Colonel Carter of Cartersville by F. Hopkinson Smith
House in Bedford
CHAPTER II. The
Garden Spot of
an Outlet to the
CHAPTER III. An
CHAPTER IV. The
Arrival of a
CHAPTER V. An
Allusion to a
CHAPTER VII. The
Outcome of a
Council of War
CHAPTER VIII. A
High Sense of
CHAPTER IX. A
CHAPTER X. Chad
in Search of a
CHAPTER XI. Chad
on his own Cabin
CHAPTER XII. The
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.
CHAPTER I. The Colonel's House in
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 Friday.
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 to six.
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
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
adapting 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
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
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
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
“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' the
“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
“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
It was a red flag to the colonel, and he laid down his pipe and
faced Fitz squarely.
“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
“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 as infamous.”
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
“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 an hour.”
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.”
CHAPTER II. 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 daily
“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
“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
“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,” asked Fitz.
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 chair.
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
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 kept
“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
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
“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, and honest.
“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 road.”
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,
“I cannot. It would break his heart.”
CHAPTER III. 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
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 out with:—
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“'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 show you'—
'“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 later.”
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
CHAPTER IV. The Arrival of a True
“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
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 her reticule.
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
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
“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
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
horse just below her window-sill. Looking up into her face:—
“Nancy, for the last time, shall I stay?”
She only shakes her head.
“Then look, Nancy, look! This is your work!”
A gleam of steel in a clenched hand, a burst of smoke, and before
Chad can reach him Nancy's lover lies dead in the flowers at her feet.
It had not been an easy story for the colonel. When he ceased he
passed his hand across his forehead as if the air of the room stifled
him. Then laying down his pipe, he bent once more over the slender
vase, his face in the roses.
* * * * *
“May I come in?”
In an instant the colonel's old manner returned.
“May you come in, Nancy? Why, you dear woman, if you had stayed away
five minutes longer I should have gone for you myself. What! Another
skein of yarn?”
“Yes,” she said, seating herself. “Hold out your hands.”
The loop slipped so easily over the colonel's arms that it was quite
evident that the role was not new to him.
“Befo' I forget it, Nancy, Mr. Fitzpatrick was called suddenly away
to attend to some business connected with my railroad, and left his
vehy kindest regards for you, and his apologies for not seein' you
befo' he left.”
Fitz had said nothing that resembled this, so far as my memory
served me, but it was what he ought to have done, and the colonel
always corrected such little slips of courtesy by supplying them
“Politeness,” he would sometimes say, “is becomin' rarer every day.
I tell you, suh, the disease of bad manners is mo' contagious than the
So the deception was quite pardonable in him.
“And what does Mr. Fitzpatrick think of the success of your
The colonel sailed away as usual with all his balloon topsails set,
his sea-room limited only by the skein, while his aunt wound her yarn
silently, and listened with a face expressive at once of deep interest
and hope, mingled with a certain undefined doubt.
As the ball grew in size, she turned to me, and, with a penetration
and practical insight into affairs for which I had not given her
credit, began to dissect the scheme in detail. She had heard, she said,
that there was lack of connecting lines and consequent absence of
freight, as well as insufficient harbor facilities at Warrentown.
I parried the questions as well as I could, begging off on the plea
that I was only a poor devil of a painter with a minimum knowledge
ofsuch matters, and ended by referring her to Fitz.
The colonel, much to my surprise, listened to every word without
opening his lips—a silence encouraged at first by his pride that she
could talk so well, and maintained thereafter because of certain
misgivings awakened in his mind as to the ultimate success of his pet
When she had punctured the last of his little balloons, he laid his
hand on her shoulder, and, looking into her face, said:—
“Nancy, you really don't mean that my railroad will never be
“No, George; but suppose it should not earn its expenses?”
Her thoughts were new to the colonel. Nobody except a few foolish
people in the Street, anxious to sell less valuable securities, and
utterly unable to grasp the great merits of the Cartersville and
Warrentown Air Line Railroad plan, had ever before advanced any such
ideas in his presence. He loosened his hands from the yarn, and took a
seat by the window. His aunt's misgivings had evidently so thoroughly
disturbed him that for an instant I could see traces of a certain
offended dignity, coupled with a nervous anxiety lest her inquiries had
shaken my own confidence in his scheme.
He began at once to reassure me. There was nothing to be uneasy
about. Look at the bonds! Note the perfect safety of the plan of
finance—the earlier coupons omitted, the subsequent peace of the
investor! The peculiar location of the road, with the ancestral estates
dotted along its line! The dignity of the several stations! He could
hear them now in his mind called out as they whistled down brakes:
“Carter Hall! Barboursville! Talcott!” No; there was nothing about the
road that should disturb his aunt. For all that a still more anxious
look came into his face. He began pacing the floor, buried in deep
thought, his thumbs hooked behind his back. At last he stopped and took
“Dear Nancy, if anything should happen to you it would break my
heart. Don't be angry, it is only the major; but yo' talk with him has
so disturbed me that I am determined to secure you against personal
Miss Nancy raised her eyes wonderingly. She evidently did not catch
“You have been good enough, my dear, to advance me certain sums of
money which I still owe. I want to pay these now.”
“But, George, you”—
“My dearest Nancy,”—and he stooped down, and kissed her cheek,—“I
will have my way. Of co'se you didn't mean anything, only I cannot let
another hour pass with these accounts unsettled. Think, Nancy; it is my
right. The delay affects my honor.”
The little lady dropped her knitting on the floor, and looked at me
in a helpless way.
The colonel opened the table drawer, and handed me pen and ink.
“Now, Major, take this sheet of paper and draw a note of hand.”
I looked at his aunt inquiringly. She nodded her head in assent.
“Yes, if it pleases George.”
I began with the usual form, entering the words “I promise to pay,”
and stopped for instructions.
“Payable when, Colonel?” I asked.
“As soon as I get the money, suh.”
“But you will do that anyhow, George.”
“Yes, I know, Nancy; but I want to settle it in some safe way.”
Then he gazed at the ceiling in deep thought.
“I have it, Major!” And the colonel seized the pen. The note read as
On demand I promise to pay Ann Carter the sum of six hundred
dollars, value received, with interest at the rate of six per cent,
from January 1st.
Payable as soon as possible.
GEORGE FAIRFAX CARTER.
I looked to see what effect this unexpected influx of wealth would
produce on the dear lady; but the trustful smile never wavered.
She read to the very end the modest scrap of paper so suddenly
enriched by the colonel's signature, repeated in a whisper to herself
“Payable as soon as possible,” folded it with as much care as if it had
been a Bank of England note, then thanked the colonel graciously, and
tucked it in her reticule.
CHAPTER V. An Allusion to a Yellow
The colonel's office, like many other of his valued possessions, was
in fact the property of somebody else.
It really belonged to a friend of Fitzpatrick, who had become so
impressed by the Virginian's largeness of manner and buoyancy of
enthusiasm that he had whispered to Fitz to bring him in at once and
give him any desk in the place; adding that “in a sagging market the
colonel would be better than a war boom.”
So the colonel moved in—not a very complicated operation in his
case; his effects being confined to an old leather portfolio and a
bundle of quill pens tied up with a bit of Aunt Nancy's white yarn. The
following day he had nailed his visiting card above the firm's name in
the corridor, hung his hat and coat on the proprietor's peg, selected a
desk nearest the light, and was as much at home in five minutes as if
he owned the whole building.
There was no price agreed upon. Once, when Fitz delicately suggested
that all such rents were generally payable monthly, the colonel, after
some difficulty in grasping the idea, had said:—
“I could not offer it, suh. These gentlemen have treated me with a
hospitality so generous that its memory will never fade from my mind. I
cannot bring our relations down to the level of bargain and sale,suh;
it would be vulgar.”
The colonel was perfectly sincere. As for himself he would have put
every room in his own Carter Hall at their service for any purpose or
for any length of time, and have slept in the woodshed himself; and he
would as soon have demanded the value of the bottle of wine on his own
table as ask pay for such trivial courtesies.
Nor did he stop at the rent. The free use of stamps, envelopes,
paper, messenger service, and clerks were to him only evidences of a
lordly sort of hospitality which endeared the real proprietor of the
office all the more to him, because it recalled the lavish display of
the golden days of Carter Hall.
“Permit a guest to stamp his own letters, suh? Never! Our servants
attended to that.”
Really he owed his host nothing. No office of its size in the Street
made so much money for its customers in a bull market. Nobody lost
heart in a tumble and was sold out—that is, nobody to whom the colonel
talked. Once convince the enthusiastic Virginian that the scheme was
feasible,—and how little eloquence was needed for that!—and the dear
old fellow took hold with as much gusto as if it had been his own.
The vein in the copper mine was always going to widen out into a
six-foot lead; never by any possibility could it grow any smaller. The
trust shares were going up—“not a point or two at a time, gentlemen,
but with the spring of a panther, suh.” Of course the railroad earnings
were a little off this month, but wait until the spring opened; “then,
suh, you will see a revival that will sweep you off yo' feet.”
Whether it was good luck, or the good heart that the colonel put
into his friend's customers, the results were always the same. Singular
as it may seem, his cheery word just at the right time tided over the
critical moment many an uncertain watcher at the “ticker,” often to an
enlargement of his bank account. Nor would he allow any one to pay him
for any service of this kind, even though he had spent days engrossed
in their affairs.
“Take money, suh, for helpin' a friend out of a hole? My dear suh, I
see you do not intend to be disco'teous; but look at me, suh! There's
my hand; never refer to it again.” And then he would offer the offender
his card in the hope, perhaps, that its ample record might furnish some
further slight suggestion as to who he really was.
His popularity, therefore, was not to be wondered at. Everybody
regarded him kindly, total stranger as he was, and although few of them
believed to any extent in his “Garden Spot of Virginia,” as his pet
enterprise soon came to be known around the Street, everybody wished it
well, and not a few would have started it with a considerable
subscription could the colonel have managed the additional thousands
required to set it on its financial legs.
Fitz never lost heart in the scheme,—that is, never when the
colonel was about. As the weeks rolled by and one combination after the
other failed, and the well-thumbed bundle of papers in the big blue
envelope was returned with various comments. “In view of our present
financial engagements we are unable to undertake your very attractive
railroad scheme,” or the more curt “Not suited to our line of
customers,” he would watch the colonel's face anxiously, and rack his
brain for some additional excuse.
He always found one. Tight money, or news from Europe, or an
overissue of similar bonds; next week it would be better. And the
colonel always believed him. Fitz was his guiding star, and would lead
him to some safe haven yet. This faith was his stronghold, and his only
This morning, however, there was a touch of genuine enthusiasm about
Fitz. He rushed into the office, caught up the blue bundle and the map,
nearly upsetting the colonel, who was balanced back in his chair with
his long legs over the desk,—a favorite attitude when down
town,—rushed out, and returned in half an hour with a fat body
surmounted by a bald head fringed about with gray curls.
He was the advance agent of that mysterious combination known to the
financial world as an “English syndicate,” an elusive sort of
commercial sea-serpent with its head in London and its tail around the
globe. The “inquiry” which had so gladdened the colonel's heart the
morning ofthe breakfast with aunt Nancy had proceeded from this rotund
The colonel had, as usual, started the road at Cartersville, and had
gotten as far as the double-span iron bridge over the Tench when the
rotund gentleman asked abruptly,—
“How far are you from a coal-field?”
The colonel lifted the point of his pen, adjusted his glasses, and
punched a hole in the rumpled map within a hair's breadth of a black
dot labeled “Cartersville.”
“Right there, suh. Within a stone's throw of our locomotives.”
Fitz looked into the hole with as much astonishment as if it were
the open mouth of the mine itself.
“Hard or soft?” said the stout man.
“Soft, suh, and fairly good coal, I understand, although I have
never used it, suh; my ancestors always burned wood.”
Fitz heard the statement in undisguised wonder. In all his
intercourse with the colonel he had never before known him to depart so
much as a razor's edge from the truth.
The fat man communed with himself a moment, and then said suddenly,
“I'll take the papers and give you an answer in a week,” and hurried
“Do you really mean, Colonel,” said Fitz, determined to pin him
down, “that there is a single pound of coal in Cartersville?”
