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´╗┐Title: Strong Hearts
Author: Cable, George Washington, 1844-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Strong Hearts" ***

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STRONG HEARTS

By George W. Cable


1899



_CONTENTS_


_The Solitary

The Taxidermist

The Entomologist



In magazine form "The Solitary" appeared under the title of "Gregory's
Island."_



The Solitary



I


"The dream of Pharaoh is one. The seven kine are seven years; and the
seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.... And for that the
dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is
established."...

In other words: Behind three or four subtitles and changes of time, scene,
characters, this tale of strong hearts is one. And for that the tale is
tripled or quadrupled unto you three or four times (the number will
depend); it is because in each of its three or four aspects--or separate
stories, if you insist--it sets forth, in heroic natures and poetic fates,
a principle which seems to me so universal that I think Joseph would say
of it also, as he said to the sovereign of Egypt, "The thing is
established of God."

I know no better way to state this principle, being a man, not of letters,
but of commerce (and finance), than to say--what I fear I never should
have learned had I not known the men and women I here tell of--that
religion without poetry is as dead a thing as poetry without religion. In
our practical use of them, I mean; their infusion into all our doing and
being. As dry as a mummy, great Joseph would say.

Shall I be more explicit? Taking that great factor of life which men, with
countless lights, shades, narrownesses and breadths of meaning, call
Religion, and taking it in the largest sense we can give it; in like
manner taking Poetry in the largest sense possible; this cluster of tales
is one, because from each of its parts, with no argument but the souls and
fates they tell of, it illustrates the indivisible twinship of Poetry and
Religion; a oneness of office and of culmination, which, as they reach
their highest plane, merges them into identity. Is that any clearer? You
see I am no scientist or philosopher, and I do not stand at any dizzy
height, even in my regular business of banking and insurance, except now
and then when my colleagues of the clearing-house or board want something
drawn up--"Whereas, the inscrutable wisdom of Providence has taken from
among us"--something like that.

I tell the stories as I saw them occur. I tell them for your
entertainment; the truth they taught me you may do what you please with.
It was exemplified in some of these men and women by their failure to
incarnate it. Others, through the stained glass of their imperfect
humanity, showed it forth alive and alight in their own souls and bodies.
One there was who never dreamed he was a bright example of anything, in a
world which, you shall find him saying, God--or somebody--whoever is
responsible for civilization--had made only too good and complex and big
for him. We may hold that to make life a perfect, triumphant poem we must
keep in beautiful, untyrannous subordination every impulse of mere self-
provision, whether earthly or heavenly, while at the same time we give
life its equatorial circumference. I know that he so believed. Yet, under
no better conscious motive than an impulse of pure self-preservation,
finding his spiritual breadth and stature too small for half the practical
demands of such large theories, he humbly set to work to narrow down the
circumference of his life to limits within which he might hope to turn
_some_ of its daily issues into good poetry. This is the main reason why I
tell of him first, and why the parts of my story--or the stories--do not
fall into chronological order. I break that order with impunity, and adopt
that which I believe to be best in the interest of Poetry and themselves.
Only do not think hard if I get more interested in the story, or stories,
than in the interpretation thereof.



II


The man of whom I am speaking was a tallish, slim young fellow, shaped
well enough, though a trifle limp for a Louisianian in the Mississippi
(Confederate) cavalry. Some camp wag had fastened on him the nickname of
"Crackedfiddle." Our acquaintance began more than a year before Lee's
surrender; but Gregory came out of the war without any startling record,
and the main thing I tell of him occurred some years later.

I never saw him under arms or in uniform. I met him first at the house of
a planter, where I was making the most of a flesh-wound, and was, myself,
in uniform simply because I hadn't any other clothes. There were pretty
girls in the house, and as his friends and fellow-visitors--except me--
wore the gilt bars of commissioned rank on their gray collars, and he, as
a private, had done nothing glorious, his appearance was always in
civilian's dress. Black he wore, from head to foot, in the cut fashionable
in New Orleans when the war brought fashion to a stand: coat-waist high,
skirt solemnly long; sleeves and trousers small at the hands and feet, and
puffed out--phew! in the middle. The whole scheme was dandyish, dashing,
zou-zou; and when he appeared in it, dark, good-looking, loose,
languorous, slow to smile and slower to speak, it was--confusing.

One sunset hour as I sat alone on the planter's veranda immersed in a
romance, I noticed, too late to offer any serviceable warning, this
impressive black suit and its ungenerously nicknamed contents coming in at
the gate unprotected. Dogs, in the South, in those times, were not the
caressed and harmless creatures now so common. A Mississippi planter's
watch-dogs were kept for their vigilant and ferocious hostility to the
negro of the quarters and to all strangers. One of these, a powerful,
notorious, bloodthirsty brute, long-bodied, deer-legged--you may possibly
know that big breed the planters called the "cur-dog" and prized so highly
-darted out of hiding and silently sprang at the visitor's throat. Gregory
swerved, and the brute's fangs, whirling by his face, closed in the sleeve
and rent it from shoulder to elbow. At the same time another, one of the
old "bear-dog" breed, was coming as fast as the light block and chain he
had to drag would allow him. Gregory neither spoke, nor moved to attack or
retreat. At my outcry the dogs slunk away, and he asked me, diffidently,
for a thing which was very precious in those days--pins.

But he was quickly surrounded by pitying eyes and emotional voices, and
was coaxed into the house, where the young ladies took his coat away to
mend it. While he waited for it in my room I spoke of the terror so many
brave men had of these fierce home-guards. I knew one such beast that was
sired of a wolf. He heard me with downcast eyes, at first with evident
pleasure, but very soon quite gravely.

"They can afford to fear dogs," he replied, "when they've got no other
fear." And when I would have it that he had shown a stout heart he smiled
ruefully.

"I do everything through weakness," he soliloquized, and, taking my book,
opened it as if to dismiss our theme. But I bade him turn to the preface,
where heavily scored by the same feminine hand which had written on the
blank leaf opposite, "Richard Thorndyke Smith, from C.O."--we read
something like this:

The seed of heroism is in all of us. Else we should not forever relish, as
we do, stories of peril, temptation, and exploit. Their true zest is no
mere ticklement of our curiosity or wonder, but comradeship with souls
that have courage in danger, faithfulness under trial, or magnanimity in
triumph or defeat. We have, moreover, it went on to say, a care for human
excellence _in general_, by reason of which we want not alone our son, or
cousin, or sister, but _man everywhere_, the norm, _man_, to be strong,
sweet, and true; and reading stories of such, we feel this wish rebound
upon us as duty sweetened by a new hope, and have a new yearning for its
fulfilment in ourselves.

"In short," said I, closing the book, "those imaginative victories of soul
over circumstance become essentially ours by sympathy and emulation, don't
they?"

"O yes," he sighed, and added an indistinct word about "spasms of virtue."
But I claimed a special charm and use for unexpected and detached
heroisms, be they fact or fiction. "If adventitious virtue," I argued,
"can spring up from unsuspected seed and without the big roots of
character--"

"You think," interrupted Gregory, "there's a fresh chance for me."

"For all the common run of us!" I cried. "Why not? And even if there
isn't, hasn't it a beauty and a value? Isn't a rose a rose, on the bush or
off? Gold is gold wherever you find it, and the veriest spasm of true
virtue, coined into action, is true virtue, and counts. It may not work my
nature's whole redemption, but it works that way, and is just so much
solid help toward the whole world's uplift." I was young enough then to
talk in that manner, and he actually took comfort in my words, confessing
that it had been his way to count a good act which was not in character
with its doer as something like a dead loss to everybody.

"I'm glad it's not," he said, "for I reckon my ruling motive is always
fear."

"Was it fear this evening?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, "it was. It was fear of a coward's name, and a sort of
abject horror of being one."

"Too big a coward inside," I laughed, "to be a big stout coward outside,"
and he assented.

"Smith," he said, and paused long, "if I were a hard drinker and should
try to quit, it wouldn't be courage that would carry me through, but fear;
quaking fear of a drunkard's life and a drunkard's death."

I was about to rejoin that the danger was already at his door, but he read
the warning accusation in my eye.

"I'm afraid so," he responded. "I had a strange experience once," he
presently added, as if reminded of it by what we had last said. "I took a
prisoner."

"By the overwhelming power of fear?" I inquired.

"Partly, yes. I saw him before he saw me and I felt that if I didn't take
him he'd either take me or shoot me, so I covered him and he surrendered.
We were in an old pine clearing grown up with oak bushes."

"Would it have been less strange," I inquired, "if you had been in an old
oak clearing grown up with pine bushes?"

"No, he'd have got away just the same."

"What! you didn't bring him in?"


"Only part of the way. Then he broke and ran."

"And you had to shoot him?"

"No, I didn't even shoot at him. I couldn't, Smith; _he looked so much
like me_. It was like seeing my own ghost. All the time I had him
something kept saying to me, 'You're your own prisoner--you're your own
prisoner.' And--do you know?--that thing comes back to me now every time I
get into the least sort of a tight place!"

"I wish it would come to me," I responded. A slave girl brought his coat
and our talk remained unfinished until five years after the war.



III


Gregory had been brought up on the shore of Mississippi Sound, a beautiful
region fruitful mainly in apathy of character. He was a skilled lover of
sail-boats. When we all got back to New Orleans, paroled, and cast about
for a living in the various channels "open to gentlemen," he, largely, I
think, owing to his timid notion of his worth, went into the rough
business of owning and sailing a small, handsome schooner in the "Lake
trade," which, you know, includes Mississippi Sound. I married, and for
some time he liked much to come and see us--on rainy evenings, when he
knew we should be alone. He was in love yet, as he had been when we were
fellow-absentees from camp, and with the same girl. But his passion had
never presumed to hope, and the girl was of too true a sort ever to thrust
hope upon him. What his love lacked in courage it made up in constancy,
however, and morning, noon, and night--sometimes midnight too, I venture
to say--his all too patient heart had bowed mutely down toward its holy
city across the burning sands of his diffidence. When another fellow
stepped in and married her, he simply loved on, in the same innocent,
dumb, harmless way as before. He gave himself some droll consolations. One
of these was a pretty, sloop-rigged sail-boat, trim and swift, on which he
lavished the tendernesses he knew he should never bestow upon any living
she. He named her Sweetheart; a general term; but he knew that we all knew
it meant the mender of his coat. By and by his visits fell off and I met
him oftenest on the street. Sometimes we stopped for a moment's sidewalk
chat, New Orleans fashion, and I still envied the clear bronze of his fine
skin, which the rest of us had soon lost. But after a while certain
changes began to show for the worse, until one day in the summer of the
fifth year he tried to hurry by me. I stopped him, and was thinking what a
handsome fellow he was even yet, with such a quiet, modest fineness about
him, when he began, with a sudden agony of face, "My schooner's sold for
debt! You know the reason; I've seen you read it all over me every time we
have met, these twelve months--O _don't_ look at me!"

His slim, refined hands--he gave me both?-were clammy and tremulous.
"Yes," he babbled on, "it's a fixed fact, Smith; the cracked fiddle's a
smashed fiddle at last!"

I drew him out of the hot sun and into a secluded archway, he talking
straight on with a speed and pitiful grandiloquence totally unlike him.
"I've finished all the easy parts--the first ecstasies of pure license--
the long down-hill plunge, with all its mad exhilarations--the wild vanity
of venturing and defying--that bigness of the soul's experiences which
makes even its anguish seem finer than the old bitterness of tame
propriety--they are all behind me, now?-the valley of horrors is before!
You can't understand it, Smith. O you can't understand----"

O couldn't I! And, anyhow, one does not have to put himself through a
whole criminal performance to apprehend its spiritual experiences. I
understood all, and especially what he unwittingly betrayed even now; that
deep thirst for the dramatic element in one's own life, which, when social
conformity fails to supply it, becomes, to an eager soul, sin's cunningest
allurement.

I tried to talk to him. "Gregory, that day the dogs jumped on you--you
remember?--didn't you say if ever you should reach this condition your
fear might save you?"

He stared at me a moment. "Do you"--a ray of humor lighted his eyes--"do
you still believe in spasms of virtue?"

"Thank heaven, yes!" laughed I.

"Good-by," he said, and was gone.

I heard of him twice afterward that day. About noon some one coming into
the office said: "I just now saw Crackedfiddle buying a great lot of
powder and shot and fishing-tackle. Here's a note. He says first read it
and then seal it and send it to his aunt." It read:

_"Don't look for me. You can't find me. I'm not going to kill or hurt
myself, and I'll report again in a month."_

I delivered it in person on my way uptown, advising his kinswoman to trust
him on his own terms and hope for the best. Privately, of course, I was
distressed, and did not become less so when, on reaching home, Mrs. Smith
told me that he had been there and borrowed an arm-load of books, saying
he might return some of them in a month, but would probably keep others
for two. So he did; and one evening, when he brought the last of them
back, he told us fully, spiritual experiences and all, what had occurred
to him in the interval.

The sale of the schooner had paid its debt and left him some cash over.
Better yet, it had saved Sweetheart. On the day of his disappearance she
was lying at the head of the New Basin, distant but a few minutes' walk
from the spot where we met and talked. When he left me he went there. At
the stores thereabout he bought a new hatchet and axe, an extra water-keg
or two, and a month's provisions. He filled all the kegs, stowed
everything aboard, and by the time the afternoon had half waned was
rippling down the New Canal under mule-tow with a strong lake breeze in
his face.

At the lake (Pontchartrain), as the tow-line was cast off, he hoisted
sail, and, skimming out by lighthouse and breakwater, tripped away toward
Pointe-aux-Herbes and the eastern skyline beyond, he and Sweetheart alone,
his hand clasping hers--the tiller, that is--hour by hour, and the small
waves tiptoeing to kiss her southern cheek as she leaned the other away
from the saucy north wind. In time the low land, and then the lighthouse,
sank and vanished behind them; on the left the sun went down in the purple
black swamps of Manchac; the intervening waters turned crimson and bronze
under the fairer changes of the sky, while in front of them Fort Pike
Light began to glimmer through an opal haze, and by and by to draw near.
It passed. From a large inbound schooner gliding by in the twilight, came
in friendly recognition, the drone of a conch-shell, the last happy
salutation Sweetheart was ever to receive. Then the evening star silvered
their wake through the deep Rigolets, and the rising moon met them, her
and her lover, in Lake Borgne, passing the dark pines of Round Island, and
hurrying on toward the white sand-keys of the Gulf.

The night was well advanced as they neared the pine-crested dunes of Cat
Island, in whose lee a more cautious sailor would have dropped anchor till
the morning. But to this pair every mile of these fickle waters, channel
and mud-lump, snug lagoon, open sea and hidden bar, each and all, were
known as the woods are known to a hunter, and, as he drew her hand closer
to his side, she turned across the track of the moon and bounded into the
wide south. A maze of marsh islands--huddling along that narrow, half-
drowned mainland of cypress swamp and trembling prairie which follows the
Mississippi out to sea--slept, leagues away, below the western waters. In
the east lay but one slender boundary between the voyager and the
shoreless deep, and this was so near that from its farther edge came now
and again its admonishing murmur, the surf-thunder of the open Gulf
rolling forever down the prone but unshaken battle-front of the sandy
Chandeleurs.



IV


So all night, lest wind or resolve should fail next day, he sailed. How to
tell just where dawn found him I scarcely know.

Somewhere in that blue wilderness, with no other shore in sight, yet not
over three miles northeast of a "pass" between two long tide-covered sand-
reefs, a ferment of delta silt--if science guesses right--had lifted
higher than most of the islands behind it in the sunken west one mere
islet in the shape of a broad crescent, with its outward curve to seaward
and a deep, slender lagoon on the landward side filling the whole length
of its bight. About half the island was flat and was covered with those
strong marsh grasses for which you've seen cattle, on the mainland,
venture so hungrily into the deep ooze. The rest, the southern half, rose
in dazzling white dunes twenty feet or more in height and dappled green
with patches of ragged sod and thin groups of dwarfed and wind-flattened
shrubs. As the sun rose, Sweetheart and her sailor glided through a gap in
the sand reef that closed the lagoon in, luffed, and as a great cloud of
nesting pelicans rose from their dirty town on the flats, ran softly upon
the inner sands, where a rillet, a mere thread of sweet water, trickled
across the white beach. Here he waded ashore with the utensils and
provisions, made a fire, washed down a hot breakfast of bacon and pone
with a pint of black coffee, returned to his boat and slept until
afternoon. Wakened at length by the canting of the sloop with the fall of
the tide, he rose, rekindled his fire, cooked and ate again, smoked two
pipes, and then, idly shouldering his gun, made a long half-circuit of the
beach to south and eastward, mounted the highest dune and gazed far and
wide.

Nowhere on sand or sea under the illimitable dome was there sign of human
presence on the earth. Nor would there likely be any. Except by
misadventure no ship on any course ever showed more than a topmast above
this horizon. Of the hunters and fishermen who roamed the islands nearer
shore, with the Chandeleurs, the storm-drowned Grand Gosiers and the deep-
sea fishing grounds beyond, few knew the way hither, and fewer ever sailed
it. At the sound of his gun the birds of the beach--sea-snipe, curlew,
plover--showed the whites of their wings for an instant and fell to
feeding again. Save when the swift Wilderness--you remember the revenue
cutter?-chanced this way on her devious patrol, only the steamer of the
light-house inspection service, once a month, came up out of the southwest
through yonder channel and passed within hail on her way from the stations
of the Belize to those of Mississippi Sound; and he knew--had known before
he left the New Basin--that she had just gone by here the day before.

But to Gregory this solitude brought no quick distress. With a bird or two
at his belt he turned again toward his dying fire. Once on the way he
paused, as he came in sight of the sloop, and gazed upon it with a
faintness of heart he had not known since his voyage began. However, it
presently left him, and hurrying down to her side he began to unload her
completely, and to make a permanent camp in the lee of a ridge of sand
crested with dwarfed casino bushes, well up from the beach. The night did
not stop him, and by the time he was tired enough for sleep he had
lightened the boat of everything stowed into her the previous day. Before
sunrise he was at work again, removing her sandbags, her sails, flags,
cordage, even her spars. The mast would have been heavy for two men to
handle, but he got it out whole, though not without hurting one hand so
painfully that he had to lie off for over two hours. But by midday he was
busy again, and when at low water poor Sweetheart comfortably turned upon
her side on the odorous, clean sand, it was never more to rise. The keen,
new axe of her master ended her days.

"No! O no!" he said to me, "call it anything but courage! I felt--I don't
want to be sentimental--I'm sure I was not sentimental at the time, but--I
felt as though I were a murderer. All I knew was that it had to be done. I
trembled like a thief. I had to stoop twice before I could take up the
axe, and I was so cold my teeth chattered. When I lifted the first blow I
didn't know where it was going to fall. But it struck as true as a die,
and then I flew at it. I never chopped so fast or clean in my life. I
wasn't fierce; I was as full of self-delight as an overpraised child. And
yet when something delayed me an instant I found I was still shaking.
Courage," said he, "O no; I know what it was, and I knew then. But I had
no choice; it was my last chance."

I told him that anyone might have thought him a madman chopping up his
last chance.

"Maybe so," he replied, "but I wasn't; it was the one sane thing I could
do;" and he went on to tell me that when night fell the tallest fire that
ever leapt from those sands blazed from Sweetheart's piled ribs and keel.

It was proof to him of his having been shrewd, he said, that for many days
he felt no repentance of the act nor was in the least lonely. There was an
infinite relief merely in getting clean away from the huge world of men,
with all its exactions and temptations and the myriad rebukes and rebuffs
of its crass propriety and thrift. He had endured solitude enough in it;
the secret loneliness of a spiritual bankruptcy. Here was life begun over,
with none to make new debts to except nature and himself, and no
besetments but his own circumvented propensities. What humble, happy
masterhood! Each dawn he rose from dreamless sleep and leaped into the
surf as into the embrace of a new existence. Every hour of day brought
some unfretting task or hale pastime. With sheath-knife and sail-needle he
made of his mainsail a handsome tent, using the mainboom for his ridge-
pole, and finishing it just in time for the first night of rain--when,
nevertheless, he lost all his coffee!

He did not waste toil. He hoarded its opportunities as one might husband
salt on the mountains or water in the desert, and loitering in well
calculated idleness between thoughts many and things of sea and shore
innumerable, filled the intervals from labor to labor with gentle
entertainment. Skyward ponderings by night, canny discoveries under foot
by day, quickened his mind and sight to vast and to minute significancies,
until they declared an Author known to him hitherto only by tradition.
Every acre of the barren islet grew fertile in beauties and mysteries, and
a handful of sand at the door of his tent held him for hours guessing the
titanic battles that had ground the invincible quartz to that crystal meal
and fed it to the sea.

I may be more rhetorical than he was, but he made all the more of these
conditions while experiencing them, because he knew they could not last
out the thirty days, nor half the thirty, and took modest comfort in a
will strong enough to meet all present demands, well knowing there was one
exigency yet to arise, one old usurer still to be settled with who had not
yet brought in his dun.



V


It came--began to come--in the middle of the second week. At its familiar
approach he felt no dismay, save a certain inert dismay that it brought
none. Three, four, five times he went bravely to the rill, drowned his
thirst and called himself satisfied; but the second day was worse than the
first; the craving seemed better than the rill's brief cure of it, and
once he rose straight from drinking of the stream and climbed the dune to
look for a sail.

