George Washington Cable
Part 6 out of 8
The Veau-qui-tete restaurant occupied the whole ground floor of a small,
low, two-story, tile-roofed, brick-and-stucco building which still
stands on the corner of Chartres and St. Peter streets, in company with
the well-preserved old Cabildo and the young Cathedral, reminding one of
the shabby and swarthy Creoles whom we sometimes see helping better-kept
kinsmen to murder time on the banquettes of the old French Quarter. It
was a favorite rendezvous of the higher classes, convenient to the
court-rooms and municipal bureaus. There you found the choicest legal
and political gossips, with the best the market afforded of meat
Frowenfeld found a considerable number of persons there. He had to move
about among them to some extent, to make sure he was not overlooking the
object of his search.
As he entered the door, a man sitting near it stopped talking, gazed
rudely as he passed, and then leaned across the table and smiled and
murmured to his companion. The subject of his jest felt their four eyes
on his back.
There was a loud buzz of conversation throughout the room, but wherever
he went a wake of momentary silence followed him, and once or twice he
saw elbows nudged. He perceived that there was something in the state
of mind of these good citizens that made the present sight of him
Four men, leaning or standing at a small bar, were talking excitedly in
the Creole patois. They made frequent anxious, yet amusedly defiant,
mention of a certain _Pointe Canadienne_. It was a portion of the
Mississippi River "coast" not far above New Orleans, where the merchants
of the city met the smugglers who came up from the Gulf by way of
Barrataria Bay and Bayou. These four men did not call it by the proper
title just given; there were commercial gentlemen in the Creole city,
Englishmen, Scotchmen, Yankees, as well as French and Spanish Creoles,
who in public indignantly denied, and in private tittered over, their
complicity with the pirates of Grand Isle, and who knew their trading
rendezvous by the sly nickname of "Little Manchac." As Frowenfeld passed
these four men they, too, ceased speaking and looked after him, three
with offensive smiles and one with a stare of contempt.
Farther on, some Creoles were talking rapidly to an Americain, in
"And why?" one was demanding. "Because money is scarce. Under other
governments we had any quantity!"
"Yes," said the venturesome Americain in retort, "such as it was;
_assignats, liberanzas, bons_--Claiborne will give us better money than
that when he starts his bank."
"Hah! his bank, yes! John Law once had a bank, too; ask my old father.
What do we want with a bank? Down with banks!" The speaker ceased; he
had not finished, but he saw the apothecary. Frowenfeld heard a muttered
curse, an inarticulate murmur, and then a loud burst of laughter.
A tall, slender young Creole whom he knew, and who had always been
greatly pleased to exchange salutations, brushed against him without
turning his eyes.
"You know," he was saying to a companion, "everybody in Louisiana is to
be a citizen, except the negroes and mules; that is the kind of liberty
they give us--all eat out of one trough."
"What we want," said a dark, ill-looking, but finely-dressed man,
setting his claret down, "and what we have got to have, is"--he was
speaking in French, but gave the want in English--"Representesh'n wizout
Taxa--" There his eye fell upon Frowenfeld and followed him with
"Mah frang," he said to his table companion, "wass you sink of a mane
w'at hask-a one neegrow to 'ave-a one shair wiz 'im, eh?--in ze
The apothecary found that his fame was far wider and more general than
he had supposed. He turned to go out, bowing as he did so, to an
Americain merchant with whom he had some acquaintance.
"Sir?" asked the merchant, with severe politeness, "wish to see me? I
thought you--As I was saying, gentlemen, what, after all, does it
A Creole interrupted him with an answer:
"Leetegash'n, Spoleeash'n, Pahtitsh'n, Disintegrhash'n!"
The voice was like Honore's. Frowenfeld looked; it was Agamemnon
"I must go to Maspero's," thought the apothecary, and he started up the
rue Chartres. As he turned into the rue St. Louis, he suddenly found
himself one of a crowd standing before a newly-posted placard, and at a
glance saw it to be one of the inflammatory publications which were a
feature of the times, appearing both daily and nightly on walls
"One Amerry-can pull' it down, an' Camille Brahmin 'e pas'e it back,"
said a boy at Frowenfeld's side.
Exchange Alley was once _Passage de la Bourse_, and led down (as it now
does to the State House--late St. Louis Hotel) to an establishment which
seems to have served for a long term of years as a sort of merchants'
and auctioneers' coffee-house, with a minimum of china and a maximum of
glass: Maspero's--certainly Maspero's as far back as 1810, and, we
believe, Maspero's the day the apothecary entered it, March 9, 1804. It
was a livelier spot than the Veau-qui-tete; it was to that what commerce
is to litigation, what standing and quaffing is to sitting and sipping.
Whenever the public mind approached that sad state of public sentiment
in which sanctity signs politicians' memorials and chivalry breaks into
the gun-shops, a good place to feel the thump of the machinery was in
The first man Frowenfeld saw as he entered was M. Valentine Grandissime.
There was a double semicircle of gazers and listeners in front of him;
he was talking, with much show of unconcern, in Creole French.
"Policy? I care little about policy." He waved his hand. "I know my
rights--and Louisiana's. We have a right to our opinions. We have"--with
a quiet smile and an upward turn of his extended palm--"a right to
protect them from the attack of interlopers, even if we have to use
gunpowder. I do not propose to abridge the liberties of even this army
of fortune-hunters. _Let_ them think." He half laughed. "Who cares
whether they share our opinions or not? Let them have their own. I had
rather they would. But let them hold their tongues. Let them remember
they are Yankees. Let them remember they are unbidden guests." All this
without the least warmth.
But the answer came aglow with passion, from one of the semicircle, whom
two or three seemed disposed to hold in check. It also was in French,
but the apothecary was astonished to hear his own name uttered.
"But this fellow Frowenfeld"--the speaker did not see Joseph--"has never
held his tongue. He has given us good reason half a dozen times, with
his too free speech and his high moral whine, to hang him with the
lamppost rope! And now, when we have borne and borne and borne and borne
with him, and he shows up, all at once, in all his rottenness, you say
let him alone! One would think you were defending Honore Grandissime!"
The back of one of the speaker's hands fluttered in the palm of
"Honore Grandissime? Boy, you do not know what you are talking about.
Not Honore, ha, ha! A man who, upon his own avowal, is guilty of
affiliating with the Yankees. A man whom we have good reason to suspect
of meditating his family's dishonor and embarrassment!" Somebody saw the
apothecary and laid a cautionary touch on Valentine's arm, but he
brushed it off. "As for Professor Frowenfeld, he must defend himself."
"Ha-a-a-ah!"--a general cry of derision from the listeners.
"Defend himself!" exclaimed their spokesman; "shall I tell you again
what he is?" In his vehemence, the speaker wagged his chin and held his
clenched fists stiffly toward the floor. "He is--he is--he is--"
He paused, breathing like a fighting dog. Frowenfeld, large, white, and
immovable, stood close before him.
"Dey 'ad no bizniz led 'im come oud to-day," said a bystander, edging
toward a pillar.
The Creole, a small young man not unknown to us, glared upon the
apothecary; but Frowenfeld was far above his blushing mood, and was not
disconcerted. This exasperated the Creole beyond bound; he made a
sudden, angry change of attitude, and demanded:
"Do you interrup' two gen'lemen in dey conve'sition, you Yankee clown?
Do you igno' dad you 'ave insult me, off-scow'ing?"
Frowenfeld's first response was a stern gaze. When he spoke, he said:
"Sir, I am not aware that I have ever offered you the slightest injury
or affront; if you wish to finish your conversation with this gentleman,
I will wait till you are through."
The Creole bowed, as a knight who takes up the gage. He turned to
"Valentine, I was sayin' to you dad diz pusson is a cowa'd and a sneak;
I repead thad! I repead id! I spurn you! Go f'om yeh!"
The apothecary stood like a cliff.
It was too much for Creole forbearance. His adversary, with a long snarl
of oaths, sprang forward and with a great sweep of his arm slapped the
apothecary on the cheek. And then--
What a silence!
Frowenfeld had advanced one step; his opponent stood half turned away,
but with his face toward the face he had just struck and his eyes
glaring up into the eyes of the apothecary. The semicircle was
dissolved, and each man stood in neutral isolation, motionless and
silent. For one instant objects lost all natural proportion, and to the
expectant on-lookers the largest thing in the room was the big,
upraised, white fist of Frowenfeld. But in the next--how was this? Could
it be that that fist had not descended?
The imperturbable Valentine, with one preventing arm laid across the
breast of the expected victim and an open hand held restrainingly up for
truce, stood between the two men and said:
"Professor Frowenfeld--one moment--"
Frowenfeld's face was ashen.
"Don't speak, sir!" he exclaimed. "If I attempt to parley I shall break
every bone in his body. Don't speak! I can guess your explanation--he is
drunk. But take him away."
Valentine, as sensible as cool, assisted by the kinsman who had laid a
hand on his arm, shuffled his enraged companion out. Frowenfeld's still
swelling anger was so near getting the better of him that he
unconsciously followed a quick step or two; but as Valentine looked back
and waved him to stop, he again stood still.
"_Professeur_--you know,--" said a stranger, "daz Sylvestre
Frowenfeld rather spoke to himself than answered:
"If I had not known that, I should have--" He checked himself and left
* * * * *
While the apothecary was gathering these experiences, the free spirit of
Raoul Innerarity was chafing in the shop like an eagle in a hen-coop.
One moment after another brought him straggling evidences, now of one
sort, now of another, of the "never more peaceable" state of affairs
without. If only some pretext could be conjured up, plausible or flimsy,
no matter; if only some man would pass with a gun on his shoulder, were
it only a blow-gun; or if his employer were any one but his beloved
Frowenfeld, he would clap up the shutters as quickly as he had already
done once to-day, and be off to the wars. He was just trying to hear
imaginary pistol-shots down toward the Place d'Armes, when the
"D' you fin' him?"
