STRANGE TRUE STORIES OF LOUISIANA
BY GEORGE W. CABLE
AUTHOR OF "THE GRANDISSIMES," "BONAVENTURE," ETC.
TO MY FRIEND JAMES BIRNEY GUTHRIE
PAGE 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
ATTALIE BROUILLARD. 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.
"Tonton" Frontispiece 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
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 said:
"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 to tell.
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 Terror.
"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 records."
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 miswritten word.
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 events."
"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 war—"
"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 said:
"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.
FOOTNOTES:  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 'Leonard!—my child!'"
So we make way for the bright and happy story of how Francoise made Evangeline's journey through the dark wilds of Atchafalaya.
FOOTNOTES:  County.  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 British colors.—TRANSLATOR.  The treeless marshes of the Delta would be very slow coming into view.—TRANSLATOR.
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....
When my father used to go to New Orleans he went in his skiff, with a canopy over his head to keep off the sun, and two rowers, who sang as they rowed. Sometimes papa took me with him, and it was very entertaining. We would pass the nights of our voyage at the houses of papa's friends [des zami de papa]. Sometimes mamma would come, and Suzanne always—always. She was the daughter next older than I. She barely missed being a boy. She was eighteen years of age, went hunting with our father, was skillful with a gun, and swam like a fish. Papa called her "my son." You must understand the two boys were respectively but two years and three months old, and papa, who greatly desired a son, had easily made one of Suzanne. My father had brought a few books with him to Louisiana, and among them, you may well suppose, were several volumes of travel. For myself, I rarely touched them; but they were the only books that Suzanne read. And you may well think, too, that my father had no sooner spoken of his intention than Suzanne cried:
"I am going with you, am I not, papa?"
"Naturally," replied my father; "and Francoise shall go also."
Francoise—that was I; poor child of sixteen, who had but six months before quitted the school-bench, and totally unlike my sister—blonde, where Suzanne was dark; timid, even cowardly, while she had the hardihood and courage of a young lioness; ready to cry at sight of a wounded bird, while she, gun in hand, brought down as much game as the most skillful hunter.
I exclaimed at my father's speech. I had heard there were many Indians in Attakapas; the name means man-eaters. I have a foolish terror of Indians, and a more reasonable one for man-eaters. But papa and Suzanne mocked at my fears; and as, after all, I burned with desire for the journey, it was decided that I should go with them.
Necessarily we wanted to know how we were to go—whether we should travel by skiff, and how many negroes and negresses would go with us. For you see, my daughter, young people in 1795 were exactly what they are in 1822; they could do nothing by themselves, but must have a domestic to dress and undress them. Especially in traveling, where one had to take clothes out of trunks and put them back again, assistance became an absolute necessity. Think, then, of our astonishment, of our vexation, when papa assured us that he would not take a single slave; that my sister and I would be compelled to help each other, and that the skiff would remain behind, tied up at the landing where it then lay.
"But explain yourself, Papa, I beg of you," cried Suzanne, with her habitual petulance.
"That is what I am trying to do," said he. "If you will listen in silence, I will give you all the explanation you want."
Here, my daughter, to save time, I will borrow my father's speech and tell of the trip he had made to New Orleans; how he had there found means to put into execution his journey to Attakapas, and the companions that were to accompany him.
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 Irishman.
But, strange, John Gordon, glass in hand, did not drink; Carpentier, with his fingers round the neck of the bottle, failed to pour his cider; and my father himself, his eyes attracted to another part of the room, forgot his wine. Every one was looking at an individual gesticulating and haranguing in the middle of the place, to the great amusement of all. My father recognized him at first sight. He was an Italian about the age of Gordon; short, thick-set, powerful, swarthy, with the neck of a bull and hair as black as ebony. He was telling rapidly, with strong gestures, in an almost incomprehensible mixture of Spanish, English, French, and Italian, the story of a hunting party that he had made up five years before. This was Mario Carlo. A Neapolitan by birth, he had for several years worked as a blacksmith on the plantation of one of our neighbors, M. Alphonse Perret. Often papa had heard him tell of this hunt, for nothing could be more amusing than to listen to Carlo. Six young men, with Carlo as sailor and cook, had gone on a two-months' expedition into the country of the Attakapas.
