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A Cold Greeting

Scary Books: Present At A Hanging

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 t
me 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 Barting appears to have withdrawn his own from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."