"I found Sylvestre."
"'E took de lett'?"
"I did not offer it." Frowenfeld, in a few compact sentences, told his
Raoul was ablaze with indignation.
"'Sieur Frowenfel', gimmy dat lett'!" He extended his pretty hand.
"Gimmy 'er!" persisted the artist; "befo' I lose de sight from dat lett'
she goin' to be hanswer by Sylvestre Grandissime, an' 'e goin' to wrat
you one appo-logie! Oh! I goin' mek 'im crah fo' shem!"
"If I could know you would do only as I--"
"I do it!" cried Raoul, and sprang for his hat; and in the end
Frowenfeld let him have his way.
"I had intended seeing him--" the apothecary said.
"Nevvamine to see; I goin' tell him!" cried Raoul, as he crowded his
hat fiercely down over his curls and plunged out.
TO COME TO THE POINT
It was equally a part of Honore Grandissime's nature and of his art as a
merchant to wear a look of serene leisure. With this look on his face he
reentered his counting-room after his morning visit to Frowenfeld's
shop. He paused a moment outside the rail, gave the weak-eyed gentleman
who presided there a quiet glance equivalent to a beckon, and, as that
person came near, communicated two or three items of intelligence or
instruction concerning office details, by which that invaluable diviner
of business meanings understood that he wished to be let alone for an
hour. Then M. Grandissime passed on into his private office, and,
shutting the door behind him, walked briskly to his desk and sat down.
He dropped his elbows upon a broad paper containing some recently
written, unfinished memoranda that included figures in column, cast his
eyes quite around the apartment, and then covered his face with his
palms--a gesture common enough for a tired man of business in a moment
of seclusion; but just as the face disappeared in the hands, the look
of serene leisure gave place to one of great mental distress. The paper
under his elbows, to the consideration of which he seemed about to
return, was in the handwriting of his manager, with additions by his own
pen. Earlier in the day he had come to a pause in the making of these
additions, and, after one or two vain efforts to proceed, had laid down
his pen, taken his hat, and gone to see the unlucky apothecary. Now he
took up the broken thread. To come to a decision; that was the task
which forced from him his look of distress. He drew his face slowly
through his palms, set his lips, cast up his eyes, knit his knuckles,
and then opened and struck his palms together, as if to say: "Now, come;
let me make up my mind."
There may be men who take every moral height at a dash; but to the most
of us there must come moments when our wills can but just rise and walk
in their sleep. Those who in such moments wait for clear views find,
when the issue is past, that they were only yielding to the devil's
Honore Grandissme bent his eyes upon the paper. But he saw neither its
figures nor its words. The interrogation, "Surrender Fausse Riviere?"
appeared to hang between his eyes and the paper, and when his resolution
tried to answer "Yes," he saw red flags; he heard the auctioneer's drum;
he saw his kinsmen handing house-keys to strangers; he saw the old
servants of the great family standing in the marketplace; he saw
kinswomen pawning their plate; he saw his clerks (Brahmins, Mandarins,
Grandissimes) standing idle and shabby in the arcade of the Cabildo and
on the banquettes of Maspero's and the Veau-qui-tete; he saw red-eyed
young men in the Exchange denouncing a man who, they said, had,
ostensibly for conscience's sake, but really for love, forced upon the
woman he had hoped to marry a fortune filched from his own kindred. He
saw the junto of doctors in Frowenfeld's door charitably deciding him
insane; he saw the more vengeful of his family seeking him with
half-concealed weapons; he saw himself shot at in the rue Royale, in the
rue Toulouse, and in the Place d'Armes: and, worst of all, missed.
But he wiped his forehead, and the writing on the paper became, in a
measure, visible. He read:
Total mortgages on the lands of all the Grandissimes $--
Total present value of same, titles at buyers' risk --
Cash, goods, and accounts --
Fausse Riviere Plantation account --
There were other items, but he took up the edge of the paper
mechanically, pushed it slowly away from him, leaned back in his chair
and again laid his hands upon his face.
"Suppose I retain Fausse Riviere," he said to himself, as if he had not
said it many times before.
Then he saw memoranda that were not on any paper before him--such a
mortgage to be met on such a date; so much from Fausse Riviere
Plantation account retained to protect that mortgage from foreclosure;
such another to be met on such a date--so much more of same account to
protect it. He saw Aurora and Clotilde Nancanou, with anguished faces,
offering woman's pleadings to deaf constables. He saw the remainder of
Aurora's plantation account thrown to the lawyers to keep the question
of the Grandissime titles languishing in the courts. He saw the fortunes
of his clan rallied meanwhile and coming to the rescue, himself and
kindred growing independent of questionable titles, and even Fausse
Riviere Plantation account restored, but Aurora and Clotilde nowhere to
be found. And then he saw the grave, pale face of Joseph Frowenfeld.
He threw himself forward, drew the paper nervously toward him, and
stared at the figures. He began at the first item and went over the
whole paper, line by line, testing every extension, proving every
addition, noting if possibly any transposition of figures had been made
and overlooked, if something was added that should have been subtracted,
or subtracted that should have been added. It was like a prisoner trying
the bars of his cell.
Was there no way to make things happen differently? Had he not
overlooked some expedient? Was not some financial manoeuvre possible
which might compass both desired ends? He left his chair and walked up
and down, as Joseph at that very moment was doing in the room where he
had left him, came back, looked at the paper, and again walked up and
down. He murmured now and then to himself: "_Self_-denial--that is not
the hard work. Penniless myself--_that_ is play," and so on. He turned
by and by and stood looking up at that picture of the man in the cuirass
which Aurora had once noticed. He looked at it, but he did not see it.
He was thinking--"Her rent is due to-morrow. She will never believe I am
not her landlord. She will never go to my half-brother." He turned once
more and mentally beat his breast as he muttered: "Why do I not decide?"
Somebody touched the doorknob. Honore stepped forward and opened it. It
was a mortgager.
"_Ah! entrez, Monsieur_."
He retained the visitor's hand, leading him in and talking pleasantly in
French until both had found chairs. The conversation continued in that
tongue through such pointless commercial gossip as this:
"So the brig _Equinox_ is aground at the head of the Passes," said M.
"I have just heard she is off again."
"Yes; the Fort Plaquemine canoe is just up from below. I understand John
McDonough has bought the entire cargo of the schooner _Freedom_."
"No, not all; Blanque et Fils bought some twenty boys and women out of
the lot. Where is she lying?"
"Right at the head of the Basin."
And much more like this; but by and by the mortgager came to the point
with the casual remark:
"The excitement concerning land titles seems to increase rather than
"They must have _something_ to be excited about, I suppose," said M.
Grandissime, crossing his legs and smiling. It was tradesman's talk.
"Yes," replied the other; "there seems to be an idea current to-day that
all holders under Spanish titles are to be immediately dispossessed,
without even process of court. I believe a very slight indiscretion on
the part of the Governor-General would precipitate a riot."
"He will not commit any," said M. Grandissime with a quiet gravity,
changing his manner to that of one who draws upon a reserve of private
information. "There will be no outbreak."
"I suppose not. We do not know, really, that the American Congress will
throw any question upon titles; but still--"
"What are some of the shrewdest Americans among us doing?" asked M.
"Yes," replied the mortgager, "it is true they are buying these very
titles; but they may be making a mistake?"
Unfortunately for the speaker, he allowed his face an expression of
argumentative shrewdness as he completed this sentence, and M.
Grandissime, the merchant, caught an instantaneous full view of his
motive; he wanted to buy. He was a man whose known speculative policy
was to "go in" in moments of panic.
M. Grandissime was again face to face with the question of the morning.
To commence selling must be to go on selling. This, as a plan, included
restitution to Aurora; but it meant also dissolution to the
Grandissimes, for should their _sold_ titles be pronounced bad, then the
titles of other lands would be bad; many an asset among M. Grandissime's
memoranda would shrink into nothing, and the meagre proceeds of the
Grandissime estates, left to meet the strain without the aid of Aurora's
accumulated fortune, would founder in a sea of liabilities; while should
these titles, after being parted with, turn out good, his incensed
kindred, shutting their eyes to his memoranda and despising his
exhibits, would see in him only the family traitor, and he would go
about the streets of his town the subject of their implacable
denunciation, the community's obloquy, and Aurora's cold evasion. So
much, should he sell. On the other hand, to decline to sell was to enter
upon that disingenuous scheme of delays which would enable him to avail
himself and his people of that favorable wind and tide of fortune which
the Cession had brought. Thus the estates would be lost, if lost at all,
only when the family could afford to lose them, and Honore Grandissime
would continue to be Honore the Magnificent, the admiration of the city
and the idol of his clan. But Aurora--and Clotilde--would have to eat
the crust of poverty, while their fortunes, even in his hands, must bear
all the jeopardy of the scheme. That was all. Retain Fausse Riviere and
its wealth, and save the Grandissimes; surrender Fausse Riviere, let
the Grandissime estates go, and save the Nancanous. That was the
"Let me see," said M. Grandissime. "You have a mortgage on one of our
Golden Coast plantations. Well, to be frank with you, I was thinking of
that when you came in. You know I am partial to prompt transactions--I
thought of offering you either to take up that mortgage or to sell you
the plantation, as you may prefer. I have ventured to guess that it
would suit you to own it."
And the speaker felt within him a secret exultation in the idea that he
had succeeded in throwing the issue off upon a Providence that could
control this mortgager's choice.
"I would prefer to leave that choice with you," said the coy would-be
purchaser; and then the two went coquetting again for another moment.
"I understand that Nicholas Girod is proposing to erect a four-story
brick building on the corner of Royale and St. Pierre. Do you think it
practicable? Do you think our soil will support such a structure?"
"Pitot thinks it will. Bore says it is perfectly feasible."
So they dallied.
"Well," said the mortgager, presently rising, "you will make up your
mind and let me know, will you?"
