Old Creole Days by George W. Cable
CHAPTER I. AN
CHAPTER V. THE
CHAPTER VI. A
CRY OF DISTRESS.
CHAPTER XI. FACE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIV. BY
CAFE DES EXILES.
CHAPTER I. AN OLD HOUSE.
A FEW steps from the St. Charles Hotel, in New Orleans, brings you
to and across Canal Street, the central avenue of the city, and to that
corner where the flower-women sit at the inner and outer edges of the
arcaded sidewalk, and make the air sweet with their fragrant
merchandise. The crowd—and if it is near the time of the carnival it
will be great—will follow Canal Street.
But you turn, instead, into the quiet, narrow way which a lover of
Creole antiquity, in fondness for a romantic past, is still prone to
call the Rue Royale. You will pass a few restaurants, a few
auction-rooms, a few furniture warehouses, and will hardly realize that
you have left behind you the activity and clatter of a city of
merchants before you find yourself in a region of architectural
decrepitude, where an ancient and foreign-seeming domestic life, in
second stories, overhangs the ruins of a former commercial prosperity,
and upon every thing has settled down a long sabbath of decay. The
vehicles in the street are few in number, and are merely passing
through; the stores are shrunken into shops; you see here and there,
like a patch of bright mould, the stall of that significant fungus, the
Chinaman. Many great doors are shut and clamped and grown gray with
cobweb; many street windows are nailed up; half the balconies are
begrimed and rust-eaten, and many of the humid arches and alleys which
characterize the older Franco-Spanish piles of stuccoed brick betray a
squalor almost oriental.
Yet beauty lingers here. To say nothing of the picturesque,
sometimes you get sight of comfort, sometimes of opulence, through the
unlatched wicket in some porte-cochere—red-painted brick pavement,
foliage of dark palm or pale banana, marble or granite masonry and
blooming parterres; or through a chink between some pair of heavy
batten window-shutters, opened with an almost reptile wariness, your
eye gets a glimpse of lace and brocade upholstery, silver and bronze,
and much similar rich antiquity.
The faces of the inmates are in keeping; of the passengers in the
street a sad proportion are dingy and shabby; but just when those are
putting you off your guard, there will pass you a woman—more likely
two or three—of patrician beauty.
Now, if you will go far enough down this old street, you will see,
as you approach its intersection with—. Names in that region elude
one like ghosts.
However, as you begin to find the way a trifle more open, you will
not fail to notice on the right-hand side, about midway of the square,
a small, low, brick house of a story and a half, set out upon the
sidewalk, as weather-beaten and mute as an aged beggar fallen asleep.
Its corrugated roof of dull red tiles, sloping down toward you with an
inward curve, is overgrown with weeds, and in the fall of the year is
gay with the yellow plumes of the golden-rod. You can almost touch with
your cane the low edge of the broad, over-hanging eaves. The batten
shutters at door and window, with hinges like those of a postern, are
shut with a grip that makes one's knuckles and nails feel lacerated.
Save in the brick-work itself there is not a cranny. You would say the
house has the lockjaw. There are two doors, and to each a single
chipped and battered marble step. Continuing on down the side-walk, on
a line with the house, is a garden masked from view by a high, close
board-fence. You may see the tops of its fruit-trees—pomegranate,
peach, banana, fig, pear, and particularly one large orange, close by
the fence, that must be very old.
The residents over the narrow way, who live in a three-story house,
originally of much pretension, but from whose front door hard times
have removed almost all vestiges of paint, will tell you:
"Yass, de 'ouse is in'abit; 'tis live in."Dey
And this is likely to be all the information you get—not that
they would not tell, but they cannot grasp the idea that you wish to
know—until, possibly, just as you are turning to depart, your
informant, in a single word and with the most evident non-appreciation
of its value, drops the simple key to the whole matter:
He may then be aroused to mention the better appearance of the
place in former years, when the houses of this region generally stood
farther apart, and that garden comprised the whole square.
Here dwelt, sixty years ago and more, one Delphine Carraze; or, as
she was commonly designated by the few who knew her, Madame Delphine.
That she owned her home, and that it had been given her by the then
deceased companion of her days of beauty, were facts so generally
admitted as to be, even as far back as that sixty years ago, no longer
a subject of gossip. She was never pointed out by the denizens of the
quarter as a character, nor her house as a "feature." It would have
passed all Creole powers of guessing to divine what you could find
worthy of inquiry concerning a retired quadroon woman; and not the
least puzzled of all would have been the timid and restive Madame
CHAPTER II. MADAME DELPHINE.
DURING the first quarter of the present century, the free quadroon
caste of New Orleans was in its golden age. Earlier generations—
sprung, upon the one hand, from the merry gallants of a French colonial
military service which had grown gross by affiliation with
Spanish-American frontier life, and, upon the other hand, from comely
Ethiopians culled out of the less negroidal types of African live
goods, and bought at the ship's side with vestiges of quills and
cowries and copper wire still in their head-dresses,—these earlier
generations, with scars of battle or private rencontre still on the
fathers, and of servitude on the manumitted mothers, afforded a mere
hint of the splendor that was to result from a survival of the fairest
through seventy-five years devoted to the elimination of the black
pigment and the cultivation of hyperian excellence and nymphean grace
and beauty. Nor, if we turn to the present, is the evidence much
stronger which is offered by the gens de couleur whom you may see in
the quadroon quarter this afternoon, with "Ichabod" legible on their
murky foreheads through a vain smearing of toilet powder, dragging
their chairs down to the narrow gateway of their close-fenced gardens,
and staring shrinkingly at you as you pass, like a nest of yellow
But as the present century was in its second and third decades, the
quadroones (for we must contrive a feminine spelling to define the
strict limits of the caste as then established) came forth in splendor.
Old travellers spare no terms to tell their praises, their
faultlessness of feature, their perfection of form, their varied styles
of beauty,—for there were even pure Caucasian blondes among them,—
their fascinating manners, their sparkling vivacity, their chaste and
pretty wit, their grace in the dance, their modest propriety, their
taste and elegance in dress. In the gentlest and most poetic sense
they were indeed the sirens of this land, where it seemed "always
afternoon"—a momentary triumph of an Arcadian over a Christian
civilization, so beautiful and so seductive that it became the subject
of special chapters by writers of the day more original than correct as
The balls that were got up for them by the male sang-pur were to
that day what the carnival is to the present. Society balls given the
same nights proved failures through the coincidence. The magnates of
government,—municipal, state, federal,—those of the army, of the
learned professions and of the clubs,—in short, the white male
aristocracy in every thing save the ecclesiastical desk,—were there.
Tickets were high-priced to insure the exclusion of the vulgar. No
distinguished stranger was allowed to miss them. They were beautiful!
They were clad in silken extenuations from the throat to the feet, and
wore, withal, a pathos in their charm that gave them a family likeness
Madame Delphine, were you not a stranger, could have told you all
about it; though hardly, I suppose, without tears.
But at the time of which we would speak (1821-22) her day of
splendor was set, and her husband—let us call him so for her sake—
was long dead. He was an American, and, if we take her word for it, a
man of noble heart and extremely handsome; but this is knowledge which
we can do without.
Even in those days the house was always shut, and Madame Delphine's
chief occupation and end in life seemed to be to keep well locked up
in-doors. She was an excellent person, the neighbors said,—a very
worthy person; and they were, maybe, nearer correct then they knew.
They rarely saw her save when she went to or returned from church; a
small, rather tired-looking, dark quadroone of very good features and a
gentle thoughtfulness of expression which would take long to describe:
call it a widow's look.
In speaking of Madame Delphine's house, mention should have been
made of a gate in the fence on the Royal-street sidewalk. It is gone
now, and was out of use then, being fastened once for all by an iron
staple clasping the cross-bar and driven into the post.
Which leads us to speak of another person.
CHAPTER III. CAPITAINE LEMAITRE.
HE was one of those men that might be any age,—thirty, forty,
forty-five; there was no telling from his face what was years and what
was only weather. His countenance was of a grave and quiet, but also
luminous, sort, which was instantly admired and ever afterward
remembered, as was also the fineness of his hair and the blueness of
his eyes. Those pronounced him youngest who scrutinized his face the
closest. But waiving the discussion of age, he was odd, though not
with the oddness that he who had reared him had striven to produce.
He had not been brought up by mother or father. He had lost both in
infancy, and had fallen to the care of a rugged old military grandpa of
the colonial school, whose unceasing endeavor had been to make "his
boy" as savage and ferocious a holder of unimpeachable social rank as
it became a pure-blooded French Creole to be who would trace his
pedigree back to the god Mars.
"Remember, my boy," was the adjuration received by him as regularly
as his waking cup of black coffee, "that none of your family line ever
kept the laws of any government or creed." And if it was well that he
should bear this in mind, it was well to reiterate it persistently,
for, from the nurse's arms, the boy wore a look, not of docility so
much as of gentle, judicial benevolence. The domestics of the old man's
house used to shed tears of laughter to see that look on the face of a
babe. His rude guardian addressed himself to the modification of this
facial expression; it had not enough of majesty in it, for instance, or
of large dare-deviltry; but with care these could be made to come.
And, true enough, at twenty-one (in Ursin Lemaitre), the labors of
his grandfather were an apparent success. He was not rugged, nor was he
loud-spoken, as his venerable trainer would have liked to present him
to society; but he was as serenely terrible as a well-aimed rifle, and
the old man looked upon his results with pride. He had cultivated him
up to that pitch where he scorned to practise any vice, or any virtue,
that did not include the principle of self-assertion. A few touches
only were wanting here and there to achieve perfection, when suddenly
the old man died. Yet it was his proud satisfaction, before he finally
lay down, to see Ursin a favored companion and the peer, both in
courtesy and pride, of those polished gentlemen famous in history, the
The two Lafittes were, at the time young Lemaitre reached his
majority (say 1808 or 1812), only merchant-blacksmiths, so to speak, a
term intended to convey the idea of blacksmiths who never soiled their
hands, who were men of capital, stood a little higher than the clergy,
and moved in society among its autocrats. But they were full of
possibilities, men of action, and men, too, of thought, with already a
pronounced disbelief in the custom-house. In these days of big
carnivals they would have been patented as the dukes of Little Manchac
Young Ursin Lemaitre (in full the name was Lemaitre-Vignevielle)
had not only the hearty friendship of these good people, but also a
natural turn for accounts; and as his two friends were looking about
them with an enterprising eye, it easily resulted that he presently
connected himself with the blacksmithing profession. Not exactly at the
forge in the Lafittes' famous smithy, among the African Samsons, who,
with their shining black bodies bared to the waist, made the Rue St.
Pierre ring with the stroke of their hammers; but as a—there was no
occasion to mince the word in those days—smuggler.
Smuggler—patriot—where was the difference? Beyond the ken of a
community to which the enforcement of the revenue laws had long been
merely so much out of every man's pocket and dish, into the
all-devouring treasury of Spain. At this date they had come under a
kinder yoke, and to a treasury that at least echoed when the customs
were dropped into it; but the change was still new. What could a man be
more than Capitaine Lemaitre was—the soul of honor, the pink of
courtesy, with the courage of the lion, and the magnanimity of the
elephant; frank—the very exchequer of truth! Nay, go higher still:
his paper was good in Toulouse Street. To the gossips in the
gaming-clubs he was the culminating proof that smuggling was one of the
Years went by. Events transpired which have their place in history.
Under a government which the community by and by saw was conducted in
their interest, smuggling began to lose its respectability and to grow
disreputable, hazardous, and debased. In certain onslaughts made upon
them by officers of the law, some of the smugglers became murderers.
The business became unprofitable for a time until the enterprising
Lafittes—thinkers—bethought them of a corrective—"privateering."
Thereupon the United States Government set a price upon their
heads. Later yet it became known that these outlawed pirates had been
offered money and rank by Great Britain if they would join her
standard, then hovering about the water-approaches to their native
city, and that they had spurned the bribe; wherefore their heads were
ruled out of the market, and, meeting and treating with Andrew
Jackson, they were received as lovers of their country, and as
compatriots fought in the battle of New Orleans at the head of their
fearless men, and—here tradition takes up the tale—were never seen
Capitaine Lemaitre was not among the killed or wounded, but he was
among the missing.
CHAPTER IV. THREE FRIENDS.
THE roundest and happiest-looking priest in the city of New Orleans
was a little man fondly known among his people as Pere Jerome. He was a
Creole and a member of one of the city's leading families. His dwelling
was a little frame cottage, standing on high pillars just inside a
tall, close fence, and reached by a narrow out-door stair from the
green batten gate. It was well surrounded by crape myrtles, and
communicated behind by a descending stair and a plank-walk with the
rear entrance of the chapel over whose worshippers he daily spread his
hands in benediction. The name of the street—ah! there is where light
is wanting. Save the Cathedral and the Ursulines, there is very little
of record concerning churches at that time, though they were springing
up here and there. All there is certainty of is that Pere Jerome's
frame chapel was some little new-born "down-town" thing, that may have
survived the passage of years, or may have escaped "Paxton's Directory"
"so as by fire." His parlor was dingy and carpetless; one could smell
distinctly there the vow of poverty. His bed-chamber was bare and
clean, and the bed in it narrow and hard; but between the two was a
dining-room that would tempt a laugh to the lips of any who looked in.
The table was small, but stout, and all the furniture of the room
substantial, made of fine wood, and carved just enough to give the
notion of wrinkling pleasantry. His mother's and sister's doing, Pere
Jerome would explain; they would not permit this apartment—or
department—to suffer. Therein, as well as in the parlor, there was
odor, but of a more epicurean sort, that explained interestingly the
Pere Jerome's rotundity and rosy smile.
In this room, and about this miniature round table, used sometimes
to sit with Pere Jerome two friends to whom he was deeply attached—
one, Evariste Varrillat, a playmate from early childhood, now his
brother-in-law; the other, Jean Thompson, a companion from youngest
manhood, and both, like the little priest himself, the regretful
rememberers of a fourth comrade who was a comrade no more. Like Pere
Jerome, they had come, through years, to the thick of life's conflicts,
- the priest's brother-in-law a physician, the other an attorney, and
brother-in-law to the lonely wanderer,—yet they loved to huddle
around this small board, and be boys again in heart while men in mind.
Neither one nor another was leader. In earlier days they had always
yielded to him who no longer met with them a certain chieftainship,
and they still thought of him and talked of him, and, in their
conjectures, groped after him, as one of whom they continued to expect
greater things than of themselves.
They sat one day drawn thus close together, sipping and theorizing,
speculating upon the nature of things in an easy, bold, sophomoric way,
the conversation for the most part being in French, the native tongue
of the doctor and priest, and spoken with facility by Jean Thompson the
lawyer, who was half Americain; but running sometimes into English and
sometimes into mild laughter. Mention had been made of the absentee.
Pere Jerome advanced an idea something like this:
"It is impossible for any finite mind to fix the degree of
criminality of any human act or of any human life. The Infinite One
alone can know how much of our sin is chargeable to us, and how much to
our brothers or our fathers. We all participate in one another's sins.
There is a community of responsibility attaching to every misdeed. No
human since Adam—nay, nor Adam himself—ever sinned entirely to
himself. And so I never am called upon to contemplate a crime or a
criminal but I feel my conscience pointing at me as one of the
"In a word," said Evariste Varrillat, the physician, "you think we
are partly to blame for the omission of many of your Paternosters, eh?"
Father Jerome smiled.
"No; a man cannot plead so in his own defence; our first father
tried that, but the plea was not allowed. But, now, there is our
absent friend. I tell you truly this whole community ought to be
recognized as partners in his moral errors. Among another people,
reared under wiser care and with better companions, how different might
he not have been! How can we speak of him as a law-breaker who might
have saved him from that name?" Here the speaker turned to Jean
Thompson, and changed his speech to English. "A lady sez to me to-day:
'Pere Jerome, 'ow dat is a dreadfool dat 'e gone at de coas' of Cuba to
be one corsair! Ain't it?' 'Ah, madame,' I sez, ' 'tis a terrible! I
'ope de good God will fo'give me an' you fo' dat!' "
Jean Thompson answered quickly:
"You should not have let her say that."
"Mais, fo' w'y?"
"Why, because, if you are partly responsible, you ought so much the
more to do what you can to shield his reputation. You should have
said,"—the attorney changed to French,—" 'He is no pirate; he has
merely taken out letters of marque and reprisal under the flag of the
republic of Carthagena!' "
"Ah, bah!" exclaimed Doctor Varrillat, and both he and his
brother-in-law, the priest, laughed.
"Why not?" demanded Thompson.
"Oh!" said the physician, with a shrug, "say id thad way iv you
Then, suddenly becoming serious, he was about to add something
else, when Pere Jerome spoke.
"I will tell you what I could have said. I could have said:
'Madame, yes; 'tis a terrible fo' him. He stum'le in de dark; but dat
good God will mek it a mo' terrible fo' dat man oohever he is, w'at put
'at light out!' "
"But how do you know he is a pirate?" demanded Thompson,
"How do we know?" said the little priest, returning to French. "Ah!
there is no other explanation of the ninety-and-nine stories that come
to us, from every port where ships arrive from the north coast of Cuba,
of a commander of pirates there who is a marvel of courtesy and
"And whose name is Lafitte," said the obstinate attorney.
"And who, nevertheless, is not Lafitte," insisted Pere Jerome.
"Daz troo, Jean," said Doctor Varrillat. "We hall know daz troo."
Pere Jerome leaned forward over the board and spoke, with an air of
secrecy, in French.
"You have heard of the ship which came into port here last Monday.
You have heard that she was boarded by pirates, and that the captain of
the ship himself drove them off."
"An incredible story," said Thompson.
"But not so incredible as the truth. I have it from a passenger.
There was on the ship a young girl who was very beautiful. She came on
deck, where the corsair stood, about to issue his orders, and, more
beautiful than ever in the desperation of the moment, confronted him
with a small missal spread open, and,
1. See gazettes of the period. her finger on the Apostles' Creed,
commanded him to read. He read it, uncovering his head as he read, then
stood gazing on her face, which did not quail; and then with a low bow,
said: 'Give me this book and I will do your bidding.' She gave him the
book and bade him leave the ship, and he left it unmolested."
Pere Jerome looked from the physician to the attorney and back
again, once or twice, with his dimpled smile.
"But he speaks English, they say," said Jean Thompson.
"He has, no doubt, learned it since he left us," said the priest.
"But this ship-master, too, says his men called him Lafitte."
"Lafitte? No. Do you not see? It is your brother-in-law, Jean
Thompson! It is your wife's brother! Not Lafitte, but" (softly)
"Lemaitre! Lemaitre! Capitaine Ursin Lemaitre!"
The two guests looked at each other with a growing drollery on
either face, and presently broke into a laugh.
"Ah!" said the doctor, as the three rose up, "you juz kip dad
cog-an'-bull fo' yo' negs summon."
Pere Jerome's eyes lighted up—
"I goin' to do it!"
"I tell you," said Evariste, turning upon him with sudden gravity,
"iv dad is troo, I tell you w'ad is sure-sure! Ursin Lemaitre din kyare
nut'n fo' doze creed; he fall in love!"
Then, with a smile, turning to Jean Thompson, and back again to
"But anny'ow you tell it in dad summon dad 'e kyare fo' dad creed."
Pere Jerome sat up late that night, writing a letter. The
remarkable effects upon a certain mind, effects which we shall
presently find him attributing solely to the influences of surrounding
nature, may find for some a more sufficient explanation in the fact
that this letter was but one of a series, and that in the rover of
doubted identity and incredible eccentricity Pere Jerome had a regular
CHAPTER V. THE CAP FITS.
ABOUT two months after the conversation just given, and therefore
somewhere about the Christmas holidays of the year 1821, Pere Jerome
delighted the congregation of his little chapel with the announcement
that he had appointed to preach a sermon in French on the following
sabbath—not there, but in the cathedral.
He was much beloved. Notwithstanding that among the clergy there
were two or three who shook their heads and raised their eyebrows, and
said he would be at least as orthodox if he did not make quite so much
of the Bible and quite so little of the dogmas, yet "the common people
heard him gladly." When told, one day, of the unfavorable whispers, he
smiled a little and answered his informant,—whom he knew to be one
of the whisperers himself,—laying a hand kindly upon his shoulder:
"Father Murphy,"—or whatever the name was,—"your words comfort
"How is that?"
"Because—' Voe quum benedixerint mihi homines!' " 1
The appointed morning, when it came, was one of those exquisite
days in which there is such a universal harmony, that worship rises
from the heart like a spring.
"Truly," said Pere Jerome to the companion who was to assist him in
the mass," this is a sabbath day which we do not have to make holy, but
only to keep so."
Maybe it was one of the secrets of Pere Jerome's success as a
preacher, that he took more thought as to how he should feel, than as
to what he should say.
The cathedral of those days was called a very plain old pile,
boasting neither beauty nor riches; but to Pere Jerome it was very
lovely; and before its homely altar, not homely to him, in the
performance of those solemn offices, symbols of heaven's mightiest
truths, in the hearing of the organ's harmonics, and the yet more
eloquent interunion of human voices in the choir, in overlooking the
worshipping throng which knelt under the soft, chromatic lights, and in
breathing the sacrificial odors of the chancel, he found a deep and
solemn joy; and yet I guess the finest thought of his soul the while
was one that came thrice and again:
1. "Woe unto me when all men speak well of me !" "Be not deceived,
Pere Jerome, because saintliness of feeling is easy here; you are the
same priest who overslept this morning, and over-ate yesterday, and
will, in some way, easily go wrong to-morrow and the day after."
He took it with him when—the Veni Creator sung—he went into the
pulpit. Of the sermon he preached, tradition has preserved for us only
a few brief sayings, but they are strong and sweet.
"My friends," he said,—this was near the beginning,—"the angry
words of God's book are very merciful—they are meant to drive us
home; but the tender words, my friends, they are sometimes terrible!
Notice these, the tenderest words of the tenderest prayer that ever
came from the lips of a blessed martyr—the dying words of the holy
Saint Stephen, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' Is there
nothing dreadful in that? Read it thus: 'Lord, lay not this sin to
their charge.' Not to the charge of them who stoned him? To whose
charge then? Go ask the holy Saint Paul. Three years afterward, praying
in the temple at Jerusalem, he answered that question: 'I stood by and
consented.' He answered for himself only; but the Day must come when
all that wicked council that sent Saint Stephen away to be stoned, and
all that city of Jerusalem, must hold up the hand and say: 'We, also,
Lord—we stood by.' Ah! friends, under the simpler meaning of that
dying saint's prayer for the pardon of his murderers is hidden the
terrible truth that we all have a share in one another's sins."
Thus Pere Jerome touched his key-note. All that time has spared us
beside may be given in a few sentences.
"Ah!" he cried once, "if it were merely my own sins that I had to
answer for, I might hold up my head before the rest of mankind; but no,
no, my friends—we cannot look each other in the face, for each has
helped the other to sin. Oh, where is there any room, in this world of
common disgrace, for pride? Even if we had no common hope, a common
despair ought to bind us together and forever silence the voice of
And again, this:
"Even in the promise to No', not again to destroy the race with a
flood, there is a whisper of solemn warning. The moral account of the
antediluvians was closed off and the balance brought down in the year
of the deluge; but the account of those who come after runs on and on,
and the blessed bow of promise itself warns us that God will not stop
it till the Judgment Day! O God, I thank thee that that day must come
at last, when thou wilt destroy the world, and stop the interest on my
It was about at this point that Pere Jerome noticed, more
particularly than he had done before, sitting among the worshippers
near him, a small, sad-faced woman, of pleasing features, but dark and
faded, who gave him profound attention. With her was another in better
dress, seemingly a girl still in her teens, though her face and neck
were scrupulously concealed by a heavy veil, and her hands, which were
small, by gloves.
"Quadroones," thought he, with a stir of deep pity.
Once, as he uttered some stirring word, he saw the mother and
daughter (if such they were), while they still bent their gaze upon
him, clasp each other's hand fervently in the daughter's lap. It was at
"My friends, there are thousands of people in this city of New
Orleans to whom society gives the ten commandments of God with all the
nots rubbed out! Ah! good gentlemen! if God sends the poor weakling to
purgatory for leaving the right path, where ought some of you to go who
strew it with thorns and briers!"
The movement of the pair was only seen because he watched for it.
He glanced that way again as he said:
"O God, be very gentle with those children who would be nearer
heaven this day had they never had a father and mother, but had got
their religious training from such a sky and earth as we have in
Louisiana this holy morning! Ah! my friends, nature is a big-print
The mother and daughter leaned a little farther forward, and
exchanged the same spasmodic hand-pressure as before. The mother's eyes
were full of tears.
"I once knew a man," continued the little priest, glancing to a
side aisle where he had noticed Evariste and Jean sitting against each
other, "who was carefully taught, from infancy to manhood, this single
only principle of life: defiance. Not justice, not righteousness, not
even gain; but defiance: defiance to God, defiance to man, defiance to
nature, defiance to reason; defiance and defiance and defiance."
"He is going to tell it!" murmured Evaliste to Jean.
"This man," continued Pere Jerome, "became a smuggler and at last a
pirate in the Gulf of Mexico. Lord, lay not that sin to his charge
alone! But a strange thing followed. Being in command of men of a sort
that to control required to be kept at the austerest distance, he now
found himself separated from the human world and thrown into the solemn
companionship with the sea, with the air, with the storm, the calm, the
heavens by day, the heavens by night. My friends, that was the first
time in his life that he ever found himself in really good company.
"Now, this man had a great aptness for accounts. He had kept them—
had rendered them. There was beauty, to him, in a correct, balanced,
and closed account. An account unsatisfied was a deformity. The result
is plain. That man, looking out night after night upon the grand and
holy spectacle of the starry deep above and the watery deep below, was
sure to find himself, sooner or later, mastered by the conviction that
the great Author of this majestic creation keeps account of it; and one
night there came to him, like a spirit walking on the sea, the awful,
silent question: 'My account with God—how does it stand?' Ah!
friends, that is a question which the book of nature does not answer.
"Did I say the book of nature is a catechism? Yes. But, after it
answers the first question with 'God,' nothing but questions follow;
and so, one day, this man gave a ship full of merchandise for one
little book which answered those questions. God help him to understand
it! and God help you, monsieur, and you, madame, sitting here in your
smuggled clothes, to beat upon the breast with me and cry, 'I, too,
Lord—I, too, stood by and consented.' "
Pere Jerome had not intended these for his closing words; but just
there, straight away before his sight and almost at the farthest door,
a man rose slowly from his seat and regarded him steadily with a kind,
bronzed, sedate face, and the sermon, as if by a sign of command, was
ended. While the Credo was being chanted he was still there; but when,
a moment after its close, the eye of Pere Jerome returned in that
direction, his place was empty.
As the little priest, his labor done and his vestments changed, was
turning into the Rue Royale and leaving the cathedral out of sight, he
just had time to understand that two women were purposely allowing him
to overtake them, when the one nearer him spoke in the Creole patois,
saying, with some timid haste:
"Good-morning, Pere—Pere Jerome; Pere Jerome, we thank the good
God for that sermon."
"Then, so do I," said the little man. They were the same two that
he had noticed when he was preaching. The younger one bowed silently;
she was a beautiful figure, but the slight effort of Pere Jerome's kind
eyes to see through the veil was vain. He would presently have passed
on, but the one who had spoken before said:
"I thought you lived in the Rue des Ursulines."
"Yes; I am going this way to see a sick person."
The woman looked up at him with an expression of mingled confidence
"It must be a blessed thing to be so useful as to be needed by the
good God," she said.
Pere Jerome smiled:
"God does not need me to look after his sick; but he allows me to
do it, just as you let your little boy in frocks carry in chips." He
might have added that he loved to do it, quite as much.
It was plain the woman had somewhat to ask, and was trying to get
courage to ask it.
"You have a little boy?" asked the priest.
"No, I have only my daughter;" she indicated the girl at her side.
Then she began to say something else, stopped, and with much
"Pere Jerome, what was the name of that man?"
"His name?" said the priest. "You wish to know his name?"
"Yes, Monsieur" (or Miche, as she spoke it); "it was such a
beautiful story." The speaker's companion looked another way.
"His name," said Father Jerome,—"some say one name and some
another. Some think it was Jean Lafitte, the famous; you have heard of
him? And do you go to my church, Madame -?"
"No, Miche; not in the past; but from this time, yes. My name"—
she choked a little, and yet it evidently gave her pleasure to offer
this mark of confidence—"is Madame Delphine—Delphine Carraze."
CHAPTER VI. A CRY OF DISTRESS.
PéRE JEROME'S smile and exclamation, as some days later he entered
his parlor in response to the announcement of a visitor, were
indicative of hearty.greeting rather than surprise.
Yet surprise could hardly have been altogether absent, for though
another Sunday had not yet come around, the slim, smallish figure
sitting in a corner, looking very much alone, and clad in dark attire,
which seemed to have been washed a trifle too often, was Delphine
Carraze on her second visit. And this, he was confident, was over and
above an attendance in the confessional, where he was sure he had
recognized her voice.
She rose bashfully and gave her hand, then looked to the floor, and
began a faltering speech, with a swallowing motion in the throat,
smiled weakly and commenced again, speaking, as before, in a gentle,
low note, frequently lifting up and casting down her eyes, while
shadows of anxiety and smiles of apology chased each other rapidly
across her face. She was trying to ask his advice.
"Sit down," said he; and when they had taken seats she resumed,
with downcast eyes:
"You know,—probably I should have said this in the confessional,
"No matter, Madame Delphine; I understand; you did not want an
oracle, perhaps; you want a friend."
She lifted her eyes, shining with tears, and dropped them again.
"I"—she ceased. "I have done a"—she dropped her head and shook
it despondingly—"a cruel thing." The tears rolled from her eyes as
she turned away her face.
Pere Jerome remained silent, and presently she turned again, with
the evident intention of speaking at length.
"It began nineteen years ago—by"—her eyes, which she had
lifted, fell lower than ever, her brow and neck were suffused with
blushes, and she murmured—"I fell in love."
She said no more, and by and by Pere Jerome replied:
"Well, Madame Delphine, to love is the right of every soul. I
believe in love. If your love was pure and lawful I am sure your angel
guardian smiled upon you; and if it was not, I cannot say you have
nothing to answer for, and yet I think God may have said: "She is a
quadroone; all the rights of her womanhood trampled in the mire, sin
made easy to her—almost compulsory,—charge it to account of whom it
"No, no!" said Madame Delphine, looking up quickly, "some of it
might fall upon"—Her eyes fell, and she commenced biting her lips and
nervously pinching little folds in her skirt. "He was good—as good
as the law would let him be—better, indeed, for he left me property,
which really the strict law does not allow. He loved our little
daughter very much. He wrote to his mother and sisters, owning all his
error and asking them to take the child and bring her up. I sent her to
them when he died, which was soon after, and did not see my child for
sixteen years. But we wrote to each other all the time, and she loved
me. And then—at last"—Madame Delphine ceased speaking, but went on
diligently with her agitated fingers, turning down foolish hems
lengthwise of her lap.
"At last your mother-heart conquered," said Pere Jerome.
"The sisters married, the mother died; I saw that even where she
was she did not escape the reproach of her birth and blood, and when
she asked me to let her come"—The speaker's brimming eyes rose an
instant. "I know it was wicked, but—I said, come."
The tears dripped through her hands upon her dress.
"Was it she who was with you last Sunday?"
"And now you do not know what to do with her?"
"Ah! c'est a oui!—that is it."
"Does she look like you, Madame Delphine?"
"Oh, thank God, no! you would never believe she was my daughter;
she is white and beautiful!"
"You thank God for that which is your main difficulty, Madame
Pere Jerome laid his palms tightly across his knees with his arms
bowed out, and fixed his eyes upon the ground, pondering.
"I suppose she is a sweet, good daughter?" said he, glancing at
Madame Delphine, without changing his attitude.
Her answer was to raise her eyes rapturously.
"Which gives us the dilemma in its fullest force," said the priest,
speaking as if to the floor. "She has no more place than if she had
dropped upon a strange planet." He suddenly looked up with a brightness
which almost as quickly passed away, and then he looked down again. His
happy thought was the cloister; but he instantly said to himself: "They
cannot have overlooked that choice, except intentionally—which they
have a right to do." He could do nothing but shake his head.
"And suppose you should suddenly die," he said; he wanted to get at
once to the worst.
The woman made a quick gesture, and buried her head in her
handkerchief, with the stifled cry:
"Oh, Olive, my daughter!"
"Well, Madame Delphine," said Pere Jerome, more buoyantly, "one
thing is sure: we must find a way out of this trouble."
"Ah!" she exclaimed, looking heavenward, "if it might be!"
"But it must be!" said the priest.
"But how shall it be?" asked the desponding woman.
"Ah!" said Pere Jerome, with a shrug, "God knows."
"Yes," said the quadroone, with a quick sparkle in her gentle eye;
"and I know, if God would tell anybody, He would tell you!"
The priest smiled and rose.
"Do you think so? Well, leave me to think of it. I will ask Him."
"And He will tell you!" she replied. "And He will bless you!" She
rose and gave her hand. As she withdrew it she smiled. "I had such a
strange dream," she said, backing toward the door.
"Yes. I got my troubles all mixed up with your sermon. I dreamed I
made that pirate the guardian of my daughter."
Pere Jerome smiled also, and shrugged.
"To you, Madame Delphine, as you are placed, every white man in
this country, on land or on water, is a pirate, and of all pirates, I
think that one is, without doubt, the best."
"Without doubt," echoed Madame Delphine, wearily, still withdrawing
backward. Pere Jerome stepped forward and opened the door.
The shadow of some one approaching it from without fell upon the
threshold, and a man entered, dressed in dark blue cottonade, lifting
from his head a fine Panama hat, and from a broad, smooth brow, fair
where the hat had covered it, and dark below, gently stroking back his
very soft, brown locks. Madame Delphine slightly started aside, while
Pere Jerome reached silently, but eagerly, forward, grasped a larger
hand than his own, and motioned its owner to a seat. Madame Delphine's
eyes ventured no higher than to discover that the shoes of the visitor
were of white duck.
"Well, Pere Jerome," she said, in a hurried undertone, "I am just
going to say Hail Marys all the time till you find that out for me!"
"Well, I hope that will be soon, Madame Carraze. Good-day, Madame
And as she departed, the priest turned to the newcomer and extended
both hands, saying, in the same familiar dialect in which he had been
addressing the quadroone:
"Well-a-day, old playmate! After so many years!"
They sat down side by side, like husband and wife, the priest
playing with the other's hand, and talked of times and seasons past,
often mentioning Evariste and often Jean.
Madame Delphine stopped short half-way home and returned to Pere
Jerome's. His entry door was wide open and the parlor door ajar. She
passed through the one and with downcast eyes was standing at the
other, her hand lifted to knock, when the door was drawn open and the
white duck shoes passed out. She saw, besides, this time the blue
"Yes," the voice of Pere Jerome was saying, as his face appeared in
the door—"Ah! Madame"—
"I lef' my parasol," said Madame Delphine, in English.
There was this quiet evidence of a defiant spirit hidden somewhere
down under her general timidity, that, against a fierce conventional
prohibition, she wore a bonnet instead of the turban of her caste, and
carried a parasol.
Pere Jerome turned and brought it.
He made a motion in the direction in which the late visitor had
"Madame Delphine, you saw dat man?"
"Not his face."
"You couldn' billieve me iv I tell you w'at dat man purpose to do!"
"Is dad so, Pere Jerome?"
"He's goin' to hopen a bank!"
"Ah!" said Madame Delphine, seeing she was expected to be
Pere Jerome evidently longed to tell something that was best kept
secret; he repressed the impulse, but his heart had to say something.
He threw forward one hand and looking pleasantly at Madame Delphine,
with his lips dropped apart, clenched his extended hand and thrusting
it toward the ground, said in a solemn undertone:
"He is God's own banker, Madame Delphine."
CHAPTER VII. MICHE VIGNEVIELLE.
MADAME DELPHINE sold one of the corner lots of her property. She
had almost no revenue, and now and then a piece had to go. As a
consequence of the sale, she had a few large bank-notes sewed up in
her petticoat, and one day—maybe a fortnight after her tearful
interview with Pere Jerome—she found it necessary to get one of these
changed into small money. She was in the Rue Toulouse, looking from one
side to the other for a bank which was not in that street at all, when
she noticed a small sign hanging above a door, bearing the name
"Vignevielle." She looked in. Pere Jerome had told her (when she had
gone to him to ask where she should apply for change) that if she could
only wait a few days, there would be a new concern opened in Toulouse
Street,—it really seemed as if Vignevielle was the name, if she could
judge; it looked to be, and it was, a private banker's,—"U. L.
Vignevielle's," according to a larger inscription which met her eyes as
she ventured in. Behind the counter, exchanging some last words with a
busy-mannered man outside, who, in withdrawing, seemed bent on running
over Madame Delphine, stood the man in blue cottonade, whom she had met
in Pere Jerome's doorway. Now, for the first time, she saw his face,
its strong, grave, human kindness shining softly on each and every
bronzed feature. The recognition was mutual. He took pains to speak
first, saying, in a re-assuring tone, and in the language he had last
heard her use:
"'Ow I kin serve you, Madame?"
"Iv you pliz, to mague dad bill change, Miche."
She pulled from her pocket a wad of dark cotton handkerchief, from
which she began to untie the imprisoned note. Madame Delphine had an
uncommonly sweet voice, and it seemed so to strike Monsieur
Vignevielle. He spoke to her once or twice more, as he waited on her,
each time in English, as though he enjoyed the humble melody of its
tone, and presently, as she turned to go, he said:
She started a little, but bethought herself instantly that he had
heard her name in Pere Jerome's parlor. The good father might even have
said a few words about her after her first departure; he had such an
overflowing heart. "Madame Carraze," said MonsieurVignevielle, "doze
kine of note wad you 'an' me juz now is bein' contrefit. You muz tek
kyah from doze kine of note. You see"—He drew from his cash-drawer a
note resembling the one he had just changed for her, and proceeded to
point out certain tests of genuineness. The counterfeit, he said, was
so and so.
"Bud," she exclaimed, with much dismay, "dad was de manner of my
bill! Id muz be—led me see dad bill wad I give you,—if you pliz,
Monsieur Vigneville turned to engage in conversation with an
employe and a new visitor, and gave no sign of hearing Madame
Delphine's voice. She asked a second time, with like result, lingered
timidly, and as he turned to give his attention to a third visitor,
"Miche Vignevielle, I wish you pliz led"—
"Madame Carraze," he said, turning so suddenly as to make the
frightened little woman start, but extending his palm with a show of
frankness, and assuming a look of benignant patience, "'ow I kin fine
doze note now, mongs' all de rez? Iv you pliz nod to mague me doze
The dimmest shadow of a smile seemed only to give his words a more
kindly authoritative import, and as he turned away again with a manner
suggestive of finality, Madame Delphine found no choice but to depart.
But she went away loving the ground beneath the feet of Monsieur U. L.
"Oh, Pere Jerome!" she exclaimed in the corrupt French of her
caste, meeting the little father on the street a few days later, "you
told the truth that day in your parlor. Mo conne li ˆ c't heure. I know
him now; he is just what you called him."
"Why do you not make him your banker, also, Madame Delphine?"
"I have done so this very day!" she replied, with more happiness in
her eyes than Pere Jerome had ever before seen there.
"Madame Delphine," he said, his own eyes sparkling, "make him your
daughter's guardian; for myself, being a priest, it would not be best;
but ask him; I believe he will not refuse you."
Madame Delphine's face grew still brighter as he spoke.
"It was in my mind," she said.
Yet to the timorous Madame Delphine many trifles became, one after
another, an impediment to the making of this proposal, and many weeks
elapsed before further delay was positively without excuse. But at
length, one day in May, 1822, in a small private office behind Monsieur
Vignevielle's banking-room,—he sitting beside a table, and she, more
timid and demure than ever, having just taken a chair by the door,—
she said, trying, with a little bashful laugh, to make the matter seem
unimportant, and yet with some tremor of voice:
"Miche Vignevielle, I bin maguing my will." (Having commenced their
acquaintance in English, they spoke nothing else.)
"'Tis a good idy," responded the banker.
"I kin mague you de troub' to kib dad will fo' me, Miche
She looked up with grateful re-assurance; but her eyes dropped
again as she said:
"Miche Vignevielle"—Here she choked, and began her peculiar
motion of laying folds in the skirt of her dress, with trembling
fingers. She lifted her eyes, and as they met the look of deep and
placid kindness that was in his face, some courage returned, and she
"Wad you wand?" asked he, gently.
"If it arrive to me to die"—
Her words were scarcely audible:
"I wand you teg kyah my lill' girl."
"You 'ave one lill' gal, Madame Carraze?"
She nodded with her face down.
"An' you godd some mo' chillen?"
"I nevva know dad, Madame Carraze. She's a lill' small gal?"
Mothers forget their daughters' stature. Madame Delphine said:
For a few moments neither spoke, and then Monsieur Vignevielle
"I will do dad."
"Lag she been you' h-own?" asked the mother, suffering from her own
"She's a good lill' chile, eh?"
"Miche, she's a lill' hangel!" exclaimed Madame Delphine, with a
look of distress.
"Yez; I teg kyah 'v 'er, lag my h-own. I mague you dad promise."
"But "—There was something still in the way, Madame Delphine
seemed to think.
The banker waited in silence.
"I suppose you will want to see my lill' girl?"
He smiled; for she looked at him as if she would implore him to
"Oh, I tek you' word fo' hall dad, Madame Carraze. It mague no
differend wad she loog lag; I don' wan' see 'er."
Madame Delphine's parting smile—she went very shortly—was
gratitude beyond speech.
