The Bringier-Tureaud Union Story

The Bringier Family in Louisiana was founded due to the worldwide changes taking place both in the American Colonies and in Europe. The American Revolution and the French Revolution both required families to chose sides, and in some cases to run for their lives. Marius Pons Bringier chose to leave France prior to the hostilities that he saw on the horizon. The early years of the Bringier family was best told by Harnett Kane in his book, Plantation Parade. The book was published in 1945, William Morrow & Company, New York. It was widely sold, so those interested should check used book stores. My parents knew the late Harnett Kane quite well, so I don't think he would mind my passing his words here.... from Chapter 3:... "Will you be my son-in-law?" Back home in Provence in the middle 1700s, Pierre Bringier de Lacadiere could afford, as a relative put it, to sit back on his laurels. An enthusiastic father and husband, he had become, in the words of a light-hearted observer, parent to "nineteen sons and a canon." This last contribution to wife and country was the Chanoine Jean Baptiste Hippolyte Bringier of the cathedral at Marseille. There was much, one would have thought, to anchor these Bringiers to their land along the Mediterranean. The grandfather was a judge; the family had a connection with the Baron Douradou d'Auvergne and a Count of Rochebriant. Yet to be one of twenty brothers presented problems to any youth with his mind upon the future; inside several of them twitched a sense of discontent. A younger son, Emanuel Marius Pons Bringier, sold his properties and sailed forth with a young wife and a fair fortune in the furniture, wines, and additional supplies without which no appropriately endowed Frenchman would attempt the colonial life. On the shores of Martinique, Marius joined a brother and they settled down on a sugar estate. They did well; the Bringiers have always admitted that if their name means anything, it implies business sagacity. Then Marius and his brother quarreled, and Marius again gathered up wife and silks, and wines. The next available fringe of France was not far off; he took his barge through the Mississippi's mouths and along its weaving course up to New Orleans. At this time, in the 1780's, Louisiana was in Spain's hands. The Dons, anxious to fill the emptiness of their problem colony, were willing to accept men of wealth and presumably conservative leanings; Marius had no difficulty in obtaining property just above the capital city. But he soon met troubles; one river crevasse and then another that flooded his fields and drained his purse. He looked farther up the Mississippi. Near the "First Acadian Coast," among settlements of mild-disposition, hard-working farmers exiled from Canada, he found what he wanted. This third attempt was the one that told. Marius raised indigo and cotton, experimented with sugar and kept an eye on the market in New Orleans. Regularly his Negroes lifted his produce to the decks of his barges and rowed it downstream to the capital.(ed note: Bringier Street, site of an early warehouse, is just under the west end of the downtown Mississippi river bridge in New Orleans). Marius expanded to a second plantation and continued to spread himself until he had five holdings, among the greatest of the day. Along the broad arpents of Louisiana and along the bustling levees at New Orleans, the name of Bringier could stand forth as it had in Provence. Seeking perhaps to emulate his father in another direction, Marius counted a half-dozen children within a decade. This was a poor record, true, against twenty; yet it would have to do. With new earnings and new children, something grand in a house was indicated. About 1800 there came La Maison Blanche, the White Hall of the river coast; a French Gothic chateau, deeply arched, topped by a balustrade that made the Acadians chatter in surprise. Marble covered the outer walls; black-and-white marble walks surrounded it. About the main building stood auxiliaries; carriage houses, a kitchen, slave cabins, storage quarters, and, of particular interest to some, the most spacious wine building to be seen for many miles. Groves of trees crisscrossed the estate; a deer park awaited the pleasure of visitors. No guns must be fired on the estate; wild birds were caught by green silk nets spread about the trees. Fruit trees-lemons, oranges, and guavas- were nurtured in wide boxes, mounted on wheels for quick removal indoors in cold weather. Inside the eye met tapestries, oil paintings, silverware, delicate rosewood, and heavily carved mahogany. Along the river, as a final flourish, the builder erected an ornate iron fence. To the hospitality of the period, Marius added a Bringier touch. A large side building stood ready for visitors. Every day, a little before noon, a servant went