George Washington Cable
Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Charlie Kirschner and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
BY GEORGE W. CABLE
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
I. Masked Batteries.
II. The Fate of the Immigrant.
III. "And who is my Neighbor?"
IV. Family Trees.
V. A Maiden who will not Marry.
VI. Lost Opportunities.
VII. Was it Honore Grandissime?
VIII. Signed--Honore Grandissime.
IX. Illustrating the Tractive Power of Basil.
X. "Oo dad is, 'Sieur Frowenfel'?"
XI. Sudden Flashes of Light.
XII. The Philosophe.
XIII. A Call from the Rent-Spectre.
XIV. Before Sunset.
XV. Rolled in the Dust.
XVI. Starlight in the rue Chartres.
XVII. That Night.
XVIII. New Light upon Dark Places.
XIX. Art and Commerce.
XX. A very Natural Mistake.
XXI. Doctor Keene Recovers his Bullet.
XXII. Wars within the Breast.
XXIII. Frowenfeld Keeps his Appointment.
XXIV. Frowenfeld Makes an Argument.
XXV. Aurora as a Historian.
XXVI. A Ride and a Rescue.
XXVII. The Fete de Grandpere.
XXVIII. The Story of Bras-Coupe.
XXIX. The Story of Bras-Coupe, Continued.
XXXI. Another Wound in a New Place.
XXXII. Interrupted Preliminaries.
XXXIII. Unkindest Cut of All.
XXXIV. Clotilde as a Surgeon.
XXXV. "Fo' wad you Cryne?"
XXXVI. Aurora's Last Picayune.
XXXVII. Honore Makes some Confessions.
XXXVIII. Tests of Friendship.
XXXIX. Louisiana States her Wants.
XL. Frowenfeld Finds Sylvestre.
XLI. To Come to the Point.
XLII. An Inheritance of Wrong.
XLIII. The Eagle Visits the Doves in their Nest.
XLIV. Bad for Charlie Keene.
XLV. More Reparation.
XLVI. The Pique-en-terre Loses One of her Crew.
XLVII. The News.
XLVIII. An Indignant Family and a Smashed Shop.
XLIX. Over the New Store.
L. A Proposal of Marriage.
LI. Business Changes.
LII. Love Lies-a-Bleeding.
LIII. Frowenfeld at the Grandissime Mansion.
LIV. "Cauldron Bubble".
LVI. Blood for a Blow.
LVII. Voudou Cured.
LVIII. Dying Words.
LIX. Where some Creole Money Goes.
LX. "All Right".
"They paused a little within the obscurity of the corridor, and just to
reassure themselves that everything _was_ 'all right'" _Frontispiece_.
"She looked upon an unmasked, noble countenance, lifted her own mask a
little, and then a little more; and then shut it quickly".
"The daughter of the Natchez sitting in majesty, clothed in many-colored
robes of shining feathers crossed and recrossed with girdles of
serpent-skins and of wampum".
"Aurora,--alas! alas!--went down upon her knees with her gaze fixed upon
the candle's flame".
"The young man with auburn curls rested the edge of his burden upon the
counter, tore away its wrappings and disclosed a painting".
"Silently regarding the intruder with a pair of eyes that sent an icy
chill through him and fastened him where he stood, lay Palmyre
"On their part, they would sit in deep attention, shielding their faces
from the fire, and responding to enunciations directly contrary to their
convictions with an occasional 'yes-seh,' or 'ceddenly,' or 'of coze,'
or,--prettier affirmation still,--a solemn drooping of the eyelids".
"Bras-Coupe was practically declaring his independence on a slight rise
of ground hardly sixty feet in circumference and lifted scarce above the
water in the inmost depths of the swamp".
"'Ma lill dotter, wad dad meggin you cry? Iv you will tell me wad dad
mague you cry, I will tell you--on ma _second word of honor_'--she
rolled up her fist--'juz wad I thing about dad 'Sieur Frowenfel!'".
"His head was bowed, a heavy grizzled lock fell down upon his dark,
frowning brow, one hand clenched the top of his staff, the other his
knee, and both trembled violently".
"The tall figure of Palmyre rose slowly and silently from her chair, her
eyes lifted up and her lips moving noiselessly. She seemed to have lost
all knowledge of place or of human presence".
"They turned in a direction opposite to the entrance and took chairs in
a cool nook of the paved court, at a small table where the hospitality
of Clemence had placed glasses of lemonade".
_In addition to the foregoing, the stories are illustrated with eight
smaller photogravures from drawings by Mr. Herter_.
It was in the Theatre St. Philippe (they had laid a temporary floor over
the parquette seats) in the city we now call New Orleans, in the month
of September, and in the year 1803. Under the twinkle of numberless
candles, and in a perfumed air thrilled with the wailing ecstasy of
violins, the little Creole capital's proudest and best were offering up
the first cool night of the languidly departing summer to the divine
Terpsichore. For summer there, bear in mind, is a loitering gossip, that
only begins to talk of leaving when September rises to go. It was like
hustling her out, it is true, to give a select _bal masque_ at such a
very early--such an amusingly early date; but it was fitting that
something should be done for the sick and the destitute; and why not
this? Everybody knows the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.
And so, to repeat, it was in the Theatre St. Philippe (the oldest, the
first one), and, as may have been noticed, in the year in which the
First Consul of France gave away Louisiana. Some might call it "sold."
Old Agricola Fusilier in the rumbling pomp of his natural voice--for he
had an hour ago forgotten that he was in mask and domino--called it
"gave away." Not that he believed it had been done; for, look you, how
could it be? The pretended treaty contained, for instance, no provision
relative to the great family of Brahmin Mandarin Fusilier de
Grandissime. It was evidently spurious.
Being bumped against, he moved a step or two aside, and was going on to
denounce further the detestable rumor, when a masker--one of four who
had just finished the contra-dance and were moving away in the column of
promenaders--brought him smartly around with the salutation:
"_Comment to ye, Citoyen Agricola!_"
"H-you young kitten!" said the old man in a growling voice, and with the
teased, half laugh of aged vanity as he bent a baffled scrutiny at the
back-turned face of an ideal Indian Queen. It was not merely the
_tutoiement_ that struck him as saucy, but the further familiarity of
using the slave dialect. His French was unprovincial.
"H-the cool rascal!" he added laughingly, and, only half to himself;
"get into the garb of your true sex, sir, h-and I will guess who
But the Queen, in the same feigned voice as before, retorted:
"_Ah! mo piti fils, to pas connais to zancestres?_ Don't you know your
ancestors, my little son!"
"H-the g-hods preserve us!" said Agricola, with a pompous laugh muffled
under his mask, "the queen of the Tchoupitoulas I proudly acknowledge,
and my great-grandfather, Epaminondas Fusilier, lieutenant of dragoons
under Bienville; but,"--he laid his hand upon his heart, and bowed to
the other two figures, whose smaller stature betrayed the gentler
sex--"pardon me, ladies, neither Monks nor _Filles a la Cassette_ grow
on our family tree."
The four maskers at once turned their glance upon the old man in the
domino; but if any retort was intended it gave way as the violins burst
into an agony of laughter. The floor was immediately filled with
waltzers and the four figures disappeared.
"I wonder," murmured Agricola to himself, "if that Dragoon can possibly
be Honore Grandissime."
Wherever those four maskers went there were cries of delight: "Ho, ho,
ho! see there! here! there! a group of first colonists! One of
Iberville's Dragoons! don't you remember great-great grandfather
Fusilier's portrait--the gilded casque and heron plumes? And that one
behind in the fawn-skin leggings and shirt of birds' skins is an Indian
Queen. As sure as sure can be, they are intended for Epaminondas and his
wife, Lufki-Humma!" All, of course, in Louisiana French.
"But why, then, does he not walk with her?"
"Why, because, Simplicity, both of them are men, while the little Monk
on his arm is a lady, as you can see, and so is the masque that has the
arm of the Indian Queen; look at their little hands."
In another part of the room the four were greeted with, "Ha, ha, ha!
well, that is magnificent! But see that Huguenotte Girl on the Indian
Queen's arm! Isn't that fine! Ha, ha! she carries a little trunk. She is
a _Fille a la Cassette!_"
Two partners in a cotillion were speaking in an undertone, behind a fan.
"And you think you know who it is?" asked one.
"Know?" replied the other. "Do I know I have a head on my shoulders? If
that Dragoon is not our cousin Honore Grandissime--well--"
"Honore in mask? he is too sober-sided to do such a thing."
"I tell you it is he! Listen. Yesterday I heard Doctor Charlie Keene
begging him to go, and telling him there were two ladies, strangers,
newly arrived in the city, who would be there, and whom he wished him to
meet. Depend upon it the Dragoon is Honore, Lufki-Humma is Charlie
Keene, and the Monk and the Huguenotte are those two ladies."
But all this is an outside view; let us draw nearer and see what chance
may discover to us behind those four masks.
An hour has passed by. The dance goes on; hearts are beating, wit is
flashing, eyes encounter eyes with the leveled lances of their beams,
merriment and joy and sudden bright surprises thrill the breast, voices
are throwing off disguise, and beauty's coy ear is bending with a
venturesome docility; here love is baffled, there deceived, yonder takes
prisoners and here surrenders. The very air seems to breathe, to sigh,
to laugh, while the musicians, with disheveled locks, streaming brows
and furious bows, strike, draw, drive, scatter from the anguished
violins a never-ending rout of screaming harmonies. But the Monk and the
Huguenotte are not on the floor. They are sitting where they have been
left by their two companions, in one of the boxes of the theater,
looking out upon the unwearied whirl and flash of gauze and light
"Oh, _cherie, cherie!_" murmured the little lady in the Monk's disguise
to her quieter companion, and speaking in the soft dialect of old
Louisiana, "now you get a good idea of heaven!"
The _Fille a la Cassette_ replied with a sudden turn of her masked face
and a murmur of surprise and protest against this impiety. A low, merry
laugh came out of the Monk's cowl, and the Huguenotte let her form sink
a little in her chair with a gentle sigh.
"Ah, for shame, tired!" softly laughed the other; then suddenly, with
her eyes fixed across the room, she seized her companion's hand and
pressed it tightly. "Do you not see it?" she whispered eagerly, "just by
the door--the casque with the heron feathers. Ah, Clotilde, I _cannot_
believe he is one of those Grandissimes!"
"Well," replied the Huguenotte, "Doctor Keene says he is not."
