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When The Bayou Overflowed
by [?]

When the sun goes down behind the great oaks along the Bayou Teche near Franklin, it throws red needles of light into the dark woods, and leaves a great glow on the still bayou. Ma’am Mouton paused at her gate and cast a contemplative look at the red sky.

“Hit will rain to-morrow, sho’. I mus’ git in my t’ings.”

Ma’am Mouton’s remark must have been addressed to herself or to the lean dog, for no one else was visible. She moved briskly about the yard, taking things from the line, when Louisette’s voice called cheerily:

“Ah, Ma’am Mouton, can I help?”

Louisette was petite and plump and black-haired. Louisette’s eyes danced, and her lips were red and tempting. Ma’am Mouton’s face relaxed as the small brown hands relieved hers of their burden.

“Sylves’, has he come yet?” asked the red mouth.

“Mais non, ma chere,” said Ma’am Mouton, sadly, “I can’ tell fo’ w’y he no come home soon dese day. Ah me, I feel lak’ somet’ing goin’ happen. He so strange.”

Even as she spoke a quick nervous step was heard crunching up the brick walk. Sylves’ paused an instant without the kitchen door, his face turned to the setting sun. He was tall and slim and agile; a true ‘cajan.

“Bon jour, Louisette,” he laughed. “Eh, maman!”

“Ah, my son, you are ver’ late.”

Sylves’ frowned, but said nothing. It was a silent supper that followed. Louisette was sad, Ma’am Mouton sighed now and then, Sylves’ was constrained.

“Maman,” he said at length, “I am goin’ away.”

Ma’am Mouton dropped her fork and stared at him with unseeing eyes; then, as she comprehended his remark, she put her hand out to him with a pitiful gesture.

“Sylves’!” cried Louisette, springing to her feet.

“Maman, don’t, don’t!” he said weakly; then gathering strength from the silence, he burst forth:

“Yaas, I ‘m goin’ away to work. I ‘m tired of dis, jus’ dig, dig, work in de fiel’, nothin’ to see but de cloud, de tree, de bayou. I don’t lak’ New Orleans; it too near here, dere no mo’ money dere. I go up fo’ Mardi Gras, an’ de same people, de same strit’. I’m goin’ to Chicago!”

“Sylves’!” screamed both women at once.

Chicago! That vast, far-off city that seemed in another world. Chicago! A name to conjure with for wickedness.

“W’y, yaas,” continued Sylves’, “lots of boys I know dere. Henri an’ Joseph Lascaud an’ Arthur, dey write me what money dey mek’ in cigar. I can mek’ a livin’ too. I can mek’ fine cigar. See how I do in New Orleans in de winter.”

“Oh, Sylves’,” wailed Louisette, “den you’ll forget me!”

“Non, non, ma chere,” he answered tenderly. “I will come back when the bayou overflows again, an’ maman an’ Louisette will have fine present.”

Ma’am Mouton had bowed her head on her hands, and was rocking to and fro in an agony of dry-eyed misery.

Sylves’ went to her side and knelt. “Maman,” he said softly, “maman, you mus’ not cry. All de boys go ‘way, an’ I will come back reech, an’ you won’t have fo’ to work no mo’.”

But Ma’am Mouton was inconsolable.

It was even as Sylves’ had said. In the summer-time the boys of the Bayou Teche would work in the field or in the town of Franklin, hack-driving and doing odd jobs. When winter came, there was a general exodus to New Orleans, a hundred miles away, where work was to be had as cigar-makers. There is money, plenty of it, in cigar-making, if one can get in the right place. Of late, however, there had been a general slackness of the trade. Last winter oftentimes Sylves’ had walked the streets out of work. Many were the Creole boys who had gone to Chicago to earn a living, for the cigar-making trade flourishes there wonderfully. Friends of Sylves’ had gone, and written home glowing accounts of the money to be had almost for the asking. When one’s blood leaps for new scenes, new adventures, and one needs money, what is the use of frittering away time alternately between the Bayou Teche and New Orleans? Sylves’ had brooded all summer, and now that September had come, he was determined to go.