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_He_
had told Monsieur Thompson all about it. They were very kind to me at
first, but they tried"--She was weeping.

"What did they try to do?" asked the priest.

"They tried to make me believe he is insane."

She succeeded in passing her handkerchief up under her veil.

"And I suppose then your poor mother grew angry, eh?"

"Yes; and they became much more so, and said if we did not write, or
send a writing, to _him_, within twenty-four hours, breaking the"--

"Engagement," said Père Jerome.

"They would give him up to the Government. Oh, Père Jerome, what shall I
do? It is killing my mother!"

She bowed her head and sobbed.

"Where is your mother now?"

"She has gone to see Monsieur Jean Thompson. She says she has a plan
that will match them all. I do not know what it is. I begged her not to
go; but oh, sir, _she is_ crazy,--and I am no better."

"My poor child," said Père Jerome, "what you seem to want is not
absolution, but relief from persecution."

"Oh, father, I have committed mortal sin,--I am guilty of pride and
anger."

"Nevertheless," said the priest, starting toward his front gate, "we
will put off your confession. Let it go until to-morrow morning; you
will find me in my box just before mass; I will hear you then. My child,
I know that in your heart, now, you begrudge the time it would take; and
that is right. There are moments when we are not in place even on
penitential knees. It is so with you now. We must find your mother Go
you at once to your house; if she is there, comfort her as best you can,
and _keep her in, if possible_, until I come. If she is not there, stay;
leave me to find her; one of you, at least, must be where I can get word
to you promptly. God comfort and uphold you. I hope you may find her at
home; tell her, for me, not to fear,"--he lifted the gate-latch,--"that
she and her daughter are of more value than many sparrows; that God's
priest sends her that word from Him. Tell her to fix her trust in the
great Husband of the Church and she shall yet see her child receiving
the grace-giving sacrament of matrimony. Go; I shall, in a few minutes,
be on my way to Jean Thompson's, and shall find her, either there or
wherever she is. Go; they shall not oppress you. Adieu!"

A moment or two later he was in the street himself.




CHAPTER XIV.


BY AN OATH.

Père Jerome, pausing on a street-corner in the last hour of sunlight,
had wiped his brow and taken his cane down from under his arm to start
again, when somebody, coming noiselessly from he knew not where, asked,
so suddenly as to startle him:

"_Miché, commin yé pellé la rie ici_?--how do they call this street
here?"

It was by the bonnet and dress, disordered though they were, rather than
by the haggard face which looked distractedly around, that he recognized
the woman to whom he replied in her own _patois_:

"It is the Rue Burgundy. Where are you going, Madame Delphine?"

She almost leaped from the ground.

"Oh, Père Jerome! _mo pas conné_,--I dunno. You know w'ere's dad 'ouse
of Miché Jean Tomkin? _Mo courri 'ci, mo courri là,--mo pas capabe li
trouvé_. I go (run) here--there--I cannot find it," she gesticulated.

"I am going there myself," said he; "but why do you want to see Jean
Thompson, Madame Delphine?"

"I _'blige'_ to see 'im!" she replied, jerking herself half around away,
one foot planted forward with an air of excited pre-occupation; "I godd
some' to tell 'im wad I _'blige'_ to tell 'im!"

"Madame Delphine"--

"Oh! Père Jerome, fo' de love of de good God, show me dad way to de
'ouse of Jean Tomkin!"

Her distressed smile implored pardon for her rudeness.

"What are you going to tell him?" asked the priest.

"Oh, Père Jerome,"--in the Creole _patois_ again,--"I am going to put an
end to all this trouble--only I pray you do not ask me about it now;
every minute is precious!"

He could not withstand her look of entreaty.

"Come," he said, and they went.

* * * * *

Jean Thompson and Doctor Varrillat lived opposite each other on the
Bayou road, a little way beyond the town limits as then prescribed. Each
had his large, white-columned, four-sided house among the magnolias,
--his huge live-oak overshadowing either corner of the darkly shaded
garden, his broad, brick walk leading down to the tall, brick-pillared
gate, his square of bright, red pavement on the turf-covered sidewalk,
and his railed platform spanning the draining-ditch, with a pair of
green benches, one on each edge, facing each other crosswise of the
gutter. There, any sunset hour, you were sure to find the householder
sitting beside his cool-robed matron, two or three slave nurses in white
turbans standing at hand, and an excited throng of fair children, nearly
all of a size.

Sometimes, at a beckon or call, the parents on one side of the way would
join those on the other, and the children and nurses of both families
would be given the liberty of the opposite platform and an ice-cream
fund! Generally the parents chose the Thompson platform, its outlook
being more toward the sunset.

