Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeShort StoriesThe Adventures Of Francoise And Suzanne
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Adventures Of Francoise And Suzanne Post by :wizkid Category :Short Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :June 2011 Read :2480

Click below to download : The Adventures Of Francoise And Suzanne (Format : PDF)

The Adventures Of Francoise And Suzanne

1795.


Years passed by. Our war of the Revolution was over. The Indians of Louisiana and Florida were all greedy, smiling gift-takers of his Catholic Majesty. So were some others not Indians; and the Spanish governors of Louisiana, scheming with them for the acquisition of Kentucky and the regions intervening, had allowed an interprovincial commerce to spring up. Flatboats and barges came floating down the Mississippi past the plantation home where little Suzanne and Francoise were growing up to womanhood. Many of the immigrants who now came to Louisiana were the royalist _noblesse_ flying from the horrors of the French Revolution. Governor Carondelet was strengthening his fortifications around New Orleans; for Creole revolutionists had slipped away to Kentucky and were there plotting an armed descent in flatboats upon his little capital, where the rabble were singing the terrible songs of bloody Paris. Agents of the Revolution had come from France and so "contaminated," as he says, "the greater part of the province" that he kept order only "at the cost of sleepless nights, by frightening some, punishing others, and driving several out of the colony." It looks as though Suzanne had caught a touch of dis-relish for _les aristocrates_, whose necks the songs of the day were promising to the lampposts. To add to all these commotions, a hideous revolution had swept over San Domingo; the slaves in Louisiana had heard of it, insurrection was feared, and at length, in 1794, when Susanne was seventeen and Francoise fifteen, it broke out on the Mississippi no great matter over a day's ride from their own home, and twenty-three blacks were gibbeted singly at intervals all the way down by their father's plantation and on to New Orleans, and were left swinging in the weather to insure the peace and felicity of the land. Two other matters are all we need notice for the ready comprehension of Francoise's story. Immigration was knocking at every gate of the province, and citizen Etienne de Bore had just made himself forever famous in the history of Louisiana by producing merchantable sugar; land was going to be valuable, even back on the wild prairies of Opelousas and Attakapas, where, twenty years before, the Acadians,--the cousins of Evangeline,--wandering from far Nova Scotia, had settled. Such was the region and such were the times when it began to be the year 1795.

By good fortune one of the undestroyed fragments of Francoise's own manuscript is its first page. She was already a grandmother forty-three years old when in 1822 she wrote the tale she had so often told. Part of the dedication to her only daughter and namesake--one line, possibly two--has been torn off, leaving only the words, "ma fille unique a la grasse (meaning 'grace') de dieu (sic)," over her signature and the date, "14 Julet (sic), 1822."

 


I.


THE TWO SISTERS.

It is to give pleasure to my dear daughter Fannie and to her children that I write this journey. I shall be well satisfied if I can succeed in giving them this pleasure: by the grace of God, Amen.

Papa, Mr. Pierre Bossier, planter of St. James parish, had been fifteen days gone to the city (New Orleans) in his skiff with two rowers, Louis and Baptiste, when, returning, he embraced us all, gave us some caramels which he had in his pockets, and announced that he counted on leaving us again in four or five days to go to Attakapas. He had long been speaking of going there. Papa and mamma were German, and papa loved to travel. When he first came to Louisiana it was with no expectation of staying. But here he saw mamma; he loved her, married her, and bought a very fine plantation, where he cultivated indigo. You know they blue clothes with that drug, and dye cottonade and other things. There we, their eight children, were born....

(Illustration: PART OF FRANCOIS'S FIRST PAGE.)

When my father used to go to New Orleans he went in his skiff, with a canopy over his head to keep off the sun, and two rowers, who sang as they rowed. Sometimes papa took me with him, and it was very entertaining. We would pass the nights of our voyage at the houses of papa's friends (des zami de papa). Sometimes mamma would come, and Suzanne always--always. She was the daughter next older than I. She barely missed being a boy. She was eighteen years of age, went hunting with our father, was skillful with a gun, and swam like a fish. Papa called her "my son." You must understand the two boys were respectively but two years and three months old, and papa, who greatly desired a son, had easily made one of Suzanne. My father had brought a few books with him to Louisiana, and among them, you may well suppose, were several volumes of travel. For myself, I rarely touched them; but they were the only books that Suzanne read. And you may well think, too, that my father had no sooner spoken of his intention than Suzanne cried:

"I am going with you, am I not, papa?"

"Naturally," replied my father; "and Francoise shall go also."

Francoise--that was I; poor child of sixteen, who had but six months before quitted the school-bench, and totally unlike my sister--blonde, where Suzanne was dark; timid, even cowardly, while she had the hardihood and courage of a young lioness; ready to cry at sight of a wounded bird, while she, gun in hand, brought down as much game as the most skillful hunter.

I exclaimed at my father's speech. I had heard there were many Indians in Attakapas; the name means man-eaters. I have a foolish terror of Indians, and a more reasonable one for man-eaters. But papa and Suzanne mocked at my fears; and as, after all, I burned with desire for the journey, it was decided that I should go with them.

Necessarily we wanted to know how we were to go--whether we should travel by skiff, and how many negroes and negresses would go with us. For you see, my daughter, young people in 1795 were exactly what they are in 1822; they could do nothing by themselves, but must have a domestic to dress and undress them. Especially in traveling, where one had to take clothes out of trunks and put them back again, assistance became an absolute necessity. Think, then, of our astonishment, of our vexation, when papa assured us that he would not take a single slave; that my sister and I would be compelled to help each other, and that the skiff would remain behind, tied up at the landing where it then lay.

"But explain yourself, Papa, I beg of you," cried Suzanne, with her habitual petulance.

"That is what I am trying to do," said he. "If you will listen in silence, I will give you all the explanation you want."

Here, my daughter, to save time, I will borrow my father's speech and tell of the trip he had made to New Orleans; how he had there found means to put into execution his journey to Attakapas, and the companions that were to accompany him.

 


II.

MAKING UP THE EXPEDITION.


In 1795 New Orleans was nothing but a mere market town. The cathedral, the convent of the Ursulines, five or six cafes, and about a hundred houses were all of it.(6) Can you believe, there were but two dry-goods stores! And what fabulous prices we had to pay! Pins twenty dollars a paper. Poor people and children had to make shift with thorns of orange and _amourette_ (honey locust?). A needle cost fifty cents, very indifferent stockings five dollars a pair, and other things accordingly.

On the levee was a little pothouse of the lowest sort; yet from that unclean and smoky hole was destined to come one of the finest fortunes in Louisiana. They called the proprietor "Pere la Chaise."(7) He was a little old marten-faced man, always busy and smiling, who every year laid aside immense profits. Along the crazy walls extended a few rough shelves covered with bottles and decanters. Three planks placed on boards formed the counter, with Pere la Chaise always behind it. There were two or three small tables, as many chairs, and one big wooden bench. Here gathered the city's working-class, and often among them one might find a goodly number of the city's elite; for the wine and the beer of the old _cabaretier_ were famous, and one could be sure in entering there to hear all the news told and discussed.

By day the place was quiet, but with evening it became tumultuous. Pere la Chaise, happily, did not lose his head; he found means to satisfy all, to smooth down quarrels without calling in the police, to get rid of drunkards, and to make delinquents pay up.

My father knew the place, and never failed to pay it a visit when he went to New Orleans. Poor, dear father! he loved to talk as much as to travel. Pere la Chaise was acquainted with him. One evening papa entered, sat down at one of the little tables, and bade Pere la Chaise bring a bottle of his best wine. The place was already full of people, drinking, talking, and singing. A young man of twenty-six or twenty-seven entered almost timidly and sat down at the table where my father was--for he saw that all the other places were occupied--and ordered a half-bottle of cider. He was a Norman gardener. My father knew him by sight; he had met him here several times without speaking to him. You recognized the peasant at once; and yet his exquisite neatness, the gentleness of his face, distinguished him from his kind. Joseph Carpentier was dressed(8) in a very ordinary gray woolen coat; but his coarse shirt was very white, and his hair, when he took off his broad-brimmed hat, was well combed and glossy.

As Carpentier was opening his bottle a second frequenter entered the _cabaret_. This was a man of thirty or thirty-five, with strong features and the frame of a Hercules. An expression of frankness and gayety overspread his sunburnt face. Cottonade pantaloons, stuffed into a pair of dirty boots, and a _vareuse_ of the same stuff made up his dress. His vareuse, unbuttoned, showed his breast, brown and hairy; and a horrid cap with long hair covered, without concealing, a mass of red locks that a comb had never gone through. A long whip, the stock of which he held in his hand, was coiled about his left arm. He advanced to the counter and asked for a glass of brandy. He was a drayman named John Gordon--an Irishman.

But, strange, John Gordon, glass in hand, did not drink; Carpentier, with his fingers round the neck of the bottle, failed to pour his cider; and my father himself, his eyes attracted to another part of the room, forgot his wine. Every one was looking at an individual gesticulating and haranguing in the middle of the place, to the great amusement of all. My father recognized him at first sight. He was an Italian about the age of Gordon; short, thick-set, powerful, swarthy, with the neck of a bull and hair as black as ebony. He was telling rapidly, with strong gestures, in an almost incomprehensible mixture of Spanish, English, French, and Italian, the story of a hunting party that he had made up five years before. This was Mario Carlo. A Neapolitan by birth, he had for several years worked as a blacksmith on the plantation of one of our neighbors, M. Alphonse Perret. Often papa had heard him tell of this hunt, for nothing could be more amusing than to listen to Carlo. Six young men, with Carlo as sailor and cook, had gone on a two-months' expedition into the country of the Attakapas.

"Yes," said the Italian, in conclusion, "game never failed us; deer, turkeys, ducks, snipe, two or three bears a week. But the sublimest thing was the rich land. Ah! one must see it to believe it. Plains and forests full of animals, lakes and bayous full of fish. Ah! fortune is there. For five years I have dreamed, I have worked, with but one object in view; and today the end is reached. I am ready to go. I want only two companions to aid me in the long journey, and those I have come to look for here."

John Gordon stepped forward, laid a hand upon the speaker's shoulder, and said:

"My friend, I am your man."

Mario Carlo seized the hand and shook it with all his force.

"You will not repent the step. But"--turning again to the crowd--"we want one more."

Joseph Carpentier rose slowly and advanced to the two men. "Comrades, I will be your companion if you will accept me."

Before separating, the three drank together and appointed to meet the next day at the house of Gordon, the Irishman.

When my father saw Gordon and Carpentier leave the place, he placed his hand on Mario's shoulder and said in Italian, "My boy, I want to talk with you."

At that time, as now, parents were very scrupulous as to the society into which they introduced their children, especially their daughters; and papa knew of a certain circumstance in Carlo's life to which my mother might greatly object. But he knew the man had an honest and noble heart. He passed his arm into the Italian's and drew him to the inn where my father was stopping, and to his room. Here he learned from Mario that he had bought one of those great barges that bring down provisions from the West, and which, when unloaded, the owners count themselves lucky to sell at any reasonable price. When my father proposed to Mario to be taken as a passenger the poor devil's joy knew no bounds; but it disappeared when papa added that he should take his two daughters with him.

The trouble was this: Mario was taking with him in his flatboat his wife and his four children; his wife and four children were simply--mulattoes. However, then as now, we hardly noticed those things, and the idea never entered our minds to inquire into the conduct of our slaves. Suzanne and I had known Celeste, Mario's wife, very well before her husband bought her. She had been the maid of Marianne Perret, and on great occasions Marianne had sent her to us to dress our hair and to prepare our toilets. We were therefore enchanted to learn that she would be with us on board the flatboat, and that papa had engaged her services in place of the attendants we had to leave behind.

It was agreed that for one hundred dollars Mario Carlo would receive all three of us as passengers, that he would furnish a room simply but comfortably, that papa would share this room with us, that Mario would supply our table, and that his wife would serve as maid and laundress. It remained to be seen now whether our other fellow-travelers were married, and, if so, what sort of creatures their wives were.

(The next day the four intended travelers met at Gordon's house. Gordon had a wife, Maggie, and a son, Patrick, aged twelve, as unlovely in outward aspect as were his parents. Carpentier, who showed himself even more plainly than on the previous night a man of native refinement, confessed to a young wife without offspring. Mario told his story of love and alliance with one as fair of face as he, and whom only cruel law forbade him to call wife and compelled him to buy his children; and told the story so well that at its close the father of Francoise silently grasped the narrator's hand, and Carpentier, reaching across the table where they sat, gave his, saying:

"You are an honest man, Monsieur Carlo."

"Will your wife think so?" asked the Italian.

"My wife comes from a country where there are no prejudices of race."

Francoise takes the pains to say of this part of the story that it was not told her and Suzanne at this time, but years afterward, when they were themselves wives and mothers. When, on the third day, her father saw Carpentier's wife at the Norman peasant's lodgings, he was greatly surprised at her appearance and manner, and so captivated by them that he proposed that their two parties should make one at table during the projected voyage--a proposition gratefully accepted. Then he left New Orleans for his plantation home, intending to return immediately, leaving his daughters in St. James to prepare for the journey and await the arrival of the flatboat, which must pass their home on its way to the distant wilds of Attakapas.)

FOOTNOTES:

(6) An extreme underestimate, easy for a girl to make of a scattered town hidden among gardens and groves.--TRANSLATOR.

