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Often, of pleasant afternoons, the two would drink their black
coffee, seated upon the stone-flagged portico whose canopy was the
blue sky of Louisiana. They loved to sit there in the silence,
with only each other and the sheeny, prying lizards for company,
talking of the old times and planning for the new; while light
breezes stirred the tattered vines high up among the columns, where
"We can never hope to have all just as it was, Pauline,"
Ma'ame Pelagie would say; "perhaps the marble pillars of the salon
will have to be replaced by wooden ones, and the crystal candelabra
left out. Should you be willing, Pauline?"
"Oh, yes Sesoeur, I shall be willing." It was always, "Yes,
Sesoeur," or "No, Sesoeur," "Just as you please, Sesoeur," with
poor little Mam'selle Pauline. For what did she remember of that
old life and that old spendor? Only a faint gleam here and there;
the half-consciousness of a young, uneventful existence; and then
a great crash. That meant the nearness of war; the revolt of
slaves; confusion ending in fire and flame through which she was
borne safely in the strong arms of Pelagie, and carried to the log
cabin which was still their home. Their brother, Leandre, had
known more of it all than Pauline, and not so much as Pelagie. He
had left the management of the big plantation with all its memories
and traditions to his older sister, and had gone away to dwell in
cities. That was many years ago. Now, Leandre's business called
him frequently and upon long journeys from home, and his motherless
daughter was coming to stay with her aunts at Cote Joyeuse.
They talked about it, sipping their coffee on the ruined
portico. Mam'selle Pauline was terribly excited; the flush that
throbbed into her pale, nervous face showed it; and she locked her
thin fingers in and out incessantly.
"But what shall we do with La Petite, Sesoeur? Where shall we
put her? How shall we amuse her? Ah, Seigneur!"
"She will sleep upon a cot in the room next to ours,"
responded Ma'ame Pelagie, "and live as we do. She knows how we
live, and why we live; her father has told her. She knows we have
money and could squander it if we chose. Do not fret, Pauline; let
us hope La Petite is a true Valmet."
Then Ma'ame Pelagie rose with stately deliberation and went to
saddle her horse, for she had yet to make her last daily round