Strange True Stories of Louisiana
George Washington Cable
Part 1 out of 5
STRANGE TRUE STORIES OF LOUISIANA
BY GEORGE W. CABLE
AUTHOR OF "THE GRANDISSIMES," "BONAVENTURE," ETC.
(From a portrait now in the possession of Mme. Veuve Alcibiade De
TO MY FRIEND JAMES BIRNEY GUTHRIE
HOW I GOT THEM 1
THE YOUNG AUNT WITH WHITE HAIR 23
THE ADVENTURES OF FRANCOISE AND SUZANNE.
I. The Two Sisters 34
II. Making Up The Expedition 37
III. The Embarkation 43
IV. Alix Carpentier 51
V. Down Bayou Plaquemine.--the Fight With Wild Nature 55
VI. The Twice-married Countess 61
VII. Odd Partners In The Bolero Dance 65
VIII. A Bad Storm In A Bad Place 69
IX. Maggie And The Robbers 73
X. Alix Puts Away The Past 80
XI. Alix Plays Fairy.--parting Tears. 84
XII. Little Paris 90
XIII. The Countess Madelaine 94
XIV. "Poor Little Alix!" 99
XV. The Discovery Of The Hat 104
XVI. The Ball 108
XVII. Picnic And Farewell 116
ALIX DE MORAINVILLE 121
SALOME MUELLER, THE WHITE SLAVE.
I. Salome and her Kindred 145
II. Six Months at Anchor 148
III. Famine at Sea 150
IV. Sold into Bondage 155
V. The Lost Orphans 159
VI. Christian Roselius 162
VII. Miller Versus Belmonti 163
VIII. The Trial 169
IX. The Evidence 173
X. The Crowning Proof 178
XI. Judgment 180
XII. Before the Supreme Court 185
THE "HAUNTED HOUSE" IN ROYAL STREET.
I. As It Stands Now 192
II. Madame Lalaurie 200
III. A Terrible Revelation 204
IV. The Lady's Flight 212
V. A New Use 219
VI. Evictions 223
I. Furnished Rooms 233
II. John Bull 236
III. Ducour's Meditations 239
IV. Proxy 243
V. The Nuncupative Will 248
VI. Men can be Better than their Laws 257
WAR DIARY OF A UNION WOMAN IN THE SOUTH 261
I. Secession 262
II. The Volunteers.--Fort Sumter 266
III. Tribulation 269
IV. A Beleaguered City 274
V. Married 279
VI. How it was in Arkansas 281
VII. The Fight for Food and Clothing 285
VIII. Drowned out and starved out 289
IX. Homeless and Shelterless 296
X. Frights and Perils in Steele's Bayou 302
XI. Wild Times in Mississippi 308
XII. Vicksburg 320
XIII. Preparations for the Siege 326
XIV. The Siege itself 334
XV. Gibraltar falls 343
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
From photographs of the originals, in possession of Mr. George W. Cable.
Some of the Manuscripts 1
Part of Francois's First Page 34
Part of First Page, "Alix Manuscript" 121
The Court Papers 168
The Entrance of the "Haunted House" 194
Printed on Wall Paper in the Siege of Vicksburg 339
Fac-simile of a Letter from Adj.-Gen. Thomas L. Snead 349
[Illustration: SOME OF THE MANUSCRIPTS
Court papers in Miller vs. Belmonti. Letter from Suzanne. The "Alix MS."
Louisa Cheval's letter. Francois's Pages. The War Diary (underneath).]
STRANGE TRUE STORIES OF LOUISIANA.
HOW I GOT THEM.
True stories are not often good art. The relations and experiences of real
men and women rarely fall in such symmetrical order as to make an artistic
whole. Until they have had such treatment as we give stone in the quarry
or gems in the rough they seldom group themselves with that harmony of
values and brilliant unity of interest that result when art comes in--not
so much to transcend nature as to make nature transcend herself.
Yet I have learned to believe that good stories happen oftener than once I
thought they did. Within the last few years there have dropped into my
hands by one accident or another a number of these natural crystals, whose
charms, never the same in any two, are in each and all enough at least to
warn off all tampering of the fictionist. Happily, moreover, without being
necessary one to another, they yet have a coherent sequence, and follow
one another like the days of a week. They are mine only by right of
discovery. From various necessities of the case I am sometimes the
story-teller, and sometimes, in the reader's interest, have to abridge;
but I add no fact and trim naught of value away. Here are no unconfessed
"restorations," not one. In time, place, circumstance, in every essential
feature, I give them as I got them--strange stories that truly happened,
all partly, some wholly, in Louisiana.
In the spring of 1883, being one night the guest of my friend Dr. Francis
Bacon, in New Haven, Connecticut, and the conversation turning, at the
close of the evening, upon wonderful and romantic true happenings, he
"You are from New Orleans; did you never hear of Salome Mueller?"
