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The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories   By: (1875-1935)

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THE GOODNESS OF ST. ROCQUE AND OTHER STORIES

By

ALICE DUNBAR

To My best Comrade My Husband

CONTENTS

THE GOODNESS OF SAINT ROCQUE TONY'S WIFE THE FISHERMAN OF PASS CHRISTIAN M'SIEU FORTIER'S VIOLIN BY THE BAYOU ST. JOHN WHEN THE BAYOU OVERFLOWS MR. BAPTISTE A CARNIVAL JANGLE LITTLE MISS SOPHIE SISTER JOSEPHA THE PRALINE WOMAN ODALIE LA JUANITA TITEE

THE GOODNESS OF SAINT ROCQUE

Manuela was tall and slender and graceful, and once you knew her the lithe form could never be mistaken. She walked with the easy spring that comes from a perfectly arched foot. To day she swept swiftly down Marais Street, casting a quick glance here and there from under her heavy veil as if she feared she was being followed. If you had peered under the veil, you would have seen that Manuela's dark eyes were swollen and discoloured about the lids, as though they had known a sleepless, tearful night. There had been a picnic the day before, and as merry a crowd of giddy, chattering Creole girls and boys as ever you could see boarded the ramshackle dummy train that puffed its way wheezily out wide Elysian Fields Street, around the lily covered bayous, to Milneburg on the Lake. Now, a picnic at Milneburg is a thing to be remembered for ever. One charters a rickety looking, weather beaten dancing pavilion, built over the water, and after storing the children for your true Creole never leaves the small folks at home and the baskets and mothers downstairs, the young folks go up stairs and dance to the tune of the best band you ever heard. For what can equal the music of a violin, a guitar, a cornet, and a bass viol to trip the quadrille to at a picnic?

Then one can fish in the lake and go bathing under the prim bath houses, so severely separated sexually, and go rowing on the lake in a trim boat, followed by the shrill warnings of anxious mamans. And in the evening one comes home, hat crowned with cool gray Spanish moss, hands burdened with fantastic latanier baskets woven by the brown bayou boys, hand in hand with your dearest one, tired but happy.

At this particular picnic, however, there had been bitterness of spirit. Theophile was Manuela's own especial property, and Theophile had proven false. He had not danced a single waltz or quadrille with Manuela, but had deserted her for Claralie, blonde and petite. It was Claralie whom Theophile had rowed out on the lake; it was Claralie whom Theophile had gallantly led to dinner; it was Claralie's hat that he wreathed with Spanish moss, and Claralie whom he escorted home after the jolly singing ride in town on the little dummy train.

Not that Manuela lacked partners or admirers. Dear no! she was too graceful and beautiful for that. There had been more than enough for her. But Manuela loved Theophile, you see, and no one could take his place. Still, she had tossed her head and let her silvery laughter ring out in the dance, as though she were the happiest of mortals, and had tripped home with Henri, leaning on his arm, and looking up into his eyes as though she adored him.

This morning she showed the traces of a sleepless night and an aching heart as she walked down Marais Street. Across wide St. Rocque Avenue she hastened. "Two blocks to the river and one below " she repeated to herself breathlessly. Then she stood on the corner gazing about her, until with a final summoning of a desperate courage she dived through a small wicket gate into a garden of weed choked flowers.

There was a hoarse, rusty little bell on the gate that gave querulous tongue as she pushed it open. The house that sat back in the yard was little and old and weather beaten. Its one story frame had once been painted, but that was a memory remote and traditional. A straggling morning glory strove to conceal its time ravaged face. The little walk of broken bits of brick was reddened carefully, and the one little step was scrupulously yellow washed, which denoted that the occupants were cleanly as well as religious... Continue reading book >>




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