Monsieur Vignevielle returned to the seat he had left, and resumed
a newspaper,—the Louisiana Gazette in all probability,—which he had
laid down upon Madame Delphine's entrance. His eyes fell upon a
paragraph which had previously escaped his notice. There they rested.
Either he read it over and over unwearyingly, or he was lost in
thought. Jean Thompson entered.
"Now," said Mr. Thompson, in a suppressed tone, bending a little
across the table, and laying one palm upon a package of papers which
lay in the other, "it is completed. You could retire from your business
any day inside of six hours without loss to anybody." (Both here and
elsewhere, let it be understood that where good English is given the
words were spoken in good French.)
Monsieur Vignevielle raised his eyes and extended the newspaper to
the attorney, who received it and read the paragraph. Its substance was
that a certain vessel of the navy had returned from a cruise in the
Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida, where she had done valuable
service against the pirates—having, for instance, destroyed in one
fortnight in January last twelve pirate vessels afloat, two on the
stocks, and three establishments ashore.
"United States brig Porpoise," repeated Jean Thompson. "Do you know
"We are acquainted," said Monsieur Vignevielle.
CHAPTER VIII. SHE.
A QUIET footstep, a grave new presence on financial sidewalks, a
neat garb slightly out of date, a gently strong and kindly pensive
face, a silent bow, a new sign in the Rue Toulouse, a lone figure with
a cane, walking in meditation in the evening light under the willows
of Canal Marigny, a long-darkened window re-lighted in the Rue Conti—
these were all; a fall of dew would scarce have been more quiet than
was the return of Ursin Lemaitre-Vignevielle to the precincts of his
birth and early life.
But we hardly give the event its right name. It was Capitaine
Lemaitre who had disappeared; it was Monsieur Vignevielle who had come
back. The pleasures, the haunts, the companions, that had once held out
their charms to the impetuous youth, offered no enticements to Madame
Delphine's banker. There is this to be said even for the pride his
grandfather had taught him, that it had always held him above low
indulgences; and though he had dallied with kings, queens, and knaves
through all the mazes of Faro, Rondeau, and Craps, he had done it
loftily; but now he maintained a peaceful estrangement from all.
Evariste and Jean, themselves, found him only by seeking.
"It is the right way," he said to Pere Jerome, the day we saw him
there. "Ursin Lemaitre is dead. I have buried him. He left a will. I am
"He is crazy," said his lawyer brother-in-law, impatiently.
"On the contrary," replied the little priest, " 'e 'as come ad
"Look at his face, Jean. Men with that kind of face are the last to
"You have not proved that," replied Jean, with an attorney's
obstinacy. "You should have heard him talk the other day about that
newspaper paragraph. 'I have taken Ursin Lemaitre's head; I have it
with me; I claim the reward, but I desire to commute it to
citizenship.' He is crazy."
Of course Jean Thompson did not believe what he said; but he said
it, and, in his vexation, repeated it, on the banquettes and at the
clubs; and presently it took the shape of a sly rumor, that the
returned rover was a trifle snarled in his top-hamper.
This whisper was helped into circulation by many trivial
eccentricities of manner, and by the unaccountable oddness of some of
his transactions in business.
"My dear sir!" cried his astounded lawyer, one day, "you are not
running a charitable institution!"
"How do you know?" said Monsieur Vignevielle. There the
"Why do you not found hospitals and asylums at once," asked the
attorney, at another time, with a vexed laugh, "and get the credit of
"And make the end worse than the beginning," said the banker, with
a gentle smile, turning away to a desk of books.
"Bah!" muttered Jean Thompson.
Monsieur Vignevielle betrayed one very bad symptom. Wherever he
went he seemed looking for somebody. It may have been perceptible only
to those who were sufficiently interested in him to study his
movements; but those who saw it once saw it always. He never passed an
open door or gate but he glanced in; and often, where it stood but
slightly ajar, you might see him give it a gentle push with his hand or
cane. It was very singular.
He walked much alone after dark. The guichinangoes (garroters, we
might say), at those times the city's particular terror by night, never
crossed his path. He was one of those men for whom danger appears to
One beautiful summer night, when all nature seemed hushed in
ecstasy, the last blush gone that told of the sun's parting, Monsieur
Vignevielle, in the course of one of those contemplative, uncompanioned
walks which it was his habit to take, came slowly along the more open
portion of the Rue Royale, with a step which was soft without
intention, occasionally touching the end of his stout cane gently to
the ground and looking upward among his old acquaintances, the stars.
It was one of those southern nights under whose spell all the
sterner energies of the mind cloak themselves and lie down in bivouac,
and the fancy and the imagination, that cannot sleep, slip their
fetters and escape, beckoned away from behind every flowering bush and
sweet-smelling tree, and every stretch of lonely, half-lighted walk, by
the genius of poetry. The air stirred softly now and then, and was
still again, as if the breezes lifted their expectant pinions and
lowered them once more, awaiting the rising of the moon in a silence
which fell upon the fields, the roads, the gardens, the walls, and the
suburban and half-suburban streets, like a pause in worship. And anon
Monsieur Vignevielle's steps were bent toward the more central part
of the town, and he was presently passing along a high, close,
board-fence, on the righthand side of the way, when, just within this
enclosure, and almost overhead, in the dark boughs of a large
orange-tree, a mocking-bird began the first low flutenotes of his
all-night song. It may have been only the nearness of the songster that
attracted the passer's attention, but he paused and looked up.
And then he remarked something more,—that the air where he had
stopped was filled with the overpowering sweetness of the
night-jasmine. He looked around; it could only be inside the fence.
There was a gate just there. Would he push it, as his wont was? The
grass was growing about it in a thick turf, as though the entrance had
not been used for years. An iron staple clasped the cross-bar, and was
driven deep into the gate-post. But now an eye that had been in the
blacksmithing business—an eye which had later received high training
as an eye for fastenings—fell upon that staple, and saw at a glance
that the wood had shrunk from it, and it had sprung from its hold,
though without falling out. The strange habit asserted itself; he laid
his large hand upon the cross-bar; the turf at the base yielded, and
the tall gate was drawn partly open.
At that moment, as at the moment whenever he drew or pushed a door
or gate, or looked in at a window, he was thinking of one, the image of
whose face and form had never left his inner vision since the day it
had met him in his life's path and turned him face about from the way
The bird ceased. The cause of the interruption, standing within the
opening, saw before him, much obscured by its own numerous shadows, a
broad, ill-kept, many-flowered garden, among whose untrimmed rose-trees
and tangled vines, and often, also, in its old walks of pounded shell,
the coco-grass and crab-grass had spread riotously, and sturdy weeds
stood up in bloom. He stepped in and drew the gate to after him. There,
very near by, was the clump of jasmine, whose ravishing odor had
tempted him. It stood just beyond a brightly moonlit path, which turned
from him in a curve toward the residence, a little distance to the
right, and escaped the view at a point where it seemed more than likely
a door of the house might open upon it. While he still looked, there
fell upon his ear, from around that curve, a light footstep on the
broken shells—one only, and then all was for a moment still again.
Had he mistaken? No. The same soft click was repeated nearer by, a pale
glimpse of robes came through the tangle, and then, plainly to view,
appeared an outline—a presence—a form—a spirit—a girl!
From throat to instep she was as white as Cynthia. Something above
the medium height, slender, lithe, her abundant hair rolling in dark,
rich waves back from her brows and down from her crown, and falling in
two heavy plaits beyond her round, broadly girt waist and full to her
knees, a few escaping locks eddying lightly on her graceful neck and
her temples,—her arms, half hid in a snowy mist of sleeve, let down
to guide her spotless skirts free from the dewy touch of the grass,—
straight down the path she came!
Will she stop? Will she turn aside? Will she espy the dark form in
the deep shade of the orange, and, with one piercing scream, wheel and
vanish? She draws near. She approaches the jasmine; she raises her
arms, the sleeves falling like a vapor down to the shoulders; rises
upon tiptoe, and plucks a spray. O Memory! Can it be? Can it be? Is
this his quest, or is it lunacy? The ground seems to Monsieur
Vignevielle the unsteady sea, and he to stand once more on a deck. And
she? As she is now, if she but turn toward the orange, the whole glory
of the moon will shine upon her face. His heart stands still; he is
waiting for her to do that. She reaches up again; this time a bunch for
her mother. That neck and throat! Now she fastens a spray in her hair.
The mockingbird cannot withhold; he breaks into song—she turns—she
turns her face—it is she, it is she! Madame Delphine's daughter is
the girl he met on the ship.
CHAPTER IX. OLIVE.
SHE was just passing seventeen—that beautiful year when the heart
of the maiden still beats quickly with the surprise of her new
dominion, while with gentle dignity her brow accepts the holy
coronation of womanhood. The forehead and temples beneath her loosely
bound hair were fair without paleness, and meek without languor. She
had the soft, lack-lustre beauty of the South; no ruddiness of coral,
no waxen white, no pink of shell; no heavenly blue in the glance; but
a face that seemed, in all its other beauties, only a tender
accompaniment for the large, brown, melting eyes, where the openness of
child-nature mingled dreamily with the sweet mysteries of maiden
thought. We say no color of shell on face or throat; but this was no
deficiency, that which took its place being the warm, transparent tint
of sculptured ivory.
This side doorway which led from Madame Delphine's house into her
garden was over-arched partly by an old remnant of vine-covered
lattice, and partly by a crape-myrtle, against whose small, polished
trunk leaned a rustic seat. Here Madame Delphine and Olive loved to sit
when the twilights were balmy or the moon was bright.
"Cherie," said Madame Delphine on one of those evenings, "why do
you dream so much?"
She spoke in the patois most natural to her, and which her daughter
had easily learned.
The girl turned her face to her mother, and smiled, then dropped
her glance to the hands in her own lap, which were listlessly handling
the end of a ribbon. The mother looked at her with fond solicitude. Her
dress was white again; this was but one night since that in which
Monsieur Vignevielle had seen her at the bush of night-jasmine. He had
not been discovered, but had gone away, shutting the gate, and leaving
it as he had found it.
Her head was uncovered. Its plaited masses, quite black in the
moonlight, hung down and coiled upon the bench, by her side. Her
chaste drapery was of that revived classic order which the world of
fashion was again laying aside to re-assume the medi¾val bondage of the
staylace; for New Orleans was behind the fashionable world, and Madame
Delphine and her daughter were behind New Orleans. A delicate scarf,
pale blue, of lightly netted worsted, fell from either shoulder down
beside her hands. The look that was bent upon her changed perforce to
one of gentle admiration. She seemed the goddess of the garden.
Olive glanced up. Madame Delphine was not prepared for the
movement, and on that account repeated her question:
"What are you thinking about?"
The dreamer took the hand that was laid upon hers between her own
palms, bowed her head, and gave them a soft kiss.
The mother submitted. Wherefore, in the silence which followed, a
daughter's conscience felt the burden of having withheld an answer, and
Olive presently said, as the pair sat looking up into the sky:
"I was thinking of Pere Jerome's sermon."
Madame Delphine had feared so. Olive had lived on it ever since the
day it was preached. The poor mother was almost ready to repent having
ever afforded her the opportunity of hearing it. Meat and drink had
become of secondary value to her daughter; she fed upon the sermon.
Olive felt her mother's thought and knew that her mother knew her
own; but now that she had confessed, she would ask a question:
"Do you think, maman, that Pere Jerome knows it was I who gave that
"No," said Madame Delphine, " I am sure he does not."
Another question came more timidly:
"Do—do you think he knows him?"
"Yes, I do. He said in his sermon he did."
Both remained for a long time very still, watching the moon gliding
in and through among the small dark-and-white clouds. At last the
daughter spoke again.
"I wish I was Pere—I wish I was as good as Pere Jerome."
"My child," said Madame Delphine, her tone betraying a painful
summoning of strength to say what she had lacked the courage to utter,
- "my child, I pray the good God you will not let your heart go after
one whom you may never see in this world!"
The maiden turned her glance, and their eyes met. She cast her arms
about her mother's neck, laid her cheek upon it for a moment, and then,
feeling the maternal tear, lifted her lips, and, kissing her, said:
"I will not! I will not!"
But the voice was one, not of willing consent, but of desperate
"It would be useless, anyhow," said the mother, laying her arm
around her daughter's waist.
Olive repeated the kiss, prolonging it passionately.
"I have nobody but you," murmured the girl; "I am a poor
She threw back her plaited hair for a third embrace, when a sound
in the shrubbery startled them.
"Qui ci a?" called Madame Delphine, in a frightened voice, as the
two stood up, holding to each other.
"It was only the dropping of a twig," she whispered, after a long
holding of the breath. But they went into the house and barred it
It was no longer pleasant to sit up. They retired, and in course of
time, but not soon, they fell asleep, holding each other very tight,
and fearing, even in their dreams, to hear another twig fall.
CHAPTER X. BIRDS.
MONSIEUR VIGNEVILLE looked in at no more doors or windows; but if
the disappearance of this symptom was a favorable sign, others came to
notice which were especially bad,—for instance, wakefulness. At
well-nigh any hour of the night, the city guard, which itself dared not
patrol singly, would meet him on his slow, unmolested, sky-gazing walk.
"Seems to enjoy it," said Jean Thompson; "the worst sort of
evidence. If he showed distress of mind, it would not be so bad; but
his calmness,—ugly feature."
The attorney had held his ground so long that he began really to
believe it was tenable.
By day, it is true, Monsieur Vignevielle was at his post in his
quiet "bank." Yet here, day by day, he was the source of more and more
vivid astonishment to those who held preconceived notions of a banker's
calling. As a banker, at least, he was certainly out of balance; while
as a promenader, it seemed to those who watched him that his ruling
idea had now veered about, and that of late he was ever on the quiet
alert, not to find, but to evade, somebody.
"Olive, my child," whispered Madame Delphine one morning, as the
pair were kneeling side by side on the tiled floor of the church,
"yonder is Miche Vignevielle! If you will only look at once—he is
just passing a little in—Ah, much too slow again; he stepped out by
the side door."
The mother thought it a strange providence that Monsieur
Vignevielle should always be disappearing whenever Olive was with her.
One early dawn, Madame Delphine, with a small empty basket on her
arm, stepped out upon the banquette in front of her house, shut and
fastened the door very softly, and stole out in the direction whence
you could faintly catch, in the stillness of the daybreak, the songs of
the Gascon butchers and the pounding of their meat-axes on the stalls
of the distant market-house. She was going to see if she could find
some birds for Olive,—the child's appetite was so poor; and, as she
was out, she would drop an early prayer at the cathedral. Faith and
"One must venture something, sometimes, in the cause of religion,"
thought she, as she started timorously on her way. But she had not
gone a dozen steps before she repented her temerity. There was some one
There should not be any thing terrible in a footstep merely because
it is masculine; but Madame Delphine's mind was not prepared to
consider that. A terrible secret was haunting her. Yesterday morning
she had found a shoe-track in the garden. She had not disclosed the
discovery to Olive, but she had hardly closed her eyes the whole night.
The step behind her now might be the fall of that very shoe. She
quickened her pace, but did not leave the sound behind. She hurried
forward almost at a run; yet it was still there—no farther, no
nearer. Two frights were upon her at once—one for herself, another
for Olive, left alone in the house; but she had but the one prayer—
"God protect my child!" After a fearful time she reached a place of
safety, the cathedral. There, panting, she knelt long enough to know
the pursuit was, at least, suspended, and then arose, hoping and
praying all the saints that she might find the way clear for her return
in all haste to Olive.
She approached a different door from that by which she had entered,
her eyes in all directions and her heart in her throat.
She started wildly and almost screamed, though the voice was soft
and mild. Monsieur Vignevielle came slowly forward from the shade of
the wall. They met beside a bench, upon which she dropped her basket.
"Ah, Miche Vignevielle, I thang de good God to mid you!"
"Is dad so, Madame Carraze? Fo' w'y dad is?"
"A man was chase me all dad way since my 'ouse!"
"Yes, Madame, I sawed him."
"You sawed 'im? Oo it was?"
"'Twas only one man wad is a foolizh. De people say he's crezzie.
Mais, he don' goin' to meg you no 'arm."
"But I was scare' fo' my lill' girl."
"Noboddie don' goin' trouble you' lill' gal, Madame Carraze."
Madame Delphine looked up into the speaker's strangely kind and
patient eyes, and drew sweet reassurance from them.
"Madame," said Monsieur Vignevielle, "wad pud you hout so hearly
She told him her errand. She asked if he thought she would find any
"Yez," he said, "it was possible—a few lill' becassines-de-mer,
ou somezin' ligue. But fo' w'y you lill' gal lose doze hapetide?"
"Ah, Miche,"—Madame Delphine might have tried a thousand times
again without ever succeeding half so well in lifting the curtain upon
the whole, sweet, tender, old, old-fashioned truth,—"Ah, Miche, she
wone tell me!"
"Bud, anny'ow, Madame, wad you thing?"
"Miche," she replied, looking up again with a tear standing in
either eye, and then looking down once more as she began to speak, "I
thing—I thing she's lonesome."
"Ah! Madame Carraze," he said, partly extending his hand, "you see?
'Tis impossible to mague you' owze shud so tighd to priv-en dad.
Madame, I med one mizteg."
"Ah, non, Miche!"
" Yez. There har nod one poss'bil'ty fo' me to be dad guardian of
Madame Delphine started with surprise and alarm.
"There is ondly one wad can be," he continued.
"But oo, Miche?"
"Ah, Miche Vignevielle "—She looked at him appealingly.
"I don' goin' to dizzerd you, Madame Carraze," he said.
She lifted her eyes. They filled. She shook her head, a tear fell,
she bit her lip, smiled, and suddenly dropped her face into both hands,
sat down upon the bench and wept until she shook.
"You dunno wad I mean, Madame Carraze?"
She did not know.
"I mean dad guardian of you' daughteh godd to fine 'er now one
'uzban'; an' noboddie are hable to do dad egceb de good God 'imsev.
But, Madame, I tell you wad I do."
She rose up. He continued:
"Go h-open you' owze; I fin' you' daughteh dad uzban'."
Madame Delphine was a helpless, timid thing; but her eyes showed
she was about to resent this offer. Monsieur Vignevielle put forth his
hand—it touched her shoulder—and said, kindly still, and without
"One w'ite man, Madame: 'tis prattycabble. I know 'tis
prattycabble. One w'ite jantleman, Madame. You can truz me. I goin'
fedge 'im. H-ondly you go h-open you' owze."
Madame Delphine looked down, twining her handkerchief among her
He repeated his proposition.
"You will come firz by you'se'f?" she asked.
"Iv you wand."
She lifted up once more her eye of faith. That was her answer.
"Come," he said, gently, "I wan' sen' some bird ad you' lill' gal."
And they went away, Madame Delphine's spirit grown so exaltedly
bold that she said as they went, though a violent blush followed her
"Miche Vignevielle, I thing Pere Jerome mighd be ab'e to tell you
CHAPTER XI. FACE TO FACE.
MADAME DELPHINE found her house neither burned nor rifled.
"Ah! ma piti sans popa! Ah! my little fatherless one!" Her faded
bonnet fell back between her shoulders, hanging on by the strings, and
her dropped basket, with its "few lill' becassines-de-mer" dangling
from the handle, rolled out its okra and soup-joint upon the floor. "Ma
"But is it good news you have, or bad?" cried the girl, a fourth or
"Dieu sait, ma cere; mo pas conne!"—God knows, my darling; I
The mother dropped into a chair, covered her face with her apron,
and burst into tears, then looked up with an effort to smile, and wept
"What have you been doing?" asked the daughter, in a long-drawn,
fondling tone. She leaned forward and unfastened her mother's
bonnet-strings. "Why do you cry?"
"For nothing at all, my darling; for nothing—I am such a fool."
The girl's eyes filled. The mother looked up into her face and
"No, it is nothing, nothing, only that"—turning her head from
side to side with a slow, emotional emphasis, "Miche Vignevielle is the
best—best man on the good Lord's earth!"
Olive drew a chair close to her mother, sat down and took the
little yellow hands into her own white lap, and looked tenderly into
her eyes. Madame Delphine felt herself yielding; she must make a show
of telling something:
"He sent you those birds!"
The girl drew her face back a little. The little woman turned
away, trying in vain to hide her tearful smile, and they laughed
together, Olive mingling a daughter's fond kiss with her laughter.
"There is something else," she said, "and you shall tell me."
"Yes," replied Madame Delphine, "only let me get composed."
But she did not get so. Later in the morning she came to Olive with
the timid yet startling proposal that they would do what they could to
brighten up the long-neglected front room. Olive was mystified and
troubled, but consented, and thereupon the mother's spirits rose.
The work began, and presently ensued all the thumping, the
trundling, the lifting and letting down, the raising and swallowing of
dust, and the smells of turpentine, brass, pumice and woollen rags that
go to characterize a housekeeper's emeute; and still, as the work
progressed, Madame Delphine's heart grew light, and her little black
"We like a clean parlor, my daughter, even though no one is ever
coming to see us, oh?" she said, as entering the apartment she at last
sat down, late in the afternoon. She had put on her best attire.
Olive was not there to reply. The mother called but got no answer.
She rose with an uneasy heart, and met her a few steps beyond the door
that opened into the garden, in a path which came up from an old
latticed bower. Olive was approaching slowly, her face pale and wild.
There was an agony of hostile dismay in the look, and the trembling and
appealing tone with which, taking the frightened mother's cheeks
between her palms, she said:
"Ah! ma mere, qui vini 'ci ce soir?"—Who is coming here this
"Why, my dear child, I was just saying, we like a clean"—
But the daughter was desperate:
"Oh, tell me, my mother, who is coming?"
"My darling, it is our blessed friend, Miche Vignevielle!"
"To see me?" cried the girl.
"Oh, my mother, what have you done?"
"Why, Olive, my child," exclaimed the little mother, bursting into
tears, "do you forget it is Miche Vignevielle who has promised to
protect you when I die?"
The daughter had turned away, and entered the door; but she faced
around again, and extending her arms toward her mother, cried:
"How can—he is a white man—I am a poor"—
"Ah! cherie," replied Madame Delphine, seizing the outstretched
hands, "it is there—it is there that he shows himself the best man
alive! He sees that difficulty; he proposes to meet it; he says he will
find you a suitor!"
Olive freed her hands violently, motioned her mother back, and
stood proudly drawn up, flashing an indignation too great for speech;
but the next moment she had uttered a cry, and was sobbing on the
The mother knelt beside her and threw an arm about her shoulders.
"Oh, my sweet daughter, you must not cry! I did not want to tell
you at all! I did not want to tell you! It isn't fair for you to cry so
hard. Miche Vignevielle says you shall have the one you wish, or none
at all, Olive, or none at all."
"None at all! none at all! None, none, none!"
"No, no, Olive," said the mother, "none at all. He brings none with
him to-night, and shall bring none with him hereafter."
Olive rose suddenly, silently declined her mother's aid, and went
alone to their chamber in the half-story.
Madame Delphine wandered drearily from door to window, from window
to door, and presently into the newly-furnished front room which now
seemed dismal beyond degree. There was a great Argand lamp in one
corner. How she had labored that day to prepare it for evening
illumination! A little beyond it, on the wall, hung a crucifix.. She
knelt under it, with her eyes fixed upon it, and thus silently remained
until its outline was indistinguishable in the deepening shadows of
She arose. A few minutes later, as she was trying to light the
lamp, an approaching step on the sidewalk seemed to pause. Her heart
stood still. She softly laid the phosphorus-box out of her hands. A
shoe grated softly on the stone step, and Madame Delphine, her heart
beating in great thuds, without waiting for a knock, opened the door,
bowed low, and exclaimed in a soft perturbed voice:
He entered, hat in hand, and with that almost noiseless tread which
we have noticed. She gave him a chair and closed the door; then
hastened, with words of apology, back to her task of lighting the lamp.
But her hands paused in their work again,—Olive's step was on the
stairs; then it came off the stairs; then it was in the next room, and
then there was the whisper of soft robes, a breath of gentle perfume,
and a snowy figure in the door. She was dressed for the evening.
Madame Delphine was struggling desperately with the lamp, and at
that moment it responded with a tiny bead of light.
"I am here, my daughter."
She hastened to the door, and Olive, all unaware of a third
presence, lifted her white arms, laid them about her mother's neck,
and, ignoring her effort to speak, wrested a fervent kiss from her
lips. The crystal of the lamp sent out a faint gleam; it grew; it
spread on every side; the ceiling, the walls lighted up; the crucifix,
the furniture of the room came back into shape.
"Maman!" cried Olive, with a tremor of consternation.
"It is Miche Vignevielle, my daughter"—
The gloom melted swiftly away before the eyes of the startled
maiden, a dark form stood out against the farther wall, and the light,
expanding to the full, shone clearly upon the unmoving figure and quiet
face of Capitaine Lemaitre.
CHAPTER XII. THE MOTHER BIRD.
ONE afternoon, some three weeks after Capitaine Lemaitre had called
on Madame Delphine, the priest started to make a pastoral call and had
hardly left the gate of his cottage, when a person, overtaking him,
plucked his gown:
The face that met his was so changed with excitement and distress
that for an instant he did not recognize it.
"Why, Madame Delphine"—
"Oh, Pere Jerome! I wan' see you so bad, so bad! Mo oule dit
qui'ose,—I godd some' to tell you."
The two languages might be more successful than one, she seemed to
"We had better go back to my parlor," said the priest, in their
Madame Delphine's very step was altered,—nervous and inelastic.
She swung one arm as she walked, and brandished a turkey-tail fan.
"I was glad, yass, to kedge you," she said, as they mounted the
front, outdoor stair; following her speech with a slight, unmusical
laugh, and fanning herself with unconscious fury.
"Fe chaud," she remarked again, taking the chair he offered and
continuing to ply the fan.
Pere Jerome laid his hat upon a chest of drawers, sat down opposite
her, and said, as he wiped his kindly face:
"Well, Madame Carraze?"
Gentle as the tone was, she started, ceased fanning, lowered the
fan to her knee, and commenced smoothing its feathers.
"Pere Jerome"—She gnawed her lip and shook her head.
She burst into tears.
The priest rose and loosed the curtain of one of the windows. He
did it slowly—as slowly as he could, and, as he came back, she lifted
her face with sudden energy, and exclaimed:
"Oh, Pere Jerome, de law is brogue! de law is brogue! I brogue it!
'Twas me! 'Twas me!"
The tears gushed out again, but she shut her lips very tight, and
dumbly turned away her face. Pere Jerome waited a little before
replying; then he said, very gently:
"I suppose dad muss 'ave been by accyden', Madame Delphine?"
The little father felt a wish—one which he often had when weeping
women were before him—that he were an angel instead of a man, long
enough to press the tearful cheek upon his breast, and assure the
weeper God would not let the lawyers and judges hurt her. He allowed a
few moments more to pass, and then asked:
"N'est-ce-pas, Madame Delphine? Daz ze way, ain't it?"
"No, Pere Jerome, no. My daughter—oh, Pere Jerome, I bethroath my
lill' girl—to a w'ite man!" And immediately Madame Delphine commenced
savagely drawing a thread in the fabric of her skirt with one trembling
hand, while she drove the fan with the other. "Dey goin' git marry."
On the priest's face came a look of pained surprise. He slowly
"Is dad possib', Madame Delphine?"
"Yass," she replied, at first without lifting her eyes; and then
again, "Yass," looking full upon him through her tears, "yaas, 'tis
He rose and walked once across the room, returned, and said, in the
"Is he a good man—without doubt?"
"De bez in God's world!" replied Madame Delphine, with a rapturous
"My poor, dear friend," said the priest, "I am afraid you are being
deceived by somebody."
There was the pride of an unswerving faith in the triumphant tone
and smile with which she replied, raising and slowly shaking her head:
"Ah-h, no-o-o, Miche! Ah-h, no, no! Not by Ursin
Pere Jerome was confounded. He turned again, and, with his hands at
his back and his eyes cast down, slowly paced the floor.
"He is a good man," he said, by and by, as if he thought aloud. At
length he halted before the woman.
The distressed glance with which she had been following his steps
was lifted to his eyes.
"Suppose dad should be true w'at doze peop' say 'bout Ursin."
"Qui ci a? What is that?" asked the quadroone, stopping her fan.
"Some peop' say Ursin is crezzie."
"Ah, Pere Jerome!" She leaped to her feet as if he had smitten her,
and putting his words away with an outstretched arm and wide-open palm,
suddenly lifted hands and eyes to heaven, and cried: "I wizh to God—I
wizh to God—de whole worl' was crezzie dad same way!" She sank,
trembling, into her chair. "Oh, no, no," she continued, shaking her
head, " 'tis not Miche Vignevielle w'at's crezzie." Her eyes lighted
with sudden fierceness. " 'Tis dad law! Dad law is crezzie! Dad law is
A priest of less heart-wisdom might have replied that the law is—
the law; but Pere Jerome saw that Madame Delphine was expecting this
very response. Wherefore he said, with gentleness:
"Madame Delphine, a priest is not a bailiff, but a physician. How
can I help you?"
A grateful light shone a moment in her eyes, yet there remained a
piteous hostility in the tone in which she demanded:
"Mais, pou'quoi ye fe cette mechanique lˆ?"—What business had
they to make that contraption?
His answer was a shrug with his palms extended and a short,
disclamatory "Ah." He started to resume his walk, but turned to her
again and said:
"Why did they make that law? Well, they made it to keep the two
Madame Delphine startled the speaker with a loud, harsh, angry
laugh. Fire came from her eyes and her lip curled with scorn.
"Then they made a lie, Pere Jerome! Separate! No-o-o! They do not
want to keep us separated; no, no! But they do want to keep us
despised!" She laid her hand on her heart, and frowned upward with
physical pain. "But, very well! from which race do they want to keep my
daughter separate? She is seven parts white! The law did not stop her
from being that; and now, when she wants to be a white man's good and
honest wife, shall that law stop her? Oh, no!" She rose up. "No; I will
tell you what that law is made for. It is made to—punish—my—child
- for—not—choosing—her—father! Pere Jerome—my God, what a
law!" She dropped back into her seat. The tears came in a flood, which
she made no attempt to restrain.
"No," she began again—and here she broke into English—"fo' me I
don' kyare; but, Pere Jerome,—'tis fo' dat I came to tell you,—dey
shall not punizh my daughter!" She was on her feet again, smiting her
heaving bosom with the fan. "She shall marrie oo she want!"
Pere Jerome had heard her out, not interrupting by so much as a
motion of the hand. Now his decision was made, and he touched her
softly with the ends of his fingers.
"Madame Delphine, I want you to go at 'ome. Go at 'ome."
"Wad you goin' mague?" she asked.
"Nottin'. But go at 'ome. Kip quite; don' put you'se'f sig. I goin'
see Ursin. We trah to figs dat law fo' you."
"You kin figs dad! " she cried, with a gleam of joy.
"We goin' to try, Madame Delphine. Adieu!"
He offered his hand. She seized and kissed it thrice, covering it
with tears, at the same time lifting up her eyes to his and murmuring:
"De bez man God evva mague!"
At the door she turned to offer a more conventional good-by; but he
was following her out, bareheaded. At the gate they paused an instant,
and then parted with a simple adieu, she going home and he returning
for his hat, and starting again upon his interrupted business.
Before he came back to his own house, he stopped at the lodgings of
Monsieur Vignevielle, but did not find him in.
"Indeed," the servant at the door said, "he said he might not
return for some days or weeks."
So Pere Jerome, much wondering, made a second detour toward the
residence of one of Monsieur Vignevielle's employes.
"Yes," said the clerk, " his instructions are to hold the business,
as far as practicable, in suspense, during his absence. Every thing is
in another name." And then he whispered:
"Officers of the Government looking for him. Information got from
some of the prisoners taken months ago by the United States brig
Porpoise. But"—a still softer whisper—"have no fear; they will
never find him: Jean Thompson and Evariste Varrillat have hid him away
too well for that."
CHAPTER XIII. TRIBULATION.
THE Saturday following was a very beautiful day. In the morning a
light fall of rain had passed across the town, and all the afternoon
you could see signs, here and there upon the horizon, of other showers.
The ground was dry again, while the breeze was cool and sweet, smelling
of wet foliage and bringing sunshine and shade in frequent and very
There was a walk in Pere Jerome's little garden, of which we have
not spoken, off on the right side of the cottage, with his chamber
window at one end, a few old and twisted, but blossom-laden,
crape-myrtles on either hand, now and then a rose of some unpretending
variety and some bunches of rue, and at the other end a shrine, in
whose blue niche stood a small figure of Mary, with folded hands and
uplifted eyes. No other window looked down upon the spot, and its
seclusion was often a great comfort to Pere Jerome.
Up and down this path, but a few steps in its entire length, the
priest was walking, taking the air for a few moments after a prolonged
sitting in the confessional. Penitents had been numerous this
afternoon. He was thinking of Ursin. The officers of the Government had
not found him, nor had Pere Jerome seen him; yet he believed they had,
in a certain indirect way, devised a simple project by which they could
at any time "figs dad law," providing only that these Government
officials would give over their search; for, though he had not seen the
fugitive, Madame Delphine had seen him, and had been the vehicle of
communication between them. There was an orange-tree, where a
mocking-bird was wont to sing and a girl in white to walk, that the
detectives wot not of. The law was to be "figs" by the departure of the
three frequenters of the jasmine-scented garden in one ship to France,
where the law offered no obstacles.
It seemed moderately certain to those in search of Monsieur
Vignevielle (and it was true) that Jean and Evariste were his
harborers; but for all that the hunt, even for clews, was vain. The
little banking establishment had not been disturbed. Jean Thompson had
told the searchers certain facts about it, and about its gentle
proprietor as well, that persuaded them to make no move against the
concern, if the same relations did not even induce a relaxation of
their efforts for his personal discovery.
Pere Jerome was walking to and fro, with his hands behind him,
pondering these matters. He had paused a moment at the end of the walk
farthest from his window, and was looking around upon the sky, when,
turning, he beheld a closely veiled female figure standing at the
other end, and knew instantly that it was Olive.
She came forward quickly and with evident eagerness.
"I came to confession," she said, breathing hurriedly, the
excitement in her eyes shining through her veil, "but I find I am too
"There is no too late or too early for that; I am always ready,"
said the priest. "But how is your mother?"
Her voice failed.
"Ah, sir, I have made trouble. Oh, Pere Jerome, I am bringing so
much trouble upon my poor mother!"
Pere Jerome moved slowly toward the house, with his eyes cast down,
the veiled girl at his side.
"It is not your fault," he presently said. And after another pause:
"I thought it was all arranged."
He looked up and could see, even through the veil, her crimson
"Oh, no," she replied, in a low, despairing voice, dropping her
"What is the difficulty?" asked the priest, stopping in the angle
of the path, where it turned toward the front of the house.
She averted her face, and began picking the thin scales of bark
from a crape-myrtle.
"Madame Thompson and her husband were at our house this morning. He
had told Monsieur Thompson all about it. They were very kind to me at
first, but they tried"—She was weeping.
"What did they try to do?" asked the priest.
"They tried to make me believe he is insane."
She succeeded in passing her handkerchief up under her veil.
"And I suppose then your poor mother grew angry, eh?"
"Yes; and they became much more so, and said if we did not write,
or send a writing, to him, within twenty-four hours, breaking the"—
"Engagement," said Pere Jerome.
"They would give him up to the Government. Oh, Pere Jerome, what
shall I do? It is killing my mother!"
She bowed her head and sobbed.
"Where is your mother now?"
"She has gone to see Monsieur Jean Thompson. She says she has a
plan that will match them all. I do not know what it is. I begged her
not to go; but oh, sir, she is crazy,—and I am no better."
"My poor child," said Pere Jerome, "what you seem to want is not
absolution, but relief from persecution."
"Oh, father, I have committed mortal sin,—I am guilty of pride
"Nevertheless," said the priest, starting toward his front gate,
"we will put off your confession. Let it go until to-morrow morning;
you will find me in my box just before mass; I will hear you then. My
child, I know that in your heart, now, you begrudge the time it would
take; and that is right. There are moments when we are not in place
even on penitential knees. It is so with you now. We must find your
mother. Go you at once to your house; if she is there, comfort her as
best you can, and keep her in, if possible, until I come. If she is not
there, stay; leave me to find her; one of you, at least, must be where
I can get word to you promptly. God comfort and uphold you. I hope you
may find her at home; tell her, for me, not to fear,"—he lifted the
gate-latch,—"that she and her daughter are of more value than many
sparrows; that God's priest sends her that word from Him. Tell her to
fix her trust in the great Husband of the Church, and she shall yet see
her child receiving the grace-giving sacrament of matrimony. Go; I
shall, in a few minutes, be on my way to Jean Thompson's, and shall
find her, either there or wherever she is. Go; they shall not oppress
A moment or two later he was in the street himself.
CHAPTER XIV. BY AN OATH.
PERE JEROME, pausing on a street-corner in the last hour of
sunlight, had wiped his brow and taken his cane down from under his arm
to start again, when somebody, coming noiselessly from he knew not
where, asked, so suddenly as to startle him:
"Miche, commin ye pelle la rie ici?—how do they call this street
It was by the bonnet and dress, disordered though they were, rather
than by the haggard face which looked distractedly around, that he
recognized the woman to whom he replied in her own patois:
"It is the Rue Burgundy. Where are you going, Madame Delphine?"
She almost leaped from the ground.
"Oh, Pere Jerome! mo pas conne,—I dunno. You know w'ere's dad
'ouse of Miche Jean Tomkin? Mo courri 'ci, mo courri lˆ,—mo pas
capabe li trouve. I go (run) here—there—I cannot find it," she
"I am going there myself," said he; "but why do you want to see
Jean Thompson, Madame Delphine?"
"I 'blige' to see 'im!" she replied, jerking herself half around
away, one foot planted forward with an air of excited pre-occupation;
"I godd some' to tell 'im wad I 'blige' to tell 'im!"
"Oh! Pere Jerome, fo' de love of de good God, show me dad way to de
'ouse of Jean Tomkin!"
Her distressed smile implored pardon for her rudeness.
"What are you going to tell him?" asked the priest.
"Oh, Pere Jerome,"—in the Creole patois again,—"I am going to
put an end to all this trouble—only I pray you do not ask me about it
now; every minute is precious!"
He could not withstand her look of entreaty.
"Come," he said, and they went.
Jean Thompson and Doctor Varrillat lived opposite each other on
the Bayou road, a little way beyond the town limits as then prescribed.
Each had his large, white-columned, four-sided house among the
magnolias,—his huge live-oak overshadowing either corner of the
darkly shaded garden, his broad, brick walk leading down to the tall,
brick-pillared gate, his square of bright, red pavement on the
turf-covered sidewalk, and his railed platform spanning the
draining-ditch, with a pair of green benches, one on each edge, facing
each other crosswise of the gutter. There, any sunset hour, you were
sure to find the householder sitting beside his cool-robed matron, two
or three slave nurses in white turbans standing at hand, and an excited
throng of fair children, nearly all of a size.
Sometimes, at a beckon or call, the parents on one side of the way
would join those on the other, and the children and nurses of both
families would be given the liberty of the opposite platform and an
ice-cream fund! Generally the parents chose the Thompson platform, its
outlook being more toward the sunset.
Such happened to be the arrangement this afternoon. The two
husbands sat on one bench and their wives on the other, both pairs very
quiet, waiting respectfully for the day to die, and exchanging only
occasional comments on matters of light moment as they passed through
the memory. During one term of silence Madame Varrillat, a pale,
thin-faced, but cheerful-looking lady, touched Madame Thompson, a
person of two and a half times her weight, on her extensive and snowy
bare elbow, directing her attention obliquely up and across the road.
About a hundred yards distant, in the direction of the river, was a
long, pleasantly shaded green strip of turf, destined in time for a
sidewalk. It had a deep ditch on the nearer side, and a fence of rough
cypress palisades on the farther, and these were overhung, on the one
hand, by a row of bitter-orange-trees inside the enclosure, and, on the
other, by a line of slanting china-trees along the outer edge of the
ditch. Down this cool avenue two figures were approaching side by side.
They had first attracted Madame Varrillat's notice by the bright play
of sunbeams which, as they walked, fell upon them in soft, golden
flashes through the chinks between the palisades.
Madame Thompson elevated a pair of glasses which were no detraction
from her very good looks, and remarked, with the serenity of a
"Pere Jerome et cette milatraise."
All eyes were bent toward them.
"She walks like a man," said Madame Varrillat, in the language with
which the conversation had opened.
"No," said the physician, "like a woman in a state of high nervous
Jean Thompson kept his eyes on the woman, and said:
"She must not forget to walk like a woman in the State of
Louisiana,"—as near as the pun can be translated. The company
laughed. Jean Thompson looked at his wife, whose applause he prized,
and she answered by an asseverative toss of the head, leaning back and
contriving, with some effort, to get her arms folded. Her laugh was
musical and low, but enough to make the folded arms shake gently up and
"Pere Jerome is talking to her," said one. The priest was at that
moment endeavoring, in the interest of peace, to say a good word for
the four people who sat watching his approach. It was in the old
"Blame them one part, Madame Delphine, and their fathers, mothers,
brothers, and fellow-citizens the other ninety-nine."
But to every thing she had the one amiable answer which Pere Jerome
"I am going to arrange it to satisfy everybody, all together. Tout
"They are coming here," said Madame Varrillat, half articulately.
"Well, of course," murmured another; and the four rose up, smiling
courteously, the doctor and attorney advancing and shaking hands with
No—Pere Jerome thanked them—he could not sit down.
"This, I believe you know, Jean, is Madame Delphine"—
The quadroone courtesied.
"A friend of mine," he added, smiling kindly upon her, and turning,
with something imperative in his eye, to the group. "She says she has
an important private matter to communicate."