The chance repetition of those words "make up your mind" touched Honore
Grandissime like a hot iron. He rose with the visitor.
"Well, sir, what would you give us for our title in case we should
decide to part with it?"
The two men moved slowly, side by side, toward the door, and in the
half-open doorway, after a little further trifling, the title was sold.
"Well, good-day," said M. Grandissime. "M. de Brahmin will arrange the
papers for us to-morrow."
He turned back toward his private desk.
"And now," thought he, "I am acting without resolving. No merit; no
strength of will; no clearness of purpose; no emphatic decision; nothing
but a yielding to temptation."
And M. Grandissime spoke truly; but it is only whole men who so
yield--yielding to the temptation to do right.
He passed into the counting-room, to M. De Brahmin, and standing there
talked in an inaudible tone, leaning over the upturned spectacles of his
manager, for nearly an hour. Then, saying he would go to dinner, he went
out. He did not dine at home nor at the Veau-qui-tete, nor at any of the
clubs; so much is known; he merely disappeared for two or three hours
and was not seen again until late in the afternoon, when two or three
Brahmins and Grandissimes, wandering about in search of him, met him on
the levee near the head of the rue Bienville, and with an exclamation of
wonder and a look of surprise at his dusty shoes, demanded to know
where he had hid himself while they had been ransacking the town in
search of him.
"We want you to tell us what you will do about our titles."
He smiled pleasantly, the picture of serenity, and replied:
"I have not fully made up my mind yet; as soon as I do so I will let you
There was a word or two more exchanged, and then, after a moment of
silence, with a gentle "Eh, bien," and a gesture to which they were
accustomed, he stepped away backward, they resumed their hurried walk
and talk, and he turned into the rue Bienville.
AN INHERITANCE OF WRONG
"I tell you," Doctor Keene used to say, "that old woman's a thinker."
His allusion was to Clemence, the _marchande des calas_. Her mental
activity was evinced not more in the cunning aptness of her songs than
in the droll wisdom of her sayings. Not the melody only, but the often
audacious, epigrammatic philosophy of her tongue as well, sold her
_calas_ and gingercakes.
But in one direction her wisdom proved scant. She presumed too much on
her insignificance. She was a "study," the gossiping circle at
Frowenfeld's used to say; and any observant hearer of her odd aphorisms
could see that she herself had made a life-study of herself and her
conditions; but she little thought that others--some with wits and some
with none--young hare-brained Grandissimes, Mandarins and the like--were
silently, and for her most unluckily, charging their memories with her
knowing speeches; and that of every one of those speeches she would
ultimately have to give account.
Doctor Keene, in the old days of his health, used to enjoy an occasional
skirmish with her. Once, in the course of chaffering over the price of
_calas_, he enounced an old current conviction which is not without
holders even to this day; for we may still hear it said by those who
will not be decoyed down from the mountain fastnesses of the old
Southern doctrines, that their slaves were "the happiest people under
the sun." Clemence had made bold to deny this with argumentative
indignation, and was courteously informed in retort that she had
promulgated a falsehood of magnitude.
"W'y, Mawse Chawlie," she replied, "does you s'pose one po' nigga kin
tell a big lie? No, sah! But w'en de whole people tell w'at ain' so--if
dey know it, aw if dey don' know it--den dat _is_ a big lie!" And she
laughed to contortion.
"What is that you say?" he demanded, with mock ferocity. "You charge
white people with lying?"
"Oh, sakes, Mawse Chawlie, no! De people don't mek up dat ah; de debble
pass it on 'em. Don' you know de debble ah de grett cyount'-feiteh?
Ev'y piece o' money he mek he tek an' put some debblemen' on de under
side, an' one o' his pootiess lies on top; an' 'e gilt dat lie, and 'e
rub dat lie on 'is elbow, an' 'e shine dat lie, an' 'e put 'is bess
licks on dat lie; entel ev'ybody say: 'Oh, how pooty!' An' dey tek it
fo' good money, yass--and pass it! Dey b'lieb it!"
"Oh," said some one at Doctor Keene's side, disposed to quiz, "you
niggers don't know when you are happy."
"Dass so, Mawse--_c'est vrai, oui_!" she answered quickly: "we donno no
mo'n white folks!"
The laugh was against him.
"Mawse Chawlie," she said again, "w'a's dis I yeh 'bout dat Eu'ope
country? 's dat true de niggas is all free in Eu'ope!"
Doctor Keene replied that something like that was true.
"Well, now, Mawse Chawlie, I gwan t' ass you a riddle. If dat is _so_,
den fo' w'y I yeh folks bragg'n 'bout de 'stayt o' s'iety in Eu'ope'?"
The mincing drollery with which she used this fine phrase brought
another peal of laughter. Nobody tried to guess.
"I gwan tell you," said the _marchande_; "'t is becyaze dey got a 'fixed
wuckin' class.'" She sputtered and giggled with the general ha, ha. "Oh,
ole Clemence kin talk proctah, yass!"
She made a gesture for attention.
"D' y' ebber yeh w'at de cya'ge-hoss say w'en 'e see de cyaht-hoss tu'n
loose in de sem pawstu'e wid he, an' knowed dat some'ow de cyaht gotteh
be haul'? W'y 'e jiz snawt an' kick up 'is heel'"--she suited the action
to the word--"an' tah' roun' de fiel' an' prance up to de fence an' say:
'Whoopy! shoo! shoo! dis yeh country gittin' _too_ free!'"
"Oh," she resumed, as soon as she could be heard, "white folks is werry
kine. Dey wants us to b'lieb we happy--dey _wants to b'lieb_ we is. W'y,
you know, dey 'bleeged to b'lieb it--fo' dey own cyumfut. 'Tis de sem
weh wid de preache's; dey buil' we ow own sep'ate meet'n-houses; dey
b'liebs us lak it de bess, an' dey _knows_ dey lak it de bess."
The laugh at this was mostly her own. It is not a laughable sight to see
the comfortable fractions of Christian communities everywhere striving,
with sincere, pious, well-meant, criminal benevolence, to make their
poor brethren contented with the ditch. Nor does it become so to see
these efforts meet, or seem to meet, some degree of success. Happily man
cannot so place his brother that his misery will continue unmitigated.
You may dwarf a man to the mere stump of what he ought to be, and yet he
will put out green leaves. "Free from care," we benignly observe of the
dwarfed classes of society; but we forget, or have never thought, what a
crime we commit when we rob men and women of their cares.
To Clemence the order of society was nothing. No upheaval could reach to
the depth to which she was sunk. It is true, she was one of the
population. She had certain affections toward people and places; but
they were not of a consuming sort.
As for us, our feelings, our sentiments, affections, etc., are fine and
keen, delicate and many; what we call refined. Why? Because we get them
as we get our old swords and gems and laces--from our grandsires,
mothers, and all. Refined they are--after centuries of refining. But the
feelings handed down to Clemence had come through ages of African
savagery; through fires that do not refine, but that blunt and blast and
blacken and char; starvation, gluttony, drunkenness, thirst, drowning,
nakedness, dirt, fetichism, debauchery, slaughter, pestilence and the
rest--she was their heiress; they left her the cinders of human
feelings. She remembered her mother. They had been separated in her
childhood, in Virginia when it was a province. She remembered, with
pride, the price her mother had brought at auction, and remarked, as an
additional interesting item, that she had never seen or heard of her
since. She had had children, assorted colors--had one with her now, the
black boy that brought the basil to Joseph; the others were here and
there, some in the Grandissime households or field-gangs, some elsewhere
within occasional sight, some dead, some not accounted for.
Husbands--like the Samaritan woman's. We know she was a constant singer
And so on that day, when Honore Grandissime had advised the
Governor-General of Louisiana to be very careful to avoid demonstration
of any sort if he wished to avert a street war in his little capital,
Clemence went up one street and down another, singing her song and
laughing her professional merry laugh. How could it be otherwise? Let
events take any possible turn, how could it make any difference to
Clemence? What could she hope to gain? What could she fear to lose? She
sold some of her goods to Casa Calvo's Spanish guard and sang them a
Spanish song; some to Claiborne's soldiers and sang them Yankee Doodle
with unclean words of her own inspiration, which evoked true soldiers'
laughter; some to a priest at his window, exchanging with him a pious
comment or two upon the wickedness of the times generally and their
Americain Protestant-poisoned community in particular; and (after going
home to dinner and coming out newly furnished) she sold some more of her
wares to the excited groups of Creoles to which we have had occasion to
allude, and from whom, insensible as she was to ribaldry, she was glad
to escape. The day now drawing to a close, she turned her steps toward
her wonted crouching-place, the willow avenue on the levee, near the
Place d'Armes. But she had hardly defined this decision clearly in her
mind, and had but just turned out of the rue St. Louis, when her song
attracted an ear in a second-story room under whose window she was
passing. As usual, it was fitted to the passing event:
"_Apportez moi mo' sabre,
Ba boum, ba boum, boum, boum_."
"Run, fetch that girl here," said Dr. Keene to the slave woman who had
just entered his room with a pitcher of water.
"Well, old eavesdropper," he said, as Clemence came, "what is the
"You know, Mawse Chawlie, I dunno noth'n' 'tall 'bout nobody. I'se a
nigga w'at mine my own business."
"Sit down there on that stool, and tell me what is going on outside."
"I d' no noth'n' 'bout no goin's on; got no time fo' sit down, me; got
sell my cakes. I don't goin' git mix' in wid no white folks's doin's."
"Hush, you old hypocrite; I will buy all your cakes. Put them out there
on the table."
The invalid, sitting up in bed, drew a purse from behind his pillow and
tossed her a large price. She tittered, courtesied and received
"Well, well, Mawse Chawlie, 'f you ain' de funni'st gen'leman I knows,
to be sho!"
"Have you seen Joseph Frowenfeld to-day?" he asked.
