The private diary of Isidore Saint-Ange, New Orleans, 1852
Tomorrow, we take part in the Société de Magnétisme et Hypnotisme event at Mme. Laveau’s house in the French Quarter, where time once deserted me as I lay enraptured in the arms of my mistress. I hunger for my beloved’s presence as much as I dread her appearance there. (What a shameful lampoon to play the doting husband in front of her! It is an insult to all involved.)
I have realized it is much better to avoid P’tite Marie altogether, for there is no future for us and every moment I spend in her presence or entertaining thoughts of her only fortifies my compulsion. I feel that if I am away from her long enough, my fascination will sputter and die. That one day I’ll be able to look upon her with as little emotion as a stranger, but that day feels very distant indeed. I may well be old and gray before she slips from my mind entirely, for I am often reminded of her in the simplest things, a sunset or perfect blossom I would share, and my work on the orchidarium. None of which belong to her but are mine alone or mine to share with Emilie. Sometimes I feel that I function with only one arm, one eye, for my beloved possesses the others.
We spent two days in New Orleans to attend the séance at Mme. Laveau’s. I was pleased to see M. Dumas in attendance, along with four other men and women. P’tite Marie served as her mother’s assistant, and neither one mentioned our long-ago dinner — acting as if I were merely another curiosity seeker and adherent of the new faith. P’tite Marie seated herself between myself and Emilie, much to my wife’s delight and my consternation. Her bare hand fit into mine perfectly, smooth and warm, and I fought the urge to kiss it. The lamps dimmed, the incense burned, and Mme. Laveau summoned the spirits, calling for Papa Legba to open the gate. A tremor of anticipation ran through me as the ritual began. Dual currents of desire and repulsion traveled along my network of nerves.
How I longed to be alone with her and yet how mightily I resisted the attraction!
Two of the women there, sisters, sought contact with their deceased father. Mme. Laveau called him and the sisters asked their questions, murmuring and softly weeping as Mme. Laveau answered for him. Next, M. Dumas queried about a departed friend, a soldier killed in action some years ago, and received word from beyond that his fellow was well and at peace.
Mme. Laveau asked the room if any others had questions. From the corner of my eye, I saw Emilie squeeze P’tite Marie’s hand and ask for a message from the child she lost or about any other troubles plaguing Belle Rive. There was a lengthy silence. Emilie’s hopeful expression turned worried and grew dull as no response was forthcoming. No spirits answered her call. Suddenly, Mme. Laveau hissed, “Spirit! I sense your presence! I smell your perfume and feel the agonies of your soul in the air around us! Come forth and speak to us.”
Reprinted Courtesy of Shade Mountain Press.
To learn more about Nina and her book, go here.