He strove in vain to labor. The pleasures of toil were as stale as those
of idleness. His books were put aside with a shudder, and he walked abroad
with a changed gait; the old extortioner was levying on his nerves. And on
his brain. He dreamed that night of war times; found himself commander of
a whole battery of heavy guns, and lo, they were all quaker cannon. When
he would have fled, monstrous terrors met him at every turn, till he woke
and could sleep no more. Dawn widened over sky and sea, but its vast
beauty only mocked the castaway. All day long he wandered up and down and
along and across his glittering prison, no tiniest speck of canvas, no
faintest wreath of smoke, on any water's edge; the horror of his isolation
growing-growing?-like the monsters of his dream, and his whole nature wild
with a desire which was no longer a mere physical drought, but a passion
of the soul, that gave the will an unnatural energy and set at naught
every true interest of earth and heaven. Again and again he would have
shrieked its anguish, but the first note of his voice rebuked him to
silence as if he had espied himself in a glass. He fell on his face
voiceless, writhing, and promised himself, nay, pledged creation and its
Creator, that on the day of his return to the walks of men he would drink
the cup of madness and would drink it thenceforth till he died.

When night came again he paced the sands for hours and then fell to work
to drag by long and toiling zigzags to a favorable point on the southern
end of the island the mast he had saved, and to raise there a flag of
distress. In the shortness of his resources he dared not choose the
boldest exposures, where the first high wind would cast it down; but where
he placed it it could be seen from every quarter except the north, and any
sail approaching from that direction was virtually sure to come within
hail even of the voice.

Day had come again as he left the finished task, and once more from the
highest wind-built ridge his hungering eyes swept the round sea's edge.
But he saw no sail. Nerveless and exhausted he descended to the
southeastern beach and watched the morning brighten. The breezes, that for
some time had slept, fitfully revived, and the sun leaped from the sea and
burned its way through a low bank of dark and ruddy clouds with so unusual
a splendor that the beholder was in some degree both quickened and
tranquillized. He could even play at self-command, and in child fashion
bound himself not to mount the dunes again for a northern look within an
hour. This southern half circle must suffice. Indeed, unless these idle
zephyrs should amend, no sail could in that time draw near enough to
notice any signal he could offer.

Playing at self-command gave him some earnest of it. In a whim of the
better man he put off his clothes and sprang into the breakers. He had
grown chill, but a long wrestle with the surf warmed his blood, and as he
reclothed himself and with a better step took his way along the beach
toward his tent a returning zest of manhood refreshed his spirit. The hour
was up, but in a kind of equilibrium of impulses and with much emptiness
of mind, he let it lengthen on, made a fire, and for the first time in two
days cooked food. He ate and still tarried. A brand in his camp fire, a
piece from the remnant of his boat, made beautiful flames. He idly cast in
another and was pleased to find himself sitting there instead of gazing
his eyes out for sails that never rose into view. He watched a third brand
smoke and blaze. And then, as tamely as if the new impulse were only
another part of a continued abstraction, he arose and once more climbed
the sandy hills. The highest was some distance from his camp. At one point
near its top a brief northeastward glimpse of the marsh's outer edge and
the blue waters beyond showed at least that nothing had come near enough
to raise the pelicans. But the instant his sight cleared the crown of the
ridge he rushed forward, threw up his arms, and lifted his voice in a
long, imploring yell. Hardly two miles away, her shapely canvas leaning
and stiffening in the augmented breeze, a small yacht had just gone about,
and with twice the speed at which she must have approached was, hurrying
back straight into the north.

The frantic man dashed back and forth along the crest, tossing his arms,
waving his Madras handkerchief, cursing himself for leaving his gun so far
behind, and again and again repeating his vain ahoys in wilder and wilder
alternations of beseeching and rage. The lessening craft flew straight on,
no ear in her skilled enough to catch the distant cry, and no eye alert
enough to scan the dwindling sand-hills. He ceased to call, but still,
with heavy notes of distress to himself, waved and waved, now here, now
there, while the sail grew smaller and smaller. At length he stopped this
also and only stood gazing. Almost on first sight of the craft he had
guessed that the men in her had taken alarm at the signs of changing
weather, and seeing the freshening smoke of his fire had also inferred
that earlier sportsmen were already on the island. Oh, if he could have
fired one shot when she was nearest! But already she was as hopelessly
gone as though she were even now below the horizon. Suddenly he turned and
ran down to his camp. Not for the gun; not in any new hope of signalling
the yacht. No, no; a raft! a raft! Deliverance or destruction, it should
be at his own hand and should wait no longer!

A raft forthwith he set about to make. Some stout portions of his boat
were still left. Tough shrubs of the sand-hills furnished trennels and
suppler parts. Of ropes there was no lack. The mast was easily dragged
down again to the beach to be once more a mast, and in nervous haste, yet
with skill and thoroughness, the tent was ripped up and remade into a
sail, and even a rude centreboard was rigged in order that one might tack
against unfavorable winds.

Winds, at nightfall, when the thing began to be near completion, there
were none. The day's sky had steadily withdrawn its favor. The sun shone
as it sank into the waves, but in the northwest and southeast dazzling
thunderheads swelled from the sea's line high into the heavens, and in the
early dusk began with silent kindlings to challenge each other to battle.
As night swiftly closed down the air grew unnaturally still. From the
toiler's brow, worse than at noon, the sweat rolled off, as at last he
brought his work to a close by the glare of his leaping camp-fire. Now,
unless he meant only to perish, he must once more eat and sleep while he
might. Then let the storm fall; the moment it was safely over and the wind
in the right quarter he would sail. As for the thirst which had been such
a torture while thwarted, now that it ruled unchallenged, it was purely a
wild, glad zeal as full of method as of diligence. But first he must make
his diminished provisions and his powder safe against the elements; and
this he did, covering them with a waterproof stuff and burying them in a
northern slope of sand.

He awoke in the small hours of the night. The stars of the zenith were
quenched. Blackness walled and roofed him in close about his crumbled
fire, save when at shorter and shorter intervals and with more and more
deafening thunders the huge clouds lit up their own forms, writhing one
upon another, and revealed the awe-struck sea and ghostly sands waiting
breathlessly below. He rose to lay on more fuel, and while he was in the
act the tornado broke upon him. The wind, as he had forecast, came out of
the southeast. In an instant it was roaring and hurtling against the
farther side of his island rampart like the charge of a hundred thousand
horse and tossing the sand of the dunes like blown hair into the
northwest, while the rain in one wild deluge lashed the frantic sea and
weltering lagoon as with the whips of the Furies.

He had kept the sail on the beach for a protection from the storm, but
before he could crawl under it he was as wet as though he had been tossed
up by the deep, and yet was glad to gain its cover from the blinding
floods and stinging sand. Here he lay for more than an hour, the rage of
the tempest continually growing, the heavens in a constant pulsing glare
of lightnings, their terrific thunders smiting and bellowing round and
round its echoing vault, and the very island seeming at times to stagger
back and recover again as it braced itself against the fearful onsets of
the wind. Snuggling in his sailcloth burrow, he complacently recalled an
earlier storm like this, which he and Sweetheart, the only other time they
ever were here, had tranquilly weathered in this same lagoon. On the
mainland, in that storm, cane- and rice-fields had been laid low and half
destroyed, houses had been unroofed, men had been killed. A woman and a
boy, under a pecan tree, were struck by lightning; and three men who had
covered themselves with a tarpaulin on one of the wharves in New Orleans
were blown with it into the Mississippi, poor fellows, and were drowned; a
fact worthy of second consideration in the present juncture.

This second thought had hardly been given it before he crept hastily from
his refuge and confronted the gale in quick alarm. The hurricane was
veering to southward. Let it shift but a point or two more, and its entire
force would sweep the lagoon and its beach. Before long the change came.
The mass of canvas at his feet leapt clear of the ground and fell two or
three yards away. He sprang to seize it, but in the same instant the whole
storm--rain, wind, and sand--whirled like a troop of fiends round the
southern end of the island, the ceaseless lightnings showing the way, and
came tearing and howling up its hither side. The white sail lifted,
bellied, rolled, fell, vaulted into the air, fell again, tumbled on, and
at the foot of a dune stopped until its wind-buffeted pursuer had almost
overtaken it. Then it fled again, faster, faster, higher, higher up the
sandy slope to its top, caught and clung an instant on some unseen bush,
and then with one mad bound into the black sky, unrolled, widened like a
phantom, and vanished forever.

Gregory turned in desperation, and in the glare of the lightning looked
back toward his raft. Great waves were rolling along and across the
slender reef in wide obliques and beating themselves to death in the
lagoon, or sweeping out of it again seaward at its more northern end. On
the dishevelled crest of one he saw his raft, and on another its mast. He
could not look a second time. The flying sand blinded him and cut the
blood from his face. He could only cover his eyes and crawl under the
bushes in such poor lee as he could find; and there, with the first lull
of the storm, heavy with exhaustion and despair, he fell asleep and slept
until far into the day. When he awoke the tempest was over.

Even more completely the tumult within him was quieted. He rose and stood
forth mute in spirit as in speech; humbled, yet content, in the
consciousness that having miserably failed first to save himself and then
to rue himself back to destruction, the hurricane had been his deliverer.
It had spared his supplies, his ammunition, his weapons, only hiding them
deeper under the dune sands; but scarce a vestige of his camp remained and
of his raft nothing. As once more from the highest sand-ridge he looked
down upon the sea weltering in the majestic after-heavings of its passion,
at the eastern beach booming under the shock of its lofty rollers, and
then into the sky still gray with the endless flight of southward-hurrying
scud, he felt the stir of a new attachment to them and his wild prison,
and pledged alliance with them thenceforth.



VI


Here, in giving me his account, Gregory asked me if that sounded
sentimental. I said no, and thereupon he actually tried to apologize to me
as though I were a professional story-teller, for having had so few deep
feelings in the moments where the romancists are supposed to place them. I
told him what I had once seen a mechanic do on a steep, slated roof nearly
a hundred feet from the pavement. He had faced round from his work, which
was close to the ridge-tiles, probably to kick off the shabby shoes he had
on, when some hold failed him and he began to slide toward the eaves. We
people in the street below fairly moaned our horror, but he didn't utter a
sound. He held back with all his skill, one leg thrust out in front, the
other drawn up with the knee to his breast, and his hands flattened beside
him on the slates, but he came steadily on down till his forward foot
passed over the eaves and his heel caught on the tin gutter. Then he
stopped. We held our breath below. He slowly and cautiously threw off one
shoe, then the other, and then turned, climbed back up the roof and
resumed his work. And we two or three witnesses down in the street didn't
think any less of him because he did so without any show of our glad
emotion.

"O, if I had that fellow's nerve," said Gregory, "that would be another
thing!"

My wife and I smiled at each other. "How would it be 'another thing?'" we
asked. "Did _you_ not quietly get up and begin life over again as if
nothing had occurred?"

"There wasn't anything else to do," he replied, with a smile. "The
feelings came later, too, in an easy sort o' gradual way. I never could
quite make out how men get such clear notions of what they call
'Providence,' but, just the same, I know by experience there's all the
difference of peace and misery, or life and death, whether you're in
partnership with the things that help the world on, or with those that
hold it back."

"But with that feeling," my wife asked, "did not your longing for our
human world continue?"

"No," he replied, "but I got a new liking for it--although, you
understand, _I_ never had anything against _it_, of course. It's too big
and strong for me, that's all; and that's my fault. Your man on that
slippery roof kicking his shoes off is a sort of parable to me. If your
hand or your foot offend you and you have to cut it off, that's a physical
disablement, and bad enough. But when your gloves and your shoes are too
much for you, and you have to pluck _them_ off and cast them from you, you
find each one is a great big piece of the civilized world, and you hardly
know how much you did like it, till you've lost it. And still, it's no use
longing, when you know your limitations, and I saw I'd got to keep _my_
world trimmed down to where I could run barefooted on the sand."

He told us that now he began for the first time since coming to the
island, to find his books his best source of interest and diversion. He
learned, he said, a way of reading by which sea, sky, book, island, and
absent humanity, all seemed parts of one whole, and all to speak together
in one harmony, while they toiled together for one harmony some day to be
perfected. Not all books, nor even all good books, were equally good for
that effect, he thought, and the best----

"You might not think it," he said, "but the best was a Bible I'd chanced
to carry along;" he didn't know precisely what kind, but "just one of
these ordinary Bibles you see lying around in people's houses." He
extolled the psalms and asked Mrs. Smith if she'd ever noticed the beauty
of the twenty-third. She smiled and said she believed she had.

"Then there was one," he went on, "beginning, 'Lord, my heart is not
haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great
matters, or in things too wonderful for me;' and by and by it says,
'Surely, I have quieted myself as a child that is weaned: my soul is even
as a weaned child.'"

One day, after a most marvellous sunset, he had been reading, he said,
"that long psalm with twenty-two parts in it--a hundred and seventy-six
verses." He had intended to read "Lord, my heart is not haughty" after it,
though the light was fast failing, but at the hundred and seventy-sixth
verse he closed the book. Thus he sat in the nearly motionless air, gazing
on the ripples of the lagoon as, now singly, and now by twos or threes,
they glided up the beach tinged with the colors of parting day as with a
grace of resignation, and sank into the grateful sands like the lines of
this last verse sinking into his heart; now singly--"I have gone astray
like a lost sheep;" and now by twos--"I have gone astray like a lost
sheep; save thy servant;" or by threes--"I have gone astray like a lost
sheep; save thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments."

"I shouldn't tell that," he said to us, "if I didn't know so well how
little it counts for. But I knew at the time that when the next day but
one should bring the lighthouse steamer I shouldn't be any more fit to go
ashore, _to stay_, than a jellyfish." We agreed, he and I that there can
be as wide a distance between fine feelings and faithful doing as, he
said, "between listening to the band and charging a battery."

On the islet the night deepened. The moon had not risen, and the stars
only glorified the dark, as it, in turn, revealed the unearthly beauties
of a phosphorescent sea. It was one of those rare hours in which the deep
confessed the amazing numbers of its own living and swarming
constellations. Not a fish could leap or dart, not a sinuous thing could
turn, but it became an animate torch. Every quick movement was a gleam of
green fire. No drifting, flaccid life could pulse so softly along but it
betrayed itself in lambent outlines. Each throb of the water became a beam
of light, and every ripple that widened over the strand--still whispering,
"I have gone astray"--was edged with luminous pearls.

In an agreeable weariness of frame, untroubled in mind, and counting the
night too beautiful for slumber he reclined on the dry sands with an arm
thrown over a small pile of fagots which he had spent the day in gathering
from every part of the island to serve his need for the brief remainder of
his stay. In this search he had found but one piece of his boat, a pine
board. This he had been glad to rive into long splinters and bind together
again as a brand, with which to signal the steamer if--contrary to her
practice, I think he said--she should pass in the night. And so, without a
premonition of drowsiness, he was presently asleep, with the hours
radiantly folding and expiring one upon another like the ripples on the
beach.

When he came to himself he was on his feet. The moon was high, his fire
was smouldering; his heart was beating madly and his eyes were fixed on
the steamer, looming large, moving at full speed, her green light showing,
her red light hid, and her long wake glowing with comet fire. In a moment
she would be passing. It was too late for beacon-flame or torch. He sprang
for his gun, and mounting the first low rise fired into the air, once!--
twice! --and shouted, "Help!--help!"

She kept straight on. She was passing, she was passing! In trembling haste
he loaded and fired again, again wailed out his cry for help, and still
she kept her speed. He had loaded for the third discharge, still
frantically calling the while, and was lifting his gun to fire when he saw
the white light at her foremast-head begin to draw nearer to the green
light at her waist and knew she was turning. He fired, shouted, and tried
to load again; but as her red light brightened into view beside the green,
he dropped his gun and leaped and crouched and laughed and wept for joy.

*       *       *       *       *

"Why, Gregory!" the naval lieutenant cried, as the castaway climbed from
the steamer's boat to her deck. "Why, you blasted old cracked fiddle! what
in----"

"Right, the first guess!" laughed Gregory, "there's where I've been!" and
in the cabin he explained all.

"The fiddle's mended," he concluded. "You can play a tune on it--by being
careful."

"But what's your tune?" asked his hearer; "you cannot go back to that
island."

"Yes, I'll be on it in a week--with a schooner-load of cattle. I can get
them on credit. Going to raise cattle there as a regular business. They'll
fatten in that marsh like blackbirds."

True enough, before the week was up the mended fiddle was playing its
tune. It was not until Gregory's second return from his island that he
came to see us and told us his simple story. We asked him how it was that
the steamer, that first time, had come so much earlier than she generally
did.

"She didn't," he replied. "I had miscounted one day."

"Don't you," asked my wife, who would have liked a more religious tone in
Gregory's recital, "don't you have trouble to keep run of your Sabbaths
away out there alone?"

"Why"--he smiled--"it's always Sunday there. Here almost everybody feels
duty bound to work harder than somebody else, or else make somebody else
work harder than he, and you need a day every now and then for Sunday--or
Sabbath, at least. Oh, I suppose it's all one in the end, isn't it? You
take your's in a pill, I take mine in a powder. Not that it's the least
bit like a dose, however, except for the good it does."

"And you're really prospering, even in a material way!" I said.

"Yes," he answered. "O yes; the island's already too small for us."

"It's certainly very dangerously exposed," said my wife, and I guessed her
thought was on Last Island, which, you remember, though very large and
populous, had been, within our recollection, totally submerged, with
dreadful loss of life.

"O yes," he responded, "there's always something wherever you are. One of
these days some storm's going to roll the sea clean over the whole thing."

"Then, why don't you move to a bigger island closer inshore?" she asked.

"I'm afraid," said Gregory, and smiled.

"Afraid!" said my wife, incredulously.

"Yes," he responded. "I'm afraid my prisoner'll get away from me."

As his hand closed over hers in good-by I saw, what he could not, that she
had half a notion to kiss it. I told her so when he was gone, and kissed
hers--for him.

"I don't care," she said, dreamily, as it lingered in mine, "I'm glad I
mended his coat for him that time."


*       *       *       *       *


The Taxidermist



I


One day a hummingbird got caught in a cobweb in our greenhouse. It had no
real need to seek that damp, artificial heat. We were in the very heart of
that Creole summer-time when bird-notes are many as the sunbeams. The
flowers were in such multitude they seemed to follow one about, offering
their honeys and perfumes and begging to be gathered. Our little boy saw
the embodied joy fall, a joy no longer, seized it, and clasping it too
tightly, brought it to me dead.


He cried so over the loss that I promised to have the body stuffed. This
is how I came to know Manouvrier, the Taxidermist in St. Peter Street.

I passed his place twice before I found it. The front shop was very small,
dingily clean and scornfully unmercantile. Of the very few specimens of
his skill to be seen round about not one was on parade, yet everyone was
somehow an achievement, a happy surprise, a lasting delight. I admit that
taxidermy is not classed among the fine arts; but you know there is a way
of making everything--anything--an art instead of a craft or a commerce,
and such was the way of this shop's big, dark, hairy-faced, shaggy-headed
master. I saw his unsmiling face soften and his eye grow kind as mine
lighted up with approbation of his handiwork.

When I handed him the hummingbird he held it tenderly in his wide palm,
and as I was wondering to myself how so huge a hand as that could
manipulate frail and tiny things and bring forth delicate results, he
looked into my face and asked, with a sort of magisterial gentleness:

"How she git kill', dat lill' bird?"

I told him. I could feel my mood and words take their tone from him,
though he outwardly heard me through with no show of feeling; and when I
finished, I knew we were friends. I presently ventured to praise the
specimen of his skill nearest at hand; a wild turkey listening alarmedly
as if it would the next instant utter that ringing "quit!" which makes
each separate drop of a hunter's blood tingle. But with an odd languor in
his gravity, he replied:

"Naw, dass not well make; lill' bit worse, bad enough to put in front
window. I take you inside; come."



II


We passed through into a private workroom immediately behind the shop. His
wife sat there sewing; a broad, motherly woman of forty-five, fat,
tranquil, kind, with an old eye, a young voice, and a face that had got
its general flabbiness through much paddling and gnawing from other
women's teething babes. She sat still, unintroduced, but welcomed me with
a smile.

I was saying to her husband that a hummingbird was a very small thing to
ask him to stuff. But he stopped me with his lifted palm.

"My fran', a hummingbird has de pas-sione'--de ecstacie! One drop of blood
wid the pas-sione in it"--He waved his hand with a jerk of the thumb in
disdain of spoken words, and it was I who added,

"Is bigger than the sun?"

"Hah!" was all he uttered in approval, turning as if to go to work. I
feared I had disappointed him.

"God measures by the soul, not by the size," I suggested. But he would say
no more, and his wife put in as softly as a kettle beginning to sing,

"Ah, ha, ha! I t'ink dass where de good God show varrie good sanse."

I began looking here and there in heartiest admiration of the products of
his art and presently we were again in full sympathy and talking eagerly.
As I was going he touched my arm:

"You will say de soul is parted from dat lill' bird. And--yass; but"--he
let a gesture speak the rest.

"I know," replied I; "you propose to make the soul seem to come back and
leave us its portrait. I believe you will." Whereupon he gave me his
first, faint smile, and detained me with another touch.

"Msieu Smeet; when you was bawn?"

"I? December 9, 1844. Why do you ask?"

"O nut'n'; only I thing you make me luck; nine, h-eighteen, fawty-fo'--I
play me doze number' in de lott'ree to-day."

"Why, pshaw! you don't play the lottery, do you?"

"Yass. I play her; why not? She make me reech some of doze day'. Win fifty
dollah one time las' year."