"He, he, he! W'at I got do wid Mawse Frowenfel'? I goes on de off side
o' sich folks--folks w'at cann' 'have deyself no bette'n dat--he, he,
he! At de same time I did happen, jis chancin' by accident, to see 'im."
"How is he?"
Dr. Keene made plain by his manner that any sensational account would
receive his instantaneous contempt, and she answered within bounds.
"Well, now, tellin' the simple trufe, he ain' much hurt."
The doctor turned slowly and cautiously in bed.
"Have you seen Honore Grandissime?"
"W'y--das funny you ass me dat. I jis now see 'im dis werry minnit."
"Jis gwine into de house wah dat laydy live w'at 'e runned over dat ah
"Now, you old hag," cried the sick man, his weak, husky voice trembling
with passion, "you know you're telling me a lie."
"No, Mawse Chawlie," she protested with a coward's frown, "I swah I
tellin' you de God's trufe!"
"Hand me my clothes off that chair."
"Oh! but, Mawse Chawlie--"
The little doctor cursed her. She did as she was bid, and made as if to
leave the room.
"Don't you go away."
"But Mawse Chawlie, you' undress'--he, he!"
She was really abashed and half frightened.
"I know that; and you have got to help me put my clothes on."
"You gwan kill yo'se'f, Mawse Chawlie," she said, handling a garment.
"Hold your black tongue."
She dressed him hastily, and he went down the stairs of his
lodging-house and out into the street. Clemence went in search of
THE EAGLE VISITS THE DOVES IN THEIR NEST
Alphonsina--only living property of Aurora and Clotilde--was called upon
to light a fire in the little parlor. Elsewhere, although the day was
declining, few persons felt such a need; but in No. 19 rue Bienville
there were two chilling influences combined requiring an artificial
offset. One was the ground under the floor, which was only three inches
distant, and permanently saturated with water; the other was despair.
Before this fire the two ladies sat down together like watchers, in that
silence and vacuity of mind which come after an exhaustive struggle
ending in the recognition of the inevitable; a torpor of thought, a
stupefaction of feeling, a purely negative state of joylessness sequent
to the positive state of anguish. They were now both hungry, but in want
of some present friend acquainted with the motions of mental distress
who could guess this fact and press them to eat. By their eyes it was
plain they had been weeping much; by the subdued tone, too, of their
short and infrequent speeches.
Alphonsina, having made the fire, went out with a bundle. It was
Aurora's last good dress. She was going to try to sell it.
"It ought not to be so hard," began Clotilde, in a quiet manner of
contemplating some one else's difficulty, but paused with the saying
uncompleted, and sighed under her breath.
"But it _is_ so hard," responded Aurora.
"No, it ought not to be so hard--"
"How, not so hard?"
"It is not so hard to live," said Clotilde; "but it is hard to be
ladies. You understand--" she knit her fingers, dropped them into her
lap and turned her eyes toward Aurora, who responded with the same
motions, adding the crossing of her silk-stockinged ankles before
"No," said Aurora, with a scintillation of irrepressible mischief in her
"After all," pursued Clotilde, "what troubles us is not how to make a
living, but how to get a living without making it."
"Ah! that would be magnificent!" said Aurora, and then added, more
soberly; "but we are compelled to make a living."
"No-o? Ah! what do you mean with your 'no'?"
"I mean it is just the contrary; we are compelled not to make a living.
Look at me: I can cook, but I must not cook; I am skillful with the
needle, but I must not take in sewing; I could keep accounts; I could
nurse the sick; but I must not. I could be a confectioner, a milliner,
a dressmaker, a vest-maker, a cleaner of gloves and laces, a dyer, a
bird-seller, a mattress-maker, an upholsterer, a dancing-teacher, a
"Oh!" softly exclaimed Aurora, in English, "you could be--you know
w'ad?--an egcellen' drug-cl'--ah, ha, ha!"
But the threatened irruption was averted by a look of tender apology
from Aurora, in reply to one of martyrdom from Clotilde.
"My angel daughter," said Aurora, "if society has decreed that ladies
must be ladies, then that is our first duty; our second is to live. Do
you not see why it is that this practical world does not permit ladies
to make a living? Because if they could, none of them would ever consent
to be married. Ha! women talk about marrying for love; but society is
too sharp to trust them, yet! It makes it _necessary_ to marry. I will
tell you the honest truth; some days when I get very, very hungry, and
we have nothing but rice--all because we are ladies without male
protectors--I think society could drive even me to marriage!--for your
sake, though, darling; of course, only for your sake!"
"Never!" replied Clotilde; "for my sake, never; for your own sake if you
choose. I should not care. I should be glad to see you do so if it would
make you happy; but never for my sake and never for hunger's sake; but
for love's sake, yes; and God bless thee, pretty maman."
"Clotilde, dear," said the unconscionable widow, "let me assure you,
once for all,--starvation is preferable. I mean for me, you understand,
simply for me; that is my feeling on the subject."
Clotilde turned her saddened eyes with a steady scrutiny upon her
deceiver, who gazed upward in apparently unconscious reverie, and sighed
softly as she laid her head upon the high chair-back and stretched
out her feet.
"I wish Alphonsina would come back," she said. "Ah!" she added, hearing
a footfall on the step outside the street door, "there she is."
She arose and drew the bolt. Unseen to her, the person whose footsteps
she had heard stood upon the doorstep with a hand lifted to knock, but
pausing to "makeup his mind." He heard the bolt shoot back, recognized
the nature of the mistake, and, feeling that here again he was robbed of
"That is not Alphonsina!"
The two ladies looked at each other and turned pale.
"But you must open it," whispered Clotilde, half rising.
Aurora opened the door, and changed from white to crimson. Clotilde rose
up quickly. The gentleman lifted his hat.
For once, Aurora was in an uncontrollable flutter. She stammered, lost
her breath, and even spoke worse French than she needed to have done.
"Be pl--pleased, sir--to enter. Clotilde, my daughter--Monsieur
Grandissime. P-please be seated, sir. Monsieur Grandissime,"--she
dropped into a chair with an air of vivacity pitiful to behold,--"I
suppose you have come for the rent." She blushed even more violently
than before, and her hand stole upward upon her heart to stay its
violent beating. "Clotilde, dear, I should be glad if you would put the
fire before the screen; it is so much too warm." She pushed her chair
back and shaded her face with her hand. "I think the warmer is growing
weather outside, is it--is it not?"
The struggles of a wounded bird could not have been more piteous.
Monsieur Grandissime sought to speak. Clotilde, too, nerved by the sight
of her mother's embarrassment, came to her support, and she and the
visitor spoke in one breath.
"Maman, if Monsieur--pardon--"
"Madame Nancanou, the--pardon, Mademoiselle--"
"I have presumed to call upon you," resumed M. Grandissime, addressing
himself now to both ladies at once, "to see if I may enlist you in a
purely benevolent undertaking in the interest of one who has been
unfortunate--a common acquaintance--"
"Common acquaint--" interrupted Aurora, with a hostile lighting of her
"I believe so--Professor Frowenfeld." M. Grandissme saw Clotilde start,
and in her turn falsely accuse the fire by shading her face: but it was
no time to stop. "Ladies," he continued, "please allow me, for the sake
of the good it may effect, to speak plainly and to the point."
The ladies expressed acquiescence by settling themselves to hear.
"Professor Frowenfeld had the extraordinary misfortune this morning to
incur the suspicion of having entered a house for the purpose of--at
least, for a bad design--"
"He is innocent!" came from Clotilde, against her intention; Aurora
covertly put out a hand, and Clotilde clutched it nervously.
"As, for example, robbery," said the self-recovered Aurora, ignoring
Clotilde's look of protestation.
"Call it so," responded M. Grandissime. "Have you heard at whose house
"It was at the house of Palmyre Philosophe."
"Palmyre Philosophe!" exclaimed Aurora, in low astonishment. Clotilde
let slip, in a tone of indignant incredulity, a soft "Ah!" Aurora
turned, and with some hope that M. Grandissime would not understand,
ventured to say in Spanish, quietly:
"Come, come, this will never do."
And Clotilde replied in the same tongue:
"I know it, but he is innocent."
"Let us understand each other," said their visitor. "There is not the
faintest idea in the mind of one of us that Professor Frowenfeld is
guilty of even an intention of wrong; otherwise I should not be here. He
is a man simply incapable of anything ignoble."
Clotilde was silent. Aurora answered promptly, with the air of one not
to be excelled in generosity:
"Certainly, he is very incapabl'."
"Still," resumed the visitor, turning especially to Clotilde, "the known
facts are these, according to his own statement: he was in the house of
Palmyre on some legitimate business which, unhappily, he considers
himself on some account bound not to disclose, and by some mistake of
Palmyre's old Congo woman, was set upon by her and wounded, barely
escaping with a whole skull into the street, an object of public
scandal. Laying aside the consideration of his feelings, his reputation
is at stake and likely to be ruined unless the affair can be explained
clearly and satisfactorily, and at once, by his friends."
"And you undertake--" began Aurora.
"Madame Nancanou," said Honore Grandissime, leaning toward her
earnestly, "you know--I must beg leave to appeal to your candor and
confidence--you know everything concerning Palmyre that I know. You know
me, and who I am; you know it is not for me to undertake to confer with
Palmyre. I know, too, her old affection for you; she lives but a little
way down this street upon which you live; there is still daylight
enough at your disposal; if you will, you can go to see her, and get
from her a full and complete exoneration of this young man. She cannot
come to you; she is not fit to leave her room."
"Cannot leave her room?"
"I am, possibly, violating confidence in this disclosure, but it is
unavoidable--you have to know: she is not fully recovered from a
pistol-shot wound received between two and three weeks ago."
Both ladies started forward with open lips and exclamations of
"Received from a third person--not myself and not Professor
Frowenfeld--in a desperate attempt made by her to avenge the wrongs
which she has suffered, as you, Madam, as well as I, are aware, at the
Aurora rose up with a majestic motion for the speaker to desist.
