“I’m sure ’twill turn out magnificent, yes!”
Mademoiselle declared the tale fascinating. She “would be enchanted to stay,” but her aunts must be considered, etc.; and when Chester confessed the reading would require another session anyhow Mmes. De l’Isle and Alexandre arose, and M. Castanado asked aloud if there was any of the company who could not return a week from that evening.
No one was so unlucky. “But!” cried Mme. Alexandre, “why not to my parlor?”
“Because!” said Mme. Castanado, to Chester’s vivid enlightenment, “every week-day, all day, you have mademoiselle with you.”
“With me, ah, no! me forever down in my shop, and mademoiselle incessantly upstair’!”
Mme. Castanado prevailed. That same room, one week later.
Scipion and Dubroca escorted Mme. De l’Isle across to her beautiful gates, and Chester, not in dream but in fact, with M. De l’Isle and Mme. Alexandre following well in the rear, walked with mademoiselle to the high fence and green batten wicket of her olive-scented garden in the rue Bourbon. So walking, and urged by him, she began to tell of matters in her father’s life, the old Hotel St. Louis life before hers began—matters that gave to “The Clock in the Sky” and “The Angel of the Lord” a personal interest beyond all academic values.
“We’ll finish about that another time,” she said, and with “another time” singing in his heart like a taut wire he verily enjoyed the rasping of the wicket’s big lock as he turned away.
The week wore round. Except M. De l’Isle, kept away by a meeting of the Athenee Louisianais, all were regathered; one thing alone delayed the reading. Each of the three women had separately asked her father confessor how far one might justly—well—lie—to those seeking the truth only for cruel and wicked ends. But as no two had received the same answer, and as Chester’s uncle was gone to his reward—or penalty—the question was early tabled. “Well,” Mme. Castanado said: “‘And so we went—’ in the coach. Go on, read.”
And so we went, not through the town but around it.
My attendants were heavy with sleep. Seating Rebecca next me I called Euonymus into the coach and let mother, son, and daughter slumber at ease.
To the few persons we met I paraded my bonnet and curls. Some, in Southern fashion, I questioned. I was a widow who had sold her plantation in order to go and live with a widowed brother. Euonymus too I showed off, who, waking at every halt, presented a face that seemed any boy’s rather than a runaway’s. So natural to these Africans was the supernatural that I could be one of the men who plucked Lot from Sodom and yet a becurled widow.