“O’ER THE LAND OF THE FREE—”
I have a desire to know if it is into the life of every person there comes one night which he is never to forget until death and perhaps even after. I do not know; but I am sure that I shall always keep the memory of the night upon which Mr. Robert Carruthers of Grez and Bye was introduced to the friends of his ancestors. It is my jewel that seems a drop of heart’s blood that I will wear forever hid in my breast.
At dinner I sat beside the Gouverneur Williamson Faulkner and tears came into my eyes as he rose from beside me at the head of the table and said:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to drink to the homecoming of Robert Carruthers, my friend, your friend, and everybody his friends.”
And from that long table there came to me such beautiful and loving smiles over the glasses of champagne that they went to my head instead of the wine I could not even sip because of the tears in my throat. It was as that day upon the great ship when I saw fulfilled before my eyes my vow to my Capitaine, the Count de Lasselles: “Friends for France.” I sat still for a long minute; then I rose to my feet with my glass in my hand.
“I cannot make to you a speech, but I beg that I may say to you words that were of the first taught to my infant tongue and which I last repeated in an old convent close to the trenches in France.”
Then in the rich voice which has come to me from the deep singing of my mother I repeated very quietly:
“Oh—say, can you see,
by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there—”
through to the last words which had fallen from my lips as I had taken my father’s dying kiss:
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Though I had not told them of it, I do believe there was not a heart among those kind people which did not know of that last moment in the old convent and I could see it in tears dashed aside as they all rose and sang the last strain of the American song, with the musicians in the anteroom leading them.
And as they sang that most wonderful song, Gouverneur Faulkner laid his arm across my shoulder, and the comfort of its strength gave to me the courage to send back all the smiles that were sent to me, as that funny Mr. Buzz Clendenning said while they seated themselves:
“Gee, but L’Aiglon is the real un-hyphenated brand of old Uncle Sam, Jr.”
“Thank God that firebrand isn’t a girl,” I heard my Uncle, the General Robert, say to most lovely Mademoiselle Susan, in a corn-colored gown of fine line, who sat at his side.