The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


Lady Jane.

Chapter XVIII.


IT was nearly dark, and the day had been very long to Pepsie, sitting alone at her window, for Madelon must remain all day and until late at night on the Rue Bourbon. A holiday, and especially Mardi-gras, was a day of harvest for her, and she never neglected an opportunity to reap nickels and dimes. Pepsie began to look anxiously for the return of the merry party in the milk-cart. She knew they were not to remain to see the night procession; at least, that had not been the intention of Tante Modeste when they left, and she could not imagine what had detained them. And Tite Souris —ungrateful creature! —had been told to return, as soon as the procession was over, in order to cook Pepsie's dinner. Owing to the excitement of the morning Pepsie had eaten nothing, and now she was very hungry as well as lonely; and even Tony, tired of waiting, was hopping about restlessly, straining at his cord and viciously pecking the floor.

Madame Jozain had returned some time before, and was even then eating her dinner comfortably. Pepsie had called across to know whether she had seen anything of the Paichoux and Lady Jane; but Madame had answered stiffly that she had been in a friend's gallery all the time, which was an intimation that she had been in no position to notice a milk-cart or its occupants. Then she observed indifferently that Madame Paichoux had probably decided to remain on Canal Street in order to secure good places to view the night procession.

Pepsie comforted herself somewhat with this view of the case, but soon began to worry about the child's fast. She was sure Tante Modeste had nothing in the cart for the children to eat, and on Mardi-gras there was such a rush that one could hardly get into a restaurant, and she doubted whether Tante Modeste would try, with such a crowd of young ones to feed. At length, when she had thought of every possible reason for their remaining so late, and every possible plan by which they could be fed, she began to remember her own hunger, and Tite Souris's neglect. She had worked herself up to a very unenviable state of mind, when she saw her ungrateful handmaid plunging across the street, looking like a scarecrow, the remnants of her tatters flying in the wind, while her comical black face wore an expression impossible to describe.

"Oh, Miss Peps!" she gasped, bursting into Pepsie's presence like a whirlwind, "Ma'm Paichoux done sont me on ahead ter tell yer how Miss Lady's done got lost!"

"Lost! lost?" cried Pepsie, clasping her hands wildly and bursting into tears. "How, where?"

"Up yon'er, on Cunnel Street. We's can't find 'er nowhar."

"Then you must have let go of her," cried Pepsie, while her eyes flashed fire. "I told you not to let go of her!"

"Oh, laws, Miss Peps, we's couldn't holp it in dat dar scrimmage; peoples done bus us right apart, an' Miss Lady's so littl', her han' jes slip out'n mine. I's tried ter hol' on, but it ain't no use."

"And where was Tiburce? Did he let go of her too?"

"He war dar, but laws! he couldn't holp it, Mars Tiburce couldn't, no more 'n me."

"You've broken my heart, Tite, and if you don't go and find her, I'll hate you always! Mind what I say, I'll hate you forever!" and Pepsie thrust out her long head and set her teeth in a cruel way.

"Oh, laws, honey! Oh, laws, Miss Peps, dey's all a-lookin', dey 's gwine bring 'er back soon; doan't git scart, dat chile's all right.

"Go and look for her; go and find her!
Mind what I tell you, bring her back safe, or—." Here Pepsie threw herself back in her chair and fairly writhed. "Oh! oh! and I must stay here and not do anything, and that darling is lost, lost!—out in the streets alone, and 't is nearly dark. Go; go and look for her! Don't stand there glaring at me; go, I say!" and Pepsie raised her nutcracker threateningly.

"Yes, Miss Peps; yes, I'll bring 'er back, shore," cried Tite, dodging an imaginary blow, as she darted out, her rags and tatters flying after her.

When she had gone, Pepsie could do nothing but strain her eyes in the gathering darkness, and wring her hands, and weep. She saw the light and the fire in Madame Jozain's room, but the door was closed because the evening was chilly, and the street seemed deserted. There was no one to speak to; she was alone in the dark little room except for Tony, who rustled his feathers in a ghostly sort of way, and toneddismally.

Presently she heard the sound of wheels, and peering out saw Tante Modeste's milk-cart. Her heart gave a great bound. How foolish she was to "take on" in such a wild way;—they had found her, she was there in the cart safe and sound! But instead of Lady Jane's blithe little voice she heard the deep tones of her Uncle Paichoux, and the next moment Tante Modoste entered with a very anxious face.

