Puslapio vaizdai
[ocr errors]

more companionable instrument into his hands, gantic bumblebee in musical practice; others but never before did he feel its galling deficien- said they were so queer and foreign-like that they cies as now. Why, a fife would be better! made them lonesomer than before; they fairly

Blossier felt the picturesque and poetical ele- “honed” to hear even that old fiddle grumble ment in his plan, and that it was odious to be out an attempt at“ Dixey," or“ Julianna Johnobliged to depend on such means for its execu- son Coming to Town.” The night wore on. tion. However, there was no chance of getting a fife and learning to play it within an hour, so

And oh, how slow that keen-eyed star

Has tracked the chilly gray ! he soon contrived more optimistic views of the

What, watching yet! how very far case as it stood. A bass-viol gave forth, at all

The morning lies away! events, a very strong masculine sound, well calculated to convey assurances of protection ! Mrs. Pembroke, moved by a half-conscious

He put himself again into his ragged coat, remorse for her daylight ungraciousness, came again took up his ragged straw hat, and started out to her gate as Blossier stopped there for the forth to inform the ladies of his intentions; second time, and asked him in to have “ a dram there would be nothing comforting in it if in the and a snack.” night that heavy scraping boom took them un- Pretty Miss Molly Boon called to him once, awares. Al contraire,” he said gravely to him- as he went by her mother's house, and asked self.

him to come in and help her move a sick child. It was not hard to spread the news. The Miss Molly gave him a cup of coffee. The east women were concentrating their weakness for was gray with the welling dawn when Blossier, the night; scattered relatives were flocking to- weary enough, stopped before the last house at gether to spend it at the most central house of the end of a street — his bow arm dropped, his the clan; the women living on the outskirts of eyes fastened themselves on a corner of the the village came over the bridge, or down the house - yes; there it was, fire! a curling spit of turnpike, or up the stage-road, as the case might flame leaped, vivid in the darkness, around the be, to lodge for the time being with neighbors corner, above the floor of the porch. more closely neighbored than themselves. The The double-bass fell. Blossier ran up the walk; general trepidation passed the bounds of rea- before he could reach the house the sneaking son. Many Strathboro' households had been flame had grown bolder, it had fastened itself exclusively feminine for many months, -yes, into the wooden pillar by the wall. He shouted; years,— their natural protectors had been long he threw a stone at the door as he ran; around endangered beyond the chances of this misad- the corner the fire was bursting up from a pile venture; but with a solidarity of sentiment that of debris against the wall; it caught like teeth did them credit, the women all agreed to suffer in the dry clapboards; the porch-pillar was in kind with those who had special cause for burning. Blossier ran in upon the blazing stuff alarm, and uncommon fear prevailed.

he had torn off his coat and wrapped it around Blossier was a little man, a little, thin, dim, his fists, and he kicked and knocked the brands hay-colored man, but with so French a face, far out into the gravel walk and the grass. Two and of a type so associated in our minds with women were now beside him. It looked as if dark coloring, that it seemed as if he must have the house would go; the little flames were bumfaded to his present tints after centuries of ex- ing merrily. That meant that most of the town posure to the weather.

would go for a fine dawn wind was springing up. The viol was much taller than was he, and, They brought buckets of water and a ladder, and you may be sure, after he began his patrol at ten meanwhile Blossier was whipping the fire with o'clock, he soon found more reasons than sen- a shovel that he had caught from one of them. timental ones for wishing it something else. He contrived to command the women without

On his first round he stopped in front of losing a second; he made them pour water every door on one side of the street, and boomed from the floor above; he fought like a fiend. forth a few deeply buzzing bars of the “Marseil- Suddenly a memory of the barricades rose clear laise,” or still more unfamiliar and dislocated and sharp within him as he had not rememstrains from “Orphée aux Enfers.”

bered them for years; the spirit of war swelled He had vague doubts as to the appropriate- like a trumpet's note within the little man, and ness of Offenbach, but the jolly fragments he his soul responded to its own cry for the salvaremembered titillated his own Gallic nerves so tion of “les femmes et les enfants." delightfully after the emotional tension of the It was a sight to see, the alien, old Blossy, in song of patriotism and the exhaustion of carry- the weird growing light, his life in his hand, his ing the viol, that he concluded the ladies too clothes burning upon him, his face scorched and must surely find them cheering,

smoke-blackened, fighting, at the close quarters Some of them confessed afterward that they of a death-struggle, an enemy that was not his were comforted by these sounds as of a gi- enemy, gaining a victory that did not save him!

