George Streynsham Master.

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isiana will not look to you for your creden-
tials ; she will look to me ! "

He stumbled upon some slight impediment
under foot. There were times when it took
but little to make Agricola stumble.

Looking to see what it was, Joseph picked
up a silken purse. There was a name em-
broidered on it.


The day was nearly gone. The company
that had been chatting at the front door,
and which in warmer weather would have
tarried until bed-time, had wandered off;
however, by stepping toward the Hght the
young merchant could decipher the letters
on the purse. Citizen Fusilier drew out
a pair of spectacles, looked over his jun-
ior's shoulder, read aloud, " Aurora De G.
Nanca ," and uttered an imprecation.

" Do not speak to me ! " he thundered ;
"do not approach me! she did it mali-
ciously ! "

" Sir!" began Frowenfeld.

But the old man uttered another tremen-

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dous malediction and hurried into the street
and away.

" Let him pass," said the other Creole,

" What is the matter with him ? " asked

" He IS getting old." The Creole ex-
tended the purse carelessly to the apothecary.
** Has it anything inside ? "

" But a single pistareen."

" That is why she wanted the basilic ^ eh ? "

" I do not understand you, sir."

** Do you not know what she was going
to do with it ? "

" With the basil ? No, sir."

" May be she was going to make a little
tisane^ eh ? " said the Creole, forcing down
a smile.

But a portion of the smile would come
when Frowenfeld answered, with unneces-
sary resentment:

"She was going to make some proper
use of it, which need not concern me."

" Without doubt."

The Creole quietly walked a step or two
forward and back and looked idly into the
glass case. "Is this young man in love
with her ? " he asked himself. He turned

" Do you know those ladies, Mr. Frhow-
enfeld ? Do you visit them at home ? "

He drew out his porte-monnaie.

" No, sir."

" I will pay you fo* the rhepair-h of this
instrhument ; have you change fo' "

" I will see," said the apothecary.

As he spoke he laid the purse on a stool,
till he should light his shop and then went
to his till without again taking it.

The Creole sauntered across to the
counter and nipped the herb which still lay

" Mr. Frhowenfeld, you know what some
verhy excellent people do with this ? They
rhub it on the sill of the do* to make the
money come into the house."

Joseph stopped aghast with the drawer
half drawn.

" Not persons of intelligence and "

" All kinds. It is only some of the fool-
ishness which they take frhom the slaves.
Many of ow best people consult the voudou


" Prhiestesses, you might call them,"
explained the Creole, " like Momselle Mar-
celline, or 'Zabeth Philosophe."

"Witches!" whispered Frowenfeld.

" Oh no," said the other with a shrug ;

" that is too hahd a name ; say fo*tune-telle*s.
But Mr. Frhowenfeld, I wish you to lend
me yo* good offices. Just supposing the
possi^'/ity that that lady may be in need of
money, you know, and will send back or
come back fo' the purse, you know, know-
ing that she most likely lost it here-h, I
ask you the favo* that you will not let her
know I have filled it with gold. In fact, if
she mentions my name "

" To confess the truth, sir, I am not ac-
quainted with your name."

The Creole smiled a genuine surprise.

" I thought you knew it." He laughed
a little at himself. " We have newatheless
become verhy good firhiends — I believe?
Well, in fact then, Mr. Frhowenfeld, you
might say you do not know who put the
money in." He extended his open palm
with the purse hanging across it. Joseph was
about to object to this statement, but the Cre-
ole, putting on an expression of anxious de-
sire, said : " I mean, not by name. It is some-
what impawtant to me, Mr. Frhowenfeld,
that that lady should not know my prhesent
action. If you want to do those two ladies
a favoh, you may rhest assu'ed the way to
do it is to say you do not know who put
this gold." The Creole in his earnestness
slipped in his idiom. " You will excuse
me if I do not tell you my name ; you can
find it out at any time firhom Agrhicola.
Ah! I am glad she did not see me! You
must not tell anybody about this little event,

" No, sir," said Joseph, as he finally ac-
cepted the purse. " I shall say nothing to
any one else, and only what I cannot avoid
saying to the lady and her sister."

" 'Tis not heh sista^^ responded the Creole,
'tis heh daughtar

The italics signify, not how the words
were said, but how they sounded to Joseph.
As if a dark lantern were suddenly turned
full upon it, he saw the significance of Citi-
zen Fusilier's transport. The fair strangers
were the widow and daughter of the man
whom Agricola had killed in duel — the
ladies with whom Doctor Keene had de-
sired to make him acquainted.

