When Major Pendleton Talbot, of Mobile, sir, and his daughter, Miss Lydia
Talbot, came to Washington to reside, they selected for a boarding place a
house that stood fifty yards back from one of the quietest avenues. It
was an old-fashioned brick building, with a portico upheld by tall white
pillars. The yard was shaded by stately locusts and elms, and a catalpa
tree in season rained its pink and white blossoms upon the grass. Rows of
high box bushes lined the fence and walks. It was the Southern style and
aspect of the place that pleased the eyes of the Talbots.
In this pleasant, private boarding house they engaged rooms, including a
study for Major Talbot, who was adding the finishing chapters to his book,
"Anecdotes and Reminiscences of the Alabama Army, Bench, and Bar."
Major Talbot was of the old, old South. The present day had little
interest or excellence in his eyes. His mind lived in that period before
the Civil War, when the Talbots owned thousands of acres of fine cotton
land and the slaves to till them; when the family mansion was the scene of
princely hospitality, and drew its guests from the aristocracy of the
South. Out of that period he had brought all its old pride and scruples
of honour, an antiquated and punctilious politeness, and (you would think)
Such clothes were surely never made within fifty years. The major was
tall, but whenever he made that wonderful, archaic genuflexion he called a
bow, the corners of his frock coat swept the floor. That garment was a
surprise even to Washington, which has long ago ceased to shy at the
frocks and broadbrimmed hats of Southern congressmen. One of the boarders
christened it a "Father Hubbard," and it certainly was high in the waist
and full in the skirt.
But the major, with all his queer clothes, his immense area of plaited,
ravelling shirt bosom, and the little black string tie with the bow always
slipping on one side, both was smiled at and liked in Mrs. Vardeman' s
select boarding house. Some of the young department clerks would often
"string him," as they called it, getting him started upon the subject
dearest to him -- the traditions and history of his beloved Southland.
During his talks he would quote freely from the "Anecdotes and
Reminiscences." But they were very careful not to let him see their
designs, for in spite of his sixty-eight years, he could make the boldest
of them uncomfortable under the steady regard of his piercing gray eyes.
Miss Lydia was a plump, little old maid of thirty-five, with smoothly
drawn, tightly twisted hair that made her look still older. Old
fashioned, too, she was; but ante-bellum glory did not radiate from her as
it did from the major. She possessed a thrifty common sense; and it was
she who handled the finances of the family, and met all comers when there
were bills to pay. The major regarded board bills and wash bills as
contemptible nuisances. They kept coming in so persistently and so
often. Why, the major wanted to know, could they not be filed and paid in
a lump sum at some convenient period -- say when the "Anecdotes and
Reminiscences" had been published and paid for? Miss Lydia would calmly
go on with her sewing and say, "We'll pay as we go as long as the money
lasts, and then perhaps they'll have to lump it."
Most of Mrs. Vardeman's boarders were away during the day, being nearly
all department clerks and business men; but there was one of them who was
about the house a great deal from morning to night. This was a young man
named Henry Hopkins Hargraves -- every one in the house addressed him by
his full name -- who was engaged at one of the popular vaudeville
theatres. Vaudeville has risen to such a respectable plane in the last
few years, and Mr. Hargraves was such a modest and well-mannered person,
that Mrs. Vardeman could find no objection to enrolling him upon her list
At the theatre Hargraves was known as an all-round dialect comedian,
having a large repertoire of German, Irish, Swede, and black-face
specialties. But Mr. Hargraves was ambitious, and often spoke of his
great desire to succeed in legitimate comedy.
This young man appeared to conceive a strong fancy for Major Talbot.
Whenever that gentleman would begin his Southern reminiscences, or repeat
some of the liveliest of the anecdotes, Hargraves could always be found,
the most attentive among his listeners.
For a time the major showed an inclination to discourage the advances of
the "play actor," as he privately termed him; but soon the young man's
agreeable manner and indubitable appreciation of the old gentleman's
stories completely won him over.
