Authors: Ursula Dukes
Echoes in the Bayou
For my friends Renee Drinkwater, Mari White and
thank you for listening and for showing
me the true meaning of friendship. You shined a light in the darkness when I
couldn't find my way.
Copyright © (2013) by Ursula Dukes
is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, people, or places are use
d fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and
incidents are the result of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual
events, places, or people, either living or dead is purely coincidental.
Corinth Louisiana, June 1890
"Take her down to the marsh and make sure you
watch her get swallowed you hear?" Amelia Montieu whispered to her house
slave Leon. "You hear what I’m telling you boy?" She was stern, she
had to be.
Yes ma’am," he replied with his eyes down.
Eyes on me Leon, I'm not on the floor am I?"
No Ma’am, you not." Leon raised his head so that
he could look her in the eye.
Good that’s better, now get going and remember what I
told you, if anybody asks, you’re just taking her for some air until she can
walk on her own. She fainted here inside and I told you to take her for some
air. Now go, and for the love of god don’t come back into this house until
you’ve cleaned yourself up!"
s breathing heavy now and placed a hand on her chest.
"And you Mister John." She looked severely at her houseguest.
"You see what you’re foolish antics have done? You’ve done killed my best
house nigga. You know how long it’s going to take me to break in another
one?" She swung a finger at her house guest. Amelia scolded him like a
child who had just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Oh come on now chère, you know they like dogs, you
just got to beat them into submission. Teach them a lesson," he said with
a drunken smirk.
made a clicking sound
with her teeth. "John
DuPonte I declare, I just don’t know what I'm gonna do with you." She
fanned herself. "I catch you messing around with anymore of my house
niggas and you gonna find yourself out on your britches you hear me?"
looked at her with
a pout. "Oh you know I'm
sorry Amelia, I don’t know what came over me. One minute I was having my way
with her in the kitchen here and the next she’s fightin’ me, resistin’. I tried
to keep her quiet and when that didn’t work… well you know the rest don’t you?
No need in rehashing that. But boy I’ll tell you that girl had one hell of a
grip, nearly tore my arm off in the struggle. I almost feel bad chère, what
with having to break her pretty little neck like that," he sneered.
"But it was her or I, you and I damn well know that it wasn’t going to be
a tender kiss on her cheek. "Thanks Amelia, you and William always were
there to get me out of a bind weren’t you?"
Yes well let this be the last time please? And don’t you
go telling Will Jr. about her neither, there’s no reason to stir up trouble.
Poor dear will blame himself for one of his daddy’s house niggas running away
while he’s in charge," she winked at him.
was well aware that her son was smitten with Celeste. T
here was nothing that went on inside of her house that she didn’t know
about. At first she thought it was just a passing fancy, and that Will Jr. was
just sowing his wild oats. When she got wind that he was falling for the house
slave, Amelia had to put a stop to it.
effectively threatened Leon, she told him that if he didn’t tell her about the
goings on between her son and Celeste. She would have no choice but to tell her
husband, the master of the house that while he was away, Leon had tried to have
his way with her. Leon knew that if she did that, death would be certain
but it wouldn’t come easy, nor would it be civilized.
when the young slave reluctantly told her about the
two lovers, she put her plan in motion. Her husband’s dear friend John DuPonte
would be visiting with them for a few weeks, and she knew that once he set his
eyes on Celeste, he would surely find her desirable, even more so if he was
drunk. That night after supper, Amelia constantly called upon her; she needed
Celeste to show herself as much as possible. Each time Celeste entered the
dining room, Amelia could see the rising desire in John DuPonte’s eyes.
Amelia had to do was keep the brandy flowing; she made sure that it flowed
smooth and easy, right down Joh
throat. And when she saw that he was good and drunk, she summoned Celeste to
help her get him into bed. She told her to take him up the back stairwell
through the kitchen; she didn’t want them disturbing anyone. What she meant was
she didn’t want her only son Will roused from his slumber by a drunken Mister
DuPonte and the house slave who was helping him.
did as she was told and as she put her arm around his waist to help him up the
stairs, his desire go
t the better of him and he
threw her violently down onto the hard kitchen floor. A rough calloused hand
was placed over her mouth silencing her from shouting out. The more she
struggled, the more he seemed to get aroused and between heavy blows to her
face and body, John DuPonte raped Celeste. Silent, heavy tears fell from her
eyes as he violated her, and she hoped and prayed that he would finish soon,
because the pain was unbearable. After several minutes he collected her
limp body from the floor and forced her over a kitchen chair, he wasn’t
finished yet. Celeste fought back with all her might, she was unable to scream.
It didn’t take long for his thick hands to find their way around her neck; he
was squeezing so hard, that he broke her trachea. And with each painful
thrust, John DuPonte had squeezed the life out of her.
stood against the other side of the kitchen d
waiting for him to finish, and when the struggle slowed and things got eerily
quiet, she cautiously crept into the kitchen. There, lying beside the open
pantry was Celeste’s partially nude body. John DuPonte had ripped her hand me
down dress from top to waist and the dress hung shabbily against her lifeless
body. Amelia couldn’t help but notice that the young woman’s beauty still did
not escape her. And as she laid frozen in death, the green eyes that Amelia had
always thought unnerving gazed upon her now with a look of extreme anguish. A
sly smile crept along her aged face as she bent down to feel for a pulse.
