The Creoles

LIKE THE GREEKS, THE CREOLES HAD A WORD for everything.

For themselves they even did better than that. Every Creole was sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter - a piece from the thigh of Jupiter; and privately each one considered himself a slice of deity of no mean proportions. That was not all. They were creme de la creme; and if a Creole family was not exactly de la fine fleur des pois, literally, not of the most select blooms of the sweet pea blossom it was certainly one of les bonnes families. And woe to the gens du commun, the common people ambitious enough or foolish enough to attempt to enter Olympus! The gates were closed. It has been said that the Lowells spoke only to the Cabots and the Cabots spoke only to God, but it is fairly safe to say that in the very early Creole era both families would have been snubbed by the Creoles of New Orleans.



The French founders of Louisiana arrived in the last year of the seventeenth century and by 1765, when Spain took possession, French culture was so entrenched that the appointment of the Spanish governor caused an insurrection that cost many lives. But the Spanish had come to stay, and marriage and interbreeding were inevitable. It was even the newcomers who gave the Creoles their name. Criollo, eventually corrupted to Criado, was the Spanish name for children born in the colonies. Adopting this, the French speedily changed it to Creole.

In 1803 Louisiana passed back to France, but the joy of reunion with the mother country was short-lived. Napoleon, conquering Europe and in need of cash, quickly sold the territory to the United States. There were protests from the Creoles, but no uprisings this time. They watched the changing of the flags fluttering above the Place d'Armes with heavy hearts, but quietly, solemnly. Already the determination to live within themselves must have been engendering in their minds. These Americans might come to New Orleans, but never would they enter its inner circles. They would always remain foreigners. The impregnable barriers went up. The bitter struggle against Americanization had begun.

Creoles were predominantly French, though much Spanish blood had been absorbed. Some German and Irish settlers also intermarried in the early days, but all the national characteristics of these peoples seem to have completely vanished. They became 'so Frenchified,' says Gayarre, 'that they appear to be of Gallic parentage.' German family names were, in many instances, literally translated; Zweig, for instance, became La Branche. An Irish family of O'Briens pronounced their name Obreeong!

All Creole children received a French education. Often the boys were sent to Paris, and the girls were instructed in local convents guided by French nuns. French thought, literature and art impregnated them so deeply that they existed in a completely French culture, their ideas and manners as much imported as their household furnishings, wines, books, clothes and pictures.

No true Creole ever had colored blood. This erroneous belief, still common among Americans in other sections of the country, is probably due to the Creoles' own habit of calling their slaves 'Creole slaves' and often simply 'Creoles.' Too, there are proud light-colored families in New Orleans today who are known as 'Creoles' among themselves. But Creoles were always pure white. Any trace of cafe au lait in a family was reason for complete ostracism.

Among themselves Creoles divided into various castes or strata, both socially and financially, though no one seems ever to have agreed as to the category in which his family belonged. There were Creoles, Chacks, Chacas, Catchoupines, Chacalatas, Bambaras and Bitacaux. The term 'Chacalata,' for instance, indicated much the same thing as does 'Hoosier' or 'countrified'; 'Bambaras' (untidiness) perhaps hinted at uncleanliness. 'Cachumas' were those whose ancestors had acquired a strain of cafe noir, and even today in the Barataria section this term is sometimes heard.

Everything they used or possessed received, like their slaves, the Creole appellation: their cooking, horses, chickens, vegetables and axe-handles. To become acclimated was to be 'Creolized.'

They were seven to one in the city in 1803 , three to one in 1812., only two to one by 1830. But between 1812. and the Civil War they were wealthiest and their influence most dominant.

And this was not entirely confined to New Orleans. Many of the plantations lining both sides of the Mississippi River belonged to them. Far out in western Louisiana, in the land of the Attacapan Indians and the Cajuns, they founded a little town then known as Petit Paris. Here French noblemen, refugees from the Revolution and 'Madame Guillotine,' tried to recreate the courtly days just past, and Petit Paris was soon a tiny Versailles, the residence of such as Le Baron du Cloyal, Le Chevalier Louis de Blanc and Le Comte Louis de la Houssaye. Later Petit Paris became St. Martinville.

In New Orleans the Creoles were resentful and contemptuous of the American strangers, even considered them wicked. 'They do not even attach importance to the Commandment of honoring their fathers and mothers,' wrote one shocked Creole lady.' The sons marry to please themselves, and even the daughters do not ask their parents' permission!' For the Creole boy or girl who married one of these 'foreigners' there was no forgiveness; they had stepped beyond the pale.

The Creoles refused to speak English. The Americans refused to speak French. Creole boys ran behind Americans in the streets singing this taunting song:
'Mericain coquin 'Merican rogues
Bille en naquin Dressed in nankeen
Voleur di pain Stole loaves of bread
Chez Miche D' Again! From Mr. D'Aquin!
  —   Monsieur D'Aquin was a well-known baker in the Vieux Carre.

Americans reacted by disliking the Creoles with equal enthusiasm. One wrote home to New England, 'Smiles and bows are abundant and cheap and in these they are profuse and liberal, but there is little sterling, honest friendship in existence; and exhibition, outward show and pretensions are the ruling passions!'

Gradually New Orleans became not one city but two, Canal Street splitting them apart, dividing the old Creole city from the 'uptown' section, where the Americans were rapidly settling. To cross Canal Street in either direction was to enter another world.' Even today these differences are noticeable.

Among themselves, Creoles were warm, affectionate, extremely loyal. Lafamille was the very core of their life, and, like the humbler Cajuns, this extended to the utmost limits of relationship. Cable wrote: 'One thing I never knew a Creole to do; he will not utterly go back on the ties of blood, no matter what sort of knots those ties may be. For one reason he is ashamed of his or his father's sins; for another he will tell you he is all heart.'

Creole gentlemen could only enter certain professions and occupations. Most of them were planters, bankers, brokers in rice, sugar or cotton, occasionally clerks in establishments of these types. Sometimes they ventured into politics. They were barred from entering trade or working in a store or shop. Because of these rigid limitations in their caste system, ambition was often stunted, opportunity ignored. No Creole could do anything that would cause him to work with his hands or to remove his coat. A gentleman never appeared in public without coat, cravat and gloves.

Most family heads had a few faineants loafers in their homes who could not or would not work. These relatives or old friends must be supported, and usually without complaint. Occasionally a male faineant might be jokingly accused of having les cotes en long vertical ribs; this was the extent of the criticism. Of course there was no way in which any Creole woman could earn money, so spinster tantes aunts and cousines must be 'carried on.' Many of these more than earned their maintenance, however, in helping to raise the children. Aged relatives and orphans could never be placed in an institution. No Creole was ever guilty of such a thought.

Within the Creole world the father was absolute head of his household and his word was final in all matters. Merely to upset any of his convictions required tremendous skill and subtlety on the part of his wife, combined with every tante and cousine in la famille. But this Creole father was always generous, devoted, kind to a fault, unless some member of his household transgressed one of the rules set down to keep the family free of scandale; then his wrath was terrible, sometimes without forgiveness; otherwise he would lavish all he possessed or could earn on his numerous children and perhaps a half-dozen faineants.

The Creole mother, though she might have been a beauty in her day, was nearly always of generous proportions. Creole ladies did not diet, and meals were always sumptuous. She was an excellent housekeeper economical, hospitable and a devoted mother. Usually she possessed an equal number of social assets, was a skilled dancer, a charming conversationalist, a perfect hostess, and accomplished in all the graces and manners of her world. Deeply religious, she prodded her men toward the Church and saw that the children were trained in all its teachings. She was loyal to her husband until death. Even if she knew he maintained a beautiful quadroon in a separate establishment, no word of the matter ever passed her lips. At her husband's death she invariably manifested great grief, rarely remarried, and always observed strictest mourning in dress and deportment for the required period of several years.

Many widowers remarried, however. It was considered that the children should have a mother and frequently a match was arranged for the man, often to his deceased mate's sister, should there be one unmarried. Thus many a Creole spinster was saved from an in her day ignominious role in life by her sister's death.

Early travelers through Louisiana wrote of the Mississippi River water and its marvelous effect on the fecundity of the Creole woman. Ten or more children was the average for any family, and the father's respect for the mother increased with each additional birth. There was once a prominent Creole judge who, with true Creole values of courtliness, paid his wife a formal call each time she bore him a child, which was practically every year. A few hours after the birth he would don his most formal attire, including tall silk hat, long cape and cane, step into her bedchamber, remove his hat with a sweeping bow, and present her with a bouquet and his congratulations.

