G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
He was one
of that army of gentlemen who, after the purchase of Louisiana, swarmed
from all parts of the commercial world, over the mountains of
Franco-Spanish exclusiveness, like the Goths over the Pyrenees, and
settled down in New Orleans to pick up their fortunes, with the
diligence of hungry pigeons. He may have been a German; the distinction
was too fine for Creole haste and disrelish.

He made his home in a room with one dormer window looking out, and
somewhat down, upon a building opposite, which still stands, flush with
the street, a century old. Its big, round-arched windows in a long,
second-story row, are walled up, and two or three from time to time have
had smaller windows let into them again, with odd little latticed
peep-holes in their batten shutters. This had already been done when
Kristian Koppig first began to look at them from his solitary dormer

All the features of the building lead me to guess that it is a remnant
of the old Spanish Barracks, whose extensive structure fell by
government sale into private hands a long time ago. At the end toward
the swamp a great, oriental-looking passage is left, with an arched
entrance, and a pair of ponderous wooden doors. You look at it, and
almost see Count O'Reilly's artillery come bumping and trundling out,
and dash around into the ancient Plaza to bang away at King St.
Charles's birthday.

I do not know who lives there now. You might stand about on the opposite
_banquette_ for weeks and never find out. I suppose it is a residence,
for it does not look like one. That is the rule in that region.

In the good old times of duels, and bagatelle-clubs, and theatre-balls,
and Cayetano's circus, Kristian Koppig rooming as described, there lived
in the portion of this house, partly overhanging the archway, a palish
handsome woman, by the name--or going by the name--of Madame John. You
would hardly have thought of her being "colored." Though fading, she was
still of very attractive countenance, fine, rather severe features,
nearly straight hair carefully kept, and that vivid black eye so
peculiar to her kind. Her smile, which came and went with her talk, was
sweet and exceedingly intelligent; and something told you, as you looked
at her, that she was one who had had to learn a great deal in this
troublesome life.

"But!"--the Creole lads in the street would say--"--her daughter!"
and there would be lifting of arms, wringing of fingers, rolling of
eyes, rounding of mouths, gaspings and clasping of hands. "So beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful! White?--white like a water lily! White--like a

Applause would follow, and invocation of all the saints to witness.

And she could sing.

"Sing?" (disdainfully)--"if a mocking-bird can _sing_! Ha!"

They could not tell just how old she was; they "would give her about

Mother and daughter were very fond. The neighbors could hear them call
each other pet names, and see them sitting together, sewing, talking
happily to each other in the unceasing French way, and see them go out
and come in together on their little tasks and errands. "'Tite
Poulette," the daughter was called; she never went out alone.

And who was this Madame John?

"Why, you know!--she was"--said the wig-maker at the corner to Kristian
Koppig--"I'll tell you. You know?--she was"--and the rest atomized off
in a rasping whisper. She was the best yellow-fever nurse in a thousand
yards round; but that is not what the wig-maker said.

A block nearer the river stands a house altogether different from the
remnant of old barracks. It is of frame, with a deep front gallery over
which the roof extends. It has become a den of Italians, who sell fuel
by daylight, and by night are up to no telling what extent of deviltry.
This was once the home of a gay gentleman, whose first name happened to
be John. He was a member of the Good Children Social Club. As his
parents lived with him, his wife would, according to custom, have been
called Madame John but he had no wife. His father died, then his mother;
last of all, himself. As he is about to be off, in comes Madame John,
with 'Tïte Poulette, then an infant, on her arm.

"Zalli," said he, "I am going."

She bowed her head, and wept.

"You have been very faithful to me, Zalli."

She wept on.

"Nobody to take care of you now, Zalli."

Zalli only went on weeping.

"I want to give you this house, Zalli; it is for you and the little

An hour after, amid the sobs of Madame John, she and the "little one"
inherited the house, such as it was. With the fatal caution which
characterizes ignorance, she sold the property and placed the proceeds
in a bank, which made haste to fail. She put on widow's weeds, and wore
them still when 'Tite Poulette "had seventeen," as the frantic lads
would say.

