Back to the Index Page


Titee by Alice Dunbar


It was cold that day. The great sharp north-wind swept out Elysian Fields Street in blasts that made men shiver, and bent everything in their track. The skies hung lowering and gloomy; the usually quiet street was more than deserted, it was dismal.

Titee leaned against one of the brown freight cars for protection against the shrill norther, and warmed his little chapped hands at a blaze of chips and dry grass. "Maybe it'll snow," he muttered, casting a glance at the sky that would have done credit to a practised seaman. "Then won't I have fun! Ugh, but the wind blows!"

It was Saturday, or Titee would have been in school, the big yellow school on Marigny Street, where he went every day when its bell boomed nine o'clock, went with a run and a joyous whoop, ostensibly to imbibe knowledge, really to make his teacher's life a burden.

Idle, lazy, dirty, troublesome boy, she called him to herself, as day by day wore on, and Titee improved not, but let his whole class pass him on its way to a higher grade. A practical joke he relished infinitely more than a practical problem, and a good game at pin-sticking was far more entertaining than a language lesson. Moreover, he was always hungry, and would eat in school before the half-past ten recess, thereby losing much good playtime for his voracious appetite.

But there was nothing in natural history that Titee did not know.

He could dissect a butterfly or a mosquito hawk, and describe their parts as accurately as a spectacled student with a scalpel and microscope could talk about a cadaver. The entire Third District, with its swamps and canals and commons and railroad sections, and its wondrous, crooked, tortuous streets, was an open book to Titee. There was not a nook or corner that he did not know or could not tell of. There was not a bit of gossip among the gamins, little Creole and Spanish fellows, with dark skins and lovely eyes, like spaniels, that Titee could not tell of. He knew just exactly when it was time for crawfish to be plentiful down in the Claiborne and Marigny canals; just when a poor, breadless fellow might get a job in the big bone-yard and fertilising factory, out on the railroad track; and as for the levee, with its ships and schooners and sailors, how he could revel in them! The wondrous ships, the pretty little schooners, where the foreign-looking sailors lay on long moonlight nights, singing to their guitars and telling great stories,--all these things and more could Titee tell of. He had been down to the Gulf, and out on its treacherous waters through the Eads jetties on a fishing-smack with some jolly brown sailors, and could interest the whole school-room in the talk-lessons, if he chose.


Back to the Index Page