He talked in about this vein till eleven o’clock, and Sharlee listened with sincere admiration. Nevertheless, he left her still troubled by a faint doubt as to how Mr. Queed himself felt about what had been done for his larger good. But when she next saw Queed, only a few days later, this doubt instantly dissolved and vanished. She had never seen him less inclined to indict the world and his fortune.
Queed sits on the Steps with Sharlee, and sees Some Old Soldiers go marching by.
Far as the eye could see, either way, the street was two parallels of packed humanity. Both sidewalks, up and down, were loaded to capacity and spilling off surplus down the side-streets. Navigation was next to impossible; as for crossing you were a madman to think of such a thing. At the sidewalks’ edge policemen patrolled up and down in the street with their incessant cry of “Back there!”—pausing now and then to dislodge small boys from trees, whither they had climbed at enormous peril to themselves and innocent by-standers. Bunting, flags, streamers were everywhere; now and then a floral arch bearing words of welcome spanned the roadway; circus day in a small town was not a dot upon the atmosphere of thrilled expectancy so all-pervasive here. It was, in fact, the crowning occasion of the Confederate Reunion, and the fading remnants of Lee’s armies were about to pass in annual parade and review.
Mrs. Weyland’s house stood full on the line of march. It was the house she had come to as a bride; she owned it; and because it could not easily be converted over her head into negotiable funds, it had escaped the predacious clutches of Henry G. Surface. After the crash, it would doubtless have been sensible to sell it and take something cheaper; but sentiment made her cling to this house, and her daughter, in time, went to work to uphold sentiment’s hands. It was not a large house, or a fine one, but it did have a very comfortable little porch. To-day this porch was beautifully decorated, like the whole town, with the colors of two countries, one living and one dead; and the decorations for the dead were three times greater than the decorations for the living. And why not? Yet, at that, Sharlee was liberal-minded and a thorough-going nationalist. On some houses, the decorations for the dead were five times greater, like Benjamin’s mess; on others, ten times; on yet others, no colors at all floated but the beloved Stars and Bars.
Upon the steps of Mrs. Weyland’s porch sat Mr. Queed, come by special invitation of Mrs. Weyland’s daughter to witness the parade.
The porch, being so convenient for seeing things, was hospitably taxed to its limits. New people kept turning in at the gate, mostly ladies, mostly white-haired ladies wearing black, and Sharlee was incessantly springing up to greet them. However, Queed, feeling that the proceedings might be instructive to him, had had the foresight to come early, before the sidewalks solidified with spectators; and at first, and spasmodically thereafter, he had some talk with Sharlee.