"If it is to mention the person of whom your allusion reminds me, that
you have honored us with a call this evening, Monsieur--"
Her eyes were flashing as he had seen them flash in front of the Place
"I beg you not to suspect me of meanness," he answered, gently, and with
a remonstrative smile. "I have been trying all day, in a way unnecessary
to explain, to be generous."
"I suppose you are incapabl'," said Aurora, following her double
meaning with that combination of mischievous eyes and unsmiling face of
which she was master. She resumed her seat, adding: "It is generous for
you to admit that Palmyre has suffered wrongs."
"It _would_ be," he replied, "to attempt to repair them, seeing that I
am not responsible for them, but this I cannot claim yet to have done. I
have asked of you, Madam, a generous act. I might ask another of you
both jointly. It is to permit me to say without offence, that there is
one man, at least, of the name of Grandissime who views with regret and
mortification the yet deeper wrongs which you are even now suffering."
"Oh!" exclaimed Aurora, inwardly ready for fierce tears, but with no
outward betrayal save a trifle too much grace and an over-bright smile,
"Monsieur is much mistaken; we are quite comfortable and happy, wanting
nothing, eh, Clotilde?--not even our rights, ha, ha!"
She rose and let Alphonsina in. The bundle was still in the negress's
arms. She passed through the room and disappeared in the direction of
"Oh! no, sir, not at all," repeated Aurora, as she once more sat down.
"You ought to want your rights," said M. Grandissime. "You ought to have
"You think so?"
Aurora was really finding it hard to conceal her growing excitement,
and turned, with a faint hope of relief, toward Clotilde.
Clotilde, looking only at their visitor, but feeling her mother's
glance, with a tremulous and half-choked voice, said eagerly:
"Then why do you not give them to us?"
"Ah!" interposed Aurora, "we shall get them to-morrow, when the sheriff
And, thereupon what did Clotilde do but sit bolt upright, with her hands
in her lap, and let the tears roll, tear after tear, down her cheeks.
"Yes, Monsieur," said Aurora, smiling still, "those that you see are
really tears. Ha, ha, ha! excuse me, I really have to laugh; for I just
happened to remember our meeting at the masked ball last September. We
had such a pleasant evening and were so much indebted to you for our
enjoyment,--particularly myself,--little thinking, you know, that you
were one of that great family which believes we ought to have our
rights, you know. There are many people who ought to have their rights.
There was Bras-Coupe; indeed, he got them--found them in the swamp.
Maybe Clotilde and I shall find ours in the street. When we unmasked in
the theatre, you know, I did not know you were my landlord, and you did
not know that I could not pay a few picayunes of rent. But you must
excuse those tears; Clotilde is generally a brave little woman, and
would not be so rude as to weep before a stranger; but she is weak
to-day--we are both weak to-day, from the fact that we have eaten
nothing since early morning, although we have abundance of food--for
want of appetite, you understand. You must sometimes be affected the
same way, having the care of so much wealth _of all sorts_."
Honore Grandissime had risen to his feet and was standing with one hand
on the edge of the lofty mantel, his hat in the other dropped at his
side and his eye fixed upon Aurora's beautiful face, whence her small
nervous hand kept dashing aside the tears through which she defiantly
talked and smiled. Clotilde sat with clenched hands buried in her lap,
looking at Aurora and still weeping.
And M. Grandissime was saying to himself:
"If I do this thing now--if I do it here--I do it on an impulse; I do it
under constraint of woman's tears; I do it because I love this woman; I
do it to get out of a corner; I do it in weakness, not in strength; I do
it without having made up my mind whether or not it is the best thing
And then, without intention, with scarcely more consciousness of
movement than belongs to the undermined tree which settles, roots and
all, into the swollen stream, he turned and moved toward the door.
He stopped and looked back.
"We will see Palmyre at once, according to your request."
He turned his eyes toward Aurora.
"Yes," said she, and she buried her face in her handkerchief and sobbed
She heard his footstep again; it reached the door; the door
opened--closed; she heard his footstep again; was he gone?
He was gone.
The two women threw themselves into each other's arms and wept.
Presently Clotilde left the room. She came back in a moment from the
rear apartment, with a bonnet and veil in her hands.
"No," said Aurora, rising quickly, "I must do it."
"There is no time to lose," said Clotilde. "It will soon be dark."
It was hardly a minute before Aurora was ready to start. A kiss, a
sorrowful look of love exchanged, the veil dropped over the swollen
eyes, and Aurora was gone.
A minute passed, hardly more, and--what was this?--the soft patter of
Aurora's knuckles on the door.
"Just here at the corner I saw Palmyre leaving her house and walking
down the rue Royale. We must wait until morn--"
Again a footfall on the doorstep, and the door, which was standing ajar,
was pushed slightly by the force of the masculine knock which followed.
"Allow me," said the voice of Honore Grandissime, as Aurora bowed at the
door. "I should have handed you this; good-day."
She received a missive. It was long, like an official document; it bore
evidence of having been carried for some hours in a coat-pocket, and was
folded in one of those old, troublesome ways in use before the days of
envelopes. Aurora pulled it open.
"It is all figures; light a candle."
The candle was lighted by Clotilde and held over Aurora's shoulder; they
saw a heading and footing more conspicuous than the rest of the writing.
The heading read:
"_Aurora and Clotilde Nancanou, owners of Fausse Riviere
Plantation, in account with Honore Grandissime_."
The footing read:
_ "Balance at credit, subject to order of Aurora and Clotilde
The date followed:
"_March_ 9, 1804."
and the signature:
A small piece of torn white paper slipped from the account to the floor.
Clotilde's eye followed it, but Aurora, without acknowledgement of
having seen it, covered it with her foot.
In the morning Aurora awoke first. She drew from under her pillow this
slip of paper. She had not dared look at it until now. The writing on
it had been roughly scratched down with a pencil. It read:
"_Not for love of woman, but in the name of justice and the
fear of God_."
"And I was so cruel," she whispered.
Ah! Honore Grandissime, she was kind to that little writing! She did not
put it back under her pillow; she _kept it warm_, Honore Grandissime,
from that time forth.
BAD FOR CHARLIE KEENE
On the same evening of which we have been telling, about the time that
Aurora and Clotilde were dropping their last tear of joy over the
document of restitution, a noticeable figure stood alone at the corner
of the rue du Canal and the rue Chartres. He had reached there and
paused, just as the brighter glare of the set sun was growing dim above
the tops of the cypresses. After walking with some rapidity of step, he
had stopped aimlessly, and laid his hand with an air of weariness upon a
rotting China-tree that leaned over the ditch at the edge of the
"Setting in cypress," he murmured. We need not concern ourselves as to
One could think aloud there with impunity. In 1804, Canal street was
the upper boundary of New Orleans. Beyond it, to southward, the open
plain was dotted with country-houses, brick-kilns, clumps of live-oak
and groves of pecan. At the hour mentioned the outlines of these objects
were already darkening. At one or two points the sky was reflected from
marshy ponds. Out to westward rose conspicuously the old house and
willow-copse of Jean Poquelin. Down the empty street or road, which
stretched with arrow-like straightness toward the northwest, the
draining-canal that gave it its name tapered away between occasional
overhanging willows and beside broken ranks of rotting palisades, its
foul, crawling waters blushing, gilding and purpling under the swiftly
waning light, and ending suddenly in the black shadow of the swamp. The
observer of this dismal prospect leaned heavily on his arm, and cast his
glance out along the beautified corruption of the canal. His eye seemed
quickened to detect the smallest repellant details of the scene; every
cypress stump that stood in, or overhung, the slimy water; every ruined
indigo-vat or blasted tree, every broken thing, every bleached bone of
ox or horse--and they were many--for roods around. As his eye passed
them slowly over and swept back again around the dreary view, he sighed
heavily and said: "Dissolution," and then again--"Dissolution! order of
A secret overhearer might have followed, by these occasional
exclamatory utterances, the course of a devouring trouble prowling up
and down through his thoughts, as one's eye tracks the shark by the
occasional cutting of his fin above the water.
He spoke again:
"It is in such moods as this that fools drown themselves."
His speech was French. He straightened up, smote the tree softly with
his palm, and breathed a long, deep sigh--such a sigh, if the very truth
be told, as belongs by right to a lover. And yet his mind did not
dwell on love.
He turned and left the place; but the trouble that was plowing hither
and thither through the deep of his meditations went with him. As he
turned into the rue Chartres it showed itself thus:
"Right; it is but right;" he shook his head slowly--"it is but right."
In the rue Douane he spoke again:
"Ah! Frowenfeld"--and smiled unpleasantly, with his head down.
And as he made yet another turn, and took his meditative way down the
city's front, along the blacksmith's shops in the street afterward
called Old Levee, he resumed, in English, and with a distinctness that
made a staggering sailor halt and look after him:
"There are but two steps to civilization, the first easy, the second
difficult; to construct--to reconstruct--ah! there it is! the tearing
down! The tear'--"
He was still, but repeated the thought by a gesture of distress turned
into a slow stroke of the forehead.
"Monsieur Honore Grandissime," said a voice just ahead.
At the mouth of an alley, in the dim light of the streep lamp, stood the
dark figure of Honore Grandissime, f.m.c., holding up the loosely
hanging form of a small man, the whole front of whose clothing was
saturated with blood.
"Why, Charlie Keene! Let him down again, quickly--quickly; do not hold
"Hands off," came in a ghastly whisper from the shape.
"Oh, Chahlie, my boy--"
"Go and finish your courtship," whispered the doctor.
"Oh Charlie, I have just made it forever impossible!"
"Then help me back to my bed; I don't care to die in the street."