"To me?" asked Jean Thompson.
"To all of you; so I will—Good-evening." He responded nothing to
the expressions of regret, but turned to Madame Delphine. She murmured
"Ah! yes, certainly." He addressed the company:
"She wishes me to speak for her veracity; it is unimpeachable.
Well, good-evening." He shook hands and departed.
The four resumed their seats, and turned their eyes upon the
"Have you something to say to us?" asked Jean Thompson, frowning at
her law-defying bonnet.
"Oui," replied the woman, shrinking to one side, and laying hold of
one of the benches, "mo oule di' tou' 'ose"—I want to tell every
thing. "Miche Vignevielle la plis bon homme di moune"—the best man in
the world; "mo pas capabe li fe tracas"—I cannot give him trouble.
"Mo pas capabe, non; m'ole di' tous 'ose." She attempted to fan
herself, her face turned away from the attorney, and her eyes rested on
"Take a seat," said Doctor Varrillat, with some suddenness,
starting from his place and gently guiding her sinking form into the
corner of the bench. The ladies rose up; somebody had to stand; the two
races could not both sit down at once—at least not in that public
"Your salts," said the physician to his wife. She handed the vial.
Madame Delphine stood up again.
"We will all go inside," said Madame Thompson, and they passed
through the gate and up the walk, mounted the steps, and entered the
deep, cool drawing-room.
Madame Thompson herself bade the quadroone be seated.
"Well?" said Jean Thompson, as the rest took chairs.
"C'est drole"—it's funny—said Madame Delphine, with a piteous
effort to smile, "that nobody thought of it. It is so plain. You have
only to look and see. I mean about Olive." She loosed a button in the
front of her dress and passed her hand into her bosom. "And yet, Olive
herself never thought of it. She does not know a word."
The hand came out holding a miniature. Madame Varrillat passed it
to Jean Thompson.
"Ouala so popa," said Madame Delphine. "That is her father."
It went from one to another, exciting admiration and murmured
"She is the image of him," said Madame Thompson, in an austere
undertone, returning it to her husband.
Doctor Varrillat was watching Madame Delphine. She was very pale.
She had passed a trembling hand into a pocket of her skirt, and now
drew out another picture, in a case the counterpart of the first. He
reached out for it, and she handed it to him. He looked at it a moment,
when his eyes suddenly lighted up and he passed it to the attorney.
"Et lˆ"—Madame Delphine's utterance failed—"et lˆ ouala sa
moman. That is her mother."
The three others instantly gathered around Jean Thompson's chair.
They were much impressed.
"It is true beyond a doubt!" muttered Madame Thompson.
Madame Varrillat looked at her with astonishment.
"The proof is right there in the faces," said Madame Thompson.
"Yes! yes!" said Madame Delphine, excitedly; "the proof is there!
You do not want any better! I am willing to swear to it! But you want
no better proof! That is all anybody could want! My God! you cannot
help but see it!"
Her manner was wild.
Jean Thompson looked at her sternly.
"Nevertheless you say you are willing to take your solemn oath to
"You will have to do it."
"Certainly, Miche Thompson, of course I shall; you will make out
the paper and I will swear before God that it is true! Only"—turning
to the ladies—"do not tell Olive; she will never believe it. It will
break her heart! It"—
A servant came and spoke privately to Madame Thompson, who rose
quickly and went to the hall. Madame Delphine continued, rising
"You see, I have had her with me from a baby. She knows no better.
He brought her to me only two months old. Her mother had died in the
ship, coming out here. He did not come straight from home here. His
people never knew he was married!"
The speaker looked around suddenly with a startled glance. There
was a noise of excited speaking in the hall.
"It is not true, Madame Thompson!" cried a girl's voice.
Madame Delphine's look became one of wildest distress and alarm,
and she opened her lips in a vain attempt to utter some request, when
Olive appeared a moment in the door, and then flew into her arms.
"My mother! my mother! my mother!"
Madame Thompson, with tears in her eyes, tenderly drew them apart
and let Madame Delphine down into her chair; while Olive threw herself
upon her knees, continuing to cry:
"Oh, my mother! Say you are my mother!"
Madame Delphine looked an instant into the upturned face, and then
turned her own away, with a long, low cry of pain, looked again, and
laying both hands upon the suppliant's head, said:
"Oh, chere piti ˆ moin, to pa' ma fie!"—Oh, my darling little
one, you are not my daughter!—Her eyes closed, and her head sank
back; the two gentlemen sprang to her assistance, and laid her upon a
When they brought her to herself, Olive was kneeling at her head
"Maman, chere maman!" said the girl softly, kissing her lips.
"Ma courri c'ez moin"—I will go home—said the mother, drearily.
"You will go home with me," said Madame Varrillat, with great
kindness of manner—"just across the street here; I will take care of
you till you feel better. And Olive will stay here with Madame
Thompson. You will be only the width of the street apart."
But Madame Delphine would go nowhere but to her home. Olive she
would not allow to go with her.
Then they wanted to send a servant or two to sleep in the house
with her for aid and protection; but all she would accept was the
transient service of a messenger to invite two of her kinspeople—man
and wife—to come and make their dwelling with her.
In course of time these two—a poor, timid, helpless pair—fell
heir to the premises. Their children had it after them; but, whether in
those hands or these, the house had its habits and continued in them;
and to this day the neighbors, as has already been said, rightly
explain its close-sealed, uninhabited look by the all-sufficient
statement that the inmates "is quadroons."
CHAPTER XV. KYRIE ELEISON.
THE second Saturday afternoon following was hot and calm. The lamp
burning before the tabernacle in Pere Jerome's little church might have
hung with as motionless a flame in the window behind. The lilies of St.
Joseph's wand, shining in one of the half opened panes, were not more
completely at rest than the leaves on tree and vine without, suspended
in the slumbering air. Almost as still, down under the organ-gallery,
with a single band of light falling athwart his box from a small door
which stood ajar, sat the little priest, behind the lattice of the
confessional, silently wiping away the sweat that beaded on his brow
and rolled down his face. At distant intervals the shadow of some one
entering softly through the door would obscure, for a moment, the band
of light, and an aged crone, or a little boy, or some gentle presence
that the listening confessor had known only by the voice for many
years, would kneel a few moments beside his waiting ear, in prayer for
blessing and in review of those slips and errors which prove us all
The day had been long and fatiguing. First, early mass; a hasty
meal; then a business call upon the archbishop in the interest of some
projected charity; then back to his cottage, and so to the
banking-house of "Vignevielle," in the Rue Toulouse. There all was
open, bright, and re-assured, its master virtually, though not
actually, present. The search was over and the seekers gone, personally
wiser than they would tell, and officially reporting that (to the best
of their knowledge and belief, based on evidence, and especially on the
assurances of an unexceptionable eye-witness, to wit, Monsieur
Vignevielle, banker) Capitaine Lemaitre was dead and buried. At noon
there had been a wedding in the little church. Its scenes lingered
before Pere Jerome's vision now—the kneeling pair: the bridegroom,
rich in all the excellences of man, strength and kindness slumbering
interlocked in every part and feature; the bride, a saintly weariness
on her pale face, her awesome eyes lifted in adoration upon the image
of the Saviour; the small knots of friends behind: Madame Thompson,
large, fair, self-contained; Jean Thompson, with the affidavit of
Madame Delphine showing through his tightly buttoned coat; the
physician and his wife, sharing one expression of amiable consent; and
last—yet first—one small, shrinking female figure, here at one
side, in faded robes and dingy bonnet. She sat as motionless as stone,
yet wore a look of apprehension, and in the small, restless black eyes
which peered out from the pinched and wasted face, betrayed the
peacelessness of a harrowed mind; and neither the recollection of
bride, nor of groom, nor of potential friends behind, nor the
occupation of the present hour, could shut out from the tired priest
the image of that woman, or the sound of his own low words of
invitation to her, given as the company left the church—"Come to
confession this afternoon."
By and by a long time passed without the approach of any step, or
any glancing of light or shadow, save for the occasional progress from
station to station of some one over on the right who was noiselessly
going the way of the cross. Yet Pere Jerome tarried.
"She will surely come," he said to himself; "she promised she would
A moment later, his sense, quickened by the prolonged silence,
caught a subtle evidence or two of approach, and the next moment a
penitent knelt noiselessly at the window of his box, and the whisper
came tremblingly, in the voice he had waited to hear:
"Benissez-moin, mo' Pere, pa'ce que mo peche." (Bless me, father,
for I have sinned.)
He gave his blessing.
"Ainsi soit-il—Amen," murmured the penitent, and then, in the
soft accents of the Creole patois, continued:
" 'I confess to Almighty God, to the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to
blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy
Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned
exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my
fault, through my most grievous fault.' I confessed on Saturday, three
weeks ago, and received absolution, and I have performed the penance
enjoined. Since then"—There she stopped.
There was a soft stir, as if she sank slowly down, and another as
if she rose up again, and in a moment she said:
"Olive is my child. The picture I showed to Jean Thompson is the
half-sister of my daughter's father, dead before my child was born. She
is the image of her and of him; but, O God! Thou knowest! Oh, Olive, my
own daughter! "
She ceased, and was still. Pere Jerome waited, but no sound came.
He looked through the window. She was kneeling, with her forehead
resting on her arms—motionless.
He repeated the words of absolution. Still she did not stir.
"My daughter," he said, "go to thy home in peace." But she did not
He rose hastily, stepped from the box, raised her in his arms, and
called her by name:
"Madame Delphine!" Her head fell back in his elbow; for an instant
there was life in the eyes—it glimmered—it vanished, and tears
gushed from his own and fell upon the gentle face of the dead, as he
looked up to heaven and cried:
"Lord, lay not this sin to her charge!"
CAFE DES EXILES.
THAT which in 1835—I think he said thirty-five—was a reality in
the Rue Burgundy—I think he said Burgundy—is now but a
reminiscence. Yet so vividly was its story told me, that at this moment
the old Cafe des Exiles appears before my eye, floating in the clouds
of revery, and I doubt not I see it just as it was in the old times.
An antiquated story-and-a-half Creole cottage sitting right down on
the banquette, as do the Choctaw squaws who sell bay and sassafras and
life-everlasting, with a high, close board-fence shutting out of view
the diminutive garden on the southern side. An ancient willow droops
over the roof of round tiles, and partly hides the discolored stucco,
which keeps dropping off into the garden as though the old cafe was
stripping for the plunge into oblivion—disrobing for its execution. I
see, well up in the angle of the broad side gable, shaded by its rude
awning of clapboards, as the eyes of an old dame are shaded by her
wrinkled hand, the window of Pauline. Oh for the image of the maiden,
were it but for one moment, leaning out of the casement to hang her
mocking-bird and looking down into the garden,—where, above the
barrier of old boards, I see the top of the fig-tree, the pale green
clump of bananas, the tall palmetto with its jagged crown, Pauline's
own two orange-trees holding up their hands toward the window, heavy
with the promises of autumn; the broad, crimson mass of the
many-stemmed oleander, and the crisp boughs of the pomegranate loaded
with freckled apples, and with here and there a lingering scarlet
The Cafe des Exiles, to use a figure, flowered, bore fruit, and
dropped it long ago—or rather Time and Fate, like some uncurled Adam
and Eve, came side by side and cut away its clusters, as we sever the
golden burden of the banana from its stem; then, like a banana which
has borne its fruit, it was razed to the ground and made way for a
newer, brighter growth. I believe it would set every tooth on edge
should I go by there now,—now that I have heard the story,—and see
the old site covered by the "Shoo-fly Coffee-house." Pleasanter far to
close my eyes and call to view the unpretentious portals of the old
cafe, with her children—for such those exiles seem to me—dragging
their rocking-chairs out, and sitting in their wonted group under the
long, out-reaching eaves which shaded the banquette of the Rue
It was in 1835 that the Cafe des Exiles was, as one might say, in
full blossom. Old M. D'Hemecourt, father of Pauline and host of the
cafe, himself a refugee from San Domingo, was the cause—at least the
human cause—of its opening. As its white-curtained, glazed doors
expanded, emitting a little puff of his own cigarette smoke, it was
like the bursting of catalpa blossoms, and the exiles came like bees,
pushing into the tiny room to sip its rich variety of tropical sirups,
its lemonades, its orangeades, its orgeats, its barley-waters, and its
outlandish wines, while they talked of dear home—that is to say, of
Barbadoes, of Martinique, of San Domingo, and of Cuba.
There were Pedro and Benigno, and Fernandez and Francisco, and
Benito. Benito was a tall, swarthy man, with immense gray moustachios,
and hair as harsh as tropical grass and gray as ashes. When he could
spare his cigarette from his lips, he would tell you in a cavernous
voice, and with a wrinkled smile, that he was "a-t-thorty-seveng."
There was Martinez of San Domingo, yellow as a canary, always
sitting with one leg curled under him, and holding the back of his head
in his knitted fingers against the back of his rocking-chair. Father,
mother, brother, sisters, all, had been massacred in the struggle of
'21 and '22; he alone was left to tell the tale, and told it often,
with that strange, infantile insensibility to the solemnity of his
bereavement so peculiar to Latin people.
But, besides these, and many who need no mention, there were two in
particular, around whom all the story of the Cafe des Exiles, of old M.
D'Hemecourt and of Pauline, turns as on a double centre. First, Manuel
Mazaro, whose small, restless eyes were as black and bright as those of
a mouse, whose light talk became his dark girlish face, and whose
redundant locks curled so prettily and so wonderfully black under the
fine white brim of his jaunty Panama. He had the hands of a woman, save
that the nails were stained with the smoke of cigarettes. He could play
the guitar delightfully, and wore his knife down behind his
The second was "Major" Galahad Shaughnessy. I imagine I can see
him, in his white duck, brass-buttoned roundabout, with his sabreless
belt peeping out beneath, all his boyishness in his sea-blue eyes,
leaning lightly against the door-post of the Cafe des Exilés as a child
leans against his mother, running his fingers over a basketful of
fragrant limes, and watching his chance to strike some solemn Creole
under the fifth rib with a good old Irish joke.
Old D'Hemecourt drew him close to his bosom. The Spanish Creoles
were, as the old man termed it, both cold and hot, but never warm.
Major Shaughnessy was warm, and it was no uncommon thing to find those
two apart from the others, talking in an undertone, and playing at
confidantes like two schoolgirls. The kind old man was at this time
drifting close up to his sixtieth year. There was much he could tell of
San Domingo, whither he had been carried from Martinique in his
childhood, whence he had become a refugee to Cuba, and thence to New
Orleans in the flight of 1809.
It fell one day to Manuel Mazaro's lot to discover, by sauntering
within earshot, that to Galahad Shaughnessy only, of all the children
of the Cafe des Exiles, the good host spoke long and confidentially
concerning his daughter. The words, half heard and magnified like
objects seem in a fog, meaning Manuel Mazaro knew not what, but made
portentous by his suspicious nature, were but the old man's recital of
the grinding he had got between the millstones of his poverty and his
pride, in trying so long to sustain, for little Pauline's sake, that
attitude before society which earns respect from a surface-viewing
world. It was while he was telling this that Manuel Mazaro drew near;
the old man paused in an embarrassed way; the Major, sitting sidewise
in his chair, lifted his cheek from its resting-place on his elbow; and
Mazaro, after standing an awkward moment, turned away with such an
inward feeling as one may guess would arise in a heart full of Cuban
blood, not unmixed with Indian.
As he moved off, M. D'Hemecourt resumed: that in a last extremity
he had opened, partly from dire want, partly for very love to homeless
souls, the Cafe des Exiles. He had hoped that, as strong drink and high
words were to be alike unknown to it, it might not prejudice sensible
people; but it had. He had no doubt they said among themselves, "She is
an excellent and beautiful girl and deserving all respect;" and respect
they accorded, but their respects they never came to pay.
"A cafe is a cafe," said the old gentleman. "It is nod possib' to
ezcape him, aldough de Cafe des Exiles is differen' from de rez."
"It's different from the Cafe des Refugies," suggested the
"Differen' as possib'," replied M. D'Hemecourt. He looked about
upon the walls. The shelves were luscious with ranks of cooling sirups
which he alone knew how to make. The expression of his face changed
from sadness to a gentle pride, which spoke without words, saying—and
let our story pause a moment to hear it say:
"If any poor exile, from any island where guavas or mangoes or
plantains grow, wants a draught which will make him see his home among
the cocoa-palms, behold the Cafe des Exiles ready to take the poor
child up and give him the breast! And if gold or silver he has them
not, why Heaven and Santa Maria, and Saint Christopher bless him! It
makes no difference. Here is a rocking-chair, here a cigarette, and
here a light from the host's own tinder. He will pay when he can."
As this easily pardoned pride said, so it often occurred; and if
the newly come exile said his father was a Spaniard—"Come!" old M.
D'Hemecourt would cry; "another glass; it is an innocent drink; my
mother was a Castilian. " But, if the exile said his mother was a
Frenchwoman, the glasses would be forthcoming all the same, for "My
father," the old man would say, "was a Frenchman of Martinique, with
blood as pure as that wine and a heart as sweet as this honey; come, a
glass of orgeat;" and he would bring it himself in a quart tumbler.
Now, there are jealousies and jealousies. There are people who rise
up quickly and kill, and there are others who turn their hot thoughts
over silently in their minds as a brooding bird turns her eggs in the
nest. Thus did Manuel Mazaro, and took it ill that Galahad should see a
vision in the temple while he and all the brethren tarried without.
Pauline had been to the Cafe des Exiles in some degree what the image
of the Virgin was to their churches at home; and for her father to
whisper her name to one and not to another was, it seemed to Mazaro, as
if the old man, were he a sacristan, should say to some single
worshiper, "Here, you may have this madonna; I make it a present to
you." Or, if such was not the handsome young Cuban's feeling, such, at
least, was the disguise his jealousy put on. If Pauline was to be
handed down from her niche, why, then, farewell Cafe des Exiles. She
was its preserving influence, she made the place holy; she was the
burning candles on the altar. Surely the reader will pardon the pen
that lingers in the mention of her.
And yet I know not how to describe the forbearing, unspoken
tenderness with which all these exiles regarded the maiden. In the
balmy afternoons, as I have said, they gathered about their mother's
knee, that is to say, upon the banquette outside the door. There,
lolling back in their rocking-chairs, they would pass the evening hours
with oft-repeated tales of home; and the moon would come out and glide
among the clouds like a silver barge among islands wrapped in mist, and
they loved the silently gliding orb with a sort of worship, because
from her soaring height she looked down at the same moment upon them
and upon their homes in the far Antilles. It was somewhat thus that
they looked upon Pauline as she seemed to them held up half way to
heaven, they knew not how. Ah! those who have been pilgrims; who have
wandered out beyond harbor and light; whom fate hath led in lonely
paths strewn with thorns and briers not of their own sowing; who,
homeless in a land of homes, see windows gleaming and doors ajar, but
not for them,—it is they who well understand what the worship is that
cries to any daughter of our dear mother Eve whose footsteps chance may
draw across the path, the silent, beseeching cry, "Stay a little
instant that I may look upon you. Oh, woman, beautifier of the earth!
Stay till I recall the face of my sister; stay yet a moment while I
look from afar, with helpless-hanging hands, upon the softness of thy
cheek, upon the folded coils of thy shining hair; and my spirit shall
fall down and say those prayers which I may never again—God knoweth—
say at home."
She was seldom seen; but sometimes, when the lounging exiles would
be sitting in their afternoon circle under the eaves, and some old man
would tell his tale of fire and blood and capture and escape, and the
heads would lean forward from the chair-backs and a great stillness
would follow the ending of the story, old M. D'Hemecourt would all at
once speak up and say, laying his hands upon the narrator's knee,
"Comrade, your throat is dry, here are fresh limes; let my dear child
herself come and mix you a lemonade." Then the neighbors over the way,
sitting about their doors, would by and by softly say, "See, see! there
is Pauline!" and all the exiles would rise from their rocking-chairs,
take off their hats and stand as men stand in church, while Pauline
came out like the moon from a cloud, descended the three steps of the
cafe door, and stood with waiter and glass, a new Rebecca with her
pitcher, before the swarthy wanderer.
What tales that would have been tear-compelling, nay,
heart-rending, had they not been palpable inventions, the pretty,
womanish Mazaro from time to time poured forth, in the ever ungratified
hope that the goddess might come down with a draught of nectar for him,
it profiteth not to recount; but I should fail to show a family feature
of the Cafe des Exiles did I omit to say that these make-believe
adventures were heard with every mark of respect and credence; while,
on the other hand, they were never attempted in the presence of the
Irishman. He would have moved an eyebrow, or made some barely audible
sound, or dropped some seemingly innocent word, and the whole company,
spite of themselves, would have smiled. Wherefore, it may be doubted
whether at any time the curly-haired young Cuban had that playful
affection for his Celtic comrade, which a habit of giving little velvet
taps to Galahad's cheek made a show of.
Such was the Cafe des Exiles, such its inmates, such its guests,
when certain apparently trivial events began to fall around it as germs
of blight fall upon corn, and to bring about that end which cometh to
The little seed of jealousy, dropped into the heart of Manuel
Mazaro, we have already taken into account.
Galahad Shanghnessy began to be specially active in organizing a
society of Spanish Americans, the design of which, as set forth in its
manuscript constitution, was to provide proper funeral honors to such
of their membership as might be overtaken by death; and, whenever it
was practicable, to send their ashes to their native land. Next to
Galahad in this movement was an elegant old Mexican physician, Dr. -,
- his name escapes me—whom the Cafe des Exiles sometimes took upon
her lap—that is to say door-step—but whose favorite resort was the
old Cafe des Refugies in the Rue Royale (Royal Street, as it was
beginning to be called). Manuel Mazaro was made secretary.
It was for some reason thought judicious for the society to hold
its meetings in various places, now here, now there; but the most
frequent rendezvous was the Cafe des Exiles; it was quiet; those
Spanish Creoles, however they may afterward cackle, like to lay their
plans noiselessly, like a hen in a barn. There was a very general
confidence in this old institution, a kind of inward assurance that
"mother wouldn't tell;" though, after all, what great secrets could
there be connected with a mere burial society?
Before the hour of meeting, the Cafe des Exiles always sent away
her children and closed her door. Presently they would commence
returning, one by one, as a flock of wild fowl will do, that has been
startled up from its accustomed haunt. Frequenters of the Cafe des
Refugies also would appear. A small gate in the close garden-fence let
them into a room behind the cafe proper, and by and by the apartment
would be full of dark-visaged men conversing in the low, courteous
tone common to their race. The shutters of doors and windows were
closed and the chinks stopped with cotton; some people are so jealous
On a certain night after one of these meetings had dispersed in its
peculiar way, the members retiring two by two at intervals, Manuel
Mazaro and M. D'Hemecourt were left alone, sitting close together in
the dimly lighted room, the former speaking, the other, with no
pleasant countenance, attending. It seemed to the young Cuban a proper
precaution—he was made of precautions—to speak in English. His
voice was barely audible.
" sayce to me, 'Manuel, she t-theeng I want-n to marry hore.'
Senor, you shouth 'ave see' him laugh!"
M. D'Hemecourt lifted up his head, and laid his hand upon the young
"Manuel Mazaro," he began, "iv dad w'ad you say is nod"—
The Cuban interrupted.
"If is no' t-thrue you will keel Manuel Mazaro?—a' r-r-right-a!"
"No," said the tender old man, "no, bud h-I am positeef dad de
Madjor will shood you."
Mazaro nodded, and lifted one finger for attention.
" sayce to me, 'Manuel, you goin' tell-a Senor D'Hemecourt, I
fin'-a you some nigh' an' cut-a you' heart ou'.' An' I sayce to heem-a,
'Boat-a if Senor D'Hemecourt he fin'-in' on' frone Pauline' "—
"Silence!" fiercely cried the old man. "My God! 'Sieur Mazaro,
neider you, neider somebody helse s'all h'use de nem of me daughter. It
is nod possib' dad you s'all spick him! I cannot pearmid thad."
While the old man was speaking these vehement words, the Cuban was
emphatically nodding approval.
"Co-rect-a, co-rect-a, Senor," he replied. "Senor, you'
r-r-right-a; escuse-a me, Senor, excuse-a me. Senor D'Hemecourt, Mayor
Shaughness', when he talkin' wi' me he usin' hore-a name o the
"My fren'," said M. D'Hemecourt, rising and speaking with labored
control, "I muz tell you good nighd. You 'ave sooprise me a verry gred
deal. I s'all investigade doze ting; an', Manuel Mazaro, h-I am a hole
man; bud I will requez you, iv dad wad you say is nod de true, my God!
not to h-ever ritturn again ad de Cafe des Exiles."
Mazaro smiled and nodded. His host opened the door into the garden,
and, as the young man stepped out, noticed even then how handsome was
his face and figure, and how the odor of the night jasmine was filling
the air with an almost insupportable sweetness. The Cuban paused a
moment, as if to speak, but checked himself, lifted his girlish face,
and looked up to where the daggers of the palmetto-tree were crossed
upon the face of the moon, dropped his glance, touched his Panama, and
silently followed by the bare-headed old man, drew open the little
garden-gate, looked cautiously out, said good-night, and stepped into
As M. D'Hemecourt returned to the door through which he had come,
he uttered an ejaculation of astonishment. Pauline stood before him.
She spoke hurriedly in French.
"Papa, papa, it is not true."
"No, my child," he responded, "I am sure it is not true; I am sure
it is all false; but why do I find you out of bed so late, little bird?
The night is nearly gone."
He laid his hand upon her cheek.
"Ah, papa, I cannot deceive you. I thought Manuel would tell you
something of this kind, and I listened."
The father's face immediately betrayed a new and deeper distress.
"Pauline, my child," he said with tremulous voice, "if Manuel's
story is all false, in the name of Heaven how could you think he was
going to tell it?"
He unconsciously clasped his hands. The good child had one trait
which she could not have inherited from her father; she was
quick-witted and discerning; yet now she stood confounded.
"Speak, my child," cried the alarmed old man; "speak! let me live,
and not die."
"Oh, papa," she cried, "I do not know!"
The old man groaned.
"Papa, papa," she cried again, "I felt it; I know not how;
something told me."
"Alas!" exclaimed the old man, "if it was your conscience!"
"No, no, no, papa," cried Pauline, "but I was afraid of Manuel
Mazaro, and I think he hates him—and I think he will hurt him in any
way he can —and I know he will even try to kill him. Oh! my God!"
She struck her hands together above her head, and burst into a
flood of tears. Her father looked upon her with such sad sternness as
his tender nature was capable of. He laid hold of one of her arms to
draw a hand from the face whither both hands had gone.
"You know something else," he said; "you know that the Major loves
you, or you think so: is it not true?"
She dropped both hands, and, lifting her streaming eyes that had
nothing to hide straight to his, suddenly said:
"I would give worlds to think so!" and sunk upon the floor.
He was melted and convinced in one instant.
"Oh, my child, my child," he cried, trying to lift her. "Oh, my
poor little Pauline, your papa is not angry. Rise, my little one; so;
kiss me; Heaven bless thee: Pauline, treasure, what shall I do with
thee? Where shall I hide thee?"
"You have my counsel already, papa."
"Yes, my child, and you were right. The Cafe des Exiles never
should have been opened. It is no place for you; no place at all."
"Let us leave it," said Pauline.
"Ah! Pauline, I would close it to-morrow if I could, but now it is
too late; I cannot."
"Why?" asked Pauline pleadingly.
She had cast an arm about his neck. Her tears sparkled with a
"My daughter, I cannot tell you; you must go now to bed; good-night
- or good-morning; God keep you!"
"Well, then, papa," she said, "have no fear; you need not hide me;
I have my prayer-book, and my altar, and my garden, and my window; my
garden is my fenced city, and my window my watch-tower; do you see?"
"Ah! Pauline," responded the father, "but I have been letting the
enemy in and out at pleasure."
"Good-night," she answered, and kissed him three times on either
cheek; "the blessed Virgin will take care of us; good-night; he never
said those things; not he; good-night."
The next evening Galahad Shaughnessy and Manuel Mazaro met at that
"very different" place, the Cafe des Refugies. There was much free talk
going on about Texan annexation, about chances of war with Mexico,
about San Domingan affairs, about Cuba and many et-ceteras. Galahad was
in his usual gay mood. He strode about among a mixed company of
Louisianais, Cubans, and Americains, keeping them in a great laugh with
his recount of one of Ole Bull's concerts, and how he had there
extorted an invitation from M. and Mme. Devoti to attend one of their
famous children's fancy dress balls.
"Halloo!" said he as Mazaro approached, "heer's the etheerial
Angelica herself. Look-ut heer, sissy, why ar'n't ye in the maternal
arms of the Cafe des Exiles?"
Mazaro smiled amiably and sat down. A moment after, the Irishman,
stepping away from his companions, stood before the young Cuban, and
asked, with a quiet business air:
"D'ye want to see me, Mazaro?"
The Cuban nodded, and they went aside. Mazaro, in a few quick
words, looking at his pretty foot the while, told the other on no
account to go near the Cafe des Exiles, as there were two men hanging
about there, evidently watching for him, and—
"Wut's the use o' that?" asked Galahad; "I say, wut's the use o'
Major Shaughnessy's habit of repeating part of his words arose from
another, of interrupting any person who might be speaking.
"They must know—I say they must know that whenever I'm nowhurs
else I'm heer. What do they want?"
Mazaro made a gesture, signifying caution and secrecy, and smiled,
as if to say, "You ought to know."
"Aha!" said the Irishman softly. "Why don't they come here?"
"Z-afrai'," said Mazaro; "d'they frai' to do an'teen een d-these-a
"That's so," said the Irishman; "I say, that's so. If I don't feel
very much like go-un, I'll not go; I say, I'll not go. We've no
business to-night, eh, Mazaro?"
A second evening was much the same, Mazaro repeating his warning.
But when, on the third evening, the Irishman again repeated his
willingness to stay away from the Cafe des Exiles unless he should feel
strongly impelled to go, it was with the mental reservation that he did
feel very much in that humor, and, unknown to Mazaro, should thither
repair, if only to see whether some of those deep old fellows were not
contriving a practical joke.
"Mazaro," said he, "I'm go-un around the caurnur a bit; I want ye
to wait heer till I come back. I say I want ye to wait heer till I come
back; I'll be gone about three-quarters of an hour."
Mazaro assented. He saw with satisfaction the Irishman start in a
direction opposite that in which lay the Cafe des Exiles, tarried
fifteen or twenty minutes, and then, thinking he could step around to
the Cafe des Exiles and return before the expiration of the allotted
time, hurried out.
Meanwhile that peaceful habitation sat in the moonlight with her
children about her feet. The company outside the door was somewhat
thinner than common. M. D'Hemecourt was not among them, but was sitting
in the room behind the cafe. The long table which the burial society
used at their meetings extended across the apartment, and a lamp had
been placed upon it. M. D'Hemecourt sat by the lamp. Opposite him was a
chair, which seemed awaiting an expected occupant. Beside the old man
sat Pauline. They were talking in cautious undertones, and in French.
"No," she seemed to insist; "we do not know that he refuses to
come. We only know that Manuel says so."
The father shook his head sadly. "When has he ever staid away three
nights together before?" he asked. "No, my child; it is intentional.
Manuel urges him to come, but he only sends poor excuses."
"But," said the girl, shading her face from the lamp and speaking
with some suddenness, "why have you not sent word to him by some other
M. D'Hemecourt looked up at his daughter a moment, and then smiled
at his own simplicity.
"Ah!" he said. "Certainly; and that is what I will—run away,
Pauline. There is Manuel, now, ahead of time!"
A step was heard inside the cafe. The maiden, though she knew the
step was not Mazaro's, rose hastily, opened the nearest door, and
disappeared. She had barely closed it behind her when Galahad
Shaughnessy entered the apartment.
M'Hemecourt rose up, both surprised and confused.
"Good-evening, Munsher D'Himecourt," said the Irishman. "Munsher
D'Himecourt, I know it's against rules—I say, I know it's against
rules to come in here, but"—smiling,—"I want to have a private wurd
with ye. I say, I want to have a private wurd with ye."
In the closet of bottles the maiden smiled triumphantly. She also
wiped the dew from her forehead, for the place was very close and warm.
With her father was no triumph. In him sadness and doubt were so
mingled with anger that he dared not lift his eyes, but gazed at the
knot in the wood of the table, which looked like a caterpillar curled
up. Mazaro, he concluded, had really asked the Major to come.
"Mazaro tol' you?" he asked.
"Yes," answered the Irishman. "Mazaro told me I was watched, and
"Madjor," unluckily interrupted the old man, suddenly looking up
and speaking with subdued fervor, " for w'y—iv Mazaro tol' you—for
w'y you din come more sooner? Dad is one 'eavy charge again' you."
"Didn't Mazaro tell ye why I didn't come?" asked the other,
beginning to be puzzled at his host's meaning.
"Yez," replied M. D'Hemecourt, "bud one brev zhenteman should not
be afraid of"—
The young man stopped him with a quiet laugh. "Munsher
D'Himecourt," said he, "I'm nor afraid of any two men living—I say
I'm nor afraid of any two men living, and certainly not of the two
that's bean a-watchin' me lately, if they're the two I think they are."
M. D'Hemecourt flushed in a way quite incomprehensible to the
speaker, who nevertheless continued:
"It was the charges," he said, with some slyness in his smile.
"They are heavy, as ye say, and that's the very reason—I say that's
the very reason why I staid away, ye see, eh? I say that's the very
reason I staid away."
Then, indeed, there was a dew for the maiden to wipe from her brow,
unconscious that every word that was being said bore a different
significance in the mind of each of the three. The old man was
"Bud, sir," he began, shaking his head and lifting his hand.
"Bless yer soul, Munsher D'Himecourt," interrupted the Irishman.
"Wut's the use o' grapplin' two cut-throats, when"—
"Madjor Shaughnessy!" cried M. D'Hemecourt, losing all
self-control. "H-I am nod a cud-troad, Madjor Shaughnessy, h-an I 'ave
a r-r-righd to wdage you."
The Major rose from his chair.
"What d'ye mean?" he asked vacantly, and then: "Look-ut here,
Munsher D'Himecourt, one of us is crazy. I say one"—
"No, sar-r-r!" cried the other, rising and clenching his trembling
fist. "H-I am nod crezzy. I'ave de righd to wadge dad man wad mague
rimark aboud me dotter."
"I never did no such a thing."
"I never did no such a thing."
"Bud you 'ave jus hacknowledge'—"
"I never did no such a thing, I tell ye, and the man that's told ye
so is a liur."
"Ah-h-h-h!" said the old man, wagging his finger. "Ah-h-h-h! You
call Manuel Mazaro one liar?"
The Irishman laughed out.
"Well, I should say so!"
He motioned the old man into his chair, and both sat down again.
"Why, Munsher D'Himecourt, Mazaro's been keepin' me away from heer
with a yarn about two Spaniards watchin' for me. That's what I came in
to ask ye about. My dear sur, do ye s'pose I wud talk about the goddess
- I mean, yer daughter—to the likes o' Mazaro—I say to the likes o'
To say the old man was at sea would be too feeble an expression—
he was in the trough of the sea, with a hurricane of doubts and fears
whirling around him. Somebody had told a lie, and he, having struck
upon its sunken surface, was dazed and stunned. He opened his lips to
say he knew not what, when his ear caught the voice of Manuel Mazaro,
replying to the greeting of some of his comrades outside the front
"He is comin'!" cried the old man. "Mague you'sev hide, Madjor; do
not led 'im kedge you, Mon Dieu!"
The Irishman smiled.
"The little yellow wretch!" said he quietly, his blue eyes dancing.
"I'm goin' to catch him."
A certain hidden hearer instantly made up her mind to rush out
between the two young men and be a heroine.
"Non, non!" exclaimed M. D'Hemecourt excitedly. "Nod in de Cafe des
Exiles—nod now, Madjor. Go in dad door, hif you pliz, Madjor. You
will heer 'im w'at he 'ave to say. Mague you'sev de troub'. Nod dad
The Major laughed again and started toward the door indicated, but
in an instant stopped.
"I can't go in theyre," he said. "That's yer daughter's room."
"Oui, oui, mais!" cried the other softly, but Mazaro's step was
"I'll just slip in heer," and the amused Shaughnessy tripped
lightly to the closet door, drew it open in spite of a momentary
resistance from within which he had no time to notice, stepped into a
small recess full of shelves and bottles, shut the door, and stood face
to face—the broad moonlight shining upon her through a small,
high-grated opening on one side—with Pauline. At the same instant the
voice of the young Cuban sounded in the room.
Pauline was in a great tremor. She made as if she would have opened
the door and fled, but the Irishman gave a gesture of earnest protest
and re-assurance. The re-opened door might make the back parlor of the
Cafe des Exiles a scene of blood. Thinking of this, what could she do?
"You goth a heap-a thro-vle, Senor," said Manuel Mazaro, taking the
seat so lately vacated. He had patted M. D'Hemecourt tenderly on the
back and the old gentleman had flinched; hence the remark, to which
there was no reply.
"Was a bee crowth a' the Cafe the Refugies," continued the young
"Bud, w'ere dad Madjor Shaughnessy?" demanded M. D'Hemecourt, with
the little sternness he could command.
"Mayor Shaughness'—yez-a; was there; boat-a," with a disparaging
smile and shake of the head, "he woon-a come-a to you, Senor, oh! no."
The old man smiled bitterly.
"Non?" he asked.
"Oh, no, Senor!" Mazaro drew his chair closer. "Senor;" he paused,
- "eez a-vary bath-a fore-a you thaughter, eh?"
"W'at?" asked the host, snapping like a tormented dog.
"D-theze talkin' 'bou'," answered the young man; "d-theze
coffee-howces noth a goo' plaze-a fore hore, eh?"
The Irishman and the maiden looked into each other's eyes an
instant, as people will do when listening; but Pauline's immediately
fell, and when Mazaro's words were understood, her blushes became
visible even by moonlight.
"He's r-right!" emphatically whispered Galahad.
She attempted to draw back a step, but found herself against the
shelves. M. D'Hemecourt had not answered. Mazaro spoke again.
"Boat-a you canno' help-a, eh? I know, 'out-a she gettin' marry,
Pauline trembled. Her father summoned all his force and rose as if
to ask his questioner to leave him; but the handsome Cuban motioned him
down with a gesture that seemed to beg for only a moment more.
"Senor, if a-was one man whath lo-va you' thaughter, all is
possiblee to lo-va."
Pauline, nervously braiding some bits of wire which she had
unconsciously taken from a shelf, glanced up—against her will,—into
the eyes of Galahad. They were looking so steadily down upon her that
with a great leap of the heart for joy she closed her own and half
turned away. But Mazaro had not ceased.
"All is possiblee to lo-va, Senor, you shouth-a let marry hore an'
tak'n 'way frone d'these plaze, Senor."
"Manuel Mazaro," said M. D'Hemecourt, again rising, "you 'ave say
"No, no, Senor; no, no; I want tell-a you—is a-one man—whath
lo-va you' thaughter; an' I knowce him!"
Was there no cause for quarrel, after all? Could it be that Mazaro
was about to speak for Galahad? The old man asked in his simplicity:
Mazaro smiled mockingly.
"Mayor Shaughness'," he said; "oh, no; not Mayor Shaughness'!"
Pauline could stay no longer; escape she must, though it be in
Manuel Mazaro's very face. Turning again and looking up into Galahad's
face in a great fright, she opened her lips to speak, but—
"Mayor Shaughness'," continued the Cuban; "he nev'r-a lo-va you'
Galahad was putting the maiden back from the door with his hand.
"Pauline," he said, "it's a lie!"
"An', Senor," pursued the Cuban, "if a was possiblee you' thaughter
to lo-va heem, a-wouth-a be worse-a kine in worlt; but, Senor, I"—
M. D'Hemecourt made a majestic sign for silence. He had resumed his
chair, but he rose up once more, took the Cuban's hat from the table
and tendered it to him.
"Manuel Mazaro, you 'ave"—
"Senor, I goin' tell you"—
"Manuel Mazaro, you"—
"Bud, Manuel Maz"—
"Senor, excuse-a me"—
"Huzh!" cried the old man. "Manuel Mazaro, you 'ave desceive' me!
You 'ave mocque me, Manu"—
"Senor," cried Mazaro, "I swear-a to you that all-a what I sayin'
He stopped aghast. Galahad and Pauline stood before him.
"Is what?" asked the blue-eyed man, with a look of quiet delight on
his face, such as Mazaro instantly remembered to have seen on it one
night when Galahad was being shot at in the Sucking Calf Restaurant in
St. Peter Street.
The table was between them, but Mazaro's hand went upward toward
the back of his coat-collar.
"Ah, ah!" cried the Irishman, shaking his head with a broader smile
and thrusting his hand threateningly into his breast; "don't ye do
that! just finish yer speech."
"Was-a notthin'," said the Cuban, trying to smile back.
"Yer a liur," said Galahad.
"No," said Mazaro, still endeavoring to smile through his agony;
"z-was on'y tellin' Senor D'Hemecourt someteen z-was t-thrue."
"And I tell ye," said Galahad, "ye'r a liur, and to be so kind an'
get yersel' to the front stoop, as I'm desiruz o' kickin' ye before the
"Madjor!" cried D'Hemecourt—
"Go," said Galahad, advancing a step toward the Cuban.
Had Manuel Mazaro wished to personate the prince of darkness, his
beautiful face had the correct expression for it. He slowly turned,
opened the door into the cafe, sent one glowering look behind, and
Pauline laid her hand upon her lover's arm.
"Madjor," began her father.