“Do I mean it, Fitz? Don't it crop out in half a dozen spots right
on our own place? One haalf of my estate, suh, is a coal-field.”
“You never told me a word about it.”
“I don't know that I did, Fitz. But it has never been of any use to
me. Besides, suh, we have plenty of wood. We never burn coal at Caarter
Fitz did not take that view of it. He went into an exhaustive
cross-examination of the colonel on the coal question: who had tested
it, the character of the soil, width of the vein, and dip of the land.
This information he carefully recorded in a small book which he took
from his inside pocket.
Loosened from Fitz's pinioning grasp, the colonel, entirely
oblivious to his friend's sudden interest in the coal-field, and
slightly impatient at the delay, bounded like a balloon with its
“An answer from the syndicate within a week! My dear Fitz, I see yo'
drift. You have kept the Garden Spots for the foreign investors. That
man is impressed, suh; I saw it in his eye.”
The room began filling up with the various customers and loungers
common to such offices: the debonair gentleman in check trousers and
silk hat, with a rose in his button-hole, who dusts his trousers
broadside with his cane—short of one hundred shares with thirty per
cent. margin; the shabby old man with a solemn face who watches the
ticker a moment and then wanders aimlessly out, looking more like an
underpaid clerk in a law office than the president of a crosstown
railroad—long of one thousand shares with no margin at all; the
nervous man who stops the messenger boys and devours the sales' lists
before they can be skewered on the files,—not a dollar's interest
either way; and, last of all, the brokers with little pads and nimble
The news that the great English syndicate was looking into the C. &
W. A. L R. R. was soon around the office, and each habitue had a
bright word for the colonel, congratulating him on the favorable turn
his affairs had taken.
All but old Klutchem, a broker in unlisted securities, who had been
trying for weeks to get a Denver land scheme before the same syndicate,
and had failed.
“Garden Spot bonds! Bosh! Road begins nowhere and ends nowhere. If
any set of fools built it, the only freight it would get, outside of
peanuts and sweet potatoes, would be razor-back hogs and niggers. I
wouldn't give a yellow dog for enough of those securities to paper a
The colonel was on his feet in an instant. “Mr. Klutchem, I cannot
permit you, suh, to use such language in my presence unrebuked; you”—
“Now, see here, old Garden Spot, you know”—
The familiarity angered the colonel even more than the outburst.
“Caarter, suh,—George Fairfax Caarter,” said the colonel with
“Well, Caarter, then,” mimicking him, perhaps unconsciously. “You
The intonation was the last straw. The colonel lost all control of
himself. No man had ever thus dared before.
“Stop, Mr. Klutchem! What I know, suh, I decline to discuss with
you. Yo' statements are false, and yo' manner of expressin' them quite
in keepin' with the evident vulga'ity of yo' mind. If I can ascertain
that you have ever had any claim to be considered a gentleman you will
hear from me ag'in. If not, I shall rate you as rankin' with yo' yallar
dog; and if you ever speak to me ag'in I will strike you, suh, with my
And the colonel, his eyes flashing, strode into the private office
with the air of a field marshal, and shut the door.
Klutchem looked around the room and into the startled faces of the
clerks and bystanders, burst into a loud laugh, and left the office. On
reaching the street he met Fitz coming in.
“Better look after old Garden Spot, Fitzpatrick. I poked holes in
his road, and he wanted to swallow me alive.”
CHAPTER VI. Certain Important
When I reached my lodgings that night I found this note, marked in
the left-hand corner “Important,” and in the right-hand corner “In
haste.” A boy had left it half an hour before.
Be at my house at six, prepared to leave town at an hour's notice.
I hurried to Bedford Place, dived through the tunnel, and found
Fitzpatrick with his hand on the knocker. I followed him through the
narrow hall and into the dining-room. He had a duplicate, also marked
“Important” and “In haste,” with this additional postscript: “Bring
address of a prudent doctor.”
“What does all this mean, Fitz?” I asked, spreading my letter out.
“I give it up, Major. The last I saw of the colonel was at two
o'clock. He was then in the private office writing. That old wind-bag
Klutchem had been worrying him, I heard, and the colonel sat down on
him hard. But he had forgotten all about it when I talked to him, for
he was as calm as a clock. But what the devil, Major, does he want with
a doctor? Chad!”
“Was the colonel sick this morning?”
“No, sah. Eat two b'iled eggs, and a dish ob ham half as big as yo'
han'. He wa'n't sick, 'cause I yerd him singin' to hisself all fru de
tunnel cl'ar out to de street.”
We sat down and looked at each other. Could anybody else be sick?
Perhaps aunt Nancy had been taken ill on her way home to Virginia, and
the doctor was for the dear lady. But why a “prudent doctor,” and why
both of us to go?
Fitz paced up and down the room, and I sat by the open window, and
looked out into the dreary yard. The hands of the clock in the tall
tower outlined against the evening sky were past the hour, long past,
and yet no colonel.
Suppose he had been suddenly stricken down himself! Suppose—
The slamming of the outer gate, followed by a sentry-like tread in
the tunnel, cut short our quandary, and the colonel's tall figure
emerged from the archway, and mounted the steps.
“What has happened?” we both blurted out, opening the door for him.
“Who's sick? Where are we going?”
The colonel's only reply was a pressure of our hands. Then, placing
his hat with great deliberation on the hall table, he drew off his
gloves, waved us before him, and took his seat at the dining-room
Fitz and I, now thoroughly alarmed, and quite prepared for the
worst, stood on each side.
The colonel dropped his hand into his inside pocket, and drew forth
“Gentlemen, you see befo' you a man on the verge of one of the great
crises of his life. You heard, Fitz, of what occurred in my office this
mornin'? You know how brutally I was assaulted, and how entirely
without provocation on my part? I am a Caarter, suh, and a gentleman.
No man can throw discredit on an enterprise bearin' my name without
bein' answerable to me.”
And the colonel with great dignity opened one of the letters, and
read as follows:—
51 BEDFORD PLACE. Tuesday.
P. A. KLUTCHEM. Sir,—You took occasion this morning, in the
presence of a number of my friends, to make use of certain offensive
remarks reflecting upon a great commercial enterprise to which I have
lent my name. This was accompanied by a familiarity as coarse as it was
unwarranted. The laws of hospitality, which your own lack of good
breeding violated, forbade my having you ejected from my office on the
I now demand that satisfaction to which I am entitled, and I
herewith inform you that I am ready at an hour's notice to meet you at
any point outside the city most convenient to yourself.
Immediately upon your reply my friend Mr. T. B. Fitzpatrick will
wait upon you and arrange the details. I name Major Thos. C. Yancey of
Virginia as my second in the field.
I have the honor to remain
Your obedient servant,
GEORGE FAIRFAX CARTER, Late Colonel C. S. A.
“Suffering Moses!” cried out Fitz. “You are not going to send that?”
“It is sent, my dear Fitz. Mailed from my office this afternoon.
This is a copy.” Fitz sank into a chair with both hands to his head.
“My object in sendin' for you both,” the colonel continued, “was to
be fully prepared should my antagonist select some early hour in the
mornin'. In that case, Fitz, I shall have to rely on you alone, as
Major Yancey cannot reach here until the followin' day. That was why a
prudent doctor might be necessary at once.”
Fitz's only reply was to thump his own head, as if the situation was
too overpowering for words.
The colonel, with the same deliberation, opened the second letter.
It was addressed to Judge Kerfoot, informing him of the nature of the
“crisis,” and notifying him of his (the colonel's) intention to appoint
him sole executor of his estate should fate provide that vacancy.
The third was a telegram to Major Yancey summoning him at once “to
duty on the field in an affair of honor.”
“I am aware, Fitz, that some secrecy must be preserved in an affair
of this kind Nawth—quite diffe'ent from our own county, and”—
“Secrecy! Secrecy! With that bellowing Klutchem? Don't you know that
that idiot will have it all over the Street by nine o'clock to-morrow,
unless he is ass enough to get scared, get out a warrant, and clap you
into the Tombs before breakfast? O Colonel! How could you do a
thing like this without letting us know?”
The colonel never changed a muscle in his face. He was courteous,
even patient with Fitz, now really alarmed over the consequences of
what he considered a most stupendous piece of folly. He could not, he
said, sit in judgment on other gentlemen. If Fitz felt that way, it was
doubtless due to his education. As for himself, he must follow the
traditions of his ancestors.
“But at all events, my friends, my dear friends,”—and he extended
both hands,—“we must not let this affair spoil our ap'tites. Nothing
can now occur until the mornin', and we have ample time befo' daylight
to make our preparations. Major, kindly touch the bell. Thank you!
Chad, serve the soup.”
So short a time elapsed between the sound of the bell and the
thrusting in of Chad's head that it was quite evident the darky had
been listening on the outside.
If, however, that worthy guardian of the honor and dignity of the
Carter family was at all disturbed by what he had heard, there was
nothing in his face to indicate it. On the contrary, every wrinkle was
twisted into curls and curves of hilarity. He even went so far during
dinner as to correct his master in so slight a detail as to where
Captain Loynes was hit in the famous duel between the colonel's father
and that distinguished Virginian.
“Are you shore, Chad, it was in the leg?”
“Yes, sah, berry sho. You don't reckel-member, Colonel; but I had
Marsa John's coat, an' I wrop it round Cap'in Loynes when he was
ca'aied to his ca'aige. Yes, sah, jes above de knee. Marsa John picked
him de fust shot.”
“I remember now. Yes, you are right. The captain always walked a
“But, gentlemen,”—still with great dignity, but yet with an air as
if he desired to relieve our minds from any anxiety concerning
himself,—“by far the most interesting affair of honor of my time was
the one in which I met Major Howard, a prominent member of the Fairfax
County bar. Some words in the heat of debate led to a blow, and the
next mornin' the handkerchief was dropped at the edge of a wood near
the cote-house just as the sun rose over the hill. As I fired, the
light blinded me, and my ball passed through his left arm. I escaped
with a hole in my sleeve.”
“Living yet?” said Fitz, repressing a smile.
“Certainly, suh, and one of the fo'most lawyers of our State. Vehy
good friend of mine. Saw him on'y the week befo' I left home.”
When dinner was served, I could detect no falling off in the
colonel's appetite. With the exception of a certain nervous expectance,
intensified when there was a rap at the front door, followed by a
certain consequent disappointment when Chad announced the return of a
pair of shoes—out to be half-soled—instead of the long-delayed reply
from the offending broker, he was as calm and collected as ever.
It was only when he took from his table drawer some sheets of
foolscap, spread the nib of a quill pen on his thumb nail, and beckoned
Fitz to his side, that I noticed any difference even in his voice.
“You know, Fitz, that my hand is not so steady as it was, and if I
should fall, there are some things that must be attended to. Sit here
and write these memoranda at my dictation.”
Fitz drew nearer, and bent his ear in attention.
“I, George Fairfax Caarter of Caarter Hall, Caartersville, Virginia,
bein' of sound mind”—
The pen scratched away.
“Everything down but the sound mind,” said Fitz; “but go on.”
“Do hereby,” continued the colonel.
“What's all this for—another challenge?” said Fitz, looking up.
“No, Fitz,”—the colonel did not like his tone,—“but a few partin'
instructions which will answer in place of a more formally drawn will.”
Fitz scratched on until the preamble was finished, and the
unincumbered half of Carter Hall had been bequeathed to “my ever valued
aunt Ann Carter, spinster,” and he had reached a new paragraph
beginning with, “All bonds, stocks, and shares, whether founders',
preferred, or common, of the corporation known as the Cartersville and
Warrentown Air Line Railroad, particularly the sum of 25,000 shares of
said company subscribed for by the undersigned, I hereby bequeath,”
when Fitz stopped and laid down his pen.
“You can't leave that stock. Not transferred to you yet.”
“I know it, Fitz; but I have pledged my word to take it, and so far
as I am concerned, it is mine.”
Fitz looked over his glasses at me, and completed the sentence by
which this also became “the exclusive property of Ann Carter,
spinster.” Then followed a clause giving his clothes to Chad, his seal
and chain to Fitz, and his fowling-piece to me.
