A B C D E F
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
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. It had to be done. It brought some pay,
and pay was bread; and every Sunday evening, with a touch here and there
of paint and powder, the mother danced the dance of the shawl, the
daughter remaining at home alone.

Kristian Koppig, simple, slow-thinking young Dutchman, never noticing
that he staid at home with his window darkened for the very purpose,
would see her come to her window and look out with a little wild,
alarmed look in her magnificent eyes, and go and come again, and again,
until the mother, like a storm-driven bird, came panting home.

Two or three months went by.

One night, on the mother's return, Kristian Koppig coming to his room
nearly at the same moment, there was much earnest conversation, which he
could see, but not hear.

"'Tite Poulette," said Madame John, "you are seventeen."

"True, Maman."

"Ah! my child, I see not how you are to meet the future." The voice
trembled plaintively.

"But how, Maman?"

"Ah! you are not like others; no fortune, no pleasure, no friend."

"Maman!"

"No, no;--I thank God for it; I am glad you are not; but you will be
lonely, lonely, all your poor life long. There is no place in this world
for us poor women. I wish that we were either white or black!"--and the
tears, two "shining ones," stood in the poor quadroon's eyes.

Tha daughter stood up, her eyes flashing.

"God made us, Maman," she said with a gentle, but stately smile.

"Ha!" said the mother, her keen glance darting through her tears, "Sin
made _me_, yes."

"No," said 'Tite Poulette, "God made us. He made us Just as we are; not
more white, not more black."

"He made you, truly!" said Zalli. "You are so beautiful; I believe it
well." She reached and drew the fair form to a kneeling posture. "My
sweet, white daughter!"

Now the tears were in the girl's eyes. "And could I be whiter than I
am?" she asked.

"Oh, no, no! 'Tite Poulette," cried the other; "but if we were only
_real white!_--both of us; so that some gentleman might come to see me
and say 'Madame John, I want your pretty little chick. She is so
beautiful. I want to take her home. She is so good--I want her to be my
wife.' Oh, my child, my child, to see that I would give my life--I would
give my soul! Only you should take me along to be your servant. I walked
behind two young men to-night; they ware coming home from their office;
presently they began to talk about you."

'Tite Poulette's eyes flashed fire.

"No, my child, they spoke only the best things One laughed a little at
times and kept saying 'Beware!' but the other--I prayed the Virgin to
bless him, he spoke such kind and noble words. Such gentle pity; such a
holy heart! 'May God defend her,' he said, _chérie_; he said, 'May God
defend her, for I see no help for her.' The other one laughed and left
him. He stopped in the door right across the street. Ah, my child, do
you blush? Is that something to bring the rose to your cheek? Many fine
gentlemen at the ball ask me often, 'How is your daughter, Madame
John?'".

The daughter's face was thrown into the mother's lap, not so well
satisfied, now, with God's handiwork. Ah, how she wept! Sob, sob, sob;
gasps and sighs and stifled ejaculations, her small right hand clinched
and beating on her mother's knee; and the mother weeping over her.

Kristian Koppig shut his window. Nothing but a generous heart and a
Dutchman's phlegm could have done so at that moment. And even thou,
Kristian Koppig!--for the window closed very slowly.

He wrote to his mother, thus:

"In this wicked city, I see none so fair as the poor girl who lives
opposite me, and who, alas! though so fair, is one of those whom the
taint of caste has cursed. She lives a lonely, innocent life in the
midst of corruption, like the lilies I find here in the marshew, and I
have great pity for her. 'God defend her,' I said to-night to a fellow
clerk, 'I see no help for her.' I know there is a natural, and I think
proper, horror of mixed blood (excuse the mention, sweet mother), and I
feel it, too; and yet if she were in Holland today, not one of a hundred
suitors would detect the hidden blemish."

In such strain this young man wrote on trying to demonstrate the utter
impossibility of his ever loving the lovable unfortunate, until the
midnight tolling of the cathedral clock sent him to bed.

About the same hour Zalli and 'Tite Poulette were kissing good-night.

"'Tite Poulette, I want you to promise me one thing."

"Well, Maman?"

"If any gentleman should ever love you and ask you to marry,--not
knowing, you know,--promise me you will not tell him you are not white."

"It can never be," said 'Tite Poulette.

"But if it should," said Madame John pleadingly.

"And break the law?" asked 'Tite Poulette, impatiently.

"But the law is unjust," said the mother.

"But it is the law!"

"But you will not, dearie, will you?"

"I would surely tell him!" said the daughter.

When Zalli, for some cause, went next morning to the window, she
started.

