- CHAPTER III. A FAMILY GROUP.
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61 A FAMILY GROUP.
A FAMILY GROUP.
PANOLA knelt down by Mark's chair soon as the cousins disappeared out of the apartment. She took Mark's hand and held it, smoothing it with hers as she said:
"Mark, you look troubled. What has occurred? Tell Panola."
Mark could never resist the pleading tones of Panola's voice; so he had to tell her all about uncle Jacob's will.
Panola listened attentively; her tender, soft touches comforted Mark. He leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed ; but his expression of countenance showed that the worst bitterness of his disappointment was over, now that he was sure of Panola's sympathy. He did not dare trust himself to look at Panola: he knew that his glances would alarm and startle her childlike confidence in him. So he shut his eyes while she held his hand so lovingly; and he did not even clasp her fingers; he let his hand lay supinely in her cool, soft palms. Every pulse throbbed and bounded, and a lover's joy flowed to the innermost recesses of his heart; but Mark controlled himself by an imperious strength of will; he did not allow a tremor
62 PANOLA.he braced himself internally and sat as if he were turned into stone. He could not risk the loss of Panola's affectionate friendship, which was so much to him in the impoverishment of his daily life.
"Mark," said Panola, after hearing all he had to tell, listening for the thousandth time to his plaintive laments over his useless existence, "Mark, why should your life be useless? You have studied medicine a good deal; why don't you help your grandfather in his practice? You could. Plenty of these poor `gumbo French' and 'cajeaus' would be glad to come to you for consultation. I would not fret and grieve over myself. I would make occupation! It is not manly to repine."
Mark opened his eyes and looked at Panola.
"You are right, Panola," he replied. "You are always right; and you always do me good, Panola."
"I am glad I do, dear Mark," said the girl, quite simply. "I think how much better off you are than poor mamma. Oh, Mark! it is too sorrowful to see mamma She is becoming so helpless now. She has lost now the use of her arms and hands. Her whole frame is rigid, except her head. Such a strange affection as it is! The doctors say they have never seen anything like it. She has never had a stroke of paralysis so far as she knows, and she is not affected like a paralytic; there is no withering nor change in her flesh. She is as round and plump
63 A FAMILY GROUP.as ever, and all the processes of the system seem to be perfect and unchanged. She never has had the least pain; but three years ago the joints of her toes became rigid, and gradually this rigidity has extended until now she lies as helpless as a body of stone. She is not affected as you are, Mark. You had rheumatic fever to cause your partial paralysis; but mamma has never had anything the matter with hex, and she is not at all a nervous person."
"No," said Mark, "she is rather phlegmatic, and self-controlled as a stoic; she is not at all emotional."
"She is so reticent, too," continued Panola. "I have to guess at her feelings. She rarely expresses What she thinks or feels in words."
"But she has a firm will," said Mark, "quiet and undemonstrative as she is. has she ever got over her prejudice against my stepmother?"
"No, indeed, she has not. You know, long before papa died, mamma wouldn't suffer aunt Bolling to enter her room. It excited her so much that papa had to ask aunt not to go there. It troubled papa greatly ; he was very fond of aunt Bolling. When he died, you know he requested in his will that she should be allowed to live in the Pavilion as long as it should be convenient for her to do so; and he left her half of his personal property. It was not much. The property was all mamma's, bought with her paraphernal money, and
64 PANOLA.of course, by the laws of this State, papa could not dispose of it. The chief, Satana, had a contract of marriage drawn by the first lawyers of the State before he would consent to mamma's marriage with a white man."
"What reasons does your mother give for disliking my stepmother so intensely?"
"None, but that she does not like her; an Indian reason, you will think, Mark," laughed Panola. "But you know what an Indian's prejudices are--instinctive, I suspect; when they hate, they hate."
"And when they love, they are faithful unto death," said Mark, softly.
"Yes, we never forget a good; we never forgive an injury," said Panola, and a dark look came over her fair face, changing all its brightness like the passing of a cloud across the moon's disc. "You will think me very wicked, Mark. I am rather a pagan by organization, I believe sometimes. At any rate I feel much more sympathy with the old Stoics, whose books we read together, than I do with the Christian Scriptures. I believe, on occasion, I could see my enemy scalped or burnt at the stake, with as much satisfaction as my progenitors on the maternal side. Then, main, I am ashamed of such ferocity; that is, when the temperament of the Netherlanders is in the ascendant; then I think I could forgive my enemy and give him aid, and I love Christ and Christian teachings."