out. Any traveler on the road or near the shore in a boat was to be halted and invited inside. Several rooms were there, each with a bed, a portable bathtub, and a meal. In the evening those moving past White Hall were told that they might be guests for the night if they so wished. Slaves were assigned to look after the wants of such strangers, their horses, and their luggage. No question was to be put to this caller; he could identify himself or not, as he wished. The master bowed when he arrived, bowed again when he left. Beyond that, the visitor was on his own. Marius said that the fare for such occasions must be as ample as that of White Hall itself; "I should be humiliated if I lacked a single extra biscuit for one who came." It is asserted that for a half-century or more, no extra biscuit, no extra anything else was lacking at White Hall. The casual guest who stayed overnight got up to find his coffee and breakfast prepared, his clothing freshened, mended if necessary, his extra apparel pressed during his rest. The Spanish Governor moved along the river with a retinue of cavalry. Marius spent a sleepless night in assuring the proper functioning of his plans-beds, stalls for the horses, wines and meats. The departing official grew voluble. Never had he known such attention. Senor Bringier must be recompensed. Non, Monsieur le Gouverneur. The dignity of Spain did not permit a pressing of the point. Spain's representative kissed hands and gave a last glance about the gallery. His eye rested on the eldest son of the Bringiers. The Governor asked for a pen; on the boy he bestowed a great tract of land. A Governor could match a Bringier! Others along the coast sought also to emulate the family; a giddy social life animated the neighbors-gay visits, dances stately calls with plumes and powdered headdresses. One of the earnest priests of the vicinity grew alarmed; the river people were showing an inclination to place Bringiers before Mass. Of Marius, the expansive father, a portrait remains. Seated in a carved chair, his estate visible beyond the folds of a curtain, he stares down the observer with dark eyes under beetling brows. The nose is prominent but well formed; the look is competent, appraising. This was clearly a man of will. "Pere Augustin," the estafette, or boss, of the Negroes, once told of these lofty days. Bringier had twelve horses for his coaches; four must always be ready for hitching to the big one. "No waitin' for man like Ol' Master." As for the rest of it: "Lots company, lots dinner, lots drink. Ol' Master, he did love all that, yes." The year 1798 brought royalty. The Duc d'Orleans, later to become Louis Philippe, King of the French, arrived with his brothers, the Duc de Montpensier and the Comte de Beaujolais. After visits in and around New Orleans, the exiled trio was taken to White Hall. Cannons boomed; slaves raced to the house with the news that the vessel had been sighted. The family lined up for review with fellow planters, field and house servants, and an Indian chief, shod in beaver skin moccasins, wearing a mantle of the inner bark of an ash tree. A friendly ruler of the Houmas tribe, he was there to pay his respects to the fellow-leaders, even though the latter might be without followers at the moment. The princes did not omit a return call to the chief in his village. The visitors found Louisiana plantation life more princely than anything they had ever known: great halls, silks, laces and food--lucious snipe, delicate shrimp, enormous fish with flavor as rare as the host's wines. Ma foi, what was this Louisiana that France had given over to the Spaniards! The Bringier dinner made Louisiana legend. Some declare that the plates were costly Chinaware and that, as the last bit of food was cleared away, Bringier and his relatives lifted them one by one and smashed them against the marble fireplace. No less royal fingers would ever touch dishes so honored. Dissenters insist that the plates were of silver; that the party concluded the fete by repairing to the levee, where Marius tossed each utensil into the river. A waggish source has a third version: A bit earlier, a large net had been inserted beneath the water; when the grand performance was over, up came the dishes. Thus Louisianians could throw away their plates and have them, too. This, to be sure, must be classed as the imaginings of small intellects. Several Bringier descendants say nothing was broken or cracked or even dipped in a ditch. Monsieur Bringier was too intelligent, too tough-minded for a thing like that. In any case, when the princes returned to power they sent the Bringiers some particularly handsome China dishes. If this gift was a bit of French humor, we have no proof of it. Four years later Marius Bringier was entertaining another guest from France, with more permanent effect on family history. He