" Well, good-evening, Mr. Frhowenfeld."
The Creole extended his hand (his people

are great hand-shakers). "Ah " and

then, for the first time, he came to the true
object of his visit. " The conversation we
had some weeks ago, Mr. Frhowenfeld, has
stahted a trhain of thought in my mind " —
he began to smile as if to convey the idea
that Joseph would find the subject a trivial

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one — ''which has almost brhought me to

the "

A light footfall accompanied with the
soft sweep of robes caused him to cease.
There had been two or three entrances and
exits during the time the Creole had tarried,
but he had not allowed them to disturb him.
Now, however, he had no sooner turned
and fixed his glance upon this last comer,
than without so much as the invariable
Creole leave-taking of "Well, good-evening,
sir," he hurried out.


The apothecary felt an inward nervous
start as there advanced into the light of his
hanging lamp and toward the spot where he
had halted, just outside the counter, a woman
of the quadroon caste, of superb stature
and poise, severely handsome features,
clear, tawny skin and large, passionate black

" Bon soV, Mkh^y [Monsieur.] A rather
hard, yet not repellent smile snowed her
faultless teeth.

Frowenfeld bowed.

^^Mo vien derder la bourse de Madame^

She spoke the best French at her com-
mand, but it was not imderstood.

The apothecary could only shake his

"Z<z bourscy^ she repeated, sofdy smil-
ing, but with a scintillation, of the eyes in
resentment of his scrutiny. "Z^ bourse,^*
she reiterated.


"(9i«, Mich^r

" You are sent for it ? "

''Out, MicfUr

He drew it from his breast pocket and
marked the sudden glisten of her eyes, re-
flecting the glisten of the gold in the silken

''Ouiy dest gay^ said she, putting her hand
out eagerly.

" I am afraid to give you this to-night,"
said Joseph.

''Ouiy' ventured she, dubiously, the light-
ning playing deep back in her eyes.

" You might be robbed," said Frowenfeld.
" It is very dangerous for you to be out
alone. It will not be long until gun-fire."
(Eight o'clock p. M. — the gun to warn
slaves to be in-doors, under pain of arrest
and imprisonment.)

The object of this solicitude shook her

head with a smile at its ^atuitousness.
The smile showed determination also.

''Mo pas compren'^^ she said.

" Tell the lady to send for it to-morrow.**

She smiled helplessly and somewhat vex-
edly, shrugged and again shook her head.
As she did so she heard footsteps and voices
in the door at her back.

"CVj//»," she said again with a hurried
attempt at extreme amiability; "Dat it;
oui; " and lifting her hand with some rapid-
ity made a sudden eager reach for the purse,
but failed.

" No ! ** said Frowenfeld, indignantly.

" Hello I " said Charlie Keene amusedly,
as he approached fi*om the door.

The woman turned, and in one or two
rapid sentences in the Creole dialect ofifered
her explanation.

" Give her the purse, Joe ; I will answer
for it*s being all right."

Frowenfeld handed it to her. She started
to pass through the door in the rue Royale
by which Doctor Keene had entered ; but
on seeing on its threshold Agricola fix>wn-
ing upon her, she turned (juickly with evi-
dent trepidation, and humed out into the
darkness of the other street

Agricola entered. Doctor Keene looked
about the shop.

" I tell you, Agricole, you didn't have it
with you ; Frowenfeld, you haven't seen a
big knotted walking-stick ? "

Frowenfeld was sure no walking-stick had
been left there.

" Oh yes, Frowenfeld," said Doctor
Keene, with a little laugh as the three sat
down, " I'd a'most as soon trust that woman
as if she was white."

The apothecary said nothing.

"How fi*ee," said Agricola, beginning
with a meditative gaze at the sky without,
and ending with a philosopher's smile upon
his two companions, — " how firee we peo-
ple are itovn prejudice against the negro ! "

"The white people," said Frowenfeld,
half abstractedly, half inquiringly.