Such happened to be the arrangement this afternoon. The two husbands sat
on one bench and their wives on the other, both pairs very quiet,
waiting respectfully for the day to die, and exchanging only occasional
comments on matters of light moment as they passed through the memory.
During one term of silence Madame Varrillat, a pale, thin-faced, but
cheerful-looking lady, touched Madame Thompson, a person of two and a
half times her weight, on her extensive and snowy bare elbow, directing
her attention obliquely up and across the road.

About a hundred yards distant, in the direction of the river, was a
long, pleasantly shaded green strip of turf, destined in time for a
sidewalk. It had a deep ditch on the nearer side, and a fence of rough
cypress palisades on the farther, and these were overhung, on the one
hand, by a row of bitter-orange-trees inside the enclosure, and, on the
other, by a line of slanting china-trees along the outer edge of the
ditch. Down this cool avenue two figures were approaching side by side.
They had first attracted Madame Varrillat's notice by the bright play of
sunbeams which, as they walked, fell upon them in soft, golden flashes
through the chinks between the palisades.

Madame Thompson elevated a pair of glasses which were no detraction from
her very good looks, and remarked, with the serenity of a reconnoitring
general.

"_Père Jerome et cette milatraise_."

All eyes were bent toward them.

"She walks like a man," said Madame Varrillat, in the language with
which the conversation had opened.

"No," said the physician, "like a woman in a state of high nervous
excitement."

Jean Thompson kept his eyes on the woman, and said:

"She must not forget to walk like a woman in the State of
Louisiana,"--as near as the pun can be translated. The company laughed.
Jean Thompson looked at his wife, whose applause he prized, and she
answered by an asseverative toss of the head, leaning back and
contriving, with some effort, to get her arms folded. Her laugh was
musical and low, but enough to make the folded arms shake gently up and
down.

"Père Jerome is talking to her," said one. The priest was at that moment
endeavoring, in the interest of peace, to say a good word for the four
people who sat watching his approach. It was in the old strain:

"Blame them one part, Madame Delphine, and their fathers, mothers,
brothers, and fellow-citizens the other ninety-nine."

But to every thing she had the one amiable answer which Père Jerome
ignored:

"I am going to arrange it to satisfy everybody, all together. _Tout à
fait_."

"They are coming here," said Madame Varrillat, half articulately.

"Well, of course," murmured another; and the four rose up, smiling
courteously, the doctor and attorney advancing and shaking hands with
the priest.

No--Père Jerome thanked them--he could not sit down.

"This, I believe you know, Jean, is Madame Delphine"--

The quadroone courtesied.

"A friend of mine," he added, smiling kindly upon her, and turning, with
something imperative in his eye, to the group. "She says she has an
important private matter to communicate."

"To me?" asked Jean Thompson.

"To all of you; so I will--Good-evening." He responded nothing to the
expressions of regret, but turned to Madame Delphine. She murmured
something.

"Ah! yes, certainly." He addressed the company "She wishes me to speak
for her veracity; it is unimpeachable. Well, good-evening." He shook
hands and departed.

The four resumed their seats, and turned their eyes upon the standing
figure.

"Have you something to say to us?" asked Jean Thompson, frowning at her
law-defying bonnet.

"Oui," replied the woman, shrinking to one side, and laying hold of one
of the benches, "_mo oulé di' tou' ç'ose_"--I want to tell every thing.
"_Miché Vignevielle la plis bon homme di moune_"--the best man in the
world; "_mo pas capabe li fé tracas_"--I cannot give him trouble. "_Mo
pas capable, non; m'olé di' tous ç'ose_." She attempted to fan herself,
her face turned away from the attorney, and her eyes rested on the
ground.

"Take a seat," said Doctor Varrillat, with some suddenness, starting
from his place and gently guiding her sinking form into the corner of
the bench. The ladies rose up; somebody had to stand; the two races
could not both sit down at once--at least not in that public manner.

"Your salts," said the physician to his wife. She handed the vial.
Madame Delphine stood up again.

"We will all go inside," said Madame Thompson, and they passed through
the gate and up the walk, mounted the steps, and entered the deep, cool
drawing-room.


Madame Thompson herself bade the quadroone be seated.

"Well?" said Jean Thompson, as the rest took chairs.

"_C'est drole_"--it's funny--said Madame Delphine, with a piteous effort
to smile, "that nobody thought of it. It is so plain. You have only to
look and see. I mean about Olive." She loosed a button in the front of
her dress and passed her hand into her bosom.



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