The soft voice of the wife spoke up--"And spend it all to the wife of my
dead brother. What use him be reech? I think he don't stoff bird' no
betteh."

But the husband responded more than half to himself,

"Yass, I think mebbe I stoff him lill' more betteh."

When, some days afterward I called again, thinking as I drew near how much
fineness of soul and life, seen or unseen, must have existed in earlier
generations to have produced this man, I noticed the in conspicuous sign
over his door, P.T.B. Manouvrier, and as he led me at once into the back
room I asked him playfully what such princely abundance of initials might
stand for.

"Doze? Ah, doze make only Pas-Trop-Bon."


I appealed to his wife; but she, with her placid laugh, would only confirm
him:

"Yass; Pastropbon; he like that name. Tha's all de way I call him--
Pastropbon."



III


The hummingbird was ready for me. I will not try to tell how lifelike and
beautiful the artist had made it. Even with him I took pains to be
somewhat reserved. As I stood holding and admiring the small green wonder,
I remarked that I was near having to bring him that morning another and
yet finer bird. A shade of displeasure (and, I feared, of suspicion also)
came to his face as he asked me how that was. I explained.

Going into my front hall, whose veranda-door framed in a sunny picture of
orange-boughs, jasmine-vines, and white-clouded blue sky, I had found a
male ruby-throat circling about the ceiling, not wise enough to stoop, fly
low, and pass out by the way it had come in. It occurred to me that it
might be the mate of the one already mine. For some time all the efforts I
could contrive, either to capture or free it, were vain. Round and round
it flew, silently beating and bruising its exquisite little head against
the lofty ceiling, the glory of its luminous red throat seeming to
heighten into an expression of unspeakable agony. At last Mrs. Smith ran
for a long broom, and, as in her absence I stood watching the self-snared
captive's struggle, the long, tiny beak which had never done worse than go
twittering with rapture to the grateful hearts of thousands of flowers,
began to trace along the smooth, white ceiling a scarlet thread of pure
heart's blood. The broom came. I held it up, the flutterer lighted upon
it, and at first slowly, warily, and then triumphantly, I lowered it under
the lintel out into the veranda, and the bird darted away into the garden
and was gone like a soul into heaven.

In the middle of my short recital Manouvrier had sunk down upon the arm of
his wife's rocking-chair with one huge hand on both of hers folded over
her sewing, and as I finished he sat motionless, still gazing into my
face.


"But," I started, with sudden pretence of business impulse, "how much am I
to pay?"

He rose, slowly, and looked dreamily at his wife; she smiled at him, and
he grunted,

"Nut'n'."

"Oh, my friend," I laughed, "that's absurd!"

But he had no reply, and his wife, as she resumed her sewing, said,
sweetly, as if to her needle, "Ah, I think Pastropbon don't got to charge
nut'n' if he don't feel like." And I could not move them.

As I was leaving them, a sudden conjecture came to me.

"Did those birthday numbers bring you any luck?"

The taxidermist shook his head, good-naturedly, but when his wife laughed
he turned upon her.

"Wait! I dawn't be done wid doze number' yet."

I guessed that, having failed with them in the daily drawings, he would
shift the figures after some notion of magical significance and venture a
ticket, whole or fractional, in the monthly drawing.

Scarcely ten days after, as I sat at breakfast with my newspaper spread
beside my plate, I fairly spilled my coffee as my eye fell upon the name
of P.T.B. Manouvrier, of No.--St. Peter Street. Old Pastropbon had drawn
seventy-five thousand dollars in the lottery.



IV


All the first half of the day, wherever I was, in the street-car, at my
counting-desk, on the exchange, no matter to what I gave my attention, my
thought was ever on my friend the taxidermist. At luncheon it was the
same. He was rich! And what, now? What next? And what--ah! what?-at last?
Would the end be foul or fair? I hoped, yet feared. I feared again; and
yet I hoped.

A familiar acquaintance, a really good fellow, decent, rich, "born of
pious parents," and determined to have all the ready-made refinements and
tastes that pure money could buy, came and sat with me at my lunch table.

"I wonder," he began, "if you know where you are, or what you're here for.
I've been watching you for five minutes and I don't believe you do. See
here; what sort of an old donkey is that bird-stuffer of yours?"

"You know, then, his good fortune of yesterday, do you?"

"No, I don't. I know my bad fortune with him last week."

I dropped my spoon into my soup. "Why, what?"

"Oh, no great shakes. Only, I went to his place to buy that wild turkey
you told me about. I wanted to stand it away up on top of that beautiful
old carved buffet I picked up in England last year. I was fully prepared
to buy it on your say-so, but, all the same, I saw its merits the moment I
set eyes on it. It has but one fault; did you notice that? I don't believe
you did. I pointed it out to him."

"You pointed--what did he say?"

"He said I was right."

"Why, what was the fault?"

"Fault? Why, the perspective is bad; not exactly bad, but poor; lacks
richness and rhythm."

"And yet you bought the thing."

"No, I didn't."

"You didn't buy it?"

"No, sir, I didn't buy it. I began by pricing three or four other things
first, so he couldn't know which one to stick the fancy price on to, and
incidentally I thought I would tell him--you'd told me, you remember, how
your accounts of your two birds had warmed him up and melted his
feelings----"

"I didn't tell you. My wife told your wife, and your wife, I----"

"Yes, yes. Well, anyhow, I thought I'd try the same game, so I told him
how I had stuffed a bird once upon a time myself. It was a pigeon, with
every feather as white as snow; a fan-tail. It had belonged to my little
boy who died. I thought it would make such a beautiful emblem at his
funeral, rising with wings outspread, you know, typical of the
resurrection--we buried him from the Sunday-school, you remember. And so I
killed it and wired it and stuffed it myself. It was hard to hang it in a
soaring attitude, owing to its being a fan-tail, but I managed it."

"And you told that to Manouvrier! What did he say?"

"Say? He never so much as cracked a smile. When I'd done he stood so
still, looking at me, that I turned and sort o' stroked the turkey and
said, jestingly, says I, 'How much a pound for this gobbler?'"

"That ought to have warmed him up."

"Well, it didn't. He smiled like a dancing-master, lifted my hand off the
bird and says, says he, 'She's not for sale.' Then he turned to go into
his back room and leave me standing there. Well, that warmed _me_ up. Says
I, 'What in thunder is it here for, then? and if it ain't for sale, come
back here and show me what is!'

"'Nawtin',' says 'e, with the same polite smile. 'Nawtin' for sale. I come
back when you gone.' His voice was sweet as sugar, but he slammed the
door. I would have followed him in and put some better manners into him
with a kick, but the old orang-outang had turned the key inside, and when
I'd had time to remember that I was a deacon and Sunday-school teacher I
walked away. What do you mean by his good fortune of yesterday?"

"I mean he struck Charlie Howard for seventy-five thousand."

My hearer's mouth dropped open. He was equally amazed and amused. "Well,
well, well! That accounts for his silly high-headedness."

"Ah! no: that matter of yours was last week and the drawing was only
yesterday."

"Oh, that's so. I don't keep run of that horrible lottery business. It
makes me sick at heart to see the hideous canker poisoning the character
and blasting the lives of every class of our people--why, don't you think
so?"

"Oh, yes, I--I do. Yes, I certainly do!"

"But your conviction isn't exactly red-hot, I perceive. Come, wake up."

We rose. At the first street corner, as we were parting, I noticed he was
still talking of the lottery.

"Pestilential thing," he was calling it. "Men blame it lightly on the
ground that there are other forms of gambling which our laws don't reach.
I suppose a tiger in a village mustn't be killed till we have killed all
the tigers back in the woods!"

I assented absently and walked away full of a vague shame. For I know as
well as anyone that a man without a quick, strong, aggressive, insistent
indignation against undoubted evil is a very poor stick.



V


At dinner that evening, Mrs. Smith broke a long silence with the question:

"Did you go to see Manouvrier?"

"Nn--o."

She looked at me drolly. "Did you go half way and turn back?"

"Yes," said I, "that's precisely what I did." And we dropped the subject.

But in the night I felt her fingers softly touch my shoulder.

"Warm night," I remarked.

"Richard," said she, "it will be time enough to be troubled about your
taxidermist when he's given you cause."

"I'm not troubled; I'm simply interested. I'll go down to-morrow and see
him." A little later it rained, very softly, and straight down, so that
there was no need to shut the windows, and I slept like an infant until
the room was full of sunshine.

All the next day and evening, summer though it was and the levee and sugar
sheds and cotton-yards virtually empty, I was kept by unexpected business
and could not go near St. Peter Street. Both my partners were away on
their vacations. But on the third afternoon our office regained its summer
quiet and I was driving my pen through the last matter that prevented my
going where I pleased, when I was disturbed by the announcement of a
visitor. I pushed my writing on to a finish though he stood just at my
back. Then I turned to bid him talk fast as my time was limited, when who
should it be but Manouvrier. I took him into my private office, gave him a
chair and said:

"I was just coming to see you."

"You had somet'in' to git stoff'?"

"No; I--Oh, I didn't know but you might like to see me."

"Yass?--Well--yass. I wish you come yesterday."

"Indeed? Why so; to protect you from reporters and beggars?"

"Naw; my wife she keep off all doze Peter an' John. Naw; one man bring me
one wile cat to stoff. Ah! a _so_ fine as I never see! Beautiful like da
dev'l! Since two day' an' night' I can't make out if I want to fix dat
wile cat stan'in' up aw sittin' down!"

"Did you decide at last?"

"Yass, I dis-ide. How you think I diside?"

"Ah! you're too hard for me. But one thing I know."

"Yass? What you know?"

"That you will never do so much to anything as to leave my imagination
nothing to do. You will always give my imagination strong play and never a
bit of hard work."

"Come! Come and see!"

I took my hat. "Is that what you called to see me about?"

"Ah!" He started in sudden recollection and brought forth the lottery
company's certified check for the seventy-five thousand dollars. "You keep
dat?--lill' while?--for me? Yass; till I mek out how I goin' to spend
her."

"Manouvrier, may I make one condition?"

"Yass."

"It is that you will never play the lottery again."

"Ah! Yass, I play her ag'in! You want know whan ole Pastropbon play her
ag'in? One doze fine mawning--mebbee--dat sun--going rise hisself in de
wes'. Well: when ole Pastropbon see dat, he play dat lott'ree ag'in. But
biffo' he see dat"--He flirted his thumb.

Not many days later a sudden bereavement brought our junior partner back
from Europe and I took my family North for a more stimulating air. Before
I went I called on my St. Peter Street friend to say that during my
absence either of my partners would fulfil any wish of his concerning the
money. In his wife's sewing-basket in the back room I noticed a batch of
unopened letters, and ventured a question which had been in my mind for
several days.

"Manouvrier, you must get a host of letters these days from people who
think you ought to help them because you have got money and they haven't.
Do you read them?"

"Naw!" He gave me his back, bending suddenly over some real or pretended
work. "I read some--first day. Since dat time I give 'em to old woman--
wash hand--go to work ag'in--naw use."

"Ah! no use?" piped up the soft-voiced wife. "I use them to light those
fire to cook those soup." But I felt the absence of her accustomed laugh.

"Well, it's there whenever you want it," I said to the husband as I was
leaving.

"What?" The tone of the response was harsh. "What is where?"

"Why, the money. It's in the bank."

"Hah!" he said, with a contemptuous smile and finished with his thumb.
That was the first time I ever saw a thumb swear. But in a moment his
kindly gravity was on him again and he said, "Daz all right; I come git
her some day."



VI


I did not get back to New Orleans till late in the fall. In the office
they told me that Manouvrier had been in twice to see if I had returned,
and they had promised to send him word of my arrival. But I said no, and
went to see him.

I found new lines of care on his brow, but the old kindness was still in
his eye. We exchanged a few words of greeting and inquiry, and then there
came a pause, which I broke.

"Well, stuffing birds better than ever, I suppose."

"Naw," he looked around upon his work, "I dawn't think. I dunno if I stoff
him quite so good like biffo'." Another pause. Then, "I think I mek out
what I do wid doze money now."

"Indeed," said I, and noticed that his face was averted from his wife.

She lifted her eyes to his broad back with a quizzical smile, glanced at
me knowingly, and dropped them again upon her sewing, sighed:

"Ah-bah!" Then she suddenly glanced at me with a pretty laugh and added,
"Since all that time he dunno what he goin' to make with it. If he trade
with it I thing he don't stoff bird no mo', and I thing he lose it
bis-ide--ha, ha, ha!--and if he keep it all time lock in doze bank
I thing, he jiz well not have it." She laughed again.

But he quite ignored her and resumed, as if out of a revery, "Yass, at de
las' I mek dat out." And the wife interrupted him in a tone that was like
the content of a singing hen.

"I think it don't worth while to leave it to our chillun, en't it?"

"Ah!" said the husband, entirely to me, "daz de troub'! You see?--we
dawn't got some ba-bee'! Dat neveh arrive to her. God know' dass not de
fault of us."

"Yass," put in his partner, smiling to her needle, "the good God know'
that verrie well." And the pair exchanged a look of dove-like fondness.

"Yass," Manouvrier mused aloud once more, "I think I build my ole woman
one fine house."

"Ah! I don't want!"

"But yass! Foudre tonnerre! how I goin' spend her else? w'iskee? hosses?
women? what da dev'l! Naw, I build a fine 'ouse. You see! she want dat
house bad enough when she see her. Yass; fifty t'ousan' dollah faw house
and twenty-five t'ousan'"--he whisked his thumb at me and I said for him,

"Yes, twenty-five thousand at interest to keep up the establishment."

"Yass. Den if Pastropbon go first to dat boneyard--" And out went his
thumb again, while his hairy lip curled at the grim prospect of beating
Fate the second time, and as badly, in the cemetery, as the first time, in
the lottery.

He built the house--farther down town and much farther from the river.
Both husband and wife found a daily delight in watching its slow rise and
progress. In the room behind the shop he still plied his art and she her
needle as they had done all their married life, with never an inroad upon
their accustomed hours except the calls of the shop itself; but on every
golden morning of that luxurious summer-land, for a little while before
the carpenters and plasterers arrived and dragged off their coats, the
pair spent a few moments wandering through and about the building
together, she with her hen-like crooning, he with his unsmiling face.

Yet they never showed the faintest desire to see the end. The contractor
dawdled by the month. I never saw such dillydallying. They only abetted
it, and when once he brought an absurd and unasked-for excuse to the
taxidermist's shop, its proprietor said--first shutting the door between
them and the wife in the inner room:

"Tek yo' time. Mo' sloweh she grow, mo' longeh she stan'."

I doubt that either Manouvrier or his wife hinted to the other the true
reason for their apathy. But I guessed it, only too easily, and felt its
pang. It was that with the occupancy and care of the house must begin the
wife's absence from her old seat beside her husband at his work.

Another thing troubled me. I did persuade him to put fittings into his
cistern which fire-engines could use in case of emergency, but he would
not insure the building.

"Naw! Luck bring me dat--I let luck take care of her."

"Ah! yass," chimed the wife, "yet still I think mebbee the good God tell
luck where to bring her. I'm shoe he got fing-er in that pie."

"Ah-ha? Daz all right! If God want to burn his own fing-er----"

At length the house was finished and was beautiful within and without. It
was of two and a half stories, broad and with many rooms. Two spacious
halls crossed each other, and there were wide verandas front and back, and
a finished and latticed basement. The basement and the entire grounds,
except a few bright flower-borders, were flagged, as was also the
sidewalk, with the manufactured stone which in that nearly frostless
climate makes such a perfect and beautiful pavement, and on this fair
surface fell the large shadows of laburnum, myrtle, orange, oleander,
sweet-olive, mespelus, and banana, which the taxidermist had not spared
expense to transplant here in the leafy prime of their full growth.

Then almost as slowly the dwelling was furnished. In this the brother-in-
law's widow co-operated, and when it was completed Manouvrier suggested
her living in it a few days so that his wife might herself move in as
leisurely as she chose. And six months later, there, in the old back room
in St. Peter Street, the wife still sat sewing and now and then saying
small, wise, dispassionate things to temper the warmth of her partner's
more artistic emotions. Every fair day, about the hour of sunset, they
went to see the new house. It was plain they loved it; loved it only less
than their old life; but only the brother-in-law's widow lived in it.



VII



I happened about this time to be acting as president of an insurance
company on Canal Street. Summer was coming in again. One hot sunny day,
when the wind was high and gusty, the secretary was remarking to me what
sad ruin it might work if fire should start among the frame tenement
cottages which made up so many neighborhoods that were destitute of
watermains, when right at our ear the gong sounded for just such a region
and presently engine after engine came thundering and smoking by our open
windows. Fire had broken out in the street where Manouvrier's new house
stood, four squares from that house, but straight to windward of it.

We knew only too well, without being there to witness, that our firemen
would find nothing with which to fight the flames except a few shallow
wells of surface water and the wooden rain-water cisterns above ground,
and that both these sources were almost worthless owing to a drouth. A man
came in and sat telling me of his new device for lessening the risks of
fire.

"Where?" asked I, quickly.

"Why, as I was saying, on steamboats loaded with cotton."

"Oh, yes," said I, "I understand." But I did not. For the life of me I
couldn't make sense of what he said. I kept my eyes laboriously in his
face, but all I could see was a vision of burning cottages; hook-and-
ladder-men pulling down sheds and fences; ruined cisterns letting just
enough water into door-yards and street-gutters to make sloppy walking;
fire-engines standing idle and dropping cinders into their own puddles in
a kind of shame for their little worth; here and there one furiously
sucking at an exhausted well while its firemen stood with scorching faces
holding the nozzles almost in the flames and cursing the stream of
dribbling mud that fell short of their gallant endeavor. I seemed to see
streets populous with the sensation-seeking crowd; sidewalks and alleys
filled with bedding, chairs, bureaus, baskets of crockery and calico
clothing with lamps spilling into them, cheap looking-glasses unexpectedly
answering your eye with the boldness of an outcast girl, broken tables,
pictures of the Virgin, overturned stoves, and all the dear mantlepiece
trash which but an hour before had been the pride of the toiling
housewife, and the adornment of the laborer's home.

"Where can I see this apparatus?" I asked my patient interviewer.

"Well--ahem! it isn't what you'd call an apparatus, exactly. I have
here----"

"Yes; never mind that just now; I'm satisfied you've got a good thing and
--I'll tell you! Can you come in to-morrow at this hour? Good! I wish you
would! Well, good-day."

The secretary was waiting to speak to me. The fire, he said, had entirely
burned up one square and was half through a second. "By the way, isn't
that the street where old P.T.B.----"

"Yes," I replied, taking my hat; "if anyone wants to see me, you'd better
tell him to call to-morrow."

I found the shop in St. Peter's Street shut, and went on to the new
residence. As I came near it, its beauty seemed to me to have consciously
increased under the threatenings of destruction.

In the front gate stood the brother-in-law's widow, full of gestures and
distressful smiles as she leaned out with nervously folded arms and looked
up and down the street. "Manouvrier? he is ad the fire since a whole hour.
He will break his heart if dat fire ketch to dat 'ouse here. He cannot
know 'ow 'tis in danger! Ah! sen' him word? I sen' him fo' five time'--he
sen' back I stay righd there an' not touch nut'n'! Ah! my God! I fine dat
varrie te-de-ous, me, yass!"

"Is his wife with him?"

"Assuredly! You see, dey git 'fraid 'bout dat 'ouse of de Sister', you
know?"

"No, where is it?"

"No? You dunno dat lill' 'ouse where de Sister' keep dose orphelin'
ba-bee'?-juz big-inning sinse 'bout two week' ago?-round de corner--one
square mo' down town--'alf square mo' nearer de swamp? Well, I thing 'f
you pass yondeh you fine Pastropbon."



VIII


Through smoke, under falling cinders, and by distracted and fleeing
households I went. The moment I turned the second corner I espied the
house. It was already half a square from the oncoming fire, but on the
northern side of the street, just out of its probable track and not in
great danger except from sparks. But it was old and roofed with shingles;
a decrepit Creole cottage sitting under dense cedars in a tangle of rose
and honeysuckle vines, and strangely beautified by a flood of smoke-dimmed
yellow sunlight.

As I hurried forward, several men and boys came from the opposite
direction at a run and an engine followed them, jouncing and tilting
across the sidewalk opposite the little asylum, into a yard, to draw from
a fresh well. Their leader was a sight that drew all eyes. He was coatless
and hatless; his thin cotton shirt, with its sleeves rolled up to the
elbows, was torn almost off his shaggy breast, his trousers were drenched
with water and a rude bandage round his head was soaked with blood. He
carried an axe. The throng shut him from my sight, but I ran to the spot
and saw him again standing before the engine horses with his back close to
their heads. A strong, high board fence shut them off from the well and
against it stood the owner of the property, pale as death, guarding the
precious water with a shotgun at full cock. I heard him say:

"The first fellow that touches this fence----"

But he did not finish. Quicker than his gun could flash and bang
harmlessly in the air the man before him had dropped the axe and leaped
upon him with the roar of a lion. The empty gun flew one way and its owner
another and almost before either struck the ground the axe was swinging
and crashing into the fence.

As presently the engine rolled through the gap and shouting men backed her
to the edge of the well, the big axeman paused to wipe the streaming sweat
from his begrimed face with his arm. I clutched him.

"Manouvrier!"

A smile of recognition shone for an instant and vanished as I added,

"Come to your own house! Come, you can't save it here."

