Narcisse in Mourning

From Dr. Sevier, Chapter XLV--

[Richling's] revery was interrupted.

"Mistoo Itchlin, 'ow you enjoyin' yo' 'ealth in that beaucheous weatheh juz at the pwesent? Me, I'm well. Yes, I'm always well, in fact. At the same time nevvatheless, I fine myseff slightly sad. I s'pose 'tis natu'al -- a man what love the 'itings of Lawd By'on as much as me. You know, of co'se, the melancholic intelligens?"

"No," said Richling; "has any one" --

"Lady By'on, seh. Yesseh. 'In the mids' of life' -- you know where we ah, Mistoo Itchlin, I su-pose?"

"Is Lady Bryon dead?"

"Yesseh." Narcisse bowed solemnly. "Gone, Mistoo Itchlin. Since the seventeenth of last; yesseh. 'Kig the bucket,' as the povvub say." He showed an extra band of black drawn neatly around his new straw hat. "I thought it but p'opeh to put some moaning -- as a species of twibute." He restored the hat to his head. "You like the tas'e of that, Mistoo Itchlin?"

Richling could but confess the whole thing was delicious.

"Yo' humble servan', seh," responded the smiling Creole, with a flattered bow. Then, assuming a gravity becoming the historian, he said: --

"If fact, 'tis a gweat mistake, that statement that Lawd By'on evva qua'led with his lady, Mistoo Itchlin. But I s'pose you know 'tis but a slandeh of the pwess. Yesseh. As, faw instance, thass anotheh slandeh of the pwess that the delegates qua'led ad the Chawleston convention. They only pwetend to qua'l; so, by that way, to mizguide those Abolish-nists. Mistoo Itchlin, I am p'ojecting to 'ite some obitua' 'emawks about that Lady By'on, but I scass know w'etheh to 'ite them in the poetic style aw in the p'osaic. Which would you conclude, Mistoo Itchlin?"

Ritchling reflected with downcast eyes.

"It seems to me," he said, when he had passed his hand across his mouth in apparent meditation and looked up, -- "seems to me I'd conclude both, without delay."

"Yes? But accawding to what fawmule, Mistoo Itchlin? 'Ay, 'tis theh is the 'ub,' in fact, as Lawd By'on say. Is it to migs the two style' that you advise?"

"That's the favorite method," replied Richling.

"Well, I dunno 'ow 'tis, Mistoo Itchlin, but I fine the moze facil'ty in the poetic. 'Tis t'ue, in the poetic you got to look out concehning the 'ime. You got to keep the eye skin' faw it, in fact. But in the p'osaic, on the cont'a-ay, 'tis juz the opposite; you got to keep the eye skin' faw the sense. Yesseh. Now, if you migs the two style' -- well -- 'ows that, Mistoo Itchlin, if you migs them? Seem' to me I dunno."

"Why, don't you see?" asked Richling. "If you mix them, you avoid both necessities. You sail triumphantly between Scylla and Charybdis without so much as skinning your eyes."

Narcisse looked at him a moment with a slightly searching glance, dropped his eyes upon his own beautiful feet, and said, in a meditative tone: --

"I believe you co'ect." But his smile was gone, and Richling saw he had ventured too far.

Mary's Night Ride

From Dr. Sevier, Chapter LIV--

About the middle of that night Mary Richling was sitting very still and upright on a large dark horse that stood chomping at his Mexican bit in the black shadow of a great oak. Alice rested before her, fast asleep, against her bosom. Mary held by the bridle another horse, whose naked saddle-tree was empty. A few steps in front of her the light of the full moon shone almost straight down upon a narrow road that just there emerged from the shadow of woods on either side, and divided into a main right fork and a much smaller one that curved around to Mary's left. Off in the direction of the main fork the sky was all aglow with camp-fires. Only just here on the left there was a cool and grateful darkness.

She lifted her head alertly. A twig crackled under a tread, and the next moment a man came out of the bushes at the left, and without a word took the bridle of the led horse from her fingers and vaulted into the saddle. The hand that rested a moment on the cantle as he rose grasped a "navy-six." He was dressed in dull homespun, but he was the same who had been dressed in blue. He turned his horse and led the way down the lesser road.