Doctor Charlie Keene, speaking from under the disguise of the Indian
Queen, had indeed so said; but the Recording Angel, whom we understand
to be particular about those things, had immediately made a memorandum
of it to the debit of Doctor Keene's account.
"If I had believed that it was he," continued the whisperer, "I would
have turned about and left him in the midst of the contra-dance!"
Behind them sat unmasked a well-aged pair, "_bredouille_," as they used
to say of the wall-flowers, with that look of blissful repose which
marks the married and established Creole. The lady in monk's attire
turned about in her chair and leaned back to laugh with these. The
passing maskers looked that way, with a certain instinct that there was
beauty under those two costumes. As they did so, they saw the _Fille a
la Cassette_ join in this over-shoulder conversation. A moment later,
they saw the old gentleman protector and the _Fille a la Cassette_
rising to the dance. And when presently the distant passers took a final
backward glance, that same Lieutenant of Dragoons had returned and he
and the little Monk were once more upon the floor, waiting for
"But your late companion?" said the voice in the cowl.
"My Indian Queen?" asked the Creole Epaminondas.
"Say, rather, your Medicine-Man," archly replied the Monk.
"In these times," responded the Cavalier, "a medicine-man cannot dance
long without professional interruption, even when he dances for a
charitable object. He has been called to two relapsed patients." The
music struck up; the speaker addressed himself to the dance; but the
lady did not respond.
"Do dragoons ever moralize?" she asked.
"They do more," replied her partner; "sometimes, when beauty's enjoyment
of the ball is drawing toward its twilight, they catch its pleasant
melancholy, and confess; will the good father sit in the confessional?"
The pair turned slowly about and moved toward the box from which they
had come, the lady remaining silent; but just as they were entering she
half withdrew her arm from his, and, confronting him with a rich sparkle
of the eyes within the immobile mask of the monk, said:
"Why should the conscience of one poor little monk carry all the
frivolity of this ball? I have a right to dance, if I wish. I give you
my word, Monsieur Dragoon, I dance only for the benefit of the sick and
the destitute. It is you men--you dragoons and others--who will not help
them without a compensation in this sort of nonsense. Why should we
shrive you when you ought to burn?"
"Then lead us to the altar," said the Dragoon.
"Pardon, sir," she retorted, her words entangled with a musical,
open-hearted laugh, "I am not going in that direction." She cast her
glance around the ball-room. "As you say, it is the twilight of the
ball; I am looking for the evening star,--that is, my little
"Then you are well mated."
"For you are Aurora."
The lady gave a displeased start.
"Pardon," said the Cavalier, "if by accident I have hit upon your real
She laughed again--a laugh which was as exultantly joyous as it was
"Ah, my name? Oh no, indeed!" (More work for the Recording Angel.)
She turned to her protectress.
"Madame, I know you think we should be going home."
The senior lady replied in amiable speech, but with sleepy eyes, and the
Monk began to lift and unfold a wrapping. As the Cavalier' drew it into
his own possession, and, agreeably to his gesture, the Monk and he sat
down side by side, he said, in a low tone:
"One more laugh before we part."
"A monk cannot laugh for nothing."
"I will pay for it."
"But with nothing to laugh at?" The thought of laughing at nothing made
her laugh a little on the spot.
"We will make something to laugh at," said the Cavalier; "we will unmask
to each other, and when we find each other first cousins, the laugh will
come of itself."
"Ah! we will unmask?--no! I have no cousins. I am certain we are
"Then we will laugh to think that I paid for the disappointment."
Much more of this childlike badinage followed, and by and by they came
around again to the same last statement. Another little laugh escaped
from the cowl.
"You will pay? Let us see; how much will you give to the sick and
"To see who it is I am laughing with, I will give whatever you ask."
"Two hundred and fifty dollars, cash, into the hands of the managers!"
The Monk laughed, and her chaperon opened her eyes and smiled
apologetically. The Cavalier laughed, too, and said:
"Good! That was the laugh; now the unmasking."
"And you positively will give the money to the managers not later than
"Not later. It shall be done without fail."
"Well, wait till I put on my wrappings; I must be ready to run."
This delightful nonsense was interrupted by the return of the _Fille a
la Cassette_ and her aged, but sprightly, escort, from a circuit of the
floor. Madame again opened her eyes, and the four prepared to depart.
The Dragoon helped the Monk to fortify herself against the outer air.
She was ready before the others. There was a pause, a low laugh, a
whispered "Now!" She looked upon an unmasked, noble countenance, lifted
her own mask a little, and then a little more; and then shut it quickly
down again upon a face whose beauty was more than even those fascinating
graces had promised which Honore Grandissime had fitly named the
Morning; but it was a face he had never seen before.
"Hush!" she said, "the enemies of religion are watching us; the
Huguenotte saw me. Adieu"--and they were gone.
M. Honore Grandissime turned on his heel and very soon left the ball.
"Now, sir," thought he to himself, "we'll return to our senses."
"Now I'll put my feathers on again," says the plucked bird.
THE FATE OF THE IMMIGRANT
It was just a fortnight after the ball, that one Joseph Frowenfeld
opened his eyes upon Louisiana. He was an American by birth, rearing and
sentiment, yet German enough through his parents, and the only son in a
family consisting of father, mother, self, and two sisters, new-blown
flowers of womanhood. It was an October dawn, when, long wearied of the
ocean, and with bright anticipations of verdure, and fragrance, and
tropical gorgeousness, this simple-hearted family awoke to find the bark
that had borne them from their far northern home already entering upon
the ascent of the Mississippi.
We may easily imagine the grave group, as they came up one by one from
below, that morning of first disappointment, and stood (with a whirligig
of jubilant mosquitoes spinning about each head) looking out across the
waste, seeing the sky and the marsh meet in the east, the north, and the
west, and receiving with patient silence the father's suggestion that
the hills would, no doubt, rise into view after a while.
"My children, we may turn this disappointment into a lesson; if the good
people of this country could speak to us now, they might well ask us not
to judge them or their land upon one or two hasty glances, or by the
experiences of a few short days or weeks."
But no hills rose. However, by and by they found solace in the
appearance of distant forest, and in the afternoon they entered a
land--but such a land! A land hung in mourning, darkened by gigantic
cypresses, submerged; a land of reptiles, silence, shadow, decay.
"The captain told father, when we went to engage passage, that New
Orleans was on high land," said the younger daughter, with a tremor in
the voice, and ignoring the remonstrative touch of her sister.
"On high land?" said the captain, turning from the pilot; "well, so it
is--higher than the swamp, but not higher than the river," and he
checked a broadening smile.
But the Frowenfelds were not a family to complain. It was characteristic
of them to recognize the bright as well as the solemn virtues, and to
keep each other reminded of the duty of cheerfulness. A smile, starting
from the quiet elder sister, went around the group, directed against the
abstracted and somewhat rueful countenance of Joseph, whereat he turned
with a better face and said that what the Creator had pronounced very
good they could hardly feel free to condemn. The old father was still
more stout of heart.
"These mosquitoes, children, are thought by some to keep the air pure,"
"Better keep out of it after sunset," put in the captain.
After that day and night, the prospect grew less repellent. A gradually
matured conviction that New Orleans would not be found standing on
stilts in the quagmire enabled the eye to become educated to a better
appreciation of the solemn landscape. Nor was the landscape always
solemn. There were long openings, now and then, to right and left, of
emerald-green savannah, with the dazzling blue of the Gulf far beyond,
waving a thousand white-handed good-byes as the funereal swamps slowly
shut out again the horizon. How sweet the soft breezes off the moist
prairies! How weird, how very near, the crimson and green and black and
yellow sunsets! How dream-like the land and the great, whispering river!
The profound stillness and breath reminded the old German, so he said,
of that early time when the evenings and mornings were the first days of
the half-built world. The barking of a dog in Fort Plaquemines seemed to
come before its turn in the panorama of creation--before the earth was
ready for the dog's master.
But he was assured that to live in those swamps was not entirely
impossible to man--"if one may call a negro a man." Runaway slaves were
not so rare in them as one--a lost hunter, for example--might wish. His
informant was a new passenger, taken aboard at the fort. He
"Yes, sir! Didn' I had to run from Bras-Coupe in de haidge of de swamp
be'ine de 'abitation of my cousin Honore, one time? You can hask 'oo you
like!" (A Creole always provides against incredulity.) At this point he
digressed a moment: "You know my cousin, Honore Grandissime, w'at give
two hund' fifty dolla' to de 'ospill laz mont'? An' juz because my
cousin Honore give it, somebody helse give de semm. Fo' w'y don't he
give his nemm?"
The reason (which this person did not know) was that the second donor
was the first one over again, resolved that the little unknown Monk
should not know whom she had baffled.
"Who was Bras-Coupe?" the good German asked in French.
The stranger sat upon the capstan, and, in the shadow of the cypress
forest, where the vessel lay moored for a change of wind, told in a
_patois_ difficult, but not impossible, to understand, the story of a
man who chose rather to be hunted like a wild beast among those awful
labyrinths, than to be yoked and beaten like a tame one. Joseph, drawing
near as the story was coming to a close, overheard the following
"Friend, if you dislike heated discussion, do not tell that to my son."
The nights were strangely beautiful. The immigrants almost consumed them
on deck, the mother and daughters attending in silent delight while the
father and son, facing south, rejoiced in learned recognition of stars
and constellations hitherto known to them only on globes and charts.
"Yes, my dear son," said the father, in a moment of ecstatic admiration,
"wherever man may go, around this globe--however uninviting his lateral
surroundings may be, the heavens are ever over his head, and I am glad
to find the stars your favorite objects of study."
So passed the time as the vessel, hour by hour, now slowly pushed by the
wind against the turbid current, now warping along the fragrant
precincts of orange or magnolia groves or fields of sugar-cane, or
moored by night in the deep shade of mighty willow-jungles, patiently
crept toward the end of their pilgrimage; and in the length of time
which would at present be consumed in making the whole journey from
their Northern home to their Southern goal, accomplished the distance of
ninety-eight miles, and found themselves before the little, hybrid city
of "Nouvelle Orleans." There was the cathedral, and standing beside it,
like Sancho beside Don Quixote, the squat hall of the Cabildo with the
calabozo in the rear. There were the forts, the military bakery, the
hospitals, the plaza, the Almonaster stores, and the busy rue Toulouse;
and, for the rest of the town, a pleasant confusion of green tree-tops,
red and gray roofs, and glimpses of white or yellow wall, spreading back
a few hundred yards behind the cathedral, and tapering into a single
rank of gardened and belvedered villas, that studded either horn of the
river's crescent with a style of home than which there is probably
nothing in the world more maternally homelike.