Thereupon he told the story, and a few weeks later sent me by mail, to my
home in New Orleans, whither I had returned, a transcription, which he had
most generously made, of a brief summary of the case--it would be right to
say tragedy instead of case--as printed in "The Law Reporter" some forty
years ago. That transcription lies before me now, beginning, "The Supreme
Court of the State of Louisiana has lately been called upon to investigate
and decide one of the most interesting cases which has ever come under the
cognizance of a judicial tribunal." This episode, which had been the cause
of public excitement within the memory of men still living on the scene,
I, a native resident of New Orleans and student of its history, stumbled
upon for the first time nearly two thousand miles from home.
I mentioned it to a number of lawyers of New Orleans, one after another.
None remembered ever having heard of it. I appealed to a former
chief-justice of the State, who had a lively personal remembrance of every
member of the bench and the bar concerned in the case; but of the case he
had no recollection. One of the medical experts called in by the court for
evidence upon which the whole merits of the case seemed to hang was still
living--the distinguished Creole physician, Dr. Armand Mercier. He could
not recall the matter until I recounted the story, and then only in the
vaguest way. Yet when my friend the former chief-justice kindly took down
from his shelves and beat free of dust the right volume of supreme court
decisions, there was the terse, cold record, No. 5623. I went to the old
newspaper files under the roof of the city hall, and had the pleasure
speedily to find, under the dates of 1818 and 1844, such passing allusions
to the strange facts of which I was in search as one might hope to find in
those days when a serious riot was likely to receive no mention, and a
steamboat explosion dangerously near the editorial rooms would be recorded
in ten lines of colorless statement. I went to the courts, and, after
following and abandoning several false trails through two days' search,
found that the books of record containing the object of my quest had been
lost, having unaccountably disappeared in--if I remember aright--1870.
There was one chance left: it was to find the original papers. I employed
an intelligent gentleman at so much a day to search till he should find
them. In the dusty garret of one of the court buildings--the old Spanish
Cabildo, that faces Jackson Square--he rummaged for ten days, finding now
one desired document and now another, until he had gathered all but one.
Several he drew out of a great heap of papers lying in the middle of the
floor, as if it were a pile of rubbish; but this one he never found. Yet I
was content. Through the perseverance of this gentleman and the
intervention of a friend in the legal profession, and by the courtesy of
the court, I held in my hand the whole forgotten story of the poor lost
and found Salome Mueller. How through the courtesy of some of the
reportorial staff of the "New Orleans Picayune" I found and conversed with
three of Salome's still surviving relatives and friends, I shall not stop
While I was still in search of these things, the editor of the "New
Orleans Times-Democrat" handed me a thick manuscript, asking me to examine
and pronounce upon its merits. It was written wholly in French, in a
small, cramped, feminine hand. I replied, when I could, that it seemed to
me unfit for the purposes of transient newspaper publication, yet if he
declined it I should probably buy it myself. He replied that he had
already examined it and decided to decline it, and it was only to know
whether I, not he, could use it that I had been asked to read it.
I took it to an attorney, and requested him, under certain strict
conditions, to obtain it for me with all its rights.
"What is it?"
"It is the minute account, written by one of the travelers, a pretty
little Creole maiden of seventeen, of an adventurous journey made, in
1795, from New Orleans through the wilds of Louisiana, taking six weeks to
complete a tour that could now be made in less than two days."
But this is written by some one else; see, it says
[Handwriting: Voyage de ma grand'mere]
"Yes," I rejoined, "it purports to be a copy. We must have the little
grandmother's original manuscript, written in 1822; that or nothing."
So a correspondence sprang up with a gentle and refined old Creole lady
with whom I later had the honor to become acquainted and now count among
my esteemed friends--grand-daughter of the grandmother who, after
innumerable recountings by word of mouth to mother, sisters, brothers,
friends, husband, children, and children's children through twenty-seven
years of advancing life, sat down at last and wrote the oft-told tale for
her little grand-children, one of whom, inheriting her literary instinct
and herself become an aged grandmother, discovers the manuscript among
some old family papers and recognizes its value. The first exchange of
letters disclosed the fact that the "New Orleans Bee" ("L'Abeille") had
bought the right to publish the manuscript in French; but the moment its
editors had proper assurance that there was impending another arrangement
more profitable to her, they chivalrously yielded all they had bought, on
merely being reimbursed.
The condition that required the delivery of the original manuscript,
written over sixty years before, was not so easily met. First came the
assurance that its spelling was hideous, its writing bad and dimmed by
time, and the sheets tattered and torn. Later followed the disclosure that
an aged and infirm mother of the grandmother owned it, and that she had
some time before compelled its return to the private drawer from which the
relic-loving daughter had abstracted it. Still later came a letter saying
that since the attorney was so relentlessly exacting, she had written to
her mother praying her to part with the manuscript. Then followed another
communication,--six large, closely written pages of despair,--inclosing a
letter from the mother. The wad of papers, always more and more in the way
and always "smelling bad," had been put into the fire. But a telegram
followed on the heels of the mail, crying joy! An old letter had been
found and forwarded which would prove that such a manuscript had existed.
But it was not in time to intercept the attorney's letter saying that, the
original manuscript being destroyed, there could be no purchase or any
need of further correspondence. The old letter came. It was genuine beyond
a doubt, had been written by one of the party making the journey, and was
itself forty-seven years old. The paper was poor and sallow, the
hand-writing large, and the orthography--!
