gone. Whisk-brooms and dusters that had never known a restful nail
since they entered the colonel's service were now suspended peacefully
on convenient hooks. Dainty white curtains, gathered like a child's
frock, flapped lazily against the broken green blinds, while some
sprays of arbutus, plucked by Miss Nancy on her way to the railroad
station, drooped about a tall glass on the mantel.
Chad had solved the mystery,--Aunt Nancy came yesterday.
I found the table set for four, its chief feature being a tray bearing
a heap of eggshell cups and saucers I had not seen before, and an
old-fashioned tea-urn humming a tune all to itself.
"De colonel's out, but he comin' back d'rektly," Chad said eagerly,
all out of breath with excitement. Then followed the information that
Mr. Fitzpatrick was coming to breakfast, and that he was to tell Miss
Nancy the moment we arrived. He then reduced the bulge in his outside
pocket by thrusting his big hands into his white gloves, gave a sidelong
glance at the flower in his buttonhole, and bore my card aloft with
the air of a cupbearer serving a princess.
A soft step on the stair, the rustle of silk, a warning word outside:
"Look out for dat lower step, mistress--dat's it;" and Miss Nancy
entered the room.
No, I am wrong. She became a part of it; as much so as the old andirons
and the easy chairs and the old-fashioned mantelpieces, the snowy
curtains and the trailing vine. More so when she gave me the slightest
dip of a courtesy and laid her dainty, wrinkled little hand in mine,
and said in the sweetest possible voice how glad she was to see me
after so many years, and how grateful she felt for all my kindness to
the dear colonel. Then she sank into a quaint rocking-chair that Chad
had brought down behind her, rested her feet on a low stool that
mysteriously appeared from under the table, and took her knitting from
She had changed somewhat since I last saw her, but only as would an
old bit of precious stuff that grew the more mellow and harmonious in
tone as it grew the older. She had the same silky gray hair--a trifle
whiter, perhaps; the same frank, tender mouth, winning wherever she
smiled; the same slight, graceful figure; and the same manner--its
very simplicity a reflex of that refined and quiet life she had always
led. For hers had been an isolated life, buried since her girlhood in
a great house far away from the broadening influences of a city, and
saddened by the daily witness of a slow decay of all she had been
taught to revere. But it had been a life so filled with the largeness
of generous deeds that its returns had brought her the love and
reverence of every living soul she knew.
While she sat and talked to me of her journey I had time to enjoy again
the quaintness of her dress,--the quaintness of forty years before.
There was the same old-fashioned, soft gray silk with up-and-down
stripes spotted with sprigs of flowers, the lace cap with its frill
of narrow pink ribbons and two wide pink strings that fell over the
shoulders, and the handkerchief of India mull folded across the breast
and fastened with an amethyst pin. Her little bits of feet--they were
literally so--were incased in white stockings and heelless morocco
slippers bound with braid.
But her dress was never sombre. She always seemed to remember, even
in her bright ribbons and silks, the days of her girlhood, when half
the young men in the county were wild about her. When she moved she
wafted towards you a perfume of sweet lavender--the very smell that
you remember came from your own mother's old-fashioned bureau drawer
when she let you stand on tiptoe to see her pretty things. When you
kissed her--and once I did--her cheek was as soft as a child's and
fragrant with rose-water.
But I hear the colonel's voice outside, laughing with Fitz.
"Come in, suh, and see the dearest woman in the world."
The next instant he burst in dressed in his gala combination,--white
waistcoat and cravat, the old coat thrown wide open as if to welcome
the world, and a bunch of red roses in his hand.
"Nancy, here's my dear friend Fitz, whom I have told you about,--the
most extraord'nary man of modern times. Ah, Major! you here? Came in
early, did you, so as to have aunt Nancy all to yo'self? Sit down,
Fitz, right alongside of her." And he kissed her hand gallantly. "Isn't
she the most delightful bit of old porcelain you ever saw in all yo'
Miss Nancy rose, made another of her graceful courtesies, and begged
that neither of us would mind the colonel's raillery; she never could
keep him in order. And she laughed softly as she gave her hand to Fitz,
who touched it very much as if he quite believed the colonel's reference
to the porcelain to be true.
"There you go, Nancy, 'busin' me like a dog, and here I've been
a-trampin' the streets for a' hour lookin' for flowers for you! You
are breakin' my heart, Miss Caarter, with yo' coldness and contempt.
Another word and you shall not have a single bud." And the colonel
gayly tucked a rose under her chin with a loving stroke of his hand,
and threw the others in a heap on her lap.
"Breakfast sarved, mistress," said Chad in a low voice.
The colonel gave his arm to his aunt with the air of a courtier; Fitz
and I disposed ourselves on each side; Chad, with reverential mien,
screwed his eyes up tight; and the colonel said grace with an increased
fervor in his voice, no doubt remembering in his heart the blessing
of the last arrival.
Throughout the entire repast the colonel was in his gayest mood,
brimming over with anecdotes and personal reminiscences and full of
his rose-colored plans for the future.
Many things had combined to produce this happy frame of mind. There
was first the Scheme, which had languished for weeks owing to the
vise-like condition of the money market,--another of Fitz's mendacious
excuses,--and which had now been suddenly galvanized into temporary
life by an inquiry made by certain bankers who were seeking an outlet
for English capital, and who had expressed a desire to investigate the
"Garden Spot of Virginia." Only an "inquiry," but to the colonel the
papers were already signed. Then there was the arrival of his
distinguished guest, whom he loved devotedly and with a certain
old-school gallantry and tenderness as picturesque as it was
interesting. Last of all there was that important episode of the bills.
For Miss Nancy, the night she arrived, had collected all the household
accounts, including the highly esteemed pass-book,--they were all of
the one kind, unpaid,--and had dispatched Chad early in the morning
to the several creditors with his pocket full of crisp bank-notes.