From the lips of the Creole mother sprang many of the proverbs which have become famous: Ta finesse est cousue de fil blanc - Your shrewdness is sewed with white thread; Chacun sait ce qui bouille dans se chaudure - Each one knows what boils in his own pot (in the close-knit Creole society everyone else knew as well!); On lave son linge sal en jamille - Wash your dirty clothes in your own family; Dans le pays des aveugles, les borgnes sont rots - In the country of the blind the nearsighted are kings; Elle joue a la chandelle - She plays the candle (applied to the mother of a girl who would not go to bed until the girl's beaux went home); and - C'est la fee Carabos - literally, She is the fairy Carabos (meaning an ugly, quarrelsome woman).

Among its slaves every Creole family had a Negress as nurse for the young children. The importance of Mammy in the household and the extent of her influence over her young charges can scarcely be overestimated. Through all her life she shared the children's affection with the parents. When Mammy grew old, she was retired, the family supporting her to the end of her days. At her death the now adult people she had raised, often several generations, grieved deeply.

Years after her passing, a Creole woman wrote of her nurse: 'Her devotion was so great she would make any sacrifice for us; her money was our money; all she had was for her dear children. In sickness she would spend sleepless nights watching over us while our parents slept. She would come into our rooms during the night to see that we were properly covered. When we grew older and began to go out at night to balls or to the theater, Mammy sat up by the downstairs fire and awaited our return, anxious to hear the details of the party, to give us a bite to eat and to tuck us into bed.

'But Mammy could be stern and she would not hesitate to punish us if we needed it. When we were small Mammy had a terrible time on Saturday nights. When we saw her carrying in the tub of warm water, the soap and washrag, there was a battle royal, but Mammy always won.

'The greatest treat of all was to awaken every morning to Mammy's words, " Alb vous cafe," and see her standing beside your bed, her round black face broken with a white smile, her tignon neatly tied about her head and pushed high with a comb worn underneath, her spotless apron stiff with starch, a tray in her hands on which was piping-hot drip coffee, ground and roasted at home.

'Mammy was really the boss of the house, was consulted on all subjects. Father and Mother often went to her for advice and her judgment was always wise and sound.

'Her death plunged us deeply into grief. She had been in the family for sixty years. Her funeral was most dignified, my father and uncles serving as pallbearers; and she was laid to rest in the family tomb in old St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. I remember wearing mourning for months and refusing to go to any place of amusement. The mammies of that era should have a monument raised to their memories, for their lives were filled with devotion and self-sacrifice for their white families.'

Mammy invariably spoke Creole, the soft patois Negroes developed from their attempts to speak French and which, like everything else the Creoles used, received their name, though the Anglo-Saxon element in the city referred to the dialect as 'Gombo.' This tongue, really far more expressive and beautiful to the ear than a mere dialect, was moreover, sentimental, slyly humorous, often filled with sharp aspersions against the whites, bitter and merciless in its indictment of those colored people who imitated their white masters. 'Toucoutou' is an example of the latter in song 'there is no soap white enough to wash your skin.'

Mammy had her male prototype, too. Many an old 'Uncle' was as well loved within the family circle. A present-day Creole described Prosper Ernest Fournier, famous in Creole New Orleans as the perfect male servant, saying: ' Prosper was a Negro with the instincts and culture of a white gentleman. He was one of the most polished individuals with whom I have ever had the pleasure of shaking hands.'

Prosper, no part-caste Negro, but full-blooded African, was a great cook, an authority on the opera and operatic voices and a student of the French and English classics. He was only employed by two families in his life. A member of one of the families for whom he worked remembered:

'He remained aloof from the other servants, both black and white, but was scrupulously polite in his relations with the family. The only place that was taboo was his kitchen. We respected that and rarely entered that room without an invitation. Like many other slave cooks he had, in his youth, been apprenticed to a great chef in Paris, and after a number of years had returned, stating that he wished to prove that his master's trust had borne fruit, and his cooking was an exquisite art. He insisted on writing a menu each day and this was placed before my father at the sacred dinner hour, to be passed to the rest of the family after his perusal. Prosper was very strict about the dinner hour. Seven P.M. was seven P.M.; he always reminded us that a delay of five minutes ruined a dish.

'Prosper never left the house except to go to market, to church, and each Saturday night (the fashionable night) to the French Opera. On the latter occasions he rode in the family carriage with us, then went upstairs to the top balcony reserved for colored people. Here he had always the same seat, in the front row, center. Whenever any white person he knew entered one of the dress circle boxes he would rise and offer them a Chesterfieldian bow, which they always returned. Then, the cynosure of all the other Negroes' eyes, he devoted himself to the performance. I have heard many well-known music lovers ask his opinion of the leading voices of a troupe, and he would always state his views respectfully but frankly, and his judgment was always accepted. When a famous diva gave a farewell performance in New Orleans, an authority on the opera asked Prosper his opinion. "She should never have been permitted to sing in this city again," was the answer, "for her once incomparable voice is now forever gone." The man was stupefied. "I thought so, too," he admitted, "but I did not dare express myself. I am glad, though, that you have indicated my own musical sense."

'Prosper was a connoisseur of fine wines, and insisted that to cook without wine was an absolute impossibility. However, he imbibed only a demi-bouteille of claret while having his dinner in solitary state. He held the keys to the cellar and never asked permission to do this. Each day when he drew the claret, Madeira, sherry and sauterne for the various dishes, he added his due" irrespective of who was present. He would discuss freely with my father as to its qualities and bouquet as compared to the other vintages on the shelves.

'He took good care of the boys in the house. If any of us were sick he insisted on sitting up by our beds all night, and no nurse could have given us better care than this tall, dignified black man. If any of us came home very late after a rather intemperate evening, he would sneak us into the house without Father hearing us. Once my brother was particularly noisy and Prosper had to hold him tight and put a firm hand over his mouth to keep him from singing and shouting. Father awoke and came part of the way down the stairs, demanding to know what was going on. Prosper lied like a gentleman, saying that he had been unable to sleep and had been walking in the garden. Father told him he was crazy, then returned to his room, and Prosper managed to get that young man to bed without his ever knowing the truth.

'Prosper came to a sad end. There was an old mulattress who did some of the family washing, and who was held in great awe by all the Negroes as a witch and a seeress. Once she kept some of our curtains too long and Prosper offered to go and get them. The other servants advised him not to, but he laughed at their fears. Returning, he told his brother, who was our gardener and general utility man, "Guess what Clementine told me? She said you will be dead within a week and that I shall be in the insane asylum!" He thought this was a great. joke, since he was too well educated to be at all superstitious.

'But within a week his brother was run over by a cotton float and instantly killed. A few days later Prosper, returning from market, went stark mad, throwing his marketing and money all over the street and yelling like a Comanche Indian. He had to be placed in a mental-disease hospital. When he emerged he was a shrunken, stooped old man. He did not live much longer. Before he died he made a last request. No colored man must touch his coffin. This wish was granted and some of the most prominent business men in New Orleans bore Prosper Ernest Fournier's casket to the grave.'

The importance of these servants the Mammies and the 'Prospers' - - cannot be overestimated in their influence on Creole family life. Mammy's influence was so great and so much of her time was spent with her children that most young Creoles grew up speaking the language. Gradually it became the custom to speak Creole even in the drawing-rooms at times, for it was far more native to Louisiana than French could ever be, and more flexible, being capable of turns and twists impossible in French.

As a whole, Creole children were very spoiled, but their restrictions were many. They were seldom allowed to speak at the table, except at dessert, when the whole family would sing.

Coco Robichaux must have been a little sister of the modern 'little man who wasn't there,' though she was very much alive in the mind of every Creole child. No one ever knew who she was or where she lived or what she looked like, but poor Coco Robichaux received the blame for everything. Every time a naughty little girl did something she shouldn't, she was told, 'You didn't do that. That was the Coco Robichaux!' or, 'A nice little girl like you wouldn't do that. Only Coco Robichaux could be so naughty.' The only thing really known about this Coco Robichaux was that she was very, very bad. She had all the faults any child between two and ten could possibly possess.

Children loved to help clarify the drinking water. In all houses there were several large jars, called ollas, which were kept filled with Mississippi water. A lump of alum was dropped in, and the children would stir for hours, until the water was purified.

School started at eight or nine years of age. The primary training was usually received in the private establishment in the home of some spinster in financial straits. After First Communion, at the age of twelve, the boys were sent to study with the Jesuit Fathers, while the girls entered convents.

When she finished at the convent, the young Creole lady made her initial appearance at the French Opera House, was given a reception and thus considered launched in society. There were no debutantes; a girl was usually as popular her third season out as during her first. This initial appearance at the Opera House was the only event similar to the modern debut. For the occasion she wore a gorgeous gown imported from Paris, carried a bouquet with long ribbon streamers and a fine lace fan.

Accompanied by her parents, the girl would receive callers in the box rented for the performance. Between the acts the young men would drop in to pay compliments and their respects to the chaperons. And, behind their fluttering fans, the gossips would watch each box closely, keeping careful count of the number of male visitors each received, for by this was a girl's popularity gauged.

