Translation © Steven Rowan.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
Where every thing is put back in place
What is most important to the reader at this moment is to be brought up to date on the way of each of the characters of our complex and essentially true history. We have left them all following the current of their nature and the winds of facts … which we often baptize with the name of hazard. All the movements, all their changes, all their coming and going here and there, right and left, could not resemble, at first, the play of marionettes and Chinese shadows, but, with the observation of reflection, one arrives at understanding all and explaining all.
Let us pass in a short review our characters.
First of all, Louis and Anna have left New Orleans at the end of the second volume after the evasion of the aforementioned Captain of the Finance Company. Since then, there is no more question of them.
In the second place, we have Eugène and Lavinia, who our readers have perhaps not forgotten: Eugène, injured by poison tried on him by Alexandre … and Alexandre was killed by the hand of Lavinia at the very moment of this poisoning. So far as the beautiful woman goes, time has passed over her and for her as it has done for all with a difficult equality to find elsewhere.
We have seen Finot and Mélanie, otherwise known as Bonaventure and his spouse, separated and reunited, reunited and separated, one constantly searching for the other, the other awaiting the first … with reasonable patience. One has not forgotten their last encounter in Constantinople, an encounter announced to Rousto, or Firmament, in a letter by the little man, ending thusly:
“I will tell you the rest at New Orleans.”
So far as Rousto-Firmament is concerned, he is in the latter city, seeking pleasure for money, because he has become rich, but only getting ennui because pleasure is not happiness.
We have touched on the question of a new Revelation that was recently received for a combination of magnetism and electricity, and perhaps something more, because one wants to explain it instead of understanding it later, when there is time. Of this Revelation, known under the name of Spiritual Manifestations, we have already spoken rather vaguely, because the knowledge one has of it has been rather vague. We have not tired of conclusions, because we do not judge that the thing is sufficiently known. We have cited and mentioned everything while still ignorant of many things that good will and study have given us since then. It was a true Mystery of New Orleans, and it is necessary to be mentioned in this work. Only the lapse of time that we have permitted to pass between our third and fourth volume has made for us a body that still has only a vague and confused form. We have learned what cause must replace all the causes so arbitrarily thought to touch on the phenomenon of the Spiritual Work, and we are happy to have learned this, because we will not leave a question that we have settled either incomplete or obscure.
In expectation that the circumstances of this story leads to what we will speak there, we renew our threads somewhat interrupted and return to the principal scene, that variety of Manon we have called Mélanie, as well as her eccentric spouse.
So, if one repeats, according to Finot’s letter, his nice and almost-faithful Mélanie had been seized in the company of other women by some more or less Moroccan pirate having on board French sailors … it is true that Frenchmen are everywhere! — An accident … a good big accident! wished it that Finot, led to Constantinople by another accident, listened, properly to the point, to a particular conversation that led to the trail of his dear spouse! That he followed the sailor paid to deliver her, that he took his place on board the sloop and a sentimental reconnaissance took place in the cabin of the small ship! We would almost wish that the thing were less likely before one could believe it more possible. For the rest, a fact is a fact, and the historians themselves are not always forced to prove the facts that they advance.
But … by what succession of events did it happen that Mélanie was taken by the pirates? How did she navigate alone on board a brig or a three-master? This is what the reader will immediately understand if he wants to follow us Sunday, today, at nine in the evening, to jardin de Tivoli, avenue du Vieux-Basin.
Under a sort of round tunnel covered with fragrant flowers and leaves a little grayed by dust, two men were seated. A table separated them, and, on this table were two bottles and two glasses. One of the bottles was empty, and the other was already half-empty. Both of the bottles carried a gilded seal and a waffled label, indicating that the contents were supposed to be of superior quality. — Perhaps it really was!
— “I cannot stay here any longer!” one of the two men cried out, beating on the table the flat of his hand that caused the glasses and bottles to jump… “Finot, my friend, it is necessary that…”
— “Silence, unhappy man!” the other responded, who was a small man — “Silence! What is with this name Finot?…”
“Ah, that’s true!… I always forget! Money has not changed me… Oh well, my dear Bonaventure, fulfill your promise of this morning … tell me your story with Mélanie … if you know how it interests me!”
— “Then listen, and do not interrupt me!”
— “Then,” Rousto — or rather Firmament responded— “let’s finish this bottle there, and let me order another…”
And the bottle was finished in three double gulps; after which, beating on the table in keeping with his noble attitude, Firmament cried out without restraint:
— “Another, garçon … and something better!”
One waited. The new wine arrived … and Finot commented in this way:
— “You know what was my despair when I left you to go after Mélanie when they took her … I embarked like a madman aboard a ship going it did not matter where. All that I knew at the moment was that it had three masts and that it was painted like a warship, to cause people to believe it had canons. — I have no need to amuse myself by telling you what happens to me on long crossings, right?”
