“By the way, I saw Flagg on the street the other day in Mobile. He was looking well.”
The bit of melon I had in my mouth refused to be swallowed. I fancy that my face was a study. A dead silence followed; and then my wife reached across the table, and pressing my hand, said very gently—
“Wesley, you were not brilliant, but you were good.”
All this was longer ago than I care to remember. I heard no more from Mr. Matthews. Last week, oddly enough, while glancing over a file of recent Southern newspapers, I came upon the announcement of the death of George W. Flagg. It was yellow fever this time also. If later on I receive any bills in connection with that event, I shall let my friend Bleeker audit them.
“For bravery on the field of battle”
The recruiting-office at Rivermouth was in a small, unpainted, weather-stained building on Anchor Street, not far from the custom-house. The tumble-down shell had long remained tenantless, and now, with its mouse-colored exterior, easily lent itself to its present requirements as a little military mouse-trap. In former years it had been occupied as a thread-and-needle and candy shop by one Dame Trippew. All such petty shops in the town were always kept by old women, and these old women were always styled dames. It is to be lamented that they and their innocent traffic have vanished into the unknown.
The interior of the building, consisting of one room and an attic covered by a lean-to roof, had undergone no change beyond the removal of Dame Trippew’s pathetic stock at the time of her bankruptcy. The narrow counter, painted pea-green and divided in the centre by a swinging gate, still stretched from wall to wall at the farther end of the room, and behind the counter rose a series of small wooden drawers, which now held nothing but a fleeting and inaccurate memory of the lavender, and pennyroyal, and the other sweet herbs that used to be deposited in them. Even the tiny cow-bell, which once served to warn Dame Trippew of the advent of a customer, still hung from a bit of curved iron on the inner side of the street-door, and continued to give out a petulant, spasmodic jingle whenever that door was opened, however cautiously. If the good soul could have returned to the scene of her terrestrial commerce, she might have resumed business at the old stand without making any alterations whatever. Everything remained precisely as she had left it at the instant of her exit. But a wide gulf separated Dame Trippew from the present occupant of the premises. Dame Trippew’s slight figure, with its crisp, snowy cap and apron, and steel-bowed spectacles, had been replaced by the stalwart personage of a sergeant of artillery in the regular army, between whose overhanging red mustache and the faint white down that had of late years come to Dame Trippew’s upper lip, it would have been impossible to establish a parallel. The only things these two might have claimed in common were a slackness of trade and a liking for the aromatic Virginia leaf, though Dame Trippew had taken hers in a dainty idealistic powder, and the sergeant took his in realistic plug through the medium of an aggressive clay pipe.