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Alix De Morainville
by [?]


Written in Louisiana this 22d of August, 1795, for my dear friends Suzanne and Francoise Bossier.

I have promised you the story of my life, my very dear and good friends with whom I have had so much pleasure on board the flatboat which has brought us all to Attakapas. I now make good my promise.

And first I must speak of the place where I was born, of the beautiful Chateau de Morainville, built above the little village named Morainville in honor of its lords. This village, situated in Normandy on the margin of the sea, was peopled only and entirely by fishermen, who gained a livelihood openly by sardine-fishing, and secretly, it was said, by smuggling. The chateau was built on a cliff, which it completely occupied. This cliff was formed of several terraces that rose in a stair one above another. On the topmost one sat the chateau, like an eagle in its nest. It had four dentilated turrets, with great casements and immense galleries, that gave it the grandest possible aspect. On the second terrace you found yourself in the midst of delightful gardens adorned with statues and fountains after the fashion of the times. Then came the avenue, entirely overshaded with trees as old as Noah, and everywhere on the hill, forming the background of the picture, an immense park. How my Suzanne would have loved to hunt in that beautiful park full of deer, hare, and all sorts of feathered game!

And yet no one inhabited that beautiful domain. Its lord and mistress, the Count Gaston and Countess Aurelie, my father and mother, resided in Paris, and came to their chateau only during the hunting season, their sojourn never exceeding six weeks.

Already they had been five years married. The countess, a lady of honor to the young dauphine, Marie Antoinette, bore the well-merited reputation of being the most charming woman at the court of the king, Louis the Fifteenth. Count and countess, wealthy as they were and happy as they seemed to be, were not overmuch so, because of their desire for a son; for one thing, which is not seen in this country, you will not doubt, dear girls, exists in France and other countries of Europe: it is the eldest son, and never the daughter, who inherits the fortune and titles of the family. And in case there were no children, the titles and fortune of the Morainvilles would have to revert in one lump to the nephew of the count and son of his brother, to Abner de Morainville, who at that time was a mere babe of four years. This did not meet the wishes of M. and Mme. de Morainville, who wished to retain their property in their own house.

But great news comes to Morainville: the countess is with child. The steward of the chateau receives orders to celebrate the event with great rejoicings. In the avenue long tables are set covered with all sorts of inviting meats, the fiddlers are called, and the peasants dance, eat, and drink to the health of the future heir of the Morainvilles. A few months later my parents arrived bringing a great company with them; and there were feasts and balls and hunting-parties without end.

It was in the course of one of these hunts that my mother was thrown from her horse. She was hardly in her seventh month when I came into the world. She escaped death, but I was born as large as–a mouse! and with one shoulder much higher than the other.

I must have died had not the happy thought come to the woman-in-waiting to procure Catharine, the wife of the gardener, Guillaume Carpentier, to be my nurse; and it is to her care, to her rubbings, and above all to her good milk, that I owe the capability to amuse you, my dear girls and friends, with the account of my life–that life whose continuance I truly owe to my mother Catharine.