"And now," said the "captain," bidding the immigrants good-by, "keep out
of the sun and stay in after dark; you're not 'acclimated,' as they
call it, you know, and the city is full of the fever."
Such were the Frowenfelds. Out of such a mold and into such a place came
the young Americain, whom even Agricola Fusilier, as we shall see, by
and by thought worthy to be made an exception of, and honored with his
The family rented a two-story brick house in the rue Bienville, No. 17,
it seems. The third day after, at daybreak, Joseph called his father to
his bedside to say that he had had a chill, and was suffering such pains
in his head and back that he would like to lie quiet until they passed
off. The gentle father replied that it was undoubtedly best to do so,
and preserved an outward calm. He looked at his son's eyes; their pupils
were contracted to tiny beads. He felt his pulse and his brow; there was
no room for doubt; it was the dreaded scourge--the fever. We say,
sometimes, of hearts that they sink like lead; it does not express
On the second day, while the unsated fever was running through every
vein and artery, like soldiery through the streets of a burning city,
and far down in the caverns of the body the poison was ransacking every
palpitating corner, the poor immigrant fell into a moment's sleep. But
what of that? The enemy that moment had mounted to the brain. And then
there happened to Joseph an experience rare to the sufferer by this
disease, but not entirely unknown,--a delirium of mingled pleasures and
distresses. He seemed to awake somewhere between heaven and earth,
reclining in a gorgeous barge, which was draped in curtains of
interwoven silver and silk, cushioned with rich stuffs of every
beautiful dye, and perfumed _ad nauseam_ with orange-leaf tea. The crew
was a single old negress, whose head was wound about with a blue Madras
handkerchief, and who stood at the prow, and by a singular rotary
motion, rowed the barge with a teaspoon. He could not get his head out
of the hot sun; and the barge went continually round and round with a
heavy, throbbing motion, in the regular beat of which certain spirits of
the air--one of whom appeared to be a beautiful girl and another a
small, red-haired man,--confronted each other with the continual call
"Keep the bedclothes on him and the room shut tight, keep the bedclothes
on him and the room shut tight,"--"An' don' give 'im some watta, an'
don' give 'im some watta."
During what lapse of time--whether moments or days--this lasted, Joseph
could not then know; but at last these things faded away, and there came
to him a positive knowledge that he was on a sick-bed, where unless
something could be done for him he should be dead in an hour. Then a
spoon touched his lips, and a taste of brandy and water went all through
him; and when he fell into sweet slumber and awoke, and found the
teaspoon ready at his lips again, he had to lift a little the two hands
lying before him on the coverlet to know that they were his--they were
so wasted and yellow. He turned his eyes, and through the white gauze of
the mosquito-bar saw, for an instant, a strange and beautiful young
face; but the lids fell over his eyes, and when he raised them again the
blue-turbaned black nurse was tucking the covering about his feet.
"Where is my mother?"
The negress shook her head.
He was too weak to speak again, but asked with his eyes so persistently,
and so pleadingly, that by and by she gave him an audible answer. He
tried hard to understand it, but could not, it being in these words:
"_Li pa' oule vini 'ci--li pas capabe_."
Thrice a day, for three days more, came a little man with a large head
surrounded by short, red curls and with small freckles in a fine skin,
and sat down by the bed with a word of good cheer and the air of a
commander. At length they had something like an extended conversation.
"So you concluded not to die, eh? Yes, I'm the doctor--Doctor Keene. A
young lady? What young lady? No, sir, there has been no young lady here.
You're mistaken. Vagary of your fever. There has been no one here but
this black girl and me. No, my dear fellow, your father and mother can't
see you yet; you don't want them to catch the fever, do you? Good-bye.
Do as your nurse tells you, and next week you may raise your head and
shoulders a little; but if you don't mind her you'll have a backset, and
the devil himself wouldn't engage to cure you."
The patient had been sitting up a little at a time for several days,
when at length the doctor came to pay a final call, "as a matter of
form;" but, after a few pleasantries, he drew his chair up gravely, and,
in a tender tone--need we say it? He had come to tell Joseph that his
father, mother, sisters, all, were gone on a second--a longer--voyage,
to shores where there could be no disappointments and no
"And, Frowenfeld," he said, at the end of their long and painful talk,
"if there is any blame attached to not letting you go with them, I think
I can take part of it; but if you ever want a friend,--one who is
courteous to strangers and ill-mannered only to those he likes,--you can
call for Charlie Keene. I'll drop in to see you, anyhow, from time to
time, till you get stronger. I have taken a heap of trouble to keep you
alive, and if you should relapse now and give us the slip, it would be a
deal of good physic wasted; so keep in the house."
The polite neighbors who lifted their cocked hats to Joseph, as he spent
a slow convalescence just within his open door, were not bound to know
how or when he might have suffered. There were no "Howards" or
"Y.M.C.A.'s" in those days; no "Peabody Reliefs." Even had the neighbors
chosen to take cognizance of those bereavements, they were not so
unusual as to fix upon him any extraordinary interests an object of
sight; and he was beginning most distressfully to realize that "great
solitude" which the philosopher attributes to towns, when matters took a
"AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?"
We say matters took a turn; or, better, that Frowenfeld's interest in
affairs received a new life. This had its beginning in Doctor Keene's
making himself specially entertaining in an old-family-history way, with
a view to keeping his patient within doors for a safe period. He had
conceived a great liking for Frowenfeld, and often, of an afternoon,
would drift in to challenge him to a game of chess--a game, by the way,
for which neither of them cared a farthing. The immigrant had learned
its moves to gratify his father, and the doctor--the truth is, the
doctor had never quite learned them; but he was one of those men who
cannot easily consent to acknowledge a mere affection for one, least of
all one of their own sex. It may safely be supposed, then, that the
board often displayed an arrangement of pieces that would have
bewildered Morphy himself.
"By the by, Frowenfeld," he said one evening, after the one preliminary
move with which he invariably opened his game, "you haven't made the
acquaintance of your pretty neighbors next door."
Frowenfeld knew of no specially pretty neighbors next door on either
side--had noticed no ladies.
"Well, I will take you in to see them some time." The doctor laughed a
little, rubbing his face and his thin, red curls with one hand, as
The convalescent wondered what there could be to laugh at.
"Who are they?" he inquired.
"Their name is De Grapion--oh, De Grapion, says I! their name is
Nancanou. They are, without exception, the finest women--the brightest,
the best, and the bravest--that I know in New Orleans." The doctor
resumed a cigar which lay against the edge of the chess-board, found it
extinguished, and proceeded to relight it. "Best blood of the province;
good as the Grandissimes. Blood is a great thing here, in certain odd
ways," he went on. "Very curious sometimes." He stooped to the floor
where his coat had fallen, and took his handkerchief from a
breast-pocket. "At a grand mask ball about two months ago, where I had a
bewilderingly fine time with those ladies, the proudest old turkey in
the theater was an old fellow whose Indian blood shows in his very
behavior, and yet--ha, ha! I saw that same old man, at a quadroon ball a
few years ago, walk up to the handsomest, best dressed man in the
house, a man with a skin whiter than his own,--a perfect gentleman as to
looks and manners,--and without a word slap him in the face."
"You laugh?" asked Frowenfeld.
"Laugh? Why shouldn't I? The fellow had no business there. Those balls
are not given to quadroon _males_, my friend. He was lucky to get out
alive, and that was about all he did.
"They are right!" the doctor persisted, in response to Frowenfeld's
puzzled look. "The people here have got to be particular. However, that
is not what we were talking about. Quadroon balls are not to be
mentioned in connection. Those ladies--" He addressed himself to the
resuscitation of his cigar. "Singular people in this country," he
resumed; but his cigar would not revive. He was a poor story-teller. To
Frowenfeld--as it would have been to any one, except a Creole or the
most thoroughly Creoleized Americain--his narrative, when it was done,
was little more than a thick mist of strange names, places and events;
yet there shone a light of romance upon it that filled it with color and
populated it with phantoms. Frowenfeld's interest rose--was allured into
this mist--and there was left befogged. As a physician, Doctor Keene
thus accomplished his end,--the mental diversion of his late
patient,--for in the midst of the mist Frowenfeld encountered and
grappled a problem of human life in Creole type, the possible
correlations of whose quantities we shall presently find him revolving
in a studious and sympathetic mind, as the poet of to-day ponders the
"Flower in the crannied wall."
The quantities in that problem were the ancestral--the maternal--roots
of those two rival and hostile families whose descendants--some brave,
others fair--we find unwittingly thrown together at the ball, and with
whom we are shortly to have the honor of an unmasked acquaintance.
In the year 1673, and in the royal hovel of a Tchoupitoulas village not
far removed from that "Buffalo's Grazing-ground," now better known as
New Orleans, was born Lufki-Humma, otherwise Red Clay. The mother of Red
Clay was a princess by birth as well as by marriage. For the father,
with that devotion to his people's interests presumably common to
rulers, had ten moons before ventured northward into the territory of
the proud and exclusive Natchez nation, and had so prevailed with--so
outsmoked--their "Great Sun," as to find himself, as he finally knocked
the ashes from his successful calumet, possessor of a wife whose
pedigree included a long line of royal mothers--fathers being of little
account in Natchez heraldry--extending back beyond the Mexican origin
of her nation, and disappearing only in the effulgence of her great
original, the orb of day himself. As to Red Clay's paternal ancestry, we
must content ourselves with the fact that the father was not only the
diplomate we have already found him, but a chief of considerable
eminence; that is to say, of seven feet stature.
It scarce need be said that when Lufki-Humma was born, the mother arose
at once from her couch of skins, herself bore the infant to the
neighboring bayou and bathed it--not for singularity, nor for
independence, nor for vainglory, but only as one of the heart-curdling
conventionalities which made up the experience of that most pitiful of
holy things, an Indian mother.
Outside the lodge door sat and continued to sit, as she passed out, her
master or husband. His interest in the trivialities of the moment may be
summed up in this, that he was as fully prepared as some men are in more
civilized times and places to hold his queen to strict account for the
sex of her offspring. Girls for the Natchez, if they preferred them, but
the chief of the Tchoupitoulas wanted a son. She returned from the
water, came near, sank upon her knees, laid the infant at his feet, and
lo! a daughter.
