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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grandissimes - Chapter 34. Clotilde As A Surgeon
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The Grandissimes - Chapter 34. Clotilde As A Surgeon Post by :dr3tz Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :1905

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The Grandissimes - Chapter 34. Clotilde As A Surgeon

CHAPTER XXXIV. CLOTILDE AS A SURGEON

Was it worse to stay, or to fly? The decision must be instantaneous. But Raoul made it easy by crying in their common tongue, as he slammed a massive shutter and shot its bolt:

"Go to him! he is down--I heard him fall. Go to him!"

At this rallying cry she seized her shield--that is to say, the little yellow attendant--and hurried into the room. Joseph lay just beyond the middle of the apartment, face downward. She found water and a basin, wet her own handkerchief, and dropped to her knees beside his head; but the moment he felt the small feminine hands he stood up. She took him by the arm.

"_Asseyez-vous, Monsieu'_--pliz to give you'sev de pens to seet down, 'Sieu' Frowenfel'."

She spoke with a nervous tenderness in contrast with her alarmed and entreating expression of face, and gently pushed him into a chair.

The child ran behind the bed and burst into frightened sobs, but ceased when Clotilde turned for an instant and glared at her.

"Mague yo' 'ead back," said Clotilde, and with tremulous tenderness she softly pressed back his brow and began wiping off the blood. "W'ere you is 'urted?"

But while she was asking her question she had found the gash and was growing alarmed at its ugliness, when Raoul, having made everything fast, came in with:

"Wat's de mattah, 'Sieur Frowenfel'? w'at's de mattah wid you? Oo done dat, 'Sieur Frowen fel'?"

Joseph lifted his head and drew away from it the small hand and wet handkerchief, and without letting go the hand, looked again into Clotilde's eyes, and said:

"Go home; oh, go home!"

"Oh! no," protested Raoul, whereupon Clotilde turned upon him with a perfectly amiable, nurse's grimace for silence.

"I goin' rad now," she said.

Raoul's silence was only momentary.

"Were you lef you' hat, 'Sieur Frowenfel'?" he asked, and stole an artist's glance at Clotilde, while Joseph straightened up, and nerving himself to a tolerable calmness of speech, said:

"I have been struck with a stick of wood by a half-witted person under a misunderstanding of my intentions; but the circumstances are such as to blacken my character hopelessly; but I am innocent!" he cried, stretching forward both arms and quite losing his momentary self-control.

"'Sieu' Frowenfel'!" cried Clotilde, tears leaping to her eyes, "I am shoe of it!"

"I believe you! I believe you, 'Sieur Frowenfel'!" exclaimed Raoul with sincerity.

"You will not believe me," said Joseph. "You will not; it will be impossible."

"_Mais_" cried Clotilde, "id shall nod be impossib'!"

But the apothecary shook his head.

"All I can be suspected of will seem probable; the truth only is incredible."

His head began to sink and a pallor to overspread his face.

"_Allez, Monsieur, allez_," cried Clotilde to Raoul, a picture of beautiful terror which he tried afterward to paint from memory, "_appelez Doctah Kin!"

Raoul made a dash for his hat, and the next moment she heard, with unpleasant distinctness, his impetuous hand slam the shop door and lock her in.

"_Baille ma do l'eau_" she called to the little mulattress, who responded by searching wildly for a cup and presently bringing a measuring-glass full of water.

Clotilde gave it to the wounded man, and he rose at once and stood on his feet.

"Raoul."

"'E gone at Doctah Kin."

"I do not need Doctor Keene; I am not badly hurt. Raoul should not have left you here in this manner. You must not stay."

"Bud, 'Sieur Frowenfel', I am afred to paz dad gangue!"

A new distress seized Joseph in view of this additional complication. But, unmindful of this suggestion, the fair Creole suddenly exclaimed:

"'Sieu' Frowenfel', you har a hinnocen' man! Go, hopen yo' do's an' stan juz as you har ub biffo dad crowd and sesso! My God! 'Sieu' Frowenfel', iv you cannod stan' ub by you'sev--"

She ceased suddenly with a wild look, as if another word would have broken the levees of her eyes, and in that instant Frowenfeld recovered the full stature of a man.

