“Yes,” said Alix, blushing, “I am blessed. I am perfectly happy.”
We told her all our adventures and pleasures. She wept when she heard that the Countess de la Houssaye had not forgotten her.
“You will see her,” said Suzanne. “She will come to see you, without a doubt.”
“Ah, Heaven prevent it! Our destinies are too unlike now. Me perhaps the Countess Madelaine might welcome affectionately; but Joseph? Oh, no! My husband’s lot is mine; I have no wish for any other. It is better that she and I remain strangers.”
And Joseph? How he confessed his joy in seeing us!
During our absence M. Gerbeau had found means for us to return to St. James. It seems that two little boats, resembling steamboats in form, kept up a constant trade in wood—clapboards, pieux [split boards], shingles, even cordwood—between the lakes and the Bayou Teche plantation. M. Gerbeau had taken his skiff and two oarsmen and gone in search of one of these boats, which, as he guessed, was not far away. In fact he met it in Mexican [now Berwick’s] Bay, and for two hundred dollars persuaded the captain to take us to St. James. “Yes,” said M. Gerbeau to us, “you will make in a week a journey that might have taken you two months.”
The following Monday the captain tied up at M. Gerbeau’s landing. It was a droll affair, his boat. You must have seen on plantations what they call a horse-mill—a long pole on which a man sits, and to which a horse or mule is hitched. Such was the machinery by which we moved. The boat’s cabin was all one room. The berths, one above another, ran all round the room, hung with long curtains, and men, women, and children—when there were any—were all obliged to stay in the same apartment.
We remained with Alix to the last moment. The morning we left she gave Suzanne a pretty ring, and me a locket containing her portrait. In return my sister placed upon her finger a ruby encircled with little diamonds; and I, taking off the gold medal I always wore on my neck, whispered:
“Wear it for love of me.”
She smiled. [Just as we were parting she handed me the story of her life.]
At an early hour my father had our trunks, baskets, and mats sent aboard the Sirene; and after many tears, and promises to write and to return, we took our leave. We had quitted St. James the 20th of May. We landed there once more on the 26th of September. Need I recount the joy of my mother and sisters? You understand all that.
And now, my daughter, the tale is told. Read it to your children and assure them that all is true; that there is here no exaggeration; that they can put faith in their old grandmother’s story and take their part in her pleasures, her friendships, and her emotions.
 See “HOW I GOT THEM,” page 14.
[Illustration: PART OF FIRST PAGE, “ALIX MS.”]