Part 2 out of 2
wide-eyed and mute at a horrible something that lay across the
bed. Outside the long sweet march music of many bands floated in
as if in mockery, and the flash of rockets and Bengal lights
illumined the dead, white face of the girl troubadour.
LITTLE MISS SOPHIE
When Miss Sophie knew consciousness again, the long, faint,
swelling notes of the organ were dying away in distant echoes
through the great arches of the silent church, and she was alone,
crouching in a little, forsaken black heap at the altar of the
Virgin. The twinkling tapers shone pityingly upon her, the
beneficent smile of the white-robed Madonna seemed to whisper
comfort. A long gust of chill air swept up the aisles, and Miss
Sophie shivered not from cold, but from nervousness.
But darkness was falling, and soon the lights would be lowered,
and the great massive doors would be closed; so, gathering her
thin little cape about her frail shoulders, Miss Sophie hurried
out, and along the brilliant noisy streets home.
It was a wretched, lonely little room, where the cracks let the
boisterous wind whistle through, and the smoky, grimy walls
looked cheerless and unhomelike. A miserable little room in a
miserable little cottage in one of the squalid streets of the
Third District that nature and the city fathers seemed to have
As bare and comfortless as the room was Miss Sophie's life. She
rented these four walls from an unkempt little Creole woman,
whose progeny seemed like the promised offspring of Abraham. She
scarcely kept the flickering life in her pale little body by the
unceasing toil of a pair of bony hands, stitching, stitching,
ceaselessly, wearingly, on the bands and pockets of trousers. It
was her bread, this monotonous, unending work; and though whole
days and nights constant labour brought but the most meagre
recompense, it was her only hope of life.
She sat before the little charcoal brazier and warmed her
transparent, needle-pricked fingers, thinking meanwhile of the
strange events of the day. She had been up town to carry the
great, black bundle of coarse pants and vests to the factory and
to receive her small pittance, and on the way home stopped in at
the Jesuit Church to say her little prayer at the altar of the
calm white Virgin. There had been a wondrous burst of music from
the great organ as she knelt there, an overpowering perfume of
many flowers, the glittering dazzle of many lights, and the
dainty frou-frou made by the silken skirts of wedding guests. So
Miss Sophie stayed to the wedding; for what feminine heart, be it
ever so old and seared, does not delight in one? And why should
not a poor little Creole old maid be interested too?
Then the wedding party had filed in solemnly, to the rolling,
swelling tones of the organ. Important-looking groomsmen;
dainty, fluffy, white-robed maids; stately, satin-robed,
illusion-veiled bride, and happy groom. She leaned forward to
catch a better glimpse of their faces. "Ah!"--
Those near the Virgin's altar who heard a faint sigh and rustle
on the steps glanced curiously as they saw a slight black-robed
figure clutch the railing and lean her head against it. Miss
Sophie had fainted.
"I must have been hungry," she mused over the charcoal fire in
her little room, "I must have been hungry;" and she smiled a wan
smile, and busied herself getting her evening meal of coffee and
bread and ham.
If one were given to pity, the first thought that would rush to
one's lips at sight of Miss Sophie would have been, "Poor little
woman!" She had come among the bareness and sordidness of this
neighbourhood five years ago, robed in crape, and crying with
great sobs that seemed to shake the vitality out of her.
Perfectly silent, too, she was about her former life; but for all
that, Michel, the quartee grocer at the corner, and Madame
Laurent, who kept the rabbe shop opposite, had fixed it all up
between them, of her sad history and past glories. Not that they
knew; but then Michel must invent something when the neighbours
came to him as their fountain-head of wisdom.
One morning little Miss Sophie opened wide her dingy windows to
catch the early freshness of the autumn wind as it whistled
through the yellow-leafed trees. It was one of those calm,
blue-misted, balmy, November days that New Orleans can have when
all the rest of the country is fur-wrapped. Miss Sophie pulled
her machine to the window, where the sweet, damp wind could whisk
among her black locks.
Whirr, whirr, went the machine, ticking fast and lightly over the
belts of the rough jeans pants. Whirr, whirr, yes, and Miss
Sophie was actually humming a tune! She felt strangely light
"Ma foi," muttered Michel, strolling across the street to where
Madame Laurent sat sewing behind the counter on blue and
brown-checked aprons, "but the little ma'amselle sings. Perhaps
"Perhaps," muttered the rabbe woman.
But little Miss Sophie felt restless. A strange impulse seemed
drawing her up town, and the machine seemed to run slow, slow,
before it would stitch all of the endless number of jeans belts.
Her fingers trembled with nervous haste as she pinned up the
unwieldy black bundle of finished work, and her feet fairly
tripped over each other in their eagerness to get to Claiborne
Street, where she could board the up-town car. There was a
feverish desire to go somewhere, a sense of elation, a foolish
happiness that brought a faint echo of colour into her pinched
cheeks. She wondered why.
No one noticed her in the car. Passengers on the Claiborne line
are too much accustomed to frail little black-robed women with
big, black bundles; it is one of the city's most pitiful sights.
She leaned her head out of the window to catch a glimpse of the
oleanders on Bayou Road, when her attention was caught by a
conversation in the car.
"Yes, it's too bad for Neale, and lately married too," said the
elder man. "I can't see what he is to do."
Neale! She pricked up her ears. That was the name of the groom
in the Jesuit Church.
"How did it happen?" languidly inquired the younger. He was a
stranger, evidently; a stranger with a high regard for the
faultlessness of male attire.
"Well, the firm failed first; he didn't mind that much, he was so
sure of his uncle's inheritance repairing his lost fortunes; but
suddenly this difficulty of identification springs up, and he is
literally on the verge of ruin."
"Won't some of you fellows who've known him all your lives do to
"Gracious man, we've tried; but the absurd old will expressly
stipulates that he shall be known only by a certain quaint Roman
ring, and unless he has it, no identification, no fortune. He
has given the ring away, and that settles it."
"Well, you 're all chumps. Why doesn't he get the ring from the
"Easily said; but--it seems that Neale had some little Creole
love-affair some years ago, and gave this ring to his dusky-eyed
fiancee. You know how Neale is with his love-affairs, went off
and forgot the girl in a month. It seems, however, she took it
to heart,--so much so that he's ashamed to try to find her or the
Miss Sophie heard no more as she gazed out into the dusty grass.
There were tears in her eyes, hot blinding ones that wouldn't
drop for pride, but stayed and scalded. She knew the story, with
all its embellishment of heartaches. She knew the ring, too.
