George Washington Cable
Part 5 out of 8
He was brought at sunrise to the plantation. The air was sweet with the
smell of the weed-grown fields. The long-horned oxen that drew him and
the naked boy that drove the team stopped before his cabin.
"You cannot put that creature in there," said the thoughtful overseer.
"He would suffocate under a roof--he has been too long out-of-doors for
that. Put him on my cottage porch." There, at last, Palmyre burst into
tears and sank down, while before her, on a soft bed of dry grass,
rested the helpless form of the captive giant, a cloth thrown over his
galled back, his ears shorn from his head, and the tendons behind his
knees severed. His eyes were dry, but there was in them that unspeakable
despair that fills the eye of the charger when, fallen in battle, he
gazes with sidewise-bended neck on the ruin wrought upon him. His eye
turned sometimes slowly to his wife. He need not demand her now--she was
always by him.
There was much talk over him--much idle talk. He merely lay still under
it with a fixed frown; but once some incautious tongue dropped the name
of Agricola. The black man's eyes came so quickly round to Palmyre that
she thought he would speak; but no; his words were all in his eyes. She
answered their gleam with a fierce affirmative glance, whereupon he
slowly bent his head and spat upon the floor.
There was yet one more trial of his wild nature. The mandate came from
his master's sick-bed that he must lift the curse.
Bras-Coupe merely smiled. God keep thy enemy from such a smile!
The overseer, with a policy less Spanish than his master's, endeavored
to use persuasion. But the fallen prince would not so much as turn one
glance from his parted hamstrings. Palmyre was then besought to
intercede. She made one poor attempt, but her husband was nearer doing
her an unkindness than ever he had been before; he made a slow sign for
silence--with his fist; and every mouth was stopped.
At midnight following, there came, on the breeze that blew from the
mansion, a sound of running here and there, of wailing and
sobbing--another Bridegroom was coming, and the Spaniard, with much such
a lamp in hand as most of us shall be found with, neither burning
brightly nor wholly gone out, went forth to meet Him.
"Bras-Coupe," said Palmyre, next evening, speaking low in his mangled
ear, "the master is dead; he is just buried. As he was dying,
Bras-Coupe, he asked that you would forgive him."
The maimed man looked steadfastly at his wife. He had not spoken since
the lash struck him, and he spoke not now; but in those large, clear
eyes, where his remaining strength seemed to have taken refuge as in a
citadel, the old fierceness flared up for a moment, and then, like an
expiring beacon, went out.
"Is your mistress well enough by this time to venture here?" whispered
the overseer to Palmyre. "Let her come. Tell her not to fear, but to
bring the babe--in her own arms, tell her--quickly!"
The lady came, her infant boy in her arms, knelt down beside the bed of
sweet grass and set the child within the hollow of the African's arm.
Bras-Coupe turned his gaze upon it; it smiled, its mother's smile, and
put its hand upon the runaway's face, and the first tears of
Bras-Coupe's life, the dying testimony of his humanity, gushed from his
eyes and rolled down his cheek upon the infant's hand. He laid his own
tenderly upon the babe's forehead, then removing it, waved it abroad,
inaudibly moved his lips, dropped his arm, and closed his eyes. The
curse was lifted.
"_Le pauv' dgiab'_!" said the overseer, wiping his eyes and looking
fieldward. "Palmyre, you must get the priest."
The priest came, in the identical gown in which he had appeared the
night of the two weddings. To the good father's many tender questions
Bras-Coupe turned a failing eye that gave no answers; until, at length:
"Do you know where you are going?" asked the holy man.
"Yes," answered his eyes, brightening.
He did not reply; he was lost in contemplation, and seemed looking far
So the question was repeated.
"Do you know where you are going?"
And again the answer of the eyes. He knew.
The overseer at the edge of the porch, the widow with her babe, and
Palmyre and the priest bending over the dying bed, turned an eager ear
to catch the answer.
"To--" the voice failed a moment; the departing hero essayed again;
again it failed; he tried once more, lifted his hand, and with an
ecstatic, upward smile, whispered, "To--Africa"--and was gone.
As we have said, the story of Bras-Coupe was told that day three times:
to the Grandissime beauties once, to Frowenfeld twice. The fair
Grandissimes all agreed, at the close; that it was pitiful. Specially,
that it was a great pity to have hamstrung Bras-Coupe, a man who even in
his cursing had made an exception in favor of the ladies. True, they
could suggest no alternative; it was undeniable that he had deserved his
fate; still, it seemed a pity. They dispersed, retired and went to sleep
confirmed in this sentiment. In Frowenfeld the story stirred
On this same day, while it was still early morning, Honore Grandissime,
f.m.c., with more than even his wonted slowness of step and propriety of
rich attire, had reappeared in the shop of the rue Royale. He did not
need to say he desired another private interview. Frowenfeld ushered him
silently and at once into his rear room, offered him a chair (which he
accepted), and sat down before him.
In his labored way the quadroon stated his knowledge that Frowenfeld had
been three times to the dwelling of Palmyre Philosophe. Why, he further
intimated, he knew not, nor would he ask; but _he_--when _he_ had
applied for admission--had been refused. He had laid open his heart to
the apothecary's eyes--"It may have been unwisely--"
Frowenfeld interrupted him; Palmyre had been ill for several days;
Doctor Keene--who, Mr. Grandissime probably knew, was her physician--
The landlord bowed, and Frowenfeld went on to explain that Doctor Keene,
while attending her, had also fallen sick and had asked him to take the
care of this one case until he could himself resume it. So there, in a
word, was the reason why Joseph had, and others had not, been admitted
to her presence.
As obviously to the apothecary's eyes as anything intangible could be, a
load of suffering was lifted from the quadroon's mind, as this
explanation was concluded. Yet he only sat in meditation before his
tenant, who regarded him long and sadly. Then, seized with one of his
energetic impulses, he suddenly said:
"Mr. Grandissime, you are a man of intelligence, accomplishments,
leisure and wealth; why" (clenchings his fists and frowning),
"why do you not give yourself--your
time--wealth--attainments--energies--everything--to the cause of the
downtrodden race with which this community's scorn unjustly compels you
to rank yourself?"
The quadroon did not meet Frowenfeld's kindled eyes for a moment, and
when he did, it was slowly and dejectedly.
"He canno' be," he said, and then, seeing his words were not understood,
he added: "He 'ave no Cause. Dad peop' 'ave no Cause." He went on from
this with many pauses and gropings after words and idiom, to tell, with
a plaintiveness that seemed to Frowenfeld almost unmanly, the reasons
why the people, a little of whose blood had been enough to blast his
life, would never be free by the force of their own arm. Reduced to the
meanings which he vainly tried to convey in words, his statement was
this: that that people was not a people. Their cause--was in Africa.
They upheld it there--they lost it there--and to those that are here the
struggle was over; they were, one and all, prisoners of war.
"You speak of them in the third person," said Frowenfeld.
"Ah ham nod a slev."
"Are you certain of that?" asked the tenant.
His landlord looked at him.
"It seems to me," said Frowenfeld, "that you--your class--the free
quadroons--are the saddest slaves of all. Your men, for a little
property, and your women, for a little amorous attention, let themselves
be shorn even of the virtue of discontent, and for a paltry bait of sham
freedom have consented to endure a tyrannous contumely which flattens
them into the dirt like grass under a slab. I would rather be a runaway
in the swamps than content myself with such a freedom. As your class
stands before the world to-day--free in form but slaves in spirit--you
are--I do not know but I was almost ready to say--a warning to
The free man of color slowly arose.
"I trust you know," said Frowenfeld, "that I say nothing in offence."
"Havery word is tru'," replied the sad man.
"Mr. Grandissime," said the apothecary, as his landlord sank back again
into his seat, "I know you are a broken-hearted man."
The quadroon laid his fist upon his heart and looked up.
"And being broken-hearted, you are thus specially fitted for a work of
patient and sustained self-sacrifice. You have only those things to lose
which grief has taught you to despise--ease, money, display. Give
yourself to your people--to those, I mean, who groan, or should groan,
under the degraded lot which is theirs and yours in common."
The quadroon shook his head, and after a moment's silence, answered:
"Ah cannod be one Toussaint l'Ouverture. Ah cannod trah to be. Hiv I
trah, I h-only s'all soogceed to be one Bras-Coupe."
"You entirely misunderstand me," said Frowenfeld in quick response. "I
have no stronger disbelief than my disbelief in insurrection. I believe
that to every desirable end there are two roads, the way of strife and
the way of peace. I can imagine a man in your place, going about among
his people, stirring up their minds to a noble discontent, laying out
his means, sparingly here and bountifully there, as in each case might
seem wisest, for their enlightenment, their moral elevation, their
training in skilled work; going, too, among the men of the prouder
caste, among such as have a spirit of fairness, and seeking to prevail
with them for a public recognition of the rights of all; using all his
cunning to show them the double damage of all oppression, both great and
The quadroon motioned "enough." There was a heat in his eyes which
Frowenfeld had never seen before.
"M'sieu'," he said, "waid till Agricola Fusilier ees keel."
"Do you mean 'dies'?"
"No," insisted the quadroon; "listen." And with slow, painstaking phrase
this man of strong feeling and feeble will (the trait of his caste)
told--as Frowenfeld felt he would do the moment he said "listen"--such
part of the story of Bras-Coupe as showed how he came by his deadly
hatred of Agricola.