It was not long before the two were like old chums. The major set apart
each afternoon to read to him the manuscript of his book. During the
anecdotes Hargraves never failed to laugh at exactly the right point. The
major was moved to declare to Miss Lydia one day that young Hargraves
possessed remarkable perception and a gratifying respect for the old
regime. And when it came to talking of those old days -- if Major Talbot
liked to talk, Mr. Hargraves was entranced to listen.
Like almost all old people who talk of the past, the major loved to linger
over details. In describing the splendid, almost royal, days of the old
planters, he would hesitate until he had recalled the name of the Negro
who held his horse, or the exact date of certain minor happenings, or the
number of bales of cotton raised in such a year; but Hargraves never grew
impatient or lost interest. On the contrary, he would advance questions
on a variety of subjects connected with the life of that time, and he n
ever failed to extract ready replies.
The fox hunts, the 'possum suppers, the hoe downs and jubilees in the
Negro quarters, the banquets in the plantation-house hall, when
invitations went for fifty miles around; the occasional feuds with the
neighbouring gentry; the major's duel with Rathbone Culbertson about Kitty
Chalmers, who afterward married a Thwaite of South Carolina; and private
yacht races for fabulous sums on Mobile Bay; the quaint beliefs,
improvident habits, and loyal virtues of the old slaves -- all these were
subjects that held both the major and Hargraves absorbed for hours at a
Sometimes, at night, when the young man would be coming upstairs to his
room after his turn at the theatre was over, the major would appear at the
door of his study and beckon archly to him. Going in, Hargraves would
find a little table set with a decanter, sugar bowl, fruit, and a big
bunch of fresh green mint.
"It occurred to me," the major would begin -- he was always ceremonious --
"that perhaps you might have found your duties at the -- at your place of
occupation -- sufficiently arduous to enable you, Mr. Hargraves, to
appreciate what the poet might well have had in his mind when he wrote,
'tired Nature's sweet restorer,' -- one of our Southern juleps."
It was a fascination to Hargraves to watch him make it. He took rank
among artists when he began, and he never varied the process. With what
delicacy he bruised the mint; with what exquisite nicety he estimated the
ingredients; with what solicitous care he capped the compound with the
scarlet fruit glowing against the dark green fringe! And then the
hospitality and grace with which he offered it, after the selected oat
straws had been plunged into its tinkling depths!
After about four months in Washington, Miss Lydia discovered one morning
that they were almost without money. The "Anecdotes and Reminiscences"
was completed, but publishers had not jumped at the collected gems of
Alabama sense and wit. The rental of a small house which they still owned
in Mobile was two months in arrears. Their board money for the month
would be due in three days. Miss Lydia called her father to a
"No money?" said he with a surprised look. "It is quite annoying to be
called on so frequently for these petty sums. Really, I --"
The major searched his pockets. He found only a two-dollar bill, which he
returned to his vest pocket.
"I must attend to this at once, Lydia," he said. "Kindly get me my
umbrella and I will go down town immediately. The congressman from our
district, General Fulghum, assured me some days ago that he would use his
influence to get my book published at an early date. I will go to his
hotel at once and see what arrangement has been made."
With a sad little smile Miss Lydia watched him button his "Father Hubbard"
and depart, pausing at the door, as he always did, to bow profoundly.
That evening, at dark, he returned. It seemed that Congressman Fulghum
had seen the publisher who had the major's manuscript for reading. That
person had said that if the anecdotes, etc., were carefully pruned down
about one half, in order to eliminate the sectional and class prejudice
with which the book was dyed from end to end, he might consider its
The major was in a white heat of anger, but regained his equanimity,
according to his code of manners, as soon as he was in Miss Lydia's
"We must have money," said Miss Lydia, with a little wrinkle above her
nose. "Give me the two dollars, and I will telegraph to Uncle Ralph for
The major drew a small envelope from his upper vest pocket and tossed it
on the table.
