“So you didn’t forget?” she said, in greeting him.
He eyed her reflectively. “When I was seven years old,” he began, “Tim once asked me to attend to something for him while he went out for a minute. It was to mind some bacon that he had put on to broil for supper. I became absorbed in a book I was reading, and Tim came back to find the bacon a crisp. I believe I have never forgotten anything from that day to this. You have a holiday at the Department?”
“Why, do you suppose we’d work to-day!” said Sharlee, and introduced him to her mother, who, having attentively overheard his story of Tim and the bacon, proceeded to look him over with some care.
Sharlee left them for a moment, and came back bearing a flag about the size of a man’s visiting card.
“You are one of us, aren’t you? I have brought you,” she said, “your colors.”
Queed looked and recognized the flag that was everywhere in predominance that day. “And what will it mean if I wear it?”
“Only,” said Sharlee, “that you love the South.”
Vaguely Queed saw in her blue-spar eyes the same kind of softness that he noticed in people’s voices this afternoon, a softness which somehow reminded him of a funeral, Fifi’s or Colonel Cowles’s.
“Oh, very well, if you like.”
Sharlee put the flag in his buttonhole under her mother’s watchful gaze. Then she got cushions and straw-mats, and explained their uses in connection with steps. Next, she gave a practical demonstration of the same by seating the young man, and sitting down beside him.
“One thing I have noticed about loving the South. Everybody does it, who takes the trouble to know us. Look at the people!—millions and millions....”
“Colonel Cowles would have liked this.”
“Yes—dear old man.” Sharlee paused a moment, and then went on. “He was in the parade last year—on the beautifullest black horse—You never saw anything so handsome as he looked that day. It was in Savannah, and I went. I was a maid of honor, but my real duties were to keep him from marching around in the hot sun all day. And now this year ... You see, that is what makes it so sad. When these old men go tramping by, everybody is thinking: ’Hundreds of them won’t be here next year, and hundreds more the next year, and soon will come a year when there won’t be any parade at all.”
She sprang up to welcome a new arrival, whom she greeted as either Aunt Mary or Cousin Maria, we really cannot undertake to say which.
Queed glanced over the group on the porch, to most of whom he had been introduced, superfluously, as it seemed to him. There must have been twenty or twenty-five of them; some seated, some standing at the rail, some sitting near him on the steps; but all, regardless of age and sex, wearing the Confederate colors. He noticed particularly the white-haired old ladies, and somehow their faces, also, put him in mind of Fifi’s or Colonel Cowles’s funeral.