"Yes," said the Italian, in conclusion, "game never failed us; deer, turkeys, ducks, snipe, two or three bears a week. But the sublimest thing was the rich land. Ah! one must see it to believe it. Plains and forests full of animals, lakes and bayous full of fish. Ah! fortune is there. For five years I have dreamed, I have worked, with but one object in view; and today the end is reached. I am ready to go. I want only two companions to aid me in the long journey, and those I have come to look for here."
John Gordon stepped forward, laid a hand upon the speaker's shoulder, and said:
"My friend, I am your man."
Mario Carlo seized the hand and shook it with all his force.
"You will not repent the step. But"—turning again to the crowd—"we want one more."
Joseph Carpentier rose slowly and advanced to the two men. "Comrades, I will be your companion if you will accept me."
Before separating, the three drank together and appointed to meet the next day at the house of Gordon, the Irishman.
When my father saw Gordon and Carpentier leave the place, he placed his hand on Mario's shoulder and said in Italian, "My boy, I want to talk with you."
At that time, as now, parents were very scrupulous as to the society into which they introduced their children, especially their daughters; and papa knew of a certain circumstance in Carlo's life to which my mother might greatly object. But he knew the man had an honest and noble heart. He passed his arm into the Italian's and drew him to the inn where my father was stopping, and to his room. Here he learned from Mario that he had bought one of those great barges that bring down provisions from the West, and which, when unloaded, the owners count themselves lucky to sell at any reasonable price. When my father proposed to Mario to be taken as a passenger the poor devil's joy knew no bounds; but it disappeared when papa added that he should take his two daughters with him.
The trouble was this: Mario was taking with him in his flatboat his wife and his four children; his wife and four children were simply—mulattoes. However, then as now, we hardly noticed those things, and the idea never entered our minds to inquire into the conduct of our slaves. Suzanne and I had known Celeste, Mario's wife, very well before her husband bought her. She had been the maid of Marianne Perret, and on great occasions Marianne had sent her to us to dress our hair and to prepare our toilets. We were therefore enchanted to learn that she would be with us on board the flatboat, and that papa had engaged her services in place of the attendants we had to leave behind.
It was agreed that for one hundred dollars Mario Carlo would receive all three of us as passengers, that he would furnish a room simply but comfortably, that papa would share this room with us, that Mario would supply our table, and that his wife would serve as maid and laundress. It remained to be seen now whether our other fellow-travelers were married, and, if so, what sort of creatures their wives were.
[The next day the four intended travelers met at Gordon's house. Gordon had a wife, Maggie, and a son, Patrick, aged twelve, as unlovely in outward aspect as were his parents. Carpentier, who showed himself even more plainly than on the previous night a man of native refinement, confessed to a young wife without offspring. Mario told his story of love and alliance with one as fair of face as he, and whom only cruel law forbade him to call wife and compelled him to buy his children; and told the story so well that at its close the father of Francoise silently grasped the narrator's hand, and Carpentier, reaching across the table where they sat, gave his, saying:
"You are an honest man, Monsieur Carlo."
"Will your wife think so?" asked the Italian.
"My wife comes from a country where there are no prejudices of race."
Francoise takes the pains to say of this part of the story that it was not told her and Suzanne at this time, but years afterward, when they were themselves wives and mothers. When, on the third day, her father saw Carpentier's wife at the Norman peasant's lodgings, he was greatly surprised at her appearance and manner, and so captivated by them that he proposed that their two parties should make one at table during the projected voyage—a proposition gratefully accepted. Then he left New Orleans for his plantation home, intending to return immediately, leaving his daughters in St. James to prepare for the journey and await the arrival of the flatboat, which must pass their home on its way to the distant wilds of Attakapas.]
FOOTNOTES:  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 baggage."
