OLD CREOLE DAYS
A STORY OF CREOLE LIFE
GEORGE W. CABLE
CAFÉ DES EXILÉS
BELLES DEMOISELLES PLANTATION
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-cochère—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 these 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
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, overhanging 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 sidewalk, 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."
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 Delphine herself.
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 kittens.
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 social
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
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.
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 brothers Lafitte.
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 and
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 sublimer
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 afterward.
Capitaine Lemaitre was not among the killed or wounded, but he was among
The roundest and happiest-looking priest in the city of New Orleans was
a little man fondly known among his people as Père 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 Père 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, Père 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 Père Jerome's rotundity and rosy smile.
In this room, and about this miniature round table, used sometimes to
sit with Père 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 Père 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 Américain; but running sometimes into English and
sometimes into mild laughter. Mention had been made of the absentee.
Père 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 accessories."
"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: 'Père 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
"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 wand."
Then, suddenly becoming serious, he was about to add something else,
when Père 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
"But how do you know he is a pirate?" demanded Thompson, aggressively.
"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
[Footnote 1: See gazettes of the period.]
"And whose name is Lafitte," said the obstinate attorney.
"And who, nevertheless, is not Lafitte," insisted Père Jerome.
"Daz troo, Jean," said Doctor Varrillat. "We hall know daz troo."
Père 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 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."
Père 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."
Père 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 Père
"But anny'ow you tell it in dad summon dad 'e hyare fo' dad creed."
Père 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 Père Jerome had a regular correspondent.
THE CAP FITS.
About two months after the conversation just given, and therefore
somewhere about the Christmas holidays of the year 1821, Père 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 me."
"How is that?"
"Because—'Voe quum benedixerint mihi homines!'" 
[Footnote 1: "Woe unto me when all men speak well of me!"]
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 Père 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 Père Jerome's success as a preacher,
that he took more thought as to how he should feel, than as to what he
The cathedral of those days was called a very plain old pile, boasting
neither beauty nor riches; but to Père 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 harmonies, and the yet more elegant 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 the while was one that came thrice and again:
"Be not deceived, Père 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
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 Père 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 scorn!"
And again, this:
"Even in the promise to Noë, 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 Père 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,
"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 these
"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 catechism!"
The mother and daughter leaned a little farther forward, and exchanged
the same spasmodic hand-pressure as before. The mother's eyes were full
"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 Evariste to Jean.
"This man," continued Père 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
Père 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 Père 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, Père—Père Jerome; Père Jerome, we thank the good God for
"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 Père 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; but I am going this way to see a sick person."
The woman looked up at him with an expression of mingled confidence and
"It must be a blessed thing to be so useful as to be needed by the good
God," she said.
Père 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 nervousness
"Père Jerome, what was the name of that man?"
"His name?" said the priest. "You wish to know his name?"
"Yes, Monsieur" (or Miché, 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, Miché; 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."
A CRY OF DISTRESS.
Père 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
"You know,—probably I should have said this in the confessional, but"—
"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.
Père 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 Père 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 may concern.'"
"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
"At last your mother-heart conquered," said Père 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 ça 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 Delphine."
Père 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 Père 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 Père 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."
Père 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. Père 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
Père 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, Père 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 Père
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 cottonade
"Yes," the voice of Père Jerome was saying, as his face appeared in the
"I lef' my para_sol_," 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.
Père 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, Père Jerome?"
"He's goin' to hopen a bank!"
"Ah!" said Madame Delphine, seeing she was expected to be astonished.
Père 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."
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 Père
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. Père 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 Père 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,
"Iv you pliz, to mague dad bill change, Miché."
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 Père 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 Monsieur Vignevielle, "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
"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, Miché."
Monsieur Vigneville turned to engage in conversation with an employé 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, reiterated:
"Miché Vignevielle, I wizh 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 p'iz nod to mague me doze troub'."
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, Père 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 conné li à 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 Père 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:
"Miché 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 Miché Vignevielle?"
She looked up with grateful re-assurance; but her eyes dropped again as
"Miché 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 said:
"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:
"Yez." 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?"
"Miché, she's a lill' hangel!" exclaimed Madame Delphine, with a look of
"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
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 decline.
