The maimed man looked steadfastly at his wife. He had not spoken since the lash struck him, and he spoke not now; but in those large, clear eyes, where his remaining strength seemed to have taken refuge as in a citadel, the old fierceness flared up for a moment, and then, like an expiring beacon, went out.
“Is your mistress well enough by this time to venture here?” whispered the overseer to Palmyre. “Let her come. Tell her not to fear, but to bring the babe—in her own arms, tell her—quickly!”
The lady came, her infant boy in her arms, knelt down beside the bed of sweet grass and set the child within the hollow of the African’s arm. Bras-Coupe turned his gaze upon it; it smiled, its mother’s smile, and put its hand upon the runaway’s face, and the first tears of Bras-Coupe’s life, the dying testimony of his humanity, gushed from his eyes and rolled down his cheek upon the infant’s hand. He laid his own tenderly upon the babe’s forehead, then removing it, waved it abroad, inaudibly moved his lips, dropped his arm, and closed his eyes. The curse was lifted.
“Le pauv’ dgiab’!” said the overseer, wiping his eyes and looking fieldward. “Palmyre, you must get the priest.”
The priest came, in the identical gown in which he had appeared the night of the two weddings. To the good father’s many tender questions Bras-Coupe turned a failing eye that gave no answers; until, at length:
“Do you know where you are going?” asked the holy man.
“Yes,” answered his eyes, brightening.
He did not reply; he was lost in contemplation, and seemed looking far away.
So the question was repeated.
“Do you know where you are going?”
And again the answer of the eyes. He knew.
The overseer at the edge of the porch, the widow with her babe, and Palmyre and the priest bending over the dying bed, turned an eager ear to catch the answer.
“To—” the voice failed a moment; the departing hero essayed again; again it failed; he tried once more, lifted his hand, and with an ecstatic, upward smile, whispered, “To—Africa”—and was gone.
As we have said, the story of Bras-Coupe was told that day three times: to the Grandissime beauties once, to Frowenfeld twice. The fair Grandissimes all agreed, at the close; that it was pitiful. Specially, that it was a great pity to have hamstrung Bras-Coupe, a man who even in his cursing had made an exception in favor of the ladies. True, they could suggest no alternative; it was undeniable that he had deserved his fate; still, it seemed a pity. They dispersed, retired and went to sleep confirmed in this sentiment. In Frowenfeld the story stirred deeper feelings.
On this same day, while it was still early morning, Honore Grandissime, f.m.c., with more than even his wonted slowness of step and propriety of rich attire, had reappeared in the shop of the rue Royale. He did not need to say he desired another private interview. Frowenfeld ushered him silently and at once into his rear room, offered him a chair (which he accepted), and sat down before him.