“It left me in love with your grand’mere.”
“Notwithstanding she became what they used to call—you know the word.”
“Yes, ‘nigger-stealer.’ How did you ever add that to your English?”
“My father was one. Right here in Royal Street. Hotel St. Louis. Else he might never have married my—that’s too long to tell here.”
“May I not hear it soon, at your home?”
“Assuredly. Sooner or later. My aunts they are born raconteurs.”
“Oh! your aunts. Hem! Do you know? I had an uncle who once was your grandfather’s sort of robber, though a Southerner born and bred.”
“Yes, Ovide’s wife told me. Will you permit me a question?”
“No,” laughed Chester, “but I can answer it. Yes. Those four poor runaways to whom your sweet Maud showed the clock in the sky were the same four my uncle helped on—oh, you’ve not heard it, and it also is too long. I can lend you his ‘Memorandum’ if you’ll have it.”
She hesitated. “N-no,” she said. “Ah, no! I couldn’t bear that responsibility! Listen; Mr. Smith is going to tell a war story of the city.”
But no, that gentleman’s story was yet another too long for the moment even when the men were left to their cigars. Instead he and Chester made further acquaintance. When they returned to the ladies, “I want you to talk with my wife,” said Mr. Smith, and Chester obeyed. Yet soon he was at mademoiselle’s side again and she was saying in a dropped voice:
“To-morrow when you’re at the Castanados’ to read, so privately, would you be willing for Mme. De l’Isle to be there—just madame alone?”
Oh, but men are dull! “I’d be honored!” he said. “They can modify the privacy as they please.” Oh, but men are dull! There he had to give place to M. Prieur and presently accepted some kind of social invitation, seeing no way out of it, from the Smiths. So ended the evening. Mlle. Chapdelaine was taken to her home, “close by,” as she said, in the Prieurs’ carriage.
“They are juz’ arround in Bourbon Street, those Chapdelaines,” said the De l’Isles to Chester, last to go. “Y’ought to see their li’l’ flower-garden. Like those two aunt’ that maintain it, ’tis unique. Y’ought to see that—and them.”
“I have mademoiselle’s permission,” he replied.
“Ah, well, then!—ha, ha!” The pair exchanged a smile which seemed to the parting guest to say: “After all he’s not so utterly deficient!”
Again the Castanados’ dainty parlor, more dainty than ever. No one there was in evening dress, though with its privacy “modified as the Castanados pleased,” it had gathered a company of seven.