"Oh, Madjor and Madjor," said the Irishman; "Munsher D'Hemecourt,
just say 'Madjor, heer's a gude wife fur ye,' and I'll let the little
Thereupon, sure enough, both M. D'Hemecourt and his daughter,
rushing together, did what I have been hoping all along, for the
reader's sake, they would have dispensed with; they burst into tears;
whereupon the Major, with his Irish appreciation of the ludicrous,
turned away to hide his smirk and began good-humoredly to scratch
himself first on the temple and then on the thigh.
Mazaro passed silently through the group about the door-steps, and
not many minutes afterward, Galahad Shaughnessy, having taken a place
among the exiles, rose with the remark that the old gentleman would
doubtless be willing to tell them good-night. Goodnight was accordingly
said, the Cafe des Exiles closed her windows, then her doors, winked a
moment or two through the cracks in the shutters and then went fast
The Mexican physician, at Galahad's request, told Mazaro that at
the next meeting of the burial society he might and must occupy his
accustomed seat without fear of molestation; and he did so.
The meeting took place some seven days after the affair in the back
parlor, and on the same ground. Business being finished, Galahad, who
presided, stood up, looking, in his white duck suit among his
darkly-clad companions, like a white sheep among black ones, and begged
leave to order "dlasses" from the front room. I say among black sheep;
yet, I suppose, than that double row of languid, effeminate faces, one
would have been taxed to find a more harmless-looking company. The
glasses were brought and filled.
"Gentlemen," said Galahad, "comrades, this may be the last time we
ever meet together an unbroken body."
Martinez of San Domingo, he of the horrible experience, nodded with
a lurking smile, curled a leg under him and clasped his fingers behind
"Who knows," continued the speaker, "but Senor Benito, though
strong and sound and har'ly thirty-seven"—here all smiled—"may be
taken ill to-morrow?"
Martinez smiled across to the tall, gray Benito on Galahad's left,
and he, in turn, smilingly showed to the company a thin, white line of
teeth between his moustachios like distant reefs.
"Who knows," the young Irishman proceeded to inquire, "I say, who
knows but Pedro, theyre, may be struck wid a fever?"
Pedro, a short, compact man of thoroughly mixed blood, and with an
eyebrow cut away, whose surname no one knew, smiled his
"Who knows?" resumed Galahad, when those who understood English had
explained in Spanish to those who did not, "but they may soon need the
services not only of our good doctor heer, but of our society; and that
Fernandez and Benigno, and Gonzalez and Dominguez, may not be chosen to
see, on that very schooner lying at the Picayune Tier just now, their
beloved remains and so forth safely delivered into the hands and lands
of their people. I say, who knows bur it may be so!"
The company bowed graciously as who should say, "Well-turned
"And amigos, if so be that such is their approoching fate, I will
He lifted his glass, and the rest did the same.
"I say, I will say to them, Creoles, countrymen, and lovers, boun
voyadge an' good luck to ye's."
For several moments there was much translating, bowing, and
murmured acknowledgments; Mazaro said: "Bueno!" and all around among
the long double rank of moustachioed lips amiable teeth were gleaming,
some white, some brown, some yellow, like bones in the grass.
"And now, gentlemen," Galahad recommenced, "fellow-exiles, once
more. Munsher D'Himecourt, it was yer practice, until lately, to reward
a good talker with a dlass from the hands o' yer daughter." (Si, si!)
"I'm bur a poor speaker." (, z-a- fine-a kin'-a can be; si!) "However,
I'll ask ye, not knowun bur it may be the last time we all meet
together, if ye will not let the goddess of the Cafe des Exiles grace
our company with her presence for just about one minute?" (Yez-a,
Senor; si; yez-a; oui.)
Every head was turned toward the old man, nodding the echoed
"Ye see, friends," said Galahad in a true Irish whisper, as M.
D'Hemecourt left the apartment, "her poseetion has been a-growin' more
and more embarrassin' daily, and the operaytions of our society were
likely to make it worse in the future; wherefore I have lately taken
steps—I say I tuke steps this morn to relieve the old gentleman's
distresses and his daughter's"—
He paused. M. D'Hemecourt entered with Pauline, and the exiles all
rose up. Ah!—but why say again she was lovely?
Galahad stepped forward to meet her, took her hand, led her to the
head of the board, and turning to the company, said:
"Friends and fellow-patriots, Misthress Shaughnessy."
There was no outburst of astonishment—only the same old bowing,
smiling, and murmuring of compliment. Galahad turned with a puzzled
look to M. D'Hemecourt, and guessed the truth. In the joy of an old
man's heart he had already that afternoon told the truth to each and
every man separately, as a secret too deep for them to reveal, but too
sweet for him to keep. The Major and Pauline were man and wife.
The last laugh that was ever heard in the Cafe des Exiles sounded
softly through the room.
"Lads," said the Irishman. "Fil' yer dlasses. Here's to the Cafe
des Exiles, God bless her!"
And the meeting slowly adjourned.
Two days later, signs and rumors of sickness began to find place
about the Cafe des Refugies, and the Mexican physician made three calls
in one day. It was said by the people around that the tall Cuban
gentleman named Benito was very sick in one of the back rooms. A
similar frequency of the same physician's calls was noticed about the
Cafe des Exiles.
"The man with one eyebrow," said the neighbors, "is sick. Pauline
left the house yesterday to make room for him."
"Ah ! is it possible?"
"Yes, it is really true; she and her husband. She took her
mocking-bird with her; he carried it; he came back alone."
On the next afternoon the children about the Cafe des Refugies
enjoyed the spectacle of the invalid Cuban moved on a trestle to the
Cafe des Exiles, although he did not look so deathly sick as they could
have liked to see him, and on the fourth morning the doors of the Cafe
des Exiles remained closed. A black-bordered funeral notice, veiled
with crape, announced that the great Caller-home of exiles had served
his summons upon Don Pedro Hernandez (surname borrowed for the
occasion), and Don Carlos Mendez y Benito.
The hour for the funeral was fixed at four P.M. It never took
place. Down at the Picayune Tier on the river bank there was, about two
o'clock that same day, a slight commotion, and those who stood
aimlessly about a small, neat schooner, said she was "seized." At four
there suddenly appeared before the Cafe des Exiles a squad of men with
silver crescents on their breasts—police officers. The old cottage
sat silent with closed doors, the crape hanging heavily over the
funeral notice like a widow's veil, the little unseen garden sending up
odors from its hidden censers, and the old weeping-willow bending over
"Nobody here?" asks the leader.
The crowd which has gathered stares without answering.
As quietly and peaceably as possible the officers pry open the
door. They enter, and the crowd pushes in after. There are the two
coffins, looking very heavy and solid, lying in state but unguarded.
The crowd draws a breath of astonishment. "Are they going to wrench
the tops off with hatchet and chisel?"
Rap, rap, rap; wrench, rap, wrench. Ah! the cases come open.
"Well kept?" asks the leader flippantly.
"Oh, yes," is the reply. And then all laugh.
One of the lookers-on pushes up and gets a glimpse within.
"What is it?" ask the other idlers.
He tells one quietly.
"What did he say?" ask the rest, one of another.
"He says they are not dead men, but new muskets"—
"Here, clear out!" cries an officer, and the loiterers fall back
and by and by straggle off.
The exiles? What became of them, do you ask? Why, nothing; they
were not troubled, but they never all came together again. Said a
chief-of-police to Major Shaughnessy years afterward:
"Major, there was only one thing that kept your expedition from
succeeding—you were too sly about it. Had you come out flat and said
what you were doing, we'd never a-said a word to you. But that little
fellow gave us the wink, and then we had to stop you."
And was no one punished? Alas! one was. Poor, pretty, curly-headed
traitorous Mazaro ! He was drawn out of Carondelet Canal—cold, dead!
And when his wounds were counted—they were just the number of the
Cafe des Exiles' children, less Galahad. But the mother—that is, the
old cafe—did not see it; she had gone up the night before in a
chariot of fire.
In the files of the old "Picayune" and "Price-Current" of 1837 may
be seen the mention of Galahad Shaughnessy among the merchants—"our
enterprising and accomplished fellow-townsman," and all that. But old
M. D'Hemecourt's name is cut in marble, and his citizenship is in "a
city whose maker and builder is God."
Only yesterday I dined with the Shaughnessys—fine old couple and
handsome. Their children sat about them and entertained me most
pleasantly. But there isn't one can tell a tale as their father can—
'twas he told me this one, though here and there my enthusiasm may have
taken liberties. He knows the history of every old house in the French
Quarter; or, if he happens not to know a true one, he can make one up
as he goes along.
Belles Demoiselles Plantation.
THE original grantee was Count , assume the name to be De Charleu;
the old Creoles never forgive a public mention. He was the French
king's commissary. One day, called to France to explain the lucky
accident of the commissariat having burned down with the account-books
inside, he left his wife, a Choctaw Comtesse, behind.
Arrived at court, his excuses were accepted, and that tract granted
him where afterwards stood Belles Demoiselles Plantation. A man cannot
remember every thing! In a fit of forgetfulness he married a French
gentlewoman, rich and beautiful, and "brought her out." However, "All's
well that ends well;" a famine had been in the colony, and the Choctaw
Comtesse had starved, leaving nought but a half-caste orphan family
lurking on the edge of the settlement, bearing our French gentlewoman's
own new name, and being mentioned in Monsieur's will.
And the new Comtesse—she tarried but a twelvemonth, left Monsieur
a lovely son, and departed, led out of this vain world by the
From this son sprang the proud Creole family of De Charleu. It rose
straight up, up, up, generation after generation, tall, branchless,
slender, palm-like; and finally, in the time of which I am to tell,
flowered with all the rare beauty of a century-plant, in Artemise,
Innocente, Felicite, the twins Marie and Martha, Leontine and little
Septima; the seven beautiful daughters for whom their home had been
fitly named Belles Demoiselles.
The Count's grant had once been a long Pointe, round which the
Mississippi used to whirl, and seethe, and foam, that it was horrid to
behold. Big whirlpools would open and wheel about in the savage eddies
under the low bank, and close up again, and others open, and spin, and
disappear. Great circles of muddy surface would boil up from hundreds
of feet below, and gloss over, and seem to float away,—sink, come
back again under water, and with only a soft hiss surge up again, and
again drift off, and vanish. Every few minutes the loamy bank would tip
down a great load of earth upon its besieger, and fall back a foot,—
sometimes a yard,—and the writhing river would press after, until at
last the Pointe was quite swallowed up, and the great river glided by
in a majestic curve, and asked no more; the bank stood fast, the
"caving" became a forgotten misfortune, and the diminished grant was a
long, sweeping, willowy bend, rustling with miles of sugar-cane.
Coming up the Mississippi in the sailing craft of those early days,
about the time one first could descry the white spires of the old St.
Louis Cathedral, you would be pretty sure to spy, just over to your
right under the levee, Belles Demoiselles Mansion, with its broad
veranda and red painted cypress roof, peering over the embankment, like
a bird in the nest, half hid by the avenue of willows which one of the
departed De Charleus,—he that married a Marot,—had planted on the
The house stood unusually near the river, facing eastward, and
standing four-square, with an immense veranda about its sides, and a
flight of steps in front spreading broadly downward, as we open arms to
a child. From the veranda nine miles of river were seen; and in their
compass, near at hand, the shady garden full of rare and beautiful
flowers; farther away broad fields of cane and rice, and the distant
quarters of the slaves, and on the horizon everywhere a dark belt of
The master was old Colonel De Charleu,—Jean Albert Henri Joseph
De Charleu-Marot, and "Colonel" by the grace of the first American
governor. Monsieur,—he would not speak to any one who called him
"Colonel,"—was a hoary-headed patriarch. His step was firm, his form
erect, his intellect strong and clear, his countenance classic, serene,
dignified, commanding, his manners courtly, his voice musical,—
fascinating. He had had his vices,—all his life; but had borne them,
as his race do, with a serenity of conscience and a cleanness of mouth
that left no outward blemish on the surface of the gentleman. He had
gambled in Royal Street, drank hard in Orleans Street, run his
adversary through in the duelling-ground at Slaughter-house Point, and
danced and quarrelled at the St. Philippe-street-theatre quadroon
balls. Even now, with all his courtesy and bounty, and a hospitality
which seemed to be entertaining angels, he was bitter-proud and
penurious, and deep down in his hard-finished heart loved nothing but
himself, his name, and his motherless children. But these!—their
ravishing beauty was all but excuse enough for the unbounded idolatry
of their father. Against these seven goddesses he never rebelled. Had
they even required him to defraud old De Carlos—
I can hardly say.
Old De Carlos was his extremely distant relative on the Choctaw
side. With this single exception, the narrow thread-like line of
descent from the Indian wife, diminished to a mere strand by
injudicious alliances, and deaths in the gutters of old New Orleans,
was extinct. The name, by Spanish contact, had become De Carlos; but
this one surviving bearer of it was known to all, and known only, as
One thing I never knew a Creole to do. He will not utterly go back
on the ties of blood, no matter what sort of knots those ties may be.
For one reason, he is never ashamed of his or his father's sins; and
for another,—he will tell you—he is "all heart!"
So the different heirs of the De Charleu estate had always strictly
regarded the rights and interests of the De Carloses, especially their
ownership of a block of dilapidated buildings in a part of the city,
which had once been very poor property, but was beginning to be
valuable. This block had much more than maintained the last De Carlos
through a long and lazy lifetime, and, as his household consisted only
of himself, and an aged and crippled negress, the inference was
irresistible that he "had money." Old Charlie, though by alias an
"Injin," was plainly a dark white man, about as old as Colonel De
Charleu, sunk in the bliss of deep ignorance, shrewd, deaf, and, by
repute at least, unmerciful.
The Colonel and he always conversed in English. This rare
accomplishment, which the former had learned from his Scotch wife,—
the latter from upriver traders,—they found an admirable medium of
communication, answering, better than French could, a similar purpose
to that of the stick which we fasten to the bit of one horse and
breast-gear of another, whereby each keeps his distance. Once in a
while, too, by way of jest, English found its way among the ladies of
Belles Demoiselles, always signifying that their sire was about to have
business with old Charlie.
Now a long-standing wish to buy out Charlie troubled the Colonel.
He had no desire to oust him unfairly; he was proud of being always
fair; yet he did long to engross the whole estate under one title. Out
of his luxurious idleness he had conceived this desire, and thought
little of so slight an obstacle as being already somewhat in debt to
old Charlie for money borrowed, and for which Belles Demoiselles was,
of course, good, ten times over. Lots, buildings, rents, all, might as
well be his, he thought, to give, keep, or destroy. "Had he but the old
man's heritage. Ah! he might bring that into existence which his
belles demoiselles had been begging for, 'since many years;' a home,—
and such a home,—in the gay city. Here he should tear down this row
of cottages, and make his garden wall; there that long rope-walk should
give place to vine-covered arbors; the bakery yonder should make way
for a costly conservatory; that wine warehouse should come down, and
the mansion go up. It should be the finest in the State. Men should
never pass it, but they should say—'the palace of the De Charleus; a
family of grand descent, a people of elegance and bounty, a line as old
as France, a fine old man, and seven daughters as beautiful as happy;
whoever dare attempt to marry there must leave his own name behind
"The house should be of stones fitly set, brought down in ships
from the land of 'les Yankees,' and it should have an airy belvedere,
with a gilded image tip-toeing and shining on its peak, and from it you
should see, far across the gleaming folds of the river, the red roof of
Belles Demoiselles, the country-seat. At the big stone gate there
should be a porter's lodge, and it should be a privilege even to see
Truly they were a family fine enough, and fancy-free enough to have
fine wishes, yet happy enough where they were, to have had no wish but
to live there always.
To those, who, by whatever fortune, wandered into the garden of
Belles Demoiselles some summer afternoon as the sky was reddening
towards evening, it was lovely to see the family gathered out upon the
tiled pavement at the foot of the broad front steps, gayly chatting
and jesting, with that ripple of laughter that comes so pleasingly from
a bevy of girls. The father would be found seated in their midst, the
centre of attention and compliment, witness, arbiter, umpire, critic,
by his beautiful children's unanimous appointment, but the single
vassal, too, of seven absolute sovereigns.
Now they would draw their chairs near together in eager discussion
of some new step in the dance, or the adjustment of some rich
adornment. Now they would start about him with excited comments to see
the eldest fix a bunch of violets in his button-hole. Now the twins
would move down a walk after some unusual flower, and be greeted on
their return with the high pitched notes of delighted feminine
As evening came on they would draw more quietly about their
paternal centre. Often their chairs were forsaken, and they grouped
themselves on the lower steps, one above another, and surrendered
themselves to the tender influences of the approaching night. At such
an hour the passer on the river, already attracted by the dark figures
of the broad-roofed mansion, and its woody garden standing against the
glowing sunset, would hear the voices of the hidden group rise from the
spot in the soft harmonies of an evening song; swelling clearer and
clearer as the thrill of music warmed them into feeling, and presently
joined by the deeper tones of the father's voice; then, as the daylight
passed quite away, all would be still, and he would know that the
beautiful home had gathered its nestlings under its wings.
And yet, for mere vagary, it pleased them not to be pleased.
"Arti!" called one sister to another in the broad hall, one
morning,—mock amazement in her distended eyes,—"something is goin'
to took place!"
"Papa is goin' to town!"
The news passed up stairs.
"Inno!"—one to another meeting in a doorway,—"something is
goin' to took place!"
"Qu'est-ce-que c'est!"—vain attempt at gruffness.
"Papa is goin' to town!"
The unusual tidings were true. It was afternoon of the same day
that the Colonel tossed his horse's bridle to his groom, and stepped up
to old Charlie, who was sitting on his bench under a China-tree, his
head, as was his fashion, bound in a Madras handkerchief. The "old man"
was plainly under the effect of spirits, and smiled a deferential
salutation without trusting himself to his feet.
"Eh, well Charlie!"—the Colonel raised his voice to suit his
kinsman's deafness,—"how is those times with my friend Charlie?"
"Eh?" said Charlie, distractedly.
"Is that goin' well with my friend Charlie?"
"In de house,—call her,"—making a pretence of rising.
"Non, non! I don't want,"—the speaker paused to breathe—"ow is
"Oh!" said Charlie, "every day he make me more poorer!"
"What do you hask for it?" asked the planter indifferently,
designating the house by a wave of his whip.
"Ask for w'at?" said Injin Charlie.
"De house! What you ask for it?"
"I don't believe," said Charlie.
"What you would take for it!" cried the planter.
"Wait for w'at?"
"What you would take for the whole block?"
"I don't want to sell him!"
"I'll give you ten thousand dollah for it."
"Ten t'ousand dollah for dis house? Oh, no, dat is no price. He is
blame good old house,—dat old house." (Old Charlie and the Colonel
never swore in presence of each other.) "Forty years dat old house
didn't had to be paint! I easy can get fifty t'ousand dollah for dat
"Fifty thousand picayunes; yes," said the Colonel.
"She's a good house. Can make plenty money," pursued the deaf man.
"That's what make you so rich, eh, Charlie?"
"Non, I don't make nothing. Too blame clever, me, dat's de troub'.
She's a good house,—make money fast like a steamboat,—make a barrel
full in a week! Me, I lose money all de days. Too blame clever."
"Tell me what you'll take."
"Make? I don't make nothing. Too blame clever."
"What will you take?"
"Oh! I got enough already,—half drunk now."
"What will you take for the 'ouse?"
"You want to buy her?"
"I don't know,"—(shrug),—"maybe,—if you sell it cheap."
"She's a bully old house."
There was a long silence. By and by old Charlie commenced—
"Old Injin Charlie is a low-down dog."
"C'est vrai, oui!" retorted the Colonel in an undertone.
"He's got Injin blood in him."
The Colonel nodded assent.
"But he's got some blame good blood, too, ain't it?"
The Colonel nodded impatiently.
"Bien! Old Charlie's Injin blood says, 'sell de house, Charlie, you
blame old fool!' Mais, old Charlie's good blood says, 'Charlie! if you
sell dat old house, Charlie, you low-down old dog, Charlie, what de
Compte De Charleu make for you grace-gran'-muzzer, de dev' can eat you,
Charlie, I don't care.' "
"But you'll sell it anyhow, won't you, old man?"
"No!" And the no rumbled off in muttered oaths like thunder out on
the Gulf. The incensed old Colonel wheeled and started off.
"Curl!" (Colonel) said Charlie, standing up unsteadily.
The planter turned with an inquiring frown.
"I'll trade with you!" said Charlie.
The Colonel was tempted. " 'Ow'l you trade?" he asked.
"My house for yours!"
The old Colonel turned pale with anger. He walked very quickly
back, and came close up to his kinsman.
"Charlie!" he said.
"Injin Charlie,"—with a tipsy nod.
But by this time self-control was returning. "Sell Belles
Demoiselles to you?" he said in a high key, and then laughed "Ho, ho,
ho!" and rode away.
A cloud, but not a dark one, overshadowed the spirits of Belles
Demoiselles' plantation. The old master, whose beaming presence had
always made him a shining Saturn, spinning and sparkling within the
bright circle of his daughters, fell into musing fits, started out of
frowning reveries, walked often by himself, and heard business from his
No wonder. The daughters knew his closeness in trade, and
attributed to it his failure to negotiate for the Old Charlie
buildings,—so to call them. They began to depreciate Belles
Demoiselles. If a north wind blew, it was too cold to ride. If a shower
had fallen, it was too muddy to drive. In the morning the garden was
wet. In the evening the grasshopper was a burden. Ennui was turned into
capital; every headache was interpreted a premonition of ague; and when
the native exuberance of a flock of ladies without a want or a care
burst out in laughter in the father's face, they spread their French
eyes, rolled up their little hands, and with rigid wrists and mock
vehemence vowed and vowed again that they only laughed at their
misery, and should pine to death unless they could move to the sweet
city. "Oh! the theatre! Oh! Orleans Street! Oh! the masquerade! the
Place d'Armes! the ball!" and they would call upon Heaven with French
irreverence, and fall into each other's arms, and whirl down the hall
singing a waltz, end with a grand collision and fall, and, their eyes
streaming merriment, lay the blame on the slippery floor, that would
some day be the death of the whole seven.
Three times more the fond father, thus goaded, managed, by
accident,—business accident,—to see old Charlie and increase his
offer; but in vain. He finally went to him formally.
"Eh?" said the deaf and distant relative. "For what you want him,
eh? Why you don't stay where you halways be 'appy? Dis is a blame old
rat-hole,—good for old Injin Charlie,—da's all. Why you don't stay
where you be halways 'appy? Why you don't buy somewheres else?"
"That's none of your business," snapped the planter. Truth was, his
reasons were unsatisfactory even to himself.
A sullen silence followed. Then Charlie spoke:
"Well, now, look here; I sell you old Charlie's house."
"Bien! and the whole block," said the Colonel.
"Hold on," said Charlie. "I sell you de 'ouse and de block. Den I
go and git drunk, and go to sleep; de dev' comes along and says,
'Charlie! old Charlie, you blame low-down old dog, wake up! What you
doin' here? Where's de 'ouse what Monsieur le Compte give your
grace-gran-muzzer? Don't you see dat fine gentyman, De Charleu, done
gone and tore him down and make him over new, you blame old fool,
Charlie, you low-down old Injin dog!' "
"I'll give you forty thousand dollars," said the Colonel.
"For de 'ouse?"
The deaf man shook his head.
"Forty-five!" said the Colonel.
"What a lie? For what you tell me 'What a lie?' I don't tell you no
"Non, non! I give you forty-five!" shouted the Colonel.
Charlie shook his head again.
He shook it again.
The figures rose and rose to—
The answer was an invitation to go away and let the owner alone, as
he was, in certain specified respects, the vilest of living creatures,
and no company for a fine gentyman.
The "fine gentyman" longed to blaspheme,—but before old Charlie!
- in the name of pride, how could he? He mounted and started away.
"Tell you what I'll make wid you," said Charlie.
The other, guessing aright, turned back without dismounting,
"How much Belles Demoiselles hoes me now?" asked the deaf one.
"One hundred and eighty thousand dollars," said the Colonel,
"Yass," said Charlie. "I don't want Belles Demoiselles."
The old Colonel's quiet laugh intimated it made no difference
"But me," continued Charlie, "me,—I'm got le Compte De Charleu's
blood in me, any'ow,—a litt' bit, any'ow, ain't it?"
The Colonel nodded that it was.
"Bien! If I go out of dis place and don't go to Belles Demoiselles,
de peoples will say,—dey will say, 'Old Charlie he been all doze time
tell a blame lie! He ain't no kin to his old grace-gran-muzzer, not a
blame bit! He don't got nary drop of De Charleu blood to save his blame
low-down old Injin soul!' No, sare! What I want wid money, den? No,
sare! My place for yours!"
He turned to go into the house, just too soon to see the Colonel
make an ugly whisk at him with his riding-whip. Then the Colonel, too,
Two or three times over, as he ambled homeward, laughter broke
through his annoyance, as he recalled old Charlie's family pride and
the presumption of his offer. Yet each time he could but think better
of—not the offer to swap, but the preposterous ancestral loyalty. It
was so much better than he could have expected from his "low-down"
relative, and not unlike his own whim withal—the proposition which
went with it was forgiven.
This last defeat bore so harshly on the master of Belles
Demoiselles, that the daughters, reading chagrin in his face, began to
repent. They loved their father as daughters can, and when they saw
their pretended dejection harassing him seriously they restrained their
complaints, displayed more than ordinary tenderness, and heroically and
ostentatiously concluded there was no place like Belles Demoiselles.
But the new mood touched him more than the old, and only refined his
discontent. Here was a man, rich without the care of riches, free from
any real trouble, happiness as native to his house as perfume to his
garden, deliberately, as it were with premeditated malice, taking joy
by the shoulder and bidding her be gone to town, whither he might
easily have followed, only that the very same ancestral nonsense that
kept Injin Charlie from selling the old place for twice its value
prevented him from choosing any other spot for a city home.
But by and by the charm of nature and the merry hearts around him
prevailed; the fit of exalted sulks passed off, and after a while the
year flared up at Christmas, flickered, and went out.
New Year came and passed; the beautiful garden of Belles
Demoiselles put on its spring attire; the seven fair sisters moved from
rose to rose; the cloud of discontent had warmed into invisible vapor
in the rich sunlight of family affection, and on the common memory the
only scar of last year's wound was old Charlie's sheer impertinence in
crossing the caprice of the De Charleus. The cup of gladness seemed to
fill with the filling of the river.
How high that river was! Its tremendous current rolled and tumbled
and spun along, hustling the long funeral flotillas of drift,—and how
near shore it came! Men were out day and night, watching the levee. On
windy nights even the old Colonel took part, and grew light-hearted
with occupation and excitement, as every minute the river threw a white
arm over the levee's top, as though it would vault over. But all held
fast, and, as the summer drifted in, the water sunk down into its banks
and looked quite incapable of harm.
On a summer afternoon of uncommon mildness, old Colonel Jean Albert
Henri Joseph De Charleu-Marot, being in a mood for revery, slipped the
custody of his feminine rulers and sought the crown of the levee, where
it was his wont to promenade. Presently he sat upon a stone bench,—a
favorite seat. Before him lay his broad-spread fields; near by, his
lordly mansion; and being still,—perhaps by female contact,—
somewhat sentimental, he fell to musing on his past. It was hardly
worthy to be proud of. All its morning was reddened with mad frolic,
and far toward the meridian it was marred with elegant rioting. Pride
had kept him well-nigh useless, and despised the honors won by valor;
gaming had dimmed prosperity; death had taken his heavenly wife;
voluptuous ease had mortgaged his lands; and yet his house still stood,
his sweet-smelling fields were still fruitful, his name was fame
enough; and yonder and yonder, among the trees and flowers, like angels
walking in Eden, were the seven goddesses of his only worship.
Just then a slight sound behind him brought him to his feet. He
cast his eyes anxiously to the outer edge of the little strip of bank
between the levee's base and the river. There was nothing visible. He
paused, with his ear toward the water, his face full of frightened
expectation. Ha! There came a single plashing sound, like some great
beast slipping into the river, and little waves in a wide semi-circle
came out from under the bank and spread over the water!
He plunged down the levee and bounded through the low weeds to the
edge of the bank. It was sheer, and the water about four feet below. He
did not stand quite on the edge, but fell upon his knees a couple of
yards away, wringing his hands, moaning and weeping, and staring
through his watery eyes at a fine, long crevice just discernible under
the matted grass, and curving outward on either hand toward the river.
"My God!" he sobbed aloud; "my God!" and even while he called, his
God answered: the tough Bermuda grass stretched and snapped, the
crevice slowly became a gape, and softly, gradually, with no sound but
the closing of the water at last, a ton or more of earth settled into
the boiling eddy and disappeared.
At the same instant a pulse of the breeze brought from the garden
behind, the joyous, thoughtless laughter of the fair mistresses of
The old Colonel sprang up and clambered over the levee. Then
forcing himself to a more composed movement, he hastened into the
house and ordered his horse.
"Tell my children to make merry while I am gone," he left word. "I
shall be back to-night," and the horse's hoofs clattered down a by-road
leading to the city.
"Charlie," said the planter, riding up to a window, fiom which the
old man's nightcap was thrust out, "what you say, Charlie,—my house
for yours, eh, Charlie—what you say?"
"Ello!" said Charlie; "from where you come from dis time of
"I come from the Exchange in St. Louis Street." (A small fraction
of the truth.)
"What you want?" said matter-of-fact Charlie.
"I come to trade."
The low-down relative drew the worsted off his ears. "Oh! yass," he
said with an uncertain air.
"Well, old man Charlie, what you say: my house for yours,—like
you said,—eh, Charlie?"
"I dunno," said Charlie; "it's nearly mine now. Why you don't stay
"Because I don't want!" said the Colonel savagely. "Is dat reason
enough for you? You better take me in de notion, old man, I tell you,—
Charlie never winced; but how his answer delighted the Colonel!
"I don't care—I take him—mais, possession give right off."
"Not the whole plantation, Charlie; only"—
"I don't care," said Charlie; "we easy can fix dat.
Mais, what for you don't want to keep him? I don't want him. You
better keep him."
"Don't you try to make no fool of me, old man," cried the planter.
"Oh, no!" said the other. "Oh, no! but you make a fool of yourself,
The dumbfounded Colonel stared; Charlie went on:
"Yass! Belles Demoiselles is more wort' dan tree block like dis
one. I pass by dare since two weeks. Oh, pritty Belles Demoiselles! De
cane was wave in de wind, de garden smell like a bouquet, de white-cap
was jump up and down on de river; seven belles demoiselles was ridin'
on horses. 'Pritty, pritty, pritty!' says old Charlie. Ah! Monsieur le
pere, 'ow 'appy, 'appy, 'appy!"
"Yass!" he continued—the Colonel still staring—"le Compte De
Charleu have two familie. One was low-down Choctaw, one was high up
noblesse. He gave the low-down Choctaw dis old rat-hole; he give Belles
Demoiselles to you gran-fozzer; and now you don't be satisfait. What
I'll do wid Belles Demoiselles? She'll break me in two years, yass. And
what you'll do wid old Charlie's house, eh? You'll tear her down and
make you'se'f a blame old fool. I rather wouldn't trade!"
The planter caught a big breathful of anger, but Charlie went
"I rather wouldn't, mais I will do it for you;—just the same,
like Monsieur le Compte would say, 'Charlie, you old fool, I want to
shange houses wid you.' "
So long as the Colonel suspected irony he was angry, but as Charlie
seemed, after all, to be certainly in earnest, he began to feel
conscience-stricken. He was by no means a tender man, but his
lately-discovered misfortune had unhinged him, and this strange,
undeserved, disinterested family fealty on the part of Charlie touched
his heart. And should he still try to lead him into the pitfall he had
dug? He hesitated;—no, he would show him the place by broad daylight,
and if he chose to overlook the "caving bank," it would be his own
fault;—a trade's a trade.
"Come," said the planter, "come at my house tonight; to-morrow we
look at the place before breakfast, and finish the trade."
"For what?" said Charlie.
"Oh, because I got to come in town in the morning."
"I don't want," said Charlie. "How I'm goin' to come dere?"
"I git you a horse at the liberty stable."
"Well—anyhow—I don't care—I'll go." And they went.
When they had ridden a long time, and were on the road darkened by
hedges of Cherokee rose, the Colonel called behind him to the
"Keep the road, old man."
"Keep the road."
"Oh, yes; all right; I keep my word; we don't goin' to play no
But the Colonel seemed not to hear. His ungenerous design was
beginning to be hateful to him. Not only old Charlie's unprovoked
goodness was prevailing; the eulogy on Belles Demoiselles had stirred
the depths of an intense love for his beautiful home. True, if he held
to it, the caving of the bank, at its present fearful speed, would let
the house into the river within three months; but were it not better to
lose it so, than sell his birthright? Again,—coming back to the first
thought,—to betray his own blood! It was only Injin Charlie; but had
not the De Charleu blood just spoken out in him? Unconsciously he
After a time they struck a path approaching the plantation in the
rear, and a little after, passing from behind a clump of live-oaks,
they came in sight of the villa. It looked so like a gem, shining
through its dark grove, so like a great glow-worm in the dense foliage,
so significant of luxury and gayety, that the poor master, from an
overflowing heart, groaned again.
"What?" asked Charlie.
The Colonel only drew his rein, and, dismounting mechanically,
contemplated the sight before him. The high, arched doors and windows
were thrown wide to the summer air; from every opening the bright light
of numerous candelabra darted out upon the sparkling foliage of
magnolia and bay, and here and there in the spacious verandas a colored
lantern swayed in the gentle breeze. A sound of revel fell on the ear,
the music of harps; and across one window, brighter than the rest,
flitted, once or twice, the shadows of dancers. But oh! the shadows
flitting across the heart of the fair mansion's master!
"Old Charlie," said he, gazing fondly at his house, "You and me is
both old, eh?"
"Yaas," said the stolid Charlie.
"And we has both been bad enough in our time, eh, Charlie?"
Charlie, surprised at the tender tone, repeated "Yaas."
"And you and me is mighty close?"
"Blame close, yaas."
"But you never know me to cheat, old man!"
"And do you think I would cheat you now?"
"I dunno," said Charlie. "I don't believe."
"Well, old man, old man,"—his voice began to quiver,—"I sha'n't
cheat you now. My God!—old man, I tell you—you better not make the
"Because for what?" asked Charlie in plain anger; but both looked
quickly toward the house! The Colonel tossed his hands wildly in the
air, rushed forward a step or two, and giving one fearful scream of
agony and fright, fell forward on his face in the path. Old Charlie
stood transfixed with horror. Belles Demoiselles, the realm of maiden
beauty, the home of merriment, the house of dancing, all in the tremor
and glow of pleasure, suddenly sunk, with one short, wild wail of
terror—sunk, sunk, down, down, down, into the merciless, unfathomable
flood of the Mississippi.
Twelve long months were midnight to the mind of the childless
father; when they were only half gone, he took his bed; and every day,
and every night, old Charlie, the "low-down," the "fool," watched him
tenderly, tended him lovingly, for the sake of his name, his
misfortunes, and his broken heart. No woman's step crossed the floor of
the sick-chamber, whose western dormer-windows overpeered the dingy
architecture of old Charlie's block; Charlie and a skilled physician,
the one all interest, the other all gentleness, hope, and patience—
these only entered by the door; but by the window came in a
sweet-scented evergreen vine, transplanted from the caving bank of
Belles Demoiselles. It caught the rays of sunset in its flowery net and
let then softly in upon the sick man's bed; gathered the glancing beams
of the moon at midnight, and often wakened the sleeper to look, with
his mindless eyes, upon their pretty silver fragments strewn upon the
By and by there seemed—there was—a twinkling dawn of returning
reason. Slowly, peacefully, with an increase unseen from day to day,
the light of reason came into the eyes, and speech became coherent; but
withal there came a failing of the wrecked body, and the doctor said
that monsieur was both better and worse.
One evening, as Charlie sat by the vine-clad window with his
fireless pipe in his hand, the old Colonel's eyes fell full upon his
own, and rested there.
"Charl—," he said with an effort, and his delighted nurse
hastened to the bedside and bowed his best ear. There was an
unsuccessful effort or two, and then he whispered, smiling with sweet
"We didn't trade."
The truth, in this case, was a secondary matter to Charlie; the
main point was to give a pleasing answer. So he nodded his head
decidedly, as who should say—"Oh yes, we did, it was a bonafide
swap!" but when he saw the smile vanish, he tried the other expedient
and shook his head with still more vigor, to signify that they had not
so much as approached a bargain; and the smile returned.
Charlie wanted to see the vine recognized. He stepped backward to
the window with a broad smile, shook the foliage, nodded and looked
"I know," said the Colonel, with beaming eyes, "—many weeks."
The next day—
The best ear went down.
"Send for a priest."
The priest came, and was alone with him a whole afternoon. When he
left, the patient was very haggard and exhausted, but smiled and would
not suffer the crucifix to be removed from his breast.
One more morning came. Just before dawn Charlie, lying on a pallet
in the room, thought he was called, and came to the bedside.
"Old man," whispered the failing invalid, "is it caving yet?"
"It won't pay you out."
"Oh, dat makes not'ing," said Charlie. Two big tears rolled down
his brown face. "Dat makes not'in."
The Colonel whispered once more:
"Mes belles demoiselles! in paradise;—in the garden—I shall be
with them at sunrise;" and so it was.
To Jules St.-Ange—elegant little heathen—there yet remained at
manhood a remembrance of having been to school, and of having been
taught by a stony-headed Capuchin that the world is round—for
example, like a cheese. This round world is a cheese to be eaten
through, and Jules had nibbled quite into his cheese-world already at
He realized this as he idled about one Sunday morning where the
intersection of Royal and Conti Streets some seventy years ago formed a
central corner of New Orleans. Yes, yes, the trouble was he had been
wasteful and honest. He discussed the matter with that faithful friend
and confidant, Baptiste, his yellow body-servant. They concluded that,
papa's patience and tante's pin-money having been gnawed away quite to
the rind, there were left open only these few easily-enumerated
resorts: to go to work—they shuddered; to join Major Innerarity's
filibustering expedition; or else—why not?—to try some games of
confidence. At twenty-two one must begin to be something.
1. Published in Appletons' Journal. Republished by permission.
Nothing else tempted; could that avail? One could but try. It is noble
to try; and, besides, they were hungry. If one could "make the
friendship" of some person from the country, for instance, with money,
not expert at cards or dice, but, as one would say, willing to learn,
one might find cause to say some "Hail Marys."
The sun broke through a clearing sky, and Baptiste pronounced it
good for luck. There had been a hurricane in the night. The weed-grown
tile-roofs were still dripping, and from lofty brick and low adobe
walls a rising steam responded to the summer sunlight. Up-street, and
across the Rue du Canal, one could get glimpses of the gardens in
Faubourg Ste.-Marie standing in silent wretchedness, so many tearful
Lucretias, tattered victims of the storm. Short remnants of the wind
now and then came down the narrow street in erratic puffs heavily laden
with odors of broken boughs and torn flowers, skimmed the little pools
of rain-water in the deep ruts of the unpaved street, and suddenly went
away to nothing, like a juggler's butterflies or a young man's money.
It was very picturesque, the Rue Royale. The rich and poor met
together. The locksmith's swinging key creaked next door to the bank;
across the way, crouching, mendicant-like, in the shadow of a great
importing-house, was the mud laboratory of the mender of broken combs.
Light balconies overhung the rows of showy shops and stores open for
trade this Sunday morning, and pretty Latin faces of the higher class
glanced over their savagely-pronged railings upon the passers below.
At some windows hung lace curtains, flannel duds at some, and at others
only the scraping and sighing one-hinged shutter groaning toward Paris
after its neglectful master.
M. St.-Ange stood looking up and down the street for nearly an
hour. But few ladies, only the inveterate mass-goers, were out. About
the entrance of the frequent cafes the masculine gentility stood
leaning on canes, with which now one and now another beckoned to Jules,
some even adding pantomimic hints of the social cup.
M. St.-Ange remarked to his servant without turning his head that
somehow he felt sure he should soon return those bons that the mulatto
had lent him.
"What will you do with them?"
"Me!" said Baptiste, quickly; "I will go and see the bull-fight in
the Place Congo."
"There is to be a bull-fight? But where is M. Cayetano?"
"Ah, got all his affairs wet in the tornado. Instead of his circus,
they are to have a bull-fight—not an ordinary bull-fight with sick
horses, but a buffalo-and-tiger fight. I would not miss it"—
Two or three persons ran to the opposite corner, and commenced
striking at something with their canes. Others followed. Can M.
St.-Ange and servant, who hasten forward—can the Creoles, Cubans,
Spaniards, San Domingo refugees, and other loungers—can they hope it
is a fight? They hurry forward. Is a man in a fit? The crowd pours in
from the side-streets. Have they killed a so-long snake? Bareheaded
shopmen leave their wives, who stand upon chairs. The crowd huddles
and packs. Those on the outside make little leaps into the air, trying
to be tall.
"What is the matter?"
"Have they caught a real live rat?"
"Who is hurt ?" asks some one in English.
"Personne," replies a shopkeeper; "a man's hat blow' in the gutter;
but he has it now. Jules pick' it. See, that is the man, head and
shoulders on top the res'."
"He in the homespun?" asks a second shopkeeper. "Humph! an
Americain—a West-Floridian; bah!"
"But wait; 'st! he is speaking; listen!"
"To who is he speak - ?"
"Sh-sh-sh! to Jules."
"Silence, you! To Jules St.-Ange, what howe me a bill since long
Then the voice was heard.
Its owner was a man of giant stature, with a slight stoop in his
shoulders, as if he was making a constant, good-natured attempt to
accommodate himself to ordinary doors and ceilings. His bones were
those of an ox. His face was marked more by weather than age, and his
narrow brow was bald and smooth. He had instantaneously formed an
opinion of Jules St.-Ange, and the multitude of words, most of them
lingual curiosities, with which he was rasping the wide-open ears of
his listeners, signified, in short, that, as sure as his name was
Parson Jones, the little Creole was a "plum gentleman."