Then she fell forward heavily upon her face. It may have been muscular
exhaustion, it may have been the mere wind of her hasty-tempered
matrimonial master's stone hatchet as it whiffed by her skull; an
inquest now would be too great an irony; but something blew out her
Among the squaws who came to offer the accustomed funeral howlings, and
seize mementoes from the deceased lady's scant leavings, was one who had
in her own palmetto hut an empty cradle scarcely cold, and therefore a
necessity at her breast, if not a place in her heart, for the
unfortunate Lufki-Humma; and thus it was that this little waif came to
be tossed, a droll hypothesis of flesh, blood, nerve and brain, into the
hands of wild nature with _carte blanche_ as to the disposal of it. And
now, since this was Agricola's most boasted ancestor--since it appears
the darkness of her cheek had no effect to make him less white, or
qualify his right to smite the fairest and most distant descendant of an
African on the face, and since this proud station and right could not
have sprung from the squalid surroundings of her birth, let us for a
moment contemplate these crude materials.
As for the flesh, it was indeed only some of that "one flesh" of which
we all are made; but the blood--to go into finer distinctions--the
blood, as distinguished from the milk of her Alibamon foster-mother, was
the blood of the royal caste of the great Toltec mother-race, which,
before it yielded its Mexican splendors to the conquering Aztec, throned
the jeweled and gold-laden Inca in the South, and sent the sacred fire
of its temples into the North by the hand of the Natchez. For it is a
short way of expressing the truth concerning Red Clay's tissues to say
she had the blood of her mother and the nerve of her father, the nerve
of the true North American Indian, and had it in its finest strength.
As to her infantine bones, they were such as needed not to fail of
straightness in the limbs, compactness in the body, smallness in hands
and feet, and exceeding symmetry and comeliness throughout. Possibly
between the two sides of the occipital profile there may have been an
Incaean tendency to inequality; but if by any good fortune her
impressible little cranium should escape the cradle-straps, the
shapeliness that nature loves would soon appear. And this very fortune
befell her. Her father's detestation of an infant that had not consulted
his wishes as to sex prompted a verbal decree which, among other
prohibitions, forbade her skull the distortions that ambitious and
fashionable Indian mothers delighted to produce upon their offspring.
And as to her brain: what can we say? The casket in which Nature sealed
that brain, and in which Nature's great step-sister, Death, finally laid
it away, has never fallen into the delighted fingers--and the remarkable
fineness of its texture will never kindle admiration in the triumphant
eyes--of those whose scientific hunger drives them to dig for _crania
Americana_; nor yet will all their learned excavatings ever draw forth
one of those pale souvenirs of mortality with walls of shapelier contour
or more delicate fineness, or an interior of more admirable
spaciousness, than the fair council-chamber under whose dome the mind
of Lufki-Humma used, about two centuries ago, to sit in frequent
conclave with high thoughts.
"I have these facts," it was Agricola Fusilier's habit to say, "by
family tradition; but you know, sir, h-tradition is much more authentic
Listening Crane, the tribal medicine-man, one day stepped softly into
the lodge of the giant chief, sat down opposite him on a mat of plaited
rushes, accepted a lighted calumet, and, after the silence of a decent
hour, broken at length by the warrior's intimation that "the ear of
Raging Buffalo listened for the voice of his brother," said, in effect,
that if that ear would turn toward the village play-ground, it would
catch a murmur like the pleasing sound of bees among the blossoms of the
catalpa, albeit the catalpa was now dropping her leaves, for it was the
moon of turkeys. No, it was the repressed laughter of squaws, wallowing
with their young ones about the village pole, wondering at the
Natchez-Tchoupitoulas child, whose eye was the eye of the panther, and
whose words were the words of an aged chief in council.
There was more added; we record only enough to indicate the direction of
Listening Crane's aim. The eye of Raging Buffalo was opened to see a
vision: the daughter of the Natchez sitting in majesty, clothed in
many-colored robes of shining feathers crossed and recrossed with
girdles of serpent-skins and of wampum, her feet in quilled and painted
moccasins, her head under a glory of plumes, the carpet of
buffalo-robes about her throne covered with the trophies of conquest,
and the atmosphere of her lodge blue with the smoke of embassadors'
calumets; and this extravagant dream the capricious chief at once
resolved should eventually become reality. "Let her be taken to the
village temple," he said to his prime-minister, "and be fed by warriors
on the flesh of wolves."
The Listening Crane was a patient man; he was the "man that waits" of
the old French proverb; all things came to him. He had waited for an
opportunity to change his brother's mind, and it had come. Again, he
waited for him to die; and, like Methuselah and others, he died. He had
heard of a race more powerful than the Natchez--a white race; he waited
for them; and when the year 1682 saw a humble "black gown" dragging and
splashing his way, with La Salle and Tonti, through the swamps of
Louisiana, holding forth the crucifix and backed by French carbines and
Mohican tomahawks, among the marvels of that wilderness was found this:
a child of nine sitting, and--with some unostentatious aid from her
medicine-man--ruling; queen of her tribe and high-priestess of their
temple. Fortified by the acumen and self-collected ambition of Listening
Crane, confirmed in her regal title by the white man's Manitou through
the medium of the "black gown," and inheriting her father's
fear-compelling frown, she ruled with majesty and wisdom, sometimes a
decreer of bloody justice, sometimes an Amazonian counselor of
warriors, and at all times--year after year, until she had reached the
perfect womanhood of twenty-six--a virgin queen.
On the 11th of March, 1699, two overbold young Frenchmen of M.
D'Iberville's little exploring party tossed guns on shoulder, and
ventured away from their canoes on the bank of the Mississippi into the
wilderness. Two men they were whom an explorer would have been justified
in hoarding up, rather than in letting out at such risks; a pair to lean
on, noble and strong. They hunted, killed nothing, were overtaken by
rain, then by night, hunger, alarm, despair.
And when they had lain down to die, and had only succeeded in falling
asleep, the Diana of the Tchoupitoulas, ranging the magnolia groves with
bow and quiver, came upon them in all the poetry of their hope-forsaken
strength and beauty, and fell sick of love. We say not whether with
Zephyr Grandissime or Epaminondas Fusilier; that, for the time being,
was her secret.
The two captives were made guests. Listening Crane rejoiced in them as
representatives of the great gift-making race, and indulged himself in a
dream of pipe-smoking, orations, treaties, presents and alliances,
finding its climax in the marriage of his virgin queen to the king of
France, and unvaryingly tending to the swiftly increasing aggrandizement
of Listening Crane. They sat down to bear's meat, sagamite and beans.
The queen sat down with them, clothed in her entire wardrobe: vest of
swan's skin, with facings of purple and green from the neck of the
mallard; petticoat of plaited hair, with embroideries of quills;
leggings of fawn-skin; garters of wampum; black and green serpent-skin
moccasins, that rested on pelts of tiger-cat and buffalo; armlets of
gars' scales, necklaces of bears' claws and alligators' teeth, plaited
tresses, plumes of raven and flamingo, wing of the pink curlew, and
odors of bay and sassafras. Young men danced before them, blowing upon
reeds, hooting, yelling, rattling beans in gourds and touching hands and
feet. One day was like another, and the nights were made brilliant with
flambeau dances and processions.
Some days later M. D'Iberville's canoe fleet, returning down the river,
found and took from the shore the two men, whom they had given up for
dead, and with them, by her own request, the abdicating queen, who left
behind her a crowd of weeping and howling squaws and warriors. Three
canoes that put off in their wake, at a word from her, turned back; but
one old man leaped into the water, swam after them a little way, and
then unexpectedly sank. It was that cautious wader but inexperienced
swimmer, the Listening Crane.
When the expedition reached Biloxi, there were two suitors for the hand
of Agricola's great ancestress. Neither of them was Zephyr Grandissime.
(Ah! the strong heads of those Grandissimes.)
They threw dice for her. Demosthenes De Grapion--he who, tradition
says, first hoisted the flag of France over the little fort--seemed to
think he ought to have a chance, and being accorded it, cast an
astonishingly high number; but Epaminondas cast a number higher by one
(which Demosthenes never could quite understand), and got a wife who had
loved him from first sight.
Thus, while the pilgrim fathers of the Mississippi Delta with Gallic
recklessness were taking wives and moot-wives from the ill specimens of
three races, arose, with the church's benediction, the royal house of
the Fusiliers in Louisiana. But the true, main Grandissime stock, on
which the Fusiliers did early, ever, and yet do, love to marry, has kept
itself lily-white ever since France has loved lilies--as to marriage,
that is; as to less responsible entanglements, why, of course--
After a little, the disappointed Demosthenes, with due ecclesiastical
sanction, also took a most excellent wife, from the first cargo of House
of Correction girls. Her biography, too, is as short as Methuselah's, or
shorter; she died. Zephyr Grandissime married, still later, a lady of
rank, a widow without children, sent from France to Biloxi under a
_lettre de cachet_. Demosthenes De Grapion, himself an only son, left
but one son, who also left but one. Yet they were prone to early
So also were the Grandissimes, or, as the name is signed in all the old
notarial papers, the Brahmin Mandarin de Grandissimes. That was one
thing that kept their many-stranded family line so free from knots and
kinks. Once the leisurely Zephyr gave them a start, generation followed
generation with a rapidity that kept the competing De Grapions
incessantly exasperated, and new-made Grandissime fathers continually
throwing themselves into the fond arms and upon the proud necks of
congratulatory grandsires. Verily it seemed as though their family tree
was a fig-tree; you could not look for blossoms on it, but there,
instead, was the fruit full of seed. And with all their speed they were
for the most part fine of stature, strong of limb and fair of face. The
old nobility of their stock, including particularly the unnamed blood of
her of the _lettre de cachet_, showed forth in a gracefulness of
carriage, that almost identified a De Grandissime wherever you saw him,
and in a transparency of flesh and classic beauty of feature, that made
their daughters extra-marriageable in a land and day which was bearing a
wide reproach for a male celibacy not of the pious sort.
In a flock of Grandissimes might always be seen a Fusilier or two;
fierce-eyed, strong-beaked, dark, heavy-taloned birds, who, if they
could not sing, were of rich plumage, and could talk, and bite, and
strike, and keep up a ruffled crest and a self-exalting bad humor. They
early learned one favorite cry, with which they greeted all strangers,
crying the louder the more the endeavor was made to appease them:
There was a real pathos in the contrast offered to this family line by
that other which sprang up, as slenderly as a stalk of wild oats, from
the loins of Demosthenes De Grapion. A lone son following a lone son,
and he another--it was sad to contemplate, in that colonial beginning of
days, three generations of good, Gallic blood tripping jocundly along in
attenuated Indian file. It made it no less pathetic to see that they
were brilliant, gallant, much-loved, early epauletted fellows, who did
not let twenty-one catch them without wives sealed with the authentic
wedding kiss, nor allow twenty-two to find them without an heir. But
they had a sad aptness for dying young. It was altogether supposable
that they would have spread out broadly in the land; but they were such
inveterate duelists, such brave Indian-fighters, such adventurous
swamp-rangers, and such lively free-livers, that, however numerously
their half-kin may have been scattered about in an unacknowledged way,
the avowed name of De Grapion had become less and less frequent in lists
where leading citizens subscribed their signatures, and was not to be
seen in the list of managers of the late ball.