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The joyous light was pouring over the sum- Mary and little Mary stayed mighty still. I mer earth in delicate, elating wavelets when the never heard 'em up and down none after eleven last flame flickered out, and Blossier fell amid o'clock, but Mary says she never slept two hours. the cinders as if he too were gone.

But I tell you, a man never has the wife that 'll The crying women-one white, one black worry over him like his mother. I feel like I'll - bent over him. The old negress started to walk to Tullahoma myself to-day, if I can't find lift him, but her mistress caught her arm. out something 'bout Jimmy any other way,” and

“ A'nt 'Cindy,” she said, “take his feet," and Miss Catherine wiped her eyes as she turned she pushed the servant aside, and stooped her- toward the house, calling, “ Yes; I'm coming," self over the ghastly face.

in answer to a second shrill warning that break“ Miss Jane," said the other, “ I kin tote him fast was waiting, and leaving Mrs. Kitchens still by m'se'f. You 's too trembly — ”

struggling to get in her account of how she " I 'll help tote this man into my house my- spent the night. self, A'nt 'Cindy," was Jane MÖGrath's answer; This was about as much impression as the and together they lifted their burden. incident of the fire made anywhere: the town

“ Into the spare room,” said she in the hall. had come near burning down, but it had n't; Her voice was clear and hard, while her tears, old Blossy had saved it. There was something falling like quiet rain on Blossier's face, were a little embarrassing about this : it made the making little white blots and streaks there. usual tone about him seem, just at the time,

In the beginning of the conflict, Mrs. M'Grath ungracious; yet what other tone was there to had set her five-year-old daughter on the gravel take? walk by the front gate, out of harm's way, and

Anyhow, Jane M'Grath was taking care of told her to stay there. There she still sat, cry- him, and if she wanted help she knew where ing lustily.

to ask for it, and — when were the men coming “Go over after Miss Mary Bell Croft,” Miss home from Tullahoma, and how were things Jane now commanded Aunt 'Cindy, “and with them? take Janey with you, and leave her there; the Yes, it was well for Blossier that it was Jane children 'll look after her a while."

MÄGrath's house he had saved; it was well that As she spoke she was cutting his clothes away it was on her, and not on another, fell most difrom Blossier; his arms seemed badly burnt. rectly the debt of gratitude that the whole vilShe saw this had better be done before he came lage owed him, but which the village was too to himself.

stupid and insensible, too preoccupied and "Do you know the news?" called Mrs. Pem- too selfish, to realize and acknowledge. Jane broke to Mrs. Kitchens, across the way, hurry- M'Grath was accounted in Strathboro' a paring out to the front gate, while her breakfast ticularly dull woman. Strathboro' cared a good was being put on the table.“ The town came deal for what it called smartness, and carefully within an ace of burning to the ground, lock, classified all examples thereof as either bright stock, and barrel, last night. Jane M'Grath's or deep; but Jane M'Grath, whom they had house was afire, and old Blossy — Mr. Blossy I known all her life, was, as was well known, not reckon I feel like calling him to-day - put it out, smart, neither bright nor deep, though she was and he got burnt mighty bad. Old A’nt 'Cindy clever —that is, good-natured, kindly, easy to came over hours ago to fetch Mary Bell to get on with. Jane was more than good-nacome help Jane fix him. They ain't got no idea tured; she was good-good with that positive how it caught. The children - A’nt 'Cindy's quality of character that cheapens everything grandchildren and little Janey - had been pil- else in this world by comparison: and she was ing up some rubbish 'gainst the wall, making a the furthest thing in the world from a fool; she play-house, and that was where the fire begun. was a wise woman. You never can tell what children are up to; like Strathboro' did not count the conduct of life as not they'd been trying to roast corn or some- among the achievements of smartness, though thing. There was a right smart south wind blow- it valued that too, and gave Jane a certain meed ing early, and if Jane's house had got fairly of appreciation as a wife, a mother, and a housecaught - No; 'Cindy said they did n't think keeper. Blossy was burnt dangerous. Yes, you're right: Jane put her views of life's duties into no he is lucky to be in Jane's hands. Jane ain't words. She did not think in words; she made smart, but she 's mighty clever. It's a wonder about as much use of language as your horse I did n't see the whole thing. I was up and might, for convenience, if he could. down all over the house most of the night, and I One day as Blossier, his swathed hands on heard that poor thing scraping and bomming a pillow before him, sat in a big wooden rockon that there big fiddle of his, all over the town. ing-chair in a wide, dim, breezy hall, sunshiny Yes, it was kind o' company; but I lay down outdoors before and behind him, it occurred to 'bout daybreak, and got to snoozing after 'while. him that he was getting well too fast. Janey,


according to orders, was playing on the gallery, speak it, and Judge Caldwell mentioned that within sound of his voice, so that he could call he had Northern kinfolk who got French nurses her“ if he wanted anything," — not that Blos. for their children, so that they learned to talk sier had been known to want anything since he French when they were little. Why (this prefhad been in the house.

