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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grandissimes - Chapter 25. Aurora As A Historian
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The Grandissimes - Chapter 25. Aurora As A Historian Post by :aeyates Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :2564

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The Grandissimes - Chapter 25. Aurora As A Historian

CHAPTER XXV. AURORA AS A HISTORIAN

Alas! the phonograph was invented three-quarters of a century too late. If type could entrap one-half the pretty oddities of Aurora's speech,--the arch, the pathetic, the grave, the earnest, the matter-of-fact, the ecstatic tones of her voice,--nay, could it but reproduce the movement of her hands, the eloquence of her eyes, or the shapings of her mouth,--ah! but type--even the phonograph--is such an inadequate thing! Sometimes she laughed; sometimes Clotilde, unexpectedly to herself, joined her; and twice or thrice she provoked a similar demonstration from the ox-like apothecary,--to her own intense amusement. Sometimes she shook her head in solemn scorn; and, when Frowenfeld, at a certain point where Palmyre's fate locked hands for a time with that of Bras-Coupe, asked a fervid question concerning that strange personage, tears leaped into her eyes, as she said:

"Ah! 'Sieur Frowenfel', iv I tra to tell de sto'y of Bras-Coupe, I goin' to cry lag a lill bebby."

The account of the childhood days upon the plantation at Cannes Brulees may be passed by. It was early in Palmyre's fifteenth year that that Kentuckian, 'mutual friend' of her master and Agricola, prevailed with M. de Grapion to send her to the paternal Grandissime mansion,--a complimentary gift, through Agricola, to Mademoiselle, his niece,--returnable ten years after date.

The journey was made in safety; and, by and by, Palmyre was presented to her new mistress. The occasion was notable. In a great chair in the centre sat the _grandpere_, a Chevalier de Grandissime, whose business had narrowed down to sitting on the front veranda and wearing his decorations,--the cross of St. Louis being one; on his right, Colonel Numa Grandissime, with one arm dropped around Honore, then a boy of Palmyre's age, expecting to be off in sixty days for France; and on the left, with Honore's fair sister nestled against her, "Madame Numa," as the Creoles would call her, a stately woman and beautiful, a great admirer of her brother Agricola. (Aurora took pains to explain that she received these minutiae from Palmyre herself in later years.) One other member of the group was a young don of some twenty years' age, not an inmate of the house, but only a cousin of Aurora on her deceased mother's side. To make the affair complete, and as a seal to this tacit Grandissime-de-Grapion treaty, this sole available representative of the "other side" was made a guest for the evening. Like the true Spaniard that he was, Don Jose Martinez fell deeply in love with Honore's sister. Then there came Agricola leading in Palmyre. There were others, for the Grandissime mansion was always full of Grandissimes; but this was the central group.

In this house Palmyre grew to womanhood, retaining without interruption the place into which she seemed to enter by right of indisputable superiority over all competitors,--the place of favorite attendant to the sister of Honore. Attendant, we say, for servant she never seemed. She grew tall, arrowy, lithe, imperial, diligent, neat, thorough, silent. Her new mistress, though scarcely at all her senior, was yet distinctly her mistress; she had that through her Fusilier blood; experience was just then beginning to show that the Fusilier Grandissime was a superb variety; she was a mistress one could wish to obey. Palmyre loved her, and through her contact ceased, for a time, at least, to be the pet leopard she had been at the Cannes Brulees.

Honore went away to Paris only sixty days after Palmyre entered the house. But even that was not soon enough.

"'Sieur Frowenfel'," said Aurora, in her recital, "Palmyre, she never tole me dad, _mais I am shoe, _shoe dad she fall in love wid Honore Grandissime. 'Sieur Frowenfel', I thing dad Honore Grandissime is one bad man, ent it? Whad you thing, 'Sieur Frowenfel'?"

"I think, as I said to you the last time, that he is one of the best, as I know that he is one of the kindest and most enlightened gentlemen in the city," said the apothecary.

"Ah, 'Sieur Frowenfel'! ha, ha!"

"That is my conviction."

The lady went on with her story.

"Hanny'ow, I know she _con_tinue in love wid 'im all doze ten year' w'at 'e been gone. She baig Mademoiselle Grandissime to wrad dad ledder to my papa to ass to kip her two years mo'."

Here Aurora carefully omitted that episode which Doctor Keene had related to Frowenfeld,--her own marriage and removal to Fausse Riviere, the visit of her husband to the city, his unfortunate and finally fatal affair with Agricola, and the surrender of all her land and slaves to that successful duellist.

M. de Grapion, through all that, stood by his engagement concerning Palmyre; and, at the end of ten years, to his own astonishment, responded favorably to a letter from Honore's sister, irresistible for its goodness, good sense, and eloquent pleading, asking leave to detain Palmyre two years longer; but this response came only after the old master and his pretty, stricken Aurora had wept over it until they were weak and gentle,--and was not a response either, but only a silent consent.

Shortly before the return of Honore--and here it was that Aurora took up again the thread of her account--while his mother, long-widowed, reigned in the paternal mansion, with Agricola for her manager, Bras-Coupe appeared. From that advent, and the long and varied mental sufferings which its consequences brought upon her, sprang that second change in Palmyre, which made her finally untamable, and ended in a manumission, granted her more for fear than for conscience' sake. When Aurora attempted to tell those experiences, even leaving Bras-Coupe as much as might be out of the recital, she choked with tears at the very start, stopped, laughed, and said:

"_C'est tout_--daz all. 'Sieur Frowenfel', oo you fine dad pigtu' to loog lag, yonnah, hon de wall?"

She spoke as if he might have overlooked it, though twenty times, at least, in the last hour, she had seen him glance at it.

"It is a good likeness," said the apothecary, turning to Clotilde, yet showing himself somewhat puzzled in the matter of the costume.

The ladies laughed.

"Daz ma grade-gran'-mamma," said Clotilde.

"Dass one _fille a la cassette_," said Aurora, "my gran'-muzzah; _mais_, ad de sem tarn id is Clotilde." She touched her daughter under the chin with a ringed finger. "Clotilde is my gran'-mamma."

Frowenfeld rose to go.

"You muz come again, 'Sieur Frowenfel'," said both ladies, in a breath.

What could he say?

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