It is not at all certain that so hot a blood would not have boiled away
entirely before the night of the _bal masque_, but for an event which
led to the union of that blood with a stream equally clear and ruddy,
but of a milder vintage. This event fell out some fifty-two years after
that cast of the dice which made the princess Lufki-Humma the mother of
all the Fusiliers and of none of the De Grapions. Clotilde, the
Casket-Girl, the little maid who would not marry, was one of an heroic
sort, worth--the De Grapions maintained--whole swampfuls of Indian
queens. And yet the portrait of this great ancestress, which served as a
pattern to one who, at the ball, personated the long-deceased heroine
_en masque_, is hopelessly lost in some garret. Those Creoles have such
a shocking way of filing their family relics and records in rat-holes.
One fact alone remains to be stated: that the De Grapions, try to spurn
it as they would, never could quite suppress a hard feeling in the face
of the record, that from the two young men, who, when lost in the
horrors of Louisiana's swamps, had been esteemed as good as dead, and
particularly from him who married at his leisure,--from Zephyr de
Grandissime,--sprang there so many as the sands of the Mississippi
A MAIDEN WHO WILL NOT MARRY
Midway between the times of Lufki-Humma and those of her proud
descendant, Agricola Fusilier, fifty-two years lying on either side,
were the days of Pierre Rigaut, the magnificent, the "Grand Marquis,"
the Governor, De Vaudreuil. He was the Solomon of Louisiana. For
splendor, however, not for wisdom. Those were the gala days of license,
extravagance and pomp. He made paper money to be as the leaves of the
forest for multitude; it was nothing accounted of in the days of the
Grand Marquis. For Louis Quinze was king.
Clotilde, orphan of a murdered Huguenot, was one of sixty, the last
royal allotment to Louisiana, of imported wives. The king's agents had
inveigled her away from France with fair stories: "They will give you a
quiet home with some lady of the colony. Have to marry?--not unless it
pleases you. The king himself pays your passage and gives you a casket
of clothes. Think of that these times, fillette; and passage free,
withal, to--the garden of Eden, as you may call it--what more, say you,
can a poor girl want? Without doubt, too, like a model colonist, you
will accept a good husband and have a great many beautiful children, who
will say with pride, 'Me, I am no House-of-Correction-girl stock; my
mother'--or 'grandmother,' as the case may be--'was a _fille a la
The sixty were landed in New Orleans and given into the care of the
Ursuline nuns; and, before many days had elapsed, fifty-nine soldiers of
the king were well wived and ready to settle upon their riparian
land-grants. The residuum in the nuns' hands was one stiff-necked little
heretic, named, in part, Clotilde. They bore with her for sixty days,
and then complained to the Grand Marquis. But the Grand Marquis, with
all his pomp, was gracious and kind-hearted, and loved his ease almost
as much as his marchioness loved money. He bade them try her another
month. They did so, and then returned with her; she would neither marry
nor pray to Mary.
Here is the way they talked in New Orleans in those days. If you care to
understand why Louisiana has grown up so out of joint, note the tone of
those who governed her in the middle of the last century:
"What, my child," the Grand Marquis said, "you a _fille a la cassette?_
France, for shame! Come here by my side. Will you take a little advice
from an old soldier? It is in one word--submit. Whatever is inevitable,
submit to it. If you want to live easy and sleep easy, do as other
people do--submit. Consider submission in the present case; how easy,
how comfortable, and how little it amounts to! A little hearing of mass,
a little telling of beads, a little crossing of one's self--what is
that? One need not believe in them. Don't shake your head. Take my
example; look at me; all these things go in at this ear and out at this.
Do king or clergy trouble me? Not at all. For how does the king in these
matters of religion? I shall not even tell you, he is such a bad boy. Do
you not know that all the _noblesse_, and all the _savants_, and
especially all the archbishops and cardinals,--all, in a word, but such
silly little chicks as yourself,--have found out that this religious
business is a joke? Actually a joke, every whit; except, to be sure,
this heresy phase; that is a joke they cannot take. Now, I wish you
well, pretty child; so if you--eh?--truly, my pet, I fear we shall have
to call you unreasonable. Stop; they can spare me here a moment; I will
take you to the Marquise: she is in the next room.... Behold," said he,
as he entered the presence of his marchioness, "the little maid who will
The Marquise was as cold and hard-hearted as the Marquis was loose and
kind; but we need not recount the slow tortures of the _fille a la
cassette's_ second verbal temptation. The colony had to have soldiers,
she was given to understand, and the soldiers must have wives. "Why, I
am a soldier's wife, myself!" said the gorgeously attired lady, laying
her hand upon the governor-general's epaulet. She explained, further,
that he was rather softhearted, while she was a business woman; also
that the royal commissary's rolls did not comprehend such a thing as a
spinster, and--incidentally--that living by principle was rather out of
fashion in the province just then.
After she had offered much torment of this sort, a definite notion
seemed to take her; she turned her lord by a touch of the elbow, and
exchanged two or three business-like whispers with him at a window
overlooking the Levee.
"Fillette," she said, returning, "you are going to live on the
sea-coast. I am sending an aged lady there to gather the wax of the wild
myrtle. This good soldier of mine buys it for our king at twelve livres
the pound. Do you not know that women can make money? The place is not
safe; but there are no safe places in Louisiana. There are no nuns to
trouble you there; only a few Indians and soldiers. You and Madame will
live together, quite to yourselves, and can pray as you like."
"And not marry a soldier," said the Grand Marquis.
"No," said the lady, "not if you can gather enough myrtle-berries to
afford me a profit and you a living."
It was some thirty leagues or more eastward to the country of the
Biloxis, a beautiful land of low, evergreen hills looking out across the
pine-covered sand-keys of Mississippi Sound to the Gulf of Mexico. The
northern shore of Biloxi Bay was rich in candleberry-myrtle. In
Clotilde's day, though Biloxi was no longer the capital of the
Mississippi Valley, the fort which D'Iberville had built in 1699, and
the first timber of which is said to have been lifted by Zephyr
Grandissime at one end and Epaminondas Fusilier at the other, was still
there, making brave against the possible advent of corsairs, with a few
old culverines and one wooden mortar.
And did the orphan, in despite of Indians and soldiers and wilderness,
settle down here and make a moderate fortune? Alas, she never gathered a
berry! When she--with the aged lady, her appointed companion in exile,
the young commandant of the fort, in whose pinnace they had come, and
two or three French sailors and Canadians--stepped out upon the white
sand of Biloxi beach, she was bound with invisible fetters hand and
foot, by that Olympian rogue of a boy, who likes no better prey than a
little maiden who thinks she will never marry.
The officer's name was De Grapion--Georges De Grapion. The Marquis gave
him a choice grant of land on that part of the Mississippi river "coast"
known as the Cannes Brulees.
"Of course you know where Cannes Brulees is, don't you?" asked Doctor
Keene of Joseph Frowenfeld.
"Yes," said Joseph, with a twinge of reminiscence that recalled the
study of Louisiana on paper with his father and sisters.
There Georges De Grapion settled, with the laudable determination to
make a fresh start against the mortifyingly numerous Grandissimes.
"My father's policy was every way bad," he said to his spouse; "it is
useless, and probably wrong, this trying to thin them out by duels; we
will try another plan. Thank you," he added, as she handed his coat back
to him, with the shoulder-straps cut off. In pursuance of the new plan,
Madame De Grapion,--the precious little heroine!--before the myrtles
offered another crop of berries, bore him a boy not much smaller (saith
tradition) than herself.
Only one thing qualified the father's elation. On that very day Numa
Grandissime (Brahmin-Mandarin de Grandissime), a mere child, received
from Governor de Vaudreuil a cadetship.
"Never mind, Messieurs Grandissime, go on with your tricks; we shall
see! Ha! we shall see!"
"We shall see what?" asked a remote relative of that family. "Will
Monsieur be so good as to explain himself?"
* * * * *
Alas, Madame De Grapion!
It may be recorded that no affair of honor in Louisiana ever left a
braver little widow. When Joseph and his doctor pretended to play chess
together, but little more than a half-century had elapsed since the
_fille a la cassette_ stood before the Grand Marquis and refused to wed.
Yet she had been long gone into the skies, leaving a worthy example
behind her in twenty years of beautiful widowhood. Her son, the heir and
resident of the plantation at Cannes Brulees, at the age of--they do
say--eighteen, had married a blithe and pretty lady of Franco-Spanish
extraction, and, after a fair length of life divided between campaigning
under the brilliant young Galvez and raising unremunerative
indigo crops, had lately lain down to sleep, leaving only two
descendants--females--how shall we describe them?--a Monk and a _Fille a
la Cassette_. It was very hard to have to go leaving his family name
snuffed out and certain Grandissime-ward grievances burning.
* * * * *
"There are so many Grandissimes," said the weary-eyed Frowenfeld, "I
cannot distinguish between--I can scarcely count them."
"Well, now," said the doctor, "let me tell you, don't try. They can't
do it themselves. Take them in the mass--as you would shrimps."
The little doctor tipped his chair back against the wall, drew up his
knees, and laughed whimperingly in his freckled hands.
"I had to do some prodigious lying at that ball. I didn't dare let the
De Grapion ladies know they were in company with a Grandissime."
"I thought you said their name was Nancanou."
"Well, certainly--De Grapion-Nancanou. You see, that is one of their
charms: one is a widow, the other is her daughter, and both as young and
beautiful as Hebe. Ask Honore Grandissime; he has seen the little widow;
but then he don't know who she is. He will not ask me, and I will not
tell him. Oh, yes; it is about eighteen years now since old De
Grapion--elegant, high-stepping old fellow--married her, then only
sixteen years of age, to young Nancanou, an indigo-planter on the Fausse
Riviere--the old bend, you know, behind Pointe Coupee. The young couple
went there to live. I have been told they had one of the prettiest
places in Louisiana. He was a man of cultivated tastes, educated in
Paris, spoke English, was handsome (convivial, of course), and of
perfectly pure blood. But there was one thing old De Grapion overlooked:
he and his son-in-law were the last of their names. In Louisiana a man
needs kinsfolk. He ought to have married his daughter into a strong
house. They say that Numa Grandissime (Honore's father) and he had
patched up a peace between the two families that included even old
Agricola, and that he could have married her to a Grandissime. However,
he is supposed to have known what he was about.