I should not have thought of rebelling; but Suzanne raised loud cries, saying it was an absolute necessity that we go with papa to New Orleans, so as not to find ourselves on our journey without traveling-dresses, new neckerchiefs, and a number of things. In vain did poor papa endeavor to explain that we were going into a desert worse than Arabia; Suzanne put her two hands to her ears and would hear nothing, until, weary of strife, poor papa yielded.
Our departure being decided upon, he wished to start even the very next day; and while we were instructing our sisters Elinore and Marie concerning some trunks that we should leave behind us, and which they must pack and have ready for the flatboat, papa recommended to mamma a great slaughter of fowls, etc., and especially to have ready for embarkation two of our best cows. Ah! in those times if the planter wished to live well he had to raise everything himself, and the poultry yard and the dairy were something curious to see. Dozens of slaves were kept busy in them constantly. When my mother had raised two thousand chickens, besides turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea-fowls, and pea-fowls, she said she had lost her crop. And the quantity of butter and cheese! And all this without counting the sauces, the jellies, the preserves, the gherkins, the syrups, the brandied fruits. And not a ham, not a chicken, not a pound of butter was sold; all was served on the master's table, or, very often, given to those who stood in need of them. Where, now, can you find such profusion? Ah! commerce has destroyed industry.
The next day, after kissing mamma and the children, we got into the large skiff with papa and three days later stepped ashore in New Orleans. We remained there a little over a week, preparing our traveling-dresses. Despite the admonitions of papa, we went to the fashionable modiste of the day, Madame Cinthelia Lefranc, and ordered for each a suit that cost one hundred and fifty dollars. The costume was composed of a petticoat of camayeu, very short, caught up in puffs on the side by a profusion of ribbons; and a very long-pointed black velvet jacket (casaquin), laced in the back with gold and trimmed on the front with several rows of gilt buttons. The sleeves stopped at the elbows and were trimmed with lace. Now, my daughter, do you know what camayeu was? You now sometimes see an imitation of it in door and window curtains. It was a stuff of great fineness, yet resembling not a little the unbleached cotton of to-day, and over which were spread very brilliant designs of prodigious size. For example, Suzanne's petticoat showed bunches of great radishes—not the short kind—surrounded by long, green leaves and tied with a yellow cord; while on mine were roses as big as a baby's head, interlaced with leaves and buds and gathered into bouquets graced with a blue ribbon. It was ten dollars an ell; but, as the petticoats were very short, six ells was enough for each. At that time real hats were unknown. For driving or for evening they placed on top of the high, powdered hair what they called a catogan, a little bonnet of gauze or lace trimmed with ribbons; and during the day a sun-bonnet of silk or velvet. You can guess that neither Suzanne nor I, in spite of papa's instructions, forgot these.
Our traveling-dresses were gray cirsacas,—the skirt all one, short, without puffs; the jacket coming up high and with long sleeves,—a sunbonnet of cirsacas, blue stockings, embroidered handkerchief or blue cravat about the neck, and high-heeled shoes.
As soon as Celeste heard of our arrival in New Orleans she hastened to us. She was a good creature; humble, respectful, and always ready to serve. She was an excellent cook and washer, and, what we still more prized, a lady's maid and hairdresser of the first order. My sister and I were glad to see her, and overwhelmed her with questions about Carlo, their children, their plans, and our traveling companions.
"Ah! Momzelle Suzanne, the little Madame Carpentier seems to me a fine lady, ever so genteel; but the Irish woman! Ah! grand Dieu! she puts me in mind of a soldier. I'm afraid of her. She smokes—she swears—she carries a pistol, like a man."