When the document was finished, the colonel signed it in a bold,
round hand, and attested it by a burning puddle of red wax into which
he plunged the old family seal. Fitz and I duly witnessed it, and then
the colonel, with the air of a man whose mind had been suddenly
relieved of some great pressure, locked the important document in his
drawer, and handed the key to Fitz.
The change now in the colonel's manner was quite in keeping with the
expression of his face. All his severe dignity, all the excess of
responsibility and apparent studied calmness, were gone. He even became
buoyant enough to light a pipe.
Presently he gave a little start as if suddenly remembering
something until that moment overlooked, then he lighted a candle, and
mounted the stairs to his bedroom. In a few minutes he returned,
carrying in both hands a mysterious-looking box. This he placed with
great care on the table, and proceeded to unlock with a miniature key
attached to a bunch which he invariably carried in his trousers pocket.
It was a square box made of mahogany, bound at each corner with
brass, and bearing in the centre of the top a lozenge-shaped silver
tablet engraved with a Carter coat of arms, the letters “G. F. C.”
The colonel raised the lid and uncovered the weapons that had
defended the honor of the Carter family for two generations. They were
the old fashioned single-barrel kind, with butts like those of the
pirates in a play, and they lay in a bed of faded red velvet surrounded
by ramrods, bullet-moulds, a green pill-box labeled “G. D. Gun Caps,”
some scraps of wash leather, together with a copper powder-flask and a
spoonful of bullets. The nipples were protected by little patches cut
from an old kid glove.
The colonel showed with great pride a dent on one side of the barrel
where a ball had glanced, saving some ancestor's life; then he rang the
bell for Chad, and consigned the case to that hilarious darky very much
as the knight of a castle would place his trusty blade in the hands of
his chief armorer.
“Want a tech o' ile in dese baals, Colonel,” said Chad, examining
them critically. “Got to keep dere moufs clean if you want dese dogs to
bark right;” and he bore away the battery, followed by the colonel, who
went down into the kitchen to see if the fire was hot enough to cast a
few extra bullets.
Fitz and I, being more concerned about devising some method to
prevent the consequences of the colonel's rash act than in increasing
the facilities for bloodshed, remained where we were and discussed the
possible outcome of the situation.
We had about agreed that should Klutchem demand protection of the
police, and the colonel be hauled up for violating the law of the
State, I should go bail and Fitz employ the lawyer, when we were
startled by a sound like the snap of a percussion-cap, followed by loud
talking in the front yard.
First came a voice in a commanding tone: “Stand where you are! Drop
Then Chad's “Don't shoot yit, Colonel.”
Fitz and I started for the front door on a run, threw it open, and
ran against Chad standing on the top step with his back to the panels.
Over his head he held the stub of a candle flickering in the night
wind. This he moved up and down in obedience to certain mysterious
sounds which came rumbling out of the tunnel. Beside him on the stone
step lay the brass-cornered mahogany dueling case with both weapons
The only other light visible was the glowing eye of the tall tower.
“Where's the colonel?” we both asked in a breath.
Chad kept the light aloft with one hand like an ebony Statue of
Liberty, and pointed straight ahead into the tunnel with the other.
“Mo' to the left,” came the voice.
Chad swayed the candle towards the broken-down fence, and sent his
magnified shadow scurrying up the measly wall and halfway over to the
next house. “So! Now steady.”
The darky stood like the Sphinx, the light streaming atop of the
tall candlestick, and then said from out one side of his mouth, “Spec'
you gemmen better squat; she's gwineter bite.”
Fitz peered into the tunnel, caught the gleam of a pistol held in a
shadowy hand, made a clear leap, and landed out of range among the
broken flower-pots. I sprang behind the hydrant, and at the same
instant another cap snapped.
“Ah, gentlemen,” said the voice emerging from the tunnel. “Had I
been quite sure of myself I should have sent for you. I used to snuff a
candle at fo'ty yards, and but that my powder is a little old I could
do it ag'in.”
CHAPTER VII. The Outcome of a
Council of War
When early the next morning, Fitz and I arrived at the colonel's
office he was already on hand and in a state of high nervous
excitement. His coat, which, so far as a coat might, always expressed
in its various combinations the condition of his mind, was buttoned
close up under his chin, giving to his slender figure quite a military
air. He was pacing the floor with measured tread; one hand thrust into
his bosom, senator fashion, the other held behind his back.
“Not a line, suh; not the scrape of a pen. If his purpose, suh, is
to ignore me altogether, I shall horsewhip him on sight.”
“Have you looked through the firm's mail?” said Fitz, glad of the
“Eve'ywhere, suh—not a scrap.”
“I will hunt him up;” and Fitz hurried down to Klutchem's office in
the hope of either intercepting the challenge or of pacifying the
object of the colonel's wrath, if by any good chance the letter should
have been delayed until the morning.
In ten minutes he returned with the mystifying news that Mr.
Klutchem's letters had been sent to his apartment the night before, and
that a telegram had just been received notifying his clerks that he
would not be down that day.
“Escaped, suh, has he? Run like a dog! Like a yaller dog as he is!
Where has he gone?”
“After a policeman, I guess,” said Fitz.
The colonel stopped, and an expression of profound contempt
overspread his face.
“If the gentleman has fallen so low, suh, that he proposes to go
about with a constable taggin' after his heels, you can tell him, suh,
that he is safe even from my boot.”
Then he shut the door of the private office in undisguised disgust,
leaving Fitz and me on the outside.
“What are we going to do, Major?” said Fitz, now really anxious. “I
am positive that old Klutchem has either left town or is at this moment
at police headquarters. If so, the dear old fellow will be locked up
before sundown. Klutchem got that letter last night.”
It was at once decided to head off the broker, Fitz keeping an eye
on his office every half hour in the hope that he might turn up, and I
completing the arrangements for the colonel's bail so as to forestall
the possibility of his remaining in custody overnight.
Fitz spent the day in efforts to lay hands on Klutchem in order to
prevent the law performing the same service for the colonel. My own
arrangements were more easily completed, a friend properly possessed of
sufficient real estate to make good his bond being in readiness for any
emergency. One o'clock came, then three, then five; the colonelall the
time keeping to the seclusion of his private office, Fitz watching for
Klutchem, and I waiting in the larger office for the arrival of one of
those clean-shaven, thick-set young men, in a Derby hat and sack-coat,
the unexpected pair of handcuffs in his outside pocket.
The morning of the second day the situation remained still
unchanged; Fitz had been unable to find Klutchem either at his office
or at his lodgings, the colonel was still without any reply from his
antagonist, and no young man answering to my fears had put in any
The only new features were a telegram from Tom Yancey to the effect
that he and Judge Kerfoot would arrive about noon, and another from the
judge himself begging a postponement until they could reach the field.
Fitz read both dispatches in a corner by himself, with a face
expressive of the effect these combined troubles were making upon his
otherwise happy countenance. He then crumpled them up in his hand and
slid them into his pocket.
Up to this time not a soul in the office except the colonel, Fitz,
and I had the faintest hint of the impending tragedy, it being one of
the colonel's maxims that all affairs of honor demanded absolute
“If yo' enemy falls,” he would say, “it is mo' co'teous to say
nothin' but good of the dead; and when you cannot say that, better keep
still. If he is alive let him do the talkin'—he will soon kill
Fitz kept still because he felt sure if he could get hold of
Klutchem the whole affair—either outcome powder or law—could be
“Just as I had got the syndicate to look into the coal land,” said
Fitz, “which is the only thing the colonel's got worth talking about,
here he goes and gets into a first-class cast-iron scrape like this.
What a lovely old idiot he is! But I tell you, Major, something has got
to be done about this shooting business right away! Here I have
arranged for a meeting at the colonel's house on Saturday to discuss
this new coal development, and the syndicate's agent is coming, and yet
we can't for the life of us tell whether the colonel will be on his way
home in a pine box or locked up here for trying to murder that old
windbag. It's horrible!
“And to cap the climax,”—and he pulled out the crumpled
telegrams,—“here come a gang of fire-eaters who will make it twice as
difficult for me to settle anything. I wish I could find Klutchem!”
While he spoke the office door opened, ushering in a stout man with
a red face, accompanied by an elderly white-haired gentleman, in a
butternut suit. The red-faced man was carrying a carpet bag—not the
Northern variety of wagon-curtain canvas, but the old-fashioned carpet
kind with leather handles and a mouth like a catfish. The snuff-colored
gentleman's only charge was a heavy hickory cane and an umbrella with a
waist like a market-woman's.
The red-faced man took off a wide straw hat and uncovered a head
slightly bald and reeking with perspiration.
“I'm lookin' fur Colonel Caarter, suh. Is he in?”
Fitz pointed to the door of the private office, and the elderly man
drew his cane and rapped twice. The colonel must have recognized the
signal as familiar, for the door opened with a spring, and the next
moment he had them both by the hands.
“Why, Jedge, this is indeed an honor—and Tom! Of co'se I knew you
would come, Tom; but the Jedge I did not expec' until I got yo'
telegram. Give me yo' bag, and put yo' umbrella in the corner.
“Here Fitz, Major; both of you come in here at once.
“Jedge Kerfoot, gentlemen, of the district co'te of Fairfax County.
Major Tom Yancey, of the army.”
The civilities over, extra chairs were brought in, the door again
closed, and a council of war was held.
Major Yancey's first word—but I must describe Yancey. Imagine a
short, oily skinned, perpetually perspiring sort of man of forty, with
a decollete collar, a double-breasted waistcoat with glass buttons, and
skin-tight light trousers held down to a pair of high-heeled boots by
leather straps. The space between his waistband and his waistcoat was
made good by certain puckerings of his shirt anxious to escape the
thralldom of his suspenders. His paunch began and ended so suddenly
that he constantly reminded you of a man who had swallowed a toy
Yancey's first word was an anxious inquiry as to whether he was
late, adding, “I came ez soon ez I could settle some business mattahs.”
He had borrowed his traveling expenses from Kerfoot, who in turn had
borrowed them from Miss Nancy, keeping the impending duel carefully
concealed from that dear lady, and reading only such part of the
colonel's letter as referred to the drawing up of some important papers
in which he was to figure as chief executor.
“Late? No, Tom,” said the colonel; “but the scoundrel has run to
cover. We are watchin' his hole.”
“You sholy don't tell me he's got away, Colonel?” replied Major
“What could I do, Yancey? He hasn't had the decency to answer my
Yancey, however, on hearing more fully the facts, clung to the hope
that the Yankee would yet be smoked out.
“I of co'se am not familiar with the code as practiced
Nawth—perhaps these delays are permis'ble; but in my county a
challenge is a ball, and a man is killed or wounded ez soon ez the ink
is dry on the papah. The time he has to live is only a mattah of muddy
roads or convenience of seconds. Is there no way in which this can be
fixed? I doan't like to return home without an effo't bein' made.”
The colonel, anxious to place the exact situation before Major
Yancey so that he might go back fully assured that everything that a
Carter could do had been done, read the copy of the challenge, gave the
details of Fitz's efforts to find Klutchem, the repeated visits to his
office, and finally the call at his apartments.
The major listened attentively, consulted aside with the judge, and
then in an authoritative tone, made the more impressive by the decided
way with which he hitched up his trousers, said:—
“You have done all that a high-toned Southern gemman could do,
Colonel. Yo' honor, suh, is without a stain.”
In which opinion he was sustained by Kerfoot, who proved to be a
ponderous sort of old-fashioned county judge, and who accentuated his
decision by bringing down his cane with a bang.
While all this was going on in the private office under cover of
profound secrecy, another sort of consultation of a much more public
character was being held in the office outside.
A very bright young man—one of the clerks—held in his hand a large
envelope, bearing on one end the printed address of the firm whose
private office the colonel was at that moment occupying as a council
chamber. It was addressed in the colonel's well-known round hand. This
was not the fact, however, which excited interest; for the colonel
never used any other envelopes than those of the firm.
The postman, who had just taken it from his bag, wanted to deliver
it at its destination. The proprietor wanted to throw it back into the
box for remailing, believing it to be a Garden Spot circular, and so of
no especial importance. The bright young man wanted to return it to the
The bright young man prevailed, rapped at the door, and laid the
letter under the colonel's nose. It bore this address:—
P. A. KLUTCHEM, ESQ., Room 21, Star Building, Wall Street,
Immediate. New York.