65 A FAMILY GROUP.
"It is the dual nature in you which makes this strife, Panola. At the end of your life you will see which has gained the victory; not before."
"I hope it may be the good Christian. I don't know, though."
"Does my stepmother reciprocate your mother's ill-will?" asked Mark, pursuing his train of thought.
"No; that's the worst of it! Aunt Bolling is so kind and so amiable, it makes me really uncomfortable. She is always ready to do any little thing for mamma, and often does, Without mamma's knowing anything about it. She will go even into the kitchen and make the nicest jellies and daintiest cakes with her own hands, things that mamma is very fond of; and Isobel and I have to take them in and not let mamma know who it is that prepares them so deliciously. No one could be kinder than aunt Bolling."
"I have always found her very kind," said Mark, thoughtfully. "She was very good to me when she came to college and found me ill there. I have not been much with her. My father seemed to be fond of her. I have heard that she was very unhappy in her first marriage with Antony Coolidge's father. but they lived in Kentucky during their marriage; he was a citizen of that State. My father met her here, you know, whilst she was on a visit to her brother, Major Flanoy. They lived then in another
66 PANOLA.parish, and I was off at school and college under the care of grandfather Canonge; so I never saw her again until I was ill at college, and then here afterwards, when I found her domiciliated with Major Flanoy, after my father's sudden death."
"She always speaks very affectionately of you," said Panola. "She often wishes her own son was as good as you are, and I am sure I wish he was anything at all like you; for, as he is now, he is excessively disagreeable to me. I have to treat him politely, of course, on account of aunt Bolling; but I almost hate Antony Coolidge. I should like to stick arrows into him and burn hint up, as my Cherokee great-great-grandmother Would have done to anybody she did not like."
"I think, Panola," said Mark, smiling at the exaggeration of her expressions of antipathy, "that my stepmother has some views different from yours on that subject. She would like to draw the bonds of relationship closer between you and your half-cousin."
"Well, she'll never do it," said Panola, energetically, "for, if I do hate any human being, it is my half-cousin, Antony."
67 A FAMILY GROUP.
Her skin it is milk-white,
Bright is the glance of her blue, rolling e'e;
Red, red, are her ripe lips,
And sweeter than roses.
Oh! where could my true love wander frae me?"
"Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful voice!" exclaimed Panola, starting to her feet and holding her head forward in an eager, listening attitude.
Mark smiled sadly at her impulsive movement. She had dropped his hand so quickly when the first note fell upon her car.
"Victor's voice is very fine," he said. "He is considered to be the very finest baritone in New Orleans, that city of music."
"Oh, it is!" said Panola, with a half-sigh. "I wish he would sing some more."
"I will make him sing for you when he comes in," said Mark. "But here comes grandfather," he continued, seeing the door open suddenly.
"Ah! Mademoiselle Panola," cried Docteur Canonge, before he was well in the room, "I haf jus' receive' the notiss of your presence here. You bring wiz you ze beautiful sunshine! It haf been wedder not so good since here yon was the week past. Mark and I, we haf missed you much; ver' great deal. I, more as Mark. He not haf so much galanterie as his ole granfader. Pauvre garçon!"
68 PANOLA.pocket-handkerchief out and blew his nose violently. Panola saw the twinkling of a tear-drop in the old man's eye, as he turned hastily away. he was making an effort to hide his emotion, so as not to let Mark see how troubled he was about the will.
He turned back to Panola. "You haf come now in ver' good Hour, in ver' best of time! for I haf now, you see, my granddaughter, Natika, and my grandson, Victor Burthe. You haf see Natika? Ah, that is good, ver' good. An' you haf see Victor? That is also good. He haf fine voice, haf Victor Burthe! ver' fine! You shall hear him sing. He sing be-eu-tifool! be-eu-teefool!" The old docteur prolonged the adjective with a circumflex accent upon it, opening his eyes widely, and spreading out his hands as he spoke it emphatically.
Panola assured him she fully credited all he said. She had "heard Mr. Burthe sing a few notes already."