(7) Without doubting the existence of the _cabaret_ and the nickname, the De la Chaise estate, I think, came from a real De la Chaise, true nephew of Pere la Chaise, the famous confessor of Louis XIV. The nephew was royal commissary under Bienville, and one of the worthiest fathers of the colony of Louisiana.--TRANSLATOR.

(8) In all likelihood described here as seen by the writer herself later, on the journey.--TRANSLATOR.

 


III.

THE EMBARKATION.


You see, my dear child, at that time one post-office served for three parishes: St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Charles. It was very far from us, at the extremity of St. John the Baptist, and the mail came there on the first of each month.

We had to pay--though the price was no object--fifty cents postage on a letter. My father received several journals, mostly European. There was only one paper, French and Spanish, published in New Orleans--"The Gazette."(9) To send to the post-office was an affair of state. Our father, you see, had not time to write; he was obliged to come to us himself. But such journeys were a matter of course in those days.

"And above all things, my children," said my father, "don't have too much baggage."

I should not have thought of rebelling; but Suzanne raised loud cries, saying it was an absolute necessity that we go with papa to New Orleans, so as not to find ourselves on our journey without traveling-dresses, new neckerchiefs, and a number of things. In vain did poor papa endeavor to explain that we were going into a desert worse than Arabia; Suzanne put her two hands to her ears and would hear nothing, until, weary of strife, poor papa yielded.

Our departure being decided upon, he wished to start even the very next day; and while we were instructing our sisters Elinore and Marie concerning some trunks that we should leave behind us, and which they must pack and have ready for the flatboat, papa recommended to mamma a great slaughter of fowls, etc., and especially to have ready for embarkation two of our best cows. Ah! in those times if the planter wished to live well he had to raise everything himself, and the poultry yard and the dairy were something curious to see. Dozens of slaves were kept busy in them constantly. When my mother had raised two thousand chickens, besides turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea-fowls, and pea-fowls, she said she had lost her crop.(10) And the quantity of butter and cheese! And all this without counting the sauces, the jellies, the preserves, the gherkins, the syrups, the brandied fruits. And not a ham, not a chicken, not a pound of butter was sold; all was served on the master's table, or, very often, given to those who stood in need of them. Where, now, can you find such profusion? Ah! commerce has destroyed industry.

The next day, after kissing mamma and the children, we got into the large skiff with papa and three days later stepped ashore in New Orleans. We remained there a little over a week, preparing our traveling-dresses. Despite the admonitions of papa, we went to the fashionable modiste of the day, Madame Cinthelia Lefranc, and ordered for each a suit that cost one hundred and fifty dollars. The costume was composed of a petticoat of _camayeu_, very short, caught up in puffs on the side by a profusion of ribbons; and a very long-pointed black velvet jacket (_casaquin_), laced in the back with gold and trimmed on the front with several rows of gilt buttons. The sleeves stopped at the elbows and were trimmed with lace. Now, my daughter, do you know what camayeu was? You now sometimes see an imitation of it in door and window curtains. It was a stuff of great fineness, yet resembling not a little the unbleached cotton of to-day, and over which were spread very brilliant designs of prodigious size. For example, Suzanne's petticoat showed bunches of great radishes--not the short kind--surrounded by long, green leaves and tied with a yellow cord; while on mine were roses as big as a baby's head, interlaced with leaves and buds and gathered into bouquets graced with a blue ribbon. It was ten dollars an ell; but, as the petticoats were very short, six ells was enough for each. At that time real hats were unknown. For driving or for evening they placed on top of the high, powdered hair what they called a _catogan_, a little bonnet of gauze or lace trimmed with ribbons; and during the day a sun-bonnet of silk or velvet. You can guess that neither Suzanne nor I, in spite of papa's instructions, forgot these.

Our traveling-dresses were gray _cirsacas_,--the skirt all one, short, without puffs; the jacket coming up high and with long sleeves,--a sunbonnet of cirsacas, blue stockings, embroidered handkerchief or blue cravat about the neck, and high-heeled shoes.

As soon as Celeste heard of our arrival in New Orleans she hastened to us. She was a good creature; humble, respectful, and always ready to serve. She was an excellent cook and washer, and, what we still more prized, a lady's maid and hairdresser of the first order. My sister and I were glad to see her, and overwhelmed her with questions about Carlo, their children, their plans, and our traveling companions.

"Ah! Momzelle Suzanne, the little Madame Carpentier seems to me a fine lady, ever so genteel; but the Irish woman! Ah! _grand Dieu!_ she puts me in mind of a soldier. I'm afraid of her. She smokes--she swears--she carries a pistol, like a man."

At last the 15th of May came, and papa took us on board the flatboat and helped us to find our way to our apartment. If my father had allowed Carlo, he would have ruined himself in furnishing our room; but papa stopped him and directed it himself. The flatboat had been divided into four chambers. These were covered by a slightly arching deck, on which the boat was managed by the moving of immense sweeps that sent her forward. The room in the stern, surrounded by a sort of balcony, which Monsieur Carpentier himself had made, belonged to him and his wife; then came ours, then that of Celeste and her family, and the one at the bow was the Irishwoman's. Carlo and Gordon had crammed the provisions, tools, carts, and plows into the corners of their respective apartments. In the room which our father was to share with us he had had Mario make two wooden frames mounted on feet. These were our beds, but they were supplied with good bedding and very white sheets. A large cypress table, on which we saw a pile of books and our workboxes; a washstand, also of cypress, but well furnished and surmounted by a mirror; our trunks in a corner; three rocking-chairs--this was all our furniture. There was neither carpet nor curtain.

All were on board except the Carpentier couple. Suzanne was all anxiety to see the Irishwoman. Poor Suzanne! how distressed she was not to be able to speak English! So, while I was taking off my _capotte_--as the sun-bonnet of that day was called--and smoothing my hair at the glass, she had already tossed her capotte upon papa's bed and sprung up the ladder that led to the deck. (Each room had one.) I followed a little later and had the satisfaction of seeing Madame Margaretto Gordon, commonly called "Maggie" by her husband and "Maw" by her son Patrick. She was seated on a coil of rope, her son on the boards at her feet. An enormous dog crouched beside them, with his head against Maggie's knee. The mother and son were surprisingly clean. Maggie had on a simple brown calico dress and an apron of blue ticking. A big red kerchief was crossed on her breast and its twin brother covered her well combed and greased black hair. On her feet were blue stockings and heavy leather shoes. The blue ticking shirt and pantaloons and waistcoat of Master Pat were so clean that they shone; his black cap covered his hair--as well combed as his mother's; but he was barefooted. Gordon, Mario, and Celeste's eldest son, aged thirteen, were busy about the deck; and papa, his cigar in his mouth and his hands in his pockets, stood looking out on the levee. I sat down on one of the rough benches that had been placed here and there, and presently my sister came and sat beside me.

"Madame Carpentier seems to be a laggard," she said. She was burning to see the arrival of her whom we had formed the habit of calling "the little French peasant."

(Presently Suzanne begins shooting bonbons at little Patrick, watching the effect out of the corners of her eyes, and by and by gives that smile, all her own,--to which, says Francoise, all flesh invariably surrendered,--and so became dumbly acquainted; while Carlo was beginning to swear "fit to raise the dead," writes the memoirist, at the tardiness of the Norman pair. But just then--)

A carriage drove up to within a few feet of our _chaland_ and Joseph Carpentier alighted, paid the driver, and lifted from it one so delicate, pretty, and small that you might take her at first glance for a child of ten years. Suzanne and I had risen quickly and came and leaned over the balustrade. To my mortification my sister had passed one arm around the waist of the little Irishman and held one of his hands in hers. Suzanne uttered a cry of astonishment. "Look, look, Francoise!" But I was looking, with eyes wide with astonishment.

The gardener's wife had alighted, and with her little gloved hand shook out and re-arranged her toilet. That toilet, very simple to the eyes of Madame Carpentier, was what petrified us with astonishment. I am going to describe it to you, my daughter.

We could not see her face, for her hood of blue silk, trimmed with a light white fur, was covered with a veil of white lace that entirely concealed her features. Her traveling-dress, like ours, was of cirsacas, but ours was cotton, while hers was silk, in broad rays of gray and blue; and as the weather was a little cool that morning, she had exchanged the unfailing casaquin for a sort of _camail_ to match the dress, and trimmed, like the capotte, with a line of white fur. Her petticoat was very short, lightly puffed on the sides, and ornamented only with two very long pockets trimmed like the camail. Below the folds of the robe were two Cinderella feet in blue silk stockings and black velvet slippers. It was not only the material of this toilet that astonished us, but the way in which it was made.

"Maybe she is a modiste. Who knows?" whispered Suzanne.

Another thing: Madame Carpentier wore a veil and gloves, two things of which we had heard but which we had never seen. Madame Ferrand had mentioned them, but said that they sold for their weight in gold in Paris, and she had not dared import them, for fear she could not sell them in Louisiana. And here was the wife of a laboring gardener, who avowed himself possessor of but two thousand francs, dressed like a duchess and with veil and gloves!

I could but notice with what touching care Joseph assisted his wife on board. He led her straight to her room, and quickly rejoined us on deck to put himself at the disposition of his associates. He explained to Mario his delay, caused by the difficulty of finding a carriage; at which Carlo lifted his shoulders and grimaced. Joseph added that madame--I noticed that he rarely called her Alix--was rather tired, and would keep her room until dinner time. Presently our heavy craft was under way.

Pressing against the long sweeps, which it required a herculean strength to move, were seen on one side Carlo and his son Celestino, or 'Tino, and on the other Joseph and Gordon. It moved slowly; so slowly that it gave the effect of a great tortoise.

FOOTNOTES:

(9) Another error easy to make. For "Gazette" read "Moniteur"; "The Gazette" appeared a little later.--TRANSLATOR.

(10) The translator feels constrained to say that he was not on the spot.

 


IV.

ALIX CARPENTIER.


Towards noon we saw Celeste come on deck with her second son, both carrying baskets full of plates, dishes, covers, and a tablecloth. You remember I have often told you of an awning stretched at the stern of the flatboat? We found that in fine weather our dining-room was to be under this. There was no table; the cloth was simply spread on the deck, and those who ate had to sit _a la Turque_ or take their plates on their knees. The Irish family ate in their room. Just as we were drawing around our repast Madame Carpentier, on her husband's arm, came up on deck.

Dear little Alix! I see you yet as I saw you then. And here, twenty-seven years after our parting, I have before me the medallion you gave me, and look tenderly on your dear features, my friend!

She had not changed her dress; only she had replaced her camail with a scarf of blue silk about her neck and shoulders and had removed her gloves and _capuche_. Her rich chestnut hair, unpowdered, was combed back _a la Chinoise_, and the long locks that descended upon her shoulders were tied by a broad blue ribbon forming a rosette on the forepart of her head. She wore no jewelry except a pearl at each ear and her wedding ring. Suzanne, who always saw everything, remarked afterward that Madame Carpentier wore two.

"As for her earrings," she added, "they are nothing great. Marianne has some as fine, that cost, I think, ten dollars."

Poor Suzanne, a judge of jewelry! Madame Carpentier's earrings were two great pearls, worth at least two hundred dollars. Never have I met another so charming, so lovely, as Alix Carpentier. Her every movement was grace. She moved, spoke, smiled, and in all things acted differently from all the women I had ever met until then. She made one think she had lived in a world all unlike ours; and withal she was simple, sweet, good, and to love her seemed the most natural thing on earth. There was nothing extraordinary in her beauty; the charm was in her intelligence and her goodness.

Maggie, the Irishwoman, was very taciturn. She never mingled with us, nor spoke to any one except Suzanne, and to her in monosyllables only when addressed. You would see her sometimes sitting alone at the bow of the boat, sewing, knitting, or saying her beads. During this last occupation her eyes never quitted Alix. One would say it was to her she addressed her prayers; and one day, when she saw my regard fixed upon Alix, she said to me:

"It does me good to look at her; she must look like the Virgin Mary."

Her little form, so graceful and delicate, had, however, one slight defect; but this was hidden under the folds of her robe or of the scarf that she knew how to arrange with such grace. One shoulder was a trifle higher than the other.

After having greeted my father, whom she already knew, she turned to us, hesitated a moment, and then, her two little hands extended, and with a most charming smile, she advanced, first to me and then to Suzanne, and embraced us both as if we had been old acquaintances. And from that moment we were good friends.

It had been decided that the boat should not travel by night, notwithstanding the assurance of Carlo, who had a map of Attakapas. But in the Mississippi there was no danger; and as papa was pressed to reach our plantation, we traveled all that first night.

The next day Alix--she required us to call her by that name--invited us to visit her in her room. Suzanne and I could not withhold a cry of surprise as we entered the little chamber. (Remember one thing: papa took nothing from home, not knowing even by what means we should return; but the Carpentiers were going for good and taking everything.) Joseph had had the rough walls whitewashed. A cheap carpet--but high-priced in those times--of bright colors covered the floor; a very low French bed occupied one corner, and from a sort of dais escaped the folds of an embroidered bobbinet mosquito-bar. It was the first mosquito-bar of that kind we had ever seen. Alix explained that she had made it from the curtains of the same bed, and that both bed and curtains she had brought with her from England. New mystery!

Beside the bed a walnut dressing-table and mirror, opposite to it a washstand, at the bed's foot a _priedieu_, a center-table, three chairs--these were all the furniture; but (an enumeration follows of all manner of pretty feminine belongings, in crystal, silver, gold, with a picture of the crucifixion and another of the Virgin). On the shelves were a rich box of colors, several books, and some portfolios of music. From a small peg hung a guitar.

