Schaick is going to let me have ten thousand just for a flyer in such operations."
"But that's a good deal of money."
"Wait till you are used to handling money. I didn't come out here for a bagatelle. My uncle wanted me to stay East and go in on the Mobile custom house, work up the Washington end of it; he said there was a fortune in it for a smart young fellow, but I preferred to take the chances out here. Did I tell you I had an offer from Bobbett and Fanshaw to go into their office as confidential clerk on a salary of ten thousand?"
"Why didn't you take it ?" asked Philip, to whom a salary of two thousand would have seemed wealth, before he started on this journey.
"Take it? I'd rather operate on my own hook;" said Harry, in his most airy manner.
A few evenings after their arrival at the Southern, Philip and Harry made the acquaintance of a very agreeable gentleman, whom they had frequently seen before about the hotel corridors, and passed a casual word with. He had the air of a man of business, and was evidently a person of importance.
The precipitating of this casual intercourse into the more substantial form of an acquaintanceship was the work of the gentleman himself, and occurred in this wise. Meeting the two friends in the lobby one evening, he asked them to give him the time, and added:
"Excuse me, gentlemen--strangers in St. Louis? Ah, yes-yes. From the East, perhaps? Ah; just so, just so. Eastern born myself--Virginia. Sellers is my name--Beriah Sellers.
"Ah! by the way--New York, did you say? That reminds me; just met some gentlemen from your State, a week or two ago--very prominent gentlemen-- in public life they are; you must know them, without doubt. Let me see-- let me see. Curious those names have escaped me. I know they were from your State, because I remember afterward my old friend Governor Shackleby said to me--fine man, is the Governor--one of the finest men our country has produced--said he, 'Colonel, how did you like those New York gentlemen?--not many such men in the world,--Colonel Sellers,' said the Governor--yes, it was New York he said--I remember it distinctly. I can't recall those names, somehow. But no matter. Stopping here, gentlemen--stopping at the Southern?"
In shaping their reply in their minds, the title "Mr." had a place in it; but when their turn had arrived to speak, the title "Colonel" came from their lips instead.
They said yes, they were abiding at the Southern, and thought it a very good house.
"Yes, yes, the Southern is fair. I myself go to the Planter's, old, aristocratic house. We Southern gentlemen don't change our ways, you know. I always make it my home there when I run down from Hawkeye--my plantation is in Hawkeye, a little up in the country. You should know the Planter's."
Philip and Harry both said they should like to see a hotel that had been so famous in its day--a cheerful hostelrie, Philip said it must have been where duels were fought there across the dining-room table.
"You may believe it, sir, an uncommonly pleasant lodging. Shall we walk?"
And the three strolled along the streets, the Colonel talking all the way in the most liberal and friendly manner, and with a frank open- heartedness that inspired confidence.
"Yes, born East myself, raised all along, know the West--a great country, gentlemen. The place for a young fellow of spirit to pick up a fortune, simply pick it up, it's lying round loose here. Not a day that I don't put aside an opportunity; too busy to look into it. Management of my own property takes my time. First visit? Looking for an opening?"
"Yes, looking around," replied Harry.
"Ah, here we are. You'd rather sit here in front than go to my apartments? So had I. An opening eh?"
The Colonel's eyes twinkled. "Ah, just so. The country is opening up, all we want is capital to develop it. Slap down the rails and bring the land into market. The richest land on God Almighty's footstool is lying right out there. If I had my capital free I could plant it for millions."
"I suppose your capital is largely in your plantation?" asked Philip.