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He bounded to the wicket,
and softly but eagerly knocked again.

"Go away," said a trembling voice from above.

"Madame John?" said he; but the window closed, and he heard a step, the
same step on the stair. Step, step, every step one step deeper into his
heart. 'Tite Poulette came to the closed door.

"What will you?" said the voice within.

"I--I--don't wish to see you. I wish to see Madame John."

"I must pray Monsieur to go away. My mother is at the _Salle de Condé_."

"At the ball!" Kristian Koppig strayed off, repeating the words for want
of definite thought. All at once it occurred to him that at the ball he
could make Madame John's acquaintance with impunity. "Was it courting
sin to go?" By no means; he should, most likely, save a woman from
trouble, and help the poor in their distress.

Behold Kristian Koppig standing on the floor of the _Salle de Condé_. A
large hall, a blaze of lamps, a bewildering flutter of fans and floating
robes, strains of music, columns of gay promenaders, a long row of
turbaned mothers lining either wall, gentlemen of the portlier sort
filling the recesses of the windows, whirling waltzers gliding here and
there--smiles and grace, smiles and grace; all fair, orderly, elegant,
bewitching. A young Creole's laugh mayhap a little loud, and--truly
there were many sword-canes. But neither grace nor foulness satisfied
the eye of the zealous young Dutchman.

Suddenly a muffled woman passed him, leaning on a gentleman's arm. It
looked like--it must be, Madame John. Speak quick, Kristian Koppig; do
not stop to notice the man!

"Madame John"--bowing--"I am your neighbor, Kristian Koppig."

Madame John bows low, and smiles--a ball-room smile, but is frightened,
and her escort,--the manager,--drops her hand and slips away.

"Ah! Monsieur," she whispers excitedly, "you will be killed if you stay
here a moment. Are you armed? No. Take this." She tried to slip a dirk
into his hands, but he would not have it.

"Oh, my dear young man, go! Go quickly!" she plead, glancing furtively
down the hall.

"I wish you not to dance," said the young man.

"I have danced already; I am going home. Come; be quick! we will go
together." She thrust her arm through his, and they hastened into the
street. When a square had been passed there came a sound of men running
behind them.

"Run, Monsieur, run!" she cried, trying to drag him; but Monsieur
Dutchman would not.

"_Run,_ Monsieur! Oh, my God! it is 'Sieur"--

"_That_ for yesterday!" cried the manager, striking fiercely with his
cane. Kristian Koppig's fist rolled him in the dirt.

"_That_ for 'Tite Poulette!" cried another man dealing the Dutchman a
terrible blow from behind.

"And _that_ for me!" hissed a third, thrusting at him with something

"_That_ for yesterday!" screamed the manager, bounding like a tiger;
"That!" "THAT!" "Ha!"

Then Kristian Koppig knew that he was stabbed.

"That!" and "That!" and "That!" and the poor Dutchman struck wildly here
and there, grasped the air, shut his eyes, staggered, reeled, fell, rose
half up, fell again for good, and they were kicking him and jumping on
him. All at once they scampered. Zalli had found the night-watch.

"Buz-z-z-z!" went a rattle. "Buz-z-z-z!" went another.

"Pick him up."

"Is he alive?"

"Can't tell; hold him steady; lead the way, misses."

"He's bleeding all over my breeches."

"This way--here--around this corner."

"This way now--only two squares more."

"Here we are."

"Rap-rap-rap!" on the old brass knocker. Curses on the narrow wicket,
more on the dark archway, more still on the twisting stairs.

Up at last and into the room.

"Easy, easy, push this under his head: never mind his boots!"

So he lies--on 'Tite Poulette's own bed.

The watch are gone. They pause under the corner lamp to count
profits;--a single bill--_Banque de la Louisiane_, fifty dollars.
Providence is kind--tolerably so. Break it at the "Guillaume Tell." "But
did you ever hear any one scream like that girl did?"

And there lies the young Dutch neighbor. His money will not flutter back
to him this time; nor will any voice behind a gate "beg Monsieur to go
away." O, Woman!--that knows no enemy so terrible as man! Come nigh,
poor Woman, you have nothing to fear. Lay your strange, electric touch
upon the chilly flesh; it strikes no eager mischief along the fainting
veins. Look your sweet looks upon the grimy face, and tenderly lay back
the locks from the congested brows; no wicked misinterpretation lurks to
bite your kindness. Be motherly, be sisterly, fear nought. Go, watch him
by night; you may sleep at his feet and he will not stir. Yet he lives,
and shall live--may live to forget you, who knows? But for all that, be
gentle and watchful; be womanlike, we ask no more; and God reward you!

Even while it was taking all the two women's strength to hold the door
against Death, the sick man himself laid a grief upon them.

"Mother," he said to Madame John, quite a master of French in his
delirium, "dear mother, fear not; trust your boy; fear nothing. I will
not marry 'Tite Poulette; I cannot. She is fair, dear mother, but ah!
she is not--don't you know, mother? don't you know? The race! the race!
Don't you know that she is jet black. Isn't it?"