At last the 15th of May came, and papa took us on board the flatboat and helped us to find our way to our apartment. If my father had allowed Carlo, he would have ruined himself in furnishing our room; but papa stopped him and directed it himself. The flatboat had been divided into four chambers. These were covered by a slightly arching deck, on which the boat was managed by the moving of immense sweeps that sent her forward. The room in the stern, surrounded by a sort of balcony, which Monsieur Carpentier himself had made, belonged to him and his wife; then came ours, then that of Celeste and her family, and the one at the bow was the Irishwoman's. Carlo and Gordon had crammed the provisions, tools, carts, and plows into the corners of their respective apartments. In the room which our father was to share with us he had had Mario make two wooden frames mounted on feet. These were our beds, but they were supplied with good bedding and very white sheets. A large cypress table, on which we saw a pile of books and our workboxes; a washstand, also of cypress, but well furnished and surmounted by a mirror; our trunks in a corner; three rocking-chairs—this was all our furniture. There was neither carpet nor curtain.
All were on board except the Carpentier couple. Suzanne was all anxiety to see the Irishwoman. Poor Suzanne! how distressed she was not to be able to speak English! So, while I was taking off my capotte—as the sun-bonnet of that day was called—and smoothing my hair at the glass, she had already tossed her capotte upon papa's bed and sprung up the ladder that led to the deck. (Each room had one.) I followed a little later and had the satisfaction of seeing Madame Margaretto Gordon, commonly called "Maggie" by her husband and "Maw" by her son Patrick. She was seated on a coil of rope, her son on the boards at her feet. An enormous dog crouched beside them, with his head against Maggie's knee. The mother and son were surprisingly clean. Maggie had on a simple brown calico dress and an apron of blue ticking. A big red kerchief was crossed on her breast and its twin brother covered her well combed and greased black hair. On her feet were blue stockings and heavy leather shoes. The blue ticking shirt and pantaloons and waistcoat of Master Pat were so clean that they shone; his black cap covered his hair—as well combed as his mother's; but he was barefooted. Gordon, Mario, and Celeste's eldest son, aged thirteen, were busy about the deck; and papa, his cigar in his mouth and his hands in his pockets, stood looking out on the levee. I sat down on one of the rough benches that had been placed here and there, and presently my sister came and sat beside me.
"Madame Carpentier seems to be a laggard," she said. She was burning to see the arrival of her whom we had formed the habit of calling "the little French peasant."
[Presently Suzanne begins shooting bonbons at little Patrick, watching the effect out of the corners of her eyes, and by and by gives that smile, all her own,—to which, says Francoise, all flesh invariably surrendered,—and so became dumbly acquainted; while Carlo was beginning to swear "fit to raise the dead," writes the memoirist, at the tardiness of the Norman pair. But just then—]
A carriage drove up to within a few feet of our chaland and Joseph Carpentier alighted, paid the driver, and lifted from it one so delicate, pretty, and small that you might take her at first glance for a child of ten years. Suzanne and I had risen quickly and came and leaned over the balustrade. To my mortification my sister had passed one arm around the waist of the little Irishman and held one of his hands in hers. Suzanne uttered a cry of astonishment. "Look, look, Francoise!" But I was looking, with eyes wide with astonishment.
The gardener's wife had alighted, and with her little gloved hand shook out and re-arranged her toilet. That toilet, very simple to the eyes of Madame Carpentier, was what petrified us with astonishment. I am going to describe it to you, my daughter.
We could not see her face, for her hood of blue silk, trimmed with a light white fur, was covered with a veil of white lace that entirely concealed her features. Her traveling-dress, like ours, was of cirsacas, but ours was cotton, while hers was silk, in broad rays of gray and blue; and as the weather was a little cool that morning, she had exchanged the unfailing casaquin for a sort of camail to match the dress, and trimmed, like the capotte, with a line of white fur. Her petticoat was very short, lightly puffed on the sides, and ornamented only with two very long pockets trimmed like the camail. Below the folds of the robe were two Cinderella feet in blue silk stockings and black velvet slippers. It was not only the material of this toilet that astonished us, but the way in which it was made.
"Maybe she is a modiste. Who knows?" whispered Suzanne.
Another thing: Madame Carpentier wore a veil and gloves, two things of which we had heard but which we had never seen. Madame Ferrand had mentioned them, but said that they sold for their weight in gold in Paris, and she had not dared import them, for fear she could not sell them in Louisiana. And here was the wife of a laboring gardener, who avowed himself possessor of but two thousand francs, dressed like a duchess and with veil and gloves!
