Fragrance in Literature- Old Creole Days by George Washington Cable

George Washington Cable (12 October 1844 – 31 January 1925) was an American novelist notable for the realism of his portrayals of Creole life in his native Louisiana. His fiction has been thought to anticipate that of William Faulkner.
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Works by George Washington Cable


Old Creole Days, by George Washington Cable

A few steps from the St. Charles Hotel, in New Orleans, brings you to
and across Canal Street, the central avenue of the city, and to that
corner where the flower-women sit at the inner and outer edges of the
arcaded sidewalk, and make the air sweet with their fragrant
merchandise. The crowd--and if it is near the time of the carnival it
will be great--will follow Canal Street.

The second was "Major" Galahad Shaughnessy. I imagine I can see him, in
his white duck, brass-buttoned roundabout, with his sabreless belt
peeping out beneath, all his boyishness in his sea-blue eyes, leaning
lightly against the door-post of the Café des Exilés as a child leans
against his mother, running his fingers over a basketful of fragrant
limes, and watching his chance to strike some solemn Creole under the
fifth rib with a good old Irish joke.

Up and down this path, but a few steps in its entire length, the priest
was walking, taking the air for a few moments after a prolonged sitting
in the confessional. Penitents had been numerous this afternoon. He was
thinking of Ursin. The officers of the Government had not found him, nor
had Père Jerome seen him; yet he believed they had, in a certain
indirect way, devised a simple project by which they could at any time
"figs dad law," providing only that these Government officials would
give over their search; for, though he had not seen the fugitive, Madame
Delphine had seen him, and had been the vehicle of communication between
them. There was an orange-tree, where a mocking-bird was wont to sing
and a girl in white to walk, that the detectives wot not of. The law was
to be "figs" by the departure of the three frequenters of the
jasmine-scented garden in one ship to France, where the law offered no
obstacles.

Twelve long months were midnight to the mind of the childless father;
when they were only half gone, he took his bed; and every day, and every
night, old Charlie, the "low-down," the "fool," watched him tenderly,
tended him lovingly, for the sake of his name, his misfortunes, and his
broken heart. No woman's step crossed the floor of the sick-chamber,
whose western dormer-windows overpeered the dingy architecture of old
Charlie's block; Charlie and a skilled physician, the one all interest,
the other all gentleness, hope, and patience--these only entered by the
door; but by the window came in a sweet-scented evergreen vine,
transplanted from the caving bank of Belles Demoiselles. It caught the
rays of sunset in its flowery net and let then softly in upon the sick
man's bed; gathered the glancing beams of the moon at midnight, and
often wakened the sleeper to look, with his mindless eyes, upon their
pretty silver fragments strewn upon the floor.

The hour for the funeral was fixed at four P.M. It never took place.
Down at the Picayune Tier on the river bank there was, about two o'clock
that same day, a slight commotion, and those who stood aimlessly about a
small, neat schooner, said she was "seized." At four there suddenly
appeared before the Café des Exilés a squad of men with silver crescents
on their breasts--police officers. The old cottage sat silent with
closed doors, the crape hanging heavily over the funeral notice like a
widow's veil, the little unseen garden sending up odors from its hidden
censers, and the old weeping-willow bending over all.

The group passed out into the Rue Royale, Dr. Mossy shutting the door
behind them. The sky was blue, the air was soft and balmy, and on the
sweet south breeze, to which the old General bared his grateful brow,
floated a ravishing odor of--
"Ah! what is it?" the veteran asked of the younger pair, seeing the
little aunt glance at them with a playful smile.
Madame Délicieuse for almost the first time in her life, and Dr. Mossy
for the thousandth--blushed.
It was the odor of orange-blossoms.

he bird ceased. The cause of the interruption, standing within the
opening, saw before him, much obscured by its own numerous shadows, a
broad, ill-kept, many-flowered garden, among whose untrimmed rose-trees
and tangled vines, and often, also, in its old walks of pounded shell,
the coco-grass and crab-grass had spread riotously, and sturdy weeds
stood up in bloom. He stepped in and drew the gate to after him. There,
very near by, was the clump of jasmine, whose ravishing odor had tempted
him. It stood just beyond a brightly moonlit path, which turned from him
in a curve toward the residence, a little distance to the right, and
escaped the view at a point where it seemed more than likely a door of
the house might open upon it. While he still looked, there fell upon his
ear, from around that curve, a light footstep on the broken shells--one
only, and then all was for a moment still again. Had he mistaken? No.
The same soft click was repeated nearer by, a pale glimpse of robes came
through the tangle, and then, plainly to view, appeared an outline--a
presence--a form--a spirit--a girl!

Mazaro smiled and nodded. His host opened the door into the garden, and,
as the young man stepped out, noticed even then how handsome was his
face and figure, and how the odor of the night jasmine was filling the
air with an almost insupportable sweetness. The Cuban paused a moment,
as if to speak, but checked himself, lifted his girlish face, and looked
up to where the daggers of the palmetto-tree were crossed upon the face
of the moon, dropped his glance, touched his Panama, and silently
followed by the bare-headed old man, drew open the little garden-gate,
looked cautiously out, said good-night, and stepped into the street.

It was one of those southern nights under whose spell all the sterner
energies of the mind cloak themselves and lie down in bivouac, and the
fancy and the imagination, that cannot sleep, slip their fetters and
escape, beckoned away from behind every flowering bush and
sweet-smelling tree, and every stretch of lonely, half-lighted walk, by
the genius of poetry. The air stirred softly now and then, and was still
again, as if the breezes lifted their expectant pinions and lowered them
once more, awaiting the rising of the moon in a silence which fell upon
the fields, the roads, the gardens, the walls, and the suburban and
half-suburban streets, like a pause in worship. And anon she rose.

The Saturday following was a very beautiful day. In the morning a light
fall of rain had passed across the town, and all the afternoon you could
see signs, here and there upon the horizon, of other showers. The ground
was dry again, while the breeze was cool and sweet, smelling of wet
foliage and bringing sunshine and shade in frequent and very pleasing
alternation.





He entered, hat in hand, and with that almost noiseless tread which we
have noticed. She gave him a chair and closed the door; then hastened,
with words of apology, back to her task of lighting the lamp. But her
hands paused in their work again,--Olive's step was on the stairs; then
it came off the stairs; then it was in the next room, and then there was
the whisper of soft robes, a breath of gentle perfume, and a snowy
figure in the door. She was dressed for the evening.

She turned at once, gathered the skirt of her pink calico uniform, and,
watching her steps through her tears, descended the steep winding-stair
to her frequent kneeling-place under the fragrant candles of the
chapel-altar in Mother Nativity's asylum.