Posson Jone, by George Washington Cable
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 twenty-two.
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. 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
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 certains, 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 cafés 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
"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
Américain—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 time.
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 Américain 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 disperse.
"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 busi_ness_ 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 provi_dence_.—Jools, do you believe in a special
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 provi_dence_ 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. Parce-que, 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 Father
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 yo'
The negro begged; the master wrathily insisted.
"Colossus, will you do ez I tell you, or shell I hev to strike you,
"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 angrily.
"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 earshot.
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
"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
"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 coffee."
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."
"Yon 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
"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 his
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, you
"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 lump 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 circus-ring.
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 bull-fight!"
In the high upper seats of the rude amphitheatre sat the gayly-decked
wives and daughters of the Gascons, from the métaries along the Ridge,
and the chattering Spanish women of the Market, their shining hair
un-bonneted 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; Américains, 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
The afternoon is advancing, yet the sport, though loudly demanded, does
not begin. The Américains 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 gallantries.
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—callimg in the Américaine 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 an old gray coat
All buttoned down before."
A ribboned man in the arena is trying to be heard, and the Latins raise
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 fierceness,
His voice is drowned. Enough has been heard to warrant the inference
that the beasts 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 or 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 mêlée, still head and shoulders above all, wilder,
with the cup of the wicked, than any beast, is the man of God from the
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
"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
Américains. 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 I Jools, Where's my pore old
"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
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 hare 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
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,
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 yonng man.
The schooner-captain, leaning against the shrouds, and even Baptiste,
"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 poor
"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—"good-by!"
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 Lord!"
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 peace!"
"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 debts!
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