was the handsome Augustin Dominique Tureaud, whose profile and amatory gymnastics had led him into a number of difficulties. The story goes back to La Rochelle in the old country. Son of a courtier, Augustin received a training at college, then turned to the ways of a happy young man about neighboring towns and villages. He had tastes, it is said, in everything that could draw male eye and heart--a beau chevalier, presentable beyond hie due, one who gulped rather than sipped at life's offerings. Augustin had a quick tongue, a ready grin, a good disposition. It was difficult for any one not to like the young profligate, who soon lost any amateur status he might have possessed. Over time women wept and quarreled with their sweethearts or husbands; he had his pick of boudoirs for miles in all directions. He developed an alarming penchant for the duel. Augustin would not grow angry with a rival; he would smile, slap his face and run a rapier through him. None could be more regretful to the family of the deceased or more helpful with a purse for the widow, or anything else that she asked of him. His father swore; Maman sniffled; nieces and nephews thought what a wonderful fellow Nonc Augustin was, always laughing and killing people or maiming them for life. An affair of special embarrassment developed. For such a boy, clearly, there was one hope--the colonies. Papa had a property in Santo Domingo; perhaps Augustin could be persuaded to use his energies in manufacturing sugar, Augustin waved a cheerful good-by. The islands of the Indies promised a relaxing interlude, and novelty. Promptly the ways of the young rakehell were again charming those about him. They served him well; they saved his life. About the French estates and along the steaming jungle clearings, unrest was fermenting. Busy with other matters, Augustin did not sense Augustin did not sense disaster any more clearly than his fellows. Augustin's housekeeper was a light mulattress, wife of a giant slave. Because of the Frenchman was always good-mannered, according to his story, he won her friendship. One evening she ran to him in agitation. He must save himself! Come, quickly. Her husband, he was in the uprising. San Antonioui oui, it was taking place at this very moment. See the flames starting along the horizon. She had a boat ready; she would escape with him, she and her children. Dawn found the party of four far from shore in an upset sea. He rowed until he was exhausted; she took the oars. Harrowing days of hunger and exposure dragged by. He woke one morning to discover her in bitter tears. The bebe, he had died in the night. As Tureaud said a brief prayer, she held her child in her arms and then rossed the body to the waters. Soon the remaining three were near delirium. A far-off spot loomed larger, and they were saved. Taken to Baltimore, the impoverished Tureaud communicated with his father. He had escaped with his life, and now he would like to come home. Monsieur Tureaud sent back word at once. He was happy to hear of Augustin's deliverance, and would forward money. But Augustin was to stay in America, please. Augustin shrugged, and a new phase began. He turned to the sea, becoming a captain of several ships. His life had little tedium; he was lost on the ocean captured by privateers, and trapped by an outbreak of disease that caused successive port officials to refuse entry to his vessel. He had free moments for the pursuit of things outside the strictly commercial; he hinted now and then of meetings with ladies of lure and spirit. After mixed adventures the rapscallion wound up in New Orleans. Quickly, as usual, he fell in love. He left a diary in which he tells, if not everything, at least a great deal. Mademoiselle M. he thought fascinating; "her manner tinged with arch coquetry, the bewitching and tantalizing glance of her eyes--these I found quite irresistible." She did not (he puts it with delicacy) appear averse to his attentions. Eventually he considered himself engaged to her; but he reflected upon his disordered monetary affairs and, as discreetly as he could "withdrew from his rash courtship." He adds: "The young lady, I must say, did not seem to be much put out. The note in which she acknowledged the rupture is two lines long." Yet they continued cordial friends, and he kept up his visits. At a ball he was drawn to Mademoiselle B. He determined to meet her; always a man of resource, he managed it. Soon he was intimate with the family, riding regularly to their small plantation outside the city. In his words, he "neglected nothing that would render me agreeable to her eyes," and matters went swimmingly. Then again he checked himself. Marriage was out of the question, he tells us with disarming practicality; "our combined fortunes would not have been sufficient for such a desirable consummation." So he cultivated what he