Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Unknown Masque: A Sketch of the Crescent City >> Page 198

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Page 198

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription [Simms first published "The Unknown Masque" in April, 1845, in
the Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review, popularly
known as "Simms's Magazine," which he edited in Charleston
throughout 1845. Explanatory and Textual Notes begin on page
A Sketch of the Crescent City.

"One unsummon'd came,
And placed his unknown feet upon the hearth,
And straight the room grew dark."
It was in the winter of 1825-6 that I paid my first visit to the
"Crescent City." New-Orleans was not then the wondrous place
that it has since become; but it was sufficiently so, even at that early
day, to turn the head of a backwoodsman. Before that time, I had
never been beyond the little country village in West Tennessee, which
was the nearest market town to my father's plantation. I had never
known the advantages of travel, nor seen any thing of the great
world, 'till, at eighteen, I went down the Mississippi, to that Queen
of Cities so she is destined to become sitting nearly at its mouth.
All things were new to me, but I travelled with a friend, who, though
not five years older than myself, had passed frequently over the same
region, and was able to enlighten me on all the matters about which
I was ignorant. He had relatives in New-Orleans —a sister married
to a wealthy Creole, who spent a portion of every winter in that
place. He made her frequent visits, and being of a lively imaginative
turn, had contrived to discover all that was curious and attractive
in and about the city. Its walks and theatres, its cafes and hells
for New-Orleans could then boast some eight or ten of these licensed
and well named haunts of crime and dissipation—were all familiar
to his experience. Not that he himself was dissipated. He was only
curious. He could gaze without being fascinated, touch without
being defiled, and was altogether a man of most extraordinary
powers of caution and resistance, mixed up with eagerness and
curiosity. To him I owe it, that I fell not into the snares, the secret