The poor nurse nodded "Yes," and gave a sleeping draught; but before the
patient quite slept he started once and stared.

"Take her away,"--waving his hand--"take your beauty away. She is jet
white. Who could take a jet white wife? O, no, no, no, no!"

Next morning his brain was right.

"Madame," he weakly whispered, "I was delirious last night?"

Zalli shrugged. "Only a very, very, wee, wee trifle of a bit."

"And did I say something wrong or--foolish?"

"O, no, no," she replied; "you only clasped your hands, so, and prayed,
prayed all the time to the dear Virgin."

"To the virgin?" asked the Dutchman, smiling incredulously.

"And St. Joseph--yes, indeed," she insisted; "you may strike me dead."

And so, for politeness' sake, he tried to credit the invention, but grew
suspicions instead.

Hard was the battle against death. Nurses are sometimes amazons, and
such were these. Through the long, enervating summer, the contest
lasted; but when at last the cool airs of October came stealing in at
the bedside like long-banished little children, Kristian Koppig rose
upon his elbow and smiled them a welcome.

The physician, blessed man, was kind beyond measure; but said some
inexplicable things, which Zalli tried in vain to make him speak in an
undertone. "If I knew Monsieur John?" he said, "certainly! Why, we were
chums at school. And he left you so much as that, Madame John? Ah! my
old friend John, always noble! And you had it all in that naughty bank?
Ah, well, Madame John, it matters little. No, I shall not tell 'Tite
Poulette. Adieu."

And another time:--"If I will let you tell me something? With pleasure,
Madame John. No, and not tell anybody, Madame John. No, Madame, not even
'Tite Poulette. What?"--a long whistle--"is that pos-si-ble?--and
Monsieur John knew it?--encouraged it?--eh, well, eh, well!--But--can I
believe you, Madame John? Oh! you have Monsieur John's sworn statement.
Ah! very good, truly, but--you _say_ you have it; but where is it? Ah!
to-morrow!" a sceptical shrug. "Pardon me, Madame John, I think perhaps,
_perhaps_ you are telling the truth.

"If I think you did right? Certainly! What nature keeps back, accident
sometimes gives, Madame John; either is God's will. Don't cry. 'Stealing
from the dead?' No! It was giving, yes! They are thanking you in heaven,
Madame John."

Kristian Koppig, lying awake, but motionless and with closed eyes, hears
in part, and, fancying he understands, rejoices with silent intensity.
When the doctor is gone he calls Zalli.

"I give you a great deal of trouble, eh, Madame John?"

"No, no; you are no trouble at all. Had you the yellow fever--ah! then!"

She rolled her eyes to signify the superlative character of the
tribulations attending yellow fever.

"I had a lady and gentleman once--a Spanish lady and gentleman, just off
the ship; both sick at once with the fever--delirious--could not tell
their names. Nobody to help me but sometimes Monsieur John! I never had
such a time,--never before, never since,--as that time. Four days and
nights this head touched not a pillow."

"And they died!" said Kristian Koppig.

"The third night the gentleman went. Poor Senor! 'Sieur John,--he did
not know the harm,--gave him some coffee and toast! The fourth night it
rained and turned cool, and just before day the poor lady"--

"Died!" said Koppig.

Zalli dropped her arms listlessly into her lap and her eyes ran brimful.

"And left an infant!" said the Dutchman, ready to shout with exultation.

"Ah! no, Monsieur," said Zalli.

The invalid's heart sank like a stone.

"Madame John,"--his voice was all in a tremor,--"tell me the truth. Is
'Tite Poulette your own child?"

"Ah-h-h, ha! ha! what foolishness! Of course she is my child!" And
Madame gave vent to a true Frenchwoman's laugh.

It was too much for the sick man. In the pitiful weakness of his
shattered nerves he turned his face into his pillow and wept like a
child. Zalli passed into the next room to hide her emotion.

"Maman, dear Maman," said 'Tite Poulette, who had overheard nothing, but
only saw the tears.

"Ah! my child, my child, my task--my task is too great--too great for
me. Let me go now--another time. Go and watch at his bedside."

"But, Maman,"--for 'Tite Poulette was frightened,--"he needs no care

"Nay, but go, my child; I wish to be alone."

The maiden stole in with averted eyes and tiptoed to the window--_that
window_. The patient, already a man again, gazed at her till she could
feel the gaze. He turned his eyes from her a moment to gather
resolution. And now, stout heart, farewell; a word or two of friendly
parting--nothing more.

"'Tite Poulette."

The slender figure at the window turned and came to the bedside.

"I believe I owe my life to you," he said.

She looked down meekly, the color rising in her cheek.

"I must arrange to be moved across the street tomorrow, on a litter."

She did not stir or speak.

"And I must now thank you, sweet nurse, for your care.

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