"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
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
"United States brig Porpoise" repeated Jean Thompson. "Do you know
"We are acquainted," said Monsieur Vignevielle.
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
But we hardly give the event its right name. It was Capitaine Lemaìtre
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 hald 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 Père Jerome, the day we saw him there.
"Ursin Lemaìtre is dead. I have buried him. He left a will. I am his
"He is crazy," said his lawyer brother-in-law, impatiently.
"On the contr-y," replied the little priest, "'e 'as come ad hisse'f."
"Look at his face, Jean. Men with that kind of face are the last to go
"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
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
"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 conversation
"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
He walked much alone after dark. The gurchinangoes (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 she rose.
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 right hand 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 flute-notes 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
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 of
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.
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.
"Chérie," 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 medaeval 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 Père 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 Père 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
"I wish I was Père—I wish I was as good as Père 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 quadroone!"
She threw back her plaited hair for a third embrace, when a sound in the
shrubbery startled them.
"Qui ci pa?" 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.
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
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
Miché 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 works.
"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
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, Miché 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 bout so hearly dis
She told him her errand. She asked if he thought she would find any
"Yez," he said, "it was possible—a few lill' bécassines-de-mer, ou
somezin' ligue. But fo' w'y you lill' gal lose doze hapetide?"
"Ah, Miché,"—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, Miché, she wone
"Bud, anny'ow, Madame, wad you thing?"
"Miché," 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, Miché!"
"Yez. There har nod one poss'bil'ty fo' me to be dad guardian of you'
Madame Delphine started with surprise and alarm.
"There is ondly one wad can be," he continued.
"But oo, Miché?"
"Ah, Miché 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 eagerness:
"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 fingers.
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 words:
"Miché Vignevielle, I thing Père Jerome mighd be ab'e to tell you
FACE TO FACE.
Madame Delphine found her house neither burned nor rifled.
"Ah! ma, piti sans popa! Ah I 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' bécassines-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 cère; mo pas conné!"—God knows, my darling; I cannot
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 said:
"No, it is nothing, nothing, only that"—turning her head from side to
side with a slow, emotional emphasis, "Miché 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
"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 émeute; 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, eh?" 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 mère, qui vini 'ci ce soir?"—Who is coming here this evening?
"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, Miché 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 Miché 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! chérie," 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
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 floor.
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.
Miché 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 evening.
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 Miché 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
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, Père Jerome! I wan' see you so bad, so bad! Mo oulé dit
quiç'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 native
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.
"Fé chaud," she remarked again, taking the chair he offered and
continuing to ply the fan.
Père 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.
"Père 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, Père 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. Père 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, Père Jerome, no. My daughter—oh, Père 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 said:
"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 tru'."
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, Miché! Ah-h, no, no! Not by Ursin Lemaitre-Vignevielle!"
Père 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 "Madame Delphine"—
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 ca? What is that?" asked the quadroone, stopping her fan.
"Some peop' say Ursin is crezzie."
"Ah, Père 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 Miché Vignevielle w'at's crezzie." Her eyes lighted with
sudden fierceness. "'Tis dad law! Dad law is crezzie! Dad law is a
A priest of less heart-wisdom might have replied that the law is—the
law; but Père 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
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 yé, fé cette méchanique là?"—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 races
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, Père 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! Père 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, Père 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!"
Père 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 aw 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 Père Jerome, much wondering, made a second detour toward the
residence of one of Monsieur Vignevielle's employés.
"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
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 pleasing
There was a walk in Père 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 Père 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 Père 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
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
Père 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 late."
"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, Père Jerome, I am bringing so much
trouble upon my poor mother!"
Père 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 blush.
"Oh, no," she replied, in a low, despairing voice, dropping her face.
"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
"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 Père Jerome.
"They would give him up to the Government. Oh, Père 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 Père 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 and
"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 you. Adieu!"
A moment or two later he was in the street himself.
BY AN OATH.
Père 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:
"Miché, commin yé pellé 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, Père Jerome! mo pas conné,—I dunno. You know w'ere's dad 'ouse
of Miché Jean Tomkin? Mo courri 'ci, mo courri là,—mo pas capabe li
trouvé. I go (run) here—there—I cannot find it," she gesticulated.