"She hasn't come home, has she?" were Tante Modeste's first words.

"Oh, oh!" sobbed Pepsie; "then you haven't brought her?"

"Don't cry, child, don't cry; we'll find her now. When I saw I couldn't do anything, I took the young ones home and got your uncle. I said, 'If I have Paichoux, I'll be able to find her.' We're going right to the police. I dare say they've found her by this time or know where she is."

"You know I told you—" moaned Pepsie; "you know I was afraid she'd get lost."

"Yes, yes; but I thought I could trust Tiburce. The boy will never get over it; he told me the truth, thank Heaven!—he said he just let go of her hand for one moment, and there was such a crowd. If that flyaway of a Tite had kept on the other side, it wouldn't have happened, but she ran away as soon as they got on the street."

"I thought so. I'll pay her off!" said Pepsie, vindictively.

"Come, come, Modeste," called Paichoux from the door, "let's be starting."

"Oh, Uncle," cried Pepsie, imploringly, "do find my Lady Jane!"

"Certainly, child; certainly, I'll find her. I'll have her here in an hour or so. Don't cry. It's nothing for a young child to get lost on Mardi-gras. I dare say there are a dozen at the police stations now, waiting for their people to come and get them."

Just at that moment there was a sound of voices without, and Pepsie exclaimed: "That's Lady Jane. I heard her speak!" Sure enough, the sweet, high-pitched little voice chattering merrily could be distinctly heard; and at the same instant Tite Souris burst into the room, exclaiming:

"Her's here, Miss Peps, bress der Lor'! I's done found her"; and following close was Lady Jane, still holding fast to little Gex.

"Oh, Pepsie! Oh, I was lost!" she cried, springing into her friend's arms. "I was lost, and Mr. Gex found me. A boy tore off my mask and domino, and I struck him in the face, and I didn't know what to do next, when Mr. Gex came and kicked him into the gutter. Didn't you, Mr. Gex?"

"Just to think of it!" cried Tante Modeste, embracing her, and almost crying over her, while Paichoux was listening to the modest account of the rescue from the ancient dancing-master.

"And I had dinner with Mr. Gex," cried Lady Jane, joyously; "such a lovely dinner—ice¬cream, and grapes,—and cake."

"And one leetle bird, vith a vairy fine salad, my leetle lady,—vasn't it? one vairy nice leetle bird," interrupted Gex, who was unwilling to have his fine dinner slighted.

"Oh, yes, a bird, and fish, and soup," enumerated Lady Jane; "and peas, Pepsie, little peas."

"Oh,non, non; oh, leetle lady!" cried Gex, holding up his hands in horror, "you have it vairy wrong. It was soup, and fish, and bird. Monsieur Paichoux, you see the leetle lady does
not veil remember; and you must not think I can't order one vairy fine dinner."

"I understand," said Paichoux, laughing, "I've no doubt, Gex, but that you could order a dinner fit for an alderman."

"Thank you, thank you, vairy much," returned Gex, as he bowed himself out and went home to dream of his triumph.



"JUST to think," said Pepsie to her mother the next morning, "Madame Jozain wasn't the least anxious last night about Lady. I don't believe she cares for the child, or she'd never be willing to let Lady stay away from her the most of the time, as she does. She's always fussing about her great overgrown son if he's out of her sight."

"And no wonder," returned Madelon. "Poor woman! she has trouble enough with him. She keeps it to herself and pretends to be proud of him; but, my dear, he's a living disgrace to her. I often hear him spoken of on the Rue Bourbon; he dresses well, and never works. Where does he get his money, ma petite? If people are poor and don't work, they must steal. They may call it by some other name, but I call it stealing. Madame Jozain can't make money enough in that little shop to support herself and keep that boy in idleness. We mustn't be too hard on her. She has trouble enough, I can see it in her face; she looks worn out with worry. And we'll do all we can for that little darling. It's a pleasure, she's so sweet and grateful. I only wish I could do more. I'd work my fingers to the bone for you two, my darling."

"Bonne Maman," said Pepsie, clinging to her mother's neck, and kissing her fondly, "have you thought of what I asked you?— have you, dear Mamma?"

"Yes, my dear, I have; I've thought of it a great deal, but I don't see my way clear quite yet."

"Why, you've got the money in the bank, Mamma."

"I can't touch that money, my dear; it's for you. If anything should happen to me, and you were left alone—."