The Creole girl was schooled in self-effacement. Her picture must never appear in the newspapers nor must a single line ever be written about her. When a young man wished to call, it was necessary that he have a friend act as intermediary and ask the permission of the girl's father.

But the young couple were never allowed to be alone. If the youth were guilty of any wishful thinking, it was soon dispelled, and completely. His fate usually was to spend the evening playing a riotous game of dominoes with the girl's father, while the mother and tantes questioned him regarding family background, financial and social assets.

No great importance was attached to this first visit. However, should he continue to call, and not mention his intentions, the parents would demand that he do so, without hesitation. There was no respect or time to be wasted on a young man with le coeur comme un artichaud - a heart like an artichoke (that is, a leaf for everyone). Creole girls had no time to waste on flirts. Marriage was the entire aim of their lives. And if unmarried at twenty-five hope was forsaken; they 'might as well throw their corsets on the armoire.' An unmarried girl was never permitted to wear a velvet dress, though she might have one in her hope chest. After the fatal twenty-five, if unmarried, she was supposed to adopt the hooded bonnet with ribbons that tied under her chin.

Should a young man fall in love and wish to marry the girl he had been visiting, his friend was called into service again in the capacity of a John Alden, only her father must be approached again and asked for his daughter's hand. The young lady had nothing to do with it. The whole exciting situation created an occasion that demanded the utmost caution, tact and diplomacy. Accepted, the prospective groom and his father called on the girl's father and every obstacle was cleared away. Each family carefully scrutinized the family tree of the other. Material wealth meant little, la famille was everything. Did they come from a good family? Were they even faintly of the gens du commurti - Even that really unmentionable consideration must be investigated; was there any possible trace of cafe au lait All the skeletons were dragged forth for inspection.

Only when both parties had passed this rigid examination did material considerations enter. But they were by no means neglected. A formal marriage contract was drawn up, listing the boy's and the girl's financial assets; properties, furniture, number, names, worth and capacity of slaves, and cash all were included. The girl's dowry, usually ranging from one to forty thousand dollars, was submitted to the examination of the young man and his father. Despite all this, husbands were valuable for their own sakes, and should the youth be unable to support a wife, this was no bar to the marriage. Often the bride's father would find or create a place for him in his business, if his background were satisfactory.

Creole women always enjoyed a reputation for great beauty. Some of the Americans coming to their city were tactless enough to remark that they were a bit plump, but others, perhaps liking the well-fed appearance, penned ecstatic praise home to New England.

One, evidently completely enchanted by the New Orleans girls, wrote: 'In entering a sanctuary the soul bows down. The pen feels moved when it touches upon a sacred subject. The flower and woman are two treasures; the flower must have its perfume and woman her soul, a perfume that is more fragrant and less ephemeral. One finds in the traits of the Creole a distinction perfect in harmony and form. Pure profiles, patrician lines, oval and delicate chiseling, lacking in vigor perhaps a little aerial the ethereal dominating the material, the ideal combating reality.'

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Luxuriant hair was the pride of every Creole lady. Washing it was a rite. When it began to gray, she secretly darkened it with coffee. Creoles denied using rouge and makeup, admitting only that occasionally a girl might rub her cheeks with crushed rose petals, but the Americans accused them of much elaborate artificial embellishment, though they admitted that it was done with great art. And they always took extreme good care of their complexions, wearing veils when out-of-doors at all times. Sun tan, instead of being valued as now, was considered disgraceful, indeed it might start ghastly rumors of caje au lait!

They loved fine clothes. No woman would ever leave her home unless completely attired, including gloves and veil. For evening wear most of their gowns were imported from Paris, and their beauty was accentuated with many jewels.

The Creole girl was never left alone with her young man, even after the engagement was announced. Often the entire family remained in the parlor throughout the evening. And when they went out, the future husband must expect plenty of company. It was perfectly proper that as many members of the family accompany them as felt so inclined.

After the formal announcement of the betrothal there was the dejeuner de fiancailles engagement breakfast which all members of both families attended. The ring, presented to the girl at this event, was not the usual solitaire of today, but a large ruby surrounded by diamonds, in a flat, yellow gold setting.

As the wedding day approached, the future groom presented his bride-to-be with the corbeille de noce wedding basket. This contained several articles of lace a handkerchief, veil and fan, a Cashmere shawl, gloves and bits of jewelry. None of the jewelry was ever worn before the wedding day, nor could she leave home for three days before the marriage.

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Monday and Tuesday were fashionable days for weddings, Saturday and Sunday being considered 'common' and Friday 'Hangman's Day.' The latter was the day for all local executions.

For many years the old Saint Louis Cathedral had a detail of Swiss Guards, who met all wedding and funeral processions and preceded them up the aisle. Behind them, at the wedding, would walk the bride, accompanied by her father. Then came the groom, escorting the bride's mother. Next would be the groom's mother and father, the best man escorting a sister or some other relative of the bride, followed by every brother, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin either of the pair possessed.

The bride's gown was usually of tulle or silk muslin, trimmed with pearls and lace handed down through generations in la famille. She wore a short veil, orange blossoms in her hair, carried a bouquet. There were no ring bearers, no matron or maid of honor, nor any floral decorations in the church. The ceremony was always in the evening, as Creoles would have considered it embarrassing to have the couple around all day after a morning marriage. Thus, as the Catholic Church does not permit the celebration of Mass after noon, Creoles were never married at Nuptial Mass. Not until 1910, when the Archbishop issued a decree forbidding Catholics to marry in church after twelve o'clock noon, did marriages at Mass become popular in New Orleans.

The wedding ring, called the alliance ring, was a double ring of gold, which when opened became two interlocking bands revealing the initials of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding. Both parties wore alliance rings. These can still be purchased in New Orleans.

After the ceremony all the relatives signed the register, sometimes as many as fifty. Rice was never thrown, nor did the bride toss her bouquet; it was sent to the church, the cemetery or to the convent where she had been educated.

A great reception always followed. Champagne and a supper were served. The bride and groom mingled for an hour or so, then it was considered decent that they retire. The bride cut her cake, every girl present receiving a piece. This was placed under the pillow at night along with the names of three eligible men of her acquaintance. The one she dreamed of would be her husband and she always retired determined to dream.

The Creole newly weds went on no honeymoon. Usually they remained in the bride's home. After the hour at the reception, the bride was escorted to her room by her mother. Here she was assisted in disrobing and carefully dressed in the hand-embroidered nightgown and negligee made for this great occasion. Her flowing hair was tied back with a ribbon or perhaps adorned with an elaborate boudoir cap. Then she was propped against the pillows in the heavy four-posted bed and left to await her new husband. The Creole bride, often sixteen years old, and unbelievably sheltered until now, must lie there, trembling and frightened at the unknown, gazing up at the pale blue bridal tester above her until the groom appeared. Apparently young Creole grooms were not without their own qualms. One cautiously carried an immense umbrella into the bridal chamber and undressed behind it!

These bridal testers, at least the most elaborate ones, were the creations of a certain Monsieur Dufau, a merchant at 37 Rue Chartres. But poor M. Dufau was the victim of an unfortunate occurrence that all but wrecked his career and business.

This gentleman's shop was noted for its objets d'art, bric-a-brac, and fine paintings. But the most famous articles of merchandise were the artistically fashioned ciel-de-lits or testers. These were very popular, even the ordinary ones being tastefully made of calico or sateen. But most of M. Dufau 's art was expended on ciel-de-lits for brides. These were always of pale blue silk, gathered in the middle by gilt ornaments. Across the pale blue heaven chubby cupids would chase each other with bows and arrows, pink ribbons modestly draping these tiny love gods. A wide cream-colored dentelle valencienne, the finest lace obtainable, trimmed the edge. It all combined to create an atmosphere symbolizing eternal love, blue horizons and rosy dreams.

Then ruin descended upon M. Dufau. A member of a club called Le Comite des Bon Amis, the time came for him to entertain his good friends. And it seemed that an extraordinarily good piece of luck occurred at about the same time. A sailor offered M. Dufau a keg of rum at a ridiculously low price. Seizing this opportunity, the merchant bought the liquor with no loss of time and invited his friends over to enjoy it. When the first round of drinks was passed everyone remarked on its peculiar flavor. The second drink was so bad that no one could finish it.

There was great consternation and curiosity. An axe was brought and M. Dufau himself split the keg open. What met the eyes of his guests was enough to stand their hair on end. Inside the keg, sitting upright, in a perfect state of preservation, was a little old man with long whiskers!

Poor M. Dufau, though technically cleared of any connection with the corpse in the rum, was immediately banished from his club, and he received no more orders for his masterfully fashioned bridal ciel-de-lits.