How they did chatter over her. Quiet Kristian Koppig had never seen the
like. He wrote to his mother, and told her so. A pretty fellow at the
corner would suddenly double himself up with beckoning to a knot of
chums; these would hasten up; recruits would come in from two or three
other directions; as they reached the corner their countenances would
quickly assume a genteel severity, and presently, with her mother, 'Tite
Poulette would pass--tall, straight, lithe, her great black eyes made
tender by their sweeping lashes, the faintest tint of color in her
Southern cheek, her form all grace, her carriage a wonder of simple

The instant she was gone every tongue was let slip on the marvel of her
beauty; but, though theirs were only the loose New Orleans morals of
over fifty years ago, their unleashed tongues never had attempted any
greater liberty than to take up the pet name, 'Tite Poulette. And yet
the mother was soon to be, as we shall discover, a paid dancer at the
_Salle de Condé_.

To Zalli, of course, as to all "quadroon ladies," the festivities of the
Conde-street ball-room were familiar of old. There, in the happy days
when dear Monsieur John was young, and the eighteenth century old, she
had often repaired under guard of her mother--dead now, alas!--and
Monsieur John would slip away from the dull play and dry society of
Théâtre d'Orléans, and come around with his crowd of elegant friends;
and through the long sweet hours of the ball she had danced, and
laughed, and coquetted under her satin mask, even to the baffling and
tormenting of that prince of gentlemen, dear Monsieur John himself. No
man of questionable blood dare set his foot within the door. Many noble
gentlemen were pleased to dance with her. Colonel De ---- and General
La ----: city councilmen and officers from the Government House. There
were no paid dancers then. Every thing was decorously conducted indeed!
Every girl's mother was there, and the more discreet always left before
there was too much drinking. Yes, it was gay, gay!--but sometimes
dangerous. Ha! more times than a few had Monsieur John knocked down some
long-haired and long-knifed rowdy, and kicked the breath out of him for
looking saucily at her; but that was like him, he was so brave and
kind;--and he is gone!

There was no room for widow's weeds there. So when she put these on, her
glittering eyes never again looked through her pink and white mask, and
she was glad of it; for never, never in her life had they so looked for
anybody but her dear Monsieur John, and now he was in heaven--so the
priest said--and she was a sick-nurse.

Living was hard work; and, as Madame John had been brought up tenderly,
and had done what she could to rear her daughter in the same mistaken
way, with, of course, no more education than the ladies in society got,
they knew nothing beyond a little music and embroidery. They struggled
as they could, faintly; now giving a few private dancing lessons, now
dressing hair, but ever beat back by the steady detestation of their
imperious patronesses; and, by and by, for want of that priceless
worldly grace known among the flippant as "money-sense," these two poor
children, born of misfortune and the complacent badness of the times,
began to be in want.

Kristian Koppig noticed from his dormer window one day a man standing at
the big archway opposite, and clanking the brass knocker on the wicket
that was in one of the doors. He was a smooth man, with his hair parted
in the middle, and his cigarette poised on a tiny gold holder. He waited
a moment, politely cursed the dust, knocked again, threw his slender
sword-cane under his arm, and wiped the inside of his hat with his

Madame John held a parley with him at the wicket. 'Tite Poulette was
nowhere seen. He stood at the gate while Madame John went up-stairs.
Kristian Koppig knew him. He knew him as one knows a snake. He was the
manager of the _Salle de Condé_. Presently Madame John returned with a
little bundle, and they hurried off together.

And now what did this mean? Why, by any one of ordinary acuteness the
matter was easily understood, but, to tell the truth, Kristian Koppig
was a trifle dull, and got the idea at once that some damage was being
planned against 'Tite Poulette. It made the gentle Dutchman miserable
not to be minding his own business, and yet--

"But the woman certainly will not attempt"--said he to himself--"no, no!
she cannot." Not being able to guess what he meant, I cannot say whether
she could or not. I know that next day Kristian Koppig, glancing eagerly
over the "_Ami des Lois_," read an advertisement which he had always
before skipped with a frown. It was headed, "_Salle de Condé_," and,
being interpreted, signified that a new dance was to be introduced, the
_Danse de Chinois_, and that _a young lady_ would follow it with the
famous "_Danse du Shawl_."

It was the Sabbath. The young man watched the opposite window steadily
and painfully from early in the afternoon until the moon shone bright;
and from the time the moon shone bright until Madame John!--joy!--Madame
John! and not 'Tite Poulette, stepped through the wicket, much dressed
and well muffled, and hurried off toward the _Rue Condé_. Madame John
was the "young lady;" and the young man's mind, glad to return to its
own unimpassioned affairs, relapsed into quietude.

Madame John danced beautifully.

Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | Next |

U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.