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- Colonel Carter of Cartersville - 3/23 -


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, said:--

"No, Colonel, none for me; smoke a cigar--got a pocketful."

"Smoke yo' own cigars, will you, and in the presence of a Virginian? I don't believe you have got a drop of Irish blood left in yo' veins, or you would take this pipe."

"Too strong for me," remonstrated Fitz.

"Throw that villainous device away, I say, Fitz, and surprise yo' nostrils with a whiff of this. Virginia tobacco, suh,--raised at Cartersville,--cured by my own servants. No? Well, you will, Major. Here, try that; every breath of it is a nosegay," said the colonel, turning to me.

"But, Colonel," continued Fitz, with a sly twinkle in his eye, "your tobacco pays no tax. With a debt like ours it is the duty of every good citizen to pay his share of it. Half the cost of this cigar goes to the Government."

It was a red flag to the colonel, and he laid down his pipe and faced 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!"

[Illustration]

The colonel on cross-examination could not locate any particular wholesale robbery, but it did not check the flow of his indignation.

"Take, for instance, the town of Caartersville: look at that peaceful village which for mo' than a hundred years has enjoyed the privileges of free government; and not only Caartersville, but all our section of the State."

"Well, what's the matter with Cartersville?" asked Fitz, lighting his cigar.

"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' postage stamps."

"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 the war.

"On arriving at Talcottville the colonel dismounted, handed the reins to his servant,--or perhaps one of the niggers around the do',--and entered the post-office. Now, suh, let me tell you that one month befo', the Government, contrary to the express wishes of a great many of our leadin' citizens, had sent a Yankee postmaster to Talcottville to administer the postal affairs of that town. No sooner had this man taken possession than he began to be exclusive, suh, and to put on airs. The vehy fust air he put on was to build a fence in his office and compel our people to transact their business through a hole. This in itself was vehy gallin', suh, for up to that time the mail had always been dumped out on the table in the stage office and every gentleman had he'ped himself. The next thing was the closin' of his mail bags at a' hour fixed by himself. This became a great inconvenience to our citizens, who were often late in finishin' their correspondence, and who had always found our former postmaster willin' either to hold the bag over until the next day, or to send it across to Drummondtown by a boy to catch a later train.

"Well, suh, Colonel Talcott's mission to the post-office was to mail a letter to his factor in Richmond, Virginia, on business of the utmost importance to himself,--namely, the raisin' of a small loan upon his share of the crop. Not the crop that was planted, suh, but the crop that he expected to plant. "Colonel Talcott approached the hole, and with that Chesterfieldian manner which has distinguished the Talcotts for mo' than two centuries asked the postmaster for the loan of a three-cent postage stamp.

"To his astonishment, suh, he was refused.

"Think of a Talcott in his own county town bein' refused a three-cent postage stamp by a low-lived Yankee, who had never known a gentleman in his life! The colonel's first impulse was to haul the scoundrel through the hole and caarve him; but then he remembered that he was a Talcott and could not demean himself, and drawin' himself up again with that manner which was grace itself he requested the loan of a three-cent postage stamp until he should communicate with his factor in Richmond, Virginia; and again he was refused. Well, suh, what was there left for a high-toned Southern gentleman to do? Colonel Talcott drew his revolver and shot that Yankee scoundrel through the heart, and killed him on the spot.

"And now, suh, comes the most remarkable part of this story. If it had not been for Major Tom Yancey, Jedge Kerfoot, and myself there would have been a lawsuit."

Fitz lay back in his chair and roared.

"And they did not hang the colonel?"

"Hang a Talcott! No, suh; we don't hang gentlemen down our way. Jedge Kerfoot vehy properly charged the coroner's jury that it was a matter of self-defense, and Colonel Talcott was not detained mo' than haalf 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 wants.

"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.

[Illustration]

"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."


Colonel Carter of Cartersville - 3/23

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