When the half dozen little ones were hungry, old Cl?ophas would
take the fiddle from its flannel bag and play a tune upon it. Perhaps
it was to drown their cries, or their hunger, or his conscience, or
all three. One day Fifine, in a rage, stamped her small foot and
clinched her little hands, and declared:
"It 's no two way'! I 'm goin' smash it, dat fiddle, some day in
a t'ousan' piece'!"
"You mus' n' do dat, Fifine," expostulated her father. "Dat fiddle
been ol'er 'an you an' me t'ree time' put togedder. You done
yaird me tell often 'nough 'bout dat Italien w'at give it to me
w'en he die, 'long yonder befo' de war. An' he say, 'Cl?ophas,
dat fiddle -- dat one part my life -- w'at goin' live w'en I be
dead -- Dieu merci!' You talkin' too fas', Fifine."
"Well, I 'm goin' do some'in' wid dat fiddle,va!" returned the
daughter, only half mollified. "Mine w'at I say."
So once when there were great carryings-on up at the big
plantation -- no end of ladies and gentlemen from the city,
riding, driving, dancing, and making music upon all manner
of instruments -- Fifine, with the fiddle in its flannel bag,
stole away and up to the big house where these festivities
were in progress.
No one noticed at first the little barefoot girl seated upon
a step of the veranda and watching, lynx-eyed, for her
"It 's one fiddle I got for sell," she announced, resolutely,
to the first who questioned her.
It was very funny to have a shabby little girl sitting there
wanting to sell a fiddle, and the child was soon surrounded.
The lustreless instrument was brought forth and examined,
first with amusement, but soon very seriously, especially by
three gentlelemen: one with very long hair that hung down,
another with equally long hair that stood up, the third with
no hair worth mentioning.
These three turned the fiddle upside down and almost inside
out. They thumped upon it, and listened. They scraped upon it,
and listened. They walked into the house with it, and out of
the house with it, and into remote corners with it. All this with
much putting of heads together, and talking together in familiar
and unfamiliar languages. And, finally, they sent Fifine away
with a fiddle twice as beautiful as the one she had brought,
and a roll of money besides!
The child was dumb with astonishment, and away she flew.
But when she stopped beneath a big chinaberry-tree, to further
scan the roll of money, her wonder was redoubled. There was
far more than she could count, more than she had ever dreamed
of possessing. Certainly enough to top the old cabin with new
shingles; to put shoes on all the little bare feet and food into the
hungry mouths. Maybe enough -- and Fifine's heart fairly jumped
into her throat at the vision -- maybe enough to buy Blanchette
and her tiny calf that Unc' Sim?on wanted to sell!
"It 's jis like you say, Fifine," murmured old Cl?ophas, huskily,
when he had played upon the new fiddle that night. "It 's one
fine fiddle; an' like you say, it shine' like satin. But some way or
udder, 't ain' de same. Yair, Fifine, take it -- put it 'side. I b'lieve,
me, I ain' goin' play de fiddle no mo'."
(from "Bayou Folk")