Thursday, August 13, 2015

Corpse in a Keg (New Orleans)

Lyle Saxon, Edward Dreyer, and Robert Tallant, Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1945), pp. 152-3.

These bridal testers, at least the most elaborate ones, were the creations of a certain Monsieur Dufau, a merchant at 37 Rue Chartres. But poor M. Dufau was the victim of an unfortunate occurrence that all but wrecked his career and business.

This gentleman's shop was noted for its objets d'art, bric-à-brac, and fine paintings. But the most famous articles of merchandise were the artistically fashioned ciel-de-lits or testers. These were very popular, even the ordinary ones being tastefully made of calico or sateen. But most of M. Dufau 's art was expended on ciel-de-lits for brides. These were always of pale blue silk, gathered in the middle by gilt ornaments. Across the pale blue heaven chubby cupids would chase each other with bows and arrows, pink ribbons modestly draping these tiny love gods. A wide cream-colored dentelle valencienne, the finest lace obtainable, trimmed the edge. It all combined to create an atmosphere symbolizing eternal love, blue horizons and rosy dreams.

Then ruin descended upon M. Dufau. A member of a club called Le Comité des Bon Amis, the time came for him to entertain his good friends. And it seemed that an extraordinarily good piece of luck occurred at about the same time. A sailor offered M. Dufau a keg of rum at a ridiculously low price. Seizing this opportunity, the merchant bought the liquor with no loss of time and invited his friends over to enjoy it. When the first round of drinks was passed everyone remarked on its peculiar flavor. The second drink was so bad that no one could finish it.

There was great consternation and curiosity. An axe was brought and M. Dufau himself split the keg open. What met the eyes of his guests was enough to stand their hair on end. Inside the keg, sitting upright, in a perfect state of preservation, was a little old man with long whiskers!

Poor M. Dufau, though technically cleared of any connection with the corpse in the rum, was immediately banished from his club, and he received no more orders for his masterfully fashioned bridal ciel-de-lits.