[Handwriting: Ma bien chair niaice je ressoit ta lette ce mattin]
But let us translate:
st. john baptist 10 august 1836
My very dear Niece. I received your letter this morning in which you ask
me to tell you what I remember of the journey to Attakapas made in 1795 by
papa, M. -----, [and] my younger sister Francoise afterward your
grandmother. If it were with my tongue I could answer more favorably; but
writing is not my forte; I was never calculated for a public writer, as
your grandmother was. By the way, she wrote the journey, and very
prettily; what have you done with it? It is a pity to lose so pretty a
piece of writing.... We left New Orleans to go to the Attakapas in the
month of May, 1795, and in an old barge ["vieux chalant qui sente le rat
mord a plien nez"]. We were Francoise and I Suzanne, pearl of the family,
and Papa, who went to buy lands; and one Joseph Charpentier and his dear
and pretty little wife Alix [whom] I love so much; 3 Irish, father mother
and son [fice]; lastly Mario, whom you knew, with Celeste, formerly lady's
maid to Marianne--who is now my sister-in-law.... If I knew better how to
write I would tell you our adventures the alligators tried to devour us.
We barely escaped perishing in Lake Chicot and many other things.... At
last we arrived at a pretty village St. Martinville called also little
Paris and full of barons, marquises, counts and countesses that were an
offense to my nose and my stomach. Your grandmother was in raptures. It
was there we met the beautiful Tonton, your aunt by marriage. I have a bad
finger and must stop.... Your loving aunty [ta tantine qui temme]
Suzanne ---- nee ----
The kind of letter to expect from one who, as a girl of eighteen, could
shoot and swim and was called by her father "my son"; the antipode of her
sister Francoise. My attorney wrote that the evidence was sufficient.
His letter had hardly got into the mail-bag when another telegram cried
hold! That a few pages of the original manuscript had been found and
forwarded by post. They came. They were only nine in all--old, yellow,
ragged, torn, leaves of a plantation account-book whose red-ruled columns
had long ago faded to a faint brown, one side of two or three of them
preoccupied with charges in bad French of yards of cottonade, "mouslin a
dames," "jaconad," dozens of soap, pounds of tobacco, pairs of stockings,
lace, etc.; but to our great pleasure each page corresponding closely,
save in orthography and syntax, with a page of the new manuscript, and the
page numbers of the old running higher than those of the new! Here was
evidence which one could lay before a skeptical world that the transcriber
had not expanded the work of the original memoirist. The manuscript passed
into my possession, our Creole lady-correspondent reiterating to the end
her inability to divine what could be wanted with "an almost illegible
scrawl" (griffonage), full of bad spelling and of rather inelegant
diction. But if old manuscript was the object of desire, why, here was
something else; the very document alluded to by Francoise in her memoir of
travel--the autobiography of the dear little countess, her beloved Alix de
Morainville, made fatherless and a widow by the guillotine in the Reign of
"Was that all?" inquired my agent, craftily, his suspicions aroused by the
promptness with which the supply met the demand. "Had she not other old
and valuable manuscripts?"
"No, alas! Only that one."
Thus reassured, he became its purchaser. It lies before me now, in an
inner wrapper of queer old black paper, beside its little tight-fitting
bag, or case of a kind of bright, large-flowered silken stuff not made in
these days, and its outer wrapper of discolored brief-paper; a pretty
little document of sixty-eight small pages in a feminine hand, perfect in
its slightly archaic grammar, gracefully composed, and, in spite of its
flimsy yellowed paper, as legible as print: "Histoire d'Alix de
Morainville ecrite a la Louisiane ce 22 Aout 1795. Pour mes cheres amies,
Suzanne et Francoise Bossier."
One day I told the story to Professor Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard
University. He generously offered to see if he could find the name of the
Count de Morainville on any of the lists of persons guillotined during the
French Revolution. He made the search, but wrote, "I am sorry to say that
I have not been able to find it either in Prudhomme, 'Dictionnaire des
Individues envoyes a la Mort judiciairement, 1789-1796,' or in the list
given by Wallon in the sixth volume of his very interesting 'Histoire du
Tribunal Revolutionnaire de Paris.' Possibly he was not put to death in
Paris," etc. And later he kindly wrote again that he had made some hours'
further search, but in vain.
Here was distress. I turned to the little manuscript roll of which I had
become so fond, and searched its pages anew for evidence of either
genuineness or its opposite. The wrapper of black paper and the
close-fitting silken bag had not been sufficient to keep it from taking on
the yellowness of age. It was at least no modern counterfeit. Presently I
noticed the total absence of quotation marks from its passages of
conversation. Now, at the close of the last century, the use of quotation
marks was becoming general, but had not become universal and imperative.
