Westward—Wild Thyme and a Bath—The Shale-works—Muggins and the
Clergymen—Durham Mustard, and Marjorie—The Squire—The Grinstun
Man—Lunch, Wordsworth and Original Poetry—Two Old People on the
At supper they had, for their vis-a-vis, a tall, aristocratic-looking man, attired airily in a mixture of jean and silk. His nose was aquiline, his eyes grey and piercing withal, his hair grey, but abundant, and his clean shaved mouth and chin mingled delicacy with strength of character.
“The weathah has been wahm, gentlemen,” he remarked; to which statement they assented.
“I obsehved you entah the ho-tel, and pehceived that you are travelling for pleasuhe by yo-ah knapsacks. I also am travelling, partly foh pleasuhe, partly foh mattahs of family business. My ideahs, gentlemen, are old fashioned, too much so foh railyoads. The Mississippi is ouah natuhal highway from the South, but, unfohtunately, the to me unpleasant railyoad had to connect its head watahs with Lake Michigan, by which route I find myself heah, on my way to a city called To-hon-to. You know it, I pehsume?”
Wilkinson’s geographical lore was now unfolded. He discussed the Mississippi, although he had not been on that river, exhibited an intimate acquaintance with cities and routes which had never seen him in the flesh, and, by his quiet, gentlemanly, and, to the much older man, deferential tone, was admitted to the confidence of Colonel Morton, of Louisiana, South American trader, ship-owner and the possessor of a fine estate, which, although it had suffered greatly during the war, in which the colonel commanded a cavalry regiment, was yet productive and remunerative.
“I am a widowah, suh, and a childless old man,” continued the colonel; “my only boy fell in the wah ah, and it broke his mother’s heaht. Pahdon me,” he said, as his voice shook a little, and the least glimmer of a tear stood in his eye, “I rahely talk of these mattahs of a puhely pehsonal kind, but, as you are kind enough to be intehested in my affaiahs, I say this much by way of explanation.”
“I am sure, Colonel Morton, we deeply sympathize with you in so great a double bereavement,” interposed the dominie.
“Indeed we do, sir, most sincerely,” added the lawyer.
“I thank you, gentlemen,” answered the courteous Southerner. “I was going to remahk that the only pehson in whom I feel a family intehest is my lamented wife’s sistah, a Madame Du Plessis, who has resided foh many yeahs in yoah city of To-hon-to. May I enquiah, gentlemen, if you have, either of you, heahd the name befoah?”
Coristine replied that, incidentally, he had heard the names of both Madame Du Plessis and her daughter.
“I am awaah, suh, that my wife’s sister has a daughtah. Can you tell me of my sister-in-law’s suhcumstances, and what her daughtah, my niece, is like in appeahance?”