The colonel turned pale and broke the seal. Out dropped his
“Where did you get this?” he asked, aghast.
“From the carrier. It was held for postage.”
Had a bombshell been exploded the effect could not have been more
Yancey was the first man on his feet.
“And the scoundrel never got it! Here, Colonel, give me the letter.
I'll go through this town like a fine-tooth comb but what I'll find
him. He will never escape me. My name is Yancey, suh!”
The judge was more conservative. He had grave doubts as to whether a
second challenge, after a delay of two days and two nights, could be
sent at all. The traditions of the Carter family were a word and a
blow, not a blow and a word in two days. To intrust the letter to the
United States mail was a grave mistake; the colonel might have known
that it would miscarry.
Fitz said grimly that letters always did, without stamps. The
Government was running the post-office on a business basis, not for its
Yancey looked at Fitz as if the interruption wearied him, then,
turning to the colonel, said that he was dumbfounded that a man who had
been raised as Colonel Carter could have violated so plain a rule of
the code. A challenge should always be delivered by the hand of the
challenger's friend. It should never be mailed.
The poor colonel, who since the discovery of the unstamped letter
had sat in a heap buried in his coat collar,—the military button
having given way,—now gave his version of the miscarriage.
He began by saying that when his friend Major Yancey became
conversant with all the facts he would be more lenient with him. He
had, he said, found the proprietor's drawer locked, and, not having a
stamp about him, had dropped the document into the mail-box with the
firm's letters, presuming that the clerks would affix the tax the
Government imposed. That the document had reached the post-office was
evidenced by the date-stamp on the envelope. It seemed to him a
picayune piece of business on the part of the authorities to detain it,
and all for the paltry sum of two cents.
Major Yancey conferred with the judge for a moment, and then said
that the colonel's explanation had relieved him of all responsibility.
He owed him a humble apology, and he shook his hand. Colonel Carter had
done all that a high-bred gentleman could do. The letter was intrusted
to the care of Mr. Klutchem's own government, the post-office as now
conducted being peculiarly a Yankee institution.
“If Mr. Klutchem's own government, gemmen,”—and he repeated it with
a rising voice,—“if Mr. Klutchem's own government does not trust him
enough to deliver to him a letter in advance of a payment of two cents,
such action, while highly discreditable to Mr. Klutchem, certainly does
not relieve that gemman from the responsibility of answerin' Colonel
The colonel said the point was well taken, and the judge sustained
Yancey looked around with the air of a country lawyer who had
tripped up a witness, decorated a corner of the carpet, and
“My idee, suh, now that I am on the ground, is for me to wait upon
the gemman at once, hand him the orig'nal challenge, and demand an
immediate answer. That is, “turning to Fitz, “unless he is in hidin'.”
Fitz replied that it was pretty clear to him that a man could not
hide from a challenge he had never received. It was quite evident that
Klutchem was detained somewhere.
The colonel coincided, and said in justice to his antagonist that he
would have to acquit him of this charge. He did not now believe that
Mr. Klutchem had run away. Fitz, who up to this time had enjoyed every
turn in the discussion, and who had listened to Yancey with a face like
a stone god, his knees shaking with laughter, now threw another
bombshell almost as disastrous as the first.
“Besides, gentlemen, I don't think Mr. Klutchem's remarks were
The colonel's head rose out of his collar with a jerk, and the
forelegs of Yancey's chair struck the floor with a thump. Both sprang
to their feet. The judge and I remained quiet. “Not insultin', suh, to
call a gemman a—a—Colonel, what did the scoundrel call you?”
“It was mo' his manner,” replied the colonel. “He was familiar, suh,
and presumin' and offensive.”
Yancey broke away again, but Fitz sidetracked him with a gesture,
and asked the colonel to repeat Klutchem's exact words.
The colonel gazed at the ceiling a moment, and replied:—
“Mr. Klutchem said that, outside of peanuts and sweet potatoes, all
my road would git for freight would be niggers and razor-back hogs.”
“Mr. Klutchem was right, Colonel,” said Fitz. “Very sensible man.
They will form a very large part of our freight. Anything offensive in
that remark of Klutchem's, Major Yancey?”
The major conferred with the judge, and said reluctantly that there
“Go on, Colonel,” continued Fitz.
“Then, suh, he said he wouldn't trade a yaller dog for enough of our
bonds to papah a meetin'-house.”
“Did he call you a yaller dog?” said Yancey searchingly, and
straightening himself up.
“Call anybody connected with you a yaller dog?”
“Can't say that he did.”
“Call yo' railroad a yaller dog?”
“No, don't think so,” said the colonel, now thoroughly confused and
Yancey consulted with the judge a moment in one corner, and then
“Unless some mo' direct insult is stated, Colonel, we must agree
with yo' friend Mr. Fitzpatrick, and consider yo' action hasty. Now, if
you had pressed the gemman, and he had called you a yaller dog
or a liar, somethin' might be done. Why didn't you press him?”
“I did, suh. I told him his statements were false and his manners
“And he did not talk back?”
“No, suh; on'y laughed.”
“Sneeringly, and in a way that sounded like 'Yo' 're another'?”
The colonel could not remember that it was.
Yancey ruminated, and Fitz now took a hand.
“On the contrary, Major Yancey, Mr. Klutchem's laugh was a very
jolly laugh; and, under the circumstances, a laugh very creditable to
his good nature. You are young and impetuous, but I know my learned
friend, Judge Kerfoot, will agree with me”—here Yancey patted his toy
balloon complacently, and the judge leaned forward with rapt
attention—“when I say that if any apologies are in order they should
not come from Mr. Klutchem.”
It was delicious to note how easily Fitz fell into the oratorical
method of his hearers.
“Here is a man immersed in stocks, and totally ignorant of the
boundless resources of your State, who limits the freight of our road
to four staples,—peanuts, hogs, sweet potatoes, and niggers. As a
further exhibition of his ignorance he estimates the value of a large
block of our securities as far below the price set upon a light,
tan-colored canine, a very inexpensive animal; or, as he puts it, and
perhaps too coarsely,—a yellow dog. For the expression of these
financial opinions in an open office during business hours he is set
upon, threatened with expulsion, and finally challenged to a mortal
duel. I ask you, as chivalric Virginians, is this right?”
Yancey was about to answer, when the judge raised his hand
“The co'te, not being familiar with the practice of this section,
can on'y decide the question in acco'dance with the practice of his own
county. The language used is not objectionable, either under the law or
by the code. The prisoner, Klutchem, is discharged with a reprimand,
and the plaintiff, Caarter, leaves the co'te room without a stain on
his cha'acter. The co'te will now take a recess.”
Fitz listened with great gravity to the decision of the learned
judge, bowed to him with the pleased deference of the winning attorney,
grasped the colonel's hand, and congratulated him warmly on his
Then, locking his arm through Yancey's, he conducted that pugnacious
but parched Virginian, together with the overworked judge, out into the
street, down a flight of stone steps, and into an underground
apartment; from which they emerged later with that satisfied, cheerful
air peculiar to a group of men who have slaked their thirst.
The colonel and I remained behind. He was in no mood for such
CHAPTER VIII. A High Sense of
While the judge's decision had relieved the colonel of all
responsibility so far as Yancey and Cartersville were concerned,—and
Yancey would be Cartersville when he was back at the tavern
stove,—there was one person it had not satisfied, and that was the
He began pacing the floor, recounting for my benefit the various
courtesies he had received since he had lived at the North,—not only
from the proprietors of the office, but from every one of its
frequenters. And yet after all these civilities he had so far forgotten
himself as to challenge a friend of his host, a very worthy gentleman,
who, although a trifle brusque in his way of putting things, was still
an open-hearted man. And all because he differed with him on a matter
“The mo' I think of it, Major, the mo' I am overwhelmed by my
action. It was inconsiderate, suh. It was uncalled for, suh; and I am
afraid”—and here he lowered his voice—“it was ill-bred and vulgar.
What could those gentlemen who stood by have thought? They have all
been so good to me, Major. I have betrayed their hospitality. I have
forgotten my blood, suh. There is certainly an apology due Mr.
At this juncture Fitz returned, followed by Yancey, who was beaming
all over, the judge bringing up the rear.
All three listened attentively.
“Who's goin' to apologize?” said Yancey, shifting his thumbs from
his armholes to the side pockets of his vest, from which he pinched up
some shreds of tobacco.
“I am, suh!” replied the colonel.
“What for, Colonel?” The doctrine was new to Yancey.
“For my own sense of honor, suh!”
“But he never got the challenge.”
“That makes no diffence, suh. I wrote it.” And the colonel threw his
head up, and looked Major Yancey straight in the eye.
“But, Colonel, we've got the letter. Klutchem don't know a word
“But I do, Major Yancey; and so do you and Fitz, and the jedge and
the major here. We all know it. Do you suppose, suh, for one instant,
that I am cowardly enough to stab a man in the back this way and give
him no chance of defendin' himself? It is monst'ous, suh! Why, suh,
it's no better than insultin' a deaf man, and then tryin' to escape
because he did not hear you. I tell you, suh, I shall apologize. Fitz,
kindly inquire outside if there is any news of Mr. Klutchem.”
Fitz opened the door, and sent the inquiry ringing through the
“Yes!” came a voice from around the “ticker.” “Went to the races two
days ago, got soaking wet, and has been laid up ever since at a
friend's house with the worst attack of gout he ever had in his life.”
The colonel started as if he had been stung, put on his hat, and
with a determined air buttoned his coat over his chest. Then, charging
Yancey and the judge not to leave the office until he returned, he
beckoned Fitz to him, and said:—
“We have not a moment to lose. Get Mr. Klutchem's address, and order
It was the custom with Fitz never to cross the colonel in any one of
his sudden whims. Whether this was because he liked to indulge him, or
because it gave him an opportunity to study a type of man entirely new
to him, the result was always the same,—the colonel had his way. Had
the Virginian insisted upon waiting on the offending broker in a
palanquin or upon the top of a four-in-hand, Fitz would have found the
vehicle somehow, and have crawled in or on top beside him with as much
complacency as if he had spent his whole life with palanquins and
coaches, and had had no other interests. So when the order came for the
carriage, Fitz winked at me with his left eye, walked to the sidewalk,
whistled to a string of cabs, and the next instant we were all three
whirling up the crowded street in search of the bedridden broker.
The longer the colonel brooded over the situation the more he was
satisfied with the idea of the apology. Indeed, before he had turned
down the side street leading to the temporary hospital of the suffering
man, he had arranged in his mind just where the ceremony would take
place, and just how he would frame his opening sentence. He was glad,
too, that Klutchem had been discovered so soon—while Yancey and
Kerfoot were still in town.
The colonel alighted first, ran up the steps, pulled the bell with
the air of a doctor called to an important case, and sent his card to
the first floor back.
“Mr. Klutchem says, 'Walk up,'“ said the maid.
The broker was in an armchair with his back to the door, only the
top of his bald head being visible as we entered. On a stool in front
rested a foot of enormous size swathed in bandages. Leaning against his
chair were a pair of crutches. He was somewhat startled at the
invasion, made as it was in the busiest part of the day.
“What's up? Anybody busted?”
Fitz assured him that the Street was in a mood of the greatest
tranquillity; that the visit was purely personal, and made for the
express purpose of offering Colonel Carter an opportunity of relieving
his mind of a pressure which at the precise moment was greater than he
“Out with it, old Garden—Colonel,” broke out Klutchem, catching
himself in time, and apparently greatly relieved that the situation was
The colonel, who remained standing, bowed courteously, drew himself
up with a dress-parade gesture, and recounted slowly and succinctly the
incidents of the preceding three days.
When he arrived at the drawing-up of the challenge, Klutchem looked
around curiously, gathered in his crutches with his well leg,—prepared
for escape or defense,—and remained thus equipped until the colonel
reached the secret consultation in the private office and the return of
the unstamped letter. Then he toppled his supports over on the floor,
and laughed until the pain in his elephantine foot bent him double.
The colonel paused until Klutchem had recovered himself, and then
continued, his face still serene, and still expressive of a purpose so
lofty that it excluded every other emotion.
