Table of Content

Chapter 53 - Adventures in the Far West by Mayne Reid

Eugène d’Hauteville

The remainder of the day I was occupied in searching for Aurore. I could learn nothing of her—not even whether she had yet reached the city!

In search of her I went to the quarters where the others had their temporary lodgment. She was not these. She had either not yet arrived, or was kept at some other place. They had not seen her! They knew nothing about her.

Disappointed and wearied with running through the hot and dusty streets, I returned to the hotel.

I waited for night. I waited for the coming of Eugène d’Hauteville, for such was the name of my new acquaintance.

I was strangely interested in this young man. Our short interview had inspired me with a singular confidence in him. He had given proof of a friendly design towards me; and still more had impressed me with a high idea of his knowledge of the world. Young as he was, I could not help fancying him a being possessed of some mysterious power. I could not help thinking that in some way he might aid me. There was nothing remarkable in his being so young and still au-fait to all the mysteries of life. Precocity is the privilege of the American, especially the native of New Orleans. A Creole at fifteen is a man.

I felt satisfied that D’Hauteville—about my own age—knew far more of the world than I, who had been half my life cloistered within the walls of an antique university.

I had an instinct that he both could and would serve me.

How? you may ask. By lending me the money I required?

It could not be thus. I believed that he was himself without funds, or possessed of but little—far too little to be of use to me. My reason for thinking so was the reply he had made when I asked for his address. There was something in the tone of his answer that led me to the thought that he was without fortune—even without a home. Perhaps a clerk out of place, thought I; or a poor artist. His dress was rich enough—but dress is no criterion on a Mississippi steamboat.

With these reflections it was strange I should have been impressed with the idea he could serve me! But I was so, and had therefore resolved to make him the confidant of my secret—the secret of my love—the secret of my misery.

Perhaps another impulse acted upon me, and aided in bringing me to this determination. He whose heart has been charged with a deep grief must know the relief which sympathy can afford. The sympathy of friendship is sweet and soothing. There is balm in the counsel of a kind companion.

My sorrow had been long pent up within my own bosom, and yearned to find expression. Stranger among strangers, I had no one to share it with me. Even to the good Reigart I had not confessed myself. With the exception of Aurore herself, Eugénie—poor Eugénie—was alone mistress of my secret. Would that she of all had never known it!

Now to this youth Eugène—strange coincidence of name!—I was resolved to impart it—resolved to unburden my heart. Perhaps, in so doing I might find consolation or relief.

I waited for the night. It was at night he had promised to come. I waited with impatience—with my eyes bent almost continuously on the index finger of time, and chafing at the slow measured strokes of the pendulum.

I was not disappointed. He came at length. His silvery voice rang in my ears, and he stood before me.

As he entered my room, I was once more struck with the melancholy expression of his countenance—the pale cheek—the resemblance to some face I had met before.

The room was close and hot. The summer had not yet quite departed. I proposed a walk. We could converse as freely in the open air, and there was a lovely moon to light us on our way.

As we sallied forth, I offered my visitor a cigar. This he declined, giving his reason. He did not smoke.

Strange, thought I, for one of a race, who almost universally indulge in the habit. Another peculiarity in the character of my new acquaintance!

We passed up the Rue Royale, and turned along Canal Street in the direction of the “Swamp.” Presently we crossed the Rue des Rampartes, and soon found ourselves outside the limits of the city.

Some buildings appeared beyond, but they were not houses—at least not dwelling-places for the living. The numerous cupolas crowned with crosses—the broken columns—the monuments of white marble, gleaming under the moon, told us that we looked upon a city of the dead. It was the great cemetery of New Orleans—that cemetery where the poor after death are drowned, and the rich fare no better, for they are baked!

The gate stood open—the scene within invited me—its solemn character was in unison with my spirit. My companion made no objection, and we entered.

After wending our way among tombs, and statues, and monuments; miniature temples, columns, obelisks, sarcophagi carved in snow-white marble—passing graves that spoke of recent affliction—others of older date, but garnished with fresh flowers—the symbols of lore or affection that still lingered—we seated ourselves upon a moss-grown slab, with the fronds of the Babylonian willow waving above our heads, and drooping mournfully around us.

 Table of Content