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COLONEL CARTER'S CHRISTMAS

THE ROMANCE OF AN OLD-FASHIONED GENTLEMAN

BY

F. HOPKINSON SMITH

ILLUSTRATED BY

F. C. YOHN and A. I. KELLER

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
NEW YORK:::::::::::::::::::::1911




COLONEL CARTER'S CHRISTMAS

COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

THE ROMANCE OF AN OLD-FASHIONED
GENTLEMAN

COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS




[Illustration: Katy dropped her head on his shoulder again.]




_To my Readers:_


It will be remembered, doubtless, that the chronicles of my very dear
friend, Colonel Carter (published some years ago), make mention of but
one festival of importance--a dinner given at Carter Hall, near
Cartersville, Virginia; the Colonel's ancestral home. This dinner, as
you already know, was to celebrate two important events--the sale to
the English syndicate of the coal lands, the exclusive property of the
Colonel's beloved aunt, Miss Nancy Carter; and the instantaneous
transfer by that generous woman of all the purchase money to the
Colonel's slender bank account: a transaction which, to quote his own
words as he gallantly drank her health in acknowledgment of the gift,
"enabled him to provide for one of the loveliest of her sex--she who
graces our boa'd--and to enrich her declining days not only with all
the comforts, but with many of the luxuries she was bawn to enjoy."

Several other festivals, however, did take place: not in the days of
the dear Colonel's prosperity, nor yet at Carter Hall, but in his
impecunious days in New York, while he was still living in the little
house on Bedford Place within a stone's throw of the tall clock-tower
of Jefferson Market. This house, you will recall, sat back from the
street behind a larger and more modern dwelling, its only outlet to
the main thoroughfare being through a narrow, grewsome tunnel, lighted
during the day by a half-moon sawed out in the swinging gate which
marked its street entrance and illumined at night by a rusty lantern
with dingy glass sides.

All reference to one of these festivals--a particular and most
important festival--was omitted, much to my regret, from my published
chronicles, owing to the express commands of the Colonel himself:
commands issued not only out of consideration for the feelings of one
of the participants--a man who had been challenged by him to mortal
duel, and therefore his enemy--but because on that joyous occasion
this same offender was his guest, and so protected by his hospitality.

This man was no less a person than the eminent financier, Mr. P. A.
Klutchem, of Klutchem, Skinham & Co., who, you will remember, had in
an open office and in the presence of many mutual friends, denounced
in unmeasured terms the Cartersville & Warrentown Air Line
Railroad--an enterprise to which the Virginian had lent his name and
which, with the help of his friend Mr. Fitzpatrick, he was then trying
to finance. Not content with thus slandering the road itself,
characterizing it as "beginning nowhere and ending nowhere," Mr.
Klutchem had even gone so far as to attack the good name of its
securities, known as the "Garden Spot" Bonds, and to state boldly that
he would not "give a yellow dog" for "enough of 'em to paper a
church." The Colonel's immediate resentment of this insult; his prompt
challenge to Mr. Klutchem to meet him in mortal duel; Mr. Klutchem's
refusal and the events which followed, are too well known to you to
need further reference here.

The death of this Mr. Klutchem some years ago decided me again to seek
the Colonel's permission to lay before my readers a succinct account,
first of what led up to this most important celebration, and then some
of the details of the celebration itself--one of the most delightful,
if not the most delightful, of all the many delightful festivals held
in the Colonel's cosy quarters on Bedford Place.

My communication drew from Colonel Carter the following characteristic
letter:

CARTER HALL, CARTERSVILLE, VA.,

MY DEAR MAJOR:

I have your very kind and welcome letter, and am greatly
impressed by the views you hold. I was averse at the time to
any reference being made to the matter to which you so
kindly refer, for the reason that some men are often more
sensitive over their virtues than they are over their
faults.

Mr. Klutchem's death, of course, completely alters the
situation, and you can make what use you please of the
incidents. In this decision I have been helped by my dear
Fitz, who spent last Sunday with us on his way South to
investigate a financial matter of enormous magnitude and
which only a giant intellect like his own can grasp. Fitz's
only fear--I quote his exact words, my dear Major,--is that
"you will let Klutchem down easy instead of roasting him
alive as he deserves," but then you must not mind Fitz, for
he always uses intemperate language when speaking of this
gentleman.

Your room is always ready for you, and if you will run down
to us now, we can smother you in roses. Chad is over his
cold, but the old man seems feeble at times. Aunt Nancy is
out in her coach paying some visits, and doesn't know I am
writing or she would certainly send you her love.