Their entire absence from this manuscript of sixty-eight pages, abounding
in conversations, meant either age or cunning pretense. But would a
pretender carry his or her cunning to the extreme of fortifying the
manuscript in every possible way against the sallowing touch of time, lay
it away in a trunk of old papers, lie down and die without mentioning it,
and leave it for some one in the second or third generation afterward to
find? I turned the leaves once more, and lo! one leaf that had had a large
corner torn off had lost that much of its text; it had been written upon
before it was torn; while on another torn leaf, for there are two, the
writing reads--as you shall see--uninterruptedly around the torn edge; the
writing has been done after the corner was torn off. The two rents,
therefore, must have occurred at different times; for the one which
mutilates the text is on the earlier page and surely would not have been
left so by the author at the time of writing it, but only by some one
careless of it, and at some time between its completion and the manifestly
later date, when it was so carefully bestowed in its old-fashioned silken
case and its inner wrapper of black paper. The manuscript seemed genuine.
Maybe the name De Morainville is not, but was a convenient fiction of Alix
herself, well understood as such by Francoise and Suzanne. Everything
points that way, as was suggested at once by Madame Sidonie de la Houssaye
--There! I have let slip the name of my Creole friend, and can only pray
her to forgive me! "Tout porte a le croire" (Everything helps that
belief), she writes; although she also doubts, with reason, I should say,
the exhaustive completeness of those lists of the guillotined. "I recall,"
she writes in French, "that my husband has often told me the two uncles of
his father, or grandfather, were guillotined in the Revolution; but though
search was made by an advocate, no trace of them was found in any
An assumed name need not vitiate the truth of the story; but discoveries
made since, which I am still investigating, offer probabilities that,
after all, the name is genuine.
We see, however, that an intention to deceive, were it supposable, would
have to be of recent date.
Now let me show that an intention to deceive could not be of recent date,
and at the same time we shall see the need of this minuteness of
explanation. Notice, then, that the manuscript comes directly from the
lady who says she found it in a trunk of her family's private papers. A
prominent paper-maker in Boston has examined it and says that, while its
age cannot be certified to from its texture, its leaves are of three
different kinds of paper, each of which might be a hundred years old. But,
bluntly, this lady, though a person of literary tastes and talent, who
recognized the literary value of Alix's _history_, esteemed original
_documents_ so lightly as, for example, to put no value upon Louisa
Cheval's thrilling letter to her brother. She prized this Alix manuscript
only because, being a simple, succinct, unadorned narrative, she could use
it, as she could not Francoise's long, pretty story, for the foundation of
a nearly threefold expanded romance. And this, in fact, she had written,
copyrighted, and arranged to publish when our joint experience concerning
Francoise's manuscript at length readjusted her sense of values. She sold
me the little Alix manuscript at a price still out of all proportion below
her valuation of her own writing, and counting it a mistake that the
expanded romance should go unpreferred and unpublished.
But who, then, wrote the smaller manuscript? Madame found it, she says, in
the possession of her very aged mother, the daughter and namesake of
Francoise. Surely she was not its author; it is she who said she burned
almost the whole original draft of Francoise's "Voyage," because it was
"in the way and smelt bad." Neither could Francoise have written it. Her
awkward handwriting, her sparkling flood of words and details, and her
ignorance of the simplest rules of spelling, make it impossible. Nor could
Suzanne have done it. She wrote and spelled no better at fifty-nine than
Francoise at forty-three. Nor could any one have imposed it on either of
the sisters. So, then, we find no intention to deceive, either early or
recent. I translated the manuscript, it went to the magazine, and I sat
down to eat, drink, and revel, never dreaming that the brazen water-gates
of my Babylon were standing wide open.
For all this time two huge, glaring anachronisms were staring me, and half
a dozen other persons, squarely in the face, and actually escaping our
notice by their serene audacity. But hardly was the pie--I mean the
magazine--opened when these two birds began to sing. Wasn't
that--interesting? Of course Louis de la Houssaye, who in 1786 "had lately
come from San Domingo," had _not_ "been fighting the insurgents"--who did
not revolt until four or five years afterward! And of course the old
count, who so kindly left the family group that was bidding Madelaine de
Livilier good-bye, was not the Prime Minister Maurepas, who was _not_
"only a few months returned from exile," and who was _not_ then "at the
pinnacle of royal favor"; for these matters were of earlier date, and this
"most lovable old man in the world" wasn't any longer in the world at all,
and had not been for eight years. He was dead and buried.
And so, after all, fraudulent intent or none, _this_ manuscript, just as
it is, could never have been written by Alix. On "this 22d of August,
1795," she could not have perpetrated such statements as these two. Her
memory of persons and events could not have been so grotesquely at fault,
nor could she have hoped so to deceive any one. The misstatements are of
later date, and from some one to whom the two events were historical. But
the manuscript is all in one simple, undisguised, feminine handwriting,
and with no interlineation save only here and there the correction of a
Now in translating madame's "Voyage de ma Grandmere," I noticed something
equivalent to an interlineation, but in her own writing like all the rest,
and added in a perfectly unconcealed, candid manner, at the end of a
paragraph near the close of the story. It struck me as an innocent gloss
of the copyist, justified in her mind by some well-credited family
tradition. It was this: "Just as we [Francoise and Alix] were parting, she
[Alix] handed me the story of her life." I had already called my friend's
attention to the anachronisms, and she was in keen distress, because
totally unable to account for them. But as I further pondered them, this
gloss gained new significance and I mentioned it. My new inquiry flashed
light upon her aged memory. She explained at once that, to connect the two
stories of Francoise and Alix, she had thought it right to impute these
few words to Francoise rather than for mere exactness to thrust a detailed
explanation of her own into a story hurrying to its close. My question
called back an incident of long ago and resulted first in her rummaging a
whole day among her papers, and then in my receiving the certificate of a
gentleman of high official standing in Louisiana that, on the 10th of last
April (1889), this lady, in his presence, took from a large trunk of
written papers, variously dated and "appearing to be perfectly genuine," a
book of memoranda from which, writes he, "I copy the following paragraph
written by Madame S. de la Houssaye herself in the middle of the book, on
page 29." Then follows in French:
June 20, 1841.--M. Gerbeau has dined here again. What a singular story he
tells me. We talked of my grandmother and Madame Carpentier, and what does
M. Gerbeau tell me but that Alix had not finished her history when my
grandmother and my aunt returned, and that he had promised to get it to
them. "And I kept it two years for want of an opportunity," he added. How
mad Grandmamma must have been! How the delay must have made her suffer!