She remembered the day she had kissed and wept and fondled it,
until it seemed her heart must burst under its load of grief
before she took it to the pawn-broker's that another might be
eased before the end came,--that other her father. The little
"Creole love affair" of Neale's had not always been poor and old
and jaded-looking; but reverses must come, even Neale knew that,
so the ring was at the Mont de Piete. Still he must have it, it
was his; it would save him from disgrace and suffering and from
bringing the white-gowned bride into sorrow. He must have it;
There it was still at the pawn-broker's; no one would have such
an odd jewel, and the ticket was home in the bureau drawer.
Well, he must have it; she might starve in the attempt. Such a
thing as going to him and telling him that he might redeem it was
an impossibility. That good, straight-backed, stiff-necked
Creole blood would have risen in all its strength and choked her.
No; as a present had the quaint Roman circlet been placed upon
her finger, as a present should it be returned.
The bumping car rode slowly, and the hot thoughts beat heavily in
her poor little head. He must have the ring; but how--the
ring--the Roman ring--the white-robed bride starving--she was
going mad--ah yes--the church.
There it was, right in the busiest, most bustling part of the
town, its fresco and bronze and iron quaintly suggestive of
mediaeval times. Within, all was cool and dim and restful, with
the faintest whiff of lingering incense rising and pervading the
gray arches. Yes, the Virgin would know and have pity; the
sweet, white-robed Virgin at the pretty flower-decked altar, or
the one away up in the niche, far above the golden dome where the
Host was. Titiche, the busybody of the house, noticed that Miss
Sophie's bundle was larger than usual that afternoon. "Ah, poor
woman!" sighed Titiche's mother, "she would be rich for
The bundle grew larger each day, and Miss Sophie grew smaller.
The damp, cold rain and mist closed the white-curtained window,
but always there behind the sewing-machine drooped and bobbed the
little black-robed figure. Whirr, whirr went the wheels, and the
coarse jeans pants piled in great heaps at her side. The
Claiborne Street car saw her oftener than before, and the sweet
white Virgin in the flowered niche above the gold-domed altar
smiled at the little supplicant almost every day.
"Ma foi," said the slatternly landlady to Madame Laurent and
Michel one day, "I no see how she live! Eat? Nothin', nothin',
almos', and las' night when it was so cold and foggy, eh? I hav'
to mek him build fire. She mos' freeze."
Whereupon the rumour spread that Miss Sophie was starving herself
to death to get some luckless relative out of jail for Christmas;
a rumour which enveloped her scraggy little figure with a kind of
halo to the neighbours when she appeared on the streets.
November had merged into December, and the little pile of coins
was yet far from the sum needed. Dear God! how the money did
have to go! The rent and the groceries and the coal, though, to
be sure, she used a precious bit of that. Would all the work and
saving and skimping do good? Maybe, yes, maybe by Christmas.
Christmas Eve on Royal Street is no place for a weakling, for the
shouts and carousels of the roisterers will strike fear into the
bravest ones. Yet amid the cries and yells, the deafening blow
of horns and tin whistles, and the really dangerous fusillade of
fireworks, a little figure hurried along, one hand clutching
tightly the battered hat that the rude merry-makers had torn off,
the other grasping under the thin black cape a worn little
Into the Mont de Piete she ran breathless, eager. The ticket?
Here, worn, crumpled. The ring? It was not gone? No, thank
Heaven! It was a joy well worth her toil, she thought, to have
Had Titiche not been shooting crackers on the banquette instead
of peering into the crack, as was his wont, his big, round black
eyes would have grown saucer-wide to see little Miss Sophie kiss
and fondle a ring, an ugly clumsy band of gold.
"Ah, dear ring," she murmured, "once you were his, and you shall
be his again. You shall be on his finger, and perhaps touch his
heart. Dear ring, ma chere petite de ma coeur, cherie de ma
coeur. Je t'aime, je t'aime, oui, oui. You are his; you were
mine once too. To-night, just one night, I'll keep
you--then--to-morrow, you shall go where you can save him."
The loud whistles and horns of the little ones rose on the balmy
air next morning. No one would doubt it was Christmas Day, even
if doors and windows were open wide to let in cool air. Why,
there was Christmas even in the very look of the mules on the
poky cars; there was Christmas noise in the streets, and
Christmas toys and Christmas odours, savoury ones that made the
nose wrinkle approvingly, issuing from the kitchen. Michel and
Madame Laurent smiled greetings across the street at each other,
and the salutation from a passer-by recalled the many-progenied
landlady to herself.
"Miss Sophie, well, po' soul, not ver' much Chris'mas for her.
Mais, I'll jus' call him in fo' to spen' the day with me. Eet'll
cheer her a bit."
It was so clean and orderly within the poor little room. Not a
speck of dust or a litter of any kind on the quaint little
old-time high bureau, unless you might except a sheet of paper
lying loose with something written on it. Titiche had evidently
inherited his prying propensities, for the landlady turned it
over and read,--
LOUIS,--Here is the ring. I return it to you. I heard you
needed it. I hope it comes not too late. SOPHIE.
"The ring, where?" muttered the landlady. There it was, clasped
between her fingers on her bosom,--a bosom white and cold, under
a cold happy face. Christmas had indeed dawned for Miss Sophie.
Sister Josepha told her beads mechanically, her fingers numb with
the accustomed exercise. The little organ creaked a dismal "O
Salutaris," and she still knelt on the floor, her white-bonneted
head nodding suspiciously. The Mother Superior gave a sharp
glance at the tired figure; then, as a sudden lurch forward
brought the little sister back to consciousness, Mother's eyes
relaxed into a genuine smile.
The bell tolled the end of vespers, and the sombre-robed nuns
filed out of the chapel to go about their evening duties. Little
Sister Josepha's work was to attend to the household lamps, but
there must have been as much oil spilled upon the table to-night
as was put in the vessels. The small brown hands trembled so
that most of the wicks were trimmed with points at one corner
which caused them to smoke that night.
"Oh, cher Seigneur," she sighed, giving an impatient polish to a
refractory chimney, "it is wicked and sinful, I know, but I am so
tired. I can't be happy and sing any more. It doesn't seem
right for le bon Dieu to have me all cooped up here with nothing
to see but stray visitors, and always the same old work, teaching
those mean little girls to sew, and washing and filling the same
old lamps. Pah!" And she polished the chimney with a sudden
vigorous jerk which threatened destruction.
They were rebellious prayers that the red mouth murmured that
night, and a restless figure that tossed on the hard dormitory
bed. Sister Dominica called from her couch to know if Sister
Josepha were ill.
"No," was the somewhat short response; then a muttered, "Why
can't they let me alone for a minute? That pale-eyed Sister
Dominica never sleeps; that's why she is so ugly."