"Hush, hush, Mamma; I shouldn't need any money then, for I should die too."

"No, my dear, not if it was the good God's will that you should live. I don't want to spend that; I want to feel that you've something. A piano costs a great deal of money; besides, what would your uncle and aunt think if I should do such a thing?"

"They'd think you did it because I wanted you to," returned Pepsie, slyly.

"That would be a reason certainly," said Madelon, laughing, "and I'll try to do it after a while. Have a little patience, dear, and I think I can manage it without touching the money in the bank."

"Oh, I hope you can, Mamma; because Mam'selle Diane says Lady learns very fast, and that she ought to practice. I hate to have her kept back by the want of a piano— and Madame Jozain will never get one for her. You know you could sell it afterward, Mamma—" and Pepsie went on to show, with much excellent reasoning, that Lady Jane could never make a great prima donna unless she had advantages. "It's now, while her fingers are supple, that they must be trained; she ought to practice two hours a day. Oh, I'd rather go without the money than to have Lady kept back. Try, bonne Maman, try to get a piano very soon, won't you?"

And Madelon promised to try, for she was devoted to the child; but Pepsie had begun to think that Lady Jane was her own—her very own, and, in her generous affection, was willing to sacrifice everything for the good of her charge.

And Madelon and Pepsie were not the only ones who planned and hoped for the little one with almost motherly love and interest. From the first day that Lady Jane smiled up into the sad, worn face of Diane d'Hautreve, a new life had opened to that lonely woman, a new hope, a new happiness brightened her dreary days, for the child's presence seemed to bring sunshine and youth to her. Had it not been for her mother, she would have kept the gentle little creature with her constantly, as the sweetest hours she knew, or had known many a weary year, were those she devoted to
her lovely little pupil. It was a dream of delight, to sit at the tinkling piano with Lady Jane nestled close at her side, the sweet childish notes mingling with hers, as they sang an old-fashioned ballad, or a tender lullaby. And the child never disappointed her; she was always docile and thoughtful; and so quiet and polite, that even Diane's mother, captious and querulous though she was, found no cause for complaint, while the toleration with which she had at first received [illustration - "'Go and look for her! Don't stand there glaring at me; go I say!' and Pepsie raised her nutcracker threateningly." (See page 1039.)] Lady Jane was fast changing into affection. The more they became interested in her, the more they wondered how she could be kin to such a woman as Madame Jozain; for Mam'selle Diane had been obliged to show how exclusive she could be, in order to keep Madame where she belonged.

At first Madame Jozain had annoyed them greatly by trying to intrude upon their seclusion; and it had taken several polite, but unmistakable rebuffs to teach her that they were d'Hautreves, and that the child would be received gladly where the aunt must not expect to enter.

Madame swallowed her mortification and said nothing, but she bided her time to take her revenge. "I'llshow them, before long, that I know how poor they are; and that funny little story I got out of Tite Souris, about Mam'selle Diane cleaning her banquette with a veil over her face—every one in the neighborhood shall know it! Poor, proud, old thing, she thought she could insult me and I wouldn't resent it!"

And while Madame was planning her little revenge, and rehearsing her grievances to herself, old Madame d'Hautreve and Mam'selle Diane were wondering if something couldn't be done to get the child out of the clutches of such an aunt.

"It seems really wrong," Mam'selle Diane would say sadly, "to leave her with that woman. I can not think she has any right to her; there is a mystery about it, and it ought to be investigated. Oh, Mamma, dear, if we had some money I'd hire a lawyer to find out! If she really is the child's next of kin, I suppose she has a legal right to her, and that no one could oblige her to relinquish that right; but one might buy the little girl. I think Madame Jozain is just the woman to be moved by money. Oh, Mamma, if our claim had only gone through! If we'd only got what we ought to have had, I would try to buy the child."


"Dear, dear! How absurd! What would you do with her?" said Madame d'Hautreve.

"Why, you could adopt her, Mamma; and I could have the care of her," replied Diane.

"But, my child, that is all romancing. We have no money and we never shall have any. It is useless to think of that claim; it will never be considered; and even if we had money, it would be a great risk to take a child of whom we know nothing. I think, with you, that there's a mystery, and I should like to have it cleared. Yet we must not worry about it. We have troubles enough of our own."

"Oh, Mamma, we need not be selfish because we are poor," said Diane, gently.