But Suzanne was not satisfied. Her gaze never left an object of unknown form enveloped in green serge. Alix noticed, laughed, rose, and, lifting the covering, said:

"This is my harp, Suzanne; later I will play it for you."

The second evening and those that followed, papa, despite Carlo's representation and the magnificent moonlight, opposed the continuation of the journey by night; and it was not until the morning of the fifth day that we reached St. James.

You can fancy the joy with which we were received at the plantation. We had but begun our voyage, and already my mother and sisters ran to us with extended arms as though they had not seen us for years. Needless to say, they were charmed with Alix; and when after dinner we had to say a last adieu to the loved ones left behind, we boarded the flatboat and left the plantation amid huzzas,(11) waving handkerchiefs, and kisses thrown from finger-tips. No one wept, but in saying good-bye to my father, my mother asked:

"Pierre, how are you going to return?"

"Dear wife, by the mercy of God all things are possible to the man with his pocket full of money."

During the few days that we passed on the Mississippi each day was like the one before. We sat on the deck and watched the slow swinging of the long sweeps, or read, or embroidered, or in the chamber of Alix listened to her harp or guitar; and at the end of another week, we arrived at Plaquemine.

FOOTNOTES:

(11) According to a common habit of the Southern slaves.--TRANSLATOR.

 


V.

DOWN BAYOU PLAQUEMINE--THE FIGHT WITH WILD NATURE.


Plaquemine was composed of a church, two stores, as many drinking-shops, and about fifty cabins, one of which was the court-house. Here lived a multitude of Catalans, Acadians, negroes, and Indians. When Suzanne and Maggie, accompanied by my father and John Gordon, went ashore, I declined to follow, preferring to stay aboard with Joseph and Alix. It was at Plaquemine that we bade adieu to the old Mississippi. Here our flatboat made a detour and entered Bayou Plaquemine.(12)

Hardly had we started when our men saw and were frightened by the force of the current. The enormous flatboat, that Suzanne had likened to a giant tortoise, darted now like an arrow, dragged by the current. The people of Plaquemine had forewarned our men and recommended the greatest prudence. "Do everything possible to hold back your boat, for if you strike any of those tree-trunks of which the bayou is full it would easily sink you." Think how reassuring all this was, and the more when they informed us that this was the first time a flatboat had ventured into the bayou!

Mario, swearing in all the known languages, sought to reassure us, and, aided by his two associates, changed the manoeuvring, and with watchful eye found ways to avoid the great uprooted trees in which the lakes and bayous of Attakapas abound. But how clouded was Carpentier's brow! And my father? Ah! he repented enough. Then he realized that gold is not always the vanquisher of every obstacle. At last, thanks to Heaven, our flatboat came off victor over the snags, and after some hours we arrived at the Indian village of which you have heard me tell.

If I was afraid at sight of a dozen savages among the Spaniards of Plaquemine, what was to become of me now? The bank was entirely covered with men, their faces painted, their heads full of feathers, moccasins on their feet, and bows on shoulder--Indians indeed, with women simply wrapped in blankets, and children without the shadow of a garment; and all these Indians running, calling to one another, making signs to us, and addressing us in incomprehensible language. Suzanne, standing up on the bow of the flatboat, replied to their signs and called with all the force of her lungs every Indian word that--God knows where--she had learned:

"Chacounam finnan! O Choctaw! Conno Poposso!" And the Indians clapped their hands, laughing with pleasure and increasing yet more their gestures and cries.

The village, about fifty huts, lay along the edge of the water. The unfortunates were not timid. Presently several came close to the flatboat and showed us two deer and some wild turkeys and ducks, the spoils of their hunting. Then came the women laden with sacks made of bark and full of blackberries, vegetables, and a great quantity of baskets; showing all, motioning us to come down, and repeating in French and Spanish, "Money, money!"

It was decided that Mario and Gordon should stay on board and that all the rest of the joyous band should go ashore. My father, M. Carpentier, and 'Tino loaded their pistols and put them into their belts. Suzanne did likewise, while Maggie called Tom, her bulldog, to follow her. Celeste declined to go, because of her children. As to Alix and me, a terrible contest was raging in us between fright and curiosity, but the latter conquered. Suzanne and papa laughed so about our fears that Alix, less cowardly than I, yielded first, and joined the others. This was too much. Grasping my father's arm and begging him not to leave me for an instant, I let him conduct me, while Alix followed me, taking her husband's arm in both her hands. In front marched 'Tino, his gun on his shoulder; after him went Maggie, followed by Tom; and then Suzanne and little Patrick, inseparable friends.

Hardly had we gone a few steps when we were surrounded by a human wall, and I realized with a shiver how easy it would be for these savages to get rid of us and take all our possessions. But the poor devils certainly never thought of it: they showed us their game, of which papa bought the greater part, as well as several sacks of berries, and also vegetables.

But the baskets! They were veritable wonders. As several of those that I bought that day are still in your possession, I will not lose much time telling of them. How those half-savage people could make things so well contrived and ornamented with such brilliant colors is still a problem to us. Papa bought for mamma thirty-two little baskets fitting into one another, the largest about as tall as a child of five years, and the smallest just large enough to receive a thimble. When he asked the price I expected to hear the seller say at least thirty dollars, but his humble reply was five dollars. For a deer he asked one dollar; for a wild turkey, twenty-five cents. Despite the advice of papa, who asked us how we were going to carry our purchases home, Suzanne and I bought, between us, more than forty baskets, great and small. To papa's question, Suzanne replied with an arch smile:

"God will provide."

Maggie and Alix also bought several; and Alix, who never forgot any one, bought two charming little baskets that she carried to Celeste. Each of us, even Maggie, secured a broad parti-colored mat to use on the deck as a couch _a la Turque_. Our last purchases were two Indian bows painted red and blue and adorned with feathers; the first bought by Celestino Carlo, and the other by Suzanne for her chevalier, Patrick Gordon.

An Indian woman who spoke a little French asked if we would not like to visit the queen. We assented, and in a few moments she led us into a hut thatched with palmetto leaves and in all respects like the others. Its interior was disgustingly unclean. The queen was a woman quite or nearly a hundred years old. She sat on a mat upon the earth, her arms crossed on her breast, her eyes half closed, muttering between her teeth something resembling a prayer. She paid no attention to us, and after a moment we went out. We entered two or three other huts and found the same poverty and squalor. The men did not follow us about, but the women--the whole tribe, I think--marched step by step behind us, touching our dresses, our _capuches_, our jewelry, and asking for everything; and I felt well content when, standing on our deck, I could make them our last signs of adieu.

Our flatboat moved ever onward. Day by day, hour by hour, every minute it advanced--slowly it is true, in the diminished current, but it advanced. I no longer knew where I was. We came at times where I thought we were lost; and then I thought of mamma and my dear sisters and my two pretty little brothers, whom I might never see again, and I was swallowed up. Then Suzanne would make fun of me and Alix would caress me, and that did me good. There were many bayous,--a labyrinth, as papa said,--and Mario had his map at hand showing the way. Sometimes it seemed impracticable, and it was only by great efforts of our men ("no zomme," says the original) that we could pass on. One thing is sure--those who traverse those same lakes and bayous to-day have not the faintest idea of what they were (il zete) in 1795.

Great vines hung down from lofty trees that shaded the banks and crossed one another a hundred--a thousand--ways to prevent the boat's passage and retard its progress, as if the devil himself was mixed in it; and, frankly, I believe that he had something to do with us in that cavern. Often our emigrants were forced to take their axes and hatchets in hand to open a road. At other times tree-trunks, heaped upon one another, completely closed a bayou. Then think what trouble there was to unbar that gate and pass through. And, to make all complete, troops of hungry alligators clambered upon the sides of our flatboat with jaws open to devour us. There was much outcry; I fled, Alix fled with me, Suzanne laughed. But our men were always ready for them with their guns.

FOOTNOTES:

(12) Flowing, not into, but out of, the Mississippi, and, like it, towards the Gulf.--Translator.

 


VI.

THE TWICE-MARRIED COUNTESS.


But with all the sluggishness of the flatboat, the toils, the anxieties, and the frights, what happy times, what gay moments, we passed together on the rough deck of our rude vessel, or in the little cells that we called our bedrooms.

It was in these rooms, when the sun was hot on deck, that my sister and I would join Alix to learn from her a new stitch in embroidery, or some of the charming songs she had brought from France and which she accompanied with harp or guitar.

Often she read to us, and when she grew tired put the book into my hands or Suzanne's, and gave us precious lessons in reading, as she had in singing and in embroidery. At times, in these moments of intimacy, she made certain half-disclosures that astonished us more and more. One day Suzanne took between her own two hands that hand so small and delicate and cried out all at once:

"How comes it, Alix, that you wear two wedding rings?"

"Because," she sweetly answered, "if it gives you pleasure to know, I have been twice married."

We both exclaimed with surprise.

"Ah!" she said, "no doubt you think me younger (bocou plus jeune) than I really am. What do you suppose is my age?"

Suzanne replied: "You look younger than Francoise, and she is sixteen."

"I am twenty-three," replied Alix, laughing again and again.

Another time my sister took a book, haphazard, from the shelves. Ordinarily (audinaremend) Alix herself chose our reading, but she was busy embroidering. Suzanne sat down and began to read aloud a romance entitled "Two Destinies."

"Ah!" cried my sister, "these two girls must be Francoise and I."

"Oh no, no!" exclaimed Alix, with a heavy sigh, and Suzanne began her reading. It told of two sisters of noble family. The elder had been married to a count, handsome, noble, and rich; and the other, against her parents' wish, to a poor workingman who had taken her to a distant country, where she died of regret and misery. Alix and I listened attentively; but before Suzanne had finished, Alix softly took the book from her hands and replaced it on the shelf.

"I would not have chosen that book for you; it is full of exaggerations and falsehoods."

"And yet," said Suzanne, "see with what truth the lot of the countess is described! How happy she was in her emblazoned coach, and her jewels, her laces, her dresses of velvet and brocade! Ah, Francoise! of the two destinies I choose that one."

Alix looked at her for a moment and then dropped her head in silence. Suzanne went on in her giddy way:

"And the other: how she was punished for her plebeian tastes!"

"So, my dear Suzanne," responded Alix, "you would not marry--"

"A man not my equal--a workman? Ah! certainly not."

Madame Carpentier turned slightly pale. I looked at Suzanne with eyes full of reproach; and Suzanne remembering the gardener, at that moment in his shirt sleeves pushing one of the boat's long sweeps, bit her lip and turned to hide her tears. But Alix--the dear little creature!--rose, threw her arms about my sister's neck, kissed her, and said:

"I know very well that you had no wish to give me pain, dear Suzanne. You have only called up some dreadful things that I am trying to forget. I am the daughter of a count. My childhood and youth were passed in chateaux and palaces, surrounded by every pleasure that an immense fortune could supply. As the wife of a viscount I have been received at court; I have been the companion of princesses. To-day all that is a dreadful dream. Before me I have a future the most modest and humble. I am the wife of Joseph the gardener; but poor and humble as is my present lot, I would not exchange it for the brilliant past, hidden from me by a veil of blood and tears. Some day I will write and send you my history; for I want to make it plain to you, Suzanne, that titles and riches do not make happiness, but that the poorest fate illumined by the fires of love is very often radiant with pleasure."

We remained mute. I took Alix's hand in mine and silently pressed it. Even Suzanne, the inquisitive Suzanne, spoke not a word. She was content to kiss Alix and wipe away her tears.

If the day had its pleasures, it was in the evenings, when we were all reunited on deck, that the moments of gayety began. When we had brilliant moonlight the flatboat would continue its course to a late hour. Then, in those calm, cool moments, when the movement of our vessel was so slight that it seemed to slide on the water, amid the odorous breezes of evening, the instruments of music were brought upon deck and our concerts began. My father played the flute delightfully; Carlo, by ear, played the violin pleasantly; and there, on the deck of that old flatboat, before an indulgent audience, our improvised instruments waked the sleeping creatures of the centuries-old forest and called around us the wondering fishes and alligators. My father and Alix played admirable duos on flute and harp, and sometimes Carlo added the notes of his violin or played for us cotillons and Spanish dances. Finally Suzanne and I, to please papa, sang together Spanish songs, or songs of the negroes, that made our auditors nearly die a-laughing; or French ballads, in which Alix would mingle her sweet voice. Then Carlo, with gestures that always frightened Patrick, made the air resound with Italian refrains, to which almost always succeeded the Irish ballads of the Gordons.

But when it happened that the flatboat made an early stop to let our men rest, the programme was changed. Celeste and Maggie went ashore to cook the two suppers there. Their children gathered wood and lighted the fires. Mario and Gordon, or Gordon and 'Tino, went into the forest with their guns. Sometimes my father went along, or sat down by M. Carpentier, who was the fisherman. Alix, too, generally sat near her husband, her sketch-book on her knee, and copied the surrounding scene. Often, tired of fishing, we gathered flowers and wild fruits. I generally staid near Alix and her husband, letting Suzanne run ahead with Patrick and Tom. It was a strange thing, the friendship between my sister and this little Irish boy. Never during the journey did he address one word to me; he never answered a question from Alix; he ran away if my father or Joseph spoke to him; he turned pale and hid if Mario looked at him. But with Suzanne he talked, laughed, obeyed her every word, called her Miss Souzie, and was never so happy as when serving her. And when, twenty years afterward, she made a journey to Attakapas, the wealthy M. Patrick Gordon, hearing by chance of her presence, came with his daughter to make her his guest for a week, still calling her Miss Souzie, as of old.

