A Little Free-Mulatto
M’sié Jean-Ba’ – that was Aurélia’s father – was so especially fine and imposing when he went down to the city, with his glossy beard, his elegant clothes, and gold watch-chain, that he could easily have ridden in the car “For Whites.” No one would ever have known the difference. But M’sié Jean-Ba’ was too proud to do that. He was very proud. So was Ma’ame Jean-Ba’. And because of that unyielding pride, little Aurélia’s existence was not altogether a happy one.
She was not permitted to play with the white children up at the big-house, who would willingly have had her join their games. Neither was she allowed to associate in any way with the little darkies who frolicked all day long as gleefully as kittens before their cabin doors. There seemed nothing for her to do in the world but to have her shiny hair plaited, or to sit at her mother’s knee learning to spell or to patch quilt pieces.
It was well enough so long as she was a baby and crawled about the gallery satisfied to play with a sun-beam. But growing older she pined for some more real companionship.
“La p’tite, ‘pear tu me lack she gittin’ po’, yere lately,” remarked M’sié Jean-Ba’ solicitiously to his wife one day when he noted his little daughter’s drooping mien.
“You right, Jean-Ba; Aurélia a’n’t pick up none, the las’ year.” And they watched the child carefully after that. She seemed to fade like a flower that wants the sun.
Of course M’sié Jean-Ba’ could not stand that. So when December came, and his contract with the planter had ceased, he gathered his family and all his belongings and went away to live – in paradise.
That is, little Aurélia thinks it is paradise, the change is so wonderful.
There is a constant making and receiving of visits, now. She trudges off every morning to the convent where numbers of little children just like herself are taught by the sisters. Even in the church in which she, her mamma and papa make their Sunday devotions, they breathe an atmosphere which is native to them. And then, such galloping about the country on little creole ponies!
Well, there is no question about it. The happiest little Free-Mulatto in all Louisiana is Aurélia, since her father has moved to “L’Isle des Mulâtres.”