Saturday, March 13, 2010

4. JACQUES BOUDREAU, RHETT'S ADOPTED SON

My mother, the mysterious Liza Boudreau, was Scarlett’s rival, though they never met.  Early in Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage, she feared that a woman in New Orleans was luring Rhett away from her, and she was right.  Mother was no mystery to him, only to everyone else, including me, since she died of typhoid before I knew her very well.  Henceforth, Papa and me had a close bond, having both been on intimate with her. 
Mother had lain for months on a typhoid clinic sickbed.  Meanwhile, I was raised by Rags, the Boudreau’s yellow mongrel.  My uncles left home each morning before the sun was up, so I was alone with the mutt, who growled at every move I made and barked loud as thunder.  When I escaped their fence of cracked wooden slats, he’d stay on my heels and bark, wherever I went, until I gave up and returned home.  Rags,who always seemed older and bigger than me, must’ve been part sheep dog.
 Rhett called me his son to all the world, including Scarlett.  I’d have never known why Papa took an interest in me, out of all the waifs in New Orleans, if my mother hadn’t been so beautiful.  I was her bastard son, not of Rhett or any other man in town.  She died of typhoid, they say, but I was too young to recognize the symptoms in her.  I only remember her lying on the sickbed at the clinic for weeks, where I wasn’t allowed, except to visit.    
It was cruel of Aunt Scarlett to call me Rhett’s “ward,” in letters she wrote to folks everywhere, and worse that her words were later quoted in GONE WITH THE WIND.  Rhett called me his adopted son, not “ward.” 
Granted, Papa said “Jacques is a perfect hellion.  I wish he’d never been born.”  He was joking harmlessly when he said it, whereas Scarlett truly wished me ill.  Papa teased everyone coarsely, most of all Scarlett.  Even little Bonnie he teased to a tizzy.  She and I were the only two kids on earth who could be hellions around Rhett and get away with it, without being tossed out the door, onto the cobblestones of
Peachtree Street
.  Of course, Bonnie didn’t grow up in the school for hellions at the wharf in New Orleans, like me, or sleep every night with one eye open.  But she was headed down her own path of mischief full tilt, before tragedy struck her.
Ironically, Scarlett herself ultimately brought me to the chalet in Atlanta to live.  It was one of the strangest turns of events in my life, since she already secretly scorned me at that early age, though she had not yet met me.
Before he met Scarlett, Rhett was in the habit of visiting New Orleans twice a year or more, either by land or by sea, to call upon his commercial partners.  I didn’t know him then, despite the fact that he had adopted me and was supporting me.  Subsequently, I have learned from him of his liaison with my mother.  His generosity was a favor to her personally, rather than to me.  Scarlett was suspicious of it from the beginning, it seems. 

1 comment: