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BY GEORGE W. CABLE,
Author of "Old Creole Days," "The Grandissimes," "Grande Pointe," etc.
both men's minds; and now Claude heard with joy this question asked in English. To ask it in their old Acadian tongue would have meant retreat; this meant advance. Yet he knew his father yearned for Bayou des Acadiens. Nay, not his father; only one large part of his father's nature, - the old, French, home-loving part.
What should Claude answer? Grande Pointe? Even for St. Pierre alone that was impossible. "Can a man
enter a second time into his mother's womb?" No; the thatched cabin stood therestands there now; but be he happy or unhappy, no power can ever make St. Pierre small enough again to go back into that shell. Let it stand, the lair of one of whom you may have heard, who has retreated straight backward from Grande Pointe and from advancing enlightenment and order - the village drunkard Chatoué.
Claude's trouble, then, was not that his father's happiness beckoned in one direction and his in another; but that his father's was linked on behind his. Could the father endure the atmosphere demanded by the son's widening power? Could the second nature of lifetime habits bear the change? Of his higher spirit there was no doubt. Neither father nor son had any conception of happiness separate from noble aggrandizement-nay, that is scant justice. Far more than they knew, or than St. Pierre, at least, would have acknowledged, they had caught the spirit of Bonaventure, to call it by no higher name, and saw that the best life for self is to live the best possible for others. "For all others," *Copyright, 1887, by George W. Cable. All rights reserved.
NOT BLUE EYES, NOR YELLOW HAIR.
WHEN the St. Pierres found themselves really left with only each other's faces to look into and the unbounded world around them, it was the father who first spoke.
"Well, Claude, where you t'ink better go?" There had been a long, silent struggle in
Bonaventure would have insisted; but "for Claude," St. Pierre would have amended. They could not return to Grande Pointe.
Where, then, should they go? Claude stood with his arms akimbo, looked into his father's face, tried to hide his perplexity under a smile, and then glanced at their little pile of effects. There lay their fire-arms, the same as ever; but the bundles in Madras handkerchiefs had given place to traveling-bags, and instead of pots and pans, here were books and instruments. What reply did these things make? New Orleans? The great city? Even Claude shrank from that thought.
No, it was the name of a quite different place they spoke; a name that Claude's lips dared not speak, because, for lo! these months and months his heart had spoken it,-spoken it at first in so soft a whisper that for a long time he had not known it was his heart he heard. When something within uttered and reuttered the place's name, he would silently explain to himself, "It is because I am from home. It is this unfixed camp-life, this life without my father, without Bonaventure, that does it. This is not love, of course; I know that; for, in the first place, I was in love once, when I was fourteen, and it was not at all like this; and, in the second place, it would be hopeless presumption in me, muddybooted vagabond that I am; and, in the third place, a burnt child dreads fire. And so, it cannot be love. When papa and I are once more together, this unaccountable longing will cease."
But, instead of ceasing, it had grown. The name of the place was still the only word the heart would venture, but it meant always one pair of eyes, one young face, one form, one voice. Still it was not love-oh, no! Now and then the hospitality of some plantationhouse near the camp was offered to the engineers, and sometimes, just to prove that this thing was not love, he would accept such an invitation, and even meet a pretty maiden or two, and ask them for music and song-for which he had well-nigh a passion and talk enough to answer their questions and conjectures about a surveyor's life, etc.; but when he got back to camp, matters within his breast were rather worse than better.
He had then tried staying in camp, but without benefit; nothing cured, everything aggravated. Yet he knew so perfectly well that he was not in love, that, just to realize the knowledge, one evening when his father was a day's march ahead and he was having a pleasant chat with the "chief," no one else nigh, and they were dawdling away its closing hour with pipes, metaphysics, psychology, and like trifles,which Claude, of course, knew all VOL. XXXV.-49-50.
about,- Claude told him of this singular and amusing case of haunting fantasy in his own experience. His hearer had shown even more amusement than he, and had gone on smiling every now and then afterward, with a significance that at length drove Claude to bed disgusted with him and still more with himself. There had been one offsetting comfort — an unintentional implication had somehow slipped in between his words, that the haunting fantasy had blue eyes and yellow hair.
"All right," the angry youth had muttered, tossing on his iron couch, "let him think so!" And then he had tossed again and said below his breath, "It is not love; it is not. But I must never answer its call; if I do, love is what it will be. My father, my father! would that I could give my whole heart to thee as thou givest all to me!" God has written on every side of our nature on the mind, on the soul, yes, and in our very flesh — the interdict forbidding love to have any one direction only, under penalty of being forever dwarfed. This Claude vaguely felt; but, lacking the clear thought, he could only cry, "Oh, is it, is it selfishness for one's heart just to be hungry and thirsty?"
And now here sat his father, on all their worldly goods, his rifle between his knees, waiting for his son's choice and ready to make it his own. And here stood the son, free of foot to follow that voice which was calling to-day louder than ever before, but feeling assured that to follow it meant love without hope for him, and for this dear father the pain of yielding up the larger share of his son's heart—as if love were subject to arithmetic!-yielding it to one who, thought Claude, cared less for both of them than for one tress of her black hair — one lash of her dark eyes. While he still pondered, the father spoke.
"Claude, I tell you!" His face lighted up with courage and ambition. "We better goMervillionville!"
Claude's heart leaped; but he kept his countenance. "Vermillionville? No, papa; you will not like Vermillionville."
"Yass! I will like him. 'T is good place! Bonaventure come from yondah. When I was leav' Gran' Point', Bonaventure, he cry, you know, like I tole you. He tell Sidonie hebringin' ed'cation at Gran' Point' to make Gran' Point' more better, but now ed'cation drive bes' men 'way from Gran' Point'. And den he say, 'St. Pierre, may be you go Mervillionville; dat make me glad,' he say; 'dat way,' he say,' what I rob Peter I pay John.' Where we go if dawn't go Mervillionville? St. Martinville, Opelousas, New Iberia? Too many Creole yondah for me. Can't go to city; city too big to live in. Why you dawn't like Mervillionville? You
write me letter, when you was yondah, you like him fus' class!"
Claude let silence speak consent. He stooped and began to load himself with their joint property. He had had, in his life, several sorts of trouble of mind; only just now at twenty was he making the acquaintance of his conscience. Vermillionville was the call that had been sounding within him all these months, and Marguerite was the haunting fantasy.
A STRONG TEAM.
I WOULD not wish to offend the self-regard of Vermillionville. But-what a place in which to seek enlargement of life! I know worth and greatness have sometimes, not to say ofttimes, emerged from much worse spots-from little lazy villages, noisy only on Sunday, with grimier court-houses, deeper dust and mud, their trade more entirely in the hands of ratfaced Isaacs and Jacobs, with more frequent huge and solitary swine slowly scavenging about in abysmal self-occupation, fewer vineclad cottages, raggeder negroes, and more decay. Vermillionville is not the worst, at all. I have known lives to be large and grow large there.
Hither came the two St. Pierres. "No," Claude said; "we will not go to the Beausoleil house." Privately, he would make himself believe he had not returned to anything named Beausoleil, but only and simply to Vermillionville. On a corner opposite the public square there was another" hotel," and it was no great matter to them if it was mostly pine-boards, pale wall-paper, and transferable whitewash. But, not to be outdone by its rival around the corner, it had, besides, a piano of a quality you may guess, and a landlady's daughter who seven times a day played and sang, "I want to be somebody's darling," and had no want beyond. The travelers turned thence, found a third house full, conjectured the same of the only remaining one, and took their way, after all, towards Zoséphine's. It was quite right, now, to go there, thought Claude, since destiny led; and so he let it lead both his own steps and the thumping boots of this dear figure in Campeachy hat and soft, untrimmed beard, that followed ever at his side.
expecting to find her still a tavern maid! So, farewell, fantasy! 'Twas better so; much better. Now life was simplified. Oh, yes; and St. Pierre made matters better still by saying to Zoséphine:
"I di' n' know you got one li'l' gal. Claude never tell me 'bout dat. I 'spec' dat why he dawn't want come yeh. He dawn't like gal; he run f'om 'em like dog from yalla-jacket. He dawn't like none of 'm. What he like, dass his daddy. He jus' married to his daddy." The father dropped his hand, smilingly, upon his son's shoulder with a weight that would have crushed it in had it been ordinary castiron.
Claude took the hand and held it, while Zoséphine smiled and secretly thanked God that her child was away. In her letters to Marguerite she made no haste to mention the young man's reappearance, and presently a small thing occurred that made it well that she had left it untold.
With Claude and his father some days passed unemployed. Yet both felt them to be heavy with significance. The weight and pressure of new and, to them, large conditions were putting their inmost quality to proof. Claude saw now what he could not see before - why his friend, the engineer, had cast him loose without a word of advice as to where he should go or what he should do. It was because by asking no advice he had really purposed to be his own master. Now, could he do it? Dare he try it?
