A Night in Acadie
was nothing to do on the plantation
so Telèsphore, having a few dollars
in his pocket, thought he would go
down and spend Sunday in the vicinity of
There was really nothing more to do in the
vicinity of Marksville than in the neighborhood
of his own small farm; but Elvina would
not be down there, nor Amaranthe, nor any
of Ma’me Valtour’s daughters to harass him
with doubt, to torture him with indecision, to
turn his very soul into a weather-cock for love’s
fair winds to play with.
Telèsphore at twenty-eight had long felt the
need of a wife. His home without one was
like an empty temple in which there is no altar,
no offering. So keenly did he realize the necessity
that a dozen times at least during the
past year he had been on the point of proposing
marriage to almost as many different young
women of the neighborhood. Therein lay the
difficulty, the trouble which Telèsphore experienced
in making up his mind. Elvina’s eyes
were beautiful and had often tempted him to
the verge of a declaration. But her skin was
over swarthy for a wife; and her movements
were slow and heavy; he doubted she had Indian
blood, and we all know what Indian blood
is for treachery. Amaranthe presented in her
person none of these obstacles to matrimony.
If her eyes were not so handsome as Elvina’s,
her skin was fine, and being slender to a fault,
she moved swiftly about her household affairs,
or when she walked the country lanes in going
to church or to the store. Telèsphore had once
reached the point of believing that Amaranthe
would make him an excellent wife. He had
even started out one day with the intention of
declaring himself, when, as the god of chance
would have it, Ma’me Valtour espied him passing
in the road and enticed him to enter and
partake of coffee and “baignés.” He would
have been a man of stone to have resisted, or
to have remained insensible to the charms and
accomplishments of the Valtour girls. Finally
there was Ganache’s widow, seductive rather
than handsome, with a good bit of property in
her own right. While Telèsphore was considering
his chances of happiness or even success
with Ganache’s widow, she married a
From these embarrassing conditions,
Telèsphore sometimes felt himself forced to escape;
to change his environment for a day or two
and thereby gain a few new insights by shifting
his point of view.
It was Saturday morning that he decided to
spend Sunday in the vicinity of Marksville, and
the same afternoon found him waiting at the
country station for the south-bound train.
He was a robust young fellow with good,
strong features and a somewhat determined expression —
despite his vacillations in the choice
of a wife. He was dressed rather carefully in
navy-blue “store clothes” that fitted well because
anything would have fitted Telèsphore.
He had been freshly shaved and trimmed and
carried an umbrella. He wore — a little tilted
over one eye — a straw hat in preference to the
conventional gray felt; for no other reason
than that his uncle Telèsphore would have
worn a felt, and a battered one at that. His
whole conduct of life had been planned on lines
in direct contradistinction to those of his uncle
Telèsphore, whom he was thought in early
youth to greatly resemble. The elder Telèsphore
could not read nor write, therefore the
younger had made it the object of his existence
to acquire these accomplishments. The
uncle pursued the avocations of hunting, fishing
and moss-picking; employments which the
nephew held in detestation. And as for carrying
an umbrella, “Nonc” Telèsphore would
have walked the length of the parish in a deluge
before he would have so much as thought
of one. In short, Telèsphore, by advisedly
shaping his course in direct opposition to that
of his uncle, managed to lead a rather orderly,
industrious, and respectable existence.
It was a little warm for April but the car
was not uncomfortably crowded and Telèsphore
was fortunate enough to secure the last
available window-seat on the shady side. He
was not too familiar with railway travel, his
expeditions being usually made on horse-back or
in a buggy, and the short trip promised to
There was no one present whom he knew
well enough to speak to: the district attorney,
whom he knew by sight, a French priest from
Natchitoches and a few faces that were familiar
only because they were native.
But he did not greatly care to speak to anyone.
There was a fair stand of cotton and
corn in the fields and Telèsphore gathered
satisfaction in silent contemplation of the crops,
comparing them with his own.
It was toward the close of his journey that
a young girl boarded the train. There had
been girls getting on and off at intervals and
it was perhaps because of the bustle attending
her arrival that this one attracted Telèsphore’s
She called good-bye to her father from the
platform and waved good-bye to him through
the dusty, sun-lit window pane after entering,
for she was compelled to seat herself on the
sunny side. She seemed inwardly excited and
preoccupied save for the attention which she
lavished upon a large parcel that she carried
religiously and laid reverentially down upon
the seat before her.
She was neither tall nor short, nor stout nor
slender; nor was she beautiful, nor was she
plain. She wore a figured lawn, cut a little low
in the back, that exposed a round, soft nuque
with a few little clinging circlets of soft, brown
hair. Her hat was of white straw, cocked up
on the side with a bunch of pansies, and she
wore gray lisle-thread gloves. The girl seemed
very warm and kept mopping her face. She
vainly sought her fan, then she fanned herself
with her handkerchief, and finally made an attempt
to open the window. She might as well
have tried to move the banks of Red river.
Telèsphore had been unconsciously watching
her the whole time and perceiving her
straight he arose and went to her assistance.
But the window could not be opened.
When he had grown red in the face and
wasted an amount of energy that would
have driven the plow for a day, he offered
her his seat on the shady side. She demurred
— there would be no room for the bundle. He
suggested that the bundle be left where it was
and agreed to assist her in keeping an eye
upon it. She accepted Telèsphore’s place at the
shady window and he seated himself beside her.
He wondered if she would speak to him.
He feared she might have mistaken him for a
in which event he knew that
she would not; for the women of the country
caution their daughters against speaking to
strangers on the trains. But the girl was not
one to mistake an Acadian farmer for a Western
traveling man. She was not born in
Avoyelles parish for nothing.
“I wouldn’ want anything to happen to it,”
‘It’s all right w’ere it is,” he assured her,
following the direction of her glance, that was
fastened upon the bundle.
“The las’ time I came over to Foché’s ball
I got caught in the rain on my way up to my
cousin’s house, an’ my dress!
J’ vous réponds!
it was a sight. Li’le mo’, I would miss the ball.
As it was, the dress looked like I’d wo’ it weeks
“No fear of rain to-day,” he reassured her,
glancing out at the sky, ‘but you can have
my umbrella if it does rain; you jus’ as well
take it as not.”
“Oh, no! I wrap’ the dress roun’ in toileciree
this time. You goin’ to Foché’s ball?
Didn’ I meet you once yonda on Bayou Derbanne?
Looks like I know yo’ face. You
mus’ come f’om Natchitoches pa’ish.”
“My cousins, the Fédeau family, live yonda.
Me, I live on my own place in Rapides since
He wondered if she would follow up her
inquiry relative to Foché’s ball. If she did, he
was ready with an answer, for he had decided
to go to the ball. But her thoughts evidently
wandered from the subject and were occupied
with matters that did not concern him,
for she turned away and gazed silently out of
It was not a village; it was not even a hamlet
at which they descended. The station was set
down upon the edge of a cotton field. Near
at hand was the post office and store; there
was a section house; there were a few cabins
at wide intervals, and one in the distance
the girl informed him was the home of her
cousin, Jules Trodon. There lay a good bit
of road before them and she did not hesitate to
accept Telèsphore’s offer to bear her bundle
on the way.
She carried herself boldly and stepped out
freely and easily, like a negress. There was
an absence of reserve in her manner; yet there
was no lack of womanliness. She had the
air of a young person accustomed to decide
for herself and for those about her.
“You said yo’ name was Fédeau?” she
asked, looking squarely at Telèsphore. Her
eyes were penetrating — not sharply penetrating,
but earnest and dark, and a little searching.
He noticed that they were handsome
eyes; not so large as Elvina’s, but finer in
their expression. They started to walk down
the track before turning into the lane leading
to Trodon’s house. The sun was sinking and
the air was fresh and invigorating by contrast
with the stifling atmosphere of the train.
“You said yo’ name was Fédeau?” she
“No,” he returned. “My name is Telèsphore
“An’ my name; it’s Zaïda Trodon. It looks
like you ought to know me; I don’ know w’y.”
“It looks that way to me, somehow,” he
replied. They were satisfied to recognize this
feeling — almost conviction — of pre-acquaintance,
without trying to penetrate its cause.
By the time they reached Trodon’s house
he knew that she lived over on Bayou de Glaize
with her parents and a number of younger
brothers and sisters. It was rather dull where
they lived and she often came to lend a hand
when her cousin’s wife got tangled in domestic
complications; or, as she was doing now, when
Foché’s Saturday ball promised to be unusually
important and brilliant. There would be
people there even from Marksville, she
thought; there were often gentlemen from
Alexandria. Telèsphore was as unreserved as
she, and they appeared like old acquaintances
when they reached Trodon’s gate.
Trodon’s wife was standing on the gallery
with a baby in her arms, watching for Zaïda;
and four little bare-footed children were sitting
in a row on the step, also waiting; but terrified
and struck motionless and dumb at sight
of a stranger. He opened the gate for the girl
but stayed outside himself. Zaïda presented
him formally to her cousin’s wife, who insisted
upon his entering.
“Ah, b’en, pour ça! you got to come in.
It’s any sense you goin’ to walk yonda to
Foché’s! Ti Jules, run call yo’ pa.” As if Ti
Jules could have run or walked even, or moved
But Telèsphore was firm. He drew forth his
silver watch and looked at it in a business-like
fashion. He always carried a watch; his uncle
Telèsphore always told the time by the sun, or
by instinct, like an animal. He was quite determined
to walk on to Foché’s, a couple of
miles away, where he expected to secure supper
and a lodging, as well as the pleasing distraction
of the ball.
“Well, I reckon I see you all to-night,” he
uttered in cheerful anticipation as he moved
“You’ll see Zaïda; yes, an’ Jules,” called out
Trodon’s wife good-humoredly. “Me, I got
no time to fool with balls,
J’ vous réponds!
with all them chil’ren.”
‘He’s good-lookin’; yes,” she exclaimed,
when Telèsphore was out of ear-shot. ‘An’
dressed! it’s like a prince. I didn’ know you
knew any Baquettes, you, Zaïda.”
‘It’s strange you don’ know ’em yo’ se’f,
cousine.” Well, there had been no question
from Ma’me Trodon, so why should there be
an answer from Zaïda?
Telèsphore wondered as he walked why he
had not accepted the invitation to enter. He
was not regretting it; he was simply wondering
what could have induced him to decline. For
it surely would have been agreeable to sit there
on the gallery waiting while Zaïda prepared
herself for the dance; to have partaken of supper
with the family and afterward accompanied
them to Foché’s. The whole situation was so
novel, and had presented itself so unexpectedly
that Telèsphore wished in reality to become
acquainted with it, accustomed to it. He wanted
to view it from this side and that in comparison
with other, familiar situations. The girl
had impressed him — affected him in some way;
but in some new, unusual way, not as the others
always had. He could not recall details of
her personality as he could recall such details
of Amaranthe or the Valtours, of any of them.
When Telèsphore tried to think of her he could
not think at all. He seemed to have absorbed
her in some way and his brain was not so
occupied with her as his senses were. At that
moment he was looking forward to the ball;
there was no doubt about that. Afterwards, he
did not know what he would look forward to;
he did not care; afterward made no difference.
If he had expected the crash of doom to come
after the dance at Foché’s, he would only
have smiled in his thankfulness that it was not
to come before.
There was the same scene every Saturday at
Foché’s! A scene to have aroused the guardians
of the peace in a locality where such commodities
abound. And all on account of the
mammoth pot of gumbo that bubbled, bubbled,
bubbled out in the open air. Foché in
shirt-sleeves, fat, red and enraged, swore
and reviled, and stormed at old black Douté
for her extravagance. He called her every
kind of a name of every kind of animal that
suggested itself to his lurid imagination. And
every fresh invective that he fired at her she
hurled it back at him while into the pot went
the chickens and the pans-full of minced ham,
and the fists-full of onion and sage and piment
rouge and piment vert. If he wanted her to
cook for pigs he had only to say so. She
knew how to cook for pigs and she knew
how to cook for people of les Avoyelles.
The gumbo smelled good, and Telèsphore
would have liked a taste of it. Douté was
dragging from the fire a stick of wood that
Foché had officiously thrust beneath the simmering
pot, and she muttered as she hurled it
smouldering to one side:
“Vaux mieux y s’méle ces affairs, lui; si
non!” But she was all courtesy as she dipped
a steaming plate for Telèsphore; though she
assured him it would not be fit for a Christian
or a gentleman to taste till midnight.
Telèsphore having brushed, ‘spruced” and
refreshed himself, strolled about, taking a view
of the surroundings. The house, big, bulky
and weather-beaten, consisted chiefly of galleries
in every stage of decrepitude and dilapidation.
There were a few chinaberry trees
and a spreading live oak in the yard. Along
the edge of the fence, a good distance away.
was a line of gnarled and distorted mulberry
trees; and it was there, out in the road, that
the people who came to the ball tied their
ponies, their wagons and carts.
Dusk was beginning to fall and Telèsphore,
looking out across the prairie, could see them
coming from all directions. The little Creole
ponies galloping in a line looked like hobby
horses in the faint distance; the mule-carts
were like toy wagons. Zaïda might be among
those people approaching, flying, crawling
ahead of the darkness that was creeping out of
the far wood. He hoped so, but he did not
believe so; she would hardly have had time to
Foché was noisily lighting lamps, with the
assistance of an inoffensive mulatto boy whom
he intended in the morning to butcher, to
cut into sections, to pack and salt down in a
barrel, like the Colfax woman did to her old
husband — a fitting destiny for so stupid a pig
as the mulatto boy. The negro musicians had
arrived: two fiddlers and an accordion player,
and they were drinking whiskey from a black
quart bottle which was passed socially from
one to the other. The musicians were really
never at their best till the quart bottle had
The girls who came in wagons and on
ponies from a distance wore, for the most
part, calico dresses and sun-bonnets. Their
finery they brought along in pillow-slips or
pinned up in sheets and towels. With these
they at once retired to an upper room; later to
appear be-ribboned and be-furbelowed; their
faces masked with starch powder, but never a
touch of rouge.
Most of the guests had assembled when
Zaïda arrived — ‘dashed up” would better express
her coming — in an open, two-seated
buckboard, with her cousin Jules driving. He
reined the pony suddenly and viciously before
the time-eaten front steps, in order to produce
an impression upon those who were gathered
around. Most of the men had halted their
vehicles outside and permitted their women
folk to walk up from the mulberry trees.
But the real, the stunning effect was
produced when Zaïda stepped upon the gallery
and threw aside her light shawl in the full glare
of half a dozen kerosene lamps. She was white
from head to foot — literally, for her slippers
even were white. No one would have believed,
let alone suspected that they were a pair of old
black ones which she had covered with pieces
of her first communion sash. There is no describing
her dress, it was fluffy, like a fresh
powder-puff, and stood out. No wonder she
had handled it so reverentially! Her white fan
was covered with spangles that she herself had
sewed all over it; and in her belt and in her
brown hair were thrust small sprays of orange
Two men leaning against the railing uttered
long whistles expressive equally of wonder and
‘Tiens! t’es pareille comme ain mariée,
cried out a lady with a baby in her
arms. Some young women tittered and Zaïda
fanned herself. The women’s voices were almost
without exception shrill and piercing;
the men’s, soft and low-pitched.
The girl turned to Telèsphore, as to an old
and valued friend:
‘Tiens! c’est vous?”
He had hesitated
at first to approach, but at this friendly sign
of recognition he drew eagerly forward and
held out his hand. The men looked at him
suspiciously, inwardly resenting his stylish
appearance, which they considered instrusive,
offensive and demoralizing.
How Zaïda’s eyes sparkled now! What very
pretty teeth Zaïda had when she laughed, and
what a mouth! Her lips were a revelation, a
promise; something to carry away and remember
in the night and grow hungry thinking of
next day. Strictly speaking, they may not have
been quite all that; but in any event, that is the
way Telèsphore thought about them. He began
to take account of her appearance: her
nose, her eyes, her hair. And when she left
him to go in and dance her first dance with
cousin Jules, he leaned up against a post and
thought of them: nose, eyes, hair, ears, lips and
round, soft throat.
Later it was like Bedlam.
The musicians had warmed up and were
scraping away indoors and calling the figures.
Feet were pounding through the dance; dust
was flying. The women’s voices were piped
high and mingled discordantly, like the confused,
shrill clatter of waking birds, while the
men laughed boisterously. But if some one had
only thought of gagging Foché, there would
have been less noise. His good humor permeated
everywhere, like an atmosphere. He
was louder than all the noise; he was more
visible than the dust. He called the young
mulatto (destined for the knife) “my boy” and
sent him flying hither and thither. He beamed
upon Douté as he tasted the gumbo and congratulated
“C’est toi qui s’y connais, ma
fille! ’cré tonnerre!”
Telèsphore danced with Zaïda and then he
leaned out against the post; then he danced
with Zaïda, and then he leaned against the
post. The mothers of the other girls decided
that he had the manners of a pig.
It was time to dance again with Zaïda and
he went in search of her. He was carrying
her shawl, which she had given him to hold.
“W’at time it is?” she asked him when he
had found and secured her. They were under
one of the kerosene lamps on the front gallery
and he drew forth his silver watch. She
seemed to be still laboring under some suppressed
excitement that he had noticed before.
“It’s fo’teen minutes pas’ twelve,” he told
“I wish you’d fine out w’ere Jules is. Go
look yonda in the card-room if he’s there, an’
come tell me.” Jules had danced with all the
prettiest girls. She knew it was his custom
after accomplishing this agreeable feat, to retire
to the card-room.
“You’ll wait yere till I come back?” he
“I’ll wait yere; you go on.” She waited but
drew back a little into the shadow. Telèsphore
lost no time.
“Yes, he’s yonda playin’ cards with Foché
an’ some others I don’ know,” he reported
when he had discovered her in the shadow.
There had been a spasm of alarm when he did
not at once see her where he had left her under
“Does he look — look like he’s fixed yonda
“He’s got his coat off. Looks like he’s fixed
pretty comf’table fo’ the nex’ hour or two.”
“Gi’ me my shawl.”
“You cole?” offering to put it around her.
“No, I ain’t cole.” She drew the shawl about
her shoulders and turned as if to leave him.
But a sudden generous impulse seemed to
move her, and she added:
“Come along yonda with me.”
They descended the few rickety steps that
led down to the yard. He followed rather than
accompanied her across the beaten and trampled
sward. Those who saw them thought they
had gone out to take the air. The beams of
light that slanted out from the house were fitful
and uncertain, deepening the shadows. The
embers under the empty gumbo-pot glared red
in the darkness. There was a sound of quiet
voices coming from under the trees.
Zaïda, closely accompanied by Telèsphore,
went out where the vehicles and horses were
fastened to the fence. She stepped carefully
and held up her skirts as if dreading the
least speck of dew or of dust.
“Unhitch Jules’ ho’se an’ buggy there an’
turn ’em ’roun’ this way, please.” He did as
instructed, first backing the pony, then leading
it out to where she stood in the half-made
“You goin’ home?” he asked her, “betta let
me water the pony.”
“Neva mine.” She mounted and seating
herself grasped the reins. “No, I aint goin’
home,” she added. He, too, was holding the
reins gathered in one hand across the pony’s
“W’ere you goin’?” he demanded.
“Neva you mine w’ere I’m goin’.”
“You ain’t goin’ anyw’ere this time o’ night
“W’at you reckon I’m ’fraid of?” she
laughed. “Turn loose that ho’se,” at the same
time urging the animal forward. The little
brute started away with a bound and Telèsphore,
also with a bound, sprang into the buckboard
and seated himself beside Zaïda.
“You ain’t goin’ anyw’ere this time o’ night
by yo’se’f.” It was not a question now, but an
assertion, and there was no denying it. There
was even no disputing it, and Zaïda recognizing
the fact drove on in silence.
There is no animal that moves so swiftly
across a ’Cadian prairie as the little Creole
pony. This one did not run nor trot; he
seemed to reach out in galloping bounds. The
buckboard creaked, bounced, jolted and
swayed. Zaïda clutched at her shawl while
Telèsphore drew his straw hat further down
over his right eye and offered to drive. But he
did not know the road and she would not let
him. They had soon reached the woods.
If there is any animal that can creep more
slowly through a wooded road than the little
Creole pony, that animal has not yet been discovered
in Acadie. This particular animal
seemed to be appalled by the darkness of the
forest and filled with dejection. His head
drooped and he lifted his feet as if each hoof
were weighted with a thousand pounds of lead.
Any one unacquainted with the peculiarities of
the breed would sometimes have fancied that
he was standing still. But Zaïda and Telèsphore
knew better. Zaïda uttered a deep sigh
as she slackened her hold on the reins and
Telèsphore, lifting his hat, let it swing from
the back of his head.
“How you don’ ask me w’ere I’m goin’?”
she said finally. These were the first words
she had spoken since refusing his offer to drive.
“Oh, it don’ make any diff’ence w’ere you
“Then if it don’ make any diff’ence w’ere
I’m goin’, I jus’ as well tell you.” She
hesitated, however. He seemed to have no
curiosity and did not urge her.
“I’m goin’ to get married,” she said.
He uttered some kind of an exclamation; it
was nothing articulate — more like the tone of
an animal that gets a sudden knife thrust. And
now he felt how dark the forest was. An instant
before it had seemed a sweet, black paradise;
better than any heaven he had ever
“W’y can’t you get married at home?” This
was not the first thing that occurred to him to
say, but this was the first thing he said.
“Ah, b’en oui! with perfec’ mules fo’ a father
an’ mother! it’s good enough to talk.”
“W’y couldn’ he come an’ get you? W’at
kine of a scound’el is that to let you go
through the woods at night by yo’se’f?”
“You betta wait till you know who you
talkin’ about. He didn’ come an’ get me because
he knows I ain’t ’fraid; an’ because he’s
got too much pride to ride in Jules Trodon’s
buckboard afta he done been put out o’ Jules
“W’at’s his name an’ w’ere you goin’ to fine
“Yonda on the other side the woods up at
ole Wat Gibson’s — a kine of justice the peace
or something. Anyhow he’s goin’ to marry us.
An’ afta we done married those tetes-de-mulets
yonda on bayou de Glaize can say w’at they
“W’at’s his name?”
The name meant nothing to Telèsphore. For
all he knew, André Pascal might be one of the
shining lights of Avoyelles; but he doubted it.
“You betta turn ’roun’,” he said. It was an
unselfish impulse that prompted the suggestion.
It was the thought of this girl married
to a man whom even Jules Trodon would not
suffer to enter his house.
“I done give my word,” she answered.
“W’at’s the matte with ’im? W’y don’t yo’
father and mother want you to marry ’im?”
“W’y? Because it’s always the same tune!
W’en a man’s down eve’ybody’s got stones to
throw at ’im. They say he’s lazy. A man that
will walk from St. Landry plumb to Rapides
lookin’ fo’ work; an’ they call that lazy! Then,
somebody’s been spreadin’ yonda on the
Bayou that he drinks. I don’ b’lieve it. I
neva saw ’im drinkin’, me. Anyway, he won’t
drink afta he’s married to me; he’s too fon’
of me fo’ that. He say he’ll blow out his
brains if I don’ marry ’im.”
“I reckon you betta turn roun’.”
“No, I done give my word.” And they went
creeping on through the woods in silence.
“W’at time is it?” she asked after an interval.
He lit a match and looked at his watch
“It’s quarta to one. W’at time did he say?”
“I tole ’im I’d come about one o’clock. I
knew that was a good time to get away f’om
She would have hurried a little but the pony
could not be induced to do so. He dragged
himself, seemingly ready at any moment to
give up the breath of life. But once out of the
woods he made up for lost time. They were
on the open prairie again, and he fairly ripped
the air; some flying demon must have changed
skins with him.
It was a few minutes of one o’clock when
they drew up before Wat Gibson’s house. It
was not much more than a rude shelter, and
in the dim starlight it seemed isolated, as if
standing alone in the middle of the black, far-
reaching prairie. As they halted at the gate
a dog within set up a furious barking; and
an old negro who had been smoking his pipe
at that ghostly hour, advanced toward them
from the shelter of the gallery. Telèsphore
descended and helped his companion to
“We want to see Mr. Gibson,” spoke up
Zaïda. The old fellow had already opened the
gate. There was no light in the house.
“Marse Gibson, he yonda to ole Mr. Bodel’s
playin’ kairds. But he neva’ stay atter one
o’clock. Come in, ma’am; come in, suh; walk
right ’long in.” He had drawn his own conclusions
to explain their appearance. They
stood upon the narrow porch waiting while he
went inside to light the lamp.
Although the house was small, as it comprised
but one room, that room was comparatively
a large one. It looked to Telèsphore
and Zaïda very large and gloomy when they
entered it. The lamp was on a table that stood
against the wall, and that held further a rusty
looking ink bottle, a pen and an old blank
book. A narrow bed was off in the corner.
The brick chimney extended into the room
and formed a ledge that served as mantel shelf.
From the big, low-hanging rafters swung an
assortment of fishing tackle, a gun, some discarded
articles of clothing and a string of red
peppers. The boards of the floor were broad,
rough and loosely joined together.
Telèsphore and Zaïda seated themselves on
opposite sides of the table and the negro went
out to the wood pile to gather chips and pieces
of bois-gras with which to kindle a small fire.
It was a little chilly; he supposed the two
would want coffee and he knew that Wat Gibson
would ask for a cup the first thing on his
“I wonder w’at’s keepin’ ’im,” muttered
Zaïda impatiently. Telèsphore looked at his
watch. He had been looking at it at intervals
of one minute straight along.
“It’s ten minutes pas’ one,” he said. He
offered no further comment.
At twelve minutes past one Zaïda’s
restlessness again broke into speech.
“I can’t imagine, me, w’at’s become of André!
He said he’d be yere sho’ at one.” The
old negro was kneeling before the fire that he
had kindled, contemplating the cheerful blaze.
He rolled his eyes toward Zaïda.
“You talkin’ ’bout Mr. André Pascal? No
need to look fo’ him. Mr. André he b’en down
to de P’int all day raisin’ Cain.”
“That’s a lie,” said Zaïda. Telèsphore said
“Tain’t no lie, ma’am; he b’en sho’ raisin’
de ole Nick.” She looked at him, too contemptuous
The negro told no lie so far as his bald
statement was concerned. He was simply mistaken
in his estimate of André Pascal’s ability
to “raise Cain” during an entire afternoon and
evening and still keep a rendezvous with a
lady at one o’clock in the morning. For André
was even then at hand, as the loud and
menacing howl of the dog testified. The negro
hastened out to admit him.
André did not enter at once; he stayed a
while outside abusing the dog and communicating
to the negro his intention of coming
out to shoot the animal after he had attended
to more pressing business that was awaiting
Zaïda arose, a little flurried and excited
when he entered. Telèsphore remained seated.
Pascal was partially sober. There had
evidently been an attempt at dressing for the
occasion at some early part of the previous day,
but such evidences had almost wholly vanished.
His linen was soiled and his whole
appearance was that of a man who, by an effort,
had aroused himself from a debauch. He was
a little taller than Telèsphore, and more loosely
put together. Most women would have called
him a handsomer man. It was easy to imagine
that when sober, he might betray by some subtle
grace of speech or manner, evidences of
“W’y did you keep me waitin’, André? w’en
you knew — ” she got no further, but backed up
against the table and stared at him with
earnest, startled eyes.
“Keep you waiting, Zaïda? my dear li’le
Zaïdé, how can you say such a thing! I
started up yere an hour ago an’ that — w’ere’s
that damned ole Gibson?” He had approached
Zaïda with the evident intention of
embracing her, but she seized his wrist and
held him at arm’s length away. In casting his
eyes about for old Gibson his glance alighted
The sight of the ’Cadian seemed to fill him
with astonishment. He stood back and began
to contemplate the young fellow and lose himself
in speculation and conjecture before him,
as if before some unlabeled wax figure. He
turned for information to Zaïda.
“Say, Zaïda, w’at you call this? W’at kine
of damn fool you got sitting yere? Who let
him in? W’at you reckon he’s lookin’ fo’?
Telèsphore said nothing; he was awaiting
his cue from Zaïda.
“André Pascal,” she said, “you jus’ as well
take the do’ an’ go. You might stan’ yere
till the day o’ judgment on yo’ knees befo’
me; an’ blow out yo’ brains if you a mine to.
I ain’t neva goin’ to marry you.”
“The hell you ain’t!”
He had hardly more than uttered the words
when he lay prone on his back. Telèsphore
had knocked him down. The blow seemed
to complete the process of sobering that had
begun in him. He gathered himself together
and rose to his feet; in doing so he reached
back for his pistol. His hold was not yet
steady, however, and the weapon slipped from
his grasp and fell to the floor. Zaïda picked it
up and laid it on the table behind her. She
was going to see fair play.
The brute instinct that drives men at each
other’s throat was awake and stirring in these
two. Each saw in the other a thing to be
wiped out of his way — out of existence if need
be. Passion and blind rage directed the blows
which they dealt, and steeled the tension of
muscles and clutch of fingers. They were not
skillful blows, however.
The fire blazed cheerily; the kettle which
the negro had placed upon the coals was
steaming and singing. The man had gone in
search of his master. Zaïda had placed the
lamp out of harm’s way on the high mantle
ledge and she leaned back with her hands behind
her upon the table.
She did not raise her voice or lift her finger
to stay the combat that was acting before her.
She was motionless, and white to the lips;
only her eyes seemed to be alive and burning
and blazing. At one moment she felt that André
must have strangled Telèsphore; but she
said nothing. The next instant she could hardly
doubt that the blow from Telèsphore’s
doubled fist could be less than a killing one;
but she did nothing.
How the loose boards swayed and creaked
beneath the weight of the struggling men! the
very old rafters seemed to groan; and she felt
that the house shook.
The combat, if fierce, was short, and it ended
out on the gallery whither they had staggered
through the open door — or one had dragged
the other — she could not tell. But she knew
when it was over, for there was a long moment
of utter stillness. Then she heard one
of the men descend the steps and go away, for
the gate slammed after him. The other went
out to the cistern; the sound of the tin bucket
splashing in the water reached her where she
stood. He must have been endeavoring to remove
traces of the encounter.
Presently Telèsphore entered the room. The
elegance of his apparel had been somewhat
marred; the men over at the ’Cadian ball
would hardly have taken exception now to his
“W’ere is André?” the girl asked.
“He’s gone,” said Telèsphore.
She had never changed her position and
now when she drew herself up her wrist ached
and she rubbed them a little. She was no longer
pale; the blood had come back into her
cheeks and lips, staining them crimson. She
held out her hand to him. He took it gratefully
enough, but he did not know what to do with
it; that is, he did not know what he might
dare to do with it, so he let it drop gently away
and went to the fire.
“I reckon we betta be goin’, too,” she said.
He stooped and poured some of the bubbling
water from the kettle upon the coffee which
the negro had set upon the hearth.
“I’ll make a l’ile coffee firs’,” he proposed,
“an’ anyhow we betta wait till ole man
comes back. It wouldn’t look well
to leave his house that way without some kine
of excuse or explanation.”
She made no reply, but seated herself
submissively beside the table.
Her will, which had been overmastering and
aggressive, seemed to have grown numb under
the disturbing spell of the past few hours. And
illusion had gone from her, and had carried
her love with it. The absence of regret revealed
this to her. She realized, but could not
comprehend it, not knowing that the love had
been part of the illusion. She was tired in
body and spirit, and it was with a sense of
restfulness that she sat all drooping and relaxed
and watched Telèsphore make the coffee.
He made enough for them both and a cup
for old Wat Gibson when he should come in,
and also one for the negro. He supposed the
cups, the sugar and spoons were in the safe
over there in the corner, and that is where he
When he finally said to Zaïda, “Come, I’m
going to take you home now,” and drew her
shawl around her, pinning it under the chin,
she was like a little child and followed whither
he led in all confidence.
It was Telèsphore who drove on the way
back, and he let the pony cut no capers, but
held him to a steady and tempered gait. The
girl was still quiet and silent; she was thinking
tenderly — a little tearfully of those two old
tetes-de-mulets yonder on Bayou de Glaize.
How they crept through the woods! and
how dark it was and how still!
“W’at time it is?” whispered Zaïda. Alas!
he could not tell her; his watch was broken.
But almost for the first time in his life, Telèsphore
did not care what time it was.
went away in the morning
to make a visit to her parents, ten
miles back on rigolet de Bon Dieu.
She did not return in the evening, and
Cazeau, her husband, fretted not a little.
He did not worry much about Athénaïse,
who, he suspected, was resting only
too content in the bosom of her family; his chief
solicitude was manifestly for the pony she had
ridden. He felt sure those “lazy pigs,” her
brothers, were capable of neglecting it seriously.
This misgiving Cazeau communicated
to his servant, old Félicité, who waited upon
him at supper.
His voice was low pitched, and even softer
than Félicité’s. He was tall, sinewy, swarthy,
and altogether severe looking. His thick black
hair waved, and it gleamed like the breast of
a crow. The sweep of his mustache, which
was not so black, outlined the broad contour
of the mouth. Beneath the under lip grew a
small tuft which he was much given to twisting,
and which he permitted to grow, apparently
for no other purpose. Cazeau’s eyes
were dark blue, narrow and overshadowed.
His hands were coarse and stiff from close
acquaintance with farming tools and implements,
and he handled his fork and knife clumsily.
But he was distinguished looking, and succeeded
in commanding a good deal of respect,
and even fear sometimes.
He ate his supper alone, by the light of a
single coal-oil lamp that but faintly illuminated
the big room, with its bare floor and huge
rafters, and its heavy pieces of furniture that
loomed dimly in the gloom of the apartment.
Félicité, ministering to his wants, hovered
about the table like a little, bent, restless
She served him with a dish of sunfish fried
crisp and brown. There was nothing else set
before him beside the bread and butter and
the bottle of red wine which she locked carefully
in the buffet after he had poured his second
glass. She was occupied with her mistress’s
absence, and kept reverting to it after
he had expressed his solicitude about the pony.
“Dat beat me! on’y marry two mont’, an’
got de head turn’ a’ready to go ’broad. C’est
pas Chrétien, ténez!”
Cazeau shrugged his shoulders for answer,
after he had drained his glass and pushed aside
his plate. Félicité’s opinion of the unchristian-
like behavior of his wife in leaving him thus
alone after two months of marriage weighed
little with him. He was used to solitude, and
did not mind a day or a night or two of it.
He had lived alone ten years, since his first
wife died, and Félicité might have known better
than to suppose that he cared. He told her
she was a fool. It sounded like a compliment
in his modulated, caressing voice. She grumbled
to herself as she set about clearing the
table, and Cazeau arose and walked outside on
the gallery; his spur, which he had not removed
upon entering the house, jangled at
The night was beginning to deepen, and to
gather black about the clusters of trees and
shrubs that were grouped in the yard. In the
beam of light from the open kitchen door a
black boy stood feeding a brace of snarling,
hungry dogs; further away, on the steps of a
cabin, some one was playing the accordion;
and in still another direction a little negro baby
was crying lustily. Cazeau walked around to
the front of the house, which was square, squat
A belated wagon was driving in at the gate,
and the impatient driver was swearing hoarsely
at his jaded oxen. Félicité stepped out on the
gallery, glass and polishing towel in hand, to
investigate, and to wonder, too, who could be
singing out on the river. It was a party of
young people paddling around, waiting for the
moon to rise, and they were singing Juanita,
their voices coming tempered and melodious
through the distance and the night.
Cazeau’s horse was waiting, saddled, ready
to be mounted, for Cazeau had many things to
attend to before bed-time; so many things that
there was not left to him a moment in which
to think of Athénaïse. He felt her absence,
though, like a dull, insistent pain.
However, before he slept that night he was
visited by the thought of her, and by a vision
of her fair young face with its drooping lips
and sullen and averted eyes. The marriage
had been a blunder; he had only to look into
her eyes to feel that, to discover her growing
aversion. But it was a thing not by any possibility
to be undone. He was quite prepared
to make the best of it, and expected no less
than a like effort on her part. The less she
revisited the rigolet, the better. He would
find means to keep her at home hereafter.
These unpleasant reflections kept Cazeau
awake far into the night, notwithstanding the
craving of his whole body for rest and sleep.
The moon was shining, and its pale effulgence
reached dimly into the room, and with it a
touch of the cool breath of the spring night.
There was an unusual stillness abroad; no
sound to be heard save the distant, tireless,
plaintive notes of the accordion.
Athénaïse did not return the following day,
even though her husband sent her word to do
so by her brother, Montéclin, who passed on
his way to the village early in the morning.
On the third day Cazeau saddled his horse
and went himself in search of her. She had
sent no word, no message, explaining her
absence, and he felt that he had good cause to
be offended. It was rather awkward to have
to leave his work, even though late in the
afternoon, — Cazeau had always so much to do;
but among the many urgent calls upon him,
the task of bringing his wife back to a sense of
her duty seemed to him for the moment
The Michés, Athénaïse’s parents, lived on
the old Gotrain place. It did not belong to
them; they were “running” it for a merchant
in Alexandria. The house was far too big
for their use. One of the lower rooms served
for the storing of wood and tools; the person
“occupying” the place before Miché having
pulled up the flooring in despair of being able
to patch it. Upstairs, the rooms were so large,
so bare, that they offered a constant temptation
to lovers of the dance, whose importunities
Madame Miché was accustomed to meet with
amiable indulgence. A dance at Miché’s and
a plate of Madame Miché’s gumbo file at midnight
were pleasures not to be neglected or
despised, unless by such serious souls as
Long before Cazeau reached the house his
approach had been observed, for there was
nothing to obstruct the view of the outer road;
vegetation was not yet abundantly advanced,
and there was but a patchy, straggling stand of
cotton and corn in Miché’s field.
Madame Miché, who had been seated on
the gallery in a rocking-chair, stood up to
greet him as he drew near. She was short
and fat, and wore a black skirt and loose muslin
sack fastened at the throat with a hair brooch.
Her own hair, brown and glossy, showed but
a few threads of silver. Her round pink face
was cheery, and her eyes were bright and good
humored. But she was plainly perturbed and
ill at ease as Cazeau advanced.
Montéclin, who was there too, was not ill
at ease, and made no attempt to disguise the
dislike with which his brother-in-law inspired
him. He was a slim, wiry fellow of twenty-five,
short of stature like his mother, and resembling
her in feature. He was in shirt-sleeves,
half leaning, half sitting, on the insecure
railing of the gallery, and fanning himself
with his broad-rimmed felt hat.
“Cochon!” he muttered under his breath
as Cazeau mounted the stairs, — “sacré
“Cochon” had sufficiently characterized the
man who had once on a time declined to lend
Montéclin money. But when this same man
had had the presumption to propose marriage
to his well-beloved sister, Athénaïse, and the
honor to be accepted by her, Montéclin felt
that a qualifying epithet was needed fully to
express his estimate of Cazeau.
Miché and his oldest son were absent. They
both esteemed Cazeau highly, and talked much
of his qualities of head and heart, and thought
much of his excellent standing with city
Athénaïse had shut herself up in her room.
Cazeau had seen her rise and enter the house
at perceiving him. He was a good deal mystified,
but no one could have guessed it when
he shook hands with Madame Miché. He had
only nodded to Montéclin, with a muttered
“Comment ça va?”
“Tiens! something tole me you were coming
to-day!” exclaimed Madame Miché, with a little
blustering appearance of being cordial and
at ease, as she offered Cazeau a chair.
He ventured a short laugh as he seated
“You know, nothing would do,” she went
on, with much gesture of her small, plump
hands, “nothing would do but Athénaïse mus’
stay las’ night fo’ a li’le dance. The boys
wouldn’ year to their sister leaving.”
Cazeau shrugged his shoulders significantly,
telling as plainly as words that he knew nothing
“Comment. Montéclin didn’ tell you we
were going to keep Athénaïse?” Montéclin
had evidently told nothing.
“An’ how about the night befo’,” questioned
Cazeau, “an’ las’ night? It isn’t possible you
dance every night out yere on the Bon Dieu!”
Madame Miché laughed, with amiable
appreciation of the sarcasm; and turning to her
son, “Montéclin, my boy, go tell yo’ sister that
Monsieur Cazeau is yere.”
Montéclin did not stir except to shift his
position and settle himself more securely on the
“Did you year me, Montéclin?”
“Oh yes, I yeard you plain enough,”
responded her son, “but you know as well as
me it’s no use to tell ’Thénaïse anything. You
been talkin’ to her yo’se’f since Monday; an’
pa’s preached himse’f hoa’se on the subject;
an’ you even had uncle Achille down yere
yesterday to reason with her. W’en ’Thénaïse
said she wasn’ goin’ to set her foot back in
Cazeau’s house, she meant it.”
This speech, which Montéclin delivered with
thorough unconcern, threw his mother into a
condition of painful but dumb embarrassment.
It brought two fiery red spots to Cazeau’s
cheeks, and for the space of a moment he
What Montéclin had spoken was quite true,
though his taste in the manner and choice of
time and place in saying it were not of the best.
Athénaïse, upon the first day of her arrival,
had announced that she came to stay, having
no intention of returning under Cazeau’s roof.
The announcement had scattered consternation,
as she knew it would. She had been implored,
scolded, entreated, stormed at, until she
felt herself like a dragging sail that all the
winds of heaven had beaten upon. Why in
the name of God had she married Cazeau?