He turned a quick, wild look at the fire, seized me by the arm and with a
gaze of deepest gratitude, asked:

"You tryin' save her?"

"I'll do anything I can."

"Oh, dass right!" His face was full of mingled joy and pain. "You go
yondeh--mek yo' possible!" We were hurrying to the street--"Oh, yass, faw
God's sake go, mek yo' possible!"

"But, Manouvrier, you must come too! Where's your wife? The chief danger
to your house isn't here, it's where the fire's between it and the wind!"

His answer was a look of anguish. "Good God! my fran'. We come yondeh so
quick we can! But--foudre tonnerre!--look that house here fill' with
ba-bee'! What we goin' do? Those Sister' can't climb on roof with bocket'
wateh. You see I got half-dozen boy' up yondeh; if I go 'way they dis-cend
and run off at the fire, spark' fall on roof an'--" his thumb flew out.

"Sparks! Heavens! Manouvrier, your house is in the path of the _flames!_"

The man flew at me and hung over me, his strong locks shaking, his great
black fist uplifted and the only tears in his eyes I ever saw there.
"Damnession! She's not mine! I trade her to God faw these one! Go! tell
him she's his, he kin burn her if he feel like'!" He gave a half laugh,
fresh witness of his distress, and went into the gate of the asylum.

I smiled--what could I do?--and was turning away, when I saw the chief of
the fire department. It took but one moment to tell him my want, and in
another he had put the cottage roof under the charge of four of his men
with instructions not to leave it till the danger was past or the house
burning. The engine near us had drawn the well dry and was coming away. He
met it, pointed to where, beneath swirling billows of black smoke, the
pretty gable of the taxidermist's house shone like a white sail against a
thundercloud, gave orders and disappeared.

The street was filling with people. A row of cottages across the way was
being emptied. The crackling flames were but half a square from
Manouvrier's house. I called him once more to come. He waved his hand
kindly to imply that he knew what I had done. He and his wife were in the
Sisters' front garden walk conversing eagerly with the Mother Superior.
They neared the gate. Suddenly the Mother Superior went back, the
lay-sister guarding the gate let the pair out and the three of us
hurried off together.

We found ourselves now in the uproar and vortex of the struggle. Only at
intervals could we take our attention from the turmoil that impeded or
threatened us, to glance forward at the white gable or back--as Manouvrier
persisted in doing--to the Sisters' cottage. Once I looked behind and
noticed, what I was loath to tell, that the firemen on its roof had grown
busy; but as I was about to risk the truth, the husband and wife, glancing
at their own roof, in one breath groaned aloud. Its gleaming gable had
begun to smoke.

"Ah! that good God have pity on uz!" cried the wife, in tears, but as she
started to run forward I caught her arm and bade her look again. A strong,
white stream of water was falling on the smoking spot and it smoked no
more.

The next minute, with scores of others, choking and blinded with the
smoke, we were flying from the fire. The wind had turned.

"It is only a gust," I cried, "it will swing round again. We must turn the
next corner and reach the house from the far side." I glanced back to see
why my companions lagged and lo! they had vanished.



IX


I reached the house just in time to save its front grounds from the
invasion of the rabble. The wind had not turned back again. The brother-in
law's widow was offering prayers of thanksgiving. The cisterns were empty
and the garden stood glistening in the afternoon sun like a May queen
drenched in tears; but the lovely spot was saved.

I left its custodian at an upper window, looking out upon the fire, and
started once more to find my friends. Half-way round to the Sisters'
cottage I met them. With many others I stepped aside to make a clear way
for the procession they headed. The sweet, clean wife bore in her arms an
infant; the tattered, sooty, bloody-headed husband bore two; and after
them, by pairs and hand in hand, with one gray sister in the rear, came a
score or more of pink-frocked, motherless little girls. An amused rabble
of children and lads hovered about the diminutive column, with leers and
jests and happy antics, and the wife smiled foolishly and burned red with
her embarrassment; but in the taxidermist's face shone an exaltation of
soul greater than any I had ever seen. I felt too petty for such a moment
and hoped he would go by without seeing me; but he smiled an altogether
new smile and said,

"My fran', God A'mighty, he know a good bargain well as anybody!"

I ran ahead with no more shame of the crowd than Zaccheus of old. I threw
open the gate, bounded up the steps and spread wide the door. In the hall,
the widow, knowing naught of this, met me with wet eyes crying,

"Ah! ah! de 'ouse of de orphelin' is juz blaze' up h-all over h-at once!"
and hushed in amazement as the procession entered the gate.

P.T.B. Manouvrier, Taxidermist!

When the fire was out the owner of that sign went back to his shop and to
his work, and his wife sat by him sewing as before. But the orphans stayed
in their new and better home. Two or three years ago the Sisters--the
brother-in-law's widow is one of them--built a large addition behind; but
the house itself stands in the beauty in which it stood on that day of
destruction, and my friend always leaves his work on balmy afternoons in
time to go with his wife and see that pink procession, four times as long
now as it was that day, march out the gate and down the street for its
daily walk.

"Ah! Pastropbon, we got ba-bee' enough presently, en't it?"

"Ole woman, nobody else ever strock dat lott'ree for such a prize like
dat."


*       *       *       *       *


The Entomologist



I


An odd feature of New Orleans is the way homes of all ranks, in so many
sections of it, are mingled. The easy, bright democracy of the thing is
what one might fancy of ancient Greeks; only, here there is a general
wooden frailty.

A notable phase of this characteristic is the multitude of small, frame,
ground-story double cottages fronting endwise to the street, on lots that
give either side barely space enough for one row of twelve-foot rooms with
windows on a three-foot alley leading to the narrow backyard.

Thus they lie, deployed in pairs or half-dozens, by hundreds, in the
variable intervals that occur between houses and gardens of dignity and
elegance; hot as ovens, taking their perpetual bath of the great cleanser,
sunshine. Sometimes they open directly upon the banquette (sidewalk), but
often behind as much as a fathom of front-yard, as gay with flowers as a
girl's hat, and as fragrant of sweet-olive, citronelle, and heliotrope as
her garments. In the right-hand half of such a one, far down on the Creole
side of Canal street, and well out toward the swamp, lived our friend the
entomologist.

Just a glance at it was enough to intoxicate one's fancy. It seemed to
confess newness of life, joy, passion, temperance, refinement, aspiration,
modest wisdom, and serene courage. You would say there must live two
well-mated young lovers--but one can't always tell.



II


We first came to know the entomologist through our opposite neighbors, the
Fontenettes, when we lived in the street that still bears the romantic
name, Sixth. What a pity nothing rhymes to it. _Their_ ground-story
cottage was of a much better sort. It lay broadside to the street,
two-thirds across a lot of forty feet width, in the good old Creole
fashion, its front garden twelve feet deep, and its street fence, of white
palings, higher than the passer's head. The parlor and dining-room were on
the left, and the two main bedrooms on the right, next the garden; Mrs.
Fontenette's in front, opening into the parlor, Monsieur's behind, letting
into the dining-room. For there had been a broader garden on the parlor
and dining-room side, but that had been sold and built on. I fancy that if
Mrs. Fontenette--who was not a Creole, as her husband was, but had once
been a Miss Bangs, or something, and still called blackberries
"blackbries," and made root rhyme with foot--I fancy if she had been
doomed to our entomologist's sort of a house she would have been too
broken in spirit to have made anybody's acquaintance.

For our pretty blonde neighbor had ambitions, or _had_ had, as she once
hinted to me with a dainty sadness. When I somehow let slip to her that I
had repeated her delicately balanced words to my wife she gave me one
melting glance of reproach, and thenceforth confided in me no more beyond
the limits of literary criticism and theology--and botany. I remember we
were among the few roses of her small flower-beds at the time, and I was
trying to show her what was blighting them all in the bud. She called them
"rose-es."

They rarely bloomed for her; she was always for being the rose herself--as
Monsieur Fontenette once said; but he said it with a glance of fond
admiration. Her name was Flora, and yet not flowers, but their book-lore,
best suited her subtle capriciousness. She made such a point of names that
she could not let us be happy with the homely monosyllable by which we
were known, until we allowed her to hyphenate us as the Thorndyke-Smiths.

There hung in our hall an entire unmarred beard of the beautiful gray
Spanish moss, eight feet long. I had got this unusual specimen by
tiptoeing from the thwarts of a skiff with twelve feet of yellow crevasse-
waters beneath, the shade of the vast cypress forest above, and the bough
whence it hung brought within hand's reach for the first time in a
century. Thus I explained it one day to Mrs. Fontenette, as she touched
its ends with a delicate finger.

"Tillandsia"--was her one word of response. She loved no other part of
botany quite so much as its Latin.

"The Baron ought to see that," said Monsieur. He was a man of quiet
manners, not over-social, who had once enjoyed a handsome business income,
but had early--about the time of his marriage--been made poor through the
partial collapse of the house in Havre whose cotton-buyer he had been,
and, in a scant way, still was. "When a cotton-buyer geds down, he stays,"
was all the explanation he ever gave us. He had unfretfully let adversity
cage him for life in the only occupation he knew, while the wife he adored
kept him pecuniarily bled to death, without sharing his silent resigna--
There I go again! Somehow I can't talk about her without seeming unjust
and rude. I felt it just now, even, when I quoted her husband's fond word,
that she always chose to be the rose herself. Well, she nearly always
succeeded; she was a rose--with some of the rose's drawbacks.

When we asked who the Baron might be it was she who told us, but in a
certain disappointed way, as if she would rather have kept him unknown a
while longer. He was, she said, a profoundly learned man, graduate of one
of those great universities over in his native Germany, and a naturalist.
Young? Well, eh--comparatively--yes. At which the silent husband smiled
his dissent.

The Baron was an entomologist. Both the Fontenettes thought we should be
fascinated with the beauty of some of his cases of moths and butterflies.

"And coleoptera," said the soft rose-wife. She could ask him to bring them
to us. Take us to him?--Oh!--eh--her embarrassment made her prettier, as
she broke it to us gently that the Baroness was a seamstress. She hushed
at her husband's mention of shirts; but recovered when he harked back to
the Baron, and beamed her unspoken apologies for the great, brave scholar
who daily, silently bore up under this awful humiliation.



III


Toward the close of the next afternoon she brought the entomologist. I can
see yet the glad flutter she could not hide as they came up our front
garden walk in an air spiced by the "four-o'clocks," with whose small
trumpets--red, white, and yellow--our children were filling their laps and
stringing them on the seed-stalks of the cocoa-grass. He was bent and
spectacled, of course; _l'entomologie oblige_; but, oh, besides!--

"Comparatively young," Mrs. Fontenette had said, and I naturally used her
husband, who was thirty-one, for the comparison. Why, this man? It would
have been a laughable flattery to have guessed his age to be forty-five.
Yet that was really the fact. Many a man looks younger at sixty--oh, at
sixty-five! He was dark, bloodless, bowed, thin, weatherbeaten, ill-clad--
a picture of decent, incurable penury. The best thing about his was his
head. It was not imposing at all, but it was interesting, albeit very
meagrely graced with fine brown hair, dry and neglected. I read him
through without an effort before we had been ten minutes together; a leaf
still hanging to humanity's tree, but faded and shrivelled around some
small worm that was feeding on its juices.

And there was no mistaking that worm; it was the avarice of knowledge. He
had lost life by making knowledge its ultimate end, and was still delving
on, with never a laugh and never a cheer, feeding his emaciated heart on
the locusts and wild honey of entomology and botany, satisfied with them
for their own sake, without reference to God or man; an infant in
emotions, who time and again would no doubt have starved outright but for
his wife, whom there and then I resolved we should know also. I was amused
to see, by stolen glances, Mrs. Smith study him. She did not know she
frowned, nor did he; but Mrs. Fontenette knew it every time.

We all had the advantage of him as to common sight. His glasses were
obviously of a very high power, yet he could scarcely see anything till he
clapped his face close down and hunted for it. When he pencilled for me
the new Latin name he had given to a small, slender, almost dazzling
green, beetle inhabiting the Spanish moss--his own scientific discovery--
he wrote it so minutely that I had to use a lens to read it.

As we sat close around the library lamp, I noticed how often his poor
clothing had been mended by a woman's needle. His linen was discouraging,
his cravat awry and dingy, and his hands--we had better pass his hands;
yet they were slender and refined.

Also they shook, though not from any habit commonly called vicious. You
could see that no vice of the body nor any lust of material things had
ever led him captive. He gave one the tender despair with which we look on
a blind babe.

When we expressed regret that his wife had not come with him, he only bent
with a deeper greed into a book I had handed him, and after a moment laid
it down disappointedly, saying that it was "fool of plundters." Mrs.
Fontenette asking to be shown one of them, they reopened the book
together, she all consciousness as she bent against him over the page, he
oblivious of everything but the phrase they were hunting. He gave his
forehead a tap of despair as he showed where the book called this same
Tillandsia, or Spanish moss, a parasite.

"It iss no baraseet," he explained, in a mellow falsetto, "it iss an
epipheet!"

"An air-plant!" said his fair worshipper, softly drinking in a bosomful of
gladness as she made the distance between them more discreet.

Distances were all one to him. He seemed like a burnt log, still in shape
but gone to ashes, except in one warm spot where glowed this self-
consuming, world-sacrificing adoration of knowledge; knowledge sought, as
I say, purely for its own sake and narrowed down to names and technical
descriptions. Men of _perverted_ principles and passions you may find
anywhere; but I never had seen anyone so totally undeveloped in all the
emotions, affections, tastes that make life _life_.



IV


A few afternoons later I went to his house. For pretext I carried a huge
green worm, but I went mainly to see just how unluckily he was married. He
was not at home. I found his partner a small, bright, toil-worn, pretty
woman of hardly twenty-eight or nine, whose two or three children had died
in infancy, and who had blended wifehood and motherhood together, and was
taking care of the Baron as a widow would care for a crippled son, and at
the same time reverencing him as if he were a demigod. Of his utter
failure to provide their daily living she confessed herself by every
implication, simply--proud! What else should a demigod's wife expect? At
the same time, without any direct statement, she made it clear that she
had no disdain, but only the broadest charity, for men who make a living.
It was odd how few her smiles were, and droll how much sweetness--what a
sane winsomeness--she managed to radiate without them. I left her in her
clean, bright cottage, like a nesting bird in a flowery bush, and entered
my own home, declaring, with what I was gently told was unnecessary
enthusiasm, that the Baron's wife was the "unluckily married" one, and the
best piece of luck her husband had ever had. I had seen women make a
virtue of necessity, but I had never before seen one make a conviction,
comfort, and joy of it, and I should try to like the Baron, I said, if
only for her sake.

Of course I became, in some degree, a source of revenue to him.
Understand, there was always a genuine exchange of so much for so much; he
was not a "baraseet"--oh, no!--yet he hung on. We still have, stowed
somewhere, a large case of butterflies, another of splendid moths, and a
smaller one of glistening beetles. Nor can I begrudge their cost, of
whatever sort, even now when my delight in them is no longer a constant
enthusiasm. The cases of specimens have passed from daily sight, but
thenceforth, as never before, our garden was furnished with guests--pages,
ladies, poets, fairies, emperors, goddesses--coming and going on gorgeous
wings, and none ever a stranger more than once. My non-parasitic friend
"opened a new world" to me; a world that so flattered one with its grace
and beauty, its marvellous delicacy and minuteness, its glory of color and
curiousness of marking, and its exquisite adaptation of form to need and
function, that in my meaner depths, or say my childish shallows--I
resented Mrs. Fontenette's making the same avowal for herself--I didn't
believe her!

I do not say she was consciously shamming; but I could see she drank in
the Baron's revelations with no more true spiritual exaltation than the
quivering twilight moths drew from our veranda honeysuckles. Yet it was
mainly her vanity that feasted, not any lower impulse--of which, you know,
there are several--and, possibly, all her vanity craved at first was the
tinsel distinction of unusual knowledge.

One night she got into my dreams. I seemed to be explaining to Monsieur
Fontenette apologetically that this newly opened world was not at all
separate from my old one, but shone everywhere in it, like our winged
guests in our garden, and followed and surrounded me far beyond the
Baron's company, terminology, and magnifying-glass, lightening the burdens
and stress of the very counting-room and exchange. Whereat he seemed to
flare up!

"Ah!--you--I believe yes! But she?" he waved his hand in fierce unbelief.

I awoke concerned, and got myself to sleep again only by remembering the
utter absence of vanity in the Baron himself. I lay smiling in the dark to
think how much less all our verbal caressings were worth to him than the
drone of the most familiar beetle, and how his life-long delving in books
and nature had opened up this fairy world to him only at the cost of
shutting up all others. If education means calling forth and perfecting
our powers and affections, he was ten times more uneducated than his wife,
even as we knew her then. He appeared to care no more for human interests,
far or near, in large or small, than a crab cares for the stars. I fell
asleep chuckling in remembrance of an occasion when Mrs. Fontenette,
taking her cue from me, spoke to him of his plant-and-insect lore as one
of the many worlds there are within _the_ world, no more displacing it
than light displaces air, or than fragrance displaces form or sound. He
made her say it all over again, and then asked: "Vhere vas dat?"

His whole world was not really as wide as Gregory's island was to its
gentle hermit. No butterfly raptures for him; he devoured the one kind of
facts he cared for, as a caterpillar devours leaves.



V


How Mrs. Fontenette got Mrs. "Thorndyke-Smith" and me entangled with some
six or eight others in her project for a botanizing and butterfly-chasing
picnic I do not know; but she did. On the evening before the appointed day
I perfidiously crawfished out of it, and our house furnished only one
delegate, whom I urged to go rather than break up the party--I never break
up a party if I can avoid it. "But as for me going," I said, "my business
simply won't let me!" At which our pretty neighbor expressed her regrets
with a ready resignation that broke into open sunshine as she lamented the
same inability in her husband. To my suggestion that the Baroness be
invited, Mrs. Fontenette smiled a sweet amusement that was perfect in its
way, and said she hoped the weather would be propitious; people were so
timid about rain.

It was. When I came home, tardily, that afternoon, the picnickers had not
returned, though the oleanders and crape-myrtles on the grounds next ours
cast shadows three times their length across our lawn. In an aimless way I
roamed from the house down into our small rear garden, thinking oftenest,
of course, of the absentees, and admiring the refined good sense with
which Monsieur Fontenette seemed to have decided to let this unperilous
attack of silliness run itself out in the woman he loved with so much
tenderness and with so much passion.

"How much distress he is saving himself and all of us," I caught myself
murmuring, audibly, out among my fig-trees.

Finding two or three figs fully ripe, I strolled over the way to see him
among his trees and maybe find chance for a little neighborly boasting. As
our custom with each other was, I ignored the bell on his gate, drew the
bolt, and, passing in among Mrs. Fontenette's invalid roses, must have
moved, without intention, quite noiselessly from one to another, until I
came around behind the house, where a strong old cloth-of-gold rose-vine
half covered the latticed side of the cistern shed. In the doorway I
stopped in silent amaze. A small looking-glass hanging against the wooden
cistern showed me--although I was in much the stronger light--Monsieur
Fontenette. He was just straightening up from an oil-stone he had been
using, and the reflection of his face fell full on the glass. Once before,
but once only, had I seen such agony of countenance--such fierce and awful
looking in and out at the same time; that was on a man who was still
trying to get the best of a fight in which he knew he was mortally shot.
Fontenette did not see me. I suppose the rose-vine screened me, and his
glance did not rise quite to the mirror, but followed the soft thumbings
with which he tried the two edges and point of as murderous a knife as
ever I saw.


As softly as a shadow I drew out of sight, turned away, and went almost
back to the gate before I let my footfall be heard, and called, "M'sieu'
Fontenette!"

He hallooed from the shed in a playful sham of being a mile or so away,
and emerged from the lattice and vine with that accustomed light of
equanimity on his features which made him always so thoroughly good-
looking. He came hitching his waistband with both hands in that innocent
Creole way that belongs to the latitude, and how I knew I cannot tell you,
but I did know--I didn't merely feel or think, but I knew!--_positively_--
that he had that hideous thing on his person.

Against what contingency I could only ask myself and wonder, but I
instantly decided to get him away from home and keep him away until the
picnickers had got back and scattered. So I proposed a walk, a diversion
we had often enjoyed together.

"Yes?" he said, "to pazz the time whilse they don't arrive? With the
greates' of pleasu'e!"

I dare say we were both more preoccupied than we thought we were, for
outside the gate we fairly ran into a lady--yes; a seamstress--the wife of
the entomologist. My stars! She had seemed winning enough before, but now
--what a rise in values! As we conversed it was all I could do to keep my
eyes from saying: "A man with you for a wife belongs at home whenever he
can be there!" But whether they spoke it or not, in some way, without word
or glance, by simple radiations from the whole sweet woman, she revealed
that to make that fact plain to him, to _her_, and to all of us, was what
this new emphasis of charm was for.

She had come, she said--and scarcely on the lips of the loveliest Creole
did I ever hear a more bewitching broken-English--she had come according
to a half-promise made to Mrs. Fontenette to show her--"I tidn't etsectly
promised, I chust said I vill some time come----"

"And Mrs. Fontenette didn't object," I playfully interrupted--

"No," said the unruffled speaker, "I chust said I vill come; yes; to show
her a new vay to remoof, remoof? is sat English? So? A new vay to remoof
old stains."

"A new way--" responded Fontenette, with an air of gravest interest in all
matters of laundry.