M. St.-Ange bowed and smiled and was about to call attention, by
both gesture and speech, to a singular object on top of the still
uncovered head, when the nervous motion of the Americain anticipated
him, as, throwing up an immense hand, he drew down a large roll of
bank-notes. The crowd laughed, the West-Floridian joining, and began to
"Why, that money belongs to Smyrny Church," said the giant.
"You are very dengerous to make your money expose like that, Misty
Posson Jone'," said St.-Ange, counting it with his eyes.
The countryman gave a start and smile of surprise.
"How d'dyou know my name was Jones?" he asked; but, without pausing
for the Creole's answer, furnished in his reckless way some further
specimens of West-Floridian English; and the conciseness with which he
presented full intelligence of his home, family, calling,
lodging-house, and present and future plans, might have passed for
consummate art, had it not been the most run-wild nature. "And I've
done been to Mobile, you know, on business for Bethesdy Church. It's
the on'yest time I ever been from home; now you wouldn't of believed
that, would you? But I admire to have saw you, that's so. You've got to
come and eat with me. Me and my boy ain't been fed yit. What might one
call yo' name? Jools? Come on, Jools. Come on, Colossus. That's my
niggah—his name's Colossus of Rhodes. Is that yo' yallah boy, Jools?
Fetch him along, Colossus. It seems like a special providence.—
Jools, do you believe in a special providence?"
Jules said he did.
The new-made friends moved briskly off, followed by Baptiste and a
short, square, old negro, very black and grotesque, who had introduced
himself to the mulatto, with many glittering and cavernous smiles, as
"d'body-sarvant of d'Rev'n' Mr. Jones."
Both pairs enlivened their walk with conversation. Parson Jones
descanted upon the doctrine he had mentioned, as illustrated in the
perplexities of cotton-growing, and concluded that there would always
be "a special providence again' cotton untell folks quits a-pressin' of
it and haulin' of it on Sundays!"
"Je dis," said St.-Ange, in response, "I thing you is juz right. I
believe, me, strong-strong in the improvidence, yes. You know my papa
he hown a sugah-plantation, you know. 'Jules, me son,' he say one time
to me, 'I goin' to make one baril sugah to fedge the moze high price in
New Orleans.' Well, he take his bez baril sugah—I nevah see a so
careful man like me papa always to make a so beautiful sugah et sirop.
'Jules, go at Father Pierre an' ged this lill pitcher fill with
holy-water, an' tell him sen' his tin bucket, and I will make it fill
with quitte.' I ged the holy-water; my papa sprinkle it over the baril,
an' make one cross on the 'ead of the baril."
"Why, Jools," said Parson Jones, "that didn't do no good."
"Din do no good! Id broughd the so great value! You can strike me
dead if thad baril sugah din fedge the more high cost than any other
in the city. Parceque, the man what buy that baril sugah he make a
mistake of one hundred pound"—falling back—"Mais certainlee!"
"And you think that was growin' out of the holy-water?" asked the
"Mais, what could make it else ? Id could not be the quitte,
because my papa keep the bucket, an' forget to sen' the quitte to
Parson Jones was disappointed.
"Well, now, Jools, you know, I don't think that was right. I reckon
you must be a plum Catholic."
M. St.-Ange shrugged. He would not deny his faith.
"I am a Catholique, mais"—brightening as he hoped to recommend
himself anew—"not a good one."
"Well, you know," said Jones—"where's Colossus? Oh! all right.
Colossus strayed off a minute in Mobile, and I plum lost him for two
days. Here's the place; come in. Colossus and this boy can go to the
kitchen.—Now, Colossus, what air you a-beckonin' at me faw?"
He let his servant draw him aside and address him in a whisper.
"Oh, go 'way!" said the parson with a jerk. "Who's goin' to throw
me? What? Speak louder. Why, Colossus, you shayn't talk so, saw. 'Pon
my soul, you're the mightiest fool I ever taken up with. Jest you go
down that alley-way with this yalla boy, and don't show yo' face untell
The negro begged; the master wrathily insisted.
"Colossus, will you do ez I tell you, or shell I hev' to strike
"O Mahs Jimmy, I—I's gwine; but"—he ventured nearer—"don't on
no account drink nothin', Mahs Jimmy."
Such was the negro's earnestness that he put one foot in the
gutter, and fell heavily against his master. The parson threw him off
"Thar, now! Why, Colossus, you most of been dosted with sumthin';
yo' plum crazy.—Humph, come on, Jools, let's eat! Humph! to tell me
that when I never taken a drop, exceptin' for chills, in my life—
which he knows so as well as me!"
The two masters began to ascend a stair.
"Mais, he is a sassy; I would sell him, me," said the young Creole.
"No, I wouldn't do that," replied the parson; "though there is
people in Bethesdy who says he is a rascal. He's a powerful smart fool.
Why, that boy's got money, Jools; more money than religion, I reckon.
I'm shore he fallen into mighty bad company"—they passed beyond
Baptiste and Colossus, instead of going to the tavern kitchen,
passed to the next door and entered the dark rear corner of a low
grocery, where, the law notwithstanding, liquor was covertly sold to
slaves. There, in the quiet company of Baptiste and the grocer, the
colloquial powers of Colossus, which were simply prodigious, began very
soon to show themselves.
"For whilst," said he, "Mahs Jimmy has eddication, you know—
whilst he has eddication, I has 'scretion. He has eddication and I has
'scretion, an' so we gits along."
He drew a black bottle down the counter, and, laying half his
length upon the damp board, continued:
"As a p'inciple I discredits de imbimin' of awjus liquors. De
imbimin' of awjus liquors, de wiolution of de Sabbaf, de playin' of de
fiddle, and de usin' of by-words, dey is de fo' sins of de conscience;
an' if any man sin de fo' sins of de conscience, de debble done sharp
his fork fo' dat man.—Ain't that so, boss?"
The grocer was sure it was so.
"Neberdeless, mind you"—here the orator brimmed his glass from
the bottle and swallowed the contents with a dry eye—"mind you, a
roytious man, sech as ministers of de gospel and dere body-sarvants,
can take a leetle for de weak stomach."
But the fascinations of Colossus's eloquence must not mislead us;
this is the story of a true Christian; to wit, Parson Jones.
The parson and his new friend ate. But the coffee M. St.-Ange
declared he could not touch; it was too wretchedly bad. At the French
Market, near by, there was some noble coffee. This, however, would have
to be bought, and Parson Jones had scruples.
"You see, Jools, every man has his conscience to guide him, which
it does so in"—
"Oh, yes!" cried St.-Ange, "conscien'; thad is the bez, Posson
Jone'. Certainlee! I am a Catholique, you is a schismatique; you thing
it is wrong to dring some coffee—well, then, it is wrong; you thing
it is wrong to make the sugah to ged the so large price—well, then,
it is wrong; I thing it is right—well, then, it is right; it is all
'abit; c'est tout. What a man thing is right, is right; 'tis all 'abit.
A man muz nod go again' his conscien'. My faith! do you thing I would
go again' my conscien'? Mais allons, led us go and ged some coffee."
"Jools, it ain't the drinkin' of coffee, but the buyin' of it on a
Sabbath. You must really excuse me, Jools, it's again' conscience, you
"Ah!" said St.-Ange, "c'est very true. For you it would be a sin,
mais for me it is only 'abit. Rilligion is a very strange; I know a man
one time, he thing it was wrong to go to cock-fight Sunday evening. I
thing it is all 'abit. Mais, come, Posson Jone'; I have got one friend,
Miguel; led us go at his house and ged some coffee. Come; Miguel have
no familie; only him and Joe—always like to see friend; allons, led
us come yonder."
"Why, Jools, my dear friend, you know," said the shamefaced parson,
"I never visit on Sundays."
"Never w'at?" asked the astounded Creole.
"No," said Jones, smiling awkwardly.
"Exceptin' sometimes amongst church-members," said Parson Jones.
"Mais," said the seductive St.-Ange, "Miguel and Joe is
church-member'—certainlee! They love to talk about rilligion. Come
at Miguel and talk about some rilligion. I am nearly expire for me
Parson Jones took his hat from beneath his chair and rose up.
"Jools," said the weak giant, "I ought to be in church right now."
"Mais, the church is right yonder at Miguel', yes. Ah!" continued
St.-Ange, as they descended the stairs, "I thing every man muz have the
rilligion he like' the bez—me, I like the Catholique rilligion the
bez—for me it is the bez. Every man will sure go to heaven if he like
his rilligion the bez."
"Jools," said the West-Floridian, laying his great hand tenderly
upon the Creole's shoulder, as they stepped out upon the banquette, "do
you think you have any shore hopes of heaven?"
"Yass!" replied St.-Ange; "I am sure-sure. I thing everybody will
go to heaven. I thing you will go, et I thing Miguel will go, et Joe—
everybody, I thing—mais, hof course, not if they not have been
christen'. Even I thing some niggers will go."
"Jools," said the parson, stopping in his walk—"Jools, I don't
want to lose my niggah."
"You will not loose him. With Baptiste he cannot ged loose."
But Colossus's master was not re-assured.
"Now," said he, still tarrying, "this is jest the way; had I of
gone to church"—
"Posson Jone'," said Jules.
"I tell you. We goin' to church!"
"Will you?" asked Jones, joyously.
"Allons, come along," said Jules, taking his elbow.
They walked down the Rue Chartres, passed several corners, and by
and by turned into a cross street. The parson stopped an instant as
they were turning, and looked back up the street.
"W'at you lookin'?" asked his companion.
"I thought I saw Colossus," answered the parson, with an anxious
face; "I reckon 'twa'n't him, though." And they went on.
The street they now entered was a very quiet one. The eye of any
chance passer would have been at once drawn to a broad, heavy, white
brick edifice on the lower side of the way, with a flag-pole standing
out like a bowsprit from one of its great windows, and a pair of lamps
hanging before a large closed entrance. It was a theatre, honey-combed
with gambling-dens. At this morning hour all was still, and the only
sign of life was a knot of little barefoot girls gathered within its
narrow shade, and each carrying an infant relative. Into this place the
parson and M. St.-Ange entered, the little nurses jumping up from the
sills to let them pass in.
A half-hour may have passed. At the end of that time the whole
juvenile company were laying alternate eyes and ears to the chinks, to
gather what they could of an interesting quarrel going on within.
"I did not, saw! I given you no cause of offence, saw! It's not so,
saw! Mister Jools simply mistaken the house, thinkin' it was a
Sabbath-school! No such thing, saw; I ain't bound to bet! Yes, I kin
git out! Yes, without bettin'! I hev a right to my opinion; I reckon
I'm a white man, saw! No saw! I on'y said I didn't think you could get
the game on them cards. 'Sno such thing, saw! I do not know how to
play! I wouldn't hev a rascal's money ef I should win it! Shoot, ef you
dare! You can kill me, but you cayn't scare me! No, I shayn't bet! I'll
die first! Yes, saw; Mr. Jools can bet for me if he admires to; I ain't
Here the speaker seemed to direct his words to St.-Ange.
"Saw, I don't understand you, saw. I never said I'd loan you money
to bet for me. I didn't suspicion this from you, saw. No, I won't take
any more lemonade; it's the most notorious stuff I ever drank, saw!"
M. St.-Ange's replies were in falsetto and not without effect; for
presently the parson's indignation and anger began to melt. "Don't ask
me, Jools, I can't help you. It's no use; it's a matter of conscience
with me, Jools."
"Mais oui! 'tis a matt' of conscien' wid me, the same."
"But, Jools, the money's none o' mine, nohow; it belongs to Smyrny,
"If I could make jus' one bet," said the persuasive St.-Ange, "I
would leave this place, fas'-fas', yes. If I had thing—mais I did not
soupspicion this from you, Posson Jone' "—
"Don't, Jools, don't!"
"No! Posson Jone'."
"You're bound to win?" said the parson, wavering.
"Mais certainement! But it is not to win that I want; 'tis me
"Well, Jools, I hope I'm not a-doin' no wrong. I'll loan you some
of this money if you say you'll come right out 'thout takin' your
All was still. The peeping children could see the parson as he
lifted his hand to his breast-pocket. There it paused a moment in
bewilderment, then plunged to the bottom. It came back empty, and fell
lifelessly at his side. His head dropped upon his breast, his eyes were
for a moment closed, his broad palms were lifted and pressed against
his forehead, a tremor seized him, and he fell all in a heap to the
floor. The children ran off with their infant-loads, leaving Jules
St.-Ange swearing by all his deceased relatives, first to Miguel and
Joe, and then to the lifted parson, that he did not know what had
become of the money "except if" the black man had got it.
In the rear of ancient New Orleans, beyond the sites of the old
rampart, a trio of Spanish forts, where the town has since sprung up
and grown old, green with all the luxuriance of the wild Creole summer,
lay the Congo Plains. Here stretched the canvas of the historic
Cayetano, who Sunday after Sunday sowed the sawdust for his
But to-day the great showman had fallen short of his printed
promise. The hurricane had come by night, and with one fell swash had
made an irretrievable sop of every thing. The circus trailed away its
bedraggled magnificence, and the ring was cleared for the bull.
Then the sun seemed to come out and work for the people. "See,"
said the Spaniards, looking up at the glorious sky with its great,
white fleets drawn off upon the horizon—"see—heaven smiles upon the
In the high upper seats of the rude amphitheatre sat the
gayly-decked wives and daughters of the Gascons, from the metaries
along the Ridge, and the chattering Spanish women of the Market, their
shining hair unbonneted to the sun. Next below were their husbands and
lovers in Sunday blouses, milkmen, butchers, bakers, black-bearded
fishermen, Sicilian fruiterers, swarthy Portuguese sailors, in little
woollen caps, and strangers of the graver sort; mariners of England,
Germany, and Holland. The lowest seats were full of trappers,
smugglers, Canadian voyageurs, drinking and singing; Americains, too—
more's the shame—from the upper rivers—who will not keep their
seats—who ply the bottle, and who will get home by and by and tell
how wicked Sodom is; broad-brimmed, silver-braided Mexicans, too, with
their copper cheeks and bat's eyes, and their tinkling spurred heels.
Yonder, in that quieter section, are the quadroon women in their black
lace shawls—and there is Baptiste; and below them are the turbaned
black women, and there is—but he vanishes—Colossus.
The afternoon is advancing, yet the sport, though loudly demanded,
does not begin. The Americains grow derisive and find pastime in gibes
and raillery. They mock the various Latins with their national
inflections, and answer their scowls with laughter. Some of the more
aggressive shout pretty French greetings to the women of Gascony, and
one bargeman, amid peals of applause, stands on a seat and hurls a kiss
to the quadroons. The mariners of England, Germany, and Holland, as
spectators, like the fun, while the Spaniards look black and cast
defiant imprecations upon their persecutors. Some Gascons, with timely
caution, pick their women out and depart, running a terrible fire of
In hope of truce, a new call is raised for the bull: "The bull, the
In a tier near the ground a man is standing and calling—standing
head and shoulders above the rest—calling in the Americaine tongue.
Another man, big and red, named Joe, and a handsome little Creole in
elegant dress and full of laughter, wish to stop him, but the
flat-boatmen, ha-ha-ing and cheering, will not suffer it. Ah, through
some shameful knavery of the men, into whose hands he has fallen, he is
drunk! Even the women can see that; and now he throws his arms wildly
and raises his voice until the whole great circle hears it. He is
Ah! kind Lord, for a special providence now! The men of his own
nation—men from the land of the open English Bible and temperance cup
and song are cheering him on to mad disgrace. And now another call for
the appointed sport is drowned by the flat-boatmen singing the ancient
tune of Mear. You can hear the words—
"Old Grimes is dead, that good old soul" —from ribald lips and
throats turned brazen with laughter, from singers who toss their hats
aloft and roll in their seats; the chorus swells to the accompaniment
of a thousand brogans—
"He used to wear and old gray coat All buttoned down before."
A ribboned man in the arena is trying to be heard, and the Latins
give one mighty cry for silence. The big red man gets a hand over the
parson's mouth, and the ribboned man seizes his moment.
"They have been endeavoring for hours," he says, "to draw the
terrible animals from their dens, but such is their strength and
His voice is drowned. Enough has been heard to warrant the
inference that the beast cannot be whipped out of the storm-drenched
cages to which menagerie-life and long starvation have attached them,
and from the roar of indignation the man of ribbons flies. The noise
increases. Men are standing up by hundreds, and women are imploring to
be let out of the turmoil. All at once, like the bursting of a dam, the
whole mass pours down into the ring. They sweep across the arena and
over the showman's barriers. Miguel gets a frightful trampling. Who
cares for gates and doors? They tear the beasts' houses bar from bar,
and laying hold of the gaunt buffalo, drag him forth by feet, ears, and
tail; and in the midst of the mlee, still head and shoulders above
all, wilder, with the cup of the wicked, than any beast, is the man of
God from the Florida parishes!
In his arms he bore—and all the people shouted at once when they
saw it—the tiger. He had lifted it high up with its back to his
breast, his arms clasped under its shoulders; the wretched brute had
curled up caterpillar-wise, with its long tail against its belly, and
through its filed teeth grinned a fixed and impotent wrath. And Parson
Jones was shouting:
"The tiger and the buffler shell lay down together! You dah to say
they shayn't and I'll comb you with this varmint from head to foot! The
tiger and the buffler shell lay down together. They shell! Now, you,
Joe! Behold! I am here to see it done. The lion and the buffler shell
lay down together!"
Mouthing these words again and again, the parson forced his way
through the surge in the wake of the buffalo. This creature the Latins
had secured by a lariat over his head, and were dragging across the old
rampart and into a street of the city.
The northern races were trying to prevent, and there was pommelling
and knocking down, cursing and knife-drawing, until Jules St.-Ange was
quite carried away with the fun, laughed, clapped his hands, and swore
with delight, and ever kept close to the gallant parson.
Joe, contrariwise, counted all this child's-play an interruption.
He had come to find Colossus and the money. In an unlucky moment he
made bold to lay hold of the parson, but a piece of the broken barriers
in the hands of a flat-boatman felled him to the sod, the terrible
crowd swept over him, the lariat was cut and the giant parson hurled
the tiger upon the buffalo's back. In another instant both brutes were
dead at the hands of the mob; Jones was lifted from his feet, and
prating of Scripture and the millennium, of Paul at Ephesus and Daniel
in the "buffler's" den, was borne aloft upon the shoulders of the
huzzaing Americains. Half an hour later he was sleeping heavily on the
floor of a cell in the calaboza.
When Parson Jones awoke, a bell was somewhere tolling for midnight.
Somebody was at the door of his cell with a key. The lock grated, the
door swung, the turnkey looked in and stepped back, and a ray of
moonlight fell upon M. Jules St.-Ange. The prisoner sat upon the empty
shackles and ring-bolt in the centre of the floor.
"Misty Posson Jone'," said the visitor, softly.
"Mais, w'at de matter, Posson Jone'?"
"My sins, Jools, my sins!"
"Ah! Posson Jone', is that something to cry, because a man get
sometime a litt' bit intoxicate? Mais, if a man keep all the time
intoxicate, I think that is again' the conscien'."
"Jools, Jools, your eyes is darkened—oh! Jools, where's my pore
"Posson Jone', never min'; he is wid Baptiste."
"I don' know w'ere—mais he is wid Baptiste. Baptiste is a
beautiful to take care of somebody."
"Is he as good as you, Jools?" asked Parson Jones, sincerely.
Jules was slightly staggered.
"You know, Posson Jone', you know, a nigger cannot be good as a
w'ite man—mais Baptiste is a good nigger."
The parson moaned and dropped his chin into his hands.
"I was to of left for home to-morrow, sun-up, on the Isabella
schooner. Pore Smyrny!" He deeply sighed.
"Posson Jone'," said Jules, leaning against the wall and smiling,
"I swear you is the moz funny man I ever see. If I was you I would say,
me, 'Ah! 'ow I am lucky! the money I los', it was not mine, anyhow!' My
faith! shall a man make hisse'f to be the more sorry because the money
he los' is not his? Me, I would say, 'it is a specious providence.'
"Ah! Misty Posson Jone'," he continued, "you make a so droll sermon
ad the bull-ring. Ha! ha! I swear I thing you can make money to preach
thad sermon many time ad the theatre St. Philippe. Hah! you is the moz
brave dat I never see, mais ad the same time the moz rilligious man.
Where I'm goin' to fin' one priest to make like dat? Mais, why you
can't cheer up an' be 'appy? Me, if I should be miserabl' like that I
would kill meself."
The countryman only shook his head.
"Bien, Posson Jone', I have the so good news for you."
The prisoner looked up with eager inquiry.
"Las' evening when they lock' you, I come right off at M. De
Blanc's house to get you let out of de calaboose; M. De Blanc he is the
judge. So soon I was entering—'Ah! Jules, me boy, juz the man to
make complete the game!' Posson Jone', it was a specious providence! I
win in t'ree hours more dan six hundred dollah! Look." He produced a
mass of bank-notes, bons, and due-bills.
"And you got the pass?" asked the parson, regarding the money with
a sadness incomprehensible to Jules.
"It is here; it take the effect so soon the daylight."
"Jools, my friend, your kindness is in vain."
The Creole's face became a perfect blank.
"Because," said the parson, "for two reasons: firstly, I have
broken the laws, and ought to stand the penalty; and secondly—you
must really excuse me, Jools, you know, but the pass has been got
onfairly, I'm afeerd. You told the judge I was innocent; and in neither
case it don't become a Christian (which I hope I can still say I am
one) to 'do evil that good may come.' I muss stay."
M. St.-Ange stood up aghast, and for a moment speechless, at this
exhibition of moral heroism; but an artifice was presently hit upon.
"Mais, Posson Jone'!"—in his old falsetto—"de order—you cannot
read it, it is in French—compel you to go hout, sir!"
"Is that so?" cried the parson, bounding up with radiant face—"is
that so, Jools?"
The young man nodded, smiling; but, though he smiled, the fountain
of his tenderness was opened. He made the sign of the cross as the
parson knelt in prayer, and even whispered "Hail Mary," etc., quite
through, twice over.
Morning broke in summer glory upon a cluster of villas behind the
city, nestled under live-oaks and magnolias on the banks of a deep
bayou, and known as Suburb St. Jean.
With the first beam came the West-Floridian and the Creole out upon
the bank below the village. Upon the parson's arm hung a pair of
antique saddle-bags. Baptiste limped wearily behind; both his eyes were
encircled with broad, blue rings, and one cheek-bone bore the official
impress of every knuckle of Colossus's left hand. The "beautiful to
take care of somebody" had lost his charge. At mention of the negro he
became wild, and, half in English, half in the "gumbo" dialect, said
murderous things. Intimidated by Jules to calmness, he became able to
speak confidently on one point; he could, would, and did swear that
Colossus had gone home to the Florida parishes; he was almost certain;
in fact, he thought so.
There was a clicking of pulleys as the three appeared upon the
bayou's margin, and Baptiste pointed out, in the deep shadow of a great
oak, the Isabella, moored among the bulrushes, and just spreading her
sails for departure. Moving down to where she lay, the parson and his
friend paused on the bank, loath to say farewell.
"O Jools!" said the parson, "supposin' Colossus ain't gone home! O
Jools, if you'll look him out for me, I'll never forget you—I'll
never forget you, nohow, Jools. No, Jools, I never will believe he
taken that money. Yes, I know all niggahs will steal"—he set foot
upon the gang-plank—"but Colossus wouldn't steal from me. Good-by."
"Misty Posson Jone,' " said St.-Ange, putting his hand on the
parson's arm with genuine affection, "hol' on. You see dis money—w'at
I win las' night? Well, I win' it by a specious providence, ain't it?"
"There's no tellin'," said the humbled Jones. "Providence
'Moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.' "
"Ah!" cried the Creole, "c'est very true. I ged this money in the
mysterieuze way. Mais, if I keep dis money, you know where it goin' be
"I really can't say," replied the parson.
"Goin' to de dev'," said the sweetly-smiling young man.
The schooner-captain, leaning against the shrouds, and even
Baptiste, laughed outright.
"O Jools, you mustn't!"
"Well, den, w'at I shall do wid it?"
"Any thing!" answered the parson; "better donate it away to some
"Ah! Misty Posson Jone', dat is w'at I want. You los' five hondred
dollar'—'twas me fault."
"No, it wa'n't, Jools."
"Mais, it was!"
"It was me fault! I swear it was me fault! Mais, here is five
hondred dollar'; I wish you shall take it. Here! I don't got no use for
money.—Oh, my faith! Posson Jone', you must not begin to cry some
Parson Jones was choked with tears. When he found voice he said:
"O Jools, Jools, Jools! my pore, noble, dear, misguidened friend!
ef you hed of hed a Christian raisin'! May the Lord show you your
errors better'n I kin, and bless you for your good intentions—oh, no!
I cayn't touch that money with a ten-foot pole; it wa'n't rightly got;
you must really excuse me, my dear friend, but I cayn't touch it."
St.-Ange was petrified.
"Good-by, dear Jools," continued the parson. "I'm in the Lord's
haynds, and he's very merciful, which I hope and trust you'll find it
out. Good-by!"—the schooner swang slowly off before the breeze—
St.-Ange roused himself.
"Posson Jone'! make me hany'ow dis promise: you never, never, never
will come back to New Orleans."
"Ah, Jools, the Lord willin', I'll never leave home again!"
"All right!" cried the Creole; "I thing he's willin'. Adieu, Posson
Jone'. My faith'! you are the so fighting an' moz rilligious man as I
never saw! Adieu! Adieu!"
Baptiste uttered a cry and presently ran by his master toward the
schooner, his hands full of clods.
St.-Ange looked just in time to see the sable form of Colossus of
Rhodes emerge from the vessel's hold, and the pastor of Smyrna and
Bethesda seize him in his embrace.
"O Colossus! you outlandish old nigger! Thank the Lord! Thank the
The little Creole almost wept. He ran down the tow-path, laughing
and swearing, and making confused allusion to the entire personnel and
furniture of the lower regions.
By odd fortune, at the moment that St.-Ange further demonstrated
his delight by tripping his mulatto into a bog, the schooner came
brushing along the reedy bank with a graceful curve, the sails flapped,
and the crew fell to poling her slowly along.
Parson Jones was on the deck, kneeling once more in prayer. His hat
had fallen before him; behind him knelt his slave. In thundering tones
he was confessing himself "a plum fool," from whom "the conceit had
been jolted out," and who had been made to see that even his "nigger
had the longest head of the two."
Colossus clasped his hands and groaned.
The parson prayed for a contrite heart.
"Oh, yes!" cried Colossus.
The master acknowledged countless mercies.
"Dat's so!" cried the slave.
The master prayed that they might still be "piled on."
"Glory!" cried the black man, clapping his hands; "pile on!"
"An' now," continued the parson, "bring this pore, backslidin'
jackace of a parson and this pore ole fool nigger back to thar home in
"Pray fo' de money!" called Colossus.
But the parson prayed for Jules.
"Pray fo' de money!" repeated the negro.
"And oh, give thy servant back that there lost money!"
Colossus rose stealthily, and tiptoed by his still shouting master.
St.-Ange, the captain, the crew, gazed in silent wonder at the
strategist. Pausing but an instant over the master's hat to grin an
acknowledgment of his beholders' speechless interest, he softly placed
in it the faithfully-mourned and honestly-prayed-for Smyrna fund; then,
saluted by the gesticulative, silent applause of St.-Ange and the
schooner-men, he resumed his first attitude behind his roaring master.
"Amen!" cried Colossus, meaning to bring him to a close.
"Onworthy though I be"—cried Jones.
"Amen!" reiterated the negro.
"A-a-amen!" said Parson Jones.
He rose to his feet, and, stooping to take up his hat, beheld the
well-known roll. As one stunned, he gazed for a moment upon his slave,
who still knelt with clasped hands and rolling eyeballs; but when he
became aware of the laughter and cheers that greeted him from both deck
and shore, he lifted eyes and hands to heaven, and cried like the
veriest babe. And when he looked at the roll again, and hugged and
kissed it, St.-Ange tried to raise a second shout, but choked, and the
crew fell to their poles.
And now up runs Baptiste, covered with slime, and prepares to cast
his projectiles. The first one fell wide of the mark; the schooner
swung round into a long reach of water, where the breeze was in her
favor; another shout of laughter drowned the maledictions of the muddy
man; the sails filled; Colossus of Rhodes, smiling and bowing as hero
of the moment, ducked as the main boom swept round, and the schooner,
leaning slightly to the pleasant influence, rustled a moment over the
bulrushes, and then sped far away down the rippling bayou.
M. Jules St.-Ange stood long, gazing at the receding vessel as it
now disappeared, now re-appeared beyond the tops of the high
undergrowth; but, when an arm of the forest hid it finally from sight,
he turned townward, followed by that fagged-out spaniel, his servant,
saying, as he turned, "Baptiste."
"You know w'at I goin' do wid dis money?"
"Well, you can strike me dead if I don't goin' to pay hall my
He began a merry little song to the effect that his sweetheart was
a wine-bottle, and master and man, leaving care behind, returned to the
picturesque Rue Royale. The ways of Providence are indeed strange. In
all Parson Jones's after-life, amid the many painful reminiscences of
his visit to the City of the Plain, the sweet knowledge was withheld
from him that by the light of the Christian virtue that shone from him
even in his great fall, Jules St.-Ange arose, and went to his father an
In the first decade of the present century, when the nicely
established American Government was the most hateful thing in Louisiana
- when the Creoles were still kicking at such vile innovations as the
trial by jury, American dances, anti-smuggling laws, and the printing
of the Governor's proclamation in English—when the Anglo-American
flood that was presently to burst in a crevasse of immigration upon the
delta had thus far been felt only as slippery seepage which made the
Creole tremble for his footing—there stood, a short distance above
what is now Canal Street, and considerably back from the line of villas
which fringed the river-bank on Tchoupitoulas Road, an old colonial
plantation-house half in ruin.
It stood aloof from civilization, the tracts that had once been its
indigo fields given over to their first noxious wildness, and grown up
into one of the horridest marshes within a circuit of fifty miles.
The house was of heavy cypress, lifted up on pillars, grim, solid,
and spiritless, its massive build a strong reminder of days still
earlier, when every man had been his own peace officer and the
insurrection of the blacks a daily contingency. Its dark,
weather-beaten roof and sides were hoisted up above the jungly plain in
a distracted way, like a gigantic ammunition-wagon stuck in the mud and
abandoned by some retreating army. Around it was a dense growth of low
water willows, with half a hundred sorts of thorny or fetid bushes,
savage strangers alike to the "language of flowers" and to the
botanist's Greek. They were hung with countless strands of discolored
and prickly smilax, and the impassable mud below bristled with chevaux
de frise of the dwarf palmetto. Two lone forest-trees, dead cypresses,
stood in the centre of the marsh, dotted with roosting vultures. The
shallow strips of water were hid by myriads of aquatic plants, under
whose coarse and spiritless flowers, could one have seen it, was a
harbor of reptiles, great and small, to make one shudder to the end of
The house was on a slightly raised spot, the levee of a draining
canal. The waters of this canal did not run; they crawled, and were
full of big, ravening fish and alligators, that held it against all
Such was the home of old Jean Marie Poquelin, once an opulent
indigo planter, standing high in the esteem of his small, proud circle
of exclusively male acquaintances in the old city; now a hermit, alike
shunned by and shunning all who had ever known him. "The last of his
line," said the gossips. His father lies under the floor of the St.
Louis Cathedral, with the wife of his youth on one side, and the wife
of his old age on the other. Old Jean visits the spot daily. His
half-brother—alas! there was a mystery; no one knew what had become
of the gentle, young half-brother, more than thirty years his junior,
whom once he seemed so fondly to love, but who, seven years ago, had
disappeared suddenly, once for all, and left no clew of his fate.
They had seemed to live so happily in each other's love. No father,
mother, wife to either, no kindred upon earth. The elder a bold, frank,
impetuous, chivalric adventurer; the younger a gentle, studious,
book-loving recluse; they lived upon the ancestral estate like mated
birds, one always on the wing, the other always in the nest.
There was no trait in Jean Marie Poquelin, said the old gossips,
for which he was so well known among his few friends as his apparent
fondness for his "little brother." "Jacques said this," and "Jacques
said that;" he "would leave this or that, or any thing to Jacques," for
"Jacques was a scholar," and "Jacques was good," or "wise," or "just,"
or "far-sighted," as the nature of the case required; and "he should
ask Jacques as soon as he got home," since Jacques was never elsewhere
to be seen.
It was between the roving character of the one brother, and the
bookishness of the other, that the estate fell into decay. Jean Marie,
generous gentleman, gambled the slaves away one by one, until none was
left, man or woman, but one old African mute.
The indigo-fields and vats of Louisiana had been generally
abandoned as unremunerative. Certain enterprising men had substituted
the culture of sugar; but while the recluse was too apathetic to take
so active a course, the other saw larger, and, at that time, equally
respectable profits, first in smuggling, and later in the African
slave-trade. What harm could he see in it? The whole people said it was
vitally necessary, and to minister to a vital public necessity,—good
enough, certainly, and so he laid up many a doubloon, that made him
none the worse in the public regard.
One day old Jean Marie was about to start upon a voyage that was to
be longer, much longer, than any that he had yet made. Jacques had
begged him hard for many days not to go, but he laughed him off, and
finally said, kissing him:
"Adieu, 'tit frere."
"No," said Jacques, "I shall go with you."
They left the old hulk of a house in the sole care of the African
mute, and went away to the Guinea coast together.
Two years after, old Poquelin came home without his vessel. He must
have arrived at his house by night. No one saw him come. No one saw
"his little brother;" rumor whispered that he, too, had returned, but
he had never been seen again.
A dark suspicion fell upon the old slave-trader. No matter that the
few kept the many reminded of the tenderness that had ever marked his
bearing to the missing man. The many shook their heads. "You know he
has a quick and fearful temper;" and "why does he cover his loss with
mystery?" "Grief would out with the truth."
"But," said the charitable few, "look in his face; see that
expression of true humanity." The many did look in his face, and, as he
looked in theirs, he read the silent question: "Where is thy brother
Abel?" The few were silenced, his former friends died off, and the name
of Jean Marie Poquelin became a symbol of witchery, devilish crime, and
hideous nursery fictions.
The man and his house were alike shunned. The snipe and duck
hunters forsook the marsh, and the wood-cutters abandoned the canal.
Sometimes the hardier boys who ventured out there snake-shooting heard
a slow thumping of oar-locks on the canal. They would look at each
other for a moment half in consternation, half in glee, then rush from
their sport in wanton haste to assail with their gibes the unoffending,
withered old man who, in rusty attire, sat in the stern of a skiff,
rowed homeward by his white-headed African mute.
"O Jean-ah Poquelin! O Jean-ah! Jean-ah Poquelin!"
It was not necessary to utter more than that. No hint of
wickedness, deformity, or any physical or moral demerit; merely the
name and tone of mockery: "Oh, Jean-ah Poquelin!" and while they
tumbled one over another in their needless haste to fly, he would rise
carefully from his seat, while the aged mute, with downcast face, went
on rowing, and rolling up his brown fist and extending it toward the
urchins, would pour forth such an unholy broadside of French
imprecation and invective as would all but craze them with delight.
Among both blacks and whites the house was the object of a
thousand superstitions. Every midnight, they affirmed, the feu follet
came out of the marsh and ran in and out of the rooms, flashing from
window to window. The story of some lads, whose words in ordinary
statements was worthless, was generally credited, that the night they
camped in the woods, rather than pass the place after dark, they saw,
about sunset, every window blood-red, and on each of the four chimneys
an owl sitting, which turned his head three times round, and moaned and
laughed with a human voice. There was a bottomless well, everybody
professed to know, beneath the sill of the big front door under the
rotten veranda; whoever set his foot upon that threshold disappeared
forever in the depth below.
What wonder the marsh grew as wild as Africa! Take all the Faubourg
Ste. Marie, and half the ancient city, you would not find one graceless
dare-devil reckless enough to pass within a hundred yards of the house
The alien races pouring into old New Orleans began to find the few
streets named for the Bourbon princes too strait for them. The wheel of
fortune, beginning to whirl, threw them off beyond the ancient
corporation lines, and sowed civilization and even trade upon the lands
of the Graviers and Girods. Fields became roads, roads streets.
Everywhere the leveller was peering through his glass, rodsmen were
whacking their way through willow-brakes and rose-hedges, and the
sweating Irishmen tossed the blue clay up with their long-handled
"Ha! that is all very well," quoth the Jean-Baptistes, feeling the
reproach of an enterprise that asked neither co-operation nor advice of
them, "but wait till they come yonder to Jean Poquelin's marsh; ha! ha!
ha!" The supposed predicament so delighted them, that they put on a
mock terror and whirled about in an assumed stampede, then caught their
clasped hands between their knees in excess of mirth, and laughed till
the tears ran; for whether the street-makers mired in the marsh, or
contrived to cut through old "Jean-ah's" property, either event would
be joyful. Meantime a line of tiny rods, with bits of white paper in
their split tops, gradually extended its way straight through the
haunted ground, and across the canal diagonally.
"We shall fill that ditch," said the men in mud-boots, and brushed
close along the chained and padlocked gate of the haunted mansion. Ah,
Jean-ah Poquelin, those were not Creole boys, to be stampeded with a
little hard swearing.
He went to the Governor. That official scanned the odd figure with
no slight interest. Jean Poquelin was of short, broad frame, with a
bronzed leonine face. His brow was ample and deeply furrowed. His eye,
large and black, was bold and open like that of a war-horse, and his
jaws shut together with the firmness of iron. He was dressed in a suit
of Attakapas cottonade, and his shirt unbuttoned and thrown back from
the throat and bosom, sailor-wise, showed a herculean breast, hard and
grizzled. There was no fierceness or defiance in his look, no harsh
ungentleness, no symptom of his unlawful life or violent temper; but
rather a peaceful and peaceable fearlessness. Across the whole face,
not marked in one or another feature, but as it were laid softly upon
the countenance like an almost imperceptible veil, was the imprint of
some great grief. A careless eye might easily overlook it, but, once
seen, there it hung—faint, but unmistakable.
The Governor bowed.
"Parlez-vous franais?" asked the figure.
"I would rather talk English, if you can do so," said the Governor.
"My name, Jean Poquelin."
"How can I serve you, Mr. Poquelin?"
"My 'ouse is yond'; dans le marais lˆ-bas."
The Governor bowed.
"Dat marais billong to me."
"To me; Jean Poquelin; I hown 'im meself."
"He don't billong to you; I get him from me father."
"That is perfectly true, Mr. Poquelin, as far as I am aware."
"You want to make strit pass yond'?"
"I do not know, sir; it is quite probable; but the city will
indemnify you for any loss you may suffer—you will get paid, you
"Strit can't pass dare."
"You will have to see the municipal authorities about that, Mr.
A bitter smile came upon the old man's face: "Pardon, Monsieur,
you is not le Gouverneur?"
"Mais, yes. You har le Gouverneur—yes. Veh- well. I come to you.
I tell you, strit can't pass at me 'ouse."
"But you will have to see"—
"I come to you. You is le Gouverneur. I know not the new laws. I
ham a Fr-r-rench-a-man! Fr-rench-a-man have something aller au
contraire—he come at his Gouverneur. I come at you. If me not had
been bought from me king like bossals in the hold time, ze king gof—
France would-a-show Monsieur le Gouverneur to take care his men to make
strit in right places. Mais, I know; we billong to Monsieur le
President. I want you do somesin for me, eh?"
"What is it?" asked the patient Governor.
"I want you tell Monsieur le President, strit—can't—pass—at—
"Have a chair, Mr. Poquelin;" but the old man did not stir. The
Governor took a quill and wrote a line to a city official, introducing
Mr. Poquelin, and asking for him every possible courtesy. He handed it
to him, instructing him where to present it.
"Mr. Poquelin," he said, with a conciliatory smile, "tell me, is it
your house that our Creole citizens tell such odd stories about?"
The old man glared sternly upon the speaker, and with immovable
"You don't see me trade some Guinea nigga'?"
"You don't see me make some smugglin'?"
"No, sir; not at all."
"But, I am Jean Marie Poquelin. I mine me hown bizniss. Dat all
He put his hat on and withdrew. By and by he stood, letter in hand,
before the person to whom it was addressed. This person employed an
"He says," said the interpreter to the officer, "he come to make
you the fair warning how you muz not make the street pas' at his
The officer remarked that "such impudence was refreshing;" but the
experienced interpreter translated freely.
"He says: 'Why you don't want?' " said the interpreter.
The old slave-trader answered at some length.
"He says," said the interpreter, again turning to the officer, "the
marass is a too unhealth' for peopl' to live."
"But we expect to drain his old marsh; it's not going to be a
"Il dit"—The interpreter explained in French.
The old man answered tersely.
"He says the canal is a private," said the interpreter.
"Oh! that old ditch; that's to be filled up. Tell the old man we're
going to fix him up nicely."
Translation being duly made, the man in power was amused to see a
thunder-cloud gathering on the old man's face.
"Tell him," he added, "by the time we finish, there'll not be a
ghost left in his shanty."
The interpreter began to translate, but—
"J' comprends, J' comprends," said the old man, with an impatient
gesture, and burst forth, pouring curses upon the United States, the
President, the Territory of Orleans, Congress, the Governor and all his
subordinates, striding out of the apartment as he cursed, while the
object of his maledictions roared with merriment and rammed the floor
with his foot.
"Why, it will make his old place worth ten dollars to one," said
the official to the interpreter.
" 'Tis not for de worse of de property," said the interpreter.
