Trent's Trust and Other Stories
A Ward Of Colonel Starbottle's
"The kernel seems a little off color to-day," said the barkeeper as he replaced the whiskey
decanter, and gazed reflectively after the departing figure of Colonel Starbottle.
"I didn't notice anything," said a bystander; "he passed the time o' day civil enough to
"Oh, he's allus polite enough to strangers and wimmin folk even when he is that way; it's
only his old chums, or them ez like to be thought so, that he's peppery with. Why, ez to
that, after he'd had that quo'll with his old partner, Judge Pratt, in one o' them spells, I saw
him the next minit go half a block out of his way to direct an entire stranger; and ez for
wimmin!—well, I reckon if he'd just got a head drawn on a man, and a woman spoke to
him, he'd drop his battery and take off his hat to her. No—ye can't judge by that!"
And perhaps in his larger experience the barkeeper was right. He might have added, too,
that the colonel, in his general outward bearing and jauntiness, gave no indication of his
internal irritation. Yet he was undoubtedly in one of his "spells," suffering from a moody
cynicism which made him as susceptible of affront as he was dangerous in resentment.
Luckily, on this particular morning he reached his office and entered his private room
without any serious rencontre. Here he opened his desk, and arranging his papers, he at
once set to work with grim persistency. He had not been occupied for many minutes
before the door opened to Mr. Pyecroft—one of a firm of attorneys who undertook the
colonel's office work.
"I see you are early to work, Colonel," said Mr. Pyecroft cheerfully.
"You see, sir," said the colonel, correcting him with a slow deliberation that boded no
good—"you see a Southern gentleman—blank it!—who has stood at the head of his
profession for thirty-five years, obliged to work like a blank nigger, sir, in the dirty
squabbles of psalm-singing Yankee traders, instead of—er—attending to the affairs of—
"But you manage to get pretty good fees out of it—Colonel?" continued Pyecroft, with a
"Fees, sir! Filthy shekels! and barely enough to satisfy a debt of honor with one hand, and
wipe out a tavern score for the entertainment of—er—a few lady friends with the other!"
This allusion to his losses at poker, as well as an oyster supper given to the two principal
actresses of the "North Star Troupe," then performing in the town, convinced Mr.
Pyecroft that the colonel was in one of his "moods," and he changed the subject.