"Perhaps it was injudicious," he said mildly, "but the sum was so merely
nominal that I bought tickets to the theatre to-night. It's a new war
drama, Lydia. I thought you would be pleased to witness its first
production in Washington. I am told that the South has very fair
treatment in the play. I confess I should like to see the performance
Miss Lydia threw up her hands in silent despair.
Still, as the tickets were bought, they might as well be used. So that
evening, as they sat in the theatre listening to the lively overture, even
Miss Lydia was minded to relegate their troubles, for the hour, to second
place. The major, in spotless linen, with his extraordinary coat showing
only where it was closely buttoned, and his white hair smoothly roached,
looked really fine and distinguished. The curtain went up on the first
act of "A Magnolia Flower," revealing a typical Southern plantation scen
e. Major Talbot betrayed some interest.
"Oh, see!" exclaimed Miss Lydia, nudging his arm, and pointing to her
The major put on his glasses and read the line in the cast of characters
that her finger indicated.
Col. Webster Calhoun...H. Hopkins Hargraves.
"It's our Mr. Hargraves," said Miss Lydia. "It must be his first
appearance in what he calls 'the legitimate.' I'm so glad for him."
Not until the second act did Col. Webster Calhoun appear upon the stage.
When he made his entry Major Talbot gave an audible sniff, glared at him,
and seemed to freeze solid. Miss Lydia uttered a little, ambiguous squeak
and crumpled her programme in her hand. For Colonel Calhoun was made up
as nearly resembling Major Talbot as one pea does another. The long, thin
white hair, curly at the ends, the aristocratic beak of a nose, the
crumpled, wide, ravelling shirt front, the string tie, with the bow nearly
under one ear, were almost exactly duplicated. And then, to clinch the
imitation, he wore the twin to the major's supposed to be unparalleled
coat. High-collared, baggy, empire-waisted, ample-skirted, hanging a foot
lower in front than behind, the garment could have been designed from no
other pattern. From then on, the major and Miss Lydia sat bewitched, and
saw the counterfeit presentment of a haughty Talbot "dragged," as the
major afterward expressed it, "through the slanderous mire of a corrupt st
Mr. Hargraves had used his opportunities well. He had caught the major's
little idiosyncrasies of speech, accent, and intonation and his pompous
courtliness to perfection -- exaggerating all to the purposes of the
stage. When he performed that marvellous bow that the major fondly
imagined to be the pink of all salutations, the audience sent forth a
sudden round of hearty applause.
Miss Lydia sat immovable, not daring to glance toward her father.
Sometimes her hand next to him would be laid against her cheek, as if to
conceal the smile which, in spite of her disapproval, she could not
The culmination of Hargraves's audacious imitation took place in the third
act. The scene is where Colonel Calhoun entertains a few of the
neighbouring planters in his "den."
Standing at a table in the centre of the stage, with his friends grouped
about him, he delivers that inimitable, rambling, character monologue so
famous in "A Magnolia Flower," at the same time that he deftly makes
juleps for the party.
Major Talbot, sitting quietly, but white with indignation, heard his best
stories retold, his pet theories and hobbies advanced and expanded, and
the dream of the "Anecdotes and Reminiscences" served, exaggerated and
garbled. His favourite narrative -- that of his duel with Rathbone
Culbertson -- was not omitted, and it was delivered with more fire,
egotism, and gusto than the major himself put into it.
The monologue concluded with a quaint, delicious, witty little lecture on
the art of concocting a julep, illustrated by the act. Here Major
Talbot's delicate but showy science was reproduced to a hair's breadth --
from his dainty handling of the fragrant weed -- "the one-thousandth part
of a grain too much pressure, gentlemen, and you extract the bitterness,
instead of the aroma, of this heaven-bestowed plant" -- to his solicitous
selection of the oaten straws.
At the close of the scene the audience raised a tumultuous roar of
appreciation. The portrayal of the type was so exact, so sure and
thorough, that the leading characters in the play were forgotten. After
repeated calls, Hargraves came before the curtain and bowed, his rather
boyish face bright and flushed with the knowledge of success.
