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cigar between two fingers, sent a soft jet of smoke into the air, and began monotonously:
"Chains on a Southern woman? Chains?'
I know the lady that wrote that piece." He suddenly gathered himself up for some large effort. "I can't recite it as she used to, but" And to the joy of all he was interrupted.
"Gentlemen," said one, throwing a cigarette stump into the fire, "that brings up the subject of the war. By the by, do you know what that war cost the Government of the United States ?" He glanced from one to another until his eye reached the wearer of the pearl, who stood, now, with the jewel glistening in the firelight, and who promptly said: Yes; how much?"
"Well," said the first questioner with sudden caution, "I may be mistaken, but I've heard that it cost six-I think they say sixbillion dollars. Did n't it?"
"It did," replied the other, with a smile of friendly commendation; "it cost six billion, one hundred and eighty-nine million, nine hundred and twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred and eight dollars. The largest item is interest: one billion, seven hundred and one million, two hundred and fifty-six thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight dollars, forty-two cents. The next largest, the pay of troops; the next, clothing the army. If there 's any item of the war's expenses you would like to know, ask me. Capturing president Confederate States ninety-seven thousand and thirty-one dollars, three cents." The speaker's manner grew almost gay. The other smiled defensively and responded:
"You've got a good memory for sta-stistics. I have n't; and yet I always did like sta-stistics. I'm no sta-stitian, and yet if I had the time sta-stistics would be my favorite study; I s'pose it's yours."
The wearer of the pearl shook his head. "No. But I like it. I like the style of mind that likes it." The two bowed with playful graciousness to each other. "Yes, I do. And I've studied it, some little. I can tell you the best time of every celebrated trotter in this country; the quickest trip a steamer ever made between Queenstown and New York, New York and Queenstown, New Orleans and New York; the greatest speed ever made on a railroad or by a yacht, pedestrian, carrier-pigeon, or defaulting cashier; the rate of postage to every foreign country; the excess of women over men in every State of the Union so afflicted — or blessed, according to how you look at it; the numbers of volumes in each of the world's ten largest libraries; the salary of every officer of the United States Government; the average duration of life in a
man, elephant, lion, horse, anaconda, tortoise, camel, rabbit, ass, etcetera, etcetera; the age of every crowned head in Europe; each State's legal and commercial rate of interest; and how long it takes a healthy boy to digest apples. baked beans, cabbage, dates, eggs, fish, green corn, h, i, j, k, l-m-n-o-p, quinces, rice, shrimps, tripe, veal, yams, and anything you can cook commencing with z. It's a fascinating study. But it's not my favorite.
"The proper study of mankind is man.'
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled,
"I love to study human nature. That's my favorite study! The art of reading the inner human nature by the outer aspect is of immeasurable interest and boundless practical value, and the man who can practice it skillfully and apply it sagaciously is on the high road to fortune, and why? Because to know it thoroughly is to know whom to trust and how far; to select wisely a friend, a confidant, a partner in any enterprise; to shun the untrustworthy, to anticipate and turn to our personal advantage the merits, faults, and deficiencies of all, and to evolve from their character such practical results as we may choose for our own ends; but a thorough knowledge is attained only by incessant observation and long practice; like music, it demands a special talent possessed by different individuals in variable quantity or not at all. You, gentlemen, all are, what I am not, commercial tourists. Before you I must be modest. You, each of you, have been chosen from surrounding hundreds or thousands for your superior ability, natural or acquired, to scan the human face and form and know whereof you see. I look you in the eye-you look me in the eye
for the eye, though it does not tell all, tells much—it is the key of character - it has been called the mirror of the soul
"And looks commercing with the skies, Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes.' And so looking you read me. You say to yourself, There's a man with no concealments, yet who speaks not till he 's spoken to; knows when to stop, and stops.' You note my pale eyebrows, my slightly prominent and pointed chin, somewhat oversized mouth; small, wellspread ears, faintly aquiline nose; fine, thin, blonde hair, a depression in the skull where the bump of self-conceit ought to be, and you say, 'A man that knows his talents without being vain of them; who not only minds his own business, but loves it, and who in that business, be it buggy-whips or be it washine, or be it something far nobler,'- which, let me
say modestly, it is, simply goes head and stays there.' Yes, sirs, if I say that reading the human countenance is one of my accomplishments, I am diffidently mindful that in this company, I, myself, am read, perused; no other probably so well read I mean so exhaustively perused. For there is one thing about me, gentlemen, if you 'll allow me to say it, I'm short meter, large print, and open to the public seven days in the week. And yet you probably all made one mistake about me: you take me for the alumni of some university. Not so. I'm a self-made man. I made myself; and considering that I'm the first man I ever made, I think - pardon the seeming egotism-I think I've done well. A few years ago there dwelt in humble obscurity among the granite hills of New England, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow upon his father's farm, a youth to fortune and to fame unknown. But one day a voice within him said, Tarbox,'George W.,- namesake of the man who never told a lie, do you want to succeed in life? Then leave the production of tobacco and cider to unambitious age and find that business wherein you can always give a man ten times as much for his dollar as his dollar is worth.' The meaning was plain, and from that time forth young Tarbox aspired to become a bookagent. 'T was not long ere he, like
"Young Harry Bluff, left his friends and his home, And his dear native land, o'er the wide world to roam.'