"We can't help it, child. Selfishness is one of the results of poverty—it is self, self, constantly; but you are an exception, Diane. I will give you the credit of thinking more of others' interest, than of your own. You show it in everything. Now about that bird. Madame Jourdain should have paid you for it and not thrown it back on your hands."

"Oh, Mamma, she couldn't sell it," said Mam'selle Diane, dejectedly. "It wouldn't be right to expect her to lose the price of it. It didn't 'take' as well as the ducks."

"Well, she might have thrown in the wool for your time," Madame insisted querulously.

"But she didn't ask me to experiment with a new model, Mamma, dear. It wasn't her fault if I didn't succeed."

"You did succeed, Diane. It was perfect, it was most life-like; but people haven't the taste to recognize your talent."

"Madame Jourdain said her customers didn't like the bird's bill, and thought the neck too long," returned Mam'selle Diane, humbly.

"There! that only shows how little the best educated people know of ornithology. It is a species of crane; the neck is not too long."

"They thought so, Mamma, and one can't contend with people's tastes and opinions. I shall not try anything new again; I shall stick to my ducks and canaries."

"You know, I advised you to do so in the first place. You were too ambitious, Diane."

"Yes, you are right, Mamma. I was too ambitious!" sighed Mam'selle Diane.

One morning in August, about a year from the time that Madame Jozain moved into Good Children Street, Tante Modeste was in her dairy, deep in the mysteries of cream-cheese and butter, when Paichoux entered, and laying a small parcel twisted up in a piece of newspaper before her, waited for her to open it.

"In a moment," she said, smiling brightly." Let me fill these molds first, then I'll wash my hands and I'm done for to-day."

Paichoux made no reply, but walked about the dairy, peering into the pans of rich milk, and whistling softly. Suddenly, Tante Modeste uttered an exclamation of surprise. Paichoux had opened the paper and was holding up a beautiful watch by its exquisitely wrought chain.

"Why, Papa, where in the world did you get that?" she asked, as she turned it over and over, and examined first one side then the other. "Blue enamel, a band of diamonds on the rim, a leaf in diamonds on one side, a monogram on the other. What are the letters?—J, yes, it's a J; and a C. Why, those are the very initials on that child's clothes! Paichoux, where did you get this watch, and whose is it?"

"Why, it is mine," replied Paichoux, with exasperating coolness. He was standing before Tante Modeste, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, whistling in his easy way while she talked. "It's mine, and I bought it."

"Bought it! Where did you buy a watch like this,—and wrapped up in newspaper, too! Do tell me where you got it, Paichoux," cried Tante Modeste, very much puzzled.

"I bought it in the Recorder's court."

"In the Recorder's court!" echoed Tante Modeste, more and more puzzled. "From whom did you buy it?"

"From Raste Jozain."

Tante Modeste looked at her husband with wide eyes and parted lips for several seconds; then she exclaimed, "I told you so!"

"Told me what?" asked Paichoux, with a provoking smile.

"Why, why,—that all those things marked J. C. were stolen from that child's mother, and this watch is a part of the same property,—and she never was a Jozain."

"Not so fast, Modeste; not so fast."

"Then, why was Raste Jozain in court?"


"He was arrested on suspicion, but they couldn't prove anything."

"For this?" asked Tante Modeste, looking at the watch.

"No; it was another charge; but his having such a valuable watch went against him. It seems like a providence, my getting it. I just happened to be passing the Recorder's court, and glancing in, I saw that precious rascal in the dock. I knew him, but he doesn't know me. So I stepped in to see what the scrape was. It seems that he was arrested on the suspicion of being one of a gang who have robbed a number of jewelry stores. They couldn't prove anything against him on that charge; but the watch and chain puzzled the Recorder. He asked Raste where he got it; but the scamp was ready with his answer: 'It belonged to my cousin who died some time ago; she left it to my mother, and my mother gave it to me.'

"'What was her name?' asked the Recorder.

"'Claire Jozain,' Raste answered, promptly.

"'But this is J. C.,' said the Recorder, examining the letters closely. 'I should certainly say that the J. came first. What do you think, gentlemen?' and he handed the watch to his clerk and some others; and they all thought from the arrangement of the letters that it was J. C. And while this discussion was going on, the fellow stood there smiling, as impudent and cool as if he was the first gentleman in the city. He's handsome and well dressed, and the image of his father. Any one who ever saw Andre Jozain would know Raste was his son."

"And they couldn't find out where he got the watch?" interrupted Tante Modeste.