About fifteen years before this night some one had brought to the
orphan asylum connected with this convent, du Sacre Coeur, a
round, dimpled bit of three-year-old humanity, who regarded the
world from a pair of gravely twinkling black eyes, and only took
a chubby thumb out of a rosy mouth long enough to answer in
monosyllabic French. It was a child without an identity; there
was but one name that any one seemed to know, and that, too, was
She grew up with the rest of the waifs; scraps of French and
American civilization thrown together to develop a seemingly
inconsistent miniature world. Mademoiselle Camille was a queen
among them, a pretty little tyrant who ruled the children and
dominated the more timid sisters in charge.
One day an awakening came. When she was fifteen, and almost
fully ripened into a glorious tropical beauty of the type that
matures early, some visitors to the convent were fascinated by
her and asked the Mother Superior to give the girl into their
Camille fled like a frightened fawn into the yard, and was only
unearthed with some difficulty from behind a group of palms.
Sulky and pouting, she was led into the parlour, picking at her
blue pinafore like a spoiled infant.
"The lady and gentleman wish you to go home with them, Camille,"
said the Mother Superior, in the language of the convent. Her
voice was kind and gentle apparently; but the child, accustomed
to its various inflections, detected a steely ring behind its
softness, like the proverbial iron hand in the velvet glove.
"You must understand, madame," continued Mother, in stilted
English, "that we never force children from us. We are ever glad
to place them in comfortable--how you say that?--quarters
--maisons--homes--bien! But we will not make them
go if they do not wish."
Camille stole a glance at her would-be guardians, and decided
instantly, impulsively, finally. The woman suited her; but the
man! It was doubtless intuition of the quick, vivacious sort
which belonged to her blood that served her. Untutored in
worldly knowledge, she could not divine the meaning of the
pronounced leers and admiration of her physical charms which
gleamed in the man's face, but she knew it made her feel creepy,
and stoutly refused to go. Next day Camille was summoned from a
task to the Mother Superior's parlour. The other girls gazed
with envy upon her as she dashed down the courtyard with
impetuous movement. Camille, they decided crossly, received too
much notice. It was Camille this, Camille that; she was pretty,
it was to be expected. Even Father Ray lingered longer in his
blessing when his hands pressed her silky black hair.
As she entered the parlour, a strange chill swept over the girl.
The room was not an unaccustomed one, for she had swept it many
times, but to-day the stiff black chairs, the dismal crucifixes,
the gleaming whiteness of the walls, even the cheap lithograph of
the Madonna which Camille had always regarded as a perfect
specimen of art, seemed cold and mean.
"Camille, ma chere," said Mother, "I am extremely displeased with
you. Why did you not wish to go with Monsieur and Madame Lafaye
The girl uncrossed her hands from her bosom, and spread them out
in a deprecating gesture.
"Mais, ma mere, I was afraid."
Mother's face grew stern. "No foolishness now," she exclaimed.
"It is not foolishness, ma mere; I could not help it, but that
man looked at me so funny, I felt all cold chills down my back.
Oh, dear Mother, I love the convent and the sisters so, I just
want to stay and be a sister too, may I?"
And thus it was that Camille took the white veil at sixteen
years. Now that the period of novitiate was over, it was just
beginning to dawn upon her that she had made a mistake.
"Maybe it would have been better had I gone with the
funny-looking lady and gentleman," she mused bitterly one night.
"Oh, Seigneur, I 'm so tired and impatient; it's so dull here,
and, dear God, I'm so young."
There was no help for it. One must arise in the morning, and
help in the refectory with the stupid Sister Francesca, and go
about one's duties with a prayerful mien, and not even let a sigh
escape when one's head ached with the eternal telling of beads.
A great fete day was coming, and an atmosphere of preparation and
mild excitement pervaded the brown walls of the convent like a
delicate aroma. The old Cathedral around the corner had stood a
hundred years, and all the city was rising to do honour to its
age and time-softened beauty. There would be a service, oh, but
such a one! with two Cardinals, and Archbishops and Bishops, and
all the accompanying glitter of soldiers and orchestras. The
little sisters of the Convent du Sacre Coeur clasped their hands
in anticipation of the holy joy. Sister Josepha curled her lip,
she was so tired of churchly pleasures.
The day came, a gold and blue spring day, when the air hung heavy
with the scent of roses and magnolias, and the sunbeams fairly
laughed as they kissed the houses. The old Cathedral stood gray
and solemn, and the flowers in Jackson Square smiled cheery
birthday greetings across the way. The crowd around the door
surged and pressed and pushed in its eagerness to get within.
Ribbons stretched across the banquette were of no avail to
repress it, and important ushers with cardinal colours could do
The Sacred Heart sisters filed slowly in at the side door,
creating a momentary flutter as they paced reverently to their
seats, guarding the blue-bonneted orphans. Sister Josepha,
determined to see as much of the world as she could, kept her big
black eyes opened wide, as the church rapidly filled with the
fashionably dressed, perfumed, rustling, and self-conscious
Her heart beat quickly. The rebellious thoughts that will arise
in the most philosophical of us surged in her small heavily
gowned bosom. For her were the gray things, the neutral tinted
skies, the ugly garb, the coarse meats; for them the rainbow, the
ethereal airiness of earthly joys, the bonbons and glaces of the
world. Sister Josepha did not know that the rainbow is elusive,
and its colours but the illumination of tears; she had never been
told that earthly ethereality is necessarily ephemeral, nor that
bonbons and glaces, whether of the palate or of the soul,
nauseate and pall upon the taste. Dear God, forgive her, for she
bent with contrite tears over her worn rosary, and glanced no
more at the worldly glitter of femininity.
The sunbeams streamed through the high windows in purple and
crimson lights upon a veritable fugue of colour. Within the
seats, crush upon crush of spring millinery; within the aisles
erect lines of gold-braided, gold-buttoned military. Upon the
altar, broad sweeps of golden robes, great dashes of crimson
skirts, mitres and gleaming crosses, the soft neutral hue of rich
lace vestments; the tender heads of childhood in picturesque
attire; the proud, golden magnificence of the domed altar with
its weighting mass of lilies and wide-eyed roses, and the long
candles that sparkled their yellow star points above the reverent
throng within the altar rails.
The soft baritone of the Cardinal intoned a single phrase in the
suspended silence. The censer took up the note in its delicate
clink clink, as it swung to and fro in the hands of a fair-haired
child. Then the organ, pausing an instant in a deep, mellow,
long-drawn note, burst suddenly into a magnificent strain, and
the choir sang forth, "Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison." One
voice, flute-like, piercing, sweet, rang high over the rest.