The first step he took was taken, I suppose, instinctively rather than intelligently; certainly it was perilous; he retreated into himself. St. Pierre found work afield, for of this sort there was plenty; the husbandmen's year, and the herders', too, were just gathering good momentum. But Claude now stood looking on empty-handed where other men were busy with agricultural utensils or machine; or now kept his room, whittling out the toy miniature of some apparatus, which when made was not like the one he had seen. At last a great distress began to fill the father's mind. There had been a time when he could be idle and whittle; but that time had gone by. That was at Grande Pointe, and now for his son-for Claude-to become a lounger in tavern quarters Claude had not announced himself to Vermillionville as a surveyor, or as anything
were busy in front flower-beds and rear kitchengardens. Lanes were green, skies blue, roads good. In the bas fonds the oaks of many kinds and the tupelo-gums were hiding all their gray in shimmering green; from their leafy covert, and in the reedy marshes, all the feathered flocks not gone away north were broken into nesting pairs; in the fields crops were springing almost at the sowers' heels; on the prairie pastures, once so vast, now being narrowed so fast by the people's thrift, the flocks and herds ate eagerly of the bright new grass, and foals, calves, and lambs stood and staggered on their first legs, while in the door-yards housewives, hens, and mother geese warned away the puppies and children from downy broods under the shade of the china-trees. But Claude? Even his books lay unstudied and his instruments gathered dust, while he pottered over two or three little wooden things that a boy could not play with without breaking. At last St. Pierre could bear it no longer.
"Well, Claude, dass ten days han'-runnin' now, we ain't do nothin' but whittlin'."
Claude slowly pushed his model from him, looked, as one in a dream, into his father's face, and suddenly and for the first time saw what that father had suffered for a fortnight. But into his own face there came no distress; only, for a moment, a look of tender protestation, and then strong hope and confidence.
"Yass," he said, rising, " dass true. But we dawn't got whittle no mo'." He pointed to the model, then threw his strong arms akimbo and asked, "You know what is dat?"
"Naw," replied the father, "I dunno. I t'ink 't ain't no real mash-in * 'cause I dawn't never see nut'n' like dat at Belle Alliance plant-ation, neider at Belmont; and I know, me, if anybody got one mash-in, any place, for do anyt'in' mo' betteh or mo' quicker, Mister Walleece an' M'sieu Le Bourgeois dey boun' to 'ave 'em. Can't hitch nut'n' to dat t'ing you got dare. She too small for a rat. What she is, Claude ?"
A yet stronger hope and courage lighted Claude's face. He laid one hand upon the table before him and the other upon the shoulder of his sitting companion.
"Papa, if you want to go wid me to de city, we make one big enough for two mule'. Dass a mash in a new mash-in-my mash-inmy invention!”
"Invench? What dat is invench? " Some one knocked on the door. Claude lifted the model, moved on tiptoe, and placed it softly under the bed. As he rose and turned again with reddened face, a card was slipped under the door. He took it and read, in a pencil scrawl," State Superintendent of Public * Machine.
Education "-looked at his father with a broad grin, and opened the door.
Mr. Tarbox had come at the right moment. There was a good hour and a half of the afternoon still left, and he and Claude took a walk together. Beyond a stile and a frail bridge that spanned a gully at one end of the town a noble avenue of oaks leads toward Vermillion River. On one side of this avenue the town has since begun to spread, but at that time there were only wide fields on the right hand and on the left. At the farther end a turn almost at right angles to the left takes you through a great gate and across the railway, then along a ruined hedge of roses, and presently into the oak-grove of the old exgovernor's homestead. This was their walk.
By the time they reached the stile Claude had learned that his friend was at the head of his line, and yet had determined to abandon that line for another—
"Far up the height Excelsior!"
Also that his friend had liked him, had watched him, would need him, and was willing then and there to assure him a modest salary, the amount of which he specified, simply to do whatever he might call upon him to do in his (Claude's)" line."
They were walking slowly, and now and then more slowly still. As they entered the avenue of oaks, Claude declined the offer. Then they went very slowly indeed. Claude learned that Mr. Tarbox, by some chance not explained, had been in company with his friend the engineer; that the engineer had said, "Tarbox, you 're a born contractor," and that Claude and he would make a "strong team"; that Mr. Tarbox's favorite study was human nature; that he knew talent when he saw it; had studied Claude; had fully expected him to decline to be his employee, and liked him the better for so doing.
