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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grandissimes - Chapter 33. Unkindest Cut Of All
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The Grandissimes - Chapter 33. Unkindest Cut Of All Post by :dr3tz Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :3431

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The Grandissimes - Chapter 33. Unkindest Cut Of All

CHAPTER XXXIII. UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL

It was the year 1804. The world was trembling under the tread of the dread Corsican. It was but now that he had tossed away the whole Valley of the Mississippi, dropping it overboard as a little sand from a balloon, and Christendom in a pale agony of suspense was watching the turn of his eye; yet when a gibbering black fool here on the edge of civilization merely swings a pine-knot, the swinging of that pine-knot becomes to Joseph Frowenfeld, student of man, a matter of greater moment than the destination of the Boulogne Flotilla. For it now became for the moment the foremost necessity of his life to show, to that minute fraction of the earth's population which our terror misnames "the world," that a man may leap forth hatless and bleeding from the house of a New Orleans quadroon into the open street and yet be pure white within. Would it answer to tell the truth? Parts of that truth he was pledged not to tell; and even if he could tell it all it was incredible--bore all the features of a flimsy lie.

"Mister," repeated the same child who had spoken before, reinforced by another under the other elbow, "dey got some _blood on de back of you' hade."

And the other added the suggestion:

"Dey got one drug-sto', yondah."

Frowenfeld groaned again. The knock had been a hard one, the ground and sky went round not a little, but he retained withal a white-hot process of thought that kept before him his hopeless inability to explain. He was coffined alive. The world (so-called) would bury him in utter loathing, and write on his headstone the one word--hypocrite. And he should lie there and helplessly contemplate Honore pushing forward those purposes which he had begun to hope he was to have had the honor of furthering. But instead of so doing he would now be the by-word of the street.

"Mister," interposed the child once more, spokesman this time for a dozen blacks and whites of all sizes trailing along before and behind, "_dey got some blood on de back of you' _hade_."

* * * * *

That same morning Clotilde had given a music-scholar her appointed lesson, and at its conclusion had borrowed of her patroness (how pleasant it must have been to have such things to lend!) a little yellow maid, in order that, with more propriety, she might make a business call. It was that matter of the rent--one that had of late occasioned her great secret distress. "It is plain," she had begun to say to herself, unable to comprehend Aurora's peculiar trust in Providence, "that if the money is to be got I must get it." A possibility had flashed upon her mind; she had nurtured it into a project, had submitted it to her father-confessor in the cathedral, and received his unqualified approval of it, and was ready this morning to put it into execution. A great merit of the plan was its simplicity. It was merely to find for her heaviest bracelet a purchaser in time, and a price sufficient, to pay to-morrow's "maturities." See there again!--to her, her little secret was of greater import than the collision of almost any pine-knot with almost any head.

It must not be accepted as evidence either of her unwillingness to sell or of the amount of gold in the bracelet, that it took the total of Clotilde's moral and physical strength to carry it to the shop where she hoped--against hope--to dispose of it.

'Sieur Frowenfeld, M. Innerarity said, was out, but would certainly be in in a few minutes, and she was persuaded to take a chair against the half-hidden door at the bottom of the shop with the little borrowed maid crouched at her feet.

She had twice or thrice felt a regret that she had undertaken to wait, and was about to rise and go, when suddenly she saw before her Joseph Frowenfeld, wiping the sweat of anguish from his brow and smeared with blood from his forehead down. She rose quickly and silently, turned sick and blind, and laid her hand upon the back of the chair for support. Frowenfeld stood an instant before her, groaned, and disappeared through the door. The little maid, retreating backward against her from the direction of the street-door, drew to her attention a crowd of sight-seers which had rushed up to the doors and against which Raoul was hurriedly closing the shop.

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