I could but notice with what touching care Joseph assisted his wife on board. He led her straight to her room, and quickly rejoined us on deck to put himself at the disposition of his associates. He explained to Mario his delay, caused by the difficulty of finding a carriage; at which Carlo lifted his shoulders and grimaced. Joseph added that madame—I noticed that he rarely called her Alix—was rather tired, and would keep her room until dinner time. Presently our heavy craft was under way.
Pressing against the long sweeps, which it required a herculean strength to move, were seen on one side Carlo and his son Celestino, or 'Tino, and on the other Joseph and Gordon. It moved slowly; so slowly that it gave the effect of a great tortoise.
FOOTNOTES:  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 two.
"As for her earrings," she added, "they are nothing great. Marianne has some as fine, that cost, I think, ten dollars."
Poor Suzanne, a judge of jewelry! Madame Carpentier's earrings were two great pearls, worth at least two hundred dollars. Never have I met another so charming, so lovely, as Alix Carpentier. Her every movement was grace. She moved, spoke, smiled, and in all things acted differently from all the women I had ever met until then. She made one think she had lived in a world all unlike ours; and withal she was simple, sweet, good, and to love her seemed the most natural thing on earth. There was nothing extraordinary in her beauty; the charm was in her intelligence and her goodness.
Maggie, the Irishwoman, was very taciturn. She never mingled with us, nor spoke to any one except Suzanne, and to her in monosyllables only when addressed. You would see her sometimes sitting alone at the bow of the boat, sewing, knitting, or saying her beads. During this last occupation her eyes never quitted Alix. One would say it was to her she addressed her prayers; and one day, when she saw my regard fixed upon Alix, she said to me:
"It does me good to look at her; she must look like the Virgin Mary."
Her little form, so graceful and delicate, had, however, one slight defect; but this was hidden under the folds of her robe or of the scarf that she knew how to arrange with such grace. One shoulder was a trifle higher than the other.
After having greeted my father, whom she already knew, she turned to us, hesitated a moment, and then, her two little hands extended, and with a most charming smile, she advanced, first to me and then to Suzanne, and embraced us both as if we had been old acquaintances. And from that moment we were good friends.
It had been decided that the boat should not travel by night, notwithstanding the assurance of Carlo, who had a map of Attakapas. But in the Mississippi there was no danger; and as papa was pressed to reach our plantation, we traveled all that first night.
The next day Alix—she required us to call her by that name—invited us to visit her in her room. Suzanne and I could not withhold a cry of surprise as we entered the little chamber. (Remember one thing: papa took nothing from home, not knowing even by what means we should return; but the Carpentiers were going for good and taking everything.) Joseph had had the rough walls whitewashed. A cheap carpet—but high-priced in those times—of bright colors covered the floor; a very low French bed occupied one corner, and from a sort of dais escaped the folds of an embroidered bobbinet mosquito-bar. It was the first mosquito-bar of that kind we had ever seen. Alix explained that she had made it from the curtains of the same bed, and that both bed and curtains she had brought with her from England. New mystery!
Beside the bed a walnut dressing-table and mirror, opposite to it a washstand, at the bed's foot a priedieu, a center-table, three chairs—these were all the furniture; but [an enumeration follows of all manner of pretty feminine belongings, in crystal, silver, gold, with a picture of the crucifixion and another of the Virgin]. On the shelves were a rich box of colors, several books, and some portfolios of music. From a small peg hung a guitar.
But Suzanne was not satisfied. Her gaze never left an object of unknown form enveloped in green serge. Alix noticed, laughed, rose, and, lifting the covering, said:
"This is my harp, Suzanne; later I will play it for you."
The second evening and those that followed, papa, despite Carlo's representation and the magnificent moonlight, opposed the continuation of the journey by night; and it was not until the morning of the fifth day that we reached St. James.
