It may be recorded that no affair of honor in Louisiana ever left a braver little widow. When Joseph and his doctor pretended to play chess together, but little more than a half-century had elapsed since the fille a la cassette stood before the Grand Marquis and refused to wed. Yet she had been long gone into the skies, leaving a worthy example behind her in twenty years of beautiful widowhood. Her son, the heir and resident of the plantation at Cannes Brulees, at the age of—they do say—eighteen, had married a blithe and pretty lady of Franco-Spanish extraction, and, after a fair length of life divided between campaigning under the brilliant young Galvez and raising unremunerative indigo crops, had lately lain down to sleep, leaving only two descendants—females—how shall we describe them?—a Monk and a Fille a la Cassette. It was very hard to have to go leaving his family name snuffed out and certain Grandissime-ward grievances burning.
* * * * *
“There are so many Grandissimes,” said the weary-eyed Frowenfeld, “I cannot distinguish between—I can scarcely count them.”
“Well, now,” said the doctor, “let me tell you, don’t try. They can’t do it themselves. Take them in the mass—as you would shrimps.”
The little doctor tipped his chair back against the wall, drew up his knees, and laughed whimperingly in his freckled hands.
“I had to do some prodigious lying at that ball. I didn’t dare let the De Grapion ladies know they were in company with a Grandissime.”
“I thought you said their name was Nancanou.”
“Well, certainly—De Grapion-Nancanou. You see, that is one of their charms: one is a widow, the other is her daughter, and both as young and beautiful as Hebe. Ask Honore Grandissime; he has seen the little widow; but then he don’t know who she is. He will not ask me, and I will not tell him. Oh, yes; it is about eighteen years now since old De Grapion—elegant, high-stepping old fellow—married her, then only sixteen years of age, to young Nancanou, an indigo-planter on the Fausse Riviere—the old bend, you know, behind Pointe Coupee. The young couple went there to live. I have been told they had one of the prettiest places in Louisiana. He was a man of cultivated tastes, educated in Paris, spoke English, was handsome (convivial, of course), and of perfectly pure blood. But there was one thing old De Grapion overlooked: he and his son-in-law were the last of their names. In Louisiana a man needs kinsfolk. He ought to have married his daughter into a strong house. They say that Numa Grandissime (Honore’s father) and he had patched up a peace between the two families that included even old Agricola, and that he could have married her to a Grandissime. However, he is supposed to have known what he was about.