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I don't want him. You better keep him."

"Don't you try to make no fool of me, old man," cried the planter.

"Oh, no!" said the other. "Oh, no! but you make a fool of yourself,
ain't it?"

The dumbfounded Colonel stared; Charlie went on:

"Yass! Belles Demoiselles is more wort' dan tree block like dis one. I
pass by dare since two weeks. Oh, pritty Belles Demoiselles! De cane was
wave in de wind, de garden smell like a bouquet, de white-cap was jump
up and down on de river; seven _belles demoiselles_ was ridin' on
horses. 'Pritty, pritty, pritty!' says old Charlie. Ah! _Monsieur le
Père_, 'ow 'appy, 'appy, 'appy!"

"Yass!" he continued--the Colonel still staring--"le Compte De Charleu
have two familie. One was low-down Choctaw, one was high up _noblesse_.
He gave the low-down Choctaw dis old rat-hole; he give Belles
Demoiselles to you gran-fozzer; and now you don't be _satisfait_. What
I'll do wid Belles Demoiselles? She'll break me in two years, yass. And
what you'll do wid old Charlie's house, eh? You'll tear her down and
make you'se'f a blame old fool. I rather wouldn't trade!"

The planter caught a big breathful of anger, but Charlie went straight
on:

"I rather wouldn't, _mais_ I will do it for you;--just the same, like
Monsieur le Compte would say, 'Charlie, you old fool, I want to shange
houses wid you.'"

So long as the Colonel suspected irony he was angry, but as Charlie
seemed, after all, to be certainly in earnest, he began to feel
conscience-stricken. He was by no means a tender man, but his
lately-discovered misfortune had unhinged him, and this strange,
undeserved, disinterested family fealty on the part of Charlie touched
his heart. And should he still try to lead him into the pitfall he had
dug? He hesitated;--no, he would show him the place by broad daylight,
and if he chose to overlook the "caving bank," it would be his own
fault;--a trade's a trade.

"Come," said the planter, "come at my house to-night; to-morrow we look
at the place before breakfast, and finish the trade."

"For what?" said Charlie.

"Oh, because I got to come in town in the morning."

"I don't want," said Charlie. "How I'm goin' to come dere?"

"I git you a horse at the liberty stable."

"Well--anyhow--I don't care--I'll go." And they went.

When they had ridden a long time, and were on the road darkened by
hedges of Cherokee rose, the Colonel called behind him to the "low-down"
scion:

"Keep the road, old man."

"Eh?"

"Keep the road."

"Oh, yes; all right; I keep my word; we don't goin' to play no tricks,
eh?"

But the Colonel seemed not to hear. His ungenerous design was beginning
to be hateful to him. Not only old Charlie's unprovoked goodness was
prevailing; the eulogy on Belles Demoiselles had stirred the depths of
an intense love for his beautiful home. True, if he held to it, the
caving of the bank, at its present fearful speed, would let the house
into the river within three months; but were it not better to lose it
so, than sell his birthright? Again,--coming back to the first
thought,--to betray his own blood! It was only Injin Charlie; but had
not the De Charleu blood just spoken out in him? Unconsciously he
groaned.

After a time they struck a path approaching the plantation in the rear,
and a little after, passing from behind a clump of live-oaks, they came
in sight of the villa. It looked so like a gem, shining through its dark
grove, so like a great glow-worm in the dense foliage, so significant of
luxury and gayety, that the poor master, from an overflowing heart,
groaned again.

"What?" asked Charlie.

The Colonel only drew his rein, and, dismounting mechanically,
contemplated the sight before him. The high, arched doors and windows
were thrown wide to the summer air; from every opening the bright light
of numerous candelabra darted out upon the sparkling foliage of magnolia
and bay, and here and there in the spacious verandas a colored lantern
swayed in the gentle breeze. A sound of revel fell on the ear, the music
of harps; and across one window, brighter than the rest, flitted, once
or twice, the shadows of dancers. But oh! the shadows flitting across
the heart of the fair mansion's master!

"Old Charlie," said he, gazing fondly at his house, "You and me is both
old, eh?"

"Yaas," said the stolid Charlie.

"And we has both been bad enough in our times eh, Charlie?"

Charlie, surprised at the tender tone, repeated "Yaas."

"And you and me is mighty close?"

"Blame close, yaas."

"But you never know me to cheat, old man!"

"No,"--impassively.

"And do you think I would cheat you now?"

"I dunno," said Charlie. "I don't believe."

"Well, old man, old man,"--his voice began to quiver,--"I sha'n't cheat
you now. My God!--old man, I tell you--you better not make the trade!"

