So passed the better part of an hour before they were made aware, by unmistakable odors, that they were nearing the Stock-Landing. There, while they were yet just a trifle too far away to catch its echoes, had occurred an incident—a fracas, in fact—some of whose results belong with this narrative to its end. While they amble toward the spot let us reconnoitre it. Happily it has long been wiped out, this blot on the city’s scutcheon. Its half-dozen streets were unspeakable mud, its air was stenches, its buildings were incredibly foul slaughter-houses and shedded pens of swine, sheep, beeves, cows, calves, and mustang ponies. The plank footways were enclosed by stout rails to guard against the chargings of long-horned cattle chased through the thoroughfares by lasso-whirling “bull-drivers” as wild as they. In the middle of the river-front was a ferry, whence Louisiana Avenue, broad, treeless, grassy, and thinly lined with slaughter-houses, led across the plain. Down this untidy plaisance a grimy little street-car, every half-hour, jogged out to the Carrollton railway and returned. This street and the water-front were lighted—twilighted—with lard-oil lamps; the rest of the place was dark. At each of the two corners facing the ferry was a “coffee-house”—dram-shop, that is to say.
Messrs. Sam Gibbs and Maxime Lafontaine were president and vice-president of that Patriots’ League against whose machinations our two young men had been warned by the detectives in St. Charles Street. They had just now arrived at the Stock-Landing. Naturally, on so important an occasion they were far from sober; yet on reaching the spot they had lost no time in levying on a Gascon butcher for a bucket of tar and a pillow of feathers, on an Italian luggerman for a hurried supper of raw oysters, and on the keeper of one of the “coffee-houses” for drinks for the four.
“Us four and no more!” sang the gleeful Gibbs; right number to manage a delicate case. The four glasses emptied, he had explained that all charges must be collected, of course, from the alien gentleman for whom the plumage and fixative were destined. Hence a loud war of words, which the barkeeper had almost smoothed out when the light-hearted Gibbs suddenly decreed that the four should sing, march, pat and “cut the pigeon-wing” to the new song (given nightly by Christy’s Minstrels) entitled “Dixie’s Land.”
Hot threats recurring, Gascony had turned to go, Maxime had headed him off, Italy’s hand had started into his flannel shirt, and “bing! bang! pop!” rang Gibbs’s repeater and one of Maxime’s little derringers—shot off from inside his sack-coat pocket. A whirlwind of epithets filled the place. Out into the stinking dark leaped Naples and Gascony, and after them darted their whooping assailants. The shutters of both barrooms clapped to, over the way a pair of bull-drivers rushed to their mustangs, there was a patter of hoofs there and of boots here and all inner lights vanished. A watchman’s rattle buzzed remotely. Then silence reigned.