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The Taxidermist
by [?]

“Come! Come and see!”

I took my hat. “Is that what you called to see me about?”

“Ah!” He started in sudden recollection and brought forth the lottery company’s certified check for the seventy-five thousand dollars. “You keep dat?–lill’ while?–for me? Yass; till I mek out how I goin’ to spend her.”

“Manouvrier, may I make one condition?”


“It is that you will never play the lottery again.”

“Ah! Yass, I play her ag’in! You want know whan ole Pastropbon play her ag’in? One doze fine mawning–mebbee–dat sun–going rise hisself in de wes’. Well: when ole Pastropbon see dat, he play dat lott’ree ag’in. But biffo’ he see dat”–He flirted his thumb.

Not many days later a sudden bereavement brought our junior partner back from Europe and I took my family North for a more stimulating air. Before I went I called on my St. Peter Street friend to say that during my absence either of my partners would fulfil any wish of his concerning the money. In his wife’s sewing-basket in the back room I noticed a batch of unopened letters, and ventured a question which had been in my mind for several days.

“Manouvrier, you must get a host of letters these days from people who think you ought to help them because you have got money and they haven’t. Do you read them?”

“Naw!” He gave me his back, bending suddenly over some real or pretended work. “I read some–first day. Since dat time I give ’em to old woman– wash hand–go to work ag’in–naw use.”

“Ah! no use?” piped up the soft-voiced wife. “I use them to light those fire to cook those soup.” But I felt the absence of her accustomed laugh.

“Well, it’s there whenever you want it,” I said to the husband as I was leaving.

“What?” The tone of the response was harsh. “What is where?”

“Why, the money. It’s in the bank.”

“Hah!” he said, with a contemptuous smile and finished with his thumb. That was the first time I ever saw a thumb swear. But in a moment his kindly gravity was on him again and he said, “Daz all right; I come git her some day.”


I did not get back to New Orleans till late in the fall. In the office they told me that Manouvrier had been in twice to see if I had returned, and they had promised to send him word of my arrival. But I said no, and went to see him.

I found new lines of care on his brow, but the old kindness was still in his eye. We exchanged a few words of greeting and inquiry, and then there came a pause, which I broke.

“Well, stuffing birds better than ever, I suppose.”

“Naw,” he looked around upon his work, “I dawn’t think. I dunno if I stoff him quite so good like biffo’.” Another pause. Then, “I think I mek out what I do wid doze money now.”

“Indeed,” said I, and noticed that his face was averted from his wife.

She lifted her eyes to his broad back with a quizzical smile, glanced at me knowingly, and dropped them again upon her sewing, sighed:

“Ah-bah!” Then she suddenly glanced at me with a pretty laugh and added, “Since all that time he dunno what he goin’ to make with it. If he trade with it I thing he don’t stoff bird no mo’, and I thing he lose it bis-ide–ha, ha, ha!–and if he keep it all time lock in doze bank I thing, he jiz well not have it.” She laughed again.

But he quite ignored her and resumed, as if out of a revery, “Yass, at de las’ I mek dat out.” And the wife interrupted him in a tone that was like the content of a singing hen.

“I think it don’t worth while to leave it to our chillun, en’t it?”

“Ah!” said the husband, entirely to me, “daz de troub’! You see?–we dawn’t got some ba-bee’! Dat neveh arrive to her. God know’ dass not de fault of us.”