The Sun And Two Amber Eyes (The Pilgrim Stories In The Days Of Salt Book 1)

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How slowly one penetrates these linen tunnels, where even the voice falls back, unreverberative, until at the distant end a gray eye of daylight looks in and feebly burnishes the ever-delightful crockery stalls, where are the quaintly shaped jugs and absurd cups, with marvelous magnificence in the way of cheap basins and gorgeous bowls that to the uninitiated might pose for the ancientest delft that ever sailed from Holland with the Pilgrim Fathers. These delicious crockery stalls are like the pottery market of Weisbaden, the damaged delft sale at Doulton, or the wonderful Swiss shops of Swiss Thun.

Fancy a whole toilet set for a dollar, a dozen pieces of glassware for half that sum, or a real imitation cut crystal rose bowl for a couple of picayunes. Surely no curio collector's cabinet is complete without a fascinating hideousity from the china stalls of this market of markets! The outer edge of the bazaar wears a fringe of flowers, a sort of marginal note of bloom, in bouquets and potted plants. Here are street fakirs, fortune tellers, and venders of those sea shells that under all the market clamor still whisper the low music of the sea that lingers on their coral-pink lips, a memory of the green Adriatic or the blue Mediterranean.

Near here are also the first of the fruit stalls, but these are only the approaches of the fruit market, the "little fruit market," as it were; just as in the ante-bellum days the red-brick town of St. Martinville on the banks of the Teche was called the "little Paris. One must cross the muddy streets to the market house number three for the real fruit market of the town, passing en route the old pineapple peddler, who keeps up all the time his mournful call for those mythical "Mam'zelles Elmire and Doudouce!

What a piece of color it is, this fruit market of the old faubourg. Tadema might have spilled here his palette with all its waste of gold and saffron and yellow, for one sees his colors on orange and lemon and banana, with all its rust-red dyes on cocoanuts, mangoes, guavas, dates and plantains, and all its vivid greens and scarlets glowing on apple and pineapple. Each stall has a remarkable decoration of oranges piled up like cannon balls on a parade ground, or like the imposing front of an Egyptian Cheops.

A nutty fragrance floats in the air from the bunches of bananas that swing like pendulums from the eaves, or which is emitted from the wedges of juice-dripping pineapples that, cut in sample slices, retail at a picayune apiece.


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Here is another coffee stand. Hear the familiar monotone, " Cafe noir " or " Cafe au lait! But let us first investigate the squawking, calling poultry stalls. After awhile I will take you to a coffee stall where you shall have a farewell cup of such coffee as can be had nowhere on earth but in this old French Market. See those great, fat capons hanging by the legs, above platters of giblets for gourmands! How those cages of geese and Creole spring chickens knit their continuous scream and chatter into the warp and woof of the human voices about! Such a noise!

Let us go into the bread stalls. Here is a fit and proper accompaniment to possible pate de foi gras! What a mountain of crusty loaves! Truly the breads of all nations are to be had here! Here can be had French rolls delicately small; huge rusks as big as Cheshire cheeses and as heavy; long, slender braids of bread that must be pulled apart, never cut; black bread, brown bread, Dutch cakes, American bread, mixed with milk; French bread, raised with only a flour and water yeast; bread without any yeast at all; every loaf smoking hot from the oven, piled on shelves, or in big willow baskets, and giving out a wheaty smell that is better than caviar for the appetite.

Very curious are the grocery stalls of this old market. They form a pyramid of color and at the same time a study in comestibles.

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At some of them even " quartee brade " is still solicited. That is, five cents can be used to purchase four different articles; say a little garlic, a pinch of cayenne, salt, and enough barley to flavor broth. That is the meaning of " quartee.

On these stalls are sold more varieties of macaroni than there are days in the week, from a fine, red-shredded sort up to a broad flat band, and a paste cut, as Juliet wanted her Romeo — "into a little star. The list of grocery "sundries" is really more curious than inviting. There are dried capers, dried shrimps from the Malay camps on the Grand Chenier, olives in bulk and pickles in brine, mushroom chips and cocoa chips, salted black "gaspagou," and a curious black olive that has been boiled in olive oil, and that is perhaps the greatest thing under the sun.

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You do not "know beans" even if Breton bred, unless you have investigated the beans of the French Market. They range from black- eyed peas — which are really a kind of bean — to the kind that go so well in a "Jambalaya," or are so fine made into a salad, on which, after the recipe of the elder Dumas, you have expended "vinegar like a miser, oil like a spendthrift, and the strength of a maniac in the wrist. It is in the grocery stalls, too, that the thrifty Creole house-wife, who believes in buying groceries in small quantities, gets her ham by the slice, breakfast bacon by the rasher, enough cheese to sprinkle her spaghetti, and enough caviar to spread those dainty sandwiches of salted cracker that precede dinner in good society and whet its appetite.

Beyond the grocery stalls in the last of the "Halles" of the old market, are the vegetable stalls, the fish stalls, the flower women and the principal coffee stands, where the finest coffee is to be had. The aroma of a foreign country is in these last "Halles". Fat French women potter over the damp flagstones. The endless click of their carved wooden sabots taps the pavement like the delicate croak of rain frogs.

On the vegetable stalls one may find color enough and detail enough to have satisfied a Teniers. The faded red column that helps to support the roof wears at its capital a gray drapery of cobwebs looped loosely over the graceful iron brackets that spring toward the roof.