ace and conclusion came all but simultaneously Aunt.Cindy's voice, softened by the distance in Jane's mind) — why could n't Janey learn it to the kitchen, rose and fell on the pleasant air from Mr. Blossy, and why could n't other child in religious fervor; and up-stairs Jane M'Grath's dren learn from Mr. Blossy (she had a pang footsteps could be heard. The men had all here at giving up the hope of a lonely emicome back from Tullahoma a week before, but nence of learning for Janey), and thus Mr. Andy M'Grath was not among them; he had Blossy be lifted to the dignity and prosperity been in the field a year, and two more were to of a teacher ? That might indeed be a payment elapse before he should return. Jane felt that on the debt of gratitude. the entire weight of their debt to Blossier de- Janey looked at her marigold with thoughts volved for the time upon her.

of reclaiming it-it seemed unappropriated, unJaney's moon-face appeared at the door, - appreciated, lying there on the pillow; and then she felt it incumbent on her to come and look she heard the coaxing voice of Aunt 'Cindy's at her charge occasionally,—then, seized with small granddaughter calling from the big a sudden impulse, she clambered down the crape-myrtle tree,- she was not allowed to steps, disappeared, and in a moment was la- trespass further upon the front yard," Janey, boriously climbing back again, with a very big Janey, I got a pooty fur ye, Janey," and she marigold in her hand. She trotted to Blos- trotted off to bestow her society where it was sier, her bare feet softly patting the bare floor, most prized. started to hold it out to him, remembered the Jane may not have been blessed with many swathed hands, and held it up, tiptoeing, to ideas, but she gave profound attention to those his nose. Flowers were to be smelled in Janey's that did visit her. She pondered all day on the creed, without petty distinctions as to odors. possibility of Blossier becoming a teacher of

Merci,” smiled Blossier, as she laid the French, and after supper she went over to conhappy yellow thing on his pillowed lap; "ne sult Mrs. Pembroke about it. comprenez vous pas ? Non?

“Of course," she said, after she was seated The child stood looking in his face, grave on the gallery in the starlight, and had introand silent, ready to see what this odd creature duced her subject,“ nobody can do much with would do next.

the war going on, but I'm willing to make some Jane had come down the stairs, and was sacrifices for Janey, and Mr. Blossy would n't standing looking on; at the same moment, then expect much; we could just share what we 've and there, she and Blossier each became pos- got with him till times are better. I'm afraid sessed of an idea — small ones to be sure, but he's been awful pore lately. And, after all, the destined to become pregnant.

town would 'a' been 'most burned down sure Blossier's blinking little lashless eyes (the if it had n't been for him, sure for a heap more lashes had been white, so their absence made as for me." no great difference in his appearance) were Miss Catherine had no little children to be fixed on the curl-rags that tied up Janey's instructed, so Jane with difficulty and hitches straight brown locks. Jane herself was a sim- got out so much suggestion of Strathboro's obple, plain body, not given to considering the ligations. decorative side of life, but she did sorely want " That 's all true, Jane," replied Miss Cathcurly hair for her child! Blossier's mind re- erine, cheerfully; " but everybody ain't as anxverted to a hair-dresser he had once known in ious to recollect them kind of things as you, and New Orleans-if he only had such a pair of as your mother was before you. I remember tongs as that man used he was sure he could, now how she cherished that old Mammy Dinah when his hands got well, curl Janey's hair to of yourn, just for the way she nussed you when a marvel; and how pleasant it would be to you had that terrible typhoid sickness when you come and do it every day. Vague vistas of use- was little. Seemed like she could n't do enough fulness to this worshipful hostess opened up for that niggah when she got old and wuthless. cheeringly before him.

