A Baratarian Elaine can be found in

A Baratarian Elaine.


INTO the northwestern corner of Barataria Bay, one of those many indentations in the coast of Southern Louisiana, extends a small bayou. Up this quiet inlet about half a mile the land attains a height unusual to marshy stretches of country, owing to accumulations of sea shells so vast as to form a miniature island.

Upon this island, surrounded by massive live-oaks whose gnarled limbs, festooned with long pendants of gray Spanish moss, sway lazily in the Gulf breezes, stands a cottage of unique structure. Timbered pillars hold it six feet from the ground. Along its whole front extends a broad porch from which descends a wide stairway to the shell walk leading to the primitive wharf in front.

The cottage is built of nondescript material. Posts, planks, puncheons, slabs, shingles, sheet iron, and patches of zinc—all enter into its composition; but age has so cast her tints of grays, and browns, and brownish greens about the whole structure that all incongruous elements are blended into a pleasing harmony.

Up the front steps the visitor may go, and, whoever he may be, he invariably receives the same greeting from the three occupants. At the head of the steps will stand an old man of massive proportions, ruddy, unwrinkled face, and luxuriant white hair and beard. Framed by the doorway at the left end of the porch, or gallery, will wait questioningly a girl, whose slim figure and spirituelle beauty are emphasized by flowing garments of spotless white, almost Greek in their simplicity. Peering from a small opening at the other end of the gallery will appear a weazened, wrinkled, scowling black face, surmounted by gray, wiry wool. The old man will extend his hand to the visitor; the maiden will silently withdraw from the doorway; and a sliding shutter will be slammed over the opening used by the black for observation.

There are no other houses in the neighborhood. Ten miles down the bay where the scattered fisher settlements begin one may learn, upon inquiry, that the venerable man at the head of the steps is old Majeur; that the girl in the doorway is his granddaughter, Lasthenie; and that the black face belongs to Zabo, a faithful family servant. One may also learn that Majeur went to the island many years ago; that the greater part of his life has been spent in search of the treasure of the pirate smuggler, Lafitte, supposed to have been buried thereabout; and that one must look well in roaming over the island, since the evidence of this life-long search still remains in numberless weed-covered pits, into which the unwary may fall.

As to the granddaughter—well, the swains of Caminada have never given themselves any concern over the girl upon Shell Island. The distance to paddle in a light pirogue is enough to cool the wooing ardor of even young men of Latin race.

Moreover, to them she seems not strong. She would not, in their opinion, be equal to the duties of the Caminada housewife,—duties that include the portering of heavy baskets of oysters, the stri...

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