About the same time of day, three
gentlemen (we use the term gentlemen in its petrified
state) were walking down the rue Royale from
the direction of the Faubourg Ste. Marie.
They were coming down toward Palmyre’s
corner. The middle one, tall and shapely, might
have been mistaken at first glance for Honore Grandissime,
but was taller and broader, and wore a cocked hat,
which Honore did not. It was Valentine.
The short, black-bearded man in buckskin breeches
on his right was Jean-Baptiste Grandissime, and the
slight one on the left, who, with the prettiest and
most graceful gestures and balancings, was leading
the conversation, was Hippolyte Brahmin-Mandarin,
a cousin and counterpart of that sturdy-hearted challenger
of Agricola, Sylvestre.
“But after all,” he was
saying in Louisiana French, “there is no spot
comparable, for comfortable seclusion, to the old orange
grove under the levee on the Point; twenty minutes
in a skiff, five minutes for preliminaries-you
would not want more, the ground has been measured off
five hundred times-’are you ready?’-”
“Ah, bah!” said Valentine,
tossing his head, “the Yankees would be down
on us before you could count one.”
“Well, then, behind the Jesuits’
warehouses, if you insist. I don’t care.
Perdition take such a government! I am almost
sorry I went to the governor’s reception.”
“It was quiet, I hear; a sort
of quiet ball, all promenading and no contra-dances.
One quadroon ball is worth five of such.”
This was the opinion of Jean-Baptiste.
“No, it was fine, anyhow.
There was a contra-dance. The music was-tarata
joonc, tara, tara-tarata joonc, tararata
joonc, tara-oh! it was the finest thing-and
composed here. They compose as fine things here
as they do anywhere in the-look there!
That man came out of Palmyre’s house; see how
he staggered just then!”
“Drunk,” said Jean-Baptiste.
“No, he seems to be hurt.
He has been struck on the head. Oho, I tell you,
gentlemen, that same Palmyre is a wonderful animal!
Do you see? She not only defends herself and
ejects the wretch, but she puts her mark upon him;
she identifies him, ha, ha, ha! Look at the high
art of the thing; she keeps his hat as a small souvenir
and gives him a receipt for it on the back of his
head. Ah! but hasn’t she taught him a lesson?
Why, gentlemen,-it is-if it isn’t
that sorcerer of an apothecary!”
“What?” exclaimed the
other two; “well, well, but this is too good!
Caught at last, ha, ha, ha, the saintly villain!
Ah, ha, ha! Will not Honore be proud of him now?
Ah! voila un joli Joseph! What did I tell you?
Didn’t I always tell you so?”
“But the beauty of it is, he
is caught so cleverly. No escape-no
possible explanation. There he is, gentlemen,
as plain as a rat in a barrel, and with as plain a
case. Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t it just glorious?”
And all three laughed in such an ecstasy
of glee that Frowenfeld looked back, saw them, and
knew forthwith that his good name was gone. The
three gentlemen, with tears of merriment still in their
eyes, reached a corner and disappeared.
“Mister,” said a child,
trotting along under Frowenfeld’s elbow,-the
odd English of the New Orleans street-urchin was at
that day just beginning to be heard-“Mister,
dey got some blood on de back of you’ hade!”
But Frowenfeld hurried on groaning with mental anguish.