The church was crowded. The service, performed by an old priest nearly a hundred years of age, was listened to with interest; but what astonished me was to see the crowd stop at the church door, the women kissing; to hear laughter, chat, and criticism at the door of this sacred place as if it were the public square. I understood the discontent that knit my father’s brows and the alacrity with which he descended the church steps. Tonton saw and came to us—so fresh, so young, she was indeed the queen of beauty and fashion. Out of nothing Tonton could work wonders. Her dress to-day was of camayeu the pattern of which was bunches of strawberries—the very same stuff as our dresses; but how had she made it to look so different? And her hat! It was a new marvel of her invention. She had taken a man’s felt hat and entirely covered it with the feathers of the cardinal bird, without other ornament than a bunch of white ribbon on the front and two long cords of white silk falling clear to the waist. That was the first hat of the kind I ever saw, but it was not the last. With one turn of her little hand she could make the whole female population of St. Martinville go as she pleased. Before we left St. Martinville we had the chance to admire more than fifty hats covered with the feathers of peacocks, geese, and even guinea-fowl, and—must we confess it?—when we got home we enlisted all our hunter friends to bring us numerous innocent cardinals, and tried to make us hats; but they did not look the least like the pretty widow’s.
Sunday was also the day given to visiting. Being already dressed, it was so easy to go see one’s friends.... Among the new visitors was Saint Marc d’Arby—engaged to little Constance de Blanc, aged thirteen. He came to invite us to a picnic on the coming Wednesday.
“Ah,” I cried, with regret, “the very day papa has chosen for us to leave for the town of Opelousas!” ...
Since arriving in St. Martinville we had hardly seen papa. He left early each morning and returned late in the evening, telling of lands he had bought during the day. His wish was to go to Opelousas to register them.... To-day the whole town of Opelousas belongs to his heirs; but those heirs, with Creole heedlessness and afraid to spend a dollar, let strangers enjoy the possession of the beautiful lands acquired by their ancestor for so different an end. Shame on all of them!
It was decided for papa to leave us with the baroness during his visit to Opelousas.
“And be ready to depart homeward,” said he, “on the following Monday.”
The evening before that of the ball gave us lively disappointment. A fine rain began to fall. But Celeste came to assure us that in St. Martinville a storm had never prevented a ball, and if one had to go by boat, still one had to go. Later the weather improved, and several young gentlemen came to visit us.... “Will there be a supper, chevalier?” asked the baroness of her future son-in-law.—“Ah, good! For me the supper is the best part of the affair.”