“Madam,” at length interrogated the tall man at the head of the table, bending upon her his gaze, as did all these other grave figures present,—“provided this matter might be arranged, would it be within your pleasure to accept some such remuneration as that, for services which should be given quite within your wishes? I need not say,” he added, turning his gaze along each side of the long table, “that this is something which, in view of all circumstances, to me also seems quite within dignity, decency and absolute public propriety.”
But Josephine St. Auban could make no reply. Her face was hidden in her hands, and only her heaving shoulders showed the sudden emotion which had swept upon her overstrained soul. At last she felt a gentle hand touch hers. She raised her head as, one after another, these men approached, each extending his hand to her and bowing in salutation. Presently the room was deserted.
In the hall the gentleman from Kentucky passed his arm within that of a tall man, obviously from the North.
“I have just got word within the week of the arrival of a daughter at my own home out in Kentucky,” said he. “I am in a position to understand all and several the statements in Exhibit A, my dear Sir! ‘The darling!’
“But what a woman,—what a woman!” he went on meditatively. “Sir, if I were a single man, as I am a married man, I should offer to her, upon the spot, a union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!”
IN OLD ST. GENEVIEVE
It was the daily custom of Hector to be upon hand at the dock for the landing of each and every steamer which touched at St. Genevieve, bound either up or down the Mississippi, and his business of cooperage never was allowed to infringe upon these more important duties. Accordingly, on a certain day late in the winter, although he had no special reason to be present, Hector was among those who waited for the boat to land, with no purpose more definite than that of giving a hand with her line at a snubbing post. He was much surprised when he saw coming from the gang-plank, and beckoning to him, a distinguished and handsomely clad lady. For an instant, abashed, he could find no speech; then suddenly he jerked off his cap, and stood smiling.
“It is Madame!” he exclaimed. “Ah, bon jour! Bon jour! Ah, c’est Madame!”
“Yes,” rejoined Josephine St. Auban, “it is I. And I am glad to see St. Genevieve again, and you, Monsieur Hector. Tell me,—ah, about that infant, that baby of ours!!
“Madame, believe me, there is none such in all the valley! Come!”