The bride and groom could not leave their room for at least five days ! Their meals were brought in and a special servant assigned to their needs. The bride could not appear on the streets for at least two weeks. If they were spending their 'honeymoon' at the groom's house or in a home of their own, she could not even visit her mother. If she were so daring as to do this, she could be sure that while she would be received courteously, her mother would not fail to get in a little remark about the shame and indecency of being seen on the streets after having so recently married. And no one not even the parents called on the young couple during these two weeks. After that the families were practically one. A Frenchman who married a Creole girl of that era said that a man marrying one of them married not only the girl but also her five hundred relatives!

Charivaris were given widows and widowers who remarried. Tin pans were beaten, cowbells rung and as much noise as possible made. The newly weds were supposed to treat the celebrants to a supper. If they failed to do this, the charivari might continue night after night.

The most notable charivari ever given in New Orleans was that rendered the widow of Don Andres Almonester, the great benefactor of New Orleans. In 1798, when middle-aged, she bestowed her hand on a young man in his twenties, Monsieur Castillon, the French Consul to New Orleans. This young man was most unpopular and generally conceded to be a fortune- hunter; and the widow was considered to be vain and selfish.

The charivari that followed their marriage lasted three days and nights. The house in which the couple sought shelter was surrounded by hundreds, many on horseback, some disguised and wearing masks. Try as they would, the newly wedded pair could not escape their tormentors. Fleeing the house, they were followed from end to end of the city, across the Mississippi River and back. Some of the crowd carried along a coffin on a cart, which contained an effigy of Madame Almonester's first husband, while she was represented by a living person sitting beside it. Finally, the newly wedded couple had to give three thousand dollars in coin for the poor. Almost immediately afterward they left for France.

Long after charivaris were banned irl the city, they continued in the country. And even today in New Orleans many a married couple is driven about the city, followed by a dozen other cars, all blowing horns and generally making as much noise as possible.

Weddings on Creole plantations, outside the city, were even more elaborate affairs. Everything was ordered from New Orleans and shipped by boat. Wedding cakes and nougat pieces, fragile as they Were, would arrive undamaged. Even hairdressers would be summoned to arrange the coiffures of the bride and the other ladies. Five hundred guests at a wedding was not unusual. Often the bride's father chartered a steamboat to bring the guests out to the plantation.

The Creole's home was always his pride. Especially the first parlor. Whatever wealth or pretensions a Creole possessed went into this room, and many of its furnishings were imported from France. Never was this salon open to casual intrusion, but always kept tightly closed against the sun and air so that the rugs and furniture would not fade. This room was only for very special company, weddings, funerals and celebrations. Woe to the child caught entering this room.

Most prominent feature in the room was the fireplace, always of marble except in the poorer homes, where it was usually brick. The mantelpiece was always elaborately draped and a huge mirror, framed in gold-leaf or gilt, was hung above it. Before the fireplace gleamed the screen and andirons, always in a bright gold finish. The furniture was apt to be rosewood, richly carved, and upholstered in expensive silk or tapestry. Along the walls were oil paintings of ancestors. There were always an etagere whatnot in one corner, holding china and bric-a-brac, porcelain vases of varied design and an ornate crystal chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling.

The second parlor, separated from the first by a porte b coulisse, so that when these folding doors were thrown open the two rooms would form a grand salon for very formal occasions, was neither so carefully nor so expensively furnished as the first. In this room the family gathered evenings to talk and enjoy their music and their books. Portraits of humbler ancestors than those in the first parlor were hung here. There were usually ornamental wax fruit, wreaths and flowers of human hair all under glass, statuettes of ivory and bronze, antimacassars on sofas and chairs and eventails lataniers palmetto fans in sand-filled vases.

Every bedroom in the house contained an altar, for of course all Creoles were staunchly Catholic, usually a small table covered with blue sateen and a lace cloth with a wide valance and holding candles, votive lights, statues of favorite saints and holy water. There were four-posted beds with testers, tremendous armoires with full-length mirrors, washstands holding bowl and pitcher of gaily flowered china accompanied by numerous matching receptacles.

In summer the floors of every room were covered with matting. This was not removed when old and faded, but simply covered with another piece. In winter the rugs were laid over the matting.

During the warmest months of the year, the Creole practically lived in his courtyard. Here was an outdoor living-room, walled with tropical greens. Vines entwined the white pillars of the piazza, and climbed up the tinted walls toward the green shutters of the windows that gazed downward like numerous sleepy eyes. Banana trees waved their huge leaves with every breeze. Large urns held plants of every sort. Usually a fountain bubbled and sang in the center. Along the gravel walks among the flower beds benches and old-fashioned rockers were set out. Here were escape from the heat and perfect quiet and peace for reading or for conversation. Creole houses often faced these patios, were built with their backs on the street, their salons opening here. There were always balconies above, still known as 'galleries' in New Orleans.

The Creoles were gay and festive. The ball, the theater, private soirees and receptions were of prime importance. Americans moving into the city thought the Creoles pleasure-mad. It was nothing for a Creole girl, amazingly frail for all other purposes, to dance at balls for four nights in succession without showing the least sign of fatigue.

When they could afford it their parties were tremendously elaborate and expensive. After one of General Beauregard's victories, the Creoles of New Orleans gave him a party during which a fountain of champagne flowed all evening. This was set up in the center of the salon and guests had only to hold their glasses under the golden flow to refill them.

The soiree, a party less formal than a ball, was held in a private home. These were simple but delightful affairs, where young couples danced far into the night, though always, of course, under the watchful eyes of parents, t antes and all the rest of la famille.

But the opera was really the center of all Creole social life. Here, in the old French Opera House, the music and performances were unrivaled anywhere in America. Attendance was always plentiful, there even being loges grillees screened boxes where men escorting women of questionable reputation, people in mourning and pregnant ladies might enjoy the opera or play without being seen. Often, after a performance, some patron gave a ball in the Opera House; at other times the entire building was rented for the evening and an immense reception given. Between performances punch was sold in the foyer and here young men might escort young women and the chaperons. In front of the Opera House lounged aged Negro crones selling steaming bowls of gumbo.

Passionately fond of the opera, the Creoles viewed it with an enthusiasm unknown today. Someone wrote: 'At the end of a performance the Creoles stand up, wildly waving their hands and filling the air with loud bravos. Much has been written in prose and in verse on the power of music, but I have never read anything recorded so vividly and expressed so eloquently as in the face of a Creole girl when the spell of one of these French operas is upon her. The nervous twitch of the hand that grasps the railing in front of her box, the glow in her eye, the heightened color of her cheeks, the rapid change of expression, responsive to the change from joy to sorrow in the hero, gladness to lamentation in the music all show that she is carried away far beyond the bounds of herself into a world created within her by the power of a Meyerbeer or a Gounod. Once a Creole woman sold the last piece of furniture in her home to purchase a ticket to the French opera.

Invitations to social affairs were brought by a servant, never mailed. And on her way to and from a party a girl would carry her party shoes in a little silk bag, wearing more practical street shoes to brave the then muddy and unpaved streets of New Orleans, changing at her destination, and again to return home.

Sunday was anything but an unworldly day, a fact which shocked Protestant travelers from the North. Weyth wrote: 'New Orleans is a dreadful place in the eyes of a New England man. They keep Sunday as we in Boston keep the Fourth of July.' And until now no 'blue' Sunday laws have ever been successfully imposed on New Orleans.

Creoles attended Mass faithfully each Sunday morning, but once that duty was performed they turned the rest of the day into one of pleasure. Guests came for breakfast and remained until past midnight. In the afternoon attendance at a performance of light opera was customary. In the evening, after a huge dinner, the Creoles danced and flirted at numerous planned and impromptu soirees until late.

Sunday mornings at the French Market must have given as typical a picture of Creole New Orleans as was possible to obtain anywhere. There was not only the unique variety of characters, but a contagious spirit of festivity, as if everyone were on holiday instead of merely shopping for the traditionally large Sunday dinner. There was such chattering among the housewives, as they met among the stalls and stands, that even today the expression 'It sounds like the French Market!' is common in New Orleans any time a roomful of people seem all to be talking at once.

At early dawn the women would appear, huge baskets on their arms, peering into the butchers' stocks, smelling, touching and examining the fruit and vegetables, wrangling over prices. Itinerant vendors would line the edges of the market, offering for sale parrots, monkeys, mockingbirds, canaries, alligators, mousetraps, rat poison, toothache cures, crockery and all sorts of notions and knick-knacks. These merchants would often shout their wares:
'Only a picayune!'

The parrots would scream, the monkeys jabber, the fowls cluck and gobble. Indian squaws, wrapped in gaudy blankets, some with papooses on their backs, would offer baskets, pottery arid bright beads. Half-naked bucks would stalk here and there among the milling throng, some of them staggering a little, their eyes glassy with firewater.