" H-my young firiend, when we say, * we
people,' we always mean we white people.
The non-mention of color always implies
pure white; and whatever is not pure white
is to all intents and purposes pure black.
When I say the * whole community,' I
mean the whole white portion; when I
speak of the * undivided public sentiment,'
I mean the sentiment of the white popula-
tion. What else could I mean ? Could
you suppose, sir, the expression which you
may have heard me use — * my down-trod-

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den country' includes^ blacks and mulattoes?
What is that up yonder in the sky ? The
moon. The new moon, or the old moon,
or the moon in her third quarter, but always
the moon ! Which part of it ? Why, the
shining part — the white part, always and
only ! Not that there is a prejudice against
the negro. By no means. Wherever he
can be of any service in a strictly menial
capacity we kindly and generously tolerate
his presence."

Was the immigrant growing wise, or weak,
that he remained silent ?

Agricola rose as he concluded and said
be would go home. Doctor Keene gave
him his hand lazily, without rising.

" Frowenfeld," he said, with a smile, and
in an imdertone as Agricola's footsteps died
away, "don't you know who that woman

« No."

" Well, 111 tell you."

He told him.

On that lonely plantation at the Cannes
Bruises, where Aurore Nancanou's child-
hood had been passed without brothers or
sisters, there had been given her, according
to the well-known custom of plantation life,
a little quadroon slave-maid as her constant
and only playmate. This maid began early
to show herself in many ways remarkable.
While yet a child she grew tall, lithe,
agile; her eyes were large and black, and
rolled and sparkled if she but turned to
answer to her name. Her pale yellow fore-
head, low and shapely, with the jet hair
above it, the heavily penciled eyebrows and
long lashes below, the faint red tinge that
blushed with a kind of cold passion through
the clear yellow skin of the cheek, the
fullness of the red, voluptuous lips and the
roundness of her perfect neck, gave her,
even at fourteen, a barbaric and magnetic
beauty, that startled the beholder like an
unexpected drawing out of a jeweled sword.
Such a type could have sprung only from
high Latin ancestry on the one side and —
we might venture — ^Jaloff African on the
other. To these charms of person she
added mental acuteness, conversational
adroitness, concealed cunning and noiseless
but visible strength of will; and to these,
that rarest of gifts in one of her tincture, the
purity of true womanhood.

At fourteen a necessity which had been
parleyed with for two years or more became
unperative and Aurore's maid was taken
from her. Explanation is almost superflu-

ous. Aurore was to become a lady and her
playmate a lady's maid ; but not her maid,
because the maid had become, of the two,
the ruling spirit. It was a question of
grave debate in the mind of M. De Grapion
what disposition to make of her.

About this time the Grandissimes and
De Grapions, through certain efforts of
Honor6's father (since dead) were making
some feeble pretenses of mutual good feel-
ing, and one of those Kentuckian dealers
in com and tobacco whose flat-boat fleets
were always drifting down the Mississippi,
becoming one day M. De Grapion's tran-
sient guest, accidentally mentioned a wish
of Agricola Fusilier. Agricola, it appeared,
had commissioned him to buy the most
beautiful lady's maid that in his extended
joumeyings he might be able to find; he
wanted to make her a gift to his niece,
Honor^'s sister. The Kentuckian saw the
demand met in Aurore's playmate. M. De
Grapion would not sell her. (Trade with a
Grandissime ? Let them suspect he needed
money ?) No ; but he would ask Agricola
to accept the services of the waiting-maid
for, say, ten years. The Kentuckian ac-
cepted the proposition on the spot and it
was by and by carried out. She was never
recalled to the Cannes Bruises, but in sub-
sequent years received her freedom from
her master, and in New Orleans became
Palmyre la Philosophe, as they say in the
corrupt French of the old Creoles, or
Palmyre Philosophe, noted for her taste and
skill as a hairrdresser, for the efficiency of
her spells and the sagacity of her divinations,
but most of all for the chaste austerity with
which she practiced the less baleful rites of
the voudous.

" That's the woman," said Doctor Keene,
rising to go, as he concluded the narrative,
— "that's she, Palmyre Philosophe. Now
you get a view of the vastness of Agricole's
generosity; he tolerates her even though she
does not present herself in the * strictly me-
nial capacity.' Reason why — h^s afraid of

Time passed, if that may be called time
which we have to measure with a clock.
The apothecary of the rue Royale found
better ways of measurement. As quietiy
as a spider he was spinning information
into knowledge and knowledge into what
he supposed to be wisdom ; whether it was
or not we shall see. His unidentified mer-
chant friend who had adjured him to become
acclimated as '' they all did " had also

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exhorted him to study the human mass of
which he had become a unit ; but whether
that study, if pursued, was sweetening and
ripening, or whether it was corrupting him
that friend did not come to see ; it was the
busy time of year. Certainly so young
a solitary, coming among a people whose
conventionalities were so at variance with
his own door-yard ethics, was in sad danger
of being unduly — as we might say — ^Timon-
ized. His acquaintances continued to be
few in number.

