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Madame Delicieuse
by [?]

Just adjoining the old Cafe de Poesie on the corner, stood the little one-story, yellow-washed tenement of Dr. Mossy, with its two glass doors protected by batten shutters, and its low, weed-grown tile roof sloping out over the sidewalk. You were very likely to find the Doctor in, for he was a great student and rather negligent of his business–as business. He was a small, sedate, Creole gentleman of thirty or more, with a young-old face and manner that provoked instant admiration. He would receive you–be you who you may–in a mild, candid manner, looking into your face with his deep blue eyes, and re-assuring you with a modest, amiable smile, very sweet and rare on a man’s mouth.

To be frank, the Doctor’s little establishment was dusty and disorderly–very. It was curious to see the jars, and jars, and jars. In them were serpents and hideous fishes and precious specimens of many sorts. There were stuffed birds on broken perches; and dried lizards, and eels, and little alligators, and old skulls with their crowns sawed off, and ten thousand odd scraps of writing-paper strewn with crumbs of lonely lunches, and interspersed with long-lost spatulas and rust-eaten lancets.

All New Orleans, at least all Creole New Orleans, knew, and yet did not know, the dear little Doctor. So gentle, so kind, so skilful, so patient, so lenient; so careless of the rich and so attentive to the poor; a man, all in all, such as, should you once love him, you would love him forever. So very learned, too, but with apparently no idea of how to show himself to his social profit,–two features much more smiled at than respected, not to say admired, by a people remote from the seats of learning, and spending most of their esteem upon animal heroisms and exterior display.

“Alas!” said his wealthy acquaintances, “what a pity; when he might as well be rich.”

“Yes, his father has plenty.”

“Certainly, and gives it freely. But intends his son shall see none of it.”

“His son? You dare not so much as mention him.”

“Well, well, how strange! But they can never agree–not even upon their name. Is not that droll?–a man named General Villivicencio, and his son, Dr. Mossy!”

“Oh, that is nothing; it is only that the Doctor drops the de Villivicencio.”

“Drops the de Villivicencio? but I think the de Villivicencio drops him, ho, ho, ho,–diable!”

Next to the residence of good Dr. Mossy towered the narrow, red-brick-front mansion of young Madame Delicieuse, firm friend at once and always of those two antipodes, General Villivicencio and Dr. Mossy. Its dark, covered carriage-way was ever rumbling, and, with nightfall, its drawing-rooms always sent forth a luxurious light from the lace-curtained windows of the second-story balconies.

It was one of the sights of the Rue Royale to see by night its tall, narrow outline reaching high up toward the stars, with all its windows aglow.

The Madame had had some tastes of human experience; had been betrothed at sixteen (to a man she did not love, “being at that time a fool,” as she said); one summer day at noon had been a bride, and at sundown–a widow. Accidental discharge of the tipsy bridegroom’s own pistol. Pass it by! It left but one lasting effect on her, a special detestation of quarrels and weapons.

The little maidens whom poor parentage has doomed to sit upon street door-sills and nurse their infant brothers have a game of “choosing” the beautiful ladies who sweep by along the pavement; but in Rue Royale there was no choosing; every little damsel must own Madame Delicieuse or nobody, and as that richly adorned and regal favorite of old General Villivicencio came along they would lift their big, bold eyes away up to her face and pour forth their admiration in a universal–“Ah-h-h-h!”

But, mark you, she was good Madame Delicieuse as well as fair Madame Delicieuse: her principles, however, not constructed in the austere Anglo-Saxon style, exactly (what need, with the lattice of the Confessional not a stone’s throw off?). Her kind offices and beneficent schemes were almost as famous as General Villivicencio’s splendid alms; if she could at times do what the infantile Washington said he could not, why, no doubt she and her friends generally looked upon it as a mere question of enterprise.