Unintimidated by the rain, this formidable creature had taken herself off to her nephew’s bedside almost immediately after breakfast; and later in the day I, too, risked a drenching for the sake of ordering the packing-box that I needed. When I returned, it was close on tea-time; I had seen Mrs. Weguelin St. Michael send out the hot coffee to the conductor, and I had found a negro carpenter whose week it happily was to stay sober; and now I learned that, when tea should be finished, the poetess had in store for us, as a treat, her ode.
Our evening meal was not plain sailing, even for the veteran navigation of Mrs. Trevise; Juno had returned from the bedside very plainly displeased (she was always candid even when silent) by something which had happened there; and before the joyful moment came when we all learned what this was, a very gouty Boston lady who had arrived with her husband from Florida on her way North—and whose nature you will readily grasp when I tell you that we found ourselves speaking of the man as Mrs. Braintree’s husband and never as Mr. Braintree—this crippled lady, who was of a candor equal to Juno’s, embarked upon a conversation with Juno that compelled Mrs. Trevise to tinkle her bell for Daphne after only two remarks had been exchanged.
I had been sorry at first that here in this Southern boarding-house Boston should be represented only by a lady who appeared to unite in herself all the stony products of that city, and none of the others; for she was as convivial as a statue and as well-informed as a spelling-book; she stood no more for the whole of Boston than did Juno for the whole of Kings Port. But my sorrow grew less when I found that in Mrs. Braintree we had indeed a capable match for her Southern counterpart. Juno, according to her custom, had remembered something objectionable that had been perpetrated in 1865 by the Northern vandals.
“Edward,” said Mrs. Braintree to her husband, in a frightfully clear voice, “it was at Chambersburg, was it not, that the Southern vandals burned the house in which were your father’s title-deeds?”
Edward, who, it appeared, had fought through the whole Civil War, and was in consequence perfectly good-humored and peaceable in his feelings upon that subject, replied hastily and amiably: “Oh, yes, yes! Why, I believe it was!”
But this availed nothing; Juno bent her great height forward, and addressed Mrs. Braintree. “This is the first time I have been told Southerners were vandals.”
“You will never be able to say that again!” replied Mrs. Braintree.
After the bell and Daphne had stopped, the invaluable Briton addressed a genial generalization to us all: “I often think how truly awful your war would have been if the women had fought it, y’know, instead of the men.”
“Quite so!” said the easy-going Edward “Squaws! Mutilation! Yes!” and he laughed at his little joke, but he laughed alone.