 


VII.

ODD PARTNERS IN THE BOLERO DANCE.


Only one thing we lacked--mass and Sunday prayers. But on that day the flatboat remained moored, we put on our Sunday clothes, gathered on deck, and papa read the mass aloud surrounded by our whole party, kneeling; and in the parts where the choir is heard in church, Alix, my sister, and I, seconded by papa and Mario, sang hymns.

One evening--we had already been five weeks on our journey--the flatboat was floating slowly along, as if it were tired of going, between the narrow banks of a bayou marked in red ink on Carlo's map, "Bayou Sorrel." It was about six in the afternoon. There had been a suffocating heat all day. It was with joy that we came up on deck. My father, as he made his appearance, showed us his flute. It was a signal: Carlo ran for his violin, Suzanne for Alix's guitar, and presently Carpentier appeared with his wife's harp. Ah! I see them still: Gordon and 'Tino seated on a mat; Celeste and her children; Mario with his violin; Maggie; Patrick at the feet of Suzanne; Alix seated and tuning her harp; papa at her side; and M. Carpentier and I seated on the bench nearest the musicians.

My father and Alix had already played some pieces, when papa stopped and asked her to accompany him in a new bolero which was then the vogue in New Orleans. In those days, at all the balls and parties, the boleros, fandangos, and other Spanish dances had their place with the French contra-dances and waltzes. Suzanne had made her entrance into society three years before, and danced ravishingly. Not so with me. I had attended my first ball only a few months before, and had taken nearly all my dancing-lessons from Suzanne. What was to become of me, then, when I heard my father ask me to dance the bolero which he and Alix were playing!... Every one made room for us, crying, "_Oh, oui, Mlle. Suzanne; dancez! Oh, dancez, Mlle. Francoise!_" I did not wish to disobey my father. I did not want to disoblige my friends. Suzanne loosed her red scarf and tossed one end to me. I caught the end of the shawl that Suzanne was already waving over her head and began the first steps, but it took me only an instant to see that the task was beyond my powers. I grew confused, my head swam, and I stopped. But Alix did not stop playing; and Suzanne, wrapped in her shawl and turning upon herself, cried, "Play on!"

I understood her intention in an instant.

Harp and flute sounded on, and Suzanne, ever gliding, waltzing, leaping, her arms gracefully lifted above her head, softly waved her scarf, giving it a thousand different forms. Thus she made, twice, the circuit of the deck, and at length paused before Mario Carlo. But only for a moment. With a movement as quick as unexpected, she threw the end of her scarf to him. It wound about his neck. The Italian with a shoulder movement loosed the scarf, caught it in his left hand, threw his violin to Celeste, and bowed low to his challenger. All this as the etiquette of the bolero inexorably demanded. Then Maestro Mario smote the deck sharply with his heels, let go a cry like an Indian's war-whoop, and made two leaps into the air, smiting his heels against each other. He came down on the points of his toes, waving the scarf from his left hand; and twining his right arm about my sister's waist, he swept her away with him. They danced for at least half an hour, running the one after the other, waltzing, tripping, turning, leaping. The children and Gordon shouted with delight, while my father, M. Carpentier, and even Alix clapped their hands, crying, "Hurrah!"

Suzanne's want of dignity exasperated me; but when I tried to speak of it, papa and Alix were against me.

"On board a flatboat," said my father, "a breach of form is permissible." He resumed his flute with the first measures of a minuet.

"Ah, our turn!" cried Alix; "our turn, Francoise! I will be the cavalier!"

I could dance the minuet as well as I could the bolero--that is, not at all; but Alix promised to guide me: and as, after all, I loved the dance as we love it at sixteen, I was easily persuaded, and fan in hand followed Alix, who for the emergency wore her husband's hat; and our minuet was received with as much enthusiasm as Suzanne's bolero. This ball was followed by others, and Alix gave me many lessons in the dance, that some weeks later were very valuable in the wilderness towards which we were journeying.

 


VIII.

A BAD STORM IN A BAD PLACE.


The flatboat continued its course, and some slight signs of civilization began to appear at long intervals. Towards the end of a beautiful day in June, six weeks after our departure from New Orleans, the flatboat stopped at the pass of Lake Chicot.(13) The sun was setting in a belt of gray clouds. Our men fastened their vessel securely and then cast their eyes about them.

"Ah!" cried Mario, "I do not like this place; it is inhabited." He pointed to a wretched hut half hidden by the forest. Except two or three little cabins seen in the distance, this was the first habitation that had met our eyes since leaving the Mississippi.(14)

A woman showed herself at the door. She was scarcely dressed at all. Her feet were naked, and her tousled hair escaped from a wretched handkerchief that she had thrown upon her head. Hidden in the bushes and behind the trees half a dozen half-nude children gazed at us, ready to fly at the slightest sound. Suddenly two men with guns came out of the woods, but at the sight of the flatboat stood petrified. Mario shook his head.

"If it were not so late I would take the boat farther on."

(Yet he went hunting with 'Tino and Gordon along the shore, leaving the father of Francoise and Suzanne lying on the deck with sick headache, Joseph fishing in the flatboat's little skiff, and the women and children on the bank, gazed at from a little distance by the sitting figures of the two strange men and the woman. Then the hunters returned, supper was prepared, and both messes ate on shore. Gordon and Mario joining freely in the conversation of the more cultivated group, and making altogether a strange Babel of English, French, Spanish, and Italian.)

After supper Joseph and Alix, followed by my sister and me, plunged into the denser part of the woods.

"Take care, comrade," we heard Mario say; "don't go far."

The last rays of the sun were in the treetops. There were flowers everywhere. Alix ran here and there, all enthusiasm. Presently Suzanne uttered a cry and recoiled with affright from a thicket of blackberries. In an instant Joseph was at her side; but she laughed aloud, returned to the assault, and drew by force from the bushes a little girl of three or four years. The child fought and cried; but Suzanne held on, drew her to the trunk of a tree, sat down, and held her on her lap by force. The poor little thing was horribly dirty, but under its rags there were pretty features and a sweetness that inspired pity. Alix sat down by my sister and stroked the child's hair, and, like Suzanne, spite of the dirt, kissed her several times; but the little creature still fought, and yelled (in English):

"Let me alone! I want to go home! I want to go home!"

Joseph advised my sister to let the child go, and Suzanne was about to do so when she remembered having at supper filled her pocket with pecans. She quickly filled the child's hands with them and the Rubicon was passed.... She said that her name was Annie; that her father, mother, and brothers lived in the hut. That was all she could say. She did not know her parents' name. When Suzanne put her down she ran with all her legs towards the cabin to show Alix's gift, her pretty ribbon.

Before the sun went down the wind rose. Great clouds covered the horizon; large rain-drops began to fall. Joseph covered the head of his young wife with her mantle, and we hastened back to the camp.

"Do you fear a storm, Joseph?" asked Alix.

"I do not know too much," he replied; "but when you are near, all dangers seem great."

We found the camp deserted; all our companions were on board the flatboat. The wind rose to fury, and now the rain fell in torrents. We descended to our rooms. Papa was asleep. We did not disturb him, though we were greatly frightened.... Joseph and Gordon went below to sleep. Mario and his son loosed the three bull-dogs, but first removed the planks that joined the boat to the shore. Then he hoisted a great lantern upon a mast in the bow, lighted his pipe, and sat down to keep his son awake with stories of voyages and hunts.

The storm seemed to increase in violence every minute. The rain redoubled its fury. Frightful thunders echoed each other's roars. The flatboat, tossed by the wind and waves, seemed to writhe in agony, while now and then the trunks of uprooted trees, lifted by the waves, smote it as they passed. Without a thought of the people in the hut, I made every effort to keep awake in the face of these menaces of Nature. Suzanne held my hand tightly in hers, and several times spoke to me in a low voice, fearing to wake papa, whom we could hear breathing regularly, sleeping without a suspicion of the surrounding dangers. Yet an hour had not passed ere I was sleeping profoundly. A knock on the partition awoke us and made us run to the door. Mario was waiting there.

"Quick, monsieur! Get the young ladies ready. The flatboat has probably but ten minutes to live. We must take the women and children ashore. And please, signorina,"--to my sister,--"call M. and Mme. Carpentier." But Joseph had heard all, and showed himself at the door of our room.

"Ashore? At such a time?"

"We have no choice. We must go or perish."

"But where?"

"To the hut. We have no time to talk. My family is ready"....

It took but a few minutes to obey papa's orders. We were already nearly dressed; and as sabots were worn at that time to protect the shoes from the mud and wet, we had them on in a moment. A thick shawl and a woolen hood completed our outfits. Alix was ready in a few moments.

"Save your jewels,--those you prize most,--my love," cried Carpentier, "while I dress."

Alix ran to her dressing-case, threw its combs, brushes, etc., pell-mell into the bureau, opened a lower part of the case and took out four or five jewel-boxes that glided into her pockets, and two lockets that she hid carefully in her corsage. Joseph always kept their little fortune in a leathern belt beneath his shirt. He put on his vest and over it a sort of great-coat, slung his gun by its shoulder-belt, secured his pistols, and then taking from one of his trunks a large woolen cloak he wrapped Alix in it, and lifted her like a child of eight, while she crossed her little arms about his neck and rested her head on his bosom. Then he followed us into Mario's room, where his two associates were waiting. At another time we might have laughed at Maggie, but not now. She had slipped into her belt two horse-pistols. In one hand she held in leash her bull-dog Tom, and in the other a short carbine, her own property.

FOOTNOTES:

(13) That is, "Lake full of snags."--TRANSLATOR.

(14) The Indian village having the Mississippi probably but a few miles in its rear.--TRANSLATOR.

 


IX.

MAGGIE AND THE ROBBERS.


"We are going out of here together," said Mario; "but John and I will conduct you only to the door of the hut. Thence we shall return to the flatboat, and all that two men can do to save our fortune shall be done. You, monsieur, have enough to do to take care of your daughters. To you, M. Carpentier--to you, son Celestino, I give the care of these women and children."

"I can take care of myself," said Maggie.

"You are four, well armed," continued Mario. (My father had his gun and pistols.) "This dog is worth two men. You have no risks to run; the danger, if there be any, will be with the boat. Seeing us divided, they may venture an attack; but one of you stand by the window that faces the shore. If one of those men in the hut leaves it, or shows a wish to do so, fire one pistol-shot out of the window, and we shall be ready for them; but if you are attacked, fire two shots and we will come. Now, forward!"

We went slowly and cautiously: 'Tino first, with a lantern; then the Irish pair and child; then Mario, leading his two younger boys, and Celeste, with her daughter asleep in her arms; and for rear-guard papa with one of us on each arm, and Joseph with his precious burden. The wind and the irregularities of the ground made us stumble at every step. The rain lashed us in the face and extorted from time to time sad lamentations from the children. But, for all that, we were in a few minutes at the door of the hovel.

"M. Carpentier," said Mario, "I give my family into your care." Joseph made no answer but to give his hand to the Italian. Mario strode away, followed by Gordon.

"Knock on the door," said Joseph to 'Tino. The boy knocked. No sound was heard inside, except the growl of a dog.

"Knock again." The same silence. "We can't stay here in this beating rain; open and enter," cried Carpentier. 'Tino threw wide the door and we walked in.

There was but one room. A large fire burned in a clay chimney that almost filled one side of the cabin. In one corner four or five chickens showed their heads. In another, the woman was lying on a wretched pallet in all her clothes. By her slept the little creature Suzanne had found, her ribbon still on her frock. Near one wall was a big chest on which another child was sleeping. A rough table was in the middle, on it some dirty tin plates and cups, and under it half a dozen dogs and two little boys. I never saw anything else like it. On the hearth stood the pot and skillet, still half full of hominy and meat.

Kneeling by the fire was a young man molding bullets and passing them to his father, seated on a stool at a corner of the chimney, who threw them into a jar of water, taking them out again to even them with the handle of a knife. I see it still as if it was before my eyes.

The woman opened her eyes, but did not stir. The dogs rose tumultuously, but Tom showed his teeth and growled, and they went back under the table. The young man rose upon one knee, he and his father gazing stupidly at us, the firelight in their faces. We women shrank against our protectors, except Maggie, who let go a strong oath. The younger man was frightfully ugly; pale-faced, large-eyed, haggard, his long, tangled, blonde hair on his shoulders. The father's face was written all over with depravity and crime. Joseph advanced and spoke to him.

"What the devil of a language is that?" he asked of his son in English.

"He is asking you," said Maggie, "to let us stay here till the storm is over."

"And where do you come from this way?"

"From that flatboat tied to the bank."

"Well, the house isn't big nor pretty, but you are its masters."

Maggie went and sat by the window, ready to give the signal. Pat sank at her feet, and laying his head upon Tom went straight to sleep. Papa sat down by the fire on an inverted box and took me on one knee. With her head against his other, Suzanne crouched upon the floor. We were silent, our hearts beating hard, wishing ourselves with mamma in St. James. Joseph set Alix upon a stool beside him and removed her wrapping.

"Hello!" said the younger stranger, "I thought you were carrying a child. It's a woman!"

