I have said that Miss St. Michael’s visit was ostensibly to the bride: and that is because for some magnetic reason or other I felt diplomacy like an undercurrent passing among our chairs. Young John’s expression deepened, whenever he watched Juno, to a devilishness which his polite manners veiled no better than a mosquito netting; and I believe that his aunt, on account of the battle between their respective nephews, had for family reasons deemed it advisable to pay, indirectly, under cover of the bride, a state visit to Juno; and I think that I saw Juno accepting it as a state visit, and that the two together, without using a word of spoken language, gave each other to understand that the recent deplorable circumstances were a closed incident. I think that his Aunt Josephine had desired young John to pay a visit likewise, and, to make sure of his speedy compliance, had brought him along with her—coerced him, as Juno would have said. He wore somewhat the look of having been “coerced,” and he contributed remarkably few observations to the talk.
It was all harmonious, and decorous, and properly conducted, this state visit; yet even so, Juno and John exchanged at parting some verbal sweet-meats which rather stuck out from the smooth meringue of diplomacy.
She contemplated his bruise. “You are feeling stronger, I hope, than you have been lately? A bridegroom’s health should be good.”
He thanked her. “I am feeling better to-night than for many weeks.”
The rascal had the thirty dollars visibly bulging that moment in his pocket. I doubt if he had acquainted his aunt with this episode, but she was certain to hear it soon; and when she did hear it, I rather fancy that she wished to smile—as I completely smiled alone in my bed that night thinking young John over.
But I did not go to sleep smiling; listening to the “Ode for the Daughters of Dixie” had been an ordeal too truly painful, because it disclosed live feelings which I had thought were dead, or rather, it disclosed that those feelings smouldered in the young as well as in the old. Doctor Beaugarcon didn’t have them—he had fought them out, just as Mr. Braintree had fought them out; and Mrs. Braintree, like Juno, retained them, because she hadn’t fought them out; and John Mayrant didn’t have them, because he had been to other places; and I didn’t have them—never had had them in my life, because I came into the world when it was all over. Why then—Stop, I told myself, growing very wakeful, and seeing in the darkness the light which had come to me, you have beheld the ashes, and even the sight has overwhelmed you; these others were born in the ashes, and have had ashes to sleep in and ashes to eat. This I said to myself; and I remembered that War hadn’t been all; that Reconstruction came in due season; and I thought of the “reconstructed” negro, as Daddy Ben had so ingeniously styled him. These white people, my race, had been set beneath the reconstructed negro. Still, still, this did not justify the whole of it to me; my perfectly innocent generation seemed to be included in the unforgiving, unforgetting ode. “I must have it out with somebody,” I said. And in time I fell asleep.