At last Miss Lydia turned and looked at the major. His thin nostrils were
working like the gills of a fish. He laid both shaking hands upon the
arms of his chair to rise.
"We will go, Lydia," he said chokingly. "This is an abominable --
Before he could rise, she pulled him back into his seat. "We will stay it
out," she declared. "Do you want to advertise the copy by exhibiting the
original coat?" So they remained to the end.
Hargraves's success must have kept him up late that night, for neither at
the breakfast nor at the dinner table did he appear.
About three in the afternoon he tapped at the door of Major Talbot's
study. The major opened it, and Hargraves walked in with his hands full
of the morning papers -- too full of his triumph to notice anything
unusual in the major's demeanour.
"I put it all over 'em last night, major," he began exultantly. "I had my
inning, and, I think, scored. Here's what the _Post_ says:
His conception and portrayal of the old-time Southern colonel, with his
absurd grandiloquence, his eccentric garb, his quaint idioms and phrases,
his moth-eaten pride of family, and his really kind heart, fastidious
sense of honour, and lovable simplicity, is the best delineation of a
character role on the boards to-day. The coat worn by Colonel Calhoun is
itself nothing less than an evolution of genius. Mr. Hargraves has
captured his public.
"How does that sound, major, for a first nighter?"
"I had the honour" -- the major's voice sounded ominously frigid -- "of
witnessing your very remarkable performance, sir, last night."
Hargraves looked disconcerted.
"You were there? I didn't know you ever -- I didn't know you cared for
the theatre. Oh, I say, Major Talbot," he exclaimed frankly, "don't you
be offended. I admit I did get a lot of pointers from you that helped me
out wonderfully in the part. But it's a type, you know -- not
individual. The way the audience caught on shows that. Half the patrons
of that theatre are Southerners. They recognized it."
"Mr. Hargraves," said the major, who had remained standing, "you have put
upon me an unpardonable insult. You have burlesqued my person, grossly
betrayed my confidence, and misused my hospitality. If I thought you
possessed the faintest conception of what is the sign manual of a
gentleman, or what is due one, I would call you out, sir, old as I am. I
will ask you to leave the room, sir."
The actor appeared to be slightly bewildered, and seemed hardly to take in
the full meaning of the old gentleman's words.
"I am truly sorry you took offence," he said regretfully. "Up here we
don't look at things just as you people do. I know men who would buy out
half the house to have their personality put on the stage so the public
would recognize it."
"They are not from Alabama, sir," said the major haughtily.
"Perhaps not. I have a pretty good memory, major; let me quote a few
lines from your book. In response to a toast at a banquet given in --
Milledgeville, I believe -- you uttered, and intend to have printed, these
The Northern man is utterly without sentiment or warmth except in so far
as the feelings may be turned to his own commercial profit. He will
suffer without resentment any imputation cast upon the honour of himself
or his loved ones that does not bear with it the consequence of pecuniary
loss. In his charity, he gives with a liberal hand; but it must be
heralded with the trumpet and chronicled in brass.
"Do you think that picture is fairer than the one you saw of Colonel
Calhoun last night?"
"The description," said the major frowning, "is -- not without grounds.
Some exag -- latitude must be allowed in public speaking."
"And in public acting," replied Hargraves.
"That is not the point," persisted the major, unrelenting. "It was a
personal caricature. I positively decline to overlook it, sir."
"Major Talbot," said Hargraves, with a winning smile, "I wish you would
understand me. I want you to know that I never dreamed of insulting you.
In my profession, all life belongs to me. I take what I want, and what I
can, and return it over the footlights. Now, if you will, let's let it go
at that. I came in to see you about something else. We've been pretty
good friends for some months, and I'm going to take the risk of offending
you again. I know you are hard up for money -- never mind how I found
out; a boarding house is no place to keep such matters secret -- and I
want you to let me help you out of the pinch. I've been there often
enough myself. I've been getting a fair salary all the season, and I've
saved some money. You're welcome to a couple hundred -- or even more --
until you get --"
"Stop!" commanded the major, with his arm outstretched. "It seems that my
book didn't lie, after all. You think your money salve will heal all the
hurts of honour. Under no circumstances would I accept a loan from a
casual acquaintance; and as to you, sir, I would starve before I would
consider your insulting offer of a financial adjustment of the
circumstances we have discussed. I beg to repeat my request relative to
your quitting the apartment."