Sister Josepha heard and trembled, as she buried her face in her
hands, and let her tears fall, like other beads, through her
It was when the final word of the service had been intoned, the
last peal of the exit march had died away, that she looked up
meekly, to encounter a pair of youthful brown eyes gazing
pityingly upon her. That was all she remembered for a moment,
that the eyes were youthful and handsome and tender. Later, she
saw that they were placed in a rather beautiful boyish face,
surmounted by waves of brown hair, curling and soft, and that the
head was set on a pair of shoulders decked in military uniform.
Then the brown eyes marched away with the rest of the rear guard,
and the white-bonneted sisters filed out the side door, through
the narrow court, back into the brown convent.
That night Sister Josepha tossed more than usual on her hard bed,
and clasped her fingers often in prayer to quell the wickedness
in her heart. Turn where she would, pray as she might, there was
ever a pair of tender, pitying brown eyes, haunting her
persistently. The squeaky organ at vespers intoned the clank of
military accoutrements to her ears, the white bonnets of the
sisters about her faded into mists of curling brown hair.
Briefly, Sister Josepha was in love.
The days went on pretty much as before, save for the one little
heart that beat rebelliously now and then, though it tried so
hard to be submissive. There was the morning work in the
refectory, the stupid little girls to teach sewing, and the
insatiable lamps that were so greedy for oil. And always the
tender, boyish brown eyes, that looked so sorrowfully at the
fragile, beautiful little sister, haunting, following, pleading.
Perchance, had Sister Josepha been in the world, the eyes would
have been an incident. But in this home of self-repression and
retrospection, it was a life-story. The eyes had gone their way,
doubtless forgetting the little sister they pitied; but the
The days glided into weeks, the weeks into months. Thoughts of
escape had come to Sister Josepha, to flee into the world, to
merge in the great city where recognition was impossible, and,
working her way like the rest of humanity, perchance encounter
the eyes again.
It was all planned and ready. She would wait until some morning
when the little band of black-robed sisters wended their way to
mass at the Cathedral. When it was time to file out the
side-door into the courtway, she would linger at prayers, then
slip out another door, and unseen glide up Chartres Street to
Canal, and once there, mingle in the throng that filled the wide
thoroughfare. Beyond this first plan she could think no further.
Penniless, garbed, and shaven though she would be, other
difficulties never presented themselves to her. She would rely
on the mercies of the world to help her escape from this
torturing life of inertia. It seemed easy now that the first
step of decision had been taken.
The Saturday night before the final day had come, and she lay
feverishly nervous in her narrow little bed, wondering with
wide-eyed fear at the morrow. Pale-eyed Sister Dominica and
Sister Francesca were whispering together in the dark silence,
and Sister Josepha's ears pricked up as she heard her name.
"She is not well, poor child," said Francesca. "I fear the life
is too confining."
"It is best for her," was the reply. "You know, sister, how hard
it would be for her in the world, with no name but Camille, no
friends, and her beauty; and then--"
Sister Josepha heard no more, for her heart beating tumultuously
in her bosom drowned the rest. Like the rush of the bitter salt
tide over a drowning man clinging to a spar, came the complete
submerging of her hopes of another life. No name but Camille,
that was true; no nationality, for she could never tell from whom
or whence she came; no friends, and a beauty that not even an
ungainly bonnet and shaven head could hide. In a flash she
realised the deception of the life she would lead, and the cruel
self-torture of wonder at her own identity. Already, as if in
anticipation of the world's questionings, she was asking herself,
"Who am I? What am I?"
The next morning the sisters du Sacre Coeur filed into the
Cathedral at High Mass, and bent devout knees at the general
confession. "Confiteor Deo omnipotenti," murmured the priest;
and tremblingly one little sister followed the words, "Je
confesse a Dieu, tout puissant--que j'ai beaucoup peche par
pensees--c'est ma faute--c'est ma faute--c'est ma tres grande
The organ pealed forth as mass ended, the throng slowly filed
out, and the sisters paced through the courtway back into the
brown convent walls. One paused at the entrance, and gazed with
swift longing eyes in the direction of narrow, squalid Chartres
Street, then, with a gulping sob, followed the rest, and vanished
behind the heavy door.
THE PRALINE WOMAN
The praline woman sits by the side of the Archbishop's quaint
little old chapel on Royal Street, and slowly waves her latanier
fan over the pink and brown wares.
"Pralines, pralines. Ah, ma'amzelle, you buy? S'il vous plait,
ma'amzelle, ces pralines, dey be fine, ver' fresh.
"Mais non, maman, you are not sure?
"Sho', chile, ma bebe, ma petite, she put dese up hissef. He's
hans' so small, ma'amzelle, lak you's, mais brune. She put dese
up dis morn'. You tak' none? No husban' fo' you den!
"Ah, ma petite, you tak'? Cinq sous, bebe, may le bon Dieu keep
"Mais oui, madame, I know you etranger. You don' look lak dese
New Orleans peop'. You lak' dose Yankee dat come down 'fo' de
Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, chimes the Cathedral bell across
Jack- son Square, and the praline woman crosses herself.
"Hail, Mary, full of grace--
"Pralines, madame? You buy lak' dat? Dix sous, madame, an' one
lil' piece fo' lagniappe fo' madame's lil' bebe. Ah, c'est bon!
"Pralines, pralines, so fresh, so fine! M'sieu would lak' some
fo' he's lil' gal' at home? Mais non, what's dat you say? She's
daid! Ah, m'sieu, 'tis my lil' gal what died long year ago.
"Here come dat lazy Indien squaw. What she good fo', anyhow? She
jes' sit lak dat in de French Market an' sell her file, an'
sleep, sleep, sleep, lak' so in he's blanket. Hey, dere, you,
Tonita, how goes you' beezness?
"Pralines, pralines! Holy Father, you give me dat blessin' sho'?
Tak' one, I know you lak dat w'ite one. It tas' good, I know,
"Pralines, madame? I lak' you' face. What fo' you wear black?
You' lil' boy daid? You tak' one, jes' see how it tas'. I had
one lil' boy once, he jes' grow 'twell he's big lak' dis, den one
day he tak' sick an' die. Oh, madame, it mos' brek my po' heart.
I burn candle in St. Rocque, I say my beads, I sprinkle holy
water roun' he's bed; he jes' lay so, he's eyes turn up, he say
'Maman, maman,' den he die! Madame, you tak' one. Non, non, no
l'argent, you tak' one fo' my lil' boy's sake.
