There was a pretty to-do at the dinner table that day. I’d intended to have souffle for desert, and I always make my own souffles; but I forgot everything but the Perrys, and the boarders grumbled awfully. I didn’t care, though; I was too happy to feel abused.
I don’t know how George Perry explained his absence to his wife; perhaps he hasn’t done it at all. But I know she seems to be the happiest woman alive, and that he don’t seem to care for anything in the world but his wife and baby.
As to the woman who came with him to look at a room, I haven’t seen her since; but if she happens to read this story, she may have the consolation of knowing that there’s an old woman who remembers her one good deed, and prays for her often and earnestly.
What the colonel’s business was nobody knew, nor did any one care, particularly. He purchased for cash only, and he never grumbled at the price of anything that he wanted; who could ask more than that?
Curious people occasionally wondered how, when it had been fully two years since the colonel, with every one else, abandoned Duck Creek to the Chinese, he managed to spend money freely, and to lose considerable at cards and horse-races. In fact, the keeper of that one of the two Challenge Hill saloons which the colonel did not patronize was once heard to absentmindedly wonder whether the colonel hadn’t a money-mill somewhere, where he turned out double-eagles and “slugs” (the Coast name for fifty-dollar gold-pieces).
When so important a personage as a barkeeper indulged publicly in an idea, the inhabitants of Challenge Hill, like good Californians everywhere, considered themselves in duty bound to give it grave consideration; so, for a few days, certain industrious professional gentlemen, who won money of the colonel, carefully weighed some of the brightest pieces and tested them with acids, and tasted them and sawed them in two, and retried them and melted them up, and had the lumps assayed.
The result was a complete vindication of the colonel, and a loss of considerable custom to the indiscreet barkeeper.
The colonel was as good-natured a man as had ever been known at Challenge Hill, but, being mortal, the colonel had his occasional times of despondency, and one of them occurred after a series of races, in which he had staked his all on his own bay mare Tipsie, and had lost.
Looking reproachfully at his beloved animal failed to heal the aching void of his pockets, and drinking deeply, swearing eloquently and glaring defiantly at all mankind, were equally unproductive of coin.
The boys at the saloon sympathized most feelingly with the colonel; they were unceasing in their invitations to drink, and they even exhibited considerable Christian forbearance when the colonel savagely dissented with every one who advanced any proposition, no matter how incontrovertible.