"A matter of business called young Nancanou to New Orleans. He had no
friends here; he was a Creole, but what part of his life had not been
spent on his plantation he had passed in Europe. He could not leave his
young girl of a wife alone in that exiled sort of plantation life, so he
brought her and the child (a girl) down with him as far as to her
father's place, left them there, and came on to the city alone.
"Now, what does the old man do but give him a letter of introduction to
old Agricole Fusilier! (His name is Agricola, but we shorten it to
Agricole.) It seems that old De Grapion and Agricole had had the
indiscretion to scrape up a mutually complimentary correspondence. And
to Agricole the young man went.
"They became intimate at once, drank together, danced with the quadroons
together, and got into as much mischief in three days as I ever did in a
fortnight. So affairs went on until by and by they were gambling
together. One night they were at the Piety Club, playing hard, and the
planter lost his last quarti. He became desperate, and did a thing I
have known more than one planter to do: wrote his pledge for every
arpent of his land and every slave on it, and staked that. Agricole
refused to play. 'You shall play,' said Nancanou, and when the game was
ended he said: 'Monsieur Agricola Fusilier, you cheated.' You see? Just
as I have frequently been tempted to remark to my friend, Mr.
"But, Frowenfeld, you must know, withal the Creoles are such gamblers,
they never cheat; they play absolutely fair. So Agricole had to
challenge the planter. He could not be blamed for that; there was no
choice--oh, now, Frowenfeld, keep quiet! I tell you there was no choice.
And the fellow was no coward. He sent Agricole a clear title to the real
estate and slaves,--lacking only the wife's signature,--accepted the
challenge and fell dead at the first fire.
"Stop, now, and let me finish. Agricole sat down and wrote to the widow
that he did not wish to deprive her of her home, and that if she would
state in writing her belief that the stakes had been won fairly, he
would give back the whole estate, slaves and all; but that if she would
not, he should feel compelled to retain it in vindication of his honor.
Now wasn't that drawing a fine point?" The doctor laughed according to
his habit, with his face down in his hands. "You see, he wanted to
stand before all creation--the Creator did not make so much
difference--in the most exquisitely proper light; so he puts the laws of
humanity under his feet, and anoints himself from head to foot with
"Did she sign the paper?" asked Joseph.
"She? Wait till you know her! No, indeed; she had the true scorn. She
and her father sent down another and a better title. Creole-like, they
managed to bestir themselves to that extent and there they stopped.
"And the airs with which they did it! They kept all their rage to
themselves, and sent the polite word, that they were not acquainted with
the merits of the case, that they were not disposed to make the long and
arduous trip to the city and back, and that if M. Fusilier de
Grandissime thought he could find any pleasure or profit in owning the
place, he was welcome; that the widow of _his late friend_ was not
disposed to live on it, but would remain with her father at the paternal
home at Cannes Brulees.
"Did you ever hear of a more perfect specimen of Creole pride? That is
the way with all of them. Show me any Creole, or any number of Creoles,
in any sort of contest, and right down at the foundation of it all, I
will find you this same preposterous, apathetic, fantastic, suicidal
pride. It is as lethargic and ferocious as an alligator. That is why the
Creole almost always is (or thinks he is) on the defensive. See these De
Grapions' haughty good manners to old Agricole; yet there wasn't a
Grandissime in Louisiana who could have set foot on the De Grapion lands
but at the risk of his life.
"But I will finish the story: and here is the really sad part. Not many
months ago old De Grapion--'old,' said I; they don't grow old; I call
him old--a few months ago he died. He must have left everything
smothered in debt; for, like his race, he had stuck to indigo because
his father planted it, and it is a crop that has lost money steadily for
years and years. His daughter and granddaughter were left like babes in
the wood; and, to crown their disasters, have now made the grave mistake
of coming to the city, where they find they haven't a friend--not one,
sir! They called me in to prescribe for a trivial indisposition, shortly
after their arrival; and I tell you, Frowenfeld, it made me shiver to
see two such beautiful women in such a town as this without a male
protector, and even"--the doctor lowered his voice--"without adequate
support. The mother says they are perfectly comfortable; tells the old
couple so who took them to the ball, and whose little girl is their
embroidery scholar; but you cannot believe a Creole on that subject, and
I don't believe her. Would you like to make their acquaintance?"
Frowenfeld hesitated, disliking to say no to his friend, and then shook
"After a while--at least not now, sir, if you please."
The doctor made a gesture of disappointment.
"Um-hum," he said grumly--"the only man in New Orleans I would honor
with an invitation!--but all right; I'll go alone."
He laughed a little at himself, and left Frowenfeld, if ever he should
desire it, to make the acquaintance of his pretty neighbors as best
WAS IT HONORE GRANDISSIME?
A Creole gentleman, on horseback one morning with some practical object
in view,--drainage, possibly,--had got what he sought,--the evidence of
his own eyes on certain points,--and now moved quietly across some old
fields toward the town, where more absorbing interests awaited him in
the Rue Toulouse; for this Creole gentleman was a merchant, and because
he would presently find himself among the appointments and restraints of
the counting-room, he heartily gave himself up, for the moment, to the
surrounding influences of nature.
It was late in November; but the air was mild and the grass and foliage
green and dewy. Wild flowers bloomed plentifully and in all directions;
the bushes were hung, and often covered, with vines of sprightly green,
sprinkled thickly with smart-looking little worthless berries, whose
sparkling complacency the combined contempt of man, beast and bird
could not dim. The call of the field-lark came continually out of the
grass, where now and then could be seen his yellow breast; the orchard
oriole was executing his fantasias in every tree; a covey of partridges
ran across the path close under the horse's feet, and stopped to look
back almost within reach of the riding-whip; clouds of starlings, in
their odd, irresolute way, rose from the high bulrushes and settled
again, without discernible cause; little wandering companies of sparrows
undulated from hedge to hedge; a great rabbit-hawk sat alone in the top
of a lofty pecan-tree; that petted rowdy, the mocking-bird, dropped down
into the path to offer fight to the horse, and, failing in that, flew up
again and drove a crow into ignominious retirement beyond the plain;
from a place of flags and reeds a white crane shot upward, turned, and
then, with the slow and stately beat peculiar to her wing, sped away
until, against the tallest cypress of the distant forest, she became a
tiny white speck on its black, and suddenly disappeared, like one
flake of snow.
The scene was altogether such as to fill any hearty soul with impulses
of genial friendliness and gentle candor; such a scene as will sometimes
prepare a man of the world, upon the least direct incentive, to throw
open the windows of his private thought with a freedom which the
atmosphere of no counting-room or drawing-room tends to induce.
The young merchant--he was young--felt this. Moreover, the matter of
business which had brought him out had responded to his inquiring eye
with a somewhat golden radiance; and your true man of business--he who
has reached that elevated pitch of serene, good-natured reserve which is
of the high art of his calling--is never so generous with his
pennyworths of thought as when newly in possession of some little secret
worth many pounds.
By and by the behavior of the horse indicated the near presence of a
stranger; and the next moment the rider drew rein under an immense
live-oak where there was a bit of paling about some graves, and
raised his hat.
"Good-morning, sir." But for the silent r's, his pronunciation was
exact, yet evidently an acquired one. While he spoke his salutation in
English, he was thinking in French: "Without doubt, this rather
oversized, bareheaded, interrupted-looking convalescent who stands
before me, wondering how I should know in what language to address him,
is Joseph Frowenfeld, of whom Doctor Keene has had so much to say to me.
A good face--unsophisticated, but intelligent, mettlesome and honest. He
will make his mark; it will probably be a white one; I will subscribe to
"You will excuse me, sir?" he asked after a pause, dismounting, and
noticing, as he did so, that Frowenfeld's knees showed recent contact
with the turf; "I have, myself, some interest in two of these graves,
sir, as I suppose--you will pardon my freedom--you have in the
He approached the old but newly whitened paling, which encircled the
tree's trunk as well as the six graves about it. There was in his face
and manner a sort of impersonal human kindness, well calculated to
engage a diffident and sensitive stranger, standing in dread of
gratuitous benevolence or pity.
"Yes, sir," said the convalescent, and ceased; but the other leaned
against the palings in an attitude of attention, and he felt induced to
add: "I have buried here my father, mother, and two sisters,"--he had
expected to continue in an unemotional tone; but a deep respiration
usurped the place of speech. He stooped quickly to pick up his hat, and,
as he rose again and looked into his listener's face, the respectful,
unobtrusive sympathy there expressed went directly to his heart.
"Victims of the fever," said the Creole with great gravity. "How did
As Frowenfeld, after a moment's hesitation, began to speak, the stranger
let go the bridle of his horse and sat down upon the turf. Joseph
appreciated the courtesy and sat down, too; and thus the ice was broken.
The immigrant told his story; he was young--often younger than his
years--and his listener several years his senior; but the Creole, true
to his blood, was able at any time to make himself as young as need be,
and possessed the rare magic of drawing one's confidence without seeming
to do more than merely pay attention. It followed that the story was
told in full detail, including grateful acknowledgment of the goodness
of an unknown friend, who had granted this burial-place on condition
that he should not be sought out for the purpose of thanking him.
So a considerable time passed by, in which acquaintance grew with
"What will you do now?" asked the stranger, when a short silence had
followed the conclusion of the story.
"I hardly know. I am taken somewhat by surprise. I have not chosen a
definite course in life--as yet. I have been a general student, but have
not prepared myself for any profession; I am not sure what I shall be."
A certain energy in the immigrant's face half redeemed this childlike
speech. Yet the Creole's lips, as he opened them to reply, betrayed
amusement; so he hastened to say:
"I appreciate your position, Mr. Frowenfeld,--excuse me, I believe you
said that was your father's name. And yet,"--the shadow of an amused
smile lurked another instant about a corner of his mouth,--"if you would
understand me kindly I would say, take care--"
What little blood the convalescent had rushed violently to his face, and
the Creole added:
"I do not insinuate you would willingly be idle. I think I know what you
want. You want to make up your mind _now_ what you will _do_, and at
your leisure what you will _be_; eh? To be, it seems to me," he said in
summing up,--"that to be is not so necessary as to do, eh? or am
"No, sir," replied Joseph, still red, "I was feeling that just now. I
will do the first thing that offers; I can dig."