Her father had lashed her with the question
a dozen times. Why indeed? It was difficult
now for her to understand why, unless because
she supposed it was customary for girls
to marry when the right opportunity came.
Cazeau, she knew, would make life more comfortable
for her; and again, she had liked him,
and had even been rather flustered when he
pressed her hands and kissed them, and kissed
her lips and cheeks and eyes, when she accepted
Montéclin himself had taken her aside to talk
the thing over. The turn of affairs was delighting
“Come, now, ’Thénaïse, you mus’ explain to
me all about it, so we can settle on a good
cause, an’ secu’ a separation fo’ you. Has he
been mistreating an’ abusing you, the sacré
cochon?” They were alone together in her
room, whither she had taken refuge from the
angry domestic elements.
“You please to reserve yo’ disgusting
expressions, Montéclin. No, he has not abused
me in any way that I can think.”
“Does he drink? Come ’Thénaïse, think
well over it. Does he ever get drunk?”
“Drunk! Oh, mercy, no, — Cazeau never
“I see; it’s jus’ simply you feel like me; you
“No, I don’t hate him,” she returned
reflectively; adding with a sudden impulse, “It’s
jus’ being married that I detes’ an’ despise.
I hate being Mrs. Cazeau, an’ would want to
be Athénaïse Miché again. I can’t stan’ to
live with a man; to have him always there; his
coats an’ pantaloons hanging in my room; his
ugly bare feet — washing them in my tub, befo’
my very eyes, ugh!” She shuddered with
recollections, and resumed, with a sigh that was
almost a sob: “Mon Dieu, mon Dieu! Sister
Marie Angélique knew w’at she was saying;
she knew me better than myse’f w’en she said
God had sent me a vocation an’ I was turning
deaf ears. W’en I think of a blessed life in
the convent, at peace! Oh, w’at was I dreaming
of!” and then the tears came.
Montéclin felt disconcerted and greatly
disappointed at having obtained evidence that
would carry no weight with a court of justice.
The day had not come when a young woman
might ask the court’s permission to return to
her mamma on the sweeping ground of a constitutional
disinclination for marriage. But if
there was no way of untying this Gordian knot
of marriage, there was surely a way of cutting
“Well, ’Thénaïse, I’m mighty durn sorry yo
got no better groun’s ’an w’at you say. But
you can count on me to stan’ by you w’atever
you do. God knows I don’ blame you fo’ not
wantin’ to live with Cazeau.”
And now there was Cazeau himself, with the
red spots flaming in his swarthy cheeks, looking
and feeling as if he wanted to thrash
Montéclin into some semblance of decency. He
arose abruptly, and approaching the room
which he had seen his wife enter, thrust open
the door after a hasty preliminary knock. Athénaïse,
who was standing erect at a far window,
turned at his entrance.
She appeared neither angry nor frightened,
but thoroughly unhappy, with an appeal in her
soft dark eyes and a tremor on her lips that
seemed to him expressions of unjust reproach,
that wounded and maddened him at once. But
whatever he might feel, Cazeau knew only one
way to act toward a woman.
“Athénaïse, you are not ready?” he asked in
his quiet tones. “It’s getting late; we havn’
any time to lose.”
She knew that Montéclin had spoken out,
and she had hoped for a wordy interview, a
stormy scene, in which she might have held
her own as she had held it for the past three
days against her family, with Montéclin’s aid.
But she had no weapon with which to combat
subtlety. Her husband’s looks, his tones,
his mere presence, brought to her a sudden
sense of hopelessness, an instinctive realization
of the futility of rebellion against a social
and sacred institution.
Cazeau said nothing further, but stood
waiting in the doorway. Madame Miché had
walked to the far end of the gallery, and pretended
to be occupied with having a chicken
driven from her parterre. Montéclin stood by,
exasperated, fuming, ready to burst out.
Athénaïse went and reached for her riding
skirt that hung against the wall. She was
rather tall, with a figure which, though not
robust, seemed perfect in its fine proportions.
“La fille de son père,” she was often called,
which was a great compliment to Miché. Her
brown hair was brushed all fluffily back from
her temples and low forehead, and about her
features and expression lurked a softness, a
prettiness, a dewiness, that were perhaps too
childlike, that savored of immaturity.
She slipped the riding-skirt, which was of
black alpaca, over her head, and with impatient
fingers hooked it at the waist over her pink
linen-lawn. Then she fastened on her white
sunbonnet and reached for her gloves on the
“If you don’ wan’ to go, you know w’at you
got to do, ’Thénaïse,” fumed Montéclin. “You
don’ set yo’ feet back on Cane River, by God,
unless you want to, — not w’ile I’m alive.”
Cazeau looked at him as if he were a monkey
whose antics fell short of being amusing.
Athénaïse still made no reply, said not a
word. She walked rapidly past her husband,
past her brother; bidding good-bye to no one,
not even to her mother. She descended the
stairs, and without. assistance from any one
mounted the pony, which Cazeau had ordered
to be saddled upon his arrival. In this way
she obtained a fair start of her husband, whose
departure was far more leisurely, and for the
greater part of the way she managed to keep an
appreciable gap between them. She rode almost
madly at first, with the wind inflating her
skirt balloon-like about her knees, and her
sunbonnet falling back between her shoulders.
At no time did Cazeau make an effort to
overtake her until traversing an old fallow
meadow that was level and hard as a table.
The sight of a great solitary oak-tree, with
its seemingly immutable outlines, that had
been a landmark for ages — or was it the odor
of elderberry stealing up from the gully to the
south? or what was it that brought vividly
back to Cazeau, by some association of ideas,
a scene of many years ago? He had passed
that old live-oak hundreds of times, but it
was only now that the memory of one day
came back to him. He was a very small boy
that day, seated before his father on horseback.
They were proceeding slowly, and
Black Gabe was moving on before them at a
little dog-trot. Black Gabe had run away, and
had been discovered back in the Gotrain
swamp. They had halted beneath this big oak
to enable the negro to take breath; for Cazeau’s
father was a kind and considerate master, and
every one had agreed at the time that Black
Gabe was a fool, a great idiot indeed, for wanting
to run away from him.
The whole impression was for some reason
hideous, and to dispel it Cazeau spurred his
horse to a swift gallop. Overtaking his wife,
he rode the remainder of the way at her side in
It was late when they reached home. Félicité
was standing on the grassy edge of the
road, in the moonlight, waiting for them.
Cazeau once more ate his supper alone; for
Athénaïse went to her room, and there she
was crying again.
Athénaïse was not one to accept the inevitable
with patient resignation, a talent born in the
souls of many women; neither was she the one
to accept it with philosophical resignation, like
her husband. Her sensibilities were alive and
keen and responsive. She met the pleasurable
things of life with frank, open appreciation,
and against distasteful conditions she rebelled.
Dissimulation was as foreign to her nature as
guile to the breast of a babe, and her rebellious
outbreaks, by no means rare, had hitherto been
quite open and aboveboard. People often said
that Athénaïse would know her own mind
some day, which was equivalent to saying that
she was at present unacquainted with it. If
she ever came to such knowledge, it would be
by no intellectual research, by no subtle analyses
or tracing the motives of actions to their
source. It would come to her as the song
to the bird, the perfume and color to the flower.
Her parents had hoped — not without reason
and justice — that marriage would bring the
poise, the desirable pose, so glaringly lacking
in Athénaïse’s character. Marriage they knew
to be a wonderful and powerful agent in the
development and formation of a woman’s character;
they had seen its effect too often to
“And if this marriage does nothing else,”
exclaimed Miché in an outburst of sudden
exasperation, “it will rid us of Athénaïse; for I
am at the end of my patience with her! You
have never had the firmness to manage her,” —
he was speaking to his wife, — “I have not had
the time, the leisure, to devote to her training;
and what good we might have accomplished,
that maudit Montéclin — Well, Cazeau is the
one! It takes just such a steady hand to guide
a disposition like Athénaïse’s, a master hand, a
strong will that compels obedience.”
And now, when they had hoped for so much,
here was Athénaïse, with gathered and fierce
vehemence, beside which her former outbursts
appeared mild, declaring that she would not,
and she would not, and she would not continue
to enact the role of wife to Cazeau. If she
had had a reason! as Madame Miché lamented;
but it could not be discovered that she had
any sane one. He had never scolded, or called
names, or deprived her of comforts, or been
guilty of any of the many reprehensible acts
commonly attributed to objectionable husbands.
He did not slight nor neglect her. Indeed,
Cazeau’s chief offense seemed to be that
he loved her, and Athénaïse was not the woman
to be loved against her will. She called
marriage a trap set for the feet of unwary and
unsuspecting girls, and in round, unmeasured
terms reproached her mother with treachery
“I told you Cazeau was the man,” chuckled
Miché, when his wife had related the scene
that had accompanied and influenced Athénaïse’s
Athénaïse again hoped, in the morning, that
Cazeau would scold-or make some sort of a
scene, but he apparently did not dream of it.
It was exasperating that he should take her
acquiescence so for granted. It is true he had
been up and over the fields and across the
river and back long before she was out of bed,
and he may have been thinking of something
else, which was no excuse, which was even in
some sense an aggravation. But he did say
to her at breakfast, “That brother of yo’s, that
Montéclin, is unbearable.”
Athénaïse, seated opposite to her husband,
was attired in a white morning wrapper. She
wore a somewhat abused, long face, it is true,
— an expression of countenance familiar to
some husbands, — but the expression was not
sufficiently pronounced to mar the charm of her
youthful freshness. She had little heart to eat,
only playing with the food before her, and she
felt a pang of resentment at her husband’s
“Yes, Montéclin,” he reasserted. “He’s
developed into a firs’-class nuisance; an’ you
better tell him, Athénaïse, — unless you want me
to tell him, — to confine his energies after this
to matters that concern him. I have no use
fo’ him or fo’ his interference in w’at regards
you an’ me alone.”
This was said with unusual asperity. It was
the little breach that Athénaïse had been
watching for, and she charged rapidly: “It’s
strange, if you detes’ Montéclin so heartily,
that you would desire to marry his sister.” She
knew it was a silly thing to say, and was not
surprised when he told her so. It gave her
a little foothold for further attack, however. “I
don’t see, anyhow, w’at reason you had to
marry me, w’en there were so many others,”
she complained, as if accusing him of persecution
and injury. “There was Marianne running
after you fo’ the las’ five years till it was
disgraceful; an’ any one of the Dortrand girls
would have been glad to marry you. But no,
nothing would do; you mus’ come out on the
rigolet fo’ me.” Her complaint was pathetic,
and at the same time so amusing that Cazeau
was forced to smile.
“I can’t see w’at the Dortrand girls or
Marianne have to do with it,” he rejoined; adding,
with no trace of amusement, “I married you
because I loved you; because you were the
woman I wanted to marry, an’ the only one.
I reckon I tole you that befo’. I thought —
of co’se I was a fool fo’ taking things fo’ granted
— but I did think that I might make you
happy in making things easier an’ mo’ comfortable
fo’ you. I expected — I was even that
big a fool — believed that yo’ coming yere
to me would be like the sun shining out of the
clouds, an’ that our days would be like w’at the
story-books promise after the wedding. I was
mistaken. But I can’t imagine w’at induced
you to marry me. W’atever it was, I reckon
you foun’ out you made a mistake, too. I
don’ see anything to do but make the best of
a bad bargain, an’ shake han’s over it.” He
had arisen from the table, and, approaching,
held out his hand to her. What he had said
was commonplace enough, but it was significant,
coming from Cazeau, who was not often
so unreserved in expressing himself.
Athénaïse ignored the hand held out to her.
She was resting her chin in her palm, and kept
her eyes fixed moodily upon the table. He
rested his hand, that she would not touch, upon
her head for an instant, and walked away out
of the room.
She heard him giving orders to workmen
who had been waiting for him out on the gallery,
and she heard him mount his horse and
ride away. A hundred things would distract
him and engage his attention during the day.
She felt that he had perhaps put her and her
grievance from his thoughts when he crossed
the threshold; whilst she —
Old Félicité was standing there holding a
shining tin pail, asking for flour and lard and
eggs from the storeroom, and meal for the
Athénaïse seized the bunch of keys which
hung from her belt and flung them at
“Tiens! tu vas les garder comme tu as jadis
fait. Je ne veux plus de ce train là, moi!”
The old woman stooped and picked up the
keys from the floor. It was really all one to
her that her mistress returned them to her
keeping, and refused to take further account
of the menage.
It seemed now to Athénaïse that Montéclin
was the only friend left to her in the world.
Her father and mother had turned from her in
what appeared to be her hour of need. Her
friends laughed at her, and refused to take seriously
the hints which she threw out, — feeling
her way to discover if marriage were as distasteful
to other women as to herself. Montéclin
alone understood her. He alone had always
been ready to act for her and with her, to comfort
and solace her with his sympathy and his
support. Her only hope for rescue from her
hateful surroundings lay in Montéclin. Of
herself she felt powerless to plan, to act, even
to conceive a way out of this pitfall into which
the whole world seemed to have conspired to
She had a great desire to see her brother,
and wrote asking him to come to her. But it
better suited Montéclin’s spirit of adventure to
appoint a meeting-place at the turn of the lane,
where Athénaïse might appear to be walking
leisurely for health and recreation, and where
he might seem to be riding along, bent on
some errand of business or pleasure.
There had been a shower, a sudden downpour,
short as it was sudden, that had laid the
dust in the road. It had freshened the pointed
leaves of the live-oaks, and brightened up the
big fields of cotton on either side of the lane
till they seemed carpeted with green, glittering
Athénaïse walked along the grassy edge of
the road, lifting her crisp skirts with one hand,
and with the other twirling a gay sunshade
over her bare head. The scent of the fields
after the rain was delicious. She inhaled long
breaths of their freshness and perfume, that
soothed and quieted her for the moment.
There were birds splashing and spluttering in
the pools, pluming themselves on the fencerails,
and sending out little sharp cries, twitters,
and shrill rhapsodies of delight.
She saw Montéclin approaching from a
great distance, — almost as far away as the turn
of the woods. But she could not feel sure it
was he; it appeared too tall for Montéclin, but
that was because he was riding a large horse,
She waved her parasol to him; she was so glad
to see him. She had never been so glad to
see Montéclin before; not even the day when
he had taken her out of the convent, against
her parents’ wishes, because she had expressed
a desire to remain there no longer. He
seemed to her, as he drew near, the embodiment
of kindness, of bravery, of chivalry, even
of wisdom; for she had never known Montéclin
at a loss to extricate himself from a disagreeable
He dismounted, and, leading his horse by
the bridle, started to walk beside her, after he
had kissed her affectionately and asked her
what she was crying about. She protested that
she was not crying, for she was laughing,
though drying her eyes at the same time on
her handkerchief, rolled in a soft mop for the
She took Montéclin’s arm, and they strolled
slowly down the lane; they could not seat
themselves for a comfortable chat, as they
would have liked, with the grass all sparkling
and bristling wet.
Yes, she was quite as wretched as ever, she
told him. The week which had gone by since she
saw him had in no wise lightened the burden
of her discontent. There had even been some
additional provocations laid upon her, and she
told Montéclin all about them, — about the
keys, for instance, which in a fit of temper she
had returned to Félicité’s keeping; and she
told how Cazeau had brought them back to
her as if they were something she had accidentally
lost, and he had recovered; and how
he had said, in that aggravating tone of his,
that it was not the custom on Cane river for
the negro servants to carry the keys, when
there was a mistress at the head of the
But Athénaïse could not tell Montéclin anything
to increase the disrespect which he already
entertained for his brother-in-law; and
it was then he unfolded to her a plan which he
had conceived and worked out for her deliverance
from this galling matrimonial yoke.
It was not a plan which met with instant
favor, which she was at once ready to accept,
for it involved secrecy and dissimulation, hateful
alternatives, both of them. But she was
filled with admiration for Montéclin’s resources
and wonderful talent for contrivance. She
accepted the plan; not with the immediate
determination to act upon it, rather with the
intention to sleep and to dream upon it.
Three days later she wrote to Montéclin that
she had abandoned herself to his counsel. Displeasing
as it might be to her sense of honesty,
it would yet be less trying than to live
on with a soul full of bitterness and revolt, as
she had done for the past two months.
When Cazeau awoke, one morning at his
usual very early hour, it was to find the place
at his side vacant. This did not surprise him until
he discovered that Athénaïse was not in the
adjoining room, where he had often found her
sleeping in the morning on the lounge. She
had perhaps gone out for an early stroll, he
reflected, for her jacket and hat were not on the
rack where she had hung them the night before.
But there were other things absent, —
a gown or two from the armoire; and there
was a great gap in the piles of lingerie on the
shelf; and her traveling-bag was missing, and
so were her bits of jewelry from the toilet tray
— and Athénaïse was gone!
But the absurdity of going during the night,
as if she had been a prisoner, and he the keeper
of a dungeon! So much secrecy and mystery,
to go sojourning out on the Bon Dieu? Well,
the Michés might keep their daughter after
this. For the companionship of no woman on
earth would he again undergo the humiliating
sensation of baseness that had overtaken him
in passing the old oak-tree in the fallow
But a terrible sense of loss overwhelmed
Cazeau. It was not new or sudden; he had felt
it for weeks growing upon him, and it seemed
to culminate with Athénaïse’s flight from
home. He knew that he could again compel
her return as he had done once before, — compel
her to return to the shelter of his roof,
compel her cold and unwilling submission to
his love and passionate transports; but the
loss of self-respect seemed to him too dear a
price to pay for a wife.
He could not comprehend why she had
seemed to prefer him above others; why she
had attracted him with eyes, with voice, with
a hundred womanly ways, and finally distracted
him with love which she seemed, in her timid,
maidenly fashion, to return. The great sense
of loss came from the realization of having
missed a chance for happiness, — a chance that
would come his way again only through a
miracle. He could not think of himself loving
any other woman, and could not think of
Athénaïse ever — even at some remote date —
caring for him.
He wrote her a letter, in which he disclaimed
any further intention of forcing his commands
upon her. He did not desire her presence
ever again in his home unless she came of her
free will, uninfluenced by family or friends;
unless she could be the companion he had
hoped for in marrying her, and in some measure
return affection and respect for the love
which he continued and would always continue
to feel for her. This letter he sent out to the
rigolet by a messenger early in the day. But
she was not out on the rigolet, and had not
The family turned instinctively to Montéclin,
and almost literally fell upon him for an
explanation; he had been absent from home all
night. There was much mystification in his
answers, and a plain desire to mislead in his
assurances of ignorance and innocence.
But with Cazeau there was no doubt or
speculation when he accosted the young fellow.
“Montéclin, w’at have you done with
he questioned bluntly. They had met
in the open road on horseback, just as Cazeau
ascended the river bank before his house.
“W’at have you done to Athénaïse?” returned
Montéclin for answer.
“I don’t reckon you’ve considered yo’ conduct
by any light of decency an’ propriety in
encouraging yo’ sister to such an action, but
let me tell you” —
“Voyons! you can let me alone with yo’
decency an’ morality an’ fiddlesticks. I know
you mus’ ’a’ done Athénaïse pretty mean that
she cant live with you; an’ fo’ my part, I’m
mighty durn glad she had the spirit to quit
“I ain’t in the humor to take any notice of
yo’ impertinence, Montéclin; but let me remine
you that Athénaïse is nothing but a chile
in character; besides that, she’s my wife, an’
I hole you responsible fo’ her safety an’
welfare. If any harm of any description happens
to her, I’ll strangle you, by God, like a rat, and
fling you in Cane river, if I have to hang fo’
it!” He had not lifted his voice. The only sign
of anger was a savage gleam in his eyes.
“I reckon you better keep yo’ big talk fo’
the women, Cazeau,” replied Montéclin, riding
But he went doubly armed after that, and
intimated that the precaution was not needless,
in view of the threats and menaces that were
abroad touching his personal safety.
Athénaïse reached her destination sound of
skin and limb, but a good deal flustered, a little
frightened, and altogether excited and interested
by her unusual experiences.
Her destination was the house of Sylvie, on
Dauphine Street, in New Orleans, — a three
story gray brick, standing directly on the banquette,
with three broad stone steps leading to
the deep front entrance. From the second-story
balcony swung a small sign. conveying to passers-by
the intelligence that within were
It was one morning in the last week of April
that Athénaïse presented herself at the Dauphine
Street house. Sylvie was expecting her,
and introduced her at once to her apartment,
which was in the second story of the back
ell, and accessible by an open, outside gallery.
There was a yard below, paved with broad
stone flagging; many fragrant flowering shrubs
and plants grew in a bed along the side of the
opposite wall, and others were distributed about
in tubs and green boxes.
It was a plain but large enough room into
which Athénaïse was ushered, with matting on
the floor, green shades and Nottingham-lace
curtains at the windows that looked out on the
gallery, and furnished with a cheap walnut
suit. But everything looked exquisitely clean,
and the whole place smelled of cleanliness.
Athénaïse at once fell into the rocking-chair,
with the air of exhaustion and intense relief of
one who has come to the end of her troubles.
Sylvie, entering behind her, laid the big
traveling-bag on the floor and deposited the jacket
on the bed.
She was a portly quadroon of fifty or
there-about, clad in an ample
of the old-
fashioned purple calico so much affected by her
class. She wore large golden hoop-earrings,
and her hair was combed plainly, with every
appearance of effort to smooth out the kinks.
She had broad, coarse features, with a nose
that turned up, exposing the wide nostrils, and
that seemed to emphasize the loftiness and command
of her bearing, — a dignity that in the
presence of white people assumed a character
of respectfulness, but never of obsequiousness.
Sylvie believed firmly in maintaining the color-
line, and would not suffer a white person, even
a child, to call her “Madame Sylvie,” — a title
which she exacted religiously, however, from
those of her own race.
“I hope you be please’ wid yo’ room,
madame,” she observed amiably. “Dat’s de same
room w’at yo’ brother, M’sieur Miché, all time
like w’en he come to New Orlean’. He well
M’sieur Miché? I receive’ his letter las’ week,
an’ dat same day a gent’man want I give ’im
dat room. I say, ’No, dat room already ingage’.’
Ev-body like dat room on ’count it so
quite (quiet). M’sieur Gouvernail, dere in nax’
room, you can’t pay ’im! He been stay t’ree
ear’ in dat room; but all fix’ up fine wid his
own furn’ture an’ books, ’tel you can’t see! I
say to ’im plenty time’, ’M’sieur Gouvernail,
wty you don’t take dat t’ree-story front, now,
long it’s empty?’ He tells me, ’Leave me ’lone,
Sylvie; I know a good room w’en I fine it,
She had been moving slowly and majestically
about the apartment, straightening and
smoothing down bed and pillows, peering into
ewer and basin, evidently casting an eye
around to make sure that everything was as
it should be.
“I sen’ you some fresh water, madame,” she
offered upon retiring from the room. “An’
w’en you want an’t’ing, you jus’ go out on de
galltry an’ call Pousette: she year you plain,
— she right down dere in de kitchen.”
Athénaïse was really not so exhausted as she
had every reason to be after that interminable
and circuitous way by which Montéclin had
seen fit to have her conveyed to the city.
Would she ever forget that dark and truly
dangerous midnight ride along the “coast” to
the mouth of Cane river! There Montéclin
had parted with her, after seeing her aboard
the St. Louis and Shreveport packet which he
knew would pass there before dawn. She had
received instructions to disembark at the
mouth of Red river, and there transfer to the
first south-bound steamer for New Orleans; all
of which instructions she had followed implicitly,
even to making her way at once to Sylvie’s
upon her arrival in the city. Montéclin
had enjoined secrecy and much caution; the
clandestine nature of the affair gave it a savor
of adventure which was highly pleasing to
him. Eloping with his sister was only a little
less engaging than eloping with some one
But Montéclin did not do the
by halves. He had paid Sylvie a whole month
in advance for Athénaïse’s board and lodging.
Part of the sum he had been forced to borrow,
it is true, but he was not niggardly.
Athénaïse was to take her meals in the
house, which none of the other lodgers did;
the one exception being that Mr. Gouvernail
was served with breakfast on Sunday
Sylvie’s clientele came chiefly from the
southern parishes; for the most part, people
spending but a few days in the city. She prided
herself upon the quality and highly respectable
character of her patrons, who came and
The large parlor opening upon the front
balcony was seldom used. Her guests were permitted
to entertain in this sanctuary of elegance,
— but they never did. She often rented
it for the night to parties of respectable and
discreet gentlemen desiring to enjoy a quiet
game of cards outside the bosom of their families.
The second-story hall also led by a long
window out on the balcony. And Sylvie advised
Athénaïse, when she grew weary of her
back room, to go and sit on the front balcony,
which was shady in the afternoon, and
where she might find diversion in the sounds
and sights of the street below.
Athénaïse refreshed herself with a bath, and
was soon unpacking her few belongings, which
she ranged neatly away in the bureau drawers
and the armoire.
She had revolved certain plans in her mind
during the past hour or so. Her present intention
was to live on indefinitely in this big,
cool, clean back room on Dauphine street. She
had thought seriously, for moments, of the convent,
with all readiness to embrace the vows of
poverty and chastity; but what about obedience?
Later, she intended, in some round-about
way, to give her parents and her husband
the assurance of her safety and welfare;
reserving the right to remain unmolested and
lost to them. To live on at the expense of
Montéclin’s generosity was wholly out of the
question, and Athénaïse meant to look about
for some suitable and agreeable employment.
The imperative thing to be done at present,
however, was to go out in search of material
for an inexpensive gown or two; for she found
herself in the painful predicament of a young
woman having almost literally nothing to wear.
She decided upon pure white for one, and some
sort of a sprigged muslin for the other.
On Sunday morning, two days after Athénaïse’s
arrival in the city, she went in to breakfast
somewhat later than usual, to find two
covers laid at table instead of the one to which
she was accustomed. She had been to mass,
and did not remove her hat, but put her fan,
parasol, and prayer-book aside. The dining-room
was situated just beneath her own apartment,
and, like all rooms of the house, was
large and airy; the floor was covered with a
The small, round table, immaculately set,
was drawn near the open window. There were
some tall plants in boxes on the gallery outside;
and Pousette, a little, old, intensely black
woman, was splashing and dashing buckets of
water on the flagging, and talking loud in her
Creole patois to no one in particular.
A dish piled with delicate river-shrimps and
crushed ice was on the table; a caraffe of
crystal-clear water, a few hors d’oeuvres, beside a small golden-brown crusty loaf of French
bread at each plate. A half-bottle of wine and
the morning paper were set at the place opposite
She had almost completed her breakfast
when Gouvernail came in and seated himself
at table. He felt annoyed at finding his cherished
privacy invaded. Sylvie was removing
the remains of a mutton-chop from before
Athénaïse, and serving her with a cup of caf�
“M’sieur Gouvernail,” offered Sylvie in her
most insinuating and impressive manner, “you
please leave me make you acquaint’ wid Madame
Cazeau. Dat’s M’sieur Miché’s sister;
you meet ’im two t’ree time’, you rec’lec’, an’
been one day to de race wid ’im. Madame
Cazeau, you please leave me make you acquaint’
wid M’sieur Gouvernail.”
Gouvernail expressed himself greatly pleased
to meet the sister of Monsieur Miché, of whom
he had not the slightest recollection. He inquired
after Monsieur Miché’s health, and politely
offered Athénaïse a part of his newspaper,
— the part which contained the Woman’s
Page and the social gossip.
Athénaïse faintly remembered that Sylvie
had spoken of a Monsieur Gouvernail occupying
the room adjoining hers, living amid luxurious
surroundings and a multitude of books.
She had not thought of him further than to
picture him a stout, middle-aged gentleman,
with a bushy beard turning gray, wearing large
gold-rimmed spectacles, and stooping somewhat
from much bending over books and writing
material. She had confused him in her
mind with the likeness of some literary celebrity
that she had run across in the advertising
pages of a magazine.
Gouvernail’s appearance was, in truth, in no
sense striking. He looked older than thirty
and younger than forty, was of medium height
and weight, with a quiet, unobtrusive manner
which seemed to ask that he be let alone. His
hair was light brown, brushed carefully and
parted in the middle. His mustache was
brown, and so were his eyes, which had a mild,
penetrating quality. He was neatly dressed in
the fashion of the day; and his hands seemed
to Athénaïse remarkably white and soft for a
He had been buried in the contents of his
newspaper, when he suddenly realized that
some further little attention might be due to
Miché’s sister. He started to offer her a glass
of wine, when he was surprised and relieved
to find that she had quietly slipped away while
he was absorbed in his own editorial on
Gouvernail finished his paper and smoked
his cigar out on the gallery. He lounged
about, gathered a rose for his buttonhole, and
had his regular Sunday-morning confab with
Pousette, to whom he paid a weekly stipend
for brushing his shoes and clothing. He made
a great pretense of haggling over the transaction,
only to enjoy her uneasiness and garrulous
He worked or read in his room for a few
hours, and when he quitted the house, at three
in the afternoon, it was to return no more till
late at night. It was his almost invariable
custom to spend Sunday evenings out in the
American quarter, among a congenial set of
men and women, —
des esprits forts,
all of them,
whose lives were irreproachable, yet whose
opinions would startle even the traditional “sapeur,”
for whom “nothing is sacred.” But for
all his “advanced” opinions, Gouvernail was a
liberal-minded fellow; a man or woman lost
nothing of his respect by being married.
When he left the house in the afternoon,
Athénaïse had already ensconced herself on
the front balcony. He could see her through
the jalousies when he passed on his way to the
front entrance. She had not yet grown lonesome
or homesick; the newness of her surroundings
made them sufficiently entertaining.
She found it diverting to sit there on the front
balcony watching people pass by, even though
there was no one to talk to. And then the
comforting, comfortable sense of not being
She watched Gouvernail walk down the
street, and could find no fault with his bearing.
He could hear the sound of her rockers
for some little distance. He wondered what
the “poor little thing” was doing in the city,
and meant to ask Sylvie about her when he
should happen to think of it.
The following morning, towards noon, when
Gouvernail quitted his room, he was confronted
by Athénaïse, exhibiting some confusion and
trepidation at being forced to request a favor
of him at so early a stage of their acquaintance.
She stood in her doorway, and had evidently
been sewing, as the thimble on her finger testified,
as well as a long-threaded needle thrust in
the bosom of her gown. She held a stamped
but unaddressed letter in her hand.
And would Mr. Gouvernail be so kind as to
address the letter to her brother, Mr. Montéclin
Miché? She would hate to detain him
with explanations this morning, — another time,
perhaps, — but now she begged that he would
give himself the trouble.
He assured her that it made no difference,
that it was no trouble whatever; and he drew
a fountain pen from his pocket and addressed
the letter at her dictation, resting it on the
inverted rim of his straw hat. She wondered a
little at a man of his supposed erudition
stumbling over the spelling of “Montéclin” and
She demurred at overwhelming him with the
additional trouble of posting it, but he succeeded
in convincing her that so simple a task
as the posting of a letter would not add an iota
to the burden of the day. Moreover, he promised
to carry it in his hand, and thus avoid any
possible risk of forgetting it in his pocket.
After that, and after a second repetition of
the favor, when she had told him that she had
had a letter from Montéclin, and looked as if
she wanted to tell him more, he felt that he
knew her better. He felt that he knew her
well enough to join her out on the balcony, one
night, when he found her sitting there alone.
He was not one who deliberately sought the
society of women, but he was not wholly a
bear. A little commiseration for Athénaïse’s
aloneness, perhaps some curiosity to know further
what manner of woman she was, and the
natural influence of her feminine charm were
equal unconfessed factors in turning his steps
towards the balcony when he discovered the
shimmer of her white gown through the open
It was already quite late, but the day had
been intensely hot, and neighboring balconies
and doorways were occupied by chattering
groups of humanity, loath to abandon the
grateful freshness of the outer air. The voices
about her served to reveal to Athénaïse the
feeling of loneliness that was gradually coming
over her. Notwithstanding certain dormant
impulses, she craved human sympathy
She shook hands impulsively with
Gouvernail, and told him how glad she was to see
him. He was not prepared for such an admission,
but it pleased him immensely, detecting
as he did that the expression was as sincere
as it was outspoken. He drew a chair
up within comfortable conversational distance
of Athénaïse, though he had no intention of
talking more than was barely necessary to encourage
Madame — He had actually forgotten
He leaned an elbow on the balcony rail, and
would have offered an opening remark about
the oppressive heat of the day, but Athénaïse
did not give him the opportunity. How glad
she was to talk to some one, and how she
An hour later she had gone to her room,
and Gouvernail stayed smoking on the balcony.
He knew her quite well after that hour’s talk.
It was not so much what she had said as what
her half saying had revealed to his quick
intelligence. He knew that she adored Montéclin,
and he suspected that she adored Cazeau
without being herself aware of it. He had
gathered that she was self-willed, impulsive,
innocent, ignorant, unsatisfied, dissatisfied; for
had she not complained that things seemed all
wrongly arranged in this world, and no one
was permitted to be happy in his own way?
And he told her he was sorry she had discovered
that primordial fact of existence so early
He commiserated her loneliness, and scanned
his bookshelves next morning for something to
lend her to read, rejecting everything that
offered itself to his view. Philosophy was out
of the question, and so was poetry; that is,
such poetry as he possessed. He had not
sounded her literary tastes, and strongly suspected
she had none; that she would have rejected
The Duchess as readily as Mrs. Humphry
Ward. He compromised on a magazine.
It had entertained her passably, she admitted,
upon returning it. A New England story had
puzzled her, it was true, and a Creole tale had
offended her, but the pictures had pleased her
greatly, especially one which had reminded her
so strongly of Montéclin after a hard day’s
ride that she was loath to give it up. It was
one of Remington’s Cowboys, and Gouvernail
insisted upon her keeping it, — keeping the
He spoke to her daily after that, and was
always eager to render her some service or to
do something towards her entertainment.
One afternoon he took her out to the lake
end. She had been there once, some years before,
but in winter, so the trip was comparatively
new and strange to her. The large expanse
of water studded with pleasure-boats, the
sight of children playing merrily along the
grassy palisades, the music, all enchanted her.
Gouvernail thought her the most beautiful woman
he had ever seen. Even her gown — the
sprigged muslin — appeared to him the most
charming one imaginable. Nor could anything
be more becoming than the arrangement of
her brown hair under the white sailor hat, all
rolled back in a soft puff from her radiant face.
And she carried her parasol and lifted her skirts
and used her fan in ways that seemed quite
unique and peculiar to herself, and which he
considered almost worthy of study and
They did not dine out there at the water’s
edge, as they might have done, but returned
early to the city to avoid the crowd. Athénaïse
wanted to go home, for she said Svlvie
would have dinner prepared and would be expecting
her. But it was not difficult to persuade
her to dine instead in the quiet little
restaurant that he knew and liked, with its
sanded floor, its secluded atmosphere, its
delicious menu, and its obsequious waiter wanting
to know what he might have the honor
of serving to “monsieur et madame.” No
wonder he made the mistake, with Gouvernail
assuming such an air of proprietorship! But
Athénaïse was very tired after it all; the sparkle
went out of her face, and she hung draggingly
on his arm in walking home.
He was reluctant to part from her when she
bade him good-night at her door and thanked
him for the agreeable evening. He had hoped
she would sit outside until it was time for him
to regain the newspaper office. He knew that
she would undress and get into her peignoir
and lie upon her bed; and what he wanted to
do, what he would have given much to do, was
to go and sit beside her, read to her something
restful, soothe her, do her bidding, whatever
it might be. Of course there was no use in
thinking of that. But he was surprised at his
growing desire to be serving her. She gave
him an opportunity sooner than he looked for.
“Mr. Gouvernail,” she called from her room,
“will you be so kine as to call Pousette an’
tell her she fo’got to bring my ice-water?”
He was indignant at Pousette’s negligence
and called severely to her over the banisters.
He was sitting before his own door, smoking.
He knew that Athénaïse had gone to
bed, for her room was dark, and she had
opened the slats of the door and windows. Her
bed was near a window.
Pousette came flopping up with the
ice-water, and with a hundred excuses: “Mo pa
oua vou à tab c’te lanuite, mo cri vou pé gagni
déja là-bas; parole! Vou pas cri conte ça
Madame Sylvie?” She had not seen Athénaïse at
table, and thought she was gone. She swore
to this, and hoped Madame Sylvie would not
be informed of her remissness.
A little later Athénaïse lifted her voice
again: “Mr. Gouvernail, did you remark that
young man sitting on the opposite side from
us, coming in, with a gray coat en’ a blue ban’
aroun’ his hat?”
Of course Gouvernail had not noticed any
such individual, but he assured Athénaïse that
he had observed the young fellow particularly.
“Don’t you think he looked something, —
not very much, of co’se, — but don’t you think
he had a little faux-air of Montéclin?”
“I think he looked strikingly like Montéclin,”
asserted Gouvernail, with the one idea
of prolonging the conversation. “I meant to
call your attention to the resemblance, and
something drove it out of my head.”
“The same with me,” returned Athénaïse.
“Ah, my dear Montéclin! I wonder w’at he
is doing now?”
“Did you receive any news, any letter from
him to-day?” asked Gouvernail, determined
that if the conversation ceased it should not be
through lack of effort on his part to sustain it.
“Not to-day, but yesterday. He tells me
that maman was so distracted with uneasiness
that finally, to pacify her, he was fo’ced to confess
that he knew w’ere I was, but that he was
boun’ by a vow of secrecy not to reveal it.
But Cazeau has not noticed him or spoken to
him since he threaten’ to throw po’ Montéclin
in Cane river. You know Cazeau wrote me a
letter the morning I lef’, thinking I had gone
to the rigolet. An’ maman opened it, an’ said
it was full of the mos’ noble sentiments, an’ she
wanted Montéclin to sen’ it to me; but Montéclin
refuse’ poin’ blank, so he wrote to me.”
Gouvernail preferred to talk of Montéclin.
He pictured Cazeau as unbearable, and did not
like to think of him.
A little later Athénaïse called out, “Good-
night, Mr. Gouvernail.”
“Good-night,” he returned reluctantly. And
when he thought that she was sleeping, he got
up and went away to the midnight pandemonium
of his newspaper office.
Athénaïse could not have held out through
the month had it not been for Gouvernail. With
the need of caution and secrecy always uppermost
in her mind, she made no new acquaintances,
and she did not seek out persons already
known to her; however, she knew so few,
it required little effort to keep out of their way.
As for Sylvie, almost every moment of her
time was occupied in looking after her house;
and, moreover, her deferential attitude towards
her lodgers forbade anything like the gossipy
chats in which Athénaïse might have condescended
sometimes to indulge with her landlady.
The transient lodgers, who came and
went, she never had occasion to meet. Hence
she was entirely dependent upon Gouvernail
He appreciated the situation fully; and every
moment that he could spare from his work he
devoted to her entertainment. She liked to be
out of doors, and they strolled together in the
summer twilight through the mazes of the old
French quarter. They went again to the lake
end, and stayed for hours on the water; returning
so late that the streets through which they
passed were silent and deserted. On Sunday
morning he arose at an unconscionable hour to
take her to the French market, knowing that
the sights and sounds there would interest her.
And he did not join the intellectual coterie in
the afternoon, as he usually did, but placed
himself all day at the disposition and service of
Notwithstanding all, his manner toward her
was tactful, and evinced intelligence and a deep
knowledge of her character, surprising upon
so brief an acquaintance. For the time he was
everything to her that she would have him;
he replaced home and friends. Sometimes she
wondered if he had ever loved a woman. She
could not fancy him loving any one passionately,
rudely, offensively, as Cazeau loved her.
Once she was so naive as to ask him outright
if he had ever been in love, and he assured her
promptly that he had not. She thought it an
admirable trait in his character, and esteemed
him greatly therefor.
He found her crying one night, not openly
or violently. She was leaning over the gallery
rail, watching the toads that hopped about in
the moonlight, down on the damp flagstones of
the courtyard. There was an oppressively
sweet odor rising from the cape jessamine.
Pousette was down there, mumbling and quarreling
with some one, and seeming to be having
it all her own way, — as well she might,
when her companion was only a black cat that
had come in from a neighboring yard to keep
Athénaïse did admit feeling heart-sick,
body-sick, when he questioned her; she supposed it
was nothing but homesick. A letter from Montéclin
had stirred her all up. She longed for
her mother, for Montéclin; she was sick for a
sight of the cotton-fields, the scent of the
ploughed earth, for the dim, mysterious charm
of the woods, and the old tumble-down home
on the Bon Dieu.
As Gouvernail listened to her, a wave of pity
and tenderness swept through him. He took
her hands and pressed them against him. He
wondered what would happen if he were to
put his arms around her.
He was hardly prepared for what happened,
but he stood it courageously. She twined her
arms around his neck and wept outright on
his shoulder; the hot tears scalding his cheek
and neck, and her whole body shaken in his
arms. The impulse was powerful to strain her
to him; the temptation was fierce to seek her
lips; but he did neither.
He understood a thousand times better than
she herself understood it that he was acting as
substitute for Montéclin. Bitter as the conviction
was, he accepted it. He was patient;
he could wait. He hoped some day to hold
her with a lover’s arms. That she was married
made no particle of difference to Gouvernail.