During this fermenting period he chron-
icled much wet and some cold weather.
This may in part account for the uneventful-
ness of its passage : events do not happen
rapidly among the Creoles in bad weather.
However, trade was good.

But the weather cleared; and when it
was getting well on into the Creole spring
and approaching the spring of the almanacs,
something did occur that extended Frowen-
feld's acquaintance without Doctor Keene's


It is nearly noon of a balmy morning
late in February. Aurore Nancanou and
her daughter have only this moment ceased
sewing, in the small front room of No. 19
rue Bienville. Number 19 is the right-
hand half of a single-story, low-roofed tene-
ment, washed with yellow ochre, which it
shares generously with whoever leans
against it. It sits as flat on the ground as
a toad. There is a kitchen belonging to it
somewhere among the weeds in the back
yard, and, besides this room where the
ladies are, there is, direcdy behind it, a
sleeping apartment. Somewhere back of
this there is a little nook where in pleasant
weather they eat. Their cook and house-
maid is the very plain person who attends
them on the street. Her bed-chamber is
the kitchen and her bed the floor. The
house's only other protector is a hound,
the aim of whose life is to get thrust out
of the ladies' apartments every fifteen

Yet if you hastily picture to yourself a
forlorn-looking establishment, you will be
moving straight away from the fact. Neat-
ness, order, excellence, are prevalent quali-
ties in all the details of the main house's
inward garniture. The furniture is old-
fashioned, rich, French, imported. The
carpets, if not new, are not cheap, either. Bits

of crystal and silver, visible here and there,
are as bright as they are antiquated; and
one or two portraits, and the picture of Our
Lady of Many Sorrows, are passably good
productions. The brass work, of which
there is much, is brilliantly biunished, and
the front room is bright and cheery.

At the street door of this room somebody
has just knocked. Aurore has risen fjcoxn
her seat. The other still sits on a low
chair with her hands and sewing dropped
into her lap, looking up steadfastly into her
mother's face with a mingled expression of
fondness and dismayed expectation. Au-
rore hesitates beside her chair, desirous of
resuming her seat, even lifts her sewing
from it; but tarries a moment, her alert
suspense showing in her eyes. Her daugh-
ter still looks up into them. It is not
strange that the dwellers round about dis-
pute as to which is the fairer, nor that in
the six months during which the two have
occupied Number 19 the neighbors have
reached no conclusion on this subject. If
some young enthusiast compares the daugh-
ter — ^in her eighteenth year — to a bursring
blush rosebud full of promise, some older
one immediately retorts that the other —
in her thirty-fifth — is the red, red, full-
blown, fauldess joy of the garden. If one
says the maiden has the dew of youth, —
" But I " cry two or three mothers in a
breath, " that other one, child, will never
grow old. With her it will always be
morning. That woman is going to last for-
ever ; ha-a-a-a !— even longer ! "

There was one direction in which the
widow evidently had the advantage; you
could see from the street or the opposite
windows that she was a wise householder.
On the day they moved into Number 19
she had been seen to enter in advance of
all her other movables, carrying into the
empty house a new broom, a looking-glass,
and a silver coin. Every morning since, a
little watching would have discovered her
at the hour of sunrise sprinkling water from
her side casement, and her opposite neigh-
bors often had occasion to notice that, sit-
ting at her sewing by the fix)nt window,
she never pricked her finger but she quickly
ran it up behind her ear, and then went on
with her work. Would anybody but Joseph
Frowenfeld ever have lived in and moved
away from a two-story brick next them
on the right and not have known of the
existence of such a marvel ?

"Ha!" they said, **she knows how to
keep off bad luck, that Madame yonder.

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And the younger one seems not to like it.
Girls think themselves so smart these days."
Ah, there was the knock again, right
there on the street-door, as loud as if it
had been given with a joint of sugar-cane !
The daughter's hand, which had just
resumed the needle, stood still in mid-
course with the white thread half drawn.
Aurore tiptoed slowly over the carpeted
floor. There came a shuffling sound, and
the comer of a folded white paper com-
menced appearing and disappearing under
the door. She mounted a chair and
peeped through that odd \\XiX^ jalousie which
formerly was in almost all New Orleans
street-doors ; but the missive had meantime
found its way across the sill, and she saw
only the unpicturesque back of a departing
errand-boy. But that was well. She had
a pride, to maintain which — and a poverty,
to conceal which — she felt to be necessary
to her self-respect; and this made her of
necessity a trifle unsocial in her own castle.
Do you suppose she was going to put on
the face of having been bom or married to
this degraded condition of things ?

