“I reckoned I’d bring Hiram round with me,” said the young lady, lifting her searching eyes, after a pause, to the Colonel’s, “though he was awful shy, and allowed that you didn’t know him from Adam, or even suspect his existence. But I said, ’That’s just where you slip up, Hiram; a pow’ful man like the Colonel knows everything—and I’ve seen it in his eye.’ Lordy!” she continued, with a laugh, leaning forward over her parasol, as her eyes again sought the Colonel’s, “don’t you remember when you asked me if I loved that old Hotchkiss, and I told you, ’That’s tellin’,’ and you looked at me—Lordy! I knew then you suspected there was a Hiram somewhere, as good as if I’d told you. Now you jest get up, Hiram, and give the Colonel a good hand-shake. For if it wasn’t for him and his searchin’ ways, and his awful power of language, I wouldn’t hev got that four thousand dollars out o’ that flirty fool Hotchkiss—enough to buy a farm, so as you and me could get married! That’s what you owe to him. Don’t stand there like a stuck fool starin’ at him. He won’t eat you—though he’s killed many a better man. Come, have I got to do all the kissin’?”
It is of record that the Colonel bowed so courteously and so profoundly that he managed not merely to evade the proffered hand of the shy Hiram, but to only lightly touch the franker and more impulsive finger-tips of the gentle Zaidee. “I—er—offer my sincerest congratulations—though I think you—er—overestimate—my—er—powers of penetration. Unfortunately, a pressing engagement, which may oblige me also to leave town tonight, forbids my saying more. I have—er—left the—er—business settlement of this—er—case in the hands of the lawyers who do my office work, and who will show you every attention. And now let me wish you a very good afternoon.”
Nevertheless, the Colonel returned to his private room, and it was nearly twilight when the faithful Jim entered, to find him sitting meditatively before his desk. “‘Fo’ God! Kernel, I hope dey ain’t nuffin de matter, but you’s lookin’ mighty solemn! I ain’t seen you look dat way, Kernel, since de day pooh Massa Stryker was fetched home shot froo de head.”
“Hand me down the whiskey, Jim,” said the Colonel, rising slowly.
The negro flew to the closet joyfully, and brought out the bottle. The Colonel poured out a glass of the spirit and drank it with his old deliberation.
“You’re quite right, Jim,” he said, putting down his glass, “but I’m—er—getting old—and—somehow I am missing poor Stryker damnably!”