“Ah! but with whose mash-in’, so it won’t put uz in bankrup’cy?”
“With two mash-in’—the two of Thorndyke-Smith! He’s offer’ to borrow me those whiles he’s going to be accrozz the lake. You’ll drive the large, me the small.”
“Hah! Tha’z a gran’ scheme. At the en’, dinner at Antoine’, all the men chipping in! Castanado—Dubroca—me—Mr. Chezter, eh?”
“With the greatest pleasure if I’m included.”
“Include’—hoh! By the laws of nature!” M. De l’Isle went on up-stairs.
“We had a dinner like that,” Beloiseau said, “only withoud the joy-ride and withoud those three Mlles. Chapdelaine, juz’ a few week’ biffo’ we make’ yo’ acquaintanze. That was to celebrade that great victory in France and same time the news of savety of our four boys ad the front.”
Chester stood astounded. “What four boys?”
“You di’n’ know abboud those? Ah, well, tha’z maybe biccause we don’ speak of them biffo’ those ladies Chapdelaine. An’ still tha’z droll you di’n’ know that, but tha’z maybe biccause each one he’s think another he’s tol’ you, and biccause tha’z not a prettie cheerful subjec’, eh? Yes, they are two son’ of Dubroca and Castanado, soldier’, and two of De l’Isle and me, aviateur’.”
“And up to a few weeks ago they were all well?”
“Ah, not well—one wounded, one h’arm broke, one trench-fivver, but all safe, laz’ account.”
“Tell me more about them, Beloiseau. You know I don’t easily ask personal questions. Tell me all I’m welcome to know, will you?”
“I want to do that—to tell you all; but”—M. Ducatel, next neighbor above, was approaching—“better another time—ah, Rene, tha’z a pretty warm evening, eh?”
For two days more the vast machinery of the United States mail swung back and forth across the continent and the oceans beyond, and in unnumbered cities and towns the letter-carriers came and went; but nothing they brought into Bienville or Royal Street bore tidings from that execrable editor in New York who in salaried ease sat “holding up” the manuscript once the impressionable Dora’s, now the gentle Aline’s. The holiday—“everything shut up”—had arrived. No carrier was abroad. Neither reason given for the joy-ride held good. Yet the project was well on foot. The smaller car was at the De l’Isles’ lovely gates, with monsieur in the chauffeur’s seat, Mme. Alexandre at his side, and Dubroca close behind her. The larger machine stood at the opposite curb, with Beloiseau for driver, and Mme. Dubroca—a very small, trim, well-coiffed woman with a dainty lorgnette—in the first seat behind him. Castanado waited in the street door at the foot of his stair, down which Mme. Castanado was coming the only way she could come.
Her crossing of the sidewalk and her elevation first to the running-board and then to a seat beside Mme. Dubroca took time and the strength of both men, yet was achieved with a dignity hardly appreciated by the street children, who covered their mouths, averted their faces, and cheered as the two cars, the smaller leading, moved off and turned from Royal Street into Conti on their way to pick up the three Chapdelaines.