Well and good! Then Alix did write her story! But if she wrote for both
her "dear and good friends," Suzanne and Francoise, then Francoise, the
younger and milder sister, would the more likely have to be content,
sooner or later, with a copy. This, I find no reason to doubt, is what
lies before me. Indeed, here (crossed out in the manuscript, but by me
restored and italicized) are signs of a copyist's pen: "Mais helas! il
desesperoit de reussir quand' _il desespe_ rencontra," etc. Is not that a
copyist's repetition? Or this:"--et lui, mon mari apres tout se fit mon
_marim_ domestique." And here the copyist misread the original: "Lorsque
le maire entendit les noms et les _personnes_ prenoms de la mariee," etc.
In the manuscript personnes is crossed out, and the correct word, prenoms,
is written above it.
Whoever made this copy it remains still so simple and compact that he or
she cannot be charged with many embellishments. And yet it is easy to
believe that some one, with that looseness of family tradition and
largeness of ancestral pride so common among the Creoles, in
half-knowledge and half-ignorance should have ventured aside for an
instant to attribute in pure parenthesis to an ancestral De la Houssaye
the premature honor of a San Domingan war; or, incited by some tradition
of the old Prime Minister's intimate friendship with Madelaine's family,
should have imputed a gracious attention to the wrong Count de Maurepas,
or to the wrong count altogether.
I find no other theory tenable. To reject the whole matter as a forgery
flies into the face of more incontestable facts than the anachronisms do.
We know, from Suzanne and Francoise, without this manuscript, that there
was an Alix Carpentier, daughter of a count, widow of a viscount, an
_emigree_ of the Revolution, married to a Norman peasant, known to M.
Gerbeau, beloved of Suzanne and Francoise, with whom they journeyed to
Attakapas, and who wrote for them the history of her strange life. I hold
a manuscript carefully kept by at least two generations of Francoise's
descendants among their valuable private papers. It professes to be that
history--a short, modest, unadorned narrative, apparently a copy of a
paper of like compass, notwithstanding the evident insertion of two
impossible statements whose complete omission does not disturb the
narrative. I see no room to doubt that it contains the true story of a
real and lovely woman. But to come back to my attorney.
While his grave negotiations were still going on, there met me one evening
at my own gate a lady in black, seeking advice concerning her wish to sell
to some publisher a private diary never intended for publication.
"That kind is the best," I said. "Did you write it during the late war?" I
added at a guess.
"I suppose, then, it contains a careful record of each day's public
"No, I'm sorry to say--"
"Nay, don't be sorry; that lack may save it from the waste-basket." Then
my heart spoke. "Ah! madam, if you had only done what no woman seems to
have seen the importance of doing--written the women's side of that awful
"That's just what I have done," she interrupted. "I was a Union woman, in
the Confederacy. I couldn't talk; I had to write. I was in the siege of
Vicksburg from beginning to end."
"Leave your manuscript with me," I said. "If, on examining it, I find I
can recommend it to a publisher, I will do so. But remember what I have
already told you--the passage of an unknown writer's work through an older
author's hands is of no benefit to it whatever. It is a bad sign rather
than a good one. Your chances of acceptance will be at least no less if
you send this to the publishers yourself."
No, she would like me to intervene.
How my attorney friend and I took a two days' journey by rail, reading the
manuscript to each other in the Pullman car; how a young newly married
couple next us across the aisle, pretending not to notice, listened with
all their might; how my friend the attorney now and then stopped to choke
down tears; and how the young stranger opposite came at last, with
apologies, asking where this matter would be published and under what
title, I need not tell. At length I was intercessor for a manuscript that
publishers would not lightly decline. I bought it for my little museum of
true stories, at a price beyond what I believe any magazine would have
paid--an amount that must have filled the widow's heart with joy, but as
certainly was not beyond its worth to me. I have already contributed a
part of this manuscript to "The Century" as one of its "Wax-papers." But
by permission it is restored here to its original place.