"Tale me," said the landlord, as he concluded the recital, "w'y deen
Bras Coupe mague dad curze on Agricola Fusilier? Becoze Agricola ees one
sorcier! Elz 'e bin dade sinz long tamm."
The speaker's gestures seemed to imply that his own hand, if need be,
would have brought the event to pass.
As he rose to say adieu, Frowenfeld, without previous intention, laid a
hand upon his visitor's arm.
"Is there no one who can make peace between you?"
The landlord shook his head.
"'Tis impossib'. We don' wand."
"I mean," insisted Frowenfeld, "Is there no man who can stand between
you and those who wrong you, and effect a peaceful reparation?"
The landlord slowly moved away, neither he nor his tenant speaking, but
each knowing that the one man in the minds of both, as a possible
peacemaker, was Honore Grandissime.
"Should the opportunity offer," continued Joseph, "may I speak a word
for you myself?"
The quadroon paused a moment, smiled politely though bitterly, and
departed repeating again:
"'Tis impossib'. We don' wand."
"Palsied," murmured Frowenfeld, looking after him, regretfully,--"like
all of them."
Frowenfeld's thoughts were still on the same theme when, the day having
passed, the hour was approaching wherein Innerarity was exhorted to tell
his good-night story in the merry circle at the distant Grandissime
mansion. As the apothecary was closing his last door for the night, the
fairer Honore called him out into the moonlight.
"Withered," the student was saying audibly to himself, "not in the
shadow of the Ethiopian, but in the glare of the white man."
"Who is withered?" pleasantly demanded Honore. The apothecary started
"Did I speak? How do you do, sir? I meant the free quadroons."
"Including the gentleman from whom you rent your store?"
"Yes, him especially; he told me this morning the story of Bras-Coupe."
M. Grandissime laughed. Joseph did not see why, nor did the laugh sound
"Do not open the door, Mr Frowenfeld," said the Creole, "Get your
greatcoat and cane and come take a walk with me; I will tell you the
It was two hours before they approached this door again on their return.
Just before they reached it, Honore stopped under the huge street-lamp,
whose light had gone out, where a large stone lay before him on the
ground in the narrow, moonlit street. There was a tall, unfinished
building at his back.
"Mr Frowenfeld,"--he struck the stone with his cane,--"this stone is
Bras-Coupe--we cast it aside because it turns the edge of our tools."
He laughed. He had laughed to-night more than was comfortable to a man
of Frowenfeld's quiet mind.
As the apothecary thrust his shopkey into the lock and so paused to hear
his companion, who had begun again to speak, he wondered what it could
be--for M. Grandissime had not disclosed it--that induced such a man as
he to roam aimlessly, as it seemed, in deserted streets at such chill
and dangerous hours. "What does he want with me?" The thought was so
natural that it was no miracle the Creole read it.
"Well," said he, smiling and taking an attitude, "you are a great man
for causes, Mr. Frowenfeld; but me, I am for results, ha, ha! You may
ponder the philosophy of Bras-Coupe in your study, but _I_ have got to
get rid of his results, me. You know them."
"You tell me it revived a war where you had made a peace," said
"Yes--yes--that is his results; but good night, Mr. Frowenfeld."
"Good night, sir."
ANOTHER WOUND IN A NEW PLACE
Each day found Doctor Keene's strength increasing, and on the morning
following the incidents last recorded he was imprudently projecting an
outdoor promenade. An announcement from Honore Grandissime, who had
paid an early call, had, to that gentleman's no small surprise, produced
a sudden and violent effect on the little man's temper.
He was sitting alone by his window, looking out upon the levee, when the
apothecary entered the apartment.
"Frowenfeld," he instantly began, with evident displeasure most
unaccountable to Joseph, "I hear you have been visiting the Nancanous."
"Yes, I have been there."
"Well, you had no business to go!"
Doctor Keene smote the arm of his chair with his fist.
Frowenfeld reddened with indignation, but suppressed his retort. He
stood still in the middle of the floor, and Doctor Keene looked out of
"Doctor Keene," said the visitor, when his attitude was no longer
tolerable, "have you anything more to say to me before I leave you?"
"It is necessary for me, then, to say that in fulfilment of my promise,
I am going from here to the house of Palmyre, and that she will need no
further attention after to-day. As to your present manner toward me, I
shall endeavor to suspend judgment until I have some knowledge of
The doctor made no reply, but went on looking out of the window, and
Frowenfeld turned and left him.
As he arrived in the philosophe's sick-chamber--where he found her
sitting in a chair set well back from a small fire--she half-whispered
"Miche" with a fine, greeting smile, as if to a brother after a week's
absence. To a person forced to lie abed, shut away from occupation and
events, a day is ten, three are a month: not merely in the wear and tear
upon the patience, but also in the amount of thinking and recollecting
done. It was to be expected, then, that on this, the apothecary's fourth
visit, Palmyre would have learned to take pleasure in his coming.
But the smile was followed by a faint, momentary frown, as if Frowenfeld
had hardly returned it in kind. Likely enough, he had not. He was not
distinctively a man of smiles; and as he engaged in his appointed task
she presently thought of this.
"This wound is doing so well," said Joseph, still engaged with the
bandages, "that I shall not need to come again." He was not looking at
her as he spoke, but he felt her give a sudden start. "What is this?" he
thought, but presently said very quietly: "With the assistance of your
slave woman, you can now attend to it yourself."
She made no answer.
When, with a bow, he would have bade her good morning, she held out her
hand for his. After a barely perceptible hesitation, he gave it,
whereupon she held it fast, in a way to indicate that there was
something to be said which he must stay and hear.
She looked up into his face. She may have been merely framing in her
mind the word or two of English she was about to utter; but an
excitement shone through her eyes and reddened her lips, and something
sent out from her countenance a look of wild distress.
"You goin' tell 'im?" she asked.
He spoke the next name more softly.
Her eyes looked deeply into his for a moment, then dropped, and she made
a sign of assent.
He was about to say that Honore knew already, but saw no necessity for
doing so, and changed his answer.
"I will never tell any one."
"You know?" she asked, lifting her eyes for an instant. She meant to ask
if he knew the motive that had prompted her murderous intent.
"I know your whole sad history."
She looked at him for a moment, fixedly; then, still holding his hand
with one of hers, she threw the other to her face and turned away her
head. He thought she moaned.
Thus she remained for a few moments, then suddenly she turned, clasped
both hands about his, her face flamed up and she opened her lips to
speak, but speech failed. An expression of pain and supplication came
upon her countenance, and the cry burst from her:
"Meg 'im to love me!"
He tried to withdraw his hand, but she held it fast, and, looking up
imploringly with her wide, electric eyes, cried:
"_Vous pouvez le faire, vous pouvez le faire_ (You can do it, you can do
it); _vous etes sorcier, mo conne bien vous etes sorcier_ (you are a
sorcerer, I know)."
However harmless or healthful Joseph's touch might be to the philosophe,
he felt now that hers, to him, was poisonous. He dared encounter her
eyes, her touch, her voice, no longer. The better man in him was
suffocating. He scarce had power left to liberate his right hand with
his left, to seize his hat and go.
Instantly she rose from her chair, threw herself on her knees in his
path, and found command of his language sufficient to cry as she lifted
her arms, bared of their drapery:
"Oh, my God! don' rif-used me--don' rif-used me!"
There was no time to know whether Frowenfeld wavered or not. The thought
flashed into his mind that in all probability all the care and skill he
had spent upon the wound was being brought to naught in this moment of
wild posturing and excitement; but before it could have effect upon his
movements, a stunning blow fell upon the back of his head, and Palmyre's
slave woman, the Congo dwarf, under the impression that it was the most
timely of strokes, stood brandishing a billet of pine and preparing to
repeat the blow.
He hurled her, snarling and gnashing like an ape, against the farther
wall, cast the bar from the street door and plunged out, hatless,
bleeding and stunned.
About the same time of day, three gentlemen (we use the term gentlemen
in its petrified state) were walking down the rue Royale from the
direction of the Faubourg Ste. Marie.
They were coming down toward Palmyre's corner. The middle one, tall and
shapely, might have been mistaken at first glance for Honore
Grandissime, but was taller and broader, and wore a cocked hat, which
Honore did not. It was Valentine. The short, black-bearded man in
buckskin breeches on his right was Jean-Baptiste Grandissime, and the
slight one on the left, who, with the prettiest and most graceful
gestures and balancings, was leading the conversation, was Hippolyte
Brahmin-Mandarin, a cousin and counterpart of that sturdy-hearted
challenger of Agricola, Sylvestre.
"But after all," he was saying in Louisiana French, "there is no spot
comparable, for comfortable seclusion, to the old orange grove under
the levee on the Point; twenty minutes in a skiff, five minutes for
preliminaries--you would not want more, the ground has been measured off
five hundred times--'are you ready?'--"
"Ah, bah!" said Valentine, tossing his head, "the Yankees would be down
on us before you could count one."
"Well, then, behind the Jesuits' warehouses, if you insist. I don't
care. Perdition take such a government! I am almost sorry I went to the
"It was quiet, I hear; a sort of quiet ball, all promenading and no
contra-dances. One quadroon ball is worth five of such."
This was the opinion of Jean-Baptiste.
"No, it was fine, anyhow. There was a contra-dance. The music
was--tarata joonc, tara, tara--tarata joonc, tararata joonc, tara--oh!
it was the finest thing--and composed here. They compose as fine things
here as they do anywhere in the--look there! That man came out of
Palmyre's house; see how he staggered just then!"
