“Ho!” Beloiseau rejoined, “au contraire, he’s an advantage! If only you keep him for the back-ground; biccause in the mind of every-body tha’z where he is, and that way he has the advantage to ril-ate those storie’ together and——”
Mademoiselle came. Her arrival, reception, installation near the hostess and opposite Chester are good enough untold. If elsewhere in that wide city a like number ever settled down to listen to an untamed writer’s manuscript in as sweet content with one another their story ought to be printed. “Well,” Mme. Castanado chanted, “commence.” And Chester read:
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
When I was twenty-four I lived at the small capital of my native Southern State.
My parental home was three counties distant. My father, a slaveholding planter, was a noble gentleman, whom I loved as he loved me. But we could not endure each other’s politics and I was trying to exist on my professional fees, in the law office of one of our ex-governors. I was kindly tolerated by everybody about me but had neglected social relations, being a black sheep on every hot question of the time—1860.
In the world’s largest matters my Southern mother had the sanest judgment I ever knew, and it was from her I had absorbed my notions on slavery. It was at least as much in sympathy for the white man as for the black that she deprecated it, yet she pointed out to me how idle it was to fancy that any mere manumission of our slaves would cure us of a whole philosophy of wealth, society, and government as inbred as it was antiquated.
One evening my two fellow boarders—state-house clerks, good boys—so glaringly left me out of their plan for a whole day’s fishing on the morrow, that I smarted. I was so short of money that I could not have supplied my own tackle, but no one knew that, and it stung me to be slighted by two chaps I liked so well. I determined to be revenged in some playful way that would make us better friends, and as I walked down-street next morning I hit out a scheme. They had been gone since daybreak and I was on my way to see a client who kept a livery-stable.
Now, in college, where I had intended to leave all silly tricks behind me, my most taking pranks had been played in female disguise; for at twenty-four I was as beardless as a child.
My errand to the stableman was to collect some part of my fee in a suit I had won for him. But I got not a cent, for as to cash his victory had been a barren one. However, a part of his booty was an old coach built when carriage people made long journeys in their own equipages. This he would “keep on sale for me free of charge,” etc.
“Which means you’ll never sell it,” I said.
Oh, he could sell it if any man could!
I smiled. Could he lend me, I asked, for half a day or so, a good span of horses? He could.