Judge Farrar, with whom I enjoyed a slight but valued acquaintance,
stopped me one day in Carondelet street, New Orleans, saying, "I have a
true story that I want you to tell. You can dress it out--"
I arrested him with a shake of the head. "Dress me no dresses. Story me no
stories. There's not one of a hundred of them that does not lack something
essential, for want of which they are good for naught. Keep them for
after-dinner chat; but for the novelist they are good to smell, not to
eat. And yet--tell me your story. I have a use for it--a cabinet of true
things that have never had and shall not have a literary tool lifted up
against them; virgin shells from the beach of the sea of human events. It
may be I shall find a place for it there." So he told me the true story
which I have called "Attalie Brouillard," because, having forgotten the
woman's real name, it pleased his fancy to use that name in recounting the
tale: "Attalie Brouillard." I repeated the story to a friend, a gentleman
of much reading.
His reply dismayed me. "I have a faint impression," he said, "that you
will find something very much like that in one of Lever's novels."
But later I thought, "Even so, what then? Good stories repeat themselves."
I remembered having twice had experiences in my own life the accounts of
which, when given, would have been great successes only that they were old
anecdotes--great in their day, but long worn out in the club-rooms and
abandoned to clergymen's reunions. The wise thing was not to find out or
care whether Lever had somewhere told something like it, but whether the
story was ever a real event in New Orleans, and, if so, to add it to my
now, to me, priceless collection. Meeting the young judge again, I asked
boldly for the story's full authentication. He said promptly that the man
who told it of his own knowledge was the late Judge T. Wharton Collins;
that the incidents occurred about 1855, and that Judge McCaleb could
doubtless give the name of the notary public who had been an actor in the
affair. "Let us go to his office right now," said my obliging friend.
We went, found him, told him our errand. He remembered the story, was
confident of its entire verity, and gave a name, which, however, he begged
I would submit for verification to an aged notary public in another
street, a gentleman of the pure old Creole type. I went to him. He heard
the story through in solemn silence. From first to last I mentioned no
name, but at the end I asked:
"Now, can you tell me the name of the notary in that case?"
I felt a delicious tingling as I waited for the disclosure. He slowly
"Dthere eeze wan troub' 'bout dat. To _which_ case do you _riffer? 'Cause,
you know, dey got t'ree, four case' like dat_. An' you better not mention
no name, 'cause you don't want git nobody in troub', you know.
Now dthere's dthe case of----. And dthere's dthe case of----. And dthere's
the case of----. He had to go away; yes; 'cause when _he_ make dthe dade
man make his will, he git _behine_ dthe dade man in bade, an' hole 'im up
in dthe bade."
I thanked him and departed, with but the one regret that the tale was true
so many more times than was necessary.
In all this collection the story of the so-called haunted house in Royal
street is the only one that must ask a place in literature as partly a
twice-told tale. The history of the house is known to thousands in the old
French quarter, and that portion which antedates the late war was told in
brief by Harriet Martineau as far back as when she wrote her book of
American travel. In printing it here I fulfill an oft-repeated promise;
for many a one has asked me if I would not, or, at least, why I did not,
tell its dark story.
So I have inventoried my entire exhibit--save one small matter. It turned
out after, all that the dear old Creole lady who had sold us the ancient
manuscript, finding old paper commanding so much more per ton than it ever
had commanded before, raked together three or four more leaves--stray
chips of her lovely little ancestress Francoise's workshop, or rather the
shakings of her basket of cherished records,--to wit, three Creole African
songs, which I have used elsewhere; one or two other scraps, of no value;
and, finally, a long letter telling its writer's own short story--a story
so tragic and so sad that I can only say pass it, if you will. It stands
first because it antedates the rest. As you will see, its time is
something more than a hundred years ago. The writing was very difficult to
read, owing entirely to the badness--mainly the softness--of the paper. I
have tried in vain to find exactly where Fort Latourette was situated. It
may have had but a momentary existence in Galvez's campaign against the
English. All along the Gulf shore the sites and remains of the small forts
once held by the Spaniards are known traditionally and indiscriminately as
"Spanish Fort." When John Law,--author of that famed Mississippi Bubble,
which was in Paris what the South Sea Bubble was in London,--failed in his
efforts at colonization on the Arkansas, his Arkansas settlers came down
the Mississippi to within some sixty miles of New Orleans and established
themselves in a colony at first called the _Cote Allemande_ (German
Coast), and later, owing to its prosperity, the _Cote d'Or_, or Golden
Coast. Thus the banks of the Mississippi became known on the Rhine, a
goodly part of our Louisiana Creoles received a German tincture, and the
father and the aunt of Suzanne and Francoise were not the only Alsatians
we shall meet in these wild stories of wild times in Louisiana.
 Name of the parish, or county.--Translator.
 Royalist refugees of '93.--TRANSLATOR.
THE YOUNG AUNT WITH WHITE HAIR.
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 just been decorated by
his king and made a count for taking the forts at Manchac, Baton Rouge,
Natchez, and Mobile, and besieging and capturing the stronghold of
Pensacola, thus winning all west Florida, from the Mississippi to the
Appalachicola, for Spain. But this vast wilderness was not made safe; Fort
Panmure (Natchez) changed hands twice, and the land was full of Indians,
partly hireling friends and partly enemies. The waters about the Bahamas
and the Greater and Lesser Antilles were fields for the movements of
hostile fleets, corsairs, and privateers. Yet the writer of this letter
was tempted to run the gauntlet of these perils, expecting, if all went
well, to arrive in Louisiana in midsummer.
