« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
age, and the other a young man in the bloom of life. They were each differently habited, but all wore gilt crowns on their heads, and bore gifts in glittering baskets, with which they knelt at the feet of the Infant Saviour. Already kneeling on the other side were three who were arrayed as shepherds, and one of these held in his arms a little lamb, while the others carried crooks. The whole room was magnificently draped so as to present the aspect of an apartment in an Oriental palace; and a silver star shone over the doorway, through which the Kings of the East had entered with their gifts, certain lights being arranged so as to cause it to reflect them intensely. An altar, shining with precious stones, used temporarily to adorn it, stood near the form of the Virgin, and around it in graceful confusion were countless flowers and wreaths, while delicious perfumes were exhaled from the scented waters which in tiny jets flowed from all parts of the altar.
The tableau was beautiful and very effective. Just as the Eastern Kings knelt with their offerings, and the angel-forms hovering above softly moved their wings by means of some appliance of the machinery which poised them there, a chant of thanksgiving burst from the lips of those assembled without; and, still singing, all passed into the room, the ladies entering first, led by the priest who was officiating, and heaped fresh flowers at the feet of all the personages in this silent drama. When the chant ceased, and while the people knelt, the priest who had entered at their head offered up a solemn prayer in the Latin tongue, and then gave his benediction to all present.
This ended the ceremonial part of the festival, all other rites pertaining to the day having been before performed in their churches by the different members of the assemblage.
Both old and young now betook themselves to unrestrained enjoyment of the occasion, and the ordinary pastimes which are proper to Christmas rejoicings ensued. Over these we need not linger, nor is it at all necessary that I should stop to descant on the splendor of the ladies' dresses and the rich variety of costume which it was thought befitted this great festival, and the costly jewels which enriched the eye of the beholder as each lady swept by in rustling silk or satin to welcome the stranger who had come to share their festivity. It is enough to say that Winter was introduced to many new friends, whom he warmly greeted with a secret consciousness that they were all sure to be congenial from some mysterious virtue which their kinship with Mademoiselle Félicie imparted; and that he thoroughly enjoyed the evening, being very kindly entertained by all, and having many opportunities for intimate conversation with the lady upon whom his affections were now so ardently fixed.
He remained in New Orleans a month longer, and somehow it happened that the Lepetit-Rey family made the same stay in the city. Seeing them daily and escorting them to the opera and theatre and other places of amusement, it is to be presumed that he lost no time in striving to win over to his view of the mode in which their intercourse was to continue for life both mother and daughter.
How he managed the siege and what were the forms of investment which brought both fortresses to capitulate, is a story very well known
to me ; but I have no notion of repeating it. Enough to say, that just one month after his sudden departure on what we all termed a wild-goose chase, Winter returned to Baton Rouge with a lovely bride, whom I in common with the rest of his friends greatly admire ; and that the lady whom he became acquainted with in New Orleans, after a fashion so contrary to ordinary etiquette, as Mademoiselle Félicie Lepetit-Rey, is now Mrs. Winter.
A STORY OF NINE TRAVELLERS.
smoking, drinking from a large tumbler on a little table by him, and dozing by turns. His little Ethiopian bar-tender had long since curled up under the blanket, and was now snoring so vociferously as frequently to disturb Watt's naps, causing him to give the little sleeper sundry wholesome reminders, which only produced convulsive sounds more hideous than the regular snore; these were followed by a sharp whetting of his teeth together, a grunt or two, and then a temporary lull, giving Watt sufficient time to take another sip from the glass and go off into another nap.
The last gossiping sponge had toasted his feet at the bar-room fire, taken his “night-cap and departed, and a quiet brooded over the place, only disturbed by such sounds as may be heard in any lowland village, when Watt was suddenly aroused by the sound of horses' feet, a tramp on the porch, and a heavy knock at the door.
“Who comes there?” he called out in a gruff, drowsy tone, at the same time rising and walking toward the door.
He was answered by a deep guttural voice, which asked: “Is dis whar Mr. Chubb live?"