Good niggah she was, too." The dear dumb Jane was remembering cer- There was a pause, and, just as Miss Cathtain Strathboro' girls who had gone to board- erine was again taking up the thread of remiing-schools where they had studied French, - niscence, Jane interrupted: everybody knew they had; it was often men- “Mr. Blossy ain't a niggah, and it seems tioned in their honor,— but she had heard kind o' dreadful to see a white man live like he some very smart people -- Judge Caldwell, for does here in Strathboro'. It ain't as if he was instance — say they did n't believe they could a real poor-white either. He's got education,



I've heard tell. He reads French newspapers. each other; but then, she added, perhaps it He's got some now at my house."

would have been more curious yet if they had "Well, he's a foreigner, you know, Jane. not. You never can tell anything about them like Of course Andy accepted Blossier in exactly other people. He's been here doing niggah's Jane's spirit. He felt a little at a loss as to how work years, but it don't seem exactly like any to conduct himself with a Frenchman, finding other white man doing it. He's just a French- himself without social traditions on that point; man first or last, and for them that wants to but he had the best will in the world to adapt learn French, I reckon that 's what they want. himself as well as he could to any new etiquette I s'pose it would be a good thing for the pore required. Neither he nor Jane had a touch of old body, but you can't do much, Jane, with the usual sore contempt for ways new to them the war going on, and the Lord only knows—”. - so little may a large spirit be dependent on then loyalty sealed her lips against the first ex- experience or intellectuality. pression of doubt as to the conclusion and Andy had been home a week, and it was the after-tale of the conflict. As to the present evening after they had first persuaded Blossier she was right. In those days there was small to sup with them. Janey, her curls tumbled into interest in Strathboro' in the acquirement of merely human tresses, but presumably dreamFrench by any means whatsoever. Jane ac- ing French dreams, lay in her trundle-bed; and cepted this fact, and went her own way. close by, Jane and Andy sat at the window,

Long before poor Andy M'Grath, gaunt and cooling off, and, as they said, “talking things tattered, despairing and beaten, came back over.” Jane now opened up the subject she had to his home, Strathboro' had become familiar had so long at heart. with the sight of Blossier going about his work “?Pears, Andy, like Mr. Blossy 's too good with a tiny figure by his side - a little girl with to be doing niggah's work all the time. Of the most marvelous double rows of brown curls course with a Frenchman things is different, under her corn-shuck hat; curls as stiff and slick but seems like if he can teach Janey he might and regular as if they had been done out of wood teach others.” with a turning-lathe. Strathboro' admired the " It 'pears like it would be more fitting," said curls unanimously, but an accomplishment of Andy, seizing the idea. their owner filled them with an even livelier “ It's called a smart thing to know French; interest. That little thing could speak French there 's Babe Tucker." -talk it right along with old Blossy!

· Blossy must know all about it,” responded The pair were continually called upon to Andy again. demonstrate the fact.

“Yes; I heard Judge Caldwell say years ago When old Mrs. Farnley came in from the that he was educated.” country to stay with her daughter-in-law, she 6 It 's a bad time now, Jane." was not to be convinced by the ordinary ex- “I know that, Andy, but can just try and hibition.

get him started. The war 's over, and people “ You, Mr. Blossy," said she -—“you go clean got to educate their children quick if they 're out there by that there crape-myrtle, and stay going to 't all.” there where I can see you. Janey, you tell Mr. “ French is extry.” Blossy when he comes back to give me my “Well, Blossy 's right here, and a heap of stick — tell him in French.” Janey was a little houses besides ourn would have burnt down if mystified, but she was used to exhibiting her he had n't been. It won't cost much. He'll be French, so she successfully performed the feat better off, anyhow, than working all the time required of her; and when Blossier, with a bow, like a niggah. You talk to your brother Ben, handed the old lady her staff, more witnesses Andy; he 'll like to have his girls as smart as than one had a new realization that the strange Janey," concluded the self-sacrificing Jane, with tongue was not a meaningless jargon. a sigh.

Andy M'Grath's soul was as much like Jane's as one corn-field pea is like another. The In- Ten years from that night Judge Caldwell finite mind doubtless saw distinctions between was saying to a guest, a lawyer from western them, and Jane knew that Andy took more Tennessee: · Yes, sir; Strathboro' can show sugar in his coffee than she did, and Andy more people, old and young, accomplished in knew that she would spank Janey sometimes the French tongue, sir, than any town- a when he would not; but so far as other human larger proportion, sir, so accomplished — than beings were concerned, they might as well have any town in the State. There are numerous had interchangeable identities. When they children in Strathboro' that talk French with got married, Mrs. Pembroke remarked to Mrs. each other together at their play, sir, sometimes. Kitchens that it was curious to see two such In fact, there is a little niggah here about the good, dumb, clever, say-nothing bodies marry house somewhere now that I heard saying

Vol. XLIV. – 119.