"How many times," says the memorandum of her brother's now aged
great-granddaughter,--"How many times during my childhood has been told me
the story of my aunt Louise. It was not until several years after the
death of my grandmother that, on examining the contents of the basket
which she had given me, I found at the bottom of a little black-silk bag
the letter written by my grand-aunt to her brother, my own ancestor.
Frankly, I doubt that my grandmother had intended to give it to me, so
highly did she prize it, though it was very difficult to read. The
orthography is perfect; the difficulty is all owing to the paper and,
moreover, to the situation of the poor wounded sufferer." It is in French:
_To my brother mister Pierre Bossier. In the parish of St. James._
Fort Latourette, The 5 August, 1782.
My Good Dear Brother: Ah! how shall I tell you the frightful position in
which I am placed! I would that I were dead! I seem to be the prey of a
horrible nightmare! O Pierre! my brother! hasten with all speed to me.
When you left Germany, your little sister was a blooming girl, very
beautiful in your eyes, very happy! and to-day! ah! to-day, my brother,
come see for yourself.
After having received your letter, not only my husband and I decided to
leave our village and go to join you, but twelve of our friends united
with us, and on the 10 May, 1782, we quitted Strasbourg on the little
vessel North Star [Etoile du Nord], which set sail for New Orleans,
where you had promised to come to meet us. Let me tell you the names of my
fellow-travelers. O brother! what courage I need to write this account:
first my husband, Leonard Cheval, and my son Pierre, poor little angel who
was not yet two years old! Fritz Newman, his wife Nina, and their three
children; Irwin Vizey; William Hugo, his wife, and their little daughter;
Jacques Lewis, his daughter, and their son Henry. We were full of hope: We
hoped to find fortune in this new country of which you spoke with so much
enthusiasm. How in that moment did I bless my parents and you my brother,
for the education you had procured me. You know how good a musician my
Leonard was, and our intention was on arriving to open a boarding-school
in New Orleans; in your last letter you encouraged the project--all of us,
movables with us, all our savings, everything we owned in this world.
This paper is very bad, brother, but the captain of the fort says it is
all he has; and I write lying down, I am so uncomfortable.
The earlier days of the voyage passed without accident, without
disturbance, but often Leonard spoke to me of his fears. The vessel was
old, small, and very poorly supplied. The captain was a drunkard [here the
writer attempted to turn the sheet and write on the back of it], who often
incapacitated himself with his first officers [word badly blotted]; and
then the management of the vessel fell to the mate, who was densely
ignorant. Moreover, we knew that the seas were infested with pirates. I
must stop, the paper is too bad.
The captain has brought me another sheet.
Our uneasiness was great. Often we emigrants assembled on deck and told
each other our anxieties. Living on the frontier of France, we spoke
German and French equally well; and when the sailors heard us, they, who
spoke only English, swore at us, accused us of plotting against them, and
called us Saurkrouts. At such times I pressed my child to my heart and
drew nearer to Leonard, more dead than alive. A whole month passed in this
constant anguish. At its close, fevers broke out among us, and we
discovered, to our horror, there was not a drop of medicine on board. We
had them lightly, some of us, but only a few; and [bad blot] Newman's son
and William Hugo's little daughter died, ... and the poor mother soon
followed her child. My God! but it was sad. And the provisions ran low,
and the captain refused to turn back to get more.
One evening, when the captain, his lieutenant, and two other officers
were shut in their cabin drinking, the mate, of whom I had always such
fear, presented himself before us surrounded by six sailors armed, like
himself, to the teeth, and ordered us to surrender all the money we had.
To resist would have been madness; we had to yield. They searched our
trunks and took away all that we possessed: they left us nothing,
absolutely nothing. Ah! why am I not dead? Profiting by the absence of
their chiefs they seized the [or some--the word is blotted] boats and
abandoned us to our fate. When, the next day, the captain appeared on deck
quite sober, and saw the cruelty of our plight, he told us, to console us,
that we were very near the mouth of the Mississippi, and that within two
days we should be at New Orleans. Alas! all that day passed without seeing
any land, but towards evening the vessel, after incredible efforts, had
just come to a stop--at what I supposed should be the mouth of the river.
We were so happy to have arrived that we begged Captain Andrieux to sail
all night. He replied that our men, who had worked all day in place of the
sailors, were tired and did not understand at all sufficiently the
handling of a vessel to sail by night. He wanted to get drunk again. As in
fact our men were worn out, we went, all of us, to bed. O great God! give
me strength to go on. All at once we were awakened by horrible cries, not
human sounds: we thought ourselves surrounded by ferocious beasts. We poor
women clasped our children to our breasts, while our husbands armed
themselves with whatever came to hand and dashed forward to meet the
danger. My God! my God! we saw ourselves hemmed in by a multitude of
savages yelling and lifting over us their horrible arms, grasping
hatchets, knives, and tomahawks. The first to fall was my husband, my dear
Leonard; all, except Irwin Vizey, who had the fortune to jump into the
water unseen, all were massacred by the monsters. One Indian tore my child
from me while another fastened my arms behind my back. In response to my
cries, to my prayers, the monster who held my son took him by one foot
and, swinging him several times around, shattered his head against the
wall. And I live to write these horrors!... I fainted, without doubt, for
on opening my eyes I found I was on land [blot], firmly fastened to a
stake. Nina Newman and Kate Lewis were fastened as I was: the latter was
covered with blood and appeared to be dangerously wounded. About daylight
three Indians came looking for them and took them God knows where! Alas! I
have never since heard of either of them or their children.