“But yes, yes,” Firmament responded… “Go ahead; it amuses me!”
— “Bah! I will not finish it. What good does it do to know that I caught flying fish; that I harpooned porpoises, that I had seasickness, and other stuff of the same caliber?”
— “Scoundrel, go away!” Firmament said, “that is not what I want to know, but an inflammable little man like you must take another course; I was not talking about at sea, but on land.”
— “I hear … I hear!” the little seducer riposted; “I will tell you double and a little more!”
— “Ah, my poor Pinot… No, my poor Bonaventure,” the big Hercules loosened his tongue, between a double sigh, “which would say that after all the crossings, all the going and coming, we would have a day here, in the jardin de Tivoli, in front of several wine bottles, listening to the other’s adventures?… Who would have said…”
Firmament would perhaps have continued at length his casual conversation with a full voice except for a gesture from his friend that imposed silence on him.
How there are Men who run after their Women
— “Listen,” Finot said, “to my next-to-last letter, I was in Guadeloupe, waiting for the repairs of the English steamer of the Antilles. When everything was ready, we departed and stopped at all the islands. I will pass over them in silence, with the exception of St. Thomas, where I spent two very amusing weeks. Figure for yourself how I used these two weeks: a Danish girl, a Greek girl, a German girl, a French girl, an American girl, an Irish girl, two or three Africans, and a Polish girl … with little onions!… It was ball after ball, night after night, party on land, party at sea, party on foot, on horseback, night, day … finally perpetual motion, what!
— “And all of that was to chase after your woman, Mélanie, huh?”
— “Certainly; just as all roads lead to Rome, I only had to choose … by hazard, and it would succeed, as you see. But one thing that you would have trouble believing was that I went to prison for having taken a brunette for a blonde! Here is the history: I was walking down one of the rising roads as there are in the entire town, it was almost night; I had been looking for adventures when I saw at a low window a pretty brown-haired girl with Spanish coloration who killed me with one glance with two eyes, black as jet and ardent like a grenade — You think it was a matter of money — I don’t care, she was really pretty! I went to enter her place when I heard singing … in French! I turned around. I saw the prettiest blonde head it was possible to see. Such a woman in such a house seemed silly to me … and I hesitated, But she gave me one of those smiles which it is not permitted to ignore. My faith, I went in, and such was my theoretical assurance in the presence of all that, I still had some seconds of serious doubt. Briefly, this was the first part of the matter. But at the moment I left the house, the brown-haired girl pointed me out to some police, speaking to them in a language of which I could not understand a word. Suddenly these men arrested me and took me to prison, despite my representations and oaths, of which they did not understand a word. I remained locked up until the next morning like a criminal, wondering what this woman could hold against me, and expecting some definitive explanation that could not fail to arrive.
— “The next morning, in effect, an interpreter who handled a little French came, accompanied by an employee of the jail, and announced that I had been the victim of an error, but that the woman who had me taken paid two piastres fine, of which one was mine by right. They then took me upstairs without giving me the said piastre.
“So that is why I spent a night in prison for having preferred a blonde to a brunette. To be short, after these two weeks of follies, loves, and the regrets touching my poor wife, we lifted anchor and traveled south-west. After many voyages, stations and much time, we were, as you knew, at Constantinople. I made such haste to get to the sloop where I found myself with Mélanie that I deprived you of a narrative of some adventures that I had in the capital of Turkey.”
— “That is really too bad,” Rousto said.
— “Oh! My God no, go there! The Turks are good children, despite what one says, but their women are too covered up … and that leads to error. There is a general picture of the country. It is as if you have lived there for ten years!”
— “Chut!” said Rousto, placing his large hand on the frail arm of his friend… Look down that alley … down below … do you know him?”
Finot extended his head, pierced the semi-darkness … and remained with his mouth closed.
— “Huh?” the big man said…
— “It is certainly he, pardieu!”
— “And the other?”
— “The other, I don’t know.”
— “Nor do I…”
A moment of silence took place.
— “It is certainly fini … of the Company?” Rousto asked.
— “I think so,” his companion responded, but he would not be trouble here… Solid plays change actors, but the play remains … and women make children?”
— “What do you mean to say, ‘women make children?’”
— “It is very simple, I want to say that they find other men when the first ones are used up!”
— “I understand! But are we sure it is he? It seems to me he was larger…”
— “He could have lost some weight.”
— “That’s possible. But continue to the end of Mélanie’s story.”
— “It will be quick. She was seized in the environs of San Francisco with some others, she endured the destiny common in those sorts of adventures, and she was finally brought to Turkey to be sold there. You have learned that it was a merchant who made the acquisition, named Ben Philippi … but he did not have time to know her, thanks to my good star and my audacious attack.”
— “And the pirates, they did not make her acquaintance?…”
— “I don’t believe so,” Finot responded while emptying a glass of wine.
— “All the better!” added Rousto, imitating his friend.