"I should guess not," said the other, whittling his chair,—"seems
to me as if some of these old Creoles would liever live in a crawfish
hole than to have a neighbor."
"You know what make old Jean Poquelin make like that? I will tell
you. You know"—
The interpreter was rolling a cigarette, and paused to light his
tinder; then, as the smoke poured in a thick double stream from his
nostrils, he said, in a solemn whisper:
"He is a witch."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the other.
"You don't believe it? What you want to bet?" cried the
interpreter, jerking himself half up and thrusting out one arm while he
bared it of its coat-sleeve with the hand of the other. "What you want
"How do you know?" asked the official.
"Dass what I goin' to tell you. You know, one evening I was
shooting some grosbec. I killed three; but I had trouble to fine them,
it was becoming so dark. When I have them I start' to come home; then I
got to pas' at Jean Poquelin's house."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the other, throwing his leg over the arm of
"Wait," said the interpreter. "I come along slow, not making some
noises; still, still"—
"And scared," said the smiling one.
"Mais, wait. I get all pas' the 'ouse. 'Ah!' I say; 'all right!'
Then I see two thing' before! Hah! I get as cold and humide, and shake
like a leaf. You think it was nothing? There I see, so plain as can be
(though it was making nearly dark), I see Jean—Marie—Po-que-lin
walkin' right in front, and right there beside of him was something
like a man—but not a man—white like paint !—I dropp' on the grass
from scared—they pass'; so sure as I live 'twas the ghos' of Jacques
Poquelin, his brother!"
"Pooh!" said the listener.
"I'll put my han' in the fire," said the interpreter.
"But did you never think," asked the other, "that that might be
Jack Poquelin, as you call him, alive and well, and for some cause hid
away by his brother?"
"But there har' no cause!" said the other, and the entrance of
third parties changed the subject.
Some months passed and the street was opened. A canal was first dug
through the marsh, the small one which passed so close to Jean
Poquelin's house was filled, and the street, or rather a sunny road,
just touched a corner of the old mansion's dooryard. The morass ran
dry. Its venomous denizens slipped away through the bulrushes; the
cattle roaming freely upon its hardened surface trampled the
superabundant undergrowth. The bellowing frogs croaked to westward.
Lilies and the flower-de-luce sprang up in the place of reeds; smilax
and poison-oak gave way to the purple-plumed iron-weed and pink
spiderwort; the bindweeds ran everywhere blooming as they ran, and on
one of the dead cypresses a giant creeper hung its green burden of
foliage and lifted its scarlet trumpets. Sparrows and red-birds flitted
through the bushes, and dewberries grew ripe beneath. Over all these
came a sweet, dry smell of salubrity which the place had not known
since the sediments of the Mississippi first lifted it from the sea.
But its owner did not build. Over the willow-brakes, and down the
vista of the open street, bright new houses, some singly, some by
ranks, were prying in upon the old man's privacy. They even settled
down toward his southern side. First a wood-cutter's hut or two, then a
market gardener's shanty, then a painted cottage, and all at once the
faubourg had flanked and half surrounded him and his dried-up marsh.
Ah! then the common people began to hate him. "The old tyrant!"
"You don't mean an old tyrant?" "Well, then, why don't he build when
the public need demands it? What does he live in that unneighborly way
for?" "The old pirate!" "The old kidnapper!" How easily even the most
ultra Louisianians put on the imported virtues of the North when they
could be brought to bear against the hermit. "There he goes, with the
boys after him! Ah! ha! ha! Jean-ah Poquelin! Ah! Jean-ah! Aha! aha!
Jean-ah Marie! Jean-ah Poquelin! The old villain!" How merrily the
swarming Americains echo the spirit of persecution! "The old fraud,"
they say—"pretends to live in a haunted house, does he? We'll tar and
feather him some day. Guess we can fix him."
He cannot be rowed home along the old canal now; he walks. He has
broken sadly of late, and the street urchins are ever at his heels. It
is like the days when they cried: "Go up, thou bald-head," and the old
man now and then turns and delivers ineffectual curses.
To the Creoles—to the incoming lower class of superstitious
Germans, Irish, Sicilians, and others—he became an omen and
embodiment of public and private ill-fortune. Upon him all the vagaries
of their superstitions gathered and grew. If a house caught fire, it
was imputed to his machinations. Did a woman go off in a fit, he had
bewitched her. Did a child stray off for an hour, the mother shivered
with the apprehension that Jean Poquelin had offered him to strange
gods. The house was the subject of every bad boy's invention who loved
to contrive ghostly lies. "As long as that house stands we shall have
bad luck. Do you not see our pease and beans dying, our cabbages and
lettuce going to seed and our gardens turning to dust, while every day
you can see it raining in the woods? The rain will never pass old
Poquelin's house. He keeps a fetich. He has conjured the whole Faubourg
St. Marie. And why, the old wretch? Simply because our playful and
innocent children call after him as he passes."
A "Building and Improvement Company," which had not yet got its
charter, "but was going to," and which had not, indeed, any tangible
capital yet, but "was going to have some," joined the "Jean-ah
Poquelin" war. The haunted property would be such a capital site for a
market-house! They sent a deputation to the old mansion to ask its
occupant to sell. The deputation never got beyond the chained gate and
a very barren interview with the African mute. The President of the
Board was then empowered (for he had studied French in Pennsylvania and
was considered qualified) to call and persuade M. Poquelin to subscribe
to the company's stock; but—
"Fact is, gentlemen," he said at the next meeting, "it would take
us at least twelve months to make Mr. Pokaleen understand the rather
original features of our system, and he wouldn't subscribe when we'd
done; besides, the only way to see him is to stop him on the street."
There was a great laugh from the Board; they couldn't help it.
"Better meet a bear robbed of her whelps," said one.
"You're mistaken as to that," said the President. "I did meet him,
and stopped him, and found him quite polite. But I could get no
satisfaction from him; the fellow wouldn't talk in French, and when I
spoke in English he hoisted his old shoulders up, and gave the same
answer to every thing I said."
"And that was—?" asked one or two, impatient of the pause.
"That it 'don't worse w'ile?' "
One of the Board said: "Mr. President, this market-house project,
as I take it, is not altogether a selfish one; the community is to be
benefited by it. We may feel that we are working in the public interest
[the Board smiled knowingly], if we employ all possible means to oust
this old nuisance from among us. You may know that at the time the
street was cut through, this old Poquelann did all he could to prevent
it. It was owing to a certain connection which I had with that affair
that I heard a ghost story [smiles, followed by a sudden dignified
check]—ghost story, which, of course, I am not going to relate; but I
may say that my profound conviction, arising from a prolonged study of
that story, is, that this old villain, John Poquelann, has his brother
locked up in that old house. Now, if this is so, and we can fix it on
him, I merely suggest that we can make the matter highly useful. I
don't know," he added, beginning to sit down, "but that it is an action
we owe to the community—hem!"
"How do you propose to handle the subject?" asked the President.
"I was thinking," said the speaker, "that, as a Board of Directors,
it would be unadvisable for us to authorize any action involving
trespass; but if you, for instance, Mr. President, should, as it were,
for mere curiosity, request some one, as, for instance, our excellent
Secretary, simply as a personal favor, to look into the matter—this
is merely a suggestion."
The Secretary smiled sufficiently to be understood that, while he
certainly did not consider such preposterous service a part of his
duties as secretary, he might, notwithstanding, accede to the
President's request; and the Board adjourned.
Little White, as the Secretary was called, was a mild, kind-hearted
little man, who, nevertheless, had no fear of any thing, unless it was
the fear of being unkind.
"I tell you frankly," he privately said to the President, "I go
into this purely for reasons of my own."
The next day, a little after nightfall, one might have descried
this little man slipping along the rear fence of the Poquelin place,
preparatory to vaulting over into the rank, grass-grown yard, and
bearing himself altogether more after the manner of a collector of rare
chickens than according to the usage of secretaries.
The picture presented to his eye was not calculated to enliven his
mind. The old mansion stood out against the western sky, black and
silent. One long, lurid pencil-stroke along a sky of slate was all that
was left of daylight. No sign of life was apparent; no light at any
window, unless it might have been on the side of the house hidden from
view. No owls were on the chimneys, no dogs were in the yard.
He entered the place, and ventured up behind a small cabin which
stood apart from the house. Through one of its many crannies he easily
detected the African mute crouched before a flickering pine-knot, his
head on his knees, fast asleep.
He concluded to enter the mansion, and, with that view, stood and
scanned it. The broad rear steps of the veranda would not serve him; he
might meet some one midway. He was measuring, with his eye, the
proportions of one of the pillars which supported it, and estimating
the practicability of climbing it, when he heard a footstep. Some one
dragged a chair out toward the railing, then seemed to change his mind
and began to pace the veranda, his footfalls resounding on the dry
boards with singular loudness. Little White drew a step backward, got
the figure between himself and the sky, and at once recognized the
short, broad-shouldered form of old Jean Poquelin.
He sat down upon a billet of wood, and, to escape the stings of a
whining cloud of mosquitoes, shrouded his face and neck in his
handkerchief, leaving his eyes uncovered.
He had sat there but a moment when he noticed a strange, sickening
odor, faint, as if coming from a distance, but loathsome and horrid.
Whence could it come? Not from the cabin; not from the marsh, for
it was as dry as powder. It was not in the air; it seemed to come from
Rising up, he noticed, for the first time, a few steps before him a
narrow footpath leading toward the house. He glanced down it—ha!
right there was some one coming—ghostly white!
Quick as thought, and as noiselessly, he lay down at full length
against the cabin. It was bold strategy, and yet, there was no denying
it, little White felt that he was frightened. "It is not a ghost," he
said to himself. "I know it cannot be a ghost;" but the perspiration
burst out at every pore, and the air seemed to thicken with heat. "It
is a living man," he said in his thoughts. "I hear his footstep, and I
hear old Poquelin's footsteps, too, separately, over on the veranda. I
am not discovered; the thing has passed; there is that odor again; what
a smell of death! Is it coming back? Yes. It stops at the door of the
cabin. Is it peering in at the sleeping mute? It moves away. It is in
the path again. Now it is gone." He shuddered. "Now, if I dare venture,
the mystery is solved." He rose cautiously, close against the cabin,
and peered along the path.
The figure of a man, a presence if not a body—but whether clad in
some white stuff or naked the darkness would not allow him to determine
- had turned, and now, with a seeming painful gait, moved slowly from
him. "Great Heaven! can it be that the dead do walk?" He withdrew again
the hands which had gone to his eyes. The dreadful object passed
between two pillars and under the house. He listened. There was a faint
sound as of feet upon a staircase; then all was still except the
measured tread of Jean Poquelin walking on the veranda, and the heavy
respirations of the mute slumbering in the cabin.
The little Secretary was about to retreat; but as he looked once
more toward the haunted house a dim light appeared in the crack of a
closed window, and presently old Jean Poquelin came, dragging his
chair, and sat down close against the shining cranny. He spoke in a
low, tender tone in the French tongue, making some inquiry. An answer
came from within. Was it the voice of a human? So unnatural was it—so
hollow, so discordant, so unearthly—that the stealthy listener
shuddered again from head to foot, and when something stirred in some
bushes near by—though it may have been nothing more than a rat—and
came scuttling through the grass, the little Secretary actually turned
and fled. As he left the enclosure he moved with bolder leisure through
the bushes; yet now and then he spoke aloud: "Oh, oh! I see, I
understand!" and shut his eyes in his hands.
How strange that henceforth little White was the champion of Jean
Poquelin! In season and out of season—wherever a word was uttered
against him—the Secretary, with a quiet, aggressive force that
instantly arrested gossip, demanded upon what authority the statement
or conjecture was made; but as he did not condescend to explain his own
remarkable attitude, it was not long before the disrelish and suspicion
which had followed Jean Poquelin so many years fell also upon him.
It was only the next evening but one after his adventure that he
made himself a source of sullen amazement to one hundred and fifty
boys, by ordering them to desist from their wanton hallooing. Old Jean
Poquelin, standing and shaking his cane, rolling out his long-drawn
maledictions, paused and stared, then gave the Secretary a courteous
bow and started on. The boys, save one, from pure astonishment,
ceased; but a ruffianly little Irish lad, more daring than any had yet
been, threw a big hurtling clod, that struck old Poquelin between the
shoulders and burst like a shell. The enraged old man wheeled with
uplifted staff to give chase to the scampering vagabond; and—he may
have tripped, or he may not, but he fell full length. Little White
hastened to help him up, but he waved him off with a fierce imprecation
and staggering to his feet resumed his way homeward. His lips were
reddened with blood.
Little White was on his way to the meeting of the Board. He would
have given all he dared spend to have staid away, for he felt both too
fierce and too tremulous to brook the criticisms that were likely to be
"I can't help it, gentlemen; I can't help you to make a case
against the old man, and I'm not going to."
"We did not expect this disappointment, Mr. White."
"I can't help that, sir. No, sir; you had better not appoint any
more investigations. Somebody'll investigate himself into trouble. No,
sir; it isn't a threat, it is only my advice, but I warn you that
whoever takes the task in hand will rue it to his dying day—which may
be hastened, too."
The President expressed himself "surprised."
"I don't care a rush," answered little White, wildly and foolishly.
"I don't care a rush if you are, sir. No, my nerves are not disordered;
my head's as clear as a bell. No, I'm not excited."
A Director remarked that the Secretary looked as though he had
waked from a nightmare.
"Well, sir, if you want to know the fact, I have; and if you choose
to cultivate old Poquelin's society you can have one, too."
"White," called a facetious member, but White did not notice.
"White," he called again.
"What?" demanded White, with a scowl.
"Did you see the ghost?"
"Yes, sir; I did," cried White, hitting the table, and handing the
President a paper which brought the Board to other business.
The story got among the gossips that somebody (they were afraid to
say little White) had been to the Poquelin mansion by night and beheld
something appalling. The rumor was but a shadow of the truth, magnified
and distorted as is the manner of shadows. He had seen skeletons
walking, and had barely escaped the clutches of one by making the sign
of the cross.
Some madcap boys with an appetite for the horrible plucked up
courage to venture through the dried marsh by the cattle-path, and come
before the house at a spectral hour when the air was full of bats.
Something which they but half saw—half a sight was enough—sent them
tearing back through the willow-brakes and acacia bushes to their
homes, where they fairly dropped down, and cried:
"Was it white?" "No—yes—nearly so—we can't tell—but we saw
it." And one could hardly doubt, to look at their ashen faces, that
they had, whatever it was.
"If that old rascal lived in the country we come from," said
certain Americains, "he'd have been tarred and feathered before now,
wouldn't he, Sanders?"
"Well, now he just would."
"And we'd have rid him on a rail, wouldn't we?"
"That's what I allow."
"Tell you what you could do." They were talking to some rollicking
Creoles who had assumed an absolute necessity for doing something.
"What is it you call this thing where an old man marries a young girl,
and you come out with horns and"—
"Charivari?" asked the Creoles.
"Yes, that's it. Why don't you shivaree him?" Felicitous
Little White, with his wife beside him, was sitting on their
doorsteps on the sidewalk, as Creole custom had taught them, looking
toward the sunset. They had moved into the lately-opened street. The
view was not attractive on the score of beauty. The houses were small
and scattered, and across the flat commons, spite of the lofty tangle
of weeds and bushes, and spite of the thickets of acacia, they needs
must see the dismal old Poquelin mansion, tilted awry and shutting out
the declining sun. The moon, white and slender, was hanging the tip of
its horn over one of the chimneys.
"And you say," said the Secretary, "the old black man has been
going by here alone? Patty, suppose old Poquelin should be concocting
some mischief; he don't lack provocation; the way that clod hit him the
other day was enough to have killed him. Why, Patty, he dropped as
quick as that! No wonder you haven't seen him. I wonder if they haven't
heard something about him up at the drug-store. Suppose I go and see."
"Do," said his wife.
She sat alone for half an hour, watching that sudden going out of
the day peculiar to the latitude.
"That moon is ghost enough for one house," she said, as her husband
returned. "It has gone right down the chimney."
"Patty," said little White, "the drug-clerk says the boys are going
to shivaree old Poquelin to-night. I'm going to try to stop it."
"Why, White," said his wife, "you'd better not. You'll get hurt."
"No, I'll not."
"Yes, you will."
"I'm going to sit out here until they come along. They're compelled
to pass right by here."
"Why, White, it may be midnight before they start; you're not going
to sit out here till then."
"Yes, I am."
"Well, you're very foolish," said Mrs. White in an undertone,
looking anxious, and tapping one of the steps with her foot.
They sat a very long time talking over little family matters.
"What's that?" at last said Mrs. White.
"That's the nine-o'clock gun," said White, and they relapsed into a
long-sustained, drowsy silence.
"Patty, you'd better go in and go to bed," said he at last.
"I'm not sleepy."
"Well, you're very foolish," quietly remarked little White, and
again silence fell upon them.
"Patty, suppose I walk out to the old house and see if I can find
out any thing."
"Suppose," said she, "you don't do any such—listen!"
Down the street arose a great hubbub. Dogs and boys were howling
and barking; men were laughing, shouting, groaning, and blowing horns,
whooping, and clanking cow-bells, whinnying, and howling, and rattling
pots and pans.
"They are coming this way," said little White. "You had better go
into the house, Patty."
"So had you."
"No. I'm going to see if I can't stop them."
"I'll be back in a minute," said White, and went toward the noise.
In a few moments the little Secretary met the mob. The pen
hesitates on the word, for there is a respectable difference,
measurable only on the scale of the half century, between a mob and a
charivari. Little White lifted his ineffectual voice. He faced the head
of the disorderly column, and cast himself about as if he were made of
wood and moved by the jerk of a string. He rushed to one who seemed,
from the size and clatter of his tin pan, to be a leader. "Stop these
fellows, Bienvenu, stop them just a minute, till I tell them
something." Bienvenu turned and brandished his instruments of discord
in an imploring way to the crowd. They slackened their pace, two or
three hushed their horns and joined the prayer of little White and
Bienvenu for silence. The throng halted. The hush was delicious.
"Bienvenu," said little White, "don't shivaree old Poquelin
"My fwang," said the swaying Bienvenu, "who tail you I goin' to
chahivahi somebody, eh? You sink bickause I make a little playfool wiz
zis tin pan zat I am dhonk?"
"Oh, no, Bienvenu, old fellow, you're all right. I was afraid you
might not know that old Poquelin was sick, you know, but you're not
going there, are you?"
"My fwang, I vay soy to tail you zat you ah dhonk as de dev'. I am
shem of you. I ham ze servan' of ze publique. Zese citoyens goin' to
wickwest Jean Poquelin to give to the Ursuline' two hondred fifty
"He quoi!" cried a listener, "Cinq cent piastres, oui!"
"Oui!" said Bienvenu, "and if he wiffuse we make him some lit'
musique; ta-ra-ta!" He hoisted a merry hand and foot, then frowning,
added: "Old Poquelin got no bizniz dhink s'much w'isky."
"But, gentlemen," said little White, around whom a circle had
gathered, "the old man is very sick."
"My faith!" cried a tiny Creole, "we did not make him to be sick.
W'en we have say we going make le charivari, do you want that we hall
tell a lie? My faith! 'sfools!"
"But you can shivaree somebody else," said desperate little White.
"Oui!" cried Bienvenu, "et chahivahi Jean-ah Poquelin tomo'w!"
"Let us go to Madame Schneider!" cried two or three, and amid
huzzas and confused cries, among which was heard a stentorian Celtic
call for drinks, the crowd again began to move.
"Cent piastres pour l'h™pital de charite!"
"One hongred dolla' for Charity Hospital!"
"Whang!" went a tin pan, the crowd yelled, and Pandemonium gaped
again. They were off at a right angle.
Nodding, Mrs. White looked at the mantle-clock.
"Well, if it isn't away after midnight."
The hideous noise down street was passing beyond earshot. She
raised a sash and listened. For a moment there was silence. Some one
came to the door.
"Is that you, White?"
"Yes." He entered. "I succeeded, Patty."
"Did you?" said Patty, joyfully.
"Yes. They've gone down to shivaree the old Dutchwoman who married
her step-daughter's sweetheart. They say she has got to pay a hundred
dollars to the hospital before they stop."
The couple retired, and Mrs. White slumbered. She was awakened by
her husband snapping the lid of his watch.
"What time?" she asked.
"Half-past three. Patty, I haven't slept a wink. Those fellows are
out yet. Don't you hear them?"
"Why, White, they're coming this way!"
"I know they are," said White, sliding out of bed and drawing on
his clothes, "and they're coming fast. You'd better go away from that
window, Patty. My! what a clatter!"
"Here they are," said Mrs. White, but her husband was gone. Two or
three hundred men and boys pass the place at a rapid walk straight down
the broad, new street, toward the hated house of ghosts. The din was
terrific. She saw little White at the head of the rabble brandishing
his arms and trying in vain to make himself heard; but they only shook
their heads, laughing and hooting the louder, and so passed, bearing
him on before them.
Swiftly they pass out from among the houses, away from the dim oil
lamps of the street, out into the broad starlit commons, and enter the
willowy jungles of the haunted ground. Some hearts fail and their
owners lag behind and turn back, suddenly remembering how near morning
it is. But the most part push on, tearing the air with their clamor.
Down ahead of them in the long, thicket-darkened way there is—
singularly enough—a faint, dancing light. It must be very near the
old house; it is. It has stopped now. It is a lantern, and is under a
well-known sapling which has grown up on the wayside since the canal
was filled. Now it swings mysteriously to and fro. A goodly number of
the more ghost-fearing give up the sport; but a full hundred move
forward at a run, doubling their devilish howling and banging.
Yes; it is a lantern, and there are two persons under the tree. The
crowd draws near—drops into a walk; one of the two is the old African
mute; he lifts the lantern up so that it shines on the other; the crowd
recoils; there is a hush of all clangor, and all at once, with a cry of
mingled fright and horror from every throat, the whole throng rushes
back, dropping every thing, sweeping past little White and hurrying on,
never stopping until the jungle is left behind, and then to find that
not one in ten has seen the cause of the stampede, and not one of the
tenth is certain what it was.
There is one huge fellow among them who looks capable of any
villany. He finds something to mount on, and, in the Creole patois,
calls a general halt. Bienvenu sinks down, and, vainly trying to
recline gracefully, resigns the leadership. The herd gather round the
speaker; he assures them that they have been outraged. Their right
peaceably to traverse the public streets has been trampled upon. Shall
such encroachments be endured? It is now daybreak. Let them go now by
the open light of day and force a free passage of the public highway!
A scattering consent was the response, and the crowd, thinned now
and drowsy, straggled quietly down toward the old house. Some drifted
ahead, others sauntered behind, but every one, as he again neared the
tree, came to a stand-still. Little White sat upon a bank of turf on
the opposite side of the way looking very stern and sad. To each
new-comer he put the same question:
"Did you come here to go to old Poquelin's?"
"He's dead." And if the shocked hearer started away he would say:
"Don't go away."
"I want you to go to the funeral presently."
If some Louisianian, too loyal to dear France or Spain to
understand English, looked bewildered, some one would interpret for
him; and presently they went. Little White led the van, the crowd
trooping after him down the middle of the way. The gate, that had never
been seen before unchained, was open. Stern little White stopped a
short distance from it; the rabble stopped behind him. Something was
moving out from under the veranda. The many whisperers stretched upward
to see. The African mute came very slowly toward the gate, leading by a
cord in the nose a small brown bull, which was harnessed to a rude
cart. On the flat body of the cart, under a black cloth, were seen the
outlines of a long box.
"Hats off, gentlemen," said little White, as the box came in view,
and the crowd silently uncovered.
"Gentlemen," said little White, "here come the last remains of Jean
Marie Poquelin, a better man, I'm afraid, with all his sins,—yes a
better—a kinder man to his blood—a man of more self-forgetful
goodness—than all of you put together will ever dare to be."
There was a profound hush as the vehicle came creaking through the
gate; but when it turned away from them toward the forest, those in
front started suddenly. There was a backward rush, then all stood still
again staring one way; for there, behind the bier, with eyes cast down
and labored step, walked the living remains—all that was left—of
little Jacques Poquelin, the long-hidden brother—a leper, as white as
Dumb with horror, the cringing crowd gazed upon the walking death.
They watched, in silent awe, the slow cortege creep down the long,
straight road and lessen on the view, until by and by it stopped where
a wild, unfrequented path branched off into the undergrowth toward the
rear of the ancient city.
"They are going to the Terre aux Lepreux," said one in the crowd.
The rest watched them in silence.
The little bull was set free; the mute, with the strength of an
ape, lifted the long box to his shoulder. For a moment more the mute
and the leper stood in sight, while the former adjusted his heavy
burden; then, without one backward glance upon the unkind human world,
turning their faces toward the ridge in the depths of the swamp known
as the Leper's Land, they stepped into the jungle, disappeared, and
were never seen again.
KRISTIAN KOPPIG was a rosy-faced, beardless young Dutchman. He was
one of that army of gentlemen who, after the purchase of Louisiana,
swarmed from all parts of the commercial world, over the mountains of
Franco-Spanish exclusiveness, like the Goths over the Pyrenees, and
settled down in New Orleans to pick up their fortunes, with the
diligence of hungry pigeons. He may have been a German; the distinction
was too fine for Creole haste and disrelish.
He made his home in a room with one dormer window looking out, and
somewhat down, upon a building opposite, which still stands, flush with
the street, a century old. Its big, round-arched windows in a long,
second-story row, are walled up, and two or three from time to time
have had smaller windows let into them again, with odd little latticed
peep-holes in their batten shutters. This had already been done when
Kristian Koppig first began to look at them from his solitary dormer
All the features of the building lead me to guess that it is a
remnant of the old Spanish Barracks, whose extensive structure fell by
government sale into private hands a long time ago. At the end toward
the swamp a great, oriental-looking passage is left, with an arched
entrance, and a pair of ponderous wooden doors. You look at it, and
almost see Count O'Reilly's artillery come bumping and trundling out,
and dash around into the ancient Plaza to bang away at King St.
I do not know who lives there now. You might stand about on the
opposite banquette for weeks and never find out. I suppose it is a
residence, for it does not look like one. That is the rule in that
In the good old times of duels, and bagatelle-clubs, and
theatre-balls, and Cayetano's circus, Kristian Koppig rooming as
described, there lived in the portion of this house, partly overhanging
the archway, a palish handsome woman, by the name—or going by the
name—of Madame John. You would hardly have thought of her being
"colored." Though fading, she was still of very attractive countenance,
fine, rather severe features, nearly straight hair carefully kept, and
that vivid black eye so peculiar to her kind. Her smile, which came and
went with her talk, was sweet and exceedingly intelligent; and
something told you, as you looked at her, that she was one who had had
to learn a great deal in this troublesome life.
"But!"—the Creole lads in the street would say—"—her
daughter!" and there would be lifting of arms, wringing of fingers,
rolling of eyes, rounding of mouths, gaspings and clasping of hands.
"So beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! White?—white like a water lily!
White—like a magnolia!"
Applause would follow, and invocation of all the saints to witness.
And she could sing.
"Sing?" (disdainfully)—"if a mocking-bird can sing! Ha!"
They could not tell just how old she was; they "would give her
Mother and daughter were very fond. The neighbors could hear them
call each other pet names, and see them sitting together, sewing,
talking happily to each other in the unceasing French way, and see them
go out and come in together on their little tasks and errands. " 'Tite
Poulette," the daughter was called; she never went out alone.
And who was this Madame John?
"Why, you know!—she was"—said the wigmaker at the corner to
Kristian Koppig—"I'll tell you. You know?—she was"—and the rest
atomized off in a rasping whisper. She was the best yellow-fever nurse
in a thousand yards round; but that is not what the wig-maker said.
A block nearer the river stands a house altogether different from
the remnant of old barracks. It is of frame, with a deep front gallery
over which the roof extends. It has become a den of Italians, who sell
fuel by daylight, and by night are up to no telling what extent of
deviltry. This was once the home of a gay gentleman, whose first name
happened to be John. He was a member of the Good Children Social Club.
As his parents lived with him, his wife would, according to custom,
have been called Madame John; but he had no wife. His father died,
then his mother; last of all, himself. As he is about to be off, in
comes Madame John, with 'Tite Poulette, then an infant, on her arm.
"Zalli," said he, "I am going."
She bowed her head, and wept.
"You have been very faithful to me, Zalli."
She wept on.
"Nobody to take care of you now, Zalli."
Zalli only went on weeping.
"I want to give you this house, Zalli; it is for you and the little
An hour after, amid the sobs of Madame John, she and the "little
one" inherited the house, such as it was. With the fatal caution which
characterizes ignorance, she sold the property and placed the proceeds
in a bank, which made haste to fail. She put on widow's weeds, and wore
them still when 'Tite Poulette "had seventeen," as the frantic lads
How they did chatter over her. Quiet Kristian Koppig had never seen
the like. He wrote to his mother, and told her so. A pretty fellow at
the corner would suddenly double himself up with beckoning to a knot of
chums; these would hasten up; recruits would come in from two or three
other directions; as they reached the corner their countenances would
quickly assume a genteel severity, and presently, with her mother,
'Tite Poulette would pass—tall, straight, lithe, her great black eyes
made tender by their sweeping lashes, the faintest tint of color in her
Southern cheek, her form all grace, her carriage a wonder of simple
The instant she was gone every tongue was let slip on the marvel of
her beauty; but, though theirs were only the loose New Orleans morals
of over fifty years age, their unleashed tongues never had attempted
any greater liberty than to take up the pet name, 'Tite Poulette. And
yet the mother was soon to be, as we shall discover, a paid dancer at
the Salle de Conde.
To Zalli, of course, as to all "quadroon ladies," the festivities
of the Conde-street ball-room were familiar of old. There, in the happy
days when dear Monsieur John was young, and the eighteenth century old,
she had often repaired under guard of her mother—dead now, alas!—
and Monsieur John would slip away from the dull play and dry society of
The‰tre d'Orleans, and come around with his crowd of elegant friends;
and through the long sweet hours of the ball she had danced, and
laughed, and coquetted under her satin mask, even to the baffling and
tormenting of that prince of gentlemen, dear Monsieur John himself. No
man of questionable blood dare set his foot within the door. Many noble
gentlemen were pleased to dance with her. Colonel De and General La
: city councilmen and officers from the Government House. There were no
paid dancers then. Every thing was decorously conducted indeed! Every
girl's mother was there, and the more discreet always left before there
was too much drinking. Yes, it was gay, gay!—but sometimes dangerous.
Ha! more times than a few had Monsieur John knocked down some
long-haired and long-knifed rowdy, and kicked the breath out of him for
looking saucily at her; but that was like him, he was so brave and
kind;—and he is gone!
There was no room for widow's weeds there. So when she put these
on, her glittering eyes never again looked through her pink and white
mask, and she was glad of it; for never, never in her life had they so
looked for anybody but her dear Monsieur John, and now he was in heaven
- so the priest said—and she was a sick-nurse.
Living was hard work; and, as Madame John had been brought up
tenderly, and had done what she could to rear her daughter in the same
mistaken way, with, of course, no more education than the ladies in
society got, they knew nothing beyond a little music and embroidery.
They struggled as they could, faintly; now giving a few private dancing
lessons, now dressing hair, but ever beat back by the steady
detestation of their imperious patronesses; and, by and by, for want of
that priceless worldly grace known among the flippant as "money-sense,"
these two poor children, born of misfortune and the complacent badness
of the times, began to be in want.
Kristian Koppig noticed from his dormer window one day a man
standing at the big archway opposite, and clanking the brass knocker on
the wicket that was in one of the doors. He was a smooth man, with his
hair parted in the middle, and his cigarette poised on a tiny gold
holder. He waited a moment, politely cursed the dust, knocked again,
threw his slender sword-cane under his arm, and wiped the inside of his
hat with his handkerchief.
Madame John held a parley with him at the wicket. 'Tite Poulette
was nowhere seen. He stood at the gate while Madame John went
up-stairs. Kristian Koppig knew him. He knew him as one knows a snake.
He was the manager of the Salle de Conde. Presently Madame John
returned with a little bundle, and they hurried off together.
And now what did this mean? Why, by any one of ordinary acuteness
the matter was easily understood, but, to tell the truth, Kristian
Koppig was a trifle dull, and got the idea at once that some damage was
being planned against 'Tite Poulette. It made the gentle Dutchman
miserable not to be minding his own business, and yet—
"But the woman certainly will not attempt"—said he to himself—
"no, no ! she cannot." Not being able to guess what he meant, I cannot
say whether she could or not. I know that next day Kristian Koppig,
glancing eagerly over the "Ami des Lois," read an advertisement which
he had always before skipped with a frown. It was headed, "Salle de
Conde," and, being interpreted, signified that a new dance was to be
introduced, the Danse de Chinois, and that a young lady would follow it
with the famous "Danse du Shawl."
It was the Sabbath. The young man watched the opposite window
steadily and painfully from early in the afternoon until the moon shone
bright; and from the time the moon shone bright until Madame John!—
joy!—Madame John! and not 'Tite Poulette, stepped through the wicket,
much dressed and well muffled, and hurried off toward the Rue Conde.
Madame John was the "young lady;" and the young man's mind, glad to
return to its own unimpassioned affairs, relapsed into quietude.
Madame John danced beautifully. It had to be done. It brought some
pay, and pay was bread; and every Sunday evening, with a touch here and
there of paint and powder, the mother danced the dance of the shawl,
the daughter remaining at home alone.
Kristian Koppig, simple, slow-thinking young Dutchman, never
noticing that he staid at home with his window darkened for the very
purpose, would see her come to her window and look out with a little
wild, alarmed look in her magnificent eyes, and go and come again, and
again, until the mother, like a storm-driven bird, came panting home.
Two or three months went by.
One night, on the mother's return, Kristian Koppig coming to his
room nearly at the same moment, there was much earnest conversation,
which he could see, but not hear.
" 'Tite Poulette," said Madame John, "you are seventeen."
"Ah! my child, I see not how you are to meet the future." The voice
"But how, Maman?"
"Ah! you are not like others; no fortune, no pleasure, no friend."
"No, no;—I thank God for it; I am glad you are not; but you will
be lonely, lonely, all your poor life long. There is not place in this
world for us poor women. I wish that we were either white or black!"—
and the tears, two "shining ones," stood in the poor quadroon's eyes.
The daughter stood up, her eyes flashing.
"God made us, Maman," she said with a gentle, but stately smile.
"Ha!" said the mother, her keen glance darting through her tears,
"Sin made me, yes."
"No," said 'Tite Poulette, "God made us. He made us just as we are;
not more white, not more black."
"He made you, truly!" said Zalli. "You are so beautiful; I believe
it well." She reached and drew the fair form to a kneeling posture. "My
sweet, white daughter!"
Now the tears were in the girl's eyes. "And could I be whiter than
I am?" she asked.
"Oh, no, no! 'Tite Poulette," cried the other; "but if we were only
real white!—both of us; so that some gentleman might come to see me
and say 'Madame John, I want your pretty little chick. She is so
beautiful. I want to take her home. She is so good—I want her to be
my wife.' Oh, my child, my child, to see that I would give my life—I
would give my soul! Only you should take me along to be your servant. I
walked behind two young men to-night; they were coming home from their
office; presently they began to talk about you."
'Tite Poulette's eyes flashed fire.
"No, my child, they spoke only the best things. One laughed a
little at times and kept saying 'Beware!' but the other—I prayed the
Virgin to bless him, he spoke such kind and noble words. Such gentle
pity; such a holy heart! 'May God defend her,' he said, cherie; he
said, 'May God defend her, for I see no help for her.' The other one
laughed and left him. He stopped in the door right across the street.
Ah, my child, do you blush? Is that something to bring the rose to your
cheek? Many fine gentlemen at the ball ask me often, 'How is your
daughter, Madame John?' "
The daughter's face was thrown into the mother's lap, not so well
satisfied, now, with God's handiwork. Ah, how she wept! Sob, sob, sob;
gasps and sighs and stifled ejaculations, her small right hand clinched
and beating on her mother's knee; and the mother weeping over her.
Kristian Koppig shut his window. Nothing but a generous heart and a
Dutchman's phlegm could have done so at that moment. And even thou,
Kristian Koppig!—for the window closed very slowly.
He wrote to his mother, thus:
"In this wicked city, I see none so fair as the poor girl who lives
opposite me, and who, alas! though so fair, is one of those whom the
taint of caste has cursed. She lives a lonely, innocent life in the
midst of corruption, like the lilies I find here in the marshes, and I
have great pity for her. 'God defend her,' I said to-night to a fellow
clerk, 'I see no help for her.' I know there is a natural, and I think
proper, horror of mixed blood (excuse the mention, sweet mother), and
I feel it, too; and yet if she were in Holland today, not one of a
hundred suitors would detect the hidden blemish."
In such strain this young man wrote on trying to demonstrate the
utter impossibility of his ever loving the lovable unfortunate, until
the midnight tolling of the cathedral clock sent him to bed.
About the same hour Zalli and 'Tite Poulette were kissing
" 'Tite Poulette, I want you to promise me one thing."
"If any gentleman should ever love you and ask you to marry,—not
knowing, you know,—promise me you will not tell him you are not
"It can never be," said 'Tite Poulette.
"But if it should," said Madame John pleadingly.
"And break the law?" asked 'Tite Poulette, impatiently.
"But the law is unjust," said the mother.
"But it is the law!"
"But you will not, dearie, will you?"
"I would surely tell him!" said the daughter.
When Zalli, for some cause, went next morning to the window, she
" 'Tite Poulette!"—she called softly without moving. The daughter
came. The young man, whose idea of propriety had actuated him to this
display, was sitting in the dormer window, reading. Mother and
daughter bent a steady gaze at each other. It meant in French, "If he
saw us last night!"—
"Ah! dear," said the mother, her face beaming with fun—
"What can it be, Maman?"
"He speaks—oh! ha, ha!—he speaks—such miserable French!"
It came to pass one morning at early dawn that Zalli and 'Tite
Poulette, going to mass, passed a cafe, just as—who should be coming
out but Monsieur, the manager of the Salle de Conde. He had not yet
gone to bed. Monsieur was astonished. He had a Frenchman's eye for the
beautiful, and certainly there the beautiful was. He had heard of
Madame John's daughter, and had hoped once to see her, but did not; but
could this be she?
They disappeared within the cathedral. A sudden pang of piety moved
him; he followed. 'Tite Poulette was already kneeling in the aisle.
Zalli, still in the vestibule, was just taking her hand from the font
"Madame John?" whispered the manager.
"Madame John, that young lady—is she your daughter?"
"She—she—is my daughter," said Zalli, with somewhat of alarm in
her face, which the manager misinterpreted.
"I think not, Madame John." He shook his head, smiling as one too
wise to be fooled.
"Yes, Monsieur, she is my daughter."
"O no, Madame John, it is only make-believe, I think."
"I swear she is, Monsieur de la Rue."
"Is that possible?" pretending to waver, but convinced in his heart
of hearts, by Zalli's alarm, that she was lying. "But how? Why does she
not come to our ball-room with you?"
Zalli, trying to get away from him, shrugged and smiled. "Each to
his taste, Monsieur; it pleases her not."
She was escaping, but he followed one step more. "I shall come to
see you, Madame John."
She whirled and attacked him with her eyes. "Monsieur must not give
himself the trouble!" she said, the eyes at the same time adding, "Dare
to come!" She turned again, and knelt to her devotions. The manager
dipped in the font, crossed himself, and departed.
Several weeks went by, and M. de la Rue had not accepted the fierce
challenge of Madame John's eyes. One or two Sunday nights she had
succeeded in avoiding him, though fulfilling her engagement in the
Salle; but by and by pay-day,—a Saturday,—came round, and though
the pay was ready, she was loath to go up to Monsieur's little office.
It was an afternoon in May. Madame John came to her own room, and,
with a sigh, sank into a chair. Her eyes were wet.
"Did you go to his office, dear mother?" asked 'Tite Poulette.
"I could not," she answered, dropping her face in her hands.
"Maman, he has seen me at the window!"
"While I was gone? " cried the mother.
"He passed on the other side of the street. He looked up purposely,
and saw me." The speaker's cheeks were burning red.
Zalli wrung her hands.
"It is nothing, mother; do not go near him."
"But the pay, my child."
"The pay matters not."
"But he will bring it here; he wants the chance."
That was the trouble, sure enough.
About this time Kristian Koppig lost his position in the German
importing house where, he had fondly told his mother, he was
"Summer was coming on," the senior said, "and you see our young men
are almost idle. Yes, our engagement was for a year, but ah—we could
not foresee"—etc., etc., "besides" (attempting a parting flattery),
"your father is a rich gentleman, and you can afford to take the summer
easy. If we can ever be of any service to you," etc., etc.
So the young Dutchman spent the afternoons at his dormer window
reading and glancing down at the little casement opposite, where a
small, rude shelf had lately been put out, holding a row of cigar-boxes
with wretched little botanical specimens in them trying to die. 'Tite
Poulette was their gardener; and it was odd to see,—dry weather or
wet,—how many waterings per day those plants could take. She never
looked up from her task; but I know she performed it with that
unacknowledged pleasure which all girls love and deny, that of being
looked upon by noble eyes.
On this peculiar Saturday afternoon in May, Kristian Koppig had
been witness of the distressful scene over the way. It occurred to
'Tite Poulette that such might be the case, and she stepped to the
casement to shut it. As she did so, the marvellous delicacy of Kristian
Koppig moved him to draw in one of his shutters. Both young heads came
out at one moment, while at the same instant—
"Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap!"clanked the knocker on the wicket. The
black eyes of the maiden and the blue over the way, from looking into
each other for the first time in life, glanced down to the arched
doorway upon Monsieur the manager. Then the black eyes disappeared
within, and Kristian Koppig thought again, and re-opening his shutter,
stood up at the window prepared to become a bold spectator of what
But for a moment nothing followed.
