“Of course,” he said, with a touch of dignity which pierced me through the bosom, “I do not wish to be taken to any place where I would disgrace you. I know how impossible I am. Yet this suit of clothes cost me twelve hundred dollars in Confederate scrip. These boots are not much to look at, but they were made by a scion of one of the first families of the South; I paid him two hundred dollars for them, and he was right glad to get it. To such miserable straits have Southern gentlemen been reduced by the vandals of the North. Perhaps you don’t like the Confederate gray?”
“Bother your boots and your clothes!” I cried. “Nobody will notice them here.” (Which was true enough, for in those days the land was strewed with shreds and patches of the war. The drivers and conductors of street cars wore overcoats made out of shoddy army blankets, and the dustmen went about in cast-off infantry caps.) “What troubles me is that I can’t wait to start you on your breakfast.”
“I reckon I don’t need much starting.”
I explained the situation to him, and suggested that instead of going to the restaurant, he should go directly to my house, and be served by Mrs. Wesley, to whom I would write a line on a leaf of my memorandum-book. I did not suggest this step in the first instance because the little oyster saloon, close at hand, had seemed to offer the shortest cut to my cousin’s relief.
“So you’re married?” said he.
“I haven’t taken any matrimony in mine.”
“I’ve been married six years, and have two boys.”
“No! How far is your house?” he inquired. “Will I have to take a caar?”
“A ‘caar’? Ah, yes—that is to say, no. A car isn’t worth while. You see that bakery two blocks from here, at the right? That’s on the corner of Clinton Place. You turn down there. You’ll notice in looking over what I’ve written to Mrs. Wesley that she is to furnish you with some clothes, such as are worn by—by vandals of the North in comfortable circumstances.”
“Tom Wesley, you are as good as a straight flush. If you ever come down South, when this cruel war is over, our people will treat you like one of the crowned heads—only a devilish sight better, for the crowned heads rather went back on us. If England had recognized the Southern Confederacy”—
“Never mind that; your tenderloin steak is cooling.”
“Don’t mention it! I go. But I say, Tom—Mrs. Wesley? Really, I am hardly presentable. Are there other ladies around?”
“There’s no one but Mrs. Wesley.”
“Do you think I can count on her being glad to see me at such short notice?”
“She will be a sister to you,” I said warmly.
“Well, I reckon that you two are a pair of trumps. Au revoir! Be good to yourself.”