termed a platonic friendship with Mademoiselle B. She understood, or at least Augustin thought she did. The new arrival in the city met Marius Bringier, and the two men liked each other. He handled a large sales to Bringier, to be paid for in cotton. The deal took a few days; the heavy-browed Marius was felighted at the stories the fellow told. After a time he insisted that Augustin go up to Wyhite Hall with him to inspect the cotton before closing the transaction. There Augustin met the family, spent a day looking over the crop , another in having it weighed, a third examining mills and presses He was to leave on the fourth morning, but rain made the roads impassable. Ten days elapsed, during which the caller walked over the estate, chatted with Maman Bringier, and casually threshed over point of slight interest with one of the daughters, Betzy, aged fourteen.* A number of accounts declare that Betzy was thoroughly plain at this time. More diplomatic, Augustin tells his diary that "without being a beauty, she was rather good-looking than otherwise." But he paid little attention to the child. The host's cordiality grew so pronounced that Augustin was puzzled. Finding Augustin alone, he launched a long discussion. It would be to Bringier's advantage to have a city representative; if Augustin were agreeable he would help set him up in a firm. Bringier wanted one of his sons to join the enterprise; he named an amount to be contributed by the three. Augustin explained that, alas, he had no such funds. Then the brisk Bringier sprang his greatest amazement; we have Augustin's account of the interview. Monsieur Bringier did not want money to be an obstacle, "because, in wishing to associate myself with you, I desire it to be an association of the closest nature. I sincerely wish that my daughter Betzy should be the immediate means of cementing our union." In a word, he was asking Augustin to be his son-in-law. Augustin was used to many sudden questions involving ladies, but this was the most unexpected that had ever been put to him. Bringier was hastening on: "See her; speak to her of my intentions and, if she shows no disinclination to unite herself with you, all can be arranged in a few days." If the marriage did not take place, he added, there would be no partnership in business. He concluded with further confusing words: "I do not care to cross the wishes of my daughter for any consideration whatever... I ask you to be guided by your heart." Making no attempt to conceal his delight, Augustin expressed his "lively gratitude" to Bringier. He began to treat Betzy as rather more than a youngster. Soon he was telling her of her father's thoughts. Betzy "showed no repugnance; I thought she even listened to me with pleasure." Eventually Bringier called the two to his presence where, with Madame Bringier beaming at his side, he asked Betzy if she gave her consent. Betzy said "Yes," and declares Augustin, she "placed herself in my arms, and the kiss which she gave me made me understand that mouth was the interpreter of her heart." Ah, self-sure cavalier! Things were less simple than they appeared. Others in the family have passed on Betzy's side of the story. Papa Bringier had not entrusted everything to Augustin's charms. Papa himself had quietly called Betzy and informed her, without much equivocation, that he and her mother expected her to marry Augustin. If the groom-prospective had been surprised, Betzy was flabbergasted. The blood went to her head; she stuttered out a question or two and slipped away. As she threw herself on her bed, she broke into cries. Maman, he was an old man! Lines all over his face and his hair gray, wasn't it? Tureaud's age was thirty-eight; to fourteen this undoubtedly looked decrepit. In vain did Maman call attention to Augustin's good looks, his gallant airs. Betzy sniffed that one of the boys told her the man could not lie flat on his back, but had to be propped up with pillows because of an old duel wound. This, incidentally, was true. Yet Tureaud was still an impressive figure, as Maman pointed out--a strapping man, well shaped, well dispositioned. Mon Dieu, ma petite! What would you have? Betzy kicked her heels. She would not go to confession. No--she would become a nun; they would see. And the lover walked about, serenely certain of his attraction for the miss. Then Betzy got a reprieve. Augustin thought it wise first to clear up affairs in the North. Monsieur Bringier did not agree at once; Augustin argued that he had to make the trip in any case and that it "would be cruel to have to leave a young wife after two weeks of marriage." Bringier consented; ten months would elapse before the nuptials. In the meantime, of course, Betzy would be getting a bit, older, passing fifteen. Also in the meantime Augustin was settling another matter, that of his recent platonic