"Yes," she repeated, as simply as a babe, "a new vay; and I sought I come
now so to go home viss mine hussbandt." There, at last, she smiled, and to
make the caressing pride of her closing tone still prettier, lifted her
figured muslin out sidewise between thumb and forefinger of each hand with
even more archaic grace than playfulness.

As the three of us crossed over and took seats on my veranda, we were
joined by the neighbor whose garden-trees I have mentioned; the man of
whom I have told you, how he failed to strike a bargain with old
Manouvrier, the taxidermist. He was a Missourian, in the produce business,
a thoroughly good fellow, but--well--oh--!

He came perspiring, flourishing a palm-leaf fan and a large handkerchief,
to say I might keep all the shade his tall house and trees dropped on my
side of the fence. And presently what does the simple fellow do but begin
to chaff the three of us on the absence of our three partners!



VI


I held my breath in dismay! The more I strove to change the subject the
more our fat wag, fancying he was teasing me to the delight of the others,
harped on the one string, until with pure apprehension of what Fontenette
might presently do or say, my blood ran hot and cold. But Monsieur showed
neither amusement nor annoyance, only a perfectly gracious endurance. Yet
how could I know what instant his forbearance might give way, or what
serpent's eggs the joker's inanities might in the next day or hour turn
out to be, laid in the hot heart of the Creole gentleman? Then it was that
this slender little German seamstress-wife shone forth like the first star
of the breathless twilight.

Seamstress? no; she had left the seamstress totally behind her. You might
have thought the finest tactics of the drawing-room--not of to-day, but of
the times when gentlemen wore swords and dirks--had been at her finger-ends
all her life. She took our good neighbor's giddy pleasantries as deep
truths lightly put, and answered them in such graceful, mild earnest, and
with such a modest, yet fetching, quaintness, that we were all preached to
more effectively than we could have been by seven priests from one pulpit.
Or, at any rate, that was my feeling; every note she uttered was
melodiously kind, but every sentence was an arrow sent home.

"You make me," she said, "you make me sink of se aunt of my musser, vhat
she said to my musser vhen my musser iss getting married. 'Senda,' she
said, 'vonce in a vhile'--is sat right, 'vonce in a vhile?'--so?--'vonce
in a vhile your Rudolph going to see a voman he better had married san
you. Sen he going to fall a little vay--maybe a good vay--in love viss
her; and sen if Rudolph iss a scoundtrel, or if you iss a fool, sare be
trouble. But if Rudolph don't be a scoundtrel and you don't be a fool he
vill pretty soon straight' up himself and say, One man can't ever'sing
have, and mine Senda she is enough!'... Sat vas my Aunt Senda."

"Your mother was named for her?"

"Yes, my musser, and me; I am name' Senda, se same. She vas se Countess
von (Something)--sat aunt of my musser. She vas a fine voman."

"Still," said our joker, "you know she was only about half right in that
advice."

"No," she replied, putting on a drowsy tone, "I don't know; and I sink you
don't know eeser."

"I reckon I do," he insisted. "We're all made of inflammable stuff. Any
_man_ knows that. We couldn't, any of us, pull through life decently if we
didn't let each other be each other's keeper; could we, Fontenette?"

No sound from Fontenette. "Hmm!" hummed the little woman, in such soft
derision that only he and I heard it; and after a moment she said, "Yes,
it is so. But, you know who is se only good keeper? Sat is love."

"And jealousy," suggested Bulk; "the blindfold boy and the green-eyed
monster."

"Se creen-eyedt--no, I sink not. Chalousie have destroyed--is sat
correct?--yes? Chalousie have destroyed a sowsand-sowsand times so much
happiness as it ever saved--ah! see se lightening! I sink sat is se
displeasu'e of heaven to my so bad English. Ah? see it again? vell, I vill
stop."

"You ought to be in a better world than this," laughed our fat neighbor.

"No," she chanted, "I rasser sis one. I sink mine hussbandt never be
satisfied viss a vorld not full of vorms and bugs; and I am glad to stay
alvays viss mine hussbandt."

"And I reckon he thinks you're big enough world for him, just yourself,
doesn't he?"


"No." She seemed to speak more than half to herself. "A man--see se
lightening!--a man who can be satisfied viss a vorld no bigger as I can by
mineself gif him--mine Kott! I vould not haf such a man! See se
lightening! but I sink sare vill be no storm; sare is no sunder viss se
ligh'--Ah! sare are se trhuants!" We rose to meet them. First came the
children, vaunting their fatigue, then a black maid or two, with twice
their share of baskets, and then our three spouses; the Baron came last
and was mute. The two ladies called cheery, weary good-byes to another
contingent, that passed on by the gate, and hail and farewell to our fat
neighbor as he went home. Then they yielded their small burdens to us,
climbed the veranda stairs and entered the house.



VII


No battle, it is said, is ever fought, and I dare say no game--worth
counting--is ever played, exactly as previously planned. One of our
company had planned, very secretly, as he thought, a battle; another,
almost openly, was already waging hers; while a third was playing a game--
though probably, I admit, fighting, inwardly, her poor weak battle also;
and none of the three offered an exception to this rule. The first clear
proof of it--which it still gives me a low sort of pleasure to recall--was
my prompt discovery, as we gathered around the tea-board, to eat the
picnic's remains, that our Flora was out of humor with the Baron. It was
plain that the whole day's flood of small experiences had been to her
pretty vanity a Tantalus's cup. She was quick to tell, with an irritation,
which she genuinely tried to conceal, and with scarcely an ounce of words
to a ton of dead-sweet insinuation, what a social failure he had chosen to
be. Evidently he had spent every golden hour of sweet spiritual
opportunity--I speak from her point of view, or, at least, my notion of
it--not in catching and communicating the charm of any scene or incident,
nor in thrilling comparisons of sentiment with anyone, nor in any
impartation of inspiring knowledge, nor in any mirthful exchange of
compliments or gay glances over the salad and sandwiches; but in
constantly poking and plodding through thicket and mire and solitarily
peering and prying on the under sides of leaves and stems and up and down
and all around the bark of every rough-trunked tree.

She made the picture amusing, none the less, and to no one more so than to
the Baron's wife, whose presence among us at the board was as fragrant, so
to speak, as that of a violet among its leaves and sisters. "Ah! Gustaf,"
she said, with a cadenced gravity more taking than mirth, "sat iss a
treat-ment nobody got a right to but me. But tell me, tell se company,
vhat new sings have you found? I know you have not hunt' all se day and
nussing new found."

But the Baron had found nothing new. He told us so with his mouth dripping
and his nose in the trough--his plate I should say. You could hear him
chew across the room. Suddenly, however, he ceased eating and began to
pour forth an account of his day's observation; in response to which M.
Fontenette, to my amused mystification, led us all in the interest with
which we listened. The Baron forgot his food, and when reminded of it,
pushed it away with a grunt and talked on and on, while we almost forgot
our own.

As we rose to return to the veranda, the Creole still offered him an
undivided attention, which the Baron rewarded with his continued
discourse. As I gave Fontenette a light for his cigarette I held his eye
for a moment with a brightness of face into which I put as significant
approval as I dared; for I fancied the same unuttered word was brooding in
both our hearts: "A new vay to remoof old stains."

Then he turned and gave all his attention once more to the entomologist,
as they walked out upon the gallery together behind their wives. And the
German woman courted the pretty New Englander as sweetly as the Creole
courted her husband, and with twice the energy. She was a bubbling spring
of information in the Baron's science; she was a well of sweet philosophy
on life and conduct, and at every turn of their conversation, always
letting Mrs. Fontenette turn it, she showed her own to be the better mind
and the better training.

When Mrs. Fontenette, before any one else, rose to go--maybe my dislike of
her only made it seem so--but I believed she did it out of pure bafflement
and chagrin.

Not so believed her husband. He responded gratefully; yet lingered, still
listening to the entomologist, until she fondlingly chid him for
forgetting that while he had been all day in his swivel-chair, she had
passed the hours in unusual fatigues!

She declined his arm in our garden walk, and positively forbade me to cut
a rose for her--but with a grace almost maidenly. As I let them out, the
heat-lightning gleamed again low in the west. A playfulness came into M.
Fontenette's face and he murmured to me, "See se lightening."

"Yes," I replied, pressing his hand, "but I sink sare vill be no storm if
sare iss no sunder."

Mrs. Fontenette gave a faint gasp of impatience and left us at a run,
tripping fairily across the rough street at the only point visible to
those on the veranda. Fontenette scowled unaware as he started to follow,
and the next moment a short "aha!" escaped him. For, at her gate, to my
unholy joy, she stumbled just enough to make the whole performance
unspeakably ridiculous, and flirted into her cottage----

"In tears!" I offered to bet myself as I turned to rejoin my companions on
the veranda, and wished with all my soul the goggled Baron could have seen
it.



VIII


But the best of eyes would not have counted this time, for he was not
there. He had accepted the offer of a room, where he was giving the day's
specimens certain treatments which he believed, or pretended, could not
wait until he should reach his far downtown cottage. His hostess and his
wife had gone with him, but now some light discussion of house adornment
was drawing them to the parlor. As this room was being lighted I saw our
guest, evidently through force of an early habit, turn a critical glance
to the music on the piano, and as quickly withdraw it. Both of us motioned
her solicitously to the music-stool.

"No, I do not play."

"Then you sing."

"No, not now, any more yet." But when she had let us tease her a wee bit
just for one little German song, she went to the instrument, talking
slowly as she went, and closing the door in the entomologist's direction
as she talked.

"Siss a great vhile I haf not done siss," she concluded, as her fingers
began to drift over the keys, and then she sang, very gently, even
guardedly, but oh, so sweetly!

We were amazed. Here, without the slightest splendor of achievement or
adventure, seemed to be the most incredible piece of real life we had ever
seen. Why, I asked myself, was this woman so short even of German friends
as to be condemned to a seamstress's penury? And my best guess was to lay
it to the zeal of her old-fashioned--and yet not merely old-fashioned-
wifehood, which could accept no friendship that did not unqualifiedly
accept him; and he?--Goodness!

When she ceased neither listener spoke; the tears were in our throats. She
bent her head slightly over the keys, and said, "I like to sing you
anusser." We accepted eagerly, and she sang again. There was nothing of
personal application in either song, yet now, near the end, where there
was a purposed silence in the melody, the silence hung on and on until it
was clear she was struggling with herself; but again the strain arose
without a tremor, and so she finished. "Oh, no, no," she replied, to our
solicitation, with the grateful emphasis of one who declines a third
glass, "se sooneh I stop, se betteh for ever'body," meaning specially
herself, I fancy, speaking, as she rose, in a tone of such happy decision,
and yet so melodiously, that two or three strings in the piano replied.

Her hostess took her hands and said there was one thing she could and
must do; she and her husband must spend the night with us. There was a
bed-chamber connected with the room where the Baron was still at work, and,
really--this and that, and that and this--until in the heat of argument
they called each other "My dear," and presently the ayes had it. The last
word I heard from our fair guest was to her hostess at the door of her
chamber, the farthest down the hall. It was as to shutting or not shutting
the windows. "No," she said, "I sink sare vill be no storm, because sare
is yet no sunder vis se lightening." And so it turned out. But at the same
time----



IX


My room adjoined the Baron's in frontas his wife's did farther back. A
door of his and window of mine stood wide open on the one balcony, from
which a flight of narrow steps led down into the side garden. Thus, for
some time after I was in bed I heard him stirring; but by and by, with no
sound to betoken it except the shutting of this door, it was plain he had
lain down.

I awoke with a sense of having been some hours asleep, and in fact the
full moon, shining gloriously, had passed the meridian. The balcony was
lighted up by it like noon, and on it stood the entomologist, entirely
dressed. The door was shut behind him. He was looking in at my window, but
he did not know the room was mine, and with eyes twice as good as he had
he could not have seen through my mosquito-bar. I wondered, but lay still
till he had started softly down the steps. Then I sprang out of bed on the
dark side, and dressed faster than a fireman.

When half-clad I went and looked out a parlor window. He was trying the
gate, which was locked. But he knew where the key always hung, behind the
post, and turned to get it. I went back and finished dressing, stole down
the inner, basement stairs and out into the deep shadows of the garden,
and presently saw my guest passing in through the Fontenettes' gate, whose
bolt he had drawn from the outside. As angry now as I had been amazed I
hurried after.

To avoid the moonlight I followed the shadows of the sidewalk-trees down
to the next corner, to cross there and come back under a like cover on the
other side. But squarely on the crossing I was met and stopped by a
belated drunkard, who had a proposition to make to me which he thought no
true gentleman, such as he was, for instance, could decline. I was alone,
he asked me to notice; and he was alone; but if he should go with me,
which he would be glad to do, why, then, you see, we should be together.
He stuck like a bur, and it was minutes before I got him well started off
in his own right direction. I slipped to the Fontenettes' gate, as near as
was best, and instantly saw, between one of its posts and a very black
myrtle-orange, Fontenette himself, standing as still as the trees. I was
not in so deep a shade as he, but I might have stepped right out into the
moonlight without his seeing me, so intensely was he watching his wife's
front door. For there stood the entomologist. He had evidently been
knocking, and was about to knock again when there came some response from
within, to which he replied, in a suppressed yet eager and agitated voice,
"Mine Psyche! Oh, mine Psyche! She is come to me undt she is bringing me
already more as a hoondredt--vhat?" He had been interrupted from within.
"Vhat you say?"

Fontenette drew his knife.

I stood ready to spring the instant he should stir to advance. I realized
almost unbearably my position, stealing thus at such a moment on the heels
of my neighbor and friend, but this is not a story of feelings, at any
rate, not of mine.

"Vhat?" said the entomologist. "Go avay? Mien Gott! No, I vill not ko
avay. Mien gloryform! Gif me first mine gloryform! Dot Psyche hass come
out fon ter grysalis! she hass drawn me dot room full mit oder Psyches,
undt you haf mine pottle of gloryform in your pocket yet! Yes, ko kit ut;
I vait; ach!" Presently he seemed to hear from inside a second approach.
Then the door opened an inch or so, and with another "Ach!" and never a
word of thanks, he, snatched the vial and, turning to make off with it,
came nose to nose with M. Fontenette, who stood in the moonlight gateway
holding a blazing match to his cigarette.

"Well, sir, good-evening again," said the Creole. I noticed the perfection
of his dress; evidently he had not as yet loosed as much as a shoestring.
And then I observed also that the visitor so close before him was without
his shoes.

"Good-evening--or, good-morning, perchance," said Fontenette. "I suepose
thaz a great thing to remove those old stain' that chloro_form_, eh?"

"Ach! it iss you? Ach, you must coom--coom undt hellup me! Coom! you shall
see _someding_."

"A moment," said the Creole. "May I inquire you how is that, that you call
on us in yo' sock feet?"

"Ach! I am already t'e socks putting on pefore I remember I do not need
t'em! But coom! coom! see a vonderfool!" He led, and Fontenette, when he
had blown a cloud of smoke through his nose, followed, saying exclusively
for his own ear:

"A wonder fool, yes! But a fool is no wonder to me any more; I find myself
to be that kind."



X


When, hypocritically clad in dressing-gown and slippers, I stopped at my
guest's inner door and Fontenette opened it just enough to let me enter, I
saw, indeed, a wonderful sight. The entomologist had lighted up the room,
and it was filled, filled! with gorgeous moths as large as my hand and all
of a kind, dancing across one another's airy paths in a bewildering maze
or alighting and quivering on this thing and that. The mosquito-net,
draping almost from ceiling to floor, was beflowered with them
majestically displaying in splendid alternation their upper and under
colors, or, with wings lifted and vibrant, tipping to one side and another
as they crept up the white mesh, like painted and gilded sails in a
fairies' regatta.

And all this life and beauty, this gay glory and tremorous ecstasy and
effort was here for moth-love of one incarnate fever of frail-winged
loveliness! Oh! to what unguessed archangelic observation, to what
infinite seraphic compassion, may not our own swarming race, who dare not
too much pity ourselves, be but just such dainty ephemera! Splendid in
purposes, intelligence, and affections as these in colors and grace,
glorious when on the wing, and marvellous still, riddles of wonder, even
when crawling and quivering, tipping and swerving from the upright and
true, like these palpitating flowers of desire, now this way and now that,
forever drawn and driven by the sweet tyrannies of instinct and impulse.

So rushed the thought in upon me, and if it was not of the divinest or
manliest inspiration, at least it took some uncharity out of me for the
moment. As in mechanical silence Fontenette obeyed the busy requests of
the entomologist, I presently looked more on those two than on the winged
multitude, and thought on, of the myriad true tales of love-weakness and
love-wrath for which they and their two pretty mates were just now so
unlucky as to stand; of the awful naturalness of such things; of the
butterfly beauty and wonder--nay, rather the divine possibilities of the
lives such things so naturally speed to wreck; and then of Tom Moore
almost too playfully singing:


     Ah! did we take for Heaven above
       But half such pains as we
     Take, day and night, for woman's love,
       What Angels we should be!

But while I moralized there came a change. Beneath the entomologist's dark
hand, as it searched and hurried throughout the room, the flutter of wings
had ceased as under a wind of death.

"You must have a hundred and fifty of them," I said as the last victim
ceased to flutter.

"Yes."

"Their sale is slow, of course, but every time you sell one, you ought to
get"--I was judging by some prices he had charged me--"you ought to get
two dollars." And I secretly rejoiced for Senda.

"I not can afford to sell t'em," he replied, with his back to me.

"Why, how so?"

"No, it iss t'is kind vhat I can exshange for five, six, maybe seven
specimenss fon Ahfrica undt Owstrahlia. No, I vill not sell t'em."

"Oh, I see," said I, in mortal disgust. "Fontenette, I'm going to bed."
And Fontenette went too.

The next day was cloudless--in two hearts; Senda's, and Fontenette's. As
to the sky, that is another matter; one of the charms of that warm wet
land is that, with all its sunshine, it is almost never without clouds.
And indeed it would be truer to say of my two friends' skies, that they
had clouds, but the clouds were silvered through with happy reassurances.
Jealousy, we are told, once set on fire, burns without fuel; but I must
think that that is oftenest, if not always, the jealousy of a selfish
love. Or, rather--let me quote Senda, as she spoke the only other time she
ever touched upon the subject with us. Our fat neighbor had dragged it in
again as innocently as a young dog brings an old shoe into the parlor,
and, the Fontenettes being absent, she had the nerve and wisdom not to
avoid it. Said she:

"Some of us--not all--have great power to love. Some, not all, who have
sis power--to love--have also se power to trust. Me, I rasser be trustet
and not loved, san to be loved and not trustet."

"How about a little of each?" asked our neighbor.

"Oh! If se _nature_ iss little, sat iss, maybe, very vell--?" She spoke as
kindly as a mother to her babe, but he stole a slow glance here and there,
as though some one had shot him with a pea in church, and dropped the
theme.

Which I, too, will do when I have noted the one thing I had particularly
in mind to say, of Fontenette: that, as Senda remarked--for the above is
an abridgment--"I rasser see chalousie vissout cause, san cause vissout
chalousie;" and that even while I was witness of the profound ferocity of
his jealousy when roused, and more and more as time passed on, I was
impressed with its sweet reasonableness.



XI


Time did pass--in days and weeks of that quiet sort which make us forget
in actual life that such is the way in good stories also. Innumerable
crops were growing in the fields, countless ships were sailing or steaming
the monotonous leagues of their long wanderings from port to port, some
empty, some heavy-laden, like bees between garden and hive:

     The corn-tops were ripe and the meadows were in bloom
     And the birds made music all the day.

Many of our days must not be the wine, but only small bits of the vine, of
life. We cannot gather or eat _them_; we can only let them grow, branch,
blossom, get here and there green grapes, scarce a tenth of a tithe, in
bulk or weight, of the whole growth, and "in due season--if we faint not"
pluck the purpled clusters. And as the vine is--much, too, as the vine is
tended, so will be the raisins and the wine. There is nothing in life for
which to be more thankful, or in which to be more diligent, than its
intermissions. This is not my sermonizing. I am not going to put
everything off upon "Senda," but really this was hers. I have edited it a
trifle; her inability to make, in her pronunciation, a due difference
between wine and vine rather dulled the point of her moral.

Fontenette remarked to her one Sunday afternoon in our garden, that she
must have got her English first from books.

"Yes," she said, "I didt. Also I have many, many veeks English
conversations lessons befo'e Ame'ica. But I cannot se p'onunciation get;
because se spelling. Hah! I can _not_ sat spelling get!"

O, but didn't I want to offer my services? But, like Bunyan's Christian, I
recalled a text and so got by; which text was the wise saying of that
female Solomon, "se aunt of my muss-er"--"One man can't ever'sing have,
and mine"--establishment is already complete.

Meantime, Mrs. Fontenette, from farthest off in our group, had slipped
around to the Baroness. She spoke something low, stroking her downy fan
and blushing with that damsel sweetness of which her husband was so openly
fond.

"O no, I sank you!" answered Senda, in an undulating voice. "I sank you
v'ey much, but I cannot take se time to come to yo' house, and I cannot
let you take se trouble _too_ come _too_ mine. No, if I can have me only
se right soughts, and find me se right vords for se right soughts, I sink
I leave se p'onunciation to se mercy of P'ovidence."

Mrs. Fontenette blushed as prettily as a child, and let her husband take
her hand as he said, "The Providence that wou'n' have mercy on such a
pronunshation like that--ah well, 'twould have to become v'ey unpopular!"

"Anyhow," cooed Senda, "I risk it;" and then to his wife--"For se present,
siss betteh I sew for you san spell for you."