He could not conceive or dream of it making
a difference. When the time came that she
wanted him, — as he hoped and believed it
would come, — he felt he would have a right
to her. So long as she did not want him, he
had no right to her, — no more than her husband
had. It was very hard to feel her warm
breath and tears upon his cheek, and her struggling
bosom pressed against him and her soft
arms clinging to him and his whole body and
soul aching for her, and yet to make no sign.
He tried to think what Montéclin would
have said and done, and to act accordingly.
He stroked her hair, and held her in a
gentle embrace, until the tears dried and the
sobs ended. Before releasing herself she kissed
him against the neck; she had to love somebody
in her own way! Even that he endured
like a stoic. But it was well he left her, to
plunge into the thick of rapid, breathless, exacting
work till nearly dawn.
Athénaïse was greatly soothed, and slept
well. The touch of friendly hands and caressing
arms had been very grateful. Henceforward
she would not be lonely and unhappy,
with Gouvernail there to comfort her.
The fourth week of Athénaïse’s stay in the
city was drawing to a close. Keeping in view
the intention which she had of finding some
suitable and agreeable employment, she had
made a few tentatives in that direction. But
with the exception of two little girls who had
promised to take piano lessons at a price that
would be embarrassing to mention, these attempts
had been fruitless. Moreover, the
homesickness kept coming back, and Gouvernail
was not always there to drive it away.
She spent much of her time weeding and
pottering among the flowers down in the
courtyard. She tried to take an interest in the
black cat, and a mockingbird that hung in a
cage outside the kitchen door, and a disreputable
parrot that belonged to the cook next
door, and swore hoarsely all day long in bad
Beside, she was not well; she was not herself,
as she told Sylvie. The climate of New Orleans
did not agree with her. Sylvie was distressed
to learn this, as she felt in some measure
responsible for the health and well-being of
Monsieur Miché’s sister; and she made it her
duty to inquire closely into the nature and
character of Athénaïse’s malaise.
Sylvie was very wise, and Athénaïse was
very ignorant. The extent of her ignorance
and the depth of her subsequent enlightenment
were bewildering. She stayed a long, long
time quite still, quite stunned, after her
interview with Sylvie, except for the short,
uneven breathing that ruffled her bosom.
Her whole being was steeped in a wave of
ecstasy. When she finally arose from the
chair in which she had been seated, and looked
at herself in the mirror, a face met hers which
she seemed to see for the first time, so transfigured
was it with wonder and rapture.
One mood quickly followed another, in this
new turmoil of her senses, and the need of action
became uppermost. Her mother must
know at once, and her mother must tell Montéclin.
And Cazeau must know. As she
thought of him, the first purely sensuous
tremor of her life swept over her. She half
whispered his name, and the sound of it brought red
blotches into her cheeks. She spoke it over
and over, as if it were some new, sweet sound
born out of darkness and confusion, and reaching
her for the first time. She was impatient
to be with him. Her whole passionate nature
was aroused as if by a miracle.
She seated herself to write to her husband.
The letter he would get in the morning, and
she would be with him at night. What would
he say? How would he act? She knew that
he would forgive her, for had he not written a
letter? — and a pang of resentment toward
Montéclin shot through her. What did he
mean by withholding that letter? How dared
he not have sent it?
Athénaïse attired herself for the street, and
went out to post the letter which she had
penned with a single thought, a spontaneous
impulse. It would have seemed incoherent to
most people, but Cazeau would understand.
She walked along the street as if she had
fallen heir to some magnificent inheritance. On
her face was a look of pride and satisfaction
that passers-by noticed and admired. She
wanted to talk to some one, to tell some person;
and she stopped at the corner and told
the oyster-woman, who was Irish, and who
God-blessed her, and wished prosperity to the
race of Cazeaus for generations to come. She
held the oyster-woman’s fat, dirty little baby in
her arms and scanned it curiously and observingly,
as if a baby were a phenomenon that she
encountered for the first time in life. She even
Then what a relief it was to Athénaïse to
walk the streets without dread of being seen
and recognized by some chance acquaintance
from Red river! No one could have said now
that she did not know her own mind.
She went directly from the oyster-woman’s
to the office of Harding & Offdean, her husband’s
merchants; and it was with such an air
of partnership, almost proprietorship, that she
demanded a sum of money on her husband’s
account, they gave it to her as unhesitatingly as
they would have handed it over to Cazeau himself.
When Mr. Harding, who knew her,
asked politely after her health, she turned so
rosy and looked so conscious, he thought it a
great pity for so pretty a woman to be such a
Athénaïse entered a dry-goods store and
bought all manner of things, — little presents for
nearly everybody she knew. She bought
whole bolts of sheerest, softest, downiest white
stuff; and when the clerk, in trying to meet
her wishes, asked if she intended it for infant’s
use, she could have sunk through the floor,
and wondered how he might have suspected it.
As it was Montéclin who had taken her away
from her husband, she wanted it to be Montéclin
who should take her back to him. So she
wrote him a very curt note, — in fact it was a
postal card, — asking that he meet her at the
train on the evening following. She felt convinced
that after what had gone before, Cazeau
would await her at their own home; and she
preferred it so.
Then there was the agreeable excitement of
getting ready to leave, of packing up her
things. Pousette kept coming and going,
coming and going; and each time that she
quitted the room it was with something that
Athénaïse had given her, — a handkerchief, a
petticoat, a pair of stockings with two tiny
holes at the toes, some broken prayer-beads,
and finally a silver dollar.
Next it was Sylvie who came along bearing
a gift of what she called “a set of pattern,”
— things of complicated design which never
could have been obtained in any new-fangled
bazaar or pattern-store, that Sylvie had acquired
of a foreign lady of distinction whom
she had nursed years before at the St. Charles
hotel. Athénaïse accepted and handled them
with reverence, fully sensible of the great
compliment and favor, and laid them religiously
away in the trunk which she had lately
She was greatly fatigued after the day of
unusual exertion, and went early to bed and to
sleep. All day long she had not once thought
of Gouvernail, and only did think of him when
aroused for a brief instant by the sound of his
foot-falls on the gallery, as he passed in going
to his room. He had hoped to find her up,
waiting for him.
But the next morning he knew. Some one
must have told him. There was no subject
known to her which Sylvie hesitated to discuss
in detail with any man of suitable years and
Athénaïse found Gouvernail waiting with a
carriage to convey her to the railway station.
A momentary pang visited her for having forgotten
him so completely, when he said to her,
“Sylvie tells me you are going away this
He was kind, attentive, and amiable, as
usual, but respected to the utmost the new dignity
and reserve that her manner had developed
since yesterday. She kept looking
from the carriage window, silent, and embarrassed
as Eve after losing her ignorance. He
talked of the muddy streets and the murky
morning, and of Montéclin. He hoped she
would find everything comfortable and pleasant
in the country, and trusted she would inform
him whenever she came to visit the city
again. He talked as if afraid or mistrustful of
silence and himself.
At the station she handed him her purse, and
he bought her ticket, secured for her a comfortable
section, checked her trunk, and got all
the bundles and things safely aboard the train.
She felt very grateful. He pressed her hand
warmly, lifted his hat, and left her. He was
a man of intelligence, and took defeat gracefully;
that was all. But as he made his way
back to the carriage, he was thinking, “By
heaven, it hurts, it hurts!”
Athénaïse spent a day of supreme happiness
and expectancy. The fair sight of the country
unfolding itself before her was balm to her
vision and to her soul. She was charmed with
the rather unfamiliar, broad, clean sweep of
the sugar plantations, with their monster sugar-
houses, their rows of neat cabins like little
villages of a single street, and their impressive
homes standing apart amid clusters of trees.
There were sudden glimpses of a bayou curling
between sunny, grassy banks, or creeping
sluggishly out from a tangled growth of wood,
and brush, and fern, and poison-vines, and
palmettos. And passing through the long
stretches of monotonous woodlands, she would
close her eyes and taste in anticipation the
moment of her meeting with Cazeau. She
could think of nothing but him.
It was night when she reached her station.
There was Montéclin, as she had expected,
waiting for her with a two-seated buggy, to
which he had hitched his own swift-footed,
spirited pony. It was good, he felt, to have
her back on any terms; and he had no fault
to find since she came of her own choice. He
more than suspected the cause of her coming;
her eyes and her voice and her foolish little
manner went far in revealing the secret that
was brimming over in her heart. But after he
had deposited her at her own gate, and as he
continued his way toward the rigolet, he could
not help feeling that the affair had taken a
very disappointing, an ordinary, a most commonplace
turn, after all. He left her in Cazeau’s
Her husband lifted her out of the buggy,
and neither said a word until they stood
together within the shelter of the gallery. Even
then they did not speak at first. But Athénaïse
turned to him with an appealing gesture.
As he clasped her in his arms, he felt the yielding
of her whole body against him. He felt
her lips for the first time respond to the passion
of his own.
The country night was dark and warm and
still, save for the distant notes of an accordion
which some one was playing in a cabin away
off. A little negro baby was crying somewhere.
As Athénaïse withdrew from her husband’s
embrace, the sound arrested her.
“Listen, Cazeau! How Juliette’s baby is
crying! Pauvre ti chou, I wonder w’at is the
matter with it?”
After the Winter
the blacksmith’s daughter,
stepped out upon the gallery just as
M’sieur Michel passed by. He did not
notice the girl but walked straight on down
the village street.
His seven hounds skulked, as usual, about
him. At his side hung his powder-horn, and
on his shoulder a gunny-bag slackly filled with
game that he carried to the store. A broad
felt hat shaded his bearded face and in his
hand he carelessly swung his old-fashioned
rifle. It was doubtless the same with which
he had slain so many people, Trézinie shudderingly
reflected. For Cami, the cobbler’s
son — who must have known — had often related
to her how this man had killed two Choctaws,
as many Texans, a free mulatto and numberless
blacks, in that vague locality known as
Older people who knew better took little
trouble to correct this ghastly record that a
younger generation had scored against him.
They themselves had come to half-believe that
M’sieur Michel might be capable of anything,
living as he had, for so many years, apart
from humanity, alone with his hounds in a kennel
of a cabin on the hill. The time seemed to
most of them fainter than a memory when, a
lusty young fellow of twenty-five, he had cultivated
his strip of land across the lane from
Les Chêniers; when home and toil and wife
and child were so many benedictions that he
humbly thanked heaven for having given him.
But in the early ’60’s he went with his
friend Duplan and the rest of the “Louisiana
Tigers.” He came back with some of them.
He came to find — well, death may lurk in a
peaceful valley lying in wait to ensnare the
toddling feet of little ones. Then, there are
women — there are wives with thoughts that
roam and grow wanton with roaming; women
whose pulses are stirred by strange voices and
eyes that woo; women who forget the claims of
yesterday, the hopes of to-morrow, in the impetuous
clutch of to-day.
But that was no reason, some people
thought, why he should have cursed men who
found their blessings where they had left them
— cursed God, who had abandoned him.
Persons who met him upon the road had
long ago stopped greeting him. What was the
use? He never answered them; he spoke to
no one; he never so much as looked into men’s
faces. When he bartered his game and fish at
the village store for powder and shot and such
scant food as he needed, he did so with few
words and less courtesy. Yet feeble as it was,
this was the only link that held him to his fellow-
Strange to say, the sight of M’sieur Michel,
though more forbidding than ever that delightful
spring afternoon, was so suggestive to Trézinie
as to be almost an inspiration.
It was Easter eve and the early part of April.
The whole earth seemed teeming with new,
green, vigorous life everywhere — except the
arid spot that immediately surrounded Trézinie.
It was no use; she had tried. Nothing
would grow among those cinders that filled the
yard; in that atmosphere of smoke and flame
that was constantly belching from the forge
where her father worked at his trade. There
were wagon wheels, bolts and bars of iron,
plowshares and all manner of unpleasant-looking
things littering the bleak, black yard;
nothing green anywhere except a few weeds
that would force themselves into fence corners.
And Trézinie knew that flowers belong to
Easter time, just as dyed eggs do. She had
plenty of eggs; no one had more or prettier
ones; she was not going to grumble about that.
But she did feel distressed because she had not
a flower to help deck the altar on Easter morning.
And every one else seemed to have them
in such abundance! There was ’Dame Suzanne
among her roses across the way. She
must have clipped a hundred since noon. An
hour ago Trézinie had seen the carriage from
Les Chêniers pass by on its way to church with
Mamzelle Euphrasie’s pretty head looking like
a picture enframed with the Easter lilies that
filled the vehicle.
For the twentieth time Trézinie walked out
upon the gallery. She saw M’sieur Michel
and thought of the pine hill. When she
thought of the hill she thought of the flowers
that grew there — free as sunshine. The girl
gave a joyous spring that changed to a farandole
as her feet twinkled across the rough,
loose boards of the gallery.
“He, Cami!” she cried, clapping her hands
Cami rose from the bench where he sat
pegging away at the clumsy sole of a shoe, and
came lazily to the fence that divided his abode
“Well, w’at?” he inquired with heavy
amiability. She leaned far over the railing to
better communicate with him.
“You’ll go with me yonda on the hill to pick
flowers fo’ Easter, Cami? I’m goin’ to take
La Fringante along, too, to he’p with the
baskets. W’at you say?”
“No!” was the stolid reply. “I’m boun’ to
finish them shoe’, if it is fo’ a nigga.”
“Not now,” she returned impatiently;
“tomorrow mo’nin’ at sun-up. An’ I tell you,
Cami, my flowers’ll beat all! Look yonda at
’Dame Suzanne pickin’ her roses a’ready. An’
Mamzelle Euphraisie she’s car’ied her lilies an’
gone, her. You tell me all that’s goin’ be fresh
“Jus’ like you say,” agreed the boy, turning
to resume his work. “But you want to
mine out fo’ the ole possum up in the wood.
Let M’sieu Michel set eyes on you!” and he
raised his arms as if aiming with a gun. “Pim,
pam, poum! No mo’ Trézinie, no mo’ Cami,
no mo’ La Fringante — all stretch’!”
The possible risk which Cami so vividly
foreshadowed but added a zest to Trézinie’s
It was hardly sun-up on the following
morning when the three children — Trézinie, Cami
and the little negress, La Fringante — were
filling big, flat Indian baskets from the abundance
of brilliant flowers that studded the hill.
In their eagerness they had ascended the
slope and penetrated deep into the forest without
thought of M’sieur Michel or of his abode.
Suddenly, in the dense wood, they came upon
his hut — low, forbidding, seeming to scowl rebuke
upon them for their intrusion.
La Fringante dropped her basket, and, with
a cry, fled. Cami looked as if he wanted to
do the same. But Trézinie, after the first tremor,
saw that the ogre himself was away. The
wooden shutter of the one window was closed.
The door, so low that even a small man must
have stooped to enter it, was secured with a
chain. Absolute silence reigned, except for
the whir of wings in the air, the fitful notes of
a bird in the treetop.
“Can’t you see it’s nobody there!” cried
La Fringante, distracted between curiosity
and terror, had crept cautiously back again.
Then they all peeped through the wide chinks
between the logs of which the cabin was built.
M’sieur Michel had evidently begun the
construction of his house by felling a huge tree,
whose remaining stump stood in the centre of
the hut, and served him as a table. This primitive
table was worn smooth by twenty-five
years of use. Upon it were such humble utensils
as the man required. Everything within
the hovel, the sleeping bunk, the one seat,
were as rude as a savage would have fashioned
The stolid Cami could have stayed for hours
with his eyes fastened to the aperture, morbidly
seeking some dead, mute sign of that awful
pastime with which he believed M’sieur Michel
was accustomed to beguile his solitude. But
Trézinie was wholly possessed by the thought
of her Easter offerings. She wanted flowers
and flowers, fresh with the earth and crisp with
When the three youngsters scampered down
the hill again there was not a purple verbena
left about M’sieur Michel’s hut; not a May
apple blossom, not a stalk of crimson phlox —
hardly a violet.
He was something of a savage, feeling that
the solitude belonged to him. Of late there
had been forming within his soul a sentiment
toward man, keener than indifference, bitter as
hate. He was coming to dread even that brief
intercourse with others into which his traffic
So when M’sieur Michel returned to his hut,
and with his quick, accustomed eye saw that
his woods had been despoiled, rage seized him.
It was not that he loved the flowers that were
gone more than he loved the stars, or the wind
that trailed across the hill, but they belonged
to and were a part of that life which he had
made for himself, and which he wanted to live
alone and unmolested.
Did not those flowers help him to keep his
record of time that was passing? They had no
right to vanish until the hot May days were
upon him. How else should he know? Why
had these people, with whom he had nothing in
common, intruded upon his privacy and violated
it? What would they not rob him of
He knew well enough it was Easter; he had
heard and seen signs yesterday in the store
that told him so. And he guessed that his
woods had been rifled to add to the mummery
of the day.
M’sieur Michel sat himself moodily down
beside his table — centuries old — and brooded.
He did not even notice his hounds that were
pleading to be fed. As he revolved in his
mind the event of the morning — innocent as it
was in itself — it grew in importance and assumed
a significance not at first apparent. He
could not remain passive under pressure of its
disturbance. He rose to his feet, every impulse
aggressive, urging him to activity. He
would go down among those people all gathered
together, blacks and whites, and face them
for once and all. He did not know what he
would say to them, but it would be defiance —
something to voice the hate that oppressed
The way down the hill, then across a piece of
flat, swampy woodland and through the lane
to the village was so familiar that it required
no attention from him to follow it. His
thoughts were left free to revel in the humor
that had driven him from his kennel.
As he walked down the village street he saw
plainly that the place was deserted save for the
appearance of an occasional negress, who
seemed occupied with preparing the midday
meal. But about the church scores of horses
were fastened; and M’sieur Michel could see
that the edifice was thronged to the very
He did not once hesitate, but obeying the
force that impelled him to face the people wherever
they might be, he was soon standing with
the crowd within the entrance of the church.
His broad, robust shoulders had forced space
for himself, and his leonine head stood higher
than any there.
“Take off yo’ hat!”
It was an indignant mulatto who addressed
him. M’sieur Michel instinctively did as he
was bidden. He saw confusedly that there was
a mass of humanity close to him, whose contact
and atmosphere affected him strangely.
He saw his wild-flowers, too. He saw them
plainly, in bunches and festoons, among the
Easter lilies and roses and geraniums. He was
going to speak out, now; he had the right to
and he would, just as soon as that clamor overhead
“Bonté divine! M’sieur Michel!” whispered
’Dame Suzanne tragically to her neighbor.
Trézinie heard. Cami saw. They exchanged
an electric glance, and tremblingly bowed their
M’sieur Michel looked wrathfully down at
the puny mulatto who had ordered him to
remove his hat. Why had he obeyed? That
initial act of compliance had somehow weakened
his will, his resolution. But he would
regain firmness just as soon as that clamor
above gave him chance to speak.
It was the organ filling the small edifice with
volumes of sound. It was the voices of men
and women mingling in the
“Gloria in excelsis Deo!”
The words bore no meaning for him apart
from the old familiar strain which he had
known as a child and chanted himself in that
same organ-loft years ago. How it went on
and on! Would it never cease! It was like
a menace; like a voice reaching out from the
dead past to taunt him.
“Gloria in excelsis Deo!” over and over!
How the deep basso rolled it out! How the
tenor and alto caught it up and passed it on to
be lifted by the high, flute-like ring of the
soprano, till all mingled again in the wild paean,
“Gloria in excelsis!”
How insistent was the refrain! and where,
what, was that mysterious, hidden quality in
it; the power which was overcoming M’sieur
Michel, stirring within him a turmoil that bewildered
There was no use in trying to speak, or in
wanting to. His throat could not have uttered
a sound. He wanted to escape, that was all.
“Bonæ voluntatis,” — he bent his head as if
before a beating storm. “Gloria! Gloria!
Gloria!” He must fly; he must save himself, regain
his hill where sights and odors and sounds
and saints or devils would cease to molest him.
“In excelsis Deo!” He retreated, forcing his
way backward to the door. He dragged his
hat down over his eyes and staggered away
down the road. But the refrain pursued him
— “Pax! pax! pax!” — fretting him like a lash.
He did not slacken his pace till the tones grew
fainter than an echo, floating, dying away in
an “in excelsis!” When he could hear it no
longer he stopped and breathed a sigh of rest
All day long M’sieur Michel stayed about
his hut engaged in some familiar employment
that he hoped might efface the unaccountable
impressions of the morning. But his restlessness
was unbounded. A longing had sprung
up within him as sharp as pain and not to be
appeased. At once, on this bright, warm Easter
morning the voices that till now had filled his
solitude became meaningless. He stayed mute
and uncomprehending before them. Their
significance had vanished before the driving want
for human sympathy and companionship that
had reawakened in his soul.
When night came on he walked through the
woods down the slant of the hill again.
“It mus’ be all fill’ up with weeds,”
muttered M’sieur Michel to himself as he went.
“Ah, Bon Dieu! with trees, Michel, with trees
— in twenty-five years, man.”
He had not taken the road to the village,
but was pursuing a different one in which his
feet had not walked for many days. It led him
along the river bank for a distance. The narrow
stream, stirred by the restless breeze,
gleamed in the moonlight that was flooding the
As he went on and on, the scent of the new-
plowed earth that had been from the first
keenly perceptible, began to intoxicate him. He
wanted to kneel and bury his face in it. He
wanted to dig into it; turn it over. He
wanted to scatter the seed again as he had done
long ago, and watch the new, green life spring
up as if at his bidding.
When he turned away from the river, and
had walked a piece down the lane that divided
Joe Duplan’s plantation from that bit of land
that had once been his, he wiped his eyes to
drive away the mist that was making him see
things as they surely could not be.
He had wanted to plant a hedge that time
before he went away, but he had not done so.
Yet there was the hedge before him, just as
he had meant it to be, and filling the night
with fragrance. A broad, low gate divided
its length, and over this he leaned and looked
before him in amazement. There were no
weeds as he had fancied; no trees except the
scattered live oaks that he remembered.
Could that row of hardy fig trees, old, squat
and gnarled, be the twigs that he himself had
set one day into the ground? One raw December
day when there was a fine, cold mist
falling. The chill of it breathed again upon
him; the memory was so real. The land did
not look as if it ever had been plowed for a
field. It was a smooth, green meadow, with
cattle huddled upon the cool sward, or moving
with slow, stately tread as they nibbled the
There was the house unchanged, gleaming
white in the moon, seeming to invite him
beneath its calm shelter. He wondered who
dwelt within it now. Whoever it was he would
not have them find him, like a prowler, there
at the gate. But he would come again and
again like this at nighttime, to gaze and refresh
A hand had been laid upon M’sieur Michel’s
shoulder and some one called his name. Startled,
he turned to see who accosted him.
The two men who had not exchanged speech
for so many years stood facing each other for
a long moment in silence.
“I knew you would come back some day,
Michel. It was a long time to wait, but you
have come home at last.”
M’sieur Michel cowered instinctively and
lifted his hands with expressive deprecatory
gesture. “No, no; it’s no place for me, Joe;
“Isn’t a man’s home a place for him,
Michel?” It seemed less a question than an
assertion, charged with gentle authority.
“Twenty-five years, Duplan; twenty-five
years! It’s no use; it’s too late.”
“You see, I have used it,” went on the planter,
quietly, ignoring M’sieur Michel’s protestations.
“Those are my cattle grazing off there.
The house has served me many a time to lodge
guests or workmen, for whom I had no room
at Les Chêniers. I have not exhausted the
soil with any crops. I had not the right to
do that. Yet am I in your debt, Michel, and
ready to settle en bon ami.”
The planter had opened the gate and
entered the inclosure, leading M’sieur Michel
with him. Together they walked toward the
Language did not come readily to either —
one so unaccustomed to hold intercourse with
men; both so stirred with memories that would
have rendered any speech painful. When they
had stayed long in a silence which was eloquent
of tenderness, Joe Duplan spoke:
“You know how I tried to see you, Michel,
to speak with you, and— you never would.”
M’sieur Michel answered with but a gesture
that seemed a supplication.
“Let the past all go, Michel. Begin your
new life as if the twenty-five years that are
gone had been a long night, from which you
have only awakened. Come to me in the
morning,” he added with quick resolution, “for
a horse and a plow.” He had taken the key
of the house from his pocket and placed it in
M’sieur Michel’s hand.
“A horse?” M’sieur Michel repeated
uncertainly; “a plow! Oh, it’s too late, Duplan; too
“It isn’t too late. The land has rested all
these years, man; it’s fresh, I tell you; and rich
as gold. Your crop will be the finest in the
land.” He held out his hand and M’sieur
Michel pressed it without a word in reply,
save a muttered “Mon ami.”
Then he stood there watching the planter
disappear behind the high, clipped hedge.
He held out his arms. He could not have
told if it was toward the retreating figure, or in
welcome to an infinite peace that seemed to
descend upon him and envelop him.
All the land was radiant except the hill far
off that was in black shadow against the sky.
was often said that Polydore was the
stupidest boy to be found “from the
mouth of Cane river plumb to Natchitoches.”
Hence it was an easy matter to persuade
him, as meddlesome and mischievous
people sometimes tried to do, that he was an
overworked and much abused individual.
It occurred one morning to Polydore to
wonder what would happen if he did not get
up. He hardly expected the world to stop
turning on its axis; but he did in a way believe
that the machinery of the whole plantation
would come to a standstill.
He had awakened at the usual hour, — about
daybreak, — and instead of getting up at once,
as was his custom, he re-settled himself between
the sheets. There he lay, peering out
through the dormer window into the gray
morning that was deliciously cool after the hot
summer night, listening to familiar sounds that
came from the barn-yard, the fields and woods
beyond, heralding the approach of day.
A little later there were other sounds, no
less familiar or significant; the roll of the
wagon-wheels; the distant call of a negro’s voice;
Aunt Siney’s shuffling step as she crossed the
gallery, bearing to Mamzelle Adélaïde and old
Monsieur José their early coffee.
Polydore had formed no plan and had
thought only vaguely upon results. He lay in a
half-slumber awaiting developments, and
philosophically resigned to any turn which the
affair might take. Still he was not quite ready
with an answer when Jude came and thrust
his head in at the door.
“Mista Polydore! O Mista Polydore! You
“W’at you want?”
“Dan ’low he ain’ gwine wait yonda wid de
wagon all day. Say does you inspect ’im to
pack dat freight f’om de landing by hisse’f?”
“I reckon he got it to do, Jude. I ain’
going to get up, me.”
“You ain’ gwine git up?”
“No; I’m sick. I’m going stay in bed. Go
’long and le’ me sleep.”
The next one to invade Polydore’s privacy
was Mamzelle Adélaïde herself. It was no
small effort for her to mount the steep, narrow
stairway to Polydore’s room. She seldom
penetrated to these regions under the roof. He
could hear the stairs creak beneath her weight,
and knew that she was panting at every step.
Her presence seemed to crowd the small room;
for she was stout and rather tall, and her flowing
muslin wrapper swept majestically from
side to side as she walked.
Mamzelle Adélaïde had reached middle age,
but her face was still fresh with its mignon
features; and her brown eyes at the moment
were round with astonishment and alarm.
“W’at’s that I hear, Polydore? They tell
me you’re sick!” She went and stood beside
the bed, lifting the mosquito bar that settled
upon her head and fell about her like a veil.
Polydore’s eyes blinked, and he made no
attempt to answer. She felt his wrist softly with
the tips of her fingers, and rested her hand for
a moment on his low forehead beneath the
shock of black hair.
“But you don’t seem to have any fever,
“No,” hesitatingly, feeling himself forced to
make some reply. “It’s a kine of — a kine of
pain, like you might say. It kitch me yere in
the knee, and it goes ’long like you stickin’
a knife clean down in my heel. Aie! Oh, la-la!”
expressions of pain wrung from him by
Mamzelle Adélaïde gently pushing aside the
covering to examine the afflicted member.
“My patience! but that leg is swollen, yes,
Polydore.” The limb, in fact, seemed dropsical,
but if Mamzelle Adélaïde had bethought
her of comparing it with the other one, she
would have found the two corresponding in
their proportions to a nicety. Her kind face
expressed the utmost concern, and she quitted
Polydore feeling pained and ill at ease.
For one of the aims of Mamzelle Adélaïde’s
existence was to do the right thing by this boy,
whose mother, a ’Cadian hill woman, had
begged her with dying breath to watch over
the temporal and spiritual welfare of her son;
above all, to see that he did not follow in the
slothful footsteps of an over-indolent father.
Polydore’s scheme worked so marvellously
to his comfort and pleasure that he wondered
at not having thought of it before. He ate
with keen relish the breakfast which Jude
brought to him on a tray. Even old Monsieur
José was concerned, and made his way up to
Polydore, bringing a number of picture-papers
for his entertainment, a palm-leaf fan and a
cow-bell, with which to summon Jude when
necessary and which he placed within easy
As Polydore lay on his back fanning luxuriously,
it seemed to him that he was enjoying
a foretaste of paradise. Only once did he
shudder with apprehension. It was when he
heard Aunt Siney, with lifted voice, recommending
to “wrop the laig up in bacon fat;
de oniest way to draw out de misery.”
The thought of a healthy leg swathed in
bacon fat on a hot day in July was enough to
intimidate a braver heart than Polydore’s.
But the suggestion was evidently not adopted,
for he heard no more of the bacon fat. In
its stead he became acquainted with the not
unpleasant sting of a soothing liniment which
Jude rubbed into the leg at intervals during
He kept the limb propped on a pillow, stiff
and motionless, even when alone and unobserved.
Toward evening he fancied that it
really showed signs of inflammation, and he
was quite sure it pained him.
It was a satisfaction to all to see Polydore
appear down-stairs the following afternoon. He
limped painfully, it is true, and clutched wildly
at anything in his way that offered a momentary
support. His acting was clumsily overdrawn; and
by less guileless souls than Mamzelle
Adélaïde and her father would have surely
been suspected. But these two only thought
with deep concern of means to make him
They seated him on the shady back gallery
in an easy-chair, with his leg propped up before
“He inhe’its dat rheumatism,” proclaimed
Aunt Siney, who affected the manner of an
oracle. “I see dat boy’s granpap, many times,
all twis’ up wid rheumatism twell his head sot
down on his body, hine side befo’. He got
to keep outen de jew in de mo’nin’s, and he
’bleege to w’ar red flannen.”
Monsieur José, with flowing white locks
enframing his aged face, leaned upon his cane
and contemplated the boy with unflagging
attention. Polydore was beginning to believe
himself a worthy object as a center of interest.
Mamzelle Adélaïde had but just returned
from a long drive in the open buggy, from a
mission which would have fallen to Polydore
had he not been disabled by this unlooked-for
illness. She had thoughtlessly driven across
the country at an hour when the sun was hottest,
and now she sat panting and fanning
herself; her face, which she mopped incessantly
with her handkerchief, was inflamed from the
Mamzelle Adélaïde ate no supper that night,
and went to bed early, with a compress of
bound tightly around her head. She
thought it was a simple headache, and that she
would be rid of it in the morning; but she was
not better in the morning.
She kept her bed that day, and late in the
afternoon Jude rode over to town for the doctor,
and stopped on the way to tell Mamzelle
Adélaïde’s married sister that she was quite ill,
and would like to have her come down to the
plantation for a day or two.
Polydore made round, serious eyes and forgot
to limp. He wanted to go for the doctor
in Jude’s stead; but Aunt Siney, assuming a
brief authority, forced him to sit still by the
kitchen door and talked further of bacon fat.
Old Monsieur José moved about uneasily
and restlessly, in and out of his daughter’s
room. He looked vacantly at Polydore now,
as if the stout young boy in blue jeans and
a calico shirt were a sort of a transparency.
A dawning anxiety, coupled to the inertia of
the past two days, deprived Polydore of his
usual healthful night’s rest. The slightest
noises awoke him. Once it was the married
sister breaking ice down on the gallery. One
of the hands had been sent with the cart for
ice late in the afternoon; and Polydore himself
had wrapped the huge chunk in an old
blanket and set it outside of Mamzelle Adélaïde’s
Troubled and wakeful, he arose from bed
and went and stood by the open window.
There was a round moon in the sky, shedding
its pale glamor over all the country; and the
live-oak branches, stirred by the restless
breeze, flung quivering, grotesque shadows
slanting across the old roof. A mocking-bird
had been singing for hours near Polydore’s
window, and farther away there were frogs
croaking. He could see as through a silvery
gauze the level stretch of the cotton-field, ripe
and white; a gleam of water beyond, — that was
the bend of the river, — and farther yet, the
gentle rise of the pine hill.
There was a cabin up there on the hill that
Polydore remembered well. Negroes were
living in it now, but it had been his home once.
Life had been pinched and wretched enough
up there with the little chap. The bright days
had been the days when his godmother, Mamzelle
Adélaïde, would come driving her old
white horse over the pine needles and crackling
fallen twigs of the deserted hill-road. Her
presence was connected with the earliest recollections
of whatever he had known of comfort
And one day when death had taken his
mother from him, Mamzelle Adélaïde had
brought him home to live with her always.
Now she was sick down there in her room;
very sick, for the doctor had said so, and the
married sister had put on her longest face.
Polydore did not think of these things in
any connected or very intelligent way. They
were only impressions that penetrated him and
made his heart swell, and the tears well up to
his eyes. He wiped his eyes on the sleeve of
his night-gown. The mosquitoes were stinging
him and raising great welts on his brown
legs. He went and crept back under the mosquito-bar,
and soon he was asleep and dreaming
was dead and he left alone
in the cabin upon the pine hill.
In the morning, after the doctor had seen
Mamzelle Adélaïde, he went and turned his
horse into the lot and prepared to stay with his
patient until he could feel it would be prudent
to leave her.
Polydore tiptoed into her room and stood
at the foot of the bed. Nobody noticed now
whether he limped or not. She was talking
very loud, and he could not believe at first that
she could be as ill as they said, with such
strength of voice. But her tones were unnatural,
and what she said conveyed no meaning
to his ears.
He understood, however, when she thought
she was talking to his mother. She was in a
manner apologizing for his illness; and seemed
to be troubled with the idea that she had in a
way been the indirect cause of it by some oversight
Polydore felt ashamed, and went outside and
stood by himself near the cistern till some one
told him to go and attend to the doctor’s
Then there was confusion in the household,
when mornings and afternoons seemed turned
around; and meals, which were scarcely tasted,
were served at irregular and unseasonable
hours. And there came one awful night, when
they did not know if Mamzelle Adélaïde would
live or die.
Nobody slept. The doctor snatched moments
of rest in the hammock. He and the
priest, who had been summoned, talked a little
together with professional callousness about
the dry weather and the crops.
Old monsieur walked, walked, like a restless,
caged animal. The married sister came out
on the gallery every now and then and leaned
up against the post and sobbed in her
handkerchief. There were many negroes around,
sitting on the steps and standing in small
groups in the yard.
Polydore crouched on the gallery. It had
finally come to him to comprehend the cause
of his nénaine’s sickness — that drive in the
sweltering afternoon, when he was shamming
illness. No one there could have comprehended
the horror of himself, the terror that
possessed him, squatting there outside her door
like a savage. If she died — but he could not
think of that. It was the point at which his
reason was stunned and seemed to swoon.
A week or two later Mamzelle Adélaïde was
sitting outside for the first time since her
convalescence began. They had brought her own
rocker around to the side where she could get
a sight and whiff of the flower-garden and the
blossom-laden rose-vine twining in and out of
the banisters. Her former plumpness had not
yet returned, and she looked much older, for
the wrinkles were visible.
She was watching Polydore cross the yard.
He had been putting up his pony. He approached
with his heavy, clumsy walk; his
round, simple face was hot and flushed from
the ride. When he had mounted to the gallery
he went and leaned against the railing,
facing Mamzelle Adélaïde, mopping his face,
his hands and neck with his handkerchief.
Then he removed his hat and began to fan
himself with it.
“You seem to be perfec’ly cu’ed of yo’
rheumatism, Polydore. It doesn’ hurt you any
mo’, my boy?” she questioned.
He stamped the foot and extended the leg
violently, in proof of its perfect soundness.
“You know w’ere I been, nénaine?” he said.
“I been to confession.”
“That’s right. Now you mus’ rememba and
not take a drink of water to-morrow morning,
as you did las’ time, and miss yo’ communion,
my boy. You are a good child, Polydore, to
go like that to confession without bein told.”
“No, I ain’ good,” he returned, doggedly.
He began to twirl his hat on one finger. “Père
Cassimelle say he always yeard I was stupid,
but he never knew befo’ how bad I been.”
“Indeed!” muttered Mamzelle Adélaïde, not
over well pleased with the priest’s estimate
of her protégé.
“He gave me a long penance,” continued
Polydore. “The ’Litany of the Saint’ and the
’Litany of the Blessed Virgin,’ and three ’Our
Father’ and three ’Hail Mary’ to say ev’ry
mo’ning fo’ a week. But he say’ that ain’
“My patience! W’at does he expec’ mo’
from you, I like to know?” Polydore was now
creasing and scanning his hat attentively.
“He say’ w’at I need, it’s to be wo’ out with
the raw-hide. He say’ he knows M’sieur José
is too ole and feeble to give it to me like I
deserve; and if you want, he say’ he’s willing to
give me a good taste of the raw-hide himse’f.”
Mamzelle Adélaïde found it impossible to
disguise her indignation:
“Père Cassimelle sho’ly fo’gets himse’f,
Polydore. Don’t repeat to me any further his
“He’s right, nénaine. Père Cassimelle is
Since the night he crouched outside her
door, Polydore had lived with the weight of
his unconfessed fault oppressing every moment
of existence. He had tried to rid himself of it
in going to Father Cassimelle; but that had
only helped by indicating the way. He was
awkward and unaccustomed to express emotions
with coherent speech. The words would
Suddenly he flung his hat to the ground,
and falling on his knees, began to sob, with his
face pressed down in Mamzelle Adélaïde’s lap.
She had never seen him cry before, and in her
weak condition it made her tremble.
Then somehow he got it out; he told the
whole story of his deceit. He told it simply,
in a way that bared his heart to her for the
first time. She said nothing; only held his
hand close and stroked his hair. But she felt
as if a kind of miracle had happened. Hitherto
her first thought in caring for this boy had
been a desire to fulfill his dead mother’s wishes.
But now he seemed to belong to herself, and
to be her very own. She knew that a bond of
love had been forged that would hold them
“I know I can’t he’p being stupid,” sighed
Polydore, “but it’s no call fo’ me to be bad.”
“Neva mine, Polydore; neva mine, my boy,”
and she drew him close to her and kissed him
as mothers kiss.
possessed a good
strong figure, ruddy cheeks, hair that
was changing from brown to gray, and
a determined eye. She wore a man’s hat
about the farm, and an old blue army overcoat
when it was cold, and sometimes topboots.
Mamzelle Aurélie had never thought of
marrying. She had never been in love. At the
age of twenty she had received a proposal,
which she had promptly declined, and at the
age of fifty she had not yet lived to regret it.
So she was quite alone in the world, except
for her dog Ponto, and the negroes who
lived in her cabins and worked her crops, and
the fowls, a few cows, a couple of mules, her
gun (with which she shot chicken-hawks), and
One morning Mamzelle Aurélie stood upon
her gallery, contemplating, with arms akimbo,
a small band of very small children who, to all
intents and purposes, might have fallen from
the clouds, so unexpected and bewildering
was their coming, and so unwelcome. They
were the children of her nearest neighbor,
Odile, who was not such a near neighbor, after
The young woman had appeared but five
minutes before, accompanied by these four children.
In her arms she carried little Elodie;
she dragged Ti Nomme by an unwilling hand;
while Marcéline and Marcélette followed with
Her face was red and disfigured from tears
and excitement. She had been summoned to
a neighboring parish by the dangerous illness
of her mother; her husband was away in Texas
— it seemed to her a million miles away; and
Valsin was waiting with the mule-cart to drive
her to the station.
“It’s no question, Mamzelle Aurélie; you jus’
got to keep those youngsters fo’ me tell I
come back. Dieu sait, I would n’ botha you
with ’em if it was any otha way to do! Make
’em mine you, Mamzelle Aurélie; don’ spare
’em. Me, there, I’m half crazy between the
chil’ren, an’ Leon not home, an’ maybe not
even to fine po’ maman alive encore!” — a
harrowing possibility which drove Odile to take
a final hasty and convulsive leave of her
She left them crowded into the narrow strip
of shade on the porch of the long, low house;
the white sunlight was beating in on the white
old boards; some chickens were scratching in
the grass at the foot of the steps, and one had
boldly mounted, and was stepping heavily,
solemnly, and aimlessly across the gallery.
There was a pleasant odor of pinks in the air,
and the sound of negroes’ laughter was coming
across the flowering cotton-field.
Mamzelle Aurélie stood contemplating the
children. She looked with a critical eye upon
Marcéline, who had been left staggering beneath
the weight of the chubby Elodie. She
surveyed with the same calculating air Marcélette
mingling her silent tears with the audible
grief and rebellion of Ti Nomme. During
those few contemplative moments she was
collecting herself, determining upon a line of
action which should be identical with a line
of duty. She began by feeding them.
If Mamzelle Aurélie’s responsibilities might
have begun and ended there, they could easily
have been dismissed; for her larder was amply
provided against an emergency of this nature.
But little children are not little pigs; they require
and demand attentions which were wholly
unexpected by Mamzelle Aurélie, and which
she was ill prepared to give.