friend, Mademoiselle B. Returning to New Orleans and invited to her house, he noticed that she did not touch her dinner. Afterward he pressed her for the reason. Well, she had heard rumors of his betrothal; she was surprised, as she had considered him engaged to someone else. Oh, no, Augustin cried quicky, he had not been engaged. Well, she would do him the justice of admitting that he had never really given his promise before this. None knew better than she; for, said she, she was referring to herself. Alas for platonic intentions! The lady went on. Like the girl before her in New Orleans, she still wanted to be his friend. He said he would be exactly that. Well, she went on, she would find out. She handed him a letter, a proposal to her from a man with a fortune of a hundred thousand dollars. What advice would Augustin give her, as a friend? He urged her to take the petitioner. Furiously Mademoiselle B. swore she would never do that; she did not love the fellow. Now she turned to Augustin. As a friend, she sought confidence for confidence. "Deal with me candidly," she told him; were those rumors true about him and the Bringier child? The cavalier nodded. The lady pressed his hand, said she wished him happiness--and, to prove it, she wept bitterly. Augustin would have cried, too, but Mademoiselle's father appeared at the wrong moment. For a time the two continued to meet, "feeling a hopeless sort of interest in each other." Daily after dinner he spent an hour or so with her. Then his trip north, and White Hall and Betzy again. The bride-to-be was hardly less resigned than before. Tureaud informs his diary that she looked warm-eyed and cordial. We are advised sotto voce that Betzy was even then kneeling at her prie-dieu, making promises to the Virgin if she were spared. On the wedding morning Betzy "cried her eyes out." That day in 1803 the bells rang at White Hall and over the levee rushed friends, relatives, and the breathlessly curious. Betzy stood up bravely; the ceremony ended with rice and kissed, and an announcement from the flushed Monsieur Bringier that he was giving the couple a plantation, to be known appropriately as Union, a pretty place with pillars . The groom must have been kind; his knowledge of women's ways guided him during the days that followed. The marriage was entirely successful. The rakehell seems to have reformed; his fine swordsmanship went to waste, as did his skill in bland intrigue. He emerged a model husband a respected father, and a favorite of the neighbors (and not merely of the neighbors' wives, it can be added). After a few years he became something that few would have predicted--a judge. He presided conscientiously at the bench for the rural stretches near the homes of the Bringiers, the Aimes, and the Romans. Betze, growing up, gave him eight children. Perhaps Papa had known best. Betzy's brother, Michel Doradou Bringier, acceded with less anguish to the desires of the family. As far as I can judge, Doradou was a combination of amiability and determination not long after he reached manhood, he decided he did not like the family spelling of "Douradou," that the name would be more euphonious without that first u; so, for himself, he spelled it "Doradou." His relatives in France stormed; it amounted to desecration; was he ashamed of a high name? and so on. Doradou replied politely that he thought it sounded pleasanter that way, and he stayed Doradou. But when Papa got to talking, as he had done during Augustin Tureaud's visit, Doradou nodded his head. If that was what Papa wished...Like others before and after him, he could co-operate with the inevitable. In Jamaica in 1798 there was born Louise Elizabeth Aglae DuBourg de Ste. Colombe. She might have found herself an heiress to many acres but for the general rebellion of the slaves. Fleeing, the family moved about for a time. In New Orleans the DuBourgs met the Bringiers. While the elders sipped anisette in the drawing-room the two sets of younger members stared curiously at one another in adjoining chamber. Aglae had not reached nine, the sturdy-framed adolescent, Doradou, was presumably little impressed by a baby of half his own few years. He would, however, have occasion to remember this gathering. The DuBourgs went up to Baltimore, where Aglae's uncle was the Abbe DuBourg. This thin-faced, gentle aristocrat could sympathize with his relatives; he, too, had been the victim of uprisings, several times so. He had been superior of the Sulpician seminary at Issy when the French Revolution broke. In disguise he had fled to Paris, only to learn that Sulpician headquarters had been taken. Again he escaped (in a friend's clothes) to Bordeaux, then to Spain, and finally to America. The weary DuBourgs talked of the changing, inflammable world; after some thought they left Aglae in charge of the cleric. In New Orleans her