Thus was our fair neighbor at every turn overmatched by the trustful love
of the man and watchful love of the woman, whose fancied inferiority was
her excuse for an illicit infatuation; an infatuation which little by
little became a staring fact--only not to Fontenette. You know, you can
hide such a thing from those who love and trust you, but not long from
those who do not; and if you are not old in sin--Flora and the Baron were
infants--you will almost certainly think that a condition hid from those
who love and trust you is hid from all! O fools! the very urchins of the
playground will presently have found you out and be guessing at broken
laws, though there be only broken faiths and the anguish of first steps in
perfidy.

We could not help but see, and yet for all our seeing we could not help.
The matter never took on flagrancy enough to give ever so kind an
intervener a chance to speak with effect. It was pitiful to see how little
gratification they got out of it; especially she, with that silly belief
in her ability to rekindle his spiritual energies and lift him into the
thin air of her transcendentalisms; slipping, nevertheless, bit by bit,
down the precipitous incline between her vaporous refinements and his
wallowing animalisms; too destitute of the love that loves to give, or of
courage, or of cunning, to venture into the fires of real passion, but
forever craving flattery and caresses, and for their sake forever holding
him over the burning coals of unfulfilled desire.

How could we know these things so positively?

By the entomologist; the child of science. Science yearns ever to know and
to tell. Truth for truth's sake! He had no strong _moral_ feeling against
a lie; but he had never had the slightest _use_ for a lie, and a
prevarication on his tongue would have been as strange to him as castanets
in his palms. Guile takes alertness, adroitness; and the slim pennyworth
of these that he could command he used up, no doubt, on Fontenette. I
noticed that after an hour with the Creole he always looked tortured and
exhausted. With us he was artless to the tips of his awful finger-nails.

Nor was Mrs. Fontenette a skilful dissembler; she over-concealed things so
revealingly. Then she was so helplessly enamoured and in so childish a
way. I venture one of the penalties almost any woman may have to pay for
bringing to the altar only the consent to be loved is to find herself,
some time, at last, far from the altar, a Titania, a love's fool. Our
Titania pointed us to the fact that the Baron's wife never tried to divert
his mind from the one pursuit that enthralled it; and she borrowed one of
our garden alleys in which to teach him--grace-hoops! He never caught one
from her nor threw one that she could catch; but, ah! with her coaxing and
commanding, her sweet taunting and reprimanding and his utter lack of
surprise at them, how much she betrayed! Fontenette came, learned in a few
throws, and was charmed with the toys--a genuine lover always takes to
them kindly--but Mrs. Fontenette was by this time tired, and she never
again felt rested when her husband mentioned the game.

Furthermore, their countenances!--hers and the entomologist's--especially
when in repose--you could read the depths of experience they had sounded,
by the lines and shadows that came and went, or stayed, as one may read
the depths of a bay by the passing of wind and light, day by day, over its
waters--particularly if the waters are not very deep.

They made painful reading. What degrees of heart-wretchedness came and
went or stayed with them, we may have over--we may have underestimated.
God knows. In two months Mrs. Fontenette grew visibly older and less
pretty, yet more nearly beautiful; while he, by every sign, was gradually
awakening back--or, shall we not say, being now first born?--to life,
through the pangs of a torn mind; mind, not conscience; but pangs never of
sated, always of the famished sort.



XII


It was he who finally put the very seal of confirmation upon both our
hopes and our fears.

The time was the evening of the same Sunday in whose afternoon his wife
had declined those transparent spelling-lessons. A certain preacher, noted
for his boldness, was drawing crowds by a series of sermons on the text
"Be thou clean," and our fat neighbor and his wife took us, all six, to
hear him. Their pew was well to the front and we were late, so that going
down the aisle unushered, with them in the lead--husband and spouse,
husband and spouse, four couples--we made a procession which became
embarrassingly amusing as the preacher simultaneously closed the Scripture
lesson with, "And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons'
wives with him into the ark."

That has been our fat neighbor's best joke ever since, though he always
says after it, "The poor Baron!" and often adds--"and poor Mrs.
Fontenette! Little did we think," etc. But he has never even suspected
their secret.

The entomologist was the last of our pew-full to give heed to the pulpit.
When the preacher said that because it was a year of state elections, for
which we ought already to be preparing, he had in his first discourse
touched upon political purity--cleanness of citizenship--the Baron showed
no interest. He still showed none when the speaker said again, that
because the pestilence was once more with us--that was in the terrible
visitation of 1878--he had devoted his second discourse to the hideous
crime of a great city whose voters and tax-payers do not enable and compel
it to keep the precept, "Be thou clean." I thought of the clean little
home from whose master beside me came no evidence that he thought at all.
But the moment the preacher declared his purpose to consider now the
application of this great command to the individual life and character of
man and woman as simply man and woman, the entomologist became the closest
listener in the crowded throng.

The sermon was a daring one. I was struck by the shrewd concessions with
which the speaker defined personal purity and the various false
conceptions of it that pass current; abandoning the entrenched hills, so
to speak, of his church's traditional rigor and of many conventional
rules, and drawing after him into the unfortified plain his least
persuadable hearers of whatever churchly or unchurchly prejudice, to
surround them finally at one wide sweep and receive their unconditional
surrender. His periods were not as embarrassing to a mixed audience as my
citations would indicate. Those that I bring together were wisely
subordinated and kept apart in the discourse, and ran together only in
minds like my own, eager for one or two other hearers to be specially
impressed by them. And one, at least, was. Before the third sentence of
the main discourse was finished the fierceness of the Baron's attention
was provoking me to ask myself whether a conscience also was not coming to
birth in him.

In a spiritual-material being, said the speaker, the spirit has a
rightful, happy share in every physical delight, and no physical delight
need be unclean in which the spirit can freely enjoy its just share as
senior member in the partnership of soul and body. Without this spiritual
participation it could not be clean, though church, state, and society
should jointly approve and command it. Mark, I do not answer for the truth
of these things; I believe them, but that is quite outside of our story.

The commonest error, he said, of those who covet spiritual cleanness is to
seek a purification of self for self-purification's sake.

The Baron grunted. He was drinking in the words; had forgotten his
surroundings.

Only those are clean, continued the speaker, whose every act, motive,
condition is ordered according to their best knowledge of the general
happiness, whether that happiness is for the time embodied in millions, or
in but one beyond themselves. Through errors of judgment they may fall
into manifest outward uncleannesses; but they, and none but they, are
clean within.

Because women, he went on, are in every way more delicately made than men,
we easily take it for granted they are more spiritual. From Genesis to
Revelation the Bible never does so. It is amazing how feeble a sense of
condemnation women--even as compared with men--often show for the _spirit_
of certain misdeeds if only it be unaccompanied by the misdeed's
performance; or what loathing so many of them--"of you," he really said,
and the Baron grunted as though his experience had been with droves of
them--what loathing so many of you heap upon certain things without
reference to the spirit by which they are accompanied and on which their
nobility or baseness, their cleanness or foulness, entirely depends.

Nothing is unclean that is to no one anywhere unjust or unkind; and
nothing is unjust, unkind, or unclean which cannot easily be shown to be
so without inventing an eleventh commandment. To him, he said, no
uncleanness was more foul than that which, not for kindness, or for
righteousness, but for a fantastical, self-centred refinement, invents
some eleventh commandment to call that common which God hath cleansed; to
call anything brutish which the incarnation of the soul has made sacred to
spotless affections.

The Baron muttered something in German, and Fontenette shut his mouth
tight and straightened up in approbation.


At the close of the service we were not out of the pew before our escort
was introducing Senda to his friends in front and behind as busily and
elaborately as if that was what we had come for. Twice and again she cast
so anxious an eye upon her husband--from whom Mrs. Fontenette had wisely
taken shelter behind hers--that I softly said to her, "We'll take care of
him."

A care he was! All the way down the aisle, amid the peals of the organ, he
commented on the sermon aloud, mostly to himself but also to whichever of
us he could rub his glasses against. Sometimes he mistook others for us
until they stared. His face showed a piteous, weary distress, his thin
hair went twenty ways, he seemed scarcely to know where he was or how to
take his steps, and presently was saying to a strange lady crowded against
him, as though it was with her he had been talking all along:

"Undt vhy shall we haf t'at owfool troubple? No-o, t'at vould kill me! I
am not a cat to keep me alvays clean--no more as a hogk to keep me always
not clean. No, I keep me--owdside--inside--always so clean as it comes
eassy, undt I leave me so dirty as it comes eassy."



XIII


I took his arm into mine--his hand was hot--and drew him on alone. "Undt
t'ose vomens," he persisted in the vestibule, "t'ey are more troubple yet
as t'eir veight in goldt! I vish, mine Gott! t'ere be no more any vomens
ut all, undt we haf t'e shiltern by mutchinery."

On the outer steps I sprang with others to save a young girl, who had
stumbled, from pitching headlong to the sidewalk. Once on her feet again,
after a limp or two she walked away uninjured; but when I looked around
for my real charge he was not in sight. I hurried to Fontenette and his
wife a few steps away, but he was not with them. The three of us turned
back and came upon the rest of our group, but neither had they seen him.
Our other neighbor said he must have got into a car. I asked Senda if it
was likely he would go home without trying to find us, and she replied
that he might; but when we had all looked at one another for a moment she
dded, with a distinct tremor of voice--and I saw that she feared
temptation and conscience had unsettled his wits--"I sink he iss not ve'y
vell. I sink he is maybe--I ton't know, but--I--I sink he iss not ve'y
vell." She averted her face.

She agreed with us, of course, that there was no call for alarm, and Mrs.
Smith and I had to plead that we could not, the six of us, let her go
home, away downtown, alone, while we should go as far the other way and
remain all night ignorant of her husband's whereabouts. So our next door
neighbor, my wife and I went with her, and his wife and the Fontenettes
went home; for a conviction probably common to us all, but which no one
cared to put into downright words, was that the entomologist, whether
dazed or not, might wander up to one of our homes in preference to his
own. In the street-car and afterward for a full hour at her house, Senda
was very silent, only saying now a little and then a little more.

"_He_ iss all right! _He_ vill sure come. Many times he been avay se
_whole_ night. Sat is se first time I am eveh afraid; is sat se vay when
commencing to grow old? Yes, I sink sat is se reason."

When we had been at her cottage for nearly an hour, my neighbor started
out on a systematic search; and half an hour later, I left Mrs. Smith with
her and went also.

About one o'clock in the night, I came back as far as the corner nearest
her house, but waited there, by appointment, with my neighbor; and very
soon--stepping softly--he appeared.

"No sign of him?"

"None."

"You don't suppose he's done himself any violence, do you?" he asked.

"No, no. O no."

"And yet," he said, "I think we ought to tell the police at once."

I advanced some obvious objections. "At any rate," I said, "go in, will
you, please, and see if he hasn't come home, while we were away."

"Why, yes, that _is_ the first thing," laughed he, and went.

As I waited for him in the still street, I heard far away a quick
footstep. By and by I saw a man pass under a distant lamp, coming toward
me. I looked with all my eyes. Just then my neighbor came back. "Listen,"
I murmured. "Watch when that man comes under the next light."

He watched. "It's Fontenette!"

"Well," said the Creole as he joined us, "he's yondeh all right--except
sick.

"Yes, he cou'n't tell anybody where to take him, and a doctor found that
letteh on him print' outside with yo' uptown address; and so he put him in
a cab an' sen' him yondeh, and sen' word he muz 'ave been sick sinze sev'l
hours, an' get him in bed quick don't lose a minute."

"And so he's in bed at my house!" I put in approvingly.

"Ah, no! I coul'n' do like that; but I do the bes' I could; he is at _my_
'ouse in bed. An' my own doctor sen' word what to do an' he'll come in the
mawning. And (to our neighbor) yo' madame do uz that kineness to remain
with Madame Fontenette whiles I'm bringing his wife."

At the cottage my companions remained outside. As I entered Senda caught
one glance and exclaimed, "Ah, mine hussbandt is foundt and is anyhow
alife!"

"Yes," I replied, "but he's ill. Mr. Fontenette met him and took him to
his house. He's there now with Mrs. Fontenette and Mrs. Blank. Get a
change of dress and come, we'll all go together."

Senda stared. "A shange of dtress?" Then, with a most significant mingling
of relief and new disturbance, she said, "Ah, I see!" and looking from me
to Mrs. Smith and from Mrs. Smith to me, while she whipped her bonnet
ribbons into a bow, she cried, with shaking voice and streaming eyes:

"Oh, sank Kott! sank Kott! it iss only se yellow feveh."



XIV


No sick man could have been better cared for than was the entomologist at
our neighbor's over the way. "The fever," as in the Creole city it used to
be sufficiently distinguished, is not so deadly, nor so treacherous, nor
nearly so repulsive, as some other maladies, but none requires closer
attention. After successive days and nights of unremitting vigilance,
should there occur a momentary closing of the nurse's eyes, or a turning
from the bedside for a quarter of a minute, the irresponsible patient may
attempt to rise and may fall back dying or dead. So, the attendant must
have an attendant. In the case of the entomologist, his wife became the
bedside nurse and sentinel.

In the next room, now and then Mrs. Smith, and now and then our fat
neighbor's wife, waited on her, but by far the most of the time, Mrs.
Fontenette was her assistant. When Senda, while the patient dozed, stole
brief moments of sleep to keep what she could of her overtasked powers,
her place, at the bedside, was always filled by Fontenette, who as often
kept his promise to call her the instant her husband should rouse.

Thus we brought our precious entomologist through the disorder's first
crisis, which generally comes exactly on the seventy-second hour, and in
due time through the second, which falls, if I remember aright, on the
ninth day. What I do recall with certainty, was that it came on one of the
days of the city's heaviest mortality and that two of our children, and my
next neighbor's wife, came down with the scourge.

And O, the beautiful days and the beautiful nights! It seemed the illusion
of a dream, that between such land and sky, there should be not one street
in that embowered city unsmitten by sorrow and death. Out of yonder fair
home on the right, they carried yesterday, the loved mother of five
children--but the Baron is better. From this one on the left, will be
borne to-morrow such a man as no city can lightly spare, till now a living
fulfilment of the word "Be thou clean"--but the entomologist will be ever
so much better.

To be glad of it, you needed only to hear Senda allude to him as "Mine
hussbandt." Why did she never mention him in any other way? The little
woman was a riddle to me. I did not see how she could give such a man such
a love, and yet I never could see but she was as frank as a public record.
Stranger still was it how she could be the marital partner--the mate, to
speak plainly--of such a one, without showing or feeling the slightest
spiritual debasement. Finally, however, I caught some light. I had stepped
over to ask after "Mine hussbandt," everyone else of us being busy with
our own sick. Senda was letting Fontenette take her place in the
sick-room, which, of course, was shut close. I silently entered the room
in front of it, and perceiving that Mrs. Fontenette had drawn her into the
other front room, adjoining--a door stood half open between--and was
tempting her with refreshments, I sat down to await their next move. So
presently I began to hear what they said to each other in their gentle
speculations.

"A wife who has realized her ideal," Mrs. Fontenette was saying, when
Senda interrupted:

"Ah! vhat vife is sat? In vhat part of se vorldt does she lif, and how
long she is marriedt? No-o, no! Sare is only vun _kindt_ of vife in se
_whole_ vorldt vhat realize her ideal hussbandt; and sat is se vife vhat
idealize her real hussbandt. Also not se hussbandt and se vife only; I
sink you even cannot much Christ-yanity practice vis anybody--close
related--vissout you idealize sem. But ze hussbandt and vife--

"You remembeh sat sehmon, 'Be'--O yes, of course. Vell, sat is vun sing se
preacher forget to say--May be he haf not se time, but I sink he forget:
sat sare is no hussbandt in se whole vorldt--and also sare is no vife--so
sp'--spirit'--spirited? no? Ah, yes--spiritual!--yes, sank you. Vhen I
catch me a bigk vord I am so proudt, yet, as I hadt a fish caught!"

I was willing to believe it, but thought how still more true it was of
Mrs. Fontenette. But the gentle speaker had not paused. "Sare iss no vife
so _spiritual_," she repeated, triumphantly, "and who got a hussbandt so
spiritual, sat eeser vun--do you say 'eeser vun'?"

"Either one," said her hostess, reassuringly.

"Yes, so spiritual sat eeser vun can keep sat rule inside--to be pairfect'
clean, if sat vun do not see usseh vun _idealize_."

I made a stir--"Hmm!" Whereupon she came warily to the door. I sat
engrossed in a book and wishing I could silently crawl under it snake
fashion; but I could feel her eyes all over me, and with them was a
glimmering smile that helped them to make me tingle as she softly spoke.

"Ah!--See se book-vorm! He iss all eyes--and ee-ahs. Iss it _not_ so?"

"Pardon," I murmured; "did you spe'--has  any one been speaking and I have
failed to give attention?"

"O no, sir! I sink not! Vell, you are velcome to all you haf heardt; but I
am ve'y much oblige' to you for yo' 'hmm.' It vas se right sing in se
right place. But do you not sink I shouldt haf been a pre-eacheh? I love
to preach."

I said I knew of three men in one neighborhood with whom she might start a
church, and asked how was the Baron.

Improving--would soon be able to sit up. She inquired after my children.

It was quite in accord with a late phase of Mrs. Fontenette's demeanor
that on this occasion she did not appear until I mentioned her. She had
not come near me by choice since the night the Baron was found and sent to
my address, although I certainly was in every way as nice to her as I had
ever been, and I was not expecting now to be less so.

When she appeared I asked her if a superb rose blooming late in August was
not worth crossing to our side of the way to see. She knew, of course,
that sooner or later, as the best of a bad choice, she must allow me an
interview; yet now she was about to decline on some small excuse, when her
eyes met mine, and she saw that in my opinion the time had come. So she
made her excuses to her guest and went with me.

She gave the rose generous notice and praise, and as she led the way back
lingered admiringly over flower after flower. Yet she said little; more
than once she paused entirely to let me if I chose change the subject, and
when at the gate I did so, she stood like a captive, looking steadily into
my face with eyes as helpless as a half-fledged bird's and as lovely as
its mother's. When I drew something from my breastpocket, they did not
move.

"This," I said, "is the letter that was found on the Baron the night he
was taken ill. Your husband handed it to me supposing, of course, I had
written it, as it was in one of my envelopes, and he happens not to know
my handwriting. But I did not write it. I had never seen it, yet it was
sent in one of my envelopes. I haven't mentioned it to anyone else,
because--you see?--I hope you do. I thought--well, frankly, I thought if I
should mention it first to you I might never need to mention it to anyone
else." I waited a moment and then asked, eyes and all: "Who could have
sent it?"

"Isn't," she began, but her voice failed, and when it came again it was
hardly more than a whisper, "isn't it signed?"

Now, that was just what I did not know. Whatever the thing was, I had
never taken it from the envelope. But the moment she asked I knew. I knew
it bore no signature. We gazed into each other's eyes for many seconds
until hers tried to withdraw. Then I said--and the words seemed to drop
from my lips unthought--"It didn't have to be signed, Mrs. Fontenette,
although the handwriting is disguised."

Poor Flora! I can but think, even yet, I was kinder than if I had been
kind; but it was brutal, and I felt myself a brute, thus to be holding her
up to herself there on the open sidewalk where she dared not even weep or
wring her hands or hide her face, but only make idle marks on the brick
pavement with her tiny boots--and tremble.


"I--I had to write it," she began to reply, and her words, though they
quivered, were as mechanical as mine. "He was so--so--imprudent--my
husband's happiness required----"

I stopped her. "Please don't say that, Mrs. Fontenette. Pardon me, but--
not that, please." I felt for an instant quite cruel enough to have told
her what ebb tides she had given that husband's happiness; what he had
been so near doing and had been led back from only by the absolute
christliness of that other woman and wife, whose happiness scarcely seemed
ever to have occurred to her; but that was his secret, not mine.

She broke a silence with a suppressed exclamation of pain, while for the
eyes of possible observers I imitated her in a nonchalant pose. "You
wouldn't despise me if you knew the half I've suffered or how I've striv--
--"

I interrupted again. "O Mrs. Fontenette, any true gentleman--at thirty-
five--knows it _all--himself_. And he had better go and cut his throat
than give himself airs, even of pity, over a lady who has made a misstep
she cannot retrace."

Her foot played with a brick that was loose in the pavement, but she gave
me a melting glance of gratitude. After a considerable pause she murmured,
"I will retrace it."

"I have kept you here a good while," I said. "After a moment or so drop
your handkerchief, and as I return it to you the letter will be with it.
Or, better, if you choose to trust me, we'll not do that, but as soon as I
get into the house I'll burn it."

"I can trust you," she replied, "but----"

"What; the Baron--when he misses it? O I'll settle that."

She gave a start as though I had shouted.

I thought it a bad sign for the future, and the words that followed seemed
to me worse. "Isn't it my duty," she asked--and her eyes betrayed
unconsciously the desperateness of her desire--"to explain to him myself?"

I answered with a question. "Would that be in the line of retracement,
Mrs. Fontenette?"

"It would!" she responded, with solemn eagerness. "O it would be! It shall
be! I promise you!"

"Mrs. Fontenette," said I, "consider. If his wife"--she flinched; she
could do so now, for the sudden semi-tropical darkness had fallen--"if his
wife-or your husband"--she bit her lip--"knew all--would they think that
your duty? Would it take them an instant to refuse their consent? Would
they not firmly insist that it is your duty never again to see him alone?"