"If we'd of gone three hundred yards further," he whispered, falling back and smiling broadly, "we'd a' run into the pickets. I went nigh enough to see the videttes settin' on their hosses in the main road. This here aint no road; it just goes up to a nigger quarters. I've got one o' the niggers to show us the way."

"Where is he?" whispered Mary; but, before her companion could answer, a tattered form moved from behind a bush a little in advance and started ahead in the path, walking and beckoning. Presently they turned into a clear, open forest and followed the long, rapid, swinging stride of the negro for nearly an hour. Then they halted on the bank of a deep, narrow stream. The negro made a motion for them to keep well to the right when they should enter the water. The white man softly lifted Alice to his arms, directed and assisted Mary to kneel in her saddle, with her skirts gathered carefully under her, and so they went down into the cold stream, the negro first, with arms outstretched above the flood; then Mary, and then the white man, -- or, let us say plainly the spy, -- with the unawakened child on his breast. And so they rose out of it on the farther side without a shoe or garment wet save the rags of their dark guide.

Again they followed him, along a line of stake-and-rider fence, with the woods on one side and the bright moonlight flooding a field of young cotton on the other. Now they heard the distant baying of house-dogs, now the doleful call of the chuck-will's-widow; and once Mary's blood turned, for an instant, to ice, at the unearthly shriek of the hoot-owl just above her head. At length they found themselves in a dim, narrow road, and the negro stopped.

"Dess keep dish yeh road fo' 'bout half mile an' you strak 'pon the broad, main road. Tek de right, an' you go whah yo' fancy tek you."

"Good-by," whispered Mary.

"Good-by, miss," said the negro, in the same low voice; "good-by, boss; don't you fo'git you promise tek me thoo to de Yankee' when you come back. I 'feered you gwine fo'git it, boss."

The spy said he would not, and they left him. The half-mile was soon passed, though it turned out to be a mile and a half, and at length Mary's companion looked back, as they rode single file, with Mary in the rear, and said softly, "There's the road," pointing at its broad, pale line with his six-shooter.

As they entered it and turned to the right, Mary, with Alice again in her arms, moved somewhat ahead of her companion, her indifferent horsemanship having compelled him to drop back to avoid a prickly bush. His horse was just quickening his pace to regain the lost position when a man sprang up from the ground on the farther side of the highway, snatched a carbine from the earth and cried, "Halt!"

The dark, recombent forms of six or eight others could be seen, enveloped in their blankets, lying about a few red coals. Mary turned a frightened look backward and met the eyes of her companion.

"Move a little faster," said he, in a low, clear voice. As she promptly did so she heard him answer the challenge. His horse trotted softly after hers.

"Don't stop us, my friend; we're taking a sick child to the doctor."

"Halt, you hound!" the cry rang out; and as Mary glanced back three or four men were just leaping into the road. But she saw, also, her companion, his face suffused with an earnestness that was almost an agony, rise in his stirrups, with the stoop of his shoulders all gone, and wildly cry: --


She smote the horse and flew. Alice awoke and screamed.

"Hush, my darling!" said the mother, laying on the withe; "mamma's here. Hush, darling! -- mamma's here. Don't be frightened, darling baby! O God, spare my child!" and away she sped.

The report of a carbine rang out and went rolling away in a thousand echoes through the wood. Two others followed in sharp succession, and there went close by Mary's ear the waspish whine of a minnie-ball. At the same moment she recognized, once, -- twice, -- thrice, -- just at her back where the hoofs of her companion's horse were clattering, -- the tart rejoinders of his navy-six.

"Go!" he cried again. "Lay low! lay low! cover the child!" But his words were needless. With head bowed forward and form crouched over the crying, clinging child, with slackened rein and fluttering dress, and sun-bonnet and loosened hair blown back upon her shoulders, with lips compressed and silent prayers, Mary was riding for life and liberty and her husband's bed-side.

"O mamma! mamma!" wailed the terrified little one.

"Go on! Go on!" cried the voice behind; "they're saddling -- up! Go! go! We're goin' to make it. We're goin' to make it! Go-o-o!"