"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! Père 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, Père 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 reconnoitring
"Père 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
"Père 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 strain:
"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 Père Jerome
"I am going to arrange it to satisfy everybody, all together. Tout à
"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—Père 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 standing
"Have you something to say to us?" asked Jean Thompson, frowning at her
"Oui," replied the woman, shrinking to one side, and laying hold of one
of the benches, "mo oulé di' tou' ç'ose"—I want to tell every thing.
"Miché Vignevielle la plis bon homme di moune"—the best man in the
world; "mo pas capabe li fé tracas"—I cannot give him trouble. "Mo
pas capable, non; m'olé di' tous ç'ose." She attempted to fan herself,
her face turned away from the attorney, and her eyes rested on the
"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 manner.
"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
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
"Ouala so popa," said Madame Delphine. "That is her father."
It went from one to another, exciting admiration and murmured praise.
"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 là"—Madame Delphine's utterance failed—"et là 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
Her manner was wild.
Jean Thompson looked at her sternly.
"Nevertheless you say you are willing to take your solemn oath to this."
"You will have to do it."
"Certainly, Miché 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
A servant came and spoke privately to Madame Thompson, who rose quickly
and went to the hall Madame Delphine continued, rising unconsciously:
"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, chère piti à 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 sofa
When they brought her to herself, Olive was kneeling at her head
"Maman, chère 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."
The second Saturday afternoon following was hot and calm. The lamp
burning before the tabernacle in Père 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 akin.
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 Père 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 Père 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:
"Bénissez-moin, mo' Père, pa'ce que mo péché." (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
She ceased, and was still. Père 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 move.
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!"
CAFÉ DES EXILÉS.
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 Café des
Exilés 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 café 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 bands 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 blossom.
The Café des Exilés, to use a figure, flowered, bore fruit, and dropped
it long ago—or rather Time and Fate, like some uncursed 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 café, 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 Burgundy.
It was in 1835 that the Café des Exilés was, as one might say, in full
blossom. Old M. D'Hemecourt, father of Pauline and host of the café,
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 Café des Exilés, 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 coat-collar.
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 Café 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
Café des Exilés, 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 Café des Exilés. 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 café is a café," said the old gentleman. "It is nod possib' to ezcape
him, aldough de Café des Exilés is differen from de rez."
"It's different from the Café des Réfugiés," suggested the Irishman.
"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 Café des Exilés 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 Café des Exilés 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 Café des Exilés. 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 café
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 Café des
Exilés 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 Café des Exilés, 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 all
The little seed of jealousy, dropped into the heart of Manuel Mazaro, we
have already taken into account.
Galahad Shaughnessy 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 Café des Exilés sometimes took upon her lap—that
is to say door-step—but whose favorite resort was the old Café des
Réfugiés 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 Café des Exilés; 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 Café des Exilés 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 Café des Réfugiés also
would appear. A small gate in the close garden-fence let them into a
room behind the café 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 of observation.
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' ou' 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, escuse-a me. Senor D'Hemecourt, Mayor Shanghness',
when he talkin' wi' me he usin' hore-a name o the t-thime-a!"
"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 _in_vestigade 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 Café des Exilés."
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 the street.
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
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
"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
"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 Café des Exilés 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 smile.
"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 Café des Réfugiés. 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 Américains, keeping them in a great laugh with his account
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
Café des Exilés?"
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 Café des Exilés, 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' that?"
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 Café des Exilés 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
"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 Café des Exilés, tarried
fifteen or twenty minutes, and then, thinking he could step around to
the Café des Exilés 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 café. 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 café. 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
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
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 agitated.
"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
The Major rose from his chair.
"What d'ye mean?" he asked vacantly, and then: "Look-ut here, Munsher
D'Himecourt, one of uz is crazy. I say one"—
"No, sar-r-r!" cried the other, rising and clenching his trembling fist.
"H-I am not 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 door.
"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 Café des
Exilés—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 door—diz
The Major laughed again and started toward the door indicated, but in an
"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 near.
"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 Café
des Exilés a scene of blood. Thinking of this, what could she do? She
"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
"Was a bee crowth a' the Café the Réfugiés," continued the young man.
