“Too ephemeral,” says Caligula. “I’d want ham and eggs, or rabbit stew, anyhow, for a chaser. What do you consider the most edifying and casual in the way of a dinner?”
“I’ve been infatuated from time to time,” I answers, “with fancy ramifications of grub such as terrapins, lobsters, reed birds, jambolaya, and canvas-covered ducks; but after all there’s nothing less displeasing to me than a beefsteak smothered in mushrooms on a balcony in sound of the Broadway streetcars, with a hand-organ playing down below, and the boys hollering extras about the latest suicide. For the wine, give me a reasonable Ponty Cany. And that’s all, except a demi-tasse.”
“Well,” says Caligula, “I reckon in New York you get to be a conniseer; and when you go around with the demi-tasse you are naturally bound to buy ’em stylish grub.”
“It’s a great town for epicures,” says I. “You’d soon fall into their ways if you was there.”
“I’ve heard it was,” says Caligula. “But I reckon I wouldn’t. I can polish my fingernails all they need myself.”
After breakfast we went out on the front porch, lighted up two of the landlord’s flor de upas perfectos, and took a look at Georgia.
The installment of scenery visible to the eye looked mighty poor. As far as we could see was red hills all washed down with gullies and scattered over with patches of piny woods. Blackberry bushes was all that kept the rail fences from falling down. About fifteen miles over to the north was a little range of well-timbered mountains.
That town of Mountain Valley wasn’t going. About a dozen people permeated along the sidewalks; but what you saw mostly was rain-barrels and roosters, and boys poking around with sticks in piles of ashes made by burning the scenery of Uncle Tom shows.
And just then there passes down on the other side of the street a high man in a long black coat and a beaver hat. All the people in sight bowed, and some crossed the street to shake hands with him; folks came out of stores and houses to holler at him; women leaned out of windows and smiled; and all the kids stopped playing to look at him. Our landlord stepped out on the porch and bent himself double like a carpenter’s rule, and sung out, “Good-morning, Colonel,” when he was a dozen yards gone by.
“And is that Alexander, pa?” says Caligula to the landlord; “and why is he called great?”
“That, gentlemen,” says the landlord, “is no less than Colonel Jackson T. Rockingham, the president of the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad, mayor of Mountain Valley, and chairman of the Perry County board of immigration and public improvements.”
“Been away a good many years, hasn’t he?” I asked.
“No, sir; Colonel Rockingham is going down to the post-office for his mail. His fellow-citizens take pleasure in greeting him thus every morning. The colonel is our most prominent citizen. Besides the height of the stock of the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad, he owns a thousand acres of that land across the creek. Mountain Valley delights, sir, to honor a citizen of such worth and public spirit.”