"That is all," said the fairer Honore, outside Doctor Keene's sick-room
about ten o'clock at night. He was speaking to the black son of
Clemence, who had been serving as errand-boy for some hours. He spoke
in a low tone just without the half-open door, folding again a paper
which the lad had lately borne to the apothecary of the rue Royale, and
had now brought back with Joseph's answer written under
"That is all," said the other Honore, standing partly behind the first,
as the eyes of his little menial turned upon him that deprecatory glance
of inquiry so common to slave children. The lad went a little way down
the corridor, curled up upon the floor against the wall, and was soon
asleep. The fairer Honore handed the darker the slip of paper; it was
received and returned in silence. The question was:
"_Can you state anything positive concerning the duel_?"
And the reply:
"_Positively there will be none. Sylvestre my sworn friend for
The half-brothers sat down under a dim hanging lamp in the corridor, and
except that every now and then one or the other stepped noiselessly to
the door to look in upon the sleeping sick man, or in the opposite
direction to moderate by a push with the foot the snoring of Clemence's
"boy," they sat the whole night through in whispered counsel.
The one, at the request of the other, explained how he had come to be
with the little doctor in such extremity.
It seems that Clemence, seeing and understanding the doctor's
imprudence, had sallied out with the resolve to set some person on his
track. We have said that she went in search of her master. Him she met,
and though she could not really count him one of the doctor's friends,
yet, rightly believing in his humanity, she told him the matter. He set
off in what was for him a quick pace in search of the rash invalid, was
misdirected by a too confident child and had given up the hope of
finding him, when a faint sound of distress just at hand drew him into
an alley, where, close down against a wall, with his face to the earth,
lay Doctor Keene. The f.m.c. had just raised him and borne him out of
the alley when Honore came up.
"And you say that, when you would have inquired for him at Frowenfeld's,
you saw Palmyre there, standing and talking with Frowenfeld? Tell me
And the other, with that grave and gentle economy of words which made
his speech so unique, recounted what we amplify:
Palmyre had needed no pleading to induce her to exonerate Joseph. The
doctors were present at Frowenfeld's in more than usual number. There
was unusualness, too, in their manner and their talk. They were not
entirely free from the excitement of the day, and as they talked--with
an air of superiority, of Creole inflammability, and with some
contempt--concerning Camille Brahmin's and Charlie Mandarin's efforts to
precipitate a war, they were yet visibly in a state of expectation.
Frowenfeld, they softly said, had in his odd way been indiscreet among
these inflammables at Maspero's just when he could least afford to be
so, and there was no telling what they might take the notion to do to
him before bedtime. All that over and above the independent, unexplained
scandal of the early morning. So Joseph and his friends this evening,
like Aurora and Clotilde in the morning, were, as we nowadays say of
buyers and sellers, "apart," when suddenly and unannounced, Palmyre
presented herself among them. When the f.m.c. saw her, she had already
handed Joseph his hat and with much sober grace was apologizing for her
slave's mistake. All evidence of her being wounded was concealed. The
extraordinary excitement of the morning had not hurt her, and she seemed
in perfect health. The doctors sat or stood around and gave rapt
attention to her patois, one or two translating it for Joseph, and he
blushing to the hair, but standing erect and receiving it at second hand
with silent bows. The f.m.c. had gazed on her for a moment, and then
forced himself away. He was among the few who had not heard the morning
scandal, and he did not comprehend the evening scene. He now asked
Honore concerning it, and quietly showed great relief when it was
Then Honore, breaking a silence, called the attention of the f.m.c. to
the fact that the latter had two tenants at Number 19 rue Bienville.
Honore became the narrator now and told all, finally stating that the
die was cast--restitution made.
And then the darker Honore made a proposition to the other, which, it
is little to say, was startling. They discussed it for hours.
"So just a condition," said the merchant, raising his whisper so much
that the rentier laid a hand in his elbow,--"such mere justice," he
said, more softly, "ought to be an easy condition. God knows"--he lifted
his glance reverently--"my very right to exist comes after yours. You
are the elder."
The solemn man offered no disclaimer.
What could the proposition be which involved so grave an issue, and to
which M. Grandissime's final answer was "I will do it"?
It was that Honore f.m.c. should become a member of the mercantile house
of H. Grandissime, enlisting in its capital all his wealth. And the one
condition was that the new style should be _Grandissime Brothers_.
THE PIQUE-EN-TERRE LOSES ONE OF HER CREW
Ask the average resident of New Orleans if his town is on an island, and
he will tell you no. He will also wonder how any one could have got that
notion,--so completely has Orleans Island, whose name at the beginning
of the present century was in everybody's mouth, been forgotten. It was
once a question of national policy, a point of difference between
Republican and Federalist, whether the United States ought to buy this
little strip of semi-submerged land, or whether it would not be more
righteous to steal it. The Kentuckians kept the question at a red heat
by threatening to become an empire by themselves if one course or the
other was not taken; but when the First Consul offered to sell all
Louisiana, our commissioners were quite robbed of breath. They had
approached to ask a hair from the elephant's tail, and were offered
For Orleans Island--island it certainly was until General Jackson closed
Bayou Manchac--is a narrow, irregular, flat tract of forest, swamp,
city, prairie and sea-marsh, lying east and west, with the Mississippi,
trending southeastward, for its southern boundary, and for its northern,
a parallel and contiguous chain of alternate lakes and bayous, opening
into the river through Bayou Manchac, and into the Gulf through the
passes of the Malheureuse Islands. On the narrowest part of it stands
New Orleans. Turning and looking back over the rear of the town, one may
easily see from her steeples Lake Pontchartrain glistening away to the
northern horizon, and in his fancy extend the picture to right and left
till Pontchartrain is linked in the west by Pass Manchac to Lake
Maurepas, and in the east by the Rigolets and Chef Menteur to
An oddity of the Mississippi Delta is the habit the little streams have
of running away from the big ones. The river makes its own bed and its
own banks, and continuing season after season, through ages of
alternate overflow and subsidence, to elevate those banks, creates a
ridge which thus becomes a natural elevated aqueduct. Other slightly
elevated ridges mark the present or former courses of minor outlets, by
which the waters of the Mississippi have found the sea. Between these
ridges lie the cypress swamps, through whose profound shades the clear,
dark, deep bayous creep noiselessly away into the tall grasses of the
shaking prairies. The original New Orleans was built on the Mississippi
ridge, with one of these forest-and-water-covered basins stretching back
behind her to westward and northward, closed in by Metairie Ridge and
Lake Pontchartrain. Local engineers preserve the tradition that the
Bayou Sauvage once had its rise, so to speak, in Toulouse street. Though
depleted by the city's present drainage system and most likely poisoned
by it as well, its waters still move seaward in a course almost due
easterly, and empty into Chef Menteur, one of the watery threads
of a tangled skein of "passes" between the lakes and the open
Gulf. Three-quarters of a century ago this Bayou Sauvage (or
Gentilly--corruption of Chantilly) was a navigable stream of wild and
On a certain morning in August, 1804, and consequently some five months
after the events last mentioned, there emerged from the darkness of
Bayou Sauvage into the prairie-bordered waters of Chef Menteur, while
the morning star was still luminous in the sky above and in the water
below, and only the practised eye could detect the first glimmer of day,
a small, stanch, single-masted, broad and very light-draught boat, whose
innocent character, primarily indicated in its coat of many colors,--the
hull being yellow below the water line and white above, with tasteful
stripings of blue and red,--was further accentuated by the peaceful name
of _Pique-en-terre_ (the Sandpiper).
She seemed, too, as she entered the Chef Menteur, as if she would have
liked to turn southward; but the wind did not permit this, and in a
moment more the water was rippling after her swift rudder, as she glided
away in the direction of Pointe Aux Herbes. But when she had left behind
her the mouth of the passage, she changed her course and, leaving the
Pointe on her left, bore down toward Petites Coquilles, obviously bent
upon passing through the Rigolets.
We know not how to describe the joyousness of the effect when at length
one leaves behind him the shadow and gloom of the swamp, and there
bursts upon his sight the widespread, flower-decked, bird-haunted
prairies of Lake Catharine. The inside and outside of a prison scarcely
furnish a greater contrast; and on this fair August morning the contrast
was at its strongest. The day broke across a glad expanse of cool and
fragrant green, silver-laced with a network of crisp salt pools and
passes, lakes, bayous and lagoons, that gave a good smell, the inspiring
odor of interclasped sea and shore, and both beautified and perfumed
the happy earth, laid bare to the rising sun. Waving marshes of wild
oats, drooping like sated youth from too much pleasure; watery acres hid
under crisp-growing greenth starred with pond-lilies and rippled by
water-fowl; broad stretches of high grass, with thousands of ecstatic
wings palpitating above them; hundreds of thousands of white and pink
mallows clapping their hands in voiceless rapture, and that amazon queen
of the wild flowers, the morning-glory, stretching her myriad lines,
lifting up the trumpet and waving her colors, white, azure and pink,
with lacings of spider's web, heavy with pearls and diamonds--the gifts
of the summer night. The crew of the _Pique-en-terre_ saw all these and
felt them; for, whatever they may have been or failed to be, they were
men whose heartstrings responded to the touches of nature. One alone of
their company, and he the one who should have felt them most, showed
insensibility, sighed laughingly and then laughed sighingly, in the face
of his fellows and of all this beauty, and profanely confessed that his
heart's desire was to get back to his wife. He had been absent from her
now for nine hours!
But the sun is getting high; Petites Coquilles has been passed and left
astern, the eastern end of Las Conchas is on the after-larboard-quarter,
the briny waters of Lake Borgne flash far and wide their dazzling white
and blue, and, as the little boat issues from the deep channel of the
Rigolets, the white-armed waves catch her and toss her like a merry
babe. A triumph for the helmsman--he it is who sighs, at intervals of
tiresome frequency, for his wife. He had, from the very starting-place
in the upper waters of Bayou Sauvage, declared in favor of the Rigolets
as--wind and tide considered--the most practicable of all the passes.
