Whether Clara was deeply affected by what had happened, or whether she disapproved of my taking upon myself expenses which, under the peculiar circumstances, might properly be borne by Flagg’s intimate friend and comrade, was something I could not determine. She made no comments. If she considered that I had already done all that my duty demanded of me to do for my cousin, she was wise enough not to say so; for she must have seen that I took a different and unalterable view of it. Clara has her own way fifty-nine minutes out of the hour, but the sixtieth minute is mine.
She was plainly not disposed to talk on the subject; but I wanted to talk with some one on the subject; so, when dinner was through, I put the Matthews papers into my pocket and went up to my friend Bleeker’s, in Seventeenth Street. Though a little cynical at times, he was a man whose judgment I thought well of.
After reading the letter and glancing over the memoranda, Bleeker turned to me and said, “You want to know how it strikes me—is that it?”
“The man is dead?”
“And the bills are paid?”
“You see yourself they are receipted.”
“Well, then,” said Bleeker, “considering all things, I should let well enough alone.”
“You mean you would do nothing in the matter?”
“I should ‘let the dead past bury its dead,’ as Longfellow says.” Bleeker was always quoting Longfellow.
“But it isn’t the dead past, it’s the living present that has attended to the business; and he has sent in his account with all the items. I can’t have this Matthews going about the country telling everybody that I allowed him to pay my cousin’s funeral expenses.”
“Then pay them. You have come to me for advice after making up your mind to follow your own course. That’s just the way people do when they really want to be advised. I’ve done it myself, Wesley—I’ve done it myself.”
The result was, I sent Mr. Matthews a check, after which I impulsively threw those dreadful bills into the office grate. I had no right to do it, for the vouchers really belonged to Mr. Matthews, and might be wanted some day; but they had haunted me like so many ghosts until I destroyed them. I fell asleep that night trying to recollect whether the items included a head-stone for my cousin’s grave. I couldn’t for the life of me remember, and it troubled me not a little. There were enough nameless graves in the South, without his being added to the number.
One day, a fortnight later, as Clara and I were finishing dinner, young Brett called at the house. I had supposed him to be in Omaha. He had, in effect, just come from there and elsewhere on one of his long business tours, and had arrived in the city too late in the afternoon to report himself at the office. He now dropped in merely for a moment, but we persuaded him to remain and share the dessert with us. I purposed to keep him until Clara left us to our cigars. I wished to tell him of my cousin’s death, which I did not care to do, while she was at the table. We were talking of this and that, when Brett looked up, and said rather abruptly—