She was, indeed, very inapt in her
management of Odile’s children during the first few
days. How could she know that Marcélette
always wept when spoken to in a loud and
commanding tone of voice? It was a peculiarity
of Marcélette’s. She became acquainted
with Ti Nomme’s passion for flowers only
when he had plucked all the choicest gardenias
and pinks for the apparent purpose of critically
studying their botanical construction.
“’Tain’t enough to tell ’im, Mamzelle Aurélie,”
Marcéline instructed her; “you got to tie
’im in a chair. It’s w’at maman all time do
w’en he’s bad: she tie ’im in a chair.” The
chair in which Mamzelle Aurélie tied Ti
Nomme was roomy and comfortable, and he
seized the opportunity to take a nap in it, the
afternoon being warm.
At night, when she ordered them one and
all to bed as she would have shooed the chickens
into the hen-house, they stayed uncomprehending
before her. What about the little
white nightgowns that had to be taken from
the pillow-slip in which they were brought
over, and shaken by some strong hand till they
snapped like ox-whips? What about the tub
of water which had to be brought and set in
the middle of the floor, in which the little tired,
dusty, sunbrowned feet had every one to be
washed sweet and clean? And it made Marcéline
and Marcélette laugh merrily — the idea
that Mamzelle Aurélie should for a moment
have believed that Ti Nomme could fall asleep
without being told the story of
Croque-mitaine or Loup-garou,
or both; or that Elodie could
fall asleep at all without being rocked and sung
“I tell you, Aunt Ruby,” Mamzelle Aurélie
informed her cook in confidence; “me, I’d
rather manage a dozen plantation’ than fo’ chil’ren.
It’s terrassent! Bonté! Don’t talk to
me about chil’ren!”
“’Tain’ ispected sich as you would know
airy thing ’bout ’em, Mamzelle Aurélie. I see
dat plainly yistiddy w’en I spy dat li’le chile
playin’ wid yo’ baskit o’ keys. You don’ know
dat makes chillun grow up hard-headed, to
play wid keys? Des like it make ’em teeth
hard to look in a lookin’-glass. Them’s the
things you got to know in the raisin’ an’
manigement o’ chillun.”
Mamzelle Aurélie certainly did not pretend
or aspire to such subtle and far-reaching
knowledge on the subject as Aunt Ruby possessed,
who had “raised five an’ bared (buried)
six” in her day. She was glad enough to learn
a few little mother-tricks to serve the moment’s
Ti Nomme’s sticky fingers compelled her to
unearth white aprons that she had not worn
for years, and she had to accustom herself to
his moist kisses — the expressions of an affectionate
and exuberant nature. She got down
her sewing-basket, which she seldom used, from
the top shelf of the armoire, and placed it within
the ready and easy reach which torn slips and
buttonless waists demanded. It took her some
days to become accustomed to the laughing,
the crying, the chattering that echoed through
the house and around it all day long. And it
was not the first or the second night that she
could sleep comfortably with little Elodie’s hot,
plump body pressed close against her, and the
little one’s warm breath beating her cheek like
the fanning of a bird’s wing.
But at the end of two weeks Mamzelle
Aurélie had grown quite used to these things, and
she no longer complained.
It was also at the end of two weeks that
Mamzelle Aurélie, one evening, looking away
toward the crib where the cattle were being
fed, saw Valsin’s blue cart turning the bend
of the road. Odile sat beside the mulatto, upright
and alert. As they drew near, the young
woman’s beaming face indicated that her homecoming
was a happy one.
But this coming, unannounced and
unexpected, threw Mamzelle Aurélie into a flutter
that was almost agitation. The children had
to be gathered. Where was Ti Nomme? Yonder
in the shed, putting an edge on his knife
at the grindstone. And Marcéline and Marcélette?
Cutting and fashioning doll-rags in
the corner of the gallery. As for Elodie, she
was safe enough in Mamzelle Aurélie’s arms;
and she had screamed with delight at sight of
the familiar blue cart which was bringing her
mother back to her.
The excitement was all over, and they were
gone. How still it was when they were gone!
Mamzelle Aurélie stood upon the gallery, looking
and listening. She could no longer see the
cart; the red sunset and the blue-gray twilight
had together flung a purple mist across the
fields and road that hid it from her view. She
could no longer hear the wheezing and creaking
of its wheels. But she could still faintly
hear the shrill, glad voices of the children.
She turned into the house. There was much
work awaiting her, for the children had left a
sad disorder behind them; but she did not at
once set about the task of righting it. Mamzelle
Aurélie seated herself beside the table.
She gave one slow glance through the room,
into which the evening shadows were creeping
and deepening around her solitary figure.
She let her head fall down upon her bended
arm, and began to cry. Oh, but she cried!
Not softly, as women often do. She cried like
a man, with sobs that seemed to tear her very
soul. She did not notice Ponto licking her
A Matter of Prejudice
wanted it strictly
understood that she was not to be
disturbed by Gustave’s birthday party.
They carried her big rocking-chair from the
back gallery, that looked out upon the garden
where the children were going to play, around
to the front gallery, which closely faced the
green levee bank and the Mississippi coursing
almost flush with the top of it.
The house — an old Spanish one, broad, low
and completely encircled by a wide gallery —
was far down in the French quarter of New
Orleans. It stood upon a square of ground
that was covered thick with a semi-tropical
growth of plants and flowers. An impenetrable
board fence, edged with a formidable row
of iron spikes, shielded the garden from the
prying glances of the occasional passer-by.
Madame Carambeau’s widowed daughter,
Madame Cécile Lalonde, lived with her. This
annual party, given to her little son, Gustave,
was the one defiant act of Madame Lalonde’s
existence. She persisted in it, to her own astonishment
and the wonder of those who knew her and
For old Madame Carambeau was a woman
of many prejudices — so many, in fact, that it
would be difficult to name them all. She
detested dogs, cats, organ-grinders, white servants
and children’s noises. She despised
Americans, Germans and all people of a
different faith from her own. Anything not
French had, in her opinion, little right to
She had not spoken to her son Henri for
ten years because he had married an American
girl from Prytania street. She would not
permit green tea to be introduced into her
house, and those who could not or would not
drink coffee might drink
tisane of fleur de
for all she cared.
Nevertheless, the children seemed to be
having it all their own way that day, and the
organ-grinders were let loose. Old madame,
in her retired corner, could hear the screams,
the laughter and the music far more distinctly
than she liked. She rocked herself noisily,
“Partant pour la Syrie.”
She was straight and slender. Her hair
was white, and she wore it in puffs on the
temples. Her skin was fair and her eyes blue
Suddenly she became aware that footsteps
were approaching, and threatening to invade
her privacy — not only footsteps, but screams!
Then two little children, one in hot pursuit of
the other, darted wildly around the corner
near which she sat.
The child in advance, a pretty little girl,
sprang excitedly into Madame Carambeau’s
lap, and threw her arms convulsively around
the old lady’s neck. Her companion lightly
struck her a “last tag,” and ran laughing gleefully
The most natural thing for the child to do
then would have been to wriggle down from
madame’s lap, without a “thank you” or a
“by your leave,” after the manner of small
and thoughtless children. But she did not
do this. She stayed there, panting and fluttering,
like a frightened bird.
Madame was greatly annoyed. She moved
as if to put the child away from her, and
scolded her sharply for being boisterous and
rude. The little one, who did not understand
French, was not disturbed by the reprimand,
and stayed on in madame’s lap. She rested
her plump little cheek, that was hot and
flushed, against the soft white linen of the old
Her cheek was very hot and very flushed.
It was dry, too, and so were her hands. The
child’s breathing was quick and irregular.
Madame was not long in detecting these signs
Though she was a creature of prejudice,
she was nevertheless a skillful and accomplished
nurse, and a connoisseur in all matters
pertaining to health. She prided herself upon
this talent, and never lost an opportunity of
exercising it. She would have treated an
organ-grinder with tender consideration if one
had presented himself in the character of an
Madame’s manner toward the little one
changed immediately. Her arms and her lap
were at once adjusted so as to become the
most comfortable of resting places. She
rocked very gently to and fro. She fanned the
child softly with her palm leaf fan, and sang
“Partant pour la Syrie” in a low and agreeable
The child was perfectly content to lie still
and prattle a little in that language which madame
thought hideous. But the brown eyes
were soon swimming in drowsiness, and
the little body grew heavy with sleep in madame’s
When the little girl slept Madame Carambeau
arose, and treading carefully and deliberately,
entered her room, that opened near at hand
upon the gallery. The room was large,
airy and inviting, with its cool matting upon
the floor, and its heavy, old, polished mahogany
furniture. Madame, with the child still
in her arms, pulled a bell-cord; then she stood
waiting, swaying gently back and forth. Presently
an old black woman answered the summons.
She wore gold hoops in her ears, and
a bright bandanna knotted fantastically on
“Louise, turn down the bed,” commanded
madame. “Place that small, soft pillow below
the bolster. Here is a poor little unfortunate
creature whom Providence must have
driven into my arms.” She laid the child
“Ah, those Americans! Do they deserve
to have children? Understanding as little as they
do how to take care of them!” said madame,
while Louise was mumbling an accompanying
assent that would have been unintelligible to
any one unacquainted with the negro patois.
“There, you see, Louise, she is burning
up,” remarked madame; “she is consumed.
Unfasten the little bodice while I lift her. Ah,
talk to me of such parents! So stupid as not
to perceive a fever like that coming on, but
they must dress their child up like a monkey
to go play and dance to the music of organ-
“Haven’t you better sense, Louise, than to
take off a child’s shoe as if you were removing
the boot from the leg of a cavalry officer?”
Madame would have required fairy fingers
to minister to the sick. “Now go to Mamzelle
Cécile, and tell her to send me one of
those old, soft, thin nightgowns that Gustave
wore two summers ago.”
When the woman retired, madame busied
herself with concocting a cooling pitcher of
orange-flower water, and mixing a fresh supply
of eau sédative with which agreeably to
sponge the little invalid.
Madame Lalonde came herself with the old,
soft nightgown. She was a pretty, blonde,
plump little woman, with the deprecatory air
of one whose will has become flaccid from
want of use. She was mildly distressed at
what her mother had done.
“But, mamma! But, mamma, the child’s
parents will be sending the carriage for her
in a little while. Really, there was no use.
Oh dear! oh dear!”
If the bedpost had spoken to Madame
Carambeau, she would have paid more attention,
for speech from such a source would have
been at least surprising if not convincing.
Madame Lalonde did not possess the faculty
of either surprising or convincing her mother.
“Yes, the little one will be quite comfortable
in this,” said the old lady, taking the garment
from her daughter’s irresolute hands.
“But, mamma! What shall I say, what shall
I do when they send? Oh, dear; oh, dear!”
“That is your business,” replied madame,
with lofty indifference. “My concern is solely
with a sick child that happens to be under my
roof. I think I know my duty at this time of
As Madame Lalonde predicted, the carriage
soon came, with a stiff English coachman
driving it, and a red-checked Irish nurse-maid
seated inside. Madame would not even permit
the maid to see her little charge. She had
an original theory that the Irish voice is distressing
to the sick.
Madame Lalonde sent the girl away with a
long letter of explanation that must have satisfied
the parents; for the child was left undisturbed
in Madame Carambeau’s care. She was
a sweet child, gentle and affectionate. And,
though she cried and fretted a little throughout
the night for her mother, she seemed, after
all, to take kindly to madame’s gentle
nursing. It was not much of a fever that
afflicted her, and after two days she was well
enough to be sent back to her parents.
Madame, in all her varied experience with
the sick, had never before nursed so objectionable
a character as an American child.
But the trouble was that after the little one
went away, she could think of nothing really
objectionable against her except the accident
of her birth, which was, after all, her misfortune;
and her ignorance of the French language,
which was not her fault.
But the touch of the caressing baby arms;
the pressure of the soft little body in the
night; the tones of the voice, and the feeling
of the hot lips when the child kissed her, believing
herself to be with her mother, were
impressions that had sunk through the crust
of madame’s prejudice and reached her heart.
She often walked the length of the gallery,
looking out across the wide, majestic river.
Sometimes she trod the mazes of her garden
where the solitude was almost that of a tropical
jungle. It was during such moments that
the seed began to work in her soul — the seed
planted by the innocent and undesigning
hands of a little child.
The first shoot that it sent forth was Doubt.
Madame plucked it away once or twice. But
it sprouted again, and with it Mistrust and
Dissatisfaction. Then from the heart of the
seed, and amid the shoots of Doubt and Misgiving,
came the flower of Truth. It was a
very beautiful flower, and it bloomed on
As Madame Carambeau and her daughter
were about to enter her carriage on that
Christmas morning, to be driven to church,
the old lady stopped to give an order to her
black coachman, François. François had
been driving these ladies every Sunday morning
to the French Cathedral for so many years
— he had forgotten exactly how many, but
ever since he had entered their service, when
Madame Lalonde was a little girl. His
astonishment may therefore be imagined
when Madame Carambeau said to him:
“François, to-day you will drive us to one
of the American churches.”
“Plait-il, madame?” the negro stammered,
doubting the evidence of his hearing.
“I say, you will drive us to one of the American
churches. Any one of them,” she added,
with a sweep of her hand. “I suppose they
are all alike,” and she followed her daughter
into the carriage.
Madame Lalonde’s surprise and agitation
were painful to see, and they deprived her of
the ability to question, even if she had possessed
the courage to do so.
François, left to his fancy, drove them to
St. Patrick’s Church on Camp street. Madame
Lalonde looked and felt like the proverbial
fish out of its element as they entered
the edifice. Madame Carambeau, on the contrary,
looked as if she had been attending St.
Patrick’s church all her life. She sat with unruffled
calm through the long service and
through a lengthy English sermon, of which
she did not understand a word.
When the mass was ended and they were
about to enter the carriage again, Madame
Carambeau turned, as she had done before, to
“François,” she said, coolly, “you will now
drive us to the residence of my son, M. Henri
Carambeau. No doubt Mamzelle Cécile can
inform you where it is,” she added, with a
sharply penetrating glance that caused Madame
Lalonde to wince.
Yes, her daughter Cécile knew, and so did
François, for that matter. They drove out
St. Charles avenue — very far out. It was
like a strange city to old madame, who had
not been in the American quarter since the
town had taken on this new and splendid
The morning was a delicious one, soft and
mild; and the roses were all in bloom. They
were not hidden behind spiked fences. Madame
appeared not to notice them, or the
beautiful and striking residences that lined
the avenue along which they drove. She held
a bottle of smelling-salts to her nostrils, as
though she were passing through the most
unsavory instead of the most beautiful quarter
of New Orleans.
Henri’s house was a very modern and very
handsome one, standing a little distance away
from the street. A well-kept lawn, studded
with rare and charming plants, surrounded
it. The ladies, dismounting, rang the bell,
and stood out upon the banquette, waiting
for the iron gate to be opened.
A white maid-servant admitted them.
Madame did not seem to mind. She handed her
a card with all proper ceremony, and followed
with her daughter to the house.
Not once did she show a sign of weakness;
not even when her son, Henri, came and took
her in his arms and sobbed and wept upon
her neck as only a warm-hearted Creole could.
He was a big, good-looking, honest-faced
man, with tender brown eyes like his dead
father’s and a firm mouth like his mother’s.
Young Mrs. Carambeau came, too, her
sweet, fresh face transfigured with happiness.
She led by the hand her little daughter, the
“American child” whom madame had nursed
so tenderly a month before, never suspecting
the little one to be other than an alien to her.
“What a lucky chance was that fever! What
a happy accident!” gurgled Madame Lalonde.
“Cécile, it was no accident, I tell you; it
was Providence,” spoke madame, reprovingly,
and no one contradicted her.
They all drove back together to eat
Christmas dinner in the old house by the river.
Madame held her little granddaughter upon
her lap; her son Henri sat facing her, and
beside her was her daughter-in-law.
Henri sat back in the carriage and could
not speak. His soul was possessed by a pathetic
joy that would not admit of speech.
He was going back again to the home where
he was born, after a banishment of ten long
He would hear again the water beat
against the green levee-bank with a sound
that was not quite like any other that he could
remember. He would sit within the sweet and
solemn shadow of the deep and overhanging
roof; and roam through the wild, rich solitude
of the old garden, where he had played
his pranks of boyhood and dreamed his
dreams of youth. He would listen to his
mother’s voice calling him, “mon fils,” as it
had always done before that day he had had
to choose between mother and wife. No; he
could not speak.
But his wife chatted much and pleasantly —
in a French, however, that must have been
trying to old madame to listen to.
“I am so sorry, ma mère,” she said, “that
our little one does not speak French. It is
not my fault, I assure you,” and she flushed
and hesitated a little. “It — it was Henri who
would not permit it.”
“That is nothing,” replied madame,
amiably, drawing the child close to her. “Her
grandmother will teach her French; and she
will teach her grandmother English. You
see, I have no prejudices. I am not like my
son. Henri was always a stubborn boy.
Heaven only knows how he came by such a
sun was just far enough in the west
to send inviting shadows. In the centre
of a small field, and in the shade of a
haystack which was there, a girl lay sleeping.
She had slept long and soundly, when something
awoke her as suddenly as if it had been a
blow. She opened her eyes and stared a moment
up in the cloudless sky. She yawned
and stretched her long brown legs and arms,
lazily. Then she arose, never minding the
bits of straw that clung to her black hair, to
her red bodice, and the blue cotonade skirt
that did not reach her naked ankles.
The log cabin in which she dwelt with her
parents was just outside the enclosure in
which she had been sleeping. Beyond was a
small clearing that did duty as a cotton field.
All else was dense wood, except the long
stretch that curved round the brow of the hill,
and in which glittered the steel rails of the
Texas and Pacific road.
When Caline emerged from the shadow she
saw a long train of passenger coaches standing
in view, where they must have stopped
abruptly. It was that sudden stopping which
had awakened her; for such a thing had not
happened before within her recollection, and
she looked stupid, at first, with astonishment.
There seemed to be something wrong with
the engine; and some of the passengers who
dismounted went forward to investigate the
trouble. Others came strolling along in the
direction of the cabin, where Caline stood under
an old gnarled mulberry tree, staring.
Her father had halted his mule at the end of
the cotton row, and stood staring also, leaning
upon his plow.
There were ladies in the party. They walked
awkwardly in their high-heeled boots over
the rough, uneven ground, and held up their
skirts mincingly. They twirled parasols over
their shoulders, and laughed immoderately at
the funny things which their masculine companions
They tried to talk to Caline, but could not
understand the French patois with which she
One of the men — a pleasant-faced youngster
— drew a sketch book from his pocket and
began to make a picture of the girl. She
stayed motionless, her hands behind her, and
her wide eyes fixed earnestly upon him.
Before he had finished there was a summons
from the train; and all went scampering
hurriedly away. The engine screeched, it
sent a few lazy puffs into the still air, and in
another moment or two had vanished, bearing
its human cargo with it.
Caline could not feel the same after that.
She looked with new and strange interest
upon the trains of cars that passed so swiftly
back and forth across her vision, each day;
and wondered whence these people came, and
whither they were going.
Her mother and father could not tell her,
except to say that they came from “loin là
bas,” and were going “Djieu sait é où.”
One day she walked miles down the track
to talk with the old flagman, who stayed
down there by the big water tank. Yes, he
knew. Those people came from the great cities
in the north, and were going to the city
in the south. He knew all about the city; it
was a grand place. He had lived there once.
His sister lived there now; and she would be
glad enough to have so fine a girl as Caline
to help her cook and scrub, and tend the
babies. And he thought Caline might earn
as much as five dollars a month, in the city.
So she went; in a new cotonade, and her
Sunday shoes; with a sacredly guarded scrawl
that the flagman sent to his sister.
The woman lived in a tiny, stuccoed house,
with green blinds, and three wooden steps
leading down to the banquette. There seemed
to be hundreds like it along the street. Over
the house tops loomed the tall masts of ships,
and the hum of the French market could be
heard on a still morning.
Caline was at first bewildered. She had to
readjust all her preconceptions to fit the reality
of it. The flagman’s sister was a kind
and gentle task-mistress. At the end of a
week or two she wanted to know how the girl
liked it all. Caline liked it very well, for it
was pleasant, on Sunday afternoons, to stroll
with the children under the great, solemn
sugar sheds; or to sit upon the compressed
cotton bales, watching the stately steamers,
the graceful boats, and noisy little tugs that
plied the waters of the Mississippi. And it
filled her with agreeable excitement to go
to the French market, where the handsome
Gascon butchers were eager to present their
compliments and little Sunday bouquets to the
pretty Acadian girl; and to throw fistfuls of
lagniappe into her basket.
When the woman asked her again after
another week if she were still pleased, she was
not so sure. And again when she questioned
Caline the girl turned away, and went to sit
behind the big, yellow cistern, to cry unobserved.
For she knew now that it was not the
great city and its crowds of people she had
so eagerly sought; but the pleasant-faced boy,
who had made her picture that day under the
A Dresden Lady in Dixie
had been in the sitting-
room some time before she noticed
the absence of the Dresden china
figure from the corner of the mantel-piece,
where it had stood for years. Aside from the
intrinsic value of the piece, there were some
very sad and tender memories associated with
it. A baby’s lips that were now forever still
had loved once to kiss the painted “pitty ’ady”;
and the baby arms had often held it in a close
and smothered embrace.
Madame Valtour gave a rapid, startled
glance around the room, to see perchance if
it had been misplaced; but she failed to discover
Viny, the house-maid, when summoned,
remembered having carefully dusted it that
morning, and was rather indignantly positive
that she had not broken the thing to bits and
secreted the pieces.
“Who has been in the room during my
absence?” questioned Madame Valtour, with
asperity. Viny abandoned herself to a moment’s
“Pa-Jeff comed in yere wid de mail — ” If
she had said St. Peter came in with the mail,
the fact would have had as little bearing on
the case from Madame Valtour’s point of
Pa-Jeff’s uprightness and honesty were so
long and firmly established as to have become
proverbial on the plantation. He had
not served the family faithfully since boyhood
and been all through the war with “old
Marse Valtour” to descend at his time of life
to tampering with household bric-a-brac.
“Has any one else been here?” Madame
Valtour naturally inquired.
“On’y Agapie w’at brung you some Creole
aiggs. I tole ’er to sot ’em down in de hall.
I don’ know she comed in de settin’-room
Yes, there they were; eight, fresh “Creole
eggs” reposing on the muslin in the sewing
basket. Viny herself had been seated on the
gallery brushing her mistress’ gowns during
the hours of that lady’s absence, and could
think of no one else having penetrated to the
Madame Valtour did not entertain the
thought that Agapie had stolen the relic. Her
worst fear was, that the girl, finding herself
alone in the room, had handled the frail bit
of porcelain and inadvertently broken it.
Agapie came often to the house to play
with the children and amuse them — she loved
nothing better. Indeed, no other spot known
to her on earth so closely embodied her confused
idea of paradise, as this home with its
atmosphere of love, comfort and good
cheer. She was, herself, a cheery bit of humanity,
overflowing with kind impulses and
Madame Valtour recalled the fact that
Agapie had often admired this Dresden figure
(but what had she not admired!); and she
remembered having heard the girl’s assurance
that if ever she became possessed of “fo’ bits”
to spend as she liked, she would have some
one buy her just such a china doll in town
or in the city.
Before night, the fact that the Dresden lady
had strayed from her proud eminence on the
sitting-room mantel, became, through Viny’s
indiscreet babbling, pretty well known on the
The following morning Madame Valtour
crossed the field and went over to the Bedauts’
cabin. The cabins on the plantation
were not grouped; but each stood isolated
upon the section of land which its occupants
cultivated. Pa-Jeff’s cabin was the only one
near enough to the Bedauts to admit of neighborly
Seraphine Bedaut was sitting on her small
gallery, stringing red peppers, when Madame
“I’m so distressed, Madame Bedaut,” began
the planter’s wife, abruptly. But the
’Cadian woman arose politely and interrupted,
offering her visitor a chair.
“Come in, set down, Ma’me Valtour.”
“No, no; it’s only for a moment. You know,
Madame Bedaut, yesterday when I returned
from making a visit, I found that an ornament
was missing from my sitting-room mantel-
piece. It’s a thing I prize very, very much
— ” with sudden tears filling her eyes — “and I
would not willingly part with it for many
times its value.” Seraphine Bedaut was listening,
with her mouth partly open, looking,
in truth, stupidly puzzled.
“No one entered the room during my
absence,” continued Madame Valtour, “but
Agapie.” Seraphine’s mouth snapped like a
steel trap and her black eyes gleamed with a
flash of anger.
“You wan’ say Agapie stole some’in’ in yo’
house!” she cried out in a shrill voice, tremulous
“No; oh no! I’m sure Agapie is an honest
girl and we all love her; but you know how
children are. It was a small Dresden figure.
She may have handled and broken the thing
and perhaps is afraid to say so. She may
have thoughtlessly misplaced it; oh, I don’t
know what! I want to ask if she saw it.”
“Come in; you got to come in, Ma’me
Valtour,” stubbornly insisted Seraphine, leading
the way into the cabin. “I sen’ ’er to de
house yistiddy wid some Creole aiggs,” she
went on in her rasping voice, “like I all time
do, because you all say you can’t eat dem sto’
aiggs no mo.’ Yere de basket w’at I sen’
’em in,” reaching for an Indian basket which
hung against the wall — and which was partly
filled with cotton seed.
“Oh, never mind,” interrupted Madame
Valtour, now thoroughly distressed at witnessing
the woman’s agitation.
“Ah, bien non. I got to show you, Agapie
en’t no mo’ thief ’an yo’ own child’en is.” She
led the way into the adjoining room of the
“Yere all her things w’at she ’muse herse’f
wid,” continued Seraphin, pointing to a soapbox
which stood on the floor just beneath
the open window. The box was filled with
an indescribable assortment of odds and ends,
mostly doll-rags. A catechism and a blue-backed
speller poked dog-eared corners from
out of the confusion; for the Valtour children
were making heroic and patient efforts toward
Seraphine cast herself upon her knees
before the box and dived her thin brown hands
among its contents. “I wan’ show you; I
goin’ show you,” she kept repeating excitedly.
Madame Valtour was standing beside her.
Suddenly the woman drew forth from
among the rags, the Dresden lady, as dapper,
sound, and smiling as ever. Seraphine’s hand
shook so violently that she was in danger of
letting the image fall to the floor. Madame
Valtour reached out and took it very quietly
from her. Then Seraphine rose tremblingly
to her feet and broke into a sob that was pitiful
Agapie was approaching the cabin. She
was a chubby girl of twelve. She walked
with bare, callous feet over the rough ground
and bare-headed under the hot sun. Her
thick, short, black hair covered her head like
a mane. She had been dancing along the
path, but slackened her pace upon catching
sight of the two women who had returned to
the gallery. But when she perceived that her
mother was crying she darted impetuously
forward. In an instant she had her arms
around her mother’s neck, clinging so tenaciously
in her youthful strength as to make the frail
Agapie had seen the Dresden figure in
Madame Valtour’s possession and at once
guessed the whole accusation.
“It en’t so! I tell you, maman, it en’t so!
I neva touch’ it. Stop cryin’; stop cryin’!”
and she began to cry most piteously herself.
“But Agapie, we fine it in yo’ box,” moaned
Seraphine through her sobs.
“Then somebody put it there. Can’t you
see somebody put it there? ’Ten’t so, I tell
The scene was extremely painful to
Madame Valtour. Whatever she might tell these
two later, for the time she felt herself powerless
to say anything befitting, and she walked
away. But she turned to remark, with a
hardness of expression and intention which
she seldom displayed: “No one will know of
this through me. But, Agapie, you must not
come into my house again; on account of the
children; I could not allow it.”
As she walked away she could hear
Agapie comforting her mother with renewed
protestations of innocence.
Pa-Jeff began to fail visibly that year.
No wonder, considering his great age, which he
computed to be about one hundred. It was,
in fact, some ten years less than that, but a
good old age all the same. It was seldom
that he got out into the field; and then, never
to do any heavy work — only a little light hoeing.
There were days when the “misery”
doubled him up and nailed him down to his
chair so that he could not set foot beyond
the door of his cabin. He would sit there
courting the sunshine and blinking, as he
gazed across the fields with the patience of
The Bedauts seemed to know almost
instinctively when Pa-Jeff was sick. Agapie
would shade her eyes and look searchingly
towards the old man’s cabin.
“I don’ see Pa-Jeff this mo’nin’,” or “Pa-
Jeff en’t open his winda,” or “I didn’ see no
smoke yet yonda to Pa-Jeff’s.” And in a little
while the girl would be over there with a
pail of soup or coffee, or whatever there was
at hand which she thought the old negro
might fancy. She had lost all the color out
of her cheeks and was pining like a sick bird.
She often sat on the steps of the gallery
and talked with the old man while she waited
for him to finish his soup from her tin pail.
“I tell you, Pa-Jeff, its neva been no thief
in the Bedaut family. My pa say he couldn’
hole up his head if he think I been a thief,
me. An’ maman say it would make her sick
in bed, she don’ know she could ever git up.
Sosthene tell me the chil’en been cryin’ fo’
me up yonda. Li’le Lulu cry so hard M’sieur
Valtour want sen’ afta me, an’ Ma’me Valtour
And with this, Agapie flung herself at
length upon the gallery with her face buried
in her arms, and began to cry so hysterically
as seriously to alarm Pa-Jeff. It was well
he had finished his soup, for he could not
have eaten another mouthful.
“Hole up yo’ head, chile. God save us!
W’at you kiarrin’ on dat away?” he exclaimed
in great distress. “You gwine to take a fit?
Hole up yo’ head.”
Agapie rose slowly to her feet, and drying
her eyes upon the sleeve of her “josie,”
reached out for the tin bucket. Pa-Jeff
handed it to her, but without relinquishing his
hold upon it.
“War hit you w’at tuck it?” he questioned
in a whisper. “I isn’ gwine tell; you knows
I isn’ gwine tell.” She only shook her head,
attempting to draw the pail forcibly away
from the old man.
“Le’ me go, Pa-Jeff. W’at you doin’! Gi’
me my bucket!”
He kept his old blinking eyes fastened for
a while questioningly upon her disturbed and
tear-stained face. Then he let her go and she
turned and ran swiftly away towards her
He sat very still watching her disappear;
only his furrowed old face twitched convulsively,
moved by an unaccustomed train of
reasoning that was at work in him.
“She w’ite, I is black,” he muttered
calculatingly. “She young, I is ole; sho I is ole.
She good to Pa-Jeff like I her own kin an’
color.” This line of thought seemed to possess
him to the exclusion of every other.
Late in the night he was still muttering.
“Sho I is ole. She good to Pa-Jeff, yas.”
A few days later, when Pa-Jeff happened to
be feeling comparatively well, he presented
himself at the house just as the family had
assembled at their early dinner. Looking up
suddenly, Monsieur Valtour was astonished
to see him standing there in the room near
the open door. He leaned upon his cane and
his grizzled head was bowed upon his breast.
There was general satisfaction expressed at
seeing Pa-Jeff on his legs once more.
“Why, old man, I’m glad to see you out
again,” exclaimed the planter, cordially, pouring
a glass of wine, which he instructed
Viny to hand to the old fellow. Pa-Jeff
accepted the glass and set it solemnly down
upon a small table near by.
“Marse Albert,” he said, “I is come heah
to-day fo’ to make a statement of de rights an’
de wrongs w’at is done hang heavy on my
soul dis heah long time. Arter you heahs me
an’ de missus heahs me an’ de chillun an’ ev’body,
den ef you says: ’Pa-Jeff you kin tech
yo’ lips to dat glass o’ wine,’ all well an’
His manner was impressive and caused
the family to exchange surprised and troubled
glances. Foreseeing that his recital might be
long, a chair was offered to him, but he
“One day,” he began, “w’en I ben hoein’ de
madam’s flower bed close to de fence, Sosthene
he ride up, he say: ’Heah, Pa-Jeff,
heah de mail.’ I takes de mail f’om ’im an’
I calls out to Viny w’at settin’ on de gallery:
’Heah Marse Albert’s mail, gal; come git it.’
“But Viny she answer, pert-like — des like
Viny: ’You is got two laigs, Pa-Jeff, des well
as me.’ I ain’t no hen’ fo’ disputin’ wid gals,
so I brace up an’ I come ’long to de house
an’ goes on in dat settin’-room dah, naix’ to
de dinin’-room. I lays dat mail down on
Marse Albert’s table; den I looks roun’.
“Ev’thing do look putty, sho! De lace
cu’tains was a-flappin’ an’ de flowers was a-smellin’
sweet, an’ de pictures a-settin’ back on de
wall. I keep on lookin’ roun’. To reckly
my eye hit fall on de li’le gal w’at al’ays sets
on de een’ o’ de mantel-shelf. She do look
mighty sassy dat day, wid ’er toe a-stickin’
out, des so; an’ holdin’ her skirt des dat away;
an’ lookin’ at me wid her head twis’.
“I laff out. Viny mus’ heahed me. I say,
’g’long ’way f’om dah, gal.’ She keep on
smilin’. I reaches out my han’. Den Satan
an’ de good Sperrit, dey begins to wrastle in
me. De Sperrit say: ’You ole fool-nigga,
you; mine w’at you about.’ Satan keep on
shovin’ my han’ — des so — keep on shovin’.
Satan he mighty powerful dat day, an’ he
win de fight. I kiar dat li’le trick home in
Pa-Jeff lowered his head for a moment in
bitter confusion. His hearers were moved
with distressful astonishment. They would
have had him stop the recital right there, but
Pa-Jeff resumed, with an effort:
“Come dat night I heah tell how dat li’le
trick, wo’th heap money; how madam, she
cryin’ ’cause her li’le blessed lamb was use’ to
play wid cat, an’ kiar-on ov’ it. Den I git
scared. I say, ’w’at I gwine do?’ An’ up
jump Satan an’ de Sperrit a-wrastlin’ again.
“De Sperrit say: ’Kiar hit back whar it
come f’om, Pa-Jeff.’ Satan ’low: ’Fling it
in de bayeh, you ole fool.’ De Sperrit say:
’You won’t fling dat in de bayeh, whar de
madam kain’t neva sot eyes on hit no mo’?’
Den Satan he kine give in; he ’low he plumb
sick o’ disputin’ so long; tell me go hide it
some ’eres whar dey nachelly gwine fine it.
Satan he win dat fight.
“Des w’en de day g’ine break, I creeps out
an’ goes ’long de fiel’ road. I pass by Ma’me
Bedaut’s house. I riclic how dey says li’le
Bedaut gal ben in de sittin’-room, too, day
befo’. De winda war open. Ev’body sleepin’.
I tres’ in my head, des like a dog w’at
shame hisse’f. I sees dat box o’ rags befo’
my eyes; an’ I drops dat li’le imp’dence
’mongst dem rags.
“Mebby yo’ all t’ink Satan an’ de Sperrit
lef’ me ’lone, arter dat?” continued Pa-Jeff,
straightening himself from the relaxed position
in which his members seemed to have
“No, suh; dey ben desputin’ straight ’long.
Las’ night dey come nigh onto en’in’ me up.
De Sperrit say: ’Come ’long, I gittin’ tired
dis heah, you g’long up yonda an’ tell de truf
an’ shame de devil.’ Satan ’low: ’Stay whar
you is; you heah me!’ Dey clutches me. Dey
twis’es an’ twines me. Dey dashes me down
an’ jerks me up. But de Sperrit he win dat
fight in de en’, an’ heah I is, mist’ess, master,
chillun’; heah I is.”
Years later Pa-Jeff was still telling the story
of his temptation and fall. The negroes especially
seemed never to tire of hearing him relate
it. He enlarged greatly upon the theme
as he went, adding new and dramatic features
which gave fresh interest to its every telling.
Agapie grew up to deserve the confidence
and favors of the family. She redoubled her
acts of kindness toward Pa-Jeff; but somehow
she could not look into his face again.
Yet she need not have feared. Long before
the end came, poor old Pa-Jeff, confused,
bewildered, believed the story himself as firmly
as those who had heard him tell it over
and over for so many years.
the remote period of his birth he
had been named César François Xavier,
but no one ever thought of calling him
anything but Chicot, or Nég, or Maringouin.
Down at the French market, where he worked
among the fishmongers, they called him Chicot,
when they were not calling him names
that are written less freely than they are
spoken. But one felt privileged to call him almost
anything, he was so black, lean, lame,
and shriveled. He wore a head-kerchief, and
whatever other rags the fishermen and their
wives chose to bestow upon him. Throughout
one whole winter he wore a woman’s discarded
jacket with puffed sleeves.
Among some startling beliefs entertained
by Chicot was one that “Michié St. Pierre et
Michié St. Paul” had created him. Of
“Michié bon Dieu” he held his own private
opinion, and not a too flattering one at that.
This fantastic notion concerning the origin of
his being he owed to the early teaching of his
young master, a lax believer, and a great
in his day. Chicot had once been
thrashed by a robust young Irish priest for
expressing his religious views, and at another
time knifed by a Sicilian. So he had come to
hold his peace upon that subject.
Upon another theme he talked freely and
harped continuously. For years he had tried
to convince his associates that his master had
left a progeny, rich, cultured, powerful, and
numerous beyond belief. This prosperous
race of beings inhabited the most imposing
mansions in the city of New Orleans. Men
of note and position, whose names were familiar
to the public, he swore were grandchildren,
great-grandchildren, or, less frequently, distant
relatives of his master, long deceased,
Ladies who came to the market in carriages,
or whose elegance of attire attracted the attention
and admiration of the fishwomen, were
des ’tites cousines
to his former master,
Jean Boisduré. He never looked for recognition
from any of these superior beings, but
delighted to discourse by the hour upon their
dignity and pride of birth and wealth.
Chicot always carried an old gunny-sack,
and into this went his earnings. He cleaned
stalls at the market, scaled fish, and did many
odd offices for the itinerant merchants, who
usually paid in trade for his service. Occasionally
he saw the color of silver and got his
clutch upon a coin, but he accepted anything,
and seldom made terms. He was glad to get
a handkerchief from the Hebrew, and grateful
if the Choctaws would trade him a bottle of
filé for it. The butcher flung him a soup bone,
and the fishmonger a few crabs or a paper
bag of shrimps. It was the big
vendeuse de café,
who cared for his inner
Once Chicot was accused by a shoe-vender
of attempting to steal a pair of ladies’ shoes.
He declared he was only examining them.
The clamor raised in the market was terrific.
Young Dagoes assembled and squealed like
rats; a couple of Gascon butchers bellowed
like bulls. Matteo’s wife shook her fist in the
accuser’s face and called him incomprehensible
names. The Choctaw women, where they
squatted, turned their slow eyes in the direction
of the fray, taking no further notice; while
a policeman jerked Chicot around by the
puffed sleeve and brandished a club. It was
a narrow escape.
Nobody knew where Chicot lived. A man
— even a nég créol — who lives among the
reeds and willows of Bayou St. John, in a
deserted chicken-coop constructed chiefly of
tarred paper, is not going to boast of his habitation
or to invite attention to his domestic
appointments. When, after market hours, he
vanished in the direction of St. Philip street,
limping, seemingly bent under the weight of
his gunny-bag, it was like the disappearance
from the stage of some petty actor whom the
audience does not follow in imagination beyond
the wings, or think of till his return in
There was one to whom Chicot’s coming or
going meant more than this. In
la maison grise
they called her La Chouette, for no
earthly reason unless that she perched high
under the roof of the old rookery and scolded
in shrill sudden outbursts. Forty or fifty years
before, when for a little while she acted minor
parts with a company of French players (an
escapade that had brought her grandmother
to the grave), she was known as Mademoiselle
de Montallaine. Seventy-five years before she
had been christened Aglaé Boisduré.
No matter at what hour the old negro
appeared at her threshold, Mamzelle Aglaé
always kept him waiting till she finished her
prayers. She opened the door for him and
silently motioned him to a seat, returning to
prostrate herself upon her knees before a
crucifix, and a shell filled with holy water that
stood on a small table; it represented in her
imagination an altar. Chicot knew that she
did it to aggravate him; he was convinced
that she timed her devotions to begin when
she heard his footsteps on the stairs. He
would sit with sullen eyes contemplating her
long, spare, poorly clad figure as she knelt
and read from her book or finished her
prayers. Bitter was the religious warfare that
had raged for years between them, and Mamzelle
Aglaé had grown, on her side, as intolerant
as Chicot. She had come to hold St.
Peter and St. Paul in such utter detestation
that she had cut their pictures out of her
Then Mamzelle Aglaé pretended not to
care what Chicot had in his bag. He drew
forth a small hunk of beef and laid it in her
basket that stood on the bare floor. She looked
from the corner of her eye, and went on dusting
the table. He brought out a handful
of potatoes, some pieces of sliced fish, a few
herbs, a yard of calico, and a small pat of butter
wrapped in lettuce leaves. He was proud
of the butter, and wanted her to notice it. He
held it out and asked her for something to put
it on. She handed him a saucer, and looked
indifferent and resigned, with lifted eyebrows.
“Pas d’ sucre, Nég?”
Chicot shook his head and scratched it, and
looked like a black picture of distress and
mortification. No sugar! But tomorrow he
would get a pinch here and a pinch there, and
would bring as much as a cupful.
Mamzelle Aglaé then sat down, and talked
to Chicot uninterruptedly and confidentially.
