“Messieurs,” Mme. Castanado broke in, “please to hear Mlle. Aline.” And Aline spoke:
“Perfect or no, I think that’s what we don’t require to conclude. But if that manuscript will join well with those other two—or three, or four, if we find so many—or if it will rather disjoint them—’tis that we must decide; is it not, M. De l’Isle?”
“Yes, and tha’z easy. That story is going to assimilate those other’ to a perfegtion! For several reason’. Firz’, like those other’, ’tis not figtion; ’tis true. Second, like those, ’tis a personal egsperienze told by the person egsperienzing. Third, every one of those person’ were known to some of us, an’ we can certify that person that he or she was of the greatez’ veracity! Fourth, the United States they’ve juz’ lately purchaze’ that island where that story tranzpire. And, fifthly, the three storie’ they are joint’; not stiff’, like board’ of a floor, but loozly, like those link’ of a chain. They are jointed in the subjec’ of friddom! ‘Tis true, only friddom of negro’, yet still—friddom! An’, messieurs et mesdames, that is now the precise moment when that whole worl’ is wile on that topique; friddom of citizen’, friddom of nation’, friddom of race’, friddom of the sea’! And there is ferociouz demand for short storie’ joint’ on that topique, biccause now at the lazt that whole worl’ is biccome furiouzly conscientiouz to get at the bottom of that topique; an’ biccause those negro’ are the lowez’ race, they are there, of co’se, ad the bottom!”
“M. Beloiseau?” the chair—hostess—said; and Scipion, with languor in his voice but a burning fervor in his eye, responded:
“I think Mr. Chezter he’s speaking with a too great modestie—or else dip-lomacie. Tha’z not good! If fid-elitie to art inspire me a conceitednezz as high”—his upthrown hand quivered at arm’s length—“as the flagpole of Hotel St. Louis dome yonder, tha’z better than a modestie withoud that. That origin-al manuscrip’ we don’t want that ag-ain; we’ve all read that. But I think Mr. Chezter he’s also maybe got that riv-ision in his pocket, an’ we ought to hear, now, at ones, that riv-ision!”
Miles. Corinne and Yvonne led the applause, and presently Chester was reading:
THE HOLY CROSS
This is a true story. Only that fact gives me the courage to tell it. It happened.
It occurred under my own eyes when they were far younger than now, on a beautiful island in the Caribbean, some twelve hundred miles southeastward from Florida, the largest of the Virgin group—the island of the Holy Cross. Its natives called it Aye-Aye. Columbus piously named it Santa Cruz and bore away a number of its people to Spain as slaves, to show them what Christians looked like in quantity and how they behaved to one another and to strangers. You can hear much about Santa Cruz from anybody in the rum-trade.