An hour passed. The woman in the corner seemed to sleep; Celeste, too, slumbered. When I asked Suzanne, softly, if she was asleep, she would silently shake her head. The men went on with their task, not speaking. At last they finished, divided the balls between them, put them into a leather pouch at their belt, and the father, rising, said:

"Let us go. It is time."

Maggie raised her head. The elder man went and got his gun and loaded it with two balls, and while the younger was muffling himself in an old blanket-overcoat such as we give to plantation negroes, moved towards the door and was about to pass out. But quicker than lightning Maggie had raised the window, snatched a pistol from her belt, and fired. The two men stood rooted, the elder frowning at Maggie. Tom rose and showed two rows of teeth.

"What did you fire that pistol for? What signal are you giving?"

"That is understood at the flatboat," said Maggie, tranquilly. "I was to fire if you left the house. You started, I fired, and that's all."

"----! And did you know, by yourself, what we were going to do?"

"I haven't a doubt. You were simply going to attack and rob the flatboat."

A second oath, fiercer than the first, escaped the man's lips. "You talk that way to me! Do you forget that you're in my power?"

"Ah! Do you think so?" cried Maggie, resting her fists on her hips. "Ah, ha, ha!" That was the first time I ever heard her laugh--and such a laugh! "Don't you know, my dear sir, that at one turn of my hand this dog will strangle you like a chicken? Don't you see four of us here armed to the teeth, and at another signal our comrades yonder ready to join us in an instant? And besides, this minute they are rolling a little cannon up to the bow of the boat. Go, meddle with them, you'll see." She lied, but her lie averted the attack. She quietly sat down again and paid the scoundrel not the least attention.

"And that's the way you pay us for taking you in, is it? Accuse a man of crime because he steps out of his own house to look at the weather? Well, that's all right." While the man spoke he put his gun into a corner, resumed his seat, and lighted a cob pipe. The son had leaned on his gun during the colloquy. Now he put it aside and lay down upon the floor to sleep. The awakened children slept. Maggie sat and smoked. My father, Joseph, and 'Tino talked in low tones. All at once the old ruffian took his pipe from his mouth and turned to my father.

"Where do you come from?"

"From New Orleans, sir."

"How long have you been on the way?"

"About a month."

"And where are you going," etc. Joseph, like papa, remained awake, but like him, like all of us, longed with all his soul for the end of that night of horror.

At the first crowing of the cock the denizens of the hut were astir. The father and son took their guns and went into the forest. The fire was relighted. The woman washed some hominy in a pail and seemed to have forgotten our presence; but the little girl recognized Alix, who took from her own neck a bright silk handkerchief and tied it over the child's head, put a dollar in her hand, and kissed her forehead. Then it was Suzanne's turn. She covered her with kisses. The little one laughed, and showed the turban and the silver that "the pretty lady," she said, had given her. Next, my sister dropped, one by one, upon the pallet ten dollars, amazing the child with these playthings; and then she took off her red belt and put it about her little pet's neck.

My father handed me a handful of silver. "They are very poor, my daughter; pay them well for their hospitality." As I approached the woman I heard Joseph thank her and offer her money.

"What do you want me to do with that?" she said, pushing my hand away. "Instead of that, send me some coffee and tobacco."

That ended it; I could not pay in money. But when I looked at the poor woman's dress so ragged and torn, I took off (J'autai) my shawl, which was large and warm, and put it on her shoulders,--I had another in the boat,--and she was well content. When I got back to the flatboat I sent her some chemises, petticoats, stockings, and a pair of shoes. The shoes were papa's. Alix also sent her three skirts and two chemises, and Suzanne two old dresses and two chemises for her children, cutting down what was too large. Before quitting the hut Celeste had taken from her two lads their knitted neckerchiefs and given them to the two smaller boys, and Maggie took the old shawl that covered Pat's shoulders and threw it upon the third child, who cried out with joy. At length we returned to our vessel, which had triumphantly fought the wind and floating trees. Mario took to the cabin our gifts, to which we added sugar, biscuits, and a sack of pecans.

 


X.

ALIX PUTS AWAY THE PAST.


For two weeks more our boat continued its slow and silent voyage among the bayous. We saw signs of civilization, but they were still far apart. These signs alarmed Mario. He had already chosen his place of abode and spoke of it with his usual enthusiasm; a prairie where he had camped for two weeks with his young hunters five years before.

"A principality--that is what I count on establishing there," he cried, pushing his hand through his hair. "And think!--if, maybe, some one has occupied it! Oh, the thief! the robber! Let him not fall into my hands! I'll strangle--I'll kill him!"

My father, to console him, would say that it would be easy to find other tracts just as fine.

"Never!" replied he, rolling his eyes and brandishing his arms; and his fury would grow until Maggie cried:

"He is Satan himself! He's the devil!"

One evening the flatboat stopped a few miles only from where is now the village of Pattersonville. The weather was magnificent, and while papa, Gordon, and Mario went hunting, Joseph, Alix, and we two walked on the bank. Little by little we wandered, and, burying ourselves in the interior, we found ourselves all at once confronting a little cottage embowered in a grove of oranges. Alix uttered a cry of admiration and went towards the house. We saw that it was uninhabited and must have been long abandoned. The little kitchen, the poultry-house, the dovecote, were in ruins. But the surroundings were admirable: in the rear a large court was entirely shaded with live-oaks; in front was the green belt of orange trees; farther away Bayou Teche, like a blue ribbon, marked a natural boundary, and at the bottom of the picture the great trees of the forest lifted their green-brown tops.

"Oh!" cried Alix, "if I could stay here I should be happy."

"Who knows?" replied Joseph. "The owner has left the house; he may be dead. Who knows but I may take this place?"

"Oh! I pray you, Joseph, try. Try!" At that moment my father and Mario appeared, looking for us, and Alix cried:

"Welcome, gentlemen, to my domain."

Joseph told of his wife's wish and his hope.... "In any case," said Mario, "count on us. If you decide to settle here we will stay two weeks--a month, if need be--to help you establish yourself."

As soon as we had breakfasted my father and Joseph set out for a plantation which they saw in the distance. They found it a rich estate. The large, well-built house was surrounded by outbuildings, stables, granaries, and gardens; fields of cane and corn extended to the limit of view. The owner, M. Gerbeau, was a young Frenchman. He led them into the house, presented them to his wife, and offered them refreshments.

(M. Gerbeau tells the travelers how he had come from the Mississippi River parish of St. Bernard to this place with all his effects in a schooner--doubtless via the mouth of the river and the bay of Atchafalaya; while Joseph is all impatience to hear of the little deserted home concerning which he has inquired. But finally he explains that its owner, a lone Swede, had died of sunstroke two years before, and M. Gerbeau's best efforts to find, through the Swedish consul at New Orleans or otherwise, a successor to the little estate had been unavailing. Joseph could take the place if he would. He ended by generously forcing upon the father of Francoise and Suzanne the free use of his traveling-carriage and "two horses, as gentle as lambs and as swift as deer," with which to make their journey up the Teche to St. Martinville,(15) the gay, not to say giddy, little capital of the royalist _emigres_.)

My father wished to know what means of transport he could secure, on his return to this point, to take us home.

"Don't let that trouble you; I will arrange that. I already have a plan--you shall see."

The same day the work began on the Carpentier's home. The three immigrants and 'Tino fell bravely to work, and M. Gerbeau brought his carpenter and a cart-load of lumber. Two new rooms were added. The kitchen was repaired, then the stable, the dovecote, the poultry-house; the garden fences were restored; also those of the field. My father gave Joseph one of his cows; the other was promised to Carlo. Mme. Gerbeau was with us much, helping Alix, as were we. We often dined with her. One Sunday M. Gerbeau came for us very early and insisted that Mario and Gordon should join us. Maggie, with her usual phlegm, had declined.

At dinner our host turned the conversation upon St. Martinville, naming again all the barons, counts, and marquises of whom he had spoken to my father, and descanting especially on the grandeur of the balls and parties he had there attended.

"And we have only our camayeu skirts!" cried Suzanne.

"Daughter," observed papa, "be content with what you have. You are neither a duchess nor a countess, and besides you are traveling."

"And," said M. Gerbeau, "the stores there are full of knickknacks that would capture the desires of a queen."

On returning to our flatboat Alix came into my room, where I was alone, and laying her head on my shoulder:

"Francoise," she said, "I have heard mentioned today the dearest friend I ever had. That Countess de la Houssaye of whom M. Gerbeau spoke is Madelaine de Livilier, my companion in convent, almost my sister. We were married nearly at the same time; we were presented at court the same day; and now here we are, both, in Louisiana!"

"O Alix!" I cried, "I shall see her. Papa has a letter to her husband; I shall tell her; she will come to see you; and--"

"No, no! You must not speak of me, Francoise. She knew and loved the Countess Alix de Morainville. I know her; she would repel with scorn the wife of the gardener. I am happy in my obscurity. Let nothing remind me of other days."

Seeing that Alix said nothing of all this to Suzanne, I imitated her example. With all her goodness, Suzanne was so thoughtless and talkative!

FOOTNOTES:

(15) Now generally miscalled St. Martinsville.--TRANSLATOR.

 


XI.

ALIX PLAYS FAIRY.--PARTING TEARS.


In about fifteen days the work on the cottage was nearly done and the moving began, Celeste, and even Maggie, offering us their services. Alix seemed enchanted.

"Two things, only, I lack," she said--"a sofa, and something to cover the walls."

One morning M. Gerbeau sent to Carpentier a horse, two fine cows and their calves, and a number of sheep and pigs. At the same time two or three negresses, loaded down with chickens, geese, and ducks, made their appearance. Also M. Gerbeau.

"What does all this mean?" asked Joseph.

"This is the succession of the dead Swede," replied the generous young man.

"But I have no right to his succession."

"That's a question," responded M. Gerbeau. "You have inherited the house, you must inherit all. If claimants appear--well, you will be responsible to them. You will please give me a receipt in due form; that is all."

Tears came into Carpentier's eyes.... As he was signing the receipt M. Gerbeau stopped him. "Wait; I forgot something. At the time of Karl's (the Swede's) death, I took from his crib fifty barrels of corn; add that."

"O sir!" cried Joseph, "that is too much--too much."

"Write!" said M. Gerbeau, laying his hand on Joseph's shoulder, "if you please. I am giving you nothing; I am relieving myself of a burden."

* * * * *

My dear daughter, if I have talked very much about Alix it is because talking about her is such pleasure. She has been so good to my sister and me! The memory of her is one of the brightest of my youth.

The flatboat was to go in three days. One morning, when we had passed the night with Mme. Gerbeau, Patrick came running to say that "Madame 'Lix" wished to see us at once. We hastened to the cottage. Alix met us on the gallery (veranda).

"Come in, dear girls. I have a surprise for you and a great favor to ask. I heard you say, Suzanne, you had nothing to wear--"

"But our camayeu petticoats!"

"But your camayeu petticoats." She smiled.

"And they, it seems, do not tempt your vanity. You want better?"

"Ah, indeed we do!" replied Suzanne.

"Well, let us play Cinderella. The dresses of velvet, silk, and lace, the jewels, the slippers--all are in yonder chest. Listen, my dear girls. Upon the first signs of the Revolution my frightened mother left France and crossed into England. She took with her all her wardrobe, her jewels, the pictures from her bedroom, and part of her plate. She bought, before going, a quantity of silks and ribbons.... When I reached England my mother was dead, and all that she had possessed was restored to me by the authorities. My poor mother loved dress, and in that chest is all her apparel. Part of it I had altered for my own use; but she was much larger than I--taller than you. I can neither use them nor consent to sell them. If each of you will accept a ball toilet, you will make me very happy." And she looked at us with her eyes full of supplication, her hands clasped.

We each snatched a hand and kissed it. Then she opened the chest, and for the first and last time in my life I saw fabrics, ornaments, and coiffures that truly seemed to have been made by the fairies. After many trials and much debate she laid aside for me a lovely dress of blue brocade glistening with large silver flowers the reflections of which seemed like rays of light. It was short in front, with a train; was very full on the sides, and was caught up with knots of ribbon. The long pointed waist was cut square and trimmed with magnificent laces that re-appeared on the half-long sleeves. The arms, to the elbow, were to be covered with white frosted gloves fastened with twelve silver buttons. To complete my toilet she gave me a blue silk fan beautifully painted, blue satin slippers with high heels and silver buckles, white silk stockings with blue clocks, a broidered white cambric handkerchief trimmed with Brussels point lace, and, last, a lovely set of silver filigree that she assured us was of slight value, comprising the necklace, the comb, the earrings, bracelets, and a belt whose silver tassels of the same design fell down the front of the dress.

My sister's toilet was exactly like mine, save that it was rose color. Alix had us try them on. While our eyes were ravished, she, with more expert taste, decided to take up a little in one place, lower a ribbon in another, add something here, take away there, and, above all, to iron the whole with care. We staid all day helping her; and when, about 3 o'clock, all was finished, our fairy godmother said she would now dress our hair, and that we must observe closely.

