“No.” The speaker rose. “I’ll tell you on the train; I hear it coming.”
“There’s a train every half-hour,” Chester said.
“Yes, but the day-laborer must be home early.”
On the train—“Well,” the youth urged, “your grand’mere stayed in the old home, I hope, with the three children—and Sidney?”
“Only till she could sell it. But that was nearly three years, and they were hard, those three. But at last, by the help of that Royal Street coterie—who were good friends, Mr. Chester, when friends were scarce—she sold both house and furniture—what was by that time remaining—and bought that place where we are now living.”
“Was there no life-insurance?”
“A little. We have the yearly interest on it still. ’Tis very small, yet a great help—to my aunts. I tell that only to say that papa would never touch it when he and my aunts—and afterward mamma—were in very narrow places.”
Chester perceived another reason for the telling of it; the niece wanted to escape the credit of being the sole support of her aunts. She read his thought but ignored it.
“Papa was very old for his age,” she continued. “You may see that by his being in the battle with grandpere at thirteen years. And because of that precocity he got much training of the mind—and spirit—from grandpere that usually is got much later. I think that is what my aunts mean when they tell you papa’s life was dramatic. It was so, yet not in the manner they mean, the manner of grandpere’s life; you understand?”
“You mean it was not melodramatic?”
“Ah! the word I wanted! Mr. Chester, when we get over being children, those of us who do, why do we try so hard to live without melodrama?”
“Oh, mademoiselle, you know well enough. You know that’s what melodrama does, itself? What is it, in essence, but a struggle to rise out of itself into a higher drama, of the spirit——?”
“A divine comedy! Yes. Well, that is what my father’s life seems to me.”
“With tragic elements in it, of course?”
“Oh! How could it be high comedy without? But except that one battle the tragedy was not—eh—crude, like grandpere’s; was not physical. Once he said to me: ’There are things in life, in the refined life, very quiet things, that are much more tragic than bloodshed or death or the defying of death.’”
“In the refined life,” Chester said musingly.
“Yes! and he was refined, yet never weak. ‘Strength,’ he said, ’valor, truth, they are the foundations; better be dead than without them. Yet one can have them, in crude form, and still better be dead. The noble, the humane, the chaste, the beautiful, ’tis with them we build the superstructure, the temple, of life—Mr. Chester, if you knew French I could tell you that better.”