father saw that a friendly Latin climate and several good Latin connections promised well. In Baltimore, Aglae went to the convent, studied her catechism, and recited French poems, to the surprise of her schoolmates from Virginia and Maryland. She was a child much liked by the nuns, respectful of her elders, gravely obedient, trained to curtsy at the proper moments. Scrupulously she put away her clothes, saved her pennies, collected her pins and needles and thread. None had to tell her about the traditional petites economies of the French. She would make a fine wife some day--and a pretty one, said those who looked at her plump cheeks and her wide, serious eyes. In the family's letters, brought to her by her uncle the Abbe, Aglae heard much of Louisiana, of sparkling New Orleans and its people. Her soft-spoken, sympathetic uncle called frequently, with news and tidbits that the nuns allowed. He spoke to her of the father's new friends, the Bringiers, who had also lived in the Indies and liked to talk of those days. in New Orleans, Monsieur DuBourg was seeing more of Bringier pere et fils. The two older men talked casually, then not so casually, of Doradou. One night the Abbe was in New Orleans and the three elders sat together. If this might be agreed to....Did this also seem fair?...A final glass of brandy; in the morning the two wives were informed that all was settled. The marriage contract would be signed after a last detail about property was clarified. The Abbe returned to Baltimore to inform aglae of her good fortune. While the nuns waited, he gave her his usual kiss and told her that a bridegroom would be coming for her very soon. He, her uncle, would be with her a great deal during these days; he would perform the ceremony. There was nothing for Aglae to be alarmed about. She would like Doradou; he was a fine young man. Aglae bent her head politely, kissed her uncle, and went back to her quarters. Alone, she did not cry. She thought for a few minutes and then she went back to her catechism book. Like Betzy on that other occasion, Aglae was just fourteen; her bridegroom was twenty-three-not quite elderly, even to one aged fourteen. There appeared to be another difference. It was growing abundantly clear that Aglae would be beautiful when she stopped growing, or even before. A painting shows her with big eyes set wide apart, a well-formed nose and small mouth, her hair tightly wrapped about her head except for a heavy curl over the forehead--all innocence, but all poise, too. The nuns, receiving the word, kissed her brow; a few cried. Her classmates were excited at first but soon went back to their beads. Shortly before the projected event, Aglae left the convent to stay with Baltimore relatives, changing her drab garb for the whites and pinks of a bride-to-be. Women fluttered about her, measuring garments, adding a feather at an angle which the nuns would have disapproved, pulling down a neckline to where Aglae herself was not pleased to see it pulled. She was taken to Mass, to dinner, to evenings with strange people. The Abbe remained near, as he had promised, prepared to intervene when matters got too congested, when disturbing problems were raised. Sometimes Aglae seemed to be in the wrong group, to belong among the children in the side room, who peered at her through the curtains. When such observers giggled, Aglae gravely made an observation about the weather to the guest next to her. At fourteen she had the self-possession of a twenty-four-year-old. The occurrence and its circumstances--Aglae's youth, the wealth of the junior sugar king, the families involved--created much polite flurry in Baltimore. The Americans in particular were intrigued; to the French the matter of Aglae's age was not a matter that deserved so much so much polite flurry in Baltimore. The Americans in particular were intrigued; to the French the matter of Aglae's age was not a matter that deserved so much attention. As Doradou stepped off the vessel, the social gossips chattered. Fresh from a grapple with Continental culture, he was at his best, ready as usual to co-operate with the inevitable and a bit curious to see how Aglae had turned out. He kissed one hand, then another, then looked down and brushed the cheek of his fiancee. And now he demonstrated that his years in Paris had not been wasted. Yes he answered, it was true he had set eyes just once before on Aglae. But in that moment he had recognized her, Mesdames, as the handsomest child he had ever beheld. It had been truly, they might say, a case of love at first sight. (One of Doradou's descendants smiles: "Was he saying something not quite true? If so he did it gallantly. Surely he owed Aglae a minor romantic prevarication." He adds: "Still, he might have been telling the facts. Nobody, even a cousin, ever called Aglae ugly.") From an American connection