She complained bitterly, and it was all about
a pain that lodged in her leg; that crept and
acted like a live, stinging serpent, twining
about her waist and up her spine, and coiling
round the shoulder-blade. And then les
rheumatismes in her fingers! He could see
for himself how they were knotted. She could
not bend them; she could hold nothing in her
hands, and had let a saucer fall that morning
and broken it in pieces. And if she were to
tell him that she had slept a wink through the
night, she would be a liar, deserving of perdition.
She had sat at the window
la nuit blanche,
hearing the hours strike and the market-
wagons rumble. Chicot nodded, and kept
up a running fire of sympathetic comment
and suggestive remedies for rheumatism and
insomnia: herbs, or tisanes, or
three. As if he knew! There was Purgatory
Mary, a perambulating soul whose office in
life was to pray for the shades in purgatory, —
she had brought Mamzelle Aglaé a bottle of
eau de Lourdes, but so little of it! She might
have kept her water of Lourdes, for all the
good it did, — a drop! Not so much as would
cure a fly or a mosquito! Mamzelle Aglaé
was going to show Purgatory Mary the door
when she came again, not only because of
her avarice with the Lourdes water, but, beside
that, she brought in on her feet dirt that
could only be removed with a shovel after
And Mamzelle Aglaé wanted to inform
Chicot that there would be slaughter and bloodshed
in la maison grise if the people below
stairs did not mend their ways. She was convinced
that they lived for no other purpose
than to torture and molest her. The woman
kept a bucket of dirty water constantly on the
landing with the hope of Mamzelle Aglaé falling
over it or into it. And she knew that the
children were instructed to gather in the hall
and on the stairway, and scream and make a
noise and jump up and down like galloping
horses, with the intention of driving her to
suicide. Chicot should notify the policeman
on the beat, and have them arrested, if possible,
and thrust into the parish prison, where
Chicot would have been extremely alarmed
if he had ever chanced to find Mamzelle Aglaé
in an uncomplaining mood. It never occurred
to him that she might be otherwise.
He felt that she had a right to quarrel with
fate, if ever mortal had. Her poverty was a
disgrace, and he hung his head before it and
One day he found Mamzelle Aglaé
stretched on the bed, with her head tied up in
a handkerchief. Her sole complaint that day
was, “Aïe — aïe — aïe! Aïe — aïe — aïe!” uttered
with every breath. He had seen her so before,
especially when the weather was damp.
“Vous pas bézouin tisane, Mamzelle Aglaé?
Vous pas veux mo cri gagni docteur?”
She desired nothing. “Aïe — aïe — aïe!”
He emptied his bag very quietly, so as not
to disturb her; and he wanted to stay there
with her and lie down on the floor in case she
needed him, but the woman from below had
come up. She was an Irishwoman with rolled
“It’s a shtout shtick I’m afther giving her,
Nég, and she do but knock on the flure it’s
me or Janie or wan of us that’ll be hearing
“You too good, Brigitte. Aïe — aïe — aïe!
Une goutte d’eau sucré, Nég! That Purg’tory
Marie, — you see hair, ma bonne Brigitte,
you tell hair go say li’le prayer là-bas au Cathédral.
Aïe — aïe — aïe!”
Nég could hear her lamentation as he
descended the stairs. It followed him as he
limped his way through the city streets, and
seemed part of the city’s noise; he could hear
it in the rumble of wheels and jangle of carbells,
and in the voices of those passing by.
He stopped at Mimotte the Voudou’s
shanty and bought a grigri — a cheap one for
fifteen cents. Mimotte held her charms at
all prices. This he intended to introduce next
day into Mamzelle Aglaé’s room, — somewhere
about the altar, — to the confusion and
discomfort of “Michié bon Dieu,” who persistently
declined to concern himself with the
welfare of a Boisduré.
At night, among the reeds on the bayou,
Chicot could still hear the woman’s wail,
mingled now with the croaking of the frogs.
If he could have been convinced that giving
up his life down there in the water would in
any way have bettered her condition, he would
not have hesitated to sacrifice the remnant of
his existence that was wholly devoted to her.
He lived but to serve her. He did not know it
himself; but Chicot knew so little, and that
little in such a distorted way! He could
scarcely have been expected, even in his most
lucid moments, to give himself over to self-
Chicot gathered an uncommon amount of
dainties at market the following day. He had
to work hard, and scheme and whine a little;
but he got hold of an orange and a lump of ice
He did not drink his cup
of café au lait, but asked Mimi Lambeau to
put it in the little new tin pail that the Hebrew
notion-vender had just given him in exchange
for a mess of shrimps. This time, however,
Chicot had his trouble for nothing. When
he reached the upper room of la maison grise,
it was to find that Mamzelle Aglaé had died
during the night. He set his bag down in the
middle of the floor, and stood shaking, and
whined low like a dog in pain.
Everything had been done. The
Irish-woman had gone for the doctor, and
Purgatory Mary had summoned a priest.
Furthermore, the woman had arranged Mamzelle
Aglaé decently. She had covered the table with
a white cloth, and had placed it at the head
of the bed, with the crucifix and two lighted
candles in silver candlesticks upon it; the little
bit of ornamentation brightened and
embellished the poor room. Purgatory Mary,
dressed in shabby black, fat and breathing
hard, sat reading half audibly from a prayer-
book. She was watching the dead and the
silver candlesticks, which she had borrowed
from a benevolent society, and for which she
held herself responsible. A young man was
just leaving, — a reporter snuffing the air for
items, who had scented one up there in the
top room of la maison grise.
All the morning Janie had been escorting a
procession of street Arabs up and down the
stairs to view the remains. One of them — a
little girl, who had had her face washed and
had made a species of toilet for the occasion
— refused to be dragged away. She stayed
seated as if at an entertainment, fascinated
alternately by the long, still figure of Mamzelle
Aglaé, the mumbling lips of Purgatory Mary,
and the silver candlesticks.
“Will ye get down on yer knees, man, and
say a prayer for the dead!” commanded the
But Chicot only shook his head, and
refused to obey. He approached the bed, and
laid a little black paw for a moment on the
stiffened body of Mamzelle Aglaé. There was
nothing for him to do here. He picked up
his old ragged hat and his bag and went
“The black h’athen!” the woman muttered.
“Shut the dure, child.”
The little girl slid down from her chair,
and went on tiptoe to shut the door which Chicot
had left open. Having resumed her seat,
she fastened her eyes upon Purgatory Mary’s
“You, Chicot!” cried Matteo’s wife the next
morning. “My man, he read in paper ’bout
woman name’ Boisduré, use’ b’long to big-a
famny. She die roun’ on St. Philip — po’,
same-a like church rat. It’s any them Boisdurés
you alla talk ’bout?”
Chicot shook his head in slow but emphatic
denial. No, indeed, the woman was not of
kin to his Boisdurés. He surely had told Matteo’s
wife often enough — how many times did
he have to repeat it! — of their wealth, their
social standing. It was doubtless some Boisduré
of les Attakapas; it was none of his.
The next day there was a small funeral
procession passing a little distance away, — a
hearse and a carriage or two. There was the
priest who had attended Mamzelle Aglaé, and
a benevolent Creole gentleman whose father
had known the Boisdurés in his youth. There
was a couple of player-folk, who, having got
wind of the story, had thrust their hands into
“Look, Chicot!” cried Matteo’s wife.
“Yonda go the fune’al. Mus-a be that-a Boisduré
woman we talken ’bout yesaday.”
But Chicot paid no heed. What was to
him the funeral of a woman who had died in
St. Philip street? He did not even turn his
head in the direction of the moving procession.
He went on scaling his red-snapper.
little vagabond Mamouche
amused himself one afternoon by letting
down the fence rails that protected Mr.
Billy’s young crop of cotton and corn. He
had first looked carefully about him to make
sure there was no witness to this piece of rascality.
Then he crossed the lane and did the
same with the Widow Angèle’s fence, thereby
liberating Toto, the white calf who stood
disconsolately penned up on the other side.
It was not ten seconds before Toto was
frolicking madly in Mr. Billy’s crop, and
Mamouche — the young scamp — was running
swiftly down the lane, laughing fiendishly to
himself as he went.
He could not at first decide whether there
could be more fun in letting Toto demolish
things at his pleasure, or in warning Mr. Billy
of the calf’s presence in the field. But the latter
course commended itself as possessing a
certain refinement of perfidy.
“Ho, the’a, you!” called out Mamouche to
one of Mr. Billy’s hands, when he got around
to where the men were at work; “you betta go
yon’a an’ see ’bout that calf o’ Ma’me Angèle;
he done broke in the fiel’ an’ ’bout to
finish the crop, him.” Then Mamouche went
and sat behind a big tree, where, unobserved,
he could laugh to his heart’s content.
Mr. Billy’s fury was unbounded when he
learned that Madame Angèle’s calf was eating
up and trampling down his corn. At once
he sent a detachment of men and boys to expel
the animal from the field. Others were
required to repair the damaged fence; while
he himself, boiling with wrath, rode up the
lane on his wicked black charger.
But merely to look upon the devastation
was not enough for Mr. Billy. He dismounted
from his horse, and strode belligerently up
to Madame Angèle’s door, upon which he
gave, with his riding-whip, a couple of sharp
raps that plainly indicated the condition of
Mr. Billy looked taller and broader than
ever as he squared himself on the gallery of
Madame Angèle’s small and modest house.
She herself half-opened the door, a pale,
sweet-looking woman, somewhat bewildered,
and holding a piece of sewing in her hands.
Little Marie Louise was beside her, with big,
inquiring, frightened eyes.
“Well, Madam!” blustered Mr. Billy, “this
is a pretty piece of work! That young beast
of yours is a fence-breaker, Madam, and ought
to be shot.”
“Oh, non, non, M’sieur. Toto’s too li’le;
I’m sho he can’t break any fence, him.”
“Don’t contradict me, Madam. I say he’s
a fence-breaker. There’s the proof before
your eyes. He ought to be shot, I say, and
— don’t let it occur again, Madam.” And
Mr. Billy turned and stamped down the steps
with a great clatter of spurs as he went.
Madame Angèle was at the time in
desperate haste to finish a young lady’s Easter
dress, and she could not afford to let Toto’s
escapade occupy her to any extent, much as
she regretted it. But little Marie Louise was
greatly impressed by the affair. She went out
in the yard to Toto, who was under the fig-
tree, looking not half so shamefaced as he
ought. The child, with arms clasped around
the little fellow’s white shaggy neck, scolded
“Ain’t you shame’, Toto, to go eat up Mr.
Billy’s cotton an’ co’n? W’at Mr. Billy ev’a
done to you, to go do him that way? If you
been hungry, Toto, w’y you did’n’ come like
always an’ put yo’ head in the winda? I’m
goin’ tell yo’ maman w’en she come back
f’om the woods to ’s’evenin’, M’sieur.
Marie Louise only ceased her mild rebuke
when she fancied she saw a penitential look in
Toto’s big soft eyes.
She had a keen instinct of right and justice
for so young a little maid. And all the afternoon,
and long into the night, she was disturbed
by the thought of the unfortunate accident.
Of course, there could be no question
of repaying Mr. Billy with money; she and
her mother had none. Neither had they cotton
and corn with which to make good the
loss he had sustained through them.
But had they not something far more
beautiful and precious than cotton and corn?
Marie Louise thought with delight of that
row of Easter lilies on their tall green stems,
ranged thick along the sunny side of the
The assurance that she would, after all, be
able to satisfy Mr. Billy’s just anger, was a
very sweet one. And soothed by it, Marie
Louise soon fell asleep and dreamt a grotesque
dream: that the lilies were having a
stately dance on the green in the moonlight,
and were inviting Mr. Billy to join them.
The following day, when it was nearing noon,
Marie Louise said to her mamma: “Maman,
can I have some of the Easter lily, to do with
like I want?”
Madame Angèle was just then testing the
heat of an iron with which to press out the
seams in the young lady’s Easter dress, and
she answered a shade impatiently:
“Yes, yes; va t’en, chérie,” thinking that
her little girl wanted to pluck a lily or two.
So the child took a pair of old shears from
her mother’s basket, and out she went to
where the tall, perfumed lilies were nodding,
and shaking off from their glistening petals
the rain-drops with which a passing cloud had
just laughingly pelted them.
Snip, snap, went the shears here and there,
and never did Marie Louise stop plying them
till scores of those long-stemmed lilies lay
upon the ground. There were far more than
she could hold in her small hands, so she
literally clasped the great bunch in her arms,
and staggered to her feet with it.
Marie Louise was intent upon her purpose,
and lost no time in its accomplishment. She
was soon trudging earnestly down the lane
with her sweet burden, never stopping, and
only one glancing aside to cast a reproachful
look at Toto, whom she had not wholly
She did not in the least mind that the dogs
barked, or that the darkies laughed at her.
She went straight on to Mr. Billy’s big house,
and right into the dining-room, where Mr.
Billy sat eating his dinner all alone.
It was a finely-furnished room, but
disorderly — very disorderly, as an old bachelor’s
personal surroundings sometimes are. A
black boy stood waiting upon the table. When
little Marie Louise suddenly appeared, with
that armful of lilies, Mr. Billy seemed for a
moment transfixed at the sight.
“Well — bless — my soul! what’s all this?
What’s all this?” he questioned, with staring
Marie Louise had already made a little
courtesy. Her sunbonnet had fallen back,
leaving exposed her pretty round head; and
her sweet brown eyes were full of confidence
as they looked into Mr. Billy’s.
“I’m bring some lilies to pay back fo’ yo’
cotton an’ co’n w’at Toto eat all up, M’sieur.”
Mr. Billy turned savagely upon Pompey.
“What are you laughing at, you black rascal?
Leave the room!”
Pompey, who out of mistaken zeal had
doubled himself with merriment, was too
accustomed to the admonition to heed it
literally, and he only made a pretense of
withdrawing from Mr. Billy’s elbow.
“Lilies! well, upon my — isn’t it the little
one from across the lane?”
“Dat’s who,” affirmed Pompey, cautiously
insinuating himself again into favor.
“Lilies! who ever heard the like? Why, the
baby’s buried under ’em. Set ’em down
somewhere, little one; anywhere.” And
Marie Louise, glad to be relieved from the
weight of the great cluster, dumped them all
on the table close to Mr. Billy.
The perfume that came from the damp,
massed flowers was heavy and almost sickening
in its pungency. Mr. Billy quivered a
little, and drew involuntarily back, as if from
an unexpected assailant, when the odor
reached him. He had been making cotton
and corn for so many years, he had forgotten
there were such things as lilies in the world.
“Kiar ’em out? fling ’em ’way?” questioned
Pompey, who had observed his master
“Let ’em alone! Keep your hands off
them! Leave the room, you outlandish black
scamp! What are you standing there for?
Can’t you set the Mamzelle a place at table,
and draw up a chair?”
So Marie Louise — perched upon a fine
old-fashioned chair, supplemented by a Webster’s
Unabridged — sat down to dine with Mr.
She had never eaten in company with so
peculiar a gentleman before; so irascible toward
the inoffensive Pompey, and so courteous
to herself. But she was not ill at ease,
and conducted herself properly as her mamma
had taught her how.
Mr. Billy was anxious that she should
enjoy her dinner, and began by helping her
generously to Jambalaya. When she had tasted
it she made no remark, only laid down her
fork, and looked composedly before her.
“Why, bless me! what ails the little one?
You don’t eat your rice.”
“It ain’t cook’, M’sieur,” replied Marie
Pompey nearly strangled in his attempt to
smother an explosion.
“Of course it isn’t cooked,” echoed Mr.
Billy, excitedly, pushing away his plate. “What
do you mean, setting a mess of that sort
before human beings? Do you take us for a
couple of — of rice-birds? What are you standing
there for; can’t you look up some jam
or something to keep the young one from
starving? Where’s all that jam I saw stewing
a while back, here?”
Pompey withdrew, and soon returned with
a platter of black-looking jam. Mr. Billy ordered
cream for it. Pompey reported there
“No cream, with twenty-five cows on the
plantation if there’s one!” cried Mr. Billy, almost
springing from his chair with indignation.
“Aunt Printy ’low she sot de pan o’ cream
on de winda-sell, suh, an’ Unc’ Jonah come
’long an’ tutn it cl’ar ova; neva lef’ a drap in
But evidently the jam, with or without
cream, was as distasteful to Marie Louise as
the rice was; for after tasting it gingerly she
laid away her spoon as she had done before.
“O, no! little one; you don’t tell me it isn’t
cooked this time,” laughed Mr. Billy. “I saw
the thing boiling a day and a half. Wasn’t it
a day and a half, Pompey? if you know how
to tell the truth.”
“Aunt Printy alluz do cooks her p’esarves
tell dey plumb done, sho,” agreed Pompey.
“It’s burn’, M’sieur,” said Marie Louise,
politely, but decidedly, to the utter confusion of
Mr. Billy, who was as mortified as could be at
the failure of his dinner to please his fastidious
Well, Mr. Billy thought of Marie Louise a
good deal after that; as long as the lilies lasted.
And they lasted long, for he had the whole
household employed in taking care of them.
Often he would chuckle to himself: “The little
rogue, with her black eyes and her lilies!
And the rice wasn’t cooked, if you please;
and the jam was burnt. And the best of it is,
she was right.”
But when the lilies withered finally, and
had to be thrown away, Mr. Billy donned his
best suit, a starched shirt and fine silk necktie.
Thus attired, he crossed the lane to carry
his somewhat tardy apologies to Madame Angèle
and Mamzelle Marie Louise, and to pay
them a first visit.
crossed the yard with slow,
hesitating steps. She wore a pink sunbonnet
and a faded calico dress that had
been made the summer before, and was now
too small for her in every way. She carried a
large tin pail on her arm. When within a few
yards of the house she stopped under a chinaberry-
tree, quite still, except for the occasional
slow turning of her head from side to side.
Mr. Mathurin, from his elevation upon the
upper gallery, laughed when he saw her; for
he knew she would stay there, motionless, till
someone noticed and questioned her.
The planter was just home from the city,
and was therefore in an excellent humor, as
he always was, on getting back to what he
called le grand air, the space and stillness of
the country, and the scent of the fields. He
was in shirtsleeves, walking around the gallery
that encircled the big square white house.
Beneath was a brick-paved portico upon which
the lower rooms opened. At wide intervals
were large whitewashed pillars that supported
the upper gallery.
In one corner of the lower house was the
store, which was in no sense a store for the
general public, but maintained only to supply
the needs of Mr. Mathurin’s “hands.”
“Eh bien! what do you want, Azélie?” the
planter finally called out to the girl in French.
She advanced a few paces, and, pushing back
her sunbonnet, looked up at him with a gentle,
inoffensive face — “to which you would give
the good God without confession,” he once
“Bon jou’, M’si’ Mathurin,” she replied;
and continued in English: “I come git a li’le
piece o’ meat. We plumb out o’ meat home.”
“Well, well, the meat is n’ going to walk
to you, my chile: it has n’ got feet. Go fine
Mr. ’Polyte. He’s yonda mending his buggy
unda the shed.” She turned away with an
alert little step, and went in search of Mr.
“That’s you again!” the young man
exclaimed, with a pretended air of annoyance,
when he saw her. He straightened himself,
and looked down at her and her pail with a
comprehending glance. The sweat was
standing in shining beads on his brown, good-
looking face. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and
the legs of his trousers were thrust into the
tops of his fine, high-heeled boots. He wore
his straw hat very much on one side, and
had an air that was altogether fanfaron. He
reached to a back pocket for the store key,
which was as large as the pistol that he sometimes
carried in the same place. She followed
him across the thick, tufted grass of the yard
with quick, short steps that strove to keep
pace with his longer, swinging ones.
When he had unlocked and opened the
heavy door of the store, there escaped from
the close room the strong, pungent odor of
the varied wares and provisions massed
within. Azélie seemed to like the odor, and,
lifting her head, snuffed the air as people
sometimes do upon entering a conservatory filled
with fragrant flowers.
A broad ray of light streamed in through
the open door, illumining the dingy interior.
The double wooden shutters of the windows
were all closed, and secured on the inside by
“Well, w’at you want, Azélie?” asked
’Polyte, going behind the counter with an air of
hurry and importance. “I ain’t got time to
fool. Make has’e; say w’at you want.”
Her reply was precisely the same that she
had made to Mr. Mathurin.
“I come git a li’le piece o’ meat. We plumb
out o’ meat home.”
He seemed exasperated.
“Bonté! w’at you all do with meat yonda?
You don’t reflec’ you about to eat up yo’ crop
befo’ it’s good out o’ the groun’, you all. I
like to know w’y yo’ pa don’t go he’p with the
killin’ once aw’ile, an’ git some fresh meat fo’
She answered in an unshaded, unmodulated
voice that was penetrating, like a child’s:
“Popa he do go he’p wid the killin’; but he
say he can’t work ’less he got salt meat. He
got plenty to feed — him. He’s got to hire
he’p wid his crop, an’ he’s boun’ to feed ’em;
they won’t year no diffe’nt. An’ he’s got
gra’ma to feed, an’ Sauterelle, an’ me — ”
“An’ all the lazy-bone ’Cadians in the
country that know w’ere they goin’ to fine the
coffee-pot always in the corna of the fire,”
With an iron hook he lifted a small piece of
salt meat from the pork barrel, weighed it,
and placed it in her pail. Then she wanted a
little coffee. He gave it to her reluctantly.
He was still more loath to let her have sugar;
and when she asked for lard, he refused flatly.
She had taken off her sunbonnet, and was
fanning herself with it, as she leaned with
her elbows upon the counter, and let her eyes
travel lingeringly along the well-lined shelves.
’Polyte stood staring into her face with a sense
of aggravation that her presence, her manner,
always stirred up in him.
The face was colorless but for the red,
curved line of the lips. Her eyes were dark,
wide, innocent, questioning eyes, and her
black hair was plastered smooth back from
the forehead and temples. There was no
trace of any intention of coquetry in her manner.
He resented this as a token of indifference
toward his sex, and thought it
“Well, Azélie, if it’s anything you don’t see,
ask fo’ it,” he suggested, with what he flattered
himself was humor. But there was no
responsive humor in Azélie’s composition. She
seriously drew a small flask from her pocket.
“Popa say, if you want to let him have a
li’le dram, ’count o’ his pains that’s ’bout to
“Yo’ pa knows as well as I do we don’t
sell w’isky. Mr. Mathurin don’t carry no
“I know. He say if you want to give ’im
a li’le dram, he’s willin’ to do some work fo’
“No! Once fo’ all, no!” And ’Polyte
reached for the day-book, in which to enter
the articles he had given to her.
But Azélie’s needs were not yet satisfied.
She wanted tobacco; he would not give it to
her. A spool of thread; he rolled one up, together
with two sticks of peppermint candy,
and placed it in her pail. When she asked
for a bottle of coal-oil, he grudgingly consented,
but assured her it would be useless to
cudgel her brain further, for he would positively
let her have nothing more. He disappeared
toward the coal-oil tank, which was
hidden from view behind the piled-up boxes
on the counter. When she heard him searching
for an empty quart bottle, and making a
clatter with the tin funnels, she herself withdrew
from the counter against which she had
After they quitted the store, ’Polyte, with a
perplexed expression upon his face, leaned for
a moment against one of the whitewashed
pillars, watching the girl cross the yard. She
had folded her sunbonnet into a pad, which
she placed beneath the heavy pail that she
balanced upon her head. She walked upright,
with a slow, careful tread. Two of the yard
dogs that had stood a moment before upon
the threshold of the store door, quivering and
wagging their tails, were following her now,
with a little businesslike trot. ’Polyte called
The cabin which the girl occupied with her
father, her grandmother, and her little brother
Sauterelle, was removed some distance from
the plantation house, and only its pointed roof
could be discerned like a speck far away across
the field of cotton, which was all in bloom.
Her figure soon disappeared from view, and
’Polyte emerged from the shelter of the gallery,
and started again toward his interrupted
task. He turned to say to the planter, who
was keeping up his measured tramp above:
“Mr. Mathurin, ain’t it ’mos’ time to stop
givin’ credit to Arsene Pauche. Look like
that crop o’ his ain’t goin’ to start to pay his
account. I don’t see, me, anyway, how you
come to take that triflin’ Li’le river gang on
“I know it was a mistake, ’Polyte, but que
voulez-vous?” the planter returned, with a
good-natured shrug. “Now they are yere, we
can’t let them starve, my frien’. Push them
to work all you can. Hole back all supplies
that are not necessary, an’ nex’ year we will
let some one else enjoy the privilege of
feeding them,” he ended, with a laugh.
“I wish they was all back on Li’le river,”
’Polyte muttered under his breath as he
turned and walked slowly away.
Directly back of the store was the young
man’s sleeping-room. He had made himself
quite comfortable there in his corner. He had
screened his windows and doors; planted Madeira
vines, which now formed a thick green
curtain between the two pillars that faced his
room; and had swung a hammock out there,
in which he liked well to repose himself after
the fatigues of the day.
He lay long in the hammock that evening,
thinking over the day’s happenings and the
morrow’s work, half dozing, half dreaming,
and wholly possessed by the charm of the
night, the warm, sweeping air that blew
through the long corridor, and the almost
unbroken stillness that enveloped him.
At times his random thoughts formed
themselves into an almost inaudible speech: “I
wish she would go ’way f’om yere.”
One of the dogs came and thrust his cool,
moist muzzle against ’Polyte’s cheek. He caressed
the fellow’s shaggy head. “I don’t
know w’at’s the matta with her,” he sighed;
“I don’ b’lieve she’s got good sense.”
It was a long time afterward that he
murmured again: “I wish to God she’d go ’way
The edge of the moon crept up — a keen,
curved blade of light above the dark line of
the cotton-field. ’Polyte roused himself when
he saw it. “I didn’ know it was so late,” he
said to himself — or to his dog. He entered
his room at once, and was soon in bed,
It was some hours later that ’Polyte was
roused from his sleep by — he did not know
what; his senses were too scattered and confused
to determine at once. There was at
first no sound; then so faint a one that he
wondered how he could have heard it. A door of
his room communicated with the store, but
this door was never used, and was almost
completely blocked by wares piled up on the
other side. The faint noise that ’Polyte heard,
and which came from within the store, was
followed by a flare of light that he could discern
through the chinks, and that lasted as
long as a match might burn.
He was now fully aware that some one was
in the store. How the intruder had entered
he could not guess, for the key was under
his pillow with his watch and his pistol.
As cautiously as he could he donned an
extra garment, thrust his bare feet into slippers,
and crept out into the portico, pistol in
The shutters of one of the store windows
were open. He stood close to it, and waited,
which he considered surer and safer than to
enter the dark and crowded confines of the
store to engage in what might prove a bootless
struggle with the intruder.
He had not long to wait. In a few moments
some one darted through the open window
as nimbly as a cat. ’Polyte staggered
back as if a heavy blow had stunned him. His
first thought and his first exclamation were:
“My God! how close I come to killin’ you!”
It was Azélie. She uttered no cry, but
made one quick effort to run when she saw
him. He seized her arm and held her with
a brutal grip. He put the pistol back into
his pocket. He was shaking like a man with
the palsy. One by one he took from her the
parcels she was carrying, and flung them
back into the store. There were not many:
some packages of tobacco, a cheap pipe, some
fishing-tackle, and the flask which she had
brought with her in the afternoon. This he
threw into the yard. It was still empty, for
she had not been able to find the “key” to
“So — so, you a thief!” he muttered savagely
under his breath.
“You hurtin’ me, Mr. ’Polyte,” she
complained, squirming. He somewhat relaxed,
but did not relinquish, his hold upon her.
“I ain’t no thief,” she blurted.
“You was stealin’,” he contradicted her
“I wasn’ stealin’. I was jus’ takin’ a few
li’le things you all too mean to gi’ me. You
all treat my popa like he was a dog. It’s on’y
las’ week Mr. Mathurin sen’ ’way to the city
to fetch a fine buckboa’d fo’ Son Ambroise,
an’ he’s on’y a nigga,
An’ my popa
he want a picayune tobacca? It’s ’No’ — “
She spoke loud in her monotonous, shrill
voice. ’Polyte kept saying: “Hush, I tell
you! Hush! Somebody’ll year you. Hush!
It’s enough you broke in the sto’ — how you
got in the sto’?” he added, looking from her
to the open window.
“It was w’en you was behine the boxes to
the coal-oil tank — I unhook’ it,” she explained
“An’ you don’ know I could sen’ you to
Baton Rouge fo’ that?” He shook her as
though trying to rouse her to a comprehension
of her grievous fault.
“Jus’ fo’ a li’le picayune o’ tobacca!” she
He suddenly abandoned his hold upon her,
and left her free. She mechanically rubbed
the arm that he had grasped so violently.
Between the long row of pillars the moon
was sending pale beams of light. In one of
these they were standing.
“Azélie,” he said, “go ’way f’om yere quick;
some one might fine you yere. W’en you want
something in the sto’, fo’ yo’se’f or fo’ yo’ pa
— I don’ care — ask me fo’ it. But you — but
you can’t neva set yo’ foot inside that sto’
again. Co ’way f’om yere quick as you can,
I tell you!”
She tried in no way to conciliate him. She
turned and walked away over the same ground
she had crossed before. One of the big dogs
started to follow her. ’Polyte did not call him
back this time. He knew no harm could
come to her, going through those lonely
fields, while the animal was at her side.
He went at once to his room for the store
key that was beneath his pillow. He entered
the store, and refastened the window. When
he had made everything once more secure,
he sat dejectedly down upon a bench that was
in the portico. He sat for a long time motionless.
Then, overcome by some powerful
feeling that was at work within him, he buried
his face in his hands and wept, his whole body
shaken by the violence of his sobs.
After that night ’Polyte loved Azélie
desperately. The very action which should have
revolted him had seemed, on the contrary, to
inflame him with love. He felt that love to
be a degradation — something that he was almost
ashamed to acknowledge to himself; and
he knew that he was hopelessly unable to
He watched now in a tremor for her
coming. She came very often, for she remembered
every word he had said; and she did not
hesitate to ask him for those luxuries which
she considered necessities to her “popa’s” existence.
She never attempted to enter the
store, but always waited outside, of her own
accord, laughing, and playing with the dogs.
She seemed to have no shame or regret for
what she had done, and plainly did not realize
that it was a disgraceful act. ’Polyte often
shuddered with disgust to discern in her a being
so wholly devoid of moral sense.
He had always been an industrious, bustling
fellow, never idle. Now there were hours and
hours in which he did nothing but long for
the sight of Azélie. Even when at work
there was that gnawing want at his heart to
see her, often so urgent that he would leave
everything to wander down by her cabin with
the hope of seeing her. It was even something
if he could catch a glimpse of Sauterelle
playing in the weeds, or of Arsene lazily dragging
himself about, and smoking the pipe
which rarely left his lips now that he was kept
so well supplied with tobacco.
Once, down the bank of the bayou, when
’Polyte came upon Azélie unexpectedly, and
was therefore unprepared to resist the shock
of her sudden appearance, he seized her in his
arms, and covered her face with kisses. She
was not indignant; she was not flustered or
agitated, as might have been a susceptible,
coquettish girl; she was only astonished, and
“W’at you doin’, Mr. ’Polyte?” she cried,
struggling. “Leave me ’lone, I say! Leave me
“I love you, I love you, I love you!” he
stammered helplessly over and over in her
“You mus’ los’ yo’ head,” she told him,
red from the effort of the struggle, when he
“You right, Azélie; I b’lieve I los’ my
head,” and he climbed up the bank of the
bayou as fast as he could.
After that his behavior was shameful, and
he knew it, and he did not care. He invented
pretexts that would enable him to touch her
hand with his. He wanted to kiss her again,
and told her she might come into the store as
she used to do. There was no need for her
to unhook a window now; he gave her whatever
she asked for, charging it always to his
own account on the books. She permitted
his caresses without returning them, and yet
that was all he seemed to live for now. He
gave her a little gold ring.
He was looking eagerly forward to the
close of the season, when Arsene would go
back to Little River. He had arranged to ask
Azélie to marry him. He would keep her
with him when the others went away. He
longed to rescue her from what he felt to be
the demoralizing influences of her family and
her surroundings. ’Polyte believed he would
be able to awaken Azélie to finer, better
impulses when he should have her apart to
But when the time came to propose it,
Azélie looked at him in amazement. “Ah,
b’en, no. I ain’t goin’ to stay yere wid you,
Mr. ’Polyte; I’m goin’ yonda on Li’le river
wid my popa.”
This resolve frightened him, but he
pretended not to believe it.
“You jokin’, Azélie; you mus’ care a li’le
about me. It looked to me all along like you
cared some about me.”
“An’ my popa, done? Ah, b’en, no.”
“You don’ rememba how lonesome it is
on Li’le river, Azélie,” he pleaded. “W’enever
I think ’bout Li’le river it always make
me sad — like I think about a graveyard. To
me it’s like a person mus’ die, one way or
otha, w’en they go on Li’le river. Oh, I hate
it! Stay with me, Azélie; don’ go ’way f’om
She said little, one way or the other, after
that, when she had fully understood his
wishes, and her reserve led him to believe,
since he hoped it, that he had prevailed with
her and that she had determined to stay with
him and be his wife.
It was a cool, crisp morning in December
that they went away. In a ramshackle
wagon, drawn by an ill-mated team, Arsene
Pauche and his family left Mr. Mathurin’s
plantation for their old familiar haunts on Little
river. The grandmother, looking like a
witch, with a black shawl tied over her head,
sat upon a roll of bedding in the bottom of
the wagon. Sauterelle’s bead-like eyes glittered
with mischief as he peeped over the
side. Azélie, with the pink sunbonnet completely
hiding her round young face, sat beside
her father, who drove.
’Polyte caught one glimpse of the group as
they passed in the road. Turning, he hurried
into his room, and locked himself in.
It soon became evident that ’Polyte’s
services were going to count for little. He
himself was the first to realize this. One day he
approached the planter, and said: “Mr.
Mathurin, befo’ we start anotha year togetha,
I betta tell you I’m goin’ to quit.” ’Polyte
stood upon the steps, and leaned back against
the railing. The planter was a little above on
“W’at in the name o’ sense are you talking
about, ’Polyte!” he exclaimed in astonishment.
“It’s jus’ that; I’m boun’ to quit.”
“You had a better offer?”
“No; I ain’t had no offa.”
“Then explain yo’se’f, my frien’ — explain
yo’se’f,” requested Mr. Mathurin, with something
of offended dignity. “If you leave me,
w’ere are you going?”
’Polyte was beating his leg with his limp
felt hat. “I reckon I jus’ as well go yonda on
Li’le river — w’ere Azélie,” he said.
stood within the open
doorway, which he had just entered.
It was night; the rain was falling in
torrents, and the water trickled from him as
it would have done from an umbrella, if he
had carried one.
Old Doctor John-Luis, who was toasting
his feet before a blazing hickory-wood fire,
turned to gaze at the youngster through his
spectacles. Marshall, the old negro who
had opened the door at the boy’s knock, also
looked down at him, and indignantly said:
“G’long back on de gall’ry an’ drip yo’se’f!
W’at Cynthy gwine say tomorrow w’en she
see dat flo’ mess’ up dat away?”
“Come to the fire and sit down,” said
Doctor John-Luis was a bachelor. He was
small and thin; he wore snuff-colored clothes
that were a little too large for him, and spectacles.
Time had not deprived him of an
abundant crop of hair that had once been red,
and was not now more than half-bleached.
The boy looked irresolutely from master to
man; then went and sat down beside the fire
on a splint-bottom chair. He sat so close to
the blaze that had he been an apple he would
have roasted. As he was but a small boy,
clothed in wet rags, he only steamed.
Marshall grumbled audibly, and Doctor
John-Luis continued to inspect the boy
through his glasses.
“Marsh, bring him something to eat,” he
Marshall hesitated, and challenged the child
with a speculating look.
“Is you w’ite o’ is you black?” he asked.
“Dat w’at I wants ter know ’fo’ I kiar’ victuals
to yo in de settin’-room.”
“I’m w’ite, me,” the boy responded,
“I ain’t disputin’; go ahead. All right fer
dem w’at wants ter take yo’ wud fer it.” Doctor
John-Luis coughed behind his hand and
Marshall brought a platter of cold food to
the boy, who rested the dish upon his knees
and ate from it with keen appetite.
“Where do you come from?” asked Doctor
John-Luis’ when his caller stopped for breath.
Mamouche turned a pair of big, soft, dark
eyes upon his questioner.
“I come frum Cloutierville this mo’nin’. I
been try to git to the
w’en de rain ketch me.”
“What were you going to do at the
The boy gazed absently into the fire. “I
don’ know w’at I was goin’ to do yonda to the
twenty-fo’-mile ferry,” he said.
“Then you must be a tramp, to be
wandering aimlessly about the country in that
way!” exclaimed the doctor.
“No; I don’ b’lieve I’m a tramp, me.”
Mamouche was wriggling his toes with enjoyment
of the warmth and palatable food.
“Well, what’s your name?” continued
“My name it’s Mamouche.”
“ ’Mamouche.’ Fiddlesticks! That’s no
The boy looked as if he regretted the fact,
while not being able to help it.
“But my pa, his name it was Mathurin
Peloté,” he offered in some palliation.
“Peloté! Peloté!” mused Doctor John-Luis.
“Any kin to Théodule Peloté who lived
formerly in Avoyelles parish?”
“W’y, yes!” laughed Mamouche. “Théodule
Peloté, it was my gran’pa.”
“Your grandfather? Well, upon my word!”
He looked again, critically, at the youngster’s
rags. “Then Stéphanie Galopin must have
been your grandmother!”
“Yas,” responded Mamouche, complacently;
“that who was my gran’ma. She die two
year ago down by Alexandria.”
“Marsh,” called Doctor John-Luis, turning
in his chair, “bring him a mug of milk and
another piece of pie!”
When Mamouche had eaten all the good
things that were set before him, he found that
one side of him was quite dry, and he transferred
himself over to the other corner of the
fire so as to turn to the blaze the side which
was still wet.
The action seemed to amuse Doctor
John-Luis, whose old head began to fill with
“That reminds me of Théodule,” he
laughed. “Ah, he was a great fellow, your
“My gran’pa,” corrected Mamouche.
“Yes, yes, your grandfather. He was
handsome; I tell you, he was good-looking. And
the way he could dance and play the fiddle
and sing! Let me see, how did that song go
that he used to sing when we went out serenading:
‘A ta — à ta — ’
‘A ta fenêtre
Daignes paraître — tra la la la!’ ”
Doctor John-Luis’s voice, even in his youth,
could not have been agreeable; and now it
bore no resemblance to any sound that Mamouche
had ever heard issue from a human
throat. The boy kicked his heels and rolled
sideward on his chair with enjoyment. Doctor
John-Luis laughed even more heartily,
finished the stanza, and sang another one
“That’s what turned the girls’ heads, I tell
you, my boy,” said he, when he had recovered
his breath; “that fiddling and dancing and
tra la la.”
During the next hour the old man lived
again through his youth; through any number
of alluring experiences with his friend
Théodule, that merry fellow who had never
done a steady week’s work in his life; and
Stéphanie, the pretty Acadian girl, whom he
had never wholly understood, even to this
It was quite late when Doctor John-Luis
climbed the stairs that led from the
sitting-room up to his bedchamber. As he went,
followed by the ever attentive Marshall, he was
“A ta fenêtre
but very low, so as not to awaken Mamouche,
whom he left sleeping upon a bed that Marshall
at his order had prepared for the boy
beside the sitting-room fire.
At a very early hour next morning
Marshall appeared at his master’s bedside with the
accustomed morning coffee.
“What is he doing?” asked Doctor
John-Luis, as he sugared and stirred the tiny
cup of black coffee.
“Who dat, sah?”
“Why, the boy, Mamouche. What is he
“He gone, sah. He done gone.”
“Yes, sah. He roll his bed up in de corner;
he onlock de do’; he gone. But de silver an’
ev’thing dah; he ain’t kiar’ nuttin’ off.”
“Marshall,” snapped Doctor John-Luis,
ill-humoredly, “there are times when you don’t
seem to have sense and penetration enough to
talk about! I think I’ll take another nap”
he grumbled, as he turned his back upon Marshall.
“Wake me at seven.”
It was no ordinary thing for Doctor
John-Luis to be in a bad humor, and perhaps it is
not strictly true to say that he was now. He
was only in a little less amiable mood than
usual when he pulled on his high rubber boots
and went splashing out in the wet to see what
his people were doing.
He might have owned a large plantation
had he wished to own one, for a long life of
persistent, intelligent work had left him with
a comfortable fortune in his old age; but he
preferred the farm on which he lived
contentedly and raised an abundance to meet
his modest wants.
He went down to the orchard, where a
couple of men were busying themselves in
setting out a line of young fruit-trees
“Tut, tut, tut!” They u ere doing it all
wrong; the line was not straight; the holes
were not deep. It was strange that he had to
come down there and discover such things
with his old eyes!
He poked his head into the kitchen to
complain to Prudence about the ducks that she
had not seasoned properly the day before, and
to hope that the accident would never occur
He tramped over to where a carpenter was
working on a gate; securing it — as he meant
to secure all the gates upon his place — with
great patent clamps and ingenious hinges,
intended to baffle utterly the designs of the
evil-disposed persons who had lately been
tampering with them. For there had been a
malicious spirit abroad, who played tricks, it
seemed, for pure wantonness upon the farmers
and planters, and caused them infinite annoyance.
