“Do they know mademoiselle?”
“Indeed, yes! They are the best of her very few friends. But—the Atlantic rolls between.”
Chester went out. In the rear door Ovide’s wife appeared, knitting. “Any close-ter?” she asked over her silver-bowed spectacles.
“Some,” he said, taking down Poole’s Index.
She came to his side and they placidly conversed. As she began to leave him, “No,” she said, “we kin wish, but we mustn’ meddle. All any of us want’ or got any rights to want is to see ’em on speakin’ terms. F’om dat on, hands off. Leave de rest to de fitness o’ things, de everlast’n’ fitness o’ things!”
At the Castanados’, the second evening after, Chester was welcomed into a specially pretty living-room. But he found three other visitors. Madame, seated on a sort of sofa for one, made no effort to rise. Her face, for all its breadth, was sweet in repose and sweeter when she spoke or smiled. Her hands were comparatively small and the play of her vast arms was graceful as she said to a slim, tallish, comely woman with an abundance of soft, well-arranged hair:
“Seraphine, allow me to pres-ent Mr. Chezter.”
She explained that this Mme. Alexandre was her “neighbor of the next door,” and Chester remembered her sign: “Laces and Embroideries.”
“Scipion,” said Castanado to a short, swarthy, broad-bearded man, “I have the honor to make you acquaint’ with my friend Mr. Chezter.”
Chester pressed the enveloping hand of “S. Beloiseau, Artisan in Ornamental Iron-work.”
“Also, Mr. Chezter, Mr. Rene Ducatel; but with him you are already acquaint’, I think, eh?”
Chester shook hands with a small, dapper, early-gray, superdignified man, recalling his sign: “Antiques in Furniture, Glass, Bronze, Plate, China, and Jewelry.” M. Ducatel seemed to be already taking leave. His “anceztral ’ome,” he said, was far up-town; he had dropped in solely to borrow—showing it—the Courrier des Etats-Unis.
That journal, Castanado remarked to Chester as at a corner table he poured him a glass of cordial, brought the war, the trenches, the poilu and the boche closer than any other they knew. Beloiseau and Mme. Alexandre, he softly explained, had come in quite unlooked-for to discuss the great strife and might depart at any moment. Then the reading!
But Chester himself interested those two and they stayed. When he said that Beloiseau’s sidewalk samples had often made him covet some excuse for going in and seeing both the stock and the craftsman, “That was excuse ab-undant!” was the prompt response, and Castanado put in:
“Scipion he’d rather, always, a non-buying connoisseur than a buying Philistine.”
“Come any day! any hour!” said Beloiseau.
Presently all five were talking of the surviving poetry of both artistic and historic Royal Street. “Twenty year’ ag-o,” said the ironworker, “looking down-street from my shop, there was not a building in sight without a romantic story. My God! for example, that Hotel St. Louis!”