"Ah! you haf him already hear? Ah, that is well. But you haf not yet Natika hear declaim. She haf fine talent, almost like mine, for do drame. She ack well; presque comme Rachel. Her Hermione is ver' like Rachel. Ah! ma foi, you shall see her. We shall haf soirée of charades and leetle drame. Quelques declamations from Natika, and some song from Victor, and some belle musique from you; you will bring die Stradinarius chat you procure from Mexique, and you will play for us;
69 A FAMILY GROUP.and Mark shall listen, an' shall play at cartes wid some friends of de voisin; and I shall ack in charades, and we shall have cotillon, and I shall dance wid Madame Duplessis, la mère Nicolline, and also wid you, Mademoiselle Panola, and wid de veuve charmante, Madame votre tante. You can come demain; to-morrow, perhaps. I will consulte wid Natika, and wid Lizbette. Lizbette muss be consulte, you know, Mademoiselle Panola"--the gay old man nodded his head and laughed--"Lizbette rule Mark and I. We ver' much fear Lizbette! N'este ce pas, Mark?"
Mark smiled. "Yes, indeed, grandpapa! Lizbette would revenge herself by giving us cold coffee and burnt toast if we didn't consult her in all domestic arrangements. You had better ask her first, before you invite any of your guests."
"I tink so, indeed. I shall go immediatement to consulte Lizbette. You stay, Mademoiselle Panola, jusqu'à mon retour from de Tartarean region; Orpheé will soon return," and the merry old man darted out of the room like a superannuated swallow, swiftly, if rather tremulously-singing, in a cracked falsetto and in very quavering style, as he went:
70 PANOLA.forehead very intellectual; his dark eyes, bright and sparkling, beamed with good nature and vivacity. His eyebrows and hair were very white. He wore a four-cornered skull-cap of black velvet. He was very neatly dressed in the summer costume of striped blue linen, worn by Creoles in Louisiana. His hands were small, the fingers long and delicate, the thumb and forefinger of his right hand slightly stained from the use of snuff.
He soon returned with Lizbette's gracious permission for the soiree, which he announced triumphantly to Panola, then running to the Venetian door, he called out as loudly and shrilly as possible:
"Natika! Victor! Venez ici met cheres enfans! As quick as possible! Come, my children! I am in much haste!"
Natika and Victor quickly obeyed their grandfather's summons. They came in great Baste, almost out of breath. Natika was quite flushed with anxiety to know what was wanted. She had been absent from hint so many years she had forgotten her grandfather's impulsive ways. She looked blankly at Victor, who, with his usual insouciance, shrugged his shoulders and laughed when Docteur Canonge announced his intention of having a soirée on the following evening. "He had already consulte Lizbette," he said. " She had gracieusement agree for to make grand efforts in
71 A FAMILY GROUP.ze way of gumbo fillet, also oystères and oder tings for un petit souper, and Mademoiselle Panola she 'ave promis to assist wid her violin magnifique, and also, he was sure, would his dear children Natika and Victor give their amiable tributes to the recreations of the evening.
Victor recovered his self-possession sooner than Natika. Docteur Canonge was waiting impatiently for their approbation of his scheme of entertainment. Victor assured his grandfather that he might rely upon him for any amount of singing short of a whole opera, and Natika was compelled to adopt the rôle of graceful obedience, though she privately informed Victor she considered the whole affair would be a tremendous bore; an evening with country neighbors and home-made music not appearing very inviting to this spoiled belle of Parisian salons. "But at any rate it will be a novelty," she said. "I shall have you and Mark as a dernier resource when I grow weary of the campagnards."
Panola arose from her chair now to go home. Docteur Canonge darted forward to accompany her to her carriage. "Mademoiselle Panola," he said, "you will convey mes homages respecteuses, to your charming aunt, Madame Boding, and to Monsieur Antony, votre cousin, and you will request them to honor me with their agreeable society to-morrow evening. Mark, you will write for me leetle notes to ze Smitts and ze Clark familles, as I do not so
72 PANOLA.good English write as you. I will myself send un billet to die famille Duplessis--all zie four familles of zem--particulierement Madame Duplessis mère." The merry little docteur talked all the way out of the room, as he walked by Panola's side, out of the hall, on to the verandah, and to the front gate, where her phaeton was in waiting, with a man on horseback to accompany it. Victor followed to put Panola into her carriage.
"Mademoiselle Panola," said the old docteur, lowering his voice cautiously, "you see my poor Mark is ver' much trouble. You have heard of that villain will? That testament malin of my brudder Jacob? Ah! si ingrat and malicieux of Jacob! Zu mock dat boy so! he cut me off wid nozing! précisément nozing! and he give Mark ver' leetle. I am ver' glad he gif so much zu Natika and zu Victor; but it is hard for poor Mark! His fader gif him nozing eider! Madame Bolling sa veuve charmante she get what Boiling had; not much! I haf got some leetle, and I will gif to Mark all I can; but it is ver' sad for poor Mark, and I will have soirée pour égayer Mark! and for compliment zu Natika and zu Victor," ended the courteous docteur, catching sight of Victor behind them.
