A Cold Greeting
This is a story told by the late Benson Foley of San Francisco:
"In the summer of 1881 I met a man named James H. Conway, a resident
of Franklin, Tennessee. He was visiting San Francisco for his
health, deluded man, and brought me a note of introduction from Mr.
Lawrence Barting. I had known Barting as a captain in the Federal
army during the civil war. At its close he had settled in Franklin,
and in time became, I had reason to think, somewhat prominent as a
lawyer. Barting had always seemed to me an honorable and truthful
man, and the warm friendship which he expressed in his note for Mr.
Conway was to me sufficient evidence that the latter was in every
way worthy of my confidence and esteem. At dinner one day Conway
told me that it had been solemnly agreed between him and Barting
that the one who died first should, if possible, communicate with
the other from beyond the grave, in some unmistakable way--just how,
they had left (wisely, it seemed to me) to be decided by the
deceased, according to the opportunities that his altered
circumstances might present.
"A few weeks after the conversation in which Mr. Conway spoke of
this agreement, I met him one day, walking slowly down Montgomery
street, apparently, from his abstracted air, in deep thought. He
greeted me coldly with merely a movement of the head and passed on,
leaving me standing on the walk, with half-proffered hand, surprised
and naturally somewhat piqued. The next day I met him again in the
office of the Palace Hotel, and seeing him about to repeat the
disagreeable performance of the day before, intercepted him in a
doorway, with a friendly salutation, and bluntly requested an
explanation of his altered manner. He hesitated a moment; then,
looking me frankly in the eyes, said:
"'I do not think, Mr. Foley, that I have any longer a claim to your
friendship, since Mr. Barting appears to have withdrawn his own from
me--for what reason, I protest I do not know. If he has not already
informed you he probably will do so.'
"'But,' I replied, 'I have not heard from Mr. Barting.'
"'Heard from him!' he repeated, with apparent surprise. 'Why, he is
here. I met him yesterday ten minutes before meeting you. I gave
you exactly the same greeting that he gave me. I met him again not
a quarter of an hour ago, and his manner was precisely the same: he
merely bowed and passed on. I shall not soon forget your civility
to me. Good morning, or--as it may please you--farewell.'
"All this seemed to me singularly considerate and delicate behavior
on the part of Mr. Conway.
"As dramatic situations and literary effects are foreign to my
purpose I will explain at once that Mr. Barting was dead. He had
died in Nashville four days before this conversation. Calling on
Mr. Conway, I apprised him of our friend's death, showing him the
letters announcing it. He was visibly affected in a way that
forbade me to entertain a doubt of his sincerity.
"'It seems incredible,' he said, after a period of reflection. 'I
suppose I must have mistaken another man for Barting, and that man's
cold greeting was merely a stranger's civil acknowledgment of my
own. I remember, indeed, that he lacked Barting's mustache.'
"'Doubtless it was another man,' I assented; and the subject was
never afterward mentioned between us. But I had in my pocket a
photograph of Barting, which had been inclosed in the letter from
his widow. It had been taken a week before his death, and was
without a mustache."
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