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- The Little Immigrant - 4/5 -
Her practical little head was resourceful for any emergency. She felt sad at the separation from her husband, and her large black eyes were mournful but not tearful. To be and doing was her spirit. In spare moments she sat down to her tambourine to do crewel work on a tapestry picture. It was a large subject--The bard Ossian playing his harp to Malvino. Ossian seated on the front of some brown rocks, Malvino seated before him, her hands folded across his knees, full of tender regard for the gentle musician. This work was her pastime and recreation. She selected the worsteds and worked her needle out and in, shading and coloring and outlining with the skill of an artist in paints. Three years she worked on this picture, almost to the end of the war, almost as long as Penelope worked on her task awaiting Ulysses' return.
In the meantime Jaftray paid short visits to his family and made them as comfortable for periods of his absence as he had it in his power to do. Texas was too far away to be the theatre of battles during the conflict, so that no real harassing of the families by the invading Northern soldiers took place, but her people suffered privations and danger just as much as her sister states and perhaps more after the war was over and the reconstruction period set in.
In 1870 the town of Jefferson was thrown into a panic by the murder one night of a "carpet-bagger." Carpet-bagger was a name given to those men who came into Southern towns after the war to stir up the people, and particularly the darkies, against the authorities. It was necessary for Washington to send troops to Jefferson to restore order.
A stockade was built up on the hill near the new home of Jaffray, for he had found his first little house too small for his growing family, and into this stockade some of Jefferson's prominent citizens were thrown and kept until they could prove their innocence of the charges brought against them, namely, that they had knowledge of the murder of the carpet-bagger. Those were trying days. Jaffray had returned from Mexico in impaired health, which had been caused by the impure drinking water in the country and also the intense heat there. The doctors told him he had to take a long rest.
Things were going badly in the town, military law was established and all men found implicated in the disturbance were drastically punished. The war bad reduced the prosperous store holder to penury, there was little money left to circulate among the people and Jefferson was demoralized in its business, civic and social life.
General Buell, commanding the military occupation, asked as a favor to be put up at Jaffray's house, as it was one of the largest in the town and near the camp. Jaffray consented. So General Buell and his wife came to live with Renestine and Jaffray, and afterwards one or two other officers and their wives joined General Buell. This was a courageous thing for Jaffray to have done, for, with the spirit existing in the town at that critical time, not many residents would harbor the Yankees. It was so dangerous that one night, when the General wished to retire to his rooms across the broad hall, he turned to Jaffray and said:
"Jaffray, put out the lamps before I cross over."
Kerosene lamps were in use and Jaffray put out the light before the officer walked from the sitting room across to his own rooms. In politics Jaffray was a Republican and he had the courage to live up to his convictions in a community that was enraged against Lincoln and his party. But the Republicans stood for free men, whatever color or creed, and Jaffray championed their doctrines. For him humanity, justice and liberty was the breath of his nostrils. This passion for men's rights he had inherited from a long line of ancestors reaching back into the mists of "In the beginning." He was an Israelite.
Renestine was glad to accept this change in their lives, as she realized that Jaffray's affairs were not prosperous and with the assistance of her servants she could help him very well, particularly as he was not in robust health. Whatever situation faced her she met it with high courage and a spirit to do. Their devotion was deep and with their little family they were happy and contented. Sorrow had not spared them, however, for their baby daughter bad contracted whooping cough and died a few months before. Jaffray grieved deeply for the little child and Renestine was almost overcome. But she straightened up herb beautiful head, like a flower after the storm has passed, and comforted her husband.
JAFFRAY was now Postmaster of Jefferson. he city had resumed its normal life and gained in population and wealth. The streets were filled with wagons loaded with bales of cotton brought from as far away as 250 miles by ox teams, which took three weeks.
Jefferson was at the head of navigation on an arm of the Red River. Steamboats came up once or twice a week and the cotton was shipped to New Orleans and from that city to the mills in the East. When the boats arrived the scene on the levee was a very animated one. Negroes would fix large bill hooks into the bagging around the cotton bales and load them into drays. Some of them worked singing, as sailors do when they haul and pull.