The Creole shrugged and pouted.
"And be called a _dos brile_--a 'burnt-back.'"
"But"--began the immigrant, with overmuch warmth.
The other interrupted him, shaking his head slowly and smiling as he
"Mr. Frowenfeld, it is of no use to talk; you may hold in contempt the
Creole scorn of toil--just as I do, myself, but in theory, my-de'-seh,
not too much in practice. You cannot afford to be _entirely_ different
from the community in which you live; is that not so?"
"A friend of mine," said Frowenfeld, "has told me I must 'compromise.'"
"You must get acclimated," responded the Creole; "not in body only, that
you have done; but in mind--in taste--in conversation--and in
convictions too, yes, ha, ha! They all do it--all who come. They hold
out a little while--a very little; then they open their stores on
Sunday, they import cargoes of Africans, they bribe the officials, they
smuggle goods, they have colored housekeepers. My-de'-seh, the water
must expect to take the shape of the bucket; eh?"
"One need not be water!" said the immigrant.
"Ah!" said the Creole, with another amiable shrug, and a wave of his
hand; "certainly you do not suppose that is my advice--that those things
have my approval."
Must we repeat already that Frowenfeld was abnormally young? "Why have
they not your condemnation?" cried he with an earnestness that made the
Creole's horse drop the grass from his teeth and wheel half around.
The answer came slowly and gently.
"Mr. Frowenfeld, my habit is to buy cheap and sell at a profit. My
condemnation? My-de'-seh, there is no sa-a-ale for it! it spoils the
sale of other goods my-de'-seh. It is not to condemn that you want; you
want to suc-_ceed_. Ha, ha, ha! you see I am a merchant, eh? My-de'-seh,
can _you_ afford not to succeed?"
The speaker had grown very much in earnest in the course of these few
words, and as he asked the closing question, arose, arranged his horse's
bridle and, with his elbow in the saddle, leaned his handsome head on
his equally beautiful hand. His whole appearance was a dazzling
contradiction of the notion that a Creole is a person of mixed blood.
"I think I can!" replied the convalescent, with much spirit, rising with
more haste than was good, and staggering a moment.
The horseman laughed outright.
"Your principle is the best, I cannot dispute that; but whether you can
act it out--reformers do not make money, you know." He examined his
saddle-girth and began to tighten it. "One can condemn--too
cautiously--by a kind of--elevated cowardice (I have that fault); but
one can also condemn too rashly; I remember when I did so. One of the
occupants of those two graves you see yonder side by side--I think might
have lived longer if I had not spoken so rashly for his rights. Did you
ever hear of Bras-Coupe, Mr. Frowenfeld?"
"I have heard only the name."
"Ah! Mr. Frowenfeld, _there_ was a bold man's chance to denounce wrong
and oppression! Why, that negro's death changed the whole channel of my
The speaker had turned and thrown up his arm with frowning earnestness;
he dropped it and smiled at himself.
"Do not mistake me for one of your new-fashioned Philadelphia
'_negrophiles_'; I am a merchant, my-de'-seh, a good subject of His
Catholic Majesty, a Creole of the Creoles, and so forth, and so
He slapped the saddle.
To have seen and heard them a little later as they moved toward the
city, the Creole walking before the horse, and Frowenfeld sitting in the
saddle, you might have supposed them old acquaintances. Yet the
immigrant was wondering who his companion might be. He had not
introduced himself--seemed to think that even an immigrant might know
his name without asking. Was it Honore Grandissime? Joseph was tempted
to guess so; but the initials inscribed on the silver-mounted pommel of
the fine old Spanish saddle did not bear out that conjecture.
The stranger talked freely. The sun's rays seemed to set all the
sweetness in him a-working, and his pleasant worldly wisdom foamed up
and out like fermenting honey.
By and by the way led through a broad, grassy lane where the path turned
alternately to right and left among some wild acacias. The Creole waved
his hand toward one of them and said:
"Now, Mr. Frowenfeld, you see? one man walks where he sees another's
track; that is what makes a path; but you want a man, instead of passing
around this prickly bush, to lay hold of it with his naked hands and
pull it up by the roots."
"But a man armed with the truth is far from being barehanded," replied
the convalescent, and they went on, more and more interested at every
step,--one in this very raw imported material for an excellent man, the
other in so striking an exponent of a unique land and people.
They came at length to the crossing of two streets, and the Creole,
pausing in his speech, laid his hand upon the bridle.
"Do we part here?" asked the Creole. "Well, Mr. Frowenfeld, I hope to
meet you soon again."
"Indeed, I thank you, sir," said Joseph, "and I hope we shall,
The Creole paused with a foot in the stirrup and interrupted him with a
playful gesture; then as the horse stirred, he mounted and drew in
"I know; you want to say you cannot accept my philosophy and I cannot
appreciate yours; but I appreciate it more than you think, my-de'-seh."
The convalescent's smile showed much fatigue.
The Creole extended his hand; the immigrant seized it, wished to ask his
name, but did not; and the next moment he was gone.
The convalescent walked meditatively toward his quarters, with a faint
feeling of having been found asleep on duty and awakened by a passing
stranger. It was an unpleasant feeling, and he caught himself more than
once shaking his head. He stopped, at length, and looked back; but the
Creole was long since out of sight. The mortified self-accuser little
knew how very similar a feeling that vanished person was carrying away
with him. He turned and resumed his walk, wondering who Monsieur might
be, and a little impatient with himself that he had not asked.
"It is Honore Grandissime; it must be he!" he said.
Yet see how soon he felt obliged to change his mind.
On the afternoon of the same day, having decided what he would "do," he
started out in search of new quarters. He found nothing then, but next
morning came upon a small, single-story building in the rue
Royale,--corner of Conti,--which he thought would suit his plans. There
were a door and show-window in the rue Royale, two doors in the
intersecting street, and a small apartment in the rear which would
answer for sleeping, eating, and studying purposes, and which connected
with the front apartment by a door in the left-hand corner. This
connection he would partially conceal by a prescription-desk. A counter
would run lengthwise toward the rue Royale, along the wall opposite the
side-doors. Such was the spot that soon became known as
The notice "A Louer" directed him to inquire at numero--rue Conde. Here
he was ushered through the wicket of a _porte cochere_ into a broad,
paved corridor, and up a stair into a large, cool room, and into the
presence of a man who seemed, in some respects, the most remarkable
figure he had yet seen in this little city of strange people. A strong,
clear, olive complexion; features that were faultless (unless a
woman-like delicacy, that was yet not effeminate, was a fault); hair _en
queue_, the handsomer for its premature streakings of gray; a tall, well
knit form, attired in cloth, linen and leather of the utmost fineness;
manners Castilian, with a gravity almost oriental,--made him one of
those rare masculine figures which, on the public promenade, men look
back at and ladies inquire about.
Now, who might _this_ be? The rent poster had given no name. Even the
incurious Frowenfeld would fain guess a little. For a man to be just of
this sort, it seemed plain that he must live in an isolated ease upon
the unceasing droppings of coupons, rents, and like receivables. Such
was the immigrant's first conjecture; and, as with slow, scant questions
and answers they made their bargain, every new glance strengthened it;
he was evidently a _rentier_. What, then, was his astonishment when
Monsieur bent down and made himself Frowenfeld's landlord, by writing
what the universal mind esteemed the synonym of enterprise and
activity--the name of Honore Grandissime. The landlord did not see, or
ignored, his tenant's glance of surprise, and the tenant asked no
* * * * *
We may add here an incident which seemed, when it took place, as
unimportant as a single fact well could be.
The little sum that Frowenfeld had inherited from his father had been
sadly depleted by the expenses of four funerals; yet he was still able
to pay a month's rent in advance, to supply his shop with a scant stock
of drugs, to purchase a celestial globe and some scientific apparatus,
and to buy a dinner or two of sausages and crackers; but after this
there was no necessity of hiding his purse.
His landlord early contracted a fondness for dropping in upon him, and
conversing with him, as best the few and labored English phrases at his
command would allow. Frowenfeld soon noticed that he never entered the
shop unless its proprietor was alone, never sat down, and always, with
the same perfection of dignity that characterized all his movements,
departed immediately upon the arrival of any third person. One day, when
the landlord was making one of these standing calls,--he always stood'
beside a high glass case, on the side of the shop opposite the
counter,--he noticed in Joseph's hand a sprig of basil, and spoke of it.
The tenant did not understand. "You--find--dad--nize?"
Frowenfeld replied that it had been left by the oversight of a customer,
and expressed a liking for its odor.
"I sand you," said the landlord,--a speech whose meaning Frowenfeld was
not sure of until the next morning, when a small, nearly naked black
boy, who could not speak a word of English, brought to the apothecary a
luxuriant bunch of this basil, growing in a rough box.
ILLUSTRATING THE TRACTIVE POWER OF BASIL
On the twenty-fourth day of December, 1803, at two o'clock, P.M., the
thermometer standing at 79, hygrometer 17, barometer 29.880, sky partly
clouded, wind west, light, the apothecary of the rue Royale, now
something more than a month established in his calling, might have been
seen standing behind his counter and beginning to show embarrassment in
the presence of a lady, who, since she had got her prescription filled
and had paid for it, ought in the conventional course of things to have
hurried out, followed by the pathetically ugly black woman who tarried
at the door as her attendant; for to be in an apothecary's shop at all
was unconventional. She was heavily veiled; but the sparkle of her eyes,
which no multiplication of veils could quite extinguish, her symmetrical
and well-fitted figure, just escaping smallness, her grace of movement,
and a soft, joyous voice, had several days before led Frowenfeld to the
confident conclusion that she was young and beautiful.
For this was now the third time she had come to buy; and, though the
purchases were unaccountably trivial, the purchaser seemed not so. On
the two previous occasions she had been accompanied by a slender girl,
somewhat taller than she, veiled also, of graver movement, a bearing
that seemed to Joseph almost too regal, and a discernible unwillingness
to enter or tarry. There seemed a certain family resemblance between her
voice and that of the other, which proclaimed them--he incautiously
assumed--sisters. This time, as we see, the smaller, and probably elder,
She still held in her hand the small silver which Frowenfeld had given
her in change, and sighed after the laugh they had just enjoyed together
over a slip in her English. A very grateful sip of sweet the laugh was
to the all but friendless apothecary, and the embarrassment that rushed
in after it may have arisen in part from a conscious casting about in
his mind for something--anything--that might prolong her stay an
instant. He opened his lips to speak; but she was quicker than he, and
said, in a stealthy way that seemed oddly unnecessary:
"You 'ave some basilic?"