"Trouble over there," thought the rosy Dutchman, and waited. The
manager waited too, rubbing his hat and brushing his clothes with the
tips of his kidded fingers.
"They do not wish to see him," slowly concluded the spectator.
"Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap!" quoth the knocker, and M. de la Rue
looked up around at the windows opposite and noticed the handsome young
Dutchman looking at him.
"Dutch!" said the manager softly, between his teeth.
"He is staring at me," said Kristian Koppig to himself;—"but then
I am staring at him, which accounts for it."
A long pause, and then another long rapping.
"They want him to go away," thought Koppig.
"Knock hard!" suggested a street youngster, standing by.
"Rap, rap"—The manager had no sooner recommenced than several
neighbors looked out of doors and windows.
"Very bad," thought our Dutchman; "somebody should make him go off.
I wonder what they will do."
The manager stepped into the street, looked up at the closed
window, returned to the knocker, and stood with it in his hand.
"They are all gone out, Monsieur," said the street-youngster.
"You lie!" said the cynosure of neighboring eyes.
"Ah!" thought Kristian Koppig; "I will go down and ask him"—Here
his thoughts lost outline; he was only convinced that he had somewhat
to say to him, and turned to go down stairs. In going he became a
little vexed with himself because he could not help hurrying. He
noticed, too, that his arm holding the stair-rail trembled in a silly
way, whereas he was perfectly calm. Precisely as he reached the
streetdoor the manager raised the knocker; but the latch clicked and
the wicket was drawn slightly ajar.
Inside could just be descried Madame John. The manager bowed,
smiled, talked, talked on, held money in his hand, bowed, smiled,
talked on, flourished the money, smiled, bowed, talked on and plainly
persisted in some intention to which Madame John was steadfastly
The window above, too,—it was Kristian Koppig who noticed that,—
opened a wee bit, like the shell of a terrapin. Presently the manager
lifted his foot and put forward an arm, as though he would enter the
gate by pushing, but as quick as gunpowder it clapped—in his face!
You could hear the fleeing feet of Zalli pounding up the staircase.
As the panting mother re-entered her room, "See, Maman," said 'Tite
Poulette, peeping at the window, "the young gentleman from over the way
"Holy Mary bless him!" said the mother.
"I will go over," thought Kristian Koppig, "and ask him kindly if
he is not making a mistake."
"What are they doing, dear?" asked the mother, with clasped hands.
"They are talking; the young man is tranquil, but 'Sieur de la Rue
is very angry," whispered the daughter; and just then—pang! came a
sharp, keen sound rattling up the walls on either side of the narrow
way, and "Aha!" and laughter and clapping of female hands from two or
"Oh! what a slap!" cried the girl, half in fright, half in glee,
jerking herself back from the casement simultaneously with the report.
But the "ahas" and laughter, and clapping of feminine hands, which
still continued, came from another cause. 'Tite Poulette's rapid action
had struck the slender cord that held up an end of her hanging garden,
and the whole rank of cigar-boxes slid from their place, turned
gracefully over as they shot through the air, and emptied themselves
plump upon the head of the slapped manager. Breathless, dirty, pale as
whitewash, he gasped a threat to be heard from again, and, getting
round the corner as quick as he could walk, left Kristian Koppig,
standing motionless, the most astonished man in that street.
"Kristian Koppig, Kristian Koppig," said Greatheart to himself,
slowly dragging up-stairs, "what a mischief you have done. One poor
woman certainly to be robbed of her bitter wages, and another—so
lovely!—put to the burning shame of being the subject of a street
brawl! What will this silly neighborhood say? 'Has the gentleman a
heart as well as a hand?' 'Is it jealousy?' " There he paused, afraid
himself to answer the supposed query; and then—"Oh! Kristian Koppig,
you have been such a dunce!" "And I cannot apologize to them. Who in
this street would carry my note, and not wink and grin over it with low
surmises? I cannot even make restitution. Money? They would not dare
receive it. Oh! Kristian Koppig, why did you not mind your own
business? Is she any thing to you? Do you love her? Of course not! Oh!
- such a dunce!"
The reader will eagerly admit that however faulty this young man's
course of reasoning, his conclusion was correct. For mark what he did.
He went to his room, which was already growing dark, shut his
window, lighted his big Dutch lamp, and sat down to write. "Something
must be done," said he aloud, taking up his pen; "I will be calm and
cool; I will be distant and brief; but—I shall have to be kind or I
may offend. Ah! I shall have to write in French; I forgot that; I write
it so poorly, dunce that I am, when all my brothers and sisters speak
it so well." He got out his French dictionary. Two hours slipped by. He
made a new pen, washed and refilled his inkstand, mended his
"abominable!" chair, and after two hours more made another attempt, and
another failure. "My head aches," said he, and lay down on his couch,
the better to frame his phrases.
He was awakened by the Sabbath sunlight. The bells of the Cathedral
and the Ursulines' chapel were ringing for high mass, and a
mocking-bird, perching on a chimney-top above Madame John's rooms, was
carolling, whistling, mewing, chirping, screaming, and trilling with
the ecstasy of a whole May in his throat. "Oh! sleepy Kristian Koppig,"
was the young man's first thought, "—such a dunce!"
Madame John and daughter did not go to mass. The morning wore away,
and their casement remained closed. "They are offended," said Kristian
Koppig, leaving the house, and wandering up to the little Protestant
affair known as Christ Church.
"No, possibly they are not," he said, returning and finding the
shutters thrown back.
By a sad accident, which mortified him extremely, he happened to
see, late in the afternoon,—hardly conscious that he was looking
across the street,—that Madame John was—dressing. Could it be that
she was going to the Salle de Conde? He rushed to his table, and began
He had guessed aright. The wages were too precious to be lost. The
manager had written her a note. He begged to assure her that he was a
gentleman of the clearest cut. If he had made a mistake the previous
afternoon, he was glad no unfortunate result had followed except his
having been assaulted by a ruffian; that the Danse du Shawl was
promised in his advertisement, and he hoped Madame John (whose wages
were in hand waiting for her) would not fail to assist as usual.
Lastly, and delicately put, he expressed his conviction that
Mademoiselle was wise and discreet in declining to entertain gentlemen
at her home.
So, against much beseeching on the part of 'Tite Poulette, Madame
John was going to the ball-room. "Maybe I can discover what 'Sieur de
la Rue is planning against Monsieur over the way," she said, knowing
certainly the slap would not be forgiven; and the daughter, though
tremblingly, at once withdrew her objections.
The heavy young Dutchman, now thoroughly electrified, was writing
like mad. He wrote and tore up, wrote and tore up, lighted his lamp,
started again, and at last signed his name. A letter by a Dutchman in
French!—what can be made of it in English? We will see:
"MADAME AND MADEMOISELLE:
"A stranger, seeking not to be acquainted, but seeing and admiring
all days the goodness and high honor, begs to be pardoned of them for
the mistakes, alas! of yesterday, and to make reparation and
satisfaction in destroying the ornaments of the window, as well as the
loss of compensation from Monsieur the manager, with the enclosed bill
of the Banque de la Louisiane for fifty dollars ($50). And, hoping they
will seeing what he is meaning, remains, respectfully,
"P.S.—Madame must not go to the ball."
He must bear the missive himself. He must speak in French. What
should the words be? A moment of study—he has it, and is off down the
long three-story stairway. At the same moment Madame John stepped from
the wicket, and glided off to the Salle de Conde, a trifle late.
"I shall see Madame John, of course," thought the young man,
crushing a hope, and rattled the knocker. 'Tite Poulette sprang up from
praying for her mother's safety. "What has she forgotten?" she asked
herself, and hastened down. The wicket opened. The two innocents were
"Aw—aw"—said the pretty Dutchmen, "aw,"—blurted out something
in virgin Dutch, . . . handed her the letter, and hurried down street.
"Alas! what have I done?" said the poor girl, bending over her
candle, and bursting into tears that fell on the unopened letter. "and
what shall I do? It may be wrong to open it—and worse not to." Like
her sex, she took the benefit of the doubt, and intensified her
perplexity and misery by reading and misconstruing the all but
unintelligible contents. What then? Not only sobs and sighs, but
moaning and beating of little fists together, and outcries of soul-felt
agony stifled against the bedside, and temples pressed into knitted
palms, because of one who "sought not to be acquainted," but offered
money—money!—in pity to a poor—shame on her for saying that!—a
And now our self-confessed dolt turned back from a half-hour's
walk, concluding there might be an answer to his note. "Surely Madame
John will appear this time." He knocked. The shutter stirred above, and
something white came fluttering wildly down like a shot dove. It was
his own letter containing the fifty-dollar bill. He bounded to the
wicket, and softly but eagerly knocked again.
"Go away," said a trembling voice from above.
"Madame John?" said he; but the window closed, and he heard a step,
the same step on the stair. Step, step, every step one step deeper into
his heart. 'Tite Poulette came to the closed door.
"What will you?" said the voice within.
"I—I—don't wish to see you. I wish to see Madame John."
"I must pray Monsieur to go away. My mother is at the Salle de
"At the ball!" Kristian Koppig strayed off, repeating the words
for want of definite thought. All at once it occurred to him that at
the ball he could make Madame John's acquaintance with impunity. "Was
it courting sin to go?" By no means; he should, most likely, save a
woman from trouble, and help the poor in their distress.
Behold Kristian Koppig standing on the floor of the Salle de Conde.
A large hall, a blaze of lamps, a bewildering flutter of fans and
floating robes, strains of music, columns of gay promenaders, a long
row of turbaned mothers lining either wall, gentlemen of the portlier
sort filling the recesses of the windows, whirling waltzers gliding
here and there—smiles and grace, smiles and grace; all fair, orderly,
elegant, bewitching. A young Creole's laugh mayhap a little loud, and—
truly there were many sword-canes. But neither grace nor foulness
satisfied the eye of the zealous young Dutchman.
Suddenly a muffled woman passed him, leaning on a gentleman's arm.
It looked like—it must be, Madame John. Speak quick, Kristian Koppig;
do not stop to notice the man!
"Madame John"—bowing—"I am your neighbor, Kristian Koppig."
Madame John bows low, and smiles—a ball-room smile, but is
frightened, and her escort,—the manager,—drops her hand and slips
"Ah! Monsieur," she whispers excitedly, "you will be killed if you
stay here a moment. Are you armed? No. Take this." She tried to slip a
dirk into his hands, but he would not have it.
"Oh, my dear young man, go! Go quickly!" she plead, glancing
furtively down the hall.
"I wish you not to dance," said the young man.
"I have danced already; I am going home. Come; be quick! we will go
together." She thrust her arm through his, and they hastened into the
street. When a square had been passed there came a sound of men running
"Run, Monsieur, run!" she cried, trying to drag him; but Monsieur
Dutchman would not.
"Run, Monsieur! Oh, my God! it is 'Sieur"—
"That for yesterday!" cried the manager, striking fiercely with his
cane. Kristian Koppig's fist rolled him in the dirt.
"That for 'Tite Poulette!" cried another man dealing the Dutchman a
terrible blow from behind.
"And that for me!" hissed a third, thrusting at him with something
"That for yesterday!" screamed the manager, bounding like a tiger;
"That!" "THAT!" "Ha!"
Then Kristian Koppig knew that he was stabbed.
"That!" and "That!" and "That!" and the poor Dutchman struck wildly
here and there, grasped the air, shut his eyes, staggered, reeled,
fell, rose half up, fell again for good, and they were kicking him and
jumping on him. All at once they scampered. Zalli had found the
"Buz-z-z-z!" went a rattle. "Buz-z-z-z!" went another.
"Pick him up."
"Is he alive?"
"Can't tell; hold him steady; lead the way, misses."
"He's bleeding all over my breeches."
"This way—here—around this corner."
"This way now—only two squares more."
"Here we are."
"Rap-rap-rap!" on the old brass knocker. Curses on the narrow
wicket, more on the dark archway, more still on the twisting stairs.
Up at last and into the room.
"Easy, easy, push this under his head! never mind his boots!"
So he lies—on 'Tite Poulette's own bed.
The watch are gone. They pause under the corner lamp to count
profits;—a single bill—Banque de la Louisiane, fifty dollars.
Providence is kind—tolerably so. Break it at the "Guillaume Tell."
"But did you ever hear any one scream like that girl did?"
And there lies the young Dutch neighbor. His money will not flutter
back to him this time; nor will any voice behind a gate "beg Monsieur
to go away." O, Woman!—that knows no enemy so terrible as man! Come
nigh, poor Woman, you have nothing to fear. Lay your strange, electric
touch upon the chilly flesh; it strikes no eager mischief along the
fainting veins. Look your sweet looks upon the grimy face, and tenderly
lay back the locks from the congested brows; no wicked
misinterpretation lurks to bite your kindness. Be motherly, be
sisterly, fear nought. Go, watch him by night; you may sleep at his
feet and he will not stir. Yet he lives, and shall live—may live to
forget you, who knows? But for all that, be gentle and watchful; be
womanlike, we ask no more; and God reward you!
Even while it was taking all the two women's strength to hold the
door against Death, the sick man himself laid a grief upon them.
"Mother," he said to Madame John, quite a master of French in his
delirium, "dear mother, fear not; trust your boy; fear nothing. I will
not marry 'Tite Poulette; I cannot. She is fair, dear mother, but ah!
she is not—don't you know, mother? don't you know? The race! the
race! Don't you know that she is jet black. Isn't it?"
The poor nurse nodded "Yes," and gave a sleeping draught; but
before the patient quite slept he started once and stared.
"Take her away,"—waving his hand—"take your beauty away. She is
jet white. Who could take a jet white wife? O, no, no, no, no!"
Next morning his brain was right.
"Madame," he weakly whispered, "I was delirious last night?"
Zalli shrugged. "Only a very, very, wee, wee trifle of a bit."
"And did I say something wrong or—foolish?"
"O, no, no," she replied; "you only clasped your hands, so, and
prayed, prayed all the time to the dear Virgin."
"To the virgin?" asked the Dutchman, smiling incredulously.
"And St. Joseph—yes, indeed," she insisted; "you may strike me
And so, for politeness' sake, he tried to credit the invention, but
grew suspicious instead.
Hard was the battle against death. Nurses are sometimes amazons,
and such were these. Through the long, enervating summer, the contest
lasted; but when at last the cool airs of October came stealing in at
the bedside like long-banished little children, Kristian Koppig rose
upon his elbow and smiled them a welcome.
The physician, blessed man, was kind beyond measure; but said some
inexplicable things, which Zalli tried in vain to make him speak in an
undertone. "If I knew Monsieur John?" he said, "certainly! Why, we were
chums at school. And he left you so much as that, Madame John? Ah! my
old friend John, always noble! And you had it all in that naughty bank?
Ah, well, Madame John, it matters little. No, I shall not tell 'Tite
And another time:—"If I will let you tell me something? With
pleasure, Madame John. No, and not tell anybody, Madame John. No,
Madame, not even 'Tite Poulette. What?"—a long whistle—"is that
pos-si-ble ?—and Monsieur John knew it ?—encouraged it ?—oh,
well, oh, well!—But—can I believe you, Madame John? Oh! you have
Monsieur John's sworn statement. Ah! very good, truly, but—you say
you have it; but where is it? Ah! to-morrow!" a sceptical shrug.
"Pardon me, Madame John, I think perhaps, perhaps you are telling the
"If I think you did right? Certainly! What nature keeps back,
accident sometimes gives, Madame John; either is God's will. Don't cry.
'Stealing from the dead?' No! It was giving, yes! They are thanking you
in heaven, Madame John."
Kristian Koppig, lying awake, but motionless and with closed eyes,
hears in part, and, fancying he understands, rejoices with silent
intensity. When the doctor is gone he calls Zalli.
"I give you a great deal of trouble, eh, Madame John?"
"No, no; you are no trouble at all. Had you the yellow fever—ah!
She rolled her eyes to signify the superlative character of the
tribulations attending yellow fever.
"I had a lady and gentleman once—a Spanish lady and gentleman,
just off the ship; both sick at once with the fever—delirious—could
not tell their names. Nobody to help me but sometimes Monsieur John! I
never had such a time,—never before, never since,—as that time.
Four days and nights this head touched not a pillow."
"And they died!" said Kristian Koppig.
"The third night the gentleman went. Poor Senor! 'Sieur John,—he
did not know the harm,—gave him some coffee and toast! The fourth
night it rained and turned cool, and just before day the poor lady"—
"Died!" said Koppig.
Zalli dropped her arms listlessly into her lap and her eyes ran
"And left an infant!" said the Dutchman, ready to shout with
"Ah! no, Monsieur," said Zalli.
The invalid's heart sank like a stone.
"Madame John,"—his voice was all in a tremor,—"tell me the
truth. Is 'Tite Poulette your own child?"
"Ah-h-h, ha! ha! what foolishness! Of course she is my child!" And
Madame gave vent to a true Frenchwoman's laugh.
It was too much for the sick man. In the pitiful weakness of his
shattered nerves he turned his face into his pillow and wept like a
child. Zalli passed into the next room to hide her emotion.
"Maman, dear Maman," said 'Tite Poulette, who had overheard
nothing, but only saw the tears.
"Ah! my child, my child, my task—my task is too great—too great
for me. Let me go now—another time. Go and watch at his bedside."
"But, Maman,"—for 'Tite Poulette was frightened,—"he needs no
"Nay, but go, my child; I wish to be alone."
The maiden stole in with averted eyes and tiptoed to the window—
that window. The patient, already a man again, gazed at her till she
could feel the gaze. He turned his eyes from her a moment to gather
resolution. And now, stout heart, farewell; a word or two of friendly
" 'Tite Poulette."
The slender figure at the window turned and came to the bedside.
"I believe I owe my life to you," he said.
She looked down meekly, the color rising in her cheek.
"I must arrange to be moved across the street, to-morrow, on a
She did not stir or speak.
"And I must now thank you, sweet nurse, for your care. Sweet nurse!
She shook her head in protestation.
"Heaven bless you, 'Tite Poulette!"
Her face sank lower.
"God has made you very beautiful, 'Tite Poulette!"
She stirred not. He reached, and gently took her little hand, and
as he drew her one step nearer, a tear fell from her long lashes. From
the next room, Zalli, with a face of agonized suspense, gazed upon the
pair, undiscovered. The young man lifted the hand to lay it upon his
lips, when, with a mild, firm force, it was drawn away, yet still
rested in his own upon the bedside, like some weak thing snared, that
could only not get free.
"Thou wilt not have my love, 'Tite Poulette?"
"Thou wilt not, beautiful?"
"Cannot!" was all that she could utter, and upon their clasped
hands the tears ran down.
"Thou wrong'st me, 'Tite Poulette. Thou dost not trust me; thou
fearest the kiss may loosen the hands. But I tell thee nay. I have
struggled hard, even to this hour, against Love, but I yield me now; I
yield; I am his unconditioned prisoner forever. God forbid that I ask
aught but that you will be my wife."
Still the maiden moved not, looked not up, only rained down tears.
"Shall it not be, 'Tite Poulette?" He tried in vain to draw her.
" 'Tite Poulette?" So tenderly he called! And then she spoke.
"It is against the law."
"It is not!" cried Zalli, seizing her round the waist and dragging
her forward. "Take her! she is thine. I have robbed God long enough.
Here are the sworn papers—here! Take her; she is as white as snow—
so! Take her, kiss her; Mary be praised! I never had a child—she is
the Spaniard's daughter!"
IN the heart of New Orleans stands a large four-story brick
building, that has so stood for about three-quarters of a century. Its
rooms are rented to a class of persons occupying them simply for lack
of activity to find better and cheaper quarters elsewhere. With its
gray stucco peeling off in broad patches, it has a solemn look of
gentility in rags, and stands, or, as it were, hangs, about the corner
of two ancient streets, like a faded fop who pretends to be looking for
Under its main archway is a dingy apothecary-shop. On one street is
the bazaar of a modiste en robes et chapeaux and other humble shops; on
the other, the immense batten doors with gratings over the lintels,
barred and bolted with masses of cobwebbed iron, like the door of a
donjon, are overhung by a creaking sign (left by the sheriff), on which
is faintly discernible the mention of wines and liquors. A peep through
one of the shops reveals a square court within, hung with many lines of
wet clothes, its sides hugged by rotten staircases that seem vainly
trying to clamber out of the rubbish.
The neighborhood is one long since given up to fifth-rate shops,
whose masters and mistresses display such enticing mottoes as "Au gagne
petit!" Innumerable children swarm about, and, by some charm of the
place, are not run over, but obstruct the sidewalks playing their
The building is a thing of many windows, where passably
good-looking women appear and disappear, clad in cotton gowns, watering
little outside shelves of flowers and cacti, or hanging canaries'
cages. Their husbands are keepers in wine-warehouses, rent-collectors
for the agents of old Frenchmen who have been laid up to dry in Paris,
custom-house supernumeraries and court-clerks' deputies (for your
second-rate Creole is a great seeker for little offices). A decaying
cornice hangs over, dropping bits of mortar on passers below, like a
boy at a boarding-house.
The landlord is one Kookoo, an ancient Creole of doubtful purity of
blood, who in his landlordly old age takes all suggestions of repairs
as personal insults. He was but a stripling when his father left him
this inheritance, and has grown old and wrinkled and brown, a sort of
periodically animate mummy, in the business. He smokes cascarilla,
wears velveteen, and is as punctual as an executioner.
To Kookoo's venerable property a certain old man used for many
years to come every evening, stumbling through the groups of prattling
children who frolicked about in the early moonlight—whose name no one
knew, but whom all the neighbors designated by the title of 'Sieur
George. It was his wont to be seen taking a straight—too straight—
course toward his home, never careening to right or left, but now
forcing himself slowly forward, as though there were a high gale in
front, and now scudding briskly ahead at a ridiculous little dog-trot,
as if there were a tornado behind. He would go up the main staircase
very carefully, sometimes stopping half-way up for thirty or forty
minutes' doze, but getting to the landing eventually, and tramping into
his room in the second story, with no little elation to find it still
there. Were it not for these slight symptoms of potations, he was such
a one as you would pick out of a thousand for a miser. A year or two
ago he suddenly disappeared.
A great many years ago, when the old house was still new, a young
man with no baggage save a small hair-trunk, came and took the room I
have mentioned and another adjoining. He supposed he might stay fifty
days—and he staid fifty years and over. This was a very fashionable
neighborhood, and he kept the rooms on that account month after month.
But when he had been here about a year something happened to him,
so it was rumored, that greatly changed the tenor of his life; and from
that time on there began to appear in him and to accumulate upon each
other in a manner which became the profound study of Kookoo, the
symptoms of a decay, whose cause baffled the landlord's limited powers
of conjecture for well-nigh half a century. Hints of a duel, of a
reason warped, of disinheritance, and many other unauthorized rumors,
fluttered up and floated off, while he became recluse, and, some say,
began 250 incidentally to betray the unmanly habit which we have
already noticed. His neighbors would have continued neighborly had he
allowed them, but he never let himself be understood, and les
Americains are very droll anyhow; so, as they could do nothing else,
they cut him.
So exclusive he became that (though it may have been for economy)
he never admitted even a housemaid, but kept his apartments himself.
Only the merry serenaders, who in those times used to sing under the
balconies, would now and then give him a crumb of their feast for pure
fun's sake; and after a while, because they could not find out his full
name, called him, at hazard, George—but always prefixing Monsieur.
Afterward, when he began to be careless in his dress, and the fashion
of serenading had passed away, the commoner people dared to shorten the
title to " 'Sieur George."
Many seasons came and went. The city changed like a growing boy;
gentility and fashion went up-town, but 'Sieur George still retained
his rooms. Every one knew him slightly, and bowed, but no one seemed to
know him well, unless it were a brace or so of those convivial fellows
in regulation-blue at little Fort St. Charles. He often came home late,
with one of these on either arm, all singing different tunes and
stopping at every twenty steps to tell secrets. But by and by the fort
was demolished, church and goverment property melted down under the
warm demand for building-lots, the city spread like a ringworm,—and
one day 'Sieur George steps out of the old house in full regimentals!
The Creole neighbors rush bareheaded into the middle of the street,
as though there were an earthquake or a chimney on fire. What to do or
say or think they do not know; they are at their wits' ends, therefore
well-nigh happy. However, there is a German blacksmith's shop near by,
and they watch to see what Jacob will do. Jacob steps into the street
with every eye upon him; he approaches Monsieur—he addresses to him a
few remarks—they shake hands—they engage in some conversation—
Monsieur places his hand on his sword!—now Monsieur passes.
The populace crowd around the blacksmith, children clap their hands
softly and jump up and down on tiptoes of expectation—'Sieur George
is going to the war in Mexico!
"Ah!" says a little girl in the throng, " 'Sieur George's two rooms
will be empty; I find that very droll."
The landlord,—this same Kookoo,—is in the group. He hurls
himself into the house and up the stairs. "Fifteen years pass since he
have been in those room!" He arrives at the door—it is shut—"It is
In short, further investigation revealed that a youngish lady in
black, who had been seen by several neighbors to enter the house, but
had not, of course, been suspected of such remarkable intentions, had,
in company with a middle-aged slave-woman, taken these two rooms, and
now, at the slightly-opened door, proffered a month's rent in advance.
What could a landlord do but smile? Yet there was a pretext left; "the
rooms must need repairs?"—"No, sir; he could look in and see." Joy!
he looked in. All was neatness. The floor unbroken, the walls cracked
but a little, and the cracks closed with new plaster, no doubt by the
jealous hand of 'Sieur George himself. Kookoo's eyes swept sharply
round the two apartments. The furniture was all there. Moreover, there
was Monsieur's little hair-trunk. He should not soon forget that trunk.
One day, fifteen years or more before, he had taken hold of that trunk
to assist Monsieur to arrange his apartment, and Monsieur had drawn his
fist back and cried to him to "drop it!" Mais! there it was, looking
very suspicious in Kookoo's eyes, and the lady's domestic, as tidy as a
yellow-bird, went and sat on it. Could that trunk contain treasure? It
might, for Madame wanted to shut the door, and, in fact, did so.
The lady was quite handsome—had been more so, but was still young
- spoke the beautiful language, and kept, in the inner room, her
discreet and taciturn mulattress, a tall, straight woman, with a fierce
eye, but called by the young Creoles of the neighborhood "confound'
Among les Americaines, where the new neighbor always expects to be
called upon by the older residents, this lady might have made friends
in spite of being as reserved as 'Sieur George; but the reverse being
the Creole custom, and she being well pleased to keep her own company,
chose mystery rather than society.
The poor landlord was sorely troubled; it must not that any thing
de trop take place in his house. He watched the two rooms narrowly, but
without result, save to find that Madame plied her needle for pay,
spent her money for little else besides harpstrings, and took good care
of the little trunk of Monsieur. This espionage was a good turn to the
mistress and maid, for when Kookoo announced that all was proper, no
more was said by outsiders. Their landlord never got but one question
answered by the middle-aged maid:
"Madame, he feared, was a lill' bit embarrass' pour money, eh?"
"Non; Mademoiselle [Mademoiselle, you notice!] had some property,
but did not want to eat it up."
Sometimes lady-friends came, in very elegant private carriages, to
see her, and one or two seemed to beg her—but in vain—to go away
with them; but these gradually dropped off, until lady and servant were
alone in the world. And so years, and the Mexican war, went by.
The volunteers came home; peace reigned, and the city went on
spreading up and down the land; but 'Sieur George did not return. It
overran the country like cocoa-grass. Fields, roads, woodlands, that
were once 'Sieur George's places of retreat from mankind, were covered
all over with little one-story houses in the "Old Third," and fine
residences and gardens up in "Lafayette." Streets went slicing like a
butcher's knife, through old colonial estates, whose first masters
never dreamed of the city reaching them,—and 'Sieur George was still
away. The four-story brick got old and ugly, and the surroundings dim
and dreamy. Theatres, processions, dry-goods stores, government
establishments, banks, hotels, and all spirit of enterprise were gone
to Canal Street and beyond, and the very beggars were gone with them.
The little trunk got very old and bald, and still its owner lingered;
still the lady, somewhat the worse for lapse of time, looked from the
balcony-window in the brief southern twilights, and the maid every
morning shook a worn rug or two over the dangerous-looking railing; and
yet neither had made friends or enemies.
The two rooms, from having been stingily kept at first, were
needing repairs half the time, and the occupants were often moving, now
into one, now back into the other; yet the hair-trunk was seen only by
glimpses, the landlord, to his infinite chagrin, always being a little
too late in offering his services, the women, whether it was light or
heavy, having already moved it. He thought it significant.
Late one day of a most bitter winter,—that season when, to the
ecstatic amazement of a whole city-full of children, snow covered the
streets ankle-deep,—there came a soft tap on the corridor-door of
this pair of rooms. The lady opened it, and beheld a tall, lank,
iron-gray man, a total stranger, standing behind—Monsieur George!
Both men were weather-beaten, scarred, and tattered. Across 'Sieur
George's crown, leaving a long, bare streak through his white hair, was
the souvenir of a Mexican sabre.
The landlord had accompanied them to the door: it was a magnificent
opportunity. Mademoiselle asked them all in, and tried to furnish a
seat to each; but failing, 'Sieur George went straight across the room
and sat on the hair-trunk. The action was so conspicuous, the landlord
laid it up in his penetrative mind.
'Sieur George was quiet, or, as it appeared, quieted. The
mulattress stood near him, and to her he addressed, in an undertone,
most of the little he said, leaving Mademoiselle to his companion. The
stranger was a warm talker, and seemed to please the lady from the
first; but if he pleased, nothing else did. Kookoo, intensely curious,
sought some pretext for staying, but found none. They were, altogether,
an uncongenial company. The lady seemed to think Kookoo had no business
there; 'Sieur George seemed to think the same concerning his companion;
and the few words between Mademoiselle and 'Sieur George were cool
enough. The maid appeared nearly satisfied, but could not avoid casting
an anxious eye at times upon her mistress. Naturally the visit was
The next day but one the two gentlemen came again in better attire.
'Sieur George evidently disliked his companion, yet would not rid
himself of him. The stranger was a gesticulating, stagy fellow, much
Monsieur's junior, an incessant talker in Creole-French, always excited
on small matters and unable to appreciate a great one. Once, as they
were leaving, Kookoo,—accidents will happen,—was under the stairs.
As they began to descend the tall man was speaking: "—better to bury
it,"—the startled landlord heard him say, and held his breath,
thinking of the trunk; but no more was uttered.
A week later they came again.
A week later they came again.
A week later they came yet again!
The landlord's eyes began to open. There must be a courtship in
progress. It was very plain now why 'Sieur George had wished not to be
accompanied by the tall gentleman; but since his visits had become
regular and frequent, it was equally plain why he did not get rid of
him;—because it would not look well to be going and coming too often
alone. Maybe it was only this tender passion that the tall man had
thought "better to bury." Lately there often came sounds of gay
conversation from the first of the two rooms, which had been turned
into a parlor; and as, week after week, the friends came down-stairs,
the tall man was always in high spirits and anxious to embrace 'Sieur
George, who,—"sly dog," thought the landlord,—would try to look
grave, and only smiled in an embarrassed way. "Ah! Monsieur, you tink
to be varry conning; mais you not so conning as Kookoo, no;" and the
inquisitive little man would shake his head and smile, and shake his
head again, as a man has a perfect right to do under the conviction
that he has been for twenty years baffled by a riddle and is learning
to read it at last; he had guessed what was in 'Sieur George's head, he
would by and by guess what was in the trunk.
A few months passed quickly away, and it became apparent to every
eye in or about the ancient mansion that the landlord's guess was not
so bad; in fact, that Mademoiselle was to be married.
On a certain rainy spring afternoon, a single hired hack drove up
to the main entrance of the old house, and after some little bustle and
the gathering of a crowd of damp children about the big doorway, 'Sieur
George, muffled in a newly-repaired overcoat, jumped out and went
up-stairs. A moment later he re-appeared, leading Mademoiselle,
wreathed and veiled, down the stairway. Very fair was Mademoiselle
still. Her beauty was mature,—fully ripe,—maybe a little too much
so, but only a little; and as she came down with the ravishing odor of
bridal flowers floating about her, she seemed the garlanded victim of a
pagan sacrifice. The mulattress in holiday gear followed behind.
The landlord owed a duty to the community. He arrested the maid on
the last step: "Your mistress, she goin' pour marier 'Sieur George? It
make me glad, glad, glad!"
"Marry 'Sieur George? Non, Monsieur."
"Non? Not marrie 'Sieur George? Mais comment?"
"She's going to marry the tall gentleman."
"Diable! ze long gentyman!"—With his hands upon his forehead, he
watched the carriage trundle away. It passed out of sight through the
rain; he turned to enter the house, and all at once tottered under the
weight of a tremendous thought—they had left the trunk! He hurled
himself up-stairs as he had done seven years before, but again—"Ah,
bah!!"—the door was locked, and not a picayune of rent due.
Late that night a small square man, in a wet overcoat, fumbled his
way into the damp entrance of the house, stumbled up the cracking
stairs, unlocked, after many languid efforts, the door of the two
rooms, and falling over the hair-trunk, slept until the morning
sunbeams climbed over the balcony and in at the window, and shone full
on the back of his head. Old Kookoo, passing the door just then, was
surprised to find it slightly ajar—pushed it open silently, and saw,
within, 'Sieur George in the act of rising from his knees beside the
mysterious trunk! He had come back to be once more the tenant of the
'Sieur George, for the second time, was a changed man—changed
from bad to worse; from being retired and reticent, he had come, by
reason of advancing years, or mayhap that which had left the terrible
scar on his face, to be garrulous. When, once in a while, employment
sought him (for he never sought employment), whatever remuneration he
received went its way for something that left him dingy and threadbare.
He now made a lively acquaintance with his landlord, as, indeed, with
every soul in the neighborhood, and told all his adventures in Mexican
prisons and Cuban cities; including full details of the hardships and
perils experienced jointly with the "long gentleman" who had married
Mademoiselle, and who was no Mexican or Cuban, but a genuine
"It was he that fancied me," he said, "not I him; but once he had
fallen in love with me I hadn't the force to cast him off. How Madame
ever should have liked him was one of those woman's freaks that a man
mustn't expect to understand. He was no more fit for her than rags are
fit for a queen; and I could have choked his head off the night he
hugged me round the neck and told me what a suicide she had committed.
But other fine women are committing that same folly every day, only
they don't wait until they're thirty-four or five to do it.—'Why
don't I like him?' Well, for one reason, he's a drunkard!" Here Kookoo,
whose imperfect knowledge of English prevented his intelligent
reception of the story, would laugh as if the joke came in just at this
However, with all Monsieur's prattle, he never dropped a word about
the man he had been before he went away; and the great hair-trunk
puzzle was still the same puzzle, growing greater every day.
Thus the two rooms had been the scene of some events quite queer,
if not really strange; but the queerest that ever they presented, I
guess, was 'Sieur George coming in there one clay, crying like a little
child, and bearing in his arms an infant—a girl—the lovely
offspring of the drunkard whom he so detested, and poor, robbed,
spirit-broken and now dead Madame. He took good care of the orphan, for
orphan she was very soon. The long gentleman was pulled out of the Old
Basin one morning, and 'Sieur George identified the body at the Treme
station. He never hired a nurse—the father had sold the lady's maid
quite out of sight; so he brought her through all the little ills and
around all the sharp corners of baby-life and childhood, without a
human hand to help him, until one evening, having persistently shut his
eyes to it for weeks and months, like one trying to sleep in the
sunshine, he awoke to the realization that she was a woman. It was a
smoky one in November, the first cool day of autumn. The sunset was
dimmed by the smoke of burning prairies, the air was full of the ashes
of grass and reeds, ragged urchins were lugging home sticks of
cordwood, and when a bit of coal fell from a cart in front of Kookoo's
old house, a child was boxed half across the street and robbed of the
booty by a blanchisseuse de fin from over the way.
The old man came home quite steady. He mounted the stairs smartly
without stopping to rest, went with a step unusually light and quiet to
his chamber and sat by the window opening upon the rusty balcony.
It was a small room, sadly changed from what it had been in old
times; but then so was 'Sieur George. Close and dark it was, the walls
stained with dampness and the ceiling full of bald places that showed
the lathing. The furniture was cheap and meagre, including
conspicuously the small, curious-looking hair-trunk. The floor was of
wide slabs fastened down with spikes, and sloping up and down in one or
two broad undulations, as if they had drifted far enough down the
current of time to feel the tide-swell.
However, the floor was clean, the bed well made, the cypress table
in place, and the musty smell of the walls partly neutralized by a
geranium on the window-sill.
He so coming in and sitting down, an unseen person called from the
room adjoining (of which, also, he was still the rentee), to know if he
were he, and being answered in the affirmative, said, "Papa George,
guess who was here to-day?"
"Kookoo, for the rent?"
"Yes, but he will not come back."
"No? why not?"
"Because you will not pay him."
"No? and why not?"
"Because I have paid him."
"Impossible! where did you get the money?"
"Cannot guess?—Mother Nativity."
"What, not for embroidery?"
"No? and why not? Mais oui!"—saying which, and with a pleasant
laugh, the speaker entered the room. She was a girl of sixteen or
thereabout, very beautiful, with very black hair and eyes. A face and
form more entirely out of place you could not have found in the whole
city. She sat herself at his feet, and, with her interlocked hands upon
his knee, and her face, full of childish innocence mingled with womanly
wisdom, turned to his, appearance for a time to take principal part in
a conversation which, of course, could not be overheard in the corridor
Whatever was said, she presently rose, he opened his arms, and she
sat on his knee and kissed him. This done, there was a silence, both
smiling pensively and gazing out over the rotten balcony into the
street. After a while she started up, saying something about the change
of weather, and, slipping away, thrust a match between the bars of the
grate. The old man turned about to the fire, and she from her little
room brought a low sewing-chair and sat beside him, laying her head on
his knee, and he stroking her brow with his brown palm.
And then, in an altered—a low, sad tone—he began a monotonous
Thus they sat, he talking very steadily and she listening, until
all the neighborhood was wrapped in slumber,—all the neighbors, but
Kookoo in his old age had become a great eavesdropper; his ear and
eye took turns at the keyhole that night, for he tells things that were
not intended for outside hearers. He heard the girl sobbing, and the
old man saying, "But you must go now. You cannot stay with me safely or
decently, much as I wish it. The Lord only knows how I'm to bear it, or
where you're to go; but He's your Lord, child, and He'll make a place
for you. I was your grandfather's death; I frittered your poor, dead
mother's fortune away: let that be the last damage I do.
"I have always meant every thing for the best," he added half in
From all Kookoo could gather, he must have been telling her the
very story just recounted. She had dropped quite to the floor, hiding
her face in her hands, and was saying between her sobs, "I cannot go,
Papa George; oh, Papa George, I cannot go!"
Just then 'Sieur George, having kept a good resolution all day, was
encouraged by the orphan's pitiful tones to contemplate the most
senseless act he ever attempted to commit. He said to the sobbing girl
that she was not of his blood; that she was nothing to him by natural
ties; that his covenant was with her grandsire to care for his
offspring; and though it had been poorly kept, it might be breaking it
worse than ever to turn her out upon ever so kind a world.
"I have tried to be good to you all these years. When I took you, a
wee little baby, I took you for better or worse. I intended to do well
by you all your childhood-days, and to do best at last. I thought
surely we should be living well by this time, and you could choose from
a world full of homes and a world full of friends.
"I don't see how I missed it!" Here he paused a moment in
meditation, and presently resumed with some suddenness:
"I thought that education, far better than Mother Nativity has
given you, should have afforded your sweet charms a noble setting; that
good mothers and sisters would be wanting to count you into their
families, and that the blossom of a happy womanhood would open perfect
and full of sweetness.
"I would have given my life for it. I did give it, such as it was;
but it was a very poor concern, I know—my life—and not enough to
buy any good thing.
"I have had a thought of something, but I'm afraid to tell it. It
didn't come to me to-day or yesterday; it has beset me a long time—
The girl gazed into the embers, listening intensely.
"And oh! dearie, if I could only act you to think the same way, you
might stay with me then."
"How long?" she asked, without stirring.
"Oh, as long as heaven should let us. But there is only one
chance," he said, as it were feeling his way, "only one way for us to
stay together. Do you understand me?"
She looked up at the old man with a glance of painful inquiry.
"If you could be—my wife, dearie?"
She uttered a low, distressful cry, and, gliding swiftly into her
room, for the first time in her young life turned the key between them.
And the old man sat and wept.
Then Kookoo, peering, through the keyhole, saw that they had been
looking into the little trunk. The lid was up, but the back was toward
the door, and he could see no more than if it had been closed.
He stooped and stared into the aperture until his dry old knees
were ready to crack. It seemed as if 'Sieur George was stone, only
stone couldn't weep like that.
Every separate bone in his neck was hot with pain. He would have
given ten dollars—ten sweet dollars!—to have seen 'Sieur George get
up and turn that trunk around.
There! 'Sieur George rose up—what a face!
He started toward the bed, and as he came to the trunk he paused,
looked at it, muttered something about "ruin," and something about
"fortune," kicked the lid down and threw himself across the bed.
Small profit to old Kookoo that he went to his own couch; sleep was
not for the little landlord. For well-nigh half a century he had
suspected his tenant of having a treasure hidden in his house, and
to-night he had heard his own admission that in the little trunk was a
fortune. Kookoo had never felt so poor in all his days before. He felt
a Creole's anger, too, that a tenant should be the holder of wealth
while his landlord suffered poverty.
And he knew very well, too, did Kookoo, what the tenant would do.