As Dr. John-Luis contemplated the
carpenter at work, and remembered how his gates
had recently all been lifted from their hinges
one night and left lying upon the ground, the
provoking nature of the offense dawned upon
him as it had not done before. He turned
swiftly, prompted by a sudden determination,
and re-entered the house.
Then he proceeded to write out in immense
black characters a half-dozen placards. It
was an offer of twenty-five dollars’ reward for
the capture of the person guilty of the malicious
offence already described. These placards
were sent abroad with the same eager
haste that had conceived and executed them.
After a day or two, Doctor John-Luis’ ill
humor had resolved itself into a pensive
“Marsh,” he said, “you know, after all, it’s
rather dreary to be living alone as I do,
without any companion — of my own color, you
“I knows dat, sah. It sho’ am lonesome,”
replied the sympathetic Marshall.
“You see, Marsh, I’ve been thinking lately,”
and Doctor John-Luis coughed, for he disliked
the inaccuracy of that “lately.” “I’ve
been thinking that this property and wealth
that I’ve worked so hard to accumulate, are
after all doing no permanent, practical good
to any one. Now, if I could find some well-disposed
boy whom I might train to work, to
study, to lead a decent, honest life — a boy of
good heart who would care for me in my old
age; for I am still comparatively — hem —
not old? hey, Marsh?”
“Dey ain’t one in de pa’ish hole yo’ own
like you does, sah.”
“That’s it. Now, can you think of such a
boy? Try to think. ”
Marshall slowly scratched his head and
“If you can think of such a boy,” said
Doctor John-Luis, “you might bring him here to
spend an evening with me, you know, without
hinting at my intentions, of course. In
that way I could sound him; study him up, as
it were. For a step of such importance is not
to be taken without due consideration,
Well, the first whom Marshall brought was
one of Baptiste Choupic’s boys. He was a
very timid child, and sat on the edge of his
chair, fearfully. He replied in jerky mono-syllables
when Doctor John-Luis spoke to
him, “Yes, sah — no, sah,” as the case might
be; with a little nervous bob of the head.
His presence made the doctor quite
uncomfortable. He was glad to be rid of the boy
at nine o’clock, when he sent him home with
some oranges and a few sweetmeats.
Then Marshall had Theodore over; an
unfortunate selection that evinced little
judgment on Marshall’s part. Not to mince
matters, the boy was painfully forward. He
monopolized the conversation; asked impertinent
questions and handled and inspected everything
in the room. Dr. John-Luis sent him
home with an orange and not a single sweet.
Then there was Hyppolite, who was too
ugly to be thought of; and Cami, who was
heavy and stupid, and fell asleep in his chair
with his mouth wide open. And so it went.
If Doctor John-Luis had hoped in the company
of any of these boys to repeat the agreeable
evening he had passed with Mamouche,
he was sadly deceived.
At last he instructed Marshall to discontinue
the search of that ideal companion he
had dreamed of. He was resigned to spend
the remainder of his days without one.
Then, one day when it was raining again,
and very muddy and chill, a red-faced man
came driving up to Doctor John-Luis’ door
in a dilapidated buggy. He lifted a boy from
the vehicle, whom he held with a vise-like
clutch, and whom he straightway dragged
into the astonished presence of Doctor John-
“Here he is, sir,” shouted the red-faced
man. “We’ve got him at last! Here he is.”
It was Mamouche, covered with mud, the
picture of misery. Doctor John-Luis stood
with his back to the fire. He was startled,
and visibly and painfully moved at the sight
of the boy.
“Is it possible!” he exclaimed. “Then it
was you, Mamouche, who did this mischievous
thing to me? Lifting my gates from
their hinges; letting the chickens in among
my flowers to ruin them; and the hogs and
cattle to trample and uproot my vegetables!”
“Ha! ha!” laughed the red-faced man, “that
game’s played out, now;” and Doctor John-Luis
looked as if he wanted to strike him.
Mamouche seemed unable to reply. His
lower lip was quivering.
“Yes, it’s me!” he burst out. “It’s me w’at
take yo’ gates off the hinge. It’s me w’at turn
loose Mr. Morgin’s hoss, w’en Mr. Morgin
wid his sweetheart. It’s
me w’at take down Ma’ame Angèle’s fence,
an’ lef her calf loose to tramp in Mr. Billy’s
cotton. It’s me w’at play like a ghos’ by the
graveyard las’ Toussaint to scare the darkies
passin’ in the road. It’s me w’at — ”
The confession had burst out from the depth
of Mamouche’s heart like a torrent, and there
is no telling when it would have stopped if
Doctor John-Luis had not enjoined silence.
“And pray tell me,” he asked, as severely
as he could, “why you left my house like a
criminal, in the morning, secretly?”
The tears had begun to course down
Mamouche’s brown cheeks.
“I was ’shame’ of myself, that’s w’y. If
you wouldn’ gave me po suppa, an’ no bed,
an’ no fire, I don’ say.’ I wouldn’ been ’shame’
“Well, sir,” interrupted the red-faced man,
“you’ve got a pretty square case against him,
I see. Not only for malicious trespass, but
of theft. See this bolt?” producing a piece
of iron from his coat pocket “That’s what
gave him away.”
“I en’t no thief!” blurted Mamouche,
indignantly. “It’s one piece o’ iron w’at I pick up
in the road.”
“Sir,” said Doctor John-Luis with dignity,
“I can understand how the grandson of
Théodule Peloté might be guilty of such
mischievous pranks as this boy has confessed to. But
I know that the grandson of Stéphanie
Galopin could not be a thief.”
And he at once wrote out the check for
twenty-five dollars, and handed it to the red-
faced man with the tips of his fingers.
It seemed very good to Doctor John-Luis
to have the boy sitting again at his fireside;
and so natural, too. He seemed to be the incarnation
of unspoken hopes; the realization
of vague and fitful memories of the past.
When Mamouche kept on crying, Doctor
John-Luis wiped away the tears with his own
brown silk handkerchief.
“Mamouche,” he said, “I want you to stay
here; to live here with me always. To learn
how to work; to learn how to study; to grow
up to be an honorable man. An honorable
man, Mamouche, for I want you for my own
His voice was pretty low and husky when
he said that.
“I shall not take the key from the door
tonight,” he continued. “If you do not choose
to stay and be all this that I say, you may
open the door and walk out. I shall use no
force to keep you.”
“What is he doing, Marsh?” asked Doctor
John-Luis the following morning, when he
took the coffee that Marshall had brought to
him in bed.
“Who dat, sah?”
“Why, the boy Mamouche, of course. What
is he doing?”
“He kneelin’ down dah on de flo’. He
keep on sayin’, ’Hail, Mary, full o’ grace,
de Lord is wid dee. Hail, Mary, full o’ grace’ —
t’ree, fo’ times, sah. I tell ’im, ’W’at you
sayin’ yo’ prayer dat away, boy?’ He ’low dat
w’at his gran’ma larn ’im, ter keep outen mischief.
W’en de devil say, ’Take dat gate offen
de hinge; do dis; do dat,’ he gwine say t’ree
Hail Mary, an’ de devil gwine tu’n tail an’
“Yes, yes,” laughed Doctor John-Luis.
“That’s Stéphanie all over.”
“An’ I tell ’im: See heah, boy, you drap
a couple o’ dem Hail Mary, an’ quit studyin’
’bout de devil, an’ sot yo’se’f down ter wuk.
Dat the oniest way to keep outen mischief.”
“What business is it of yours to interfere?”
broke in Doctor John-Luis, irritably. “Let
the boy do as his grandmother instructed
“I ain’t desputin’, sah,” apologized
“But you know, Marsh,” continued the
doctor, recovering his usual amiability. “I
think we’ll be able to do something with the
boy. I’m pretty sure of it. For, you see, he
has his grandmother’s eyes; and his grandmother
was a very intelligent woman; a clever
woman, Marsh. Her one great mistake was
when she married Théodule Peloté.”
A Sentimental Soul
stayed longer than was his
custom in Mamzelle Fleurette’s little
store that evening. He had been
tempted by the vapid utterances of a conservative
bellhanger to loudly voice his radical
opinions upon the rights and wrongs of humanity
at large and his fellow-workingmen
in particular. He was quite in a tremble
when he finally laid his picayune down upon
Mamzelle Fleurette’s counter and helped himself
from the top of the diminished
pile of newspapers which stood there.
He was small, frail and hollow-chested, but
his head was magnificent with its generous
adornment of waving black hair; its sunken
eyes that glowed darkly and steadily and
sometimes flamed, and its moustaches which
“Eh bien, Mamzelle Fleurette, a demain, a
and he waved a nervous good-bye
as he let himself quickly and noiselessly out.
However violent Lacodie might be in his
manner toward conservatives, he was always
gentle, courteous and low-voiced with Mamzelle
Fleurette, who was much older than he,
much taller; who held no opinions, and whom
he pitied, and even in a manner revered.
Mamzelle Fleurette at once dismissed the bellhanger,
with whom, on general principles, she
had no sympathy.
She wanted to close the store, for she was
going over to the cathedral to confession.
She stayed a moment in the doorway watching
Lacodie walk down the opposite side of
the street. His step was something between
a spring and a jerk, which to her partial eyes
seemed the perfection of motion. She watched
him until he entered his own small low doorway,
over which hung a huge wooden key
painted red, the emblem of his trade.
For many months now, Lacodie had been
coming daily to Mamzelle Fleurette’s little
notion store to buy the morning paper, which
he only bought and read, however, in the
afternoon. Once he had crossed over with
his box of keys and tools to open a cupboard,
which would unlock for no inducements of
its owner. He would not suffer her to pay
him for the few moments’ work; it was nothing,
he assured her; it was a pleasure; he
would not dream of accepting payment for so
trifling a service from a camarade and fellow-
worker. But she need not fear that he would
lose by it, he told her with a laugh; he would
only charge an extra quarter to the rich lawyer
around the corner, or to the top-lofty
druggist down the street when these might
happen to need his services, as they sometimes
did. This was an alternative which seemed
far from right and honest to Mamzelle
Fleurette. But she held a vague understanding
that men were wickeder in many ways than
women; that ungodliness was constitutional
with them, like their sex, and inseparable
Having watched Lacodie until he
disappeared within his shop, she retired to her
room, back of the store, and began her preparations
to go out. She brushed carefully the
black alpaca skirt, which hung in long nun-like
folds around her spare figure. She
smoothed down the brown, ill-fitting basque,
and readjusted the old-fashioned, rusty black
lace collar which she always wore. Her sleek
hair was painfully and suspiciously black. She
powdered her face abundantly with poudre de
riz before starting out, and pinned a dotted
black lace veil over her straw bonnet. There
was little force or character or anything in
her withered face, except a pathetic desire and
appeal to be permitted to exist.
Mamzelle Fleurette did not walk down
Chartres street with her usual composed tread;
she seemed preoccupied and agitated. When
she passed the locksmith’s shop over the way
and heard his voice within, she grew tremulously
self-conscious, fingering her veil,
swishing the black alpaca and waving her
prayer book about with meaningless intention.
Mamzelle Fleurette was in great trouble;
trouble which was so bitter, so sweet, so
bewildering, so terrifying! It had come so
stealthily upon her she had never suspected
what it might be. She thought the world was
growing brighter and more beautiful; she
thought the flowers had redoubled their sweetness
and the birds their song, and that the
voices of her fellow-creatures had grown
kinder and their faces truer.
The day before Lacodie had not come to
her for his paper. At six o’clock he was not
there, at seven he was not there, nor at eight,
and then she knew he would not come. At
first, when it was only a little past the time of
his coming, she had sat strangely disturbed
and distressed in the rear of the store, with her
back to the door. When the door opened she
turned with fluttering expectancy. It was
only an unhappy-looking child, who wanted
to buy some foolscap, a pencil and an eraser.
The next to come in was an old mulatresse,
who was bringing her prayer beads for Mamzelle
Fleurette to mend. The next was a
gentleman, to buy the Courier des Etats Unis,
and then a young girl, who wanted a holy
picture for her favorite nun at the Ursulines; it
was everybody but Lacodie.
A temptation assailed Mamzelle Fleurette,
almost fierce in its intensity, to carry the paper
over to his shop herself, when he was not
there at seven. She conquered it from sheer
moral inability to do anything so daring, so
unprecedented. But to-day, when he had
come back and had stayed so long discoursing
with the bellhanger, a contentment, a rapture,
had settled upon her being which she
could no longer ignore or mistake. She loved
Lacodie. That fact was plain to her now, as
plain as the conviction that every reason existed
why she should not love him. He was
the husband of another woman. To love the
husband of another woman was one of the
deepest sins which Mamzelle Fleurette knew;
murder was perhaps blacker, but she was not
sure. She was going to confession now. She
was going to tell her sin to Almighty God
and Father Fochelle, and ask their forgiveness.
She was going to pray and beg the
saints and the Holy Virgin to remove the
sweet and subtle poison from her soul. It
was surely a poison, and a deadly one, which
could make her feel that her youth had come
back and taken her by the hand.
Mamzelle Fleurette had been confessing for
many years to old Father Fochelle. In his
secret heart he often thought it a waste of
his time and her own that she should come
with her little babblings, her little nothings to
him, calling them sins. He felt that a wave
of the hand might brush them away, and that
it in a manner compromised the dignity of
holy absolution to pronounce the act over so
innocent a soul.
To-day she had whispered all her
shortcomings into his ear through the grating of
the confessional; he knew them so well! There
were many other penitents waiting to be
heard, and he was about to dismiss her with
a hasty blessing when she arrested him, and in
hesitating, faltering accents told him of her
love for the locksmith, the husband of another
woman. A slap in the face would not have
startled Father Fochelle more forcibly or
more painfully. What soul was there on
earth, he wondered, so hedged about with
innocence as to be secure from the machinations
of Satan! Oh, the thunder of indignation that
descended upon Mamzelle Fleurette’s head!
She bowed down, beaten to earth beneath it.
Then came questions, one, two, three, in quick
succession, that made Mamzelle Fleurette
gasp and clutch blindly before her. Why was
she not a shadow, a vapor, that she might dissolve
from before those angry, penetrating
eyes; or a small insect, to creep into some
crevice and there hide herself forevermore?
“Oh, father! no, no, no!” she faltered, “he
knows nothing, nothing. I would die a hundred
deaths before he should know, before
anyone should know, besides yourself and the
good God of whom I implore pardon.”
Father Fochelle breathed more freely, and
mopped his face with a flaming bandana,
which he took from the ample pocket of his
soutane. But he scolded Mamzelle Fleurette
roundly, unpityingly; for being a fool, for
being a sentimentalist. She had not committed
mortal sin, but the occasion was ripe for it;
and look to it she must that she keep Satan
at bay with watchfulness and prayer. “Go,
my child, and sin no more.”
Mamzelle Fleurette made a detour in
regaining her home by which she would not
have to pass the locksmith’s shop. She did
not even look in that direction when she let
herself in at the glass door of her store.
Some time before, when she was yet
ignorant of the motive which prompted the act,
she had cut from a newspaper a likeness of
Lacodie, who had served as foreman of the
jury during a prominent murder trial. The
likeness happened to be good, and quite did
justice to the locksmith’s fine physiognomy
with its leonine hirsute adornment. This
picture Mamzelle Fleurette had kept hitherto
between the pages of her prayer book. Here,
twice a day, it looked out at her; as she turned
the leaves of the holy mass in the morning,
and when she read her evening devotions before
her own little home altar, over which
hung a crucifix and a picture of the Empress
Her first action upon entering her room,
even before she unpinned the dotted veil, was
to take Lacodie’s picture from her prayer book
and place it at random between the leaves of a
“Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise,”
which was the undermost of a pile of old books that
stood on the corner of the mantelpiece. Between
night and morning, when she would
approach the holy sacrament, Mamzelle Fleurette
felt it to be her duty to thrust Lacodie
from her thoughts by every means and device
known to her.
The following day was Sunday, when there
was no occasion or opportunity for her to see
the locksmith. Moreover, after partaking of
holy communion, Mamzelle Fleurette felt
invigorated; she was conscious of a new, if
fictitious, strength to combat Satan and his
On Monday, as the hour approached for
Lacodie to appear, Mamzelle Fleurette became
harassed by indecision. Should she call in
the young girl, the neighbor who relieved her
on occasion, and deliver the store into the
girl’s hands for an hour or so? This might
be well enough for once in a while, but she
could not conveniently resort to this subterfuge
daily. After all, she had her living to
make, which consideration was paramount.
She finally decided that she would retire to
her little back room and when she heard the
store door open she would call out:
“Is it you, Monsieur Lacodie? I am very
busy; please take your paper and leave your
cinq sous on the counter.” If it happened not
to be Lacodie she would come forward and
serve the customer in person. She did not,
of course, expect to carry out this performance
each day; a fresh device would no doubt
suggest itself for tomorrow. Mamzelle Fleurette
proceeded to carry out her programme
to the letter.
“Is it you, Monsieur Lacodie?” she called
out from the little back room, when the front
door opened. “I am very busy; please take
your paper — ”
“Ce n’est pas Lacodie, Mamzelle Fleurette.
C’est moi, Augustine.”
It was Lacodie’s wife, a fat, comely young
woman, wearing a blue veil thrown carelessly
over her kinky black hair, and carrying some
grocery parcels clasped close in her arms.
Mamzelle Fleurette emerged from the back
room, a prey to the most contradictory emotions;
relief and disappointment struggling for
the mastery with her.
“No Lacodie to-day, Mamzelle Fleurette,”
Augustine announced with a certain robust
ill-humor; “he is there at home shaking with
a chill till the very window panes rattle. He
had one last Friday” (the day he had not come
for his paper) “and now another and a worse
one to-day. God knows, if it keeps on —
well, let me have the paper; he will want to
read it to-night when his chill is past.”
Mamzelle Fleurette handed the paper to
Augustine, feeling like an old woman in a dream
handing a newspaper to a young woman in a
dream. She had never thought of Lacodie
having chills or being ill. It seemed very
strange. And Augustine was no sooner gone
than all the ague remedies she had ever heard
of came crowding to Mamzelle Fleurette’s
mind; an egg in black coffee — or was it a
lemon in black coffee? or an egg in vinegar?
She rushed to the door to call Augustine back,
but the young woman was already far down
Augustine did not come the next day, nor
the next, for the paper. The unhappy looking
child who had returned for more foolscap, informed
Mamzelle Fleurette that he had heard
his mother say that Monsieur Lacodie was
very sick, and the bellhanger had sat up all
night with him. The following day Mamzelle
Fleurette saw Choppin’s coupe pass clattering
over the cobblestones and stop before the locksmith’s
door. She knew that with her class
it was only in a case of extremity that the
famous and expensive physician was summoned.
For the first time she thought of
death. She prayed all day, silently, to herself,
even while waiting upon customers.
In the evening she took an Abeille from
the top of the pile on the counter, and throwing
a light shawl over her head, started with the
paper over to the locksmith’s shop. She did
not know if she were committing a sin in so
doing. She would ask Father Fochelle on
Saturday, when she went to confession. She
did not think it could be a sin; she would
have called long before on any other sick
neighbor, and she intuitively felt that in this
distinction might lie the possibility of sin.
The shop was deserted except for the
presence of Lacodie’s little boy of five, who sat
upon the floor playing with the tools and
contrivances which all his days he had coveted,
and which all his days had been denied to him.
Mamzelle Fleurette mounted the narrow stairway
in the rear of the shop which led to an
upper landing and then into the room of the
married couple. She stood a while hesitating
upon this landing before venturing to knock
softly upon the partly open door through
which she could hear their voices.
“I thought,” she remarked apologetically to
Augustine, “that perhaps Monsieur Lacodie
might like to look at the paper and you had
no time to come for it, so I brought it myself.”
“Come in, come in, Mamzelle Fleurette.
It’s Mamzelle Fleurette who comes to inquire
about you, Lacodie,” Augustine called out
loudly to her husband, whose half consciousness
she somehow confounded with deafness.
Mamzelle Fleurette drew mincingly
forward, clasping her thin hands together at the
waist line, and she peeped timorously at Lacodie
lying lost amid the bedclothes. His
black mane was tossed wildly over the pillow
and lent a fictitious pallor to the yellow
waxiness of his drawn features. An approaching
chill was sending incipient shudders through
his frame, and making his teeth claque. But
he still turned his head courteously in Mamzelle
“Bien bon de votre part, Mamzelle
Fleurette — mais c’est fini. J’suis flambé, flambé,
Oh, the pain of it! to hear him in such
extremity thanking her for her visit, assuring
her in the same breath that all was over with
him. She wondered how Augustine could
hear it so composedly. She whisperingly inquired
if a priest had been summoned.
“Inutile; il n’en veut pas,”
reply. So he would have no priest at his bedside,
and here was a new weight of bitterness
for Mamzelle Fleurette to carry all her days.
She flitted back to her store through the
darkness, herself like a slim shadow. The
November evening was chill and misty. A
dull aureole shot out from the feeble gas jet
at the corner, only faintly and for an instant
illumining her figure as it glided rapidly and
noiselessly along the banquette. Mamzelle
Fleurette slept little and prayed much that
night. Saturday morning Lacodie died. On
Sunday he was buried and Mamzelle Fleurette
did not go to the funeral, because Father Fochelle
told her plainly she had no business
It seemed inexpressibly hard to Mamzelle
Fleurette that she was not permitted to hold
Lacodie in tender remembrance now that he
was dead. But Father Fochelle, with his practical
insight, made no compromise with sentimentality;
and she did not question his authority,
or his ability to master the subtleties
of a situation utterly beyond reach of her own
It was no longer a pleasure for Mamzelle
Fleurette to go to confession as it had formerly
been. Her heart went on loving Lacodie
and her soul went on struggling; for she made
this delicate and puzzling distinction between
heart and soul, and pictured the two as set
in a very death struggle against each other.
“I cannot help it, father. I try, but I cannot
help it. To love him is like breathing;
I do not know how to help it. I pray, and
pray, and it does no good, for half of my prayers
are for the repose of his soul. It surely
cannot be a sin, to pray for the repose of his
Father Fochelle was heartily sick and
tired of Mamzelle Fleurette and her stupidities.
Oftentimes he was tempted to drive her from
the confessional, and forbid her return until
she should have regained a rational state of
mind. But he could not withhold absolution
from a penitent who, week after week,
acknowledged her shortcoming and strove with
all her faculties to overcome it and atone for it.
Augustine had sold out the locksmith’s shop
and the business, and had removed further
down the street over a bakery. Out of her
window she had hung a sign,
Often, in passing by, Mamzelle
Fleurette would catch a glimpse of Augustine
up at the window, plying the irons; her sleeves
rolled to the elbows, baring her round, white
arms, and the little black curls all moist and
tangled about her face. It was early spring
then, and there was a languor in the air; an
odor of jasmine in every passing breeze; the
sky was blue, unfathomable, and fleecy white;
and people along the narrow street laughed,
and sang, and called to one another from windows
and doorways. Augustine had set a pot
of rose-geranium on her window sill and hung
out a bird cage.
Once, Mamzelle Fleurette in passing on her
way to confession heard her singing roulades,
vying with the bird in the cage. Another
time she saw the young woman leaning with
half her body from the window, exchanging
pleasantries with the baker standing beneath
on the banquette.
Still, a little later, Mamzelle Fleurette
began to notice a handsome young fellow often
passing the store. He was jaunty and debonnaire
and wore a rich watchchain, and
looked prosperous. She knew him quite well
as a fine young Gascon, who kept a stall in the
French Market, and from whom she had often
The neighbors told her
the young Gascon was paying his addresses to
Mme. Lacodie. Mamzelle Fleurette shuddered.
She wondered if Lacodie knew! The
whole situation seemed suddenly to shift its
base, causing Mamzelle Fleurette to stagger.
What ground would her poor heart and soul
have to do battle upon now?
She had not yet had time to adjust her
conscience to the altered conditions when one
Saturday afternoon, as she was about to start
out to confession, she noticed an unusual
movement down the street. The bellhanger,
who happened to be presenting himself in the
character of a customer, informed her that it
was nothing more nor less than Mme. Lacodie
returning from her wedding with the Gascon.
He was black and bitter with indignation, and
thought she might at least have waited for the
year to be out. But the
on foot; and Mamzelle need not feel
alarmed if, in the night, she heard sounds and
clamor to rouse the dead as far away as Metairie
Mamzelle Fleurette sank down in a chair,
trembling in all her members. She faintly
begged the bell hanger to pour her a glass of
water from the stone pitcher behind the
counter. She fanned herself and loosened her
bonnet strings. She sent the bell hanger
She nervously pulled off her rusty black
kid gloves, and ten times more nervously drew
them on again. To a little customer, who
came in for chewing gum, she handed a paper
There was a great, a terrible upheaval
taking place in Mamzelle Fleurette’s soul. She
was preparing for the first time in her life to
take her conscience into her own keeping.
When she felt herself sufficiently composed
to appear decently upon the street, she started
out to confession. She did not go to Father
Fochelle. She did not even go to the Cathedral;
but to a church which was much farther
away, and to reach which she had to spend a
picayune for car fare.
Mamzelle Fleurette confessed herself to a
priest who was utterly new and strange to her.
She told him all her little venial sins, which
she had much difficulty in bringing to a number
of any dignity and importance whatever.
Not once did she mention her love for Lacodie,
the dead husband of another woman.
Mamzelle Fleurette did not ride back to her
home; she walked. The sensation of walking
on air was altogether delicious; she had never
experienced it before. A long time she stood
contemplative before a shop window in which
were displayed wreaths, mottoes, emblems,
designed for the embellishment of tombstones.
What a sweet comfort it would be, she reflected,
on the 1st of November to carry some
such delicate offering to Lacodie’s last resting
place. Might not the sole care of his tomb
devolve upon her, after all! The possibility
thrilled her and moved her to the heart. What
thought would the merry Augustine and her
lover-husband have for the dead lying in
When Mamzelle Fleurette reached home
she went through the store directly into her
little back room. The first thing which she
did, even before unpinning the dotted lace
veil, was to take the “Dictionnaire de La
Langue Francaise” from beneath the pile of
old books on the mantelpiece. It was not
easy to find Lacodie’s picture hidden somewhere
in its depths. But the search afforded
her almost a sensuous pleasure; turning the
leaves slowly back and forth.
When she had secured the likeness she went
into the store and from her showcase selected
a picture frame — the very handsomest there;
one of those which sold for thirty-five cents.
Into the frame Mamzelle Fleurette neatly
and deftly pasted Lacodie’s picture. Then she
re-entered her room and deliberately hung it
upon the wall — between the crucifix and the
portrait of Empress Eugènie — and she did not
care if the Gascon’s wife ever saw it or not.
Dead Men’s Shoes
never occurred to any person to wonder
what would befall Gilma now that
was dead. After the
burial people went their several ways, some
to talk over the old man and his eccentricities,
others to forget him before nightfall, and
others to wonder what would become of
his very nice property, the hundred-acre farm
on which he had lived for thirty years, and
on which he had just died at the age of
If Gilma had been a child, more than one
motherly heart would have gone out to him.
This one and that one would have bethought
them of carrying him home with them; to
concern themselves with his present comfort,
if not his future welfare. But Gilma was not
a child. He was a strapping fellow of nineteen,
measuring six feet in his stockings, and
as strong as any healthy youth need be. For
ten years he had lived there on the plantation
with Monsieur Gamiche; and he seemed now
to have been the only one with tears to shed
at the old man’s funeral.
Gamiche’s relatives had come down from
Caddo in a wagon the day after his death, and
had settled themselves in his house. There
was Septime, his nephew, a cripple, so horribly
afflicted that it was distressing to look at
him. And there was Septime’s widowed sister,
Ma’me Brozé, with her two little girls.
They had remained at the house during the
burial, and Gilma found them still there upon
The young man went at once to his room
to seek a moment’s repose. He had lost
much sleep during Monsieur Gamiche’s illness;
yet, he was in fact more worn by the
mental than the bodily strain of the past week.
But when he entered his room, there was
something so changed in its aspect that it
seemed no longer to belong to him. In place
of his own apparel which he had left hanging
on the row of pegs, there were a few shabby
little garments and two battered straw hats,
the property of the Brozé children. The
bureau drawers were empty, there was not a
vestige of anything belonging to him remaining
in the room. His first impression was
that Ma’me Brozé had been changing things
around and had assigned him to some other
But Gilma understood the situation better
when he discovered every scrap of his personal
effects piled up on a bench outside the
door, on the back or “false” gallery. His
boots and shoes were under the bench, while
coats, trousers and underwear were heaped
in an indiscriminate mass together.
The blood mounted to his swarthy face and
made him look for the moment like an Indian.
He had never thought of this. He did
not know what he had been thinking of; but
he felt that he ought to have been prepared
for anything; and it was his own fault if he
was not. But it hurt. This spot was “home”
to him against the rest of the world. Every
tree, every shrub was a friend; he knew every
patch in the fences; and the little old house,
gray and weather-beaten, that had been the
shelter of his youth, he loved as only few
can love inanimate things. A great enmity
arose in him against Ma’me Brozé. She was
walking about the yard, with her nose in the
air, and a shabby black dress trailing behind
her. She held the little girls by the hand.
Gilma could think of nothing better to do
than to mount his horse and ride away — anywhere.
The horse was a spirited animal of
great value. Monsieur Gamiche had named
him “Jupiter” on account of his proud bearing,
and Gilma had nicknamed him “Jupe,”
which seemed to him more endearing and
expressive of his great attachment to the fine
creature. With the bitter resentment of
youth, he felt that “Jupe” was the only friend
remaining to him on earth.
He had thrust a few pieces of clothing in
his saddlebags and had requested Ma’me
Brozé, with assumed indifference, to put his
remaining effects in a place of safety until
he should be able to send for them.
As he rode around by the front of the house,
Septime, who sat on the gallery all doubled
up in his uncle Gamiche’s big chair, called
“He, Gilma! w’ere you boun’ fo’?”
“I’m goin’ away,” replied Gilma, curtly,
reining his horse.
“That’s all right; but I reckon you might
jus’ as well leave that hoss behine you.”
“The hoss is mine,” returned Gilma, as
quickly as he would have returned a blow.
“We’ll see ’bout that li’le later, my frien’. I
reckon you jus’ well turn ’im loose.”
Gilma had no more intention of giving up
his horse than he had of parting with his own
right hand. But Monsieur Gamiche had
taught him prudence and respect for the law.
He did not wish to invite disagreeable
complications. So, controlling his temper by a
supreme effort, Gilma dismounted, unsaddled
the horse then and there, and led it back to
the stable. But as he started to leave the
place on foot, he stopped to say to Septime:
“You know, Mr. Septime, that hoss is mine;
I can collec’ a hundred aff’davits to prove it.
I’ll bring them yere in a few days with a statement
f’om a lawyer; an’ I’ll expec’ the hoss an’
saddle to be turned over to me in good condition.”
“That’s all right. We’ll see ’bout that.
Won’t you stay fo’ dinna?”
“No, I thank you, sah; Ma’me Brozé
already ask’ me.” And Gilma strode away,
down the beaten footpath that led across the
sloping grassplot toward the outer road.
A definite destination and a settled purpose
ahead of him seemed to have revived his flagging
energies of an hour before. It was with
no trace of fatigue that he stepped out bravely
along the wagon-road that skirted the bayou.
It was early spring, and the cotton had
already a good stand. In some places the
negroes were hoeing. Gilma stopped alongside
the rail fence and called to an old negress
who was plying her hoe at no great distance.
“Hello, Aunt Hal’fax! see yere.”
She turned, and immediately quitted her
work to go and join him,, bringing her hoe
with her across her shoulder. She was large-
boned and very black. She was dressed in the
deshabille of the field.
“I wish you’d come up to yo’ cabin with me
a minute, Aunt Hally,” he said; “I want to
get an aff’davit f’om you.”
She understood, after a fashion, what an
affidavit was; but she couldn’t see the good
“I ain’t got no aff’davis, boy; you g’long an’
don’ pesta me.”
“ ’Twon’t take you any time, Aunt Hal’fax.
I jus’ want you to put yo’ mark to a statement
I’m goin’ to write to the effec’ that my
hoss, Jupe, is my own prop’ty; that you know
it, an’ willin’ to swear to it.”
“Who say Jupe don’ b’long to you?” she
questioned cautiously, leaning on her hoe.
He motioned toward the house.
“Who? Mista Septime and them?”
“Well, I reckon!” she exclaimed,
“That’s it,” Gilma went on; “an’ nex’ thing
they’ll be sayin’ yo’ ole mule, Policy, don’t
b’long to you.”
She started violently.
“Who say so?”
“Nobody. But I say, nex’ thing, that’ w’at
they’ll be sayin’.”
She began to move along the inside of the
fence, and he turned to keep pace with her,
walking on the grassy edge of the road.
“I’ll jus’ write the aff’davit, Aunt Hally, an’
all you got to do” —
“You know des well as me dat mule mine.
I done paid ole Mista Gamiche fo’ ’im in good
cotton; dat year you falled outen de puckhorn
tree; an’ he write it down hisse’f in his ’count
Gilma did not linger a moment after obtaining
the desired statement from Aunt Halifax.
With the first of those “hundred affidavits”
that he hoped to secure, safe in his pocket, he
struck out across the country, seeking the
shortest way to town.
Aunt Halifax stayed in the cabin door.
“’Relius,” she shouted to a little black boy
out in the road, “does you see Pol’cy anywhar?
G’long, see ef he ’roun’ de ben’.
Wouldn’ s’prise me ef he broke de fence an’
got in yo’ pa’s corn ag’in.” And, shading her
eyes to scan the surrounding country, she
muttered, uneasily: “Whar dat mule?”
The following morning Gilma entered town
and proceeded at once to Lawyer Paxton’s
office. He had had no difficulty in obtaining
the testimony of blacks and whites regarding
his ownership of the horse; but he wanted to
make his claim as secure as possible by consulting
the lawyer and returning to the plantation
armed with unassailable evidence.
The lawyer’s office was a plain little room
opening upon the street. Nobody was there,
but the door was open; and Gilma entered
and took a seat at the bare round table and
waited. It was not long before the lawyer
came in; he had been in conversation with
some one across the street.
“Good-morning, Mr. Pax’on,” said Gilma,
The lawyer knew his face well enough, but
could not place him, and only returned:
“Good-morning, sir — good-morning.”
“I come to see you,” began Gilma plunging
at once into business, and drawing his handful
of nondescript affidavits from his pocket,
“about a matter of prope’ty, about regaining
possession of my hoss that Mr. Septime, ole
Mr. Gamiche’s nephew, is holdin’ f’om me
The lawyer took the papers and, adjusting
his eye-glasses, began to look them through.
“Yes, yes,” he said; “I see.”
“Since Mr. Gamiche died on Tuesday” —
“Gamiche died!” repeated Lawyer Paxton,
with astonishment. “Why, you don’t mean
to tell me that vieux Gamiche is dead? Well,
well. I hadn’t heard of it; I just returned
from Shreveport this morning. So le vieux
Gamiche is dead, is he? And you say you
want to get possession of a horse. What did
you say your name was?” drawing a pencil
from his pocket.
“Gilma Germain is my name, suh.”
“Gilma Germain,” repeated the lawyer, a
little meditatively, scanning his visitor closely.
“Yes, I recall your face now. You are the
young fellow whom le vieux Gamiche took to
live with him some ten or twelve years ago.”
“Ten years ago las’ November, suh.”
Lawyer Paxton arose and went to his safe,
from which, after unlocking it, he took a
legal-looking document that he proceeded to
read carefully through to himself.
“Well, Mr. Germain, I reckon there won’t
be any trouble about regaining possession of
the horse,” laughed Lawyer Paxton. “I’m
pleased to inform you, my dear sir, that our
old friend, Gamiche, has made you sole heir
to his property; that is, his plantation, including
live stock, farming implements, machinery,
household effects, etc. Quite a
pretty piece of property,” he proclaimed leisurely,
seating himself comfortably for a long
talk. “And I may add, a pretty piece of luck,
Mr. Germain, for a young fellow just starting
out in life; nothing but to step into a dead
man’s shoes! A great chance — great chance.
Do you know, sir, the moment you mentioned
your name, it came back to me like a flash,
how le vieux Gamiche came in here one day,
about three years ago, and wanted to make
his will” — And the loquacious lawyer went
on with his reminiscences and interesting bits
of information, of which Gilma heard scarcely
He was stunned, drunk, with the sudden
joy of possession; the thought of what seemed
to him great wealth, all his own — his own!
It seemed as if a hundred different sensations
were holding him at once, and as if a thousand
intentions crowded upon him. He felt
like another being who would have to
readjust himself to the new conditions, presenting
themselves so unexpectedly. The narrow
confines of the office were stifling, and it
seemed as if the lawyer’s flow of talk would
never stop. Gilma arose abruptly, and with a
half-uttered apology, plunged from the room
into the outer air.
Two days later Gilma stopped again before
Aunt Halifax’s cabin, on his way back to the
plantation. He was walking as before, having
declined to avail himself of any one of
the several offers of a mount that had been
tendered him in town and on the way. A
rumor of Gilma’s great good fortune had
preceded him, and Aunt Halifax greeted him
with an almost triumphal shout as he
“God knows you deserve it, Mista Gilma!
De Lord knows you does, suh! Come in an’
res’ yo’se’f, suh. You, ’Relius! git out dis
heah cabin; crowdin’ up dat away!” She
wiped off the best chair available and offered
it to Gilma.
He was glad to rest himself and glad to
accept Aunt Halifax’s proffer of a cup of coffee,
which she was in the act of dripping before
a small fire. He sat as far as he could
from the fire, for the day was warm; he
mopped his face, and fanned himself with his
“I des’ can’t he’p laughin’ w’en I thinks
’bout it,” said the old woman, fairly shaking,
as she leaned over the hearth. “I wakes up
in de night, even, an’ has to laugh.”
“How’s that, Aunt Hal’fax,” asked Gilma,
almost tempted to laugh himself at he knew
“G’long, Mista Gilma! like you don’ know!
It’s w’en I thinks ’bout Septime an’ them like
I gwine see ’em in dat wagon to-mor’ mo’nin’,
on’ dey way back to Caddo. Oh, lawsy!”
“That isn’ so ver’ funny, Aunt Hal’fax,”
returned Gilma, feeling himself ill at ease as
he accepted the cup of coffee which she
presented to him with much ceremony on a
platter. “I feel pretty sorry for Septime, myse’f.”
“I reckon he know now who Jupe b’long
to,” she went on, ignoring his expression of
sympathy; “no need to tell him who Pol’cy
b’long to, nuther. An’ I tell you, Mista Gilma,”
she went on, leaning upon the table without
seating herself, “dey gwine back to hard
times in Caddo. I heah tell dey nuva gits
’nough to eat, yonda. Septime, he can’t do
nuttin’ ’cep’ set still all twis’ up like a sarpint.
An’ Ma’me Brozé, she do some kine sewin’;
but don’t look like she got sense ’nough to
do dat halfway. An’ dem li’le gals, dey ’bleege
to run bar’foot mos’ all las’ winta’, twell dat
li’les’ gal, she got her heel plum fros’ bit, so
dey tells me. Oh, lawsy! How dey gwine
look to-mor’, all trapsin’ back to Caddo!”
Gilma had never found Aunt Halifax’s
company so intensely disagreeable as at that
moment. He thanked her for the coffee, and
went away so suddenly as to startle her. But
her good humor never flagged. She called
out to him from the doorway:
“Oh, Mista Gilma! You reckon dey knows
who Pol’cy b’longs to now?”
He somehow did not feel quite prepared to
face Septime; and he lingered along the road.
He even stopped a while to rest, apparently,
under the shade of a huge cottonwood tree
that overhung the bayou. From the very
first, a subtle uneasiness, a self-dissatisfaction
had mingled with his elation, and he was trying
to discover what it meant.
To begin with, the straightforwardness of
his own nature had inwardly resented the
sudden change in the bearing of most people
toward himself. He was trying to recall, too,
something which the lawyer had said; a little
phrase, out of that multitude of words, that
had fallen in his consciousness. It had stayed
there, generating a little festering sore place
that was beginning to make itself irritatingly
felt. What was it, that little phrase? Something
about — in his excitement he had only
half heard it — something about dead men’s
The exuberant health and strength of his
big body; the courage, virility, endurance of
his whole nature revolted against the
expression in itself, and the meaning which it
conveyed to him. Dead men’s shoes! Were they
not for such afflicted beings as Septime? as
that helpless, dependent woman up there? as
those two little ones, with their poorly fed,
poorly clad bodies and sweet, appealing eyes?
Yet he could not determine how he would act
and what he would say to them.
But there was no room left in his heart for
hesitancy when he came to face the group.
Septime was still crouched in his uncle’s chair;
he seemed never to have left it since the day
of the funeral. Ma’me Brozé had been crying,
and so had the children — out of sympathy,
“Mr. Septime,” said Gilma, approaching, “I
brought those aff’davits about the hoss. I
hope you about made up yo’ mind to turn it
over without further trouble.”
Septime was trembling, bewildered, almost
“W’at you mean?” he faltered, looking up
with a shifting, sideward glance. “The whole
place b’longs to you. You tryin’ to make a
fool out o’ me?”