arrived a gift for the bride, enormous but light. Surrounded by friends, Aglae tore away the tissue with quick fingers--to find a doll as large as herself. She glanced around. "Do you think this is meant for me, or for my first baby?" she asked, and, running upstairs, put the doll on her bed where she played with it for hours. Imagination has embroidered the incident. It is said that the doll held a treasure within itself- -a package of diamonds, brooches, and other family jewels. This the Bringiers denied. When they had presents for Aglae, they did not stuff them into a mannequin. Other tales gathered about the figure of the child-bride. One has it that Doradou returned alone to Louisiana on the night of the ceremony, while Aglae was dispatched back to the convent for further aging. Several years later, the old ladies murmured, Doradou claimed his own. Records show that the couple were married in June of 1812 and stayed together for four months in Baltimore. On the day after the ceremony war was declared against England; rumors grew that the British were planning to blockade the coasts. The couple started out by ship for New Orleans, with the Abbe DuBourg, as usual, at their side. The Abbe was now an even more resplendent figure, for he had just been appointed Administrator Apostolic of Louisiana and on the way to his new post. Their vessel was missing for more than a week; word spread that it had been captured. At length the ship limped into Norfolk, Virginia; contrary winds had delayed it. Aglae's early married life had more than its share of excitements. Reaching Louisiana at last, the young Bringiers found a plantation home rising for them, an enlargement of a former one. Eventually White Hall itself would be overshadowed by this new place. But glory takes time; for several years the couple remained with the family. They were still at White Hall when their first child was born in October of 1814. Within a month Doradou was fighting to defend his baby and his sixteen-year-old wife. The British were advancing upon the lower Delta below New Orleans. Andrew Jackson hurried here with meager forces, little ammunition, and the word that he must hold this entry point to the middle of America. With other Creoles the Bringiers rushed forward. Hitherto they had been exchanging acrid insult with the Americans; now they would risk life at their side. As Louisiana went to arms Michel Doradou Bringier, his brothers, and his cousins felt a cry within them of mixed joy and pain. La Marseillaise was sung on one corner, Yankee Doodle on the next. Women leaned over balconies and called encouragement in French to buckos from up the valley who could not understand their words but did catch their spirit. For the first time, the crude and new America and this older France in America stood side by side in a solemn common cause--Creole and Kaintuck, Cajun and mountaineer, Negro and mulatto. Let the Redcoats come! The Abbe DuBourg placed himself at Jackson's service, assisting and exhorting the people. Churches were prepared for quick use as hospitals, prayers were ordered; on January 8, 1815 DuBourg sang a famous Mass at the chapel of the Ursuline nuns. Women of the city, their clasped hands trembling, knelt in the pews. Above the main altar, in the flutter of the candles, stood the figure of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Only a few miles away cannons boomed. The tides of battle washed ominously near. Guns roared above the voices of the choir. Not far off, men were standing knee-deep in the liquid swamp-mud. Behind rude embankments Creoles guarded the fields of their plantations. In came the enemy, vastly superior. The chant went on; the women clung to their rosaries, and beads of perspiration formed on their foreheads as their lips moved in silent appeal. The Mass neared its climax. In the light of the altar the priest lifted his chalice, and a glint of sun caught it. Silence fell; hearts beat heavily. Outside the church, feet pounded against the road, and messenger rushed to the steps. The enemy was in retreat! The women rose; the bells pealed out. Ever since then, for one hundred and thirty years, a High Mass has been celebrated on January 8 by Catholic women of the city in fulfillment of a vow made on that day by the Mother Superior. Two weeks later the old Place d'Armes, outside the New Orleans cathedral, had an archway high in the air, and girls threw flowers before the uncomfortable Jackson, hero of the city, hero-in-the-making of the nation. In all the pomp of his church, the Abbe DuBourg came forth from the doorway, surrounded by his assistant priests and altar boys, holding in his hand a laurel wreath for the General. The Bringiers were proud. They and the Jacksons and the DuBourgs became friends. Old Hickory visited White Hall on his way from the city. The General, whom French