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.
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
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:
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 Barting appears to have withdrawn his own from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
this seemed to me singularly considerate and delicate behavior on the part
of Mr. Conway.
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.
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 enclosed in the letter from his widow. It had been
taken a week before his death, and was without a mustache.
of America, updated October, 2015.