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   Chapter 6 MESSRS. SMELLEMOUT AND KETCHEM

Kincaid's Battery By George Washington Cable Characters: 4360

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Night came, all stars. The old St. Charles Theatre filled to overflowing with the city's best, the hours melted away while Maggie Mitchell played Fanchon, and now, in the bright gas-light of the narrow thoroughfare, here were Adolphe and Hilary helping their three ladies into a carriage. All about them the feasted audience was pouring forth into the mild February night.

The smallest of the three women was aged. That the other two were young and beautiful we know already. At eighteen the old lady, the Bohemian-glass one, had been one of those royalist refugees of the French Revolution whose butterfly endeavors to colonize in Alabama and become bees make so pathetic a chapter in history. When one knew that, he could hardly resent her being heavily enamelled. Irby pressed into the coach after the three and shut the door, Kincaid uncovered, and the carriage sped off.

Hilary turned, glanced easily over the heads of the throng, and espied Greenleaf beckoning with a slender cane. Together they crossed the way and entered the office of a public stable.

"Our nags again," said Kincaid to one of a seated group, and passed into a room beyond. Thence he re-issued with his dress modified for the saddle, and the two friends awaited their mounts under an arch. "Dost perceive, Frederic," said the facetious Hilary, "yon modestly arrayed pair of palpable gents hieing hitherward yet pretending not to descry us? They be detectives. Oh--eh--gentlemen!"

The strangers halted inquiringly and then came forward. The hair of one was black, of the other gray. Hilary brightened upon them: "I was just telling my friend who you are. You know me, don't you?" A challenging glint came into his eye.

But the gray man showed a twinkle to match it: "Why--by sight--yes--what there is of you."

Hilary smiled again: "I saw you this morning in the office of the Committee of Public Safety, where I was giving my word that this friend of mine should leave the city within twenty-four hours." He introduced him: "Lieutenant Greenleaf, gentleman, United States Army. Fred, these are Messrs. Smellemout and Ketchem, a leading firm in the bottling business."

Greenleaf and the

firm expressed their pleasure. "We hang out at the corner of Poet and Good-Children Streets," said the black-haired man, but made his eyes big to imply that this was romance.

Greenleaf lifted his brows: "Streets named for yourselves, I judge."

"Aye. Poet for each, Good-Children for both."

Kincaid laughed out. "The Lieutenant and I," he said as he moved toward their approaching horses, "live on Love street exactly half-way between Piety and Desire." His eyes widened, too. Suddenly he stepped between Greenleaf and the others: "See here, let's begin to tell the truth! You know Kincaid's Foundry? It was my father's--"

"And his father's before him," said the gray man.

"And I've come home to go into this war," Hilary went on.

"And just at present," said Gray, "you're casting shot and shell and now and then a cannon; good for you! You want to give us your guarantee--?"

"That my friend and I will be together every moment till he leaves to-morrow morning on the Jackson Railroad, bound for the North without a stop."

"To go into this war on the other side!"

"Why, of course!" said the smiling Kincaid. "Now, that's all, isn't it? I fear we're keeping you."

"Oh, no." The gray man's crow's-feet deepened playfully. "If you think you need us we'll stick by you all night."

"No," laughed Kincaid, "there's no call for you to be so sticky as all that." The horsemen mounted.

"Better us than the Patriots' League," said the younger detective to Hilary as Greenleaf moved off. "They've got your friend down in their Send-'em-to-hell book and are after him now. That's how come we to be--"

"I perceive," replied Hilary, and smiled in meditation. "Why--thank you, both!"

"Oh, you go right along, Mr. Kincaid. We'll be at the depot to-morrow ourselves, and to-night we'll see that they don't touch neither one of you."

Hilary's smile grew: "Why--thank you again! That will make it more comfortable for them. Good-night."

The two friends rode to a corner, turned into Poydras Street, crossed Magazine and Tchoupitoulas and presently, out from among the echoing fronts of unlighted warehouses, issued upon the wide, white Levee.

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