“Ah! my poor mother!”
ROLLED IN THE DUST
“No, Frowenfeld,” said little Doctor Keene, speaking for the after-dinner loungers, “you must take a little human advice. Go, get the air on the Plaza. We will keep shop for you. Stay as long as you like and come home in any condition you think best.” And Joseph, tormented into this course, put on his hat and went out.
“Hard to move as a cow in the moonlight,” continued Doctor Keene, “and knows just about as much of the world. He wasn’t aware, until I told him to-day, that there are two Honore Grandissimes.” [Laughter.]
“Why did you tell him?”
“I didn’t give him anything but the bare fact. I want to see how long it will take him to find out the rest.”
The Place d’Armes offered amusement to every one else rather than to the immigrant. The family relation, the most noticeable feature of its’ well-pleased groups, was to him too painful a reminder of his late losses, and, after an honest endeavor to flutter out of the inner twilight of himself into the outer glare of a moving world, he had given up the effort and had passed beyond the square and seated himself upon a rude bench which encircled the trunk of a willow on the levee.
The negress, who, resting near by with a tray of cakes before her, has been for some time contemplating the three-quarter face of her unconscious neighbor, drops her head at last with a small, Ethiopian, feminine laugh. It is a self-confession that, pleasant as the study of his countenance is, to resolve that study into knowledge is beyond her powers; and very pardonably so it is, she being but a marchande des gateaux (an itinerant cake-vender), and he, she concludes, a man of parts. There is a purpose, too, as well as an admission, in the laugh. She would like to engage him in conversation. But he does not notice. Little supposing he is the object of even a cake-merchant’s attention, he is lost in idle meditation.
One would guess his age to be as much as twenty-six. His face is beardless, of course, like almost everybody’s around him, and of a German kind of seriousness. A certain diffidence in his look may tend to render him unattractive to careless eyes, the more so since he has a slight appearance of self-neglect. On a second glance, his refinement shows out more distinctly, and one also sees that he is not shabby. The little that seems lacking is woman’s care, the brush of attentive fingers here and there, the turning of a fold in the high-collared coat, and a mere touch on the neckerchief and shirt-frill. He has a decidedly good forehead. His blue eyes, while they are both strong and modest, are noticeable, too, as betraying fatigue, and the shade of gravity in them is deepened by a certain worn look of excess—in books; a most unusual look in New Orleans in those days, and pointedly out of keeping with the scene which was absorbing his attention.