Books became his line, and full soon he was the head of the line. And why? Was it because in the first short twelve months of his career he sold, delivered, and got the money for, 5107 copies of Mend-me-at-Home'? No. Was it, then, because three years later he sold in one year, with no other assistance than a man to drive the horse and wagon, hold the blackboard, and hand out the books, 10,003 copies of Rapid 'Rithmetic'? It was not. Was it, then, because in 1878, reading aright the public mind, he said to his publishers, whose confidence in him was unbounded, 'It ain't "Mend-me-at-Home" the people want most, nor "Rapid 'Rithmetic," nor "Heal Thyself," nor "I meet the Emergency," nor the "Bouquet of Poetry and Song." What they want is all these in one.' 'Abridged?' said the publishers. Enlarged!' said young Tarbox,'enlarged and copiously illustrated, complete in one volume, price, cloth, three dollars, sheep four, half morocco, gilt edges, five; real value to the subscriber, two hundred and fifty; title, "The Album of Universal Information; author, G. W. Tarbox; editor, G. W. T.; agent for the United States, the Canadas, and Mexico, G. W. Tarbox," that is to say, myself.' That, gentlemen, is the reason I stand
at the head of my line; not merely because on every copy sold I make an author's as well as a solicitor's margin; but because, being the author, I know whereof I sell. A man that 's got my book has got a college education; and when a man taps me,- for, gentlemen, I never spout until I'm tapped, and information bursts from me like water from a street hydrant, and he comes to find out that everything I tell is in that wonderful book, and that everything that is in that wonderful book I can tell, he wants to own a copy; and when I tell him I can't spare my sample copy, but I'll take his subscription, he smiles gratefully-"
A cold, wet blast, rushing into the room from the hall, betrayed the opening of the front door. The door was shut again, and a well-formed, muscular young man who had entered stood in the parlor doorway lifting his hat from his head, shaking the rain from it, and looking at it with amused diffidence. Mr. Tarbox turned about once more with his back to the fire, gave the figure a quick glance of scrutiny, then a second and longer one, and then dropped his eyes to the floor. The bigwaisted man shifted his chair, tipped it back, and said:
"He smiles gratefully, you say?" "Yes."
"And subscribes ? "
"If he's got any sense." Mr. Tarbox replied in a preoccupied tone, his eyes on the young man who still stood in the door. This person must have reached the house in some covered conveyance. Even his boot-tops were dry or nearly so. He was rather pleasing to see; of good stature, his clothing cheap. A dark-blue flannel sack of the ready-made sort hung on him not too well. Light as the garment was, he showed no sign that he felt the penetrating cold out of which he had just come. His throat and beardless face had the good brown of outdoor life, his broad chest strained the two buttons of his sack, his head was wellpoised, his feet were shapely, and but for somewhat too much roundness about the shoulder-blades, noticeable in the side view as he carefully stood a long, queer package that was not buggy-whips against the hat-rack, it would have been fair to pronounce him an athlete.