"Drunk," said Jean-Baptiste.
"No, he seems to be hurt. He has been struck on the head. Oho, I tell
you, gentlemen, that same Palmyre is a wonderful animal! Do you see? She
not only defends herself and ejects the wretch, but she puts her mark
upon him; she identifies him, ha, ha, ha! Look at the high art of the
thing; she keeps his hat as a small souvenir and gives him a receipt for
it on the back of his head. Ah! but hasn't she taught him a lesson?
Why, gentlemen,--it is--if it isn't that sorcerer of an apothecary!"
"What?" exclaimed the other two; "well, well, but this is too good!
Caught at last, ha, ha, ha, the saintly villain! Ah, ha, ha! Will not
Honore be proud of him now? _Ah! voila un joli Joseph!_ What did I tell
you? Didn't I _always_ tell you so?"
"But the beauty of it is, he is caught so cleverly. No escape--no
possible explanation. There he is, gentlemen, as plain as a rat in a
barrel, and with as plain a case. Ha, ha, ha! Isn't it just glorious?"
And all three laughed in such an ecstasy of glee that Frowenfeld looked
back, saw them, and knew forthwith that his good name was gone. The
three gentlemen, with tears of merriment still in their eyes, reached a
corner and disappeared.
"Mister," said a child, trotting along under Frowenfeld's elbow,--the
odd English of the New Orleans street-urchin was at that day just
beginning to be heard--"Mister, dey got some blood on de back of
But Frowenfeld hurried on groaning with mental anguish.
UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL
It was the year 1804. The world was trembling under the tread of the
dread Corsican. It was but now that he had tossed away the whole Valley
of the Mississippi, dropping it overboard as a little sand from a
balloon, and Christendom in a pale agony of suspense was watching the
turn of his eye; yet when a gibbering black fool here on the edge of
civilization merely swings a pine-knot, the swinging of that pine-knot
becomes to Joseph Frowenfeld, student of man, a matter of greater moment
than the destination of the Boulogne Flotilla. For it now became for the
moment the foremost necessity of his life to show, to that minute
fraction of the earth's population which our terror misnames "the
world," that a man may leap forth hatless and bleeding from the house of
a New Orleans quadroon into the open street and yet be pure white
within. Would it answer to tell the truth? Parts of that truth he was
pledged not to tell; and even if he could tell it all it was
incredible--bore all the features of a flimsy lie.
"Mister," repeated the same child who had spoken before, reinforced by
another under the other elbow, "dey got some _blood_ on de back of
And the other added the suggestion:
"Dey got one drug-sto', yondah."
Frowenfeld groaned again. The knock had been a hard one, the ground and
sky went round not a little, but he retained withal a white-hot process
of thought that kept before him his hopeless inability to explain. He
was coffined alive. The world (so-called) would bury him in utter
loathing, and write on his headstone the one word--hypocrite. And he
should lie there and helplessly contemplate Honore pushing forward those
purposes which he had begun to hope he was to have had the honor of
furthering. But instead of so doing he would now be the by-word of
"Mister," interposed the child once more, spokesman this time for a
dozen blacks and whites of all sizes trailing along before and behind,
"_dey got some blood_ on de back of you' _hade_."
* * * * *
That same morning Clotilde had given a music-scholar her appointed
lesson, and at its conclusion had borrowed of her patroness (how
pleasant it must have been to have such things to lend!) a little yellow
maid, in order that, with more propriety, she might make a business
call. It was that matter of the rent--one that had of late occasioned
her great secret distress. "It is plain," she had begun to say to
herself, unable to comprehend Aurora's peculiar trust in Providence,
"that if the money is to be got I must get it." A possibility had
flashed upon her mind; she had nurtured it into a project, had submitted
it to her father-confessor in the cathedral, and received his
unqualified approval of it, and was ready this morning to put it into
execution. A great merit of the plan was its simplicity. It was merely
to find for her heaviest bracelet a purchaser in time, and a price
sufficient, to pay to-morrow's "maturities." See there again!--to her,
her little secret was of greater import than the collision of almost any
pine-knot with almost any head.
It must not be accepted as evidence either of her unwillingness to sell
or of the amount of gold in the bracelet, that it took the total of
Clotilde's moral and physical strength to carry it to the shop where she
hoped--against hope--to dispose of it.
'Sieur Frowenfeld, M. Innerarity said, was out, but would certainly be
in in a few minutes, and she was persuaded to take a chair against the
half-hidden door at the bottom of the shop with the little borrowed maid
crouched at her feet.
She had twice or thrice felt a regret that she had undertaken to wait,
and was about to rise and go, when suddenly she saw before her Joseph
Frowenfeld, wiping the sweat of anguish from his brow and smeared with
blood from his forehead down. She rose quickly and silently, turned sick
and blind, and laid her hand upon the back of the chair for support.
Frowenfeld stood an instant before her, groaned, and disappeared through
the door. The little maid, retreating backward against her from the
direction of the street-door, drew to her attention a crowd of
sight-seers which had rushed up to the doors and against which Raoul was
hurriedly closing the shop.
CLOTILDE AS A SURGEON
Was it worse to stay, or to fly? The decision must be instantaneous. But
Raoul made it easy by crying in their common tongue, as he slammed a
massive shutter and shot its bolt:
"Go to him! he is down--I heard him fall. Go to him!"
At this rallying cry she seized her shield--that is to say, the little
yellow attendant--and hurried into the room. Joseph lay just beyond the
middle of the apartment, face downward. She found water and a basin, wet
her own handkerchief, and dropped to her knees beside his head; but the
moment he felt the small feminine hands he stood up. She took him by
"_Asseyez-vous, Monsieu'_--pliz to give you'sev de pens to seet down,
She spoke with a nervous tenderness in contrast with her alarmed and
entreating expression of face, and gently pushed him into a chair.
The child ran behind the bed and burst into frightened sobs, but ceased
when Clotilde turned for an instant and glared at her.
"Mague yo' 'ead back," said Clotilde, and with tremulous tenderness she
softly pressed back his brow and began wiping off the blood. "W'ere you
But while she was asking her question she had found the gash and was
growing alarmed at its ugliness, when Raoul, having made everything
fast, came in with:
"Wat's de mattah, 'Sieur Frowenfel'? w'at's de mattah wid you? Oo done
dat, 'Sieur Frowen fel'?"
Joseph lifted his head and drew away from it the small hand and wet
handkerchief, and without letting go the hand, looked again into
Clotilde's eyes, and said:
"Go home; oh, go home!"
"Oh! no," protested Raoul, whereupon Clotilde turned upon him with a
perfectly amiable, nurse's grimace for silence.
"I goin' rad now," she said.
Raoul's silence was only momentary.
"Were you lef you' hat, 'Sieur Frowenfel'?" he asked, and stole an
artist's glance at Clotilde, while Joseph straightened up, and nerving
himself to a tolerable calmness of speech, said:
"I have been struck with a stick of wood by a half-witted person under a
misunderstanding of my intentions; but the circumstances are such as to
blacken my character hopelessly; but I am innocent!" he cried,
stretching forward both arms and quite losing his momentary
"'Sieu' Frowenfel'!" cried Clotilde, tears leaping to her eyes, "I am
shoe of it!"
"I believe you! I believe you, 'Sieur Frowenfel'!" exclaimed Raoul with
"You will not believe me," said Joseph. "You will not; it will be
"_Mais_" cried Clotilde, "id shall nod be impossib'!"
But the apothecary shook his head.
"All I can be suspected of will seem probable; the truth only is
His head began to sink and a pallor to overspread his face.
"_Allez, Monsieur, allez_," cried Clotilde to Raoul, a picture of
beautiful terror which he tried afterward to paint from memory,
"_appelez_ Doctah Kin!"
Raoul made a dash for his hat, and the next moment she heard, with
unpleasant distinctness, his impetuous hand slam the shop door and
lock her in.
"_Baille ma do l'eau_" she called to the little mulattress, who
responded by searching wildly for a cup and presently bringing a
measuring-glass full of water.
Clotilde gave it to the wounded man, and he rose at once and stood on
"'E gone at Doctah Kin."
"I do not need Doctor Keene; I am not badly hurt. Raoul should not have
left you here in this manner. You must not stay."
"Bud, 'Sieur Frowenfel', I am afred to paz dad gangue!"
A new distress seized Joseph in view of this additional complication.
But, unmindful of this suggestion, the fair Creole suddenly exclaimed:
"'Sieu' Frowenfel', you har a hinnocen' man! Go, hopen yo' do's an' stan
juz as you har ub biffo dad crowd and sesso! My God! 'Sieu' Frowenfel',
iv you cannod stan' ub by you'sev--"
She ceased suddenly with a wild look, as if another word would have
broken the levees of her eyes, and in that instant Frowenfeld recovered
the full stature of a man.
"God bless you!" he cried. "I will do it!" He started, then turned again
toward her, dumb for an instant, and said: "And God reward you! You
believe in me, and you do not even know me."
Her eyes became wilder still as she looked up into his face with the
"_Mais_, I does know you--betteh'n you know annyt'in' boud it!" and
turned away, blushing violently.
Frowenfeld gave a start. She had given him too much light. He recognized
her, and she knew it. For another instant he gazed at her averted face,
and then with forced quietness said:
"Please go into the shop."