Chad had returned from this liquidating tour, and the full meaning of
that trusty agent's mission had dawned upon the colonel. He buttoned
his coat tightly over his chest, straightened himself up, sought out
his aunt, and said, with some dignity and a slightly injured air:--
"Nancy, yo' interfe'ence in my household affairs this mornin' was vehy
creditable to yo' heart, and deeply touches me; but if I thought you
regarded it in any other light except as a short tempo'ary loan, it
would offend me keenly. Within a few days, however, I shall receive
a vehy large amount of secu'ities from an English syndicate that
isinvestigatin' my railroad. I shall then return the amount to you with
interest, together with that other sum which you loaned me when I left
The little lady's only reply was to slip her hand into his and kisshim
on the forehead.
And yet that very morning he had turned his pockets inside out for the
remains of the last dollar of the money she had given him when he left
home. When it had all been raked together, and its pitiable
insufficiency had become apparent, this dialogue took place:--
"Chad, did you find any money on the flo' when you breshed my clothes?"
"Look round on the mantelpiece; perhaps I left some bills under the
"Ain't none dar, sah."
Then Chad, with that same anxious look suddenly revived in his face,
went below into the kitchen, mounted a chair, took down an old broken
tea-cup from the top shelf, and poured out into his wrinkled palm a
handful of small silver coin--his entire collection of tips, and all
the money he had. This he carried to the colonel, with a lie in his
mouth that the recording angel blotted out the moment it fell from his
"Here's some change, Marsa George, I forgot to gib ye; been left ober
from de marketin'."
And the colonel gathered it all in, and went out and spent every penny
of it on roses for "dear Nancy!"
All of these things, as I have said, had acted like a tonic on the
colonel, bracing him up to renewed efforts, and reacting on his guests,
who in return did their best to make the breakfast a merry one.
Fitz, always delightful, was more brilliant than ever, his native wit,
expressed in a brogue with verbal shadings so slight that it is hardly
possible to give it in print, keeping the table in a roar; while Miss
Nancy, encouraged by the ease and freedom of everybody about her,
forgot for a time her quiet reserve, and was charming in the way she
turned over the leaves of her own youthful experiences.
And so the talk went on until, with a smile to everybody, the little
lady rose, called Chad, who stood ready with shawl and cushion, and,
saying she would retire to her room until the gentlemen had finished
smoking, disappeared through the doorway.
The talk had evidently aroused some memory long buried in the colonel's
mind; for when Fitz had gone the dear old fellow picked up the glass
holding the roses which he had given his aunt in the morning, and,
while repeating her name softly to himself, buried his face in their
fragrance. Something, perhaps, in their perfume stirred that haunting
memory the deeper, for he suddenly raised his head and burst out:--
"Ah, Major, you ought to have seen that woman forty years ago! Why,
suh, she was just a rose herself!"
And then followed in disconnected scraps, as if he were recalling it
to himself, with long pauses between, that story which I had heard
hinted at before. A story never told the children, and never even
whispered in aunt Nancy's presence,--the one love affair of her life.
She and Robert had grown up together,--he a tall, brown-eyed young
fellow just out of the university, and she a fair-haired, joyous girl
with half the county at her feet. Nancy had not loved him at first,
nor ever did until the day he had saved her life in that wild dash
across country when her horse took fright, and he, riding neck and
neck, had lifted her clear of her saddle. After that there had been
but one pair of eyes and arms for her in the wide world. All of that
spring and summer, as the colonel put it, she was like a bird pouring
out her soul in one continuous song. Then there had come a night in
Richmond,--the night of the ball,--followed by her sudden return home,
hollow-eyed and white, and the mysterious postponement of the wedding
for a year.
Everybody wondered, but no one knew, and only as the months went by
did her spirits gain a little, and she begin to sing once more.
It was at a great party on a neighboring estate, amid the swim of the
music and the whirl of soft lace. Suddenly loud voices and threats,
a shower of cards flung at a man's face, an uplifted arm caught by the
host. Then a hall door thrust open and a half-frenzied man with
disordered dress staggering out. Then the startled face of a young
girl all in white and a cry no one ever forgot:--
"Oh, Robert! Not again?"
Her long ride home in the dead of the night, Nancy alone in the coach,
her escort--a distant cousin--on horseback behind. Then the pursuit.
The steady rise and fall of the hoof-beats back in the forest; the
reining in of Robert's panting horse covered with foam; his command
to halt; a flash, and then that sweet face stretched out in the road
in the moonlight by the side of the overturned coach, the cousin bending
over her with a bullet hole in his hat, and Robert, ghastly white and
sobered, with the smoking pistol in his hand.
Then the long, halting procession homeward in the gray dawn.
It was not so easy after this to keep the secret shut away; so one
day, when the shock had passed,--her arms about her uncle's neck,--the
whole story came out. She told of that other night there in Richmond,
with Robert reeling and half crazed; of his promise of reform, and the
postponement of the wedding, while she waited and trusted: so sad a
story that the old uncle forgot all the traditions that bound Southern
families, and sustained her in her determination never to see Robert
For days the broken-hearted lover haunted the place, while an out-bound
ship waited in Norfolk harbor.
Even Robert's father, crushed and humiliated by it all, had made no
intercession for him. But now, he begged, would she see his son for
the last time, only that he might touch her hand and say good-by?
That last good-by lasted an hour, Chad walking his horse all the while
before the porch door, until that tottering figure, holding to the
railings and steadying itself, came down the steps.
A shutter thrown back, and Nancy at the open window watching him mount.
As he wheels he raises his hat. She pushes aside the climbing roses.
In an instant he has cleared the garden beds, and has reined in his
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