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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grandissimes - Chapter 16. Starlight In The Rue Chartres
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The Grandissimes - Chapter 16. Starlight In The Rue Chartres Post by :ksloan Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :2214

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The Grandissimes - Chapter 16. Starlight In The Rue Chartres

CHAPTER XVI. STARLIGHT IN THE RUE CHARTRES

"Oh! M'sieur Frowenfel', tague me ad home!"

It was Aurora, who caught the apothecary's arm vehemently in both her hands with a look of beautiful terror. And whatever Joseph's astronomy might have previously taught him to the contrary, he knew by his senses that the earth thereupon turned entirely over three times in two seconds.

His confused response, though unintelligible, answered all purposes, as the lady found herself the next moment hurrying across the Place d'Armes close to his side, and as they by-and-by passed its farther limits she began to be conscious that she was clinging to her protector as though she would climb up and hide under his elbow. As they turned up the rue Chartres she broke the silence.

"Oh!-h!"--breathlessly,--"'h!--M'sieur Frowenf'--you walkin' so faz!"

"Oh!" echoed Frowenfeld, "I did not know what I was doing."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the lady, "me, too, juz de sem lag you! _attendez_; wait."

They halted; a moment's deft manipulation of a veil turned it into a wrapping for her neck.

"'Sieur Frowenfel', oo dad man was? You know 'im?"

She returned her hand to Frowenfeld's arm and they moved on.

"The one who spoke to you, or--you know the one who got near enough to apologize is not the one whose horse struck you!"

"I din know. But oo dad odder one? I saw h-only 'is back, bud I thing it is de sem--"

She identified it with the back that was turned to her during her last visit to Frowenfeld's shop; but finding herself about to mention a matter so nearly connected with the purse of gold, she checked herself; but Frowenfeld, eager to say a good word for his acquaintance, ventured to extol his character while he concealed his name.

"While I have never been introduced to him, I have some acquaintance with him, and esteem him a noble gentleman."

"W'ere you meet him?"

"I met him first," he said, "at the graves of my parents and sisters."

There was a kind of hush after the mention, and the lady made no reply.

"It was some weeks after my loss," resumed Frowenfeld.

"In wad _cimetiere dad was?"

"In no cemetery--being Protestants, you know--"

"Ah, yes, sir?" with a gentle sigh.

"The physician who attended me procured permission to bury them on some private land below the city."

"Not in de groun'(2)?"

(Footnote 2: Only Jews and paupers are buried in the ground in New Orleans.)

"Yes; that was my father's expressed wish when he died."

"You 'ad de fivver? Oo nurse you w'en you was sick?"

"An old hired negress."

"Dad was all?"

"Yes."

"Hm-m-m!" she said piteously, and laughed in her sleeve.

Who could hope to catch and reproduce the continuous lively thrill which traversed the frame of the escaped book-worm as every moment there was repeated to his consciousness the knowledge that he was walking across the vault of heaven with the evening star on his arm--at least, that he was, at her instigation, killing time along the dim, ill-lighted _trottoirs of the rue Chartres, with Aurora listening sympathetically at his side. But let it go; also the sweet broken English with which she now and then interrupted him; also the inward, hidden sparkle of her dancing Gallic blood; her low, merry laugh; the roguish mental reservation that lurked behind her graver speeches; the droll bravados she uttered against the powers that be, as with timid fingers he brushed from her shoulder a little remaining dust of the late encounter--these things, we say, we let go,--as we let butterflies go rather than pin them to paper.

They had turned into the rue Bienville, and were walking toward the river, Frowenfeld in the midst of a long sentence, when a low cry of tearful delight sounded in front of them, some one in long robes glided forward, and he found his arm relieved of its burden and that burden transferred to the bosom and passionate embrace of another--we had almost said a fairer--Creole, amid a bewildering interchange of kisses and a pelting shower of Creole French.

A moment after, Frowenfeld found himself introduced to "my dotter, Clotilde," who all at once ceased her demonstrations of affection and bowed to him with a majestic sweetness, that seemed one instant grateful and the next, distant.

"I can hardly understand that you are not sisters," said Frowenfeld, a little awkwardly.

"Ah! _ecoutez!_" exclaimed the younger.

"Ah! _par exemple!_" cried the elder, and they laughed down each other's throats, while the immigrant blushed.

This encounter was presently followed by a silent surprise when they stopped and turned before the door of Number 19, and Frowenfeld contrasted the women with their painfully humble dwelling. But therein is where your true Creole was, and still continues to be, properly, yea, delightfully un-American; the outside of his house may be as rough as the outside of a bird's nest; it is the inside that is for the birds; and the front room of this house, when the daughter presently threw open the batten shutters of its single street door, looked as bright and happy, with its candelabra glittering on the mantel, and its curtains of snowy lace, as its bright-eyed tenants.

"'Sieur Frowenfel', if you pliz to come in," said Aurora, and the timid apothecary would have bravely accepted the invitation, but for a quick look which he saw the daughter give the mother; whereupon he asked, instead, permission to call at some future day, and received the cordial leave of Aurora and another bow from Clotilde.

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