At this moment, two men passed close to the little kiosk where they were holding their conversation…
— “Oh well,” one of them said, “come with me; you will read, see, and listen?”
— “I want to very much,” the other responded, “because there is nothing as absurd as refusing to see before judging.”
The rest of their conversation was lost through distance.
— “Did you hear that?” Rousto said.
— “No, and you?”
— “Me, I heard everything. The Captain said to the other, ‘Come with me; you will read, see, and listen!” What do you say about that?”
— “But … nothing important! And you?”
— “How simple you are, my big friend!… Don’t you see that the Finance Company is still around, and that the sole news is that we are no longer part of it?”
— “My faith, all the better! I had enough…”
— “And still you have money!”
— “Oh well, if I have any, I’ll divide it in half,” Rousto responded quite simply.
Finot extended his hand without a response.
— “We are always interrupted!” Firmament said, in a half-mocking tone, to put an end to the pleasantries. I will finish my wife’s business soon, and we will see one another on something else.
— “The rest will not be either long or painful,” the little man sighed. We are together, my dear and me, one good with the other, between heaven and water… I tell you that the crossing was agreeable, and how the little cabin talked! In short, we arrived singing and making love, and we will go to see from whence the wind blows. — I expect to go greet The Captain to see from whence he returns…
The two friends separated further up, after having set a rendez-vous, Firmament going one direction, Bonaventure in the other.
A superior order had called Captain Louis, whom the reader has doubtless recognized, back to New Orleans. During the absence that he had after the departure that we have seen him do, many things have happened touching the branch of the Finance Company established at New Orleans. The superior order of which we speak had recalled Captain Louis for the nomination of his successor, since he had offered his resignation to the general in chief.
Anna had born a pretty infant on their return trip, and the happy trio properly occupied the same little house on the rue des Ramparts where we saw this story commence.
Eugène and Lavinia were still together, and their love had only grown. Lavinia was even more beautiful than ever. Happiness had softened the expression on her face. It had more attractiveness and less provocation in her gaze, in her walk, and finally in her entire being.
These were the situations when this first Revelation, vague at first, but from day to day more complete, attracted the attention of all the classes of society at New Orleans.
In the earlier volumes, we have said some words on this subject, but since then, the New Doctrine advances so fast, for those who admire there their heart and intelligence that one has read on this subject seem to us today as a confusion, a thing hardly blooming, and beset by errors.
In the following chapter, we will continue the historical treatment of everything that has been treated here, on Spiritual Manifestations, beginning with two small works full of errors and senselessness, which could provide much to the New Doctrine, if other pens have not been called to rectify all of it in time and place.
articles, largely on Spiritualism
- III: A little book one could call, “A Gumbo of Spiritualism and Magnetism” [pp. 8-12]
- IVa. Continuation and conclusion of the preceding digression [pp. 12-15]
- IVb. Why an honest person sometimes takes a dishonest route [pp. 15-30]
- A comic morsel on the creation of the world, in six days [pp. 31-35]
- Another announcement for the “Spiritual Review” [pp. 36-46]
- A Chapter of Cuttings, more useful than it seems [pp. 46-50]
- A useful note [p. 50]
- [pp. 50-52]
- Turning Tables of Mexico [pp. 52-53]
- Chapter on the Heart and the Soul [p. 53]
- To Youth [pp. 53-56]
- Joseph Smith, Founder of the Sect of the Mormons [pp. 56-61]
- A Public Humiliation (on Mormons) [p. 61]
- The Idols: A Satire addressed to fans of Jenny Lind [pp. 62-63]
- Again, again, and forever [pp. 63-71]
- Return to Mormons [pp. 71-73]
- A Last Word on Turning Tables, by Al. Karr [pp. 73-74]
- Conclusion [pp. 74-77]
And the characters of our novel, since it is the practice to know their end, where are they?
What has become of Finot, and what has become of Mélanie?
What has become of Firmament? And the Captain? And Lavinia? And the husband of the one, and the wife of the other?
What is their importance, after all?
Is it that when one life breaks it has said its last word?
If a lyre one hangs forever on a branch of willow, has it murmured its last sound?
Does man wish to finish something down here?
Does he know the omega of something? Alas! No: he begins everything and finishes nothing.
All that we can tell you, dear readers, is that Finot and Mélanie have departed with the Mormons.
It is because the other characters have embraced the Belief of the Spiritual Manifestations, and that, as a consequence, they have returned to the good, after having quit, little by little, the pathways they have taken, in place of the great route.
Let us therefore go with the new current that guides them, and for my part, I desire for you, as for them, a good
Text prepared by:
- Bruce R. Magee
Testut, Charles. The Mysteries of New Orleans. Vol. 4. Trans. Steven Rowan. Semaine Litteraire. Annex to the journal La Semaine. New Orleans: Press of A. Gaux and L. Dutuit, Publishers, 1852. Print. © Steven Rowan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.