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
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