She stood beside the seat with the smile of one foiled and intensely conscious of peril, but neither frightened nor suppliant, holding back with her eyes the execution of Agricola’s threat against her life.
Presently she drew a short step backward, then another, then a third, and then turned and moved away down the avenue of willows, followed for a few steps by the lion and by the laughing comment of the marchande, who stood looking after them with her tray balanced on her head.
“Ya, ya! ye connais voudou bien!”
[Footnote 1: “They’re up in the voudou arts.”]
The old man turned to rejoin his companion. The day was rapidly giving place to night and the people were withdrawing to their homes. He crossed the levee, passed through the Place d’Armes and on into the city without meeting the object of his search. For Joseph and the lady had hurried off together.
As the populace floated away in knots of three, four and five, those who had witnessed mademoiselle’s (?) mishap told it to those who had not; explaining that it was the accursed Yankee governor who had designedly driven his horse at his utmost speed against the fair victim (some of them butted against their hearers by way of illustration); that the fiend had then maliciously laughed; that this was all the Yankees came to New Orleans for, and that there was an understanding among them—“Understanding, indeed!” exclaimed one, “They have instructions from the President!”—that unprotected ladies should be run down wherever overtaken. If you didn’t believe it you could ask the tyrant, Claiborne, himself; he made no secret of it. One or two—but they were considered by others extravagant—testified that, as the lady fell, they had seen his face distorted with a horrid delight, and had heard him cry: “Daz de way to knog them!”
“But how came a lady to be out on the levee, at sunset, on foot and alone?” asked a citizen, and another replied—both using the French of the late province:
“As for being on foot”—a shrug. “But she was not alone; she had a milatraisse behind her.”
“Ah! so; that was well.”
“But—ha, ha!—the milatraisse, seeing her mistress out of danger, takes the opportunity to try to bring the curse upon Agricola Fusilier by sitting down where he had just risen up, and had to get away from him as quickly as possible to save her own skull.”
“And left the lady?”
“Yes; and who took her to her home at last, but Frowenfeld, the apothecary!”
“Ho, ho! the astrologer! We ought to hang that fellow.”
“With his books tied to his feet,” suggested a third citizen. “It is no more than we owe to the community to go and smash his show-window. He had better behave himself. Come, gentlemen, a little taffia will do us good. When shall we ever get through these exciting times?”