“The return of my challenge unopened, suh, coupled with the broad
views of my distinguished friends Mr. Fitzpatrick and the major,—both
personal friends of yo' own, I believe,—and the calmer reflection of
my own mind, have convinced me, Mr. Klutchem, that I have been hasty
and have done you a wrong; and, suh, rememberin' my blood, I have left
the cares of my office for a brief moment to call upon you at once, and
tell you so. I regret, suh, that you have not the use of both yo' legs,
but I have anticipated that difficulty. My caarriage is outside.”
“Don't mention it, Colonel. You never grazed me. If you want to
plaster that syndicate all over with Garden Spots, go ahead. I won't
say a word. There's my hand.”
The colonel never altered a line in his face nor moved a muscle of
his body. Mr. Klutchem's hand remained suspended in mid air.
“Yo' action is creditable to yo' heart, suh, but you know, of
course, that I cannot take yo' hand here. I insulted you in a public
office, and in the presence of yo' friends and of mine, some of whom
are at this moment awaitin' our return. I feel assured, suh, that under
the circumstances you will make an effort, however painful it may be to
you, to relieve me from this stain on my cha'acter. Allow me to offer
you my arm, and help you to my caarriage, suh. I will not detain you
mo' than an hour.”
Klutchem looked at him in perfect astonishment.
The colonel's color rose.
“That this matter may be settled properly, suh. I insulted you
publicly in my office. I wish to apologize in the same way. It is my
“But I can't walk. Look at that foot,—big as a hatbox.”
“My friends will assist you, suh. I will carry yo' crutches myself.
Consider my situation. You surely, as a man of honor, will not refuse
me this, Mr. Klutchem?”
The colonel's eyes began to snap, and Fitz edged round to pour oil
when the wind freshened. Klutchem's temper was also on the move.
“Get out of this chair with that mush poultice,” pointing to his
foot, “and have you cart me down to Wall Street to tell me you are
sorry you didn't murder me! What do you take me for?”
The colonel's eyes now fairly blazed, and his voice trembled with
“I did take you, suh, for a gentleman. I find I am mistaken. And you
refuse to go, and”—
“Yes!” roared Klutchem, his voice splitting the air like a tomahawk.
“Then, suh, let me tell you right here that if you do not get up now
and get into my caarriage, whenever you can stand on yo'
wuthless legs, I will thresh you so, suh, that you will never get up
CHAPTER IX. A Visit of Ceremony
The Honorable I. B. Kerfoot, presiding judge of the district court
of Fairfax County, Virginia, and the gallant Major Thomas C. Yancey,
late of the Confederate army, had been the colonel's guests at his
hospitable house in Bedford Place for a period of six days and six
nights, when my cards—two—were given to Chad, together with my verbal
hopes that both gentlemen were within.
My visit was made in conformity with one of the colonel's inflexible
rules,—every guest under his roof, within one week of his arrival, was
to be honored by a personal call from every friend within reach.
No excuse would have sufficed on the ground of flying visits. And
indeed, so far as these particular birds of passage were concerned, the
occupation was permanent, the judge having taken possession of the only
shake-down sofa on the lower floor, and the warlike major having
plumped himself into the middle of the colonel's own bed not ten
minutes after his arrival. Even to the casual Northern eye,
unaccustomed to the prolonged sedentary life of the average Virginian
when a guest, there was every indication that these had come to stay.
Chad laid both of my cards on the table, and indulged in a pantomime
more graphic than spoken word. He shut his eyes, laid his cheek on one
hand, and gave a groan of intense disgust, followed by certain gleeful
chuckles, made the more expressive by the sly jerking of his thumb
towards the dining room door and the bobbing up and down of his
fore-finger in the direction of the bedroom above.
“Bofe in. Yes, sah! Bofe in, an' bofe abed. Last I yeard from em'
dey was hollerin' for juleps.”
I entered the dining-room and stopped short. On a low sofa at the
far end of the room lay a man of more than ordinary girth, with coat,
vest, and shoes off, his face concealed by a newspaper. From beneath
this sheet came, at regular intervals, a long-drawn sound like the
subdued puff of a tired locomotive at rest on a side-track. Beside him
was an empty tumbler, decorated with a broken straw and a spray of
The summer air fanned through the closed blinds of the darkened
room, and played with the silvery locks that straggled over the white
pillow; the paper rose and fell with a crinkling noise, keeping time to
the rhythm of the exhaust. Beyond this there was no movement. The Hon.
I. B. Kerfoot was asleep.
I watched the slowly heaving figure for a moment, picked up a chair,
and gently closed the door. I could now look the colonel in the face so
far as the judge was concerned. My account with the colonel was
Retiring to the yard outside, which was cool and shady, and, despite
its dilapidated appearance, a grateful relief from the glare of the
street, I tilted my chair against the dissipated wall, with its damaged
complexion of scaling white-wash, and sat down to await the colonel's
Meanwhile Chad busied himself about the kitchen, moving in and out
the basement door, and at last brought up a great tin pan, seated
himself on the lower step, and proceeded to shell pease, indulging all
the while in a running commentary on the events of the preceding week.
One charm in Chad's conversation was its clearness. You always
absorbed his meaning. Another was its reliability. When he finished you
had the situation in full.
First came the duel.
“So dat Ketchem man done got away? Doan' dat beat all! An' de
colonel a-mak-in' his will an' a-rubbin' up his old barkers. Can't have
no fun yer naaway; sumpin' allers spiles it. But yer oughter seen de
colonel dat day w'en he come home! Sakes alive, warn't he b'ilin'! Much
as Jedge Keerfoot could do to keep him from killin' dat Yankee on de
Chad's long brown fingers fumbled among the green pea-shells, which
he heaped up on one side of the pan, and the conversation soon changed
to his master's “second in the field.” I encouraged this divergence,
for I had been charged by Fitz to find out when these two recent
additions to the household in Bedford Place intended returning to their
native clime; that loyal friend of the colonel being somewhat disturbed
over their preparations for what promised to be a lengthy stay.
“'Fo' de Lawd, I doan' know! Tom Yancey nebber go s'long as de mint
patch hol' out, an' de colonel bought putty near a ba'el ob it dis
mawnin', an' anudder dimi-john from Mister Grocerman. Makes my blood
bile to see dese Yanceys, anyhow. See dat carpet bag w'at he fotch wid
him? Knowed w'at he had in it w'en he opened its mouf an' de jedge tuk
his own clo'es outen it? A pair ob carpet slippers, two collars, an' a
lot ob chicken fixin's. Not a shirt to his back 'cept de one, he had
on! Had to stay abed yisteddy till I i'oned it. Dar's one ob his
collars on de line now. Dese yer Yanceys no 'count no way. Beats de
lan' how de colonel can put up wid 'em, 'cept his faader was quality.
You know de old gineral married twice, de las' time his oberseer's
daughter. Dat's her chile—Tom Yancey—'sleep now on de colonel's bed
upstairs wid a straw in his mouf like a shote. But de colonel say
'tain't Tom's fault dat he takes after his mammy; he's a Yancey,
anyhow. But I tell you, Major, Miss Nancy doan' hab nuffin' much to do
wid 'im,—she can't abide 'im.”
“How long are they going to stay, Chad?” I asked, wishing to make a
definite report to Fitz.
“Doan' know. Ole groun'-hog mighty comf'ble in de hole.” And he
heaped up another pile of shells.
“Fust night de jedge come he tol' de colonel dat Miss Nancy say we
all got to come home when de month's up, railroad or no railroad. Dat
was a week ago. Den de jedge tasted dat Madary Mister Grocerman sent,
an' I ain't yerd nuffin' 'bout goin' home since. Is you yerd, Major?”
Before I could answer, a shutter opened overhead and a voice came
“O Chad! Mix me a julep. And, Chad, bring an extra one for the
colonel. I reckon he'll be yer d'reckly.”
“Yes, sah,” replied Chad, without lifting his eyes from the pan.
Then glancing up and finding the blind closed again, he said to me
in a half-whisper:—
“Colonel get his julep when he ax fur it. I ain't caayin' no double
drinks to nobody. Dis ain't no camp-meetin' bar.”
But Chad's training had been too thorough to permit of his refusing
sustenance or attention to any guest of his master's, no matter how
unworthy, and it was not many minutes before he was picking over “de
ba'el” containing that peculiar pungent variety of plant so common to
the graveyards of Virginia.
Before the cooling beverage had been surmounted by its delicate
mouthpiece the street gate opened and the colonel walked briskly in.
“Ah, Major! You here? Jes the vehy man we wanted, suh! Fitz and the
English agent are comin' to dinner. You have heard the news, of co'se?
No? Not about the great syndicate absorbin' the Garden Spots? My dear
suh, she's floated! The C. &W. A. L. R. R. is afloat, suh! Proudly
ridin' the waves of prosperity, suh. Wafted on by the breeze of
“What, bought the bonds?” I said, jumping up. “Well, not exactly
bought them outright, for these gigantic operations are not conducted
in that way; but next to it, suh. To-day,”—and he brought his hand
down softly on my shoulder,—“to-day, suh, they have cabled their
agent—the same gentleman, suh, you saw in my office some time ago—to
make a searchin' investigation into the mineral and agricultural
resources of that section of my State, with a view to extendin' its
railroad system. I quote, suh, the exact words: 'extendin' its railroad
system.' Think, my dear Major, of the effect that a colossal financial
concern like the great British syndicate would produce upon Fairfax
County, backed as it is, suh, by untold millions of stagnant capital
absolutely rottin' in English banks! The road is built!” And the
colonel in his excitement opened his waistcoat, and began pacing the
yard, fanning himself vigorously with his hat.
Chad substituted a palm-leaf fan from the hall table, and, producing
a small tray, picked up the frosted tumbler and mounted the three steps
to relieve the thirsty guest on the floor above.
As he reached the last step a hand stretched out, and a voice
“Jes what I wanted.”
“Dis julep, Jedge, is Major Yancey's.”
“All the better.” And nodding to the colonel and bowing gravely to
me, the Hon. I. B. Kerfoot settled himself on the top of the front
steps with very much the same air with which he would have occupied his
own judicial bench.
With the exception that this julep was just begun and tile other
just ended, his Honor presented precisely the same outward appearance
as when I discovered him asleep on the sofa.
His was, in fact, the extremest limit of dishabille permissible even
on the hottest of summer afternoons in the most retired of back
yards,—no coat, no vest, no shoes. In one hand he held a crumpled
collar and a high, black silk stock; with the other he grasped the
julep. His hair was tousled, his face shriveled up and pinched by his
heavy nap, his eyes watery and vague. He reminded me of the man one
sometimes meets in the aisle of a sleeping-car when one boards the
train at a way station in the night.
“I hope you have had a refreshin' sleep, Jedge,” said the colonel.
“My friend the major here did himself and me the honor of callin' upon
you, but findin' that you were restin', suh, he sought the cool of my
co'teyard until you should awake.”
His Honor looked at me over the edge of his tumbler and bowed
feebly. The straw remained glued to his mouth.
“I have been tellin' him, suh, of the extr'o'd'nary boom to-day in
Garden Spots, as some of my young friends call the secu'ities of my new
road, work upon which will be begun next week.”
The announcement made no impression upon the judge, his face
remaining sleepily stolid until that peculiar gurgling sound, the
death-rattle of a dying julep, caused a shade of sadness to pass over
At that instant the shutter again opened overhead.
“Hello, Colonel! Home, are you? Chad, where's my julep? Ah, Major,
hope I see you vehy well, suh. Where's Kerfoot?”
That legal luminary craned his head forward as far as it would go
without necessitating any additional movement of his body, caught
Yancey's eye as he leaned out of the window, and held up the empty
When everybody had stopped laughing the colonel made a critical but
silent examination of the judge, called to Yancey, and said:—
“Gentlemen, we do not dine until seven. You will both have ample
time to dress.”
