Fiction Friday: Madame Celestin Concludes

History dates construction of the house by slave labor to 1805 to 1809. Oscar Chopin bought it in 1879 and, years later, moved his wife and their six children to the plantation. Photo courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

History dates construction of the house by slave labor to 1805 to 1809. Oscar Chopin bought it in 1879 and, years later, moved his wife and their six children to the plantation. Sadly the house was destroyed by fire in 2008. Photo courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

Today I’m featuring  part two of a story by Kate Chopin.  You’ll find the first part in last week’s Fiction Friday.

As I was living in Louisiana and researching my two novels Iron Lace and Rising Tides, I read almost everything by Kate Chopin, as well as Lafcadio Hearn’s Chita, and many nonfiction works by author Harnett Kane.

All three authors influenced the way I saw Louisiana culture at the turn of the 20th century and before. I was first introduced to the hurricane that’s portrayed in Iron Lace by Harnett Kane’s The Bayous of Louisiana. Chita, which explores the aftermath of an earlier hurricane and the way it affects two families is a classic I highly recommend.

In an interesting aside, after my reading love affair with Kane was complete, my husband, then the minister of a New Orleans church, got a call from Mr. Kane’s sister. Mr. Kane had just died, and my husband was asked to do a memorial service for the family. I was glad that somebody with a personal connection to his work and its importance could do this. I still cherish a signed copy of one of his books that I discovered at a book sale.

Here’s the conclusion of the story. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.


“Well, Madame Célestin! And the bishop!” Lawyer Paxton was standing there holding to a couple of the shaky pickets. She had not seen him. “Oh, it ‘s you, Judge?” and she hastened towards him with an empressement that could not but have been flattering.

“Yes, I saw Monseigneur,” she began. The lawyer had already gathered from her expressive countenance that she had not wavered in her determination. “Ah, he ‘s a eloquent man. It ‘s not a mo’ eloquent man in Natchitoches parish. I was fo’ced to cry, the way he talked to me about my troubles; how he undastan’s them, an’ feels for me. It would move even you, Judge, to hear how he talk’ about that step I want to take; its danga, its temptation. How it is the duty of a Catholic to stan’ everything till the las’ extreme. An’ that life of retirement an’ self-denial I would have to lead, – he tole me all that.”

“But he hasn’t turned you from your resolve, I see,” laughed the lawyer complacently.

“For that, no,” she returned emphatically. “The bishop don’t know w’at it is to be married to a man like Célestin, an’ have to endu’ that conduc’ like I have to endu’ it. The Pope himse’f can’t make me stan’ that any longer, if you say I got the right in the law to sen’ Célestin sailing.”

A noticeable change had come over lawyer Paxton. He discarded his work-day coat and began to wear his Sunday one to the office. He grew solicitous as to the shine of his boots, his collar, and the set of his tie. He brushed and trimmed his whiskers with a care that had not before been apparent. Then he fell into a stupid habit of dreaming as he walked the streets of the old town. It would be very good to take unto himself a wife, he dreamed. And he could dream of no other than pretty Madame Célestin filling that sweet and sacred office as she filled his thoughts, now. Old Natchitoches would not hold them comfortably, perhaps; but the world was surely wide enough to live in, outside of Natchitoches town.

His heart beat in a strangely irregular manner as he neared Madame Célestin’s house one morning, and discovered her behind the rosebushes, as usual plying her broom. She had finished the gallery and steps and was sweeping the little brick walk along the edge of the violet border.

“Good-morning, Madame Célestin.”

“Ah, it ‘s you, Judge? Good-morning.” He waited. She seemed to be doing the same. Then she ventured, with some hesitancy, “You know, Judge, about that divo’ce. I been thinking, – I reckon you betta neva mine about that divo’ce.” She was making deep rings in the palm of her gloved hand with the end of the broom-handle, and looking at them critically. Her face seemed to the lawyer to be unusually rosy; but maybe it was only the reflection of the pink bow at the throat. “Yes, I reckon you need n’ mine. You see, Judge, Célestin came home las’ night. An’ he ‘s promise me on his word an’ honor he ‘s going to turn ova a new leaf.”

***While this story is now in public domain I found it here, at the Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil

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