She accompanied her words with a little peeping movement, directing his
attention, through the open door, to his box of basil, on the floor in
the rear room.
Frowenfeld stepped back to it, cut half the bunch and returned, with the
bold intention of making her a present of it; but as he hastened back to
the spot he had left, he was astonished to see the lady disappearing
from his farthest front door, followed by her negress.
"Did she change her mind, or did she misunderstand me?" he asked
himself; and, in the hope that she might return for the basil, he put it
in water in his back room.
The day being, as the figures have already shown, an unusually mild one,
even for a Louisiana December, and the finger of the clock drawing by
and by toward the last hour of sunlight, some half dozen of Frowenfeld's
townsmen had gathered, inside and out, some standing, some sitting,
about his front door, and all discussing the popular topics of the day.
For it might have been anticipated that, in a city where so very little
English was spoken and no newspaper published except that beneficiary
of eighty subscribers, the "Moniteur de la Louisiane," the apothecary's
shop in the rue Royale would be the rendezvous for a select company of
English-speaking gentlemen, with a smart majority of physicians.
The Cession had become an accomplished fact. With due drum-beatings and
act-reading, flag-raising, cannonading and galloping of aides-de-camp,
Nouvelle Orleans had become New Orleans, and Louisiane was Louisiana.
This afternoon, the first week of American jurisdiction was only
something over half gone, and the main topic of public debate was still
the Cession. Was it genuine? and, if so, would it stand?
"Mark my words," said one, "the British flag will be floating over this
town within ninety days!" and he went on whittling the back of
From this main question, the conversation branched out to the subject of
land titles. Would that great majority of Spanish titles, derived from
the concessions of post-commandants and others of minor authority,
"I suppose you know what ---- thinks about it?"
"Well, he has quietly purchased the grant made by Carondelet to the
Marquis of ----, thirty thousand acres, and now says the grant is two
hundred _and_ thirty thousand. That is one style of men Governor
Claiborne is going to have on his hands. The town will presently be as
full of them as my pocket is of tobacco crumbs,--every one of them with
a Spanish grant as long as Clark's ropewalk and made up since the rumor
of the Cession."
"I hear that some of Honore Grandissime's titles are likely to turn out
bad,--some of the old Brahmin properties and some of the
"Fudge!" said Dr. Keene.
There was also the subject of rotation in office. Would this provisional
governor-general himself be able to stand fast? Had not a man better
temporize a while, and see what Ex-Governor-general Casa Calvo and
Trudeau were going to do? Would not men who sacrificed old prejudices,
braved the popular contumely, and came forward and gave in their
allegiance to the President's appointee, have to take the chances of
losing their official positions at last? Men like Camille Brahmin, for
instance, or Charlie Mandarin: suppose Spain or France should get the
province back, then where would they be?
"One of the things I pity most in this vain world," drawled Doctor
Keene, "is a hive of patriots who don't know where to swarm."
The apothecary was drawn into the discussion--at least he thought he
was. Inexperience is apt to think that Truth will be knocked down and
murdered unless she comes to the rescue. Somehow, Frowenfeld's really
excellent arguments seemed to give out more heat than light. They were
merciless; their principles were not only lofty to dizziness, but
precipitous, and their heights unoccupied, and--to the common
sight--unattainable. In consequence, they provoked hostility and even
resentment. With the kindest, the most honest, and even the most modest,
intentions, he found himself--to his bewilderment and surprise--sniffed
at by the ungenerous, frowned upon by the impatient, and smiled down by
the good-natured in a manner that brought sudden blushes of exasperation
to his face, and often made him ashamed to find himself going over these
sham battles again in much savageness of spirit, when alone with his
books; or, in moments of weakness, casting about for such unworthy
weapons as irony and satire. In the present debate, he had just provoked
a sneer that made his blood leap and his friends laugh, when Doctor
Keene, suddenly rising and beckoning across the street, exclaimed:
"Oh! Agricole! Agricole! _venez ici_; we want you."
A murmur of vexed protest arose from two or three.
"He's coming," said the whittler, who had also beckoned.
"Good evening, Citizen Fusilier," said Doctor Keene. "Citizen Fusilier,
allow me to present my friend, Professor Frowenfeld--yes, you are a
professor--yes, you are. He is one of your sort, Citizen Fusilier, a man
of thorough scientific education. I believe on my soul, sir, he knows
nearly as much as you do!"
The person who confronted the apothecary was a large, heavily built, but
well-molded and vigorous man, of whom one might say that he was adorned
with old age. His brow was dark, and furrowed partly by time and partly
by a persistent, ostentatious frown. His eyes were large, black and
bold, and the gray locks above them curled short and harsh like the
front of a bull. His nose was fine and strong, and if there was any
deficiency in mouth or chin, it was hidden by a beard that swept down
over his broad breast like the beard of a prophet. In his dress, which
was noticeably soiled, the fashions of three decades were hinted at; he
seemed to have donned whatever he thought his friends would most have
liked him to leave off.
"Professor," said the old man, extending something like the paw of a
lion, and giving Frowenfeld plenty of time to become thoroughly awed,
"this is a pleasure as magnificent as unexpected! A scientific man?--in
Louisiana?" He looked around upon the doctors as upon a
"Professor, I am rejoiced!" He paused again, shaking the apothecary's
hand with great ceremony. "I do assure you, sir, I dislike to relinquish
your grasp. Do me the honor to allow me to become your friend! I
congratulate my downtrodden country on the acquisition of such a
citizen! I hope, sir,--at least I might have hoped, had not Louisiana
just passed into the hands of the most clap-trap government in the
universe, notwithstanding it pretends to be a republic,--I might have
hoped that you had come among us to fasten the lie direct upon a late
author, who writes of us that 'the air of this region is deadly to
"He didn't say that?" asked one of the debaters, with pretended
"He did, sir, after eating our bread!"
"And sucking our sugar-cane, too, no doubt!" said the wag; but the old
man took no notice.
Frowenfeld, naturally, was not anxious to reply, and was greatly
relieved to be touched on the elbow by a child with a picayune in one
hand and a tumbler in the other. He escaped behind the counter and
gladly remained there.
"Citizen Fusilier," asked one of the gossips, "what has the new
government to do with the health of the Muses?"
"It introduces the English tongue," said the old man, scowling.
"Oh, well," replied the questioner, "the Creoles will soon learn the
"English is not a language, sir; it is a jargon! And when this young
simpleton, Claiborne, attempts to cram it down the public windpipe in
the courts, as I understand he intends, he will fail! Hah! sir, I know
men in this city who would rather eat a dog than speak English! I speak
it, but I also speak Choctaw."
"The new land titles will be in English."
"They will spurn his rotten titles. And if he attempts to invalidate
their old ones, why, let him do it! Napoleon Buonaparte" (Italian
pronounciation) "will make good every arpent within the next two years.
_Think so?_ I know it! _How?_ H-I perceive it! H-I hope the yellow fever
may spare you to witness it."
A sullen grunt from the circle showed the "citizen" that he had presumed
too much upon the license commonly accorded his advanced age, and by way
of a diversion he looked around for Frowenfeld to pour new flatteries
upon. But Joseph, behind his counter, unaware of either the offense or
the resentment, was blushing with pleasure before a visitor who had
entered by the side door farthest from the company.
"Gentlemen," said Agricola, "h-my dear friends, you must not expect an
old Creole to like anything in comparison with _la belle langue_."
"Which language do you call _la belle?_" asked Doctor Keene, with
The old man bent upon him a look of unspeakable contempt, which nobody
noticed. The gossips were one by one stealing a glance toward that which
ever was, is and must be an irresistible lodestone to the eyes of all
the sons of Adam, to wit, a chaste and graceful complement of--skirts.
Then in a lower tone they resumed their desultory conversation.
It was the seeker after basil who stood before the counter, holding in
her hand, with her purse, the heavy veil whose folds had before
concealed her features.
"OO DAD IS, 'SIEUR FROWENFEL'?"
Whether the removal of the veil was because of the milder light of the
evening, or the result of accident, or of haste, or both, or whether, by
reason of some exciting or absorbing course of thought, the wearer had
withdrawn it unconsciously, was a matter that occupied the apothecary as
little as did Agricola's continued harangue. As he looked upon the fair
face through the light gauze which still overhung but not obscured it,
he readily perceived, despite the sprightly smile, something like
distress, and as she spoke this became still more evident in her hurried
"'Sieur Frowenfel', I want you to sell me doze _basilic_."
As she slipped the rings of her purse apart her fingers trembled.
"It is waiting for you," said Frowenfeld; but the lady did not hear him;
she was giving her attention to the loud voice of Agricola saying in the
course of discussion:
"The Louisiana Creole is the noblest variety of enlightened man!"
"Oo dad is, 'Sieur Frowenfel'?" she asked, softly, but with an excited
"That is Mr. Agricola Fusilier," answered Joseph in the same tone, his
heart leaping inexplicably as he met her glance. With an angry flush
she looked quickly around, scrutinized the old man in an instantaneous,
thorough way, and then glanced back at the apothecary again, as if
asking him to fulfil her request the quicker.
He hesitated, in doubt as to her meaning.
"Wrap it yonder," she almost whispered.
He went, and in a moment returned, with the basil only partially hid in
a paper covering.
But the lady, muffled again in her manifold veil, had once more lost her
eagerness for it; at least, instead of taking it, she moved aside,
offering room for a masculine figure just entering. She did not look to
see who it might be--plenty of time to do that by accident, by and by.
There she made a mistake; for the new-comer, with a silent bow of
thanks, declined the place made for him, moved across the shop, and
occupied his eyes with the contents of the glass case, his back being
turned to the lady and Frowenfeld. The apothecary recognized the Creole
whom he had met under the live-oak.
The lady put forth her hand suddenly to receive the package. As she took
it and turned to depart, another small hand was laid upon it and it was
returned to the counter. Something was said in a low-pitched undertone,
and the two sisters--if Frowenfeld's guess was right--confronted each
other. For a single instant only they stood so; an earnest and hurried
murmur of French words passed between them, and they turned together,
bowed with great suavity, and were gone.
"The Cession is a mere temporary political manoeuvre!" growled M.
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