Now that they were out, he forgot for a moment the self-amusing plaint
of conjugal separation to flaunt his triumph. Would any one hereafter
dispute with him on the subject of Louisiana sea-coast navigation? He
knew every pass and piece of water like A, B, C, and could tell, faster,
much faster than he could repeat the multiplication table (upon which he
was a little slow and doubtful), the amount of water in each at ebb
tide--Pass Jean or Petit Pass, Unknown Pass, Petit Rigolet, Chef
Out on the far southern horizon, in the Gulf--the Gulf of Mexico--there
appears a speck of white. It is known to those on board the
_Pique-en-terre_, the moment it is descried, as the canvas of a large
schooner. The opinion, first expressed by the youthful husband, who
still reclines with the tiller held firmly under his arm, and then by
another member of the company who sits on the centreboard-well, is
unanimously adopted, that she is making for the Rigolets, will pass
Petites Coquilles by eleven o'clock, and will tie up at the little port
of St. Jean, on the bayou of the same name, before sundown, if the wind
holds anywise as it is.
On the other hand, the master of the distant schooner shuts his glass,
and says to the single passenger whom he has aboard that the little sail
just visible toward the Rigolets is a sloop with a half-deck, well
filled with men, in all probability a pleasure party bound to the
Chandeleurs on a fishing and gunning excursion, and passes into comments
on the superior skill of landsmen over seamen in the handling of small
By and by the two vessels near each other. They approach within hailing
distance, and are announcing each to each their identity, when the young
man at the tiller jerks himself to a squatting posture, and, from under
a broad-brimmed and slouched straw hat, cries to the schooner's one
"Hello, Challie Keene."
And the passenger more quietly answers back:
"Hello, Raoul, is that you?"
M. Innerarity replied, with a profane parenthesis, that it was he.
"You kin hask Sylvestre!" he concluded.
The doctor's eye passed around a semicircle of some eight men, the most
of whom were quite young, but one or two of whom were gray, sitting with
their arms thrown out upon the wash-board, in the dark neglige of
amateur fishermen and with that exultant look of expectant deviltry in
their handsome faces which characterizes the Creole with his collar off.
The mettlesome little doctor felt the odds against him in the exchange
"_He_, Doctah, _que-ce qui t'apres fe?_"
"_Ho, ho, compere Noyo!_"
"_Comment va_, Docta?"
A light peppering of profanity accompanied each salute.
The doctor put on defensively a smile of superiority to the juniors and
of courtesy to the others, and responsively spoke their names:
The Doctor and Agamemnon raised their hats.
As Agamemnon was about to speak, a general expostulatory outcry drowned
his voice. The _Pique-en-terre_ was going about close abreast of the
schooner, and angry questions and orders were flying at Raoul's head
like a volley of eggs.
"Messieurs," said Raoul, partially rising but still stooping over the
tiller, and taking his hat off his bright curls with mock courtesy, "I
am going back to New Orleans. I would not give _that_ for all the fish
in the sea; I want to see my wife. I am going back to New Orleans to see
my wife--and to congratulate the city upon your absence." Incredulity,
expostulation, reproach, taunt, malediction--he smiled unmoved upon
"Messieurs, I _must_ go and see my wife."
Amid redoubled outcries he gave the helm to Camille Brahmin, and
fighting his way with his pretty feet against half-real efforts to throw
him overboard, clambered forward to the mast, whence a moment later,
with the help of the schooner-master's hand, he reached the deck of the
larger vessel. The _Pique-en-terre_ turned, and with a little flutter
spread her smooth wing and skimmed away.
"Doctah Keene, look yeh!" M. Innerarity held up a hand whose third
finger wore the conventional ring of the Creole bridegroom. "W'at you
got to say to dat?"
The little doctor felt a faintness run through his veins, and a thrill
of anger follow it. The poor man could not imagine a love affair that
did not include Clotilde Nancanou.
"Whom have you married?"
"De pritties' gal in de citty."
The questioner controlled himself.
"M-hum," he responded, with a contraction of the eyes.
Raoul waited an instant for some kindlier comment, and finding the hope
vain, suddenly assumed a look of delighted admiration.
"Hi, yi, yi! Doctah, 'ow you har lookingue fine."
The true look of the doctor was that he had not much longer to live. A
smile of bitter humor passed over his face, and he looked for a near
Raoul struck an ecstatic attitude and stretched forth his hand as if the
doctor could not fail to grasp it. The invalid's heart sank like lead.
"Frowenfeld has got her," he thought.
"Well?" said he with a frown of impatience and restraint; and Raoul
"I sole my pigshoe!"
The doctor could not help but laugh.
"Shades of the masters!"
"No; 'Louizyanna rif-using to hantre de h-Union.'"
The doctor stood corrected.
The two walked across the deck, following the shadow of the swinging
sail. The doctor lay down in a low-swung hammock, and Raoul sat upon the
deck _a la Turque_.
"Come, come, Raoul, tell me, what is the news?"
"News? Oh, I donno. You 'eard concernin' the dool?"
"You don't mean to say--"
"Agricola and Sylvestre?"
"W'at de dev'! No! Burr an' 'Ammiltong; in Noo-Juzzy-las-June. Collonnel
"Oh, fudge! yes. How is Frowenfeld?"
"'E's well. Guess 'ow much I sole my pigshoe."
"Well, how much?"
"Two 'ondred fifty." He laid himself out at length, his elbow on the
deck, his head in his hand. "I believe I'm sorry I sole 'er."
"I don't wonder. How's Honore? Tell me what has happened. Remember, I've
been away five months."
"No; I am verrie glad dat I sole 'er. What? Ha! I should think so! If
it have not had been fo' dat I would not be married to-day. You think I
would get married on dat sal'rie w'at Proffis-or Frowenfel' was payin'
me? Twenty-five dolla' de mont'? Docta Keene, no gen'leman h-ought to
git married if 'e 'ave not anny'ow fifty dolla' de mont'! If I wasn' a
h-artiz I wouldn' git married; I gie you my word!"
"Yes," said the little doctor, "you are right. Now tell me the news."
"Well, dat Cong-ress gone an' make--"
"Raoul, stop. I know that Congress has divided the province into two
territories; I know you Creoles think all your liberties are lost; I
know the people are in a great stew because they are not allowed to
elect their own officers and legislatures, and that in Opelousas and
Attakapas they are as wild as their cattle about it--"
"We 'ad two big mitting' about it," interrupted Raoul; "my bro'r-in-law
speak at both of them!"
"Glad to hear it," said Doctor Keene,--which was the truth. "Besides
that, I know Laussat has gone to Martinique; that the Americains have a
newspaper, and that cotton is two-bits a pound. Now what I want to know
is, how are my friends? What has Honore done? What has Frowenfeld done?
And Palmyre,--and Agricole? They hustled me away from here as if I had
been caught trying to cut my throat. Tell me everything."
And Raoul sank the artist and bridegroom in the historian, and told him.
"My cousin Honore,--well, you kin jus' say 'e bitray' 'is 'ole fam'ly."
"How so?" asked Doctor Keene, with a handkerchief over his face to
shield his eyes from the sun.
"Well,--ce't'nly 'e did! Di'n' 'e gave dat money to Aurora De
Grapion?--one 'undred five t'ousan' dolla'? Jis' as if to say, 'Yeh's de
money my h-uncle stole from you' 'usban'.' Hah! w'en I will swear on a
stack of Bible' as 'igh as yo' head, dat Agricole win dat 'abitation
fair!--If I see it? No, sir; I don't 'ave to see it! I'll swear to
"And have she and her daughter actually got the money?"
"She--an'--heh--daughtah--ac--shilly--got-'at-money-sir! W'at? Dey
livin' in de rue Royale in mag-_niff_ycen' style on top de drug-sto' of
"But how, over Frowenfeld's, when Frowenfeld's is a one-story--"
"My dear frien'! Proffis-or Frowenfel' is _moove!_ You rickleck dat big
new t'ree-story buildin' w'at jus' finished in de rue Royale, a lill mo'
farther up town from his old shop? Well, we open dare _a big sto'!_ An'
listen! You think Honore di'n' bitrayed' 'is family? Madame Nancanou an'
heh daughtah livin' upstair an' rissy-ving de finess soci'ty in de
Province!--an' _me?_--downstair' meckin' pill! You call dat justice?"
But Doctor Keene, without waiting for this question, had asked one:
"Does Frowenfeld board with them?"
"Psh-sh-sh! Board! Dey woon board de Marquis of Casa Calvo! I don't
b'lieve dey would board Honore Grandissime! All de king' an' queen' in
de worl' couldn' board dare! No, sir!--'Owever, you know, I think dey
are splendid ladies. Me an' my wife, we know them well. An' Honore--I
think my cousin Honore's a splendid gen'leman, too." After a moment's
pause he resumed, with a happy sigh, "Well, I don' care, I'm married. A
man w'at's married, 'e don' care.
"But I di'n' t'ink Honore could ever do lak dat odder t'ing."
"Do he and Joe Frowenfeld visit there?"
"Doctah Keene," demanded Raoul, ignoring the question, "I hask you now,
plain, don' you find dat mighty disgressful to do dat way, lak Honore?"
"W'at? You dunno? You don' yeh 'ow 'e gone partner' wid a nigga?"
"What do you mean?"
Doctor Keene drew the handkerchief off his face and half lifted his
"Yesseh! 'e gone partner' wid dat quadroon w'at call 'imself Honore
The doctor dropped his head again and laid the handkerchief back on his
"What do the family say to that?"
"But w'at _can_ dey say? It save dem from ruin! At de sem time, me, I
think it is a disgress. Not dat he h-use de money, but it is dat name
w'at 'e give de h-establishmen'--Grandissime Freres! H-only for 'is
money we would 'ave catch' dat quadroon gen'leman an' put some tar and
fedder. Grandissime Freres! Agricole don' spik to my cousin Honore no
mo'. But I t'ink dass wrong. W'at you t'ink, Doctah?"