Hargraves took his departure without another word. He also left the house
the same day, moving, as Mrs. Vardeman explained at the supper table,
nearer the vicinity of the down-town theatre, where "A Magnolia Flower"
was booked for a week's run.
Critical was the situation with Major Talbot and Miss Lydia. There was no
one in Washington to whom the major's scruples allowed him to apply for a
loan. Miss Lydia wrote a letter to Uncle Ralph, but it was doubtful
whether that relative's constricted affairs would permit him to furnish
help. The major was forced to make an apologetic address to Mrs. Vardeman
regarding the delayed payment for board, referring to "delinquent rentals"
and "delayed remittances" in a rather confused strain.
Deliverance came from an entirely unexpected source.
Late one afternoon the door maid came up and announced an old coloured man
who wanted to see Major Talbot. The major asked that he be sent up to his
study. Soon an old darkey appeared in the doorway, with his hat in hand,
bowing, and scraping with one clumsy foot. He was quite decently dressed
in a baggy suit of black. His big, coarse shoes shone with a metallic
lustre suggestive of stove polish. His bushy wool was gray -- almost
white. After middle life, it is difficult to estimate the age of a Negro
. This one might have seen as many years as had Major Talbot.
"I be bound you don't know me, Mars' Pendleton," were his first words.
The major rose and came forward at the old, familiar style of address. It
was one of the old plantation darkeys without a doubt; but they had been
widely scattered, and he could not recall the voice or face.
"I don't believe I do," he said kindly -- "unless you will assist my
"Don't you 'member Cindy's Mose, Mars' Pendleton, what 'migrated
'mediately after de war?"
"Wait a moment," said the major, rubbing his forehead with the tips of his
fingers. He loved to recall everything connected with those beloved
days. "Cindy's Mose," he reflected. "You worked among the horses --
breaking the colts. Yes, I remember now. After the surrender, you took
the name of -- don't prompt me -- Mitchell, and went to the West -- to
"Yassir, yassir," -- the old man's face stretched with a delighted grin --
"dat's him, dat's it. Newbraska. Dat's me -- Mose Mitchell. Old Uncle
Mose Mitchell, dey calls me now. Old mars', your pa, gimme a pah of dem
mule colts when I lef' fur to staht me goin' with. You 'member dem colts,
"I don't seem to recall the colts," said the major. "You know I was
married the first year of the war and living at the old Follinsbee place.
But sit down, sit down, Uncle Mose. I'm glad to see you. I hope you have
Uncle Mose took a chair and laid his hat carefully on the floor beside it.
"Yassir; of late I done mouty famous. When I first got to Newbraska, dey
folks come all roun' me to see dem mule colts. Dey ain't see no mules
like dem in Newbraska. I sold dem mules for three hundred dollars.
Yassir -- three hundred.
"Den I open a blacksmith shop, suh, and made some money and bought some
lan'. Me and my old 'oman done raised up seb'm chillun, and all doin'
well 'cept two of 'em what died. Fo' year ago a railroad come along and
staht a town slam ag'inst my lan', and, suh, Mars' Pendleton, Uncle Mose
am worth leb'm thousand dollars in money, property, and lan'."
"I'm glad to hear it," said the major heartily. "Glad to hear it."
"And dat little baby of yo'n, Mars' Pendleton -- one what you name Miss
Lyddy -- I be bound dat little tad done growed up tell nobody wouldn't
The major stepped to the door and called: "Lydia, dear, will you come?"
Miss Lydia, looking quite grown up and a little worried, came in from her
"Dar, now! What'd I tell you? I knowed dat baby done be plum growed up.
You don't 'member Uncle Mose, child?"