If he did not know what he kept in the trunk, he knew what he kept
behind it, and he knew he would take enough of it to-night to make him
No one would ever have supposed Kookoo capable of a crime. He was
too fearfully impressed with the extra-hazardous risks of dishonesty;
he was old, too, and weak, and, besides all, intensely a coward.
Nevertheless, while it was yet two or three hours before daybreak, the
sleep-forsaken little man arose, shuffled into his garments, and in his
stocking-feet sought the corridor leading to 'Sieur George's apartment.
The November night, as it often does in that region, had grown warm and
clear; the stars were sparkling like diamonds pendent in the deep blue
heavens, and at every window and lattice and cranny the broad, bright
moon poured down its glittering beams upon the hoary-headed thief, as
he crept along the mouldering galleries and down the ancient corridor
that led to 'Sieur George's chamber.
'Sieur George's door, though ever so slowly opened, protested with
a loud creak. The landlord, wet with cold sweat from head to foot, and
shaking till the floor trembled, paused for several minutes, and then
entered the moon-lit apartment. The tenant, lying as if he had not
moved, was sleeping heavily. And now the poor coward trembled so, that
to kneel before the trunk, without falling, he did not know how. Twice,
thrice, he was near tumbling headlong. He became as cold as ice. But
the sleeper stirred, and the thought of losing his opportunity strung
his nerves up in an instant. He went softly down upon his knees, laid
his hands upon the lid, lifted it, and let in the intense moonlight.
The trunk was full, full, crowded down and running over full, of the
tickets of the Havana Lottery!
A little after daybreak, Kookoo from his window saw the orphan,
pausing on the corner. She stood for a moment, and then dove into the
dense fog which had floated in from the river, and disappeared. He
never saw her again.
But her Lord is taking care of her. Once only she has seen 'Sieur
George. She had been in the belvedere of the house which she now calls
home, looking down upon the outspread city. Far away southward and
westward the great river glistened in the sunset. Along its sweeping
bends the chimneys of a smoking commerce, the magazines of surplus
wealth, the gardens of the opulent, the steeples of a hundred
sanctuaries and thousands on thousands of mansions and hovels covered
the fertile birthright arpents which 'Sieur George, in his fifty years'
stay, had seen tricked away from dull colonial Esaus by their blue-eyed
brethren of the North. Nearer by she looked upon the forlornly silent
region of lowly dwellings, neglected by legislation and shunned by all
lovers of comfort, that once had been the smiling fields of her own
grandsire's broad plantation; and but a little way off, trudging
across the marshy commons, her eye caught sight of 'Sieur George
following the sunset out upon the prairies to find a night's rest in
the high grass.
She turned at once, gathered the skirt of her pink calico uniform,
and, watching her steps through her tears, descended the steep
winding-stair to her frequent kneeling-place under the fragrant candles
of the chapel-altar in Mother Nativity's asylum.
'Sieur George is houseless. He cannot find the orphan. Mother
Nativity seems to know nothing of her. If he could find her now, and
could get from her the use of ten dollars for but three days, he knows
a combination which would repair all the past; it could not fail, he—
thinks. But he cannot find her, and the letters he writes—all
containing the one scheme—disappear in the mail-box, and there's an
JUST adjoining the old Cafe de Poesie on the corner, stood the
little one-story, yellow-washed tenement of Dr. Mossy, with its two
glass doors protected by batten shutters, and its low, weed-grown tile
roof sloping out over the sidewalk. You were very likely to find the
Doctor in, for he was a great student and rather negligent of his
business—as business. He was a small, sedate, Creole gentleman of
thirty or more, with a young-old face and manner that provoked instant
admiration. He would receive you—be you who you may—in a mild,
candid manner, looking into your face with his deep blue eyes, and
re-assuring you with a modest, amiable smile, very sweet and rare on a
To be frank, the Doctor's little establishment was dusty and
disorderly—very. It was curious to see the jars, and jars, and jars.
In them were serpents and hideous fishes and precious specimens of many
sorts. There were stuffed birds on broken perches; and dried lizards,
and eels, and little alligators, and old skulls with their crowns sawed
off, and ten thousand odd scraps of writing-paper strewn with crumbs
of lonely lunches, and interspersed with long-lost spatulas and
All New Orleans, at least all Creole New Orleans, knew, and yet did
not know, the dear little Doctor. So gentle, so kind, so skilful, so
patient, so lenient; so careless of the rich and so attentive to the
poor; a man, all in all, such as, should you once love him, you would
love him forever. So very learned, too, but with apparently no idea of
how to show himself to his social profit,—two features much more
smiled at than respected, not to say admired, by a people remote from
the seats of learning, and spending most of their esteem upon animal
heroisms and exterior display.
"Alas!" said his wealthy acquaintances, "what a pity; when he might
as well be rich."
"Yes, his father has plenty."
"Certainly, and gives it freely. But intends his son shall see none
"His son? You dare not so much as mention him."
"Well, well, how strange! But they can never agree—not even upon
their name. Is not that droll?—a man named General Villivicencio, and
his son, Dr. Mossy!"
"Oh, that is nothing; it is only that the Doctor drops the de
"Drops the de Villivicencio? but I think the de Villivicencio drops
him, ho, ho, ho,—diable!"
Next to the residence of good Dr. Mossy towered the narrow,
red-brick-front mansion of young Madame Delicieuse, firm friend at once
and always of those two antipodes, General Villivicencio and Dr.
Mossy. Its dark, covered carriage-way was ever rumbling, and, with
nightfall, its drawing-rooms always sent forth a luxurious light from
the lace-curtained windows of the second-story balconies.
It was one of the sights of the Rue Royale to see by night its
tall, narrow outline reaching high up toward the stars, with all its
The Madame had had some tastes of human experience; had been
betrothed at sixteen (to a man she did not love, "being at that time a
fool," as she said); one summer day at noon had been a bride, and at
sundown—a widow. Accidental discharge of the tipsy bridegroom's own
pistol. Pass it by! It left but one lasting effect on her, a special
detestation of quarrels and weapons.
The little maidens whom poor parentage has doomed to sit upon
street door-sills and nurse their infant brothers have a game of
"choosing" the beautiful ladies who sweep by along the pavement; but in
Rue Royale there was no choosing; every little damsel must own Madame
Delicieuse or nobody, and as that richly adorned and regal favorite of
old General Villivicencio came along they would lift their big, bold
eyes away up to her face and pour forth their admiration in a universal
But, mark you, she was good Madame Delicieuse as well as fair
Madame Delicieuse: her principles, however, not constructed in the
austere Anglo-Saxon style, exactly (what need, with the lattice of the
Confessional not a stone's-throw off?). Her kind offices and
beneficent schemes were almost as famous as General Villivicencio's
splendid alms; if she could at times do what the infantile Washington
said he could not, why, no doubt she and her friends generally looked
upon it as a mere question of enterprise.
She had charms, too, of intellect—albeit not such a sinner
against time and place as to be an "educated woman"—charms that, even
in a plainer person, would have brought down the half of New Orleans
upon one knee, with both hands on the left side. She had the whole city
at her feet, and, with the fine tact which was the perfection of her
character, kept it there contented. Madame was, in short, one of the
kind that gracefully wrest from society the prerogative of doing as
they please, and had gone even to such extravagant lengths as driving
out in the Americain faubourg, learning the English tongue, talking
national politics, and similar freaks whereby she provoked the
unbounded worship of her less audacious lady friends. In the centre of
the cluster of Creole beauties which everywhere gathered about her,
and, most of all, in those incomparable companies which assembled in
her own splendid drawing-rooms, she was always queen lily. Her house,
her drawing-rooms, etc.; for the little brown aunt who lived with her
was a mere piece of curious furniture.
There was this notable charm about Madame Delicieuse, she improved
by comparison. She never looked so grand as when, hanging on General
Villivicencio's arm at some gorgeous ball, these two bore down on you
like a royal barge lashed to a ship-of-the-line. She never looked so
like her sweet name, as when she seated her prettiest lady adorers
close around her, and got them all a-laughing.
Of the two balconies which overhung the banquette on the front of
the Delicieuse house, one was a small affair, and the other a deeper
and broader one, from which Madame and her ladies were wont upon gala
days to wave handkerchiefs and cast flowers to the friends in the
processions. There they gathered one Eighth of January morning to see
the military display. It was a bright blue day, and the group that
quite filled the balcony had laid wrappings aside, as all flower-buds
are apt to do on such Creole January days, and shone resplendent in
The sight-seers passing below fooled up by hundreds and smiled at
the ladies' eager twitter, as, flirting in humming-bird fashion from
one subject to another, they laughed away the half-hours waiting for
the pageant. By and by they fell a-listening, for Madame Delicieuse had
begun a narrative concerning Dr. Mossy. She sat somewhat above her
listeners, her elbow on the arm of her chair, and her plump white hand
waving now and then in graceful gesture, they silently attending with
eyes full of laughter and lips starting apart.
"Vous savez," she said (they conversed in French of course), "you
know it is now long that Dr. Mossy and his father have been in
disaccord. Indeed, when have they not differed? For, when Mossy was but
a little boy, his father thought it hard that he was not a rowdy. He
switched him once because he would not play with his toy gun and drum.
He was not so high when his father wished to send him to Paris to enter
the French army; but he would not go. We used to play often together on
the banquette—for I am not so very many years younger than he, no
indeed—and, if I wanted some fun, I had only to pull his hair and run
into the house; he would cry, and monsieur papa would come out with his
hand spread open and"—
Madame gave her hand a malicious little sweep, and joined heartily
in the laugh which followed.
"That was when they lived over the way. But wait! you shall see; I
have something. This evening the General"—
The houses of Rue Royale gave a start and rattled their windows. In
the long, irregular line of balconies the beauty of the city rose up.
Then the houses jumped again and the windows rattled; Madame steps
inside the window and gives a message which the housemaid smiles at in
receiving. As she turns the houses shake again, and now again; and now
there comes a distant strain of trumpets, and by and by the drums and
bayonets and clattering hoofs, and plumes and dancing banners; far down
the long street stretch out the shining ranks of gallant men, and the
fluttering, over-leaning swarms of ladies shower down their sweet
favors and wave their countless welcomes.
In the front, towering above his captains, rides General
Villivicencio, veteran of 1814-15, and, with the gracious pomp of the
old-time gentleman, lifts his cocked hat, and bows, and bows.
Madame Delicieuse's balcony was a perfect maze of waving
kerchiefs. The General looked up for the woman of all women; she was
not there. But he remembered the other balcony, the smaller one, and
cast his glance onward to it. There he saw Madame and one other person
only. A small blue-eyed, broad-browed, scholarly-looking man whom the
arch lady had lured from his pen by means of a mock professional
summons, and who now stood beside her, a smile of pleasure playing on
his lips and about his eyes.
"Vite!" said Madame, as the father's eyes met the son's. Dr. Mossy
lifted his arm and cast a bouquet of roses. A girl in the crowd bounded
forward, caught it in the air, and, blushing, handed it to the plumed
giant. He bowed low, first to the girl, then to the balcony above; and
then, with a responsive smile, tossed up two splendid kisses, one to
Madame, and one, it seemed—
"For what was that cheer?"
"Why, did you not see? General Villivicencio cast a kiss to his
The staff of General Villivicencio were a faithful few who had not
bowed the knee to any abomination of the Americains, nor sworn
deceitfully to any species of compromise; their beloved city was
presently to pass into the throes of an election, and this band,
heroically unconscious of their feebleness, putting their trust in
"re-actions" and like delusions, resolved to make one more stand for
the traditions of their fathers. It was concerning this that Madame
Delicieuse was incidentally about to speak when interrupted by the boom
of cannon; they had promised to meet at her house that evening.
They met. With very little discussion or delay (for their minds
were made up beforehand), it was decided to announce in the
French-English newspaper that, at a meeting of leading citizens, it had
been thought consonant with the public interest to place before the
people the name of General Hercule Mossy de Villivicencio. No
explanation was considered necessary. All had been done in strict
accordance with time-honored customs, and if any one did not know it it
was his own fault. No eulogium was to follow, no editorial indorsement.
The two announcements were destined to stand next morning, one on the
English side and one on the French, in severe simplicity, to be greeted
with profound gratification by a few old gentlemen in blue cottonade,
and by roars of laughter from a rampant majority.
As the junto were departing, sparkling Madame Delicieuse detained
the General at the head of the stairs that descended into the tiled
carriage-way, to wish she was a man, that she might vote for him.
"But, General," she said, "had I not a beautiful bouquet of ladies
on my balcony this morning?"
The General replied, with majestic gallantry, that "it was as
magnificent as could be expected with the central rose wanting." And so
Madame was disappointed, for she was trying to force the General to
mention his son. "I will bear this no longer; he shall not rest," she
had said to her little aunt, "until he has either kissed his son or
quarrelled with him." To which the aunt had answered that, "cožte que
cožte, she need not cry about it;" nor did she. Though the General's
compliment had foiled her thrust, she answered gayly to the effect that
enough was enough; "but, ah! General," dropping her voice to an
undertone, "if you had heard what some of those rosebuds said of you!"
The old General pricked up like a country beau. Madame laughed to
herself, "Monsieur Peacock, I have thee;" but aloud she said gravely:
"Come into the drawing-room, if you please, and seat yourself. You
must be greatly fatigued."
The friends who waited below overheard the invitation.
"Au revoir, General," said they.
"Au revoir, Messieurs," he answered, and followed the lady.
"General," said she, as if her heart were overflowing, "you have
been spoken against. Please sit down."
"Is that true, Madame?"
She sank into a luxurious chair.
"A lady said to-day—but you will be angry with me, General."
"With you, Madame? That is not possible."
"I do not love to make revelations, General; but when a noble
friend is evil spoken of"—she leaned her brow upon her thumb and
forefinger, and looked pensively at her slipper's toe peeping out at
the edge of her skirt on the rich carpet—"one's heart gets very big."
"Madame, you are an angel! But what said she, Madame?"
"Well, General, I have to tell you the whole truth, if you will not
be angry. We were all speaking at once of handsome men. She said to me:
'Well, Madame Delicieuse, you may say what you will of General
Villivicencio, and I suppose it is true; but everybody knows'—pardon
me, General, but just so she said—'all the world knows he treats his
son very badly.' "
"It is not true," said the General.
"If I wasn't angry!" said Madame, making a pretty fist. 'How can
that be?' I said. 'Well,' she said, 'mamma says he has been angry with
his son for fifteen years.' 'But what did his son do?' I said.
'Nothing,' said she. 'Ma foi,' I said, 'me, I too would be angry if my
son had done nothing for fifteen years'—ho, ho, ho!"
"It is not true," said the General.
The old General cleared his throat, and smiled as by compulsion.
"You know, General," said Madame, looking distressed, "it was
nothing to joke about, but I had to say so, because I did not know what
your son had done, nor did I wish to hear any thing against one who has
the honor to call you his father."
She paused a moment to let the flattery take effect, and then
"But then another lady said to me; she said, 'For shame, Clarisse,
to laugh at good Dr. Mossy; nobody—neither General Villivicencio,
neither any other, has a right to be angry against that noble, gentle,
kind, brave' "—
"Brave!" said the General, with a touch of irony.
"So she said," answered Madame Delicieuse, "and I asked her, 'how
brave?' 'Brave?' she said, 'why, braver than any soldier, in tending
the small-pox, the cholera, the fevers, and all those horrible things.
Me, I saw his father once run from a snake; I think he wouldn't fight
the small-pox—my faith!' she said, 'they say that Dr. Mossy does all
that and never wears a scapula!—and does it nine hundred and
ninety-nine times in a thousand for nothing! Is that brave, Madame
Delicieuse, or is it not?'—And, General,—what could I say?"
Madame dropped her palms on either side of her spreading robes and
waited pleadingly for an answer. There was no sound but the drumming of
the General's fingers on his sword-hilt. Madame resumed:
"I said, 'I do not deny that Mossy is a noble gentleman;'—I had
to say that, had I not, General?"
"Certainly, Madame," said the General, "my son is a gentleman,
" 'But,' I said, 'he should not make Monsieur, his father, angry.'
"True," said the General, eagerly.
"But that lady said: 'Monsieur, his father, makes himself angry,'
she said. 'Do you know, Madame, why his father is angry so long?'
Another lady says, 'I know!' 'For what?' said I. 'Because he refused to
become a soldier; mamma told me that.' 'It cannot be!' I said."
The General flushed. Madame saw it, but relentlessly continued:
" 'Mais oui,' said that lady. 'What!' I said, 'think you General
Villivicencio will not rather be the very man most certain to respect a
son who has the courage to be his own master? Oh, what does he want
with a poor fool of a son who will do only as he says? You think he
will love him less for healing instead of killing? Mesdemoiselles, you
do not know that noble soldier!' "
The noble soldier glowed, and bowed his acknowledgments in a
dubious, half remonstrative way, as if Madame might be producing
material for her next confession, as, indeed, she diligently was doing;
but she went straight on once more, as a surgeon would.
"But that other lady said: 'No Madame, no, ladies; but I am going
to tell you why Monsieur, the General, is angry with his son.' 'Very
well, why?'—'Why? It is just—because—he is—a little man!' "
General Villivicencio stood straight up.
"Ah! mon ami," cried the lady, rising excitedly, "I have wounded
you and made you angry, with my silly revelations. Pardon me, my
friend. Those were foolish girls, and, anyhow, they admired you. They
said you looked glorious—grand—at the head of the procession."
Now, all at once, the General felt the tremendous fatigues of the
day; there was a wild, swimming, whirling sensation in his head that
forced him to let his eyelids sink down; yet, just there, in the midst
of his painful bewilderment, he realized with ecstatic complacency
that the most martial-looking man in Louisiana was standing in his
spurs with the hand of Louisiana's queenliest woman laid tenderly on
"I am a wretched tattler!" said she.
"Ah! no, Madame, you are my dearest friend, yes.'
"Well, anyhow, I called them fools. 'Ah! innocent creatures,' I
said, 'think you a man of his sense and goodness, giving his thousands
to the sick and afflicted, will cease to love his only son because he
is not big like a horse or quarrelsome like a dog? No, ladies, there is
a great reason which none of you know.' 'Well, well,' they cried, 'tell
it; he has need of a very good reason; tell it now.' 'My ladies,' I
said, 'I must not'—for, General, for all the world I knew not a
reason why you should be angry against your son; you know, General, you
have never told me."
The beauty again laid her hand on his arm and gazed, with
round-eyed simplicity, into his sombre countenance. For an instant her
witchery had almost conquered.
"Nay, Madame, some day I shall tell you; I have more than one
burden here. But let me ask you to be seated, for I have a question,
also, for you, which I have longed to ask. It lies heavily upon my
heart; I must ask it now. A matter of so great importance"—
Madame's little brown aunt gave a faint cough from a dim corner of
" 'Tis a beautiful night," she remarked, and stepped out on the
Then the General asked his question. It was a very long question,
or, maybe, repeated twice or thrice; for it was fully ten minutes
before he moved out of the room, saying good-evening.
Ah! old General Villivicencio. The most martial-looking man in
Louisiana! But what would -the people, the people who cheered in the
morning, have said, to see the fair Queen Delicieuse at the top of the
stair, sweetly bowing you down into the starlight,—humbled,
The campaign opened. The Villivicencio ticket was read in French
and English with the very different sentiments already noted. In the
Exchange, about the courts, among the "banks," there was lively talking
concerning its intrinsic excellence and extrinsic chances. The young
gentlemen who stood about the doors of the so-called "coffee-houses"
talked with a frantic energy alarming to any stranger, and just when
you would have expected to see them jump and bite large mouthfuls out
of each other's face, they would turn and enter the door, talking on in
the same furious manner, and, walking up to the bar, click their
glasses to the success of the Villivicencio ticket. Sundry swarthy and
wrinkled remnants of an earlier generation were still more
enthusiastic. There was to be a happy renaissance; a purging out of
Yankee ideas; a blessed home-coming of those good old Bourbon morals
and manners which Yankee notions had expatriated. In the cheerfulness
of their anticipations they even went the length of throwing their
feet high in air, thus indicating how the Villivicencio ticket was
going to give "doze Americains" the kick under the nose.
In the three or four weeks which followed, the General gathered a
surfeit of adulation, notwithstanding which he was constantly and with
pain imagining a confused chatter of ladies, and when he shut his eyes
with annoyance, there was Madame Delicieuse standing, and saying, "I
knew not a reason why you should be angry against your son," gazing in
his face with hardened simplicity, and then—that last scene on the
stairs wherein he seemed still to be descending, down, down.
Madame herself was keeping good her resolution.
"Now or never," she said, "a reconciliation or a quarrel."
When the General, to keep up appearances, called again, she so
moved him with an account of certain kindly speeches of her own
invention, which she imputed to Dr. Mossy, that he promised to call and
see his son; "perhaps;" "pretty soon;" "probably."
Dr. Mossy, sitting one February morning among his specimens and
books of reference, finishing a thrilling chapter on the cuticle, too
absorbed to hear a door open, suddenly realized that something was in
his light, and, looking up, beheld General Villivicencio standing over
him. Breathing a pleased sigh, he put down his pen, and, rising on
tiptoe, laid his hand upon his father's shoulder, and lifting his lips
like a little wife, kissed him.
"Be seated, papa," he said, offering his own chair, and perching on
The General took it, and, clearing his throat, gazed around upon
the jars and jars with their little Adams and Eves in zošlogical
"Is all going well, papa?" finally asked Dr. Mossy.
Then there was a long pause.
" 'Tis a beautiful day," said the son.
"Very beautiful," rejoined the father.
"I thought there would have been a rain, but it has cleared off,"
said the son.
"Yes," responded the father, and drummed on the desk.
"Does it appear to be turning cool?" asked the son.
"No; it does not appear to be turning cool at all," was the answer.
"H'm 'm!" said Dr. Mossy.
"Hem!" said General Villivicencio.
Dr. Mossy, not realizing his own action, stole a glance at his
"I am interrupting you," said the General, quickly, and rose.
"No, no! pardon me; be seated; it gives me great pleasure to—I
did not know what I was doing. It is the work with which I fill my
So the General settled down again, and father and son sat very
close to each other—in a bodily sense; spiritually they were many
miles apart. The General's finger-ends, softly tapping the desk, had
the sound of far-away drums.
"The city—it is healthy?" asked the General.
"Did you ask me if"—said the little Doctor, starting and looking
"The city—it has not much sickness at present?" repeated the
"No, yes—not much," said Mossy, and, with utter unconsciousness,
leaned down upon his elbow and supplied an omitted word to the
The General was on his feet as if by the touch of a spring.
"I must go!"
"Ah! no, papa," said the son.
"But, yes, I must."
"But wait, papa, I had just now something to speak of"—
"Well?" said the General, standing with his hand on the door, and
with rather a dark countenance.
Dr. Mossy touched his fingers to his forehead, trying to remember.
"I fear I have—ah! I rejoice to see your name before the public,
dear papa, and at the head of the ticket."
The General's displeasure sank down like an eagle's feathers. He
smiled thankfully, and bowed.
"My friends compelled me," he said.
"They think you will be elected?"
"They will not doubt it. But what think you, my son?"
Now the son had a conviction which it would have been madness to
express, so he only said:
"They could not elect one more faithful."
The General bowed solemnly.
"Perhaps the people will think so; my friends believe they will."
"Your friends who have used your name should help you as much as
they can, papa," said the Doctor. "Myself, I should like to assist you,
papa, if I could."
"A-bah!" said the pleased father, incredulously.
"But, yes," said the son.
A thrill of delight filled the General's frame. This was like a
"Thank you, my son! I thank you much. Ah, Mossy, my dear boy, you
make me happy!"
"But," added Mossy, realizing with a tremor how far he had gone, "I
see not how it is possible."
The General's chin dropped.
"Not being a public man," continued the Doctor; "unless, indeed, my
pen—you might enlist my pen."
He paused with a smile of bashful inquiry. The General stood aghast
for a moment, and then caught the idea.
"Certainly! cer-tain-ly! ha, ha, ha!"—backing out of the door—
"certainly! Ah! Mossy, you are right, to be sure; to make a complete
world we must have swords and pens. Well, my son, 'au revoir;' no, I
cannot stay—I will return. I hasten to tell my friends that the pen
of Dr. Mossy is on our side! Adieu, dear son."
Standing outside on the banquette he bowed—not to Dr. Mossy, but
to the balcony of the big red-brick front—a most sunshiny smile, and
The very next morning, as if fate had ordered it, the Villivicencio
ticket was attacked—ambushed, as it were, from behind the Americain
newspaper. The onslaught was—at least General Villivicencio said it
was—absolutely ruffianly. Never had all the lofty courtesies and
formalities of chivalric contest been so completely ignored. Poisoned
balls—at least personal epithets—were used. The General himself was
called "antiquated!" The friends who had nominated him, they were
positively sneered at; dubbed "fossils," "old ladies," and their caucus
termed "irresponsible"—thunder and lightning! gentlemen of honor to
be termed "not responsible!" It was asserted that the nomination was
made secretly, in a private house, by two or three unauthorized
harum-scarums (that touched the very bone) who had with more caution
than propriety withheld their names. The article was headed, "The
Crayfish-eaters' Ticket." It continued further to say that, had not the
publication of this ticket been regarded as a dull hoax, it would not
have been suffered to pass for two weeks unchallenged, and that it was
now high time the universal wish should be realized in its withdrawal.
Among the earliest readers of this production was the young Madame.
She first enjoyed a quiet gleeful smile over it, and then called:
"Ninide, here, take this down to Dr. Mossy—stop." She marked the
communication heavily with her gold pencil. "No answer; he need not
About the same hour, and in a neighboring street, one of the "not
responsibles" knocked on the Villivicencio castle gate. The General
invited him into his bedroom. With a short and strictly profane
harangue the visitor produced the offensive newspaper, and was about
to begin reading, when one of those loud nasal blasts, so peculiar to
the Gaul, resounded at the gate, and another "not responsible" entered,
more excited, if possible, than the first. Several minutes were spent
in exchanging fierce sentiments and slapping the palm of the left hand
rapidly with the back of the right. Presently there was a pause for
"Alphonse, proceed to read," said the General, sitting up in bed.
"De Crayfish-eaters' Ticket"—began Alphonse; but a third rapping
at the gate interrupted him, and a third "irresponsible" re-enforced
their number, talking loudly and wildly to the waiting-man as he came
up the hall.
Finally, Alphonse read the article. Little by little the incensed
gentlemen gave it a hearing, now two words and now three, interrupting
it to rip out long, rasping maledictions, and wag their forefingers at
each other as they strode ferociously about the apartment.
As Alphonse reached the close, and dashed the paper to the floor,
the whole quartet, in terrific unison, cried for the blood of the
But hereupon the General spoke with authority.
"No, Messieurs," he said, buttoning his dressing-gown, savagely,
"you shall not fight him. I forbid it—you shall not!"
"But," cried the three at once, "one of us must fight, and you—
you cannot; if you fight our cause is lost! The candidate must not
"Hah-h! Messieurs," cried the hero, beating his breast and lifting
his eyes, "grace au ciel. I have a son. Yes, my beloved friends, a son
who shall call the villain out and make him pay for his impudence with
blood, or eat his words in to-morrow morning's paper. Heaven be thanked
that gave me a son for this occasion! I shall see him at once—as soon
as I can dress."
"We will go with you."
"No, gentlemen, let me see my son alone. I can meet you at
Maspero's in two hours. Adieu, my dear friends."
He was resolved.
"Au revoir," said the dear friends.
Shortly after, cane in hand, General Villivicencio moved with an
ireful stride up the banquette of Rue Royale. Just as he passed the
red-brick front one of the batten shutters opened the faintest bit, and
a certain pair of lovely eyes looked after him, without any of that
round simplicity which we have before discovered in them. As he half
turned to knock at his son's door he glanced at this very shutter, but
it was as tightly closed as though the house were an enchanted palace.
Dr. Mossy's door, on the contrary, swung ajar when he knocked, and
the General entered.
"Well, my son, have you seen that newspaper? No, I think not. I see
you have not, since your cheeks are not red with shame and anger."
Dr. Mossy looked up with astonishment from the desk where he sat
"What is that, papa?"
"My faith! Mossy, is it possible you have not heard of the attack
upon me, which has surprised and exasperated the city this morning?"
"No," said Dr. Mossy, with still greater surprise, and laying his
hand on the arm of his chair.
His father put on a dying look. "My soul!" At that moment his
glance fell upon the paper which had been sent in by Madame Delicieuse.
"But, Mossy, my son," he screamed, "there it is!" striking it rapidly
with one finger—"there! there! there! read it! It calls me 'not
responsible!' 'not responsible' it calls me! Read! read!"
"But, papa," said the quiet little Doctor, rising, and accepting
the crumpled paper thrust at him, "I have read this. If this is it,
well, then, already I am preparing to respond to it."
The General seized him violently, and, spreading a suffocating kiss
on his face, sealed it with an affectionate oath.
"Ah, Mossy, my boy, you are glorious! You had begun already to
write! You are glorious! Read to me what you have written, my son."
The Doctor took up a bit of manuscript, and resuming his chair,
"MESSRS. EDITORS: On your journal of this morning,"—
"Eh! how! you have not written it in English, is it, son?"
"But, yes, papa."
" 'Tis a vile tongue," said the General; "but, if it necessary—
"MESSRS. EDITORS: On your journal of this morning is published an
editorial article upon the Villivicencio ticket, which is plentiful and
abundant with mistakes. Who is the author or writer of the above said
editorial article your correspondent does at present ignore, but doubts
not he is one who, hasty to form an opinion, will yet, however, make
his assent to the correction of some errors and mistakes which"—
"Bah!" cried the General.
Dr. Mossy looked up, blushing crimson.
"Bah!" cried the General, still more forcibly. "Btise!"
"How?" asked the gentle son.
" 'Tis all nonsent!" cried the General, bursting into English.
"Hall you 'ave to say is: 'Sieur Editeurs! I want you s'all give de nem
of de indignan' scoundrel who meck some lies on you' paper about mon
pere et ses amis!"
"Ah-h!" said Dr. Mossy, in a tone of derision and anger.
His father gazed at him in mute astonishment. He stood beside his
disorderly little desk, his small form drawn up, a hand thrust into his
breast, and that look of invincibility in his eyes such as blue eyes
sometimes surprise us with.
"You want me to fight," he said.
"My faith!" gasped the General, loosening in all his joints. "I
believe—you may cut me in pieces if I do not believe you were going
to reason it out in the newspaper! Fight? If I want you to fight? Upon
my soul, I believe you do not want to fight!"
"No," said Mossy.
"My God!" whispered the General. His heart seemed to break.
"Yes," said the steadily gazing Doctor, his lips trembling as he
opened them. "Yes, your God. I am afraid"—
"Afraid!" gasped the General.
"Yes," rang out the Doctor, "afraid; afraid! God forbid that I
should not be afraid. But I will tell you what I do not fear—I do not
fear to call your affairs of honor—murder!"
"My son!" cried the father.
"I retract," cried the son; "consider it unsaid. I will never
reproach my father."
"It is well," said the father. "I was wrong. It is my quarrel. I go
to settle it myself."
Dr. Mossy moved quickly between his father and the door. General
Villivicencio stood before him utterly bowed down.
"What will you?" sadly demanded the old man.
"Papa," said the son, with much tenderness, "I cannot permit you.
Fifteen years we were strangers, and yesterday were friends. You must
not leave me so. I will even settle this quarrel for you. You must let
me. I am pledged to your service."
The peace-loving little doctor did not mean "to settle," but "to
adjust." He felt in an instant that he was misunderstood; yet, as quiet
people are apt to do, though not wishing to deceive, he let the
misinterpretation stand. In his embarrassment he did not know with
absolute certainty what he should do himself.
The father's face—he thought of but one way to settle a quarrel—
began instantly to brighten. "I would myself do it," he said,
apologetically, "but my friends forbid it."
"And so do I," said the Doctor, "but I will go myself now, and will
not return until all is finished. Give me the paper."
"My son, I do not wish to compel you."
There was something acid in the Doctor's smile as he answered:
"No; but give me the paper, if you please."
The General handed it.
"Papa," said the son, "you must wait here for my return."
"But I have an appointment at Maspero's at"—
"I will call and make excuse for you," said the son.
"Well," consented the almost happy father, "go, my son; I will
stay. But if some of your sick shall call?"
"Sit quiet," said the son. "They will think no one is here." And
the General noticed that the dust lay so thick on the panes that a
person outside would have to put his face close to the glass to see
In the course of half an hour the Doctor had reached the newspaper
office, thrice addressed himself to the wrong person, finally found the
courteous editor, and easily convinced him that his father had been
imposed upon; but when Dr. Mossy went farther, and asked which one of
the talented editorial staff had written the article:
"You see, Doctor," said the editor—"just step into my private
office a moment."
They went in together. The next minute saw Dr. Mossy departing
hurriedly from the place, while the editor complacently resumed his
pen, assured that he would not return.
General Villivicencio sat and waited among the serpents and
innocents. His spirits began to droop again. Revolving Mossy's words,
he could not escape the fear that possibly, after all, his son might
compromise the Villivicencio honor in the interests of peace. Not that
he preferred to put his son's life in jeopardy; he would not object to
an adjustment, provided the enemy should beg for it. But if not, whom
would his son select to perform those friendly offices indispensable in
polite quarrels? Some half-priest, half-woman? Some spectacled
bookworm? He suffered.
The monotony of his passive task was relieved by one or two callers
who had the sagacity (or bad manners) to peer through the dirty glass,
and then open the door, to whom, half rising from his chair, he
answered, with a polite smile, that the Doctor was out, nor could he
say how long he might be absent. Still the time dragged painfully, and
he began at length to wonder why Mossy did not return.
There came a rap at the glass door different from all the raps that
had forerun it—a fearless, but gentle, dignified, graceful rap; and
the General, before he looked round, felt in all his veins that it came
from the young Madame. Yes, there was her glorious outline thrown
sidewise upon the glass. He hastened and threw open the door, bending
low at the same instant, and extending his hand.
She extended hers also, but not to take his. With a calm dexterity
that took the General's breath, she reached between him and the door,
and closed it.
"What is the matter?" anxiously asked the General—for her face,
in spite of its smile, was severe.
"General," she began, ignoring his inquiry—and, with all her
Creole bows, smiles, and insinuating phrases, the severity of her
countenance but partially waned—"I came to see my physician—your
son. Ah! General, when I find you reconciled to your son, it makes me
think I am in heaven. You will let me say so? You will not be offended
with the old playmate of your son?"
She gave him no time to answer.
"He is out, I think, is he not? But I am glad of it. It gives us
occasion to rejoice together over his many merits. For you know,
General, in all the years of your estrangement, Mossy had no friend
like myself. I am proud to tell you so now; is it not so?"
The General was so taken aback that, when he had thanked her in a
mechanical way, he could say nothing else. She seemed to fall for a
little while into a sad meditation that embarrassed him beyond measure.
But as he opened his mouth to speak, she resumed:
"Nobody knew him so well as I; though I, poor me, I could not
altogether understand him; for look you, General, he was—what do you
think?—a great man!—nothing less."
"How?" asked the General, not knowing what else to respond.
"You never dreamed of that, eh?" continued the lady. "But, of
course not; nobody did but me. Some of those Americains, I suppose,
knew it; but who would ever ask them? Here in Royal Street, in New
Orleans, where we people know nothing and care nothing but for meat,
drink, and pleasure, he was only Dr. Mossy, who gave pills. My faith!
General, no wonder you were disappointed in your son, for you thought
the same. Ah! yes, you did! But why did you not ask me, his old
playmate? I knew better. I could have told you how your little son
stood head and shoulders above the crowd. I could have told you some
things too wonderful to believe. I could have told you that his name
was known and honored in the scientific schools of Paris, of London, of
Germany! Yes! I could have shown you"—she warmed as she proceeded—
"I could have shown you letters (I begged them of him), written as
between brother and brother, from the foremost men of science and
She stood up, her eyes flashing with excitement.
"But why did you never tell me?" cried the General.
"He never would allow me—but you—why did you not ask me? I will
tell you; you were too proud to mention your son. But he had pride to
match yours—ha!—achieving all—every thing—with an assumed name!
'Let me tell your father,' I implored him; but—'let him find me out,'
he said, and you never found him out. Ah! there he was fine. He would
not, he said, though only for your sake, re-enter your affections as
any thing more or less than just—your son. Ha!"
And so she went on. Twenty times the old General was astonished
anew, twenty times was angry or alarmed enough to cry out, but twenty
times she would not be interrupted. Once he attempted to laugh, but
again her hand commanded silence.
"Behold, Monsieur, all these dusty specimens, these revolting
fragments. How have you blushed to know that our idle people laugh in
their sleeves at these things! How have you blushed—and you his
father! But why did you not ask me? I could have told you: 'Sir, your
son is not an apothecary; not one of these ugly things but has helped
him on in the glorious path of discovery; discovery, General—your son
- known in Europe as a scientific discoverer!' Ah-h! the blind people
say, 'How is that, that General Villivicencio should be dissatisfied
with his son? He is a good man, and a good doctor, only a little
careless, that's all.' But you were more blind still, for you shut your
eyes tight like this; when, had you searched for his virtues as you did
for his faults, you, too, might have known before it was too late what
nobility, what beauty, what strength, were in the character of your
poor, poor son!"
"Just Heaven! Madame, you shall not speak of my son as of one dead
and buried! But, if you have some bad news"—
"Your son took your quarrel on his hands, eh?"
"I believe so—I think"—
"Well; I saw him an hour ago in search of your slanderer!"
"He must find him!" said the General, plucking up.
"But if the search is already over," slowly responded Madame.
The father looked one instant in her face, then rose with an
"Where is my son? What has happened? Do you think I am a child, to
be trifled with—a horse to be teased? Tell me of my son!"
Madame was stricken with genuine anguish.
"Take your chair," she begged; "wait; listen; take your chair."
"Never!" cried the General; "I am going to find my son—my God!
Madame, you have locked this door! What are you, that you should treat
me so? Give me, this instant"—
"Oh! Monsieur, I beseech you to take your chair, and I will tell
you all. You can do nothing now. Listen! suppose you should rush out
and find that your son had played the coward at last! Sit down and"—
"Ah! Madame, this is play!" cried the distracted man.
"But no; it is not play. Sit down; I want to ask you something."
He sank down and she stood over him, anguish and triumph strangely
mingled in her beautiful face.
"General, tell me true; did you not force this quarrel into your
son's hand? I know he would not choose to have it. Did you not do it to
test his courage, because all these fifteen years you have made
yourself a fool with the fear that he became a student only to escape
being a soldier? Did you not?"
Her eyes looked him through and through.
"And if I did?" demanded he with faint defiance.
"Yes! and if he has made dreadful haste and proved his courage?"
"Well, then,"—the General straightened up triumphantly—" then
he is my son!"
He beat the desk.
"And heir to your wealth, for example?"
The lady bowed in solemn mockery.
"It will make him a magnificent funeral!"
The father bounded up and stood speechless, trembling from head to
foot. Madame looked straight in his eye.
"Your son has met the writer of that article."
"Where?" the old man's lips tried to ask.
"Suddenly, unexpectedly, in a passage-way."
"My God! and the villain"—
"Lives!" cried Madame.
He rushed to the door, forgetting that it was locked.
"Give me that key!" he cried, wrenched at the knob, turned away
bewildered, turned again toward it, and again away; and at every step
and turn he cried, "Oh! my son, my son! I have killed my son! Oh!
Mossy, my son, my little boy! Oh! my son, my son!"
Madame buried her face in her hands and sobbed aloud. Then the
father hushed his cries and stood for a moment before her.
"Give me the key, Clarisse, let me go."
She rose and laid her face on his shoulder.
"What is it, Clarisse?" asked he.
"Your son and I were ten years betrothed."
"Oh, my child!"
"Because, being disinherited, he would not be my husband."
"Alas! would to God I had known it! Oh! Mossy, my son."
"Oh! Monsieur," cried the lady, clasping her hands, "forgive me—
mourn no more—your son is unharmed! I wrote the article—I am your
recanting slanderer! Your son is hunting for me now. I told my aunt to
misdirect him. I slipped by him unseen in the carriage-way."
The wild old General, having already staggered back and rushed
forward again, would have seized her in his arms, had not the little
Doctor himself at that instant violently rattled the door and shook his
finger at them playfully as he peered through the glass.
"Behold!" said Madame, attempting a smile: "open to your son; here
is the key."
She sank into a chair.
Father and son leaped into each other's arms; then turned to
"Ah! thou lovely mischief-maker"—
She had fainted away.
"Ah! well, keep out of the way, if you please, papa," said Dr.
Mossy, as Madame presently reopened her eyes; "no wonder you fainted;
you have finished some hard work—see; here; so; Clarisse, dear, take
Father and son stood side by side, tenderly regarding her as she
"Now, papa, you may kiss her; she is quite herself again, already."
"My daughter!" said the stately General; "this—is my son's
ransom; and, with this,—I withdraw the Villivicencio ticket."
"You shall not," exclaimed the laughing lady, throwing her arms
"But, yes!" he insisted; "my faith! you will at least allow me to
remove my dead from the field."
"But, certainly;" said the son; "see, Clarisse, here is Madame,
your aunt, asking us all into the house. Let us go."
The group passed out into the Rue Royale, Dr. Mossy shutting the
door behind them. The sky was blue, the air was soft and balmy, and on
the sweet south breeze, to which the old General bared his grateful
brow, floated a ravishing odor of—
"Ah! what is it?" the veteran asked of the younger pair, seeing the
little aunt glance at them with a playful smile.
Madame Delicieuse, for almost the first time in her life, and Dr.
Mossy for the thousandth—blushed.
It was the odor of orange-blossoms.