The eyes of the fireside group were turned toward him; but not upon him. They rested on a girl of sixteen who had come down the hall and was standing before the new-comer just beyond the door. The registry-book was just there on a desk in the hall. She stood with a freshly dipped pen in her hand, ignoring the gaze from the fireside with a faintly overdone calmness of face. The new guest came forward and, in a manner that showed
slender acquaintance with the operation, slowly registered his name and address.
He did it with such painstaking, that, upside down as the writing was, she read it as he wrote. As the Christian name appeared, her perfunctory glance became attention. As the surname followed, the attention became interest and recognition. And as the address was added, Mr. Tarbox detected pleasure dancing behind the long fringe of her discreet eyes, and marked their stolen glance of quick inspection upon the short, dark locks and strong young form still bent over the last strokes of the writing. But when he straightened up, carefully shut the book, and fixed his brown eyes upon hers in guileless expectation of instructions, he saw nothing to indicate that he was not the entire stranger that she was to him.
"You done had sopper?" she asked. The uncommon kindness of such a question at such an hour of a tavern's evening was lost on the young man's obvious inexperience, and as one schooled to the haphazard of forest and field he merely replied:
"Naw, I didn' had any."
The girl turned - what a wealth of black hair she had! and disappeared as she moved away along the hall. Her voice was heard: "Mamma?" Then there was a silence of an unheard consultation. The young man moved a step or two into the parlor and returned toward the door as a light double foot-fall approached again down the hall and the girl appeared once more, somewhat preceded by a small, tired-looking, pretty woman some thirty-five years of age, of slow, self-contained movement and clear, meditative eyes.
But the guest, too, had been reënforced. A man had come silently from the fireside, taken his hand, and now, near the doorway, was softly shaking it and smiling. Surprise, pleasure, and reverential regard were mingled in the young man's face, and his open mouth was gasping
"Claude St. Pierre, after six years, I'm glad to see you. Madame, take good care of Claude. No fear but she will, my boy; if anybody in Louisiana knows how to take care of a traveler, it's Madame Beausoleil." He smiled for all. The daughter's large black eyes danced, but the mother asked Claude, with unmoved countenance and soft tone:
OUT in the kitchen, while the coffee was dripping and the ham and eggs frying, the mother was very silent, and the daughter said little, but followed her now and then with furtive liftings of her young black eyes. Marguerite remembered Bonaventure Deschamps well and lovingly. For years she had seen the letters that at long intervals came from him at Grande Pointe to her mother here. In almost every one of them she had read high praises of Claude. He had grown, thus, to be the hero of her imagination. She had wondered if it could ever happen that he would come within her sight, and if so, when, where, how. And now, here at a time of all times when it would have seemed least possible, he had, as it were, rained down.
She wondered to-night, with more definiteness of thought than ever before, what were the deep feelings which her reticent little mother - Marguerite was an inch the tallerkept hid in that dear breast. Rarely had emotion moved it. She remembered its terrible heavings at the time of her father's death, and the later silent downpour of tears when her only sister and brother were taken in one day. Since then, those eyes had rarely been wet; yet more than once or twice she had seen tears in them when they were reading a letter from Grande Pointe. Had her mother ever had something more than a sister's love for Bonaventure? Had Bonaventure loved her? And when? Before her marriage, or after her widowhood?
The only answer that came to her as she now stood, knife in hand, by the griddle was a roar of laughter that found its way through the hall, the dining-room, and two closed doors from the men about the waiting-room fireside. That was the third time she had heard it. What could have put them so soon into such gay mood? Could it be Claude? Somehow she hoped it was not. Her mother reminded her that the batter-cakes would burn. She
"You are Claude St. Pierre?— from Gran' quickly turned them. The laugh came again. Point'?"
"Dass lately since you left yondah?" "About two month'."
"Bonaventure Deschamps - he was well?" "Yass." Claude's eyes were full of a glad surprise and asked a question that his lips did
When by and by she went to bid Claude to his repast, the laughter, as she reached the door of the waiting-room, burst upon her as the storm would have done had she opened the front door. It came from all but Claude and Mr. Tarbox. Claude sat with a knee in his hands, smiling. The semicircle had widened
out from the fire, and in the midst Mr. Tarbox stood telling a story, of which Grande Pointe was the scene, Bonaventure Deschamps the hero, a school examination the circumstance, and he, G. W., the accidental arbiter of destinies that hung upon its results. The big-waisted man had retired for the night, and half an eye could see that the story-teller had captivated the whole remaining audience. He was just at the end as Marguerite reappeared at the door. The laugh suddenly ceased, and then all rose: it was high bed-time.
