Walker Percy Wednesday 115


Upriver and into West Feliciana, the first low loess bluffs of St. Francisville, and into the pleasant deciduous hills where Audubon lived with rich English planters, painted the birds, and taught dancing for a living. Out of the hills and back toward the river and Grand Mer, the great widening of the river into a gulf where the English landed with their slaves from the Indies, took up indigo farming, and lived the happy life of Feliciana, free of the seditious Americans to the north, the corrupt French to the south, and in the end free even to get rid of the indolent Spanish and form their own republic.


Lucy fixes toddies of nearly straight bourbon in crystal goblets the size of a mason jar. My nose is running. Perhaps the toddies will help. I haven’t had a toddy for years. An eighteenth-century traveler once wrote of Feliciana and Pantherburn: “There is always at one’s elbow a smiling retainer ready with a toddy or a comfit.” What’s a comfit?


They, the Bons, are known hereabouts as freejacks, meaning free persons of color, freed, the story goes, by Andrew Jackson for services rendered in the Battle of New Orleans. More likely, they’re simply descendants of the quadroons and octoroons of New Orleans. A proud and reticent people, often blue-eyed and whiter than white, many could “pass” if they chose but mainly choose not to, choose, rather, to stay put in small contained bayou communities.


There is this to be said for drinking. It frees one from the necessities of time, like: now it is time to sit down, stand up. One would as soon do one thing as another.
Time passes, but one need not tell oneself: take heed, time is passing.