"Pralines, pralines, m'sieu? Who mak' dese? My lil' gal,
Didele, of co'se. Non, non, I don't mak' no mo'. Po' Tante
Marie get too ol'. Didele? She's one lil' gal I 'dopt. I see
her one day in de strit. He walk so; hit col' she shiver, an' I
say, 'Where you gone, lil' gal?' and he can' tell. He jes' crip
close to me, an' cry so! Den I tak' her home wid me, and she say
he's name Didele. You see dey wa'nt nobody dere. My lil' gal,
she's daid of de yellow fever; my lil' boy, he's daid, po' Tante
Marie all alone. Didele, she grow fine, she keep house an' mek'
pralines. Den, when night come, she sit wid he's guitar an'
"'Tu l'aime ces trois jours,
Tu l'aime ces trois jours,
Ma coeur a toi,
Ma coeur a toi,
Tu l'aime ces trois jours!'
"Ah, he's fine gal, is Didele!
"Pralines, pralines! Dat lil' cloud, h'it look lak' rain, I hope
"Here come dat lazy I'ishman down de strit. I don't lak'
I'ishman, me, non, dey so funny. One day one I'ishman, he say to
me, 'Auntie, what fo' you talk so?' and I jes' say back, 'What
fo' you say "Faith an' be jabers"?' Non, I don' lak I'ishman,
"Here come de rain! Now I got fo' to go. Didele, she be wait
fo' me. Down h'it come! H'it fall in de Meesseesip, an' fill
up--up--so, clean to de levee, den we have big crivasse, an' po'
Tante Marie float away. Bon jour, madame, you come again?
Now and then Carnival time comes at the time of the good Saint
Valentine, and then sometimes it comes as late as the warm days
in March, when spring is indeed upon us, and the greenness of the
grass outvies the green in the royal standards.
Days and days before the Carnival proper, New Orleans begins to
take on a festive appearance. Here and there the royal flags
with their glowing greens and violets and yellows appear, and
then, as if by magic, the streets and buildings flame and burst
like poppies out of bud, into a glorious refulgence of colour
that steeps the senses into a languorous acceptance of warmth and
On Mardi Gras day, as you know, it is a town gone mad with folly.
A huge masked ball emptied into the streets at daylight; a
meeting of all nations on common ground, a pot-pourri of every
conceivable human ingredient, but faintly describes it all.
There are music and flowers, cries and laughter and song and
joyousness, and never an aching heart to show its sorrow or dim
the happiness of the streets. A wondrous thing, this Carnival!
But the old cronies down in Frenchtown, who know everything, and
can recite you many a story, tell of one sad heart on Mardi Gras
years ago. It was a woman's, of course; for "Il est toujours les
femmes qui sont malheureuses," says an old proverb, and perhaps
it is right. This woman--a child, she would be called elsewhere,
save in this land of tropical growth and precocity--lost her
heart to one who never knew, a very common story, by the way, but
one which would have been quite distasteful to the haughty judge,
her father, had he known.
Odalie was beautiful. Odalie was haughty too, but gracious
enough to those who pleased her dainty fancy. In the old French
house on Royal Street, with its quaint windows and Spanish
courtyard green and cool, and made musical by the plashing of the
fountain and the trill of caged birds, lived Odalie in
convent-like seclusion. Monsieur le Juge was determined no hawk
should break through the cage and steal his dove; and so, though
there was no mother, a stern duenna aunt kept faithful watch.
Alas for the precautions of la Tante! Bright eyes that search for
other bright eyes in which lurks the spirit of youth and mischief
are ever on the look-out, even in church. Dutifully was Odalie
marched to the Cathedral every Sunday to mass, and Tante Louise,
nodding devoutly over her beads, could not see the blushes and
glances full of meaning, a whole code of signals as it were, that
passed between Odalie and Pierre, the impecunious young clerk in
Odalie loved, perhaps, because there was not much else to do.
When one is shut up in a great French house with a grim sleepy
tante and no companions of one's own age, life becomes a dull
thing, and one is ready for any new sensation, particularly if in
the veins there bounds the tempestuous Spanish-French blood that
Monsieur le Juge boasted of. So Odalie hugged the image of her
Pierre during the week days, and played tremulous little
love-songs to it in the twilight when la Tante dozed over her
devotion book, and on Sundays at mass there were glances and
blushes, and mayhap, at some especially remembered time, the
touch of finger-tips at the holy-water font, while la Tante
dropped her last genuflexion.
Then came the Carnival time, and one little heart beat faster, as
the gray house on Royal Street hung out its many-hued flags, and
draped its grim front with glowing colours. It was to be a time
of joy and relaxation, when every one could go abroad, and in the
crowds one could speak to whom one chose. Unconscious plans
formulated, and the petite Odalie was quite happy as the time
"Only think, Tante Louise," she would cry, "what a happy time it
is to be!"
But Tante Louise only grumbled, as was her wont.
It was Mardi Gras day at last, and early through her window
Odalie could hear the jingle of folly bells on the maskers'
costumes, the tinkle of music, and the echoing strains of songs.
Up to her ears there floated the laughter of the older maskers,
and the screams of the little children frightened at their own
images under the mask and domino. What a hurry to be out and in
the motley merry throng, to be pacing Royal Street to Canal
Street, where was life and the world!
They were tired eyes with which Odalie looked at the gay pageant
at last, tired with watching throng after throng of maskers, of
the unmasked, of peering into the cartsful of singing minstrels,
into carriages of revellers, hoping for a glimpse of Pierre the
devout. The allegorical carts rumbling by with their important
red-clothed horses were beginning to lose charm, the disguises
showed tawdry, even the gay-hued flags fluttered sadly to Odalie.
Mardi Gras was a tiresome day, after all, she sighed, and Tante
Louise agreed with her for once.
Six o'clock had come, the hour when all masks must be removed.
The long red rays of the setting sun glinted athwart the
many-hued costumes of the revellers trooping unmasked homeward to
rest for the night's last mad frolic.
Down Toulouse Street there came the merriest throng of all.
Young men and women in dainty, fairy-like garb, dancers, and
dresses of the picturesque Empire, a butterfly or two and a dame
here and there with powdered hair and graces of olden time.
Singing with unmasked faces, they danced toward Tante Louise and
Odalie. She stood with eyes lustrous and tear-heavy, for there
in the front was Pierre, Pierre the faithless, his arms about the
slender waist of a butterfly, whose tinselled powdered hair
floated across the lace ruffles of his Empire coat.
"Pierre!" cried Odalie, softly. No one heard, for it was a mere
faint breath and fell unheeded. Instead the laughing throng
pelted her with flowers and candy and went their way, and even
Pierre did not see.