Sometimes the captains of the larger steamboats would issue invitations to the families for a soiree, when the excitement would fill society for days. The ladies would dress in their silks and laces and the men spruce up in their frock coats and flowered waistcoats and cross the gang plank into the kerosene-lighted steamboats and dance until morning. Those were red letter days for Jefferson. As a matter of etiquette, when the steamboat was loaded and about to start back, everybody would be at the levee to wave good-bye. The side paddle would turn and the hospitable captain would be up in the pilot house, waving his cap in return until the churning side-wheel carried him around the bend.
New houses were dotting the town here and there, some of them large and handsome with spacious grounds. Kerosene oil lamps were put up to light the streets and an "Opera House" was built, where many a stock company came to play in tragedy or comedy. Shakespeare's plays were the favorites of the community and Jaffray and Renestine went often to the theatre, accompanied by their two daughters, who were in their advanced school-day years and able to appreciate it. There were two little sons added to their family circle; they remained asleep in their trundle beds with old Aunt Caroline watching over them, as she had watched over the little daughters. Josiah had died right after the war was over, but he lived to see his people freed and schools opened where they could be taught to read and write--a precious privilege. He had said to Aunt Caroline just before his last illness: "Thanks be to God that He has set the colored folks free, but thanks be to Him mosen for gibbin' me a good marsa and missus who gibs me my close, my vittles and my me'cine."
The relation of the household servants to the Southern family was that of trust and affection after their liberation. In advanced years, like old Aunt Caroline, the younger servants saved them unnecessary steps and their days were happy and peaceful.
Near the home which Renestine and Jaffrav occupied almost touching the porch was a huge oak tree spreading wide shade around it. Here the children played; or, if it was a rainy day, they carried their precious dolls and drums into the latticed summer house built for ornamentation and use in very hot weather, where woodbine and honeysuckle ran along its diamond-shaped walls and hung thick and colorful in great waves. Jaffray loved his home and spared nothing that would make it comfortable and attractive.
His days were very arduous now, as he had to learn the methods of a government position. It appealed to him, though, for it was a pursuit which required reading up on rules, laws and regulations, and his bent was for books and instruction from them. While his days passed in attending to the business of the Post Office, his nights were given to study and self-improvement. He was never satisfied with what he achieved; to learn and to know more and more was his ruling passion. Many citizens now called upon him for advice. He would be asked to speak when a new building was opened or a public movement was on foot. They knew him to be generous and full of civic pride. He belonged to the Board of Aldermen and at one time was offered the office of Mayor. He had the confidence and respect of all the inhabitants of the town and his politeness and gentleness were the qualifications which made them love him.
He was a tall, spare figure, with black, well-set eyes, black hair, now showing thin at the temples and somewhat bald; he had a short black beard and moustache and his carriage was upright and dignified. He could be stern, even severe, when things aroused his anger, and nothing could touch his temper quicker than underhand dealings or a mean act. But his whole being was steeped with love of his kind and sympathy with the poor.
In the early days of Jefferson he and a friend bought a deed for a cemetery and presented it to the Jewish community. His home was opened to social and political gatherings where his friends were sure of a warm welcome. Renestine was always the center of attraction of these social affairs. She was proud of her husband and flushed with happiness when she saw him surrounded by admiring groups of men.
At this time a new influence came into their lives. It was a fine old Frenchman, who had drifted down to Jefferson from Alabama, where he had been a professor of piano teaching. His name was D'Archais, and by degrees they learned his history. But the immediate result of their meeting was to give their two little daughters, now eight and ten years old, to him to be instructed in music.
The history of this new friend was a romantic one. During the time of Louis Philippe he left Paris. His property and title had been taken by the revolutionists for he was an aristocrat, a Count, and he found that he was safer with the ocean between him and his beloved Paris.
He landed in Mobile, Alabama, and used his accomplishments of painting and music as a means of gaining a livelihood. For many years he worked in his profession and accumulated enough to lay aside. This he invested in cotton which was destroyed in a warehouse by fire. It was hard, but he began all over again and in the meantime married a widow with a daughter. This step-daughter won his complete affection, and when she married he devoted himself to her two children, a girl and a boy. It was because of these two children that he came to Jefferson, where they were then living.
The music teacher was 70 years old when he came into the lives of Jaffray and Renestine; a polished, grand old man of kingly soul and manners. The little daughters quickly learned to love their dear old teacher and all his life time he was their dear friend.
Jaffray was much impressed by this gentle nobleman and was glad to have the privilege of his friendship for himself and his family. He
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