A huge woman, the numerous keys dangling from her belt revealing her profession as keeper of a boarding-house, attended by a lank, cadaverous black slave, might appear, driving hard, sharp bargains, much more concerned with price than with quality. Graceful ladies, wives and daughters of Creole gentlemen, followed by several servants, would shop with more care, fastidiously selecting only the best.

There would probably be one of the city's lovely quadroons in sight, trailed by a single servant. She would walk like a queen, her chin high, her jet brows disdainful, her handsome silk gown lifted just the proper inch or two from the cobblestones. She would be as proud as any Creole lady in the city. And why not? Her father might be one of its most fashionable residents. Her lover, to whom she is absolutely true, another. She would be the mistress of a fine house, with slaves, a carriage and horses at her disposal. She is well educated, can receive guests With elegance and grace, and preside over the largest dinner with dignity.

But what caused most excitement at the French Market during that period was the dentist, who, perched on a platform, aided by an assistant and a brass band, pulled teeth in full view of the crowd. A victim would advance timidly, but before he changed his mind the assistant would push him into the chair and give a signal to the band. Immediately those gentlemen would strike up a loud piece, completely drowning the yells of the patient as the tooth was yanked out of course without anesthetic. This was always very amusing to everyone but the patient.

Young Creole men, though also bound by the restrictions of caste, lived in a much broader world than their sisters. Theirs was the privilege of attending the famous quadroon balls, to dance and flirt with beautiful young women, so lightly touched with cafe au lait that a stranger would never have suspected their mixed blood, and eventually to select one as a mistress.

In 1790, New Orleans, a city of eight thousand, had fifteen hundred unmarried women of color. The fairest of these were trained and educated by their mothers and presented each year at the quadroon balls.

These balls were always conducted with great dignity and elegance, and attendance there risked no social stigma. The affairs were gay and lavish, but never vulgar, the young women being quite as well trained and as ladylike as the white belles of the era. Many of them were so fair that they boasted blonde hair and blue eyes.

When a young Creole took a fancy to a particular girl, he approached her mother, gave satisfactory proof of his ability to support her, and a small home was established in the quadroon section of the Vieux Carre. Many a father willingly footed his son's bills for the upkeep of his mistress, for the custom was practically universal. The arrangement usually terminated at the young man's marriage, a financial settlement being made, the girl afterward marrying another quadroon or going into the rooming-house business. Some, however, seem to have continued for life, a genuine attachment having arisen between the Creole and his quadroon sweetheart. Children born of these unions were well cared for, often splendidly educated. The girls often followed in their mothers' footsteps. Quadroon men were less fortunate than their sisters. They could not attend the balls, were often scorned by the women of their own color. Usually they were compelled to marry mulatto or Negro women, unless they married a discarded mistress in later life.

The women, however, were ostracized by white ladies. They were not supposed to ride in carriages within the city limits, nor to remain seated in the presence of a white woman. A white woman could have a quadroon girl flogged like a slave at any time.

The balls were advertised in the newspapers of the period. One in the Daily Delta, January 1, 1857, reads: Louisiana Ball Room, corner of Esplanade and Victory Streets. Grand Fancy Dress Masquerade Quadroon Ball every THURSDAY EVENING, and Fancy Dress Ball EVERY EVENING. Admission Fifty Cents. Doors open at seven o'clock. Ball to commence at eight.

Dueling prevailed in New Orleans to an extent unknown even in France. Creole society was an aristocratic and feudal organization based upon slavery, and Creoles lived like princes, developing a tremendous pride. Too, Latin passions tropicalized under the Louisiana sun seemed to assume a violence surpassing anything in calmer France. Young men fought over the slightest affront, for such absurd reasons as the honor of the Mississippi River, more than often for the sheer ferocious pleasure of it.

At least half of these duels were caused by arguments at public balls and soirees. To tread on a Creole's foot, to brush against him, to gaze at him with certain expressions, accidentally to carry off the lady he had chosen to dance with, any of these were ample grounds.

Everything was arranged very quietly. The young man who had suffered the crushed corn dropped his lady partner with her chaperon, had a few minutes' conversation with one or two of his friends and slipped outdoors, followed by a group of men, all wearing pleasant, indifferent smiles. Just back of the Saint Louis Cathedral, in Saint Anthony's Garden, the men would gather, concealed from the streets by tall growths of evergreens. The first blood drawn usually appeased Creole wrath. The uninjured participant would replace his coat and return to the dance as if nothing had occurred; the other would go home, and be seen wearing a bandage for the next few days.

These events became so frequent that there were often three or four a day in New Orleans. This rear garden of the Cathedral and the oaks in City Park were usually the scenes of the encounters. Though swords were most popular, pistols were sometimes used, and though honor was usually satisfied by the first sight of blood, it is certain that many duels terminated only with the death of one or other of the participants. Fencing schools were numerous and every Creole gentleman was skilled in the art.

And, according to the New Orleans Weekly Picayune of June 6, 1844, all duels might not have been confined to the male sex. This newspaper reported: Two girls of the town, with their seconds, who were also girls, were arrested by the police when about to fight a duel with pistols and bowie knives near Bayou St. John. Finding they would not be allowed to endanger each other's lives according to approved and fashionable rules, the belligerents had a small fight 'au naturel' or in other words, set to and tore each other's faces and hair in dog and cat style. They are all in the calaboose.

Cockfights were popular among these young men. Often as many as six birds would be set to battling in a single pit. Betting was the most important part of the sport, and it is possible that as much money changed hands over the scrappy roosters as is won and lost on the New Orleans racetrack today.
Baptisms, name days, birthdays, anniversaries, holy days, all were affairs of ceremony in the Creole household, each the occasion for a reception or perhaps an elaborate meal of the sort known as un re fas de Lucullus a feast of Lucullus.

Even the daily dinner was an occasion. Extra places were always set at the table, for no one knew how many guests Father might bring home. Every self-respecting household owned dinner service for twenty-four. Some had sets for a thousand, with silver and glassware to match! Should the salons not be large enough for a planned soiree, the Creoles would convert their courtyards into ballrooms. Walls were set up, a canvas ceiling stretched, flooring laid and the whole of it decorated and painted so that it resembled a part of the house itself. For all social affairs every member of the family, every relative, no matter how distant, must receive an invitation. To forget one was a gross insult and grounds for a terrible scandale.

Should there be a bachelor in the family, he would take dinner with a different member every week. It was customary for him always to bring the dessert, the favorite, in later years, being a Sarah Bernhardt cake a cake with wine poured ovef it and spread with rich jelly. Other contributions might be the de fromage hogshead cheese or birds' tongues. One Creole had a noted delicatessen proprietor save snipes' tongues for him all week, and on Sunday when he went visiting he brought a gift of vol-au-vent pattie shell containing the tongues. Every dining table of any pretensions at all had always a center piece called a piece montee, which was a mounted figure of nougat, moulded while still hot into the form of a church, a pyramid or similar shape. Many were very elaborate, often two feet in height, the leading confectioners in the city competing with each other in originality of designs and decorations. There might be a cafe brulot, a festive brew of coffee, citrus peel and burning brandy.

A bachelor was a valuable addition to any family. Once well past middle age, he was considered a real asset as an escort for young ladies. The girls always did a lot of whispering about why he had never married, always romanticizing his past and suspecting some tragic love affair. Usually of charming manners and a good dancer, he played an important role in the Creole family.

Baptisms took place when a child was about a month old. The farrain godfather and the marraine godmother were always relatives, usually one from each side of the family. Those chosen considered it a great honor, and the child would be raised to be most attentive to his godparents. The marraine would always give the infant a baptismal gift of a gold cross and chain, while the farrain would invariably give either a silver cup or silver knife and fork. Besides this he must pay the priest his fee, often from twenty to one hundred dollars, presented to him in the bottom of a cone of dragees sugar-coated almonds. He also gave the marraine a gift and an elaborate cornet of dragees and contributed something to the huge repast that folowed, frequently the piece montee. The honor of being chosen farrain was considerable but expensive.

Name days, the feast days of the saints for whom they were named, were always celebrated among Creoles. A child born on Saint Joseph's Day or Saint Louis' Day or Saint Theophile's Day was given the name of that saint and always honored him as his personal patron. The most important of all the feast days was that of Saint Marie.

There were so many Maries that girls were called Marie Josephine, Marie Anne, Marie Marguerite, and by such nicknames as Mariette, Mamie, Mamaille, Minette, Mimi, Maille, Mane, Mamoutte and many others.

There were Cousine Maries and Tame Maries in every family, and no one dared forget one of them on Saint Marie's Day, August 15. A special cake was always made for the occasion, a massepain, much like the modern sponge cake, but with a sugar icing on which was written in pink 'Bonne Fete" (Happy Feast Day) or the words ' Sainte Marie.' To conceal the hole in the center of the massepain a pink or red rose was used, held in place by four outspread silver leaves. Of all the gifts brought the honored Marie, the cake was the most important one.