CHAPTER X. Chad in Search of a
The colonel was the first man downstairs. When he entered I saw at a
glance that it was one of his gala nights, for he wore the ceremonial
white waistcoat and cravat, and had thrown the accommodating coat wide
open. His hair, too, was brushed back from his broad forehead with more
than usual care, each silver thread keeping its proper place in the
general scheme of iron-gray; while his goatee was twisted to so fine a
point that it curled upward like a fishhook. He had also changed his
shoes, his white stockings now being incased in low prunellas tied with
a fresh ribbon, which hung over the toes like the drooping ears of a
The attention which the colonel paid to these particular details was
due, as he frequently said, to his belief that a man would always be
well dressed who looked after his extremities.
“I can inva'iably, suh, detect the gentleman under the shabbiest
suit of clothes, if his collar and stockings are clean. When, besides
this, he brushes his hat and blacks his shoes, you may safely invite
him to dinner.”
Something like this was evidently passing in his mind as he stood
waiting for his guests, his back to the empty grate; for he examined
his hands critically, glanced at his shoes, and then excusing himself,
turned his face, and taking a pair of scissors from his pocket
proceeded leisurely to trim his cuffs.
“These duties of the dressin'-room, my dear Major, should have been
attended to in their proper place; but the fact is the jedge is makin'
rather an elaborate toilet in honor of our guest, and as Yancey
occupies my bedroom, and the jedge is also dressin' there, my own
accommodations are limited. I feel sure you will excuse me.”
While he spoke the door opened, and his Honor entered in a William
Penn style of make-up, ruffled shirt and all. He really was not unlike
that distinguished peacemaker, especially when he carried one of the
colonel's long pipes in his mouth. He had, I am happy to say, since
leaving the front steps, accumulated an increased amount of clothing.
The upper half of the familiar butternut suit—the coat—still clung to
him, but the middle and lower half had been supplanted by another
waistcoat and trousers of faded nankeen, the first corrugated into
wrinkles and the second flapping about his ankles.
The colonel absorbed him at a glance, and with a satisfied air
placed a chair for him near the window and handed him a palm-leaf fan.
Last of all came Yancey in a flaming red necktie, the only new
addition to his costume—a part, no doubt, of the “chicken fixin's"
found by Chad in the carpet bag.
The breezy ex-major, as he entered, seized my hand with the warmth
of a lifelong friend; then moving over and encircling with his arm the
colonel's coat collar, he lowered his voice to a confidential whisper
and inquired about the market of the day with as much solicitude as
though his last million had been filched from him on insufficient
When, a few minutes later, the round-faced man, the agent of the
great English syndicate, walked in, preceded by Fitz, nothing could
have been more courtly than the way the colonel presented him to his
guests—pausing at every name to recount some slight biographical
detail complimentary to each, and ending by announcing with great
dignity that his honored guest was none other than the very
confidential agent and adviser of a group of moneyed magnates whose
influence extended to the uttermost parts of the earth.
The agent, like many other sensible Englishmen, was a bluff, hearty
sort of man, with a keen eye for the practical side of life and an
equally keen enjoyment of every other, and it was not five minutes
before he had located in his round head the precise standing and
qualifications of every man in the room.
While Yancey amused him greatly as a type quite new to him, the
colonel filled him with delight. “So frank, so courteous, so
hospitable; quite the air of a country squire of the old school,” he
told Fitz afterward.
As a host that night, the colonel was in his happiest vein, and by
the time the coffee was served, had succeeded not only in entertaining
the table in his own inimitable way, but he had drawn out from each one
of his guests, not excepting the reticent Fitz, some anecdote or
incident of his life, bringing into stronger relief the finer qualities
of him who told it.
Kerfoot in a ponderous way gave the details of a murder case, tried
before him many years ago, in which the judge's charge so influenced
the jury that the man was acquitted, and justly so, as was afterward
proved. Yancey related an incident of the war, where he, only a drummer
boy at the time, assisted, at great risk, in carrying a wounded comrade
from the field. And Fitz was forced to admit that one of the largest
financial operations of the day would have been a failure had he not
stepped in at the critical moment and saved it.
Up to this point in the dinner not the slightest reference had been
made to the railroad or its interests except by the impetuous Yancey,
who asked Fitz what the bonds would probably be worth, and who was
promptly silenced by the colonel with the suggestive remark that none
were for sale, especially at this time.
When, however, by the direction of the colonel, the cloth was
removed and the old mahogany table that Chad rubbed down every morning
with a cork was left with only the glasses, a pair of coasters and
their decanters,—the Madeira within reach of the judge's hand,—the
colonel rose from his chair and spread out on the polished surface a
stained and ragged map, labeled in one corner in quaint letters, “Lands
of John Carter, Esquire, of Carter Hall.” Only then was the colonel
ready for business.
“This is the correct survey, I believe, Jedge,” said the colonel.
The judge emptied his glass, felt all over his person for his
spectacles, found them in the inside pocket of his nankeen waistcoat,
and, perching them on the extreme end of his nose, looked over their
rims and remarked that the original deeds of the colonel's estate had
been based upon this map, and that, so far as he knew, it was correct.
Then he added:—
“The partition line that was made immejitly aafter the war, dividin'
the estate between Miss Ann Caarter and yo'self, Colonel, was also tuk
from this survey.”
Fitz conferred with the agent for a moment and then asked the
colonel where lay the deposit of coal of which he had spoken.
“In a moment, my dear Fitz,” said the colonel, deprecatingly, and
turning to the agent:—
“The city of Fairfax, suh, that we discussed this mornin', will be
located to the right of this section; the Tench runs here; the iron
bridge, suh, should cross at this point,” marking it with his thumb
nail. “Or perhaps you gentlemen will decide to have it nearer the Hall.
It is immaterial to me.” Then looking at Fitz: “I can't locate the
coal, my dear Fitz; but I think it is up here on the hill at the foot
of the range.”
The agent lost interest immediately in the iron bridge over the
Tench, and asked a variety of questions about the deposit, all of which
the colonel answered courteously and patiently, but evidently with a
desire to change the subject as soon as possible.
The Englishman, however, was persistent, while the judge's last
sententious remark regarding the recent subdivision of the estate
awakened a new interest in Fitz.
What if this coal should not be on the colonel's land at all! He
caught his breath at the thought.
It was Fitz's only chance to restore the colonel's fortunes; and
although for obvious reasons he dared not tell him so, it was really
the only interest the Englishman had in the scheme at all.
Indeed, the agent had frankly said so to Fitz, adding that he was
anxious to locate a deposit of coal somewhere in the vicinity of the
line of the colonel's proposed road; because the extension of certain
railroads in which the syndicate was interested—not the C. &W. A. L.
R. R., however—depended almost entirely upon the purchase of this
Full of these instructions the agent, after listening to a panegyric
upon the resources of Fairfax County, interrupted rather curtly a
glowing statement of the colonel's concerning the enormous value of the
Garden Spot securities by asking this question:— “Are the coal lands
for sale?” Fitz shivered at its directness, fearing that the colonel
would catch the drift affairs were taking and become alarmed. His fears
were groundless; the shot had gone over his head.
“No, suh! My purpose is to use it to supply our shops and motive
“If you should decide to sell the lands I would make an
investigation at once,” replied the agent, quietly, but with meaning in
The colonel looked at him eagerly.
“Would you at the same time consider the purchase of our
“When would you go?”
“To-morrow night, or not at all. I return to England in a week.”
Yancey and the judge looked at each other inquiringly with a certain
anxious expression suggestive of some impending trouble. The judge
recovered himself first, and quickly filled his glass, leaving but one
more measure in the decanter. This measure Yancey immediately emptied
into his own person, as perhaps the only place where it would be
entirely safe from the treacherous thirst of the judge.
Fitz read in their faces these mental processes, and was more
determined than ever to break up at once what he called “the
“Are you sho', Colonel,” inquired Ker-foot, catching at straws,
“that the coal lands lie entirely on yo' father's property? Does not
the Barbour lan' jine yo's on the hill?”
“I am not positively sho', suh, but I have always understood that
what we call the coal hills belonged to my father. You see,” said the
colonel, turning to the agent, “this grade of wild lan' is never
considered of much value with us, and a few hundred acres mo' or less
is never insisted on among old families of our standin' whose estates
Yancey expanded his vest, and said authoritatively that he was quite
sure the coal hills were on the Barbour property. He had shot
partridges over that land many a time.
The agent, who had listened calmly to the discussion, remarked dryly
that until the colonel definitely ascertained whether he had any lands
to sell it would be a useless waste of time to make the trip.
“Quite so,” said Kerfoot, raising the emptied decanter to his eye,
and replacing it again with a look at Yancey expressive of the contempt
in which he held a man who could commit so mean an act.
“But, Colonel,” said Fitz, “can't you telegraph to-morrow and find
“To whom, my clear Fitz? It would take a week to get the clerk of
the co'te to look through the records. Nobody at Bar-hour's knows.”
“Does Miss Nancy know?” The colonel shook his head dubiously.
Fitz's face suddenly lighted up as he started from his seat, and
caught the colonel by the arm.
“Chad! Yes, Chad might.”
Fitz nearly overturned his chair in his eagerness to reach the top
ofthe kitchen stairs.
“Come up here, Chad, quick as your legs can carry you—two steps at
Chad hurried into the room with the face of a man sent for to put
out a fire.
“Chad,” said the colonel, “you know the big hill as you go up from
the marsh at home?”
“Whose lan' is the coal on, mine or Jedge Barbour's?”
The old darky's face changed from an expression of the deepest
anxiety to an effort at the deepest thought. The change was so sudden
that the wrinkles got tangled up in the attempt, resulting in an
expression of vague uncertainty.
“You mean, Colonel, de hill whar we cotch de big coon?”
“Yes,” said the colonel encouragingly, ignorant of the coon, but
knowing that there was only one hill.
“Well, Jedge Barbour's niggers always said dat de coon was dere
coon, 'ca'se he was treed on dere lan', and we 'sputed dat it was our
coon, 'ca'se it was on our lan'.”
“Who got de coon?” asked Fitz.
“Oh, we got the coon!” And Chad's eyes twinkled.
“That settles it. It's your land, Colonel,” said Fitz, with one of
his sudden roars, in which everybody joined but Chad and the judge.
“But den, gemmen,”—Chad was a little uncomfortable at the
merriment,—“it was our coon for sho. I knowed whar de line went,
'ca'se I he'p Marsa John caarry de spy-glass when he sold de woodlan's
to Jedge Barbour, an' de coon was on our side ob dat line.”
If Chad's first statement caused nothing but laughter, the second
produced nothing but the profoundest interest. Here was the surveyor
The colonel turned the map to Chad's side of the table. Every man in
the room stood up and craned his head forward.
“Now, Chad,” said the colonel, “this map is a plan of our lan'—same
as if you were lookin' down on it. Here is the road to Caartersville.
See that square, black mark? That's Caarter Hall. This is the marsh,
and that is the coal hill. Now, standin' here in the marsh,—this is
where our line begins, Fitz,—standin' here, Chad, in the marsh, which
side of the line is that hill on? Mine or Jedge Barbour's?”
The old man bent over the table, and scanned the plan closely.
“Wat's dis blue wiggle lookin' like a big fish-wum?”
“That's the Tench River.”
Chad continued his search, his wrinkled brown hand, with its
extended forefinger capped by its stumpy nail, looking for all the
world like a mud turtle with head out crawling over the crumpled
surface of the map.
“Scuse me till I run down to de kitchen an' git my spec's. I can't
“Here, take mine!” said Fitz, handing him his gold ones. He would
have lent him his eyes if he could have found that coal-field the
The turtle crawled slowly up, its head thrust out inquiringly,
inched along the margin of the map, and backed carefully down again,
pausing for such running commentaries as “Dis yer's de ribber;” “Dat's
de road;” “Dis de ma'sh.”
The group was now a compact mass, every eye watching Chad's finger
as though it were a divining rod—Fitz full of smothered fears lest
after all the prize should slip from his grasp; the agent anxious but
reserved; Yancey and the judge hovering between hope and despair, with
eyes on the empty decanter; and last of all the colonel, on the
outside, holding a candle himself, so that his guests might see the
better—the least interested man in the room.
Presently the finger stopped, and Chad looked up into his master's
“If I was down dar, Marsa George, jes a minute, I could tole ye,
'ca'se I reckelmember de berry tree whar Marsa John had de spyglass sot
on its legs. I held de pole on de rock way up yander on de hill, an' in
dat berry rock Marsa John done cut a crotch.”
