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[118]

By this time the Major had gone in to supper and my friends resumed their seats around the stove, while a chorus of admiration for the great lawyer filled the smoky air. When it at last subsided, one rather sullen individual who was opposite me said drily:

He's a mean man, though,

and then to my surprise, one by one the others nodded their heads and echoed:

Yes, he is a mean man.

I could not account for this apparent change of opinion, and I ventured to ask for light.

“I don't quite understand,” I said. “You were all praising him a minute ago, and he certainly seems to be very good natured and genial. How can he be a mean man?”

“You see, he shoots pretty quick. D'you remember how he shot Jim Foster in court? Why, that young fellow was the most promising lawyer in the State, and he had a case against the Major, and I don't know how it was, but he got excited and said somebody lied, and probably they had, and out the Major whips his six-shooter and shot the boy dead as a doornail.”

“Is it possible,” I cried, “and how did he escape hanging?”

“Self-defense,” was the laconic reply. This was my first lesson in the Southern signification of the word “mean,” but a few days later

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