They went, the De l’Isle car and then Scipion’s, back to St. Charles Avenue, and turned again up-town. On the rearmost seat——
“Why so silent?” Aline inquired of Chester.
“Because so content,” he said, “except when I think of the book.”
“Exactly. We’ve only half enough stories yet.
“Though with the vieux carre full of them?”
“Oh! mostly so raw, so bald, so thin!”
“Ah, I knew you would see that. As though human life and character were—what would say?”
“I’d say crustacean; their anatomy all on the surface. Such stories are not life, life in the round; they’re only paper silhouettes—of the real life’s poorest facts and moments. I state the thought poorly but you get it, don’t you?”
The girl sparkled, not so much for the thought as for their fellowship in it. “Once I heard mamma say to my aunts: ’So many of these vieux carre stories are but pretty pebbles—a quadroon and a duel, a quadroon and a duel—always the same two peas in the baby’s rattle.’”
“There are better stories for a little deeper search,” Chester said.
“Ah, she said that too! ‘And not,’ she said, ’because the vieux carre is unlike, but so like the rest of the world.’”
Thus they spoke, happily—even a bit recklessly—conscious that they were themselves a beautiful story without the flash of a sword or the cloud of a misdeed in range of their sight, and not because the vieux carre was unlike, but so like the rest of the world.
“Where are we going?” Aline inquired, and tried to look forward around Mme. Castanado.
“You and I,” Chester said, “are going back to your father’s story. You said, the other day, his life was quiet, richer within than without.”
“Yes. Ah, yes; so that while of the inside I cannot tell half, of the outside there is almost nothing to tell.”
“All the same, tell it. Were not he and these Royal Street men boys together?”
“Yes, though with M. De l’Isle the oldest, and though papa was away from them many years, over there in France. Yes, they were all his friends, as their fathers had been of grandpere. And they’ll all tell you the same thing; that he was their hero, while at the same time that his story is destitute of the theatrical. Just he himself, he and mamma—they are the whole story.”
“A sea without a wave?”
“Ah, no; yet without a storm. And, Mr. Chester, I think a sea without a storm can be just as deep as with, h’m?”
“Well, they married, your father and mother, over there where her people are fighting the Germans right now, and came and lived in Bourbon Street with your aunts, eh?”
“Yes, or rather my aunts with them, they were of so much more strong natures than my aunts—more strong and large while just as sweet, and that’s saying much, you know.”