“Yes. Who are you, and what do you want with Mr. Chubb?" Watt questioned, as he now leaned against the door and held it until he should be satisfied as to who the new visitor might be.
“My name is Little Juba, Sah, and I brings a paper from Massa Flint; and I got de hosses too, Sah.”
At this announcement Watt opened the door, and as the light revealed the giant form of Little Juba just ready to enter, he involuntarily started back, and retreated toward the stove as Juba advanced,
holding in his hand the note he had brought. Still keeping at a good distance, and on the opposite side of the stove from his visitor, Watt began a series of questions by asking: "What did you say your name was?."
"Little Juba, Sah."
“And you have a note from Mr. Flint ?" reaching timidly across the stove to take it from Juba's huge black hand. “Ezackly, Sah; dis is de paper, and de hosses are at de door.”
Sure you brought this from Mr. Flint?" and Watt turned the crumpled paper over in his hand before attempting to read it, while he surveyed a little suspiciously the uncivilised-looking creature before him.
“Sartin, Sah. You read him and see, and you takes de hosses ain't dat enough? Don't look so skeerd, I ain't gwyne to hurt you, Massa Chubb, ef I does live in de swamp."
Thus rebuked for his cowardice, Watt walked toward the candle and carefully read Flint's note ; then waking up the little darkey, he dispatched him with a lantern to show Juba where to put the horses, and during their absence addressed himself to the task of answering the note and counting out of a buckskin bag, in sovereigns, the amount of money he had agreed with Flint to send.
Chubb's answer was quite in character with the man ; the heavy scrawling hand looking not unlike the irregular, ragged lines of a cedar-brush fence as he spread the paper out on the counter before him, and with a blunt-pointed quill-pen traced his homely thoughts. When completed it read as follows:
SUFFOLK, VA., Friday Nighi. “DEAR HARD :- You have my hearnest sympathy, being in so mournful a place as that blarsted narsty swamp. The natives must be poor company, hand betwixt them hand the hallegaters I should be fearful of being killed alive hand heaten whole. I send by the bimmense savage you call Little Juba £40, which is as understood. . The Harvest Moon will sail from Norfolk on Tuesday of next week, bound for ome. It is a staunch craft, and the captain is a hold friend of your humble servant's: go in this vessel by hall means. I send along with this a little tender piece for dear Debby. Tell her Watt is reformed, and opes to come back hand claim her in a year's time. Don't say anything more about them laces, I ain't hacquainted with the harticlė any more, but remain your loving friend,
The piece of foolscap on which this was written Watt now folded carefully in letter shape, and inclosed within it the little billet directed with much irregular precision to Miss Debora Flint. It was evident that the billet had given him more trouble in its composition than the effort we have recorded above ; for during its progress his face be
came flushed until his plump cheeks were ablaze, his tongue took regular turns in plumping out first one cheek then the other, while the perspiration stood in great drops on his brow, as if the thermometer had suddenly climbed up into the nineties. At last striking his heavy fist down upon the counter, he exclaimed: “ Done, by Jove ! and a sweet little job I made of it! Won't Debby be glad to get it, too! Now this” (taking up the packet, which he had already sealed, and gazing admiringly at it) "is writ in the style of a clerk, 'andsome, quite 'andsome, h’and as plain as print. Debby won't know how I got to be such a scribe, h’and she'll wonder 'mazingly. That F is quirled beautiful, h'and that H can't be surpassed in the United Kingdom, while the little letters is raked in between rather scientific. Oh, don't I wish I was going 'ome, too, 'stead of writing, though! For never mind how well a fellow tells his girl his feelings on paper, it's no more like the real thing than a note of ’and is like real sterling; it's as tame as kissing her picture or her shadow on the wall." He was here interrupted in his soliloquy by the return of Little Juba, who had stabled the horses, and now stood near the stove, with his coon-skin cap carelessly thrown on the floor near him, wbile he quietly awaited commands. Turning toward him Watt now asked : “Are you going back 'ome to-night, Juba ?”
“Yars, Sah," was the quick response.
