A light footfall accompanied with the soft sweep of robes cut short his words. There had been two or three entrances and exits during the time the Creole had tarried, but he had not allowed them to disturb him. Now, however, he had no sooner turned and fixed his glance upon this last comer, than without so much as the invariable Creole leave-taking of “Well, good evening, sir,” he hurried out.
The apothecary felt an inward nervous start as there advanced into the light of his hanging lamp and toward the spot where he had halted, just outside the counter, a woman of the quadroon caste, of superb stature and poise, severely handsome features, clear, tawny skin and large, passionate black eyes.
“Bon soi’, Miche.” [Monsieur.] A rather hard, yet not repellent smile showed her faultless teeth.
“Mo vien c’erc’er la bourse de Madame.”
She spoke the best French at her command, but it was not understood.
The apothecary could only shake his head.
“La bourse” she repeated, softly smiling, but with a scintillation of the eyes in resentment of his scrutiny. “La bourse” she reiterated.
“You are sent for it?”
He drew it from his breast pocket and marked the sudden glisten of her eyes, reflecting the glisten of the gold in the silken mesh.
“Oui, c’est ca,” said she, putting her hand out eagerly.
“I am afraid to give you this to-night,” said Joseph.
“Oui,” ventured she, dubiously, the lightning playing deep back in her eyes.
“You might be robbed,” said Frowenfeld. “It is very dangerous for you to be out alone. It will not be long, now, until gun-fire.” (Eight o’clock P.M.—the gun to warn slaves to be in-doors, under pain of arrest and imprisonment.)
The object of this solicitude shook her head with a smile at its gratuitousness. The smile showed determination also.
“Mo pas compren’,” she said.
“Tell the lady to send for it to-morrow.”
She smiled helplessly and somewhat vexedly, shrugged and again shook her head. As she did so she heard footsteps and voices in the door at her back.
“C’est ca” she said again with a hurried attempt at extreme amiability; “Dat it; oui;” and lifting her hand with some rapidity made a sudden eager reach for the purse, but failed.
“No!” said Frowenfeld, indignantly.
“Hello!” said Charlie Keene amusedly, as he approached from the door.
The woman turned, and in one or two rapid sentences in the Creole dialect offered her explanation.
“Give her the purse, Joe; I will answer for its being all right.”