Mister Heathcliff’s Fortune Chapter 14

I couldn’t find the Frenchman, and so I went to the Devil’s house thinking I could get some word of him. A colored houseman with a sour face answered the door and told me the master would be back later. But when I returned, the door was closed to me.

I waited in a doorway opposite the house all evening long, and when it was late and dark enough, he came out leading his horse. I wanted to rush to him and ask what happened, but he was too fast for me and spun away, leaving me in his tracks. I followed him blindly, but I knew where he was going.


When he emerged before dawn, I was waiting for him, and there was no way he could avoid me. He was annoyed to see me there, but I walked right up to him and said, ‘Why you leave me?’

‘What are you saying, girl? No one left you.’

‘You stop coming, you stop sending money. Now you with Madame Marie,’ I sounded like a washerwoman to myself, shrill and broken, but he did not speak French and I spoke English poorly.

‘Now listen,’ he said grabbing my arm, ‘Madame Marie and I are business partners, pure and simple. We are opening a saloon together where gentleman will come play cards and pay for the privilege. That’s all. Now go home like a good girl, and I’ll come tomorrow.’

I grabbed his arm, crying, ‘Why you lie to me, now? You spend all night with her. You had enough of your black whore and you got a white girl. Why you don’t tell me true?’

But he shook me off saying, ‘It’s business, you little fool.’

‘Come home with me, you know she can’t love you like I do!’ I was holding on to him, pleading with him, but he had enough of me and pushed me so roughly that I staggered and fell.

‘Leave me alone, daughter of Ham!’ he cried. He left me in the dust of the street, though I ran after him a way. Then I knew I had lost him forever.

Two days later, men came and put my trunk out on the street and took the keys to my house. I had nowhere to go, and I sat on the trunk and burst into tears. There was bitterness in my heart too, and I hoped Madame Marie would die for I blamed her and hoped he would come back to me.

Mister Heathcliff’s Fortune Chapter 13

She had been right, all along. I was lonely and when the money stopped coming regularly, though the little Frenchman said it was because He was losing badly at cards, I needed to make something of myself, but I had no idea what to do.

When placees came to pay calls, I began reading the cards to them for amusement, and I made myself more popular. I really did not know how to read the cards like Madame Marie, but they would tell me so much of themselves between sighs and giggles, and I knew what they aspired to and what they thought of, and I told them what they wanted to hear. A bigger allowance, a new love affair, a beautiful dress, a ride in the country, some new jewels.

I had an idea that I could easily take myself to the Place Congo and charge for readings, so tiding myself over until he was able to send money again. I dressed in a yellow silk dress with a green petticoat and tied on a tangerine colored tissot. They were not the colors that Madame had taught me to combine, but I thought they would appeal.

I walked in a northerly direction from my house, and when I reached the square, I saw many nations assembled there, and brightly clad people hawking the wares they had made, and that even the French planters had come to to gape and gawk. I set myself up and shouted that fortunes were being told and presently several women approached, and I read their cards the best I could, and perhaps I had really had learned something because they seemed satisfied. A few coins changed hands, and then some French women came by, and I charged them more.

The crowd was thicker, gathering around the dancers, and my business dried up. I had a chance to look around me at the swirl of color and silken clothes, the smells of spices and musky bodies, the shifting faces, dark as molasses, light as coffee with milk. The drums began, heavy and fast, answered by smaller drums, joined by rattles and gourds and the dancers, their shining bodies, proud and unbroken, full of passion, burning with life, spun together and shifted to their own pattern, their own inner movement. I was about to get up and go in front of the crowd for a better look when an old woman who was as thin and gnarly as a stick, though straight backed, stood in front of me and said,

‘Girl, why you play dat white man game. Look inside yo own self fo’ power.’

I was open mouthed but managed to ask, ‘How do I do that?’ She just laughed and said I would know when the time came.

I left long before the dancers had finished, but I was still thinking about what that woman had said. I was thinking when the rent came overdue there would be no money since he didn’t come any more.

Mister Heathcliff’s Fortune Chapter 12

She taught him everything she knew, and the next year I left her house. He gave me one of my own, though he sent a friend of his, a French planter, to ask for me in his stead. He convinced me it would be a good thing not to offend Madame Marie, to make her think we had been cheating her behind her back.

She, for her part, did not want to let me go with that small puffed up old man, but I said I wanted to do something else with my life, and she made it clear that if anything went wrong, I should return to her immediately if I needed to, though he had bought my freedom.

I made my house a little jewel box and waited for him to come, though his visits were sporadic since the season had begun once again. He was having great success and unlike Madame Marie, who could only play at fancy parties, he was invited to join special games where men of all types played hard to win.

She came to see me once or twice and then left on her circuit, and I was lonely until I made friends with some other placees in the neighborhood, but I could see that they despised me for my color and for the fat little Frenchman who brought me money from him and who they all assumed to be my lover. Before she left, she brought me a gift, her set of cards, the special tarot deck. I knew she relied upon them to help her answer her doubts and questions, and I asked if she wouldn’t miss them.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I’ll be busy now and afterward, if the season is good, I’ll have enough money to open my own gaming salon. I just thought you might be lonely, and so I wanted you to have these.’

I was touched and hoped that I showed it, but I can only recall telling her that I was reading books now and showed her my novels, romances which must have seemed simple to her, though she looked very pleased with my progress. Feeling bold, I said, ‘One day, I’d like to write a book like that,’ for I had many such fantasies. She smiled and squeezed my hand.

I showed her the house and my things, the things he had bought me, and she embraced and kissed me and said she hoped I’d be very happy. I said the same to her and hoped she would make a great success of her venture and wished her well. I knew he would be seeing more of her now and was jealous, mindlessly and unfairly, but not for one minute did I suspect that it had all been a ruse; our great passion, my little house, a ruse to separate me from my lady.