“Then to-morrow we’ll come hear ab-out it,” Beloiseau said, “and tell ab-out the movie. Mme. De l’Isle she’s also got fine news, what she cann’ tell biffo’ biccause”—he waved to Mme. De l’Isle to say why, but her husband spoke for her.
“Biccause,” he said, “’tis all in a pigture, war pigture, on a New York Sunday paper, and of co’se we coul’n’ stop under street lamp for that; and with yo’ permission”—to Mme. Castanado—“we’ll show that firz’ of all to Scipion.”
Beloiseau put on glasses and looked. “‘General Joffre—’” he began to read.
“No, no! not that! This one, where you know the general only by the back of his head.”
“Ah—ah, yes; ‘Two aviateur’ riceiving from General Joffre’—my God! De l’Isle—my God! madame,”—Scipion pounded his breast with the paper—“they are yo’ son and mine!”
The company rushed to his elbows. “My faith! Castanado, there are their name’! and ’For destrugtion of their eighteenth enemy aeroplane, under circumstance’ calling for exceptional coolnezz and intrepid-ity!’”
There was great and general rejoicing and some quite pardonable boasting, under cover of which Melanie and her mother slipped out by the inside way, without mention of the young Dubroca, his prisoners, sickness, or letter, except to his father and mother, who told of him more openly when the Alexandres were safely gone. That brought fresh gladness and praise, a fair share of which was for Melanie.
So presently the remaining company vanished, leaving Mme. Castanado free to embrace her kneeling husband and boast again the power of prayer.
The cathedral that year was undergoing repairs.
Its cypress-log foundations, which had kept sound from colonial days in a soil always wet, had begun to decay when a new drainage system began to dry it out. Fact, but also allegory.
It may have been in connection with this work, or with some change in the house of the Discalceated Sisters of Mt. Carmel, or of the archbishop, or of St. Augustine’s Church, that a certain priest of exceptional taste, Beloiseau’s father confessor, dropped in on him to order an ornamental wrought-iron grille for the upper half of a new door. While looking at patterns he asked:
“And what is the latest word from your son?”
Scipion showed him that picture—he had bought one for himself—the dear old unmistakable back of “Papa Joffre,” and the dear young unmistakable faces of the two boys, Beloiseau and De l’Isle.
A talk followed, on the conflict between a father’s pride and his yearning to see his only son safely delivered from constant deadly peril. They spoke of Aline. Not for the first time; Scipion, unaware that the good father was her confessor also, had told him before of his son’s hopeless love, to ask if it was not right for him, the father, to help Chester win the marvellous girl, since winning would win the two boys home again.