“Fo’ me,” returned Gilma, “the place can
stay with Mr. Gamiche’s own flesh an’ blood.
I’ll see Mr. Pax’on again an’ make that according
to the law. But I want my hoss.”
Gilma took something besides his horse —
a picture of le vieux Gamiche, which had stood
on his mantelpiece. He thrust it into his
pocket. He also took his old benefactor’s
walking-stick and a gun.
As he rode out of the gate, mounted upon
his well-beloved “Jupe,” the faithful dog following,
Gilma felt as if he had awakened from
an intoxicating but depressing dream.
At Chênière Caminada
was no clumsier looking fellow
in church that Sunday morning than
Antoine Bocaze — the one they called
Tonie. But Tonie did not really care if
he were clumsy or not. He felt that he
could speak intelligibly to no woman save his
mother; but since he had no desire to inflame
the hearts of any of the island maidens, what
difference did it make?
He knew there was no better fisherman on
than himself, if his
face was too long and bronzed, his limbs too
unmanageable and his eyes too earnest — almost
It was a midsummer day, with a lazy,
scorching breeze blowing from the Gulf
straight into the church windows. The ribbons
on the young girls’ hats fluttered like
the wings of birds, and the old women
clutched the flapping ends of the veils that
covered their heads.
A few mosquitoes, floating through the
blistering air, with their nipping and humming
fretted the people to a certain degree of attention
and consequent devotion. The measured
tones of the priest at the altar rose and
fell like a song:
“Credo in unum Deum patrem
he chanted. And then
the people all looked at one another, suddenly
Some one was playing upon the organ whose
notes no one on the whole island was able to
awaken; whose tones had not been heard during
the many months since a passing stranger
had one day listlessly dragged his fingers
across its idle keys. A long, sweet strain of
music floated down from the loft and filled
It seemed to most of them — it seemed to
Tonie standing there beside his old mother —
that some heavenly being must have descended
upon the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes and
chosen this celestial way of communicating
with its people.
But it was no creature from a different
sphere; it was only a young lady from Grand
Isle. A rather pretty young person with blue
eyes and nut-brown hair, who wore a dotted
lawn of fine texture and fashionable make,
and a white Leghorn sailor-hat.
Tonie saw her standing outside of the
church after mass, receiving the priest’s voluble
praises and thanks for her graceful service.
She had come over to mass from Grand Isle
in Baptiste Beaudelet’s lugger, with a couple
of young men, and two ladies who kept a pension
over there. Tonie knew these two ladies
— the widow Lebrun and her old mother —
but he did not attempt to speak with them; he
would not have known what to say. He stood
aside gazing at the group, as others were doing,
his serious eyes fixed earnestly upon the
Tonie was late at dinner that day. His
mother must have waited an hour for him,
sitting patiently with her coarse hands folded
in her lap, in that little still room with its
“brick-painted” floor, its gaping chimney and
He told her that he had been walking —
walking he hardly knew where, and he did
not know why. He must have tramped from
one end of the island to the other; but he
brought her no bit of news or gossip. He did
not know if the Cotures had stopped for dinner
with the Avendettes; whether old Pierre
François was worse, or better, or dead, or if
lame Philibert was drinking again this morning.
He knew nothing; yet he had crossed
the village, and passed every one of its small
houses that stood close together in a long,
jagged line facing the sea; they were gray
and battered by time and the rude buffets of
the salt sea winds.
He knew nothing, though the Cotures had
all bade him “good day” as they filed into
Avendette’s, where a steaming plate of crab
gumbo was waiting for each. He had heard
some woman screaming, and others saying
it was because old Pierre François had just
passed away. But he did not remember this,
nor did he recall the fact that lame Philibert
had staggered against him when he stood
absently watching a “fiddler” sidling across the
sun-baked sand. He could tell his mother
nothing of all this; but he said he had noticed
that the wind was fair and must have driven
Baptiste’s boat, like a flying bird, across the
Well, that was something to talk about, and
old Ma’me Antoine, who was fat, leaned comfortably
upon the table after she had helped
Tonie to his courtbouillon, and remarked that
she found Madame was getting old. Tonie
thought that perhaps she was aging and her
hair was getting whiter. He seemed glad to
talk about her, and reminded his mother of
old Madame’s kindness and sympathy at the
time his father and brothers had perished. It
was when he was a little fellow, ten years before,
during a squall in Barataria Bay.
Ma’me Antoine declared that she could
never forget that sympathy, if she lived till
Judgment Day; but all the same she was sorry
to see that Madame Lebrun was also not so
young or fresh as she used to be. Her chances
of getting a husband were surely lessening
every year; especially with the young girls
around her, budding each spring like flowers
to be plucked. The one who had played upon
the organ was Mademoiselle Duvigné, Claire
Duvigné, a great belle, the daughter of the
Rampart street. Ma’me Antoine had found
that out during the ten minutes she and
others had stopped after mass to gossip with
“Claire Duvigné,” muttered Tonie, not even
making a pretense to taste his courtbouillon,
but picking little bits from the half loaf of
crusty brown bread that lay beside his plate.
“Claire Duvigné; that is a pretty name. Don’t
you think so, mother? I can’t think of anyone
on the Chênière who has so pretty a one,
nor at Grand Isle, either, for that matter. And
you say she lives on Rampart street?”
It appeared to him a matter of great
importance that he should have his mother
repeat all that the priest had told her.
Early the following morning Tonie went
out in search of lame Philibert, than whom there
was no cleverer workman on the island when
he could be caught sober.
Tonie had tried to work on his big lugger
that lay bottom upward under the shed, but
it had seemed impossible. His mind, his
hands. his tools refused to do their office, and
in sudden desperation he desisted. He found
Philibert and set him to work in his own
place under the shed. Then he got into his
small boat with the red lateen-sail and went
over to Grand Isle.
There was no one at hand to warn Tonie
that he was acting the part of a fool. He
had, singularly, never felt those premonitory
symptoms of love which afflict the greater
portion of mankind before they reach the age
which he had attained. He did not at first
recognize this powerful impulse that had, without
warning, possessed itself of his entire being.
He obeyed it without a struggle, as naturally
as he would have obeyed the dictates
of hunger and thirst.
Tonie left his boat at the wharf and
proceeded at once to Mme. Lebrun’s pension,
which consisted of a group of plain, stoutly
built cottages that stood in mid island, about
half a mile from the sea.
The day was bright and beautiful with soft,
velvety gusts of wind blowing from the water.
From a cluster of orange trees a flock of doves
ascended, and Tonie stopped to listen to the
beating of their wings and follow their flight
toward the water oaks whither he himself was
He walked with a dragging, uncertain step
through the yellow, fragrant chamomile, his
thoughts traveling before him. In his mind
was always the vivid picture of the girl as it
had stamped itself there yesterday, connected
in some mystical way with that celestial music
which had thrilled him and was vibrating yet
in his soul.
But she did not look the same to-day. She
was returning from the beach when Tonie first
saw her, leaning upon the arm of one of the
men who had accompanied her yesterday. She
was dressed differently — in a dainty blue
cotton gown. Her companion held a big white
sunshade over them both. They had
exchanged hats and were laughing with great
Two young men walked behind them and
were trying to engage her attention. She
glanced at Tonie, who was leaning against a
tree when the group passed by; but of course
she did not know him. She was speaking
English, a language which he hardly
There were other young people gathered
under the water oaks — girls who were, many
of them, more beautiful than Mlle. Duvigné;
but for Tonie they simply did not exist. His
whole universe had suddenly become converted
into a glamorous background for the
person of Mlle. Duvigné, and the shadowy
figures of men who were about her.
Tonie went to Mme. Lebrun and told her
he would bring her oranges next day from the
Chênière. She was well pleased, and commissioned
him to bring her other things from
the stores there, which she could not procure
at Grand Isle. She did not question his presence,
knowing that these summer days were
idle ones for the Chênière fishermen. Nor
did she seem surprised when he told her that
his boat was at the wharf, and would be there
every day at her service. She knew his frugal
habits, and supposed he wished to hire it, as
others did. He intuitively felt that this could
be the only way.
And that is how it happened that Tonie
spent so little of his time at the Chênière Caminada
that summer. Old Ma’me Antoine
grumbled enough about it. She herself had
been twice in her life to Grand Isle and once
to Grand Terre, and each time had been more
than glad to get back to the Chênière. And
why Tonie should want to spend his days, and
even his nights, away from home, was a thing
she could not comprehend, especially as he
would have to be away the whole winter; and
meantime there was much work to be done at
his own hearthside and in the company of his
own mother. She did not know that Tonie
had much, much more to do at Grand Isle
than at the Chênière Caminada.
He had to see how Claire Duvigné sat upon
the gallery in the big rocking chair that she
kept in motion by the impetus of her slender,
slippered foot; turning her head this way and
that way to speak to the men who were always
near her. He had to follow her lithe motions
at tennis or croquet, that she often played
with the children under the trees. Some days
he wanted to see how she spread her bare,
white arms, and walked out to meet the foam-
crested waves. Even here there were men
with her. And then at night, standing alone
like a still shadow under the stars, did he not
have to listen to her voice when she talked
and laughed and sang? Did he not have to
follow her slim figure whirling through the
dance, in the arms of men who must have
loved her and wanted her as he did. He did
not dream that they could help it more than he
could help it. But the days when she stepped
into his boat, the one with the red lateen sail,
and sat for hours within a few feet of him,
were days that he would have given up for
nothing else that he could think of.
There were always others in her company
at such times, young people with jests and
laughter on their lips. Only once she was
She had foolishly brought a book with her,
thinking she would want to read. But with
the breath of the sea stinging her she could
not read a line. She looked precisely as she
had looked the day he first saw her, standing
outside of the church at Chênière Caminada.
She laid the book down in her lap, and let
her soft eyes sweep dreamily along the line
of the horizon where the sky and water met
Then she looked straight at Tonie, and for
the first time spoke directly to him.
She called him Tonie, as she had heard
others do, and questioned him about his boat
and his work. He trembled, and answered her
vaguely and stupidly. She did not mind, but
spoke to him anyhow, satisfied to talk herself
when she found that he could not or would
not. She spoke French, and talked about the
Chênière Caminada, its people and its church.
She talked of the day she had played upon the
organ there, and complained of the instrument
being woefully out of tune.
Tonie was perfectly at home in the familiar
task of guiding his boat before the wind that
bellied its taut, red sail. He did not seem
clumsy and awkward as when he sat in
church. The girl noticed that he appeared as
strong as an ox.
As she looked at him and surprised one of
his shifting glances, a glimmer of the truth
began to dawn faintly upon her. She remembered
how she had encountered him daily in
her path, with his earnest, devouring eyes always
seeking her out. She recalled — but
there was no need to recall anything. There
are women whose perception of passion is
very keen; they are the women who most
A feeling of complacency took possession
of her with this conviction. There was some
softness and sympathy mingled with it. She
would have liked to lean over and pat his big,
brown hand, and tell him she felt sorry and
would have helped it if she could. With this
belief he ceased to be an object of complete
indifference in her eyes. She had thought,
awhile before, of having him turn about and
take her back home. But now it was really
piquant to pose for an hour longer before a
man — even a rough fisherman — to whom she
felt herself to be an object of silent and consuming
devotion. She could think of nothing
more interesting to do on shore.
She was incapable of conceiving the full
force and extent of his infatuation. She did
not dream that under the rude, calm exterior
before her a man’s heart was beating clamorously,
and his reason yielding to the savage
instinct of his blood.
“I hear the Angelus ringing at Chênière,
Tonie,” she said. “I didn’t know it was so
late; let us go back to the island.” There had
been a long silence which her musical voice
Tonie could now faintly hear the Angelus
bell himself. A vision of the church came
with it, the odor of incense and the sound of
the organ. The girl before him was again
that celestial being whom our Lady of
Lourdes had once offered to his immortal
It was growing dusk when they landed at
the pier, and frogs had begun to croak among
the reeds in the pools. There were two of
Mlle. Duvigné’s usual attendants anxiously
awaiting her return. But she chose to let
Tonie assist her out of the boat. The touch
of her hand fired his blood again.
She said to him very low and half-laughing,
“I have no money tonight, Tonie; take this instead,”
pressing into his palm a delicate silver
chain, which she had worn twined about her
bare wrist. It was purely a spirit of coquetry
that prompted the action, and a touch of the
sentimentality which most women possess.
She had read in some romance of a young girl
doing something like that.
As she walked away between her two
attendants she fancied Tonie pressing the chain
to his lips. But he was standing quite still,
and held it buried in his tightly-closed hand;
wanting to hold as long as he might the
warmth of the body that still penetrated the
bauble when she thrust it into his hand.
He watched her retreating figure like a
blotch against the fading sky. He was stirred
by a terrible, an overmastering regret, that he
had not clasped her in his arms when they
were out there alone, and sprung with her
into the sea. It was what he had vaguely
meant to do when the sound of the Angelus
had weakened and palsied his resolution. Now
she was going from him, fading away into
the mist with those figures on either side of
her, leaving him alone. He resolved within
himself that if ever again she were out there
on the sea at his mercy, she would have to
perish in his arms. He would go far, far out
where the sound of no bell could reach him.
There was some comfort for him in the
But as it happened, Mlle. Duvigné never
went out alone in the boat with Tonie again.
It was one morning in January. Tonie had
been collecting a bill from one of the fishmongers
at the French Market, in New Orleans,
and had turned his steps toward St.
Philip street. The day was chilly; a keen
wind was blowing. Tonie mechanically buttoned
his rough, warm coat and crossed over
into the sun.
There was perhaps not a more wretched-
hearted being in the whole district, that morning,
than he. For months the woman he so
hopelessly loved had been lost to his sight.
But all the more she dwelt in his thoughts,
preying upon his mental and bodily forces until
his unhappy condition became apparent to
all who knew him. Before leaving his home
for the winter fishing grounds he had opened
his whole heart to his mother, and told her
of the trouble that was killing him. She hardly
expected that he would ever come back to
her when he went away. She feared that he
would not, for he had spoken wildly of the
rest and peace that could only come to him
That morning when Tonie had crossed St.
Philip street he found himself accosted by
Madame Lebrun and her mother. He had
not noticed them approaching, and, moreover,
their figures in winter garb appeared unfamiliar
to him. He had never seen them elsewhere
than at Grand Isle and the Chênière
during the summer. They were glad to meet
him, and shook his hand cordially. He stood
as usual a little helplessly before them. A
pulse in his throat was beating and almost
choking him, so poignant were the recollections
which their presence stirred up.
They were staying in the city this winter,
they told him. They wanted to hear the
opera as often as possible, and the island was
really too dreary with everyone gone. Madame
Lebrun had left her son there to keep order
and superintend repairs, and so on.
“You are both well?” stammered Tonie.
“In perfect health, my dear Tonie,” Madame
Lebrun replied. She was wondering at
his haggard eyes and thin, gaunt cheeks; but
possessed too much tact to mention them.
“And — the young lady who used to go
sailing — is she well?” he inquired lamely.
“You mean Mlle. Favette? She was
married just after leaving Grand Isle.”
“No; I mean the one you called Claire —
Mamzelle Duvigné — is she well?”
Mother and daughter exclaimed together:
“Impossible! You haven’t heard? Why, Tonie,”
madame continued, “Mlle. Duvigné died
three weeks ago. But that was something
sad, I tell you!....Her family heartbroken...
Simply from a cold caught by standing in thin
slippers, waiting for her carriage after the
opera....What a warning!”
The two were talking at once. Tonie kept
looking from one to the other. He did not
know what they were saying, after madame
had told him, “Elle est morte.”
As in a dream he finally heard that they
said good-by to him, and sent their love to
He stood still in the middle of the banquette
when they had left him, watching them
go toward the market. He could not stir.
Something had happened to him — he did not
know what. He wondered if the news was
Some women passed by, laughing coarsely.
He noticed how they laughed and tossed their
heads. A mockingbird was singing in a cage
which hung from a window above his head.
He had not heard it before.
Just beneath the window was the entrance
to a barroom. Tonie turned and plunged
through its swinging doors. He asked the
bartender for whisky. The man thought he
was already drunk, but pushed the bottle
toward him nevertheless. Tonie poured a great
quantity of the fiery liquor into a glass and
swallowed it at a draught. The rest of the
day he spent among the fishermen and Barataria
oystermen; and that night he slept
soundly and peacefully until morning.
He did not know why it was so; he could
not understand. But from that day he felt
that he began to live again, to be once more
a part of the moving world about him. He
would ask himself over and over again why it
was so, and stay bewildered before this truth
that he could not answer or explain, and
which he began to accept as a holy mystery.
One day in early spring Tonie sat with his
mother upon a piece of drift-wood close to the
He had returned that day to the Chênière
Caminada. At first she thought he was like
his former self again, for all his old strength
and courage had returned. But she found
that there was a new brightness in his face
which had not been there before. It made her
think of the Holy Ghost descending and
bringing some kind of light to a man.
She knew that Mademoiselle Duvigné was
dead, and all along had feared that this knowledge
would be the death of Tonie. When she
saw him come back to her like a new being,
at once she dreaded that he did not know.
All day the doubt had been fretting her, and
she could bear the uncertainty no longer.
“You know, Tonie — that young lady whom
you cared for — well, some one read it to me in
the papers — she died last winter.” She had
tried to speak as cautiously as she could.
“Yes, I know she is dead. I am glad.”
It was the first time he had said this in
words, and it made his heart beat quicker.
Ma’me Antoine shuddered and drew aside
from him. To her it was somehow like
murder to say such a thing.
“What do you mean? Why are you glad?”
she demanded, indignantly.
Tonie was sitting with his elbows on his
knees. He wanted to answer his mother, but
it would take time; he would have to think.
He looked out across the water that glistened
gem-like with the sun upon it, but there was
nothing there to open his thought. He looked
down into his open palm and began to pick
at the callous flesh that was hard as a horse’s
hoof. Whilst he did this his ideas began to
gather and take form.
“You see, while she lived I could never
hope for anything,” he began, slowly feeling
his way. “Despair was the only thing for
me. There were always men about her. She
walked and sang and danced with them. I
knew it all the time, even when I didn’t see
her. But I saw her often enough. I knew
that some day one of them would please her
and she would give herself to him — she would
marry him. That thought haunted me like
an evil spirit.”
Tonie passed his hand across his forehead
as if to sweep away anything of the horror that
might have remained there.
“It kept me awake at night,” he went on.
“But that was not so bad; the worst torture
was to sleep, for then I would dream that it
was all true.
“Oh, I could see her married to one of
them — his wife — coming year after year to
Grand Isle and bringing her little children with
her! I can’t tell you all that I saw — all that was
driving me mad! But now” — and Tonie
clasped his hands together and smiled as he
looked again across the water — “she is where
she belongs; there is no difference up there;
the curé has often told us there is no difference
between men. It is with the soul that
we approach each other there. Then she will
know who has loved her best. That is why
I am so contented. Who knows what may
happen up there?”
Ma’me Antoine could not answer. She
only took her son’s big, rough hand and
pressed it against her.
“And now, ma mère,” he exclaimed,
cheerfully, rising, “I shall go light the fire for your
bread; it is a long time since I have done anything
for you,” and he stooped and pressed a
warm kiss on her withered old cheek.
With misty eyes she watched him walk
away in the direction of the big brick oven
that stood open-mouthed under the lemon
Odalie Misses Mass
sprang down from the mule-
cart, shook out her white skirts, and
firmly grasping her parasol, which was
blue to correspond with her sash, entered
Aunt Pinky’s gate and proceeded towards the
old woman’s cabin. She was a thick-waisted
young thing who walked with a firm tread
and carried her head with a determined poise.
Her straight brown hair had been rolled up
over night in papillotes, and the artificial curls
stood out in clusters, stiff and uncompromising
beneath the rim of her white chip hat.
Her mother, sister and brother remained
seated in the cart before the gate.
It was the fifteenth of August, the great feast
of the Assumption, so generally observed in
the Catholic parishes of Louisiana. The Chotard
family were on their way to mass, and
Odalie had insisted upon stopping to “show
herself” to her old friend and protégée, Aunt
The helpless, shrivelled old negress sat in
the depths of a large, rudely-fashioned chair.
A loosely hanging unbleached cotton gown
enveloped her mite of a figure. What was
visible of her hair beneath the bandana turban,
looked like white sheep’s wool. She wore
round, silver-rimmed spectacles, which gave
her an air of wisdom and respectability, and
she held in her hand the branch of a hickory
sapling, with which she kept mosquitoes and
flies at bay, and even chickens and pigs that
sometimes penetrated the heart of her domain.
Odalie walked straight up to the old woman
and kissed her on the cheek.
“Well, Aunt Pinky, yere I am,” she announced
with evident self-complacency, turning
herself slowly and stiffly around like a
mechanical dummy. In one hand she held
her prayer-book, fan and handkerchief, in the
other the blue parasol, still open; and on her
plump hands were blue cotton mitts. Aunt
Pinky beamed and chuckled; Odalie hardly
expected her to be able to do more.
“Now you saw me,” the child continued.
“I reckon you satisfied. I mus’ go; I ain’t
got a minute to was’e.” But at the threshold
she turned to inquire, bluntly:
“Pug,” replied Aunt Pinky, in her
tremulous old-woman’s voice. “She’s gone to
chu’ch; done gone; she done gone,” nodding
her head in seeming approval of Pug’s action.
“To church!” echoed Odalie with a look of
consternation settling in her round eyes.
“She gone to chu’ch,” reiterated Aunt
Pinky. “Say she kain’t miss chutch on de
fifteent’; de debble gwine pester her twell
jedgment, she miss chu’ch on de fifteent’.”
Odalie’s plump cheeks fairly quivered with
indignation and she stamped her foot. She
looked up and down the long, dusty road that
skirted the river. Nothing was to be seen
save the blue cart with its dejected looking
mule and patient occupants. She walked to
the end of the gallery and called out to a
negro boy whose black bullet-head showed
up in bold relief against the white of the
“He, Baptiste! w’ere’s yo’ ma? Ask yo’
ma if she can’t come set with Aunt Pinky.”
“Mammy, she gone to chu’ch,” screamed
Baptiste in answer.
“Bonté! w’at’s taken you all darkies with
yo’ ’church’ to-day? You come along yere
Baptiste an’ set with Aunt Pinky. That Pug!
I’m goin’ to make yo’ ma wear her out fo’ that
trick of hers — leavin’ Aunt Pinky like that.”
But at the first intimation of what was
wanted of him, Baptiste dipped below the cotton
like a fish beneath water, leaving no sight
nor sound of himself to answer Odalie’s repeated
calls. Her mother and sister were
beginning to show signs of impatience.
“But, I can’t go,” she cried out to them.
“It’s nobody to stay with Aunt Pinky. I
can’t leave Aunt Pinky like that, to fall out
of her chair, maybe, like she already fell out
“You goin’ to miss mass on the fifteenth,
you, Odalie! W’at you thinkin’ about?” came
in shrill rebuke from her sister. But her
mother offering no objection, the boy lost not
a moment in starting the mule forward at a
brisk trot. She watched them disappear in
a cloud of dust; and turning with a dejected,
almost tearful countenance, re-entered the
Aunt Pinky seemed to accept her reappearance
as a matter of course; and even evinced
no surprise at seeing her remove her hat and
mitts, which she laid carefully, almost religiously,
on the bed, together with her book,
fan and handkerchief.
Then Odalie went and seated herself some
distance from the old woman in her own small,
low rocking-chair. She rocked herself furiously,
making a great clatter with the rockers
over the wide, uneven boards of the cabin
floor; and she looked out through the open
“Puggy, she done gone to chu’ch; done
gone. Say de debble gwine pester her twell
jedgment — ”
“You done tole me that, Aunt Pinky; neva
mine; don’t le’s talk about it.”
Aunt Pinky thus rebuked, settled back
into silence and Odalie continued to rock and
stare out of the door.
Once she arose, and taking the hickory
branch from Aunt Pinky’s nerveless hand,
made a bold and sudden charge upon a little
pig that seemed bent upon keeping her company.
She pursued him with flying heels and
loud cries as far as the road. She came back
flushed and breathless and her curls hanging
rather limp around her face; she began again
to rock herself and gaze silently out of the
“You gwine make yo’ fus’ c’mmunion?”
This seemingly sober inquiry on the part of
Aunt Pinky at once shattered Odalie’s ill-
humor and dispelled every shadow of it. She
leaned back and laughed with wild abandonment.
“Mais w’at you thinkin’ about, Aunt Pinky?
How you don’t remember I made my firs’
communion las’ year, with this same dress
w’at maman let out the tuck,” holding up the
altered skirt for Aunt Pinky’s inspection. “An’
with this same petticoat w’at maman added
this ruffle an’ crochet’ edge; excep’ I had a
These evidences proved beyond question
convincing and seemed to satisfy Aunt Pinky.
Odalie rocked as furiously as ever, but she
sang now, and the swaying chair had worked
its way nearer to the old woman.
“You gwine git mar’ied?”
“I declare, Aunt Pinky,” said Odalie, when
she had ceased laughing and was wiping her
eyes, “I declare, sometime’ I think you gittin’
plumb foolish. How you expec’ me to git
married w’en I’m on’y thirteen?”
Evidently Aunt Pinky did not know why
or how she expected anything so preposterous;
Odalie’s holiday attire that filled her with
contemplative rapture, had doubtless incited
her to these vagaries.
The child now drew her chair quite close
to the old woman’s knee after she had gone
out to the rear of the cabin to get herself
some water and had brought a drink to Aunt
Pinky in the gourd dipper.
There was a strong, hot breeze blowing
from the river, and it swept fitfully and in
gusts through the cabin, bringing with it the
weedy smell of cacti that grew thick on the
bank, and occasionally a shower of reddish
dust from the road. Odalie for a while was
greatly occupied in keeping in place her filmy
skirt, which every gust of wind swelled balloon-
like about her knees. Aunt Pinky’s little
black, scrawny hand had found its way
among the droopy curls, and strayed often
caressingly to the child’s plump neck and
“You riclics, honey, dat day yo’ granpappy
say it wur pinchin’ times an’ he reckin he
bleege to sell Yallah Tom an’ Susan an’
Pinky? Don’ know how come he think ’bout
Pinky, ’less caze he sees me playin’ an’
trapsin’ roun’ wid you alls, day in an’ out. I
riclics yit how you tu’n w’ite like milk an’
fling yo’ arms roun’ li’le black Pinky; an’ you
cries out you don’ wan’ no saddle-mar’; you
don’ wan’ no silk dresses and fing’ rings an’
sich; an’ don’ wan’ no idication; des wants
Pinky. An’ you cries an’ screams an’ kicks,
an’ ’low you gwine kill fus’ pusson w’at dar
come an’ buy Pinky an’ kiars her off. You
riclics cat, honey?”
Odalie had grown accustomed to these
flights of fancy on the part of her old friend;
she liked to humor her as she chose to sometimes
humor very small children; so she was
quite used to impersonating one dearly
beloved but impetuous, “Paulette,” who seemed
to have held her place in old Pinky’s heart
and imagination through all the years of her
“I rec’lec’ like it was yesterday, Aunt
Pinky. How I scream an’ kick an’ maman
gave me some med’cine; an’ how you scream
en’ kick en’ Susan took you down to the
quarters an’ give you ’twenty.’ ”
“Des so, honey; des like you says,”
chuckled Aunt Pinky. “But you don’ riclic dat
time you cotch Pinky cryin’ down in de holler
behine de gin; an’ you say you gwine give
me ’twenty’ ef I don’ tell you w’at I cryin’
“I rec’lec’ like it happen’d to-day, Aunt
Pinky. You been cryin’ because you want to
marry Hiram, ole Mr. Benitou’s servant.”
“Des true like you says, Miss Paulette; an’
you goes home an’ cries and kiars on an’ won’
eat, an’ breaks dishes, an’ pesters yo’ gran’pap
’tell he bleedge to buy Hi’um f’om de
“Don’t talk, Aunt Pink! I can see all that
jus’ as plain!” responded Odalie sympathetically,
yet in truth she took but a languid interest
in these reminiscences which she had
listened to so often before.
She leaned her flushed cheek against Aunt
The air was rippling now, and hot and
caressing. There was the hum of bumble bees
outside; and busy mud-daubers kept flying in
and out through the door. Some chickens
had penetrated to the very threshold in their
aimless roamings, and the little pig was approaching
more cautiously. Sleep was fast
overtaking the child, but she could still hear
through her drowsiness the familiar tones of
Aunt Pinky’s voice.
“But Hi’um, he done gone; he nuva come
back; an’ Yallah Tom nuva come back; an’
ole Marster an’ de chillun — all gone — nuva
come back. Nobody nuva come back to Pinky
’cep you, my honey. You ain’ gwine ’way f’om
Pinky no mo’, is you, Miss Paulette?”
“Don’ fret, Aunt Pinky — I’m goin’ — to stay
with — you.”
“No pussun nuva come back ’cep’ you.”
Odalie was fast asleep. Aunt Pinky was
asleep with her head leaning back on her chair
and her fingers thrust into the mass of tangled
brown hair that swept across her lap. The
chickens and little pig walked fearlessly in
and out. The sunlight crept close up to the
cabin door and stole away again.
Odalie awoke with a start. Her mother
was standing over her arousing her from
sleep. She sprang up and rubbed her eyes.
“Oh, I been asleep!” she exclaimed. The cart
was standing in the road waiting. “An’ Aunt
Pinky, she’s asleep, too.”
“Yes, chérie, Aunt Pinky is asleep,” replied
her mother, leading Odalie away. But she
spoke low and trod softly as gentle-souled
women do, in the presence of the dead.
always sure of hearing something
pleasant from Cavanelle across the
counter. If he was not mistaking me
for the freshest and prettiest girl in New Orleans,
he was reserving for me some bit of
silk, or lace, or ribbon of a nuance marvelously
suited to my complexion, my eyes or
my hair! What an innocent, delightful humbug
Cavanelle was! How well I knew it and
how little I cared! For when he had sold me
the confection or bit of dry-goods in question,
he always began to talk to me of his sister
Mathilde, and then I knew that Cavanelle was
I had known him long enough to know
why he worked so faithfully, so energetically
and without rest — it was because Mathilde
had a voice. It was because of her voice that
his coats were worn till they were out of fashion
and almost out at elbows. But for a sister
whose voice needed only a little training to
rival that of the nightingale, one might do
such things without incurring reproach.
“You will believe, madame, that I did not
know you las’ night at the opera? I remark’
to Mathilde, ’tiens! Mademoiselle Montreville,’
an’ I only rec’nize my mistake when I
finally adjust my opera glass....I guarantee
you will be satisfied, madame. In a year
from now you will come an’ thank me for
having secu’ you that bargain in a
Yes, yes; as you say, Tolville was
in voice. But,” with a shrug of the narrow
shoulders and a smile of commiseration that
wrinkled the lean olive cheeks beneath the
thin beard, “but to hear that cavatina render’
as I have heard it render’ by Mathilde,
is another affair! A quality, madame, that
moves, that penetrates. Perhaps not yet
enough volume, but that will accomplish itself
with time, when she will become more robus’
in health. It is my intention to sen’ her for the
summer to Gran’ Isle; that good air an’ surf
bathing will work miracles. An artiste, voyez
vous, it is not to be treated like a human being
of every day; it needs des petits soins;
perfec’ res’ of body an’ mind; good red wine
an’ plenty....oh yes, madame, the stage;
that is our intention; but never with my consent
in light opera. Patience is what I counsel
to Mathilde. A little more stren’th; a little
dev’lopment of the chest to give that
soupcon of compass which is lacking, an’
gran’ opera is what I aspire for my sister.”
I was curious to know Mathilde and to hear
her sing; and thought it a great pity that a
voice so marvelous as she doubtless possessed
should not gain the notice that might prove
the step toward the attainment of her ambition.
It was such curiosity and a half-formed
design or desire to interest myself in her career
that prompted me to inform Cavanelle
that I should greatly like to meet his sister;
and I asked permission to call upon her the
following Sunday afternoon.
Cavanelle was charmed. He otherwise
would not have been Cavanelle. Over and
over I was given the most minute directions
for finding the house. The green car — or was
it the yellow or blue one? I can no longer
remember. But it was near Goodchildren
street, and would I kindly walk this way and
turn that way? At the corner was an ice
dealer’s. In the middle of the block, their
house — one-story; painted yellow; a knocker;
a banana tree nodding over the side fence.
But indeed, I need not look for the banana
tree, the knocker, the number or anything,
for if I but turn the corner in the neighborhood
of five o’clock I would find him
planted at the door awaiting me.
And there he was! Cavanelle himself; but
seeming to me not himself; apart from the
entourage with which I was accustomed to
associate him. Every line of his mobile face,
every gesture emphasized the welcome which
his kind eyes expressed as he ushered me into
the small parlor that opened upon the street.
“Oh, not that chair, madame! I entreat
you. This one, by all means. Thousan’ times
“Mathilde! Strange; my sister was here
but an instant ago. Mathilde! Ou es tu
done?” Stupid Cavanelle! He did not know
when I had already guessed it — that Mathilde
had retired to the adjoining room at my approach,
and would appear after a sufficient delay
to give an appropriate air of ceremony to
And what a frail little piece of mortality she
was when she did appear! At beholding her
I could easily fancy that when she stepped
outside of the yellow house, the zephyrs would
lift her from her feet and, given a proper adjustment
of the balloon sleeves, gently waft
her in the direction of Goodchildren street, or
wherever else she might want to go.
Hers was no physique for grand opera —
certainly no stage presence; apparently so
slender a hold upon life that the least tension
might snap it. The voice which could hope
to overcome these glaring disadvantages
would have to be phenomenal.
Mathilde spoke English imperfectly, and
with embarrassment, and was glad to lapse
into French. Her speech was languid, unaffectedly
so; and her manner was one of indolent
repose; in this respect offering a striking
contrast to that of her brother. Cavanelle
seemed unable to rest. Hardly was I seated
to his satisfaction than he darted from the
room and soon returned followed by a limping
old black woman bringing in a sirop
d’orgeat and layer cake on a tray.
Mathilde’s face showed feeble annoyance
at her brother’s want of savoir vivre in thus
introducing the refreshments at so early a
stage of my visit.
The servant was one of those cheap black
women who abound in the French quarter,
who speak Creole patois in preference to English,
and who would rather work in a petit
menage in Goodchildren street for five dollars
a month than for fifteen in the fourth district.
Her presence, in some unaccountable manner,
seemed to reveal to me much of the inner
working of this small household. I pictured
her early morning visit to the French market,
where picayunes were doled out sparingly,
and lagniappes gathered in with avidity.
I could see the neatly appointed dinner
table; Cavanelle extolling his soup and bouillle
in extravagant terms; Mathilde toying with
her papabotte or chicken-wing, and pouring
herself a demi-verre from her very own half-bottle
of St. Julien; Pouponne, as they called
her, mumbling and grumbling through habit,
and serving them as faithfully as a dog
through instinct. I wondered if they knew
that Pouponne “played the lottery” with every
spare “quarter” gathered from a judicious
management of lagniappe. Perhaps they
would not have cared, or have minded, either,
that she as often consulted the Voudoo priestess
around the corner as her father confessor.
My thoughts had followed Pouponne’s
limping figure from the room, and it was with
an effort I returned to Cavanelle twirling the
piano stool this way and that way. Mathilde
was languidly turning over musical scores,
and the two warmly discussing the merits of
a selection which she had evidently decided
The girl seated herself at the piano. Her
hands were thin and anemic, and she touched
the keys without firmness or delicacy. When
she had played a few introductory bars, she
began to sing. Heaven only knows what she
sang; it made no difference then, nor can it
make any now.
The day was a warm one, but that did not
prevent a creepy chilliness seizing hold of me.
The feeling was generated by disappointment,
anger, dismay and various other disagreeable
sensations which I cannot find names for,
Had I been intentionally deceived and misled?
Was this some impertinent pleasantry on the
part of Cavanelle? Or rather had not the
girl’s voice undergone some hideous transformation
since her brother had listened to it?
I dreaded to look at him, fearing to see horror
and astonishment depicted on his face. When
I did look, his expression was earnestly attentive
and beamed approval of the strains to
which he measured time by a slow, satisfied
motion of the hand.
The voice was thin to attenuation, I fear it
was not even true. Perhaps my disappointment
exaggerated its simple deficiencies into
monstrous defects. But it was an unsympathetic
voice that never could have been a
blessing to possess or to listen to.
I cannot recall what I said at parting —
doubtless conventional things which were not
true. Cavanelle politely escorted me to the
car, and there I left him with a hand-clasp
which from my side was tender with sympathy
“Poor Cavanelle! poor Cavanelle!” The
words kept beating time in my brain to the
jingle of the car bells and the regular ring of
the mules’ hoofs upon the cobble stones. One
moment I resolved to have a talk with him
in which I would endeavor to open his eyes
to the folly of thus casting his hopes and the
substance of his labor to the winds. The next
instant I had decided that chance would possibly
attend to Cavanelle’s affair less clumsily
than I could. “But all the same,” I wondered,
“is Cavanelle a fool? is he a lunatic? is he
under a hypnotic spell?” And then — strange
that I did not think of it before — I realized
that Cavanelle loved Mathilde intensely, and
we all know that love is blind, but a god just
Two years passed before I saw Cavanelle
again. I had been absent that length of time
from the city. In the meanwhile Mathilde had
died. She and her little voice — the apotheosis
of insignificance — were no more. It was perhaps
a year after my visit to her that I read an
account of her death in a New Orleans paper.
Then came a momentary pang of commiseration
for my good Cavanelle. Chance had
surely acted here the part of a skillful though
merciless surgeon; no temporizing, no half
measures. A deep, sharp thrust of the scalpel;
a moment of agonizing pain; then rest, rest;
convalescence; health; happiness! Yes,
Mathilde had been dead a year and I was
prepared for great changes in Cavanelle.
He had lived like a hampered child who
does not recognize the restrictions hedging it
about, and lives a life of pathetic contentment
in the midst of them. But now all that was
altered. He was, doubtless, regaling himself
with the half-bottles of St. Julien, which were
never before for him; with, perhaps, an occasional
petit souper at Moreau’s, and there
was no telling what little pleasures beside.
Cavanelle would certainly have bought
himself a suit of clothes or two of modern fit and
finish. I would find him with a brightened
eye, a fuller cheek, as became a man of his
years; perchance, even, a waxed moustache!
So did my imagination run rampant with me.
And after all, the hand which I clasped
across the counter was that of the self-same
Cavanelle I had left. It was no fuller, no
firmer. There were even some additional lines
visible through the thin, brown beard.
“Ah, my poor Cavanelle! you have suffered
a grievous loss since we parted.” I saw
in his face that he remembered the circumstances
of our last meeting, so there was
no use in avoiding the subject. I had rightly
conjectured that the wound had been a cruel
one, but in a year such wounds heal with a
He could have talked for hours of
Mathilde’s unhappy taking-off, and if the subject
had possessed for me the same touching fascination
which it held for him, doubtless, we
would have done so, but —
“And how is it now, mon ami? Are you
living in the same place? running your little
menage as before, my poor Cavanelle?”
“Oh, yes, madame, except that my Aunt
Félicie is making her home with me now. You
have heard me speak of my aunt — No? You
never have heard me speak of my Aunt Félicie
Cavanelle of Terrebonne! That, madame,
is a noble woman who has suffer’ the
mos’ cruel affliction, and deprivation, since the
war. — No, madame, not in good health, unfortunately,
by any means. It is why I esteem that
a blessed privilege to give her declining
years those little comforts,
that is a woman’s right to expec’ from
I knew what “des petits soins” meant with
Cavanelle; doctors’ visits, little jaunts across
of every description
showered upon “Aunt Félicie,” and he himself
relegated to the soup and bouillie which
typified his prosaic existence.
I was unreasonably exasperated with the
man for awhile, and would not even permit
myself to notice the beauty in texture and design
of the mousseline de laine which he had
spread across the counter in tempting folds.
I was forced to restrain a brutal desire to say
something stinging and cruel to him for his
However, before I had regained the street,
the conviction that Cavanelle was a hopeless
fool seemed to reconcile me to the situation
and also afforded me some diversion.
But even this estimate of my poor Cavanelle
was destined not to last. By the time
I had seated myself in the Prytania street car
and passed up my nickel, I was convinced that
Cavanelle was an angel.
happened just as everyone had
predicted. Tante Cat’rinette was beside
herself with rage and indignation when
she learned that the town authorities had for
some reason condemned her house and intended
to demolish it.
“Dat house w’at Vieumaite gi’ me his own
se’f, out his own mout’, w’en he gi’ me my
freedom! All wrote down en regle befo’ de
cote! Bon dieu Seigneur, w’at dey talkin’
Tante Cat’rinette stood in the doorway of
her home, resting a gaunt black hand against
the jamb. In the other hand she held her corncob
pipe. She was a tall, large-boned woman
of a pronounced Congo type. The house in
question had been substantial enough in its
time. It contained four rooms: the lower two
of brick, the upper ones of adobe. A dilapidated
gallery projected from the upper story
and slanted over the narrow banquette, to the
peril of passers-by.
“I don’t think I ever heard why the
property was given to you in the first place, Tante
Cat’rinette,” observed Lawyer Paxton, who
had stopped in passing, as so many others did,
to talk the matter over with the old negress.