The whole time that had elapsed since the shutting of the doors had not
exceeded five minutes; a sixth sufficed for Clotilde and her attendant
to resume their original position in the nook by the private door and
for Frowenfeld to wash his face and hands. Then the alert and numerous
ears without heard a drawing of bolts at the door next to that which
Raoul had issued, its leaves opened outward, and first the pale hands
and then the white, weakened face and still bloody hair and apparel of
the apothecary made their appearance. He opened a window and another
door. The one locked by Raoul, when unbolted, yielded without a key, and
the shop stood open.
"My friends," said the trembling proprietor, "if any of you wishes to
buy anything, I am ready to serve him. The rest will please move away."
The invitation, though probably understood, was responded to by only a
few at the banquette's edge, where a respectable face or two wore
scrutinizing frowns. The remainder persisted in silently standing and
gazing in at the bloody man.
Frowenfeld bore the gaze. There was one element of emphatic satisfaction
in it--it drew their observation from Clotilde at the other end of the
shop. He stole a glance backward; she was not there. She had watched her
chance, safely escaped through the side door, and was gone.
"'Sieur Frowenfel', Doctor Keene is took worse ag'in. 'E is in bed; but
'e say to tell you in dat lill troubl' of dis mawnin' it is himseff w'at
is inti'lie wrong, an' 'e hass you poddon. 'E says sen' fo' Doctor
Conrotte, but I din go fo' him; dat ole scoun'rel--he believe in puttin'
de niggas fre'."
Frowenfeld said he would not consult professional advisers; with a
little assistance from Raoul, he could give the cut the slight attention
it needed. He went back into his room, while Raoul turned back to the
door and addressed the public.
"Pray, Messieurs, come in and be seated." He spoke in the Creole French
of the gutters. "Come in. M. Frowenfeld is dressing, and desires that
you will have a little patience. Come in. Take chairs. You will not come
in? No? Nor you, Monsieur? No? I will set some chairs outside, eh? No?"
They moved by twos and threes away, and Raoul, retiring, gave his
employer such momentary aid as was required. When Joseph, in changed
dress, once more appeared, only a child or two lingered to see him, and
he had nothing to do but sit down and, as far as he felt at liberty to
do so, answer his assistant's questions.
During the recital, Raoul was obliged to exercise the severest
self-restraint to avoid laughing,--a feeling which was modified by the
desire to assure his employer that he understood this sort of thing
perfectly, had run the same risks himself, and thought no less of a man,
_providing he was a gentleman_, because of an unlucky retributive knock
on the head. But he feared laughter would overclimb speech; and, indeed,
with all expression of sympathy stifled, he did not succeed so
completely in hiding the conflicting emotion but that Joseph did once
turn his pale, grave face surprisedly, hearing a snuffling sound,
suddenly stifled in a drawer of corks. Said Raoul, with an unsteady
utterance, as he slammed the drawer:
"H-h-dat makes me dat I can't 'elp to laugh w'en I t'ink of dat fool
yesse'dy w'at want to buy my pigshoe for honly one 'undred dolla'--ha,
ha ha, ha!"
He laughed almost indecorously.
"Raoul," said Frowenfeld, rising and closing his eyes, "I am going back
for my hat. It would make matters worse for that person to send it to
me, and it would be something like a vindication for me to go back to
the house and get it."
Mr. Innerarity was about to make strenuous objection, when there came in
one whom he recognized as an attache of his cousin Honore's
counting-room, and handed the apothecary a note. It contained Honore's
request that if Frowenfeld was in his shop he would have the goodness to
wait there until the writer could call and see him.
"I will wait," was the reply.
"FO' WAD YOU CRYNE?"
Clotilde, a step or two from home, dismissed her attendant, and as
Aurora, with anxious haste, opened to her familiar knock, appeared
before her pale and trembling.
"_Ah, ma fille_--"
The overwrought girl dropped her head and wept without restraint upon
her mother's neck. She let herself be guided to a chair, and there,
while Aurora nestled close to her side, yielded a few moments to reverie
before she was called upon to speak. Then Aurora first quietly took
possession of her hands, and after another tender pause asked in
English, which was equivalent to whispering:
"Were you was, _cherie?_"
Aurora straightened up with angry astonishment and drew in her breath
for an emphatic speech, but Clotilde, liberating her own hands, took
Aurora's, and hurriedly said, turning still paler as she spoke:
"'E godd his 'ead strigue! 'Tis all knog in be'ine! 'E come in
"In w'ere?" cried Aurora.
"In 'is shob."
"You was in dad shob of 'Sieur Frowenfel'?"
"I wend ad 'is shob to pay doze rend."
"How--you wend ad 'is shob to pay--"
Clotilde produced the bracelet. The two looked at each other in silence
for a moment, while Aurora took in without further explanation
Clotilde's project and its failure.
"An' 'Sieur Frowenfel'--dey kill 'im? Ah! _Ma chere_, fo' wad you mague
me to hass all dose question?"
Clotilde gave a brief account of the matter, omitting only her
conversation with Frowenfeld.
"_Mais_, oo strigue 'im?" demanded Aurora, impatiently.
"Addunno!" replied the other. "Bud I does know 'e is hinnocen'!"
A small scouting-party of tears reappeared on the edge of her eyes.
"Innocen' from wad?"
Aurora betrayed a twinkle of amusement.
"Hev'ryt'in', iv you pliz!" exclaimed Clotilde, with most uncalled-for
"An' you crah bic-ause 'e is nod guiltie?"
"Ah, non, my chile, I know fo' wad you cryne: 't is h-only de sighd of
"Oh, sighd of blood!"
Clotilde let a little nervous laugh escape through her dejection.
"Well, then,"--Aurora's eyes twinkled like stars,--"id muz be bic-ause
'Sieur Frowenfel' bump 'is 'ead--ha, ha, ha!"
"'Tis nod tru'!" cried Clotilde; but, instead of laughing, as Aurora had
supposed she would, she sent a double flash of light from her eyes,
crimsoned, and retorted, as the tears again sprang from their
lurking-place, "You wand to mague ligue you don't kyah! But _I_ know! I
know verrie well! You kyah fifty time' as mudge as me! I know you! I
know you! I bin wadge you!"
Aurora was quite dumb for a moment, and gazed at Clotilde, wondering
what could have made her so unlike herself. Then she half rose up, and,
as she reached forward an arm, and laid it tenderly about her daughter's
"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'!"
"I don't kyah wad de whole worl' thing aboud 'im!"
"_Mais_, anny'ow, tell me fo' wad you cryne!"
Clotilde gazed aside for a moment and then confronted her questioner
"I tole 'im I knowed 'e was h-innocen'."
"Eh, Men, dad was h-only de poli-i-idenez. Wad 'e said?"
"E said I din knowed 'im 'tall."
"An' you," exclaimed Aurora, "it is nod pozzyble dad you--"
"I tole 'im I know 'im bette'n 'e know annyt'in' 'boud id!"
The speaker dropped her face into her mother's lap.
"Ha, ha!" laughed Aurora, "an' wad of dad? I would say dad, me, fo'
time' a day. I gi'e you my word 'e don godd dad sens' to know wad
"Ah! don godd sens'!" cried Clotilde, lifting her head up suddenly with
a face of agony. "'E reg--'e reggo-ni-i-ize me!"
Aurora caught her daughter's cheeks between her hands and laughed all
"_Mais_, don you see 'ow dad was luggy? Now, you know?--'e goin' fall
in love wid you an' you goin' 'ave dad sadizfagzion to rif-use de
biggis' hand in Noo-'leans. An' you will be h-even, ha, ha! Bud me--you
wand to know wad I thing aboud 'im? I thing 'e is one--egcellen'
drug-cl--ah, ha, ha!"
Clotilde replied with a smile of grieved incredulity.
"De bez in de ciddy!" insisted the other. She crossed the forefinger of
one hand upon that of the other and kissed them, reversed the cross and
kissed them again. "_Mais_, ad de sem tam," she added, giving her
daughter time to smile, "I thing 'e is one _noble gen'leman_. Nod to
sood me, of coze, _mais, ca fait rien_--daz nott'n; me, I am now a h'ole
woman, you know, eh? Noboddie can' nevva sood me no mo', nod ivven dad
She tried to look old and jaded.
"Ah, Govenno' Cleb-orne!" exclaimed Clotilde.
"Yass!--Ah, you!--you thing iv a man is nod a Creole 'e bown to be no
'coun'! I assu' you dey don' godd no boddy wad I fine a so nize
gen'leman lag Govenno' Cleb-orne! Ah! Clotilde, you godd no lib'ral'ty!"
The speaker rose, cast a discouraged parting look upon her narrow-minded
companion and went to investigate the slumbrous silence of the kitchen.
AURORA'S LAST PICAYUNE
Not often in Aurora's life had joy and trembling so been mingled in one
cup as on this day. Clotilde wept; and certainly the mother's heart
could but respond; yet Clotilde's tears filled her with a secret
pleasure which fought its way up into the beams of her eyes and asserted
itself in the frequency and heartiness of her laugh despite her sincere
participation in her companion's distresses and a fearful looking
forward to to-morrow.