Louisianians had first regarded as a barbarian in a drawing-room amazed them with his easy grace. Mrs. Jackson called most of them "Honey" but left on good terms with the most punctilious. Doradou, finding his new residence almost finished, announced a name for it--The Hermitage, after the home of Monsieur le General himself up in Tennessee. It was a unusual designation for a home in such a location among the French Louisianians; but they soon remedied that. When they pronounced it l'Hermitage, not even Jackson would have recognized the title! The Abbe DuBourg became Bishop of Louisiana. Doradou the Aglae settled down to a full life that brought them nine children and a station beyond that of most of their contemporaries. Doradou acquired White Hall and additional plantations. His combination of strong will and easy manner was a rewarding one. The jewel of his possessions, it was generally agreed, was his Hermitage. Here, a few hundred yards from the river, stood one of the most felicitous of Greek temples, the original walls of brick--between-posts enlarged and entirely surrounded by Doric columns, six to a side. Everything was simplicity and massiveness, from the brick lower gallery to the cornices, whose lack of ornament set the tone for the structure. Along the incline of the roof two neat dormer windows looked out, from an attic that could have been a separate story in itself. The bottom level of the house, flush with the ground, opened upon wide gardens to which the earnest Aglae gave her attention, setting out lines and circles of plantings. The structure had an air of heavy masculinity, relieved by the more delicate touches provided by the mistress. Here Aglae changed from a subdued child to the self-possessed lady of the mansion. She had not let the talk, the whispers, and strangeness of those earlier days upset her; and nothing else ever made her lose her calm. She looked life in the eye and accepted it. She made The Hermitage an abode of rest and careful order. The family tells how at one time she had fifty overnight guests--with fifty separate breakfasts ready for the serving whenever they came down the next morning, two or three at a time, or one trailing after the other from the crowded halls and bedrooms and side buildings. Though she became one of the richest women of her scene, she remained in many respects little different from the convent girl of 1812. Friends, making a call, found her in the middle of a heap of rough garments. Without halting in her work, she explained that these were the dresses of her women slaves, which she was overhauling. She saw no excuse for waste; she wanted to see that the cutting and darning were done properly. At fifty-eight Doradou died; Aglae outlived him by thirty years. Her life continued unruffled and, above all, dignified. Deferential to those older than herself, she demanded her own share of respect. Dressed in black, with cuffs and long collars of white, a cameo at her bosom, she stood erect in dignity. Sitting, she never allowed her back to touch the chair, and she cautioned the young girls to follow her example. They did not lounge in her presence, nor did they cross legs. A niece did that, once. Aglae lifted a finger: "Indelicate, my dear." The offense was not repeated. Before meals the Negro butler knocked at her door, gave her his arm, and escorted her along the hall. The family and guests stood about the drawing-room to await her. She entered, bowed, and led them to the next chamber. At the conclusion of the meal the butler helped her out of the room and to her own quarters. A ball was once planned. When the list of guests was submitted to Aglae by the younger generation, she added a number of her own. The girls, recognizing none, inquired who these people might be. With a lift of her chin, Aglae explained. They were descendants of those who had stood at the forefront of Louisiana when she Doradou were young. Their families had met reverses; they had dropped away and been forgotten. But to her they had not lost caste; she would insist that an invitation go to each of them, or there would be no ball. In the Bringier households it was the custom, as in most Creole residences, to use alliterative nicknames: Mimi for Myrthe, Lala for Rosella, and so on. A redoubtable matron, a personage of much starch, exchanged greetings one after-noon with her old friend Aglae and then, facetiously, leaned over to inquire. "And how are all the Zoozoos and Zazas and Zeezees?" Aglae Bringier, her back still held firmly away from the chair, turned to look her companion in the face. The lady's smile froze at the words: "I do not have any idea to whom you may be referring." No one, friend or enemy, could refer flippantly to the family of Aglae Bringier. Quoted with grateful thanks to the late Harnett Kane.


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