Page images

Orleans, it was the event of the season, and after she came in, whatever she did became also events. Whether she went, or did not go; what she said, or did not say; what she wore, and did not wear-all these became important matters of discussion, quoted as much or more than what the President said, or the governor thought. And in those days, the days of '59, New Orleans was not, as it is now, a one-heiress place, but it may be said that one could find heiresses then as one finds type-writing girls now.

Mademoiselle Idalie received her birth and what education she had on her parent's plantation, the famed old Reine Sainte Foy place, and it is no secret that, like the ancient kings of France, her birth exceeded her education.

It was a plantation, the Reine Sainte Foy, the richness and luxury of which are really well described in those perfervid pictures of tropical life, at one time the passion of philanthropic imaginations, excited and exciting over the horrors of slavery. Although these pictures were then often accused of being purposely exaggerated, they seem now to fall short of, instead of surpassing, the truth. Stately walls, acres of roses, miles of oranges, unmeasured fields of cane, colossal sugar-house-they were all there, and all the rest of it, with the slaves, slaves, slaves everywhere, whole villages of negro cabins. And there were also, most noticeable to the natural, as well as visionary eye-there were the ease, idleness, extravagance, self-indulgence, pomp, pride, arrogance, in short the whole enumeration, the moral sine qua non, as some people considered it, of the wealthy slaveholder of aristocratic descent and tastes.

What Mademoiselle Idalie cared to learn she studied, what she did not she ignored; and she followed the same simple rule untrammeled in her eating, drinking, dressing, and comportment generally; and whatever discipline may have been

exercised on the place, either in fact or fiction, most assuredly none of it, even so much as in a threat, ever attainted her sacred person. When she was just turned sixteen, Mademoiselle Idalie made up her mind to go into society. Whether she was beautiful or not, it is hard to say. It is almost impossible to appreciate properly the beauty of the rich, the very rich. The unfettered development, the limitless choice of accessories, the confidence, the self-esteem, the sureness of expression, the simplicity of purpose, the ease of execution,-all these produce a certain effect of beauty behind which one really cannot get to measure length of nose, or brilliancy of the eye. This much can be said; there was nothing in her that positively contradicted any assumption of beauty on her part, or credit of it on the part of others. She was very tall and very thin with small head, long neck, black eyes, and abundant straight black hair, for which her hair-dresser deserved more praise than she, good teeth of course, and a mouth that, even in prayer, talked nothing but commands; that is about all she had en fait d'ornements, as the modistes say. It may be added that she walked as if the Reine Sainte Foy plantation extended over the whole earth, and the soil of it were too vile for her tread.

Of course she did not buy her toilets in New Orleans. Everything was ordered from Paris, and came as regularly through the custom-house as the modes and robes to the milliners. She was furnished by a certain house there, just as one of a royal family would be at the present day. As this had lasted from her layette up to her sixteenth year, it may be imagined what took place when she determined to make her début. Then it was literally, not metaphorically, carte blanche, at least so it got to the ears of society. She

took a sheet of note-paper, wrote the date at the top, added “I make my début in November," signed her name at the extreme end of the sheet, addressed it to her dressmaker in Paris, and sent it.

That she was admired, raved about, loved even, goes without saying. After the first month she held the refusal of half the beaux of New Orleans. Men did absurd, undignified, preposterous things for her and she? Love? Marry? The idea never occurred to her. She treated the most exquisite of her pretenders no better than she treated her Paris gowns, for the matter of that. She could not even bring herself to listen to a proposal patiently; whistling to her dogs, in the middle of the most ardent protestations, or jumping up and walking away with a shrug of the shoulders, and a "Bah!"

Well! every one knows what happened after '59. There is no need to repeat. The history of one is the history of all.

It might have been ten years according to some calculations, or ten eternities, the heart and the almanac never agree about time,-but one morning old Champigny (they used to call him Champignon) was walking along his levee front when he saw a figure ap

proaching. He had to stop to look at it, for it was worth while. The head was hidden by a green barege veil, which the showers had plentifully besprinkled with dew; a tall thin figure. She was the teacher of the colored school some three or four miles away. "Ah,” thought Champigny, "some Northern lady on a mission." Old Champigny could not get over it that he had never seen her before. But he must have seen her, and, with his abstraction and old age, not have noticed

her, for he found out from the negroes that she had been teaching four or five years there. And he found out alsohow, it is not important-that she was Idalie Sainte Foy Mortemart des Islets. La grande demoiselle! He had never known her in the old days, owing to his uncomplimentary attitude toward women, but he knew of her, of course, and of her family.

Only the good God himself knows what passed in Champigny's mind on the subject. We know only the results. He went and married la grand demoiselle. How? Only the good God knows that too.



Waitman BaRBE was born at Morgantown, West Virginia, and educated at the State University in that town. Since the year 1884 he has been engaged in editorial and literary pursuits, being now editor of the Daily State Fournal. He has already made a reputation as a speaker on literary and educational topics: and his poems, first appearing in periodicals, have now been collected into a volume called "Ashes and Incense," the first edition of which was exhausted in six months. It "has put him among the foremost of the young American poets." Edmund Clarence Stedman says of it: "There is real poetry in the book-a voice worth owning and exercising. I am struck with the beauty and feeling of the lyrics which I have read—such, for example, as the stanzas on Lanier and 'The Comrade Hills.''

Ashes and Incense.


(From Ashes and Incense.*)

O Spirit to a kingly holding born!
As beautiful as any southern morn

That wakes to woo the willing hills,
Thy life was hedged about by ills
As pitiless as any northern night;

Yet thou didst make it as thy "Sunrise" bright.

The seas were not too deep for thee; thine eye
Was comrade with the farthest star on high.
The marsh burst into bloom for thee,-
And still abloom shall ever be !

Its sluggish tide shall henceforth bear alway
A charm it did not hold until thy day.

And Life walks out upon the slipping sands
With more of flowers in her trembling hands
Since thou didst suffer and didst sing!
And so to thy dear grave I bring
One little rose, in poor exchange for all
The flowers that from thy rich hand did fall.



MADISON CAWEIN, born at Louisville, Kentucky, of Huguenot descent, is one of our younger poets who seems overflowing with life and fancy. His writings show a wonderful insight into nature and power of expressing her beauties and meanings. The amount of his poetical work is astonishing, and another volume will soon appear, entitled "Intimations of the Beautiful."

*By permission of the author, and publishers, J. B. Lippincott Co., Phila.

« PreviousContinue »