That evening, at candle-light, Raoul got the right arm of his slender,
laughing wife about his neck; but Doctor Keene tarried all night in
suburb St. Jean. He hardly felt the moral courage to face the results of
the last five months. Let us understand them better ourselves.
AN INDIGNANT FAMILY AND A SMASHED SHOP
It was indeed a fierce storm that had passed over the head of Honore
Grandissime. Taken up and carried by it, as it seemed to him, without
volition, he had felt himself thrown here and there, wrenched, torn,
gasping for moral breath, speaking the right word as if in delirium,
doing the right deed as if by helpless instinct, and seeing himself in
every case, at every turn, tricked by circumstance out of every vestige
of merit. So it seemed to him. The long contemplated restitution was
accomplished. On the morning when Aurora and Clotilde had expected to be
turned shelterless into the open air, they had called upon him in his
private office and presented the account of which he had put them in
possession the evening before. He had honored it on the spot. To the two
ladies who felt their own hearts stirred almost to tears of gratitude,
he was--as he sat before them calm, unmoved, handling keen-edged facts
with the easy rapidity of one accustomed to use them, smiling
courteously and collectedly, parrying their expressions of
appreciation--to them, we say, at least to one of them, he was "the
prince of gentlemen." But, at the same time, there was within him,
unseen, a surge of emotions, leaping, lashing, whirling, yet ever
hurrying onward along the hidden, rugged bed of his honest intention.
The other restitution, which even twenty-four hours earlier might have
seemed a pure self-sacrifice, became a self-rescue. The f.m.c. was the
elder brother. A remark of Honore made the night they watched in the
corridor by Doctor Keene's door, about the younger's "right to exist,"
was but the echo of a conversation they had once had together in
Europe. There they had practised a familiarity of intercourse which
Louisiana would not have endured, and once, when speaking upon the
subject of their common fatherhood, the f.m.c., prone to melancholy
speech, had said:
"You are the lawful son of Numa Grandissime; I had no right to be born."
But Honore quickly answered:
"By the laws of men, it may be; but by the law of God's justice, you are
the lawful son, and it is I who should not have been born."
But, returned to Louisiana, accepting with the amiable, old-fashioned
philosophy of conservatism the sins of the community, he had forgotten
the unchampioned rights of his passive half-brother. Contact with
Frowenfeld had robbed him of his pleasant mental drowsiness, and the
oft-encountered apparition of the dark sharer of his name had become a
slow-stepping, silent embodiment of reproach. The turn of events had
brought him face to face with the problem of restitution, and he had
solved it. But where had he come out? He had come out the beneficiary of
this restitution, extricated from bankruptcy by an agreement which gave
the f.m.c. only a public recognition of kinship which had always been
his due. Bitter cup of humiliation!
Such was the stress within. Then there was the storm without. The
Grandissimes were in a high state of excitement. The news had reached
them all that Honore had met the question of titles by selling one of
their largest estates. It was received with wincing frowns, indrawn
breath, and lifted feet, but without protest, and presently with a smile
of returning confidence.
"Honore knew; Honore was informed; they had all authorized Honore; and
Honore, though he might have his odd ways and notions, picked up during
that unfortunate stay abroad, might safely be trusted to stand by the
interests of his people."
After the first shock some of them even raised a laugh:
"Ha, ha, ha! Honore would show those Yankees!"
They went to his counting-room and elsewhere, in search of him, to smite
their hands into the hands of their far-seeing young champion. But, as
we have seen, they did not find him; none dreamed of looking for him in
an enemy's camp (19 Bienville) or on the lonely suburban commons,
talking to himself in the ghostly twilight; and the next morning, while
Aurora and Clotilde were seated before him in his private office,
looking first at the face and then at the back of two mighty drafts of
equal amount on Philadelphia, the cry of treason flew forth to these
astounded Grandissimes, followed by the word that the sacred fire was
gone out in the Grandissime temple (counting-room), that Delilahs in
duplicate were carrying off the holy treasures, and that the
uncircumcised and unclean--even an f.m.c.--was about to be inducted into
the Grandissime priesthood.
Aurora and Clotilde were still there, when the various members of the
family began to arrive and display their outlines in impatient
shadow-play upon the glass door of the private office; now one, and now
another, dallied with the doorknob and by and by obtruded their lifted
hats and urgent, anxious faces half into the apartment; but Honore would
only glance toward them, and with a smile equally courteous,
authoritative and fleeting, say:
"Good-morning, Camille" (or Charlie--or Agamemnon, as the case might
be); "I will see you later; let me trouble you to close the door."
To add yet another strain, the two ladies, like frightened, rescued
children, would cling to their deliverer. They wished him to become the
custodian and investor of their wealth. Ah, woman! who is a tempter like
thee? But Honore said no, and showed them the danger of such a course.
"Suppose I should die suddenly. You might have trouble with my
The two beauties assented pensively; but in Aurora's bosom a great throb
secretly responded that as for her, in that case, she should have no use
for money--in a nunnery.
"Would not Monsieur at least consent to be their financial adviser?"
He hemmed, commenced a sentence twice, and finally said:
"You will need an agent; some one to take full charge of your affairs;
some person on whose sagacity and integrity you can place the fullest
"Who, for instance?" asked Aurora.
"I should say, without hesitation, Professor Frowenfeld, the apothecary.
You know his trouble of yesterday is quite cleared up. You had not
heard? Yes. He is not what we call an enterprising man, but--so much the
better. Take him all in all, I would choose him above all others;
Aurora interrupted him. There was an ill-concealed wildness in her eye
and a slight tremor in her voice, as she spoke, which she had not
expected to betray. The quick, though quiet eye of Honore Grandissime
saw it, and it thrilled him through.
"'Sieur Grandissime, I take the risk; I wish you to take care of my
"But, Maman," said Clotilde, turning with a timid look to her mother,
"If Monsieur Grandissime would rather not--"
Aurora, feeling alarmed at what she had said, rose up. Clotilde and
Honore did the same, and he said:
"With Professor Frowenfeld in charge of your affairs, I shall feel them
not entirely removed from my care also. We are very good friends."
Clotilde looked at her mother. The three exchanged glances. The ladies
signified their assent and turned to go, but M. Grandissime
"By your leave, I will send for him. If you will be seated again--"
They thanked him and resumed their seats; he excused himself, passed
into the counting-room, and sent a messenger for the apothecary.
M. Grandissime's meeting with his kinsmen was a stormy one. Aurora and
Clotilde heard the strife begin, increase, subside, rise again and
decrease. They heard men stride heavily to and fro, they heard hands
smite together, palms fall upon tables and fists upon desks, heard
half-understood statement and unintelligible counter-statement and
derisive laughter; and, in the midst of all, like the voice of a man who
rules himself, the clear-noted, unimpassioned speech of Honore, sounding
so loftily beautiful in the ear of Aurora that when Clotilde looked at
her, sitting motionless with her rapt eyes lifted up, those eyes came
down to her own with a sparkle of enthusiasm, and she softly said:
"It sounds like St. Gabriel!" and then blushed.
Clotilde answered with a happy, meaning look, which intensified the
blush, and then leaning affectionately forward and holding the maman's
eyes with her own, she said:
"You have my consent."
"Saucy!" said Aurora. "Wait till I get my own."
Some of his kinsmen Honore pacified; some he silenced. He invited all to
withdraw their lands and moneys from his charge, and some accepted the
invitation. They spurned his parting advice to sell, and the policy they
then adopted, and never afterward modified, was that "all or nothing"
attitude which, as years rolled by, bled them to penury in those famous
cupping-leeching-and-bleeding establishments, the courts of Louisiana.
You may see their grandchildren, to-day, anywhere within the angle of
the old rues Esplanade and Rampart, holding up their heads in
unspeakable poverty, their nobility kept green by unflinching
self-respect, and their poetic and pathetic pride revelling in
ancestral, perennial rebellion against common sense.
"That is Agricola," whispered Aurora, with lifted head and eyes dilated
and askance, as one deep-chested voice roared above all others.
"Uncle," Aurora by and by heard Honore say, "shall I leave my own
At that moment Joseph Frowenfeld entered, pausing with one hand on the
outer rail. No one noticed him but Honore, who was watching for him, and
who, by a silent motion, directed him into the private office.
"H-whe shake its dust from our feet!" said Agricola, gathering some
young retainers by a sweep of his glance and going out down the stair in
the arched way, unmoved by the fragrance of warm bread. On the banquette
he harangued his followers.
He said that in such times as these every lover of liberty should go
armed; that the age of trickery had come; that by trickery Louisianians
had been sold, like cattle, to a nation of parvenues, to be dragged
before juries for asserting the human right of free trade or ridding the
earth of sneaks in the pay of the government; that laws, so-called, had
been forged into thumbscrews, and a Congress which had bound itself to
give them all the rights of American citizens--sorry boon!--was
preparing to slip their birthright acres from under their feet, and
leave them hanging, a bait to the vultures of the Americain immigration.
Yes; the age of trickery! Its apostles, he said, were even then at work
among their fellow-citizens, warping, distorting, blasting, corrupting,
poisoning the noble, unsuspecting, confiding Creole mind. For months the
devilish work had been allowed, by a patient, peace-loving people, to go
on. But shall it go on forever? (Cries of "No!" "No!") The smell of
white blood comes on the south breeze. Dessalines and Christophe had
recommenced their hellish work. Virginia, too, trembles for the safety
of her fair mothers and daughters. We know not what is being plotted in
the canebrakes of Louisiana. But we know that in the face of these
things the prelates of trickery are sitting in Washington allowing
throats to go unthrottled that talked tenderly about the "negro slave;"
we know worse: we know that mixed blood has asked for equal rights from
a son of the Louisiana noblesse, and that those sacred rights have been
treacherously, pusillanimously surrendered into its possession. Why did
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