always wore a neat
and snugly fitting calico wrapper when she
went out in the morning to sweep her small
gallery. Lawyer Paxton thought she looked
very pretty in the gray one that was made
with a graceful Watteau fold at the back:
and with which she invariably wore a bow of
pink ribbon at the throat. She was always
sweeping her gallery when lawyer Paxton
passed by in the morning on his way to his
office in St. Denis Street.
Sometimes he stopped and leaned over
the fence to say good-morning at his ease;
to criticise or admire her rosebushes; or,
when he had time enough, to hear what she
had to say. Madame Célestin usually had
a good deal to say. She would gather up
the train of her calico wrapper in one hand,
and balancing the broom gracefully in the
other, would go tripping down to where the
lawyer leaned, as comfortably as he could,
over her picket fence.
Of course she had talked to him of her
troubles. Every one knew Madame
"Really, madame," he told her once, in his
deliberate, calculating, lawyer-tone, "it 's
more than human nature - woman's nature
- should be called upon to endure. Here
you are, working your fingers off" - she
glanced down at two rosy finger-tips that
showed through the rents in her baggy
doeskin gloves - "taking in sewing; giving
music lessons; doing God knows what in
the way of manual labor to support yourself
and those two little ones" - Madame
Célestin's pretty face beamed with satisfaction
at this enumeration of her trials.
"You right, Judge. Not a picayune, not
one, not one, have I lay my eyes on in the
pas' fo' months that I can say Célestin give
it to me or sen' it to me."
"The scoundrel!" muttered lawyer
Paxton in his beard.
"An' pourtant," she resumed, "they say
he 's making money down roun' Alexandria
w'en he wants to work."
"I dare say you have n't seen him for
months?" suggested the lawyer.
"It 's good six month' since I see a sight
of Célestin," she admitted.
"That 's it, that 's what I say; he has
practically deserted you; fails to support
you. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn
that he has ill treated you."
"Well, you know, Judge," with an
evasive cough, "a man that drinks - w'at can
you expec'? An' if you would know the
promises he has made me! Ah, if I had as
many dolla' as I had promise from Célestin,
I would n' have to work, je vous garantis."
"And in my opinion, madame, you would
be a foolish woman to endure it longer,
when the divorce court is there to offer you
"You spoke about that befo', Judge; I 'm
goin' think about that divo'ce. I believe
Madame Célestin thought about the
divorce and talked about it, too; and lawyer
Paxton grew deeply interested in the theme.
"You know, about that divo'ce, Judge,"
Madame Célestin was waiting for him that
morning, "I been talking to my family an'
my frien's, an' it 's me that tells you, they all
plumb agains' that divo'ce."
"Certainly to be sure; that 's to be
expected, madame, in this community of
Creoles. I warned you that you would
meet with opposition, and would have to
face it and brave it."
"Oh, don't fear, I 'm going to face it!
Maman says it 's a disgrace like it 's neva
been in the family. But it 's good for
Maman to talk, her. W'at trouble she ever
had? She says I mus' go by all means
consult with Père Duchéron - it 's my confessor,
you undastan' - Well, I 'll go, Judge,
to please Maman. But all the confessor' in
the worl' ent goin' make me put up with
that conduc' of Célestin any longa."
A day or two later, she was there waiting
for him again. "You know, Judge, about
"Yes, yes," responded the lawyer, well
pleased to trace a new determination in her
brown eyes and in the curves of her pretty
mouth. "I suppose you saw Père Duchéron
and had to brave it out with him, too."
"Oh, fo' that, a perfec' sermon, I assho
you. A talk of giving scandal an' bad
example that I thought would neva en'! He
says, fo' him, he wash' his hands; I mus'
go see the bishop."
"You won't let the bishop dissuade you,
I trust," stammered the lawyer more
anxiously than he could well understand.
"You don't know me yet, Judge,"
laughed Madame Célestin with a turn of
the head and a flirt of the broom which
indicated that the interview was at an end.
"Well, Madame Célestin! And the
bishop!" Lawyer Paxton was standing
there holding to a couple of the shaky
pickets. She had not seen him. "Oh, it 's
you, Judge?" and she hastened towards
him with an empressement that could not
but have been flattering.
"Yes, I saw Monseigneur," she began.
The lawyer had already gathered from her
expressive countenance that she had not
wavered in her determination. "Ah, he 's
a eloquent man. It 's not a mo' eloquent
man in Natchitoches parish. I was fo'ced
to cry, the way he talked to me about my
troubles; how he undastan's them, an' feels
for me. It would move even you, Judge,
to hear how he talk' about that step I want
to take; its danga, its temptation. How
it is the duty of a Catholic to stan' everything
till the las' extreme. An' that life of
retirement an' self-denial I would have to
lead, - he tole me all that."
"But he has n't turned you from your
resolve, I see," laughed the lawyer
"For that, no," she returned emphatically.
"The bishop don't know w'at it is
to be married to a man like Célestin, an'
have to endu' that conduc' like I have to
endu' it. The Pope himse'f can't make me
stan' that any longer, if you say I got the
right in the law to sen' Célestin sailing."
A noticeable change had come over lawyer
Paxton. He discarded his work-day coat
and began to wear his Sunday one to the
office. He grew solicitous as to the shine
of his boots, his collar, and the set of his
tie. He brushed and trimmed his whiskers
with a care that had not before been apparent.
Then he fell into a stupid habit of
dreaming as he walked the streets of the
old town. It would be very good to take
unto himself a wife, he dreamed. And he
could dream of no other than pretty Madame
Célestin filling that sweet and sacred
office as she filled his thoughts, now. Old
Natchitoches would not hold them comfortably,
perhaps; but the world was surely wide
enough to live in, outside of
His heart beat in a strangely irregular
manner as he neared Madame Célestin's
house one morning, and discovered her
behind the rosebushes, as usual plying her
broom. She had finished the gallery and
steps and was sweeping the little brick walk
along the edge of the violet border.
"Good-morning, Madame Célestin."
"Ah, it 's you, Judge? Good-morning."
He waited. She seemed to be doing the
same. Then she ventured, with some
hesitancy, "You know, Judge, about that
divo'ce. I been thinking, - I reckon you
betta neva mine about that divo'ce." She
was making deep rings in the palm of her
gloved hand with the end of the broom-handle,
and looking at them critically. Her face
seemed to the lawyer to be unusually
rosy; but maybe it was only the reflection
of the pink bow at the throat. "Yes, I
reckon you need n' mine. You see, Judge,
Célestin came home las' night. An' he 's
promise me on his word an' honor he 's going
to turn ova a new leaf."