"God bless you!" he cried. "I will do it!" He started, then turned again toward her, dumb for an instant, and said: "And God reward you! You believe in me, and you do not even know me."

Her eyes became wilder still as she looked up into his face with the words:

"_Mais_, I does know you--betteh'n you know annyt'in' boud it!" and turned away, blushing violently.

Frowenfeld gave a start. She had given him too much light. He recognized her, and she knew it. For another instant he gazed at her averted face, and then with forced quietness said:

"Please go into the shop."

The whole time that had elapsed since the shutting of the doors had not exceeded five minutes; a sixth sufficed for Clotilde and her attendant to resume their original position in the nook by the private door and for Frowenfeld to wash his face and hands. Then the alert and numerous ears without heard a drawing of bolts at the door next to that which Raoul had issued, its leaves opened outward, and first the pale hands and then the white, weakened face and still bloody hair and apparel of the apothecary made their appearance. He opened a window and another door. The one locked by Raoul, when unbolted, yielded without a key, and the shop stood open.

"My friends," said the trembling proprietor, "if any of you wishes to buy anything, I am ready to serve him. The rest will please move away."

The invitation, though probably understood, was responded to by only a few at the banquette's edge, where a respectable face or two wore scrutinizing frowns. The remainder persisted in silently standing and gazing in at the bloody man.

Frowenfeld bore the gaze. There was one element of emphatic satisfaction in it--it drew their observation from Clotilde at the other end of the shop. He stole a glance backward; she was not there. She had watched her chance, safely escaped through the side door, and was gone.

Raoul returned.

"'Sieur Frowenfel', Doctor Keene is took worse ag'in. 'E is in bed; but 'e say to tell you in dat lill troubl' of dis mawnin' it is himseff w'at is inti'lie wrong, an' 'e hass you poddon. 'E says sen' fo' Doctor Conrotte, but I din go fo' him; dat ole scoun'rel--he believe in puttin' de niggas fre'."

Frowenfeld said he would not consult professional advisers; with a little assistance from Raoul, he could give the cut the slight attention it needed. He went back into his room, while Raoul turned back to the door and addressed the public.

"Pray, Messieurs, come in and be seated." He spoke in the Creole French of the gutters. "Come in. M. Frowenfeld is dressing, and desires that you will have a little patience. Come in. Take chairs. You will not come in? No? Nor you, Monsieur? No? I will set some chairs outside, eh? No?"

They moved by twos and threes away, and Raoul, retiring, gave his employer such momentary aid as was required. When Joseph, in changed dress, once more appeared, only a child or two lingered to see him, and he had nothing to do but sit down and, as far as he felt at liberty to do so, answer his assistant's questions.

During the recital, Raoul was obliged to exercise the severest self-restraint to avoid laughing,--a feeling which was modified by the desire to assure his employer that he understood this sort of thing perfectly, had run the same risks himself, and thought no less of a man, _providing he was a gentleman_, because of an unlucky retributive knock on the head. But he feared laughter would overclimb speech; and, indeed, with all expression of sympathy stifled, he did not succeed so completely in hiding the conflicting emotion but that Joseph did once turn his pale, grave face surprisedly, hearing a snuffling sound, suddenly stifled in a drawer of corks. Said Raoul, with an unsteady utterance, as he slammed the drawer:

"H-h-dat makes me dat I can't 'elp to laugh w'en I t'ink of dat fool yesse'dy w'at want to buy my pigshoe for honly one 'undred dolla'--ha, ha ha, ha!"

He laughed almost indecorously.

"Raoul," said Frowenfeld, rising and closing his eyes, "I am going back for my hat. It would make matters worse for that person to send it to me, and it would be something like a vindication for me to go back to the house and get it."

Mr. Innerarity was about to make strenuous objection, when there came in one whom he recognized as an attache of his cousin Honore's counting-room, and handed the apothecary a note. It contained Honore's request that if Frowenfeld was in his shop he would have the goodness to wait there until the writer could call and see him.

"I will wait," was the reply.

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