"For Suzanne will have to coiffe Francoise and Francoise coiffe Suzanne," she said. She took from the chest two pasteboard boxes that she said contained the headdresses belonging to our costumes, and, making me sit facing my sister, began to dress her hair. I was all eyes. I did not lose a movement of the comb. She lifted Suzanne's hair to the middle of the head in two rosettes that she called _riquettes_ and fastened them with a silver comb. Next, she made in front, or rather on the forehead, with hairpins, numberless little knots, or whorls, and placed on each side of the head a plume of white, rose-tipped feathers, and in front, opposite the riquettes, placed a rose surrounded with silver leaves. Long rose-colored, silver-frosted ribbons falling far down on the back completed the headdress, on which Alix dusted handfuls of silver powder. Can you believe it, my daughter, that was the first time my sister and I had ever seen artificial flowers? They made very few of them, even in France, in those days.

While Suzanne admired herself in the mirror I took her place. My headdress differed from hers in the ends of my feathers being blue, and in the rose being white, surrounded by pale blue violets and a few silver leaves. And now a temptation came to all of us. Alix spoke first:

"Now put on your ball-dresses and I will send for our friends. What do you think?"

"Oh, that would be charming!" cried Suzanne. "Let us hurry!" And while we dressed, Pat, always prowling about the cottage, was sent to the flatboat to get his parents and the Carlos, and to M. Gerbeau's to ask my father and M. and Mme. Gerbeau to come at once to the cottage.... No, I cannot tell the cries of joy that greeted us. The children did not know us, and Maggie had to tell Pat over and over that these were Miss Souzie and Miss Francise. My father's eyes filled with tears as he thanked Alix for her goodness and generosity to us.

Alas! the happiest days, like the saddest, have an end. On the morrow the people in the flatboat came to say good-bye. Mario cried like a child. Celeste carried Alix's hands to her lips and said in the midst of her tears:

"O Madame! I had got so used to you--I hoped never to leave you."

"I will come to see you, Celeste," replied Alix to the young mulattress, "I promise you."

Maggie herself seemed moved, and in taking leave of Alix put two vigorous kisses on her cheeks. As to our father, and us, too, the adieus were not final, we having promised Mario and Gordon to stop (on their journey up the shore of the bayou) as soon as we saw the flatboat.

"And we hope, my dear Carlo, to find you established in your principality."

"Amen!" responded the Italian.

Alix added to her gifts two pairs of chamois-skin gloves and a box of lovely artificial flowers. Two days after the flatboat had gone, we having spent the night with Alix, came M. Gerbeau's carriage to take us once more upon our journey. Ah! that was a terrible moment. Even Alix could scarce hold back the tears. We refused to get into the carriage, and walked, all of us together, to M. Gerbeau's, and then parted amid tears, kisses, and promises.

 


XII.

LITTLE PARIS.


(So the carriage rolled along the margin of Bayou Teche, with two big trunks besides Monsieur's on back and top, and a smaller one, lent by Alix, lashed underneath; but shawls, mats, and baskets were all left behind with the Carpentiers. The first stop was at the plantation and residence of Captain Patterson, who "offered his hand in the English way, saying only, 'Welcomed, young ladies.'" In 1795, the narrator stops to say, one might see in and about New Orleans some two-story houses; but along the banks of Bayou Teche, as well as on the Mississippi, they were all of one sort,--like their own; like Captain Patterson's,--a single ground floor with three rooms facing front and three back. Yet the very next stop was at a little cottage covered with roses and with its front yard full of ducks and geese,--"'A genuine German cottage,' said papa,"--where a German girl, to call her father, put a great ox's horn to her lips and blew a loud blast. Almost every one was English or German till they came to where was just beginning to be the town of Franklin. One Harlman, a German, offered to exchange all his land for the silver watch that it best suited Monsieur to travel with. The exchange was made, the acts were all signed and sealed, and--when Suzanne, twenty years after, made a visit to Attakapas there was Harlman and his numerous family still in peaceful possession of the place.... "And I greatly fear that when some day our grandchildren awaken from that apathy with which I have always reproached the Creoles, I fear, my daughter, they will have trouble to prove their titles."

But they journeyed on, Francoise ever looking out the carriage window for the flatboat, and Suzanne crying:

"Annie, my sister Annie, do you see nothing coming?" And about two miles from where Franklin was to be they came upon it, greeted with joyous laughter and cries of "Miss Souzie! O Miss Souzie!" from the women and the children, and from Mario: "I have it, Signor! I have it! My prinicipality, Miss Souzie! It is mine, Signorina Francoise!" while he danced, laughed, and brandished his arms. "He had taken up enough land," says Francoise, "for five principalities, and was already knocking the flatboat to pieces."

She mentioned meeting Jacques and Charles Picot, St. Domingan refugees, whose story of adventures she says was very wonderful, but with good artistic judgement omits them. The travelers found, of course, a _charmante cordialite_ at the home of M. Agricole Fuselier(16), and saw a little girl of five who afterward became a great beauty--Uranie Fuselier. They passed another Indian village, where Francoise persuaded them not to stop. Its inhabitants were Chetimachas, more civilized than those of the village near Plaquemine, and their sworn enemies, living in constant fear of an attack from them. At New Iberia, a town founded by Spaniards, the voyagers saw "several houses, some drinking-shops and other buildings," and spent with "the pretty little Madame Dubuclet ... two of the pleasantest days of their lives.")

At length, one beautiful evening in July, under a sky resplendent with stars, amid the perfume of gardens and caressed by the cool night breeze, we made our entry into the village of St. Martinville--the Little Paris, the oasis in the desert.

My father ordered Julien (the coachman) to stop at the best inn. He turned two or three corners and stopped near the bayou (Teche) just beside the bridge, before a house of the strangest aspect possible. There seemed first to have been built a _rez-de-chaussee_ house of ordinary size, to which had been hastily added here a room, there a cabinet, a balcony, until the "White Pelican"--I seem to see it now--was like a house of cards, likely to tumble before the first breath of wind. The host's name was Morphy. He came forward, hat in hand, a pure-blooded American, but speaking French almost like a Frenchman. In the house all was comfortable and shining with cleanness. Madame Morphy took us to our room, adjoining papa's ("tou ta cote de selle de papa"), the two looking out, across the veranda, upon the waters of the Teche.

After supper my father proposed a walk. Madame Morphy showed us, by its lights, in the distance, a theater!

"They are playing, this evening, 'The Barber of Seville.'"

We started on our walk, moving slowly, scanning the houses and listening to the strains of music that reached us from the distance. It seemed but a dream that at any moment might vanish. On our return to the inn, papa threw his letters upon the table and began to examine their addresses.

"To whom will you carry the first letter, papa?" I asked.

"To the Baron du Clozel," he replied. "I have already met him in New Orleans, and even had the pleasure to render him a slight service."

Mechanically Suzanne and I examined the addresses and amused ourselves reading the pompous title's.

"'Le chevalier Louis de Blanc!'" began my sister; "'L'honorable A. Declouet'; 'Le comte Louis le Pelletrier de la Houssaye'! Ah!" she cried, throwing the packet upon the table, "the aristocrats! I am frightened, poor little plebeian that I am."

"Yes, my daughter," responded my father, "these names represent true aristocrats, as noble in virtues as in blood. My father has often told me of two uncles of the Count de la Houssaye: the first, Claude de la Pelletrier de la Houssaye, was prime minister to King Louis XV.; and the second, Barthelemy, was employed by the Minister of Finance. The count, he to whom I bear this letter, married Madelaine Victoire de Livilier. These are noble names."

Then Alix was not mistaken; it was really her friend, the Countess Madelaine, whom I was about to meet.


FOOTNOTES:

(16) When I used the name of Agricole Fuselier (or Agricola Fusilier, as I have it in my novel "The Grandissimes") I fully believed it was my own careful coinage; but on publishing it I quickly found that my supposed invention was but an unconscious reminiscence. The name still survives, I am told, on the Teche.--TRANSLATOR.

 


XIII.

THE COUNTESS MADELAINE.


Early the next day I saw, through the partly open door, my father finishing his toilet.

He had already fastened over his black satin breeches his garters secured with large buckles of chased silver. Similar buckles were on his shoes. His silver-buttoned vest of white pique reached low down, and his black satin coat faced with white silk had large lappets cut square. Such dress seemed to me very warm for summer; but the fashion and etiquette allowed only silk and velvet for visits of ceremony, and though you smothered you had to obey those tyrants. At the moment when I saw him out of the corner of my eye he was sticking a cluster diamond pin into his shirt-frill and another diamond into his lace cravat. It was the first time I ever saw papa so fine, so dressed! Presently we heard him call us to arrange his queue, and although it was impossible for us to work up a club and pigeon wings like those I saw on the two young Du Clozels and on M. Neville Declouet, we arranged a very fine queue wrapped with a black ribbon, and after smiling at himself in the glass and declaring that he thought the whole dress was in very good taste he kissed us, took his three-cornered hat and his gold-headed cane and went out. With what impatience we awaited his return!

About two hours afterward we saw papa coming back accompanied by a gentleman of a certain age, handsome, noble, elegant in his severe suit of black velvet. He had the finest black eyes in the world, and his face beamed with wit and amiability. You have guessed it was the Baron du Clozel. The baron bowed to us profoundly. He certainly knew who we were, but etiquette required him to wait until my father had presented us; but immediately then he asked papa's permission to kiss us, and you may suppose your grandfather did not refuse.

M. du Clozel had been sent by the baroness to oppose our sojourn at the inn, and to bring us back with him.

"Run, put on your hoods," said papa; "we will wait for you here."

Mr. and Mrs. Morphy were greatly disappointed to see us go, and the former declared that if these nobles kept on taking away their custom they would have to shut up shop. Papa, to appease him, paid him double what he asked. And the baron gave his arm to Suzanne, as the elder, while I followed, on papa's. Madame du Clozel and her daughter met us at the street gate. The baroness, though not young, was still pretty, and so elegant, so majestic! A few days later I could add, so good, so lovable!

Celeste du Clozel was eighteen. Her hair was black as ebony, and her eyes a beautiful blue. The young men of the village called her _Celeste la bien nommee_ (Celeste the well named); and for all her beauty, fortune, and high position she was good and simple and always ready to oblige. She was engaged, we learned afterward, to the Chevalier de Blanc, the same who in 1803 was made post-commandant of Attakapas.(17) Olivier and Charles du Clozel turned everything to our entertainment, and it was soon decided that we should all go that same evening to the theater.

Hardly was the sun down when we shut ourselves into our rooms to begin the work of dressing. Celeste put herself at our service, assuring us that she knew perfectly how to dress hair. The baroness asked us to let her lend us ornaments, ribbons--whatever we might need. We could see that she supposed two young girls who had never seen the great world, who came from a region where nearly all articles of luxury were wanting, could hardly have a choice wardrobe. We thanked them, assuring Celeste that we had always cultivated the habit of dressing each other's hair.

We put on our camayeu petticoats and our black velvet waists, adding gloves; and in our hair, sparkling with gold powder, we put, each of us, a bunch of the roses given us by Alix. We found ourselves charming, and hoped to create a sensation. But if the baroness was satisfied she showed no astonishment. Her hair, like her daughter's, was powdered, and both wore gloves.

Suzanne on the arm of Olivier, I on Charles's, Celeste beside her fiance, the grandparents in front, we entered the theater of St. Martinville, and in a moment more were the observed of all observers. The play was a vaudeville, of which I remember only the name, but rarely have I seen amateurs act so well: all the prominent parts were rendered by young men. But if the French people are polite, amiable, and hospitable, we know that they are also very inquisitive. Suzanne was more annoyed than I can tell; yet we knew that our toilets were in excellent taste, even in that place full of ladies covered with costly jewels. When I asked Celeste how the merchants of St. Martinville could procure these costly goods, she explained that near by there was a place named the _Butte a la Rose_ that greatly shortened the way to market.(18) They were bringing almost everything from London, owing to the Revolution. Between the acts many persons came to greet Madame du Clozel. Oh, how I longed to see the friend of Alix! But I would not ask anything; I resolved to find her by the aid of my heart alone.

Presently, as by a magnetic power, my attention was drawn to a tall and beautiful young lady dressed in white satin, with no ornaments except a set of gold and sapphires, and for headdress a _resille_ the golden tassels of which touched her neck. Ah! how quickly I recognized those brown eyes faintly proud, that kind smile, that queenly bearing, that graceful step! I turned to Charles du Clozel, who sat beside me, and said:

"That is the Countess de la Houssaye, isn't it?"

"Do you know her?"

"I see her for the first time; but--I guessed it."

Several times I saw her looking at me, and once she smiled. During the last two acts she came and shook hands with us, and, caressing our hair with her gloved hand, said her husband had seen papa's letter; that it was from a dear friend, and that she came to ask Madame du Clozel to let her take us away with her. Against this the baroness cried out, and then the Countess Madelaine said to us:

"Well, you will come spend the day with me day after to-morrow, will you? I shall invite only young people. May I come for you?"

Ah, that day! how I remember it!... Madame de la Houssaye was fully five or six years older than Madame Carpentier, for she was the mother of four boys, the eldest of whom was fully twelve.(19) Her house was, like Madame du Clozel's, a single rez-de-chaussee surmounted by a mansard.... From the drawing-room she conducted us to a room in the rear of the house at the end of the veranda (galerie), where ... a low window let into a garden crossed and re-crossed with alleys of orange and jasmine. Several lofty magnolias filled the air with the fragrance of their great white flowers....

 

XIV.

"POOR LITTLE ALIX!"