"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
"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, eh?"
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
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 be 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, escuse-a me"—
"Huzh!" cried the old man. "Manuel Mazaro, you ave deceive' 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.
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 café, 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 serpent
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. Good-night was accordingly said, the
Café des Exilés closed her windows, then her doors, winked a moment or
two through the cracks in the shutters and then went fast asleep.
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 his
"Who knows," continued the speaker, "but Senor Benito, though strong and
sound and har'ly thirty-seven"—here all smiled—"may be taken ill
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 acknowledgments.
"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 phrases,
"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." (Si, si, Senor, 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 Café des Exilés
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 request.
"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 wurse 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 Café des Exilés sounded softly
through the room.
"Lads," said the Irishman. "Fill yer dlasses. Here's to the Café des
Exilés, God bless her!"
And the meeting slowly adjourned.
Two days later, signs and rumors of sickness began to find place about
the Café des Réfugiés, 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 Café des Exilés.
"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 Café des Réfugiés enjoyed
the spectacle of the invalid Cuban moved on a trestle to the Café des
Exilés, 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 Café des
Exilés 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 Café des Exilés 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 all.
"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?"
Bap, 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 Café des
Exilés' children, less Galahad. But the mother—that is, the old
café—did not see it; she had gone up the night before in a chariot of
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 his account-books inside, he
left his wife, a Choctaw Comptesse, 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
Comptesse 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 Comptesse—she tarried but a twelvemonth, left Monsieur a
lovely son, and departed, led out of this vain world by the swamp-fever.
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, Felicité, 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 cypress forest.
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, drunk 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 Injin Charlie.
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 up-river 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 ardors; 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 him!'
"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 tiptoeing 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 the ground."
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 surprise.
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 hi her distended eyes,—"something is goin' to
"Papa is goin' to town!"
The news passed up stairs.
"Inno!"—one to another meeting in a doorway,—"something is goin' to
"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 old house."
"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),—"may_be_,—if you sell it cheap."
"She's a bully old house."
There was a long silence. By and by old Charlies 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."
"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.'"
"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
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 vehmence 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 yonr 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
"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, smiling.
"How much Belles Demoiselles hoes me now?" asked the deaf one.
"One hundred and eighty thousand dollars," said the Colonel, firmly.
"Yass," said Charlie. "I don't want Belle Demoiselles."
The old Colonel's quiet laugh intimated it made no difference either
"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, moved
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, from 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 to-night?"
"I come from the Exchange in St. Louis Street." (A small fraction of the
"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
"I dunno," said Charlie; "it's nearly mine now. Why you don't stay dare
"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
Charlie never winced; but how his answer delighted the Colonel! Quoth
"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
Père, '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 straight
"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 to-night; 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 "low-down"
"Keep the road, old man."
"Keep the road."
"Oh, yes; all right; I keep my word; we don't goin' to play no tricks,
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,
"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
"Yaas," said the stolid Charlie.
"And we has both been bad enough in our times 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 trade!"
"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 floor.
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
"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 sadness,—
"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 bona-fide 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 smart.
"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.
"POSSON JONE'." 
[Footnote 1: Published in Appletons' Journal. Republished by
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
In the first decade of the present century, when the newly 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, weatherbeaten 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 his days.
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 comers.
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
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 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
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 frère."
"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
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 were
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, fueling 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
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 français?" 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 là-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 understand."
"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 Président.
I want you do somesin for me, eh?"
"What is it?" asked the patient Governor.
"I want you tell Monsieur le Président,
"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 features
"You don't see me trade some Guinea nigga'?"
"You don't see me make some smuggling"
"No, sir; not at all."
"But, I am Jean Marie Poquelin. I mine me hown bizniss. Dat all right?
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 'ouse."
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 marsh."
"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.
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 to bet?"
"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 his
"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
"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 Américains
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;
"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 the
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 Louse 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 made.
"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
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
Américains, "he'd have been tarred and feathered before now, wouldn't
"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 suggestion.
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
"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 to-night;
"My fwang," said the swaying Bienvenu, "who tail you I goin' to
chahivahi somebody, eh? Yon 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
"Hé 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'hôpital de charité!"