You see, when one is shut up in the grim walls of a Royal Street
house, with no one but a Tante Louise and a grim judge, how is
one to learn that in this world there are faithless ones who may
glance tenderly into one's eyes at mass and pass the holy water
on caressing fingers without being madly in love? There was no
one to tell Odalie, so she sat at home in the dull first days of
Lent, and nursed her dear dead love, and mourned as women have
done from time immemorial over the faithlessness of man. And
when one day she asked that she might go back to the Ursulines'
convent where her childish days were spent, only to go this time
as a nun, Monsieur le Juge and Tante Louise thought it quite the
proper and convenient thing to do; for how were they to know the
secret of that Mardi Gras day?
If you never lived in Mandeville, you cannot appreciate the
thrill of wholesome, satisfied joy which sweeps over its
inhabitants every evening at five o'clock. It is the hour for
the arrival of the "New Camelia," the happening of the day. As
early as four o'clock the trailing smoke across the horizon of
the treacherous Lake Pontchartrain appears, and Mandeville knows
then that the hour for its siesta has passed, and that it must
array itself in its coolest and fluffiest garments, and go down
to the pier to meet this sole connection between itself and the
outside world; the little, puffy, side-wheel steamer that comes
daily from New Orleans and brings the mail and the news.
On this particular day there was an air of suppressed excitement
about the little knot of people which gathered on the pier. To
be sure, there were no outward signs to show that anything
unusual had occurred. The small folks danced with the same glee
over the worn boards, and peered down with daring excitement into
the perilous depths of the water below. The sun, fast sinking in
a gorgeous glow behind the pines of the Tchefuncta region far
away, danced his mischievous rays in much the same manner that he
did every other day. But there was a something in the air, a
something not tangible, but mysterious, subtle. You could catch
an indescribable whiff of it in your inner senses, by the
half-eager, furtive glances that the small crowd cast at La
"Gar, gar, le bateau!" said one dark-tressed mother to the
wide-eyed baby. "Et, oui," she added, in an undertone to her
companion. "Voila, La Juanita!"
La Juanita, you must know, was the pride of Mandeville, the
adored, the admired of all, with her petite, half-Spanish,
half-French beauty. Whether rocking in the shade of the
Cherokee-rose-covered gallery of Grandpere Colomes' big house,
her fair face bonnet-shaded, her dainty hands gloved to keep the
sun from too close an acquaintance, or splashing the spray from
the bow of her little pirogue, or fluffing her skirts about her
tiny feet on the pier, she was the pet and ward of Mandeville, as
it were, La Juanita Alvarez, since Madame Alvarez was a widow,
and Grandpere Colomes was strict and stern.
And now La Juanita had set her small foot down with a passionate
stamp before Grandpere Colomes' very face, and tossed her black
curls about her wilful head, and said she would go to the pier
this evening to meet her Mercer. All Mandeville knew this, and
cast its furtive glances alternately at La Juanita with two big
pink spots in her cheeks, and at the entrance to the pier,
expecting Grandpere Colomes and a scene.
The sun cast red glows and violet shadows over the pier, and the
pines murmured a soft little vesper hymn among themselves up on
the beach, as the "New Camelia" swung herself in, crabby,
sidewise, like a fat old gentleman going into a small door.
There was the clang of an important bell, the scream of a hoarse
little whistle, and Mandeville rushed to the gang-plank to
welcome the outside world. Juanita put her hand through a
waiting arm, and tripped away with her Mercer, big and blond and
brawny. "Un Americain, pah!" said the little mother of the black
eyes. And Mandeville sighed sadly, and shook its head, and was
sorry for Grandpere Colomes.
This was Saturday, and the big regatta would be Monday. Ah, that
regatta, such a one as Mandeville had never seen! There were to
be boats from Madisonville and Amite, from Lewisburg and
Covington, and even far-away Nott's Point. There was to be a
Class A and Class B and Class C, and the little French girls of
the town flaunted their ribbons down the one oak-shaded,
lake-kissed street, and dared anyone to say theirs were not the
In Class A was entered, "La Juanita,' captain Mercer Grangeman,
colours pink and gold." Her name, her colours; what impudence!
Of course, not being a Mandevillian, you could not understand the
shame of Grandpere Colomes at this. Was it not bad enough for
his petite Juanita, his Spanish blossom, his hope of a family
that had held itself proudly aloof from "dose Americain" from
time immemorial, to have smiled upon this Mercer, this pale-eyed
youth? Was it not bad enough for her to demean herself by
walking upon the pier with him? But for a boat, his boat, "un
bateau Americain," to be named La Juanita! Oh, the shame of it!
Grandpere Colomes prayed a devout prayer to the Virgin that "La
Juanita" should be capsized.
Monday came, clear and blue and stifling. The waves of hot air
danced on the sands and adown the one street merrily. Glassily
calm lay the Pontchartrain, heavily still hung the atmosphere.
Madame Alvarez cast an inquiring glance toward the sky.
Grandpere Colomes chuckled. He had not lived on the shores of
the treacherous Lake Pontchartrain for nothing. He knew its
every mood, its petulances and passions; he knew this glassy
warmth and what it meant. Chuckling again and again, he stepped
to the gallery and looked out over the lake, and at the pier,
where lay the boats rocking and idly tugging at their moorings.
La Juanita in her rose-scented room tied the pink ribbons on her
dainty frock, and fastened cloth of gold roses at her lithe
It was said that just before the crack of the pistol La Juanita's
tiny hand lay in Mercer's, and that he bent his head, and
whispered softly, so that the surrounding crowd could not hear,--
"Juanita mine, if I win, you will?"
"Oui, mon Mercere, eef you win."
In another instant the white wings were off scudding before the
rising breeze, dipping their glossy boat-sides into the clear
water, straining their cordage in their tense efforts to reach
the stake boats. Mandeville indiscriminately distributed itself
on piers, large and small, bath-house tops, trees, and craft of
all kinds, from pirogue, dory, and pine-raft to pretentious
cat-boat and shell-schooner. Mandeville cheered and strained its
eyes after all the boats, but chiefly was its attention directed
to "La Juanita."
"Ah, voila, eet is ahead!"
"Mais non, c'est un autre!"
"La Juanita! La Juanita!"
"Regardez Grandpere Colomes!"
Old Colomes on the big pier with Madame Alvarez and his
granddaughter was intently straining his weather-beaten face in
the direction of Nott's Point, his back resolutely turned upon
the scudding white wings. A sudden chuckle of grim satisfaction
caused La Petite's head to toss petulantly.
