“Ah, of a kind, yes; but the men who could do that best would not do it at all. They would not have been respected.”
“But T. Chapdelaine & Son were respected.”
“Yes, in spite of that. Their friends said: ’Let the extremists be extreme that way.’”
“The public mind was not yet quite in flames.”
“No. But—guess who helped grandpere do that.”
“Why, do I know him? Castanado.”
The girl shook her head.
“Ah, you! You can guess better.”
“Ovide Lan’—no, Ovide was still a slave.”
“Yet more free than most free negroes. ’Twas he. He was janitor to offices in the hotel, and always making acquaintance with the slaves of the slave-mart. And when he found one who was quite of the right kind—and Ovide he’s a wise judge of men, you know—he would show him to grandpere, and at the auction, if the bidding was low, grandpere would buy him—or her.”
“What was one of ‘quite the right kind’? One willing to buy his own freedom?”
“Ah, also to do something more; you see?”
“Yes, I see,” Chester laughed; “to help others run away, wasn’t it?”
“Not precisely to run, but——”
“To stow away, on those ships, h’m?” There was rapture in crossing that h’m line of intimacy. “I see it all! Ha-ha, I see it all! Well! that brings us back to ‘Maud,’ doesn’t it—h’m?”
“Yes. They met, she and grandpere, at a ball, in the hotel. But”—Aline smiled—“that was not their first. Their first was two or three mornings before, when he, passing in Royal Street, and she—with Sidney—looking at old buildings in Conti Street——”
“Mademoiselle! That happened to them?—there?”
“Yes, to them, there.” With level gaze narrator and listener regarded each other. Then they glanced at Cupid. His eyes were shining on them.
“Who is our young friend, anyhow?” asked Chester.
“Ah, I suppose you have guessed. He is the grandson of Sidney.”
“And another time, on the morning just before the ball,” said Aline, returning to the story, “they had seen each other again. That was at the slave-auction. That night, before the ball was over, she and grandpere understood—knew, each, from the other, why the other was at that auction; and he had promised her to find Mingo.
“Well, after weeks, Ovide helping, all at once there was Mingo, in the gang, by the block, waiting his turn to go on it. Picture that! Any time I want to shut my eyes I can see it, and I think you can do the same, h’m?”
Blessed h’m; ’twas the flower—of the Chapdelaines—humming back to the bee. Said the bee, “We’ll try it there together some day, h’m?” and Cupid mutely sparkled: