For a little while this excitement and glory softened the pain in the heart of the man who believed himself to be a murderer and encouraged him to hope that it might eventually pass away. He played recklessly but successfully, for he was a transient favorite of the fickle goddess. When gambling lost its power to drown the voice of conscience, there was the race, the play and the wine cup! To each of them appealing in turn, he went whirling madly around the outer circles of the great maelstrom in which so many brilliant youths were swallowed in those ante-bellum days.
“There can never
be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual
respect, until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole
For two years David and Pepeeta lived together in New Orleans. They were years full of import, and of trouble. A baby came to them, lingered a few weeks, and then died.
David pursued the occupation he had chosen, with the vicissitudes of fortune usually attending the votaries of games of chance, and the moral and spiritual deterioration which they invariably develop.
Pepeeta altered strangely. Her bloom disappeared and an expression of sadness became habitual on her face. She was surrounded by luxuries of every kind, but they did not give her peace. With an ambition which never flagged she sought self improvement, and attained it to a remarkable degree. Endowed with an inherited aptitude for culture, she read and studied books, observed and imitated elegant manners, and rapidly absorbed the best elements of such higher life as she had access to, until her natural beauty and charm were wonderfully enhanced. Yet she was not happy, for her life with David had brought her nothing but surprise and disappointment; something had come between them, she knew not what.
“Dey des growed apaht,” said the old negro “mammy,” who was with them during those two years. “Seemed to des tech each other like mahbles at a single point, stade of meltin’ togedder lak two drops of watah runnin’ down a window pane. Mars’ David, he done went he own way, drinkin’, gamblin’ and cussin’; he lak a madman when he baby die. He seem skeered when he see Miss Pepeeta. She look at him wid her big black eyes full of wonder and s’prise, stretch out her li’l han’s, and when he run away or struck her, she des go out to the li’l baby’s grave, creeping along lak a shadder through the gyahden, soft lak and still. Dar she des set down all alone and sigh lak de breeze in de ole pine tree. Some days she gone away all alone and de brack folks say she wanner all aroun’ in de woods. When Sunday come, she des slip into de churches lak a li’l mouse and nibble up de gospel crumbs and den run away before de priests cotch her. Dark days dose, in de ole Ballantrae mansion! And den come de night when dey pahted. You done heah about dat?”