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 snow.
Dumb with horror, the cringing crowd gazed upon the walking death. They
watched, in silent awe, the slow cortége 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 Lépreux," 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
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 region.
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
"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
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 about
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 wig-maker 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 'Tïte 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 ago, 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 Condé.
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
Théâtre d'Orléans, 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
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 Condé. 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 Condé," 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 Condé. 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 no 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.
Tha 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 ware 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, chérie; 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
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 marshew, 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 good-night.
"'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 white."
"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
"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 café, just as—who should be coming out but
Monsieur, the manager of the Salle de Condé. 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 of
"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 might follow.
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 street-door the manager
raised the knocker; but the latch clicked and the wicket was drawn
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 opposed.
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 three
"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
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 Condé? He rushed to his table, and began to write.
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 Condé, 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 stunned.
"Aw—aw"—said the pretty Dutchman, "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 poor nigresse.
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 Condé."
"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 Condé. 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 away.
"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 night-watch.
"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 dead."
And so, for politeness' sake, he tried to credit the invention, but grew
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?—eh, well, eh, 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 truth.
"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,
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! then!"
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 brimful.
"And left an infant!" said the Dutchman, ready to shout with exultation.
"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 care
"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
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 tomorrow, on a litter."
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
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 employment.
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
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
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 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 Américains 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 uptown, 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 lock!"
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' good
Among les Américaines, 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 litt' 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 rail 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 two rooms.
'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 point.
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 day, 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 Trémé 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, appeared 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 recital.
Thus they sat, he talking very steadily and she listening, until all the
neighborhood was wrapped in slumber,—all the neighbors, but not Kookoo.
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 everything 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, kaving 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
"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
"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—for
The girl gazed into the embers, listening intensely.
"And oh! dearie, if I could only get you to think the same way, you
might stay with me then."
"How long?" she asked, without stirring.
"Oh, is 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
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 sleep
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
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 Café de Poésie 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 man's mouth.
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 rust-eaten
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 of
"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 Délicieuse, 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 windows
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 Délicieuse 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—"Ah-h-h-h!"
But, mark you, she was good Madame Délicieuse as well as fair Madame
Délicieuse: 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
Américain 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
There was this notable charm about Madame Délicieuse, 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
Délicieuse 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 spring
The sight-seers passing below looked 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 Délicieuse 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 Délicieuse'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
"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 son."
The staff of General Villivicencio were a faithful few who had not bowed
the knee to any abomination of the Américains, 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 Délicieuse 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 Délicieuse 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, "coûte que coûte, 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, Général," 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 Délicieuse, 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 proceeded:
"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!" said the General, with a touch of irony. "So she said,"
answered Madame Délicieuse, "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 Délicieuse, 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, yes."
"'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 his arm.
"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
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
"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 the
"'Tis a beautiful night," she remarked, and stepped out on the balcony.
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 Délicieuse 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 Américains" 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 Délicieuse 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
The General took it, and, clearing his throat, gazed around upon the
jars and jars with their little Adams and Eves in zoölogical gardens.
"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
"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 leisure
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
"The city—it is healthy?" asked the General.
"Did you ask me if"—said the little Doctor, starting and looking up.
"The city—it has not much sickness at present?" repeated the father.
"No, yes—not much," said Mossy, and, with utter unconsciousness, leaned
down upon his elbow and supplied an omitted word to the manuscript.
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 son.
"Thank you, my son! I thank you much. Ah, Mossy, my dear boy, you make
"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 Américain
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
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 editor.
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 fight."
"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
"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 Délicieuse. "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, began:
"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 is
"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. "Bêtise!"
"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 meek some lies on you' paper about mon Père et
"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
"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 within.
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
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 book-worm? He
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 side wise
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
"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 Américains, 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 discovery!"
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?" asked
"Well, then,"—the General straightened up triumphantly—"then he is my
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 me 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
She sank into a chair.
Father and son leaped into each other's arms; then turned to Madame:
"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; no; Clarisse, dear, take this."
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 about
"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 Délicieuse for almost the first time in her life, and Dr. Mossy
for the thousandth—blushed.
It was the odor of orange-blossoms.