The affair was attracting some attention in
town, and its development was being watched
with a good deal of interest. Tante Cat’rinette
asked nothing better than to satisfy the lawyer’s
“Vieumaite all time say Cat’rinette wort’
gole to ’im; de way I make dem nigga’ walk
chalk. But,” she continued, with recovered
seriousness, “w’en I nuss ’is li’le gal w’at all
de doctor’ ’low it ’s goin’ die, an’ I make it
well, me, den Vieumaite, he can’t do ’nough,
him. He name’ dat li’le gal Cat’rine fo’ me.
Das Miss Kitty w’at marry Miché Raymond
yon’ by Gran’ Eco’. Den he gi’ me my freedom;
he got plenty slave’, him; one don’
count in his pocket. An’ he gi’ me dat house
w’at I’m stan’in’ in de do’; he got plenty
house’ an’ lan’, him. Now dey want pay me
t’ousan’ dolla’, w’at I don’ axen’ fo’, an’ tu’n
me out dat house! I waitin’ fo’ ’em, Miche
Paxtone,” and a wicked gleam shot into the
woman’s small, dusky eyes. “I got my axe
grine fine. Fus’ man w’at touch Cat’rinette
fo’ tu’n her out dat house, he git ’is head bus’
like I bust a gode.”
“Dat’s nice day, ainty, Miché Paxtone?
Fine wedda fo’ dry my close.” Upon the
gallery above hung an array of shirts, which
gleamed white in the sunshine, and flapped in
the rippling breeze.
The spectacle of Tante Cattrinette defying
the authorities was one which offered much
diversion to the children of the neighborhood.
They played numberless pranks at her expense;
daily serving upon her fictitious notices
purporting to be to the last degree official.
One youngster, in a moment of inspiration,
composed a couplet, which they recited, sang,
shouted at all hours, beneath her windows.
“Tante Cat’rinette, she go to town;
W’en she come back, her house pull’ down.”
So ran the production. She heard it many
times during the day, but, far from offending
her, she accepted it as a warning, — a prediction,
as it were, — and she took heed not to
offer to fate the conditions for its fulfillment.
She no longer quitted her house even for a
moment, so great was her fear and so firm her
belief that the town authorities were lying in
wait to possess themselves of it. She would
not cross the street to visit a neighbor. She
waylaid passers-by and pressed them into service
to do her errands and small shopping.
She grew distrustful and suspicious, ever on
the alert to scent a plot in the most innocent
endeavor to induce her to leave the house.
One morning, as Tante Cat’rinette was
hanging out her latest batch of washing, Eusèbe,
a “free mulatto” from Red River,
stopped his pony beneath her gallery.
“Hé, Tante Cat’rinette!” he called up to
She turned to the railing just as she was,
in her bare arms and neck that gleamed
ebony-like against the unbleached cotton of
her chemise. A coarse skirt was fastened
about her waist, and a string of many-colored
beads knotted around her throat. She held
her smoking pipe between her yellow teeth.
“How you all come on, Miché Eusèbe?”
she questioned, pleasantly.
“We all middlin’, Tante Cat’rinette. But
Miss Kitty, she putty bad off out yon’a. I
see Mista Raymond dis mo’nin’ w’en I pass
by his house; he say look like de feva don’
wan’ to quit ’er. She been axen’ fo’ you all
t’rough de night. He ’low he reckon I betta
tell you. Nice wedda we got fo’ plantin’,
“Nice wedda fo’ lies, Miché Eusèbe,” and
she spat contemptuously down upon the banquette.
She turned away without noticing
the man further, and proceeded to hang one
of Lawyer Paxton’s fine linen shirts upon the
“She been axen’ fo’ you all t’rough de
Somehow Tante Cat’rinette could not get
that refrain out of her head. She would not
willingly believe that Eusèbe had spoken the
truth, but — “She been axen fo’ you all
t’rough de night — all t’rough de night.” The
words kept ringing in her ears, as she came
and went about her daily tasks. But by
degrees she dismissed Eusèbe and his message
from her mind. It was Miss Kitty’s voice
that she could hear in fancy following her,
calling out through the night, “W’ere Tante
Cat’rinette? W’y Tante Cat’rinette don’
come? W’y she don’ come — w’y she don’
All day the woman muttered and mumbled
to herself in her Creole patois; invoking council
of “Vieumaite,” as she always did in her
troubles. Tante Cat’rinette’s religion was
peculiarly her own; she turned to heaven with
her grievances, it is true, but she felt that
there was no one in Paradise with whom she
was quite so well acquainted as with
Late in the afternoon she went and stood on
her doorstep, and looked uneasily and anxiously
out upon the almost deserted street.
When a little girl came walking by, — a sweet
child with a frank and innocent face, upon
whose word she knew she could rely, — Tante
Cat’rinette invited her to enter.
“Come yere see Tante Cat’rinette, Lolo. It’s
long time you en’t come see Tante Cat’rine;
you gittin’ proud.” She made the little one
sit down, and offered her a couple of cookies,
which the child accepted with pretty avidity.
“You putty good li’le gal, you, Lolo. You
keep on go confession all de time?”
“Oh, yes. I’m goin’ make my firs’
communion firs’ of May, Tante Cat’rinette.” A
dog-eared catechism was sticking out of Lolo’s
“Des right; be good li’le gal. Mine yo’
maman ev’t’ing she say; an’ neva tell no
story. It’s nuttin’ bad in dis worl’ like tellin’
lies. You know Eusèbe?”
“Yes; dat li’le ole Red River free m’latto.
Uh, uh! dat one man w’at kin tell lies, yas!
He come tell me Miss Kitty down sick yon’a.
You ev’ yeard such big story like dat, Lolo?”
The child looked a little bewildered, but she
answered promptly, ” ’Tain’t no story, Tante
Cat’rinette. I yeard papa sayin’, dinner time,
Mr. Raymond sen’ fo’ Dr. Chalon. An’ Dr.
Chalon says he ain’t got time to go yonda.
An’ papa says it’s because Dr. Chalon on’y
want to go w’ere it’s rich people; an’ he’s
’fraid Mista Raymond ain’ goin’ pay ’im.”
Tante Cat’rinette admired the little girl’s
pretty gingham dress, and asked her who had
ironed it. She stroked her brown curls, and
talked of all manner of things quite foreign
to the subject of Eusèbe and his wicked
propensity for telling lies.
She was not restless as she had been during
the early part of the day, and she no longer
mumbled and muttered as she had been doing
over her work.
At night she lighted her coal-oil lamp, and
placed it near a window where its light could
be seen from the street through the half-closed
shutters. Then she sat herself down, erect and
motionless, in a chair.
When it was near upon midnight, Tante
Cat’rinette arose, and looked cautiously, very
cautiously, out of the door. Her house lay in
the line of deep shadow that extended along
the street. The other side was bathed in the
pale light of the declining moon. The night
was agreeably mild, profoundly still, but
pregnant with the subtle quivering life of early
spring. The earth seemed asleep and breathing,
— a scent-laden breath that blew in soft
puffs against Tante Cat’rinette’s face as she
emerged from the house. She closed and
locked her door noiselessly; then she crept
slowly away, treading softly, stealthily as a
cat, in the deep shadow.
There were but few people abroad at that
hour. Once she ran upon a gay party of ladies
and gentlemen who had been spending
the evening over cards and anisette. They
did not notice Tante Cat’rinette almost effacing
herself against the black wall of the
cathedral. She breathed freely and ventured
from her retreat only when they had disappeared
from view. Once a man saw her quite
plainly, as she darted across a narrow strip of
moonlight. But Tante Cat’rinette need not
have gasped with fright as she did. He was
too drunk to know if she were a thing of flesh,
or only one of the fantastic, maddening shadows
that the moon was casting across his path
to bewilder him. When she reached the outskirts
of the town, and had to cross the broad
piece of open country which stretched out toward
the pine wood, an almost paralyzing terror
came over her. But she crouched low,
and hurried through the marsh and weeds,
avoiding the open road. She could have been
mistaken for one of the beasts browsing there
where she passed.
But once in the Grand Ecore road that lay
through the pine wood, she felt secure and
free to move as she pleased. Tante Cat’rinette
straightened herself, stiffened herself in fact,
and unconsciously assuming the attitude of the
professional sprinter, she sped rapidly beneath
the Gothic interlacing branches of the pines.
She talked constantly to herself as she went,
and to the animate and inanimate objects
around her. But her speech, far from intelligent,
was hardly intelligible.
She addressed herself to the moon, which
she apostrophized as an impertinent busybody
spying upon her actions. She pictured all
manner of troublesome animals, snakes, rabbits,
frogs, pursuing her, but she defied them
to catch Cat’rinette, who was hurrying toward
Miss Kitty. “Pa capab trapé Cat’rinette, vouzot;
mo pé couri vite coté Miss Kitty.” She
called up to a mocking-bird warbling upon a
lofty limb of a pine tree, asking why it cried
out so, and threatening to secure it and put
it into a cage. “Ca to pé crié comme ça, ti
céléra? Arete, mo trapé zozos la, mo
mété li den ain bon lacage.” Indeed,
Tante Cat’rinette seemed on very familiar
terms with the night, with the forest, and with
all the flying, creeping, crawling things that
inhabit it. At the speed with which she traveled
she soon had covered the few miles of
wooded road, and before long had reached her
The sleeping-room of Miss Kitty opened
upon the long outside gallery, as did all the
rooms of the unpretentious frame house which
was her home. The place could hardly be
called a plantation; it was too small for that.
Nevertheless Raymond was trying to plant;
trying to teach school between times, in the
end room; and sometimes, when he found
himself in a tight place, trying to clerk for
Mr. Jacobs over in Campte, across Red River.
Tante Cat’rinette mounted the creaking
steps, crossed the gallery, and entered Miss
Kitty’s room as though she were returning to
it after a few moments’ absence. There was
a lamp burning dimly upon the high mantelpiece.
Raymond had evidently not been to
bed; he was in shirt sleeves, rocking the baby’s
cradle. It was the same mahogany cradle
which had held Miss Kitty thirty-five
years before, when Tante Cat’rinette had
rocked it. The cradle had been bought then
to match the bed, — the big, beautiful bed on
which Miss Kitty lay now in a restless half
slumber. There was a fine French clock on
the mantel, still telling the hours as it had told
them years ago. But there was no carpets or
rugs on the floors. There was no servant in
Raymond uttered an exclamation of
amazement when he saw Tante Cat’rinette enter.
“How you do, Miché Raymond?” she said,
quietly, “I yeard Miss Kitty been sick; Eusèbe
tell me dat di mo’nin’.”
She moved toward the bed as lightly as
though shod with velvet, and seated herself
there. Miss Kitty’s hand lay outside the
coverlid; a shapely hand, which her few days
of illness and rest had not yet softened. The
negress laid her own black hand upon it. At
the touch Miss Kitty instinctively turned her
“It’s Tante Cat’rinette!” she exclaimed,
with a note of satisfaction in her feeble voice.
“W’en did you come, Tante Cat’rinette? They
all said you wouldn’ come.”
“I’m goin’ come ev’y night, cher coeur, ev’y
night tell you be well. Tante Cat’rinette
can’t come daytime no mo’.”
“Raymond tole me about it. They doin’
you mighty mean in town, Tante Cat’rinette.”
“Nev’ mine, ti chou. I know how take care
dat w’at Cieumaite gi’ me. You go sleep now.
Cat’rinette goin’ set yere an’ mine you. She
don’ wan’ no céléra doctor. We drive ’em
out wid a stick, day come roun’ yere.
Miss Kitty was soon sleeping more restfully
than she had done since her illness began.
Raymond had finally succeeded in quieting
the baby, and he tiptoed into the adjoining
room, where the other children lay, to snatch
a few hours of much-needed rest for himself.
Cat’rinette sat faithfully beside her charge,
administering at intervals to the sick woman’s
But the thought of regaining her home
before daybreak, and of the urgent necessity for
doing so, did not leave Tante Cat’rinette’s
mind for an instant.
In the profound darkness, the deep stillness
of the night that comes before dawn, she was
walking again through the woods, on her way
back to town.
The mocking-birds were asleep, and so
were the frogs and the snakes; and the moon
was gone, and so was the breeze. She walked
now in utter silence but for the heavy guttural
breathing that accompanied her rapid footsteps.
She walked with a desperate determination
along the road, every foot of which
was familiar to her.
When she at last emerged from the woods,
the earth about her was faintly, very faintly,
beinning to reveal itself in the tremulous,
gray, uncertain light of approaching day. She
staggered and plunged onward with beating
pulses quickened by fear.
A sudden turn, and Tante Cat’rinette stood
facing the river. She stopped abruptly, as if
at command of some unseen power that forced
her. For an instant she pressed a black hand
against her tired, burning eyes, and stared
fixedly ahead of her.
Tante Cat’rinette had always believed that
Paradise was up there overhead where the sun
and stars and moon are, and that “Vieumaite”
inhabited that region of splendor. She never
for a moment doubted this. It would be difficult,
perhaps unsatisfying, to explain why
Tante Cat’rinette, on that particular morning,
when a vision of the rising day broke suddenly
upon her, should have believed that she
stood in face of a heavenly revelation. But
why not, after all? Since she talked so familiarly
herself to the unseen, why should it not
respond to her when the time came?
Across the narrow, quivering line of water,
the delicate budding branches of young trees
were limned black against the gold, orange,
— what word is there to tell the color of that
morning sky! And steeped in the splendor of
it hung one pale star; there was not another
in the whole heaven.
Tante Cat’rinette stood with her eyes fixed
intently upon that star, which held her like a
hypnotic spell. She stammered breathlessly:
”Mo pé couté, Vieumaite. Cat’rinette
pé couté.” (I am listening, Vieumaite. Cat’rinette
She stayed there motionless upon the brink
of the river till the star melted into the brightness
of the day and became part of it.
When Tante Cat’rinette entered Miss Kitty’s
room for the second time, the aspect of
things had changed somewhat. Miss Kitty
was with much difficulty holding the baby
while Raymond mixed a saucer of food for
the little one. Their oldest daughter, a child
of twelve, had come into the room with an
apronful of chips from the woodpile, and was
striving to start a fire on the hearth, to make
the morning coffee. The room seemed bare
and almost squalid in the daylight.
“Well, yere Tante Cat’rinette come back,”
she said, quietly announcing herself.
They could not well understand why she
was back; but it was good to have her there,
and they did not question.
She took the baby from its mother, and,
seating herself, began to feed it from the
saucer which Raymond placed beside her on a
“Yas,” she said, “Cat’rinette goin’ stay; dis
time she en’t nev’ goin’ ’way no mo’.”
Husband and wife looked at each other with
surprised, questioning eyes.
“Miché Raymond,” remarked the woman,
turning her head up to him with a certain
comical shrewdness in her glance, “if somebody
want len’ you t’ousan’ dolla’, w’at you
goin’ say? Even if it’s ole nigga ’oman?”
The man’s face flushed with sudden
emotion. “I would say that person was our bes’
frien’, Tante Cat’rinette. An’,” he added, with
a smile, “I would give her a mortgage on the
place, of co’se, to secu’ her f’om loss.”
“Des right,” agreed the woman practically.
“Den Cat’rinette goin’ len’ you t’ousan’
dolla’. Dat w’at Vieumaite give her, dat
b’long to her; don’ b’long to nobody else. An’
we go yon’a to town, Miché Raymond, you
an’ me. You care me befo’ Miché Paxtone.
I want ’im fo’ put down in writin’ befo’ de
cote dat w’at Cat’rinette got, it fo’ Miss Kitty
w’en I be dead.”
Miss Kitty was crying softly in the depths
of her pillow.
“I en’t got no head fo’ all dat, me,” laughed
Tante Cat’rinette, good humoredly, as she
held a spoonful of pap up to the baby’s eager
lips. “It’s Vieumaite tell me all dat clair an’
plain dis mo’nin’, w’en I comin ’long de Gran’
A Respectable Woman
was a little provoked to
learn that her husband expected his
friend, Gouvernail, up to spend a week
or two on the plantation.
They had entertained a good deal during
the winter; much of the time had also been
passed in New Orleans in various forms of
mild dissipation. She was looking forward to
a period of unbroken rest, now, and undisturbed
tête-a-tête with her husband, when he
informed her that Gouvernail was coming up
to stay a week or two.
This was a man she had heard much of but
never seen. He had been her husband’s college
friend; was now a journalist, and in no
sense a society man or “a man about town,”
which were, perhaps, some of the reasons she
had never met him. But she had unconsciously
formed an image of him in her mind.
She pictured him tall, slim, cynical; with eye-glasses,
and his hands in his pockets; and
she did not like him. Gouvernail was slim
enough, but he wasn’t very tall nor very cynical;
neither did he wear eye-glasses nor carry
his hands in his pockets. And she rather liked
him when he first presented himself.
But why she liked him she could not explain
satisfactorily to herself when she partly
attempted to do so. She could discover in
him none of those brilliant and promising
traits which Gaston, her husband, had often
assured her that he possessed. On the contrary,
he sat rather mute and receptive before
her chatty eagerness to make him feel at home
and in face of Gaston’s frank and wordy hospitality.
His manner was as courteous toward
her as the most exacting woman could
require; but he made no direct appeal to her
approval or even esteem.
Once settled at the plantation he seemed to
like to sit upon the wide portico in the shade
of one of the big Corinthian pillars, smoking
his cigar lazily and listening attentively to
Gaston’s experience as a sugar planter.
“This is what I call living,” he would utter
with deep satisfaction, as the air that swept
across the sugar field caressed him with its
warm and scented velvety touch. It pleased
him also to get on familiar terms with the big
dogs that came about him, rubbing themselves
sociably against his legs. He did not care to
fish, and displayed no eagerness to go out and
kill grosbecs when Gaston proposed doing
Gouvernail’s personality puzzled Mrs.
Baroda, but she liked him. Indeed, he was a
lovable, inoffensive fellow. After a few days,
when she could understand him no better than
at first, she gave over being puzzled and
remained piqued. In this mood she left her
husband and her guest, for the most part,
alone together. Then finding that Gouvernail
took no manner of exception to her action, she
imposed her society upon him, accompanying
him in his idle strolls to the mill and walks
along the batture. She persistently sought
to penetrate the reserve in which he had
unconsciously enveloped himself.
“When is he going — your friend?” she one
day asked her husband. “For my part, he
tires me frightfully.”
“Not for a week yet, dear. I can’t
understand; he gives you no trouble.”
“No. I should like him better if he did;
if he were more like others, and I had to plan
somewhat for his comfort and enjoyment.”
Gaston took his wife’s pretty face between
his hands and looked tenderly and laughingly
into her troubled eyes. They were making a
bit of toilet sociably together in Mrs. Baroda’s
“You are full of surprises, ma belle,” he
said to her. “Even I can never count upon
how you are going to act under given conditions.”
He kissed her and turned to fasten
his cravat before the mirror.
“Here you are,” he went on, “taking poor
Gouvernail seriously and making a commotion
over him, the last thing he would desire
“Commotion!” she hotly resented. “Nonsense!
How can you say such a thing? Commotion,
indeed! But, you know, you said he
“So he is. But the poor fellow is run down
by overwork now. That’s why I asked him
here to take a rest.”
“You used to say he was a man of ideas,”
she retorted, unconciliated. “I expected him
to be interesting, at least. I’m going to the
city in the morning to have my spring gowns
fitted. Let me know when Mr. Gouvernail
is gone; I shall be at my Aunt Octavie’s.”
That night she went and sat alone upon a
bench that stood beneath a live oak tree at
the edge of the gravel walk.
She had never known her thoughts or her
intentions to be so confused. She could
gather nothing from them but the feeling of
a distinct necessity to quit her home in the
Mrs. Baroda heard footsteps crunching the
gravel; but could discern in the darkness only
the approaching red point of a lighted cigar.
She knew it was Gouvernail, for her husband
did not smoke. She hoped to remain unnoticed,
but her white gown revealed her to
him. He threw away his cigar and seated
himself upon the bench beside her; without a
suspicion that she might object to his presence.
“Your husband told me to bring this to
you, Mrs. Baroda,” he said, handing her a
filmy, white scarf with which she sometimes
enveloped her head and shoulders. She accepted
the scarf from him with a murmur of
thanks, and let it lie in her lap.
He made some commonplace observation
upon the baneful effect of the night air at that
season. Then as his gaze reached out into
the darkness, he murmured, half to himself:
“ ‘Night of south winds — night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night —— ’ ”
She made no reply to this apostrophe to the
night, which indeed, was not addressed to her.
Gouvernail was in no sense a diffident man,
for he was not a self-conscious one. His periods
of reserve were not constitutional, but
the result of moods. Sitting there beside Mrs.
Baroda, his silence melted for the time.
He talked freely and intimately in a low,
hesitating drawl that was not unpleasant to
hear. He talked of the old college days when
he and Gaston had been a good deal to each
other; of the days of keen and blind ambitions
and large intentions. Now there was left with
him, at least, a philosophic acquiescence to
the existing order — only a desire to be permitted
to exist, with now and then a little
whiff of genuine life, such as he was breathing
Her mind only vaguely grasped what he
was saying. Her physical being was for the
moment predominant. She was not thinking
of his words, only drinking in the tones of his
voice. She wanted to reach out her hand in
the darkness and touch him with the sensitive
tips of her fingers upon the face or the lips.
She wanted to draw close to him and whisper
against his cheek — she did not care what —
as she might have done if she had not been a
The stronger the impulse grew to bring
herself near him, the further, in fact, did she
draw away from him. As soon as she could
do so without an appearance of too great rudeness,
she rose and left him there alone.
Before she reached the house, Gouvernail
had lighted a fresh cigar and ended his apostrophe
to the night.
Mrs. Baroda was greatly tempted that night
to tell her husband — who was also her friend
— of this folly that had seized her. But she
did not yield to the temptation. Beside being
a respectable woman she was a very sensible
one; and she knew there are some battles in
life which a human being must fight alone.
When Gaston arose in the morning, his wife
had already departed. She had taken an early
morning train to the city. She did not return
till Gouvernail was gone from under her roof.
There was some talk of having him back
during the summer that followed. That is,
Gaston greatly desired it; but this desire yielded
to his wife’s strenuous opposition.
However, before the year ended, she
proposed, wholly from herself, to have Gouvernail
visit them again. Her husband was surprised
and delighted with the suggestion coming
“I am glad, chere amie, to know that you
have finally overcome your dislike for him;
truly he did not deserve it.”
“Oh,” she told him, laughingly, after pressing
a long, tender kiss upon his lips, “I have
overcome everything! you will see. This time
I shall be very nice to him.”
said that when the
figs were ripe Babette might go to visit
her cousins down on the Bayou-Lafourche
where the sugar cane grows. Not that
the ripening of figs had the least thing to do
with it, but that is the way Maman-Nainaine
It seemed to Babette a very long time to
wait; for the leaves upon the trees were tender
yet, and the figs were like little hard,
But warm rains came along and plenty of
strong sunshine, and though Maman-Naiaine
was as patient as the statue of la Madone,
and Babette as restless as a humming-bird,
the first thing they both knew it was hot
summer-time. Every day Babette danced out to
where the fig-trees were in a long line against
the fence. She walked slowly beneath them,
carefully peering between the gnarled, spreading
branches. But each time she came disconsolate
away again. What she saw there finally
was something that made her sing and dance
the whole long day.
When Maman-Nainaine sat down in her
stately way to breakfast, the following morning,
her muslin cap standing like an aureole
about her white, placid face, Babette approached.
She bore a dainty porcelain platter,
which she set down before her godmother.
It contained a dozen purple figs, fringed
around with their rich, green leaves.
“Ah,” said Maman-Nainaine, arching her
eyebrows, “how early the figs have ripened
“Oh,” said Babette, “I think they have
ripened very late.”
“Babette,” continued Maman-Nainaine, as
she peeled the very plumpest figs with her
pointed silver fruit-knife, “you will carry my
love to them all down on Bayou-Lafourche.
And tell your Tante Frosine I shall look for
her at Toussaint — when the chrysanthemums
are in bloom.”
often wondered why there was
not a special dispensation of providence
to do away with the necessity for work.
There seemed to him so much created for
man’s enjoyment in this world, and so little
time and opportunity to profit by it. To sit
and do nothing but breathe was a
pleasure to Ozème; but to sit in the company
of a few choice companions, including a
sprinkling of ladies, was even a greater delight;
and the joy which a day’s hunting or
fishing or picnicking afforded him is hardly to
be described. Yet he was by no means indolent.
He worked faithfully on the plantation
the whole year long, in a sort of methodical
way; but when the time came around for his
annual week’s holiday, there was no holding
him back. It was often decidedly inconvenient
for the planter that Ozème usually chose
to take his holiday during some very busy
season of the year.
He started out one morning in the
beginning of October. He had borrowed Mr.
Laballière’s buckboard and Padue’s old gray
mare, and a harness from the negro Severin.
He wore a light blue suit which had been sent
all the way from St. Louis, and which had
cost him ten dollars; he had paid almost as
much again for his boots; and his hat was a
broad-rimmed gray felt which he had no cause
to be ashamed of. When Ozème went
“broading,” he dressed — well, regardless of
cost. His eyes were blue and mild; his hair
was light, and he wore it rather long; he was
clean shaven, and really did not look his
Ozème had laid his plans weeks beforehand.
He was going visiting along Cane River; the
mere contemplation filled him with pleasure.
He counted upon reaching Fédeaus’ about
noon, and he would stop and dine there. Perhaps
they would ask him to stay all night. He
really did not hold to staying all night, and
was not decided to accept if they did ask him.
There were only the two old people, and he
rather fancied the notion of pushing on to
Beltrans’, where he would stay a night, or
even two, if urged. He was quite sure that
there would be something agreeable going on
at Beltrans’, with all those young people —
perhaps a fish-fry, or possibly a ball!
Of course he would have to give a day to
Tante Sophie and another to Cousine Victoire;
but none to the St. Annes unless entreated
— after St. Anne reproaching him last
year with being a faineant for broading at
such a season! At Cloutierville, where he
would linger as long as possible, he meant to
turn and retrace his course, zigzagging back
and forth across Cane River so as to take in
the Duplans, the Velcours, and others that
he could not at the moment recall. A week
seemed to Ozème a very, very little while in
which to crowd so much pleasure.
There were steam-gins at work; he could
hear them whistling far and near. On both
sides of the river the fields were white with
cotton, and everybody in the world seemed
busy but Ozème. This reflection did not
distress or disturb him in the least; he pursued
his way at peace with himself and his
At Lamérie’s cross-roads store, where he
stopped to buy a cigar, he learned that there
was no use heading for Fédeaus’, as the two
old people had gone to town for a lengthy
visit, and the house was locked up. It was at
Fédeaus’ that Ozème had intended to dine.
He sat in the buckboard, given up to a
moment or two of reflection. The result was
that he turned away from the river, and entered
the road that led between two fields back
to the woods and into the heart of the country.
He had determined upon taking a short cut
to the Beltrans’ plantation, and on the way he
meant to keep an eye open for old Aunt Tildy’s
cabin, which he knew lay in some remote
part of this cut-off. He remembered that
Aunt Tildy could cook an excellent meal if
she had the material at hand. He would induce
her to fry him a chicken, drip a cup of
coffee, and turn him out a pone of corn-bread,
which he thought would be sumptuous
enough fare for the occasion.
Aunt Tildy dwelt in the not unusual log
cabin, of one room, with its chimney of mud
and stone, and its shallow gallery formed by
the jutting of the roof. In close proximity to
the cabin was a small cotton-field, which from
a long distance looked like a field of snow.
The cotton was bursting and overflowing
foam-like from bolls on the drying stalk. On
the lower branches it was hanging ragged and
tattered, and much of it had already fallen to
the ground. There were a few chinaberry-trees
in the yard before the hut, and under one of
them an ancient and rusty-looking mule was
eating corn from a wood trough. Some common
little Creole chickens were scratching
about the mule’s feet and snatching at the
grains of corn that occasionally fell from the
Aunt Tildy was hobbling across the yard
when Ozème drew up before the gate. One
hand was confined in a sling; in the other she
carried a tin pan, which she let fall noisily
to the ground when she recognized him. She
was broad, black, and misshapen, with her
body lent forward almost at an acute angle.
She wore a blue cottonade of large plaids, and
a bandana awkwardly twisted around her
“Good God A’mighty, man! Whar you
come from?” was her startled exclamation at
“F’om home, Aunt Tildy; w’ere else do you
expec’?” replied Ozème, dismounting
He had not seen the old woman for several
years — since she was cooking in town for the
family with which he boarded at the time.
She had washed and ironed for him, atrociously,
it is true, but her intentions were
beyond reproach if her washing was not. She
had also been clumsily attentive to him during
a spell of illness. He had paid her with
an occasional bandana, a calico dress, or a
checked apron, and they had always considered
the account between themselves square,
with no sentimental feeling of gratitude
remaining on either side.
“I like to know,” remarked Ozème, as he
took the gray mare from the shafts, and led
her up to the trough where the mule was —
“I like to know w’at you mean by makin’ a
crop like that an’ then lettin’ it go to was’e?
Who you reckon’s goin’ to pick that cotton?
You think maybe the angels goin’ to come
down an’ pick it to’ you, an’ gin it an’ press
it, an’ then give you ten cents a poun’ fo’ it,
“Ef de Lord don’ pick it, I don’ know who
gwine pick it, Mista Ozème. I tell you, me
an’ Sandy we wuk dat crap day in an’ day
out; it’s him done de mos’ of it.”
“Sandy? That little — ”
“He ain’ dat li’le Sandy no ma’ w’at you
rec’lec’s; he ’mos’ a man, an’ he wuk like a
man now. He wuk mo’ ’an fittin’ to’ his
strenk, an’ now he layin’ in dab sick — God
A’mighty knows how sick. An’ me wid a
risin’ twell I bleeged to walk de flo’ o’ nights.
an’ don’ know ef I ain’ gwine to lose de han’
“W’y, in the name o’ conscience, you don’
hire somebody to pick?”
“Whar I got money to hire? An’ you
knows well as me ev’y chick an’ chile is pickin’
roun’ on de plantations an’ gittin’ good
The whole outlook appeared to Ozème very
depressing, and even menacing, to his personal
comfort and peace of mind. He foresaw
no prospect of dinner unless he should
cook it himself. And there was that Sandy
— he remembered well the little scamp of
eight, always at his grandmother’s heels when
she was cooking or washing. Of course he
would have to go in and look at the boy, and
no doubt dive into his traveling-bag for quinine,
without which he never traveled.
Sandy was indeed very ill, consumed with
fever. He lay on a cot covered up with a
faded patchwork quilt. His eyes were half
closed, and he was muttering and rambling on
about hoeing and bedding and cleaning and
thinning out the cotton; he was hauling it to
the gin, wrangling about weight and bagging
and ties and the price offered per pound.
That bale or two of cotton had not only sent
Sandy to bed, but had pursued him there,
holding him through his fevered dreams, and
threatening to end him. Ozème would never
have known the black boy, he was so tall, so
thin, and seemingly so wasted, lying there in
“See yere, Aunt Tildy,” said Ozème, after
he had, as was usual with him when in doubt,
abandoned himself to a little reflection; “between
us — you an’ me — we got to manage to
kill an’ cook one o’ those chickens I see
scratchin’ out yonda, fo’ I’m jus’ about
starved. I reckon you ain’t got any quinine
in the house? No; I didn’t suppose an instant
you had. Well, I’m goin’ to give Sandy a
good dose o’ quinine to-night, an’ I’m goin’
stay an’ see how that’ll work on ’im. But
sun-up, min’ you, I mus’ get out o’ yere.”
Ozème had spent more comfortable nights
than the one passed in Aunt Tildy’s bed,
which she considerately abandoned to him.
In the morning Sandy’s fever was somewhat
abated, but had not taken a decided enough
turn to justify Ozème in quitting him before
noon, unless he was willing “to feel like a
dog,” as he told himself. He appeared before
Aunt Tildy stripped to the undershirt,
and wearing his second-best pair of trousers.
“That’s a nice pickle o’ fish you got me in,
ol’ woman. I guarantee, nex’ time I go
abroad, ’tain’t me that’ll take any cut-off.
W’ere’s that cotton-basket an’ cotton-sack o’
“I knowed it!” chanted Aunt Tildy — “I
knowed de Lord war gwine sen’ somebody to
holp me out. He war n’ gwine let de crap
was’e atter he give Sandy an’ me de strenk
to make hit. De Lord gwine shove you ’long
de row, Mista Ozème. De Lord gwine give
you plenty mo’ fingers an’ han’s to pick dat
cotton nimble an’ clean.”
“Neva you min’ w’at the Lord’s goin’ to
do; go get me that cotton-sack. An’ you put
that poultice like I tol’ you on yo’ han’, an’
set down there an’ watch Sandy. It looks like
you are ’bout as helpless as a’ ol’ cow tangled
up in a potato-vine.”
Ozème had not picked cotton for many
years, and he took to it a little awkwardly at
first; but by the time he had reached the end
of the first row the old dexterity of youth
had come back to his hands, which flew rapidly
back and forth with the motion of a weaver’s
shuttle; and his ten fingers became really
nimble in clutching the cotton from its dry
shell. By noon he had gathered about fifty
pounds. Sandy was not then quite so well as
he had promised to be, and Ozème concluded
to stay that day and one more night. If the
boy were no better in the morning, he would
go off in search of a doctor for him, and he
himself would continue on down to Tante
Sophie’s; the Beltrans’ was out of the
Sandy hardly needed a doctor in the
morning. Ozème’s doctoring was beginning to tell
favorably; but he would have considered it
criminal indifference and negligence to go
away and leave the boy to Aunt Tildy’s awkward
ministrations just at the critical moment
when there was a turn for the better;
so he stayed that day out, and picked his
hundred and fifty pounds.
On the third day it looked like rain, and a
heavy rain just then would mean a heavy loss
to Aunt Tildy and Sandy, and Ozème again
went to the field, this time urging Aunt Tildy
with him to do what she might with her one
“Aunt Tildy,” called out Ozème to the bent
old woman moving ahead of him between the
white rows of cotton, “if the Lord gets me
safe out o’ this ditch, ’t ain’t to-morro’ I’ll
fall in anotha with my eyes open, I bet you.”
“Keep along, Mista Ozème; don’ grumble,
don’ stumble; de Lord’s a-watchin’ you. Look
at yo’ Aunt Tildy; she doin’ mo’ wid her one
han’ ’an you doin’ wid yo’ two, man. Keep
right along, honey. Watch dat cotton how
it fallin’ in yo’ Aunt Tildy’s bag.”
“I am watchin’ you, ol’ woman; you don’
fool me. You got to work that han’ o’ yo’s
spryer than you doin’, or I’ll take the rawhide.
You done fo’got w’at the rawhide tas’e
like, I reckon” — a reminder which amused
Aunt Tildy so powerfully that her big negro-
laugh resounded over the whole cotton-patch,
and even caused Sandy, who heard it, to turn
in his bed.
The weather was still threatening on the
succeeding day, and a sort of dogged determination
or characteristic desire to see his
undertakings carried to a satisfactory completion
urged Ozème to continue his efforts
to drag Aunt Tildy out of the mire into which
circumstances seemed to have thrust her.
One night the rain did come, and began to
beat softly on the roof of the old cabin. Sandy
opened his eyes, which were no longer brilliant
with the fever flame. “Granny,” he whispered,
“de rain! Des listen, granny; de rain
a-comin’, an’ I ain’ pick dat cotton yit. W’at
time it is? Gi’ me my pants — I got to go — ”
“You lay whar you is, chile alive. Dat
cotton put aside clean and dry. Me an’ de Lord
an’ Mista Ozème done pick dat cotton.”
Ozème drove away in the morning looking
quite as spick and span as the day he left
home in his blue suit and his light felt drawn
a little over his eyes.
“You want to take care o’ that boy,” he
instructed Aunt Tildy at parting, “an’ get ’im
on his feet. An’, let me tell you, the nex’
time I start out to broad, if you see me passin’
in this yere cut-off, put on yo’ specs an’ look
at me good, because it won’t be me; it’ll be
my ghos’, ol’ woman.”
Indeed, Ozème, for some reason or other,
felt quite shamefaced as he drove back to the
plantation. When he emerged from the lane
which he had entered the week before, and
turned into the river road, Lamérie, standing
in the store door, shouted out:
“He, Ozème! you had good times yonda? I
bet you danced holes in the sole of them new
“Don’t talk, Lamérie!” was Ozème’s rather
ambiguous reply, as he flourished the remainder
of a whip over the old gray mare’s
sway-back, urging her to a gentle trot.
When he reached home, Bode, one of
Padue’s boys, who was assisting him to unhitch,
“How come you didn’ go yonda down de
coas’ like you said, Mista Ozème? Nobody
didn’ see you in Cloutierville, an’ Mailitt
say you neva cross’ de twenty-fo’-mile ferry,
an’ nobody didn’ see you no place.”
Ozème returned, after his customary
moment of reflection:
“You see, it’s ’mos’ always the same thing
on Cane riva, my boy; a man gets tired o
that a la fin. This time I went back in the
woods, ’way yonda in the Fédeau cut-off
kin’ o’ campin’ an’ roughin’ like, you might
say. I tell you, it was sport, Bode.”
STROMBERG, ALLEN & CO.
A travelling salesman.
J’ vous réponds!
I tell you!
“Tiens! t’es pareille comme ain mariée,
Zaïda.” “Wow! You look like you’re getting married, Zaïda.”
“Tiens! c’est vous?”
“Oh! Is that you?”
“C’est toi qui s’y connais, ma
fille! ’cré tonnerre!”
“It’s you who know it, girl! By thunder! ”
- “Comment ça va?”
“How are you?”
- Par exemple!
“Tiens! tu vas les garder comme tu as jadis
fait. Je ne veux plus de ce train là, moi!”
Here! you'll keep them as you once
fact. I do not want this train there, me!
Volante. A loosely fitting dress worn in France in the 1700s supposedly to conceal pregnancy. By the time of the story, it would have been very old-fashioned.
Grand seigneur. Lord.
Des esprits forts. Free thinkers.
“Gloria in excelsis Deo!”
“Glory to God in the highest!” — Latin.
Croque-mitaine or Loup-garou.
Hobgoblin or werewolf. The Loup-garou is also known as the Rougarou, Roux-Ga-Roux, Rugaroo, and Rugaru.
Tisane of fleur de Laurier.
Tea of laurel flower.
“Partant pour la Syrie.”
“Leaving for Syria.” A song from the Napoleonic Wars, music by Hortense de Beauharnais and lyrics by Alexandre de Laborde. Written in or about 1807.
Farceur. Jester, joker.
Des ’tites cousines.
The little cousins.
vendeuse de café.
Mulatress (a woman who was half white and half black), the shopkeeper of the
La nuit blance.
Through the sleepless night. Literally, through the white night.
A talisman originating in West Africa used in voodoo. It's a small cloth bag containing a number of ritual objects used for protection or good luck.
La maison grise.
The gray house.
“Vous pas bézouin tisane, Mamzelle Aglaé?
Vous pas veux mo cri gagni docteur?”
“Don’t you need tea, Mam’zelle Aglaé? Don’t you want me to call for the gagni(?) doctor?”
The twenty-four-mile ferry was a ferry across the Cane River near Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish. It seems to be a reference to its distance from the town of Natchitoches.
‘A ta fenêtre
Daignes paraître — tra la la la!’ ”
‘In your window
deign to appear — tra la la la!’ ”
Passing an evening, i.e., spending an evening.
l’Abeille. The Bee, a French-language
newspaper published in New Orleans 1827-1925. Archives are
maintained at the Jefferson Parish Public Library. Note the paper had distribution throughout the state.
“Eh bien, Mamzelle Fleurette, a demain, a
“Ah, well, Mamzelle Fleurette, see you tomorrow, tomorrow!”
“Ce n’est pas Lacodie, Mamzelle Fleurette.
C’est moi, Augustine.”
“It’s not Lacodie, Mam’zelle Fleurette.
It’s me, Augustine.”
“Bien bon de votre part, Mamzelle
Fleurette — mais c’est fini. J’suis flambé, flambé,
“Although good of you, Mam’zelle Fleurette — but it’s over. I’m flamed, flamed, flamed!”
“Inutile; il n’en veut pas,”
“Unnecessary; he doesn’t want one.”
Charcuterie. Deli meats.
Charivari. “Rough music,” also spelled shivaree or
— a French folk custom where the locals banged on pots and pans
in celebration of a wedding.
A chênière (pronounced shinny) is a stand of live oak trees in a marshy area. The Chênière Caminada was a settlement on the island to the west of Grand Isle. It was permanently destroyed by the Chênière Caminada Hurricane on October 2, 1893.
“Credo in unum Deum patrem omnipotentem.”
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty” (Latin)
The beginning of the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325).
Poult-de-soie. Ribbed silk fabric used for women’s clothing.
Ces petits soins. Pampering.
Text prepared by:
- Hunter Calhoon
- Whitney Durret
- Johnathan Lynch
- Bruce R. Magee
- Williams Morris
- Trevor Williams
Chopin, Kate. A Night In Acadie. Chicago: Way & Williams, 1897. Internet Archive. 05 May 2012. Web. 15 May 2014.
<https:// archive.org/ details/ nightin acadie00 chop>