You can fancy the joy with which we were received at the plantation. We had but begun our voyage, and already my mother and sisters ran to us with extended arms as though they had not seen us for years. Needless to say, they were charmed with Alix; and when after dinner we had to say a last adieu to the loved ones left behind, we boarded the flatboat and left the plantation amid huzzas, waving handkerchiefs, and kisses thrown from finger-tips. No one wept, but in saying good-bye to my father, my mother asked:
"Pierre, how are you going to return?"
"Dear wife, by the mercy of God all things are possible to the man with his pocket full of money."
During the few days that we passed on the Mississippi each day was like the one before. We sat on the deck and watched the slow swinging of the long sweeps, or read, or embroidered, or in the chamber of Alix listened to her harp or guitar; and at the end of another week, we arrived at Plaquemine.
FOOTNOTES:  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 and cries.
The village, about fifty huts, lay along the edge of the water. The unfortunates were not timid. Presently several came close to the flatboat and showed us two deer and some wild turkeys and ducks, the spoils of their hunting. Then came the women laden with sacks made of bark and full of blackberries, vegetables, and a great quantity of baskets; showing all, motioning us to come down, and repeating in French and Spanish, "Money, money!"
It was decided that Mario and Gordon should stay on board and that all the rest of the joyous band should go ashore. My father, M. Carpentier, and 'Tino loaded their pistols and put them into their belts. Suzanne did likewise, while Maggie called Tom, her bulldog, to follow her. Celeste declined to go, because of her children. As to Alix and me, a terrible contest was raging in us between fright and curiosity, but the latter conquered. Suzanne and papa laughed so about our fears that Alix, less cowardly than I, yielded first, and joined the others. This was too much. Grasping my father's arm and begging him not to leave me for an instant, I let him conduct me, while Alix followed me, taking her husband's arm in both her hands. In front marched 'Tino, his gun on his shoulder; after him went Maggie, followed by Tom; and then Suzanne and little Patrick, inseparable friends.
Hardly had we gone a few steps when we were surrounded by a human wall, and I realized with a shiver how easy it would be for these savages to get rid of us and take all our possessions. But the poor devils certainly never thought of it: they showed us their game, of which papa bought the greater part, as well as several sacks of berries, and also vegetables.
But the baskets! They were veritable wonders. As several of those that I bought that day are still in your possession, I will not lose much time telling of them. How those half-savage people could make things so well contrived and ornamented with such brilliant colors is still a problem to us. Papa bought for mamma thirty-two little baskets fitting into one another, the largest about as tall as a child of five years, and the smallest just large enough to receive a thimble. When he asked the price I expected to hear the seller say at least thirty dollars, but his humble reply was five dollars. For a deer he asked one dollar; for a wild turkey, twenty-five cents. Despite the advice of papa, who asked us how we were going to carry our purchases home, Suzanne and I bought, between us, more than forty baskets, great and small. To papa's question, Suzanne replied with an arch smile:
"God will provide."
Maggie and Alix also bought several; and Alix, who never forgot any one, bought two charming little baskets that she carried to Celeste. Each of us, even Maggie, secured a broad parti-colored mat to use on the deck as a couch a la Turque. Our last purchases were two Indian bows painted red and blue and adorned with feathers; the first bought by Celestino Carlo, and the other by Suzanne for her chevalier, Patrick Gordon.
An Indian woman who spoke a little French asked if we would not like to visit the queen. We assented, and in a few moments she led us into a hut thatched with palmetto leaves and in all respects like the others. Its interior was disgustingly unclean. The queen was a woman quite or nearly a hundred years old. She sat on a mat upon the earth, her arms crossed on her breast, her eyes half closed, muttering between her teeth something resembling a prayer. She paid no attention to us, and after a moment we went out. We entered two or three other huts and found the same poverty and squalor. The men did not follow us about, but the women—the whole tribe, I think—marched step by step behind us, touching our dresses, our capuches, our jewelry, and asking for everything; and I felt well content when, standing on our deck, I could make them our last signs of adieu.