[ocr errors]

you, 'Liza, where's that piccaninny of yours ? " At the funeral, after Jane was laid in the the Judge interrupted himself to call to a ser- ground and the earth was well heaped over her, vant passing the door.

Andy turned his poor bewildered, pain-dazed “She done sleep, Jedge.”

eyes upon the faces about him, and amid their Very well; never mind.

wearied assumption of solemnity, beneath which Well

, sir, I must let you hear that little the usual easy little interest in the commonplace darky talk French in the morning. It sounds was already asserting itself, he saw Blossier, his comic, it does indeed. She picked it up from features working convulsively, as he gazed with my grandchildren. Strathboro' always had a eyes that did not see upon the hideous mound. literary taste. This county has produced a large It was not in Andy to feel resentment against proportion of the great men of middle Tennes- the others; perhaps he too realized, in the depths see, Mr. Hunter,-a large proportion even take of his wordless consciousness, that poor humanthe whole State together, sir,—and owing to ity could hardly exist except as it is “well the circumstances I have related to you, a ri- wadded with stupidity"; but his heart went valry in the French language and literature out to Blossier, and was eased a little at the sprang up among our people,— ladies and chil- sight of his grief. dren, that is, chiefly,- till now, sir, almost as He went to him and took his hand, and withmany of them have read.Corinne,' sir, Madame out a word the two men, the two piteous old de Staël's masterpiece, as are familiar with the children, went away together from Jane's grave. · Beulah'or St. Elmo'of our own Miss Evans." Months went by, and Strathboro' became

The Judge spoke truly. It had come about used to seeing them together, and had almost that learning French was the game the town ceased to gossip about the queer taste Andy most affected; and Blossier was, of course, the showed, when one June day new fuel fed the teacher.

flame of popular criticism. The tone about him had not greatly changed; The week before, Blossier had overheard one a familiarity with French had not much de- of his pupils, a middle-aged, unmarried lady, creased Strathboro's sense of the anomalous in say, in his class, to her nearest neighbor, that the existence of a Frenchman; but the face of “it was a plum' shame the way poor Mrs. life had greatly altered to Blossier. Stimulated M'Grath's little girls was runnin' wild with by the gentle proddings of Jane M'Grath, he nobody but Aunt 'Cindy to look after 'em, and had studied to fit himself for his new calling, she so old she did n't know what she was doand it had come about that he had developed in', anyhow," and that it was her " 'pinion that a little genuine simple interest in exercising his pore Miss Jane would rather they had a step-ma few wits, and (bless him !) was enjoying the than to have 'em left with no raisin' at all like sweets of the intellectual life.”

that." Moreover, though the tone of the town about Jane had left four daughters. This little him had not much altered, nevertheless its tone incident gave Blossier food for profound reto him was necessarily, in the new circum- flection. He reflected to some purpose. That stances, more friendly and considerate, and that night instead of going and sitting on the galdeeply touched and pleased the little man. lery steps, after supper, with Andy, as usual, He still lived by himself

, but now it was in he stopped outside the front gate, and called the “office,” in Mrs. Pembroke's yard, and so with a portentous, mysterious air, “ Mees-tere he was within the pale of civilization, and could Andee, Mees-tere Andee,- non, non!” in anbe looked after if he fell sick. Jane had not swer to the invitation to enter, and then he rested till that possibility was provided for. But beckoned, still mysteriously, with sidelong, Fate is apt to pass over the possibilities scru- backward nods of the head, for Andy, to come pulously provided for; Blossier had never spent to him. “Howdy?" said he when Andy reached a day in bed since he recovered from his burns, the gate, now assuming a light, dégagé air, totally when one autumn the dear Jane herself sick- inconsistent with his previous manner. “Come ened and died, and was laid away in that sha-chez-moi, these eve-ning." dow village always growing, growing, silently When Andy was seated on the steps of the and ominously, by Strathboro's side.

office,” Blossier brought him a mint-julep, Poor Andy M'Grath was indeed left, as Aunt and with a glass of cheap claret for himself'Cindy said, like the half of a pair of scissors. the one luxury of his prosperity — sat down in Yes, that was it; he was now a something ab- the doorway. surdly useless, unnaturally unfit for existence, “Mighty nice," said Andy, politely; "get a something to provoke the mirth of Olympus. your mint close by?”

How strange a thing, still strange in its aw- But Blossier was so absorbed in trying to ful familiarity, that a creature so inoffensive, arrange his thoughts for presentation that he living in dumb, helpless good faith the life thrust forgot to answer.

mn, could seem so played upon! "Mees-tere Andee," he at last began, “your

« AnkstesnisTęsti »