"It certainly looks to me as if you won’t be having anymore midnight
rendezvous with my son, you nigga whore," she softly murmured.
her shawl around her tighter.
"Listen you better get yourself together and go on back to bed now you
hear? William is returning tomorrow and I don’t want him to see his best friend
down and disheveled, so you just go on now and get some rest. Everything will
be alright by morning."
I read you loud and clear Amelia, good thinking."
I know, I know. Now off to bed with you," she
smiled at him.
as he was told and he was glad that no one had stopped him on his way to the
marshes. He walked deep into the bayou with Celeste’s dead body slung over his
submerged deep inside the hundreds of acres
within the plantation, Leon shook his head. "I'm real sorry ‘bout this
Celeste," he said and laid her down on the thick, clumps of soggy dirt in
the bayou. He was the only one who knew the bayou like the back of his hand,
and he was sure that was why his master’s wife had chosen him to do the dastardly
Celeste had been house slaves for Mister and Mrs. William Montieu since both
were the age of eight. Now, in their late teens, the two thought themselves
lucky to be working in the
Some thought holding such positions was mostly due to
complexions. Leon’s being because his mother had been raped by William Montieu,
and although Celeste’s mother had suffered the same fate, Celeste was not her
Master’s child. Her mother Zelia had been raped by one of Master Montieu’s
business associates. It was during a drunken night of poker that her mother was
offered up as a bet to one of his associates, that of which Master Montieu had
matter what her co
mplexion, Celeste had been far
too fetching for her own good. Besides having been born with an extremely fair
complexion, she had green eyes. Both were features that her mother had told her
had it been a different time, would have gotten her far. But it was not a
different time, they were slaves in the big house and her mother told her that
no matter what her complexion or eye color, in the white man’s world, she would
always be a nigger. "And no matter what," she told her. "Dont
lets them break you; you always love yourself, no matter what."
were the last words that Celeste remembered hearing her mother tell her. She
ght years old when her mistress told her
that her mother was gone and that it would do her no good to cry about it. She
told her that she was almost nine years old and that it was high time she stop
being just a companion to the children, Will and Marguerite Montieu. Amelia
told her that she needed to start taking on more and more chores in the big
house. That night, in the room behind the pantry that she and her mother
shared, she sat quietly on the floor anxiously awaiting her mother’s return.
She would sit there all night, and when morning shone through the small cracks
in the wall, she came out. It wasn’t until another house slave told her that
her mother was dead did she understand what the mistress had meant. Even at
eight years old she understood the harshness of the Montieu house and had been
given over to another house slave to oversee her care.
long Celeste was taking on all of the duties that her mistress had planned out
for her. After all, she’d been following her mother around, watching and
learning everything the
re was to know about
being a house slave. At eight years old, she knew that she had been quite
lucky; the master had taken a liking to her and despite his wife’s objections,
Celeste was still allowed to be somewhat of a child and was often regarded as a
for the master’s two children. There was talk going around the big
house that Master William held a strong affection for her mother Zelia, and
when he found out that she had died, had taken pity on the child.
mother died and the time came f
or her to perform
her daily duties, she was ready, she had to be. Even at the ripe old age of
eight, she knew that if she didn’t, there would be hell to pay.
years later she'd grown restless of the stale routine. Take care of breakfast
for the Mistress, cook and clean up after the Mistress. At the age of sixteen,
Celeste knew exactly what the Mistress wanted and needed without ever having to
be told. Some of the other house slaves tried to watch over Celeste and they
told her that even if the master could fight his carnal urge, surely his son
would not and they were right. Since the two had practically grown up together
in the big house, it was no surprise when they seemed to fall in love with one
another. Whenever they could, the young lovers would find moments to steal,
moments where they could be alone with one another.
moments were mostly late at night. Celeste thought it lucky that she was
allowed to stay in the tiny back room that she once shared with her mother, and
not outside in one of the slave quarters. Inside she was able to accommodate
her Master and Mistress any time, day or night. But as the years grew, so did
Will Jr.’s longing for her and before long they found themselves falling deeper
and deeper in love.
so they wouldn’t get caught, the two lovers came up
with a secret sound, one that only they would understand. Together they had
perfected the wail of the Loon bird and knew that when they heard that sound,
it was safe to come out. But it had to be late at night, the later the better.
though there wasn’t much of anything the young couple could do, they made sure
that what little time they had together was spent wrapped in each other’s arms,
talking. They would talk about what it would be like if Celeste were free and
they were allowed to court and eventually become man and wife. They talked of
what it would feel like to be married and to have children. Will would often
speak of the two of them running away together, up north and into Canada.