“Madam,” he said, bowing obsequiously, “is it yourself that desired my presence? Cricket told me-we call that limber-looking little nigger Cricket-that a lady desired to see me in the drawing-room.”
“Whom have I the honor of addressing?” said Leah, with difficulty repressing a smile excited by the grotesque appearance of the man. “I desired to see the proprietor.”
“Exactly so, madam, and my name is Michael Moran, the proprietor of the Good Cheer House these twenty years.”
“And have you remained in the Queen City during all these dreadful months of shelling?” said Leah, whose heart was at once brightened by the hope that she might gather some desired information from him.
“Oh, yes, child-beg pardon, madam, but, really, you look like a child. Michael Moran is not the man to desert the post of duty in times of danger. You see, madam”—and he pointed to the wooden stump—“you see, I had the misfortune to lose a member in the Mexican war. That wooden stump speaks yet of Michael Moran’s bravery, and I am the same brave man to-day that I was in ’forty-seven, always ready to serve my country.”
“Yes,” replied Leah, “but you are too old to do much for your country now.”
“Yes; that is to say, I am not able to take up arms, but then I have done valiant service by furnishing a very comfortable, thoroughly respectable wayside home for my country’s unfortunate children. You see, madam, the Good Cheer House is known far and near as the place to find good food and lodging, at very reasonable prices. The soldiers-alas! I know what a soldier’s life is,” and the old man laid his fat, plump hand on his heart, “the soldiers, I say, find out the house of Michael Moran, and enjoy the good cheer he dispenses.”
The old man, once started, would have continued his remarks ad infinitum, had not Leah bravely interrupted him by asking:
“Can you tell me, sir, if any of the refugees have yet returned?”
“A good many, madam. You see this infernal old shelling, although it’s pretty pesky business, hasn’t done much harm, after all. It battered down a few fine houses, and killed some men, but then I don’t believe the Queen City will never surrender; and by Erin I hope it never will. If the soldiers, to a man, possessed the heart of Michael Moran, they would stand out till—”
“Can you tell me anything of the Le Grande family-Judge Le Grande, I mean?” again interrupted Leah bravely.
“The judge? Oh, yes; I think they went to France some months ago,” replied Michael, with an air of profound satisfaction at possessing some slight acquaintance with so distinguished a man as the judge; and patting his knee with his plump hand, he continued, “You see the judge was not particularly a war man, and—”
“Do you know anything of the Levys?” again cut short the old inn-keeper’s volubility.
“The Levys? Oh, yes; they fled long ago, and are now roving the face of the earth. The bombs well-nigh tore down old Levy’s house, and I guess that will about kill him, as he is as stingy as a man well can be. If he had stayed by his suffering city, as Michael Moran has—”