Hardly had we made a few steps into the room when a young girl rose and advanced, supported on the arm of a young man slightly overdressed. His club and pigeon-wings were fastened with three or four pins of gold, and his white-powdered queue was wrapped with a black velvet ribbon shot with silver. The heat was so great that he had substituted silk for velvet, and his dress-coat, breeches, and long vest were of pearl-gray silk, changing to silver, with large silver buttons. On the lace frill of his embroidered shirt shone three large diamonds, on his cravat was another, and his fingers were covered with rings.(20) The young girl embraced us with ceremony, while her companion bowed profoundly. She could hardly have been over sixteen or seventeen. One could easily guess by her dress that the pretty creature was the slave of fashion.

"Madame du Rocher," said Charles du Clozel, throwing a wicked glance upon her.

"Madame!" I stammered.

"Impossible!" cried Suzanne.

"Don't listen to him!" interrupted the young lady, striking Charles's fingers with her fan. "He is a wretched falsifier. I am called Tonton de Blanc."

"The widow du Rocher!" cried Olivier, from the other side.

"Ah, this is too much!" she exclaimed. "If you don't stop these ridiculous jokes at once I'll make Neville call you out upon the field of battle." ... But a little while afterward Celeste whispered in my ear that her brothers had said truly. At thirteen years Tonton, eldest daughter of Commandant Louis de Blanc and sister of Chevalier de Blanc, had been espoused to Dr. du Rocher, at least forty years older than she. He was rich, and two years later he died, leaving all his fortune to his widow.... One after another Madame de la Houssaye introduced to us at least twenty persons, the most of whose names, unfortunately, I have forgotten. I kept notes, but have mislaid them....

A few moments before dinner the countess re-appeared among us, followed by two servants in livery bearing salvers of fruit; and while we ate she seated herself at the harpsichord and played.

"Do you sing?" she asked me.

"A little, madame."

(The two sisters sang a song together.)

"Children," she cried, "tell me, I pray you, who taught you that duet?"

"A young French lady, one of our friends," replied Suzanne.

"But her name! What is her name?"

"Madame Carpentier."

The name meant nothing to her. She sighed, and asked us to sing on.... At dinner we met again my father and the count. After dinner the countess sent for me to come to her chamber while she was nursing her babe. After a few unimportant words she said:

"You have had your lessons from a good musician."

"Yes, madame, our friend plays beautifully on the harp."

"On the harp! And you say her name is--"

"Madame Joseph Carpentier."

"It is strange," said Madame de la Houssaye. "The words of your duet are by me, and the music by my friend the Viscomptesse Alix de Morainville. All manner of things have happened in this terrible Revolution; I had for a moment the hope that she had found chance to emigrate and that you had met her. Do you know M. Carpentier?"

"Yes, madame; he was with her. He is--in fact--a laboring gardener."

"Oh! then there is no hope. I had the thought of a second marriage, but Alix de Morainville could never stoop so low. Poor, dear, innocent little Alix! She must be dead--at the hand of butchers, as her father and her husband are."

When we returned to the joyous company in the garden all wanted to speak at once. The countess imposed silence, and then Tonton informed us that a grand ball was proposed in our honor, to be given in the large dining-room of Mr. Morphy's tavern, under the direction of Neville Declouet, the following Monday--that is, in four days.

Oh, that ball! I lay my pen on the table and my head in my hands and see the bright, pretty faces of young girls and richly clad cavaliers, and hear the echoes of that music so different from what we have to-day. Alas! the larger part of that company are sleeping now in the cemetery of St. Martinville.

Wherever you went, whoever you met, the ball was the subject of all conversation. All the costumes, masculine and feminine, were prepared in profound secrecy. Each one vowed to astonish, dazzle, surpass his neighbor. My father, forgetting the presents from Alix, gave us ever so much money and begged Madame du Clozel to oversee our toilets; but what was the astonishment of the dear baroness to see us buy only some vials of perfumery and two papers of pins. We paid ten dollars for each vial and fifteen for the pins!

Celeste invited us to see her costume the moment it reached her. It certainly did great honor to the dressmaker of St. Martinville. The dress was simply made, of very fine white muslin caught up _en paniers_ on a skirt of blue satin. Her beautiful black hair was to be fastened with a pearl comb, and to go between its riquettes she showed us two bunches of forget-me-nots as blue as her eyes. The extremely long-pointed waist of her dress was of the same color as the petticoat, was decollete, and on the front had a drapery of white muslin held in place by a bunch of forget-me-nots falling to the end of the point. In the whole village she could get no white gloves. She would have to let that pass and show her round white arms clasped with two large bracelets of pearls. She showed also a necklace and earrings of pearls.

Madame du Clozel, slave to the severe etiquette of that day, did not question us, but did go so far as to say in our presence that camayeu was never worn at night.

"We know that, madame," replied my sister, slightly hurt. We decided to show our dresses to our hostess. We arranged them on the bed. When the baroness and her daughter entered our chamber they stood stupefied. The baroness spoke first.

"Oh, the villains! How they have fooled us! These things are worthy of a queen. They are court costumes."

I said to myself, "Poor, dear little Alix!"


FOOTNOTES:

(17) Ancestor of the late Judge Alcibiade de Blanc of St. Martinville, noted in Reconstruction days.--TRANSLATOR.

(18) By avoiding the Spanish custom-house.--TRANSLATOR.

(19) This seems to be simply a girl's thoughtless guess. She reports Alix as saying that Madelaine and she "were married nearly at the same time." But this tiny, frail, spiritual Alix, who between twenty-two and twenty-three looked scant sixteen, could hardly, even in those times, have been married under the age of fifteen, that is not before 1787-8; whereas if Madelaine had been married thirteen years she would have been married when Alix was but ten years old.

This bit of careless guessing helps to indicate the genuineness of Alix's history. For when, by the light of Francoise's own statements, we correct this error--totally uncorrected by any earlier hand--the correction agrees entirely with the story of Alix as told in the separate manuscript. There Alix is married in March, 1789, and Madelaine about a year before. In midsummer, 1795, Madelaine had been married between seven and eight years and her infant was, likely enough, her fourth child.--TRANSLATOR.

(20) The memoirist omits to say that this person was Neville Declouet.--TRANSLATOR.

 


XV.

THE DISCOVERY OF THE HAT.


"Oh!" cried Celeste, "but what will Tonton say when she sees you?"

"Do not let her know a thing about it, girls," said Madame du Clozel, "or, rather than yield the scepter of beauty and elegance for but one evening, she will stay in the white chapel. What! at sixteen you don't know what the white chapel is? It is our bed."

Before the ball, came Sunday. Madame du Clozel had told us that the population of the little city--all Catholics--was very pious, that the little church could hardly contain the crowd of worshipers; and Celeste had said that there was a grand display of dress there. We thought of having new dresses made, but the dressmaker declared it impossible; and so we were obliged to wear our camayeus a second time, adding only a lace scarf and a hat. A hat! But how could one get in that little town in the wilderness, amid a maze of lakes and bayous, hundreds of miles from New Orleans, so rare and novel a thing as a hat? Ah, they call necessity the mother of invention, but I declare, from experience, that vanity has performed more miracles of invention, and made greater discoveries than Galileo or Columbus.

The women of St. Martinville, Tonton at their head, had revolted against fate and declared they would have hats if they had to get them at the moon. Behold, now, by what a simple accident the hat was discovered. Tonton de Blanc had one of the prettiest complexions in the world, all lily and rose, and what care she took of it! She never went into the yard or the garden without a sunbonnet and a thick veil. Yet for all that her jealous critics said she was good and sensible, and would forget everything, even her toilet, to succor any one in trouble. One day Tonton heard a great noise in the street before her door. She was told that a child had just been crushed by a vehicle. Without stopping to ask whether the child was white or black or if it still lived, Tonton glanced around for her sun-bonnet, but, not finding it at hand, darted bareheaded into the street. At the door she met her young brother, and, as the sun was hot, she took his hat and put it on her own head. The Rubicon was crossed--Tonton had discovered the hat!

All she had heard was a false alarm. The crushed child was at play again before its mother's door. It had been startled by a galoping team, had screamed, and instantly there had been a great hubbub and crowd. But ten minutes later the little widow, the hat in her hand, entered the domicile of its maker and astonished the woman by ordering a hat for her own use, promising five dollars if the work was done to her satisfaction. The palmetto was to be split into the finest possible strips and platted into the form furnished by Madame Tonton. It was done; and on Sunday the hat, trimmed with roses and ribbons, made its appearance in the church of St. Martin, on the prettiest head in the world. The next Sunday you could see as many hats as the hatmaker had had time to make, and before the end of the month all the women in St. Martinville were wearing palmetto hats. To-day the modistes were furnishing them at the fabulous price of twenty-five dollars,--trimmed, you understand,--and palmetto hats were really getting to be a branch of the commerce of the little city; but ours, thanks to Alix's flowers and ribbons, cost but ten dollars.

The church was crowded. The service, performed by an old priest nearly a hundred years of age, was listened to with interest; but what astonished me was to see the crowd stop at the church door, the women kissing; to hear laughter, chat, and criticism at the door of this sacred place as if it were the public square. I understood the discontent that knit my father's brows and the alacrity with which he descended the church steps. Tonton saw and came to us--so fresh, so young, she was indeed the queen of beauty and fashion. Out of nothing Tonton could work wonders. Her dress to-day was of camayeu the pattern of which was bunches of strawberries--the very same stuff as our dresses; but how had she made it to look so different? And her hat! It was a new marvel of her invention. She had taken a man's felt hat and entirely covered it with the feathers of the cardinal bird, without other ornament than a bunch of white ribbon on the front and two long cords of white silk falling clear to the waist. That was the first hat of the kind I ever saw, but it was not the last. With one turn of her little hand she could make the whole female population of St. Martinville go as she pleased. Before we left St. Martinville we had the chance to admire more than fifty hats covered with the feathers of peacocks, geese, and even guinea-fowl, and--must we confess it?--when we got home we enlisted all our hunter friends to bring us numerous innocent cardinals, and tried to make us hats; but they did not look the least like the pretty widow's.

Sunday was also the day given to visiting. Being already dressed, it was so easy to go see one's friends.... Among the new visitors was Saint Marc d'Arby--engaged to little Constance de Blanc, aged thirteen. He came to invite us to a picnic on the coming Wednesday.

"Ah," I cried, with regret, "the very day papa has chosen for us to leave for the town of Opelousas!" ...

Since arriving in St. Martinville we had hardly seen papa. He left early each morning and returned late in the evening, telling of lands he had bought during the day. His wish was to go to Opelousas to register them.... To-day the whole town of Opelousas belongs to his heirs; but those heirs, with Creole heedlessness and afraid to spend a dollar, let strangers enjoy the possession of the beautiful lands acquired by their ancestor for so different an end. Shame on all of them!

It was decided for papa to leave us with the baroness during his visit to Opelousas.

"And be ready to depart homeward," said he, "on the following Monday."

 


XVI.

THE BALL.


The evening before that of the ball gave us lively disappointment. A fine rain began to fall. But Celeste came to assure us that in St. Martinville a storm had never prevented a ball, and if one had to go by boat, still one had to go. Later the weather improved, and several young gentlemen came to visit us.... "Will there be a supper, chevalier?" asked the baroness of her future son-in-law.--"Ah, good! For me the supper is the best part of the affair."

Alas! man proposes. The next morning she was in bed suffering greatly with her throat. "Neither supper nor ball for me this evening," she said. "The Countess de la Houssaye will take care of you and Celeste this evening."...

At last our toilets were complete....

When Madame de la Houssaye opened the door and saw us, instead of approaching, she suddenly stopped with her hands clasped convulsively, and with eyes dilated and a pallor and look of astonishment that I shall never forget. I was about to speak when she ran to Suzanne and seized her by the arm.

"Child! for pity answer me! Where did that dress--these jewels, come from?"

"Madame!" said my sister, quickly taking offense.

"Francoise!" cried the countess, "you will answer me. Listen. The last time I saw the Countess Aurelie de Morainville, six years ago, was at a reception of Queen Marie Antoinette, and she wore a dress exactly like that of Suzanne's. My child, pity my emotions and tell me where you bought that toilet." I answered, almost as deeply moved as she:

"We did not buy it, madame. These costumes were given to us by Madame Carpentier."

"Given! Do you know the price of these things?"

"Yes; and, moreover, Madame du Clozel has told us."

"And you tell me a poor woman, the wife of a gardener, made you these presents. Oh! I must see this Madame Carpentier. She must have known Alix. And who knows--oh, yes, yes! I must go myself and see her."

"And I must give her forewarning," I said to myself. But, alas! as I have just said, "Man proposes, God disposes." About six months after our return to St. James we heard of the death of the Countess de la Houssaye, which had occurred only two months after our leaving St. Martinville....

* * * * *

Oh, how my heart beat as I saw the lights of the ball-room and heard its waves of harmony! I had already attended several dances in the neighborhood of our home, but they could not compare with this. The walls were entirely covered with green branches mingled with flowers of all colors, especially with magnolias whose odor filled the room. Hidden among the leaves were millions of fantastically colored lampions seeming like so many glow-worms.(21) To me, poor little rustic of sixteen, it seemed supernaturally beautiful. But the prettiest part--opposite the door had been raised a platform surmounted by a dais made of three flags: the French, Spanish, and Prussian--Prussia was papa's country. And under these colors, on a pedestal that supported them, were seen, in immense letters composed of flowers, the one German word, _Bewillkommen_! Papa explained that the word meant "Welcome." On the platform, attired with inconceivable elegance, was the master of ceremonies, the handsome Neville Declouet himself, waiting to wish us welcome anew.