"And did they get married?" asked one. Three or four gathered close to hear the
"Who; Sidonie and Bonaventure? Yes. I didn't stay to see. I went away into Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, and just only a few weeks ago took a notion to try this Attakapas and Opelousas region. But that's what Claude tells me to-night- married more than five years ago. Claude, your supper wants you. Want me to go out and sit with you? Oh, no trouble! not the slightest! It will make me feel as if I was nearer to Bonaventure."
And so the group about Claude's late supper numbered four. And because each had known Bonaventure, though each in a very different way from any other, they were four friends when Claude had demolished the ham and eggs, the strong black coffee, and the griddle-cakes and sirop-de-battarie.
At the top of the hall stairway, as Mr. Tarbox was on his way to bed, one of the dispersed fireside circle stopped him, saying: "That 's an awful good story!"
"I would n't try a poor one on you." "Oh! - but really, now, in good earnest, it is good. It's good in more ways than one. Now, you know, that man, hid away there in the swamp at Grande Pointe, he little thinks that six or eight men away off here in Vermillionville are going to bed to-night better menthat's it, sir- yes, sir, that 's it - yes, sir! better men just for having heard of him! Mr. Tarbox smiled with affectionate approval and began to move away; but the other put out a hand —
"Say, look here; I'm going away on that two o'clock train to-night. I want that book of yours. And I don't want to subscribe and wait. I want the book now. That 's my way. I'm just that kind of a man; I'm the nowest man you ever met up with. That book's just the kind of thing for a man like me who ain't got no time to go exhaustively delving and investigating and researching into things, and yet has got to keep as sharp as a brier."
Mr. Tarbox, on looking into his baggage, found he could oblige this person. Before night fell again he had done virtually the same thing,
one by one, for all the rest. By that time they were all gone; but Mr. Tarbox made Vermillionville his base of operations for several days.
Claude also tarried. For reasons presently to appear, the "ladies' parlor," a small room behind the waiting-room, with just one door, which let into the hall at its inner end, was given up to his use; and of evenings not only Mr. Tarbox, but Marguerite and her mother as well, met with him, gathering familiarly about a lamp that other male lodgers were not invited to hover around.
The group was not idle. Mr. Tarbox held big hanks of blue and yellow yarn, which Zoséphine wound off into balls. A square table quite filled the center of the room. There was a confusion of objects on it, and now on one side and now on another Claude leaned over it and slowly toiled, from morning until evening alone, and in the evening with these three about him; Marguerite, with her sewing dropped upon the floor, watching his work with an interest almost wholly silent, only making now and then a murmured comment, her eyes passing at intervals from his preoccupied eyes to his hands, and her hand now and then guessing and supplying his want as he looked for one thing or another that had got out of sight. What was he doing?
As to Marguerite, more than he was aware of. Zoséphine Beausoleil saw, and was already casting about somewhat anxiously in her mind to think what, if anything, ought to be done about it. She saw her child's sewing lie forgotten on the floor, and the eyes that should have been following the needle, fixed often on the absorbed, unconscious, boyish-manly face so near by. She saw them scanning the bent brows, the smooth, bronzed cheek, the purposeful mouth, and the unusual length of dark eyelashes that gave its charm to the whole face; and she saw them quickly withdrawn whenever the face with those lashes was lifted and an unsuspecting smile of young companionship broke slowly about the relaxing lips and the soft, deep-curtained eyes. No; Claude little knew what he was doing. Neither did Marguerite. But, aside from her, what was his occupation? I will explain.
About five weeks earlier than this a passenger on an eastward bound train of Morgan's Louisiana and Texas railway stood at the rear door of the last coach, eying critically the track as it glided swiftly from under the train and shrank perpetually into the west. The coach was nearly empty. No one was near him save the brakeman, and by and by he took his attention from the track and let it rest on this person. There he found a singular attraction. Had he seen that face before,
or why did it provoke vague reminiscences of great cypresses overhead, and deep-shaded leafy distances with bayous winding out of sight through them, and canebrakes impenetrable to the eye, and axe-strokes — heard but unseen slashing through them only a few feet away? Suddenly he knew.