I remained fastened to the stake in a state of delirium, which saved me
doubtless from the horrors of my situation. I recall one thing: that is,
having seen those savages eat human flesh, the members of a child--at
least it seemed so. Ah! you see plainly I must have been mad to have seen
all that without dying! They had stripped me of my clothing and I remained
exposed, half naked, to a July sun and to clouds of mosquitoes. An Indian
who spoke French informed me that, as I was young and fat, they were
reserving me for the dinner of the chief, who was to arrive next day. In a
moment I was dead with terror; in that instant I lost all feeling. I had
become indifferent to all. I saw nothing, I heard nothing. Towards evening
one of the sub-chiefs approached and gave me some water in a gourd. I
drank without knowing what I did; thereupon he set himself to examine me
as the butcher examines the lamb that he is about to kill; he seemed to
find me worthy to be served on the table of the head-chief, but as he was
hungry and did not wish to wait [blot], he drew from its sheath the knife
that he carried at his belt and before I had had time to guess what he
intended to do [Enough to say, in place of literal translation, that the
savage, from the outside of her right thigh, flayed off a large piece of
her flesh.] It must be supposed that I again lost consciousness. When I
came to myself, I was lying some paces away from the stake of torture on a
heap of cloaks, and a soldier was kneeling beside me, while I was
surrounded by about a hundred others. The ground was strewed with dead
Indians. I learned later that Vizey had reached the woods and by chance
had stumbled into Fort Latourette, full of troops. Without loss of time,
the brave soldiers set out, and arrived just in time to save me. A
physician dressed my wound, they put me into an ambulance and brought me
away to Fort Latourette, where I still am. A fierce fever took possession
of me. My generous protectors did not know to whom to write; they watched
over me and showed every care imaginable.
Now that I am better, I write you, my brother, and close with these
words: I await you! make all haste! Your sister, Louisa Cheval.
"My grandmother," resumes the memorandum of the Creole great-grandniece,
"had often read this letter, and had recounted to me the incidents that
followed its reception. She was then but three years old, but as her aunt
lived three years in her (_i.e._, the aunt's) brother's family, my
grandmother had known her, and described her to me as a young woman with
white hair and walking with a staff. It was with difficulty that she used
her right leg. My great-grandfather used to tell his children that his
sister Louise had been blooming and gay, and spoke especially of her
beautiful blonde hair. A few hours had sufficed to change it to snow, and
on the once charming countenance of the poor invalid to stamp an
expression of grief and despair.
"It was Lieutenant Rosello, a young Spaniard, who came on horseback from
Fort Latourette to carry to my great-grandfather his sister's letter....
Not to lose a moment, he [the brother] began, like Lieutenant Rosello,
the journey on horseback, procuring a large ambulance as he passed through
New Orleans.... He did all he could to lighten the despair of his poor
sister.... All the members of the family lavished upon her every possible
care and attention; but alas! the blow she had received was too terrible.
She lingered three years, and at the end of that time passed peaceably
away in the arms of her brother, the last words on her lips being
So we make way for the bright and happy story of how Francoise made
Evangeline's journey through the dark wilds of Atchafalaya.
 If this was an English ship,--for her crew was English and her
master's name seems to have been Andrews,--she was probably not under
 The treeless marshes of the Delta would be very slow coming into
THE ADVENTURES OF FRANCOISE AND SUZANNE.
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."
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
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
"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.
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. 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." 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 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
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
"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
"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
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
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.]
 An extreme underestimate, easy for a girl to make of a scattered town
hidden among gardens and groves.--TRANSLATOR.
 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.
 In all likelihood described here as seen by the writer herself later,
on the journey.--TRANSLATOR.
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." 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
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. 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
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
[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.
 Another error easy to make. For "Gazette" read "Moniteur"; "The
Gazette" appeared a little later.--TRANSLATOR.
 The translator feels constrained to say that he was not on the spot.
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
"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
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
"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, waving handkerchiefs, and kisses thrown from
finger-tips. No one wept, but in saying good-bye to my father, my mother
"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
 According to a common habit of the Southern slaves.--TRANSLATOR.
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.
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
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,
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,
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
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]
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.
 Flowing, not into, but out of, the Mississippi, and, like it, towards
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
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
"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 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.
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
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. The sun was setting in a belt of gray
clouds. Our men fastened their vessel securely and then cast their eyes
"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.
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
"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
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."
"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.
 That is, "Lake full of snags."--TRANSLATOR.
 The Indian village having the Mississippi probably but a few miles in
MAGGIE AND THE ROBBERS.
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