But only for a minute, for Grandpere Colomes' chuckle was
followed by a shout of dismay from those whose glance had
followed his. You must know that it is around Nott's Point that
the storm king shows his wings first, for the little peninsula
guards the entrance which leads into the southeast waters of the
stormy Rigolets and the blustering Gulf. You would know, if you
lived in Mandeville, that when the pines on Nott's Point darken
and when the water shows white beyond like the teeth of a hungry
wolf, it is time to steer your boat into the mouth of some one of
the many calm bayous which flow silently throughout St. Tammany
parish into the lake. Small wonder that the cry of dismay went
up now, for Nott's Point was black, with a lurid light overhead,
and the roar of the grim southeast wind came ominously over the
La Juanita clasped her hands and strained her eyes for her
namesake. The racers had rounded the second stake-boat, and the
course of the triangle headed them directly for the lurid cloud.
You should have seen Grandpere Colomes then. He danced up and
down the pier in a perfect frenzy. The thin pale lips of Madame
Alvarez moved in a silent prayer; La Juanita stood coldly silent.
And now you could see that the advance guard of the southeast
force had struck the little fleet. They dipped and scurried and
rocked, and you could see the sails being reefed hurriedly, and
almost hear the rigging creak and moan under the strain. Then
the wind came up the lake, and struck the town with a tumultuous
force. The waters rose and heaved in the long, sullen
ground-swell, which betokened serious trouble. There was a rush
of lake-craft to shelter. Heavy gray waves boomed against the
breakwaters and piers, dashing their brackish spray upon the
strained watchers; then with a shriek and a howl the storm burst
full, with blinding sheets of rain, and a great hurricane of Gulf
wind that threatened to blow the little town away.
La Juanita was proud. When Grandpere and Madame led her away in
the storm, though her face was white, and the rose mouth pressed
close, not a word did she say, and her eyes were as bright as
ever before. It was foolish to hope that the frail boats could
survive such a storm. There was not even the merest excuse for
shelter out in the waters, and when Lake Pontchartrain grows
angry, it devours without pity.
Your tropical storm is soon over, however, and in an hour the sun
struggled through a gray and misty sky, over which the wind was
sweeping great clouds. The rain-drops hung diamond-like on the
thick foliage, but the long ground-swell still boomed against the
breakwaters and showed white teeth, far to the south.
As chickens creep from under shelter after a rain, so the people
of Mandeville crept out again on the piers, on the bath-houses,
on the breakwater edge, and watched eagerly for the boats.
Slowly upon the horizon appeared white sails, and the little
craft swung into sight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, counted Mandeville. Every one coming in! Bravo!
And a great cheer that swept the whole length of the town from
the post-office to Black Bayou went up. Bravo! Every boat was
coming in. But--was every man?
This was a sobering thought, and in the hush which followed it
you could hear the Q. and C. train thundering over the great
lake-bridge, miles away.
Well, they came into the pier at last, "La Juanita" in the lead;
and as Captain Mercer landed, he was surrounded by a voluble,
chattering, anxious throng that loaded him with questions in
patois, in broken English, and in French. He was no longer "un
Americain" now, he was a hero.
When the other eight boats came in, and Mandeville saw that no
one was lost, there was another ringing bravo, and more
chattering of questions.
We heard the truth finally. When the storm burst, Captain Mercer
suddenly promoted himself to an admiralship and assumed command
of his little fleet. He had led them through the teeth of the
gale to a small inlet on the coast between Bayou Lacombe and
Nott's Point, and there they had waited until the storm passed.
Loud were the praises of the other captains for Admiral Mercer,
profuse were the thanks of the sisters and sweethearts, as he was
carried triumphantly on the shoulders of the sailors adown the
wharf to the Maison Colomes.
The crispness had gone from Juanita's pink frock, and the cloth
of gold roses were wellnigh petalless, but the hand that she
slipped into his was warm and soft, and the eyes that were
upturned to Mercer's blue ones were shining with admiring tears.
And even Grandpere Colomes, as he brewed on the
Cherokee-rose-covered gallery, a fiery punch for the heroes, was
heard to admit that "some time dose Americain can mos' be lak one
And we danced at the betrothal supper the next week.
It was cold that day. The great sharp north-wind swept out
Elysian Fields Street in blasts that made men shiver, and bent
everything in their track. The skies hung lowering and gloomy;
the usually quiet street was more than deserted, it was dismal.
Titee leaned against one of the brown freight cars for protection
against the shrill norther, and warmed his little chapped hands
at a blaze of chips and dry grass. "Maybe it'll snow," he
muttered, casting a glance at the sky that would have done credit
to a practised seaman. "Then won't I have fun! Ugh, but the
It was Saturday, or Titee would have been in school, the big
yellow school on Marigny Street, where he went every day when its
bell boomed nine o'clock, went with a run and a joyous whoop,
ostensibly to imbibe knowledge, really to make his teacher's life
Idle, lazy, dirty, troublesome boy, she called him to herself, as
day by day wore on, and Titee improved not, but let his whole
class pass him on its way to a higher grade. A practical joke he
relished infinitely more than a practical problem, and a good
game at pin-sticking was far more entertaining than a language
lesson. Moreover, he was always hungry, and would eat in school
before the half-past ten recess, thereby losing much good
playtime for his voracious appetite.
But there was nothing in natural history that Titee did not know.
He could dissect a butterfly or a mosquito hawk, and describe
their parts as accurately as a spectacled student with a scalpel
and microscope could talk about a cadaver. The entire Third
District, with its swamps and canals and commons and railroad
sections, and its wondrous, crooked, tortuous streets, was an
open book to Titee. There was not a nook or corner that he did
not know or could not tell of. There was not a bit of gossip
among the gamins, little Creole and Spanish fellows, with dark
skins and lovely eyes, like spaniels, that Titee could not tell
of. He knew just exactly when it was time for crawfish to be
plentiful down in the Claiborne and Marigny canals; just when a
poor, breadless fellow might get a job in the big bone-yard and
fertilising factory, out on the railroad track; and as for the
levee, with its ships and schooners and sailors, how he could
revel in them! The wondrous ships, the pretty little schooners,
where the foreign-looking sailors lay on long moonlight nights,
singing to their guitars and telling great stories,--all these
things and more could Titee tell of. He had been down to the
Gulf, and out on its treacherous waters through the Eads jetties
on a fishing-smack with some jolly brown sailors, and could
interest the whole school-room in the talk-lessons, if he chose.
Titee shivered as the wind swept round the freight-cars. There
isn't much warmth in a bit of a jersey coat.
