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The Mothers Of Honoré From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899   By: (1847-1902)

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From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899

By Mary Hartwell Catherwood

The sun was shining again after squalls, and the strait showed violet, green, red, and bronze lines, melting and intermingling each changing second. Metallic lustres shone as if some volcanic fountain on the lake bed were spraying the surface. Jules McCarty stood at his gate, noting this change in the weather with one eye. He was a small, old man, having the appearance of a mummied boy. His cheek bones shone apple red, and his partial blindness had merely the effect of a prolonged wink. Jules was keeping melancholy holiday in his best clothes, the well preserved coat parting its jaunty tails a little below the middle of his back.

Another old islander paused at the gate in passing, The two men shook their heads at each other.

"I went to your wife's funeral this morning, Jules," said the passer, impressing on the widower's hearing an important fact which might have escaped his one eye.

"You was at de funer'l? Did you see Thérèse?"

"Yes, I saw her."

"Ah, what a fat woman dat was! I make some of de peop' feel her arm. I feed her well."

The other old man smiled, but he was bound to say,

"I'm sorry for you, Jules."

"Did you see me at de church?"

"Yes, I went to the church."

"You t'ink I feel bad eh?"

"I thought you felt pretty bad."

"You go to de graveyard, too?"

"No," admitted his sympathizer, reluctantly, "I didn't go to the graveyard."

"But dat was de fines'. You ought see me at de graveyard. You t'ink I feel bad at de church I raise hell at de graveyard."

The friend shuffled his feet and coughed behind his hand.

"Yes, I feel bad, me," ruminated the bereaved man. "You get used to some woman in de house and not know where to get anodder."

"Haven't you had your share, Jules?" inquired his friend, relaxing gladly to banter.

"I have one fine wife, maman to Honoré," enumerated Jules, "and de squaw, and Lavelotte's widow, and Thérèse. It is not much."

"I've often wondered why you didn't take Me linda Crée. You've no objection to Indians. She's next door to you, and she knows how to nurse in sickness, besides being a good washer and ironer. The summer folks say she makes the best fish pies on the island."

"It is de trut'!" exclaimed Jules, a new light shining in his dim blue eye as he turned it towards the house of Melinda Crée. The weather worn, low domicile was bowered in trees. There was a convenient stile two steps high in the separating fence, and it had long been made a thoroughfare by the families. On the top step sat Clethera, Melinda Crée's granddaughter. Clethera had been Honoré's playmate since infancy. She was a lithe, dark girl, with more of her French father in her than of her half breed mother. Some needle work busied her hands, but her ear caught every accent of the conference at the gate. She flattened her lips, and determined to tell Honoré as soon as he came in with the boat. Honoré was the favorite skipper of the summer visitors. He went out immediately after the funeral to earn money to apply on his last mother's burial expenses.

When the old men parted, Clethera examined her grandmother with stealthy eyes in a kind of aboriginal reconnoitring. Melinda Cree's black hair and dark masses of wrinkles showed through a sashless shed window where she stood at her ironing board. Her stoical eyelids were lowered, and she moved with the rhythmical motion of the smoothing iron. Whether she had overheard the talk, or was meditating on her own matrimonial troubles, was impossible to gather from facial muscles rigid as carved wood. Melinda Crée was one of the few pure blooded Indians on the island. If she was fond of anything in the world, her preference had not declared itself, though previous to receiving her orphaned granddaughter into her house she had consented to become the bride of a drunken youth in his teens... Continue reading book >>

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