Even the servants were not forgotten on this day. All these were given bright tignons, wide cotton aprons, round hoop earrings, brooches and checked calico 'josies.'

At a party for Tante Marie, the children would always gather in a circle after the gifts had been presented and sing the special 'teasing' song of the day.
Oh, Miss Mary, set your cap,
Oh, Miss Mary, set your cap,
Oh, Miss Mary, set your cap,
Miss Mary has a beau.
Wow!
Aie set your cap,
Aie set your cap.
Aie set your cap,
How she loves her beau!
Wow!

At the mention of a beau, Tante Marie would let fall a tear and her face would turn crimson. Was it because of some romance in her past? Perhaps the smile of someone killed in a duel rushing back into her memory. Like the bachelors, all old maids were supposed to have had secret and tragic romances.

First Communion was another excuse for a reception and a big meal. After the Communion Mass there was a tremendous breakfast and in the afternoon a reception for the family and friends. The child, attired in snowy white, proudly displayed a large collection of medals and holy pictures. The more medals the greater the pride.
Christmas was strictly a religious festival. Papa Noel came down the chimney to fill stockings, but left only inexpensive gifts and trinkets. There were family dinners, but turkey was not served.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was an occasion for everyone to attend church. To help pass the hours before midnight, and knowing the walk to the Cathedral would be long and cold, hot eggnog was served, the preparations being long and elaborate. There must be just the right amount of whiskey, exactly enough sweetening, a precise temperature. Father performed the ritual of the eggnog. Midnight Masses are still the custom in New Orleans on the night before Christmas.

New Year's Day was more exciting. Then were the children given their better gifts. This was done very early in the morning, for on this day every child must visit his marrame and parrain, all his tantes, his grandparents and numerous other relatives. New clothes were always made for the day, and children spoke of ma role de jour de Van and mon chapeau de jour de Van all through the coming year. Before receiving his presents each child presented his parents with a carefully prepared compliment de jour de or an in a large pale pink envelope. This was a sheet of pink paper trimmed with tinsel and pictures of fat cherubs ringing silver bells. Painstakingly written with a pencil, in French, would be the verse:
My dear Papa, my dear Mama,
I wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
I will be a good little boy.
I will not tease my little sister any more.
I love you with all my heart.

Immediately after breakfast the visits would begin, first to Memere's, for Grandmother should come first. There was seldom far to go. All Creoles lived in the downtown section, the faubourg d'en bas.

When Memere received the children in the first parlor, opened for this occasion they would recite some verses before she gave them the presents awaiting them.
These four little verses tell you good morning,
These four little verses give you my love,
These four little verses give you my gift,
These four little verses ask you for mine.

Then off to the tantes y the marraines, the parrains and other relatives, to receive gifts at every stop, until small arms ached under the weight of them.

In the last half of the nineteenth century, reveillons became popular on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. These were all night parties that terminated only at dawn. Modern counterparts of these affairs are still popular in New Orleans on these nights. Fireworks were always beloved on these nights until recently when banned by law.

The saison de visites season of visits opened with the French opera in November and ran until Easter. One day each week the Creole family was 'at home,' and friends were informally entertained. Liqueurs and coffee were always served. Everyone left cards when visiting. If the hostess were not 'at home,' the cards were left anyway. Later in the evening the men made their rounds and at nine o'clock a supper was served to a few intimate friends. A group in the same neighborhood would always have the same day, since travel about the city was considered quite arduous and every Creole lady was the personification of frailty no matter what her weight.

Teas were unknown in New Orleans until about forty years ago, when a Mrs. Slocomb introduced the custom. Returning home from many years abroad, she purchased a large house in Esplanade, decided to meet all her old friends at a tea. She forgot to consider some might have died during her absence, but invited them all. From then on it was said, 'Mrs. Slocomb was so polite that she even invited the dead to her tea party.'

March fourth was 'Firemen's Day,' and always a gala event on the Creole calendar. The firemen would parade the streets were decorated, and friends tossed them bouquets of flowers in which cigars were concealed.

Saint Barbe's Day was dedicated to the soldiers. At nine in the morning they all attended Mass at the Cathedral, and, after the parade, enjoyed a feast at the armory.

The Mardi Gras gradually became the most important event in the year, as it is today. Street masking and balls were popular in the earliest years of the nineteenth century. Young Creole blades would march on foot through the Vieux Carre in costume on Fat Tuesday, while young ladies on the galleries would shower them with flowers, all in imitation of the centuries-old festival in Europe.

Creole girls were not, of course, permitted to mask but received the young men on their galleries, where there was much flirting and exchanging of compliments, sparkling wit and delight in guessing which of their friends it was disguised as a Spanish cavalier, or as Satan, or a fierce pirate. Once in a while a playful tante defied convention and masked, but those wishing to risk a scandale were few.

Carnival balls were much rarer than now, and the invitation committee extremely strict, scrupulously examining every name, to make certain only the creme de la creme were admitted. Money was no consideration, family all. A very few such exclusive organizations still exist.

Discontinued during the Civil War, Mardi Gras returned in vigorous new birth and gradually grew to the magnificent spectacle the whole country comes to view today.

Of the religious feast days, those of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Medard, Saint Joseph and Saint Martin were all ones for particular observance. On Saint Blaise's Day faithful Roman Catholics went to the Cathedral to have their throats blessed. They still do so.

Holy Week was closely observed by the Creoles. Holy Thursday was always spent in visiting various churches to see the repositories. Children were told that the ringing of the church bells in the city Holy Thursday meant that they were flying to Rome to see the Pope. On Holy Saturday they were told the ringing of the bells meant that they were flying back to the belfry.

On Good Friday Creoles visited nine churches on foot and in silence, this bringing good fortune. The Way of the Cross Was also performed on that day at the Cathedral, where a Stabat Mater was sung by a noted singer.

There were many quaint customs and superstitions connected with Holy Week. Holy Thursday morning the housewives, on hearing the ringing of the church bells, would take the pots from the stoves and place them on the floor, making the sign of the cross as they did so. For good luck nine varieties of greens were cooked in every home a concoction known as gumbo Zhebes. Eggs laid on that day were believed never to spoil, only to dry up.

All kinds of superstitions were rife among the Creoles. On the first Friday of a month a girl must place her right foot on the footboard of the bed and say, 'Today, the first Friday of the month, I place my foot on the footboard and I pray the great Saint Nicholas to make me meet the one I am to marry.' Then she must jump into the bed without touching the floor, lie on the right side, her hand over her heart, and fall asleep, without talking, without laughing, without moving.

If a housewife dropped a fork, a lady caller was coming; if she dropped a knife, it would be a man. No one seems ever to have figured out what a spoon indicated.

Burning the berries of the juniper bush in the house was supposed to purify the air and kill all germs. It did work havoc among the mosquitoes.

The howling of a dog and the chirping of a cricket were both thought to foretell the death of someone. If you slept with the moonlight in your face, you went crazy. And should you be so unfortunate as to develop a spell of hiccoughing, everyone around was positive you had stolen something and would have no relief until you returned the article.

Even voodooism found at least secret adherents among some of the Creoles. It was whispered that many an elegant gentleman and lady took part in Marie Laveau's orgies along the Bayou St. John. Medical men found it impossible to combat the million petty superstitions in which some of these people had implicit faith. Roger Baudier wrote in Catholic Action regarding this:

'The list of things that one should not do for fear of evoking misfortune was, among the old Creoles, as lengthy as the tresses that hung from Tante Coco's head. You couldn't turn around or breathe without running into some superstition and get a gasp or a little cry of dismay over something dreadful you had done. None' Etienne, him, he had studied in Paris and when he came back, well, he gave Memere and Cousine Doudouce and all the rest of the women in the house chills and goose pimples, the way he flouted the most venerable superstitions. Doudouce said it was tempting God, what he was doing, but Etienne mortified her when he told her that she made a mockery of God with her voodoo gris-gris. Said he thought himself le grand monsieur because he had studied in Paris. Cedonie, her, she was very religious, and she wouldn't believe all that nonsense, though she wasn't any too brave about certain things, and it was always a struggle to follow out what they had taught her at the Ursulines and to suppress the little frissons chills that she got at the sound of a cricket in the house or a dog howling at night. However, she lost all patience when Doudouce jumped all over her one day, because she was standing in front of the mirror with Lala's baby and allowing the child to catch itself in the looking glass. Doudouce gasped, "Ma chere!" What had she done? Now the child would have endless trouble teething, since she had looked at herself in the glass! None Adeodate had the terrible habit of keeping his hat on in the house. That always put Doudouce on pins and she always asked "Dada," as they called him for short, for his hat, but he always refused and said he was afraid her brother might get away with it, he was such un pauvre diable a poor devil. Whenever the children were lying down, Doudouce would never allow anyone to cross over them, without making him or her cross back, because crossing over a young person stunted growth. She was always fussing also at Cedonie for putting her umbrella on the bed, and she almost fainted one day when she found Etienne's umbrella open in his room. That was nothing to the bougonnement fussing and grumbling she had with Bibi y the cook, when she found her sweeping the kitchen after the Angelus had rung at the Cathedral at least an hour. Still, Doudouce told you, grand comme le bras, that she wasn't a bit superstitious.'

Apparently, all Creoles would tell you 'grand comme le bras' as big as your arm that they were not superstitious, but hardly one of them would ever have dared flout a single belief handed down from generation to generation among them. And there is more respect paid many of these beliefs today than might be realized at first thought. It is said white ladies may still be seen knocking at the door of the tomb of Marie Laveau, performing the prescribed ritual to receive the grant of a wish. Love potions and gris-gris are still sold in New Orleans.

During one of the fever epidemics Creole gentlemen fired a cannon into the air to kill the germs. Perhaps this was indicative of Creole tempestuousness rather than anything else.

'Night air' was the deadliest thing in all the world and every window was shut tight at night. However, all Creole bedrooms were equipped with fireplaces, through which some degree of ventilation occurred.

Fantastic concoctions brewed at home were believed capable of curing all sorts of ailments. Moss, sassafras, orange leaves, camomile, potato leaves and bitter roots were a few of the ingredients used.

If a child were very ill, the Catholic Creoles vowed him to the Virgin Mary, which meant the wearing of white-and-blue garments or else a white-and-blue cord around the waist for a certain length of time. Some children wore their cords until grown.

Tisanne de {euilles de lauriers, a tea made from laurel leaves, was used for cramps and stomachache. For fever the sufferer wore a pair of boots made of yellow paper covered with tallow, snuff and mustard. Small squares of yellow paper smeared with tallow and stuck to the temples would break up a head cold.

If a person had a cut or abrasion, someone would rush under the house or into some dark and dusty place and procure some cobwebs, which would be applied to the wound to stop the flow of blood.

Sarsaparilla tea was imbibed each spring to purify the blood. Crushed crab and crayfish eyes were used in the treatment of certain diseases. Water in which rusty nails had been soaked overnight was imbibed for anemia. Leeches were placed on the nape of the neck to draw blood. These can still be bought in New Orleans.

Boils and inflammation were relieved by a poultice of the leaves of the wild potato plant. Snake bite was cured with balsam apples soaked in whiskey. To loosen a chest cold Creoles swallowed tallow.

Bags containing camphor were worn suspended from a string about the neck during epidemics. These were used as lately as the influenza outbreak following the first World War.

Appendicitis was known among the Creoles as couque miserere and was treated with a poultice of flaxseed or potato leaves. Copal moss was used for pains following confinement, being soaked in hot water with a little whiskey, and the strained liquid drunk while very hot.

Plantain leaves were applied to sores, banana leaves to the forehead for headaches. Emetics were the first thing given any sick person. Plantain leaves were used also to perfume household linens and keep insects out.

Other things used for cure and prevention of illness included hair plant, button tree, fever bush, oil tree, bite of the devil, angel's balm and mouse's eyes.

When gas mains filled with water and were pumped out, this water was, eagerly sought by the Creoles, who doused it on their dogs and cats. It was supposed to cure and prevent mange.

Creoles loved to spend an evening walking on the levee, the girls with their ever-present chaperons, the young men in pairs and trios. Flirtations were extremely mild, but none the less exciting. With great tact, with many compliments extended the chaperon, a gallant might even exchange a word or two with a belle!

As late as the early 1900's, just before what is still known as 'the exodus of the best people from Esplanade Avenue' the front steps of many homes along that thoroughfare were scenes of no little calling, courting and romancing. On warm spring and summer evenings the young Creole girls Would sit Out on these steps to receive young blades who sauntered in groups from one house to another. The steps here were often built in a recess, assuring a quasi-privacy and allowing greater than usual seating capacity. Here 'sweet crackers,' Grenadine, lemonade and biere Creole would be served the callers, and delightful hats and very mild flirtations were possible.

The young men took great care to be impartial in their visits, stopping at one house one evening and another the next. Should any youth become a very assiduous visitor he immediately became a source of interesting speculation throughout the whole neighborhood. Mothers boasted of the calls of a suitor on their daughter and discussed frankly his morals, manners, breeding, background and financial condition. When he started making engagements for the balls or cotillions, it was considered that romance had bloomed, and woe betide the insincere young man not thoroughly aware of the delicate implications attached to showing a Creole girl such attention without the proper and expected intention.

To this day Orleanians are fond of sitting out of doors on summer evenings. There are probably few other cities in America where people will place rocking chairs out on the sidewalk before their homes, sit rocking and fanning, perhaps drinking lemonade or beer, forcing pedestrians to walk around them, while they chat and gossip, including whispered remarks about everyone passing.

Creoles were fond of quiet evenings at home. There was always music offered by some members of la famille, or perhaps someone would read aloud, while the ladies would busy themselves with sewing and embroidering.

Many exquisite arts, some now lost, were known to the Creole woman. The making of macreme was one at which all girls were skilled. This was a type of weaving in which heavy string was woven into lace curtains and portieres. Flower-making was popular. These were made of wax, tinted appropriate colors and put under bell glass to decorate the salons.

Cooking was the highest of the Creole home arts. Though kitchen equipment was meager, the Creole woman and her servants created one of the finest schools of epicureanism in the world. Their recipes were a blend of French and Spanish dishes, with typical Negro skill at making a fine dish out of a little added. For years all cooking was done in a wide, open fireplace, or on a clay furnace. An iron pot often handed down from mother to daughter was highly prized by Creole women. Before a new one could be used it must be ' broken in.' First the pot was washed thoroughly, then red brick-dust rubbed in. After another washing, the inside was smeared thickly with pork fat and the pot placed on the fire to 'season.' Then the pot was ready for the cooking of the red beans and the black-eyed peas. These were always cooked with a thick slice of ham or salt pork.

Even at family dinners tables literally groaned under the weight of the spread of food. At every large meal fish, fowl and flesh were all served. Occupying the center of the table might be a cochon de lait a milk-fed suckling pig roasted a golden brown. There would be a large vol-au-vent a baked shell filled with delicious oyster stew, a tremendous roast of beef and a turtle shell stuffed with turtle meat and richly seasoned. Sea food was often present, the meal frequently starting with a crab gumbo. Wines were always served. Some families drank it at all three meals, the children receiving theirs diluted with water. Root beer, induced to ferment by the addition of rice, corn and sugar, was also popular. Btere doucez unknown now, was made of pineapple peelings, brown sugar, cloves and rice. Coffee was always ground, roasted and entirely prepared at home. Chicory was added, to the degree to please each family's taste. Pepper was also bought whole and ground at home.

Elderly Creole ladies were fond of gathering at each other's houses to spend the day. All the gossip would be exchanged, family histories combed through, the actions of this person or that discussed. Greatest pleasure was derived from guessing who would be heir to a certain fortune, who married who and why, and what family, though they of course denied it, was undoubtedly touched with cafe au lait. Dreading exposure to the 'night air,' the ladies would scurry home just before dusk, well supplied with gossip for a long time to come. Some of them were living encyclopedias of genealogy and could, on occasion, render family histories for generations, with a thorough knowledge of both the lateral and horizontal branches of the family trees. Such a gathering of women was known, scornfully, as a
gumbo ya-ya.

Nicknames were as popular among Creoles as they were among their poorer cousmes, the Cajuns. Roger Baudier says of this in Catholic Action: One still finds among the descendants of the Creoles the familiar petits noms which were used so generally in former decades, in conversation in the family and among intimates. The custom of giving these short, phonetic names based on a person's baptismal name, however, has all but passed away, but Creoles still recall grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins by these short names, in many cases being unable to recall them by any other designation. Tante Fefe and Cousine Titine are just that they are never known by any other names. It is difficult to explain some of these cognomens, as they were derived not only from some syllable of a name, but also from some characteristic, peculiarity, pet expression or some such source. Bebe, Boy, Mimi, and Bouboutse, Cherie, Tounoute, Nounouse, Doudouce and Piton are examples of short names that almost defy tracing back.

Petits noms like Loulou might come from Louis and Ludovic. A girl named Clementine or Armentine would be called Titine or Tine, Julo was substituted for Jules, Zebe for Eusebe or Zebulon, Zime for the queer name of Onesime. Girls named Eliza and Elizabeth would each answer to the appellation of Zaza; Adele and Adelaide either to Dedlle or Dedee.

Every family included these nicknames, often, because of the size of Creole families, several members with the same one.

There were scores of others, many of them fantastic and impossible to trace to any derivation.

Lagniappe was always given customers in the stores during the Creole era, giving special pleasure to children and servants. No matter how small the purchase, the merchant always added a bit of candy, a cake or some other small item as lagniappe, meaning something extra, something for nothing.

Webster claims that lagniappe is derived from a Spanish word, but there is no country where Spanish is spoken that uses such a term. M. Bussiere Rouen, a noted French scholar, advanced the theory that four or five centuries ago, in Normandy and in Brittany, grain like oats, wheat and barley, when sold, was spread on a woven cloth known in French as a nappe. When the seller delivered or emptied the contents of the cloth into the buyer's receptacle, there were always quite a few grains clinging to the cloth. To compensate the buyer, the seller would take one or two handfuls from his stock and give it to the buyer, saying this was for la nappe (the cloth). When the Bretons and Normans settled in Canada and then were driven out by the English, eventually to find homes in Louisiana and become known as Acadians, they kept the custom of giving a little something for nothing when purchases were made, saying, 'Pour la gnaippi instead of 'Pour la nappe,' and from them the curious custom was passed on to the Creoles of New Orleans.

Despite lack of ventilation, meal-time gorging and the most curious remedies conceivable when ill, Creoles seem often to have lived to incredible ages. They said of themselves, 'Creoles pas mourn, li desseche - - 'Creoles don't die, they dry up.'

But on the other hand, death seems to have always been in evidence by the amount of mourning worn. Regarding this, it was said, Si un chat mourrait dans la famille> tout le monde portrait de deuil - If a cat should die in the family, everyone would be in mourning. Every tante and cousine was an excuse for la famille to drape themselves in black.

M. Raoul Bonnot was the popular Croque-Mort undertaker of the Creoles for years. M. Bonnot was quite a figure in the Vieux Carre, always appearing in formal gray striped trousers, Prince Albert, high-heeled shoes and tall silk hat. His toupee was center-parted and combed in bangs over his forehead. His expression was always so gloomy that the Creoles said of him, sympathetically, 'a une figure de cmonsiance.' There must, however, have been a certain amount of secret frivolity under M. Bonnet's glum exterior. It was asserted by those who knew that he wore ribbons on his underwear.

When a death occurred, each post in the Creole section was adorned with a black-bordered poster, informing of who had died, the time and place of the funeral. Invitations to the events were issued as for social functions. All services were from the home.

Until the Civil War Creole ladies never attended funerals, but always paid a visit of condolence within nine days of the death. But during the War women were compelled to take charge of these affairs. The first funeral attended by women in New Orleans was that of Mrs. P. G. T. Beauregard, first wife of General Beauregard. The ladies marched in rows which extended the whole width of Esplanade Avenue.

The Civil War marked the beginning of the end for this Creole world. Very slowly the structure of their culture crumbled.

From the beginning of the coming of the Americans the Creoles were doomed. These Anglo-Saxons were too aggressive, too practical. Everywhere they rose to ascendancy, in politics, in business and in trade. Every year the leading places in commerce, banking, planting and the professions were taken over by the newcomers. Unlike the Creoles, they were not ashamed to soil their hands. They did not have the Creole's secret contempt for hard work. They almost made a fetish of it.

Even the French language began to lose popularity. For a long time generations were bilingual, speaking one tongue at home, another outside. In the new public schools Creole children were Americanized, eventually refused even to speak French because the others taunted them with the appellation of 'Kis-kee-dee!' when they did so.

Through the years Creole jealousy of the Americans continued to be bitter. They held themselves aloof, refusing to mix with the strangers. But as the American city grew larger, swiftly passed the old town in size, it became very evident that these 'foreigners' were faring quite well without their aid. They saw it was a choice between acquiescence or complete commercial domination. In one matter, however, the Creoles remained the masters for many years; they set the standard for and exercised control over everything related to social life.

As long ago as 1892. a certain Creole gentleman, famous for his impeccable attire, his erect carriage, his monocle, his evening strolls along Esplanade Avenue, bemoaned the passing of the old ways of life. Each sunset he would appear on the Esplanade, bowing to ladies of his acquaintance with a lordly flourish, tipping his top hat to men. He constantly regaled friends with nostalgic tales of the bon vieux temps, as compared to what he considered the vulgar and parvenu customs and manners of this later period. He told of days when a gentleman never crossed his legs in a drawing-room; when a lady had no legs at all, but floated mysteriously on the hems of her skirts, wore steel corsets and a daring decollete; when a gentleman did not ask a lady's permission to smoke no lady could refuse, and the odor of tobacco was obnoxious to all females! and would have died before he did so in her presence; when cocktails were unknown; when gentlemen supported their dancing partners with the lightest touch of the back of their white-gloved hands at their waists; when to appear at a social affair in an intoxicated condition meant certain and permanent ostracism, and when the telling of a risque joke in the presence of a woman was equivalent to inviting one's self to a duel. He particularly deplored the passing of dueling, which custom, he averred firmly, 'held down murders, preserved good manners, upheld the sanctity of woman and safeguarded the sacredness of the home!'

But little by little the majority of the Creoles became poorer. Their fine homes had to go. Family records were lost or destroyed, heirlooms, precious and treasured for generations, were sold as desperation drove these gentle people, scarcely capable of earning their livelihoods, to antique dealers and the Americans. The past began to be a thin memory in the minds of very old people.

Striving to maintain their independent culture, the Creoles organized a Creole Association as late as 1886. Bitterly attacked by outsiders as an exclusive organization, Charles A. Villere, himself of a distinguished Creole family, vigorously denied this, saying their aim was to aid the state as a whole, to assist in the spread of education and the growth of the culture of all its peoples. In his speech at the first meeting of the Association he said, in part, 'We are battling for our rights; we are scoffed at, ridiculed, blackened, tortured, deformed, caricatured. . . . This is our soil!

But the life of the Creole Association was short. Internal differences ensued, and it quickly passed out of existence. Most of the old ways are gone now, though tangible evidences of the splendid past are not difficult to find. There are the old houses in the Vieux Carre, with balconies of wrought iron like fine lace and winding stairs and tinkling crystal chandeliers and dreamy patios. There still remains the Saint Louis Cathedral where Creoles knelt in prayer, with its rear garden where rapiers flashed in moonlight and in sunlight, until the flow of Creole blood appeased the tempestuous heat of Creole anger. And the convent in Orleans Street, where the warm laughter and gay music of the past has been displaced by the mystic silence of the religieuse. These things remain.

There are names, some still of great social prestige, others long buried under poverty, their aristocratic origins almost forgotten by their bearers. There are words like gumbo and banquette, still common on Orleanians' tongues. There are Creole cabbages, Creole lilies and Creole horses. And a thousand other little things, little inbred habits, superstitions, proverbs, all with derivations springing from that past that belonged to the Creoles.

In the show windows of a Royal Street antique dealer may rest a silken fan, yellowed now, frayed a bit, but once it accentuated the coquetry of a dark-eyed flirt; bits of bric-a-brac, stalwart shepherds and plump dairy maids with dirty china faces, old jewelry created to adorn Creole beauty, music boxes that still respond to your touch to play half-forgotten tunes, snuff boxes of silver and gold that once flattered the vanity of gallants. Inside the shop may be immense mirrors with fat cupids chasing each other about the gilded frames, a huge bed of solid mahogany with four massive posts and a ciel-de-lit perhaps the creation of Monsieur Dufau before his ill-fated rum party? of pale blue silk, stained and faded now, but once the bridal canopy of some trembling Creole bride.

It is even possible to fond a gentle lady or two of great age, who doesn't speak English and rarely ever journeys to Canal Street, less than a dozen city blocks away, who wears black alpaca dresses to the tips of her shiny patent leather shoes, a cameo brooch at her throat and her thin white hair in a forgotten fashion.

To this patrician race New Orleans owes a debt of immeasurable proportions; the Mardi Gras, the world-famous cuisine, the gaiety, the whole intricate fabric of the charm that distinguishes the city from any other in America.

Gumbo Ya-Ya
A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales, 1945
Houghton Mifflin Commpan - Boston
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Compiled by Lyle Saxon, State Director, Edward Dreyer, Asst. State Special Writer. Material gathered by Workers of the Works 'Progress Administration, Louisiana Writers' Project, and Sponsored by the Louisiana Library Commission. As Written.

We are grateful to those earlier writers who recorded some of the phases of Louisiana folklore Alcee Fortier, Lafcadio Hearn, Grace King, and George W. Cable as well as to such contemporary writers as Doctor William A. Read, Edward Laroque Tinker, Roark Bradford, and Doctor Thad St. Martin. LYLE SAXON, EDWARD DREYER, ROBERT TALLANT

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