Best American Humorous Short Stories
brought up in a school of Southern politeness, already antique in the republic, and his
bow of courtesy belonged to the epoch of his shirt frill and strapped trousers. No one
could have detected his disappointment in his manner, albeit his sentences were short and
incomplete. But the Colonel's colloquial speech was apt to be fragmentary incoherencies
of his larger oratorical utterances.
"A thousand pardons--for--er--having kept a lady waiting--er! But--er--congratulations of
friends--and--er--courtesy due to them--er--interfered with--though perhaps only
heightened--by procrastination--pleasure of--ha!" And the Colonel completed his
sentence with a gallant wave of his fat but white and well-kept hand.
"Yes! I came to see you along o' that speech of yours. I was in court. When I heard you
gettin' it off on that jury, I says to myself that's the kind o' lawyer I want. A man that's
flowery and convincin'! Just the man to take up our case."
"Ah! It's a matter of business, I see," said the Colonel, inwardly relieved, but externally
careless. "And--er--may I ask the nature of the case?"
"Well! it's a breach-o'-promise suit," said the visitor, calmly.
If the Colonel had been surprised before, he was now really startled, and with an added
horror that required all his politeness to conceal. Breach-of-promise cases were his
peculiar aversion. He had always held them to be a kind of litigation which could have
been obviated by the prompt killing of the masculine offender--in which case he would
have gladly defended the killer. But a suit for damages!--damages!--with the reading of
love-letters before a hilarious jury and court, was against all his instincts. His chivalry
was outraged; his sense of humor was small--and in the course of his career he had lost
one or two important cases through an unexpected development of this quality in a jury.
The woman had evidently noticed his hesitation, but mistook its cause. "It ain't me--but
The Colonel recovered his politeness. "Ah! I am relieved, my dear madam! I could hardly
conceive a man ignorant enough to--er--er--throw away such evident good fortune--or
base enough to deceive the trustfulness of womanhood--matured and experienced only in
the chivalry of our sex, ha!"
The woman smiled grimly. "Yes!--it's my darter, Zaidee Hooker--so ye might spare some
of them pretty speeches for her--before the jury."
The Colonel winced slightly before this doubtful prospect, but smiled. "Ha! Yes!--
certainly--the jury. But--er--my dear lady, need we go as far as that? Cannot this affair be
settled--er--out of court? Could not this--er--individual--be admonished--told that he must
give satisfaction--personal satisfaction--for his dastardly conduct--to --er--near relative--
or even valued personal friend? The--er--arrangements necessary for that purpose I
myself would undertake."