"Because for what?" asked Charlie in plain anger; but both looked
quickly toward the house! The Colonel tossed his hands wildly in the
air, rushed forward a step or two, and giving one fearful scream of
agony and fright, fell forward on his face in the path. Old Charlie
stood transfixed with horror. Belles Demoiselles, the realm of maiden
beauty, the home of merriment, the house of dancing, all in the tremor
and glow of pleasure, suddenly sunk, with one short, wild wail of
terror--sunk, sunk, down, down, down, into the merciless, unfathomable
flood of the Mississippi.

Twelve long months were midnight to the mind of the childless father;
when they were only half gone, he took his bed; and every day, and every
night, old Charlie, the "low-down," the "fool," watched him tenderly,
tended him lovingly, for the sake of his name, his misfortunes, and his
broken heart. No woman's step crossed the floor of the sick-chamber,
whose western dormer-windows overpeered the dingy architecture of old
Charlie's block; Charlie and a skilled physician, the one all interest,
the other all gentleness, hope, and patience--these only entered by the
door; but by the window came in a sweet-scented evergreen vine,
transplanted from the caving bank of Belles Demoiselles. It caught the
rays of sunset in its flowery net and let then softly in upon the sick
man's bed; gathered the glancing beams of the moon at midnight, and
often wakened the sleeper to look, with his mindless eyes, upon their
pretty silver fragments strewn upon the floor.

By and by there seemed--there was--a twinkling dawn of returning reason.
Slowly, peacefully, with an increase unseen from day to day, the light
of reason came into the eyes, and speech became coherent; but withal
there came a failing of the wrecked body, and the doctor said that
monsieur was both better and worse.

One evening, as Charlie sat by the vine-clad window with his fireless
pipe in his hand, the old Colonel's eyes fell full upon his own, and
rested there.

"Charl--," he said with an effort, and his delighted nurse hastened to
the bedside and bowed his best ear. There was an unsuccessful effort or
two, and then he whispered, smiling with sweet sadness,--

"We didn't trade."

The truth, in this case, was a secondary matter to Charlie; the main
point was to give a pleasing answer. So he nodded his head decidedly, as
who should say--"Oh yes, we did, it was a bona-fide swap!" but when he
saw the smile vanish, he tried the other expedient and shook his head
with still more vigor, to signify that they had not so much as
approached a bargain; and the smile returned.

Charlie wanted to see the vine recognized. He stepped backward to the
window with a broad smile, shook the foliage, nodded and looked smart.

"I know," said the Colonel, with beaming eyes,"--many weeks."

The next day--

"Charl--"

The best ear went down.

"Send for a priest."

The priest came, and was alone with him a whole afternoon. When he left,
the patient was very haggard and exhausted, but smiled and would not
suffer the crucifix to be removed from his breast.

One more morning came. Just before dawn Charlie, lying on a pallet in
the room, thought he was called, and came to the bedside.

"Old man," whispered the failing invalid, "is it caving yet?"

Charlie nodded.

"It won't pay you out."

"Oh, dat makes not'ing," said Charlie. Two big tears rolled down his
brown face. "Dat makes not'in."

The Colonel whispered once more:

"_Mes belles demoiselles!_ in paradise;--in the garden--I shall be with
them at sunrise;" and so it was.





"POSSON JONE'." [1]

[Footnote 1: Published in Appletons' Journal. Republished by
permission.]



To Jules St.-Ange--elegant little heathen--there yet remained at manhood
a remembrance of having been to school, and of having been taught by a
stony-headed Capuchin that the world is round--for example, like a
cheese. This round world is a cheese to be eaten through, and Jules had
nibbled quite into his cheese-world already at twenty-two.

He realized this as he idled about one Sunday morning where the
intersection of Royal and Conti Streets some seventy years ago formed a
central corner of New Orleans. Yes, yes, the trouble was he had been
wasteful and honest. He discussed the matter with that faithful friend
and confidant, Baptiste, his yellow body-servant. They concluded that,
papa's patience and _tante's_ pin-money having been gnawed away quite to
the rind, there were left open only these few easily-enumerated resorts:
to go to work--they shuddered; to join Major Innerarity's filibustering
expedition; or else--why not?--to try some games of confidence. At
twenty-two one must begin to be something. Nothing else tempted; could
that avail? One could but try. It is noble to try; and, besides, they
were hungry. If one could "make the friendship" of some person from the
country, for instance, with money, not expert at cards or dice, but, as
one would say, willing to learn, one might find cause to say some "Hail
Marys."

The sun broke through a clearing sky, and Baptiste pronounced it good
for luck. There had been a hurricane in the night. The weed-grown
tile-roofs were still dripping, and from lofty brick and low adobe walls
a rising steam responded to the summer sunlight.



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