ALIX PUTS AWAY THE PAST.
For two weeks more our boat continued its slow and silent voyage among the bayous. We saw signs of civilization, but they were still far apart. These signs alarmed Mario. He had already chosen his place of abode and spoke of it with his usual enthusiasm; a prairie where he had camped for two weeks with his young hunters five years before.
“A principality—that is what I count on establishing there,” he cried, pushing his hand through his hair. “And think!—if, maybe, some one has occupied it! Oh, the thief! the robber! Let him not fall into my hands! I’ll strangle—I’ll kill him!”
My father, to console him, would say that it would be easy to find other tracts just as fine.
“Never!” replied he, rolling his eyes and brandishing his arms; and his fury would grow until Maggie cried:
“He is Satan himself! He’s the devil!”
One evening the flatboat stopped a few miles only from where is now the village of Pattersonville. The weather was magnificent, and while papa, Gordon, and Mario went hunting, Joseph, Alix, and we two walked on the bank. Little by little we wandered, and, burying ourselves in the interior, we found ourselves all at once confronting a little cottage embowered in a grove of oranges. Alix uttered a cry of admiration and went towards the house. We saw that it was uninhabited and must have been long abandoned. The little kitchen, the poultry-house, the dovecote, were in ruins. But the surroundings were admirable: in the rear a large court was entirely shaded with live-oaks; in front was the green belt of orange trees; farther away Bayou Teche, like a blue ribbon, marked a natural boundary, and at the bottom of the picture the great trees of the forest lifted their green-brown tops.
“Oh!” cried Alix, “if I could stay here I should be happy.”
“Who knows?” replied Joseph. “The owner has left the house; he may be dead. Who knows but I may take this place?”
“Oh! I pray you, Joseph, try. Try!” At that moment my father and Mario appeared, looking for us, and Alix cried:
“Welcome, gentlemen, to my domain.”
Joseph told of his wife’s wish and his hope.... “In any case,” said Mario, “count on us. If you decide to settle here we will stay two weeks—a month, if need be—to help you establish yourself.”