"No; they couldn't prove that it was stolen. However, the Recorder gave him thirty days in the parish prison, as a suspicious character."

"They ought not to have let him off so easily," said Tante Modeste, decidedly.

"But you know they couldn't prove anything," continued Paichoux; "and the fellow looked blue at the prospect of his thirty days. However, he doesn't lack assurance, and he began to talk and laugh with some flashy looking fellows who gathered around him. They saw that there was an opportunity for a bargain, and one man offered fifty dollars for it. 'Do you think I'm from the West?' he asked, with a grin, and shoved it back into his pocket. 'I 'm pretty hard up; I need the cash badly; but I can't give you this ticker, much as I love you!' Then another man bid sixty, and he refused. 'No, no, that's nowhere near the figure.'

"'Let me look at the watch,' I said, sauntering up; 'if it's a good watch, I'll make you an offer.' I spoke as indifferently as possible, because I didn't wish him to think I was eager, and I wasn't quite sure whether he knew me or not. As he handed me the watch, he eyed me impudently, but I saw that he was nervous and shaky. 'It's a good watch,' I said, after I examined it closely; 'a very good watch, and I'll give you seventy-five.' 'No you don't, old hayseed; hand it here,' said he.

"I was so taken aback at his calling me hayseed—you see, Modeste, I had on my blouse," and Paichoux looked a little guilty while referring to his costume.

"Well, Papa, haven't I told you not to go up town in your blouse?" said Tante Modeste. "I wish, for Marie's sake, that you would wear a coat. The Guiots all wear coats."

"Oh, never mind that. I don't. I'm an honest man, and I can afford to wear a blouse anywhere. I didn't take any notice of his impudence, but I offered him ninety. You see, I happened to have the money with me. I was on my way to pay Lenotre for that last Jersey I bought from him; so I took out my wallet and began counting the bills. That brought him. The fellow needed the money, and he was glad to get rid of the watch. If I hadn't thought that there was something crooked about it, my conscience wouldn't have let me take such a valuable thing for so low a price; but I considered the child. I thought it might be all the proof that we should have if anything ever came up; and in any case it's money well invested for her."

"You did right to buy it, Paichoux. It's a large sum of money for a watch, especially just now, when we have to have so much for Marie; but if we can do anything for that darling by having it, I don't mind," and Tante Modeste sat for some time looking intently at the beautiful, sparkling object as it lay on her white apron.

"I wish it could speak," she said at length.

"I mean to make it, by and by," returned Paichoux, decidedly.


"But now, at this moment," she answered eagerly. "What a story it could tell, if it had a voice! Well, I'm glad we've rescued it from that scamp's clutches."

"So am I," returned Paichoux, opening the [illustration - "'Why Papa, where in the world did you get that?' said Modeste." (See page 1042.)] case as he spoke, and showing Tante Modeste something on the inside of it. "I can get a trace through this, or I'm mistaken; but put it away now in my safe, and say nothing about it,— I don't wish even Madelon to know that we've got it. And, Modeste, whenever you see that woman, watch for something to give us a clue."

"Oh, Paichoux, you don't know her. She's as close as the grave, and too cunning to betray herself. I'm watching her, and I mean to keep on, but I don't think it's any use. I wish we could employ a good detective."

"Yes, yes, but that would cost a good deal, Modeste; let's wait awhile, something's going to turn up to put us on the right track."

"And in the mean while the poor little darling is in the power of that woman. The child never complains, but my heart aches for her. She has changed, this summer. She looks thin and weak, and that woman takes no more care of her than she would of a dog. If it wasn't for Madelon and Pepsie, and Mam'selle d'Hautreve, the little creature would suffer; and our good milk that I send to Madelon has helped her through the hot weather. Pepsie herself goes without to give it to the child. If the sweet little thing hadn't made friends she would have perished."

"Let her come down here and play with our young ones," said Paichoux; "she's no more trouble than a bird hopping about."

"I wanted to have her, but Madame won't let her come; she's taken it in her head to keep the child shut up most of the time. Pepsie and Mam'selle Diane complain that they don't have her as often as they'd like to. I think she's afraid that the child may talk. You see she's getting older, and she may remember more than Madame chooses to have known."

"Well," said Paichoux, deliberately, "I've made a plan. Just keep quiet and wait until I'm ready to put my plan in operation."

And Tante Modeste promised to wait.

(To be continued.)