I thanked you, did I not, for all your kindness about the
double sets of harness? But I must tell you again how well
the leaders look in them. The two sorrels are particularly
splendid. Go into Wood's some day this week and write me
what you think of a carriage he has just built for me,--a
small affair in which Aunt Nancy can drive to Warrentown, or
I can send to the depot for a friend.

All my heart to you, my dear Major. An open hand and a warm
welcome is always yours at Carter Hall.

Your ever obedient servant and honored friend,

GEORGE FAIRFAX CARTER.

With the Colonel's permission, then, I am privileged to usher you into
his cosy dining-room in Bedford Place, there to enjoy the Virginian's
rare hospitality.

F. HOPKINSON SMITH.

September 30, 1903.




ILLUSTRATIONS


_Katy dropped her head on his shoulder again_ _Frontispiece_

FACING
PAGE

"_Take them upstairs and put them on my dressin'-table_" 4

_Each guest had a candle alight_ 84

_And so the picture was begun_ 104

"_Promise me that you will stop the whole business_" 172

"_It is all her doing, Phil_" 205




COLONEL CARTER'S
CHRISTMAS




I


"What am I gwine to do wid dese yere barkers, Colonel?" asked Chad,
picking up his master's case of duelling pistols from the mantel. "I
ain't tetched der moufs since I iled 'em up for dat Klutchem man."

"Take them upstairs, Chad, and put them away," answered the Colonel
with an indignant wave of the hand.

"No chance o' pickin' him, I s'pose? Done got away fo' sho, ain't he?"

The Colonel nodded his head and kept on looking into the fire. The
subject was evidently an unpleasant one.

"Couldn't Major Yancey an' de Jedge do nuffin?" persisted the old
servant, lifting one of the pistols from the case and squinting into
its polished barrel.

"Eve'ything that a gentleman could do was done, Chad. You are aware of
that, Major?" and he turned his head towards me--the Colonel will
insist on calling me "Major." "But I am not done with him yet, Chad.
The next time I meet him I shall lay my cane over his back. Take them
upstairs and put them on my dressin' table. We'll keep them for some
gentleman at home."

The Colonel arose from his chair, picked up the decanter, poured out a
glass for me and one for himself, replenished his long clay pipe from
a box of tobacco within reach of his hand and resumed his seat again.
Mention of Mr. Klutchem's name produced a form of restlessness in my
host which took all his self-control to overcome.

"--And, Chad." The old darky had now reached the door opening into the
narrow hall, the case of pistols in his hand.

"Yes, sah."

"I think you have a right to know, Chad, why I did not meet Mr.
Klutchem in the open field."

Chad bent his head in attention. This had really been the one thing of
all others about which this invaluable servant had been most
disturbed. Before this it had been a word, a blow, and an exchange of
shots at daybreak in all the Colonel's affairs--all that Chad had
attended--and yet a week or more had now elapsed since this worthy
darky had moulded some extra bullets for these same dogs "wid der
moufs open," and until to-night the case had never even left its place
on the mantel.

[Illustration: "Take them upstairs and put them on my dressin'
table."]

"I was disposed, Chad," the Colonel continued, "to overlook Mr.
Klutchem's gross insult after a talk I had with Mr. Fitzpatrick, and I
went all the way to the scoundrel's house to tell him so. I found him
in his chair suffe'in' from an attack of gout. I had my caa'ridge
outside, and offe'ed in the most co'teous way to conduct him to it and
drive him to my office, where a number of his friends and mine were
assembled in order that the apology I p'posed might be as impressive
as the challenge I sent. He refused, Chad, in the most insolent
manner, and I left him with the remark that I should lay my cane over
his shoulders whenever I met him; and I _shall_."

"Well, befo' Gawd, I knowed sumpin' had been gwine on pretty hot, for
I never seed you so b'ilin' as when you come home, Colonel," replied
the old servant, bowing low at the mark of his master's confidence. "I
spec', though, I'd better put a couple o' corks in der moufs so we kin
hab 'em ready if anythin' comes out o' dis yere caanin' business. I've
seen 'em put away befo' in my time," he added in a louder voice,
looking towards me as if to include me in his declaration; "but they
allus hab to come for 'em agin, when dey get to caanin' one another."
And he patted the box meaningly and left the room.

The Colonel again turned to me.

"I have vehy few secrets from Chad, Major, and none of this kind.



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