two beautiful quadroon servants, Marie and Virgime, and a mulatto coachman named Octavius Octavius was said to be a bastard son of one of Maurice Mayfair’s sons, Louis-Pierre, but this was not a well- circulated tale Marie Claudette was still living then, but seldom went out anymore, and it was said that she had taught her daughter the black arts learned in Haiti It was Marguerite who drew attention everywhere that she went, especially in view of the fact that her brother Pierre lived a fairly respectable life, was very discreet about his quadroon mistress, and Uncle Lestan’s children were also entirely respectable and well liked Even by her late twenties, Marguerite had become a gaunt and somewhat frightening figure, with often unkempt hair and glowing dark eyes, and a sudden disconcerting laugh She always wore the Mayfair emerald She received merchants and brokers and guests in an immense book- lined study at Riverbend which was full of ’horrible and disgusting’ things such as human skulls, stuffed and mounted swamp animals, trophy heads from African safaris, and animal-skin rugs She had numerous mysterious bottles and jars, and people claimed to have seen human body parts in these jars She was reputed to be an avid collector of trinkets and amulets made by slaves, especially those who had recently been imported from Africa There were several cases of ’possession’ among her slaves at the time, which involved frightened slave witnesses running away and priests coming to the plantation In every case, the victim was chained up and exorcism was tried without success, and the ‘possessed’ creature died either from hunger because he could not be made to eat, 358
or from some injury sustained in his wild convulsions There were rumors that such a possessed slave was chained in the attic, but the local authorities never acted upon this by investigation At least four different witnesses mention Marguerite’s ’mysterious dark-haired lover,’ a man seen in her private apartments by her slaves, and also seen in her suite at the St Louis Hotel when she came into New Orleans, and in her box at the French Opera. Much gossip surrounded the question of this lover or companion. The mysterious manner in which he came and went puzzled everyone. ‘Now you see him, now you don’t,’ was the saying. These constitute the first mentions of Lasher in over one hundred years. Marguerite married almost immediately after Tyrone Clifford McNamara’s death, a tall penniless riverboat gambler named Arlington Kerr who vanished completely six months after the marriage. Nothing is known about him except that he was ’as beautiful as a woman,’ and a drunkard, and played cards all night long in the garconniere with various drunken guests and with the mulatto coachman. It is worth noting that more was heard about this man than was ever seen of him.
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