COLONEL CARTER'S STORY OF THE POSTMASTER
BY F. HOPKINSON SMITH
"Take, for instance, the town of Caartersville: look at that peaceful
village which for mo' than a hundred years has enjoyed the privileges of
free government; and not only Caartersville, but all our section of the
"Well, what's the matter with Cartersville?" asked Fitz, lighting his
"Mattah, suh! Just look at the degradation it fell into hardly ten years
ago. A Yankee jedge jurisdiction our laws, a Yankee sheriff enfo'cin'
'em, and a Yankee postmaster distributin' letters and sellin' postage
"But they were elected all right, Colonel, and represented the will of
"What people? Yo' people, not mine. No, my dear Fitz; the Administration
succeeding the war treated us shamefully, and will go down to postehity
The colonel here left his chair and began pacing the floor, his
indignation rising at every step.
"To give you an idea, suh," he continued, "of what we Southern people
suffe'd immediately after the fall of the Confederacy, let me state a
case that came under my own observation.
"Coloner Temple Talcott of F'okeer County, Virginia, came into
Talcottville one mornin', suh,--a town settled by his ancestors,--ridin'
upon his horse--or rather a mule belongin' to his overseer. Colonel
Talcott, suh, belonged to one of the vehy fust families in Virginia. He
was a son of Jedge Thaxton Talcott, and grandson of General Snowden
Stafford Talcott of the Revolutionary War. Now, suh, let me tell you
right here that the Talcott blood is as blue as the sky, and that every
gentleman bearin' the name is known all over the county as a man whose
honor is dearer to him than his life, and whose word is as good as his
bond. Well, suh, on this mornin' Colonel Talcott left his plantation in
charge of his overseer,--he was workin' it on shares,--and rode through
his estate to his ancestral town, some five miles distant. It is true,
suh, these estates were no longer in his name, but that had no bearin'
on the events that followed; he ought to have owned them, and would have
done so but for some vehy ungentlemanly fo'closure proceedin's which
occurred immediately after the war.
"On arriving at Talcottville the colonel dismounted, handed the reins to
his servant,--or perhaps one of the niggers around de do'--and entered
the post-office. Now, suh, let me tell you that one month befo', the
Government, contrary to the express wishes of a great many of our
leadin' citizens, had sent a Yankee postmaster to Talcottville to
administer the postal affairs of the town. No sooner had this man taken
possession than he began to be exclusive, suh, and to put on airs. The
vehy fust air he put on was to build a fence in his office and compel
our people to transact their business through a hole. This in itself was
vehy gallin', suh, for up to that time the mail had always been dumped
out on the table in the stage office and every gentleman had he'ped
himself. The next thing was the closin' of his mail bags at a' hour
fixed by himself. This became a great inconvenience to our citizens, who
were often late in finishin' their correspondence, and who had always
found our former postmaster willin' either to hold the bag over until
the next day, or to send it across to Drummondtown by a boy to catch a
"Well, suh, Colonel Talcott's mission to the post-office was to mail a
letter to his factor in Richmond, Virginia, on business of the utmost
importance to himself,--namely, the raisin' of a small loan upon his
share of the crop. Not the crop that was planted, suh, but the crop that
he expected to plant.
"Colonel Talcott approached the hole, and with that Chesterfieldian
manner which has distinguished the Talcotts for mo' than two centuries,
asked the postmaster for the loan of a three-cent postage stamp.
"To his astonishment, suh, he was refused.
"Think of a Talcott in his own county town bein' refused a three-cent
postage stamp by a low-lived Yankee, who had never known a gentleman in
his life! The colonel's first impulse was to haul the scoundrel through
the hole and caarve him; but then he remembered that he was a Talcott
and could not demean himself, and drawin' himself up again with that
manner which was grace itself he requested the loan of a three-cent
postage stamp until he should communicate with his factor in Richmond,
Virginia; and again he was refused. Well, suh, what was there left for a
high-toned Southern gentleman to do? Colonel Talcott drew his revolver
and shot that Yankee scoundrel through the heart, and killed him on the
"And now, suh, comes the most remarkable part of the story. If it had
not been for Major Tom Yancey, Jedge Kerfoot and myself, there would
have been a lawsuit."
Fitz lay back in his chair and roared.
"And they did not hang the colonel?"
"Hang a Talcott! No, suh; we don't hang gentlemen down our way. Jedge
Kerfoot vehy properly charged the coroner's jury that it was a matter
of self-defense, and Colonel Talcott was not detained mo' than haalf an
The colonel stopped, unlocked a closet in the sideboard, and produced a
black bottle labeled in ink, "Old Cherry Bounce, 1848."
"You must excuse me, gentlemen, but the discussion of these topics has
quite unnerved me. Allow me to share with you a thimbleful."
Fitz drained the glass, cast his eyes upward, and said solemnly, "To the
repose of the postmaster's soul."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~