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All the rich wonders of an almost tropic garden are piled about this column. Shallots savory enough to tempt one to become a very unTennysonian "Lady of Shallot," hang in bouquets; crisp salads, chickory, lentil, leek, lettuce, are placed in dewy bunches next radishes, beets, carrots, butter-beans, alligator pears a sort of mallow or squash , Brussels sprouts idealized cabbage ; posies of thyme and bay and sage and parsley; a bunch of pumpkins; and overhead, like big silver bells strung on cords, those everlasting garlics braided on their own beards.

Often in the market, in order to further a sale, a pretty dago girl hangs across her shoulders half-a-dozen yards of garlic rope. Deftly she twists it over her arm as if it were a cobra, making a picture pretty enough to paint. On the flower stalls are tall, green tin hoods spiked all over with hollow handles, in which the flower women stick the stems of their stiff bouquets. The ones that are superlatively fine are set in a gay petticoat of paper lace and are perhaps sold to little grisette brides. It is an amusing picture to see a sedate gentleman standing meekly while a coquette of a flower girl — fifty years old if she is a day — leans puffing over her own stomach to fasten in his buttonhole a boutonniere of Parma violets whose fragrance floats like a benediction over the noisy stalls.

The fish market is a charming study in grays and salmons and pinks and silver. It is perhaps the greatest fish market on the continent — almost I had said in the world. The glistening slabs of gray marble reflect the overhanging pent roofs, and Spanish mosses are twisted about the slender bars of iron on the stands. In baskets of latannier lie blue and scarlet crabs; in others are dark red crawfish looking like miniature lobsters. On beds of moss, like smaller lobsters still, the delicate river shrimps are fighting for life. They may be still powdered with the grits that tempted them into the fisherman's net.

Croakers hang in silver bunches; flat pompanos, their sleek skins shining, lie side by side with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and trout for tenderloining. A large sea turtle has just been cut up, and the still quivering steaks and leaping golden eggs lie in the mammoth shell that the women of the sea coaSt would use as a cradle for their babies. Flounders caught at night by torchlight, and which are as delicate as an English sole, hang next to the queer sling-rays whose harpoon Stroke is poisonous.

Nearby is an immense grouper that, weighing three hundred pounds, acts as an advertisement and attracts the cheap custom of darkies and dagos. At one Stall porky-looking chunks of meat are being eagerly bought by colored people. It is from a nice, fat alligator that, well boiled, would deceive a cannibal, it is said, so like is it to human flesh.

If you buy crabs, by the way, the dealer throws over them a handful of Spanish moss in which they tangle their claws and cannot get away. Hereabout are most of the market eating Stalls.


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  • At some of them elaborate meals are served, while others are solely for the serving of French Market coffee and cakes. Big, round furnaces Stand on tripods and are filled with fires of charcoal. Over these, in skillets, women fry fish, cook oysters, or ham and eggs. And now for that farewell pot of coffee I promised you! This is the spot where we will get in it perfection! Here, or hereabouts, "Old Rose," whose memory is embalmed in the amber of many a song and picture and story, kept the most famous coffee stall of the old French Market.

    She was a little negress who had earned the money to buy her freedom from slavery.

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    Her coffee was like the benediction that follows after prayer; or if you prefer it, like the benedictine after dinner. It was something to see that black "Old Rose" pile the golden powder of ground French Market coffee into her French strainer — a heaping tablespoonful for each cup — and then when the pot was well heated, pour in just two tablespoonfuls, no more, of boiling water. In ten minutes this had soaked the coffee, and then, half a cup at a time, the boiling water was poured on and allowed to drip slowly.

    The result would be coffee, black, clear and sparkling — ideal French Market coffee! Here comes the courtly old servitor. And then for fear we may not have understood him he repeats his question in musical French:. Old Sister Mary Josephine, who has just come from the convent and asylum fingers anxiously the yellow yams on the counter. They would be fine — she thinks, no doubt — for the children's feast day. A parrot, tumbling on his tin hoop, screams: " Comme sa va? Opposite, at another coffee stall, a beautiful young Creole belle has seated herself with her mamma. Mamma is on one side, her prayer book and rosary on the other.

    Truly she is safe between the law and the prophet. Something glistens on her forehead. It is the cross of holy water she has just dipped in the gray cathedral yonder. The steam curls up about your cup as if you had invoked a genie; and as you sit and sip, and sip, across the noisy chatter of the town and the French Market you hear again the sad, quaint, tremulous cry of the old negro with his pineapples:. Cole, Catharine. The Story of the Old French Market. Internet Archive. Louisiana Anthology. Public domain photo at Wikipedia. Anthology of Louisiana Literature. Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg.

    Her Pedigree.

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    To trace the Kilmansegg pedigree To the very root of the family tree Were a task as rash as ridiculous: Through antediluvian mists as thick As London fog such a line to pick Were enough, in truth, to puzzle old Nick, Not to name Sir Harris Nicolas. He gave, without any extra thrift, A flock of sheep for a birthday gift To each son of his loins, or daughter: And his debts — if debts he had — at will He liquidated by giving each bill A dip in Pactolian water.

    He had gold to lay by, and gold to spend, Gold to give, and gold to lend, And reversions of gold in futuro. What different dooms our birthdays bring! For instance, one little manikin thing Survives to wear many a wrinkle; While Death forbids another to wake, And a son that it took nine moons to make Expires without even a twinkle!

    What different lots our stars accord!

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