Victor smiled, and walked faster up to Panola's other side. He had overheard his grandfather.
73 A FAMILY GROUP.and she shook Bands with him as he assisted her into her phaeton. Victor stood idly by. Panola did not offer her hand, but bowed to him politely. The groom mounted his horse. Panola touched her ponies with her whip, and was soon whirled away, leaving Docteur Canonge and Victor leaning on the low gate gazing after her.
"That's Cherokee Joe wiz Mademoiselle Panola," said Docteur Canonge. "He always ride after her; but never after no one else. He only hunt and shoot and keep zie larder supply wiz game for Major Flanoy; but he go wiz Panola whenever ,he go alone. Her fader dead and her moder sick. I expect die chief Satana make Joe stay to look after Panola. If anybody do harm to stay anybody Panola all zie tribe of zie Cherokees would hunt hint down. Zose Injuns never forgives nor forgets any ting good--neider bad."
"I shouldn't like to have the hatred of an Indian," observed Victor, lightly, "especially of a whole tribe of Cherokees! Do yon think, grandpapa, they can ever be civilized entirely?"
"As a pure race, no! I zink zey are as essentially savage as zie wolf! But as zie wolf may be metamorphose graduellement, into zie faithful dog, so zie Indian may be changed by zie mingling of blood wiz zie white races."
"But you do not approve of any mixture of races, grandpapa?"
"No! Zie white races have attained zeir excellence through much effort, and in course of long ages of time. Not only zie volume, but zie quality of zeir brain matter is zie result of activities, experience, sufferings, perhaps, to which no oder race of man has been subjected. I do not very willingly see zat jeopardized; but of all zie colored races, zie Indian of America is least objectionable. He possesses some very fine traits of nature, which in zie best specimens of hybrids among zem, are quite admirable! But dere are Indians and Indians! Among zie savage races of man, as in zie savage races of beasts, zere are lions and tigers and panthers, and also jackals. I admire zie lions; I do not particularly like zie jackal."
"Do you think. they can ever be made into good citizens, grandpapa?"
"I doubt it! We must put away all zie romantic notions about zose Indians. Zey are a strong race. A people different from all oders. Can you tame wholly zie tiger or zie zebra? zie onagra? Can you make zie rattlesnake gentle? If you can, den you may hope to tame zie unmixed Indian. Zey are brave, proud, continent, stoical, strong, but zey are deceitful as zie adder, cunning as zie wildcat, persevering, obstinate, suspicious, revengeful, and quick-sighted as zie lynx. What can you do wiz such a people? Change his blood or kill him. Zat is all we can do. I do not myself expect to see
75 A FAMILY GROUP.zie catamount and zie jaguar ploughing zie fields, instead of zie ox or zie mule."
Page 75 - 1. NOTE.--Their religion is a sort of Theism. They believe in a Great Spirit who governs all things, and they believe, like the Persians, in an evil spirit, which they call "Ah-skeen-er." he is an invisible spirit, who is not susceptible of a good thought, and whose tendency is essentially always in favor of evil, and that he has innumerable other subordinate evil spirits, subject to his influence and bidding, that continually infest the earth and all things connected therewith (including the air), and which are never idle in their inspirations of evil to, the human family as well as to the brute creatures. Hence all the evil passions are generally, by the Cherokees, charged to the Devil--or, as they call him in their native language, "Ah-skeen-er," which signifies the quintessence of meanness. Also, misfortunes, accidents of injurious character, sickness, had dreams, evil forebodings, mental aberration, etc., are supposed to be the work of devils, who obey the will of their great waster, the chief of all devils, whose throne or chief-seat is generally conceded to be somewhere in the next world, opposite the "happy hunting-grounds," and in a region where the sun never shines, and where total darkness prevails, and where briars and thorns grow densely all over the country, and the game is always wild. The devil receives the wicked (or those to be punished for their had work on this earth) from the hands of his executive officers (the subordinate devils already alluded to) and turns them loose, in this cheerless region, naked and hungry. The punishment in this Cherokee Hell appears to be, that the parties punished do not and cannot know each other, on account of the darkness, but are in mutual fear of each other; that, being always to famished or hungry, they are in continual but vain pursuit of the wild game, and that being naked, their persons are continually torn by the briars and thorns that cover the country. These, I thank, are substantially the outlines of the Cherokee idea of the prince of devils and his "imps."
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