Her only reply was an involuntary moan and a whitening of the face, and
for the first time I saw how deep into her soul the poison had gone.

"My friend," I continued, "you must not think me meddlesome--officious. I
can no more wait for your permission to help you than if you were
drowning. Perhaps for good reasons within _me_, I know, better than you,
that you-and he--are on a slippery incline, and that whether you can stop
your descent and creep back to higher ground than either of you has
slipped from is not to be told by the fineness of your promises or
resolves. I cannot tell; you cannot tell; only God knows." ...

"Please, sir," said a new maid--in place of one who had gone home fever
struck and had died--"yo' lady saunt me fo' to tell you yo' little boy a
sett'n on de back steps an' sayin' his head does ache him, an' she wish
you'd 'ten' to him, 'caze she cayn't leave his lill' sisteh, 'caze she
threaten with convulsion'."



XV


Mrs. Fontenette and the maid silently ran in ahead of me; I went first to
the mother. When I found Mrs. Fontenette again she had the child undressed
and in his crib, and I remembered how often I had, in my heart, called her
a coward.

She saw me pencil on a slip of paper at the mantelpiece, and went and read
-"You mustn't stay. He has the fever. You've never had it."

She wrote beneath--"I should have got it weeks ago if God paid wages every
day. Don't turn me off."

I dropped the paper into the small firegrate, added the other from my
breastpocket, and set them ablaze, and the new maid, entering, praised
burning paper as one of the best deodorizers known.

So my dainty rose-neighbor stayed; stayed all night, and all the next day
and night, and on and on with only flying visits to her home over the way,
until we were amazed at her endurance. The little fellow was never at ease
with her out of his wild eyes. Her touch was balm to him, and her words
peace. Oh, that they might have been healing also! But that was beyond the
reach of all our striving. His days were as the flowers and winged things
of the garden-kingdom, wherein he had been--without ever guessing it--
their citizen-king.

It awakens all the tenderness at once that I ever had for Mrs. Fontenette,
to recall what she was to him in those hours, and to us when his agonies
were all past, and he lay so stately on his short bier, and she could not
be done going to it and looking--looking--with streaming eyes.

As she stood close by the tomb, while we dumbly watched the masons seal
it, I began to believe that she blamed herself for the child's sickness
and death, and presently I knew it must be so. One of those quaint burial
societies of Negro women, in another quarter of the grounds, but within
plain hearing, chose for the ending of their burial service--with what
fitness to their burial service I cannot say, maybe none--a hymn borrowed,
I judge, from the rustic whites, as usual, but Africanized enough to
thrill the dullest nerves; and the moment it began my belief was
confirmed.


     My sin is so dahk, Lawd, so dahk and so deep,
       My grief is so po', Lawd, so po' and so mean,
     I wisht I could weep, Lawd, I wisht I could weep,
       Oh, I wisht I could weep like Mary Mahgaleen!

     Oh, Sorroh! sweet Sorroh! come, welcome, and stay!
       I'd welcome thy swode howsomever so keen,
     If I could jes' pray, Lawd, if I could jes' pray,
       Oh! if I could jes' pray, like Mary Mahgaleen!


My belief was confirmed, I say; but I was glad to see also that no one
else read as I read the signs by which I was guided. At the cemetery gate
I heard some one call--"Yo' madam is sick, sih," and, turning, saw Mrs.
Fontenette, deathly white, lift her blue eyes to her husband and he get
his arm about her just in time to save her from falling. She swooned but a
moment, and, in the carriage, before it started off, tried to be quite
herself, though very pale.

"It's nothing but the reaction," said to me the lady who fanned her, and
we agreed it was a wonder she had held up so long.

"Hyeh, honey," put in the child's old black nurse, in a voice that never
failed to soothe, however grotesque its misinterpretations, "lay yo' head
on me; an' lay it heavy: dass what I'm use-en to. Blessed is de pyo in
haht; she shall res' in de fea' o' de Lawd, an' he shall lafe at heh
calamity."

I was glad to send the old woman with them, for as we turned away to our
own carriage, I said in my mind, "All that little lady needs is enough
contrition, and she'll give away the total of any secret of which she owns
an undivided half."

But a night and a day passed, and a second, and a third, and I perceived
she had told nothing.

It was a terrible time, with many occasions of suspense more harrowing
than that. Our other children were getting on, yet still needed vigilant
care; the Baron was to be let out of his room in a day or two, but my fat
neighbor had come down with the disease, while his wife still lay between
life and death--how they finally got well, I have never quite made out,
they were so badly nursed--and all about us were new cases, and cases
beyond hope, and retarded recoveries, and relapses, and funerals, and
nurses too few, and ice scarce, and everybody worn out with watching--
physicians compelled to limit themselves to just so many cases at a time,
to avoid utterly breaking down.

As I was in my fat neighbor's sick chamber one evening, giving his nurse a
respite, word came that Fontenette was at my gate. I went to him with
misgivings that only increased as we greeted. He was dejected and
agitated. His grasp was damp and cold.

"It cou'n' stay from me always," he said in an anguished voice, and I
cried in my soul, "She's told him!"

But she had not. I asked him what his bad news was that had come at last,
but his only reply was,

"Can you take _him_? Can you take him out of my house--to-night--this
evening--now?"

"Who, the Baron? Why, certainly, if you desire it?" I responded; wondering
if the entomologist, by some slip, had betrayed _her_. There was an awe in
my visitor's eyes that was almost fright.

"Fontenette," I exclaimed, "what have you heard--what have you done?"

"My frien', 'tis not what I 'ave heard, neitheh what I 'ave done; 'tis
what I 'ave got."

"Got? Why, you've got nothing, you Creole of the Creoles. Your skin's as
cool as mine."

"Feel my pulse," he said. I felt it. It wasn't less than a hundred and
fifty.

"Go, get into bed while I bring the Baron over here," I said, and by the
time I had done this and got back to him his skin was hot enough! An hour
or two after, I recrossed the street on the way to my night's rest,
leaving his wife to nurse him, and Senda to attend on her and keep house.
I paused in the garden and gazed up among the benignant stars. And then I
looked onward, through and beyond their ranks, seemingly so confused, yet
where such amazing hidden order is, and said, for our good Fontenette, and
for his watching wife, and for all of us--even for my wife and me in our
unutterable loss--"Sank Kott! sank Kott! it iss only se yellow fevah!"



XVI


Three days more. In the third evening I found the doctor saying to Mrs.
Fontenette:


"Nine o'clock. It's now seven-thirty. Well, you'd better begin pretty soon
to watch for the change.

"O, you'll know it when you see it, it will be as plain as something
sinking in water right before your eyes. Then give him the beef-tea, just
a teaspoonful; then, by and by, another, and another, as I told you,
always keeping his head on the pillow--mind that."

Out beside his carriage he continued to me: "O yes, a nurse or patient may
break that rule, or almost any rule, and the patient may live. I had a
patient, left alone for a moment on the climacteric day, who was found
standing at her mirror combing her hair, and to-day she's as well as you
or I. I had another who got out of bed, walked down a corridor, fell face
downward and lay insensible at the crack of a doorsill with the rain
blowing in on him under the door--and he got well. As to Fontenette, all
his symptoms so far are good. Well--I'll be back in the morning."

So ran the time. There were no more new cases in our house; Mrs. Smith and
I had had the scourge years before, as also had Senda, who remained over
the way. Fontenette passed from one typical phase of the disorder to
another "charmingly" as the doctor said, yet he specially needed just such
exceptionally delicate care as his wife was giving him. In the city at
large the deaths per day were more and more, and one night when it
showered and there was a heavenly cooling of the air, the increase in the
mortality was horrible. But the weather, as a rule, was steady and
tropically splendid; the sun blazed; the moonlight was marvellous; the
dews were like rains; the gardens were gay with butterflies. Our
convalescent little ones hourly forgot how gravely far they were from
being well, and it became one of our heavy cares to keep the entomologist
from entomologizing--and from overeating.

From time to time, when shorthanded we had used skilled nurses; but when
Mrs. Fontenette grew haggard and we mentioned them, she said
distressfully: "O! no hireling hands! I can't bear the thought of it!" and
indeed the thought of the average hired "fever-nurse" of those days was
not inspiring; so I served as her alternate when she would accept any and
throw herself on the couch Senda had spread in the little parlor.



XVII


At length one day I was called up at dawn and went over to take her place
once more, and when after several hours had passed I was still with him,
Fontenette said, while I bent down,

"I have the fear thad's going to go hahd with my wife, being of the
Nawth."

"Why, what's going to go hard, old fellow?"

"The feveh. My dear frien', don't I know tha'z the only thing would keep
heh f'om me thad long?"

"Still, you don't know her case will be a hard one; it may be very light.
But don't talk now."

"Well--I hope _so_. Me, I wou'n' take ten thousand dollahs faw thad feveh
myself--to see that devotion of my wife. You muz 'ave observe', eh?"

"Yes, indeed, old man; nobody could help observing. I wouldn't talk any
more just now."

"No," he insisted, "nobody could eveh doubt. 'Action speak loudeh than
word,' eh?"

"Yes, but we don't want either from you just now." I put his restless arms
back under the cover; not to keep the outer temperature absolutely even
was counted a deadly risk. "Besides," I said, "you're talking out of
character, old boy."

He looked at me mildly, steadily, for several moments, as if something
about me gave him infinite comfort. It was a man's declaration of love to
a man, and as he read the same in my eyes, he closed his own and drowsed.

Though he dozed only at wide intervals and briefly, he asked no more
questions until night; then--"Who's with my wife?"

"Mine."

He closed his eyes again, peacefully. It was in keeping with his perfect
courtesy not to ask how the new patient was. If she was doing well,--well;
and if not, he would spare us the pain of informing or deceiving him.

Senda became a kind of chief-of-staff for both sides of the street. She
would have begged to be Mrs. Fontenette's nurse, but for one other
responsibility, which we felt it would be unsafe, and she thought it would
be unfair, for her to put thus beyond her own reach: "se care of mine
hussbandt."

She wore a plain path across the unpaved street to our house, and another
to our neighbor's. "Sat iss a too great risk," she compassionately
maintained, "to leaf even in se daytime sose shiltren--so late sick--alone
viss only mine hussbandt and se sairvants!"

The doctor was concerned for Mrs. Fontenette from the beginning. "Terribly
nervous," he said, "and full from her feet to her eyes, of a terror of
death--merely a part of the disease, you know." But in this case I did not
know.

"Pathetic," he called the fevered satisfaction she took in the hovering
attentions of our old black nurse, who gave us brief respites in the two
sick-rooms by turns, and who had according to Mrs. Fontenette, "such a
beautiful faith!" The doctor thought it mostly words, among which "de Lawd
willin'" so constantly recurred that out of the sick-room he always
alluded to her as D.V., though never without a certain sincere regard.
This kind old soul had nursed much yellow fever in her time, and it did
not occur to us that maybe her time was past.

When Mrs. Fontenette had been ill something over a week, the doctor one
evening made us glad by saying as he came through the little dining-room
and jerked a thumb back toward Fontenette's door, "Just keep him as he is
for one more night and, I promise you, he'll get well; but!"--He sat down
on the couch--Senda's--in the parlor, and pointed at the door to Mrs.
Fontenette's room--"You've got to be careful _how_ you let even that be
known--in there! She can get well too--if--" And he went on to tell how in
this ailment all the tissues of the body sink into such frail
deterioration, that so slight a thing as the undue thrill of an emotion,
may rend some inner part of the soul's house and make it hopelessly
untenable.

"Iss sat not se condition vhat make it so easy to relapse?" asked Senda.

He said it was, I think, and went his way, little knowing to what a night
he was leaving us--except for its celestial beauty, upon which he
expatiated as I stepped with him to the gate.



XVIII


He had not been gone long enough for me to get back into the house-
Fonteette's--when I espied coming to me, in piteous haste from her home
around the corner, the young daughter of another neighbor. Her hair was
about her eyes and as she saw the physician had gone, she wrung her hands
and burst into violent weeping. I ran to her outside the gate, pointing
backward at Mrs. Fontenette's room, with entreating signs for quiet as she
called--"Oh, _where_ is he gone? Which way did he go?"

"I can't tell you, my dear girl!" I murmured. "I don't know! What is the
trouble?"

"My father!" she hoarsely whispered.

"My father's dying! dying in a raging delirium, and we can't hold him in
bed! O, come and help us!" She threw her hands above her head in wild
despair, and gnawed her fingers and lips and shook and writhed as she
gulped down her sobs, and laid hold of me and begged as though I had
refused.

I found her words true. It took four men to keep him down. I did not have
to stay to the end, and when I reached Fontenette's side again, was glad
to find I had been away but little over an hour.

I sent the old black woman home and to bed, and may have sat an hour more,
when she came back to tell us, that one of the children was very wakeful
and feverish. Senda went to see into the matter for us, and the old woman
took her place in the little parlor. Mrs. Smith was with Mrs. Fontenette.

Fontenette slept. Loath to see him open his eyes, I kept very still, while
nearly another hour dragged by, listening hard for Senda's return, but
hearing only, once or twice, through the narrow stairway and closets
between the two bedrooms, a faint stir that showed Mrs. Fontenette was
awake and being waited on.

I was grateful for the rarity of outdoor sounds; a few tree-frogs piped,
two or three solitary wayfarers passed in the street; twice or more the
sergeant of the night-watch trilled his whistle in a street or two behind
us, and twice or more in front; and once, and once again, came the distant
bellow of steamboats passing each other--not the famous boats whose
whistle you would know one from another, for they were laid up. I doubt if
I have forgotten any sound that I noticed that night. I remember the
drowsy rumble of the midnight horse-car and tinkle of its mule's bell,
first in Prytania street and then in Magazine. It was just after these
that at last a black hand beckoned me to the door, and under her breath
the old nurse told me she was just back from our house, where her mistress
had sent her, and that--"De-eh--de-eh"--

"The Baroness?"

"Yass, sih, de--de outlayndish la-ady--"

Senda had sent word that the child had only an indigestion--a thing
serious enough in such a case--and though still slightly feverish was now
asleep, but restless.

"Sih? Yass, sir--awnressless--dass 'zac'ly what I say!"

Wherefore Senda would either remain in the nursery or return to us, as we
should elect.

"O no, sih, she no need to come back right now, anyhow; yass, sih, dass
what de Mis' say, too."

"Then you'll stay here," I whispered.

"Yass, sih, ef de Lawd wil'--I mean ef you wants me, sih--yass, sih,
thaynk you, sih. I loves to tend on Mis' Fontenette, she got sich a bu'ful
fa aith, same like she say I got. Yass, sih, I dess loves to set an' watch
her--wid dat sweet samtimonious fa-ace."

Fontenette being still asleep I gave her my place for a moment, and went
to the door between the parlor and his wife's room. Mrs. Smith came to it,
barely breathing the triumphant word--"Just dropped asleep!"

When I replied that I would take a little fresh air at the front door she
asked if at my leisure I would empty and bring in from the window-sill,
around on the garden side of her patient's room a saucer containing the
over-sweetened remains of some orange-leaf tea, that "D.V." had made "for
to wrench out de nerves." She wanted the saucer.

I went outside a step or two and took in a long draught of good air--the
air of a yellow-fever room is dreadful. It was my first breath of mental
relief also; almost the first that night, and the last.

I paced once or twice the short narrow walk between the front flower-beds,
surprised at their well-kept and blooming condition until I remembered
Senda. The moths were out in strong numbers, and it was delightful to
forget graver things for a moment and see the flowers bend coyly under
their passionate kisses and blushingly rise again when the sweet robbery
was finished. So it happened that I came where a glance across to my own
garden showed me, on the side farthest from the nursery, a favorite bush,
made pale by a light that could come only from the entomologist's window!
I went in promptly, told what I proposed to do, and hurried out again.



XIX


I crossed into my garden and silently mounted the balcony stairs I have
mentioned once before. His balcony door was ajar. His room was empty. He
had occupied the bed. A happy thought struck me--to feel the spot where he
had lain; it was still warm. Good! But his clothes were all gone except
his shoes, and they, you remember, were no proof that he was indoors.

I stole down into the garden once more, and looked hurriedly in several
directions, but saw no sign of him. I am not a ferocious man even when
alone, but as I came near the fence of our fat neighbor--once fat, poor
fellow, and destined to be so again in time--and still saw no one, I was
made conscious of waving my fist and muttering through my gritting teeth,
by hearing my name softly called. It was an unfamiliar female voice that
spoke, from a window beyond the fence, and it flashed on my remembrance
that two kinswomen of my neighbor were watching with his wife, whose case
was giving new cause for anxiety. It was Mrs. Soandso, the voice
explained, and could I possibly come in there a moment?--if only to the
window!

"Is our friend the Baron over here?" I asked, as I came to it. He was not.
"Well, never mind," I said; "how is your patient?"

"Oh that's just what we wish we knew. In some ways she seems better, but
she's more unquiet. She's had some slight nausea and it seems to increase.
Do you think that is important?"

"Yes," I said, "very. I hear some one cracking ice; you are keeping ice on
her throat--no? Well, begin it at once, and persuade her to lie on her
back as quietly as she can, and get her to sleep if possible! Doctor--no;
he wouldn't come before morning, anyhow; but I'll send Mrs. Smith right
over to you, if she possibly can come."

I turned hurriedly away and had taken only a few steps, when I lit upon
the entomologist. "Well, I'll just--what _are_ you doing here? Where were
you when I was in your room just now?" His shoes were on.

"Vhat you vanted mit me? I vas by dot librair' going. For vhat you moof
dot putterfly-net fon t'e mandtelpiece? You make me _too_ much troubple to
find dot vhen I vas in a hurry!" He shook it at me.

"Hurry!" In my anger and distress I laughed. "My friend"--laying a hand on
him--"you'll hurry across the street with me."

He waved me off. "Yes; go on, you; I coom py undt py; I dtink t'ere iss
vun maud come into dot gardten, vhat I haf not pefore seen since more as
acht years, alreadty!"

"Yes," I retorted, "and so you're here at the gate alone. Now come right
along with me! Aren't there enough lives in danger to-night, but you must"
-He stopped me in the middle of the street.

"Mine Gott! vhat iss dot you say? Who--_who_--mine Gott! _who_ iss her
life in dtanger? Iss dot--mine Gott! is dot he-ere?" He pointed to Mrs.
Fontenette's front window.

I could hardly keep my fist off him. "Hush! you--For one place it's
_here_." I pushed him with my finger.

"Ach!" he exclaimed in infinite relief. "I dt'ought you mean--I--I
dt'ought--hmm!--hmm! I am dtired." He leaned on me like a sick child and
we went into the cottage parlor. The moment he saw the lounge he lay down
upon it, or I should have taken him back into the dining-room.

"Sha'n't I put that net away for you?" I murmured, as I dropped a light
covering over him.

But he only hugged the toy closer. "No; I geep it--hmm!--hmm!--I am
dtired--"



XX


Both patients, I found, were drowsing; the husband peacefully, the wife
with troubled dreams. When the Baron spoke her eyes opened with a look,
first eager and then distressful, but closed again. We put the old black
woman temporarily into her room and Mrs. Smith hurried to our other
neighbors, whence she was to despatch one of their servants to bid Senda
come to us at once. But "No battle"--have I already used the proverb? She
gave the message to the servant, but it never reached Senda. Somebody
forgot. As I sat by Fontenette with ears alert for Senda's coming and was
wondering at the unbroken silence, he opened his eyes on me and smiled.

"Ah!" he softly said, "thad was a pleasan' dream!"

"A pleasant dream, was it?"

"Yes; I was having the dream thad my wife she was showing me those rose-
_bushes_; an' every rose-_bush_ it had roses, an' every rose it was
perfect."

I leaned close and said that he had been mighty good not to ask about her
all these many days, and that if he would engage to do as well for as long
a time again, and to try now to have another good dream I would tell him
that she was sleeping and was without any alarming symptoms. O lucky
speech! It was true when it was uttered; but how soon the hour belied it!

As he obediently closed his eyes, his hand stole out from the side of the
covers and felt for mine. I gave it and as he kept it his thought seemed
to me to flow into my brain. I could feel him, as it were, thinking of his
wife, loving her through all the deeps of his still nature with seven--
yes, seventy--times the passion that I fancied would ever be possible to
that young girl I had seen a few hours earlier showing her heart to the
world, with falling hair and rending sobs. As he lay thus trying to court
back his dream of perfect roses, I had my delight in knowing he would
never dream-what Senda saw so plainly, yet with such faultless modesty--
that all true love draws its strength and fragrance from the riches not of
the loved one's, but of the lover's soul.

His grasp had begun to loosen, when I thought I heard from the wife's room
a sudden sound that made my mind flash back to the saucer I had failed to
bring in. It was as though the old-fashioned, unweighted window-sash,
having been slightly lifted, had slipped from the fingers and fallen shut.
I hearkened, and the next instant there came softly searching through
doors, through walls, through my own flesh and blood, a long half-wailing
sigh. Fontenette tightened on my hand, then dropped it, and opening his
eyes sharply, asked, "What was that?"

"What was what, old fellow?" I pretended to have been more than half
asleep myself.

"Did I only dream I 'eard it, thad noise?"

"That isn't a hard thing to do in your condition," I replied, with my
serenest smile, and again he closed his eyes. Yet for two or three minutes
it was plain he listened; but soon he forbore and began once more to
slumber. Then very soon I faintly detected a stir in the parlor, and
stealing to the door to listen through the dining-room, came abruptly upon
the old black woman. Disaster was written on her face and when she spoke
tears came into her eyes.