It would take volumes, my daughter, to describe the admirable toilets, masculine as well as feminine, of that memorable night. The thing is impossible. But I must describe that of the king of the festival, the young Neville, that you may understand the immense difference between the toilets of 1795 and those of 1822.

Neville had arranged his hair exactly as on the day we first saw him. It was powdered white; his pigeon-wings were fastened with the same pins of gold, and his long queue was wrapped with a rose-colored ribbon. His coat was of frosted rose silk with broad facings of black velvet. His vest came down nearly to his knees. It also was of rose silk, but covered with black buttons. His breeches, also rose, were fastened at the knees with black velvet ribbons escaping from diamond buckles and falling upon silk stockings shot alternately with black and rose. Diamonds sparkled again on his lace frill, at his wrists, on his cravat of rose silk, and on the buckles of his pumps.

I cast my eye around to find Tonton, but she had not come. Some one near me said, "Do you know who will escort Madame du Rocher to the ball?" And another said, "Here is Neville, so who will replace him at the side of the pretty widow?"

As we entered the room the Baron du Clozel passed his arm under papa's and conducted him to the platform, while his sons, following, drew us forward to receive the tributes prepared for us. Neville bowed low and began his address. At first he spoke with feeling and eloquence, but by and by he lost the thread. He cast a look of despair upon the crowd, which did not conceal its disposition to laugh, turned again quickly towards us, passed his hand twice across his forehead, and finished with:

"Yes, I repeat it, we are glad to see you; you are welcome among us, and--I say to you only that!"

There was a general burst of laughter. But my father pitied the young man's embarrassment. He mounted the platform, shook his hand, and thanked him, as well as all the people of St. Martinville, for his gracious welcome and their warm hospitality. Then, to our great joy, the ball opened.

It began with a minuet danced by twelve couples at once, six on each side. The minuet in vogue just then was well danced by but few persons. It had been brought to St. Martinville by emigres who had danced it at the French court ... But, thanks to the lessons given us by Alix, we had the pleasure to surprise them.

Now I ought to tell you, my daughter, that these male costumes, so effeminate, extravagant, and costly, had met great opposition from part of the people of St. Martin parish. They had been brought in by the French emigres, and many had adopted them, while others had openly revolted against them. A league had been formed against them. Among its members were the Chevalier de Blanc, the elder of the d'Arbys, the Chevalier de la Houssaye, brother of the count, Paul Briant, Adrian Dumartrait, young Morse, and many others. They had thrown off entirely the fashionable dress and had replaced it with an attire much like what men wear now. It was rumored that the pretty Tonton favored the reform of which her brother was one of the chiefs.

Just as the minuet was being finished a loud murmur ran through the hall. All eyes were turned to the door and some couples confused their steps in the dance. Tonton had come. She was received with a cry of surprise; not for her beauty, not for her exquisite toilet, but because of him who entered with her.

"Great God!" exclaimed Celeste du Clozel, "it is Treville de Saint Julien!"--"Oh!" cried Madame de la Houssaye, "Tonton is a fool, an arch-fool. Does she want to see bloodshed this evening?"--"The Countess Madelaine is going to faint!" derisively whispered Olivier in my ear.

"Who," asked Suzanne, "is Treville de Saint Julien?"

"He is 'the hermit of Bayou Tortue,'" responded the gentle Celeste de Blanc.

"What pretense of simplicity, look you!" said Charles du Clozel, glancing towards him disdainfully.

"But look at Madame du Rocher," cried a girl standing on a bench, "how she is dressed. What contempt of fashion and propriety! It is positively shameful."

And Tonton, indifferent to these remarks, which she heard and to which she was accustomed, and to the furious glances thrown upon her cavalier by Neville Declouet, continued, with her arm in his, to chat and laugh with him as they walked slowly around the hall.

If I describe to you, my daughter, the toilets of Tonton and of Treville de Saint Julien, I write it for you alone, dear child, and it seems to me it would be a theft against you if I did not. But this is the last time I shall stop to describe petticoats, gowns, and knee-breeches. Treville was twenty-five; large, dark, of a manly, somber beauty. A great unhappiness had overtaken him in childhood and left a permanent trace on his forehead. He wore his hair slightly long, falling behind without queue or powder. In 1795 only soldiers retained their beard. Treville de Saint Julien, despite the fashion, kept the fine black mustache on his proud lip. His shirt, without a frill, was fastened with three gold buttons. His broad-skirted coat, long vest, and breeches were of black woolen stuff. His black stockings were also of wool. His garters and shoes were without buckles. But serving him as a garter, and forming a rosette on the front of the leg, he wore a ribbon of plaided rose and black.

And Tonton. Over a dress--a real dress, such as we have nowadays--of rose satin, with long-pointed waist, was draped another, of black lace. The folds, running entirely around the skirt, were caught up by roses surrounded by their buds and leaves. The same drapery was repeated on the waist, and in front and on the shoulders re-appeared the roses. The sleeves were very short, and the arms bare and without gloves. It was simple, but prettier than you can think. Her hair was in two wide braids, without powder, forming a heart and falling low upon the neck. Among these tresses she had placed a rose like those on the skirt. For ornaments she had only a necklace and bracelets of jet to heighten the fresh whiteness of her complexion.

They had said Tonton would die of jealousy at our rich toilets. Nothing of the sort. She came to us with her habitual grace, kissed us, ignoring etiquette and the big eyes made by the Countess Madelaine. Without an allusion to our dress or seeming to see it, she sat down between us, told us persons' names, pointed out the beauty of this one, the pretty dress of that one, always admiring, never criticising. She knew well she was without a rival.

I amused myself watching Treville and Neville out of the corner of my eyes. Treville seemed to see but one woman in the room. He danced several times, always with her, and when he did not dance he went aside, spoke with no one, but followed with his glances her whom he seemed to adore. He made no attempt to hide his adoration; it shone from his eyes: his every movement was full of it. When she returned to her place, he came, remained before her chair, leaned towards her, listened with ravished ear, and rarely sat down by her side. It was good to watch Neville. His eyes flashed with anger, his fists fidgeted, and more than once I saw him quit the hall, no doubt to make a quarrel with his rival. Not once did he come near Tonton! Not once did he dance with her! But he danced with all the young girls in the room and pretended to be very gay. While I was dancing with him I said:

"How pretty Tonton is this evening!" And I understood the spite that made him reply:

"Ah! mademoiselle, her beauty is certainly not to be compared with yours."

After the supper, which was magnificent, the bolero was danced. Twelve couples were engaged, continually changing partners. Tonton danced with Treville, Suzanne with Olivier, and I with Neville.

Alas, alas! all things earthly have an end, and at two in the morning the ball was over. When we reached our chamber I saw that my sister had something to tell me.

"Ah!" said she, "have patience. I will tell you after we get into bed."

(What she told was the still famous Saint Julien feud. Treville and Neville were representatives of the two sides in that, one of the darkest vendettas known in the traditions of Louisiana. The omission of this episode in the present translation is the only liberty taken with the original that probably calls for an apology.)

FOOTNOTES:

(21) Number of millions not stated.--TRANSLATOR.

 


XVII.

PICNIC AND FAREWELL.


The day of the picnic rose brightly. Oh, what a day we passed under those grand trees, on the margin of that clear lake full of every imaginable sort of fish! What various games! What pleasant companions! All our friends were there except Treville de Saint Julien, and Madame Tonton gave her smiles and sweet looks to Neville, who never left her a moment. Oh, how I regretted that my father was not with us! He had gone to Opelousas. He had bought several plantations in St. Martin parish, and in a region called Fausse Pointe, and in another known as the Cote Gelee.

The days that followed were equally fete days--a dinner here, a dance there, and everywhere the most gracious reception. At length came the day for us to meet at La Fontaine--a real spring near St. Martinville, belonging to Neville Declouet's uncle. About five in the afternoon we gathered on the bank of the bayou. We never saw Tonton twice in the same dress. To-day she was all in blue. Suddenly the sound of distant music, and an open flat--not like our boat--approached, arched over with green branches and flowers. Benches stood about, and in the middle the orchestra played. In the prow stood the captain (Neville Declouet), and during the moments of the journey the music was mingled with the laughter and songs of our joyous company. About 7 o'clock all the trees about La Fontaine were illuminated, and Neville led us to a floored place encircled by magnolia trees in bloom and by garlands running from tree to tree and mingling their perfume with the languishing odor of the magnolias. Only heaven can tell how Neville was praised and thanked.

I felt sure that Tonton's good taste had directed the details. There was something singular in this young woman. Without education save what she had taught herself, Tonton spoke with remarkable correctness, and found means to amuse every one. Her letters were curious to see, not a single word correctly spelled; yet her style was charming, and I cannot express the pleasure they gave me, for during more than a year I received them by every opportunity that presented itself.

But to return to La Fontaine. About seven the handsome Treville de St. Julien came on a horse as black as ebony, and I saw the color mount to Suzanne's forehead. For a wonder he paid Tonton only the attentions required by politeness, and the pretty widow, while still queen of all, belonged that evening entirely to Neville.

The following Saturday my father arrived. The next day, after mass, our friends came in a body to say adieu. And on the morrow, amid kisses, handshaking, regrets, tears, and waving handkerchiefs, we departed in the carriage that was to bear us far and forever from Little Paris, and the friends we shall never meet again. Suzanne and I wept like children. On the fourth day after, the carriage stopped before the door of M. Gerbeau's house. I must confess we were not over-polite to Mme. Gerbeau. We embraced her hurriedly, and, leaving my father talking about lands, started on a run for Alix's dwelling.

Oh, dear Alix! How happy she seemed to see us again! How proud to show us the innovations made in her neat little house! With what touching care had she prepared our chamber! She had wished for a sofa, and Joseph had made her one and covered it with one of the velvet robes of the Countess Aurelia de Morainville. And when we went into Alix's own room, Suzanne, whose eye nothing ever escaped, pointed out to me, half hidden behind the mosquito-net of the bed, the prettiest little cradle in the world.

"Yes," said Alix, blushing, "I am blessed. I am perfectly happy."

We told her all our adventures and pleasures. She wept when she heard that the Countess de la Houssaye had not forgotten her.

"You will see her," said Suzanne. "She will come to see you, without a doubt."

"Ah, Heaven prevent it! Our destinies are too unlike now. Me perhaps the Countess Madelaine might welcome affectionately; but Joseph? Oh, no! My husband's lot is mine; I have no wish for any other. It is better that she and I remain strangers."

And Joseph? How he confessed his joy in seeing us!

During our absence M. Gerbeau had found means for us to return to St. James. It seems that two little boats, resembling steamboats in form, kept up a constant trade in wood--clapboards, _pieux_ (split boards), shingles, even cordwood--between the lakes and the Bayou Teche plantation. M. Gerbeau had taken his skiff and two oarsmen and gone in search of one of these boats, which, as he guessed, was not far away. In fact he met it in Mexican (now Berwick's) Bay, and for two hundred dollars persuaded the captain to take us to St. James. "Yes," said M. Gerbeau to us, "you will make in a week a journey that might have taken you two months."

The following Monday the captain tied up at M. Gerbeau's landing. It was a droll affair, his boat. You must have seen on plantations what they call a horse-mill--a long pole on which a man sits, and to which a horse or mule is hitched. Such was the machinery by which we moved. The boat's cabin was all one room. The berths, one above another, ran all round the room, hung with long curtains, and men, women, and children--when there were any--were all obliged to stay in the same apartment.

We remained with Alix to the last moment. The morning we left she gave Suzanne a pretty ring, and me a locket containing her portrait. In return my sister placed upon her finger a ruby encircled with little diamonds; and I, taking off the gold medal I always wore on my neck, whispered:

"Wear it for love of me."

She smiled. (Just as we were parting she handed me the story of her life.)

At an early hour my father had our trunks, baskets, and mats sent aboard the _Sirene_; and after many tears, and promises to write and to return, we took our leave. We had quitted St. James the 20th of May. We landed there once more on the 26th of September. Need I recount the joy of my mother and sisters? You understand all that.

And now, my daughter, the tale is told. Read it to your children and assure them that all is true; that there is here no exaggeration; that they can put faith in their old grandmother's story and take their part in her pleasures, her friendships, and her emotions.


(The end)
George Washington Cable's short story: The Adventures Of Francoise And Suzanne

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Young Aunt With White Hair The Young Aunt With White Hair

The Young Aunt With White Hair
1782. The date of this letter--I hold it in one hand as I write, and for the first time noticed that it has never in its hundred years been sealed or folded, but only doubled once, lightly, and rolled in the hand, just as the young Spanish officer might have carried it when he rode so hard to bear it to its destination--its date is the last year but one of our American Revolution. France, Spain, and the thirteen colonies were at war with Great Britain, and the Indians were on both sides. Galvez, the heroic young governor of Louisiana, had
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Alix De Morainville Alix De Morainville

Alix De Morainville
1773-95. _Written in Louisiana this 22d of August, 1795, for my dear friends Suzanne and Francoise Bossier_. I have promised you the story of my life, my very dear and good friends with whom I have had so much pleasure on board the flatboat which has brought us all to Attakapas. I now make good my promise. And first I must speak of the place where I was born, of the beautiful Chateau de Morainville, built above the little village named Morainville in honor of its lords. This village, situated in Normandy on the margin of the sea, was peopled only
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT