As the day was pleasant, Madame Valmonde drove over to L'Abri to see Desiree and the
It made her laugh to think of Desiree with a baby. Why, it seemed but yesterday that
Desiree was little more than a baby herself; when Monsieur in riding through the gateway of
Valmonde had found her lying asleep in the shadow of the big stone pillar.
The little one awoke in his arms and began to cry for "Dada." That was as much as she
could do or say. Some people thought she might have strayed there of her own accord, for she
was of the toddling age. The prevailing belief was that she had been purposely left by a party of
Texans, whose canvas-covered wagon, late in the day, had crossed the ferry that Coton Mais
kept, just below the plantation. In time Madame Valmonde abandoned every speculation but the
one that Desiree had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection,
seeing that she was without child of the flesh. For the girl grew to be beautiful and gentle,
affectionate and sincere,--the idol of Valmonde.
It was no wonder, when she stood one day against the stone pillar in whose shadow she
had lain asleep, eighteen years before, that Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had
fallen in love with her. That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol
shot. The wonder was that he had not loved her before; for he had known her since his father
brought him home from Paris, a boy of eight, after his mother died there. The passion that awoke
in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire,
or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles.
Monsieur Valmonde grew practical and wanted things well considered: that is, the girl's
obscure origin. Armand looked into her eyes and did not care. He was reminded that she was
nameless. What did it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest
in Louisiana? He ordered the corbeille from Paris, and contained himself with what patience he
could until it arrived; then they were married.
Madame Valmonde had not seen Desiree and the baby for four weeks. When she reached
L'Abri she shuddered at the first sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad looking place, which
for many years had not known the gentle presence of a mistress, old Monsieur Aubigny having
married and buried his wife in France, and she having loved her own land too well ever to leave
it. The roof came down steep and black like a cowl, reaching out beyond the wide galleries that
encircled the yellow stuccoed house. Big, solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-leaved,
far-reaching branches shadowed it like a pall. Young Aubigny's rule was a strict one, too, and
under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master's easy-
going and indulgent lifetime.
The young mother was recovering slowly, and lay full length, in her soft white muslins