"De madam want you," she said, and passed in to take my place.

As I went on to the parlor, Mrs. Smith, just inside Mrs. Fontenette's
door, beckoned me. As I drew near I made an inquiring motion in the
direction of our neighbor across the way.

"I'm hopeful," was her whispered reply; "but--in here"--she shook her
head. Just then the new maid came from our house, and Mrs. Smith whispered
again-- "Go over quickly to the Baron; he's in his room. 'Twas he came for
me. He'll tell you all. But he'll not tell his wife, and she mustn't
know."

As I ran across the street I divined almost in full what had taken place.

I had noticed the possibility of some of the facts when I had left the
Baron asleep on the parlor lounge, but they could have done no harm, even
when Senda did not come, had it not been for two other facts which I had
failed to foresee; one, that we had unwittingly overtasked our willing old
nurse, and in her chair in Mrs. Fontenette's room she was going to fall
asleep; and the other that the entomologist would waken.



XXI


And now see what a cunning trap the most innocent intentions may sometimes
set. There was a mirror in the sick-room purposely so placed that, with
the parlor door ajar, the watcher, but not the patient, could see into the
parlor, and could be seen from the parlor when sitting anywhere between
the mirror and the window beyond it. This window was the one that looked
into the side garden. Purposely, too, the lounge had been placed so as to
give and receive these advantages. A candle stood on the window's inner
ledge and was screened from the unseen bed, but shone outward through the
window and inward upon the mirror. The front door of the parlor opened
readily to anyone within or without who knew enough to use its two latches
at once, but neither within nor without to--the Baron, say--who did not
know.

Do you see it? As he lay awake on the lounge his eye was, of course, drawn
constantly to the mirror by the reflected light of the candle, and to its
images of the nodding watcher and of the window just beyond. So lying and
gazing, he had suddenly beheld that which brought him from the lounge in
an instant, net in hand, and tortured to find the front door--by which he
would have slipped out and around to the window--fastened! What he saw was
the moth--the moth so many years unseen. Now it sipped at the saucer of
sweet stuff, now hovered over it, now was lost in the dark, and now
fluttered up or slid down the pane, lured by the beam of the candle.

If he was not to lose it, there was but one thing to do. With his eyes
fixed, moth-mad, on the window, he glided in, passed the two sleepers, and
stealthily lifted the sash with one hand, the other poising the net. The
moth dropped under, the net swept after it, and the sash slipped and fell.
Mrs. Fontenette rose wildly, and when she saw first the old woman, half
starting from her seat with frightened stare, and then the entomologist
speechless, motionless, and looming like an apparition, she gave that cry
her husband heard, and fell back upon the pillow in a convulsion.

I found the Baron sitting on the side of his bed like a child trying to be
awake without waking. No, not _trying_ to do or be anything; but aimless,
dazed, silent, lost.

He obeyed, automatically, my every request. I set about getting him to bed
at once, putting his clothes beyond his reach, and even locking his
balcony door, without a sign of objection from him. Then I left him for a
moment, and calling Senda from the nursery to the parlor told her the
state of the different patients, including her husband, but without the
hows and whys except that I had found him in our garden with his precious
net. "And now, as it will soon be day, Mrs. Smith and I--with the servants
and others--can take care of the four."

"If I"--meekly interrupted the sweet woman--"vill go for se doctors? I
vill go." Soon she was off.

Then I went back to her husband, and finding his mood so changed that he
was eager to explain everything, I let him talk; which I soon saw was a
blunder; for he got pitifully excited, and wanted to go over the same
ground again and again. One matter I was resolved to fix in his mind
without delay. "Mark you," I charged him, "your wife must never know a
word of this!"

"Eh?--No"--and the next instant the sick woman across the way was filling
all his thought: "Mine Gott! she rice oop scaredt in t'e bedt, choost so!"
and up he would start. Then as I pressed him down--"Mine Gott! I vould not
go in, if I dhink she would do dot. Hmm! Hmm! I am sorry!--Undt I tidt not
t'e mawdt get.

"Hmm! Even I titn't saw vhere it iss gone. Hmm! Hmm! I am sorry!

"Undt dot door kit shtuck! Hmm! Undt dot vindow iss not right made. Hmm!

"I tidn't vant to do dot--you know? Hmm! I am sorry!--Ach, mine Gott! she
rice oop scaredt in t'e bedt, choost so!" Thus round and round. What to do
for him I did not know!

Yet he grew quiet, and was as good as silent, when Senda, long before I
began to look for her, stood unbonneted at my side in a soft glow of
physical animation, her anxiety all hidden and with a pink spot on each
cheek. I was startled. Had _I_ slept--or had she somehow ridden?

"Are the street-cars running already?" I asked.

"No," she murmured, producing a vial and looking for a glass. "'Tis I haf
been running alreadty. Sat iss not so tiresome as to valk. Also it is
safeh. I runned all se vay. Vill you sose drops drop faw me?" Her hand
trembled.

I took the vial but did not meet her glance: for I was wondering if there
was anything in the world she could ask of me that I would not do, and at
such a time it is good for anyone as weak as I am to look at inanimate
things.

"You got word to all three doctors?"

"Yes;" she gave her chin the drollest little twist--"sey are all coming
--vhen sey get ready."



XXII


That is what they did; but the first who came, and the second, brought
fresh courage; for the Baron--"would most likely be all right again,
before the day was over"; our child was "virtually well"; and from next
door-"better!" was the rapturous news. The third physician, too, was
pleased with Fontenette's case, and we began at once to send the night-
watchers to their rest by turns.

But there the gladness ended. At Mrs. Fontenette's bedside he asked no
questions. In the parlor he said to us:

"Well, ... you've done your best; ... I've done mine; ... and it's of no
use."

"Oh, Doctor!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith.

"Why, didn't you know it?" He jerked his thumb toward the sick-room. "She
knows it. She told me she knew it, with her first glance."

He pondered. "I wish she were not so near _him_. If she were only in here
--you see?"

Yes, we saw; the two patients would then be, on their either hand, one
whole room apart, as if in two squares of a checkerboard that touch only
at one corner.

"Well," he said, "we must move her at once. I'll show you how; I'll stay
and help you."

It seemed more as though we helped him--a very little--as we first moved
her and then took the light bedstead apart, set it up again in the parlor,
and laid her in it, all without a noticeable sound, and with only great
comfort of mind to her--for she knew why we did it. Then I made all haste
to my own house again and had the relief to see, as Senda came toward me
from her husband's room, that he had told her nothing. "Vell?" she eagerly
asked.

"Well, Monsieur Fontenette is greatly improved!"

"O sat iss goodt! And se Madame; she, too, is betteh?--a little?--eh--
no-o?"

I said that what the doctor had feared, a "lesion," had taken place, and
that there was no longer any hope of her life. At which she lighted up
with a lovely defiance.

"Ho-o! no long-eh any hope! Yes, sare _iss_ long-er any hope! Vhere iss
sat doc-toh? Sare _shall_ be hope! Kif _me_ sat patient! I can keep se
vatch of mine huss-bandt at se _same_ time. He hass not a relapse! Kif me
se patient! Many ossehs befo'e I haf savedt vhen hadt sose doctohs no
long-eh any hope! Mine Gott! vas sare so much hope vhen she and her
hussbandt mine sick hussbandt and me out of se street took in? Vill you
let stay by mine hussbandt, anyhow a short vhile, one of yo' so goodt
sairvants?" The instant I assented she flew down the veranda steps,
through the garden, and out across the street.

I lingered a few moments with the entomologist before leaving him with
others. He asked me only one question: "Hmm! Hmm! How she iss?"

"Why," said I, brightly, "I think she feels rather more comfortable than
she did."

"Hmm!--Hmm!--I am sorry--Hmm!--Ach! mine Gott, I am so hoongary!--Hmm! I
am so dtired mit dot sou-oup undt dose creckers!--Hmm! I vish I haf vonce
a whole pifshtea-ak undt a glahss beer--hmm!"

"Hmm!" I echoed, "your subsequent marketing wouldn't cost much." I went
down town on some imperative office business, came back in a cab, gave
word to be called at such an hour, and lay down. But while I slept my
order was countermanded and when I awakened it was once more midnight. I
went to my open window and heard, through his balcony door--locked, now,
and its key in my pocket--the Baron, snoring. Then I sprang into my
clothes and sped across the street.

I went first around to the outer door of the dining-room, and was briefly
told the best I could have hoped, of Fontenette. I returned to the front
and stepped softly into what had been Mrs. Fontenette's room. Finding no
one in it I waited, and when I presently heard voices in the other room, I
touched its door-knob. Mrs. Smith came out, closed the door carefully, and
sank into a seat.

"It's been a noble fight!" she said, smiling up through her tears. "When
the doctor came back and saw how wonderfully the--the worst--had been held
off, he joined in the battle! He's been here three times since!"

"And can it be that she is going to pull through?"

My wife's face went down into her hands. "O, no--no. She's dying now--
dying in Senda's arms!"

Her ear, quicker than mine, heard some sign within and she left me. But
she was back almost at once, whispering:

"She knows you're here, and says she has a message to her husband which
she can give only to you."

We gazed into each other's eyes. "Go in," she said.

As I entered, Senda tenderly disengaged herself, went out, and closed the
door.

I drew near in silence and she began at once to speak, bidding me take the
chair Senda had left, and with a tender smile thanking me for coming.

Then she said faintly and slowly, but with an unfaltering voice, "I want
you to know one or two things so that if it ever should be my husband's
affliction to find out how foolish and undutiful I have been, you can tell
them to him. Tell him my wrongdoing was, from first to last, almost
totally--almost totally----"

"Do you mean--intangible?"

"Yes, yes, intangible. Then if he should say that the intangible part is
the priceless part--the life, the beauty, the very essence of the whole
matter--isn't it strange that we women are slower than men to see that--
tell him I saw it, saw it and confessed it when for his sake I was
slipping away from him by stealth out of life up to my merciful Judge.

"I may not be saying these things in their right order, but--tell him I
wish he'd marry again; only let him first be sure the woman loves him as
truly and deeply as he is sure to love her. I find I've never truly loved
him till now. If he doesn't know it don't ever tell him; but tell him I
died loving him and blessing him--for the unearned glorious love he gave
me all my days. That's all. That's all to him. But I would like to send
one word to"--she lifted her hand--

"Across the street?" I murmured.

Her eyes said yes. "Tell _him_--you may never see the right time for it,
but if you do--tell him I craved his forgiveness."

I shook my head.

"Yes--yes, tell him so; it was far the most my fault; he is such a child;
such a child of nature, I mean. Tell him I said it sounds very pretty to
call ourselves and each other children of nature, but we have no right to
be such. The word is 'Be thou clean,' and if we are not masters of nature
we can't do it. Tell him that, will you? And tell him he has nothing to
grieve for; I was only a dangerous toy, and I want him to love the dear
Father for taking it away from him before he had hurt himself.

"Now I am ready to go--only--that hymn those black women--in the cemetery
--you remember? I've made another verse to it. You'll find it--afterward--
on a scrap of paper between the leaves of my Bible. It isn't good poetry,
of course; it's the only verse I ever composed. May I say it to you just
for my--my testimony? It's this:

     Yet though I have sinned, Lord, all others above,
     Though feeble my prayers, Lord; my tears all unseen;
     I'll trust in thy love, Lord; I'll trust in thy love--
     O I'll trust in thy love like Mary Mahgaleen."

An exalted smile lighted her face as she sunk deeper into the pillows. She
tried to speak again, but her voice failed. I bent my ear and she
whispered--"Senda."

As I beckoned Senda in, Mrs. Smith motioned for me to come to her where
she stood at a window whose sash she had slightly lifted; the same to
which the moth had once been lured by the little puddle of sweet drink and
the candle.

"Do you want to see a parable?" she whispered, and all but blinded with
tears, she pointed to the lost moth lying half in, half out of the window,
still beautiful but crushed; crushed with its wings full spread, not by
anyone's choice, but because there are so many things in this universe
that not even God can help from being as they are.

At a whispered call we turned, and Senda, in the door, herself all tears,
made eager signs for us to come. The last summons had surprised even the
dying. We went in noiseless haste, and found her just relaxing on Senda's
arm. Yet she revived an instant; a quiver went through her frame like the
dying shudder of a butterfly, her eyes gazed appealingly into Senda's,
then fixed, and our poor little Titania was gone.



XXIII


The story is nearly told. Before I close let me confess how heartlessly I
have told it. Pardon that; and pardon, too, the self-consciousness that
makes me beg not to be remembered as I seem to myself in the tale--a
tiptoeing, peeping figure prowling by night after undue revelations, and
using them--to the humiliation of souls cleaner than mine could ever
pretend to be.

Next day, by stealth again, we buried the little rose-lady, unknown to her
husband. We could not keep the fact long from the entomologist, for he was
up and about the house again. Nor was there equal need. So when the last
rites were over I told him, but without giving any part of her message--I
couldn't do it! I just said she had left us.

His eye did not moisten, but he paled, trembled, wiped his brow. Then I
handed him the crushed moth, and he was his convalescent self again.

"Hmm!--Dot iss a pity she kit smashed; I titn't vant to do dot."

I thought maybe he felt more than he showed, for he fretted to be allowed
to take a walk alone beyond the gate and the corner. With some misgivings
his wife let him go, and when she was almost anxious enough over his tardy
stay to start after him he came back looking very much better. But the
next morning, when we found him in the burning fever of an unmistakable
relapse, he confessed that the German keeper of an eating-stall in the
neighboring market, for his hunger's and the Fatherland's sake, had
treated him to his "whole pifshtea-ak undt glahss be-eh."

He lived only a few days. Through all his deliriums he hunted butterflies
and beetles, and died insensible to his wife's endearments, repeating the
Latin conjugations of his inconceivable boyhood.

So they both, caterpillar and rose, were gone; but the memory of them
stays, green--yes, and fragrant--not alone with Fontenette, and not only
with Senda besides, but with us also. How often I recall the talks on
theology I had used sometimes to let myself fall into with the little
unsuccessful mistress of "rose-es" who first brought the miser of
knowledge into our garden, and whenever I do so I wonder, and wonder, and
lose my bearings and find and lose them again, and wonder and wonder--what
God has done with the entomologist.

We never had to tell Fontenette that he was widowed. We had only to be
long enough silent, and when he ceased, for a time, to get better, and
rather lost the strength he had been gaining, and on entering his room we
found him always with his face to the wall, we saw that he knew. So for
his sake I was glad when one day, without facing round to me, his hand
tightened on mine in a wild tremor and he groaned, "Tell it me--tell it."

I told it. I thought it well to give him one of her messages and withhold
the rest, like the unscrupulous friend I always try to be; and when he had
heard quite through--"Tell him I died loving him and blessing him for the
unearned glorious love he gave me all our days"--he made as if to say the
word was beyond all his deserving, turned upon his face, and soaked the
pillow with his tears. But from that day he began slowly but steadily to
get well.

We kept Senda with us as long as we could, and when at length she put her
foot down so that you might have heard it--say like the dropping of a nut
in the wood--and declared that go she must-must-must! we first laughed,
then scoffed, and then grew violent, and the battle forced her backward.
But when we tried to salary her to stay, _she_ laughed, scoffed, grew
violent, and retook her entrenchments. And then, when she offered the
ultimatum that we must take pay for keeping her, we took our turn again at
the three forms of demonstration, and a late moon rose upon a drawn
battle. Since then we have learned to count it one of our dearest rights
to get "put out" at Senda's outrageous reasonableness, but she doesn't
fret, for "sare is neveh any sundeh viss se lightening."

The issue of this first contest was decided the next day by Fontenette,
still on his bed of convalescence. "Can I raise enough money in yo' office
to go at France?"

"You can raise twice enough, Fontenette, if it's to try to bring back some
new business."

"Well--yes, 'tis for that. Of co'se, besides--"

"Yes, I know: of course."

"But tha'z what puzzle' me. What I'm going do with that house heah, whilse
I'm yondeh! I wou'n' sell it--ah no! I wou'n' sell one of those roses! An'
no mo' I wou'n' rent it. Tha's a monument, that house heah, you know?"

"Yes, I know." He never found out how well I knew.

"Fontenette, I'll tell you what to do with it."

"No, you don't need; I know whad thad is. An' thaz the same I want--me.
Only--you thing thad wou'n' be hasking her too much troub'?"

"No, indeed. There's nothing else you could name that she'd be so glad to
do."

When I told Senda I had said that, the tears stood in her eyes. "Ah, sat
vass ri-ight! O, sare shall neveh a veed be in sat karten two dayss oldt!
An' sose roses--sey shall be pairfect ever' vun!"



XXIV


As perfect as roses every one were her words kept. And Fontenette got his
new business but could not come back that year, nor the second, nor the
third. The hither-side of his affairs he assigned for the time to a
relative, a very young fellow, but ever so capable--"a hustler," as our
fat friend would say in these days. We missed the absentee constantly, but
forgave his detention the easier because incidentally he was clearing up a
matter of Senda's over there, in which certain displeased kindred had
overreached her. Also because of his letters to her, which she so often
did us the honor to show us.

The first few were brief, formal and colorless; but after some time they
began to take on grace after grace, until at length we had to confess that
to have known him only as we had known him hitherto would have been to
have been satisfied with the reverse of the tapestry, and never fully to
have seen the excellence of his mind or the modest nobility of his spirit.
Frequently we felt very sure we saw also that no small share of their
captivating glow was reflected from Senda's replies--of which she never
would tell us a word. The faults in his written English were surprisingly
few, and to our minds only the more endeared it and him. Maybe we were not
judicial critics.

Yet we could pass strictures, and as the months lengthened out into years
these winged proxies stirred up, on our side of the street, a profound and
ever-growing impatience. O, yes, every letter was a garden of beautiful
thoughts, still; but think of it! _pansies_ where roses might have been;
and a garden wherein--to speak figuratively--the nightingale never sang.

On a certain day of All Saints, the fourth after the scourge, Senda sat at
tea with us. Our mood was chastened, but peaceful. We had come from
visiting at the sunset hour the cemetery where in the morning the two
women and our old nurse had decked the tombs of our dead with flowers. I
had noticed that at no tomb front were these tokens piled more abundantly,
or more beautifully or fragrantly, than at those of Flora and the
entomologist; it was always so. I had remarked this on the spot, and
Senda, with her rearranging touch still caressing their splendid masses,
replied,

"So?--vell--I hope siss shall mine vork and mine pleassure be until
mineself I shall fade like se floweh."

I inwardly resented the speech, but said nothing. I suppose it was over my
head.

Now, at the table, she explained as to certain costly blooms about which I
had inquired, that they were Fontenette's special offering, for which he
always sent the purchase money ahead of time and with detailed requests.
Whereat, remembering how she had formerly glozed and gilded the
entomologist's unthrift, I remarked, one-fourth in play, three-fourths in
earnest,

"A good plain business man isn't the least noble work of God, after all."

"No," said Senda, without looking up; and, after a long, meditative
breath, she added, very slowly,

"Se koot Kott makes not all men for se same high calling. If Kott make a
man to do no betteh san make a living or a fawtune, it iss right for se
man to make it; se _man_ iss not to blame. And now I vant to tell you se
news of sat letteh from----"

"The other side," we suggested, and invited her smile, but without
success.

"Yes, from se osseh si-ide; sat letteh vhat you haf brought me since more
as a veek ago; and also vhy I haf not sat letteh given you to read. Sat
iss--if you like to know--yes?

"Vell, sen I vill tell you. And sare are two sings to tell. Se fairst is a
ve'y small, but se secondt iss a ve'y lahge. And se fairst is sat that _I_
am now se Countess.

"So? you are glad? I sank you ve'y much. I sink sat iss not much trouble
--to be a countess--in Ame'ica?

"Se secondt sing"--here a servant entered, and, it seemed to me, never
would go out, but Senda waited till we were again alone--"se secondt--
pahdon me, I sink I shall betteh se secondt sing divide again into two aw
sree. And se fairst is sat Monsieur Fontenette vill like ve'y--ve'y much
to come home--now--right avay."

We lifted hands to clap and opened mouths to hurrah, but she raised a
warning hand.

"No, vait--if you pleass.

"Se secondt of sose two or sree sings--it is sat--he--Monsieur Fontenette
--hass ask me--"  Our hearts rose slowly into our throats--"Ze vun
qvestion to vich sare can be only--se--vun--answeh."

At this we gulped our breath like schoolgirls and glowed. But the more
show we made of hopeful and pleading smiles, the more those dear eyes, so
seldom wet, filled up with tears.

"_He_ sinks sare can two answehs be, and he like to heah which is se
answeh I shall gif him, so he shall know if he shall come--now--aw if he
shall come--neveh.

"O my sweet friend,"--to Mrs. Smith, down whose, face the salt drops stole
unhindered--"sare iss nossing faw _you_ to cry." She smiled heroically.

I could be silent no longer. "Senda, what have you answered?"

"I haf answered"--her lips quivered till she gnawed them cruelly--"I am
sorry to take such a long time to tell you sat--but--I--I find sat--ve'y
hahd--to tell." She smiled and gnawed her lips again. "I haf answered--

"Do you sink, my deah, sat siss is ri-ight to tell the we'y vords sat I
haf toldt him?--yes?--vell--he tell me I shall se answeh make in vun
vord--is sat not like a man?

"But I had to take six. And sey are sese: I cannot vhispeh across se
ocean."





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