“And which way is the crotch in the rock from the marsh here?” asked
Chad stood up, looked at the plan glistening under the candlelight,
paused an instant, then took off the gold-rimmed glasses, and handed
them with great deference to Fitz.
“'T ain't no use, Marsa George. I kin go frough dat ma'sh
blindfolded in de night an' cotch a possum airy time along airy one ob
dem fences;but dis yer foolin' wid lan's on paper is too much for Chad.
'Fo' Gawd, I doan' know!”
CHAPTER XI. Chad on his own Cabin
The night after the eventful dinner in Bedford Place, the colonel,
accompanied by his guests, had alighted at a dreary way station,
crawled into a lumbering country stage, and with Chad on the box as
pilot, had stopped before a great house with ghostly trailing vines and
tall chimneys outlined against the sky.
When I left my room on the following morning the sunlight was
pouring through the big colonial window, and the breath of the
delicious day, laden with the sweet smell of bending blossoms, floated
in through the open blinds.
Descending the great spiral staircase with its slender mahogany
balusters,—here and there a break,—I caught sight of the entrance
hall below with its hanging glass lantern, quaint haircloth sofas
lining the white walls, and half-oval tables heaped with flowers, and
so on through the wide-open door leading out upon a vine-covered porch.
This had high pillars and low railings against which stood some broad
The colonel, Fitz, and the English agent were still in their
rooms,—three pairs of polished shoes outside their several doors
bearing silent witness to the fact,—and the only person stirring was a
pleasant-faced negro woman with white apron and gay-colored bandana,
who was polishing the parlor floor with a long brush, her little
pickaninny astraddle on the broom end for weight.
I pushed aside the hanging vines, sat down on one of the wooden
benches, and looked about me. This, then, was Carter Hall!
The house itself bore evidence of having once been a stately home.
It was of plaster stucco, yellow washed, peeled and broken in places,
with large dormer windows and sloping roof, one end of which was
smothered in a tangle of Virginia creeper and trumpet vine climbing to
the very chimney-top.
In front there stretched away what had once been a well-kept lawn,
now a wild of coarse grass broken only by the curving line of the
driveway and bordered by a row of Lombardy poplars with here and there
a gap,—bitten out by hungry camp-fires.
To the right rose a line of hills increasing in height as they
melted into the morning haze, and to the left lay an old-fashioned
garden,—one great sweep of bloom. With the wind over it, and blowing
your way, you were steeped in roses.
I began unconsciously to recall to myself all the traditions of this
once famous house.
Yes, there must be the window where Nancy waved good-by to her
lover, and there were the flower-beds into which he had fallen headlong
from his horse,—only a desolate corner now with the grass and tall
weeds grown quite up to the scaling wall, and the wooden shutters
tightly closed. I wondered whether they had ever been opened since.
And there under my eyes stood the very step where Chad had helped
his old master from his horse the day his sweetheart Henny had been
purchased from Judge Barbour, and close to the garden gate were the
negro quarters where they had begun their housekeeping. I thought I
knew the very cabin.
And that line of silver glistening in the morning light must be the
river Tench, and the bend near the willows the spot where the colonel
would build the iron bridge with the double span, and across and beyond
on the plateau, backed by the hills, the site of the future city of
I left my seat, strolled out into the garden, crossed the grass
jeweled with dew, and filled my lungs with the odor of the sweet box
bordering the beds,—a rare delight in these days of modern gardens.
Suddenly I came upon a wide straw hat and a broad back bending among
the bushes. It was Chad.
“Mawnin', Major; fust fox out de hole, is yer? Lawd a massey, ain't
I glad ter git back to my ole mist'ess! Lan' sakes alive! I ain't slep'
none all night a-thinkin' ober it. You ain't seen my Henny? Dat was her
sister's chile rubbin' down de flo'. She come ober dis mawnin' ter
help, so many folks here. Wait till I git a basket ob dese yer ole pink
rose-water roses. See how I snip 'em short? Know what I'm gwineter do
wid 'em? Sprinkle 'em all ober de tablecloth. I lay dey ain't nobody
done dat for my mist'ess since I been gone. But, Major,”—here Chad
laid down the basket on the garden walk and looked at me with a serious
air,—“I done got dat coal lan' business down to a fine p'int. I was up
dis mawnin' 'fo' daylight, an' I foun' dat rock, an' de crotch is dar
yit; I scrape de moss offen it myself; an' I foun' de tree too. I ain't
sayin' nuffin', but jes you wait till after breakfas' an' dey all go
out lookin' for de coal! Jes you wait, dat's all! Chad's on his own
cabin flo' now. Can't fool dis chile no mo'.”
This was good news so far as it went. Our sudden exodus from Bedford
Place had been determined upon immediately after Chad's dismal failure
to locate the coal-field: Fitz having carried the day against Yancey,
Kerfoot, and even the agent himself, who was beginning to waver under
the accumulation of uncertainties.
“Dat's enough roses to bury up de dishes. Rub yo' nose down in 'em.
Ain't dey sweet! Now, come along wid me, Major. I done tole Henny 'bout
you an' de tar'pins an' de times de gemmen had. Dis way, Major; won't
take a minute, an' ef ye all go back to-night,—an' I yerd Mister
Englishman say he got to go,—you mightn't hab anudder chance.
Henny's cookin', ye know. Dis way. Step underdat honeysuckle!” I looked
through an open door and into a dingy, smoke-dried interior, ceiled
with heavy rafters, and hung with herbs, red peppers, onions, and the
like. This was lighted by three small windows, and furnished with a row
of dressers filled with crockery and kitchen ware, and permeated by
that savory smell which presages a generous breakfast On one side of
the fireplace rested the great hominy mortar, cut from a tree trunk,
found in all Virginia kitchens, and on the other the universal brick
oven with its iron doors,—the very doors, I thought, that had closed
over Chad's goose when Henny was a girl. Between the mortar and the
oven opened, or rather caverned, a fireplace as wide as the colonel's
hospitality, and high and deep enough to turn a coach in. It really
covered one end of the room.
Bending over the swinging crane hung with pots and fringed with
hooks,—baited so often with good dinners,—stood an old woman with
bent back, her gray head bound up with a yellow handkerchief.
“Henny, de major made a special p'int o' cumin' to see ye 'fo' he
gits his break-fas'.”
She looked up and dropped me a curtsey.
“Mawnin', marsa. I ain't much ter see, I'm so ole an' mizzble wid
dese yer cricks in my back an' sich a passel o' white folks. How did my
Chad git along up dar 'mong de Yankees?” [Illustration]
I gave Chad so good a character that every tooth in his head came
out on dress parade, and was about to draw from Henny some of her own
experiences,—this loyal old servant whose life from her girlhood to
her old age had been one of the romantic traditions of the roof that
sheltered her,—when Chad, who had gone out with the roses, returned
with the news that the colonel and his guests were breathing the
morning air on the front porch, and were much disturbed over my
The colonel caught sight of me as I rounded the corner, Fitz and the
agent joining in his outburst of hilarious welcome, intoxicated as they
all were with the elixir of that most exhilarating of all hours—the
hour before breakfast of a summer morning in the country.
“Welcome, my dear Major,” called the colonel; “a hearty welcome to
Caarter Hall! Come up here where you can get a view of Fairfax, suh!”
and by the time I had mounted the steps he was leaning over the
railing, with Fitz on the one side and the agent on the other, sweeping
the horizon with his index finger and drawing imaginary curves and
building bridges and locating railroad stations in the air with as much
confidence and hope as if he really saw the gangs of laborers at work
across the fields, their shovels glinting in the dazzling sunlight.
“Jes cast yo' eyes, suh,”—this to the agent,—“and tell me, suh, if
you have ever in yo' world-wide experience seen such a location for a
great city. Level as a flo', watered by the Tench, and sheltered by a
line of hills that are beauty itself—it is made for it, suh!”
The agent did full justice to the natural advantages and then
“Is the coal in that range?”
“No, suh; the coal is behind us on an outlyin' spur. I will take you
there after breakfast.”
And then followed a brief description of the changes the war had
made in the homestead, the burning of the barns, the abandonment of the
quarters, the destruction of the lawns—“A yard for their damnable
wagons, suh;” the colonel pointing out with great delight the very dent
in the ridge where General Early had ridden through and captured the
whole detachment without the loss of a man.
While we were talking that same rustling of silk that I had learned
to know so well in Bedford Place was heard in the hall, then a sweet,
cheery voice giving some directions to Chad, and the next instant dear
aunt Nancy—Fitz and I had long since dared to call her so—floated
(she never seemed to walk) out upon the porch with a word and a curtsey
to the agent, a hand each to Fitz and me, and a kiss for the colonel.
Then came the breakfast, and such a breakfast! The outpourings of a
Virginia kitchen, with the table showered with roses, and the great urn
shining and smoking, and the relays of waffles and corn-bread and
broiled chicken; all in the old-fashioned dining-room, with its high
wainscoting, spindle—legged sideboards, and deep window seats; the
long moon-faced clock in the corner-and the rest of it! After that the
quiet smoke under the vine-covered end of the portico with the view
“There comes the jedge,” said the colonel, pointing to a cloud of
dust following a two-wheel gig, “and Major Yancey behind on horseback.”
(They had both been dropped outside their respective garden gates the
night before.) “Now, gentlemen, as soon as my attorney arrives with the
surveys and deeds we will adjourn to my library and locate this
Yancey's horse proved, on closer inspection, to be the remnant of an
army mule with a moth-eaten mane and a polished tail bare of hair—worn
off, no doubt, in a lifelong struggle with the Fairfax County fly. The
major was without the luxury of a saddle, some one having borrowed the
only one the owner of the mule possessed, and his breeches, in
consequence, were half way up his knees. The judge arrived in better
shape, the gig being his own and fairly comfortable,—the same he rode
to circuit, a yellow-painted vehicle washed only when it rained,—and
the horse the property of the village livery man, who had a yearly
contract with his Honor for its use.
Chad was waiting on the flagstones surrounded by some stray
pickaninnies when the procession stopped, and assisted the major to
alight, with as much form and ceremony as if he had been the best
mounted gentleman in the land. The saddleless fragment was then led to
a supporting fence. The judicial equipage was accorded the luxury of a
shed, where the annual contract was served with a full measure of
oats—Chad's recognition of his more exalted station.
The judge bowed gracefully and with great dignity, and with the air
of a chief justice entering the court room; then preceding the colonel
and his guests,—without a word having fallen from his lips,—he
entered a small room opening into the parlor. There he placed upon a
chair certain mysterious-looking packages, long and otherwise, one a
tin case, which he uncapped, spreading its contents upon a table.
It proved to be another and larger map than the one Chad had pored
over, and showed distinctly the boundary lines between two dots marked
“Oak” and “Rock” dividing the Carter and Barbour estates.
Up to this time Fitz and the agent had preserved the outward
appearance of two idle gentlemen visiting a friend in the country, with
no interest beyond the fresh air and the environments of a charming
hospitality. With the unrolling of this map, however, and the discovery
of the very boundary points insisted on by Chad in Bedford Place, their
excitement could hardly be suppressed. The agent broke loose first.
“Before we find out, Colonel Carter, to whom this coal belongs,
which may take some valuable time, I want to examine the quality of the
vein itself. I would like to go now.”
“By all means, suh; and my people shall go with us,” said the
colonel, turning to Kerfoot with instructions to bring Chad and all the
maps later.—Yancey excused himself on the ground of the heat. Then
donning a wide straw hat and picking up a cane,—something he never
used in New York,—the colonel led the way through the rear door,
across a stone wall, and up a hill covered with a second growth of
The experienced eye of the Englishman took in the lay of the land at
a glance, and beckoning Fitz to one side he stooped and picked
something from the ground which he examined carefully with a magnifying
glass. Then they both disappeared hurriedly over the hill.
When they returned, half an hour later, the perspiration was rolling
from the agent, and Fitz's eyes were blazing. Both were loaded down
with bundles of broken bits of rock, tied up in their several
handkerchiefs, large enough to start a geological collection in a
“What is it, Fitz—diamonds?” I said, laughing.