Why these flashes of gladness? If we do not know, it is because we have
overlooked one of her sources of trouble. From the night of the _bal
masque_ she had--we dare say no more than that she had been haunted; she
certainly would not at first have admitted even so much to herself. Yet
the fact was not thereby altered, and first the fact and later the
feeling had given her much distress of mind. Who he was whose image
would not down, for a long time she did not know. This, alone, was
torture; not merely because it was mystery, but because it helped to
force upon her consciousness that her affections, spite of her, were
ready and waiting for him and he did not come after them. That he loved
her, she knew; she had achieved at the ball an overwhelming victory, to
her certain knowledge, or, depend upon it, she never would have
But with this torture was mingled not only the ecstasy of loving, but
the fear of her daughter. This is a world that allows nothing without
its obverse and reverse. Strange differences are often seen between the
two sides; and one of the strangest and most inharmonious in this world
of human relations is that coinage which a mother sometimes finds
herself offering to a daughter, and which reads on one side, Bridegroom,
and on the other, Stepfather.
Then, all this torture to be hidden under smiles! Worse still, when by
and by Messieurs Agoussou, Assonquer, Danny and others had been appealed
to and a Providence boundless in tender compassion had answered in their
stead, she and her lover had simultaneously discovered each other's
identity only to find that he was a Montague to her Capulet. And the
source of her agony must be hidden, and falsely attributed to the rent
deficiency and their unprotected lives. Its true nature must be
concealed even from Clotilde. What a secret--for what a spirit--to keep
from what a companion!--a secret yielding honey to her, but, it might
be, gall to Clotilde. She felt like one locked in the Garden of Eden all
alone--alone with all the ravishing flowers, alone with all the lions
and tigers. She wished she had told the secret when it was small and had
let it increase by gradual accretions in Clotilde's knowledge day by
day. At first it had been but a garland, then it had become a chain, now
it was a ball and chain; and it was oh! and oh! if Clotilde would only
fall in love herself! How that would simplify matters! More than twice
or thrice she had tried to reveal her overstrained heart in broken
sections; but on her approach to the very outer confines of the matter,
Clotilde had always behaved so strangely, so nervously, in short, so
beyond Aurora's comprehension, that she invariably failed to make any
And now, here in the very central darkness of this cloud of troubles,
comes in Clotilde, throws herself upon the defiant little bosom so full
of hidden suffering, and weeps tears of innocent confession that in a
moment lay the dust of half of Aurora's perplexities. Strange world! The
tears of the orphan making the widow weep for joy, if she only dared.
The pair sat down opposite each other at their little dinner-table. They
had a fixed hour for dinner. It is well to have a fixed hour; it is in
the direction of system. Even if you have not the dinner, there is the
hour. Alphonsina was not in perfect harmony with this fixed-hour idea.
It was Aurora's belief, often expressed in hungry moments with the laugh
of a vexed Creole lady (a laugh worthy of study), that on the day when
dinner should really be served at the appointed hour, the cook would
drop dead of apoplexy and she of fright. She said it to-day, shutting
her arms down to her side, closing her eyes with her eyebrows raised,
and dropping into her chair at the table like a dead bird from its
perch. Not that she felt particularly hungry; but there is a certain
desultoriness allowable at table more than elsewhere, and which suited
the hither-thither movement of her conflicting feelings. This is why she
had wished for dinner.
Boiled shrimps, rice, claret-and-water, bread--they were dining well the
day before execution. Dining is hardly correct, either, for Clotilde, at
least, did not eat; they only sat. Clotilde had, too, if not her
unknown, at least her unconfessed emotions. Aurora's were tossed by the
waves, hers were sunken beneath them. Aurora had a faith that the rent
would be paid--a faith which was only a vapor, but a vapor gilded by the
sun--that is, by Apollo, or, to be still more explicit, by Honore
Grandissime. Clotilde, deprived of this confidence, had tried to raise
means wherewith to meet the dread obligation, or, rather, had tried to
try and had failed. To-day was the ninth, to-morrow, the street. Joseph
Frowenfeld was hurt; her dependence upon his good offices was gone. When
she thought of him suffering under public contumely, it seemed to her as
if she could feel the big drops of blood dropping from her heart; and
when she recalled her own actions, speeches, and demonstrations in his
presence, exaggerated by the groundless fear that he had guessed into
the deepest springs of her feelings, then she felt those drops of blood
congeal. Even if the apothecary had been duller of discernment than she
supposed, here was Aurora on the opposite side of the table, reading
every thought of her inmost soul. But worst of all was 'Sieur
Frowenfel's indifference. It is true that, as he had directed upon her
that gaze of recognition, there was a look of mighty gladness, if she
dared believe her eyes. But no, she dared not; there was nothing there
for her, she thought,--probably (when this anguish of public disgrace
should by any means be lifted) a benevolent smile at her and her
betrayal of interest. Clotilde felt as though she had been laid entire
upon a slide of his microscope.
Aurora at length broke her reverie.
"Clotilde,"--she spoke in French--"the matter with you is that you have
no heart. You never did have any. Really and truly, you do not care
whether 'Sieur Frowenfel' lives or dies. You do not care how he is or
where he is this minute. I wish you had some of my too large heart. I
not only have the heart, as I tell you, to think kindly of our enemies,
those Grandissime, for example"--she waved her hand with the air of
selecting at random--"but I am burning up to know what is the condition
of that poor, sick, noble 'Sieur Frowenfel', and I am going to do it!"
The heart which Clotilde was accused of not having gave a stir of deep
gratitude. Dear, pretty little mother! Not only knowing full well the
existence of this swelling heart and the significance, to-day, of its
every warm pulsation, but kindly covering up the discovery with
make-believe reproaches. The tears started in her eyes; that was
"Oh, now! it is the rent again, I suppose," cried Aurora, "always the
rent. It is not the rent that worries _me_, it is 'Sieur Frowenfel',
poor man. But very well, Mademoiselle Silence, I will match you for
making me do all the talking." She was really beginning to sink under
the labor of carrying all the sprightliness for both. "Come," she said,
savagely, "propose something."
"Would you think well to go and inquire?"
"Ah, listen! Go and what? No, Mademoiselle, I think not."
"Well, send Alphonsina."
"What? And let him know that I am anxious about him? Let me tell you, my
little girl, I shall not drag upon myself the responsibility of
increasing the self-conceit of any of that sex."
"Well, then, send to buy a picayune's worth of something."
"Ah, ha, ha! An emetic, for instance. Tell him we are poisoned on
mushrooms, ha, ha, ha!"
Clotilde laughed too.
"Ah, no," she said. "Send for something he does not sell."
Aurora was laughing while Clotilde spoke; but as she caught these words
she stopped with open-mouthed astonishment, and, as Clotilde blushed,
"Oh, Clotilde, Clotilde, Clotilde!"--she leaned forward over the table,
her face beaming with love and laughter--"you rowdy! you rascal! You
are just as bad as your mother, whom you think so wicked! I accept your
The answer came from the kitchen.
"Come go--or, rather,--_vini 'ci courri dans boutique de l'apothecaire_.
Clotilde," she continued, in better French, holding up the coin to
"The last picayune we have in the world--ha, ha, ha!"
HONORE MAKES SOME CONFESSIONS
"Comment ca va, Raoul?" said Honore Grandissime; he had come to the shop
according to the proposal contained in his note. "Where is Mr.
He found the apothecary in the rear room, dressed, but just rising from
the bed at sound of his voice. He closed the door after him; they shook
hands and took chairs.
"You have fever," said the merchant. "I have been troubled that way
myself, some, lately." He rubbed his face all over, hard, with one
hand,' and looked at the ceiling. "Loss of sleep, I suppose, in both of
us; in your case voluntary--in pursuit of study, most likely; in my
case--effect of anxiety." He smiled a moment and then suddenly sobered
as after a pause he said:
"But I hear you are in trouble; may I ask--"
Frowenfeld had interrupted him with almost the same words:
"May I venture to ask, Mr. Grandissime, what--"
And both were silent for a moment.
"Oh," said Honore, with a gesture. "My trouble--I did not mean to
mention it; 't is an old matter--in part. You know, Mr. Frowenfeld,
there is a kind of tree not dreamed of in botany, that lets fall its
fruit every day in the year--you know? We call it--with reverence--'our
dead father's mistakes.' I have had to eat much of that fruit; a man who
has to do that must expect to have now and then a little fever."
"I have heard," replied Frowenfeld, "that some of the titles under which
your relatives hold their lands are found to be of the kind which the
State's authorities are pronouncing worthless. I hope this is not
"I wish they had never been put into my custody," said M. Grandissime.
Some new thought moved him to draw his chair closer.
"Mr. Frowenfeld, those two ladies whom you went to see the other
His listener started a little:
"Did they ever tell you their history?"
"No, sir; but I have heard it."
"And you think they have been deeply wronged, eh? Come, Mr. Frowenfeld,
take right hold of the acacia-bush." M. Grandissime did not smile.
Frowenfeld winced. "I think they have."
"And you think restitution should be made them, no doubt, eh?"
"At any cost?"
The questioner showed a faint, unpleasant smile, that stirred something
like opposition in the breast of the apothecary.
"Yes," he answered.
The next question had a tincture even of fierceness:
"You think it right to sink fifty or a hundred people into poverty to
lift one or two out?"
"Mr. Grandissime," said Frowenfeld, slowly, "you bade me study this
"I adv--yes; what is it you find?"
"I find--it may be the same with other communities, I suppose it is,
more or less--that just upon the culmination of the moral issue it turns
and asks the question which is behind it, instead of the question which
is before it."
"And what is the question before me?"
