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The Taxidermist
by [?]

“‘Nawtin’,’ says ‘e, with the same polite smile. ‘Nawtin’ for sale. I come back when you gone.’ His voice was sweet as sugar, but he slammed the door. I would have followed him in and put some better manners into him with a kick, but the old orang-outang had turned the key inside, and when I’d had time to remember that I was a deacon and Sunday-school teacher I walked away. What do you mean by his good fortune of yesterday?”

“I mean he struck Charlie Howard for seventy-five thousand.”

My hearer’s mouth dropped open. He was equally amazed and amused. “Well, well, well! That accounts for his silly high-headedness.”

“Ah! no: that matter of yours was last week and the drawing was only yesterday.”

“Oh, that’s so. I don’t keep run of that horrible lottery business. It makes me sick at heart to see the hideous canker poisoning the character and blasting the lives of every class of our people–why, don’t you think so?”

“Oh, yes, I–I do. Yes, I certainly do!”

“But your conviction isn’t exactly red-hot, I perceive. Come, wake up.”

We rose. At the first street corner, as we were parting, I noticed he was still talking of the lottery.

“Pestilential thing,” he was calling it. “Men blame it lightly on the ground that there are other forms of gambling which our laws don’t reach. I suppose a tiger in a village mustn’t be killed till we have killed all the tigers back in the woods!”

I assented absently and walked away full of a vague shame. For I know as well as anyone that a man without a quick, strong, aggressive, insistent indignation against undoubted evil is a very poor stick.


At dinner that evening, Mrs. Smith broke a long silence with the question:

“Did you go to see Manouvrier?”


She looked at me drolly. “Did you go half way and turn back?”

“Yes,” said I, “that’s precisely what I did.” And we dropped the subject.

But in the night I felt her fingers softly touch my shoulder.

“Warm night,” I remarked.

“Richard,” said she, “it will be time enough to be troubled about your taxidermist when he’s given you cause.”

“I’m not troubled; I’m simply interested. I’ll go down to-morrow and see him.” A little later it rained, very softly, and straight down, so that there was no need to shut the windows, and I slept like an infant until the room was full of sunshine.

All the next day and evening, summer though it was and the levee and sugar sheds and cotton-yards virtually empty, I was kept by unexpected business and could not go near St. Peter Street. Both my partners were away on their vacations. But on the third afternoon our office regained its summer quiet and I was driving my pen through the last matter that prevented my going where I pleased, when I was disturbed by the announcement of a visitor. I pushed my writing on to a finish though he stood just at my back. Then I turned to bid him talk fast as my time was limited, when who should it be but Manouvrier. I took him into my private office, gave him a chair and said:

“I was just coming to see you.”

“You had somet’in’ to git stoff’?”

“No; I–Oh, I didn’t know but you might like to see me.”

“Yass?–Well–yass. I wish you come yesterday.”

“Indeed? Why so; to protect you from reporters and beggars?”

“Naw; my wife she keep off all doze Peter an’ John. Naw; one man bring me one wile cat to stoff. Ah! a so fine as I never see! Beautiful like da dev’l! Since two day’ an’ night’ I can’t make out if I want to fix dat wile cat stan’in’ up aw sittin’ down!”

“Did you decide at last?”

“Yass, I dis-ide. How you think I diside?”

“Ah! you’re too hard for me. But one thing I know.”

“Yass? What you know?”

“That you will never do so much to anything as to leave my imagination nothing to do. You will always give my imagination strong play and never a bit of hard work.”