“Not going to rest before you start, h’and 'aving to walk all the way back, too?"
“Dat is small matter, Sah ; dem hosses travel slower comin' den I will goin'. I'll be dere afo' day-dawn. You sildem see a hoss dat will keep up wid me."
Watt gazed in wonder at the ponderous frame of the half-clad African, then stepping behind the counter selected his largest tumbler, which he poured half-full of whiskey, and then proceeded to mix a spicy dram, the fragrance of which filled the room. Juba watched the proceeding attentively from its beginning, and when at last Watt walked towards him with the tumbler, its smoking contents caused him to grin from ear to ear ; but when he comprehended that it was intended for him, that he was expected to drink it all, he executed a number of marvellous contortions of body, bowed his head, scraped his feet, and retreating as Watt alvanced, closed his exhibition of politeness by stumbling backwards over the little ebony bar-tender and rolling over on the floor,
“Bless de gracious! you gwine to kill me?" grumbled little Sambo, as he crawled out from beneath Juba, who, astonished and confused at his fall, quickly arose and answered :
“No, chile, I not gwine to hurt you.
“'Case you done did it, dat's all,” muttered Sambo, as he crawled around to the other side of the stove, rubbing his head. “Nuver seed sweeten' dram befo', and had to turn fool ove' it, you wild nigger you!”
Here Watt commanded the peace, saying authoritatively: "Come, Sambo, be quiet, h’and go to sleep ; it was a h’accident, h’and no one ever 'eard of your ’ead being so h'easily 'urt before. Here, Juba, drink to my 'ealth, this bumper will do you good.”
Juba quickly obeyed the invitation, giving a grin of intense satisfaction as the last drop passed his lips, then turning towards Chubb, said with a low bow:
“Dis year lucky, grow in station,
Next year wife and big plantation ;
Dem's my wishes, Massa Chubb, and now I tells you good-night, for de way is dark, and dey wants to see me at de Hollow bad enough, for Massa Flint he gettin' powerful restless." Another low bow, a scrape of his right foot against the floor, and Juba vanished from the doorway as suddenly as he had made his appearance there an hour before, and with stealthy cat-like strides was soon far out on the road to the Swamp.
“Praise de Lord he's gonę !” growled little Sambo from beneath bis blanket.
“Did you h'ever see him before, Sambo?", asked Watt, rather amused at the thankful mood of the urchin.
“No, Sir, and hopes I never may again. He's one of dem wild niggers out'en de Swamp, and I'd as soon see de debble any day,” was the ready response.
“Well, Sambo, don't say h'anything about 'is being here, there's a good lad.
Here's five cents for you now, h’and you can go to sleep." Sambo quickly picked up the coin that Chubb had tossed him, slyly thrust it between his teeth that he might test its value by a mode which he considered infallible, and approving it genuine, said, “Thankee, Sir," as he stuck it edgewise into a crack in the floor until he should wake in the morning.
True to his promise, Little Juba reached Wild-Cat Hollow before dawn; Hardy Flint and Armero meeting him at the door, and both anxiously inquiring as he came in, “What news? "
Juba answered by handing Flint the packet containing the letters; then leading the way, he brought them into the best room, where he soon kindled a bright light-wood fire; then handing over the money which he had brought tied in the corner of his red cotion handkerchief, he stood intently watching Flint as he read what Watt had written, listening too to catch any remark he might make.
Hardy read ihe letter carefully, then turning to Armero, said quickly: "Next Tuesday, Carlos !"
“ Next Tuesday what? You speak as if I knew your thoughts, man.'
“Oh, I had forgotten you did not read this. Chubb says 'The Harvest Moon' sails next Tuesday for home; he knows the captain, and advises our sailing in her; he sends the £40 for the horses, and also incloses a bit of a love-letter to my sister Debby. The poor fellow isn't cured of that fancy by going away from home, as I hoped he would be."
“I didn't know you had a sister, Flint.”
“Very few people do. Debby is a lady if her brother is – an adventurer; and she has but little idea how my money has been earned