"'Tite Poulette!"--she called softly without moving. The daughter came.
The young man, whose idea of propriety had actuated him to this display,
was sitting in the dormer window, reading. Mother and daughter bent a
steady gaze at each other. It meant in French, "If he saw us last
night!"--

"Ah! dear," said the mother, her face beaming with fun--

"What can it be, Maman?"

"He speaks--oh! ha, ha!--he speaks--such miserable French!"

It came to pass one morning at early dawn that Zalli and 'Tite Poulette,
going to mass, passed a café, just as--who should be coming out but
Monsieur, the manager of the _Salle de Condé_. He had not yet gone to
bed. Monsieur was astonished. He had a Frenchman's eye for the
beautiful, and certainly there the beautiful was. He had heard of Madame
John's daughter, and had hoped once to see her, but did not but could
this be she?

They disappeared within the cathedral. A sudden pang of piety moved him;
he followed. 'Tite Poulette was already kneeling in the aisle. Zalli,
still in the vestibule, was just taking her hand from the font of
holy-water.

"Madame John," whispered the manager.

She courtesied.

"Madame John, that young lady--is she your daughter?"

"She--she--is my daughter," said Zalli, with somewhat of alarm in her
face, which the manager misinterpreted.

"I think not, Madame John." He shook his head, smiling as one too wise
to be fooled.

"Yes, Monsieur, she is my daughter."

"O no, Madame John, it is only make-believe, I think."

"I swear she is, Monsieur de la Rue."

"Is that possible?" pretending to waver, but convinced in his heart of
hearts, by Zalli's alarm, that she was lying. "But how? Why does she not
come to our ball-room with you?"

Zalli, trying to get away from him, shrugged and smiled. "Each to his
taste, Monsieur; it pleases her not."

She was escaping, but he followed one step more. "I shall come to see
you, Madame John."

She whirled and attacked him with her eyes. "Monsieur must not give
himself the trouble!" she said, the eyes at the same time adding, "Dare
to come!" She turned again, and knelt to her devotions. The manager
dipped in the font, crossed himself, and departed.

Several weeks went by, and M. de la Rue had not accepted the fierce
challenge of Madame John's eyes. One or two Sunday nights she had
succeeded in avoiding him, though fulfilling her engagement in the
_Salle_; but by and by pay-day,--a Saturday,--came round, and though the
pay was ready, she was loath to go up to Monsieur's little office.

It was an afternoon in May. Madame John came to her own room, and, with
a sigh, sank into a chair. Her eyes were wet.

"Did you go to his office, dear mother?" asked 'Tite Poulette.

"I could not," she answered, dropping her face in her hands.

"Maman, he has seen me at the window!"

"While I was gone?" cried the mother.

"He passed on the other side of the street. He looked up purposely, and
saw me." The speaker's cheeks were burning red.

Zalli wrung her hands.

"It is nothing, mother; do not go near him."

"But the pay, my child."

"The pay matters not."

"But he will bring it here; he wants the chance."

That was the trouble, sure enough.

About this time Kristian Koppig lost his position in the German
importing house where, he had fondly told his mother, he was
indispensable.

"Summer was coming on," the senior said, "and you see our young men are
almost idle. Yes, our engagement _was_ for a year, but ah--we could not
foresee"--etc., etc., "besides" (attempting a parting flattery), "your
father is a rich gentleman, and you can afford to take the summer easy.
If we can ever be of any service to you," etc., etc.

So the young Dutchman spent the afternoons at his dormer window reading
and glancing down at the little casement opposite, where a small, rude
shelf had lately been put out, holding a row of cigar-boxes with
wretched little botanical specimens in them trying to die. 'Tite
Poulette was their gardener; and it was odd to see,--dry weather or
wet,--how many waterings per day those plants could take. She never
looked up from her task; but I know she performed it with that
unacknowledged pleasure which all girls love and deny, that of being
looked upon by noble eyes.

On this peculiar Saturday afternoon in May, Kristian Koppig had been
witness of the distressful scene over the way. It occurred to 'Tite
Poulette that such might be the case, and she stepped to the casement to
shut it. As she did so, the marvellous delicacy of Kristian Koppig moved
him to draw in one of his shutters. Both young heads came out at one
moment, while at the same instant--

"Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap!" clanked the knocker on the wicket. The black
eyes of the maiden and the blue over the way, from looking into each
other for the first time in life, glanced down to the arched doorway
upon Monsieur the manager. Then the black eyes disappeared within, and
Kristian Koppig thought again, and re-opening his shutter, stood up at
the window prepared to become a bold spectator of what might follow.

But for a moment nothing followed.

"Trouble over there," thought the rosy Dutchman, and waited.



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 |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.