"Wish 'twas summer," he murmured, casting another sailor's glance
at the sky. "Don't believe I like snow; it's too wet and cold."
And with a last parting caress at the little fire he had builded
for a minute's warmth, he plunged his hands in his pockets, shut
his teeth, and started manfully on his mission out the railroad
track toward the swamps.
It was late when Titee came home, to such a home as it was, and
he had but illy performed his errand; so his mother beat him and
sent him to bed supperless. A sharp strap stings in cold
weather, and a long walk in the teeth of a biting wind creates a
keen appetite. But if Titee cried himself to sleep that night,
he was up bright and early next morning, had been to mass,
devoutly kneeling on the cold floor, blowing his fingers to keep
them warm, and was home almost before the rest of the family were
There was evidently some great matter of business on the young
man's mind, for he scarcely ate his breakfast, and left the table
soon, eagerly cramming the remainder of his meal in his pockets.
"Ma foi, but what now?" mused his mother, as she watched his
little form sturdily trudging the track in the face of the wind;
his head, with the rimless cap thrust close on the shock of black
hair, bent low; his hands thrust deep in the bulging pockets.
"A new live play-toy h'it may be," ventured the father; "he is
one funny chil."
The next day Titee was late for school. It was something
unusual, for he was always the first on hand to fix some plan of
mechanism to make the teacher miserable. She looked reprovingly
at him this morning, when he came in during arithmetic class, his
hair all wind-blown, his cheeks rosy from a hard fight with the
sharp blasts. But he made up for his tardiness by his extreme
goodness all day; just think, Titee did not even eat once before
noon, a something unparalleled in the entire previous history of
his school life.
When the lunch-hour came, and all the yard was a scene of feast
and fun, one of the boys found him standing by a post,
disconsolately watching a ham sandwich as it rapidly disappeared
down the throat of a sturdy, square-headed little fellow.
"Hello, Edgar," he said, "what you got fer lunch?"
"Nothin'," was the mournful reply.
"Ah, why don't you stop eatin' in school, fer a change? You
don't ever have nothin' to eat."
"I didn't eat to-day," said Titee, blazing up.
"I tell you I didn't!" and Titee's hard little fist planted a
punctuation mark on his comrade's eye.
A fight in the schoolyard! Poor Titee was in disgrace again.
Still, in spite of his battered appearance, a severe scolding
from the principal, lines to write, and a further punishment from
his mother, Titee scarcely remained for his dinner, but was off
down the railroad track with his pockets partly stuffed with the
remnants of the scanty meal.
And the next day Titee was tardy again, and lunchless too, and
the next, until the teacher, in despair, sent a nicely printed
note to his mother about him, which might have done some good,
had not Titee taken great pains to tear it up on the way home.
One day it rained, whole bucketsful of water, that poured in
torrents from a miserable, angry sky. Too wet a day for bits of
boys to be trudging to school, so Titee's mother thought; so she
kept him at home to watch the weather through the window,
fretting and fuming like a regular storm in miniature. As the
day wore on, and the rain did not abate, his mother kept a strong
watch upon him, for he tried many times to slip away.
Dinner came and went, and the gray soddenness of the skies
deepened into the blackness of coming night. Someone called
Titee to go to bed, and Titee was nowhere to be found.
Under the beds, in closets and corners, in such impossible places
as the soap-dish and water-pitcher even, they searched, but he
had gone as completely as if he had been spirited away. It was
of no use to call up the neighbors, he had never been near their
houses, they affirmed, so there was nothing to do but to go to
the railroad track where Titee had been seen so often trudging in
the shrill north-wind.
With lanterns and sticks, and his little yellow dog, the rescuing
party started down the track. The rain had ceased falling, but
the wind blew a gale, scurrying great gray clouds over a fierce
sky. It was not exactly dark, though in this part of the city
there is neither gas nor electricity, and on such a night as this
neither moon nor stars dared show their faces in so gray a sky;
but a sort of all-diffused luminosity was in the air, as though
the sea of atmosphere was charged with an ethereal
Search as they did, there were no signs of Titee. The soft earth
between the railroad ties crumbled between their feet without
showing any small tracks or footprints.
"Mais, we may as well return," said the big brother; "he is not
"Oh, mon Dieu," urged the mother, "he is, he is; I know it."
So on they went, slipping on the wet earth, stumbling over the
loose rocks, until a sudden wild yelp from Tiger brought them to
a standstill. He had rushed ahead of them, and his voice could
be heard in the distance, howling piteously.
With a fresh impetus the little muddy party hurried forward.
Tiger's yelps could be heard plainer and plainer, mingled now
with a muffled, plaintive little wail.
After a while they found a pitiful little heap of sodden rags,
lying at the foot of a mound of earth and stones thrown upon the
side of the track. It was Titee with a broken leg, all wet and
miserable and moaning.
They picked him up tenderly, and started to carry him home. But
he cried and clung to the mother, and begged not to go.
"Ah, mon pauvre enfant, he has the fever!" wailed the mother.
"No, no, it's my old man. He's hungry," sobbed Titee, holding
out a little package. It was the remnants of his dinner, all wet
"What old man?" asked the big brother.
"My old man. Oh, please, please don't go home till I see him.
I'm not hurting much, I can go."
So, yielding to his whim, they carried him farther away, down the
sides of the track up to an embankment or levee by the sides of
the Marigny Canal. Then the big brother, suddenly stopping,
"Why, here's a cave. Is it Robinson Crusoe?"
"It's my old man's cave," cried Titee. "Oh, please go in; maybe
There cannot be much ceremony in entering a cave. There is but
one thing to do,--walk in. This they did, and holding up the
lantern, beheld a weird sight. On a bed of straw and paper in
one corner lay a withered, wizened, white-bearded old man with
wide eyes staring at the unaccustomed light. In the other corner
was an equally dilapidated cow.
"It's my old man!" cried Titee, joyfully. "Oh, please, grandpa,
I couldn't get here to-day, it rained all mornin' an' when I ran
away, I fell down an' broke something, an', oh, grandpa, I'm all
tired an' hurty, an' I'm so 'fraid you're hungry."
So the secret of Titee's jaunts down the railroad was out. In
one of his trips around the swamp-land, he had discovered the old
man exhausted from cold and hunger in the fields. Together they
had found this cave, and Titee had gathered the straw and paper
that made the bed. Then a tramp cow, old and turned adrift, too,
had crept in and shared the damp dwelling. And thither Titee had
trudged twice a day, carrying his luncheon in the morning and his
dinner in the afternoon.
"There's a crown in heaven for that child," said the officer of
charity to whom the case was referred.
But as for Titee, when the leg was well, he went his way as before.