And who were these but the dear De l’Isles!
“No,” they would not come inside. “But, Corinne, Yvonne, Aline, run, toss on hats for a trip to Spanish Fort.”
One charm of that trip is that the fare is but, five cents, and the crab gumbo no dearer than in town. “Come! No-no-no, not one, but the three of you. In pure compassion on us! For, as sometimes in heaven among cherubim, we are ennuyes of each other!”
The small half-hourly electric train in Rampart Street had barely started lakeward into Canal, with the De l’Isle-Chapdelaine five aboard and the sun about to set, when Geoffry Chester entered—and stopped before monsieur, stiff with embarrassment. Nevertheless that made them a glad six, and, as each seat was for two, the two with life before them took one.
The small public garden, named for an old redout on the lake shore at the mouth of Bayou St. John was filled with a yellow sunset as Chester and Aline moved after the aunts and the De l’Isles from the train into a shell walk whose artificial lights at that moment flashed on.
“So far from that,” he was saying, “a story may easily be improved, clarified, beautified, by—what shall I say?—by filtering down through a second and third generation of the right tellers and hearers.”
“Ah, yes! the right, yes! But——”
“And for me you’re supremely the right one.”
Instantly he rued his speech. Some delicate mechanism seemed to stop. Had he broken it? As one might lay a rare watch to his ear he waited, listening, while they stood looking off to where water, sky, and sun met; and presently, to his immeasurable relief, she responded:
“Grandpere was not at that time such a very young man, yet he still lived with his father. So when grand’mere and her two friends—with Sidney and Mingo—returned from the privateer to the hotel they were opposite neighbors to the Chapdelaines and almost without another friend, in a city—among a people—on fire with war. Then, pretty soon—” the fair narrator stopped and significantly smiled.
Chester twinkled. “Um-h’m,” he said, “your grandpere’s heart became another city on fire.”
“Yes, and ’twas in that old hotel—with the war storm coming, like to-day only everything much more close and terrible, business dead, soldiers every day going to Virginia—you must make Mr. Thorndyke-Smith tell you about that—’twas in that old hotel, at a great free-gift lottery and bazaar, lasting a week, for aid of soldiers’ families, and in a balcony of the grand salon, that grandpere—” the narrator ceased and smiled again.
“Proposed,” Chester murmured.