I never saw a man eat with so much earnestness and application—not hastily, like a grammarian, or one of the canal, but slow and appreciative, like a anaconda, or a real vive bonjour.
In an hour and a half the colonel leaned back. I brought him a pony of brandy and his black coffee, and set the box of Havana regalias on the table.
“Gentlemen,” says he, blowing out the smoke and trying to breathe it back again, “when we view the eternal hills and the smiling and beneficent landscape, and reflect upon the goodness of the Creator who—”
“Excuse me, colonel,” says I, “but there’s some business to attend to now”; and I brought out paper and pen and ink and laid ’em before him. “Who do you want to send to for the money?” I asks.
“I reckon,” says he, after thinking a bit, “to the vice-president of our railroad, at the general offices of the Company in Edenville.”
“How far is it to Edenville from here?” I asked.
“About ten miles,” says he.
Then I dictated these lines, and Colonel Rockingham wrote them out:
I am kidnapped and held a prisoner by two desperate outlaws in a place which is useless to attempt to find. They demand ten thousand dollars at once for my release. The amount must be raised immediately, and these directions followed. Come alone with the money to Stony Creek, which runs out of Blacktop Mountains. Follow the bed of the creek till you come to a big flat rock on the left bank, on which is marked a cross in red chalk. Stand on the rock and wave a white flag. A guide will come to you and conduct you to where I am held. Lose no time.
After the colonel had finished this, he asked permission to take on a postscript about how he was being treated, so the railroad wouldn’t feel uneasy in its bosom about him. We agreed to that. He wrote down that he had just had lunch with the two desperate ruffians; and then he set down the whole bill of fare, from cocktails to coffee. He wound up with the remark that dinner would be ready about six, and would probably be a more licentious and intemperate affair than lunch.
Me and Caligula read it, and decided to let it go; for we, being cooks, were amenable to praise, though it sounded out of place on a sight draft for ten thousand dollars.
I took the letter over to the Mountain Valley road and watched for a messenger. By and by a colored equestrian came along on horseback, riding toward Edenville. I gave him a dollar to take the letter to the railroad offices; and then I went back to camp.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, Caligula, who was acting as lookout, calls to me:
“I have to report a white shirt signalling on the starboard bow, sir.”
I went down the mountain and brought back a fat, red man in an alpaca coat and no collar.
“Gentlemen,” says Colonel Rockingham, “allow me to introduce my brother, Captain Duval C. Rockingham, vice-president of the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad.”