Mamzelle Aurélie possessed a good strong figure, ruddy cheeks, hair that was changing
from brown to gray, and a determined eye. She wore a man's hat about the farm, and an old blue
army overcoat when it was cold, and sometimes top-boots.
Mamzelle Aurélie had never thought of marrying. She had never been in love. At the age
of twenty she had received a proposal, which she had promptly declined, and at the age of fifty
she had not yet lived to regret it.
So she was quite alone in the world, except for her dog Ponto, and the negroes who lived
in her cabins and worked her crops, and the fowls, a few cows, a couple of mules, her gun (with
which she shot chicken-hawks), and her religion.
One morning Mamzelle Aurélie stood upon her gallery, contemplating, with arms
akimbo, a small band of very small children who, to all intents and purposes, might have fallen
from the clouds, so unexpected and bewildering was their coming, and so unwelcome. They
were the children of her nearest neighbor, Odile, who was not such a near neighbor, after all.
The young woman had appeared but five minutes before, accompanied by these four
children. In her arms she carried little Élodie; she dragged Ti Nomme by an unwilling hand;
while Marcéline and Marcélette followed with irresolute steps.
Her face was red and disfigured from tears and excitement. She had been summoned to a
neighboring parish by the dangerous illness of her mother; her husband was away in Texas -- it
seemed to her a million miles away; and Valsin was waiting with the mule-cart to drive her to the
"It's no question, Mamzelle Aurélie; you jus' got to keep those youngsters fo' me tell I
come back. Dieu sait, I wouldn' botha you with 'em if it was any otha way to do! Make 'em mine
you, Mamzelle Aurélie; don' spare 'em. Me, there, I'm half crazy between the chil'ren, an' Léon
not home, an' maybe not even to fine po' maman alive encore!" -- a harrowing possibility which
drove Odile to take a final hasty and convulsive leave of her disconsolate family.
She left them crowded into the narrow strip of shade on the porch of the long, low house;