"Was n't it your father," he said, "who was my guide up Bayou des Acadiens and Blind River the time I made the survey in that big swamp north of Grande Pointe? Is n't your name Claude St. Pierre ?" And presently they were acquainted.
"You know I took a great fancy to your father. And you 've been clear through the arithmetic twice? Why, see here; you're just the sort of man I Look here; don't you want to learn to be a surveyor?" The questioner saw that same ambition that had pleased him so in the father leap for joy in the son's eyes.
An agreement was quickly reached. The surveyor wandered into another coach, and nothing more passed between them that day save one matter, which, though trivial, has its place. When the surveyor returned to the rear train Claude was in a corner seat gazing pensively through the window and out across the wide, backward-flying, purpling green canefields of St. Mary to where on the far left the live-oaks of Bayou Teche seemed hoveringly to follow on the flank of their whooping and swaggering railway train. Claude turned and met the stranger's regard with a faint smile. His new friend spoke first.
"Matters may turn out so that we can have your father"'
Claude's eyes answered with a glad flash. "Dass what I was t'inkin'!" he said, with a soft glow that staid even when he fell again into reverie.
But when the engineer- for it seems that he was an engineer, chief of a party engaged in redeeming some extensive waste swamp and marsh lands when the chief engineer, on the third day afterward, drew near the place where he suddenly recollected Claude would be waiting to enter his service, and recalled this part of their previous interview, he said to himself, 'No, it would be good for the father, but not best for the son," and fell to thinking how of ten parents are called upon to wrench their affections down into cruel bounds to make the foundations of their children's prosperity.
Claude widened to his new experience with the rapidity of something hatched out of a shell. Moreover, accident was in his favor; the party was short-handed in its upper ranks, and Claude found himself by this stress taken into larger and larger tasks as fast as he could, though ever so crudely, qualify for them.
"'T is n't at all the best thing for you," said one of the surveyors, "but I'll lend you some books that will teach you the why as well as the how."
In the use of these books by lantern-light certain skill with the pen showed itself; and when at length one day a dispatch reached camp from the absent "chief" stating that in two or three days certain matters would take him to Vermillionville, and ordering that some one be sent at once with all necessary field notes and appliances and give his undivided time to the making of certain urgently needed maps, and the only real draughtsman of the party was ill with swamp-fever, Claude was sent.
On his last half-day's journey toward the place, he had fallen in with an old gentleman whom others called "Governor," a tall, trim figure, bent but little under fourscore years, with cheerful voice and ready speech, and eyes hidden behind dark glasses and flickering in their deep sockets.
"Go to Madame Beausoleil's," he advised Claude. "That is the place for you. Excellent person; I 've known her from childhood; a woman worthy a higher station." And so, all by accident, chance upon chance, here was Claude making maps, and this delightful work, he thought, was really all he was doing, in Zoséphine's little inner parlor.
By and by it was done. The engineer had. not yet arrived. The storm had delayed work in one place and undone work in another, and he was detained beyond expectation. But a letter said he would come in a day or two more, and some maps of earlier surveys, drawn by skilled workmen in great New Orleans, arrived; seeing which, Claude blushed for his own and fell to work to make them over.
"If at first you not succeed," said Claude, "Try try aga-a-ain," responded Marguerite; "Bonaventure learn me that poetry; and you?"
"Yass," said Claude. He stood looking down at his work and not seeing it. What he saw was Grande Pointe in the sunset hour of a spring day six years gone, the wet, spongy margin of a tiny bayou under his feet, the great swamp at his back, the leafy undergrowth all around; his canoe and paddle waiting for him, and Bonaventure repeating to him- swamp urchin of fourteen-the costliest words of kindness to both of them the costliest that he had ever heard, ending with these two that Marguerite had spoken. As he resumed his work, he said, without lifting his eyes:
"Seem' to me 'f I could make myself like any man in dat whole worl', I radder make myself like Bonaventure. And you?"