“But your father left you something?”
“The old gentleman left me nothing, and I’ve been steadily increasing the legacy ever since.”
“What did you do before the war?” inquired Clara sympathetically. His mention of his early losses had touched her.
“Oh, a number of things. I read law for a while. At one time I was interested in a large concern for the manufacture of patent metallic burial cases; but nobody seemed to die that year. Good health raged like an epidemic all over the South. Latterly I dabbled a little in stocks— and stocks dabbled in me.”
“You were not successful, then?” I said.
“I was at first, but when the war fever broke out and the Southern heart was fired, everything that didn’t go down went up.”
“And you couldn’t meet your obligations?”
“That wasn’t the trouble—I couldn’t get away from them,” replied the colonel, with a winsome smile. “I met them at every corner.”
The man had a fashion of turning his very misfortunes into pleasantries. Surely prosperity would be wasted on a person so gifted with optimism. I felt it to be kind and proper, however, to express the hope that he had reached the end of his adversity, and to assure him that I would do anything I could in the world to help him.
“Tom Wesley, I believe you would.”
Before the close of that day Mrs. Wesley, who is a lady that does not allow any species of vegetation to accumulate under her feet, had secured a furnished room for our kinsman in a street branching off from Clinton Place, and at a moderate additional expense contracted to have him served with breakfast on the premises. Previous to this I had dined down town, returning home in the evening to a rather heavy tea, which was really my wife’s dinner—Sheridan and Ulysses (such were the heroic names under which the two little Wesleys were staggering) had their principal meal at midday. It was, of course, not desirable that the colonel should share this meal with them and Mrs. Wesley in my absence. So we decided to have a six o’clock dinner; a temporary disarrangement of our domestic machinery, for my cousin Flagg would doubtless find some acceptable employment before long, and leave the household free to slip back into its regular grooves.
An outline of the physical aspects of the exotic kinsman who had so unexpectedly added himself to the figures at our happy fireside seems not out of place here. The portrait, being the result of many sittings, does not in some points convey the exact impression he made upon us in the earlier moments of our intimacy; but that is not important.