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Tite Poulette
by [?]

“Zalli,” said he, “I am going.”

She bowed her head, and wept.

“You have been very faithful to me, Zalli.”

She wept on.

“Nobody to take care of you now, Zalli.”

Zalli only went on weeping.

“I want to give you this house, Zalli; it is for you and the little one.”

An hour after, amid the sobs of Madame John, she and the “little one” inherited the house, such as it was. With the fatal caution which characterizes ignorance, she sold the property and placed the proceeds in a bank, which made haste to fail. She put on widow’s weeds, and wore them still when ‘Tite Poulette “had seventeen,” as the frantic lads would say.

How they did chatter over her. Quiet Kristian Koppig had never seen the like. He wrote to his mother, and told her so. A pretty fellow at the corner would suddenly double himself up with beckoning to a knot of chums; these would hasten up; recruits would come in from two or three other directions; as they reached the corner their countenances would quickly assume a genteel severity, and presently, with her mother, ‘Tite Poulette would pass–tall, straight, lithe, her great black eyes made tender by their sweeping lashes, the faintest tint of color in her Southern cheek, her form all grace, her carriage a wonder of simple dignity.

The instant she was gone every tongue was let slip on the marvel of her beauty; but, though theirs were only the loose New Orleans morals of over fifty years ago, their unleashed tongues never had attempted any greater liberty than to take up the pet name, ‘Tite Poulette. And yet the mother was soon to be, as we shall discover, a paid dancer at the Salle de Conde.

To Zalli, of course, as to all “quadroon ladies,” the festivities of the Conde-street ball-room were familiar of old. There, in the happy days when dear Monsieur John was young, and the eighteenth century old, she had often repaired under guard of her mother–dead now, alas!–and Monsieur John would slip away from the dull play and dry society of Theatre d’Orleans, and come around with his crowd of elegant friends; and through the long sweet hours of the ball she had danced, and laughed, and coquetted under her satin mask, even to the baffling and tormenting of that prince of gentlemen, dear Monsieur John himself. No man of questionable blood dare set his foot within the door. Many noble gentlemen were pleased to dance with her. Colonel De —- and General La —-: city councilmen and officers from the Government House. There were no paid dancers then. Every thing was decorously conducted indeed! Every girl’s mother was there, and the more discreet always left before there was too much drinking. Yes, it was gay, gay!–but sometimes dangerous. Ha! more times than a few had Monsieur John knocked down some long-haired and long-knifed rowdy, and kicked the breath out of him for looking saucily at her; but that was like him, he was so brave and kind;–and he is gone!

There was no room for widow’s weeds there. So when she put these on, her glittering eyes never again looked through her pink and white mask, and she was glad of it; for never, never in her life had they so looked for anybody but her dear Monsieur John, and now he was in heaven–so the priest said–and she was a sick-nurse.

Living was hard work; and, as Madame John had been brought up tenderly, and had done what she could to rear her daughter in the same mistaken way, with, of course, no more education than the ladies in society got, they knew nothing beyond a little music and embroidery. They struggled as they could, faintly; now giving a few private dancing lessons, now dressing hair, but ever beat back by the steady detestation of their imperious patronesses; and, by and by, for want of that priceless worldly grace known among the flippant as “money-sense,” these two poor children, born of misfortune and the complacent badness of the times, began to be in want.