“Yes; black ones at that.” He was almost breathless. “Solid bed of
bituminous! Clear down to China! Don't breathe a word yet, for your
The agent was calmer. The coal-bed, he said, seemed to be of more
than ordinary richness, and as far as he could judge lay in a vein of
generous width. He was ready for the survey, and would like the
boundary points located at once.
The next instant Chad's head peered through the tangled underbrush.
He carried the roll of maps, the judge, who followed, contenting
himself with a package tied with red tape.
The old darky's face was one broad grin from ear to ear.
The judge unrolled a map and placed it on a flat rock with a stone
at each corner. Then he untied the package, selected an ink-stained and
faded document marked “Deed—John Carter to E. A. Barbour,” and ran his
eye along the quaint page, reading as he went:—
Starting from an oak, blazed diamond C, along a line S. E. to a rock
marked C cross B, C+B, in all a distance of 1437 linear feet.
“Now, Chad, we will fust find the tree,” said the judge, looking
around for his map-bearer. “Where's that nigger? Chad!”
The old man had disappeared as completely as if the earth had
swallowed him up. The next minute we heard a faint halloo below us near
the edge of a small swamp. A man was waving his hat and shouting:—
“Eve'ybody come yer!”
Fitz started on a run, and the agent and I followed on the
double-quick. At the end of a crooked stone wall, half surrounded by
water, was a great spreading oak, its branches reaching half way across
the narrow marsh. Within touching distance of the yielding ground stood
Chad pointing to a smooth blaze, stained and overgrown with lichen.
It bore this mark, [C in a diamond]!
“It tallies to a dot. Now, Chad, the rock! the rock!” said Fitz,
hardly able to contain himself.
The darky pointed straight up the hill, the sky line of which could
be seen entire from where we stood, and indicated an isolated rock
jutting out above the tree-tops.
I thought Fitz would have hugged him.
“How do you know it is the rock with the crotch in it? Speak, you
“I was dar dis mawnin' by daylight.”
“What's it marked?” said Fitz, catching him by both shoulders.
“What's it marked? Quick!”
“Wid a C an' a cross an' a B—so.” And the old man traced it with
his finger in the mud.
“Every pound of coal on the colonel's land!” said Fitz, with a yell
that brought his host and Kerfoot as fast as their legs could carry
“Stop!” said Kerfoot. “This only settles the Caarter and Barbour
division. There was another division here a year ago between Miss Ann
Caarter and the colonel. With that I am mo' familiar, for I drew the
deeds, which are here,” holding up a bundle; “and I was also present
with the surveyor. You are wrong, Mr. Fitzpatrick; this entire hill
outside the Barbour division is Miss Ann Caarter's, and the coal is on
her land. The colonel's portion is back there along the Tench.”
CHAPTER XII. The Englishman's
An hour later I found Fitz flat on the grass under one of the
apple-trees behind the house, completely broken up by the discoveries
of the morning.
After all his work, here was the colonel worse off than ever. Nobody
could tell what a woman would do. Aunt Nancy was better than the
average (Fitz was a bachelor), but then she had peculiar old family
notions about selling land, and ten chances to one she would not sell a
foot of it, and there right in the house sat a man with his pocket full
of blank checks, any one of which was good for a million of pounds
sterling. Even if she did sell it, she would pension the dear old
fellow off on a stipend instead of an establishment. He wanted somebody
to dig a hole and cover Fitzpatrick up. Anybody could see that the
railroad scheme was deader than a last year's pass, the farm hopeless,
and the house fast becoming a ruin. It was enough to make a man jump
off a dock.
Fitz's tirade was interrupted by Chad, who appeared with a message.
The colonel wanted everybody in the library.
When we entered, the judge occupied the head of the table,
surrounded by law papers, all of which were opened. The agent was
bending over him, reading attentively, and entering extracts in his
notebook. Every one became seated.
“Mr. Fitzpatrick,” said the agent, “I have spent an hour with Judge
Kerfoot going over the title of this property, and I am prepared to
make a proposition for its purchase. I have reduced it to
writing,”—picking up a half-sheet of foolscap from the table,—“and I
submit it to the owners through you.”
Fitz read it without changing a muscle, and handed it to the
colonel. Yancey and the judge craned forward to catch the first
The colonel read it to the end, getting paler and paler as its
meaning became clear, and then, with a certain pathos in his voice that
was childlike, it was so genuine, said:—
“If this is accepted, I presume, suh, you will not look any further
into my road?”
“You are right. My instructions cover only the purchase of this
deposit. I have room for only one operation.”
The colonel rose from his chair, steadied himself on the low
window-sill, and looked out across the Tench. The silence was
oppressive—only the ticking of the clock in the next room and the bees
among the flowers outside.
“Wait until I return,” he said, crumpling the paper.
In a moment he was back, leading in his aunt by the hand. Miss Nancy
entered with a half-puzzled look on her face, which deepened into
certain anxiety as she began to realize the pronounced formality of the
proceedings. The colonel cleared his throat impressively.
“Nancy, an investigation begun in New York by my dear friend Fitz,
and completed here to-day, results in the discov'ry that what you have
always considered as slight outcroppin's of coal, and wuthless, is
really of vehy great value.” The colonel here unbuttoned his coat, and
threw out his chest. “A syndicate of English capitalists have, through
our guest, offered you the sum of one hundred thousand dollars for the
coal-hill, with a royalty of ten cents per ton for every ton mined over
a certain amount, one thousand dollars to be paid now and the balance
on the search of title and signin' of the contract. I believe I have
stated it correctly, suh?”
The agent bowed his head, and scrutinized Miss Nancy's face with the
eye of a hawk.
The dear lady sank into a chair. For a moment she lost her breath.
Yancey handed her a fan with a quickness of movement never seen in him
before, and the colonel continued:—
“This will of course still leave you, Nancy, this house and about
half of the farm property transferred to you by me at the fo'closure
The little woman looked from one to the other in a dazed sort of
way, and her eye rested on Fitz.
“What shall I do, Mr. Fitzpatrick? It seems to me a grave step to
sell any part of the estate.”
Fitz blushed at the mark of her confidence, and said that with the
royalty clause he thought the proposition a favorable one.
“And you, George?” turning to the colonel.
The colonel bowed his head. He must advise its acceptance.
“When do you want an answer, sir?”
“To-day, Madam,” said the Englishman, who had not taken his eyes
from her face.
“You shall have it in half an hour,” she said gently, then rose
hastily, and left the room.
I looked at the colonel. Whatever great wave of disappointment had
swept over him when his own idol was broken, there was no trace of it
in his face. Even the change this sudden influx of wealth into the
family might make in his own condition never seemed to have crossed his
mind. He did not follow her. He simply waited. Between his own plans
and his aunt's good fortune there was but one course for him.
The room took on the whispered silence of a court awaiting an
overdue jury. Fitz was still incredulous and still anxious, saying to
me in an undertone that he felt sure she would either refuse it
altogether or couple it with some conditions that the agent could not
accept; either would be fatal. Yancey and the judge, who had been
partly paralyzed at the rapidity of the transaction, conferred in a
corner, while the agent proceeded to make a copy of the proposition
with as much composure as if he bought a coal-mine every day. The
colonel sat by himself, his chair tilted back, his eyes half closed.
In the midst of this uncertainty Chad entered with a message. “Miss
Nancy wants de colonel.” In five minutes more he entered with another.
Miss Nancy wanted Fitz and me.
We followed the old servant up the winding staircase and down the
long hall, past the old-fashioned wardrobe and the great chintz-covered
lounge, waited until Chad knocked gently, and entered the dear lady's
bedroom. She sat near the window by the side of the high post bedstead,
rocking gently to and fro. The colonel was standing with his back to
the light, coat open, thumbs in his armholes, face beaming.
“I sent for you,” she began, “because I want you both to hear my
answer before I inform the agent. The land only was mine, and but for
your love and devotion to the colonel would still be a wild hill. The
coal, therefore, belongs to him. Go and tell the Englishman I accept
his offer. The land and all the coal I give to George.”
* * * * *
When, an hour later, the transaction was complete, the receipts and
preliminary contracts signed, and the small, modest-looking check—the
first instalment—had been transferred from the plethoric bank-book of
the agent to the narrow, poverty-stricken pocket of the colonel, and
the fact began to dawn simultaneously upon everybody that at last the
dear old colonel was independent, an enthusiasm took possession of the
room that soon became uncontrollable.
Fitz caught him in his arms, and began hugging him in a way that
endangered every rib in his body, calling out all the time that he had
never felt so good in all the days of his life. Yancey and Kerfoot, who
had stood one side appalled by the magnitude of the sum paid, and who
during the signing of the papers had looked at the colonel with the
same sort of silent awe with which they would have regarded any other
potentate rolling in estates, mines, and millions, broke through the
enforced reserve, and exclaimed, with an outburst, that the South was
looking up, and that a true Southern gentleman had come into his own,
the judge adding with emphasis that the colonel had never looked so
much like his noble father as when he stooped over and signed that
receipt. Even the Englishman, hard, practical fellow that he was,
congratulated him on his good fortune in a few short words that jumped
out hot from his heart.
With this atmosphere about him it is not to be wondered that the
colonel lost the true inwardness of the situation. The fact that his
aunt's boundary line included every acre of valuable land on the
plantation, while his own poor portion only bordered the Tench, was to
him simply one of those trifling errors which sometimes occur in the
partition of vast landed estates. And although when the gift was made
he felt more than ever her loving-kindness, he could not now, on more
mature reflection and after hearing the encomiums of his friends,
really see how she could have pursued any other course.
And yet, with the sale accomplished and he rich beyond his wildest
dreams, he was precisely the same man in bearing, manner, and speech
that he had been in his impecunious days in Bedford Place. He was rich
then—in hopes, in plans, in the reality of his dreamland. He was no
richer now. The check in his pocket made no difference.
The only perceptible change was when he recounted to me his plans
for the restoration of the homestead and the comfort of its inmates. “I
shall rebuild the barns and cabins, and lay out a new lawn. The
po'ch”—looking up—“needs some repairs, and the ca'iage-house must be
enlarged. The coaching days are not over yet, Major; Nancy must have”—
Chad, entering with a luncheon for the exhausted circle, diverted
the colonel's train of thought, cutting short his summary. For a moment
he watched his old servant musingly, then following him into the next
room he called him to one side, and with marked tenderness in his
manner unfolded the Englishman's check.
The old servant put down the empty tray, adjusted his spectacles,
and examined it carefully.
“What's dis, Marsa George?”
“A thousand dollars, Chad.”
“Golly! Monst'ous quare kind o' money. Jes a scrap. Ain't big enough
to wad a gun, is she? An' Misser Englishman gib ye dis for dat ole
Chad was trembling all over, full to the very eyelids.
The colonel held out his hand. The old servant bent his head, his
master's hand fast in his. Then their eyes met.
“Yes, Chad, for you and me. There's no hard work for you any mo',
old man. Go and tell Henny.”
That night at dinner, Fitz on the colonel's right, the Englishman
next to aunt Nancy, Kerfoot, Yancey, and I disposed in regular order,
Chad noiseless and attentive, the colonel arose in his chair, radiant
to the very tip ends of his cravat, and, in a voice which trembled as
it rose, said:—
“Gentlemen, the events of the day have unexpectedly brought me an
influx of wealth far beyond my brightest anticipations. This is due in
great measure to the untirin' brain and vast commercial resources of my
dear friend Mr. Fitzpatrick, who has labored with me durin' my sojourn
Nawth in the development of these properties, and who now, with that
unselfishness which characterizes his life, refuses to accept any share
in the result.
“They have also strengthened the tie existin' between my old friend
the major on my left, who oftentimes when the day was darkest has
cheered me by his counsel and companionship. “But, gentlemen, they have
done mo'.” The colonel's feet now barely touched the floor. “They have
enabled me to provide for one of the loveliest of her sex,—she who
graces our boa'd,—and to enrich her declinin' days not only with all
the comforts, but with many of the luxuries she was bawn to enjoy.
“Fill yo' glasses, gentlemen, and drink to the health of that
greatest of all blessings,—a true Southern lady!”