"This is Aunt Cindy's Mose, Lydia," explained the major. "He left
Sunnymead for the West when you were two years old."
"Well," said Miss Lydia, "I can hardly be expected to remember you, Uncle
Mose, at that age. And, as you say, I'm 'plum growed up,' and was a
blessed long time ago. But I'm glad to see you, even if I can't remember
And she was. And so was the major. Something alive and tangible had come
to link them with the happy past. The three sat and talked over the olden
times, the major and Uncle Mose correcting or prompting each other as they
reviewed the plantation scenes and days.
The major inquired what the old man was doing so far from his home.
"Uncle Mose am a delicate," he explained, "to de grand Baptis' convention
in dis city. I never preached none, but bein' a residin' elder in de
church, and able fur to pay my own expenses, dey sent me along."
"And how did you know we were in Washington?" inquired Miss Lydia.
"Dey's a cullud man works in de hotel whar I stops, what comes from
Mobile. He told me he seen Mars' Pendleton comin' outen dish here house
"What I come fur," continued Uncle Mose, reaching into his pocket --
"besides de sight of home folks -- was to pay Mars' Pendleton what I owes
"Owe me?" said the major, in surprise.
"Yassir -- three hundred dollars." He handed the major a roll of bills.
"When I lef' old mars' says: 'Take dem mule colts, Mose, and, if it be so
you gits able, pay fur 'em'. Yassir -- dem was his words. De war had
done lef' old mars' po' hisself. Old mars' bein' 'long ago dead, de debt
descends to Mars' Pendleton. Three hundred dollars. Uncle Mose is plenty
able to pay now. When dat railroad buy my lan' I laid off to pay fur dem
mules. Count de money, Mars' Pendleton. Dat's what I sold dem mules f
Tears were in Major Talbot's eyes. He took Uncle Mose's hand and laid his
other upon his shoulder.
"Dear, faithful, old servitor," he said in an unsteady voice, "I don't
mind saying to you that 'Mars' Pendleton' spent his last dollar in the
world a week ago. We will accept this money, Uncle Mose, since, in a way,
it is a sort of payment, as well as a token of the loyalty and devotion of
the old regime. Lydia, my dear, take the money. You are better fitted
than I to manage its expenditure."
"Take it, honey," said Uncle Mose. "Hit belongs to you. Hit's Talbot
After Uncle Mose had gone, Miss Lydia had a good cry -- for joy; and the
major turned his face to a corner, and smoked his clay pipe volcanically.
The succeeding days saw the Talbots restored to peace and ease. Miss
Lydia's face lost its worried look. The major appeared in a new frock
coat, in which he looked like a wax figure personifying the memory of his
golden age. Another publisher who read the manuscript of the "Anecdotes
and Reminiscences" thought that, with a little retouching and toning down
of the high lights, he could make a really bright and salable volume of
it. Altogether, the situation was comfortable, and not without the touch
of hope that is often sweeter than arrived blessings.
One day, about a week after their piece of good luck, a maid brought a
letter for Miss Lydia to her room. The postmark showed that it was from
New York. Not knowing any one there, Miss Lydia, in a mild flutter of
wonder, sat down by her table and opened the letter with her scissors.
This was what she read:
Dear Miss Talbot:
I thought you might be glad to learn of my good fortune. I have received
and accepted an offer of two hundred dollars per week by a New York stock
company to play Colonel Calhoun in "A Magnolia Flower."
There is something else I wanted you to know. I guess you'd better not
tell Major Talbot. I was anxious to make him some amends for the great
help he was to me in studying the part, and for the bad humour he was in
about it. He refused to let me, so I did it anyhow. I could easily spare
the three hundred.
H. Hopkins Hargraves,
P.S. How did I play Uncle Mose?
Major Talbot, passing through the hall, saw Miss Lydia's door open and
"Any mail for us this morning, Lydia, dear?" he asked.
Miss Lydia slid the letter beneath a fold of her dress.
"The _Mobile Chronicle_ came," she said promptly. "It's on the table in