"That was just a kind of test vote; see?" Then Mr. Tarbox offered Claude a partnership; not an equal one, but withal a fair interest.
"We've got to commence small and branch out gradually; see?" And Claude saw.
"Now, you wonder why I don't go in alone. Well, I'll tell you; and when I tell you, I'll astonish you. Í lack education! Now, Claude, I'm taking you into my confidence. You 've done nothing but go to school and study for about six years. I had a different kind of father from yours; I never got one solid year's schooling, all told, in my life. I've picked up cords of information; but an ounce of education 's worth a ton of information. Don't you believe that? Eh? It's so! I say it, and I'm
the author of the 'A. of U. I.' I like to call it that, because it brings you and I so near together; see?" The speaker smiled, was still, and resumed:
"That's why I need you. And I'm just as sure you need me. I need not only the education you have now, but what you 're getting every day. When you see me you see a man who is always looking awa-a-ay ahead. I see what you're going to be, and I'm making this offer to the Claude St. Pierre of the future."
Mr. Tarbox waited for a reply. The avenue had been passed, the railway crossed, and the hedge skirted. They loitered slowly into the governor's grove, under whose canopy the beams of the late afternoon sun were striking and glancing. But all their light seemed hardly so much as that which danced in the blue eyes of Mr. Tarbox while Claude slowly said:
"I dunno if we can fix dat. I was glad to see you comin'. I reckon you jus' right kind of man I want. I jus' make a new invention. I t'ink 'f you find dass good, dat be cawntrac' enough for right smart while. And beside', I t'ink I invent some mo' b'fo' long."
But Mr. Tarbox was not rash. He only asked quiet and careful questions for some time. The long sunset was sending its last rays across the grove-dotted land, and the birds in every tree were filling the air with their sunset song-burst, when the two friends reëntered the avenue of oaks. They had agreed to join their fortunes. Now their talk drifted upon other subjects.
"I came back to Vermillionville purposely to see you," said Mr. Tarbox. "But I'll tell you privately, you was n't the only cause of my coming."
Claude looked at him suddenly. Was this another haunted man? Were there two men haunted and only one fantasy? He felt ill at ease. Mr. Tarbox saw, but did not understand. He thought it best to speak plainly.
"I'm courting her, Claude; and I think I'm going to get her."
Claude stopped short, with jaws set and a bad look in his eye.
just begun asking, Claude; I'm going to keep it up till she says yes."
"She's not yondah!" snarled Claude, with the frown and growl of a mastiff. "She's gone to de city."
Mr. Tarbox gazed a moment in blank amazement. Then he slowly lifted his hat from his head, expanded his eyes, drew a long slow groan, turned slowly half around, let the inhalation go in a keen, continuous whistle, and cried:
"Oh! taste! taste! who 's got the taste! What do you take me for? Who are you talking about? That little monkey! Why, man alive, it's the mother I 'm after; ha, ha, ha!”
If Claude said anything in reply, I can not imagine what it was. Mr. Tarbox had a right to his opinion and taste, if taste it could be called, and Claude was helpless to resent it, even in words; but for hours afterward he execrated his offender's stupidity, little guessing that Mr. Tarbox, in a neighboring chamber, alone, and in his night-robe, was bending, smiting his thigh in silent merriment, and whispering to himself:
"He thinks I'm an ass! He thinks I'm an ass! He can't see that I was simply investigating him!"
HE ASKS HER AGAIN.
CLAUDE and his father left the next day Saturday. Only the author of the “A. of U. I.” knew whither they were gone. As they were going, he said very privately to Claude:
"I'll be with you day after to-morrow. You can't be ready for me before then, and you and your father can take Sunday to look around and kind o' see the city. But don't go into the down-town part; you'll not like it; nothing but narrow streets and old buildings with histories to 'em, and gardens hid away inside of 'em, and damp archways, and paganlooking females, who can't talk English, peeping out over balconies that offer to drop down on you and then don't keep their word; everything old-timey, and Frenchy, and Spanishy; unprogressive-you would n't like it. Go uptown. That 's American. It's new and fresh. There you'll find beautiful mansions; mostly frame, it's true, but made to look like stone, you know. There you'll see wealth! There you'll get the broad daylight the merry, merry sunshine, that makes the heart so gay'; see? Yes, and Monday we'll meet at Jones's, 17 Tchoupitoulas street; all right; I'll be on hand. But to-day and to-morrow- .'Alabama' -'here I rest.' I feel constrained"- he laid his hand upon his heart, closed one eye, and whispered "to stay. I would fain spend