"I know it only in the abstract."
The apothecary looked distressed.
"You should not make me say it," he objected.
"Nevertheless," said the Creole, "I take that liberty."
"Well, then," said Frowenfeld, "the question behind is Expediency and
the question in front, Divine Justice. You are asking yourself--"
He checked himself.
"Which I ought to regard," said M. Grandissime, quickly. "Expediency, of
course, and be like the rest of mankind." He put on a look of bitter
humor. "It is all easy enough for you, Mr. Frowenfeld, my-de'-seh; you
have the easy part--the theorizing."
He saw the ungenerousness of his speech as soon as it was uttered, yet
he did not modify it.
"True, Mr. Grandissime," said Frowenfeld; and after a pause--"but you
have the noble part--the doing."
"Ah, my-de'-seh!" exclaimed Honore; "the noble part! There is the
bitterness of the draught! The opportunity to act is pushed upon me, but
the opportunity to act nobly has passed by."
He again drew his chair closer, glanced behind him and spoke low:
"Because for years I have had a kind of custody of all my kinsmen's
property interests, Agricola's among them, it is supposed that he has
always kept the plantation of Aurore Nancanou (or rather of
Clotilde--who, you know, by our laws is the real heir). That is a
mistake. Explain it as you please, call it remorse, pride, love--what
you like--while I was in France and he was managing my mother's
business, unknown to me he gave me that plantation. When I succeeded him
I found it and all its revenues kept distinct--as was but proper--from
all other accounts, and belonging to me. 'Twas a fine, extensive place,
had a good overseer on it and--I kept it. Why? Because I was a coward. I
did not want it or its revenues; but, like my father, I would not offend
my people. Peace first and justice afterwards--that was the principle
on which I quietly made myself the trustee of a plantation and income
which you would have given back to their owners, eh?"
Frowenfeld was silent.
"My-de'-seh, recollect that to us the Grandissime name is a treasure.
And what has preserved it so long? Cherishing the unity of our family;
that has done it; that is how my father did it. Just or unjust, good or
bad, needful or not, done elsewhere or not, I do not say; but it is a
Creole trait. See, even now" (the speaker smiled on one side of his
mouth) "in a certain section of the territory certain men, Creoles" (he
whispered, gravely), "_some Grandissimes among them_, evading the United
States revenue laws and even beating and killing some of the officials:
well! Do the people at large repudiate those men? My-de'-seh, in no
wise, seh! No; if they were _Americains_--but a Louisianian--is a
Louisianian; touch him not; when you touch him you touch all Louisiana!
So with us Grandissimes; we are legion, but we are one. Now,
my-de'-seh, the thing you ask me to do is to cast overboard that old
traditional principle which is the secret of our existence."
"_I_ ask you?"
"Ah, bah! you know you expect it. Ah! but you do not know the uproar
such an action would make. And no 'noble part' in it, my-de'-seh,
either. A few months ago--when we met by those graves--if
I had acted then, my action would have been one of pure--even
violent--_self_-sacrifice. Do you remember--on the levee, by the Place
d'Armes--me asking you to send Agricola to me? I tried then to speak of
it. He would not let me. Then, my people felt safe in their land-titles
and public offices; this restitution would have hurt nothing but pride.
Now, titles in doubt, government appointments uncertain, no ready
capital in reach for any purpose, except that which would have to be
handed over with the plantation (for to tell you the fact, my-de'-seh,
no other account on my books has prospered), with matters changed in
this way, I become the destroyer of my own flesh and blood! Yes, seh!
and lest I might still find some room to boast, another change moves me
into a position where it suits me, my-de'-seh, to make the restitution
so fatal to those of my name. When you and I first met, those ladies
were as much strangers to me as to you--as far as I _knew_. Then, if I
had done this thing--but now--now, my-de'-seh, I find myself in love
with one of them!"
M. Grandissime looked his friend straight in the eye with the frowning
energy of one who asserts an ugly fact.
Frowenfeld, regarding the speaker with a gaze of respectful attention,
did not falter; but his fevered blood, with an impulse that started him
half from his seat, surged up into his head and face; and then--
M. Grandissime blushed.
In the few silent seconds that followed, the glances of the two friends
continued to pass into each other's eyes, while about Honore's mouth
hovered the smile of one who candidly surrenders his innermost secret,
and the lips of the apothecary set themselves together as though he were
whispering to himself behind them, "Steady."
"Mr. Frowenfeld," said the Creole, taking a sudden breath and waving a
hand, "I came to ask about _your_ trouble; but if you think you have any
reason to withhold your confidence--"
"No, sir; no! But can I be no help to you in this matter?"
The Creole leaned back smilingly in his chair and knit his fingers.
"No, I did not intend to say all this; I came to offer my help to you;
but my mind is full--what do you expect? My-de'-seh, the foam must come
first out of the bottle. You see"--he leaned forward again, laid two
fingers in his palm and deepened his tone--"I will tell you: this
tree--'our dead father's mistakes'--is about to drop another rotten
apple. I spoke just now of the uproar this restitution would make; why,
my-de'-seh, just the mention of the lady's name at my house, when we
lately held the _fete de grandpere_, has given rise to a quarrel which
is likely to end in a duel."
"Raoul was telling me," said the apothecary.
M. Grandissime made an affirmative gesture.
"Mr. Frowenfeld, if you--if any one--could teach my people--I mean my
family--the value of peace (I do not say the duty, my-de'-seh; a
merchant talks of values); if you could teach them the value of peace, I
would give you, if that was your price"--he ran the edge of his left
hand knife-wise around the wrist of his right--"that. And if you would
teach it to the whole community--well--I think I would not give my head;
maybe you would." He laughed.
"There is a peace which is bad," said the contemplative apothecary.
"Yes," said the Creole, promptly, "the very kind that I have been
keeping all this time--and my father before me!"
He spoke with much warmth.
"Yes," he said again, after a pause which was not a rest, "I often see
that we Grandissimes are a good example of the Creoles at large; we have
one element that makes for peace; that--pardon the
self-consciousness--is myself; and another element that makes for
strife--led by my uncle Agricola; but, my-de'-seh, the peace element is
that which ought to make the strife, and the strife element is that
which ought to be made to keep the peace! Mr. Frowenfeld, I propose to
become the strife-maker; how then, can I be a peacemaker at the same
time? There is my diffycultie."
"Mr. Grandissime," exclaimed Frowenfeld, "if you have any design in view
founded on the high principles which I know to be the foundations of all
your feelings, and can make use of the aid of a disgraced man, use me."
"You are very generous," said the Creole, and both were silent. Honore
dropped his eyes from Frowenfeld's to the floor, rubbed his knee with
his palm, and suddenly looked up.
"You are innocent of wrong?"
"I feel sure of it. Tell me in a few words all about it. I ought to be
able to extricate you. Let me hear it."
Frowenfeld again told as much as he thought he could, consistently with
his pledges to Palmyre, touching with extreme lightness upon the part
taken by Clotilde.
"Turn around," said M. Grandissime at the close; "let me see the back of
your head. And it is that that is giving you this fever, eh?"
"Partly," replied Frowenfeld; "but how shall I vindicate my innocence? I
think I ought to go back openly to this woman's house and get my hat. I
was about to do that when I got your note; yet it seems a feeble--even
"My friend," said Honore, "leave it to me. I see your whole case, both
what you tell and what you conceal. I guess it with ease. Knowing
Palmyre so well, and knowing (what you do not) that all the voudous in
town think you a sorcerer, I know just what she would drop down and beg
you for--a _ouangan_, ha, ha! You see? Leave it all to me--and your hat
with Palmyre, take a febrifuge and a nap, and await word from me."
"And may I offer you no help in your difficulty?" asked the apothecary,
as the two rose and grasped hands.
"Oh!" said the Creole, with a little shrug, "you may do anything you
can--which will be nothing."
TESTS OF FRIENDSHIP
Frowenfeld turned away from the closing door, caught his head between
his hands and tried to comprehend the new wildness of the tumult within.
Honore Grandissime avowedly in love with one of them--_which one_?
Doctor Keene visibly in love with one of them--_which one_? And he! What
meant this bounding joy that, like one gorgeous moth among innumerable
bats, flashed to and fro among the wild distresses and dismays swarming
in and out of his distempered imagination? He did not answer the
question; he only knew the confusion in his brain was dreadful. Both
hands could not hold back the throbbing of his temples; the table did
not steady the trembling of his hands; his thoughts went hither and
thither, heedless of his call. Sit down as he might, rise up, pace the
room, stand, lean his forehead against the wall--nothing could quiet the
fearful disorder, until at length he recalled Honore's neglected advice
and resolutely lay down and sought sleep; and, long before he had hoped
to secure it, it came.
In the distant Grandissime mansion, Agricola Fusilier was casting about
for ways and means to rid himself of the heaviest heart that ever had
throbbed in his bosom. He had risen at sunrise from slumber worse than
sleeplessness, in which his dreams had anticipated the duel of to-morrow
with Sylvestre. He was trying to get the unwonted quaking out of his
hands and the memory of the night's heart-dissolving phantasms from
before his inner vision. To do this he had resort to a very familiar, we
may say time-honored, prescription--rum. He did not use it after the
voudou fashion; the voudous pour it on the ground--Agricola was an
anti-voudou. It finally had its effect. By eleven o'clock he seemed,
outwardly at least, to be at peace with everything in Louisiana that he
considered Louisianian, properly so-called; as to all else he was ready
for war, as in peace one should be. While in this mood, and performing
at a sideboard the solemn rite of _las onze_, news incidentally reached
him, by the mouth of his busy second, Hippolyte, of Frowenfeld's
trouble, and despite 'Polyte's protestations against the principal in a
pending "affair" appearing on the street, he ordered the carriage and
hurried to the apothecary's.
