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"But, of course
not; nobody did but me. Some of those Américains, I suppose, knew it;
but who would ever ask them? Here in Royal Street, in New Orleans, where
we people know nothing and care nothing but for meat, drink, and
pleasure, he was only Dr. Mossy, who gave pills. My faith! General, no
wonder you were disappointed in your son, for you thought the same. Ah!
yes, you did! But why did you not ask me, his old playmate? I knew
better. I could have told you how your little son stood head and
shoulders above the crowd. I could have told you some things too
wonderful to believe. I could have told you that his name was known and
honored in the scientific schools of Paris, of London, of Germany! Yes!
I could have shown you"--she warmed as she proceeded--"I could have
shown you letters (I begged them of him), written as between brother and
brother, from the foremost men of science and discovery!"

She stood up, her eyes flashing with excitement.

"But why did you never tell me?" cried the General.

"He never would allow me--but you--why did you not ask me? I will tell
you; you were too proud to mention your son. But he had pride to match
yours--ha!--achieving all--every thing--with an assumed name! 'Let me
tell your father,' I implored him; but--'let him find me out,' he said,
and you never found him out. Ah! there he was fine. He would not, he
said, though only for your sake, re-enter your affections as any thing
more or less than just--your son. Ha!"

And so she went on. Twenty times the old General was astonished anew,
twenty times was angry or alarmed enough to cry out, but twenty times
she would not be interrupted. Once he attempted to laugh, but again her
hand commanded silence.

"Behold, Monsieur, all these dusty specimens, these revolting fragments.
How have you blushed to know that our idle people laugh in their sleeves
at these things! How have you blushed--and you his father! But why did
you not ask me? I could have told you: 'Sir, your son is not an
apothecary; not one of these ugly things but has helped him on in the
glorious path of discovery; discovery, General--your son--known in
Europe as a scientific discoverer!' Ah-h! the blind people say, 'How is
that, that General Villivicencio should be dissatisfied with his son? He
is a good man, and a good doctor, only a little careless, that's all.'
But _you_ were more blind still, for you shut your eyes tight like this;
when, had you searched for his virtues as you did for his faults, you,
too, might have known before it was too late what nobility, what beauty,
what strength, were in the character of your poor, poor son!"

"Just Heaven! Madame, you shall not speak of my son as of one dead and
buried! But, if you have some bad news"--

"Your son took your quarrel on his hands, eh?"

"I believe so--I think"--

"Well; I saw him an hour ago in search of your slanderer!"

"He must find him!" said the General, plucking up.

"But if the search is already over," slowly responded Madame.

The father looked one instant in her face, then rose with an
exclamation:

"Where is my son? What has happened? Do you think I am a child, to be
trifled with--a horse to be teased? Tell me of my son!"

Madame was stricken with genuine anguish.

"Take your chair," she begged; "wait; listen; take your chair."

"Never!" cried the General; "I am going to find my son--my God! Madame,
you have _locked this door_! What are you, that you should treat me so?
Give me, this instant"--

"Oh! Monsieur, I beseech you to take your chair, and I will tell you
all. You can do nothing now. Listen! suppose you should rush out and
find that your son had played the coward at last! Sit down and"--

"Ah! Madame, this is play!" cried the distracted man.

"But no; it is not play. Sit down; I want to ask you something."

He sank down and she stood over him, anguish and triumph strangely
mingled in her beautiful face.

"General, tell me true; did you not force this quarrel into your son's
hand? I _know_ he would not choose to have it. Did you not do it to test
his courage, because all these fifteen years you have made yourself a
fool with the fear that he became a student only to escape being a
soldier? Did you not?"

Her eyes looked him through and through.

"And if I did?" demanded he with faint defiance.

"Yes! and if he has made dreadful haste and proved his courage?" asked
she.

"Well, then,"--the General straightened up triumphantly--"then he is my
son!"

He beat the desk.

"And heir to your wealth, for example?"

"Certainly."

The lady bowed in solemn mockery.

"It will make him a magnificent funeral!"

The father bounded up and stood speechless, trembling from head to foot.
Madame looked straight in his eye.

"Your son has met the writer of that article."

"Where?" the old man's lips tried to ask.

"Suddenly, unexpectedly, in a passage-way."

"My God! and the villain"--

"Lives!" cried Madame.

He rushed to the door, forgetting that it was locked.

"Give me that key!" he cried, wrenched at the knob, turned away
bewildered, turned again toward it, and again away; and at every step
and turn he cried, "Oh! my son, my son! I have killed my son! Oh! Mossy,
my son, my little boy! Oh! my son, my son!"

Madame buried her face in her hands and sobbed aloud. Then the father
hushed his cries and stood for a moment before her.

"Give me the key, Clarisse, let me go."

She rose and laid her face on his shoulder.

"What is it, Clarisse?" asked he.

"Your son and I were ten years betrothed."

"Oh, my child!"

"Because, being disinherited, he would not be me husband."

"Alas! would to God I had known it! Oh! Mossy, my son."

"Oh! Monsieur," cried the lady, clasping her hands, "forgive me--mourn
no more--your son is unharmed! I wrote the article--I am your recanting
slanderer! Your son is hunting for me now. I told my aunt to misdirect
him. I slipped by him unseen in the carriage-way."

The wild old General, having already staggered back and rushed forward
again, would have seized her in his arms, had not the little Doctor
himself at that instant violently rattled the door and shook his finger
at them playfully as he peered through the glass.

"Behold!" said Madame, attempting a smile: "open to your son; here is
the key."

She sank into a chair.

Father and son leaped into each other's arms; then turned to Madame:

"Ah! thou lovely mischief-maker"--

She had fainted away.

"Ah! well, keep out of the way, if you please, papa," said Dr. Mossy, as
Madame presently reopened her eyes; "no wonder you fainted; you have
finished some hard work--see; here; no; Clarisse, dear, take this."

Father and son stood side by side, tenderly regarding her as she
revived.

"Now, papa, you may kiss her; she is quite herself again, already."

"My daughter!" said the stately General; "this--is my son's ransom; and,
with this,--I withdraw the Villivicencio ticket."

"You shall not," exclaimed the laughing lady, throwing her arms about
his neck.

"But, yes!" he insisted; "my faith! you will at least allow me to remove
my dead from the field."

"But, certainly;" said the son; "see, Clarisse, here is Madame, your
aunt, asking us all into the house. Let us go."

The group passed out into the Rue Royale, Dr. Mossy shutting the door
behind them. The sky was blue, the air was soft and balmy, and on the
sweet south breeze, to which the old General bared his grateful brow,
floated a ravishing odor of--

"Ah! what is it?" the veteran asked of the younger pair, seeing the
little aunt glance at them with a playful smile.

Madame Délicieuse for almost the first time in her life, and Dr. Mossy
for the thousandth--blushed.

It was the odor of orange-blossoms.



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