Who knows? — the knock might have
been from 'Sieur FrowenfeP — ha, ha 1 He
might be just silly enough to call so early ;
or it might have been from that polisson of
a Grandissime,— which one didn't matter,
they were all detestable,— coming to collect
the rent. That was her original fear; or,
worse still, it might have been, had it been
softer, the knock of some possible lady-
visitor. She had no intention of admitting
any feminine eyes to detect this carefully
covered up indigence. Besides, it was
Monday. There is no sense in trifling with
bad luck. The reception of Monday call-
ers is a source of misfortune never known to
fail, save in rare cases when good luck has
already been secured by smearing the front
walk or the banquette with Venetian red.

Before the daughter could dart up and
disengage herself from her work her mother
had pounced upon the paper. She was
standing and reading, her rich black lashes
curtaining their downcast eyes, her infant
waist and round, close-fitted, childish arms
harmonizing prettily with her mock frown
of infantile perplexity, and her long, limp
robe heightening the grace of her posture,
when the yoimger started from her seat with
the air of determining not to be left at a

But what is that on the dark eyelash?
With a sudden additional energy the daugh-
ter dashes the sewing and chair to right and

left, bounds up, and in a moment has Aurore
weeping in her embrace and has snatched
the note from her hand.

^^Ah / maman I Ah / ma ch^re nikre / **
The mother forced a laugh. She was
not to be mothered by her daughter; so
she made a dash at Clotilde's uplifted hand
to recover the note, which was unavailing.
Immediately there arose in colonial French
the loveliest of contentions, the issue of
which was that the pair sat down side by
side, like two sisters over one love-letter,
and undertook to decipher the paper. It
read as follows :

** New Orleans, 20 Feb're, 1804.
<* Madame Nancanou : I muss obli^ to ass you
for rent of that house whare you living, it is at
numer 19 Bienville street whare I do not received
thos rent from ^ou not since tree mons and I de-
mand you this IS mabe thirteen time. And I give
to you notice of 19 das writen in Anglish as the
new law requi. That witch the law make necessare
only for ij das, and when you not pay me those
rent in 19 das till the tense of Marh I will rekes you
to move out. That witch make me to be very sorry
I have the honor to remain, Madam,

" Your humble servant,
" H. Grandissime,
*'pfrZ, F."

There was a short French postscript on
the opposite page signed only by M. Zenon
Fran9ois, explaining that he, who had al-
lowed them in the past to address him as
their landlord and by his name, was but
the landlord's agent; that the landlord was
a far better-dressed man than he could
afford to be ; that the writing opposite was
a notice for them to quit the premises they
had rented (not leased), or pay up;' that at
gave the writer great pain to send it, al-
though it was but the necessary legal form
and he only an irresponsible drawer of an
inadequate salary, with thirteen children to
support ; and that he implored them to tear
off and bum up this postscript immediately
they had read it.

"Ah, the miserable!" was all the com-
ment made upon it as the two ladies ad-
dressed their energies to the previous English.
They had never suspected him of being M.

Their eyes dragged slowly and ineffect-
ually along the lines to the signature.

" H. Grandissime ! Loog ad 'im !" cried
the widow, with a sudden short laugh, that
brought the tears after it like a wind-gust
in a rose-tree. She held the letter out before
them as if she was lifting something alive
by the back of the neck, and to intensify
her scorn spoke in the hated tongue pre-

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scribed by the new courts. " Loog ad *ira !
dad ridge gen'leman 00 give so mudge
money to de *ozpill I "

" Bud, maman^' said the daughter, laying
her hand appeasingly upon her mother's
knee, " €e do nod know 'ow we is poor."

" Ah ! " retorted Aurore, ^^ par example /
Nan ? Ee thingue we is ridge, eh ? Ligue
his oncle, eh? Ee thing so too, eh?"
She cast upon her daughter the look of burn-
ing scorn intended for Agricola Fusilier.
*^You wan' to tague the pard of dose Gran-
dissime' ? "

The daughter returned a look of agony.

Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 46 of 160)