* * * * *
When Frowenfeld awoke, the fingers of his clock were passing the
meridan. His fever was gone, his brain was calm, his strength in good
measure had returned. There had been dreams in his sleep, too; he had
seen Clotilde standing at the foot of his bed. He lay now, for a moment,
lost in retrospection.
"There can be no doubt about it," said he, as he rose up, looking back
mentally at something in the past.
The sound of carriage-wheels attracted his attention by ceasing before
his street door. A moment later the voice of Agricola was heard in the
shop greeting Raoul. As the old man lifted the head of his staff to tap
on the inner door, Frowenfeld opened it.
"Fusilier to the rescue!" said the great Louisianian, with a grasp of
the apothecary's hand and a gaze of brooding admiration.
Joseph gave him a chair, but with magnificent humility he insisted on
not taking it until "Professor Frowenfeld" had himself sat down.
The apothecary was very solemn. It seemed to him as if in this little
back room his dead good name was lying in state, and these visitors were
coming in to take their last look. From time to time he longed for more
light, wondering why the gravity of his misadventure should seem
"H-m-h-y dear Professor!" began the old man. Pages of print could not
comprise all the meanings of his smile and accent; benevolence,
affection, assumed knowledge of the facts, disdain of results,
remembrance of his own youth, charity for pranks, patronage--these were
but a few. He spoke very slowly and deeply and with this smile of a
hundred meanings. "Why did you not send for me, Joseph? Sir, whenever
you have occasion to make a list of the friends who will stand by you,
_right or wrong_--h-write the name of Citizen Agricola Fusilier at the
top! Write it large and repeat it at the bottom! You understand me,
Joseph?--and, mark me,--right or wrong!"
"Not wrong," said Frowenfeld, "at least not in defence of wrong; I could
not do that; but, I assure you, in this matter I have done--"
"No worse than any one else would have done under the circumstances, my
dear boy!--Nay, nay, do not interrupt me; I understand you, I understand
you. H-do you imagine there is anything strange to me in this--at
"But I am--"
"--all right, sir! that is _what_ you are. And you are under the wing of
Agricola Fusilier, the old eagle; that is _where_ you are. And you are
one of my brood; that is _who_ you are. Professor, listen to your old
father. _The--man--makes--the--crime!_ The wisdom of mankind never
brought forth a maxim of more gigantic beauty. If the different grades
of race and society did not have corresponding moral and civil
liberties, varying in degree as they vary--h-why! _this_ community, at
least, would go to pieces! See here! Professor Frowenfeld is charged
with misdemeanor. Very well, who is he? Foreigner or native? Foreigner
by sentiment and intention, or only by accident of birth? Of our mental
fibre--our aspirations--our delights--our indignations? I answer for
you, Joseph, yes!--yes! What then? H-why, then the decision! Reached
how? By apologetic reasonings? By instinct, sir! h-h-that guide of the
nobly proud! And what is the decision? Not guilty. Professor Frowenfeld,
It was in vain that the apothecary repeatedly tried to interrupt this
speech. "Citizen Fusilier, do you know me no better?"--"Citizen
Fusilier, if you will but listen!"--such were the fragments of his
efforts to explain. The old man was not so confident as he pretended to
be that Frowenfeld was that complete proselyte which alone satisfies a
Creole; but he saw him in a predicament and cast to him this life-buoy,
which if a man should refuse, he would deserve to drown.
Frowenfeld tried again to begin.
"Citizen, candor demands that I undeceive--"
"Candor demands--h-my dear Professor, let me tell you exactly what she
demands. She demands that in here--within this apartment--we understand
each other. That demand is met."
"But--" Frowenfeld frowned impatiently.
"That demand, Joseph, is fully met! I understand the whole matter like
an eye-witness! Now there is another demand to be met, the demand of
friendship! In here, candor; outside, friendship; in here, one of our
brethren has been adventurous and unfortunate; outside"--the old man
smiled a smile of benevolent mendacity--"outside, nothing has happened."
Frowenfeld insisted savagely on speaking; but Agricola raised his voice,
and gray hairs prevailed.
"At least, what _has_ happened? The most ordinary thing in the world;
Professor Frowenfeld lost his footing on a slippery gunwale, fell, cut
his head upon a protruding spike, and went into the house of Palmyre to
bathe his wound; but finding it worse than he had at first supposed it,
immediately hurried out again and came to his store. He left his hat
where it had fallen, too muddy to be worth recovery. Hippolyte
Brahmin-Mandarin and others, passing at the time, thought he had met
with violence in the house of the hair-dresser, and drew some natural
inferences, but have since been better informed; and the public will
please understand that Professor Frowenfeld is a white man, a gentleman,
and a Louisianian, ready to vindicate his honor, and that Citizen
Agricola Fusilier is his friend!"
The old man looked around with the air of a bull on a hill-top.
Frowenfeld, vexed beyond degree, restrained himself only for the sake
of an object in view, and contented himself with repeating for the
fourth or fifth time,--
"I cannot accept any such deliverance."
"Professor Frowenfeld, friendship--society--demands it; our circle must
be protected in all its members. You have nothing to do with it. You
will leave it with me, Joseph."
"No, no," said Frowenfeld, "I thank you, but--"
"Ah! my dear boy, thank me not; I cannot help these impulses; I belong
to a warm-hearted race. But"--he drew back in his chair sidewise and
made great pretence of frowning--"you decline the offices of that
precious possession, a Creole friend?"
"I only decline to be shielded by a fiction."
"Ah-h!" said Agricola, further nettling his victim by a gaze of stagy
admiration. "'_Sans peur et sans reproche_'--and yet you disappoint me.
Is it for naught, that I have sallied forth from home, drawing the
curtains of my carriage to shield me from the gazing crowd? It was to
rescue my friend--my vicar--my coadjutor--my son--from the laughs and
finger-points of the vulgar mass. H-I might as well have stayed at
home--or better, for my peculiar position to-day rather requires me to
"No, citizen," said Frowenfeld, laying his hand upon Agricola's arm, "I
trust it is not in vain that you have come out. There _is_ a man in
trouble whom only you can deliver."
The old man began to swell with complacency.
"_He_, Citizen, is truly of your kind--"
"He must be delivered, Professor Frowenfeld--"
"He is a native Louisianian, not only by accident of birth but by
sentiment and intention," said Frowenfeld.
The old man smiled a benign delight, but the apothecary now had the
upper hand, and would not hear him speak.
"His aspirations," continued the speaker, "his indignations--mount with
his people's. His pulse beats with yours, sir. He is a part of your
circle. He is one of your caste."
Agricola could not be silent.
"Ha-a-a-ah! Joseph, h-h-you make my blood tingle! Speak to the point;
"I believe him, moreover, Citizen Fusilier, innocent of the charge
"H-innocent? H-of course he is innocent, sir! We will _make_ him inno--"
"Ah! Citizen, he is already under sentence of death!"
"_What?_ A Creole under sentence!" Agricola swore a heathen oath, set
his knees apart and grasped his staff by the middle. "Sir, we will
liberate him if we have to overturn the government!"
Frowenfeld shook his head.
"You have got to overturn something stronger than government."
"And pray what--"
"A conventionality," said Frowenfeld, holding the old man's eye.
"Ha, ha! my b-hoy, h-you are right. But we will overturn--eh?"
"I say I fear your engagements will prevent. I hear you take part
to-morrow morning in--"
Agricola suddenly stiffened.
"Professor Frowenfeld, it strikes me, sir, you are taking something of a
"For which I ask pardon," exclaimed Frowenfeld. "Then I may not
The old man melted again.
"But who is this person in mortal peril?"
"Citizen Fusilier," he said, looking first down at the floor and then up
into the inquirer's face, "on my assurance that he is not only a native
Creole, but a Grandissime--"
"It is not possible!" exclaimed Agricola.
"--a Grandissime of the purest blood, will you pledge me your aid to
liberate him from his danger, 'right or wrong'?"
"_Will_ I? H-why, certainly! Who is he?"
"Citizen--it is Sylves--"
Agricola sprang up with a thundering oath.
The apothecary put out a pacifying hand, but it was spurned.
"Let me go! How dare you, sir? How dare you, sir?" bellowed Agricola.
He started toward the door, cursing furiously and keeping his eye fixed
on Frowenfeld with a look of rage not unmixed with terror.
"Citizen Fusilier," said the apothecary, following him with one palm
uplifted, as if that would ward off his abuse, "don't go! I adjure you,
don't go! Remember your pledge, Citizen Fusilier!"
Agricola did not pause a moment; but when he had swung the door
violently open the way was still obstructed. The painter of "Louisiana
refusing to enter the Union" stood before him, his head elevated
loftily, one foot set forward and his arm extended like a tragedian's.
"Let me pass! Let me pass, or I will kill you!"
Mr. Innerarity smote his bosom and tossed his hand aloft.
"Kill me-firse an' pass aftah!"
"Citizen Fusilier," said Frowenfeld, "I beg you to hear me."
"Go away! Go away!"
The old man drew back from the door and stood in the corner against the
book-shelves as if all the horrors of the last night's dreams had taken
bodily shape in the person of the apothecary. He trembled and stammered:
"Ke--keep off! Keep off! My God! Raoul, he has insulted me!" He made a
miserable show of drawing a weapon. "No man may insult me and live! If
you are a man, Professor Frowenfeld, you will defend yourself!"
Frowenfeld lost his temper, but his hasty reply was drowned by Raoul's
"'Tis not de trute!" cried Raoul. "He try to save you from
hell-'n'-damnation w'en 'e h-ought to give you a good cuss'n!"--and in
the ecstasy of his anger burst into tears.
Frowenfeld, in an agony of annoyance, waved him away and he disappeared,
shutting the door.
Agricola, moved far more from within than from without, had sunk into a
chair under the shelves. 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. As Frowenfeld,
with every demonstration of beseeching kindness, began to speak, he
lifted his eyes and said, piteously:
"Citizen Fusilier, it is you who must stop. Stop before God Almighty
stops you, I beg you. I do not presume to rebuke you. I _know_ you want
a clear record. I know it better to-day than I ever did before. Citizen
Fusilier, I honor your intentions--"
Agricola roused a little and looked up with a miserable attempt at his
habitual patronizing smile.
"H-my dear boy, I overlook"--but he met in
Frowenfeld's eyes a spirit so superior to his dissimulation that the
smile quite broke down and gave way to another of deprecatory and
apologetic distress. He reached up an arm.
"I could easily convince you, Professor, of your error"--his eyes
quailed and dropped to the floor--"but I--your arm, my dear Joseph; age
is creeping upon me." He rose to his feet. "I am feeling really
indisposed to-day--not at all bright; my solicitude for you, my
He took two or three steps forward, tottered, clung to the apothecary,
moved another step or two, and grasping the edge of the table stumbled
into a chair which Frowenfeld thrust under him. He folded his arms on
the edge of the board and rested his forehead on them, while Frowenfeld
sat down quickly on the opposite side, drew paper and pen across the
table and wrote.
"Are you writing something, Professor?" asked the old man, without
stirring. His staff tumbled to the floor. The apothecary's answer was a
low, preoccupied one. Two or three times over he wrote and rejected what
he had written.
Presently he pushed back his chair, came around the table, laid the
writing he had made before the bowed head, sat down again and waited.
After a long time the old man looked up, trying in vain to conceal his
anguish under a smile.
"I have a sad headache."
He cast his eyes over the table and took mechanically the pen which
Frowenfeld extended toward him.
"What can I do for you, Professor? Sign something? There is nothing I
would not do for Professor Frowenfeld. What have you written, eh?"
He felt helplessly for his spectacles.
"_Mr. Sylvestre Grandissime: I spoke in haste_."
He felt himself tremble as he read. Agricola fumbled with the pen,
lifted his eyes with one more effort at the old look, said, "My dear
boy, I do this purely to please you," and to Frowenfeld's delight and
"_Your affectionate uncle, Agricola Fusilier_."
LOUISIANA STATES HER WANTS
"'Sieur Frowenfel'," said Raoul as that person turned in the front door
of the shop after watching Agricola's carriage roll away--he had
intended to unburden his mind to the apothecary with all his natural
impetuosity; but Frowenfeld's gravity as he turned, with the paper in
his hand, induced a different manner. Raoul had learned, despite all the
impulses of his nature, to look upon Frowenfeld with a sort of
enthusiastic awe. He dropped his voice and said--asking like a child a
question he was perfectly able to answer--
"What de matta wid Agricole?"
Frowenfeld, for the moment well-nigh oblivious of his own trouble,
turned upon his assistant a look in which elation was oddly blended
with solemnity, and replied as he walked by:
"Rush of truth to the heart."
Raoul followed a step.
The apothecary turned once more. Raoul's face bore an expression of
earnest practicability that invited confidence.
"'Sieur Frowenfel', Agricola writ'n' to Sylvestre to stop dat dool?"
"You goin' take dat lett' to Sylvestre?"
"'Sieur Frowenfel', dat de wrong g-way. You got to take it to 'Polyte
Brahmin-Mandarin, an' 'e got to take it to Valentine Grandissime, an'
'_e_ got to take it to Sylvestre. You see, you got to know de manner to
make. Once 'pon a time I had a diffycultie wid--"
"I see," said Frowenfeld; "where may I find Hippolyte Brahmin-Mandarin
at this time of day?"
"If the pre-parish-ions are not complitted, you will not find 'im; but
if they har complitted--you know 'im?"
"Well, you may fine him at Maspero's, or helse in de front of de
Veau-qui-tete, or helse at de Cafe Louis Quatorze--mos' likely in front
of de Veau-qui-tete. You know, dat diffycultie I had, dat arise itseff
from de discush'n of one of de mil-littery mov'ments of ca-valry; you
"Yes," said the apothecary; "here, Raoul, is some money; please go and
buy me a good, plain hat."
"All right." Raoul darted behind the counter and got his hat out of a
drawer. "Were at you buy your hats?"
"I will go at _my_ hatter."
As the apothecary moved about his shop awaiting Raoul's return, his own
disaster became once more the subject of his anxiety. He noticed that
almost every person who passed looked in. "This is the place,"--"That is
the man,"--how plainly the glances of passers sometimes speak! The
people seemed, moreover, a little nervous. Could even so little a city
be stirred about such a petty, private trouble as this of his? No; the
city was having tribulations of its own.
New Orleans was in that state of suppressed excitement which, in later
days, a frequent need of reassuring the outer world has caused to be
described by the phrase "never more peaceable." Raoul perceived it
before he had left the shop twenty paces behind. By the time he reached
the first corner he was in the swirl of the popular current. He enjoyed
it like a strong swimmer. He even drank of it. It was better than wine
and music mingled.
"Twelve weeks next Thursday, and no sign of re-cession!" said one of
two rapid walkers just in front of him. Their talk was in the French of
"Oh, re-cession!" exclaimed the other angrily. "The cession is a
reality. That, at least, we have got to swallow. Incredulity is dead."
The first speaker's feelings could find expression only in profanity.
"The cession--we wash our hands of it!" He turned partly around upon his
companion, as they hurried along, and gave his hands a vehement dry
washing. "If Incredulity is dead, Non-participation reigns in its stead,
and Discontent is prime minister!" He brandished his fist as they
turned a corner.
"If we must change, let us be subjects of the First Consul!" said one of
another pair whom Raoul met on a crossing.
There was a gathering of boys and vagabonds at the door of a gun-shop. A
man inside was buying a gun. That was all.
A group came out of a "coffee-house." The leader turned about upon the
"_Ah, bah! cette_ Amayrican libetty!"
"See! see! it is this way!" said another of the number, taking two
others by their elbows, to secure an audience, "we shall do nothing
ourselves; we are just watching that vile Congress. It is going to tear
the country all to bits!"
"Ah, my friend, you haven't got the _inside_ news," said still
another--Raoul lingered to hear him--"Louisiana is going to state her
wants! We have the liberty of free speech and are going to use it!"
His information was correct; Louisiana, no longer incredulous of her
Americanization, had laid hold of her new liberties and was beginning to
run with them, like a boy dragging his kite over the clods. She was
about to state her wants, he said.
"And her don't-wants," volunteered one whose hand Raoul shook heartily.
"We warn the world. If Congress doesn't take heed, we will not be
responsible for the consequences!"
Raoul's hatter was full of the subject. As Mr. Innerarity entered, he
was saying good-day to a customer in his native tongue, English, and so
"Yes, under Spain we had a solid, quiet government--Ah! Mr. Innerarity,
overjoyed to see you! We were speaking of these political troubles. I
wish we might see the last of them. It's a terrible bad mess; corruption
to-day--I tell you what--it will be disruption to-morrow. Well, it is no
work of ours; we shall merely stand off and see it."
"Mi-frien'," said Raoul, with mingled pity and superiority, "you haven't
got doze _inside_ nooz; Louisiana is goin' to state w'at she want."
On his way back toward the shop Mr. Innerarity easily learned
Louisiana's wants and don't-wants by heart. She wanted a Creole
governor; she did not want Casa Calvo invited to leave the country; she
wanted the provisions of the Treaty of Cession hurried up; "as soon as
possible," that instrument said; she had waited long enough; she did not
want "dat trile bi-ju'y"--execrable trash! she wanted an _unwatched
import trade!_ she did not want a single additional Americain appointed
to office; she wanted the slave trade.
Just in sight of the bareheaded and anxious Frowenfeld, Raoul let
himself be stopped by a friend.
The remark was exchanged that the times were exciting.
"And yet," said the friend, "the city was never more peaceable. It is
exasperating to see that coward governor looking so diligently after his
police and hurrying on the organization of the Americain volunteer
militia!" He pointed savagely here and there. "M. Innerarity, I am lost
in admiration at the all but craven patience with which our people
endure their wrongs! Do my pistols show _too_ much through my coat?
Well, good-day; I must go home and clean my gun; my dear friend, one
don't know how soon he may have to encounter the Recorder and Register
Raoul finished his errand.
"'Sieur Frowenfel', excuse me--I take dat lett' to 'Polyte for you if
you want." There are times when mere shopkeeping--any peaceful
But the apothecary felt so himself; he declined his assistant's offer
and went out toward the Veau-qui-tete.
FROWENFELD FINDS SYLVESTRE
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